by Joseph R. Lewis & Brad Meinecke
Eddie Balchowsky, the Fascist Hunter, was a Spanish Civil War veteran. Pre-War he was a skilled concert pianist and artist. Battle robbed him of his right hand and he returned to his native Chicago a pain-killer junkie. Over the course of many decades he became a local legend, playing deserted pianos all across the Northside with one hand and a stump. He was the janitor at the historic Quiet Knight music club. Jimmy Buffett wasn’t the only person to write a song about him.
One of the most exhilarating aspects of working on The Resurrection of Tristan Meinecke is that Brad will introduce me to Chicago stories such as Eddie’s. Doubly exhilarating is the fact that Tristan’s life was so connected to the rugged ecstatic history of Chicago that his name comes up in connection with so many local legends. The deeper I get into this resurrection, the more clearly I see the Meinecke family emerging as kind of cultural nucleus inspiring the city around them with they’re fiercely determined rebel autonomy…or as Eddie Balchowsky calls them in the colorful story below – “Chicago Royalty”. XOX
Tristan and Angel at their Cleveland Street home.
“Everywhere my parent’s went they drew a crowd.” – Brad Meinecke
EDDIE & DAD
Eddie and Dad were extremely tight. Dad hated junkies. Eddie was a classic heroin user. If not for that he would’ve been over all the time. As it was he was often at our house playing the piano. Dad loved his one handed playing.
He was homeless but had umpteen homes. He had one hand but played the piano . . . well.
He was junkie but to my knowledge never stole from friends. Dad let him sleep in his office on numerous occasions, never worried about theft. He owned nothing but could eat free at some high end places, and everyone on the late night scene on Clark knew him. He was known as the mayor of Clark street in the 70’s.
Once I was involved in an argument in a late night smorgasbord on Clark Street around 3am. Bunch of folks yelling at me and I’m yelling back. Suddenly this wizened little guy who looks like he hasn’t had a bath in a year sticks his head out of the crowd shouting-
“Everybody hold on for a second! Son, you’re about to get a royal ass kicking. You should leave now while you can.”
I said, “I don’t see anyone here who can kick my ass and y’all can serve me my dinner or grow some balls and try and kick my ass. Your call.”
He cocks his head at me and asks my name. I say, “Brad Meinecke.” He starts cracking up. Practically rolling on the floor. Everyone is watching him like he’d gone mad.
“I knew you had to be a Meinecke! I felt like I was talking to your Dad a moment ago. Your Dad is a great man with a huge heart. I’m Eddie Balchowsky, unofficial Mayor of Clark St. You can eat here anytime. I’m proud to eat with any Meinecke. Clear a table, boys, the son of Chicago royalty has come to visit…and if he’s anything like his Dad we’d better just leave him alone!” That was the last time I saw him. Eddie, like my Dad, was larger than life. A true Chicago original.
THE RESURRECTION OF TRISTAN MEINECKE
Visit the excavated studio of lunatic genius Tristan Meinecke in it’s final days of existence…
Exclusive Gallery Hours coming this February in Chicago, Illinois.
Stay tuned to follow the adventure at The Underground Multiplex and the official Tristan Meinecke portal.