Cheers, Billy

May 1, 2014 • Posted in baseball, blindness, Blogroll, questions kids ask, Uncategorized, visiting libraries by

This Saturday is Billy Balducci’s last official nightshift
bartending at Hackney’s.
Hackney’s is our local tavern, and Billy’s been tending bar there since the day it opened in November, 2001.

Longtime blog followers know Billy as the guy sitting next to me in a photo we originally published with a 2007 blog post called Cheers! — Mike and I are fortunate to know him as a dear friend. He and his wife Kathleen’s good-lookin’ boy Tommy will celebrate his first birthday next week, and Billy is leaving the bartending world for what he calls  “a big boy job.”  We wish him all the best, and in honor of this momentous occasion I am reblogging a post I published a few years ago, shortly after Billy and Kathleen got married.

Accompanied by Billy Balducci

Originally published March 4, 2010Hanging at Hackneys with bartender Billy Balducci!

When Billy heard Mike was working the night Hanni and I were scheduled to give a presentation at Prairie Trails Public Library, he offered to drive us. He doesn’t tend bar on Thursday nights, he reasoned. “Kath won’t be home that night anyway, she’s taking a class.”

Sidenote: Hate to break it to those of you who have admired Billy via the Internet, but he is a happily married man now. He and Kathleen tied the knot last Fall and are enjoying wedded bliss.

Back to the story. Billy grew up near Burbank, his family still lives near there, if Kathleen wasn’t going to be home that Thursday night anyway, why not visit his parents while I talked to the kiddies at the library, then come pick me up and drive me home?


“There’s no spots left in the parking lot!” Billy joked when he came to fetch me after our gig. “It’s standing room only in here!” It’s true there were far more people in the library auditorium than I’d expected — the kids were curious, and as always, full of terrific questions.

“Do you ever go anywhere by yourself?” one girl asked. “That was something I really worried about when I first lost my sight,” I told her. “I was afraid I might never, ever be alone again. And I like being alone sometimes.”

I told her how much I value my time alone at home now. Hanni is always in the house with me, but she’s usually sleeping. I know our apartment so well I can walk around on my own. “But you know, you’re right. when I leave the apartment, or anytime I want to go out and do anything, I either have Hanni with me or I hold onto another person’s elbow.”

“And so, you are always accompanied?” the girl asked. Loved her using that word, accompanied.

I had the best of both worlds as I was accompanied out of the Burbank Library: Hanni’s leash in my left hand, Billy’s elbow in my right. “Wanna stop at Keegan’s?” Billy asked. Keegan’s is a South Side Irish bar he and his buddies used to go to when they were teenagers. “We’d use fake i.d.s, drink a Guinness and then head over to Comiskey for a Sox game.”

I was feeling celebratory. We’d made it to Burbank. The presentation went well. “I’d love to go,” I said, but knowing about Billy’s chivalry, I made one demand. “You have to let me buy.” He reluctantly agreed.

Inside Keegan’s, Billy placed my hand on a bar stool, I climbed up and started eavesdropping. I was the only woman in the bar. Billy was by far the youngest man there, and Hanni the only dog. She napped at our feet while we sipped pints of Guinness. The jukebox played Journey and Country & Western hits, the volume so low that Billy and I could keep up a conversation. We talked about his new neighborhood, the house he and Kathleen had bought, life as a bartender, what the future might bring.

Billy bought the second round. “Beer always tastes better on the South Side,” he insisted. I had to agree.

Lauren On May 1, 2014 at 7:21 am

Seeger…beer…bartenders…”Someday, Lady, you’ll accompany me…” (Couldn’t resist;-)

MePaleo On May 1, 2014 at 8:13 am

Hopefully this is like a furniture store “going out of business” sale that lasts for years and years. The bar won’t be the same without Billy slinging beers and cheerful insults. There will have to be some “special guest appearance” nights at Hacks where the old man can come out of retirement for a night and show those kids how it’s done. My opinion – those nights should be every Tuesday. Anyway, see you Saturday!

bethfinke On May 2, 2014 at 10:32 am

“Cheerful insults.” That’s exactly the right way to put it.


The Empty Pen On May 1, 2014 at 8:27 am

Goodbye, Billy!

Although big kid jobs aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be, I wish him well. Even though I only met him a couple times, Hackneys won’t be the same.

Jen Ulen On May 1, 2014 at 8:55 am

Billy is leaving?! I feel like we should have planned a trip to send him off! But maybe now we can all chat with Billy and be on the same side of the bar?! Best wishes Billy!!

bethfinke On May 2, 2014 at 10:33 am

Yes, looking forward to spending time on the same side of the bar with Billy now. He’s so much a part of your history, Jen –haven’t you known Billy longer than you’vet known Brian?!


satori22 On May 1, 2014 at 9:40 am

Getting a big boy is necessary for most of us but we can do it without loosing the little boy spirit. And, it doesn’t have to be a forever job. Have fun Billy.

bethfinke On May 2, 2014 at 10:34 am

So right, and Billy has that little boy spirit for sure.


Benita Black On May 2, 2014 at 4:58 pm

Whatever he does next, be assured that the little boy in Billy will be part of it.
I’m sure you guys will stay in touch and that you’ll break in some new barkeep just the way you want him/her!

bethfinke On May 2, 2014 at 6:21 pm

…or maybe we will try to imbibe less often?????? Stay tuned!

Linda Eisenberg On May 7, 2014 at 12:19 am

I wanted to remind you about the woman who is blind her name is Maggie and her phone umber is 219 872 7429. She is the one who lives in Michigan City. Linda

Mondays with Mike: Last call | Safe & Sound blog On September 12, 2016 at 5:39 am

[…] putting themselves through school, supporting themselves after graduation until they land (as the famous bartender Billy Balducci put it) big-boy jobs. Others are actors and performers working to support their artistic […]

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