Pudge was a relatively rare bird — an overweight junkie. He lived up in the Heights near Barney’s candy store. When I first met Pudge he was doing deliveries to office buildings for a Journal Square restaurant, until typewriters began to walk out the door, anyhow. His next job was pumping gas just outside the Jersey side of the Holland Tunnel.
One Friday afternoon, a tractor-trailer hauling lobster tails got to Union Terminal Cold Storage just to late to be unloaded, and so had to layover on Henderson Street. Led into temptation by visons of $100 a case freight, early Saturday morning Pudge trudged over from the Shell station and popped the lock on the truck. Opportunity was not as easy as it had seemed; a security detail was watching. The guard car came speeding down 12th Street. Alert to the changed circumstances, Pudge dropped his burglar tools and sprinted into the Holiday Inn parking lot with the trucking company guards nearly nipping at his heels. Fat as he was, Pudge outran them, got inside of the motel and there disappeared.
The Jersey City Police, Port Authority Police and the Holiday Inn watchmen searched for Pudge, but could not find him.
Anybody else — any normal person — who’d had such a close call would be praying wherever they were hiding. Praying, “Please, dear God, have mercy an’ I promises t’ never do anytin’ like dis again!” Not Pudge. That evening, just after sunset Pudge did the if-at-first-you-don’t-succeed routine. This time, a beefed-up patrol had guys out of sight in a number of locations. After beginning to work on the lock, Pudge spotted security headed towards him and began to run away — right into the arms of a guard approaching from the opposite direction.
Every time I walked past the courthouse on Newark Avenue that summer, I’d see Pudge out front with a lawn mower.