Arts & CultureEveryday People

Everyday People

While I’m not typically the type of girl to get really dressed up for a night on the town, I do usually try to avoid wearing my gym clothes to the bar. However, I recently spent a night walking around downtown in sweat pants and a t-shirt, attracting the occasional confused stare.

I was turned down for a lot of interviews that night. Frustrated and a bit defeated, I walked past a man, alone, reading the sports section of a newspaper. Intrigued, I mustered the courage to ask if he would talk with me.

After agreeing to be featured in Everyday People, he introduced himself as Tyrone Kalfus and remarked, “They call me Chicago.” We had a lengthy discussion about his past jobs, his love of history and his life growing up in the Windy City.

Flagpole: How long have you lived in Athens?
Tyrone Kalfus: I got down here in Athens, I think, in 2004, I do believe.

FP: What do you do around town?
TK: I worked at Pilgrim’s Pride for two years, but I left November 29th because my mother got sick, so I just left. My mother got sick and it was bothering me, so I just up and just left.

FP: You worked at the chicken plant? What did you do at Pilgrim’s Pride?
TK: I was a floor person—floor person for the wing line. It was cool, a lot of work, but I just did what they asked me to do… Basically, I was taking care of the floor and supplying the rework, the people who cut the chickens, and keeping the floor clean, and the ceilings, and just about everything they asked me to do.

FP: How did this job compare to other jobs you’ve done?
TK: The first job I got down here, I worked at the University of Georgia—I worked at the East Commons, the Summit. That was the first job I had down here. I did a year there, but then I think I kind of got laid off because that’s when some students wanted to start working there. So, I guess I was one of the first ones there, so I kinda like left.

FP: How do you spend your time now?
TK: I like to go to the library and read; I like to read. I read a lot of history books. I also read sports magazines; I used to play basketball back home in Chicago.

FP: Did you grow up in Chicago?
TK: Yeah, South Side of Chicago.

FP: How does living in Chicago compare to living in Athens?
TK: Slow. Slow. I just don’t like the heat because I’m really used to the snow. When I first got down here, I couldn’t stand it. I jumped on the phone and called my mother. I said, “Mom, you ain’t gonna believe this.” “Tyrone, what’s wrong?” “Mom, it’s not even eight in the morning and it’s almost 80 degrees.” She said, “I told you, you’re not Northern now, you’re Southern now. You gotta get used to the heat.” I cannot stand the heat, but I like it down here ’cause it’s slow and quiet.

FP: You said your mom got sick. Is she OK?
TK: Yeah. She had a major heart attack, the second one. So, I was debating about [whether to stay or go back to Chicago]. She always tells my family, “Don’t call Tyrone,” because me and my mother are real close. “Tyrone will drop anything and just leave.” And that’s what I did, I just up and just left.

FP: You went back up to Chicago?
TK: I left November 29th. It was bothering me. I didn’t tell nobody. It was really bothering me. And I was debating, “Should I leave, should I go?” So, I left.

FP: How is she doing now?
TK: Oh, she’s doing fine. She told me to get back down here, because Chicago, ain’t nothing up there but trouble, you know: drugs, gangs. I wasn’t gonna stay there no-way. I like it down here.

FP: When did you get back to Athens?
TK: I got back in January—January 19th, something like that.

FP: So, you’ve been here almost three months. Are you working somewhere now?
TK: I’m gonna try to go back to the poultry. I took some time off just to get my life back together, get my mind right… I just need time to clear my mind, make sure I’m ready to go back to work so I won’t have this problem on my mind about my mother. You know, because I don’t want to go to work there and get a phone call again saying something’s wrong with my mother. I just want to make sure everything’s OK before I go back to work so I don’t have to up and leave again.

FP: So, other than working all these jobs, what do you do in Athens?
TK: I come [downtown] to talk to my friends, you know, get out. And I like to walk a lot. I like to walk and do a lot of sightseeing, because I don’t get a chance to see a lot of things because [I’m] working a lot. You know, so I tend to get out just to catch some of the things about Athens that I miss.

FP: What have you seen while sightseeing around town?
TK: I go over here, by the bus station, over there by Weaver D’s—they got a lot of pictures over there by this park. I go over there and look at all the history about Athens, about the old days.

FP: Like the railroad?
TK: Yeah, the railroad and the Coca-Cola building. And I’m like, “I’m right here.” They have old pictures of Broad Street…

FP: I really like to people-watch. Do you ever just watch people and what they’re doing?
TK: Speaking of people, down here, there’s one thing. I can be walking and I can be talking, and then people will come and they say, “Where you from?” They say I sound different. They say, “You’re not from here.” And I’m like, “How do y’all know?” They say, “We can tell by the way you walk and the way you talk.”

FP: Are you happy with your decision to move down here?
TK: That was a good decision I made… because, if I’d have stayed in Chicago, it could have been a lot of worse things happening to me up there. You know, with the murders and the gangs and all that.

FP: South Side of Chicago, pretty notorious for…
TK: Gangs. That’s the whole city. I grew up on that. Old gangster: “O.G.” I’m “old gangster”—old-timer, though. Yeah, I got over that. I got my tattoos off my arms. Because my daughter, she doesn’t like that… I had to go get laser [tattoo removal].

FP: So, you have a daughter?
TK: Yeah, my daughter, she’s about 24 years old now. I just recently talked to her. She has a birthday coming up, April 17th.

FP: And where does she live?
TK: She’s in Chicago… with my ex. Yeah, she’s my best friend.

FP: Your daughter?
TK: And my ex. We grew up together. We went to grammar school together, graduated from high school. Then she went to college and I went into the military. When she got out she stayed with me. We lived in Milwaukee, Texas, North Carolina, then we moved back to Chicago.

FP: Where were you stationed?
TK: …I went a lot of places. I love Germany. If I could go back to Germany…

FP: What did you like about Germany?
TK: Uh, the mark rate. So, you can change the dollar for the mark and get more money [laughs]. I loved that. No, Germany was a different culture, though. You know, you have to learn how to speak German.

FP: Did you learn any German?
TK: I can’t do a thing now, but I knew how to count my money, marks. And I knew schnitzel, that’s like a sandwich, and how to drink their dark beer [laughs].