Benny Jay: Please Come to Chicago

February 26th, 2015

I get a call the other day from the great Carol Woodworth–the decluttering genius, who helped me declutter my office.

Product placement: If you want to get your life out of chaos, contact Carol at Optimal Organizing–now!

Anyway, she’s calling about the song Chicago by Graham Nash.

Which goes: “Though your brother’s bound and gagged, and they’ve chained him to a chair, won’t you please come to Chicago…”

Basically, it’s calling on people to come to Chicago to protest the Chicago 8 trial, which is when the federal government, in all its glorious stupidity, prosecuted eight anti-war activists on trumped-up charges.

Keep it here for more unbiased explanations of our country’s past!

Specifically, Carol wants to know who’s Jack in the line: “Don’t ask Jack to help you, cause he’ll turn the other ear…”

“I thought it might be someone from city government,” she says. “Maybe Colonel Jack Reilly, who was director of special events back then.”

I’m impressed. There are probably only three people in the universe who remember Colonel Jack Reilly. And I never thought one of them would be Carol.

Who, though a genius at decluttering, has never showed an interest in obscure political figures from Chicago history.


The Chicago 8…


Apparently, Carol found her way to Colonel Jack through a Google search.

By the way, I’m pretty sure Colonel Jack’s a colonel in much the same way Tom Parker is. That is–not at all.

You know, I’ve been thinking of calling myself Colonel Benny Jay.

Back to Jack–I have two theories.

One.) Nash is using the word Jack simply to get to the next line. That’s a favorite tactic of Bob Dylan, who writes down any old shit and then takes perverse pleasure in watching his fans struggle to ascertain the meaning of it all.

When in reality it’s only a conveyance from Point A to Point C.

Two.) Jack could be the proverbial Everyman, who’d come to Chicago to change the world, if only he wasn’t so busy doing stuff like watching TV.


Graham Nash is the man in the middle…


Carol’s not buying it. In her mind, there’s a specific man named Jack and she’s hell bent on finding out who he is.

And who am I to argue with the woman who decluttered my room!

After we hang up, I go to Google and type: “Who is Jack in the song Chicago?”

You, too, can be an investigative journalist!

That gets me to a chat room, featuring Bob from Rahway, New Jersey, who writes: “‘Jack’ was a reference to John Daily who was Mayor of Chicago.”

Excellent answer, except…

Chicago’s Mayor Dailys were named Richard, not Jack.

And it’s not Daily, it’s Daley.

Other than that, Bob, your knowledge of Chicago politics is astounding!

After Bob finishes his dissertation, Gina of Paradize, AZ writes: “I asked David and Graham. They said it’s just like anyone, any dude.”

Talk about going to the source–why didn’t I think of that?

Hope that helps, Carol.

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No Blaise: This Stuff Is Hard!

February 25th, 2015

I bet you’re all sick of hearing about my obstacles of becoming a functioning graduate school. Unfortunately, if this is the case, you’re going to have to find something else to do with this Wednesday afternoon cause it’s hard out here for a pimp (26 year old white girl).

That being said, you’re already reading so why stop now? Misery loves company.

My first paper of graduate school is due today and while writing it last night, procrastinators unite, I realized just how hard it is for me to put a real sentence together. Sure, I write for this blog every Wednesday and occasionally there are full sentences, but the divide between snarky blog posts and graduate school papers that have to be written with your entire brain on and put into APA format, is quite large.

Step number one was wrapping my head around APA format for citing the paper, which I can say with 50% certainty I did not do correctly. Step two was not considering the creation of a title page a victory and worthy of an hour long break. Step three was stopping binge eating gummy beards. Step four was writing at least one sentence that made sense.

This paper was a shorter “reflection” paper which meant I got to add some thoughts of my own, which we all know I love to do. This meant I was almost able to convince myself I’d be able to write it today at work, but thankfully a little bit of me is an adult and vetoed that idea.

I decided that I was going to use the “word vomit, then edit” writing technique. I happened to leave out the self-edit part of this process and pretty much just word vomited onto three pages, and then a reference page, and sent it to Anika at about 12:30 last night.

I am waiting for her to look at it and send me a response with something along the lines of, “Did you have a stroke while writing this?”

Luckily, this lovely little paper has gotten my brain all nice and warmed up for the research paper I am going to be writing this weekend while out of town.

Rather than sacrifice my social life, I’ve decided to attempt to both have friends and be a good student. So far, this has meant drinking wine on Friday nights and getting up at 7am on Saturdays to do work before dog obedience class, and more often than not falling asleep sitting up while trying to do work on a couch at work as the boys sleep.

I may be going about grad school the wrong way..


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Benny Jay: Jim Hendrix?

February 24th, 2015

In my long and winding life as a writer, I’ve made enough mistakes to fill an ocean–that’s for sure.

I’ve inverted letters, butchered names, mangled sentences.

I recently spelled a woman named JoAnn as Joann. Heap as heep. And Gerry Goffin as Coffin.

Once again, thank you, Thor, for bailing me out on that one!

Man, there’s probably three or four mistakes in this post alone–at least!

So, generally, I tend to be very understanding when confronted by mistakes my colleagues make. There by the grace of God–and all that.

But last week, I came face to face with a whooper that just blew my freakin’ mind and made me feel like I was 452 years old.

It came in a post I wrote for my beloved Reader, when I mentioned Jimi Hendrix.

Who the headline writer called Jim.

As in Jim Hendrix!

That’s right, the dude called Jimi Jim.

Okay, let me just take a breath and try to calm down…

Look, here’s the deal, folks. Jimi Hendrix is probably one of the coolest dudes who ever existed.

In fact, if you were to create a Mount Rushmore of the four coolest dudes from my generation, he’d be right up there with Paul Newman, Norm Van Lier, Steve McQueen, Joe Namath, Bruce Lee…

Wait, that’s six cool dudes. And I still haven’t named Sly Stone. Or Jim Brown.

I need another mountain!

Part of the reason he’s so cool is that he’s Jimi. With an i. Not a y. Calling him Jim is like calling Marilyn Monroe Mary.

I mean, c’mon, man!


Hey, young people–this is Jimi Hendrix!


Sorry. Time to take another breath…

I can’t be too hard on the editor. He was born in the `80s–years after Hendrix had died. I’m sure that for him, Jimi Hendrix’s probably an ancient relic.

Still. Jim Hendrix? I bet he wouldn’t mess up Justin Bieber’s name!

Calm down, big guy, calm down…

My wife is also taking this Jimi-as-Jim thing hard. Hendrix played a particularly important role in her life as she actually saw him in concert.

This was back in 1970. At the Fillmore East in New York City. She went with her friends Gail & Cindi, and her old high school boyfried and…

You know, if I hear about that fuckin’ high school boyfriend one more time…

Milo’s also taking it especially hard. He’s a Vietnam Vet and it was the music of Hendrix that helped him escape that shithole with his mind relatively intact.

Well, that and tons of reefer.

When I broke news of the headline to Milo, he couldn’t talk for at least a couple of seconds.

“Benny,” he finally gasped, “we’re a bunch of fucking dinosaurs.”

Truer words were never spoken.

Let your freak flag fly!

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Letter From Milo: The Old Man’s Gun

February 23rd, 2015

About a week after my father passed away, I drove to my mother’s house in Northwest Indiana to help her dispose of the Old Man’s belongings – mainly clothing – and return the hospital bed and other leased medical equipment that he needed in his last days.

Mom planned to donate Dad’s clothing to charity. We spent the afternoon sorting through my father’s closet, packing clothes into cardboard boxes. When we had finished sealing the cartons, Mom said, “There’s one more thing,” then reached into a dresser drawer and pulled out a .38 caliber, snub-nosed, Smith & Wesson revolver. Holding it gingerly, she asked, “What should I do with this darned thing?”

“Jesus, where the hell did that come from?”

“Your father used to carry it around. He usually kept it in the glove compartment.”

“I never knew he carried a pistol. I wonder why?”

“For protection, I guess?

“Did Dad ever use the gun? Did he ever shoot anybody?”

Mom shook her head. “I don’t think so. If he did, I’m sure he would have mentioned it to me.”

Gary, Indiana, the town where I was raised, was a dangerous place, populated by violent, thuggish drunkards, both male and female. Shootings, stabbings, random stranglings, savage beatings, and defenestration were daily occurrences. It was a foolish man, indeed, who wandered the streets of Gary without protection.

As a kid, I remember hearing stories about friends and neighbors who lost their lives because they hadn’t taken the trouble to arm themselves. There was Mr. Popovich, for example, who had forgotten to take his pistol along when he went to the corner liquor store to buy a pack of Luckies and a pint of Old Crow. He was found a few days later, shot full of holes, floating face down in the Calumet River.

Then there was Mr. Shapiro, who told his trusting wife that he was going down to the corner liquor store to buy a pack of Chesterfields and a bottle of Manischewitz, but forgot to arm himself when he left his house. They found his body later that night in the foyer of a whorehouse on Washington Street. He had been stabbed multiple times.

I also recall hearing about Mr. Gomez, who left his sawed-off shotgun at home when he went to the corner liquor store to buy a pack of Pall Malls and a pint of Dos Gusanos tequila. On his way home he was killed and partially eaten by one of the many packs of feral pigs that roamed Gary’s streets.

“So, what should I do with this?” Mom asked again, still holding the pistol.

“Give it to me,” I said. “I’ll take care of it.”

“What are you going to do with it?”

I didn’t know how to answer that question. The right thing to do, I supposed, would have been to get rid of it, turn it in to the police, or toss it in the Chicago River. Even though I’m a veteran of the U.S. Army and familiar with all kinds of weaponry, I have an abiding dislike for firearms. They are manufactured for just one purpose – slaughter. I would have felt uncomfortable keeping one in my home.

I was still planning to get rid of the pistol when an ugly thought wormed its way into my mind and made me think I might be acting hastily. Although not nearly as bad as Gary, Indiana in its prime, Chicago is a very dangerous place, the murder capital of the USA. Nearly 3,000 people, men, women and children, some of them infants, have been shot in Chicago this year. They’ve been shot in playgounds, schoolyards, homes, back alleys and busy streets. It can happen anytime, anywhere, for any reason, or no reason at all. In some poor and neglected neighborhoods, leaving the house to run a simple errand, like walking to the store, can be a life or death proposition.

Perhaps it would be wise, I said to myself, to carry some protection. Maybe one of these days the Old Man’s .38 would come in handy. After all, I regularly take trips to the corner liquor store to pick up cigarettes and whiskey.

The choice was mine. I could either be a wolf or a sheep. After giving it a great deal of thought and considering all of the options, I finally decided that the best thing to do was find a liquor store that delivers.

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Matt Farmer: The Unemployment Diaries – Part Four

February 22nd, 2015

Previously, Matt left his job to find new work as a lawyer and then promptly messed up his knee, playing basketball…


If a ceiling fan could win a staring contest, I’d have lost countless contests over the last twelve days to the fan directly above my bed.

I’ve spent most of those days and nights on my back in that bed, hopped up on pain pills, occasionally staring at the blades of that off-white fan. Those blades haven’t moved an inch during that time period, and my own movement has bordered on glacial.

When I do catch myself staring at that fan, I try to snap out of it as quickly as possible. When I find myself fixating on that fan, it’s usually during a moment of self-pity.

Unemployed. Mounting medical bills. Tough to get around on my own.

You get the picture.

Twenty years ago, I might have kept staring at that fan, allowing myself to slip into a deep funk.

I didn’t have the perspective I have today.

Perspective, like my gray hair, came to me with age.

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of kids who, for any number of medical reasons, also have a hard time getting around on their own, but I know that for too many of them it’s a permanent condition.

catch22manincastMatt can relate to this dude…


I’ve met plenty of people who wrestle with medical and financial problems far worse than mine but who aren’t lucky enough to have the kind of day-to-day support my family and friends provide me.

I’ve attended too many funerals over the last decade to get too worked up about my having to spend a few months on the disabled list looking for a job.

It doesn’t mean my problems aren’t real. I need to find a job, and I need to get myself walking again. Both things will happen, but in the interim I need to do my best to keep my head in the game.

And, as I’ve learned in recent weeks, heavy medication makes it tricky to keep one’s head in the game.

So I focus, for now, on little things – like not staring mindlessly at my ceiling fan.


Here’s hoping Joakim & the Bulls can get all of us through this winter!


I’ve also made some temporary changes to my radio listening habits. With so much of my time currently spent in bed, either resting or icing, I’ve turned to the radio for background noise when I grow tired of silence.

The old, non-medicated me used to listen to a lot of National Public Radio. These days, however, I avoid NPR’s news programming like the plague. Instead, I find myself listening to hour after hour of sports talk radio.


Because I’ve discovered that it’s easier for medicated me to slip into a funk when the voices in my room are talking about beheadings, Ebola, and Rahm Emanuel than when they’re discussing the NFL draft or the NBA trade deadline.

But this too shall pass.

A few weeks from now, I hope to be off the pills, walking around a bit, and starting to interview for jobs.

At some point, I may even replace my old ceiling fan. I can’t stand the sight of it.


Editor’s Note: Matt’s last post for The Third City was The Unemployment Diaries–Part Three.

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