Benny Jay: Next Time, Pippi–Just You Wait!

July 5th, 2015

A lot of people may not know this about me–on account of the fact that I’m so modest and everything–but I’m an excellent Spades player.

But, as good as I may be, for the longest time I’ve had a string of bad luck in games teaming me and my pal, Ron, against my wife and our dear friend, Pippi.

I’m not sure how I can be so good at Spades and still lose year after year to these ladies.

I have a theory. And, please, whatever you do, don’t tell Ron. But–it’s all Ron’s fault.

Anyway, our kids grew up together and for the better part of the `90s and `00s, we’d get together to listen to music and play Spades.

And year after year Ron and I suffered the humiliation of getting whooped by the two Ps–Pippi & Pam!

And let me tell you–these girls really rubbed it in!

Especially that Pippi…

First of all, she adds sound effects to her game. So she’s not content to just lay down a killer card.

Oh, no, when she plays a killer she goes–”Bammmmm!”

Then she bursts into song.

That’s another thing you should know.  In addition to playing cards, Pippi’s a great singer.

If I’m lucky, she’ll take requests and sing Lovely Day.

Trust me–there are few things in life nicer than Pippi singing Lovely Day. Even if she’s whooping my ass at Spades, while she’s singing it.

Well, everyone got together for a monster reunion the other day.

And I let Pippi and my wife know that this time I wasn’t playing.

“Ladies,” I announced. “I’ll be giving you a lesson in how to play Spades. So take notes.”


I guess you can tell who won the big game…


Ron couldn’t play cause he was doing the dishes.

So I brought in a ringer–Stephen from Joliet.

I figured a guy from Joliet should know how to play cards. I’m not sure why I figured this–but I did.

For awhile, we were doing great.

In fact, I won a hand by making a masterful play in the final round.

“You can read all about that move in chapter four of my book,” I told Pippi. “The Game of Spades, My Way by Benny Jay.”

“Ha, ha, ha,” Pippi said.

Then I took a break to let a guy I’ll call Douglas sit in for me.

I had great confidence in him cause he talked even more trash than I did.

But, man, I left that room for one minute and, when I returned, what did I hear?

Pippi singing Patti Labelle–as in…

“Love and need and want you, babe…”

I’m like–”WTF!”

“We got set,” said Douglas.

Stephen was disgusted. “I’m through with you busters,” he declared. “I’m going back to Joliet!”

Meanwhile, Pippi and my wife were going on and on about how “sistahs know how to play the game.” And “I hope you were taking notes, Benny Jay.”

And then Gaylon–who wasn’t even playing–chipped in from the sidelines.

“What was the name of that book, Benny?”

Oh, brother. You know how these women stick together.

Okay, P&P. Enjoy your little victory. But be warned. I got a secret weapon.

For the next big game–I’m bringing back Ron!

Hey, stop laughing.

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Rolando: Out of College, Out of Work Journo

July 4th, 2015

How’d it go?

-What do you mean?

-You were in there for like 45 minutes. That’s a long time to be in his office.

-He said he had some concerns and asked me some basic questions.

-I gathered. About what?

-Just some general concerns and basic questions.

-General concerns, basic questions?

-Yeah, you know, just generally speaking.

-You’re in there for 45 minutes, you come out, and all you can say is he had some general concerns? Nothing specific?



-Yeah. What do you want me to say?

-How ’bout some fucking details, Manny, like what he asked you, what was his mood like, how should I respond to a certain question based on the way he responded to your answers to that question?

-Just be yourself and you’ll be fine.

-Be myself and I’ll be fine? I’m a six foot two brown kid with a heavy Chicago accent that goes to a state university with a nonexistent journalism program. Those dudes on staff in there come from a murderers’ row of journalism schools.

-You always do this to yourself. You got the skills and the clips, man.

-A feature on why you should ride your bike to school to save the environment is hardly a solid clip.

-That one prof liked it, said it was well written, said you had a journalist’s knack.

-It was well written, just not the stuff that gets you these gigs.

-You’ll be fine.

-I’ll be fine… I’ll be fine. Fuck, here he comes…


-Who? The guy you just interviewed with.

-Oh, yeah, that guy. He’s a real dick. Make sure you don’t….

-Hello, sir, Rolando Ithier. Pleasure to meet you.

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Randolph Street: Five Pix

July 3rd, 2015



1988Montrose Harbor–March





4IMG_2008Lake Snow–March


2324North 226



All photos © Jon Randolph 2015


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Benny Jay: Lovely Freda Kelly

July 2nd, 2015

For the last few days, I’ve been singing the great Beatles song, I Will.

It’s been on my mind cause it’s the song they play at the climactic moment of Good Ol’ Freda, a documentary by Ryan White, that I recently saw.

It tells the tale of Freda Kelly, the teenager from Liverpool, who, at the age of 16, got the greatest job in the world–secretary to The Beatles.

Watching that movie brought back many memories.

Like, for instance–I used to a Beatle.

Yes, this is true. You know, in a round about way.

Back in the `60s, my older sister and her friends organized a pretend-Beatles group.

No one played any instruments. They’d put on a Beatles record and sing along–like they were the real Paul, George, John and Ringo.

I got to play along because there were only three of them and they needed a fourth to fill out the band.

Apparently, the dog wouldn’t do.

johnlennon2Let’s face it–John was the coolest Beatle…


Of course, they made it clear to me that I was only in the band because that they had to take me. As such, I didn’t get a say in selecting which Beatle I was going to be.

I had to be whichever Beatle was left over after they made their selections.

I tell ya’–life ain’t easy for a boy named Benny.

The left over Beatle happened to be John. And so from that day on, John has been my favorite Beatle.

It’s funny how time has a way of changing our perspectives.

Eventually, my sister came to the realization that John was the smartest, funniest and most talented of the bunch.

And so she had to confront the fact that I–her baby brother–had made the wisest selection as to which Beatle he wanted to be.

Even though the selection really wasn’t mine to make.

By the way, she chose to be Ringo. A fact I tease her about to this very day.

And here’s the kicker…

My sister knows way more about the Beatles than I do.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that my sister knows more Beatles trivia than anyone alive.

With the possible exception of Freda Kelly, of course.

But when push came to shove, she was Ringo and I was John.

As much as we all love Ringo, it’s obvious to one and all that John Lennon is one of the few people in the history of rock n’ roll who actually gets better as the years move on.

Anyway, check out Good Ol’ Freda.

I’m sure it will bring back memories of your own.


No Blaise: Bedroom Evolution

July 1st, 2015

There are hints I get every so often that let me know I’m getting older. Leaving the bar before everyone else, anxiety about my dogs nutrition, a love for drinking wine while sitting on the couch….

I had one of these such “Ah ha!” moments this past weekend. My roommates and I were planning on attending the warehouse sale of an extremely beautiful, and usually very expensive, home goods brand Unison. I went to the sale knowing that I wanted new bedding, whispering to myself “I can’t wait to get new bedding, I can’t wait to get new bedding…” This was my first hint towards my being an older person. The second came once we got to the Unison warehouse and I not only found some beautiful bedding, but I came across a buy one get one free decorative pillow section. Before approaching this section, I never thought I’d be the person who had decorative pillows on their bed, but standing in that section I felt unsure how I’d slept on a bed without decorative pillows for so long…

FullSizeRender (2)

I mean just look at how beautiful they are….

After the warehouse sale, we made a few more stops but I couldn’t focus on anything beyond making my bed as soon as I got home. Those decorative pillows needed to be on my bed and they needed to be on my bed NOW.

Upon finally making it home, I made my way downstairs and made my bed. Since becoming a dog owner, and then having that dog become my bed partner, I’d taken on an extremely lazy attitude towards making my bed. I had gotten very “oh fuck it”. Now, don’t get me wrong, my dog motherhood wasn’t the only factor in my messy bed syndrome. Laziness should also be factored in here.

As I gazed upon my new pillows, and on what seemed to be a turning point in my life, I reminisced on my bed decor of phases past. Until this Christmas, I had the same comforter that I got my sophomore year of college, which is disgusting in a lot of different ways. Upon getting my new comforter, I thought about burning this old one as a service to humanity. I probably should’ve.

Even more recently when I made my bed, I would put my two stuffed animals, which coincidentally were dogs, at the top of my bed by my pillows. This habit lingered from my grade school days, and my reflection on it opened so many doors as to why I am single.

The end of sleeping with stuffed animals came a few months ago, partially because I was like ok you’re going to school to become a teacher of small children let’s stop having similar bed layouts to a 10 year old, and partially because Belle, my living dog, chewed their eyes out as what I can only call an intimidation tactic.

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

Since getting my pillows on Sunday, I have successfully made my bed every morning since. It being Wednesday means that if I continue this habit for the next few days, I may actually become and adult who comes home to a cozy human bed rather than a pile of blankets on a large dog bed.

Sweet dreams!


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Benny Jay: Stay, Jimmy Butler, Stay!

June 30th, 2015

For the last few days, I’ve been on pins and needles as I fear my beloved Bulls will lose the great Jimmy Butler to free agency.

Probably to the Lakers. Or, if recent rumors can be believed, the Sixers.

Noooo! Not those bums.

Jimmy Butler is the starting guard for Bulls.

Last year he offered to sign a four-year deal with the Bulls for $48 million.

That prompted me to bellow at Bulls management: “Take that deal!”

Not that anyone in Bulls management ever listens to me. Even when I bellow.  But that’s besides the point.

Instead, the Bulls insisted he sign for $44 million.

Prompting me to say: “What the fuck are you doing–trying to lose?”

In the hopes that if I swore someone with the Bulls might pay attention.

Alas, no deal was signed and now Jimmy’s a free agent. Meaning he might not return to the Bulls.

One reason I’m so disheartened is that Jimmy Butler’s really good. Without him, the Bulls have no chance of winning a championship.

Another reason is that he went to college with Ryan, one of my oldest daughter’s best friends.

As such, he remains my only sliver of hope for getting a free ticket to a Bulls game.


CT ct-spt-0328-bulls-heat-chicago-019.JPGPlease stay, Jimmy!


Not that I have any reason to believe that I’ll get a free ticket through the Ryan/Jimmy connection.  As I haven’t received a free ticket in the four seasons Jimmy’s been on the team.

For that matter, I don’t believe Ryan has received a free ticket either.

My guess is that the Bulls will win the championship before Ryan or I get a free ticket from Jimmy.

There’s also the possibility that Ryan might not give me a ticket in the unlikely event that Jimmy gives some to her.

After all, I’m not the only one in Ryan’s life who loves the Bulls. There’s someone I’ll call Nora. And another named Anika. And Ana–can’t forget her.

I’m suddenly realizing I may be at the end of a long line of people for Ryan’s non-existent tickets.

Still, a man can hope.

Hold it! Breaking news! Stop the presses! This just in!

Jimmy re-signed with the Bulls for $95 million.


Hey, Jimmy–don’t forget those tickets!

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Letter From Milo: Road Trip

June 29th, 2015

I’ve become somewhat of a hermit as I’ve gotten older. My comfort zone has shrunk to a few North Side neighborhoods. I hate to travel. I don’t like meeting new people or seeing new things. I’m uncomfortable with crowds. And I refuse to fly.

I am, in essence, a weird old dude.

The lovely Mrs. Milo, on the other hand, is the most social of creatures. She loves people, parties and travel. Fortunately, she has a wide circle of girlfriends, some of them also burdened with uncooperative or curmudgeonly husbands, who help her enjoy the social pleasures, things that I am unwilling or incapable of doing.

A few weeks ago, my wife approached me and hesitantly asked, “Milo, honey, is there any chance you’ll go on a road trip with me?”


“Upstate New York. My brother’s going to race one of his cars at the racetrack in Watkin’s Glen. It’s near Ithaca, where, if you recall, I was born.”


“What! You’ll actually go.”


“And you won’t grumble and complain.”

“I just agreed to go. I didn’t agree to behave.”

Ithaca is about an 11-hour drive from Chicago. We decided to drive to Cleveland, which is more than halfway to Ithaca, and spend the night at a Bed and Breakfast, which my wife found on the internet. The room was funky, it had a medicinal smell, but the breakfast was excellent.

We stayed at a B and B in Ithaca, too. The room was great, but the breakfasts were horrible. Everything – eggs, potatoes, bacon – was microwaved.

Despite the shitty breakfasts, we had a nice time in Ithaca. It’s a pleasant community, hilly, watered by several streams, with well-maintained homes, and dominated by Cornell University. It reminded me of Gary, Indiana. We did some sightseeing, found a few good restaurants, and patronized a couple of the local watering holes. Then, we were off to Watkin’s Glen to meet my wife’s older brother, Richard.

Richard is a retired naval officer, in his early 70s, with a lot of spare time on his hands. He spends that time buying, rebuilding and racing old Mustangs. And that’s how I ended up, on a fine Saturday in June, wandering around the pit area of the Watkin’s Glen racecourse. My wife and I were going to watch her brother race his Mustang.

I’ll admit that I know nothing about cars. In fact, I have no interest in knowing about cars. If someone had told me that I would spend an entire day nosing around the pit area of a racecourse, I would have laughed out loud and asked what they were smoking.

There were dozens of cars in the pits, most had their hoods up and a couple of guys tinkering with the engines. As I walked past some of these mechanic types, I could hear fragments of their conversations. And I could barely understand a word they said. It was like they were speaking a foreign language.

I realized, then, that these guys were like the kids I knew in high school who used to hang around gas stations, except that they had grown up and were able to afford expensive racing machines.

All of the race cars were covered in product decals – oil companies, auto parts companies, tire companies, etc. As I strolled around with a beer in my hand, I noticed a car with a prominently displayed “Hoosier” decal.

Ah, I said to myself, a fellow Indiana boy. I walked up to the guy working on the car and said, “What part of Indiana are you from?”


“I grew up in Indiana,” I said. “I noticed your Hoosier decal and wondered what part of Indiana you were from.”

He looked at me strangely and said, “I’m from Pennsylvania and Hoosier is the brand name of a tire.”

I smiled, nodded and walked away.

My wife and I spent another day in Watkin’s Glen, but stayed away from the racecourse. We sailed on Seneca Lake, ate at a couple of decent restaurants, and bought some souvenirs. The following morning we left New York State and drove straight through to Chicago. I was glad to get home.

About a week later, my wife approached me and said, “A group of us are thinking about going up to Michigan for the weekend. Do you want to go? It’ll be fun.”


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