Randolph Street: OutTakes–61

January 17th, 2020

ShoeshineStandS1Shoeshine–New Orleans






3Skipping StoneSSkipping Stones-Minnesota



All photos © Jon Randolph






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Letter From Milo: Bank Robber

January 15th, 2020

I wasn’t always a famous, wealthy and beloved figure in the blogging world.

I know it’s hard to believe, but before I was overwhelmed by fame, fortune and the paparazzi, I was just a regular guy. By regular guy I mean I was an average Joe, shuffling along in obscurity, content to make a living, raise a family, get drunk once in a while and get laid on occasion.

Then, the feces got into the central air. Like regular guys everywhere I got hit hard by the Great George Bush Economic Meltdown. The small business I had owned and mismanaged for many years, the Dumbass Advertising Corporation, Ltd, LLC & Sons, nearly went under. The cash stopped coming in. The lovely Mrs. Milo had to shoulder the main burden of keeping us afloat. I had to do something, anything, to crank up the cash flow.

So, I got a night job.

It wasn’t a great job. I had never done anything like it before. I won’t even mention what it was except to say it wasn’t anything I’d care to post on my resume.

The best thing about it was the hours, six hours a night, four days a week. It allowed me to keep my normal activities going during the day and it provided much needed cash. It was what I needed at the time.

The business wasn’t exactly a fly-by-night enterprise, but it was real close. The workforce was a mixed bag of characters. There were middle managers who had been downsized, college kids working their way through school, retirees who couldn’t make it on their pensions, whores who were too old to make a decent living, a number of young men with crude jailhouse tattoos, musicians who had wasted their youths trying to get record deals, a few people who were obviously junkies, and of course, an aging, burned out advertising man.

It seemed that anyone who wanted that job could have it. The only requirements were the ability to read and write and minimal computer skills. None of the employees stayed long. Turnover was ferocious. After a month there were only two of us left out of a group of 12 that started with me.

The other guy was a man named Teddy, who, as a young man, had made a living as a bank robber in Mississippi.

Of course, he didn’t blurt out this information at our first meeting. We had to become friends first. And that wasn’t easy. I wasn’t looking for friends and I doubt if Teddy was, either. All we were looking for was a paycheck, preferably one that didn’t bounce.

But as new faces kept showing up week after week, and the people we knew drifted away, Teddy and I began spending more time with each other. We’d eat lunch and take smoke breaks together, and after work we’d walk to the El train together. Teddy generally carried a half pint in his jacket and had a drink or two on the walk to the train. He was a gentleman and always offered me a drink. And I always accepted.

It was while walking to the El one evening that Teddy said, “Man, you don’t know how good it feels to be walking down this street.”

“It’s a beautiful night.”

“It’s more than that, Milo. You see, I spent 22 years in prison, in Mississippi. Got out eight months ago. Just getting on this El train and going anywhere I want is sweet.”

“Damn, man. 22 years?”

“Yeah, robbed four banks. I should have stopped at three.”

When I got home that evening, I opened a bottle of wine, poured a hefty drink and thought about Teddy. I would have thought someone who had served so much prison time would be bitter and angry. But Teddy was just the opposite. He was one of the sweetest natured men I’d ever met, always smiling, always genial. I never heard him say a bad word about anyone. He even had a playful side, which he allowed me to see.

He had begun greeting me at work by giving me an ugly look and saying, “Motherfucker, where’s my money?”

And I’d reply by saying, “Spent it, motherfucker.”

Teddy always laughed at my reply and said, “Shit, man, I would have done the same thing.”

One evening as we walked to the El train, I asked Teddy, “It must have been tough being a black man in a Mississippi prison?”

“It wasn’t easy. The funny thing is that my own people made it tough on me. You see, most of the trustees and guards at the prison are black men. But they have to answer to white men. So they can’t look like they’re taking it easier on their own people than on whites. Motherfuckers can make your life miserable, sometimes.”

“How’d you get this job, anyway? The application form asked about felony convictions.”

“”They just asked if you had been convicted of a felony in the last seven years. Shit, man, I been in prison a lot longer than seven years.”

Another time, Teddy said, “Stolen money don’t last long. This short money we making here last longer than bank money. My biggest hit was $30,000 and it was gone in a month. Course I had to split it with a partner. If you a criminal you got a lot of expenses. Plus, you get crazy with the money. When you work for your money, you watch it closer.”

About a month later, Teddy came in late to work, which was unusual. He never missed work and he was always punctual. He was also disheveled and smelled of alcohol, another unusual occurrence. He never drank at work.

“Are you okay, man?” I asked.

“My woman put me out. I had to move all my shit into my brother’s place.”

“Damn, man, that’s rough.”

“Bitch went crazy. Accused me of all kind of shit. I swear, Milo, I ain’t even looked at another woman since I been out of jail.”

About an hour later, Teddy abruptly stood up at his cubicle, raised his face toward the ceiling and hollered something I couldn’t quite make out. Then he rushed toward the exit door.

That was the last time I saw him.

Word on the street was that Teddy had broken parole, either a domestic dispute, something to do with a car or a concealed weapons charge. I was pretty sure he didn’t go back to robbing banks because I didn’t read anything in the papers about any local banks being robbed. He might be in prison in Illinois or maybe they sent him back to Mississippi. Who the hell knows?

One thing I do know is that I miss him. He was good company and always cheered me up when I saw him.

Sometime in my life I’d like to see Teddy again. If I do, I’ll throw my arms around him, give him a big hug and say, “Motherfucker, where’s my money?”

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Randolph Street: Not of a Kind

January 10th, 2020

1DSCF6843Twilight–Lincoln Park


2DSCF6829Hodge–The Bookstore Cat


3DSCF6852Office Chair


All photos © Jon Randolph


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Benny Jay: Hold `em…

January 9th, 2020

I’m sitting at the bowling alley bar, mindlessly watching Portland play the Clippers, an NBA basketball game I care nothing about, when…

I’m approached by Benji, another bowler in the league.

“I have this app,” he explains. “I can place a bet on any game anywhere…”


“You wanna bet the over/under on the halftime score?”

“How does that work?”

“Right now they’re saying both teams will score 112 in the first half…”

“You mean, their combined scores?

“Right. So, if you take the over, anything over 112 and you win…”

“So, if they score 113?”

“You win.”


“C’mon, just bet ten dollars.”

I think about it. On the one hand, I’m not much for gambling. On the other hand–what the fuck.

“I’m in,” I say.

And just like that everything changes. I feel a rush of adrenaline–like ten dollars never seemed so important.

kennyrogersthegamblerAs Kenny Rogers says…

“Hey, Benny,” a guy calls from across the bar. “Come have a drink.”

“Can’t talk,” I call out. “I got a fiduciary interest in the outcome of this game.”

A collective wow rises from the bar. It’s probably the first time fiduciary has ever been uttered in a bowling alley.

Let me tell you, it’s way different rooting for teams to score rather than win. For one thing, you don’t give a shit about defense. For another, you find yourself saying things you never imagined I’d say. Like.

“Dunk that fuckin’ ball, shithead.”

Yes, you swear more when there’s money on the line.

The shithead in question is Mason Plumlee, a big galoot from Duke.

Generally, I have an aversion for Dukies. But I find myself cheering for Plumlee like he’s a long lost son.

Ryan, another bowler, sits next to me. “Who ya got?” he asks.

“The over.”

Just saying that makes me feel like I’m Jimmy the Greek.

“What’s the over?”


“Relax,” he says. “It’s in the bag.”

“You’re jinxin’ me, man…”

Sure enough–suddenly neither team can score.

With 1:20 left in the half, Plumlee hits a jumper to make it 58-54. Just one point to go. But…

Luc Mbah Moute–a really hard name to spell, by the way–shoots and misses. Then he shoots and misses again.

I pound the bar. I pull my hair. Several guys have gathered to watch my agony. Looks like I’m the evening entertainment.

Plumlee feeds a pass to Maurice Harkness who goes in for a layup and…

60-54. 114–one over 113. Fuckin aye, man. I’m rich!!!

Benji slips me a ten.

Immediately, I break into Kenny Rogers’s The Gambler. “You gotta know when to hold `em…”

Been singing it ever since.

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Randolph Street: Ice Deli

January 3rd, 2020

1smMG_7412Weber’s Ice Deli–Chatham, Illinois


2smIMG_7322Sunflowers–Carlinville, Illinois


3smDSCF6266Porchlight–Chicago, Illinois


All photos © Jon Randolph


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Letter From Milo: Mr. Exercise

December 31st, 2019

The other day my wife got on my ass about the state of my physical fitness, or rather, my lack of it. I had just awakened from a pleasant afternoon nap when the lovely Mrs. Milo came home after a hard day of selling real estate, lunching with her slutty girlfriends, and teaching Pilates classes.

“Have you been lying around in your underwear all day?”

“Ah, no, dear. I was just in the process of…”

“I wish you’d be more active. You’re starting to look sloppy. You need to start exercising once in a while.”

“I took a nice walk today.”

“Yeah, I know. You probably walked down to Swillagain’s and spent the afternoon drinking with all the bums that hang out there.”

“That’s a harsh thing to say. I know for a fact that two of the guys have regular jobs.

“Since when is pot dealing considered a regular job?”

“So, what’s your point?”

“The point is that you’ve got to start taking better care of yourself. You have to start exercising. I don’t care for you that much anymore, but your daughters are still somewhat fond of you. They wouldn’t mind having you around for a few more years.”

“Okay, sweetie, I’ll give it some thought.”

Physical fitness is important to my wife. When I first met her she was a touring dancer, in as good a shape as it’s possible for a human to be. Dancers take strenuous, exhausting classes every day, and often put on even more tiring performances those same evenings. They have to stay in shape. Their bodies are their instruments. I doubt there are many people on this planet, aside from professional athletes, who are in better shape than professional dancers.

When my wife retired from dance, she had a hard time giving up the physicality of the dancing life. She tried taking an occasional dance class but old injuries – knee, neck, ankle – kept flaring up. She fretted for years about her physical conditioning. I mean, God forbid that she should gain a pound or two. Then she discovered Pilates, which, as I understand it, is something the Communists invented to replace sex. She liked Pilates so much that she became a Pilates’ teacher. Now she’s happy. She’s found a physical regimen that can keep her busy and in great shape until she’s 112 years old.

One the other hand, I don’t give a rat’s ass about exercise, physical fitness or anything else that distracts me from the important things in life, like drinking, smoking, drug abuse, eating red meat and entertaining impure thoughts.

That said, I know my wife will make my life miserable unless I start some sort of fitness program. And once the kids start in on me, well, let’s just say things will get interesting, in the Chinese sense of the word.

So, the next afternoon I went down to Welles’ Park, a Chicago Park District Fieldhouse on Sunnyside by Lincoln Avenue. They have a well-equipped gym there which, since I am of a certain age, I can use for free.

The guy behind the counter was a typical Chicago Park District employee – gruff, overweight, with a pack of smokes in his shirt pocket. I thought I smelled liquor on his breath, too, but I wouldn’t swear to it. After I filled out the paperwork and received a laminated Welles’ Park membership badge, the guy offered to show me around the fitness area.

“You ever use any of this shit before?” he asked, pointing out all of the exercise equipment.

“Can’t say that I have. What’s that?”

“That’s called a stationary bike. You gotta watch yourself on that thing. We had a regular customer, used to come in four or five times a week. He’d ride that thing nonstop for an hour. Last week he was riding on it and just keeled over.”

“Was he okay?”

“Fucker died.”

“That’s too bad. How old was he?”

“About your age.”


“That’s a treadmill over there. It’s like a walking machine. A couple of months ago a guy was on it and had a heart attack. He died, too.”

“How old was he?”

“About your age, I guess.”

“What the fuck!”

“That thing over there is a rowing machine. Last month a guy…”

“Don’t tell me. He was about my age, right?”

“No. I believe he was a bit younger than you.”

I had heard enough. I handed the Park District guy the laminated badge and said, “You can take this badge, give it back to Mayor Daley and tell him to stick it up his fucking ass. This place is a death trap. I’m getting the fuck out of here.”

I was a bit shaky when I left Welles Park. There’s no telling what terrible things would have happened to me if I had stuck around and tried a few exercises. Fortunately, I had to pass Swillagains on the way home, so I stopped in for a few drinks and enjoyed a hand-rolled smoke with my friend, Nickel Bag Bernie, just to calm down.

When I got home, a few hours later, I was in the physical and mental shape that I prefer above all others. The lovely Mrs. Milo, sipping a nice white wine, was waiting for me. “Well, how did it go?” she asked.

“How did what go?”

“Your trip to Welles Park.”

“It went okay.”

“Did you try any of the equipment?”

“Let’s say I checked things out.”

“So, do you feel any better?”

“Honey, right now, I feel great.”

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Randolph Street: Surfaces

December 27th, 2019



2DSCF5430Shed–Lincoln Park




All photos © Jon Randolph


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