Man in Park
All photos © Jon Randolph 2014
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I’m in Chinatown, New York City, when I realize my watch has broken–the thingamajigga on the side that sets the time fell out.
On the bright side, I’m in a good place to buy a replacement, cause there’s no shortage of sidewalk watch salesmen as far as the eye can see.
There must be one salesman for ever 20 or so consumers on this bustling stretch of Canal that’s packed with people on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon.
“Hey, man, wanna buy a watch?”
The speaker sounds like a recent immigrant from Africa. But I’ve also been approached by Chinese and Indian salesmen, plus various men and women with vaguely Eastern European accents.
Apparently, people come from all over the world to sell me a watch on the streets of New York City.
One guys says he’s got such a good deal, I need to follow him into an alley to see it.
Even I’m too smart for that.
Another guy says he’s got a watch that sells for $16,000 on the Internet, but he’ll sell it to me for sixty dollars.
“You’re telling me I can buy a $16,000 watch for $60″ I ask.
“Yeah, man — it’s the shit,” he says. “Patek Philippe.”
That’s a brand I never heard of. Though, to be fair, my wife says it’s very well known.
I start grilling the dude with questions–right here on Canal Street! After my withering cross examination, he’s forced to admit that the watch in his hand is not exactly the same as the one’s selling for sixty grand on the Internet.
It’s more like the Chinese equivalent. As some watchmaker in Beijing figured out how to make a $16,000 watch for $60.
“Look, man–check this out,” he says.
He starts scraping the watch’s surface with a penknife. “See,” he says. “No scratch.”
“I’ll get back to you,” I say.
I go to Flavor Flav’s favorite jewelry store…
We wander into a jewelry store. On the wall is a picture off Flavor Flav–the rapper–with his arm around the owner. A guy named Vinnie.
Obviously, I’ve stumbled into the store where the who’s who of the rap world buy their bling.
“I got a watch for you,” the salesman tells me.
He pulls a jewel-encrusted watch from behind the counter.
“It’s yours for $700,” he says.
“That’s a little steep,” I say.
“I can bring it down…”
“I don’t think I’m in your league…”
I dash out the door before he talks me into changing my mind.
Back on the sidewalk, my cell phone rings. It’s Milo calling from Chicago.
“Hey, Milo–I can get you a $16,000 watch for $60.”
“Sounds like a great deal, Benny,” he says. “I’ll take two of them.”
Maybe I should buy a bunch and give them away for the holidays.
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Though I may not become the megastar that Kanye West is, we have one thing in common: being terrible at registration.
As I’ve expressed, my re-entering into the school scene has proved to be a rough transition, and my recent attempts to register for next quarters classes have proved no less rough.
My classmates and I decided to have a mutual freak out a few weeks ago when we found out we’d have to start doing field experience next quarter which would mean working in a preschool, without pay, for 75 hours over the course of 10 weeks. Though this wouldn’t take up all my time, on top of two other classes it’s certainly going to cut into the hours I can work and get paid for it.
I have a dog daughter to support!
Then I check the “academic plan” one of the program directors gave me before I started school, and it does not say I have to take this internship until NEXT Winter, so I’m all like uh huh ok I can procrastinate that. A day or so later I have a call with another program director so I can go over this plan to not take this class until next year and she’s all, “aw yeah good idea, you’re the coolest.” So last Friday I register for the two classes and am feeling good, an hour or so later I get an email from the program about suggested courses, but I basically ignore it because I have talked to more than enough people about what classes to take and my brain is about to explode.
I go into class Monday, the same class we all had our freak out in, and sit down. I’m pretty much brain dead because I was in Michigan this weekend and then had to return on Sunday and write a five page research paper. Unfortunately my “don’t talk to me” vibe isn’t working properly and someone comes up to me and asks if I registered for classes.
“Did you read the email we got Friday?”
“No, I ignored it cause I’d already talked to her.”
“She says we have to do the internship.”
“God damnit shit fuck crap mother of hatred.”
I then go to my email and actually read what it says, and I indeed do have to do this gosh damn internship next quarter. I have to wonder if it’s me or the program that’s more confused about what classes I need to take. I want to respond to it something very snarky but I resist and instead fall back into my terrible mood coma and survive class.
During class break I attempt to register for the internship on my phone, which is of course only setting my bad mood into overdrive because the website is made to be used on a computer.
“WELL I DON’T HAVE MY COMPUTER, WEBSITE!”
I then slam my phone down and solidify myself as the obnoxious angry girl who sits in the back of class with her carthartt beanie still on.
I am not sorry.
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Being in New York City, I decide to make a major statement and buy a Bulls cap!
I know what you’re thinking. How many Bulls caps does one guy need, especially when he already owns at least three and he’s not getting a slice of the sales action?
I mean, I’m paying them for the right to advertise their product.
Think of it as my way of helping the Bulls cover the cost of Jimmy Butler’s new contract.
Into Modell’s I go. That’s the big sporting goods store on Flatbush Avenue, right across the street from the Barclay Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets.
That’s right–I’m in the belly of the Brooklyn beast. Like I’m saying–Yo’, Brooklyn, I’m wearing my Bulls cap right in front of your face!
Everyone on Flatbush wants to know about Derrick’s knee…
“I’m here to buy a Bulls cap,” I tell the saleslady.
“Okay,” she says.
Maybe she didn’t hear me.
“That’s Bulls as in Chicago Bulls,” I say.
I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that no one in NYC gives a shit about me buying a Bulls cap. Especially, the folks at Modell’s, who obviously see it as more money for them!
There are many hats to choose from. It comes down to black cap with white brim, or red cap with black brim.
I turn to Brian, my fashion consultant, who knows a lot about sports caps cause he comes from Milwaukee. Not sure what one has to do with the other, but whatever…
“Go with the black cap,” says Brian.
Brian `n me show off our hats!
So I buy it. And off I boogaloo down Flatbush to Lefferts Garden–where all the cool people live.
Here’s the stunner. Everywhere I go people want to know about Derrick’s reconstructed knees.
Who knew D Rose had so many fans in Brooklyn?
I guess they think I have the inside scoop on D’s knees since I’m wearing a Bulls cap.
Fast forward to the next day…
I’m standing in the Target, across the street from the Barclay Center, waiting for my wife and younger daughter to finish shopping.
This Target is no joke. First of all, it’s packed–you can barely move there are so many people in the aisle.
Second of all, people are crazy. Probably cause it’s so hot in the store. Hey, turn down the heat!
I watch a woman in an motorized wheelchair cut off a woman with two kids.
“I know you didn’t just cut me off, bitch!” says the woman with the kids
I’m telling you–they’re tough in Brooklyn!
Bored out my mind, I start counting basketball caps to see which team is most popular: Bulls, Nets or Knicks?
Final score: Bulls caps 4, Nets 3, Knicks 2. Bulls win!
Let’s hope it’s just the start to a glorious season.
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This past Friday morning, I called the Newton County Jail in Kentland, Indiana. When the receptionist answered, I said, “I’m Milo Samardzija, the Society, Lifestyle, and Religion columnist for The Third City blog site in Chicago, Illinois.”
“What can I do for you, sir?”
“Do you have someone named Thomas Eliot in custody?”
“Yes, sir. He has been detained since December, 2012. He’ll be going to trial in a few weeks.”
“What’s the charge?”
I met Tom Eliot in the late 1970s, in Sterch’s Tavern on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. He was from Houston, Texas and had come to Chicago to try his luck dealing commodities at the Board of Trade.
Tom and I became barroom acquaintances. He liked to drink and smoke weed, and so did I. When Tom got high he liked to play up his Texas accent. My friends and I started calling him “Texas Tom.”
After I had known him for a while, Tom mentioned that he needed a place to stay for a few months. I was living in Wicker Park at the time, sharing a three-bedroom apartment with another guy. We had a spare bedroom, so I told Tom he could move in with us.
When I got to know Tom better, I noticed that he had some odd mannerisms. He was loud, smug and opinionated, and he didn’t understand the concept of personal space. He’d get uncomfortably close when he talked to you. If you stepped back, he’d just step up and close the gap. He also had a variety of facial tics and twitches, which made it disconcerting to carry on a conversation with him. Other than that, he seemed like a regular guy.
A few months later, the future lovely Mrs. Milo and I decided to set up our own household and I moved out of the Wicker Park apartment. But I still kept in touch with Tom, running into him at various North Side watering holes.
My dear friend, Bruce Diksas, also worked at the Board of Trade, and he ran into Tom regularly. Over the years, Bruce kept me updated on Tom’s circumstances.
Tom was doing real well. He bought a seat at the Board. He got married. He had a son. Tom was drinking a lot. He was doing a lot of coke. He was struggling. His wife left him. He lost his seat. He was deeply in debt. He busted out completely. Tom was tending bar in Uptown, in a joint that catered to Somali taxi drivers.
Tom moved back to Houston to live with his mother. Shortly after moving in, Tom pushed his mother down a flight of stairs, injuring her severely. He spent the next few months in a psychiatric hospital. When Tom was released from the psych ward, he moved back to Chicago.
As soon as Tom returned to Chicago, he began stalking his ex-wife, who was living in Kenosha, Wisconsin. While making her life miserable, he got picked up for drunk driving. He made bail, but didn’t show up for trial. He ended up doing four months in the Kenosha jail for stalking, DUI, and jumping bail.
The last time I saw Tom was purely by accident, about three years ago, at the Jesse Brown V.A. Hospital. I was shocked at his appearance. His teeth were rotten, his clothes were shabby, and his tics and twitches were worse than I remembered. He looked like a bum. We chatted a while. He told me he was living in an SRO, above a dive bar, in the Grand Avenue and Halstead area. Before I left, he bummed five dollars and a couple of cigarettes from me.
Every once in a while, my friend, Bruce, would say we should go down to that dive bar and see Tom.
“I don’t want to see that crazy fucker.”
“He used to be a friend.”
“Yeah, that was before he lost his damned mind.”
Last week, Bruce was driving by the bar and decided to stop in and see if Tom was there. When Bruce asked about Tom, one of the regulars told him that Tom was in jail in Indiana.
He had allegedly stabbed a kid, an eight-year-old boy.
That evening, when I turned on my computer, there was an e-mail from Bruce, with a link to an Indianapolis newspaper. When I opened the link, I saw a scary-looking mug shot of Tom, and a headline that read, “66-year-old man stabs eight-year-old boy multiple times.”
The kid survived. Rumor has it that he was Tom’s grandson.
Tom’s trial is in a couple of weeks, and the good people of Indiana will pass judgment. I doubt I’ll ever see Tom again.
And that’s just fine with me.
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Not to disgust you with the sordid details of my wretched condition, but….
I’ve been fighting gout for the better part of the last two months.
First it’s in the right foot and now the left. Can’t really walk, just sort of hobble around, howling in pain.
It hits me hardest when I was bowling. It’s so bad that Pat the Plumber takes pity and offers some unsolicited advice: “Take some fuckin’ coltrazine. My father uses it….”
As his nickname suggests, Pat’s not a doctor. Still, desperate times warrant desperate measures. So….
“What’s it called?” I ask, taking out my notebook to write down the name.
“How do you spell it?”
“How the fuck do I know how to spell it. Do I look like a fuckin’ dictionary?
Two days later I visit my doctor: “Oh, yes,” she says, as she looks at my foot. “You have gout.”
I think: Great, tell me something I don’t know….
I say: “Have you ever heard of coltrazine?”
“You mean, colchicines,” she says. “It’s a drug that treats the specific gout flare up as opposed to the symptoms….”
“Uhm, excuse me, doctor,” I say. “But are you saying there’s a pill you can give me to get me out of this misery?”
“Well, it treats the attack,” she says.
Have you ever noticed how a doctor will never answer a straight yes-or-no question with a straight yes-or-no answer?
“And no one told me this before – because….”
Is it just me, or is there something really wrong with the medical profession these days?
I mean, I’ve been to three different doctors in the last three months to talk about this fucking pain in my fucking foot and not one of them thought to tell me – oh, by the way, there’s pill we can give you to make it go away.
Instead, I get the news from Pat the fucking Plumber!
Hey, maybe when my toilet’s broken I’ll call my wife’s gynecologist!
The doctor sends me the drug store with a prescription, and I wind up looking at a bunch of little white pills.
The directions say I should take one every hour until the pain goes away.
In the fine print under the heading “side effects” it says: “diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain and vomiting my occur.”
Aw, shit. It’s like pick your poison. Fuck it – I gotta deal with the here and now….
I pop the pill….
Fast forward twenty-four hours and the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan. I mean, all day and into the night it’s like raining Niagara Falls out of my – well, you know, where it’s raining.
And now it’s three o’clock in the morning – the house quiet as a mouse — and I’m sitting on the throne, groaning in agony and doubled up in abdominal pain.
Just like the fine print on the medicine bottle warned me….
The bathroom door pushes open and who walks in but the dog, looking to take a drink of water out of the bowl we keep by the bathroom sink.
She looks surprised to see me. As if she’s thinking – what the fuck are you doing here?
“Hey,” I moan. “Can a guy have some privacy?”
Eight hours later I roll out of bed and stumble to the bathroom, looking like death warmed over. I think it’s over, but, nooooooo….
My wife says — call the doctor. Forget that. I’m calling Pat the Plumber. He’ll know what to do….
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