Randolph Street: Hoodwalk

April 9th, 2021

1_MG_6536West Lakeview–Chicago

 

2_MG_6485Garage

 

3_MG_6507Home

 

4_MG_6525Crown

 

5_MG_6521Tree

 

6_MG_6531Doors

 

All photos © Jon Randolph

jonrandolph.com

 

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Letter From Milo: Shiny Suit Man

April 4th, 2021

A couple of weeks ago I was sharing a few bottles of wine with a very good friend, who I’ll call Bruce Diksas, to spare him any embarrassment. We were mildly intoxicated, sitting in my back yard, enjoying the fading sunshine and the early evening breezes.

Later, there were steaks to be grilled, potatoes to be baked, a salad to be tossed and more bottles to be opened. There may have even been a little something to smoke, too.

It should have been a wonderful evening – except that it wasn’t.

You see, there was a phone call we were going to make and neither of us was looking forward to it.

“Should we give him a call now?”

“Let’s wait a while. Have another glass of wine. We’ll call in a few minutes.”

“Good idea.”

“Man, I hate this shit.”

“I’m not too fucking happy about it, either.”

The call we were fearful of making was to our old and dear friend, Wayne Gray, who was dying of lung cancer in Venice Beach, California. We had made the same call the week before and it was heartbreaking. His ex-wife, Mila, who had taken Wayne in when he needed help most, was in tears when she answered. She was so choked up that it was difficult to understand her, but she managed to convey the information that Wayne was too weak to use the phone. Besides, he had lost the use of his voice. He had also lost the use of his arms and legs.

“Tell Wayne we love him!” I shouted into the phone before losing the connection.

That was not a good day. When I told Bruce what Mila had told me, he sadly shook his head. Neither of us spoke for a while. There was nothing to say.

My intuition told me this was not going to be a good day, either. I had a hunch Bruce felt the same way. Between the two of us there were a lot of long silences, plenty of sighs, much head scratching and a fair amount of gazing off into the distance. Finally, Bruce broke the silence. “Hey, did I ever tell you the story about the time this mean-looking biker caught Wayne giving his girl a back rub in Oxford’s?”

“About 100 times. But I’d like to hear it again.”

“It was about three in the morning. We had been drinking most of the day and were having a nightcap at Oxford’s. Wayne spots this chick and…”

Wayne was one of the first people I met in Chicago. And, for a time, he was my roommate. In the early ‘70s, Wayne, Bruce and I shared a coach house on Burling, just south of Armitage. The rent was $80 a month, roughly $27 each. Some months we had trouble coming up with the money. Those were not our peak earning years.

It was through Wayne and Bruce that I met everyone of consequence on the North Side of Chicago. They introduced me to bartenders, drug dealers, bookies, gamblers, artists, writers, musicians, cab drivers, hot dog vendors, quite a few very attractive waitresses and a good criminal lawyer. Many of these fine folks are friends to this day.

“Should we make the call?”

“In a minute. Let’s have another glass of wine first.”

“Good idea.”

“Hey,” I said, “did I ever tell you about the time Crazy Angela tried to do Wayne in with a beer bottle?”

“About 100 times. But I wouldn’t mind hearing it again.”

“It must have been about five in the morning. I was asleep when these wild noises woke me up. They were coming from Wayne’s room. So I get up to check it out and there’s Crazy Angela sitting on top of Wayne and smacking him with a beer bottle. Wayne’s trying to reason with her but she keeps on trying…”

Wayne was an extremely intelligent man but he hid his intelligence behind an endearingly goofy exterior. As a young man he felt the call and spent a year or two in a Benedictine monastery before coming to his senses. He explained that he was concerned that his fondness for fucking women might interfere with his responsibilities at the priory.

Wayne went on to earn a Master’s Degree in mathematics and, for a time, made his living in the insurance business. His true calling, however, was massage. When he and his then-wife, Mila, relocated to California, in the early ‘80s, Wayne bought a first-class massage table and set himself up as an unlicensed, unbonded, independent, outdoor massage specialist on the Boardwalk at Venice Beach. Rumor had it that his favorite customers were women.

Bruce reached over with the wine bottle, filled our glasses, and said, “Fuck it, let’s make that call.”

“Might as well.”

When Mila answered the phone she said that Wayne had passed away a few days earlier. She told me that she hadn’t called me because she was still in shock. She had Wayne’s body cremated and planned to take his ashes back to her home in the Philippines. When she died she was going to have his ashes buried with her.

The Old Bastard in the Shiny Suit came for Wayne on the evening of August 5th, 2010. I wish I could have seen him once more before he died. His friendship was precious to me.

Well, I guess there’s no getting around it. Sooner or later, all of my friends are going to die. The Old Bastard in the Shiny Suit makes no exceptions, accepts no excuses and takes no rain checks. You come, you stay a while, you go, and you try to leave some good memories behind. Wayne Gray left some real good ones.

I believe it was W.C. Fields who said, “It’s a tough old world. You’re lucky to get out of it alive.” I doubt if luck has anything to do with it.

After I told Bruce what Mila had told me, neither of us spoke for a while. We were each sifting through our memory banks, calling up bits and pieces of Wayne’s life. Finally, I broke the silence.

“Hey, did I ever tell you about the weekend Wayne worked as a doorman at the Black Pussycat tavern on Clark Street.?”

“About a 100 times. But I’d like to hear it again.”

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Jon Randolph: When Wrigley Was Good

April 2nd, 2021

Editor’s note: These pictures were taken by Mr. Randolph before the you-know-whos who own the Cubs ruined the neighborhood…

 

 

1IMG_2067

Bleachers

 

These pictures were taken Wednesday, April Fool’s day. The Cubs open Sunday night.

 

2IMG_2049

Jumbotron

 

3IMG_2080

Right Field

 

4IMG_2097

Right Field & Jumbotron

 

5IMG_2041

Construction Workers

 

6IMG_2111

Addison Street

 

All photos © Jon Randolph 2015

 

 

 

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Benny Jay: Stan Albeck

March 30th, 2021

With the recent death of Stan Albeck, I thought of a moment during his brief time in Chicago that had far-reaching ramifications for my beloved Bulls.

Bulls general manager Jerry Krause hired Albeck as coach before the start of the 1985-86 season—Michael Jordan’s second in the league. Like most Bulls fans, I was flying high with expectations. We’d seen enough of MJ’s greatness during his rookie year (averaging 28 points a game) to imagine even greater things to come.

Alas, Jordan broke his foot in game three. And without MJ, the Bulls were dreadful. Dave Corzine, Kyle Macy, Quintin Dailey—I’m having flashbacks just remembering it. I know many fans who switched their allegiances to Magic Johnson’s Lakers, as frontrunners around here so often do when things go bad.

Krause and team owner Jerry Reinsdorf wanted Jordan to sit out the season. Said the risks of playing outweighed the rewards. But Jordan said his love for the game was so great, he’d play pick-up ball in his home state of North Carolina if the bosses didn’t let him play.

Finally, near the end of the season, they cut a deal. Krause and Reinsdorf agreed to let Jordan play, and Jordan agreed to play limited minutes. And so, in every game there came that moment of disappointment when Albeck took Michael Jordan off of the court, no matter what the score. Boss’s orders.

Despite it all—somehow, someway—the Bulls were in position to make the playoffs. It came down to a pivotal game against the Pacers in Indiana.

The Bulls were losing by one with seconds left. Everyone figured Jordan would take the last shot. Except his minutes were up. And Albeck had no choice but to take him out of the game. Again, boss’s orders.

Jordan was pissed. I was pissed. The fans at the game were pissed. According to the Tribune, one fan called out: “Albeck, you nitwit!” Like it was Albeck’s decision to take Jordan out.

Well, all real Bulls fans know what happened next . . .

John Paxson hit a game-winning shot at the buzzer, and the Bulls went on to make the playoffs. Thus, Jordan got an opportunity to play one of the greatest games in basketball history. Without minute restrictions, he scored 63 points in game two in Boston against Larry Bird and the Celtics. You can look it up.


Alas, it was all downhill after that. The Celtics won that game in double overtime and swept the Bulls in the series. After the season, Krause fired Albeck. Was that fair? Nope. Albeck did what they told him to do and then they fired him when they didn’t like the results.

They made him the scapegoat for everything that had gone wrong. Much as Bulls fans years later made Krause the scapegoat for breaking up MJ’s world champion Bulls. Oh, where would we be without scapegoats?

You know what they say—what goes around comes around. Sometimes there’s more to life than following orders. 

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Randolph Street: At Random

March 26th, 2021

1DSCF7841Frostbiters–Chicago

 

2IMG_7586Carnival–Chicago

 

3[Lake Shore Drive–Chicago

 

All photos © Jon Randolph

jonrandolph.com

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Benny Jay: Oscar Injustice

March 23rd, 2021

It’s that time of the year when my wife and I should be racing from one movie theater to the next, desperately trying to see the major nominated pictures before the Academy Awards show on April 25, so we can be part of the Oscars conversation. But . . .

With this being the pandemic, we’re not racing anywhere. And we won’t be racing anywhere until we get that second shot. And even then, we have to wait two weeks to start racing. It’s like this plague will never end.

So rather than just watch a bunch of movies on TV—which does no justice to the movies—here’s what I propose . . .

Postpone this year’s Oscars! Instead, have a show where they right old wrongs by giving out awards to people who should have won years ago if the Academy hadn’t messed up. Thus . .

Give a Best Actor award to Denzel Washington to make up for the one he should have won back in 2017 for his role in Fences. Instead, they gave it to Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea. Even Casey knows the award should have gone to Denzel.

And give a Best Actress Oscar to Lily Tomlin for Grandma. Great flick. Though I may have been the only one to see it. Other than Lily Tomlin, of course.

And that Oscar in 1999 that went to Shakespeare in Love? Even William Shakespeare knows it should have gone to the Coen Brothers for The Big Lebowski.

And that Oscar for Best Actress that went to Helen Hunt back in 1998 for As Good as It Gets?  Sorry, Helen, but it should have gone to Pam Grier for Jackie Brown. But Pam Grier didn’t even get nominated. Think about that, people. The outrages don’t come much greater unless . . .

You’re talking about the Best Supporting Actor award that went to Denzel in 1990 for Glory. Should have gone to Danny Aiello for Do the Right Thing.

And while we’re on the subject of Do the Right Thing, give a Best Picture Oscar to Spike Lee. As opposed to Driving Miss Daisy. That’s right, Driving Miss Daisy won over Do The Right Thing. Which wasn’t even nominated. Say no more . . .

And give a Best Actor Oscar to Paul Newman for Cool Hand Luke. To make up for the one he should have won back in 1968. Only they gave it to Rod Steiger for In the Heat of the Night. And Steiger wasn’t even the best actor in Heat of the Night. Sidney Poitier was. So while we’re at it—give an Oscar to Mr. Poitier. Lord knows, he’s earned it.

And close out the night by giving the Oscar for Best Documentary to Steve James, Frederick Marx, and Peter Gilbert for Hoop Dreams. Never even got nominated. Just may be the greatest outrage in Oscar history.

Alas, the injustices go on and on. And if the past is a predictor of the future—come April 25, we’ll have a few more to add to the list.

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