As if being the Lifestyle, Society and Religion columnist at The Third City isn’t enough of a workload, now the editorial board wants me to take on the job of Military Affairs Correspondent. Benny Jay, who helps run this scabby crew of barely literate hacks, called last week to offer me the position.
“War is the hottest thing going right now,” Benny said. “We’re already fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and bombing Syria. And there’s a real good chance we’ll be taking on Russia soon. Every blog site in the world is writing about these wars. We need to get on the bandwagon.”
“I see your point. But why do I have to do the job?”
“You’re the only guy at The Third City with military experience. I’ve got your resume right here and it says you were a highly decorated Colonel in the Navy Seals and you’ve been awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Victoria Cross.”
“Heh, heh, I may have exaggerated a bit.”
“Well, you were in Vietnam, weren’t you?”
“Yeah, but I barely rose above the rank of Private. It was something to do with character issues.”
“Okay, Milo, let’s quit fucking around here and get down to business. How much money will it take for you to run the Military Affairs desk?”
I didn’t want the job. I was a disinterested soldier at best when I was in the Army and my feelings haven’t changed much in the last four decades. But Benny is a stubborn fucker and refuses to take “no” for an answer, so I named a price I knew The Third City could not possibly afford.
I was shocked when he accepted. “Okay, we’ll give you the extra 12 dollars a month. But I expect solid reporting and analysis, not like the usual shit you write. And don’t try to sneak any of your stupid dick jokes into the stories, either.”
My first assignment was to write a general asessment of America’s military situation. I didn’t want to write from ignorance, so I spent a couple of days studying the subject. I watched a few episodes of “Hogan’s Heroes” and “McHale’s Navy.” I reread Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22.” I even watched a military-themed porno called “Stalag 69.”
Still, I felt my knowledge was incomplete, so I called my old friend, Bruce Diksas, who had once reached the exalted rank of First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. I figured that as an officer, he had been privy to a lot of inside information that was inaccessible to me.
More to the point, Bruce used to lunch regularly with Colin Powell at our Division base camp in Chu Lai, in the former Republic of South Vietnam. Maybe Bruce picked up some insights simply from being in close proximity to the great man.
“Hey, my man, what’s going on?” I said, when he answered the phone.
“Ah, fuck, I’ve got a hangover.”
“You have my sympathies. Listen, I need to pick your brain about something.”
“I haven’t seen the Racing Form yet this morning.”
“No, no, I’m writing a blog piece about America’s current military situation. As a one-time officer and former gentleman I thought you might give me some tips.”
“I didn’t know anything then. I know even less now.”
“I thought you used to have lunch with Colin Powell. You must have learned something.”
“That was just a mandatory monthly brigade lunch. There were dozens of us there, mainly junior officers. Powell was a Major at the time. I don’t think we ever talked.”
“That’s it! That’s all you’ve got for me?”
“Well, one thing I do know is that officers love war. They need to cover themselves in glory. They have to prove that they are warriors before they can become leaders. Ambitious young officers will do anything to get a combat command. War is where reputations are made and promotions get handed out. You can’t climb the ladder in the Army unless you have combat experience. Even Colin Powell, as a young man, led an infantry company. I doubt he would have risen as high in the ranks without his Combat Infantryman’s Badge.”
“So, you’re saying that the military’s upper ranks eventually get taken over by scheming, brutal, bloodthirsty bastards who’d cook and eat their own grandmothers to win a promotion. You’re telling me the people who advise the President and set military policy, are a bunch of crazy, treacherous, gung-ho fuckers who owe everything they have to the glories of war?”
“I’d say that’s pretty accurate. It’s the nature of the military beast. War is what they do best. Ruthless, cold-blooded, conniving bastards make the best general officers. A well-developed mean streak is an asset to a combat officer. And it doesn’t hurt to be a little bit crazy. Nice guys generally don’t do well in life or death situations.”
“Damn, I’m glad the military doesn’t run this country.”
“I wouldn’t be too sure about that.”
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Name that President
President’s have nicknames. It’s a great American tradition. Tricky Dick. Dutch. Slick Willy. Dubya. No Drama Obama.
Face it, it’s gonna be a long dreary slog through the next four years. A good nickname for Big Man Trump (has anyone else noticed how much more of him there is now than when he started his campaign?) can help lighten the load.
The irony here is that our new president is the master of the nickname. Crooked Hillary. Lyin’ Ted. Little Marco. And he did it so well because his whole business enterprise is based on naming, on branding things. Trump University. Trump steaks. Trump ties. Trump codpieces.
I’m sure that a man who so well understands the power of labels would appreciate our efforts, endorse our decision.
So to paraphrase Michelle Obama, when they go low, we go lower. It is time to nickname the President.
I propose a Third City contest. First prize, a free online subscription to this publication. Second prize, two subscriptions. Hell, I’ll even donate all of my Third City royalties to the winners.
It will give you something to talk about as you knit your pussy hats…
To get your creative juices flowing and get you started, here are some sample nicknames for our new president:
Grab ‘em by the Trump.
Trump the Hump.
Billion Dollar Cry Baby.
See. It’s fun!
We could even help the new president nickname his cabinet. We already have the excellent “Mad Dog” for Secretary of Defense. How about “Betsy Botox” for our new Secretary of Education? “Robo Scab” for the Secretary of Labor? “Dim Bulb” for the Secretary of Energy? “Cayman” for the Secretary of the Treasury?
That’s fun too!
We can even name that segment of the population that got him elected, put him over the top: The Trumpen Proletariat!
But lets stay focused. We start with the President. Just add your suggestions to the comments section at the bottom of this column. Submit as many as you like.
Benny Jay and Milo will sort through the thousands of entries and narrow it down to the best dozen or so. Then we’ll convene a town hall meeting at McCormick Center to discuss them and vote. The winner will be announced right here at the Third City.
Do it for the Third City! Do it for America! Do it to stay sane.
Editor’s Note: Ishamel’s last post for the Third City was Blame Trump on the Cubs…
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I hate working the fucking holidays. It’s always one shit show or another when I’m on. Never fails.
That one Thanksgiving morning with the Army Ranger that was visiting family on leave when he dropped dead while jogging along the path, the New Year’s Eve with the kid that walked into his brother’s room and found him hanging by his belt off his closet door knob–there’s always some shit.
Now it’s three in the morning on Christmas Day and nothing’s happened yet. A couple drunks trying to sleep it off somewhere warm, some psych patients and an occasional sickie have braved the cold and made it through our ER doors.
I wish the shit would happen already so we can get this night over with and I can go home and sleep.
Fuck, I’m tired. FUUUCCKK.
You can check the trauma room. Make sure everything is stocked. That’ll kill 30 mins. That leaves four hours to shift change. That’s forever in ER time.
Ok, that’s the paramedic radio, here it comes.
Twenty-two-year-old male, GSW to the head, has a pulse and blood pressure. Patient is intubated.
I get up, walk to the trauma bay, start my prep. Surgical eyewear, glove up, mask up and gown up. Untangle cardiac monitor cables, check and double check suction. Grab trauma shears.
Within a minute the room fills with other medical personnel–nurses, ER docs, trauma surgeons, x-ray techs, respiratory techs, medical students–everyone standing in their pre assigned spots, ready to work or observe.
Everyone is moving around quickly, yet controlled and with purpose.
Paramedics roll in an begin giving bedside report: “Doc, we got a twenty-two-year-old male, found down, shot in the back of the head in an alley, police say execution style, vitals are stable, he is intubated and we got a 18 gauge IV in his left arm.”
I set him up on the monitor, another ER tech shears his clothes off. His pressure is stable, his pulse elevated, he’s completely unresponsive. Nurses are drawing blood, starting other IVs and pushing fluids. Docs are doing trauma assessments, neurological exams. It’s an all out blitz to try and save this kid.
He’s got an entrance wound in the back of his head but not an exit wound, probably a small caliber weapon. And besides a pulse and pressure, he’s got nothing else. I hear one of the Docs say he’s not going to make it.
Look at you. You’re a kid. What the fuck are you doing here, eyes glassed over, laying on this cart, in this trauma bay, in the middle of the night on Christmas, with your brains all shot up? You’re fucked, kid.
Doc says get him over to CT for a head scan, we pack him up and roll him over, get him on the table and go into the control room.
Then the adrenaline starts to subside, and we’re in the CT control room looking at the kid from behind the glass, him looking like a normal 22-year-old getting a routine scan.
Fuuucckk I’m tired. What time is it? Four o’clock? Shit. Sheryl always loves to play holiday music on her little radio when she scans. It’s annoying as fuck… “It’s the most, wonderful time of the year….”
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Closing Time, Uffizi Gallery–Florence
All photos © Jon Randolph
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I’m watching the inauguration with my wife.
The TV’s on NBC. Brian Williams is talking to Tom Brokaw. The camera shows Craig Robinson, Michelle Obama’s brother in law. Williams says:
“There’s Reggie Love.”
“It’s not Reggie Love,” I say.
“One of President Obama’s top aides…”
“Stop calling him Reggie Love — it’s not Reggie Love…”
“Shh,” says my wife, “I can’t hear…”
Williams is going on and on about how Reggie Love is always by President Obama’s side….
“He’s not Reggie Love! He doesn’t even look like Reggie Love…”
“Don’t be negative,” says my wife. “I won’t watch the inauguration with you, if you’re negative…”
They show former vice president Dan Quayle. “God, I can’t stand that guy,” I say. “Let me at least be negative about him. Even you can’t say anything positive about him…”
My wife mixes her oatmeal.
They show Walter Mondale. “God, I love Mondale,” I say. “Fritz Mondale. He should have beat Reagan. This country’s full of idiots…”
The former presidents come in. “Look, there’s Jimmy Carter,” I say. “I love Jimmy Carter. Don’t say nothing bad about Jimmy Carter. This is Carter country!”
My wife eats her oatmeal.
“And there’s Bill Clinton — what a guy. Look, he’s hugging old man Bush. He’s always hugging Bush — like he really loves him. Classic Clinton, sucking up to Republicans. Look, Hillary’s hugging Barbara. Like they like each other. You know they can’t stand each other…”
Old man Bush, leaning on a cane, limps his way to the podium. From the aisle, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. leans forward to shake Bush’s hand.
“How the hell did he get there?” I say.
“Who?” says my wife.
“Junior. He’s on the aisle — best seat in the house. Every time someone famous walks down the aisle the whole world sees him. How did he pull that off?”
Big Billy left the chicks at home….
The announcer announces William Jefferson Clinton. “Oh, now he’s William Jefferson Clinton,” I say. “He’ll always be Slick Willie to me…”
“Look, Clinton won’t hug Gore. He hugs Bush, but only a handshake for Gore…”
The camera shows George W. Bush. And Brian Williams — or maybe it’s Tom Brokaw — says “the outgoing president very fervently believes history will redeem him…”
“Yeah, right,” I say. “If they burn all the records…”
“What a difference eight years makes,” Brokaw or Williams goes on. “Of course, we could not see tragedy coming — 9/11.”
“No one could see it!” I bellow. “They only had a report that said Bin Laden’s gonna attack us! They couldn’t see it cause they were sleeping!”
“Shhh,” says my wife.
“Show Obama,” I say. “Look, there he is.” I stand up and start clapping. “Yeah, that’s my president — him and Carter. All the rest of them suck…”
We watch Chief Justice Roberts swear in Obama. Roberts screws it up and mixes up the order of the oath.
“Probably did it on purpose,” I say. “Typical Republican. You watch, Clinton’s probably gonna French kiss his ass…”
We watch Obama’s speech. I’m not sure what to think. I barely hear the words. I still can’t believe this country elected a black guy president. It’s like a dream.
The Bushes head for a helicopter that will take them to the airport where they’ll catch a plane for Texas.
The Bidens and the Obamas stand on the capitol steps and wave as the helicopter takes off.
“Good bye — good riddance,” says my wife.
I look at her, smile and say: “Be positive…”
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Paging through Facebook, I see the following message from Charlie Meyerson, one of Chicago’s finest radio newsmen…
“Am I a bad person because I give not a whit what happened yesterday between Obama and the Cubs?”
Short answer: Yes!
Long answer: Hell, yes!!
Even longer answer, as one of Charlie’s FB friends put it: Curmudgeon.
Actually, that’s shorter than the long answer, but it’s got more syllables.
Okay, Charlie, I will now explain why you should care about yesterday’s White House reception honoring the World Champion Cubs…
For starters, I can’t watch the ceremony without breaking into tears of horror and joy because 1.) Obama’s leaving the White House; 2.) Trump’s coming in; 3.) 20 million people will lose their health insurance, if Trump follows through on his vow to abolish Obamacare and 4.) there’s absolutely nothing I can do about 1, 2 and/or 3.
In the category of joy, ugh…
Jose Cardenal was there! He was my favorite Cubs in the `70s. Turns out he was Michelle Obama’s favorite, too.
For years there was an autographed picture of Jose hanging in Gulliver’s, the venerable pizza restaurant on Howard Street. I’m not sure how it got there, though I suspect a waitress was involved.
I can’t think of Jose without remembering many wonderful dinners at Gulliver’s. I believe everybody loves Gulliver’s–even curmudgeons.
Please don’t go, President Obama…
Also, Mike Royko–Chicago’s greatest newspaper columnist–wrote several funny columns about Cardenal. I’ll now quote from one…
“In case you missed it, here is the first report we have received from the Cubs training base. Jose Cardenal says there is a cricket in his room that keeps chirping every night. It is keeping him awake. He would like to kill the thing, but he can’t find it. Ah, the wonderful Cubs and the incomparable Jose.
“Other teams begin spring training with talk of pennants, the World Series, and rookie phenoms who can throw with blazing fury, hit the ball beyond the horizon, and run with the speed of an Old Town mugger. But we have a sleepy outfielder stalking an elusive cricket.”
While we’re quoting Royko, how about this one from 1976: “A short man with a thick neck just walked in and handed me an envelope and said:`Dis is fum Mr. Sinatra.'”
That’s from “Mr. Sinatra Sends a Letter”. It’s about the time Royko wrote a column that upset Frank Sinatra–someone you definitely don’t want to piss off.
I realize this has nothing to do with Obama, Charlie Meyerson or yesterday’s reception. But it’s one of my favorite columns, so WTF.
You know, I think Obama should hold a White House ceremony honoring Royko. Kup, too. Anything to keep Trump from taking over.
Well, Charlie, I don’t know if any of this is convincing. But I predict that when Trump holds his first White House reception–to honor someone like the Grand Imperial Wizard of the KKK–you’ll miss the days of Obama and the Cubs.
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