Letter From Milo: Poor Wayne, Dead and Gone

January 22nd, 2018

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.

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

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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Benny Jay: Cleveland Rocks

January 21st, 2018

A great one from the past…

I’d just finished apologizing to Indiana for Milo’s disparaging remarks about Hoosiers, when I see Jo Jo’s gone after Cleveland.

This shit never ends!

Jo Jo is Joakim Noah, starting center for my beloved Bulls and The Third City’s basketball correspondent.

Even though he’s never written for TTC and doesn’t know we exist.

Small detail.

Jo’s been pissing off Cleveland since 2010, when he felt compelled to say: “Nothing’s going on in Cleveland. It’s pretty depressing out here, man.”

Asked to clarify his thoughts, he said: “I’ve never heard anybody say I’m going to Cleveland on vacation. What’s so good about Cleveland?’’

That’s not as bad as Milo calling Hoosiers a bunch of “toothless illiterate rednecks.” But it’s pretty bad.

Fast forward to the aftermath of Sunday’s game in Cleveland, where, as always, the fans mercilessly booed Jo Jo.

Afterwards, he said: “Cleveland’s a great place to play basketball. Other than that, there’s not much else to do. That’s as much love as I’ll give to Cleveland.’’

I call this a classic case of trying to make things better only to make them worse.

I will now say some nice things about Cleveland to make up for Jo Jo’s disparaging remarks…

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Chicago Bulls

Jo Jo really loves Cleveland…

Let’s see, hmm…

I have many friends from Cleveland.

For instance, there’s Chris, who introduced me to Yen Bang Chai. The greatest Sichuan restaurant–ever! As a matter of fact, I’m salivating over their Salt Miner’s Chicken right now.

Of course, Yen Bang Chai is in Chicago, not Cleveland. I’m not sure Cleveland has a Sichuan restaurant. Which may explain why Chris no longer lives there. But, still.

Another great guy from Cleveland is Tony with a T, who bowls on my bowling team.

He earned that nickname because his first name is Tony and it starts with a T.

In case you were wondering.

Tony’s so proud of Cleveland that he occasionally visits the place. Though he hasn’t lived there in years.

Hmm, I detect a pattern.

Another Clevelander in my Monday night bowling league is Eric.

I didn’t give Eric a nickname cause he’s not on my team.

Generally, I don’t give nicknames to bowlers on other teams. Unless they’re on the Blasters. I know, this is complicated.

Anyway, Eric loves Cleveland so much he wears a Cleveland Indians jersey and red stockings. Like he’s on that team.

I’m happy to say Eric’s making progress on his issues.

So you see, Jo Jo, Cleveland can’t be all that bad if it produces three wonderful fellas like Chris, Tony with a T and Eric.

Of course, they got out of Cleveland just as soon they could.

Maybe Cleveland needs a good Schezuan restaurant.

It couldn’t hurt.

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Randolph Street: Arachnid Art

January 19th, 2018

1DSCF3387aInstallation–Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos  Aires

 

Artist Tomas Soraceno created this work with the help of 18 colonies of spiders over six months. He draws on inspiration from the social and natural sciences.

 

2DSCF3392aInstallation–Tomas Saraceno

 

DSCF3371aInstallation–Tomas Saraceno

 

4DSCF3391aInstallation–Tomas Saraceno

 

All photos © Jon Randolph

jonrandolph.com

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Benny Jay: Late Night

January 19th, 2018

Turns out that Donnie Trump has trouble falling asleep–like lots of other aging Boomers. But, as recent developments attest, he has a bizarre way of keeping himself busy in the wee-morning hours.

At least, I think it’s weird to be firing off disparaging tweets about South American beauty queens at 3:30 or so in the morning.

I say this as a guy who knows a thing or two about being up late at night–as I often wake up with a jolt a 3 or 4 a.m.

Generally, I try to settle down by reading a book.

Last week’s late-at-night reading was Razor Girl, Carl Hiaasen’s latest mystery.

Funny book, though not much of a plot. But who reads Hiaasen for the plot? What you want from Hiaasen is goofy characters, sassy wisecracks and clever one-liners. Like this one…

“Mona had met Blister while working at a massage parlor in Central Florida where she drew the line at hand jobs and even then insisted on wearing an oven mitt.”

That line would be great even if he ended the sentence after “hand jobs”. The bit about oven mitts turns it into a masterpiece. If one liners were paintings, they’d hang this baby at the Louvre.

aliciamachadoI’m with Alicia…

If a book can’t settle me down, I head to the computer to research a topic related to a column I’m writing for my day job.

In fact, at roughly the same time Donnie was firing off tweets about Alicia Machado, I was reading the Fact Finder’s report on contract negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Rahm.

I know, life in the fast lane.

Sample line…

“I emphasize that the board’s CCP and union’s presentation of said CCP to the BBT did not constitute a tentative agreement in the traditional sense of bargaining, but rather was a framework worked out by the individuals charged with negioationing a successor agreement.”

Now, if that won’t put you to sleep…

Sometimes I’ll put down my book and just lie on the couch and recollect moments from my past. Or I’ll think about an old friend or relatives who have died.

Occasionally, I try to make sense out of the assorted complications in my life.

But no matter how restless I may be or how late the hour, I never, ever, ever feel compelled to get on Twitter and blast away at my enemies–perceived or otherwise.

It takes a special kind of lunatic to do that.

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Randolph Street: Street Life

January 17th, 2018

1BLACKCOATNew York City

 

2Green Island, Iowa

 

3Chicago

 

4Vicksburg, Mississippi

 

Hiway 61Duluth, Minnesota

 

All photos © Jon Randolph

jonrandolph.com

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