Rolando: God Says Pizza for Everyone

July 23rd, 2016

I grew up in a very conservative, Christian household. My parents follow a sect of Christianity known as Pentecostalism that adheres to a strict interpretation of the bible.

Now I know what most of you may be thinking. That must have sucked.

But actually, it was a good childhood. It kept me out of trouble.

Overall, I have no complaints about my childhood or being brought up in the church.

But even as a child as young as seven or eight, I noticed things about some of the church’s practices that seemed odd to me.

Take for example the belief in the ability to  ”speak in tongues”. That’s when a practitioner is overcome with the “holy spirit” and acts as a vessel through which a message from God is transmitted.

It almost always happened during a period of musical “praise” where strings and synths were being played and the congregation was deep in a meditative state.

What resulted was a person speaking in some out-of-this-world language, to which, after a brief pause, either that person, or another chosen practitioner in the congregation would translate into English, or, in the case of my church, Spanish.

Not going to lie. At first that shit freaked me out as a kid. It also struck me as something that was a bit forced.

But like everything else weird and unusual, after seeing it several times, it became normal for me. It was far-fetched in my mind, but it was just something that happened.

For some odd reason one person spoke this martian language, and after a few seconds, someone else who apparently spoke the same language translated for the rest of us.

But then one day in church during one of those episodes, my young and bored mind had a thought: What if I translated the message? It seemed to me that it would be easy enough. All I had to do was close my eyes and appear to be deep in thought, throw my hands up in the air a couple times while delivering the message emphatically.

As I sat there listening to the person speaking martian, I quickly tried to come up with a message that held some meaning to my young mind. Something other than the “God wants you to be faithful and serve him” message usually served up.

Then it hit me: God wants you to take your children to Chuck E Cheese after the service and buy them pizza and let them play all the games they want.


It would be perfect. And all the fellas would think of me as some sort of hero, because surely if God says it, it will pass.

Sweet Jesus, it would be a miracle. Pizza and video games for everyone!

I brimmed with excitement. I could hardly contain myself. I rose to my feet and prepared to jump in with my translation as soon as the martian was done. I think I even cleared my throat and stretched my arms.

Then, as if he could sense his son was about to do some dumb shit, I caught a glimpse of my father who was giving me his always powerful, “boy-if-you-don’t-sit-your-butt-down-and-quit-whatever-it-is-you-think-you’re-about-to-do” look.

The dream was instantly dead. No pizza, no video games.

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Randolph Street: The Oakland Museum

July 22nd, 2016

1DSCF0663Oakland Museum–Chicago


The Oakland Museum is tucked into a couple of lots at the corner of  41st St. and Lake Park. The work is the creation of Milton Mezenberg, who lives across the street.


2DSCF0665Woman–Oakland Museum


2aDSCF0642Oakland Museum


4aDSCF0678Oakland Museum


5DSCF0647Oakland Museum


All photos © Jon Randolph 2016



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Benny Jay: Denzel As In Washington

July 21st, 2016

With the Bulls overtime victory in the Summer League championship game fresh on everyone’s mind, I thought it would be a good time to talk about the Bulls rookie who’s named for one of Hollywood’s greatest movie stars.

Well, that Summer League win is still fresh on my mind. Also, my wife’s– what with me talking about the Bulls day and night.

Apparently, the rest of you are a little slow to jump aboard the Bulls bandwagon.

Anyway, to see how many of you have been paying attention, let’s have a trivia contest.

For ten trivia points, the new Bull is named for…

A.) Humphrey Bogart…

B.) Paul Newman…

C.) Suzanne Pleshette…

The answer–none of the above!


This is Denzel Valentine, as opposed to…


His name is Denzel Valentine. So, obviously, he’s named for Denzel Washington.

Already, I see a problem. I realize it’s going to be hard for many of you to call him Valentine, as we’ve been conditioned to say Washington after Denzel.

One Bulls fan I know–call her Joanna–gets around this by doing away with the first name altogether. She just calls him Valentine, as though he has no last name. Sort of like Madonna.

Whatever it takes, right fans?

It was Denzel Valentine, who hit two monster clutch shots in the aforementioned Summer League championship game. The first–a 3-pointer, with almost no time on the clock–sent the game into overtime.

The second won the game at the buzzer.

That’s some cold-blooded shooting, my friends.


Denzel Washington (right) and Don Cheadle (left)…


Now the big issue is what motivated Mr. Valentine’s parents to name him Denzel.

As the world’s foremost authority on Denzel Washington movies, I’m in an excellent position to hazard a guess.

Since Denzel Valentine was born in 1993, it was either Philadelphia, Malcolm X or Mississippi Masala.

It’s not Devil In A Blue Dress–my favorite Denzel movie. Devil came out in `95–two years after Denzel Valentine was born.

In fact, had Devil come out earlier, Denzel Valentine’s parents may have named him Cheadle. Let’s face it, Don Cheadle killed it in the role of Mouse in that movie.

In any event, I’d like to congratulate Denzel Valentine’s parents for doing such a great job naming their son.

I mean, if you want to pick a name that will inspire a kid to grow into a cool customer on the court, you can’t do better than Denzel.

Unless, of course, it’s Cheadle.

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No Blaise: Job Stalking

July 20th, 2016

Nailed my phone interview this morning so I’m officially in the CPS Quality Pool. Which means HIRE ME CPS.

Being the impatient person that I am, I had already applied to 60 CPS jobs. I told this to the woman who interviewed my this morning and her response was, “I see that. You sure seems motivated to work in CPS.” Yes, motivated, I like that. Much better than “psychotic” or “obsessive”.

So here I am, motivated.

The fun thing about CPS is that job openings pop up basically every minute. Which means that my motivated self basically lives on the CPS careers website applying for anything with an Early Childhood pulse. When I found out a school I student taught at (and loved) was hiring, I basically did laps around the house screaming “THEY’RE HIRING”.

Literally every time I log into the CPS career system at least ten new jobs show up that I can apply for and I’ve gotten nerdily absorbed in it. My reaction to the new postings is comparable to someone winning the lottery. The nerdy unemployed teacher lottery that is my life.

Pretty much the only reason my friends get texts from me now a days is to inform them of how many jobs I applied to and what principal acted like they may hire me. They probably have an automated response on their phone whenever they get a message from me that replies, “Wow! Good Job! Cool!”


When I do eventually get hired as a teacher, they’re going to need to block my calls cause I’m probably just going to be calling them to 1) Help me put something together for my classroom or b) come drink with me. Actually, I’ll probably be calling for both reasons.

This job search has been helpful in getting me back into the swing of using my brain. Applying for jobs and being professional on the phone have seemed to help my brain get back to normal things it was forgetting how to do like read properly and know when to stop eating.

One brain function that is not being tampered with by the job search is my constant need for booze.

Pour me a drink and let me teach children!

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Benny Jay: Sylvia’s Mother

July 19th, 2016

About two weeks ago, I was at an ice cream social at a senior citizens center in Hegewisch (don’t ask, long story), when I met Sylvia Ortega.

Unable to help myself, I instantly said: “Hey, Sylvia–is your last name Mother?”

To my shock, she got the joke. That is–she knew the song on which it’s based.

That’s Sylvia’s Mother written by the great Shel Silverstein. Apparently, Sylvia’s been forced to deal with one variation or another of this lame-ass joke since Dr. Hook’s cover came out in 1972.

Anyway, to make that lame joke even lamer, I sang a snatch–you know, for Sylvia’s benefit.

Sylvia’s mother says Sylvia’s busy, too busy to come to the phone
Sylvia’s mother says Sylvia’s tryin’ to start a new life of her own…

And that’s when the joke turned on me.

Having sung it once, I’ve been unable to stop singing it since. I mean, I can’t escape it. It’s running on a loop in my brain. I sing it when I’m in the shower on my bike or walking the dog. I happen to be singing it right now.

In this song, a love-sick man’s begging his ex-girl friend mother (Mrs. Avery) to put her daughter (Sylvia) on the line. And then the song builds to the following crescendo…

And the operator says 40 cents more for the next three minutes–please, Mrs. Avery, I just got to talk to her, I’ll only keep her awhile…

Ahhhh!!! It’s driving me fucking crazy!!!


That’s Sylvia on the left–photo by the great Michelle Kanaar!


By the way, Sylvia’s Mother is not the only lovesick song of the `70s about a man sharing his sad tale of unrequited love with an operator.

Off the top of my head I can think of Operator by Jim Croce and Operator by the Grateful Dead–different songs with the same title.

Lord, the weird shit I know.

In any event, I have good news–sorta.

The other day I happened to hear Come Together by the Beatles. And it’s replaced Sylvia’s Mother as the song I hear all the time.

Actually, it’s like these songs are playing in tandem. When I’m not hearing one, I’m hearing the other.

So at least I get a break every now and then from Sylvia’s Mother.

At the moment, I’m hearing John Lennon going…

Here come old flat top
He come groovin’ up slowly
He got joo joo eyeballs
He one holy roller...

Love that song!

Anyway, Sylvia (as in Ortega)–you can rest assured that I’ve been paid back for that lousy joke.

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Letter From Milo: Life, Limbs, and Sanity

July 18th, 2016

I was hospitalized for three weeks in the month of May. I had suffered a Subdural Hematoma, which is bleeding of the tissues around the brain, and had to have emergency, life-saving surgery.

Recovery was long and arduous. For a few days I had two tubes sticking out of my skull, draining the blood from my brain. The surgeon put a piece of titanium in my skull to replace some of the bone that was removed.

I don’t remember anything for the six or seven days after the surgery, but I was told I had around-the-clock care. Nurses hovered over me like anxious, first-time parents tending to a sickly newborn.  Doctors stopped by a couple of times a day to check on their handiwork. Rivers of high-quality meds  flowed through my veins.

When I came to my senses, I was put in the hands of therapists — physical therapists, speech therapists, respiratory therapists and nutritional therapists. When I went home after the three weeks, I still had to come back to the hospital two days a week for even more therapy.

In my opinion, the best thing about my hospitalization was that all of the services — CAT scans, x-rays, surgery, nursing care, medications, therapy, hospital bed, food — didn’t cost me anything.

I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of dollars my treatment was worth, but I didn’t have to pay a cent.  As an honorably discharged veteran of the United States Army, all of my medical care is paid for by the government.

I feel sorry for the chumps that actually have to pay for health insurance.  They are screwed, coming and going. Even though they pay hundreds of dollars a month for health insurance, thousands if they have large families, they still get stuck with deductibles, co-pays, and pharmaceutical fees. It’s a racket, a scam Bernie Madoff would envy.

Even more pitiful are the dumbasses who don’t have any health insurance at all. They are what the Vietnamese call “Bui Doi,” which loosely translates to “The dust of life.” People without health insurance are subject to any ill wind.

For the uninsured, a serious medical issue can be disastrous. Even a short stay in a hospital can cost more that most people can afford to pay.

In 2015, there were almost 900,00 non-business-related bankruptcies in the USA, and it is estimated that more than half of them were due to medical expenses. People have had their savings wiped out, their homes taken away, and their futures obliterated because they had a run of bad medical luck. In the back of every uninsured person’s mind there must be the ugly knowledge that if they get sick enough, they can lose everything.

Of course, if a person happened to live in a country with a national health care program, he or she wouldn’t have to worry about losing everything because of an affliction. They would be taken care of, not taken for a ride. Even shitholes like Slovenia, Greece and Finland, countries with a fraction of the USA’s wealth, offer their citizens government sponsored health care.

Among people of a certain age, the subject of health is of extreme interest. I had lunch with an old friend recently and all he talked about was health, his and mine, and the health care system.

“Milo, you don’t know how lucky you are.”

“Why’s that?”

“Not only did you survive life-threatening surgery, you also got free medical care from the VA.”

“Well, it wasn’t exactly free.”


“When I was a young man, I risked my life, limbs, and sanity for this country. The ‘free’ health care is sort of a ‘thank you’ for my service.”

“Well, I’m envious. I have to pay $800 a month to Blue Cross, with a huge deductible and a co-pay on meds.”

“Here’s an idea. Go to Afghanistan and fuck with the Taliban for a year or two. If you make it back, Uncle Sam will be happy to provide you with ‘free’ health care.”

My friend gave it some thought. “No thanks,” he said. “I’ll stick with Blue Cross.”


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