All Photos © Jon Randolph
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It’s a typical Monday night in the men’s bowling league at Timber…
The lanes are filled with big, beefy, flatulent motherfuckers, braying, cursing, eating greasy pizza, drinking beer and knocking back shots.
In short — a bunch of primordials.
On the jukebox, they’re playing hard rock or rap. With lyrics like…
“All I want for my birthday is a big booty ho…”
“Our brains are on fire with the feeling to kill and it won’t go await until our dreams are fulfilled…”
Cap brings a heaping pile of chicken. The guys don’t bother to eat it off a paper plate. They’re walking around wolfing chicken with unwashed hands still reeking of the bowling alley oil.
Cause that’s how real men roll!
Over the jukebox come oddly melodic sounds. I swear — I hear violins. Then a familiar voice.
“It must have been cold there in my shadow, to never have sunlight on your face…”
The boys pretend they like Metallica, but…
“So I was the one with all the glory, while you were the one with all the strength…”
Then comes the instantly recognizable chorus…
“Did you ever know that you’re my hero, and everything I would like to be? I can fly higher than an eagle, ’cause you are the wind beneath my wings.”
From all over the bowling alley, you hear the sounds of guys groaning, like they can’t stand this song.
“Who put this shit on?”
“Fuck, man — this is bullshit!”
“This fuckin’ sucks…”
“Joe put it on…”
“Hey, Joe — blow me!”
And so on.
But here’s the thing. As the song goes on, I start to notice — a lot of the guys are strangely silent. Like they’re listening. Other guys are quietly singing along, definitely on the down low. Like they don’t want anyone to notice.
I swear to God, Pat the Plumber is hiding in the corner, practically belting it out.
And Nat — who looks a little like Christopher Moltisanti from The Sopranos — is singing along word for word! Come to think about it — Moltisanti would probably love the song. Not that he’d tell Uncle Tony about it.
“Hey, Pat,” I say. “Are you singing with Bette?”
“Pat likes Bette Midler. Pat likes Bette Midler.”
“Suck my balls.”
All in all, I’m glad someone put that song on. It was the highlight of my night, especially the shitty way I’ve been bowling.
Since I heard that song, I can’t get it out of mind. As a matter of fact, I’m hearing it right now.
“I could fly higher than an eagle — ’cause you are the wind beneath my wings.”
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Although I have never seen the movie Her, I feel like a sequel (Him) could be written about my life since my iPhone is quickly proving to be my life companion. Sure I use it to text with and talk to friends, but it’s main purpose in my life has been to get rid of any unnecessary human interactions.
Rather than texting my friends to let them know where I am or, more importantly, what I’m eating, I can just send them a SnapChat of the leftover dumplings and lo mein I just had for “breakfast”.
Instead of calling up someone and telling them about a great concert I just went to, or fill them in on an interesting book that I’m reading, I’ll just post an Instagram of it with a caption like, “holy shit this is awesome” with supplemental emoji’s to emphasize the point.
Walk up to a guy and talk to him in real life if I think he’s cute? Noway, that’s what Tinder and OkCupid are for. Swiping left or right is so much easier than stepping slightly out of my comfort zone.
Shop for clothes in a real store and have to deal with associates asking if I need any help, and then the check out people asking if I found everything alright. Yeah I found everything alright, why the fuck do you think I’m checking out? Thank you, Hautelook, for eliminating this inconvenience.
My most recent, and possibly my most significant, drift into becoming a complete hermit came with my acquisition of the app “Instacart”.
What is it, you ask?
Well it just so happens to be the most important thing in my life right now. It is an app that allows you to choose a grocery store, pick out groceries, and pay for them, all without having to be in public. The human interaction rank is a 4 out of 10 because you will have to speak to the person shopping for your groceries in case any replacements need to be made, and then again when they arrive at your front door with all the groceries you asked for. The level of interaction, though, is such that it doesn’t outweigh the convenience factor.
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I’m sitting with my mother and my sister watching the tube on a Saturday afternoon, and my sister mentions how much she likes Rachel Maddow. You know, the TV personality on MSNBC.
“Did you see her on the Bill Maher show?” I ask.
“Who’s Bill Maher?” asks my mother.
“A talk show host on PBS,” says my sister.
“He’s not on PBS,” I say.
“Yes, he is,” says my sister.
“He swears too much to be on PBS,” I say.
“They can just bleep him out,” says my sister.
“What are you two talking about?” says my mother.
And so on….
“Bet you lunch at Potbelly’s, he’s not on PBS,” I say.
“Bet,” says my sister.
I know what you’re thinking — why not just look it up on the Internet?
I come from a family of Rachel Maddow fans…
The problem is my mother has no computer and I have no smart phone. My sister does have a smart phone, but it never seems to work. Not sure why.
So, I text my cousin Josh – a big Bill Maher fan.
“He’s on HBO,” Josh texts back.
“See,” I tell my sister.
“Just cause Josh says he’s on HBO doesn’t mean he is,” she says.
Which is technically true — though I’d never admit that to my sister.
So I text my old pal, Thor, who also knows lots of stuff.
“HBO,” Thor texts back. “Why do you ask?”
“My sister thinks he’s on PBS.”
“He’s too profane for PBS.”
As you can see, Thor also has an excellent vocabulary. He’s a real Renaissance guy!
I show my sister’s Thor’s email and declare: “You owe me lunch.”
“No, I don’t…”
“I think I’ll get the veggie sandwich…”
“I didn’t lose…”
“With a cream soda…”
“I’m not paying for it…”
“It’s gonna be so good…”
“I didn’t lose…”
“Yes, you did…”
“No, I didn’t…”
And so on.
Fast forward 24 hours — I’m walking the dog when my sister calls.
“Guess who I’m watching on PBS?” she asks.
“I dunno — Mr. Rodgers?”
“No — Bill Moyers!”
“I told you he was on PBS.”
“Not Bill Moyers – Bill Maher!”
“Do you even know who Bill Maher is?” I ask.
Another pause. “I”m not sure.”
Out of compassion, I release her from the bet. But as I walk on, it hits me…
Is she just playing dumb to get out of the bet? If so, man, that girl is slick.
I tell you — some cheapskates will do anything to avoid picking up a check.
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There is a mystery man in the history of The Third City, a shadowy figure who toiled briefly at the blog, but whose influence is felt to this very day. Along with Benny Jay, he was a founder of the site. He called himself Big Rick, but Benny and I referred to him as the Barn Boss.
Not only was Big Rick a pompous windbag, which is a requisite for any blogger, he was also ruthless, eaten up by ambition. And he was a master at navigating corporate minefields. In no time at all, he had taken over the company.
By the time I signed on as Society, Lifestyle and Religion columnist for The Third City, he was in total control of the blog site – and he ran it with an iron hand.
Big Rick and I butted heads immediately. One of the first pieces I wrote was about buying some reefer from a guy who was working out of the parking lot of at Dunkin’ Donuts on Ashland Avenue. Big Rick didn’t like it.
“You ignorant motherfucker,” he said. “What if the owner of the Dunkin’ Donuts reads this and decides to sue us?”
“The owner is a Pakistani immigrant,” I replied. “He only knows about 10 words of English. Unless someone translates the blog into Urdu, I doubt he’ll read it.”
A few months later, I wrote another blog that Big Rick didn’t like. It was a think piece, meticulously researched, something I spent a lot of time on. It was called, “Eating Pussy.”
Big Rick confronted me angrily. “Are you trying to ruin this fucking blog? How could you write a piece of shit like this? A lot of our readers are little old ladies. How do you think they’ll react when they see that we’re writing about eating pussy?”
“I’m hoping it will bring back some pleasant memories.”
When Big Rick wasn’t terrorizing the staff, he was busy pounding out his own blog posts. He wrote two or three a week and they were all pretty much the same – heavy-handed, hard-hitting screeds based on the latest news. Like 20 million other bloggers, he’d scan newspaper headlines and comment on them from his own political perspective. He didn’t attract many readers, but he seemed to be enjoying himself.
Despite his failings as a Barn Boss and blogger, we needed him. Benny and I had no interest in the day-to-day business of the blog site. If it wasn’t for his guiding hand, The Third City would have descended into chaos. At least that’s what Big Rick told us.
But after a while, Big Rick began behaving erratically. He’d disappear for three or four days at a time. not answering his phone or returning calls. When we needed him most, when important decisions had to be made, we couldn’t contact him.
I recall one time when a representative from Al Jazeera contacted us and asked about buying The Third City. They offered a small fortune. Benny and I were wild about the deal. But we couldn’t do it without Big Rick.
“Where the fuck is that worthless bastard?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen him in a week.”
“He’s probably whoring or laying up drunk somewhere.”
“Well, the fucker’s costing us a lot of dough.”
It became obvious that Big Rick was losing interest in The Third City. When he came to work, he’d arrive late, take a three hour lunch, and leave early. The only day he showed up on time was payday.
He didn’t even bother working himself into a temper about some of the blogs I wrote.
“Hey, Big Rick, how’d you like the piece I wrote about the history of Tijuana donkey shows?”
“It was okay.”
“Next week I’m writing about proper whorehouse etiquette.”
“That sounds good.”
One day Benny Jay and I received an e-mail from Big Rick. It was his resignation letter. He said he was bored by The Third City and tired of working with a couple of dumbasses like us. He felt we were holding him back, not allowing him room to grow.
Big Rick informed us that he had a new mission in life. He had found his true calling. He was going to move to Southern Indiana and blog about arts, culture and politics for the edification of ignorant Hoosiers.
We thought it was an excellent idea.
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It’s a snowy Saturday night in Chicago and I’m sitting at home with nothing to do.
I don’t feel like battling the elements to see a flick or even walk to the Redbox. There’re no Netflix discs in the house. Before I break into my collection of vintage movies, I figure I’ll see what’s on the tube.
I don’t have cable — so I start at CBS and work my way through NBC, ABC, WGN and PBS till I’m in the netherworld of obscure local UHF stations that mainly show reruns.
I’m about to give it up for lost, when on Channel 23 — or 23.2, to be exact — I discover…
Yes, the great Pam Grief flick from 1970-something…
“That’s it,” I tell my wife. “We’re watching Foxy Brown!”
I can’t tell you how much I loved Pam Grier back in my glory days of the 1970s, so I won’t even try.
In Foxy Brown, she plays this super-bad chick who poses as a prostitute as she goes after this piece-of-shit mobster who murdered her boyfriend.
The great Pam Grier!
The bad guys have Foxy tied to a bed in a shack somewhere in the desert. My wife says, “this is awful.”
“Don’t worry about Foxy Brown,” I say. “She’s the baddest chick around!”
Sure enough, Foxy cuts herself loose with razor that happens to be on the stand by the bed. Then she douses the bad guys with gasoline, ignites them with a match, and runs out of the shack just before it blows up.
Just like she did the first time I saw the movie at the Howard theater back in 1970-whatever.
But, wait, it gets even better.
When Foxy ends, on comes Coffy. That’s right — it’s a Pam Grier double feature!
How come no one told me? I could have thrown a party.
Coffy is even better than Foxy Brown — well, actually, that’s a debatable subject.
In Coffy, she plays a nurse who avenges her little sister who got strung out on drugs dealt by these evil motherfuckers.
The only problem is that there’s a ton of commercials. But it’s free TV on a Saturday night, so I really can’t complain.
The movie ends with Coffy — having successfully avenged her sister — walking along the beach as the sun rises. And this super cool Roy Ayers song is playing.
For a moment I have a stab of nostalgia cause I’m not 17 anymore. But the nostalgia passes cause, to tell you the truth, 17 wasn’t all that great when it was actually going on. If you know what I mean.
I love Pam Grier — as much as ever!
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