Rolando: Sunday Morning Torture

July 22nd, 2017

I grew up in a fairly conservative Christian home. And part of growing up that way, included  two, three hour-church services on Sundays, a two-hour service on Tuesday nights and the occasional all night prayer vigil at the church on a Friday.

I know what you may be thinking, that’s a whole lot of Jesus.

It was.

But as a kid, it wasn’t too bad. All my childhood friends went to my church. So we always had a chance to hang out. In between Sunday services, my dad almost always took us out to our favorite Mexican restaurant or our favorite pizza joint.

The church services were long, and as a kid, I almost never had the attention span to pay attention to an hour-long sermon–never mind that it was mostly in Spanish.

There was also the confusion caused by not being able to take part in most of the activities my friends out side of our church took part in.

And the nagging fear of potentially coming home one day and my entire family having been lifted up to heaven in the rapture and me being left behind in the apocalypse because of my sins–heavy shit to wrap my head around as an 11 year old.

No, that wasn’t too bad to deal with.

What really did me in, the thing that made me question the meaning of life, the thing that had the longest lasting psychologically damaging effect was our Sunday morning wake up call.

Every Sunday morning, I’d be deep asleep, dreaming the dreams that sweet, innocent, Puerto  Rican children dream, when the door to my bedroom would burst open–Boom!!!– and standing at the door way was my dad.

“Time for church, boy. Get up.”

“Huh?” I’d ask, still half asleep. “Ok, pa.”

My dad would disappear and, inevitably, I’d fall back asleep.

Few minutes later–Boom!!!

“Huh, huh, I’m up.”

“It’s Sunday, that means it’s God’s day. Get up.”

“I’m up. It’s God’s day, I’m up.”

My dad would leave and once again, I’d go back to sleep.

Now the first two rude awakenings were bad enough, but this last and final move my dad would make, was torture.

Again, the door would blast open, and again my dad would be standing in the door way, but this time he’d have Christian contemporary music blasting from the stereo in the living room, and he’d be singing–scream singing, really–“RISE AND SHINE AND GIVE GOD THE GLORY, GLORY. RISE AND SHINE AND GIVE GOD THE GLORY, GLORY. RISE AND SHINE AND, GIVE GOD THE GLORY, GLORY. CHILDREN OF THE LORD.”

He’d do it over and over until I finally jumped out of bed and stomped my way to the shower to get ready for the day, all the while muttering, “I’m up, It’s God’s day, I’m up.”

Until this day I cringe when I think about those Sunday mornings. And every once in a while on a Sunday morning, even if I don’t have to be up for anything, I’ll wake up in a cold sweat, and mutter, “I’m up. It’s God’s day, I’m up.”

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Randolph Street: Still Life

July 21st, 2017

1DSCF2100White & Yellow–Chicago Loop

 

2DSCF2145#210–Fine Arts Building

 

3DSCF2110Fisher Building–Chicago Loop

 

All photos © Jon Randolph 2017

jonrandolph.com

 

 

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Benny Jay: Me `n Sigourney

July 20th, 2017

This bit’s from the July 17th show. If you want to hear it, click right here

 

We’re calling this all is stage door Johnny Monday and here’s why…

So my wife and I are in New York City a couple of years ago and she says…

Laura as wife: Let see a Broadway show!

And I say….

Dennis as me: Yes!

Something you don’t know about me. I love Broadway shows. On the outside I may be a mild mannered talk show host. But on the inside, I wanna be—Ethel Merman!!

Laura, singing: There’s no business like show business there’s no business I know…

Anyway, we wind up seeing Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Hilarious show. It’s got a great cast, including Sigourney Weaver and David Hyde Pierce. My wife and I like it so much we decide to join the 50 or so people hanging around the stage doors waiting for the stars to emerge from the dressing rooms. That’s right—we’re stage door Johnnies. First out is Shalita Grant, who plays the maid. Great young actress. Remember that name.

Dennis as me: Hey, Shalita, good job!

She smiles and says…

Laura: Thanks.

Then I think–good job? I gotta come up with something wittier than that. Next is Billy Magnussen who plays the hunky young actor.  My wife says…

Laura as my wife: He’s even better looking in person than he is on stage.

You know, hanging around a stage door will turn any woman into a snarling cougar. Then, out comes Kristine Nielsen, who’s this absolutely, positively sensational comic actress. Right up there with Carol Burnett. I’m trying to tell her how much I love her performance. But I can’t get the words out.  So I wind up burbling.

Dennis as me: Ugh, uhm, ugh, habbida habbida habbida your sensational.

She smiles as if to say…

Laura: The crazies are out tonight.

Then comes Sigourney! Like, you know, we’re on a first name basis. And I say the first thing that pops into my brain.

Dennis as me: Oh, my god, Sigouney–I loved you in Ghostbusters.

Oh, my god, how lame.

All that’s left is David Hyde Pierce, who used to play Niles, in the sitcom Frasier. By now I’m chatting with Patricia, who turns out to be a teacher from Chicago in town to visit Unique, a college friend, who lives in Brooklyn. Did you get all of that? Well, you’d better—cause it’s on the test. And Patricia says.

Laura as Patricia: I love Frazier.

Dennis as me: Uh-huh.

Laura: I used to watch it with my dad.

Dennis: Really?

Laura: And my favorite character was Niles.

Dennis: Yeah.

Laura: And now all I want is a picture with David Hyde Pierce. Is that too much to ask?

At that moment, out steps David Hyde pierce.

Dennis as me: Gut check time, Patricia.

Give her credit. Man, she stepped out of the crowd. Went up to Pierce as Unique moved in with her cell-phone. And — snap!

In an instant, Pierce has disappeared into the night. But Patricia got her picture.

Dennis as me: Great picture, Patricia.

Laura as Patricia: I love David Hyde Pierce.

Just another perfect night for state door Johnnies.

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Randolph Street: Ride `em, Cowboy!

July 19th, 2017

1img011Cowboy Days–Wyoming

 

These pictures are from 1974.

 

2img010Pool Hall

 

3img013Cowboy Days

 

img018Cowboy Days

 

5img017Gift Store–Mt. Rushmore

 

All photos © Jon Randolph

jonrandolph.com

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Letter From Milo: Night Work

July 17th, 2017

I wasn’t always a famous, wealthy and beloved figure in the blogging world.

I know it’s hard to believe, but before I was overwhelmed by fame, fortune and the paparazzi, I was just a regular guy. By regular guy I mean I was an average Joe, shuffling along in obscurity, content to make a living, raise a family, get drunk once in a while and get laid on occasion.

Then, the feces got into the central air. Like regular guys everywhere I got hit hard by the Great George Bush Economic Meltdown. The small business I had owned and mismanaged for many years, the Dumbass Advertising Corporation, Ltd, LLC & Sons, nearly went under. The cash stopped coming in. The lovely Mrs. Milo had to shoulder the main burden of keeping us afloat. I had to do something, anything, to crank up the cash flow.

So, I got a night job.

It wasn’t a great job. I had never done anything like it before. I won’t even mention what it was except to say it wasn’t anything I’d care to post on my resume.

The best thing about it was the hours, six hours a night, four days a week. It allowed me to keep my normal activities going during the day and it provided much needed cash. It was what I needed at the time.

The business wasn’t exactly a fly-by-night enterprise, but it was real close. The workforce was a mixed bag of characters. There were middle managers who had been downsized, college kids working their way through school, retirees who couldn’t make it on their pensions, whores who were too old to make a decent living, a number of young men with crude jailhouse tattoos, musicians who had wasted their youths trying to get record deals, a few people who were obviously junkies, and of course, an aging, burned out advertising man.

It seemed that anyone who wanted that job could have it. The only requirements were the ability to read and write and minimal computer skills. None of the employees stayed long. Turnover was ferocious. After a month there were only two of us left out of a group of 12 that started with me.

The other guy was a man named Teddy, who, as a young man, had made a living as a bank robber in Mississippi.

Of course, he didn’t blurt out this information at our first meeting. We had to become friends first. And that wasn’t easy. I wasn’t looking for friends and I doubt if Teddy was, either. All we were looking for was a paycheck, preferably one that didn’t bounce.

But as new faces kept showing up week after week, and the people we knew drifted away, Teddy and I began spending more time with each other. We’d eat lunch and take smoke breaks together, and after work we’d walk to the El train together. Teddy generally carried a half pint in his jacket and had a drink or two on the walk to the train. He was a gentleman and always offered me a drink. And I always accepted.

It was while walking to the El one evening that Teddy said, “Man, you don’t know how good it feels to be walking down this street.”

“It’s a beautiful night.”

“It’s more than that, Milo. You see, I spent 22 years in prison, in Mississippi. Got out eight months ago. Just getting on this El train and going anywhere I want is sweet.”

“Damn, man. 22 years?”

“Yeah, robbed four banks. I should have stopped at three.”

When I got home that evening, I opened a bottle of wine, poured a hefty drink and thought about Teddy. I would have thought someone who had served so much prison time would be bitter and angry. But Teddy was just the opposite. He was one of the sweetest natured men I’d ever met, always smiling, always genial. I never heard him say a bad word about anyone. He even had a playful side, which he allowed me to see.

He had begun greeting me at work by giving me an ugly look and saying, “Motherfucker, where’s my money?”

And I’d reply by saying, “Spent it, motherfucker.”

Teddy always laughed at my reply and said, “Shit, man, I would have done the same thing.”

One evening as we walked to the El train, I asked Teddy, “It must have been tough being a black man in a Mississippi prison?”

“It wasn’t easy. The funny thing is that my own people made it tough on me. You see, most of the trustees and guards at the prison are black men. But they have to answer to white men. So they can’t look like they’re taking it easier on their own people than on whites. Motherfuckers can make your life miserable, sometimes.”

“How’d you get this job, anyway? The application form asked about felony convictions.”

“”They just asked if you had been convicted of a felony in the last seven years. Shit, man, I been in prison a lot longer than seven years.”

Another time, Teddy said, “Stolen money don’t last long. This short money we making here last longer than bank money. My biggest hit was $30,000 and it was gone in a month. Course I had to split it with a partner. If you a criminal you got a lot of expenses. Plus, you get crazy with the money. When you work for your money, you watch it closer.”

About a month later, Teddy came in late to work, which was unusual. He never missed work and he was always punctual. He was also disheveled and smelled of alcohol, another unusual occurrence. He never drank at work.

“Are you okay, man?” I asked.

“My woman put me out. I had to move all my shit into my brother’s place.”

“Damn, man, that’s rough.”

“Bitch went crazy. Accused me of all kind of shit. I swear, Milo, I ain’t even looked at another woman since I been out of jail.”

About an hour later, Teddy abruptly stood up at his cubicle, raised his face toward the ceiling and hollered something I couldn’t quite make out. Then he rushed toward the exit door.

That was the last time I saw him.

Word on the street was that Teddy had broken parole, either a domestic dispute, something to do with a car or a concealed weapons charge. I was pretty sure he didn’t go back to robbing banks because I didn’t read anything in the papers about any local banks being robbed. He might be in prison in Illinois or maybe they sent him back to Mississippi. Who the hell knows?

One thing I do know is that I miss him. He was good company and always cheered me up when I saw him.

Sometime in my life I’d like to see Teddy again. If I do, I’ll throw my arms around him, give him a big hug and say, “Motherfucker, where’s my money?”

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Rolando: Puerto Rican TV Star

July 15th, 2017

It was Spring 1996 and I was sitting on a coach bus with twenty other kids in front of Newberry Math and Science Academy, ready to start our eighth grade class trip to Washington DC.

I was out of my mind. I was about to go on my first cross country trip without parents.

There were other firsts that trip, too, things that had a profound impact on me.

Like when my buddy, and bus mate, Pete, introduced me to the late great Cuban bassist, Israel “Cachao” Lopez. I listened to him on repeat all through Ohio. And that record shop in DC where, for the first time, I found and listened to a copy of Dizzy Gillespie’s, “Night in Tunisia” and my teacher had to physically pull me out of the shop because I was so entranced and delaying the tour.

And of course the experience of being in DC and seeing all the monuments and just being in a city I had never been to before–all memorable experiences.

Then there was, well, let’s just call her Nancy for the sake of anonymity.

On that trip, amongst the many other firsts that I experienced, at the wise and ripened old age of 13, Nancy became the “woman” that I was going to marry. My true and eternal love.

We had so much in common–so my 13 year old mind reasoned. Nancy is Puerto Rican. am Puerto Rican. Nancy is cute as hell. am sexy as hell. Nancy is on this trip. am on this trip, too!

That’s all I based the idea of our impending marriage on.

The problem was, Nancy and I were always friendly, but she never paid much attention to me beyond a “hello”  back in Chicago. And there was also that I was a chicken shit, too afraid to say anything to her.

One day about three days into the trip my bus mate sat down next to me and said, “Dude, dude, Nancy is back there with Gina and Lisa talking about how cute your are.”

“What?” I said. “Stop playing, bro.”

“I’m serious, bro. I went to the bathroom and could hear them.”

“Tell me exactly what she said.”

“I heard Lisa tell Nancy, “Don’t you think Ro cute?”And then Nancy said, “He is.” Then she said, “He reminds me of Eddie, right? With his hair.” And then they all laughed.”

“Eddie? I remind her of Eddie, with my hair? And why did they laugh?”

“That’s what she said, bro.”

I sat with that for a few hours as we travelled. ‘Eddie with my hair? Who is Eddie?’ 

Then it hit me. Eddie Torres the Puerto Rican detective in the TV show New York Undercover.

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Eddie Torres–originator of the Puerto Rican Duck Lips.

“Yo, she thinks I look like Eddie Torres, bro. The cop on that TV show.”

“Oh, shit, bro…. Wait, you look nothing like that dude. I mean, you’re both Puerto Rican, but that’s it.”

“Nah, that’s it bro. She likes me cause I got that star quality about me.”

The rest of the trip goes by and I don’t say a word to her. I’m just content that she thinks I’m cute, and that I remind her of a Puerto Rican TV star.

Finally, at a truck stop on the way home, I built up enough courage to talk to her.

I approached Nancy, who happened to be with Lisa.

“Hey, Nancy, you have a good trip?”

“Yeah, Ro. You?”

“Yeah. A real good trip.”

“That’s cool.”

“Yeah it is. Listen, I know you think I’m cute and all, and that I remind you of Eddie Torres from that TV show, I just wanted to tell you I think you’re cute too.”

“Oh, I….”

“What?”

“Who told you that?”

“Nah, I just know things and that’s cool that you feel that way. I mean he kind of does look like me, only a lot older.”

Then came another first, happily and at the same time cruelly  provided by Lisa.

“Boy, she don’t think you look like no Eddie Torres from the TV show, that man is fine,  you look like Eddie Munster with your Widow’s Peak.”

images

“Eddie… with his hair”

‘Oh no. My Widow’s Peak. I’m not a sexy Puerto Rican TV star, I’m a Puerto Rican version of a black and white freak from a 60’s sitcom about monsters,’ I think as I try to figure  a way out.  

The best I could do was, “Well you’re both stupid. And prevalence of the Widow’s Peak in the male population in this country is less then 3%. So that’s makes me pretty unique, ok?”

Needless to say we never got married.

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