Benny Jay: Vocal Training With Eric

March 23rd, 2017

So, one day I’m flaked out on my bed, reading a mystery, when I hear strange sounds coming from the other end of the house.

Not really sure how to describe them. Think of a trumpet–or someone making a motorboat sound while imitating a bird.

Yeah, that’s it–like a high-chirping bird making a trumpet/motorboat noises.

I return to my book. But the sound persists. And I start to wonder…

Are CD transmissions coming through our stereo?

That used to happen all the time back in the `80s. Almost messed up a perfectly good New Year’s Party, as I recall.

By now, the sound’s starting to annoy me. So I put down my book, hop off the bed, and sneak down the stairs to discover…

My wife!

Standing in the dining room, looking out the window, making weird chirping sounds.

“Have you lost your fucking mind!” I exclaim.

“Oh,” she says, as I catch her by surprise.

“What the fuck are you doing?”

“Vocal exercises.”

ericarceneauxYou gotta admit–Eric’s pretty damn good looking…


She’s taking an ensemble singing class at the local music school. And in order to improve her singing, she Googled “vocal training” and wound up on this website where she learned how to chirp like a bird.

Out of curiousity, I retrace her steps and find myself on a youtube post with over 7 million hits.

Its features a sensationally good-looking man named Eric Arceneaux, who says he’s a vocal trainer and if you follow his voice-training techniques and daily vocal warm ups you, too, will sing like a star.

Then he demonstrates a few of the same trumpet/motorboad/chirping sounds my wife’s been making.

Underneath, the video are a string of comments. Like…

My mom thinks I’ve taken drugs now after hearing all these noises that I’m making lol…


My wife said “what the fuck are you doing, crazy ass…


Bro, this guy must be swimming in pussy.

Clearly, I’m not the only guy who finds Eric’s good looking…

You remind me of Lenny Kravitz…

He does sort of look like Lenny…

My brother comes in during this video and says “What the fuck are you doing? Why are you making bird calls, fucking weirdo?

And so on…

Well, as long as my wife’s happy, I’m happy, too.

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Randolph Street: High Steppin’

March 22nd, 2017


Parade–Carlinville Illinois


These pictures are from a 1971 Truckin’ contest at Blackburn College.



Fives–Carlinville Illinois



Steppin’–Carlinville Illinois



Truckoff–Carlinville Illinois



Salute–Carlinville Illinois


All photos © Jon Randolph 2014

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Benny Jay: Mr. Breslin

March 21st, 2017

Back in the late `70s, I got a gig out of college as a copy boy for the Daily News, an afternoon paper that went out of business years ago.

I was the office go-fer, running errands all over the loop.

I didn’t mind. I loved being out of the office. I was moving to a soundtrack that only I could hear.

One day, they sent me to WFMT, the classical music radio station. As I stepped into the office to pick something up, I saw Jimmy Breslin, sitting in the lobby.

That’s Mr. Jimmy Breslin, one of the greatest newspaper columnists–ever!

Of course, I’d recognized him. I’d read most of his books. The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight. Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game. How the Good Guys Finally Won.

Hell, I’d been reading him for half of my life. He wrote about losers and wise guys and the little people no one paid attention to. The story behind the story–that sort of thing.

I worshipped the man. He was on that list of people–with Paul Newman and Wilt Chamberlain–I wanted to be.

And there he was, sitting in the WFMT lobby.

Wait, there’s more…

jimmybreslinJimmy Breslin–1928-2017…


The door to the inner office opens and out walks Studs Terkel!

Yes, the Studs Terkel, speaking of guys I worshipped.

I’m like–holy shit! It’s Jimmy Breslin and Studs Terkel!

The only missing member of my Holy Trinity of writers was Mike Royko–the greatest of them all. And they probably caught up with Mike later on at some bar.

“Jimmy,” says Studs.

“Studs,” says Jimmy.

And they hugged and retreated to the backroom to do whatever they were going to do. Probaby taping one of Studs’ radio shows.

I should have said something like–Fellas, it’s Benny Jay. What about me?

It all happened so fast–I was too awestruck to do anything but gape.

Sad to say–Jimmy Breslin died the other day. He was 89.

The only other time I saw Breslin was a few years ago outside the federal courthouse. He was in town to cover the Blagojevich trial. Somehow the Blago team had recruited him, like he was their personal chronicler.

By then he was over 80. Well past his prime. He’d been slowed by brain surgery. Some of the local scribes made fun of him–like he was Willie Mays stumbling around in center field at the end of a great career.

But I’d like to think of Jimmy Breslin in his glory days–the guy who pretty much invented column writing as we know it.

The great ones never grow old in the minds of their fans.

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Letter From Milo: For Shame

March 20th, 2017

When I reached the tender age of 12, my mother bought me a violin and signed me up for lessons in a musty music studio in the Gary National Bank building on Broadway and Fifth Avenue. Every Saturday morning I had to walk seven or eight blocks, lugging a violin case, to the music studio and spend a couple of hours struggling to learn how to play a violin.

At the time, Fifth Avenue was one of Gary’s main drags, a thriving boulevard overrun by taverns, poolrooms, liquor stores, gambling dens, diners, bowling alleys, private social clubs and the occasional whore house. It was one of the most popular areas in town and most of my friends hung out on that noisy and crowded street. It’s where a lot of Gary’s young men learned the manly arts of smoking, drinking, gambling and whoring.

And that’s where I should have been on Saturday mornings. But no, I had to take fucking violin lessons. It was mortifying.

My friends never failed to give me a hard time when they saw me walking down the street with a violin case under my arm. They teased me mercilessly, calling me a sissy and a homo. They wanted to know if I was going to start taking ballet lessons next.

I tried to avoid Fifth Avenue. I took shortcuts and skulked through alleys. But it seemed that everywhere I went I ran into someone I knew and as soon as they saw the violin case they started laughing. My 12-year-old ego was shattered. I was a broken kid.

The situation became intolerable. I couldn’t handle the derision of my peers and gave up the violin after a few months. I realize now that it was a huge mistake. I probably would have met a lot more chicks in my life if I had stuck with the violin. I understand Jascha Heifetz did real well with the ladies.

About twelve or thirteen years later I was living in southern Florida and enjoying a fling with a lovely young woman from Alabama, named LaDonna Titwell. We got along wonderfully except for one tiny little thing – her dog.

I’m not certain it was actually a dog. It was more like an animated ball of fluff than any animal I was familiar with. It couldn’t have weighed more than two pounds and most of the weight was made up of tangled and matted fur that resembled canine dreadlocks. To make the little creature look even more ridiculous, the dog’s mistress tied ribbons in its raggedy coat.

Normally I wouldn’t have given a shit about the dog but every once in a while my lady friend would say something like, “Milo, sugah, would you mind taking Pookie for a walk. The poor thing hasn’t been out all day.”

“Ah, fuck!”

“What was that, darlin’?”

“I said I’d be glad to, sweetie.”

So, there I’d be, walking down the street in broad daylight, holding a leash which was attached to a tiny beast that looked and acted like a battery-powered carpet remnant. And, of course, it just so happened that there were a dozen other guys walking their dogs at the same time.

Unlike me, these good ol’ Florida boys were walking real dogs, macho animals. They had pit bulls, pinschers, shepherds, blood hounds, and ridgebacks. One guy looked like he had a wolverine at the end of his leash.

When they saw me walking Pookie, they shook their heads in disbelief. Some smiled condescendingly at me. A few sneered in disgust, but most simply ignored me. They had sized me up, spotted me for a wimpy, pathetic loser, a discredit to the male gender, and wanted nothing to do with me. In all honesty, I didn’t blame them.

One guy, however, did approach me. He was an older, well-dressed man, who looked like he had seen something of the world. He was walking a Rottweiler with a spiked collar. When he came up to me he smiled knowingly and said, “It’s your girlfriend’s dog, isn’t it?”

When I nodded, he said, “I’ve been there, my friend. I just hope your young lady is worth all the trouble.”

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No Blaise: Why Time Changes are the Worst, Especially in Chicago

March 19th, 2017

Was the title of this post cryptic enough for you? I’m very mysterious.

As I’m sure all of you sleepyheads know, we lost an hour of sleep on Sunday. Which led into feeling like I’d lost 100 hours of sleep this entire week. The difference between this sleepiness and my normal sleepiness has not yet been determined.

My Chicago friends got especially shit on this past sleepy week. Why feel especially made for us? SURPRISE SNOW STORM. BLIZZARD. ARTIC DOWNPOUR. WHITE OUT.

Those all caps were no accident. That is how I feel inside about the snow that came through in a big way on Tuesday.

Picture me waking up that morning and realizing I’d slept through my alarm. Then imagine me not knowing it snowed (again) and realizing I was going to be late to work. It wasn’t until after my being two hours late to work after an almost three hour commute that I’d realize just how god damn late I was going to be. This day was particularly irregular because poor poor Jimmy was driving me to work so he could borrow my car and return to school later in order to help out our technology person.

If you’ve seen me from 10 feet away on any giving morning, you know how grumpy I am in the morning. Add an hour less of sleep, already lateness, and snow and you can all imagine the heat Jimmy was having thrown his way as he navigated us through the white abyss. (love u bb)

Once we finally arrived at school, Jimmy told me to go in while he “found parking” aka took deep calming breaths and punched a voo doo doll with my face on it. I can only imagine how distressed I looked when I arrived because as I walked to my room one of my coworkers almost spit their drink out when they saw my face.

My kids had an even more wonderful reaction which was to simply ask me as soon as I walked in, “Was there traffic Miss Schmiedel?”

To which I (almost) responded, “Oh yes there was traffic. And let’s all be thankful there was no blood drawn.”

**Want to take this opportunity to give a gigantic shout out to the teacher aids who were with my kids until I arrived at 10am. They have saved my ass on so many occasions and my students and I would be so lost and so so frantic without their unbelievably generous support.**

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Rolando: Shift Change/Quitting Time

March 18th, 2017

-What’s up man?

-I’m here, right?

-I know it.

-Let me get this shit show started. What’d you got?

-Room 12 needs blood cultures drawn…. 16 is a real asshole, but you need to get a urine sample for the Utox screen, doc won’t let him go until you get that…. 20 needs a post mold on his right hand…

-…Motherfucker did you do any work today?

-We were slammed, bro.

-Slammed my ass. I saw you bull shitting in the hallway with that one Asian transporter chic.

-I got her number, though.

-Must’ve took you all day with what little your ass got done.

-I got it, though.

-Fuck it. Tell me what else I gotta do to clean up your mess.

-That’s it, bro.  Shit, you got time, you’re here all night. I don’t know why you’re bugging out. I’d clean your shit up if you needed me to.

-My bad, man. I’m fucking tired. I got home this morning and they’re doing construction on my block. I couldn’t sleep.

-Working nights is a bitch.

-Working nights is a bitch. Working nights in this ER, is a motherfucker.

-So quit.

-You going to pay my rent? You feeding me, too? Cause lord knows I can barely afford to do both with what we get paid.

-I know what’s up, bro. But it sounds nice, right? ‘Just quit.’

-It sure does.

‘Just quit.’ Fuck it.

-On some, “Half Baked”  shit, right?

-Yeah, “Fuck you, fuck you, you’re cool, fuck you, I quit.”

-No, straight up, how’d you do it, quit?

-I’d put some trauma sheers to my scrubs, cut the sleeves off my top and most of the legs on my pants, start there, walk around with some short, shorts scrub pants and sleeveless top.

-Knee-high socks with your short scrubs?

-There’s no other way.

-You’re stupid.

-Then I’d make my rounds with the asshole frequent flyers that treat us like shit and freak them the fuck out.

-What about Mrs. Avers?

‘Ma’am, I know you came into the ER tonight to have your chronic sniffle checked out, but we ran some extra tests and found that you have exactly one hour, nine minutes, 12 seconds to live due to a fatal sniffle disease called “People get colds in the winter time.” Yes, ma’am, I am a medical professional. Yes, ma’am, I am wearing short, shorts scrubs.’

-Ms. Johnson?

Yes, ma’am, turkey sandwiches are all we have in the ER. Yes, ma’am, I know that after your sixth one, it can kind of get disgusting. No, ma’am, we don’t have ham, so your seventh one will probably make you feel worse than your sixth one. 

-What about Percy Hawkins?

‘Mr. Hawkins, sir, Mr. Hawkins. Have you slept your hangover off? You feel better? Good. Get the fuck out, asshole. And yes, I’m wearing short, shorts scrubs. 

-You are stupid.

-That’s how I’d do it.

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