Randolph Street: Waiting For Sonny

May 26th, 2017





Hidden bench…



Night light…



I got you, babe…

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Benny Jay: Racing Man

May 26th, 2017

On a lovely night in June, I set off on my bike, heading home along the lakefront from Millennium Park.

I’d been at an outdoor concert–Eddie Palmieri and his Salsa Orchestra–that may have been the greatest outdoor concert I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a bunch.

The sounds of that orchestra are still resonating through my brain, giving me a little extra oomph, as I cross Lake Shore Drive and head north along the bike path.

I feel like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, racing my motorcycle over barbed wire fences. The breeze is lovely. It’s like I’ve sliced 30 years off of my age.

But as I approach Oak Street Beach, from behind me I hear a stern and commanding voice: “On your left!”

It’s what faster cyclists say to slower cyclists as they come up from behind them. As the rider approaches, I say: “Take it, big feller.”

And then what do I see?

A fat guy on a Divvy!

Are you kidding me! Passed on the left by a Divvy?


In my mind, I’m Steve McQueen…

In case you don’t know–Divvy’s are the rental bikes. They’re squat and heavy. They don’t move fast. Utilitarian is the word that comes to mind.

You can’t really pretend you’re Steve McQueen if you’re on a Divvy. Man, Steve McQueen wouldn’t be caught dead on a Divvy.

The guy whizzes by, like he’s the baddass. And I’m like–it’s on!

So I dig a little deeper and peddle a little harder. I can tell he feels me coming at him. Cause he digs harder.

In my mind, I’m still Steve McQueen. Only it’s a different movie–Les Mans–and I’m in a Porsche 917 whipping around a race course.

As we approach Fullerton, I draw closer.

“On your left,” I say.

And with that I fly right by him–like he’s standing still. As I disappear into the night, I raise my right arm to signal that I am the champion. Just like Steve McQueen!

I’m feeling pretty good until just south of Belmont I hear: “On the left!”

It’s a younger woman on–yes–a Divvy.

As she races past me, I think about giving chase. But forget it. That’s as much racing action as this old man can take for the night.

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Benny Jay: The Old Debate

May 23rd, 2017

I’m riding the Red Line as the clock nears midnight, when the great political debate erupts.

Actually, it’s not a debate so much as a monologue. A clearly inebriated man–staggering as the train rolls north from Roosevelt–feels compelled to bellow his political thoughts to the entire subway car.

Like all we want to do is listen.

“I’m feeling the Bern,” he proclaims. “I’m feeling the motherfucking Bern!”

I understand the sentiment. Lately, I’ve been feeling the Bern myself. Though I’m generally capable of containing my passions while riding in a subway car that’s surprisingly crowded so late at night.

He continues his discourse.

“You can’t trust Hillary Clinton. She couldn’t keep her man from getting a blow job in the White House. How’s she gonna run the country?”

I’m not sure about this. I’ve been known to gripe about the Clintons from time to time over the last 20 or so years. But in this case, I’m not sure one part of his analogy relates to the other.

From the other side of the train, a second voice erupts.

“Fuck that!”

It’s a scrawny man, who’s staggering down the aisle, a can of Red Bull in his hand. He looks like he’s had a drink or two, as well.

“Fuck these motherfuckers. Fuck `em all. I ain’t voting for none of `em!”

Ah, an anarchist.

“None of these motherfuckers putting any money in my pockets.”

No, more like a pragmatist.

berniehillarydebateThe Red Line debate was as good as Bernie v. Hillary…


Red Bull’s sentiments offend the first orator.

“Fuck that, man. You got to vote. It’s your motherfucking obligation, bitch!”

Well put! This guy should be teaching high school civics.

“Shit,” says Red Bull.

“Fuck that,” says the Bern man.

I’m telling you–Hamilton v. Jefferson’s got nothing on these guys.

Suddenly, a man to my left can contain himself no longer.

“I agree with the dude,” he says.

Apparently, a reference to Red Bull.

“Why vote–cause the Electoral College decides it,” he continues. “That’s how this shit works. No matter how you vote, the Electoral College decides it.”

It’s an interesting interpretation of the electoral process. I want to ask for a more detailed explication, but, unfortunately, we reach my stop.

Oh, well, it was an enlightening debate.

“Fuck these motherfuckers.” That pretty much sums up the electorate’s attitude these days.

I’m especially encouraged that there wasn’t a Trump voter in the bunch.

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Benny Jay: Big Head

May 18th, 2017

As you know, the manager of the station I work at is a man we call Yoda, cause he has the patience and wisdom of a Star Wars sage.

He’s the guy who comes on the air to correct the mistakes that callers or I have made. For instance…

Yoda: The correct pronunciation of Maya Dukmasova is Dukmasova. Not Dukmasova.


Yoda: The pronunciation of the conservative legislation organization is Alec as in Baldwin. Not Alex as in Trebek.

For a while all was great and then became a little bit of a celebrity. People began to recognize him. The other day we were sitting in Ellie’s, eating a big stack of pancakes, when this dude came running up.

“Hey, man, ain’t you that Yoda feller?” he asked.

“Well, I ugh–I guess you might say…”

“Hold on–let me get my wife,” the dude said. “Hey, honey, take a picture of me and Yoda.”

Anyway, I think the attention’s gone to his head. The other day he calls me into his office. And, well, here’s what happened…

“From here on out I will be doing no on-air bits,” he declared. “Unless you run in through my agent.”

“Your agent?”

“Ari Emanuel.”

“The mayor’s brother?”

williamwordsworthThe great Mr. Wordsworth…


“Also, from here on out, I will be unavailable for on-air research requests. So, if you want to know the name of the wonder year’s actor who’s a look-a-like for JB Pritzker—look it up yourself.

“Okay, but…”

“His name is Dan Lauria by the way.”


“Also—no more meetings in my dressing room.”

“Do you even have a dressing room?

“No stopping or popping by. My security team will stop everyone from standing at my door who has the intent to see or speak to me.”

“Security detail?”

“Also, if you want to meet with me you must schedule an appointment. I have been taken advantage of by my lenient policy in the past.”

“This is sound like Steve Harvey’s list.”

“In general, I’m looking for more free time. I need more time to work on my poetry.”


“I wandered lonely as a cloud.”

“I thought Wordsworth wrote that?”

“I’ll have my secretary put these instructions in memo form.”

“Or maybe it was Coleridge?”

“But under no circumstances are you to reveal the contents of that email.”

“I get `em all mixed up.”

“Now beat it–I got a station to run.”

Like I said, this Yoda thing has gone to his head.

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Benny Jay: Nerd Time

May 16th, 2017

I got an afternoon meeting in Skokie, which requires a drive to an office building out by the Old Orchard shopping mall.

Of course, I get lost. And by the time I get there, the meeting’s already started.

Everyone looks up as I walk in. “Sorry, guys,” I mumble.

Susan, who’s running the meeting, introduces me to the others: Steve, Doug, Kevin and Larry.

I sit at the table and prepare to take notes. As I look up I see the guy at the far end of the table — Larry — staring at me.

“Benny?” he says.

“Yes,” I say.

“Benny Jay?”


“You don’t know me?”

I swear to god, I never saw this guy in my life.

“Motherfucker, you don’t remember me?” he persists.

Wow, that’s fast! I just got here. Usually, it takes at least an hour before we work our way to such pleasantries.In 1973, Let’s Get it On was my favorite song….


“That’s Mr. Motherfucker,” I say. “And, no, I don’t remember you.”

“You went to Evanston High School?” he continues.


“Class of `73?”


“East Hall?”

“Geez, Larry,” says Doug. “Why should he remember you — you were a freaking nerd.”

Clearly, Doug and Larry know each other.

I look closer. Larry’s bald. Has a white mustache and wears a multicolored sweater like Bill Cosby, back in the day.

“You have to remember me with hair,” he says.


And Norm Van Lier was my favorite basketball player!


“Larry?” I say.

“Yes,” he says.

“Larry Wolfe?”

“That’s right.”

“Oh, my God!”

“I know.”

“We ate lunch together….”

“Aw, geez,” says Doug. “Two nerds.”

“Exactly,” says Larry.

“Oh, my God!” I say.

“Great, are we done with this?” says Doug.

“We ran cross country,” he says.

“Now Larry’s gonna bring out the freaking yearbook,” says Doug.

“C’mon, man,” I say. “Gimme a hug.”

We exchange a hug and sit down. I look at him and he looks at me. I imagine we’re thinking the same thing: No way I’m as old as this codger.

“Hey, Benny,” says Larry. “Remember this?”

He points at the table. I look down to see nothing more than his finger pointing at the table.

Which is the whole point.

Because — oh, God, this is embarrassing to admit, but….

There was a time in my high school life when the big thing was to try to trick a guy into looking at your finger as you pointed it at a table.

Yes, I did this. Oh, please don’t let it get out.

Then the guy pointing the finger says to the guy looking at the finger: “Duh!”





You get the idea.

Okay, so maybe we weren’t exactly the coolest cats in the cafeteria.

Turns out Larry went on to become a big-time accountant.

“Don’t let the Bill Cosby sweater fool you,” Doug tells me. “Larry’s a freaking genius. If you get into trouble with the IRS, he’s the man to see.”

That’s good to know — just in case.

After the meeting, Larry gives me an update. He writes books. Represents tons of famous people. Gives speeches at CPA conventions.

Then he points at the table.

I look.

“Dah,” he says.

Dang. Got me again. Just like 1973.

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Benny Jay: What’s That Sound?

May 11th, 2017

For my daughter’s birthday, the whole family gathers in a cottage in the mountains of California–about as wilderness as I’ll ever get.

It’s run by a hippie lady, who looks like she spends a lot of time listening to Joni Mitchell.

She’s so Mother Earth, she’s got chickens running all over the place.

“Be careful,” she tells us as we pull in. “Don’t run over any of the chickens.”

Not something I hear everyday–that’s for sure.

We’re having a great time. Lots of talking, eating, walking, card playing, etc.

By nightfall, I’m exhausted. I fall into a sound sleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.

And then…

Sometime in the middle of the night, a strange sound awakes me.

Sort of a squawk. Like a parrot. Or a duck. Not sure what it is–never heard anything like it.

I look to my wife for an explanation, but she’s fast asleep.

Man, it would take 20 parrots and ducks to wake her up.


That bird wouldn’t shut up…

And then it hits me.

It’s a rooster, crowing his ass off.

He senses the approach of dawn and he wants everyone to know about it.

First time I’ve ever heard a rooster. Don’t hear many of them in Chicago. I had to come all the way to California to finally hear a rooster crow.

Funny thing is I thought they went cock-a-doodle doo.

This is like squaaaak…

There’s not a cock, a doodle or a doo anywhere near this sound.

I look at he clock. It’s five in the morning. Way too early for me. But I can’t get back to sleep with that bird making all that racket.

Fucker won’t stop. It’s like he’s up, so he wants everyone to get up, too.

I start thinking about the song by Dylan: “When the rooster crows at the break of dawn, look out your window and I’ll be gone…”

Now I can’t get that song out of my mind.

Between Dylan and the rooster, I’m wide awake.

My mind wanders. I think about the thousands and thousands of chickens I’ve consumed over the years.

Must have been a rooster or two in the bunch.

This squawking bird that’s keeping me up?

Just call it the rooster’s revenge.

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Benny Jay: Macron or Macron?

May 9th, 2017

So we’re sitting in an all-important WCPT staff meeting and during a break in the action, I turn to Mark, the guy in advertising.

“Hey, man,” I ask. “How do you pronounce the name of the newly elected president of France?”

Not sure why I think Mark would know that. But I do.

“What?” he says.

“Emmanuel Macron. I want to get it right when I say it on the air.”

“Oh,” he says. “Macron.”

“That sounds like I pronounced it.”

“No, there’s a difference.”

“How did I pronounce it?”



“Yes, you said Macron.”

“Well, what did you say?”



“No, Macron.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t hear any difference between your pronunciation and mine.”

So he repeats it. “Macron.”


“No, Macron.”

I’m starting to think he’s messing with me. So I turn to Dennis.

“Hey, man, how do you pronounce Macron?”

“I dunno–Macren.”

“Okay, it’s not Macren.”

I turn to Yoda, the station manager. He should know. Yoda knows everything.

“Hey, Yoda. Do you know how to pronounce Macron?”

“I don’t know, but have you heard my Inspector Clouseau imitation from the Pink Panther Strikes Again?”


“Closeau goes, `does your dog bite?’ And the clerk says: `no.’ So Clouseau pets the dog and says `nice doggie.’ And the doggie bites his hand. And Clouseau says, `I thought you said your dog did not bite!’ And the clerk says, `that’s not my dog.'”

Oh, brother. You know, forget I ever asked…

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