As a boomer who works in the world of the young, I can tell you from hard experience–it’s not easy being the old guy in the room.
Things I take for granted–movies, songs, books, etc.–exist in a distant universe, as far as the youngsters are concerned.
Like the young feller, who’d never heard of Eddie Haskell.
I see you, Mick!
Or this other young feller, who didn’t know “living on reds, vitamin C and cocaine” was a line from Truckin‘.
What up, Tal!
Or this young woman, who’d never heard of Sybil. As in the movie, book or psychological condition.
You’re still my girl, Robin!
Or this young editor–call him Jake–who didn’t know, well, let me give you the details…
I’d written an article that culminated in the following line: “Things have changed, as Mr. Dylan might say.”
Jake changed that line to read: ”The times they are a changin’, as Mr. Dylan might say.”
That set off a variation of the following exchange…
Me: Why did you change the line?
Jake: You got it wrong.
Me: No, I was quoting a different song by Bob Dylan. Your line comes from The Times They Are A Changin’, which came out in 1964. My line’s from Things Have Changed, which came out in 2000.”
He gave me a look that said–uh-oh, the old fuck’s finally gone off the deep end.
Bobby D back in the day…
So I went a little further with my explanation…
“Dylan wrote Things Have Changed for a movie,” I said.
“The Wonder Boys.”
“That song won an Oscar for Dylan.”
I decide to sing a few lines…
“People are crazy and times are strange…”
But then, as so often happens, I had to stop–cause I forget the next line.
I realized this is an interesting twist. The young guy knew the old song, but not the newer one.
My theory is that Jake learned everything he knows about Dylan from his parents, who probably stopped listening to new Dylan records around 1974–or whenever Blood on the Tracks came out.
Hence, he knew the song from 1964. But not the one from 2000.
I should get a PhD in this stuff.
Being a reasonable fellow, Jake offered me a deal.
We’ll let Paul, the art director, make the decision as to which line to use. It’s a perfect compromise. Paul’s young, but he’s in a rock band. So if any youngster’s heard of Things Have Changed, it’s Paul.
Into Paul’s office we go.
“Hey, Paul,” I said. “Not to put pressure on you or anything. But–have you ever heard of a Dylan song called Things Have Changed?”
Paul flashes that nice smile I get when I tell youngsters about rotary dial telephones.
“Sorry,” he said.
“But you’re in a rock band?”
“I’m just the drummer.”
I said: “Oh.”
I thought: I’ll bet Ringo knows Things Have Changed.
Like I said–it’s not easy being the old guy in the room
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As we all know, Milo–my partner in the TTC blogging empire–is a fine writer, prodigious partier and one of the world’s great spellers.
To that trio of talents, let’s add a fourth: The fucker’s got a hard head!
This is my way of getting around to explaining why you haven’t seen one of his Facebook postings since he wrote: “Man, I’m like totally embarrassed. I thought Naked Gardening Day was today.”
That line has nothing to do with this story, but it’s so funny I had to repeat it. Anyway…
On May 7, Milo fainted.
Not sure why–he just did.
He got up and said he was feeling fine.
But a few hours later, Petra, his youngest daughter, found him damn near passed out on the couch.
She hustled him over to the hospital. Not long thereafter, he was having brain surgery.
Specifically, the doctors performed a craniotomy–a word only Milo can spell.
They broke open his skull. Drained the blood. And inserted a piece of titanium to cover up the hole.
I probably made a bunch of errors in this explanation–being the guy who flunked nearly every science class I ever took. But I think it’s close enough.
He’s now battling–oh, god, here comes another hard word–expressive aphasia.
That means he’s sort of learning how to speak again.
I went to visit him the other day fully intending to take advantage of his feeble state by having him sign a power of attorney statement turning over TTC–with all of its millions–to me, Rolando and Randolph.
But I chickened out when I noticed Petra was packing a pistol. You know what they say about the apple and the tree.
In all seriousness, I’m happy to report that Milo’s on the mend. And he still spells better than I do–even with that titanium in his head.
So thank you, Petra, for being so quick on your feet and getting your old man over to that hospital.
And thank you Nadia and the lovely Mrs. Milo and everyone else in the Samardzija family for taking such good care of my old friend.
Also, thanks to the doctors and nurses at the V.A. hospital. Trust me when I tell you–this guy was well worth saving.
I plan to visit him again really soon so we can dine in fine style at the V.A. cafeteria. Milo tells me its fried chicken is second to none.
In the meantime, to all his Facebook fans and friends, I know Milo would appreciate a few of your best wishes and wisecracks.
On a freezing cold night, my younger daughter and I head over to the local Chinese joint for dinner and order ourselves a big bowl of steaming-hot chicken soup.
We start talking about this and that, and somehow I launch into a recollection of how I met her mother…
It’s November, 1980. I’m 24. Just back from a job in Connecticut. Dead broke. Living at home with my parents. Kevin calls.
He’s a friend of an old girlfriend. Actually, not really my friend–more of an acquaintance. I’m surprised he even has my number.
He says he has an extra ticket for a Springsteen concert–want to go?
I’m like–are you kidding? Of course, I want to go.
I can’t believe invited me, of people.
But back then, I was sort of known, in our little circle, as the guy who loves Springsteen.
So I drive to Kevin’s house, an apartment in Lakeview. In my `73 Celica, coolest car I’ve ever owned.
Turns out he’s a drug dealer. Has his drugs out in the open–hashish, weed, cocaine.
Plus, he’s got a phone in every room, even the bathroom. Don’t know what that’s all about–some kind of drug-dealer thing.
People keep dropping by to snort, smoke and buy. I never tried cocaine. And by then I’d given up on weed. So I sit on the couch and watch.
Then your mom walks in. She’s wearing this pink leather jacket. I’m thinking–this girl is hot…
“You’re so weird…”
I snap out of my trance. I forgot I was talking to my daughter.
“The concert was in Rosemont,” I continue. “Kevin drove…”
“In one car?”
“We’re you sitting on laps?”
“No, we’re squeezed three in the front and three in the back. I was in the back with mom and my ex-girlfriend. That was weird. Mom was Kevin’s date. At the concert, they sat up front in the good seats. The rest of us we’re way in the back. I’m not complaining. I was happy to be there. It was just after Springsteen released The River. The crowd sang along with Hungry Heart–everyone knew the words…”
“How’s your soup?”
It’s the waitress.
“Good,” I say.
“Are you done?” she says to my daughter.
The waitress looks at my daughter’s soup dish, like she’s disappointed, and says: “You didn’t eat the chicken…”
My daughter smiles and shrugs. The waitress clears the plates.
I return to my story.
“After the concert, Kevin drove us back to his place. I think Kevin expected mom to stay at his place, cause, you know, he got her the tickets and all. But mom wasn’t playing that game and she asked if I would drive her home. On the way home, we start talking and later I call her for a date and one thing leads to another. But it all started with that drive home. Thank God for the Celica…”
“Well, she wasn’t going to sleep with that loser…”
I take a sip of water. “You know, he died…”
“I think it was a drug overdose, but I’m not sure. After that concert I never saw him again. But, you know, I wouldn’t be so hard on him. If not for him, mom and I probably wouldn’t have met. You wouldn’t be here. Life is weird–isn’t it?”
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For the last few months, I’ve been playing a high-stakes game of chicken with Anup Swamy, a big shot at Sports Illustrated.
Let’s see who blinks first!
Here’s the background…
Three years ago, I purchased a three-year subscription, which ends in about three weeks.
That’s where Anup comes in.
As the guy in charge of circulation, he’s been bugging me for months with form letters asking me to re-up.
At first, he was all hugs and kisses, offering to send me a duffel bag or T-shirt with the Sports Illustrated logo on it, if I renewed.
You know, so I pay them for the right to promote their products.
Slick move, Anup.
Then he started playing tough. Sending me reminders that if I didn’t renew, I’d lose my subscription–forever!
My wife started panicking.
“You’re gonna lose the subscription!” she claimed.
Apparently, she loves the pictures.
“You don’t understand–this is high finance,” I said. “If I send Sports Illustrated the check, they get the interest. But if I keep that money in our account, we get the interest.”
“Have you seen what interest rates are these days?”
“This is high stakes poker, baby…”
“You’re talking, like, five cents…”
“Five cents here, five cents there–that’s how all the big shots make their fortune.”
Sure enough–Anup blinked.
He sent me an envelope stamped: LAST LETTER.
Just in case I miss the point.
In his letter, he wrote…
“You’ve been a loyal subscriber since December 9, 1991, but the date listed on your Loyal Subscriber Rate Card is the date that the Benny Jay letter is moved to our expired subscriber list,” he wrote.
Yeah, that’s what you said the last time.
“However if you use the enclosed Loyal Subscriber Rate Card, you can renew for as little as $1.29.”
Such a deal!
“But the deal gets even better for BENNY JAY!”
I love it when they put my name in bold letters.
“We’ll send you up to 12 FREE ISSES.”
Free issues? That’s what I call making Anup blink.
With that, I mail SI a check.
A few hours later…
I’m cleaning my desk and what do I find? The form letter Anup sent to me last month in which he make the same exact “best deal”.
Right down to the 12 FREE ISSUES and everything.
Moreover, in last month’s letter he referred to me as Mr. Murdock.
I’m such a loyal subscriber, but he doesn’t even know my name!
In short–I got played!
Oh, he’s cagy little fox–that Anup Swamy.
Well, I got some news for SI. My subscription expires in three years.
Just you wait, Mr. Swamy. We’ll see who blinks first!
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It’s come to my attention that I’ve been maliciously maligned by an old friend I’ll call Sridhar–cause that’s his name.
The maligning came in an error-riddled post that he pasted on my Facebook page–which is how it came to my attention–about my recent outing to Wrigley Field.
To clear my good name, I will break down Sridhar’s post, point by point…
“Benny Jay said he had sworn off that stadium on the North Side.”
Not true! I never, ever swore off going to Wrigley!
Okay, maybe I did. But only once.
On second thought, it may have been twice.
But since it was at the same setting, it only counts as once.
As I recall, we were eating dinner in Chinatown and Sridhar was plying me with red wine.
Shit, man, I can’t remember half the things I say when I’m not drinking. So you can’t hold me accountable for things I say when drunk.
Back to Sridhar’s post…
“And now I see he’s been hanging with the bros at Wrigley Field.”
Double not true! I was not hanging out with bros. I was hanging out with my good friend, Cap, and his son, Miles. Definitely not bros.
In fact, there wasn’t a bro in sight.
Okay, there may have been two or three. Or four or five. All right–so the bleachers were crawling with them.
But I didn’t talk to them.
On second thought, I may have fist bumped several bros, when the Cubs took the field. But I didn’t mean it.
Look who’s calling who a bro…
And, even if I sort of meant it, there’s nothing broish about me.
Okay, I do wear a baseball cap–but never backwards.
And who’s Sridhar to talk about bros? He lives in Brooklyn! That place is filled with them.
Or maybe it’s filled with hipsters. But, really, what’s the difference?
Okay, maybe there is a difference. But let’s return to Sridhar’s post…
“You’re officially front runner.”
No way! I’ve been a Cub fan since I was ten.
Now, it’s true, I may have said something like–”I’m through with those fucking losers forever!”
In fact, I may have said that at that infamous Chinatown dinner where Sridhar fed me red wine.
But the Cubs were in last place when I said that.
So it doesn’t mean I’m a front runner just cause I’ve changed my position now that the Cubs are in first.
Okay, maybe it does. But still…
“I hope you have Leon Durham nightmares for the rest of your life.”
Sridhar’s referring to the ground ball that went through Leon Durham’s legs, causing the Cubs to lose the 1984 playoffs.
As opposed to the ground ball that clanked off of Alex Gonzalez’s glove causing the Cubs to lose the 2003 playoffs.
That’s the nightmare that haunts me.
See what I mean–Sridhar’s post is riddled with errors.
Well, I trust that settles things.
You know, next time I go to Wrigley, I think I’ll wear a fake mustache.
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Back in the later years of the 20th century, Jonny & Benny Jay were the making the steppin’ scene in Chicago. Here’s just a few of the pictures that tell the story…
Taking a break…
Snap in the name of love…
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I watched The Godfather the other day. Been planning to watch it for weeks. Hear so many guys talk about it. They quote the lines and relive the scenes–obviously, it’s influenced their lives.
I play along– like it’s influenced my life, too. But I only saw it once, when it came out years ago. I don’t remember a lot about it.
I get it the night my wife’s out with some friends. So I’m watching it by myself.
As the movie goes on, the scenes, characters and dialogue come back. Sonny Corleone beating the crap out of his brother in law, Vito Corleone playing with his grandson in the tomato garden, Michael Corleone, cold-blooded and calculating, renouncing his belief in Satan at his godson’s baptism, while his henchmen gun down gangsters all over town.
I think of Bubba–this skinny, little kid I knew in high school. One day in the locker room I overheard him tell his buddies about how he’d been ballin’ this girl. Didn’t even undress. Had her up against the door, banging her so hard the door slammed against the wall, while she called out his name: “Oh, Bubba, Bubba, Bubba….” Fredo was my favorite Corleone…
I was 16 at the time. I wasn’t even kissing girls–much less banging them against the wall.
When I heard Bubba tell that story, I was like–damn, man, why can’t that stuff happen to me?
And now I’m watching The Godfather and I realize–Bubba made it up.
He stole that story from the scene where Sonny–fully clothed–is banging this girl and the door’s slamming against the wall, and she’s calling out his name: “Sonny, Sonny, Sonny.”
And to think I fell for it.
The movie ends and the credits roll and I sit in the dark and stare at the screen. I think about Cichowicz–better known as Chicken Tit, and later The Tit–this chubby, baby-faced boy who sat in front of me in German class. Funny as hell, really good with imitations.
He worked as an usher at the Valencia Theater on Sherman Street in downtown Evanston. He saw the movies so many times, he knew the lines by heart. I remember standing in the alley behind the Valencia. The Tit opened the door. He was wearing his usher’s uniform–this red sports coat that was about one size too small. Made him look like a Chipmunk.
He had a flashlight and he led me down the aisle to my seat. There was hardly anyone in the theater cause it was a matinee. I don’t know why I bothered sneaking in. It couldn’t have cost more than $1.50 to see a movie. I guess it was just the thing to do. Anyway, that’s when I saw The Godfather.
After high school, The Tit went his way and I went mine. Last I saw of him was at Jonny’s funeral. Damn, Jonny. One of my best friends in high school. It’s been almost 14 years since he died. Cancer.
I go to the computer and read Roger Ebert’s original review of The Godfather, from January 1, 1972. It’s the same old thing–I go from one story to the next. Wind up reading about John Cazale, the actor who played Fredo–my favorite Corleone. The underdog of the family. I can relate.
Cazale was in The Deer Hunter and Dog Day Afternoon. He died young–cancer. Like Jonny. After his funeral, all of his actor friends–Pacino, DeNiro, Gene Hackman, Meryl Streep–said he was the best.
Damn, it’s quiet in the house. Every one’s asleep. No one’s up. Except for me–and the ghosts.
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