Benny Jay: Dog Revolt

February 22nd, 2018

I finally got around to watching White God, a sensational movie that everyone should see.

It’s a Hungarian flick directed by the great Kornel Mundruczo that you can watch on Netflix. Only not the streaming Netflix account that everyone has.

But the DVD-through-the-mail account that I may be the only remaining American who gets.

You know, there’s something wrong when the good flicks are are hard to find. And the crummy flicks are the ones they shove down your throat.

White Dog is an allegorical statement about humans being so shitty to animals that the animals counter attack.

Think of it as Planet of the Apes–only with dogs.

There’s these horrifying scenes of hundreds of dogs–led by Hagen, who’s like the Spartacus of this rebellion–galloping through the streets of some unnamed Hungarian city, chasing down the humans who have been especially beastly.

Then they corner the malicious bastards and–well, watch it yourself.

 

whitegoddogsHere come the dogs in White God…

 

The thing is–since I’ve seen the movie I’ve been keeping a closer eye on Nicky, my own dog.

It’s not that I’ve been mean to her. On the contrary–that dog lives the good life.

But you never know what’s going on in her doggy mind.

I find myself looking for tell-tale signs that she’s getting ideas about rising up angry against her human oppressor. Which would be–me.

So this morning, I gingerly approach Nicky as she was flaked out on my bed–I’m telling you, this dog’s got it good. And I say…

“Nicky, I’m really sorry about the time I stepped on your tail.”

She flashes me that look of annoyance.

“I didn’t mean to do it–I swear.”

She hops off the bed and hides in an alcove. Which is what she does more and more as she gets older and finds the whole lot of us irritating.

At least she’s not leaping for my jugular.

I’ve also started watching other dogs. Like Louie-my neighbor Sam’s dog–who looks like a cross between a Poodle and a Chihuahua.

nikki

So far Nicky’s pretty chill…

 

I recently bumped into Sam & Louie as they were walking down the street. As we walked along, I kept eyeballing the dogs to see if they were conspiring.

But mostly they only sniffed each other’s ass.

Perhaps ass-sniffing is itself a secret form of communication. As in…

Nicky: How’s the fucker treating you?

Louie: Shitty. You wouldn’t believe the crap he feeds me.

Nicky: I hear you, man.

So far there’s been no rebellion.

On the other hand, man keeps getting more savage. So you can’t be too careful.

Hey, Nicky & Louie–if you’re reading this…

Whatever stupidity man’s perpetrating–

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Benny Jay: Sombreros

February 13th, 2018

I’m in my car with my old friend, Kitty.

What up, Kitty!

And we’re driving north on Pulaski near 39th street, on the southwest side of Chicago.

I’m hungry. I mean, really hungry. Haven’t eaten all day. Skipped my usual cereal breakfast. And now I’m fighting the fatigue and grumpiness that comes from missing a meal.

God help me, if I was every really deprived.

I think Kitty’s feeling the same way, cause she says…

“That looks like a good place to eat.”

On our right’s a tiny joint called Sombreros with a sign that’s got me salivating like Pavlov’s dog: “Tacos, tortas, burritos and enchiladas.”

Man, what I wouldn’t do for a burrito right now.

“Yeah,” I say. “Let’s eat there.”

But…

We’re in the left lane and to get to the Sombreros I have to cross to the right lane, which is heavy with traffic.

And by the time the traffic’s cleared, we’ve gone another block. And it’s like a great opportunity has passed.

And I’m hungrier than ever.

“We missed it,” I say.

Kitty smiles and says: “Well. It’s not like you can’t turn around and go back.”

IMG_1870It was a little joint on South Pulaski…

 

Wow! As soon as she says it, I think–My God, she’s right!

You know, it’s always the simplest observations that have the deepest meaning. Especially when you’re almost hallucinating with hunger cause you skipped breakfast.

So I do as Kitty suggests.

I turn right at the next street and circle the blocks till I’m back on Pulaski going north.

There’s a parking spot right in front of Sombreros–like this was meant to be.

Inside, it’s cozy. Maybe four tables and a half dozen chairs at the counter. No kitchen–just a grill.

The woman behind the counter asks: “Have you been here before?”

We say no.

“I didn’t think so,” she said.

I’d say all heads turn to watch as we, the strangers, walk to our table. Except there’s no one else in the restaurant.

We order the huevos rancheros. And the orange juice. And the lady brings a bucket of corn tortillas.

Folks, let me tell you–this meal’s delicious!

I wolf it down. Mop up the yolk with my tortillas.

As we leave, I’m like old friends with the lady behind the counter. I tell her I’ll stop in again–next time I’m on this part of Pulaski.

“Kitty,” I say. “You’re a genius. Heading back was the smartest thing I’ve done all day.”

In lunch, as well as life, sometimes you just have to turn around and start again.

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Benny Jay: On My Mind

February 11th, 2018

About two weeks ago, I was at an ice cream social at a senior citizens center in Hegewisch (don’t ask, long story), when I met Sylvia Ortega.

Unable to help myself, I instantly said: “Hey, Sylvia–is your last name Mother?”

To my shock, she got the joke. That is–she knew the song on which it’s based.

That’s Sylvia’s Mother written by the great Shel Silverstein. Apparently, Sylvia’s been forced to deal with one variation or another of this lame-ass joke since Dr. Hook’s cover came out in 1972.

Anyway, to make that lame joke even lamer, I sang a snatch–you know, for Sylvia’s benefit.

Sylvia’s mother says Sylvia’s busy, too busy to come to the phone
Sylvia’s mother says Sylvia’s tryin’ to start a new life of her own…

And that’s when the joke turned on me.

Having sung it once, I’ve been unable to stop singing it since. I mean, I can’t escape it. It’s running on a loop in my brain. I sing it when I’m in the shower on my bike or walking the dog. I happen to be singing it right now.

In this song, a love-sick man’s begging his ex-girl friend mother (Mrs. Avery) to put her daughter (Sylvia) on the line. And then the song builds to the following crescendo…

And the operator says 40 cents more for the next three minutes–please, Mrs. Avery, I just got to talk to her, I’ll only keep her awhile…

Ahhhh!!! It’s driving me fucking crazy!!!

sylviaortega

That’s Sylvia on the left–photo by the great Michelle Kanaar!

 

By the way, Sylvia’s Mother is not the only lovesick song of the `70s about a man sharing his sad tale of unrequited love with an operator.

Off the top of my head I can think of Operator by Jim Croce and Operator by the Grateful Dead–different songs with the same title.

Lord, the weird shit I know.

In any event, I have good news–sorta.

The other day I happened to hear Come Together by the Beatles. And it’s replaced Sylvia’s Mother as the song I hear all the time.

Actually, it’s like these songs are playing in tandem. When I’m not hearing one, I’m hearing the other.

So at least I get a break every now and then from Sylvia’s Mother.

At the moment, I’m hearing John Lennon going…

Here come old flat top
He come groovin’ up slowly
He got joo joo eyeballs
He one holy roller...

Love that song!

Anyway, Sylvia (as in Ortega)–you can rest assured that I’ve been paid back for that lousy joke.

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Benny Jay: The Exhibition

February 8th, 2018

I’m in the 1968 exhibit at the Chicago History Museum on a typically cold and dreary winter Sunday in Chicago.

As the title suggests, the exhibit’s dedicated to the political and cultural goings on of 1968–a seminal year, if ever there was one.

It’s got booths dedicated to the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and the Democratic Convention–with footage of Chicago cops whacking the shit out of hippies.

Then it’s on to the presidential election, in which Richard Nixon, the Republican, defeated Hubert Humphrey, the Democrat, and George Wallace, running on a third party dedicated to bringing back slavery.

Not really–but almost.

Anyway, I’m standing in front of a large electoral map of the country, which shows the Nixon states in green and the Humphrey states in gray, when up walk a man and a woman.

They look to be mid-60s, which mean they were in the flush of youth, when this shit was going down.

The man looks at the map and says: “I forgot Humphrey was the candidate.”

“Too bad it wasn’t Bobby Kennedy,” says the woman. “He’d have won.”

I shouldn’t say anything cause I don’t want to intrude on the private conversations of strangers. But sometimes I just can’t help myself, political junkie that I am.

bobbykennedyWhat if had been Bobby Kennedy instead of…

 

So…

“I’m not sure about that,” I say.

They look my way, as though seeing me for the first time.

“We have an electoral college system,” I continue. “When you look at this map, you have to ask yourself, how many green-colored states would have gone gray with Kennedy in the race.”

The woman looks like she wants to deck me. I probably remind her of her know-it-all ex-brother-in-law. Everyone’s got one of those.

Having started, I can’t stop…

“You need 270 electoral votes to win. Nixon got 301. Humphrey got 191. That means Humphrey needs 79 more electoral votes to win. Which states could it be?”

huberthumphrey

Hubert Humphrey running against Nixon in `68?

 

Silence.

“Obviously, it’s not going to be like–Wyoming or South Dakota. And Kennedy’s not winning any of those southern states that went for Wallace. Okay, I’ll give Kennedy California and Illinois. But that’s just…”

I quickly do the math in my head.

“66 electoral vote. Not enough to win the election.”

I sit back silent as if to say–I know my shit!

And that’s when the man says…

“That would send the election to congress.”

“Huh?” I ask.

“Well, you’re not just adding those electoral votes to the Democrats, you’re taking them away from the Republicans. If you take them away from Nixon, he has less than the 270 he needs to win. So the race gets decided by Congress.”

“Wow,” I say. “You’re good. You’re really good.”

The dude’s beaming, as if to say–touché, motherfucker.

And the lady goes: “Why don’t you two get a motel room.”

She doesn’t really say that–probably thinks it, though.

I look back at the map and wonder about the anguish we might have avoided had Kennedy lived to win that election.

Oh, well–something to dream about on a typically cold and dreary winter Sunday in Chicago.

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Benny Jay: It Pays To Wait

February 1st, 2018

This bit is from the January 25th show. If you want to hear it, click here

 

So I’m riding my bike north on Ashland, heading for lunch in Evanston, when…

At Foster, I hear the unmistakable sounds of Living for the City, one of Stevie Wonder’s greatest songs.

It’s the part where the chorus rises as the song fades out. And that means one and only one thing—Golden Lady is about to play!

I look around for the source of the sound and see it’s coming from a stereo that’s hooked up to the back of a motorcycle on the other side of the street. So I have a choice…

Dennis as me: Man, I can go north, where lunch awaits.

Or…

Dennis as me: I can follow the sound, man.

Tough decision. On the one hand, I’m hungry. On the other, the transition from Living for the City to Golden Lady is one of the greatest transitions in the history of records. Off the top of my head, I can think of two that rival it. The part in Abraxas where Santana goes from Black Magic Woman to Oye Como Va.

Dennis as Dennis: Hang tight with us, Millennials.

Or the part in Sgt. Peppers, where the Beatles go from Sgt. Peppers to A Little Help from My Friends.

Dennis as Dennis: Hey, no singing.

Oh, wait, there’s also the part in the White Album, where the Beatles go from Bungalow Bill to While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

Dennis as Dennis: Oh, lord—don’t get a boomer talking about the Beatles.

I cross the street and pull up alongside the motorcycle. The motorcyclist, a fat guy with a pony tail, looks over and says.

stevie-wonder_innervisions

Featuring Golden Lady…

 

Dennis as biker: Hey, what’s going on, my brother?

And I say.

Dennis as me: Man, I love this song.

He smiles and turns up the volume.

And he’s nice enough to sit at that light for the whole song. When it’s over he says.

Dennis as biker: Aw, man, great freaking song, my brother.

Then he revs up his bike and heads south while I go north. Some things are so good, they’re worth waiting for—even when you’re hungry.

 

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Benny Jay: At The Light

January 25th, 2018

Riding my bike north on Ashland, heading for lunch at my mom’s house.

At the corner of Foster, I hear the unmistakable sounds of Living for the City, one of Stevie Wonder’s greatest songs, as it comes to the end.

It’s the part where the chorus is rising as the song’s fading out.

That means one and only one thing — Golden Lady‘s just around the corner.

I look around for the source of the sound and see it’s coming from a stereo that’s hooked up to the back of a motorcycle, of all things.

The driver’s waiting for the light in the southbound lane on the other side of the street.

So I have a choice….

I can either continue north, where lunch awaits.

Or I can follow the sound.

Great album!

I’ll tell you why it’s a hard decision.

On the one hand, I’m running late and I’m hungry.

On the other, this is one of the greatest transitions from one song to the other in the whole history of pop music.

Off the top of my head, I can think of two that rival it. The part in Abraxis where Santana goes from Black Magic Woman to Oye Como Va.

And the part in Sgt. Peppers, where the Beatles go from Sgt. Peppers to A Little Help from My Friends.

Oh, wait, there’s also the part in the White Album, where the Beatles go from Bungalow Bill to While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

That’s pretty good, too.

Another great album….

But for my money the transition from Living from the City to Golden Lady is the best of the bunch.

Maybe cause you’re going from this really bleak take about life in the ghetto to a pretty song about a lovely lady.

Whatever….

I cross the street, and pull up along side the motorcycle just in time to start singing with Stevie.

“Looking in your eyes, kind of heaven eyes….”

The motorcyclist, a fat guy with a pony tail, looks a little surprised.

“Great song,”  I say.

“Yeah, man,” he says.

And he turns it a little louder and we sing it together: “To see the heaven in your eyes is not so far, cause I’m not afraid to try and go it.

“To know the love and the beauty never known before I’ll leave it up to you to show it.”

Only, you know me, probably don’t get the words just right. Just sort of mix them all together.

I don’t think the motorcyclist’s getting the words right either.

Then we hit the chorus:  “And golden lady, golden lady, I’d like to go there. Golden lady, golden lady, I’d like to go there.

“Take me right away.”

Pretty sure we get the chorus right.

Anyway, the guy’s nice enough to stay at the light so I can hear the whole song.

“Great song,” he says, when it’s over.

“One of the best.”

Then he takes off, heading south. And I go north, where lunch awaits.

Somethings are so good, they’re worth being late for.

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Benny Jay: Cleveland Rocks

January 21st, 2018

A great one from the past…

I’d just finished apologizing to Indiana for Milo’s disparaging remarks about Hoosiers, when I see Jo Jo’s gone after Cleveland.

This shit never ends!

Jo Jo is Joakim Noah, starting center for my beloved Bulls and The Third City’s basketball correspondent.

Even though he’s never written for TTC and doesn’t know we exist.

Small detail.

Jo’s been pissing off Cleveland since 2010, when he felt compelled to say: “Nothing’s going on in Cleveland. It’s pretty depressing out here, man.”

Asked to clarify his thoughts, he said: “I’ve never heard anybody say I’m going to Cleveland on vacation. What’s so good about Cleveland?’’

That’s not as bad as Milo calling Hoosiers a bunch of “toothless illiterate rednecks.” But it’s pretty bad.

Fast forward to the aftermath of Sunday’s game in Cleveland, where, as always, the fans mercilessly booed Jo Jo.

Afterwards, he said: “Cleveland’s a great place to play basketball. Other than that, there’s not much else to do. That’s as much love as I’ll give to Cleveland.’’

I call this a classic case of trying to make things better only to make them worse.

I will now say some nice things about Cleveland to make up for Jo Jo’s disparaging remarks…

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Chicago Bulls

Jo Jo really loves Cleveland…

Let’s see, hmm…

I have many friends from Cleveland.

For instance, there’s Chris, who introduced me to Yen Bang Chai. The greatest Sichuan restaurant–ever! As a matter of fact, I’m salivating over their Salt Miner’s Chicken right now.

Of course, Yen Bang Chai is in Chicago, not Cleveland. I’m not sure Cleveland has a Sichuan restaurant. Which may explain why Chris no longer lives there. But, still.

Another great guy from Cleveland is Tony with a T, who bowls on my bowling team.

He earned that nickname because his first name is Tony and it starts with a T.

In case you were wondering.

Tony’s so proud of Cleveland that he occasionally visits the place. Though he hasn’t lived there in years.

Hmm, I detect a pattern.

Another Clevelander in my Monday night bowling league is Eric.

I didn’t give Eric a nickname cause he’s not on my team.

Generally, I don’t give nicknames to bowlers on other teams. Unless they’re on the Blasters. I know, this is complicated.

Anyway, Eric loves Cleveland so much he wears a Cleveland Indians jersey and red stockings. Like he’s on that team.

I’m happy to say Eric’s making progress on his issues.

So you see, Jo Jo, Cleveland can’t be all that bad if it produces three wonderful fellas like Chris, Tony with a T and Eric.

Of course, they got out of Cleveland just as soon they could.

Maybe Cleveland needs a good Schezuan restaurant.

It couldn’t hurt.

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