Benny Jay: The Right Thing

December 14th, 2018

Over drinks in a bar, my old friend–V–breaks the news: I’m thinking of running for alderman.

“Have you seen Show Me A Hero?” I ask.

“No, what’s that?”

Well, since you ask…

Short answer–it’s required viewing for anyone thinking of running for municipal legislative office.

Longer answer–it’s an HBO series, created by David Simon, who’s best known for The Wire. Here’s a few reasons why wannabe alderman should watch it…

One–it’s a little slow. Perfect preparation for much of the aldermanic life.

Two–many of the characters are loathsome creatures you wouldn’t want anything to do with. Just like in Chicago politics.

In this case, they’re bigots who don’t want black people living near them. They bully their elected officials into bowing to their demands, even when those demands are against the law.

Three–the elected officials in the show are rewarded when they do the wrong thing and punished when they do something right. An everyday thing in Chicago.

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By the way, Oscar Isaac is brilliant in Show Me A Hero

 

For instance, candidate A runs against candidate B–the incumbent–promising to defy a federal judge’s housing desegregation order.

Naturally, the voters replace B with A, thus rewarding him for making a promise he knew he wouldn’t keep as he was making it. Once in office, A flip flops and endorses the very housing desregation plan he vowed to defy, prompting candidate C to successfully challenge him in the next election. And so it goes.

The point is that voters tend to punish officials who’re trying to do good while rewarding those who do bad. In Chicago, that’s called re-electing the mayor.

Four–most of the characters are scheming Machiavellis, cutting petty backroom deals to advance their careers even if that means betraying old friends and allies. That’s soooo Chicago.

The show’s title comes from the following quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Show me a hero, and I’ll write you a tragedy.”

It’s a dark view of things. But what do you expect from a brilliant but tormented alcoholic locked into a miserable marriage with an equally brilliant and tormented drunk?

Sorry for that literary tangent.

On the other hand, Show Me a Hero sort of has a happy ending. Maybe serving as a municipal legislator’s not so horrible after all.

Good luck with your decision, V.

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Randolph Street: Flower Power

December 5th, 2018

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Resurrection Lilies

These images are from the Fernwood Botanical Gardens in Niles, Michigan. A nature preserve consisting one hundred and five acres of plants, gardens and forest tucked along the St. Joseph River in southeast Michigan.

 

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Tree

 

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Flowers

 

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Garden

 

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Resurrection Lilies

 

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Forest Canopy

 

All Photos © JonRandolph 2013

jonrandolph.com

 

 

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Jon Randolph: Cold Water

November 30th, 2018

1DSCF9884Revetment near Belmont

 

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5DSCF9898Lake Trout

 

All photos © Jon Randolph

jonrandolph.com

 

 

 

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Benny Jay: Happy Turkey

November 20th, 2018

With Thanksgiving here, the time’s come to give a special Third City thank you to a few of the many who’ve done so much for us this year.

So without further ado, thanks to….

Nickle Bag Bernie, one of our valued advertisers, for keeping the editorial staff happy at all times. See you in the parking lot, Bernie.

Swami Sam, the Skokie Yoga King–where the great ones go to sweat it off.

Dr. Frankie “Disco” Lopez, our primary physician, for making sure we never run low on our meds.

El Dragon, our esteemed attorney, for squashing all those cease-and-desist orders and keeping us out of jail. By the way, the good news is that Milo’s DNA test came out negative!

Hey, corporate farmers — thanks for the fat turkey….

The Lovely Mrs. Milo for putting up with him.

The Triple A Bail Bond Company of Gary for bailing Milo out of jail on several occasions.

Elmore Stiglitz & Sons — Gary, Indiana’s most reliable bookies — for the easy-payment plan. Our next check’s in the mail!

The Corporate Factory Farms of America for the two-headed, 20-pound Cornish Hen. Can’t wait to pop it in the oven!

The Chicago Bulls and Bears and Cubs and Sox for winning all those championships once upon a time.

Denzel Washington for being the next Paul Newman.

Paul Newman for being the first Paul Newman.

Our sensational crew of superstar writers, photogs, computer geniuses, podcasters, and actors who give it all to The Third City.

And, finally, our loyal readers — all 109 of you, or 110, when Milo’s sister is sober enough to navigate a keyboard. Thanks for reading and don’t forget to make your checks out to cash!

Peace, thy most precious gift.

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Benny Jay: Pale Tale

November 8th, 2018

The other day my wife uncovered the secret to a mystery that’s been haunting people of the Baby Boomer persuasion for decades…

The meaning of Whiter Shade of Pale, the Procol Harum hit from 1967.

If this were a scholarly journal, I’d have a footnote alluding to a reference to this matter from The Commitments, the great Alan Parker movie.

But this is not a scholarly journal.

Plus, I still haven’t figured out how to make a footnote, even after all these years of blogging.

So I’ll just tell you that there’s a scene in the movie where one character, when asked what the song means, says: “I’m fucked if I know.”

That about sums it up.

Lately, the song’s been on my mind, as my wife’s been playing it on her guitar.

In case you forgot, here’s the opening lyrics…

“We skipped the light fandango
Turned cartwheels ‘cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
But the crowd called out for more
The room was humming harder
As the ceiling flew away
When we called out for another drink
The waiter brought a tray…”

While we’re at it–here’s the rest…

“And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly,
Turned a whiter shade of pale
She said, ‘There is no reason
And the truth is plain to see.’
But I wandered through my playing cards
And would not let her be
One of sixteen vestal virgins
Who were leaving for the coast
And although my eyes were open
They might have just as well’ve been closed…”

proculharumDoes Procul Harum even understand the song?

 

Okay, some of this I understand.

The singer’s in a pub. He’s so drunk he’s about to pass out.

But who’s the miller? And what’s a vestal virgin? And what coast are they leaving for?

Sometimes I think the writer–Gary Brooker–was just fucking with us. Stringing together phrases that sound really deep, but don’t have any unifying meaning.

Bob Dylan made a fortune doing this.

One time years ago, I actually figured out the meaning. It came to me as in a dream.

But I forgot what I’d figured out. And since I never wrote it down, it’s lost.

The only thing worse than not achieving enlightenment is achieving it only to forget what you achieved.

Anyway, as I was saying, my wife recently announced she had figured it out.

“There’s this guy in a pub and he’s trying to pick up this girl. Only she’s so drunk, she passes out before he can pick her up…”

“Wow,” I say. “You’re a genius.”

She gets this cocky look as if to say–what can I say?

“But who are the vestal virgins?” I ask.

“I don’t know,” she says.

Alas–and so the mystery continues.

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Benny Jay: Take Notes

October 25th, 2018

In the early morning, I race downtown for an important business meeting with Robin & Maya–two of my favorite Millennials.

As with most meetings, we spend about 30 minutes chatting about this and that before we decide to get down to business.

And so we pull out our tablets for note taking. Only–get this…

Robin’s using a legal-sized notebook and Maya’s got this cute little journal, like the kind I’ve used for my diaries since high school.

That’s right. These two Uber-loving, read-shit-on-their phones, born-in-the-age-of Reagan Millennials are taking notes by pen on paper. I couldn’t be more surprised if they rode up to the restaurant on a horse.

“Wait,” I say. Thus delaying the start of our business meeting for a few more minutes.

“Notebooks?” I say.

“What about them?” they respond.

“Oh, how analog of you,” I say.

Immediately, they launch into disclaimers.

“Normally, I use my laptop,” says Robin.

“Yeah, and normally, I take notes on my Uber App,” says Maya.

“For real?” I ask.

“Just joking,” she says.

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Robin & Maya go analog…

 

I take the opportunity to tell Robin & Maya about this article I read in The New York Times (so it must be true)about analog making a comeback–what with Millennials listening to vinyl, reading real books, snapping pictures with Polaroids, etc.

“It was a review of a new book, actually,” I say.

“Oh, yes, I heard about this,” says Robin.

“I think it’s called The Revenge of Analog–something like that,” I say.

“I was just talking about this with someone…”

“Everything old is now new–like writing in a notebook…”

“We talked about this,” says Robin.

“We did?” I ask.

“No, wait–I may have talked about it with Mike. Never mind.”

Mike’s another Boomer. Guess I’m not the only old timer with this stuff on my mind.

Later on the train coming home, I break out my Sun-Times to read the latest horror stories about my beloved Bulls.

That’s when I notice–I’m the only rider reading an actual newspaper. All the others have their eyes glued to their phones.

Obviously, they missed the memo about analog being back.

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Benny Jay: Breathy Talk

October 18th, 2018

Heading south to Greektown, when my youngest daughter breaks the news….

“You have bad breath,” she tells me.

Not sure what prompted her to drop the bombshell at this particular time. No matter, I must deal with it.

“Is this true?” I ask my wife.

“Not always,” she says.

Well, that’s hardly reassuring.

“Did you plan this?” I ask.

“Huh?” asks my daughter.

“Is this an intervention?”

“What?”

“Oh, my God — you planned to have a family intervention to tell me I have bad breath.”

“We did not plan a family intervention,” says my wife.

“Don’t be defensive,” says my daughter.

“I’m not defensive,” I say.

“Yes, you are,” says my daughter.

“No, I’m not.”

“Just bring a mint with you….”

“Yeah, you used to carry mints with you,” says my wife. “Why did you stop doing that?”

Then they worry that they’ve gone too far. So they start telling me what a great guy I am. As in — great guy, despite the bad breath.

“Do I have bad breath all the time?” I ask.

“No, just once in awhile,” says my daughter.

I have this flash. Have I had bad breath in public places where it could come back to haunt me?

“When was the last time I had bad breath?” I ask.

“I can’t remember,” says my wife.

“Yes, you can,” I say.

“Okay — when we saw Flight.”

That’s the movie in which Denzel Washington plays this super cool airplane pilot who has lots of problems — excessive drinking, drug taking, womanizing — but not bad breath.

“But you didn’t tell me,” I say.

“I don’t always tell you.”

“You mean — you let me walk around with bad breath!”

It hits me that I’ve probably had bad breath while standing in front of people I was trying to impress only they didn’t tell me cause it wasn’t the politically correct thing to do.

I recall sitting next to a friend — Michelle — in a gym and she handed me a Tic Tac that she happened to have in her pocket. Obviously, she was sending me a subtle message. How could I not see it at the time?

Fast forward several hours….

I’m lying on the couch reading a book. The dog comes by. Sniffs in my general direction and then lays down besides me.

Suddenly, I’m aware of a horrendous odor. I check my shoes to see if I stepped in shit.

Nope. It’s the dog.

“Damn, Nicky,” I say. “You need a Tic Tac.”

It’s reassuring to know that my breath is not as bad as the dog’s.

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