As a proud, card-carrying Baby Boomer, I’m well aware of the concept of a Generation Gap.
For decades my generation’s battled the generation that came before us.
Not that it’s done us any good–it’s hard to top a generation known as The Greatest.
But until recently, I didn’t realize there was an ongoing battle between Generation X and the Millennials, the two generations that come after mine.
I learned this while having a very liquid lunch the other day with Rocky & Thor, two younger friends who are very much of the Generation X persuasion.
And proud of it!
Before my lunch with Rocky & Thor, I didn’t really distinguish Xers from Millennials.
I always just sort of lumped them into one giant blob of youngsters who don’t know shit cause they’re too young to appreciate the good things in life, like, just to pick one thing that’s been on my mind lately–The Ooogum Boogum Song.
One of the greatest songs ever written!
The great Mr. Brenton Wood of Oogum Boogum fame…
But, no, Thor & Rocky set me straight.
Generation Xers were born roughly between 1965 and 1980. The Millennials were born after that.
And if I can paraphrase Generation X’s indictment against the Millennials, it goes like this…
They’re a bunch of obnoxious brats who feel entitled to privileges they haven’t earned largely because they think they’re smarter than they really are.
Plus, they were spoiled rotten by their helicopter Baby Boomer parents. So, in a sense, it’s like a two-fer generational attack. In the course of ripping their succeeding generation, the Xers take a shot or two at the proceeding one.
Pretty slick, Xers. I wish we Boomers had thought of that.
From what I can see, the Millennials don’t have strong feelings about this conflict. As they’re only vaguely aware that Generation X even exists.
That just makes them even more aggravating to guys like Thor & Rocky.
I didn’t have much to contribute to the discussion because–in addition to knowing nothing about the topic–I was plastered.
Foolishly, I’d let Rocky & Thor talk me into having one too many glasses of wine with lunch.
Say what you will about Generation Xers, but those fuckers sure can drink!
My great contribution came when I had the following exchange with Rocky…
Me (slurring from the wine): Have I ever told you that you were born the year I graduated high school?
Rocky (with a sigh): Yes, Benny–like every time you see me.
Apparently, without realizing it, I’ve morphed into that old guy you meet at a wedding, who, having had too many glasses of wine, tells you the same story twice within the same hour.
Word of warning, Rocky & Thor–it will happen to you.
If it’s any consolation, fellas, remember this–it will also happen to the Millennials.
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So here I am, sitting in Yan Bang Cai, watching my good pal, El Dragon, gingerly approach his first delectable bite of Salt Miner’s Chicken.
Which I salivate just thinking about.
A few words of explanation.
Yan Bang Cai is, in my opinion, Chicago’s greatest Sichuan restaurant.
That’s because they don’t cater to wimpy palates. They give it to you hot–with a wonderful peppery flavor that stays on my tongue for hours. As I’m up all night watching old Richard Pryor performance films, like Live and Smokin’.
Speaking of delicious flavors I never tire of.
I want to sing Yan Bang’s praise to the rooftops. But there’s a danger here.
Not all people like spicy food. It’s an acquired taste–like raunchy sex comedies. Such as Trainwreck–the Amy Schumer comedy which is hilarious!
But I have to be careful about recommending Trainwreck. People with more delicate and sophisticated sensibilities will be horrified by Amy’s crudeness. And they’ll hold it against me.
That’s why I generally ask people to sign wavers–on napkins or any handy piece of paper–in which they promise not to blame me if they don’t like a movie I recommend.
The stakes are even higher with spicy food.
If you take a wuss to a spicy restaurant, he or she will probably tell the waiter–It was a little too spicy.
Which is like complaining about fried chicken cause it’s fried.
If enough people complain, the restaurant will start to wimp down the spices. And another great restaurant will bite the dust.
Trust me, I watched an epidemic of wimpy palates ravage dozens of great Thai restaurants like Dutch Elms destroying trees.
So before I take El Dragon to Yan Bang, I put him through the following exchange…
Me: Are you sure you can handle spicy food?
El Dragon: Man, who’s a Jewish guy to tell a Mexican about spicy food!
Me: I’m just saying I don’t want to hear you crying like a baby cause it’s too spicy.
El Dragon: Who you calling a baby, bitch!
Actually, I think that last line came from Trainwreck.
Anyway, here we are…
El Dragon starts with the easy stuff–the Shrimp dumplings. Then he works his way up to the Yan Bang noodles. Now he’s going for the Big Mama of hot and spicy, the shrimp wok dish.
He takes a bite…
“Man, this is good!”
Next thing you know, he’s shoveling it in. His face’s turning red, his forehead drenched in sweat.
“It’s not too hot?” I say.
“Boy,” he says, as he knocks back some red wine. “I was eating hot peppers when you were in the old country eating knishes.”
Now, we got to get Milo to try it.
Though, with that wuss, I better make him sign two wavers.
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A few days after the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, my sister bought a baseball cap celebrating the championship for $10 at a store in downtown Evanston.
We all agreed it looked great on her, and I snapped a picture of her wearing it, and said I wanted one just like it–only with a Bulls logo on the front.
Fast forward to last weekend and my sister and I are walking through Evanston and she says–how about looking for that Bulls hat?
So we go to the store. And we see the bin in the aisle filled with the hats she purchased. But finding no Bulls hat, we head for the door, where we’re stopped by the counterman.
“You going to pay for that hat?” he says to my sister.
“What?” she says.
“The hat–are you going to pay for it?”
It takes a moment but we realize that he thinks she’s trying to get away without paying for the hat.
“I bought this hat a few weeks ago,” my sister says. “I was wearing it when I came in.”
“No, you weren’t.”
He points to a sticker under the brim–as though that’s proof that she didn’t pay for it.
“I didn’t even know that sticker was there. Look, you can see, it’s all sweaty.”
“You have to pay for the hat…”
“Are you kidding me,” I say. “She’s been wearing this hat for weeks. We have pictures of her wearing the hat.”
Falsely accused like Cary Grant in North by Northwest…
I take out my cell phone to show him the pictures. But as I run through my picture files, I can’t find any.
I suddenly feel like a character in a movie by Alfred Hitchcock, where all the evidence of my innocence has been erased and I have no defense against a false accusation.
“Do you have a receipt?” he asks.
“No,” says my sister.
“You have to pay for the hat.”
Without proof there’s nothing we can do. She’s certainly not going to pay ten dollars for a hat she already bought.
So she hands the hat over to the salesman who’s now free to re-sell it, sweat stains and all.
“You’re lucky I don’t call the police and have you arrested for looting” he says. As we walk away feeling shitty.
Later that day, I see an even better Hawks cap in the CVS and I buy it for her.
“Forget it,” I tell her. “It’s just some bullshit. Not worth worrying about. Enjoy your new hat.”
Eventually, I find two pictures of her in the old hat as part of a text message I’d sent her several weeks ago.
But it’s too little, too late. We’re like the defendant who pleads guilty to a crime he didn’t commit, just to escape the ordeal of a false accusation.
Sometimes your best bet is to walk away, no matter how much it hurts.
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As soon as we hear Sharon Jones is playing in town my wife and I decide we’ve to get a ticket.
Because we love Sharon Jones.
But, I call the box office and the ticket seller says: “Sorry, sold out.”
And I check the website and the message says: “Sharon Jones–sold out.”
When my wife comes home, I tell her – “Bad news, they’re sold out….”
And she says: “Let’s just go anyway, maybe someone really nice will have some extra tickets and give them to us….”
And I’m like: “Are you kidding me? That’s not the way the world works. People just don’t give you things cause they’re nice. They might sell you some tickets – but you’re gonna have to pay twice the face value.”
“Let’s just see,” she says. “You never know.”
So off we go. Sure enough, there’s a long line of people outside the theater, looking to scalp tickets to get in.
“Told you,” I say.
“Just wait,” she says. “Don’t be so impatient….”
I move down the sidewalk cause I don’t want anyone to think I’m even remotely associated with this foolhardy waste of time.
A few minutes pass. I look up to see my wife standing next to a big guy with a thick neck–looks like an undercover cop. He’s motioning me over.
I walk over, expecting him to tell me that she’s being ticketed for blocking the sidewalk. But my wife leans forward and whispers–“follow me.”
And so I follow her as she follows him and he leads us through the door and into the lobby and past the ticket takers and just like that we’re in!
I look at my wife. She looks at me.
“Did that just happen?” I say.
“Unbelievable–did you slip him some cash?”
“No–I just told him how much we wanted to see the show. I think he felt sorry for me. You see, there are nice people in the world….”
Well, let me tell you–that was a great concert. Sharon Jones rocks the joint. Sings one great song after another: Give It Back, The Game Gets Old, and my all time all time — She Ain’t a Child No More…
I walk out on a cloud, singing those songs as we head down the street.
“Well,” says my wife. “What do you say?”
“What do you mean?” I say, even though I know just what she means.
I gulp. “You were right,” I say.
“I was wrong.”
“One more time…”
“You were right and I was wrong…”
Fellas, as much as I hate to say it, you know it’s true. On those rare occasions when you wife is right, you might as well come right out and admit it.
I think my cell phone’s been tapped.
I’ve reached this conclusion after reading an article correlating the quickness with which your phone battery loses juice to the likelihood that someone’s zapped into your conversations with one of those Sting Ray devices that every police force seems to have.
Since reading that article, I’ve been obsessively checking my cell phone battery to see how quickly it’s losing juice.
I then then update my findings to my wife, who has no choice but to listen cause–that’s what a sacred vow is all about!
If Big Brother’s listening to my phone conversations, it’s a pretty boring job.
Except when I talk to Frank Coconate!
Frank’s generally saying nasty things about the powers that be who fired him from his city and county jobs.
I’m sure he doesn’t mean half the nasty shit he says.
But just in case this stuff ever winds up in front of a jury, I’ve taken to issuing disclaimers after any outburst from Frank…
“Those views expressed by Frank are solely those of Frank–so don’t blame me!”
You can’t be too safe.
That’s me on my phone…
A conversation with my 80-something-year-old mother, in contrast, is far less troublesome and generally deals with the weather. Like…
“Your sister says there’s a tornado in Iowa.”
As you can see, a sample conversation with my sister has to do with the weather.
Many conversations with my wife consists of her telling me she’s too busy at work to talk right now, so–gotta go!
A sample chat with one of my daughters consists of them telling me they can’t talk long cause their phones almost out of batteries.
Maybe Big Brother’s tapping their phones, too.
My conversations with Milo–my partner in this blogging empire–usually consist of me obsessively telling him about whatever happens to be on my mind.
Which, at the moment, is Gypsy Joe Harris, a one-eyed welterweight from the 1960s.
Milo says I’ve been talking so much about that boxer that my new nickname should be Gypsy Joe Joravsky.
That’s this week’s cell-phone highlight. As anyone’s who’s been listening can tell you.
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Picture the scene…
My younger daughter and I are on a kayak, lazily floating on a placid lake somewhere up in Michigan on a hot summer day.
And out of nowhere, she starts singing this song I never heard before…
“I’m gettin’ tired of your shit. You don’t buy me nothin’…”
I’m like–what’s that?
“See, every time you come around, you got to bring Jim, James, Paul and Tryone…”
Tyrone! That’s perfect
“Every time, we go somewhere, I gotta reach down in my purse, to pay your way and your homeboys and sometimes your cousin’s way…”
Yes, yes, the cousin.
“I think ya better call Tyrone and tell him come on, help you get your shit…”
Yes, she’s kicking him out…
“You need to call Tyrone, but ya’ can’t use my phone.”
Oh, my god–you can’t use my phone. That’s genius! Who sings that?
And that, my friends, is how I first came to hear the name–Erykah Badu.
I know, I know–it’s same old sad story. If I didn’t spend so much time listening the same old songs from my past, I’d hear some new ones.
So, I’m largely dependent on my wife and kids and friends to keep me up to date. And as it is, I’m generally ten years behind the times.
This is my long-winded way of saying…
I went to an Erykah Badu concert the other day.
Yes, indeed. In Grant Park in downtown Chicago. My wife got the tickets. All thanks to her.
It was a gorgeous day that turned into a lovely night. The place was packed with 50,000 or so people who were just like my daughter–they knew every word to every song.
It was amazing. No matter what song Ms. Badu started, within an instant, people were singing along–word for word.
Imagine me at a Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes concert, circa 1978.
My big moment came during the encore, when she got around to my greatest Badu hit.
Hold it, hold it–I feel it coming on…
“I’m getting tired of your shit…”
It was like Sing Along With Mitch! And I’ve been singing it ever since.
Anyway, the next time we’re on that kayak out on that lake, I’m going to surprise my daughter.
When she least expects it, I’m going to belt out…
“You need to call Tyrone–but ya’ can’t use my phone…”
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Editor’s Note: Got a call from Jon, saying he’s “in the alley with pointed shoes and bells.” I’m not sure what that means, but I think it’s his way of telling me he’s indisposed at the moment, and I should run a few of his greatest hits till he’s back. Got ya’, big feller!
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