Just so you know, I’ll be hard to reach over the next five days.
That’s because I’ll be closely following my beloved Bulls, as they play four games in five days.
Let’s see–they’ve got Thunder in Chicago, followed by the Pacers in Indianapolis, the Spurs in San Antonio and the Grizzlies right back here in Chicago.
That’s an insanely busy schedule that will undoubtedly lead to more injuries.
At the moment, three Bulls are injured: Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler.
I know this because I devour almost every word written about the Bulls–a practice I developed years ago to dull the pain of Chicago’s brutally cold and endless winters.
As such, two of the most important men in my life are K.C. Johnson of the Tribune and Joe Crowley of the Sun-Times, who have nothing in common other than covering the Bulls.
It seems like winter got colder since Jimmy hurt his elbow…
Johnson has a sunny, the glass-is-half-full world view–as if he can’t believe how lucky he is to get paid for watching basketball.
In contrast, Crowley may be the gloomiest writer since Dostoevsky.
In general, I’ve noticed that Chicago sportswriters have been going through an existential phase, given to brooding on the larger meaning of things. Like…
Yes, the Bulls beat the Wizards, but they’re not going to win the championship, so, really, what does it matter?
A question that keeps me up late into the night.
As befits his gloomy disposition, Crowley’s specialty is breaking news of Bulls injuries.
A few years back he wrote whole treatises on Rip Hamilton’s strained groin.
A subject that, in retrospect, I came to realize all of us knew and cared way too much about.
For the record, it was not Crowley from whom I learned about the latest injury–Jimmy Butler’s elbow.
For me, that scoop came from my sister, who heard it on the radio and immediately sent me a text.
In case I wasn’t depressed enough about our endless sub-zero winter.
Dostoevsky would have a field day covering the Bulls…
For most of the year, my sister’s been pretty dependable with updates on Bulls injuries.
On the other hand, I usually count on my mother for breaking news on the weather.
For instance, when temperatures finally crawled to 20 degrees–a heat wave around here–my mom called to say: “Don’t get used to it, it’s going back down to zero tomorrow.”
In case I wasn’t depressed enough about Jimmy Butler’s injured elbow.
A typical exchange with my mom goes like this…
Mom: Don’t go bowling tonight, it’s too cold.
Me: Ma, the bowling alley’s right down the street.
Mom: Yes, but you might slip on the black ice.
I guess you can say my mother’s a regular Joe Crowley, when it comes to reporting the weather.
Good luck on your four-games-in-five-days, Bullies. Let’s hope no one slips on the black ice.
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In my many years of living, I can’t recall ever being asked to participate in a public-opinion poll.
So imagine my surprise when, the other day, I get a call from a woman named Mattie, who says she calling from a national opinion research company, and do I have a minute to spare for questions?
Do I? Yes, ma’am!
Here’s the thing…
I live in Chicago, where we’re having a heated mayoral election pitting Mayor Rahm against Jesus “Chuy” Garcia!
And as you may know, I’m not really a Rahm kind of guy.
I figure Mayor Rahm’s behind this poll cause Chuy’s too broke to afford polls.
So, I decide what I’ll do is–I’ll doctor my answers to Mattie’s questions in such a way as to screw up Rahm’s campaign.
Like when they ask about taxes, I’ll say: Raise `em sky-high!
Based on my response, Mayor Rahm will immediately endorse a tax hike that turns thousands of voters against him.
Okay, so maybe it’s stretch.
And so we begin…
“Do you ever go to baseball games?” she asks.
“Who’s your favorite baseball team?”
What’s this got to do with politics?
“When was the last time you went to a White Sox game?”
That’s when it hits me–this isn’t about Rahm v. Chuy.
This is a White Sox public opinion poll.
Furthermore, it’s not really a poll. It’s more like an advertisement–what they call a push poll. In which they’re actually brainwashing me under the guise of giving a shit about what I have to say.
And this is Dick Allen–my all-time favorite White Sox player!
For instance, Mattie asks…
“Are you aware that you can see the White Sox play for as little as $7 a ticket?”
But what’ s she’s really doing is planting this seedling in my brain that may sprout into tree something this summer when I drag my poor wife to a Sox game.
Clever guys those White Sox. Let’s hope their pitching staff is half as good as the marketing department.
Eventually, Mattie makes her play…
“Can I have your number and email address so we can send you more information about the White Sox?”
Well, I’m a little ashamed of how I responded. I may have told a little, oh, fib .
I give her the cell number of Milo, my longtime partner in this blogging empire.
Please don’t tell Milo.
And when they asked for my email address, I gave her Milo’s email address.
Don’t tell him about that either.
If by chance, you bump into Milo at a party and he’s starts going on and on about how he’s been getting tons of calls from the White Sox marketing department, mum’s the word.
What he doesn’t know, won’t hurt him.
I get a call the other day from the great Carol Woodworth–the decluttering genius, who helped me declutter my office.
Time out for an unsolicited promotion: If you want to get your life in order, contact Carol at Optimal Organizing!
Anyway, she’s calling about the song Chicago by Graham Nash.
You know, it goes: “Though your brother’s bound and gagged, and they’ve chained him to a chair, won’t you please come to Chicago…”
Basically, it’s calling on people to come to Chicago to protest the Chicago 8 trial, which is when the federal government, in all its glorious stupidity, prosecuted eight anti-war activists on trumped-up charges.
Keep it here for more unbiased explanations of our country’s past!
Specifically, Carol wants to know who’s Jack in the line: “Don’t ask Jack to help you, cause he’ll turn the other ear…”
“I thought it might be someone from city government,” she says. “Maybe Colonel Jack Reilly, who was director of special events back then.”
I’m impressed. There are probably only three people in the universe who remember Colonel Jack Reilly. And I never thought one would be Carol, who, though a genius at decluttering, has never showed much of an interest in obscure political figures from Chicago’s past.
The Chicago 8…
Apparently, Carol found her way to Colonel Jack through a Google search.
By the way, I’m pretty sure Colonel Jack’s a colonel in much the same way Tom Parker is. That is–not at all.
You know, I’ve been thinking of calling myself Colonel Benny Jay.
Back to Jack–I have two theories.
One.) Nash is using the word Jack simply to get to the next line. That’s a favorite tactic of Bob Dylan, who writes down any old shit and then takes perverse pleasure in watching his fans struggle to ascertain the meaning of it all.
When in reality it’s only a conveyance from Point A to Point C.
Two.) Jack could be the proverbial Everyman, who’d come to Chicago to change the world, if only he wasn’t so busy doing stuff like watching TV.
Graham Nash is the man in the middle…
Carol’s not buying it. In her mind, there’s a specific man named Jack and she’s hell bent on finding out who he is.
And who am I to argue with the woman who decluttered my room!
After we hang up, I go to Google and type: “Who is Jack in the song Chicago?”
You, too, can be an investigative journalist!
That gets me to a chat room, featuring “Gina from Paradise, Arizona” and “Bob from Rahway, New Jersey.”
Bob writes: “‘Jack’ was a reference to John Daily who was Mayor of Chicago.”
Excellent answer, except…
Chicago’s Mayor Dailys were named Richard, not Jack.
And it’s not Daily, it’s Daley.
Other than that, Bob, your knowledge of Chicago politics is remarkable!
Gina writes: “I asked David and Graham. They said it’s just like anyone, any dude.”
Wow, talk about going to the source! Why didn’t I think of that?
Hope that helps, Carol.
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In my long and winding life as a writer, I’ve made enough mistakes to fill an ocean–that’s for sure.
I’ve inverted letters, butchered names, mangled sentences.
I recently spelled a woman named JoAnn as Joann. Heap as heep. And Gerry Goffin as Coffin.
Once again, thank you, Thor, for bailing me out on that one!
Man, there’s probably three or four mistakes in this post alone–at least!
So, generally, I tend to be very understanding when confronted by mistakes my colleagues make. There by the grace of God–and all that.
But last week, I came face to face with a whooper that just blew my freakin’ mind and made me feel like I was 452 years old.
It came in a post I wrote for my beloved Reader, when I mentioned Jimi Hendrix.
Who the headline writer called Jim.
As in Jim Hendrix!
That’s right, the dude called Jimi Jim.
Okay, let me just take a breath and try to calm down…
Look, here’s the deal, folks. Jimi Hendrix is probably one of the coolest dudes who ever existed.
In fact, if you were to create a Mount Rushmore of the four coolest dudes from my generation, he’d be right up there with Paul Newman, Norm Van Lier, Steve McQueen, Joe Namath, Bruce Lee…
Wait, that’s six cool dudes. And I still haven’t named Sly Stone. Or Jim Brown.
I need another mountain!
Part of the reason he’s so cool is that he’s Jimi. With an i. Not a y. Calling him Jim is like calling Marilyn Monroe Mary.
I mean, c’mon, man!
Hey, young people–this is Jimi Hendrix!
Sorry. Time to take another breath…
I can’t be too hard on the editor. He was born in the `80s–years after Hendrix had died. I’m sure that for him, Jimi Hendrix’s probably an ancient relic.
Still. Jim Hendrix? I bet he wouldn’t mess up Justin Bieber’s name!
Calm down, big guy, calm down…
My wife is also taking this Jimi-as-Jim thing hard. Hendrix played a particularly important role in her life as she actually saw him in concert.
This was back in 1970. At the Fillmore East in New York City. She went with her friends Gail & Cindi, and her old high school boyfried and…
You know, if I hear about that fuckin’ high school boyfriend one more time…
Milo’s also taking it especially hard. He’s a Vietnam Vet and it was the music of Hendrix that helped him escape that shithole with his mind relatively intact.
Well, that and tons of reefer.
When I broke news of the headline to Milo, he couldn’t talk for at least a couple of seconds.
“Benny,” he finally gasped, “we’re a bunch of fucking dinosaurs.”
Truer words were never spoken.
Let your freak flag fly!
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As the movie critic for The Third City, I recently watched The Interview.
That’s the comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco as two nitwits who bring down the tyrannical North Korean government of Kim Jong-un.
As you may recall, the movie came out last December. So, naturally, your first question is–why didn’t you watch it back then?
Let me blunt in my response…
I was scared!
Let’s face it, the North Koreans weren’t messing around–as sinister hackers bore into Sony’s computers and exposed the secret emails of top officials.
Can you imagine what they’d find if they read the secret email of The Third City?
Me: So whatcha doing tonight, Milo?
Milo: Nothing much. Gonna watch Raquel Welch in 100 Rifles and whack off.
Me: Aw, man, that sounds good. Can I get in on that…
Franco & Eminem in The Interview are as funny as…
Anyway, figuring enough time had passed, I finally got around to downloading The Interview off of Netflix.
But first I put on a Groucho Marx mustache to disguise my identity–just in case a few hackers were watching.
You can’t be too careful about these things.
Here’s the deal–it turned out to be hilarious. Take a bow, Rogen & Franco!
I was sort of surprised, since so many critics had panned it for being really dumbass.
Which makes no sense. Criticizing a Rogen/Franco movie for being dumbass is like criticizing a western for having a horse.
I mean, what do you expect?
My guess is that critics panned it cause they were scared North Korea would hack into their computers if they praised it.
At least I admit I’m a chicken.
Cedric the Entertainer in Top Five…
There are many funny scenes in The Interview. For instance, the scene where Franco interviews Eminem is priceless.
Funny, but I don’t recall any critic mentioning that scene. Perhaps they were too scared to even watch the movie, so they just pretended they did.
I’d rank that bit with Eminem as one of three funniest movie scenes of this century. Right up there with Kristen Wiig getting drunk in the airplane in Bridesmaids and Chris Rock having a foursome with two hookers and Cedric the Entertainer in Top Five.
Let me pause to do my Cedric the Entertainer imitation from Top Five…
“I’m the baddest muthafucka in Houston.”
I liked that line so much that I spent the better part of January repeating it. As the boys on my bowling team can probably tell you.
In short, I urge everyone to see The Interview.
If you want to borrow my Groucho Marx disguise, give me a call.
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It’s Monday night bowling and we’re up against the Blasters…
A team of grown men in green shirts who occasionally gather at the bar, raise glasses of booze and chant: “I’m a Blaster, you’re a Blaster, we’re a Blaster all, and when we get together we do the Blaster call.”
Then they down their drinks.
Believe me–you get used to it after awhile.
But I’m not writing about their chant. I’m writing about their nicknames.
Look, Blasters–let’s not beat around the bush. Your nicknames fucking suck!
I know–there are more pressing things to write about. Like the need for World Peace.
But this has been on my mind for some time. Let me give you some examples…
There’s Matt who they’ve nicknamed Ty Cobb–for the ancient baseball player–even though he looks nothing like Ty Cobb. I mean, Ty Cobb had no teeth. Last I looked, Matt had all of his teeth.
Plus, Ty Cobb was a racist drunk.
I don’t mean to get all politically correct and everything–but why nickname a guy for a jerk like that? Especially when he had no teeth?
Then there’s the Blaster they’ve nicknamed Fredo, even though he’s a dead ringer for Tim Tebow, the football player.
In case you forgot, Fredo’s the brother in the Corelone clan from the Godfather movies who gets shot in the head and dumped into a lake.
What kind of team would nickname one of its players for a loser like that?
Especially when he’s a dead ringer for Tim Tebow.
A fact I find myself incapable of getting over. I mean, we’ve had many conversations that go like this…
Me: Have I ever told you that you look like Tim Tebow?
Tebow: Yeah–five minutes ago.
There are probably pills I can take for these things.
For inexplicable reasons, they’ve nicknamed him Fredo…
Anyway, if you’re going to nickname a guy on your bowling team after a sibbling from the Corleone clan, you should call him Sonny. That’s the James Caan character who had a shlong as long as a boa constrictor.
Change Fredo’s nickname to Sonny and you’ll raise his bowling average!
Plus, he looks like Tim Tebow. As I may have mentioned.
Here’s an idea. Nickname him Tebow.
Then change Ty Cobb’s nickname to Sonny.
Which leaves us with the matter of Danny, the new guy on the team. At the moment, they’ve nicknamed him The New Guy.
C’mon, boys–you’re better than that.
You know, I suddenly realize I’ve spent way too many precious minutes of my life worrying about the Blasters and their nicknames.
So I’ll bring this to an end. It’s on to World Peace.
For the Bat Mitzvah of Cap’s daughter, I put on a tie–which is a big deal cause I rarely ever wear a tie.
In fact, the last time I wore a tie might have been for Cap’s son’s Bar Mitzvah, which was four years ago.
Cap’s the captain of my bowling team. So now that all of his kids have been bar/bat mitzvahed, I may never wear a tie again.
In addition to the tie, I wear a suit and a nice shirt. Plus, the suit and the shirt and tie are color coordinated.
I know this cause my wife picked out my ensemble.
I told her, “Make me look good cause all the boys will be there.”
Well, all the boys except the Young One. But that’s another story.
“And Norm, Cap and Tony are snappy dressers. So I don’t want to look like the shlub.”
“I got ya’, big guy,” she said.
Well, maybe she didn’t call me big guy.
Before she went to work, she laid out what I had to wear. All I had to put it on. Even I can’t fuck that up, right?
So, anyway, I put on the suit and the shirt and the tie and I look at myself in the mirror and I say–”Dang, Benny Jay, you look like a young Paul Newman.”
Well, maybe a middle-aged Paul Newman. Like in The Sting.
To the Bat Mitzvah I go and a great time I have!
I feel like people are watching me as if they’re thinking–”Damn, that guy looks like Paul Newman from in The Sting!”
At one point, the bowling team poses for a photo. And then…
Fast forward to the bowling alley a few weeks later. Cap’s showing us the pix from the Bat Mitzvah. I look at our group photo and…
“Holy shit,” I say. “Look at my tie.”
“What about it?” says Tony.
“It’s not under the collar,” I say.
“Oh, yeah,” he says.
“Why didn’t you tell me about it?”
“I didn’t know.”
Well, he is from Cleveland. So I shouldn’t expect much help from him in the fashion department.
It hits me. Those people at the Bat Mitzvah weren’t thinking: “Damn, that guy looks like Paul Newman from The Sting.”
They were thinking: “That dummy’s got his tie outside his collar.”
So close to looking stylish–and, yet, so far away.
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