The New York Times recently ran an interview with Bruce Springsteen in which the rock star laid out his favorite books.
I think it was supposed to inspire us, but instead it was another depressing reminder of what a lowlife I’ve become.
When asked what books are “currently on your night stand”–Springsteen replied…
“I just finished Moby-Dick, which scared me off for a long time due to the hype of its difficulty. I found it to be a beautiful boy’s adventure story and not that difficult to read.”
When asked who are his favorite novelists, Springsteen said…
The Boss loves…
“I like the Russians, the Chekhov short stories, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. I never read any of them until the past four years, and found them to be thoroughly psychologically modern. Personal favorites: The Brothers Karamazov and, of course, Anna Karenina.
He went on…
“Current favorites: Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy and Richard Ford…”
“Flannery O’Connor; James M. Cain; John Cheever; Sherwood Anderson; and Jim Thompson, the great noir writer.”
“Walt Whitman is pretty good. The summer always makes me want to pick up Leaves of Grass for a while and sit on the front porch. I come away happier.”
And so on…
In contrast, I’d just finished reading a novel called Sleep No More by Greg Iles.
I found it on the shelf at my local library when I was looking for something else. You know how that goes.
In Sleep No More, the hero is a 40-something year old dude who had a smoking-hot girlfriend with whom he splits up–even though she’s great in the sack–cause she’s nuttier than a fruitcake.
His girlfriend winds up getting murdered by this bad guy. Only the girlfriend doesn’t really die! I mean, her body’s dead, but her spirit takes over the man who murdered her.
And from him it moves to someone else. Basically, it’s like this super spirit takes over the body of anyone with whom the body in has taken over has sex with.
Provided they have an orgasm.
I know, it’s complicated.
Think of it as Stephen King meets Lady Chatterely’s Lover.
Anyway, the spirit of the ex-girlfriend eventually finds its way to the body of this smoking, hot real estate agent who lives in the hero’s hometown.
And, well, I don’t want to spoil it for you.
Suffice to say, that book–with all its smoking hot sex–kept me preoccupies for the better part of three nights. As I plowed through it.
I was even telling people about it…
“So, you see, she has an orgasm and…”
Anyway, you can see why I got depressed about my shitty tastes when I what Bruce has been reading.
For the sake of my self esteem, I’m hoping Springsteen’s publicist made up that reading list.
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It has come to my attention that many of Milo’s most faithful readers have been having a hard time finding his regular Monday dispatches.
This has come to my attention because Milo told me about it.
Milo is, of course, the degenerate drunk who I have chosen as my partner in this auspicious blogging venture.
Obviously, I couldn’t find anyone else to take the job.
Once a week Milo writes some tale of debauchery that may or may not be true.
Over the years, he’s built himself a healthy following of dedicated fans who are like mad groupies.
To notify his readers of each weekly post, Milo used to send an email blast every Monday, reminding folks to click on the link if they want to read what he has to say.
Several weeks ago he stopped sending these Monday reminders on the grounds that after over five years of reminders, his faithful readers had probably figured out that he was wrote a weekly post on Mondays.
And if they hadn’t, well–fuck `em!
Me `n Milo at a recent staff meeting…
Fast forward to a recent dinner party, attended by a lady I’ll call Suzie. According to Milo, his dialogue with Suzie went like this…
Suzie: Hey, Milo, my mom’s a big fan of your posts.
Milo: I’m glad you like them.
Suzie: I didn’t say I liked them. I said my mom did. She wants to know why you stopped writing them.
Milo: I didn’t stop writing them–I stopped sending out messages saying I’d wrote them.
Suzie: Oh, well, I don’t read those messages either.
A few days later, Milo got an email from a reader named Jim, who’s in his early 80s.
“Hey, Milo,” Jim wrote. “Whatever happened to those pornographic things you’d been writing?”
That’s when it dawned on Milo…
His most faithful readers didn’t realize there’s thing called the Internet where they can find Milo’s posts any old time that they want–without Milo sending them a link.
I realize I’m the last person in the universe to poke fun at old timers who are far behind the times–technologically speaking.
I’m still using a cell phone that was already out of date during the Clinton administration.
In any event, Milo has asked me to announce that from here on out he’ll be sending out those Monday e-mail reminders.
If you can’t bring Muhammad to the mountain, then bring the mountain to Muhammad. Or however it goes…
On the day of the Stevie Wonder concert, I knock off work early, cause I’ve got to get ready for my United Center debut.
Yes, it’ll be Stevie on the stage under the spotlight. But I’ll be singing backup from my seat up in the second balcony.
Together we’ll be performing Songs in the Key of Life. A record I’ve listened to 1,627,463 times — give or take a time or two — since he released it back in 1976.
So I probably know it almost as well as Stevie.
My wife and I take the limo to the show — the #50 bus down Damen to Madison.
Outside the stadium there’s a long line and it takes forever to reach the front door and get into the lobby and through the vestibule and up the escalator and down the hallway to our seats.
But at last — we’re here!
I couldn’t be late for Stevie…
I’m sitting next to a guy who looks like Carl Winslow from Family Matters.
I tell him: “I just want to let you know I’ll be singing all the songs, though I can’t sing.”
“And I might be dancing, though I can’t dance.”
“Other than that — I’m sure you’ll love sitting next to me.”
The lights dim and to the stage steps Stevie. He says a few words and takes a seat at his piano. And then — I swear — he looks up at the second balcony, as if to say, “Ready, Benny Jay?”
And with that, the chorus rises –”ooh, ooh, ooh”– and in unison me `n Stevie begin the concert.
“Good morn or evening friends
Here’s your friendly announcer…”
The greatest opening line to the greatest opening song on the greatest record — ever!
If he was Carl, I was Urkel…
Folks, I don’t want to brag, but I’m on the top of my game.
I sing the love songs…
“I see us in the park
Strolling the summer days of imaginings in my head…”
And the fast songs…
“So make sure when you say you’re in it but not of it
You’re not helping to make this earth a place sometimes called Hell…”
And even the ones in Zulu…
Ngliyacula nao thandotk…”
Plus, at various times I pretend play the harp, harmonica, violin, trumpet, congas, cow bell and drums. I even make the baby-crying sounds on Isn’t She Lovely.
If that’s enough, by the encore me and my new best friend — Carl Winslow — are practically dancing the bump!
And they say Stevie Wonder’s multi-talented.
When the show ends — three hours after it starts — I’m not even tired.
I stay long after the lights have come on, half hoping Stevie will return to say, “C’mon, Benny Jay — let’s do Fulfillingness’ First Finale.”
Speaking of great records!
Alas, the usher, who looks all of 16, comes by to say: “I don’t want to be that guy who says you got to go, but…”
I guess all good things must come to an end.
Hey, Stevie–when you come back to Chicago, I’ll be the guy in the second balcony, singing every word to every song.
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Around The Third City, Sam Adams is known as the 20-something-year-old photojournalistic wunderkind, who snapped the quintessential shot of a Blackhawks fan in deep thought.
Here’s how that went down…
On the night in 2010, when the Hawks won their little Stanley Cup, I called Sam and said: “Son, get me a picture of a Blackhawks fan looking smart.”
“You got it, chief,” he said.
And off he went. Hustling over to Wrigley Field as hordes of toothless, drunken Blackhawks fans took to the street to celebrate. And the rest, as they say, is photojournalism history. As you can see for yourself.
After that, Sam sort of dropped off the radar, as Millennials tend to do.
He wandered down to New Mexico. Got a gig at a paper in Albuquerque–which is very hard to spell. And wound up in Madison, Wisconsin. Where he was when, out of the blue, he called to give me shit.
Speaking of things that Millennials do.
Your typical Blackhawks fan…
“Hey, man,” he said. “Do you still have that flip phone?”
“That fucker was old when W was president.”
“What do you want?”
“I see you’re still using AOL…”
“Here we go…”
“When you gonna get Gmail?”
“Do you know Joanna Klonsky?”
After we spent an hour or so talking about the Bulls–good thing neither one of us has a real job–he got down to business.
He’s created a new blog. Sort of like TTC, only different. He’s going to write darkly humorous riffs about the funky flicks he watches on Netflix.
Another great photo by Mr. Adams…
At the moment, he’s the only writer. But he may recruit a writer in Albuquerque and one in L.A. to write for him.
My advice is that he not pay either of them–a business model that’s worked wonders for TTC.
Anyway, he’s calling his blog Monster at the End of the Dream. Here’s the link…
“It’s a riff on a quote from True Detective…”
“You have heard of True Detective?” he says.
“Shit, Benny, it’s one of the best written shows since Breaking Bad…”
One more pause.
“Aw, fuck, man–you still haven’t seen Breaking Bad?”
I then explained that I don’t watch TV shows until they’ve been off the air for at least six years. It’s sort of a general policy.
There and then, we cut a deal. I promised to promote his blog, if he occasionally sent us some photos. Like that excellent shot of a Bulls fan in Vietnam.
So I urge everyone to read Monster at the End of the Dream. It’s funny and cheeky and pays tribute to some funky old flicks that should never be forgotten.
If enough of you read it, maybe he’ll make a little money. If so, Sam, don’t forget the guy who helped you get your start.
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On a cold, dark and dreary afternoon, I trek to Evanston to watch Northwestern and Michigan battle for the title of the Big Ten’s Most Mediocre Football Team.
Hey, someone’s gotta win it!
I am, alas, a long-suffering Northwestern football fan on account of the fact that I was raised in Evanston.
For the record, I did not attend Northwestern. With my grades, I wouldn’t have been accepted, even had I bribed the admissions officer.
Joining me for the game is Cap, my bowling buddy. He didn’t go to Northwestern or grow up in Evanston. So, really, he has no excuse.
As you might expect–given the mediocrity of the teams–the game’s a poster child for ineptitude. As though both teams were saying to the other–please, you win. I insist!
At one point, Ibraheim Campbell–of Northwestern–intercepts a pass and runs it to Michigan’s 15-yard line.
“He shoulda scored,” says Cap. “Cause, you watch–they’re gonna fuck it up.”
Trevor, the QB, just about sums it up…
NU loses 8 yards on a reverse.
Then there’s a sack.
Then poor Trevor Siemian–the QB–running for dear life to avoid another sack, desperately heaves a pass in the general direction of the sidelines. Only to get flagged for intentional grounding.
From first and ten at the 15, NU winds up punting from the 45.
“Told you,” says Cap.
I believe I’ve just witnessed the worst single set of plays I’ve ever seen in over 50 years of watching football–including pro, college, high school, pee-wee and intramural flag.
In the waning minutes, NU makes an improbable march up the field to score its first and only TD.
C’mon, everyone, all together: Go U, Northwestern, fight for victory!
Sridhar & Ryan celebrate another great NU football game!
Losing by one, with three seconds left, NU needs only to kick an extra point to send the game to overtime.
However, the coach–a guy named Fitz–opts for the two-point conversion.
Apparently, he’s in a hurry to get to the Bulls game.
Poor Trevor trips over his own feet and falls to the ground. And so NU finds a creative new way to lose a game.
I’m sitting in my living room with Sridhar, Ryan and Vinnie. They’re 30-something-year-old NU grads, who fly in from other cities once a year to watch their alma mater play.
And you thought NU grads were the smart guys.
We all agree that Fitz’s decision to go for two was dumb and dumber!
On the other hand, he may have done everyone a favor by sparing us from having to watch the overtime.
The next day I drive Sridhar and Ryan to the train that will take them to the airport so they can fly home, having successfully flown across the country to watch their favorite college team lose another game.
See ya’ next year–suckers!
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The morning after…
Wake to find Sun Times on front porch, featuring big, colored front-page photo of Bruce Rauner, triumphantly waving arms in the air.
Rauner’s the billionaire investor who made his fortune buying and selling companies, including, among other things, a real shitty chain of nursing homes.
Voters elected him governor anyway.
Tell wife–I’m not talking about Illinois politics!
Wife tells me: Same here!
Turn to sports section, read article after article about Derrick Rose’s injured ankles.
Anything but Rauner.
Open New York Times see photo of jubilant Republicans, basking in glow of winning back U.S. Senate.
Not talking about national politics either.
This country needs another FDR!
Read The Goldfinch, a great and massive novel about an orphan boy who’s at the mercy of a cold, cruel world filled with douchebags
Much like our political system. Which I’m not talking about.
Suspend my moratorium on talking politics to take call from my 80-something-year-old mother, who came of age in the Great Depression.
We agree–what this country needs is another FDR!
While walking down the street, bump into Sam–my neighbor, the radical.
Spend 15 minutes ranting and railing about the idiocy of American voters.
Go to park and jog along the lakefront. In my mind, I’m Kip Keino, the champion Kenyan miler, blasting past the pack to win the Gold Medal at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
Every now and then it helps to have a vivid imagination.
In my mind, I’m the great Kip Keino!
Return home to discover my wife has purchased, of all things, a paddle ball game and an Yoda alarm clock.
Says: “I thought it might cheer me up.”
We’re all doing what we can.
We decide to pretend it’s the weekend. Go to Italian restaurant. Eat pasta. Drink red wine.
Stagger across street to movie theater. See Birdman. Brilliant, darkly funny flick about actors. The underlying theme is life is so miserable, it helps to have a fantasy world in which one can escape.
Not unlike mine involving the aforementioned Kip Keino.
In Birdman, the Michael Keaton character fantasizes he’s a superhero, who can fly away from it all.
Sounds pretty good to me.
Return home. Walk the dog and fantasize about waking to read a late-breaking new item in my morning’s Sun-Times…
Turns out authorities accidentally over-counted Rauner’s votes. He didn’t really win the election!
Wake to see Sun Times front page–big, colored photo of Pat Quinn, the Democratic governor, at a press conference, head down, conceding defeat.
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I happened to be watching a Bulls game on the tube not long ago, when my wife walked into the living room, looked at the screen and asked…
“What happened to that guy?”
That question’s not as hard to answer as it may seem once you subtract the player that my wife knows from the other players still with the team.
“Oh,” I replied. “You mean Boozer?”
“Yeah–what happened to him?”
To refresh your memory, Boozer’s the guy who was instantly recognizable to even the most indifferent of fans because he had a big head, a bulbous nose and lots of tattoos. Plus, he wore tights. A combination you don’t see everyday.
For the record, his first name is Carlos, though you may be forgiven for thinking it’s Fuck.
As in this recent conversation I had with my dear friend Cap.
Me: Nice shot by Boozer.
Cap: Fuck Boozer.
As you can see, on top of everything else, Boozer was the Bulls player that Bulls fans loved to hate.
There’s no single reason why they hated him so much, as it varies from fan to fan.
My dear friend, Norm, said it’s cause Boozer wears his shorts too high.
Cap says it’s cause he’s a big man with itty-bitty hands.
Not sure how Cap knows this detail about Boozer anatomy, having never met him.
It probably has something to do with the fact that Boozer has trouble holding a basketball long enough to dunk it.
For many other fans, it’s cause Boozer showed very little interest in playing defense. Other than occasionally waving his arm at an opponent, as he raced by Boozer to score a basket.
The Bulls unceremoniously dumped Boozer in the off season. He now plays for the Lakers. So you might say that Boozer–small hands, high shorts, no defense and all–has become Kobe Bryant’s problem.
Good luck, Kobe.
This raises the obvious question–which new Bull has replaced Boozer?
That’s a tricky question. If by replaced, you mean–who is the Bulls player that Bulls fans like the least? Well, it’s too early to tell. Check back with me at midseason.
But if by replaced you mean–who literally took his spot in the starting lineup? That would be Pau Gasol–the big Catalonian!
You may be forgiven for thinking Gasol’s nickname is–thank God that fuckin’ Boozer’s gone. Which is what many Bulls fans say whenever they see Gasol on the screen.
Speaking of which…
Cap, Norm and I happened to be watching the Lakers/Clippers game the other night, when, onto the screen, flashed–you guessed it–Carlos Boozer! Looking sporty in his gold and purple Lakers uniform.
At which point, as if on cue, Norm and Cap in unison called out: “Fuck Boozer!”
As you can see, the season may be young, but my boys are already at the top of their game.