Here’s a riddle for you…
Yesterday, my favorite baseball team lost a heartbreaker by giving up the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.
At the same time, my favorite baseball team was jumping for joy cause they won the game with a ninth inning rally.
How can both things be possible?
The answer? I have two favorite teams–the White Sox and the Cubs–and last night one played the other in that annual travesty known as the City Series.
Lord, I hate the City Series. No matter who wins, I lose.
As I’ve explained before, I moved to Chicago at a relatively late time in life and decided to root for both teams on the logical grounds that it sort of increases the chance I’ll wind up with a champion.
Though two times zero is the same as one times zero. As you can see, logic doesn’t really apply to Chicago.
My position has brought me much derision from self-proclaimed Chicagoans who insist I have to choose one team or the other cause…that’s how we do things in Chicago.
One of the most annoying things about living in Chicago–right up there with the winters–are all the dumbass rules we’re supposed to follow cause…that’s how we do things in Chicago.
Like putting catsup on a hot dog.
What a bunch of losers…
For the record, I don’t put catsup on hot dogs. But it’s not cause I live in Chicago. It’s cause I don’t like catsup.
I wouldn’t put catsup on a hot dog if I lived in Detroit.
In general, Chicagoans are the last people you should listen to about food. Most of them have lousy tastes.
For instance, I’ve stopped recommending that people go to Yan Bang Cai–the world’s greatest Sichuan restaurant, right there on 22nd Street.
“It’s too hot,” most Chicagoans tell me.
What a bunch of babies. Stick to hot dogs, wimps.
By the way, have you ever noticed that most of the people telling you what you can and cannot do in Chicago aren’t even from Chicago?
They’re from the suburbs. So why should anyone listen to them?
The other really annoying thing about the City Series is that the team with the most realistic chance of making the playoff hardly ever wins.
Follow me on this–I think I’m on to something…
In this year’s case, the Cubs are in first, but feeling the heat from the Cardinals–a team I despise even more than catsup on hot dogs.
So they could use these wins.
On the other hand, the Sox are mired in mediocrity–as someone put it–and probably wouldn’t make the plaoffs if the season got extended to December.
So, it’s okay if they lose–at least, it’s more okay than the Cubs losing.
Naturally, the Sox win.
I’m telling you, folks, I can’t win for losing.
Just like a real Chicagoan.
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In 1981, I moved to Chicago and found myself working with Kevin and Wilfredo–great guys who are my friends to this day.
At the time, two of the world’s best boxers–Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard–had just completed the second of two epic fights.
That’s the infamous “no mas” bout, when Duran quit in the eighth round. Just raised his arms in surrender and told the ref, “No mas.”
It was a shocking end to the fight. Cause Duran had a reputation as a fearless warrior–“with hands of stone.”
Wilfredo argued that Sugar Ray didn’t win–Duran quit. And probably cause the fight was fixed.
Bullshit! Kevin countered. If Duran quit, it was only cause Sugar pounded him into submission.
Generally, this epic discourse took place over lunch in a Greek diner, while I wolfed down a delicious Feta cheese and spinach omelet.
Ah, the good life–right, Kevin & Wilfredo?
At this point, I should mention that Wilfredo is Puerto Rican and Kevin is African-American. Thus, I learned about the great “black/brown” divide on boxing.
Specifically, you can’t find many Black Americans with a nice thing to say about Roberto Duran, who’s Panamanian.
In fact, for the longest time I thought Duran’s first name was Manfuck. As in black guys telling me, “Man, fuck Duran!”
Sugar Ray & Duran–two of the greatest!
Similarly, I know of few Latinos who have anything nice to say about Leonard, an African-American.
Not to say that Latinos always agree on fighters. I remember the room was split in 1992, when I watched Héctor “Macho” Camacho box Julio César Chávez: Puerto Ricans for Camacho and Mexican-Americans for Chávez.
But when I mentioned Sugar Ray, they rose as one to sneer: “You mean the ballroom dancer?”
These memories came flooding back after I recently watched No Mas, an ESPN documentary about the Duran/Leonard rivalry.
The movie sets it up. After Duran won the first fight, he went on a binge, eating, drinking and womanizing. Come the second fight, he was fat and out of shape.
In contrast, Leonard came into the second fight in tip-top condition, determined for payback.
From the start, Leonard was the aggressor. By the eighth round, Duran was exhausted and Sugar Ray was openly mocking him, dancing in the ring and dropping his guard, as if to say: “You can’t touch me, you Fat Fuck.”
And so Duran raised his arms, as if to say: “You’re right. I am a Fat Fuck. If I stay in this fight, you’ll knock me out.”
Rather than give Leonard the satisfaction of knocking him out, Duran quit.
That’s how I see it, anyway.
Out of curiosity, I contacted my old friends to see how they felt.
“How to you say quitter in Español?” Kevin responded. “Hands of stone; heart of marshmallows!”
“Duran beat himself, but Ray did not beat him.”
Like I said, years have passed since we were young and eating those delicious Spinach/Feta cheese omelets in that little Greek diner.
But in some ways, nothing’s changed.
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With the Bulls overtime victory in the Summer League championship game fresh on everyone’s mind, I thought it would be a good time to talk about the Bulls rookie who’s named for one of Hollywood’s greatest movie stars.
Well, that Summer League win is still fresh on my mind. Also, my wife’s– what with me talking about the Bulls day and night.
Apparently, the rest of you are a little slow to jump aboard the Bulls bandwagon.
Anyway, to see how many of you have been paying attention, let’s have a trivia contest.
For ten trivia points, the new Bull is named for…
A.) Humphrey Bogart…
B.) Paul Newman…
C.) Suzanne Pleshette…
The answer–none of the above!
This is Denzel Valentine, as opposed to…
His name is Denzel Valentine. So, obviously, he’s named for Denzel Washington.
Already, I see a problem. I realize it’s going to be hard for many of you to call him Valentine, as we’ve been conditioned to say Washington after Denzel.
One Bulls fan I know–call her Joanna–gets around this by doing away with the first name altogether. She just calls him Valentine, as though he has no last name. Sort of like Madonna.
Whatever it takes, right fans?
It was Denzel Valentine, who hit two monster clutch shots in the aforementioned Summer League championship game. The first–a 3-pointer, with almost no time on the clock–sent the game into overtime.
The second won the game at the buzzer.
That’s some cold-blooded shooting, my friends.
Denzel Washington (right) and Don Cheadle (left)…
Now the big issue is what motivated Mr. Valentine’s parents to name him Denzel.
As the world’s foremost authority on Denzel Washington movies, I’m in an excellent position to hazard a guess.
Since Denzel Valentine was born in 1993, it was either Philadelphia, Malcolm X or Mississippi Masala.
It’s not Devil In A Blue Dress–my favorite Denzel movie. Devil came out in `95–two years after Denzel Valentine was born.
In fact, had Devil come out earlier, Denzel Valentine’s parents may have named him Cheadle. Let’s face it, Don Cheadle killed it in the role of Mouse in that movie.
In any event, I’d like to congratulate Denzel Valentine’s parents for doing such a great job naming their son.
I mean, if you want to pick a name that will inspire a kid to grow into a cool customer on the court, you can’t do better than Denzel.
Unless, of course, it’s Cheadle.
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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!!!
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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On a lovely night in July, my wife and I go to Chinatown to dine at Yen Bang Cai, the world’s greatest Sichuan restaurant.
I pull up to the restaurant to drop her off.
“I’ll park in the lot down the street,” I say.
“Why? There’s a parking space right behind us,” she says.
“But, it’s cheaper in the lot.”
“So what. Why walk, if you don’t have to?”
I could persist, folks. But compromise is the secret to any marriage. So…
I parallel park the car. Feed the meter. Walk into the restaurant. Devour a delicious four-course meal– the Salt Miner’s Chicken is too good to believe.
And I walk out of the restaurant feeling immensely satisfied only to discover an orange parking ticket envelope under the windshield wiper. WTF!
Immediately, the blame game’s on.
“Did you feed the meter?” asks my wife.
“Then why did we get a ticket?”
I look at the ticket. “It’s not for an expired meter,” I say. “It’s for an expired license plate.”
“Our state sticker expired.”
In an instant, I’ve flipped the blame-game switch.
If we had parked in the parking lot–like I wanted to–we wouldn’t have a ticket cause the ticket writers don’t prowl parking lots.
A lesser man would have blamed it all on my wife. But I’m too big for that.
Well, I may have mentioned it. But only once. Or twice–who can really remember?
Brilliantly, she looks for new sources of blame. “Why didn’t we get an expiration from the state?” she asks.
“They stopped sending out notices cause Governor Rauner won’t agree on a budget.”
“You mean, they don’t tell you that your license has expired so you wind up getting tickets?”
“What a racket!”
That night my wife takes a picture of the ticket and posts it on her Facebook page with the following message: “License Renewal Ticket! Thanks Governor Rauner for crippling our state with no renewal notices sent! You are the biggest A.H. ever!”
Immediately, an old friend writes: “He’s a real villain.”
About the only good thing about having to pay $60 to the city for a bogus ticket is knowing you’ve got someone else to blame.
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As the old guy in an universe of the young, I’m always hearing expressions I’ve never heard before. And so it was the other day, when my wife approached me as I was reading the newspaper…
“I think Ziggy made a mistake,” she said.
Ziggy’s her 30-something-year old guitar teacher.
“He sent me a text that says `bitchin’.”
I put down the newspaper. Obviously, this required my full attention.
“What was the context?” I asked.
“I texted to see when we were having our guitar lesson. And he texted back–`is 1:45 good for you?’ I wrote yes. And he wrote–`bitchin’.'”
“He must have meant to send this text to someone else,” she concluded.
Well, there’s precedence for this.
“The secret to staying young is to lie about your age”–Lucille Ball. Word.
Years ago, when our daughters were teenagers, my wife wrote one of them a text, bitching about something our daughter had done.
But she accidentally sent that text to Susan, a friend.
Susan texted back: “I think you may have sent this to the wrong person.”
Then she launched into an obscenity-laced rant about her own teenage kids.
But back to bitchin’…
I said: “Bitchin’ must be something millennials say to one another a lot. Though we wouldn’t know that cause we haven’t been millennials in a long time. Actually, we’ve never been millennials. Either way–I’ll look it up in the Urban Dictionary.”
The Urban Dictionary is a website I discovered years ago when I was at the bowling alley talking about this, that and the other thing with my 30-something-year-old pal, J Dub.
I said: “These politicians are all crooked.”
And J Dub said: “Word.”
“What?” I asked. As though the problem was I didn’t hear what he said.
“Word,” he repeated.
“Oh, yeah, man,” I said. As though I knew what he was talking about.
When I got home, I went straight to Urban Dictionary, where I discovered that for years word didn’t just mean word, but “to speak the truth.”
How come no one tells me these things?
Anyway, I looked up bitchin’ and I found that it’s top definition is “good, fuckin’ great, awesome.”
Needless to say my wife and I have been saying bitchin’ to one another ever since.
It’s sort of like a linguistic version of a face lift. Anything to stay young. Word.
With the great Dwyane Wade coming to town, I have another chance to talk about the Bulls.
Not sure why I never tire of talking about the Bulls. Maybe it’s cause basketball is really the only sport I passionately follow these days.
Centuries ago, when I was a wee lad, I watched any sport that was on on TV. Not just the major ones, like baseball, basketball, football and hockey. But minor ones, like wrestling, roller derby and jai alai.
All that TV watching drove my father crazy. He’d come into the TV room and tell me: “Benny, the brain’s a muscle. If you don’t use it, it will go flabby.”
And I’d be nodding my head, while subtly leaning to the left cause he was blocking my view of the tube. Ah, the good old days.
These days, I usually talk about the Bulls with Milo, my illustrious partner in The Third City blogging empire–one of the few people who shares my obsession with the game.
By my conservative estimation, I’d say Milo and I have had approximately 5,000 conversations about basketball over the last 30 something years. Mostly about the Bulls.
Milo `n I have been talking about the Bulls since the days of Artis Gilmore…
The good news is that Milo’s recent head injury has not deterred his ability to converse about the Bulls. Though every now and then that piece of titanium the docs installed in his skull picks up a country-western radio station out of Alberta, Canada.
We’ll be talking about Bulls and all of a sudden the sound of Hank Williams singing My Cheating Heart will come over the telephone.
Generally, Milo’s gloomier about the Bulls than I am.
In 2008, for instance, I predicted several Bulls championships after they drafted Derrick Rose. As I recall, Milo’s main comment was: “I don’t know, Benny–he looks kind of short to me.”
Just the other day, Milo told me: “After giving it a great deal of thought, I can’t share you enthusiasm about the Bulls.”
Then he launched into a learned recitation about D Wade’s banged-up knees.
I’d tell you more. Except our conversation was interrupted by John Denver’s Thank God I’m a Country Boy.
I’m telling you–those doctors planted a pretty potent piece of titanium in Milo’s skull.
Don’t worry. Come tomorrow, we’ll pick it up where we left off.
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