Benny Jay: Phonegate

September 27th, 2018

I’m lying in bed, reading Stephen King when my cell phone rings….

It’s a strange number.

“Hello,” I say.

“Dad?”

My older daughter.

“Who’s phone is this?” I ask.

“Gina’s.”

Gina being a friend.

“Why are you calling on Gina’s phone?”

“Let me talk to mom.”

Not really an answer to my question, so I try a different approach.

“I won’t give the phone to mom unless you tell me why you’re calling on Gina’s phone.”

Brilliant move on my part. She sighs deeply, then says: “My phone battery’s dead.”

Oh, big surprise.

Her cell phone battery’s frequently dead cause she doesn’t charge it. And she doesn’t charge it because a.) she forgets, or b.) she can’t find her phone charger.

As a result, she’s constantly calling me from a friend’s phone. Like Gina’s. Or Anika’s. Or Nora’s. Or Anna’s. Or this stranger she met on a bus.

I was reading The Green Mile, when the call came in….

 

By the way, my wife’s not much better in the phone-charging department largely because she heard that charging a phone’s actually bad for the phone.

Which is sort of counter intuitive, if you think about it.

She got this theory from a beauty-parlor receptionist named Yolanda.

Not sure what qualified Yolanda as an expert on cell-phone technology — other than she talked on her cell phone a lot. But my wife treats her cell-phone theory as though Yolanda were the second coming of Steve Jobs.

Which invariably leads to a variation on the following exchange….

Me: “Charge your phone!”

My wife: “Not yet.”

Me: “Yolanda knows nothing about cell phone batteries.”

My wife: “Leave me alone — I’m reading.”

My wife listens to Yolanda as if she’s Steve Jobs….

 

Hold it, another cell phone call coming in from a strange phone number….

“Hello,” I say.

“Dad?”

It’s my younger daughter.

“Let me guess — your cell-phone battery’s dead?”

“No, I lost my phone,” she says.

Uh-oh — this is even worse than a dead battery.

“How did you lose it?”

A long complicated explanation ensues. Something about the phone disappearing after a wild party. I’m pretty sure alcohol was involved.

“Let me talk to mom,” she says.

“How come you guys always call me to ask for mom?”

“Cause she never answers her cell phone.”

“That’s cause her batteries are dead.”

“Just let me talk to mom….”

So….

I roll out of bed, walk downstairs, and give my wife my phone, so she can talk to our daughter, thus running down my batteries.

Is there no justice in this world!

On the way back to bed, I decide to get a weather update on my wife’s iPad cause — because it’s a hot day and I have nothing else to do.

But….

My wife’s iPad’s battery’s dead.

“Where’s the battery charger for the iPad?” I yell to my wife.

“I’m on the phone,” she yells back.

“Actually, it’s my phone that you’re on.”

“What?” she yells back.

“Where’s the battery charger for the iPad?”

“I don’t know….”

Oh, well, At least, it isn’t lost.

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Letter From Milo: Agents

September 25th, 2018
I haven’t been sleeping well lately. I’ve got a lot of things on my mind – the nation’s economy, my economy, the Bulls playoff chances, the White Sox playoff chances, my dog’s health, the undeniable fact that I’m not the #2 pencil I used to be – just to mention a few things. But the one thing that is driving me crazy, the thing that starts the snakes squirming in my head, is trying to find a literary agent.

 

I’ve written two books in the past couple of years and am in the process of writing a third. The first one, a poker-themed novel titled “Schoolboy,” I had to self-publish as an ebook because I could not find an agent to represent it. It did very well as an ebook, lingering at the top of the best seller list for more than a year. The second book is now being considered by two different agents, one who wants to give it “further consideration” and another who says it’s interesting and will get back to me soon.

 

Athough this may sound like a promising situation, it’s basically the same shit I heard about the first book, so I don’t have great hopes that either one of them will take me on as a client.

 

The problem with trying to publish a book is that most publishers will not look at a manuscript unless it is represented by an agent. Go to the web sites of the major publishers and right there on their home pages they state, “We do not consider unagented manuscripts.” In other words, no agent, no publisher.

 

I can understand this on an intellectual level. Publishers are deluged by manuscripts. They need some sort of screening process to weed out the bullshit from the even worse bullshit. So they use agents to do their triage work. The thinking is that if legitimate agents, who work strictly on commissions, are willing to put in their precious time trying to sell a manuscript, then there must be some value in it. After all, why would an agent waste time on something unsalable.

 

Despite the fact that I hate leaving my fate in someone else’s hands, I had no choice but to play by their rules, So, when I finished my first book, I spent a long time sweating over a query letter and began sending it out to agents. In due time I began receiving replies, both email and postal. I had a few good responses, agents who wanted to see the first few chapters or a synopsis. The majority of responses, however, were flat-out rejections.

 

I haven’t been shot down so much since I was a single guy trying to pick up chicks in bars.

 

Initially, I took the rejections in good humor. I took consolation in the fact that even the greatest writers suffered their share of rejections. After a while, though, I started getting pissed off.

 

It wasn’t the rejections that were getting to me, it was the way I was being turned down. Some agents were clearly sympathetic to my plight, writing personal notes expressing their sincere regret that due to their heavy consumption of martinis, their long weekends in the Hamptons and their incredibly convoluted sex lives, they simply didn’t have time to read my manuscript. That sort of rejection I could understand.

 

The agents that got my goat were the ones that waited months to respond and then replied with an automated response, like this one:

 

Dear Author:

 

Please forgive the impersonal nature of this rejection. Due to the overwhelming number of manuscripts we receive, we are simply not able to reject each author personally. This is in no way a reflection on the quality of your work. We wish you the best of luck in the future.

 

I immediately replied:

 

Dear Agent:

 

Please forgive the impersonal nature of this reply to your rejection. Due to the overwhelming number of rejections I receive, it is impossible to personally reply to each rejection. This is in no way a reflection on the quality of your rejection. I wish you continued success in rejecting authors in the future.
Needless to say, I did not hear from that agent again.

 

And then there was this snide reply to my query letter from some arrogant bastard of an agent:

 

Sorry, I never consider first novels. But I will say that your query letter is one of the best I’ve seen.

 

I stewed a while, then replied:

 

You cocksucker, if you like the query letter so much, why don’t you try selling it and picking up an easy 15 percent on that.
Needless to say, I never heard from that agent again, either.

 

Author’s Note: I don’t want to give the impression that all my dealings with agents have been problematic. There have been some very kind and helpful ones, who have offered advice, referrals, and digital pats on the back. Among the good ones are Jim Fitzgerald, Steve Gregory, Henry Morrison, Laura Strachan, Jeff Kleinman and Bob Mecoy. If any of you writers out there fall into their hands, you should consider yourselves fortunate.
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Benny Jay: Oops

September 20th, 2018

I’m sitting in my car, waiting for my wife to get off from work, when Layla comes on the radio.

Immediately, I start playing air guitar.

I can’t help myself. It’s like I’m programmed. As soon as I hear that hard-charging opening guitar blast by Eric Clapton and Duane Allman, man, I just gotta join in.

And I know the song so well–having heard it at least 10,000 times in my life–that I got it down lick for fucking lick.

Pretty soon, I’m singing along: “Layla, got me on my knees, Layla…”

I’m really going to town, too, as, out of the corner of my eye, I see this dude on the sidewalks, who seems to be heading my way.

I pay him no mind cause–it’s like, Eric & Duane really need my help on this song.

But then–the dude enters my car!

I kid you not. He opens the back door and sits behind the passenger’s seat, like he knows me.

That’s right–there’s this strange man sitting in the back of my car!

ericclaptonduaneallmanI was playing along with Eric & Duane…

 

It hits me on two levels. One, who the fuck is this strange dude sitting in the back of my car? And, two–uh-oh, whoever he is, he just caught me playing air guitar to Layla, which is pretty embarrassing.

I try to play it off, like I’m not really playing air guitar so much as stretching my arms, as I turn down the radio.

“Meyer?” he says.

“Meyer?” I ask.

“You’re not Meyer?”

“No.”

“You’re not a Lyft driver?

“No.”

I don’t know who’s more embarrassed–he, for getting in the wrong car. Or me, for getting caught playing air guitar.

“Oh, my god, I thought you were my Lyft driver,” he says.

“No problem…”

“This is the exact same kind of car he’s driving…”

“Hey, man, it all good…”

He gets out and walks away in a hurry, like he wants to immediately put the whole thing behind him.

I look around. The sidewalk’s empty–no one’s coming.

What the heck? I crank up the radio volume and go back to playing air guitar–lick for fucking lick.

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Randolph Street: Daley Town

September 12th, 2018

Mayor Richard J. Daley

Richard J. Daley–Citywide Rally at the Bismark Hotel

Waiting for the Mayor–Northside Rally at the Aragon Ballroom

Richard J. Daley–Roseland Neighborhood Luncheon

Machine Men–Bismark Hotel

Richard J. Daley–Aragon Ballroom

Leaving the Citywide Rally–Bismark Hotel

All Photos © Jon Randolph

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Letter From Milo: Tommy Boy

September 10th, 2018
Every year toward the end of summer, I raise a glass and toast the memory of Tommy Granger. It was 367 years ago that Tommy became one of the first people executed in the American Colonies. He was also the first juvenile to suffer capital punishment. Tommy Granger was just 17-years-old when the Pilgrim Fathers of the Plymouth Colony sent him to the gallows.

 

Now, you might wonder why anyone would execute a teenager. Was Tommy a murderer? Was he America’s first serial killer? Did he commit treason? Was he a kidnapper, a thief, an arsonist?

 

No. Poor Tommy Granger was hanged because he got caught fucking a sheep.

 

I contend that Tommy’s execution was an egregious miscarriage of justice. You see, I am of the unshakeable opinion that it was not Tommy’s fault. He simply could not help himself.

 

The instinct to copulate, the urge to enjoy life’s most basic pleasure, won’t be denied. Men and women will risk everything – their reputations, their fortunes, even their lives – in pursuit of the sexual act. In certain nations and cultures where God‘s name is used to condemn the very instinct that God has given us, adulterers are routinely sent to the stoning field. Despite the risk of gruesome death and public humiliation, there is never a shortage of adulterers. I suspect they’ll run out of stones before they run out of fornicators.

 

In the absence of members of the opposite sex, heterosexual men will turn to other men and women will seek pleasure with their own kind. Other humans aren’t even necessary to satisfy the sex drive. Farm boys, like poor Tommy Granger, have been known to dally with their livestock and shepherds sometimes grow overly fond of their flocks.

 

Warm flesh isn’t even a requirement to achieve sexual release. Inanimate objects – plastic, wooden, natural and manmade, electrified and manually operated – have all been used to simulate the sex act. If there is any possibility for sexual pleasure, no matter how remote or inconceivable, no matter how perverse or disgusting, you can be sure that someone has tried it.

 

The uncontrollable urge to copulate is not restricted to the young. Older folks have their needs, too, although certain delicate problems arise when the urge strikes someone of advanced years. As the great writer, Jim Harrison, once wrote, “The older a man gets the more weird things he has to do to get his dick hard.” That’s why Viagra is one of the most prescribed medications in this country. That’s why ads for erectile disfunction remedies and male enhancement nostrums are all over the TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines. When it comes time for older men to act on their fevered fantasies, they want to be able to rise to the occasion.

 

The lower orders are not exempt from the most basic of instincts. Animals will fight to the death for the privilege of mating. Once in rut, some animals will copulate themselves into states of total exhaustion, becoming easy prey for opportunistic predators. Certain insects live for just a few frenzied days, long enough to mate, if they’re lucky, and create more single-minded insects. Salmon make epic journeys, swimming across thousand of miles of ocean to reach their spawning grounds, the only places on earth they can breed – and then they die.

 

So, this September, join me in raising a glass to the memory of Tommy Granger, a martyr to the cause of uncontrollable lust. He was a true pioneer in his field, a man who, by all rights, should be as well known as the Marquis de Sade, Caligula and the Mitchell Brothers.

 

And when you toss down that drink in Tommy’s memory, say to yourselves, as I always do, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
Note from the author
If you agree that a terrible injustice was done to Tommy Granger, please join me in a letter writing campaign to our Senators and Congressmen. It’s high time that Tommy Granger’s good name and reputation are restored.
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Benny Jay: Some Of My Best Friends…

September 6th, 2018

In honor of Mayor Rahm throwing in the towel the other day and declaring he’s not running for re-election, I figured we’d run this piece from his Glory Days…

 

I’m sitting at my desk reading the newspaper when the phone rings and Frankie — an old pal — comes on the line singing, “Shabbat shalom, Shabbat shalom….”

He’s calling from Guam, Hawaii or wherever the hell he’s living these days.

“Shabbat Shalom, hey, Shabbat Shalom — hey….”

That’s a Jewish song — the lyrics mean peaceful Sabbath.

“Shabbat, Shabbat, Shabbat, Shabbat Shalom….”

Frankie’s not Jewish. He’s Catholic. But he hung out with a bunch of Jewish kids when he was a kid so he knows a little Hebrew. He just might be the most Jewish non-Jew I know.

He stops singing Shabbat Shalom and bursts into Hava Nagila.

That’s another Jewish song – but I figure everybody knows that.

Everyone wants to be my friend since Rahm got elected….

I’ve been getting a lot of calls like this since Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor of Chicago.

You see, Rahm’s Jewish and I’m Jewish – so it’s like we have this connection. Or apparently, that’s how a lot of non-Jews see it.

As a matter of fact, I’m getting calls from guys looking for city jobs.

Why, just a few minutes ago I got a call from another buddy we’ll call Frank. As in Coconate.

“Hey, Benny,” he says. “Hook me up with your guy….”

“Frank, I don’t know the guy….”

“Tell him my favorite guy in the Rat Pack was Joey Bishop…..”

“Frank — I didn’t even vote for him….”

“No, better yet – tell him that the most talented guy in the Rat Pack was Sammy Davis Jr. Tell him – fuck Frank Sinatra.…”

Sigh.

Frank Coconate — what a good looking guy….

I’m starting to think there’s a common misconception out there that every Jew knows every other Jew.

Not true. At best I know a couple hundred – tops.

In fact, I hardly knew any Jews until I was ten and my family moved to Evanston. Before that we lived in Rhode Island.

Back then, I thought everyone in the world was Italian — except, you know, my family.

One time years ago this other friend – who meant no harm, I’m sure – was asking me about Jewish conspiracies.

“It’s true,” I said. “There’s this group of us who meet once a week at Mort’s.”

Mort’s used to be a delicatessen in downtown Chicago. It went out of business years ago.

“Really!” she said.

Holy shit – she believed me. Like I was letting her in on this secret.

“No, no,” I said. “It’s just a joke.”

“Oh,” she said, like she wasn’t sure.

For the record, there’s no secret society that met at Mort’s.

They meet at Manny’s deli.

Just kidding, guys. It’s a joke. Oh, God, wait `til the nutcases on the Internet get a hold of that one….

Anyway, the deal with Rahm and me is this – I don’t know him. Okay, I met him once ten years ago. But it was a brief meeting and he doesn’t even remember what I look like.

I know this because a few years ago I saw Rahm jogging on the sidewalk.

True story. As opposed to that secret society thing, which is just a joke, people. Okay? As in — j-o-k-e…..

I don’t know what got into me, but I called out: “Hey, congressman – what up!”

He was a congressman in those days.

He flashed me this nasty look as if to say, who the fuck are you?

No recognition or nothing.

In contrast, Rod Blagojevich’s always amiable when I see him jogging through the neighborhood.

Why, I just saw him a few months ago.

“Hey, governor,” I hollered, even though he’s no longer governor. “What up!”

He waved and said, “how ya’ doin’, pal….”

See, and he’s not even Jewish.

Hold on – the phone’s ringing.

It’s my old friend Ed, calling from Ohio, or wherever the hell he’s living these days.

“Hey, man,” he says. “Hava Nagila, Hava Nagila….”

Oh, brother…..

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Randolph Street: Up On The Roof

September 5th, 2018

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All photos © Jon Randolph 2006

jonrandolph.com

 

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