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.…”


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



















All photos © Jon Randolph 2006


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Benny Jay: On The Case

August 30th, 2018

My name is Benny Jay and I am a private eye…

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in downtown Los Angeles, listening to my older daughter gripe about her missing driver’s license.

Says she’s going to have to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new license. Says the DMV is closed — computers are down. So she’s shit out of luck.

I light up an imaginary cigarette and blow out some imaginary smoke.

“I think you should forget about the DMV and concentrate on finding your license,” I say.

“I’ve looked everywhere…”



I take another toke of my imaginary cigarette. “Where do you usually keep your license?” I ask.

“In my wallet…”

“Can I see your wallet.”


“I dunno — curious…”

“It’s not there…”

“Indulge me,” I say as I extinguish my imaginary cigarette that I lit only a few seconds ago.


When I’m on a case, I look a little like Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe…



You’d be surprise how many imaginary cigarettes a private eye goes through in the course of an investigation.

I rifle through her wallet. Take out all the credit cards.

“Definitely not here,” I say.

“Told you,” she says.

“When was the last time you saw it?” I ask.

“I don’t know…”


“What good will this do?”

“Indulge me,” I say, lighting up another imaginary cigarette.

“Okay, well — I think it was in the airport…”

“In the airport?”

“Yes, when I was coming here…”

“Coming from where?”


“Ah — Chicago. So, let me guess — you were at the security gate, right?”


Or Denzel as Easy Rawlins…




“And you had to show the TSA agent your drivers license with your boarding pass.”


“But it was crowded and you were in a hurry cause there were a lot of people behind you.”


“Ordinarily you would have stuck your license back into your wallet, right?”


“But because of the crowd of people you probably just jammed it somewhere else — right?”


“So your license is probably in some pocket…”


“Was it cold?”

“Yes — freezing.”

“So you were wearing a winter jacket?”


I light up another imaginary cigarette.

“Using the powers of deductive reasoning, I predict your license is in the pocket of your winter coat.”


“And where’s your winter coat?”

“In the trunk of my car…”

She dashes to the car. Throws open the trunk. Pulls out her jacket. Rifles through the pocket. And…

“Yay! Whee!!”

Pay dirt, baby.

“You’re a genius!”

What can I say? Just another day in life of Benny Jay — private eye!

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Randolph Street: At Dusk

August 29th, 2018


These pictures were taken last week on Lac Seul, north of Sioux Lookout, Ontario.






All photos © Jon Randolph

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Letter From Milo: 101

August 27th, 2018
I went to a memorial service this past Tuesday for a dear friend who passed away at the biblical age of 101. His name was Morris “Morrie” Rosengard and he was the oldest man I ever knew.


How in the hell does someone live to be 101? I’ve read articles and seen news stories about people who have lived for more than a century and when asked about the secrets to their longevity they always say something like, Never had a drink in my life. Don’t smoke. Went to bed early. Didn’t eat red meat. Went to church twice a day.


That wasn’t Morrie, not even close. Morrie liked to drink, smoke cigars, and eat red meat. For all I know he had impure thoughts, too. His favorite vice, however, was gambling – cards, horses, sports, casino games – he loved them all. That’s how I met him, at a poker game, more than 30 years ago. His nephew, Bruce Diksas, was hosting the game. Bruce had been telling me stories about Morrie for years. I had expected to meet a colorful character and I was not disappointed.


Morrie was a pharmacist by trade. For years he had a drugstore in Bridgeport. Rumor had it that as well as filling prescriptions, Morrie ran a 24-hour, high stakes poker game out of the back room of his store. That may or may not be true, but it was true to his character.


Morrie was a wonderful man, but he was no angel. Some of the people he associated with were not candidates for sainthood either. He was friendly with people whose names you’d regularly see in the newspapers, and I’m not talking about the society pages. He knew “connected” people, bona fide members of the Chicago Outfit, guys who made their livings the hard way and often took long vacations at government expense.


Once, at a wedding, a short, stocky man came up to Morrie and chatted with him respectfully for a few minutes. When the man left, Morrie leaned over to Bruce and whispered, “That’s the meanest man I ever met in my life.” Coming from Morrie, who had rubbed shoulders with some of the toughest, most brutal men in Chicago, that was high praise indeed.


As a matter of fact, in the 1960s, Morrie had some legal problems of his own. But they were just bumps in the road. He took them in stride, just like everything else in his life. Not much fazed Morrie.


I was in my 20s when I met Morrie and he was already close to 80. He was born in 1908, the last year the Cubs won the World Series. He lived through World War I. He saw Ty Cobb play baseball. He roared through the Roaring 20s and survived the Great Depression. He served his country honorably in World War II. The US Army was in dire need of pharmacists, men trained and experienced in the phamacological arts. When I asked Morrie what he did during the war, he replied, “I passed out rubbers at Pizmo Beach, California.”


Morrie lived through VE Day and VJ Day. He lived through the Korean War, the War in Vietnam and the wars of George Bush. He was born when Teddy Roosevelt was president and lived long enough to see Barack Obama inaugurated. He was around when horses were the main means of transportation and when Neil Armstrong took a stroll on the moon. He had, literally, seen it all.



I made it a point to call Morrie on his birthdays. I had a nice chat with him on his 100th birthday. When I called him on his 101st, his wife sadly informed me that Morrie was in the hospital. He had fallen down the day before and broken both of his legs. When I asked how he was doing, she said, “He knows what he’s up against.”


Morrie was a gambler, someone who knew the odds and understood probabilities. He knew what was coming. But even the most cold-blooded, experienced gambler sometimes relies on luck. Maybe, just maybe, he might spike an ace on the river. Unfortunately, Morrie’s long run of good luck had finally run out. There was no miracle ace.


I was honored when Morrie’s family asked me to make some comments at his memorial. Here is a transcript of my remarks.


I guess everybody here knows that Morrie enjoyed a friendly game of cards on occasion. I also understand he was very fond of horses, although I don’t know for a fact that he ever sat on a horse. I met Morrie more than 30 years ago at a poker game. He was introduced to me by his nephew, Bruce Diksas, who was hosting the game.


Bruce told me a lot about Morrie over the years. I felt like I knew him before I ever met him. When I did finally meet Morrie, I was impressed. He was smart, friendly, a good conversationalist, and a real gentleman. I’ve considered him a friend ever since.


I didn’t see Morrie as often as I liked. Usually it was just a few times a year, at card games, the race track or small gatherings. But every time I ran into him, he brought a smile to my face. Some people are like that, they just have a natural magnetism that draws people to them.


Anyway, I want to get back to our friendly games of cards. Despite being more than twice as old as most of the players, Morrie was usually the first to arrive and the last to leave. And when he left, he usually left with more money than he came with. I should know, a lot of that money was mine.


Now, some people will say that Morrie lived a good life, a long life, an interesting life. I agree. He had a good run. But as far as I’m concerned he left us too early, because now I’ll never be able to win my money back.


I’d give almost anything to sit down at a card table with Morrie again, and watch him sip his scotch, smoke his cigars, laugh at a good story, or tell one himself. He was wonderful company and I’ll miss him dearly. It was an honor and a pleasure to know him. Rest in peace, old friend, you deserve it.
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Benny Jay: Very Scared

August 24th, 2018

I’m writing this at four in the morning.

I’m up at four cause I can’t sleep.

I can’t sleep cause I just saw The Gift, which may be the scariest movie I’ve seen since Candyman.

I tend to stay away from scary movies on account of the fact that I’m a scaredy cat, who doesn’t like to be up at four o’clock in the morning.

In The Gift, Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall play Simon and Robyn, a happily married pair of yuppies, who move into this spacious house in the hills of Los Angeles.

Then they started getting visits from Gordo, this creepy dude who went to high school with Simon.

I don’t want to give too much away, but some really weird shit starts to happen after Gordo shows up.

Like the dog temporarily disappears.

It’s a big, lovable St. Bernard called Mr. Bojangles. As in the song.

The scene where Mr. Bojangles returns gave me a jolt that caused me to jump out of my seat and grab my wife’s arm.

I did a lot of that during the movie. Especially in the shower scene.

Oh, man, everyone in the audience jumped out of their seats with that scene. Though, as far as I could tell, only I grabbed my wife’s arm.

thegiftmovieposterJust looking at the poster gives me the creeps…


After Mr. Bojangles returns, Robyn looks him in the eyes and says, “Where have you been?”

And Mr. Bojangles keeps looking at her with his big, round, horror-filled eyes, like he can’t answer her question cause what he saw was too evil to describe.

As opposed to he can’t answer her question cause dogs can’t talk.

There’s this other scene where Robyn’s walking down the corridor of her house at night. And it’s a really long corridor and a very dark night. And I’m like–don’t walk down that corridor, Robyn!

But she doesn’t listen to me.

They never do.

I had a similar experience the other night, by the way.

It was after midnight and I was reading The Poet, the Michael Connelly novel about a serial killer who prowls on homicide detectives.

You’ve got to be a really badass serial killer to go after homicide detectives.

I had to go to the basement to switch the laundry.

As I started down the long, winding stairs, I thought…

Don’t do it, Benny. Don’t descend into the darkness.

Needless to say, I emerged in one piece.

What happens to the characters in The Gift, I won’t tell you.

See it yourself.

Good luck sleeping.

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Randolph Street: Texas Town

August 22nd, 2018


Highland Street–Marfa, TX



US 90–Marfa, TX



Prada Store US 90–Marfa, TX



Roadside Sculpture–US 90, Marfa TX



Rest Stop I-10–Sierra Blanca, TX



Hi-Way Cafe US 90–Valentine TX


All Photos © Jon Randolph 2013



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