Benny Jay: Take Notes

October 25th, 2018

In the early morning, I race downtown for an important business meeting with Robin & Maya–two of my favorite Millennials.

As with most meetings, we spend about 30 minutes chatting about this and that before we decide to get down to business.

And so we pull out our tablets for note taking. Only–get this…

Robin’s using a legal-sized notebook and Maya’s got this cute little journal, like the kind I’ve used for my diaries since high school.

That’s right. These two Uber-loving, read-shit-on-their phones, born-in-the-age-of Reagan Millennials are taking notes by pen on paper. I couldn’t be more surprised if they rode up to the restaurant on a horse.

“Wait,” I say. Thus delaying the start of our business meeting for a few more minutes.

“Notebooks?” I say.

“What about them?” they respond.

“Oh, how analog of you,” I say.

Immediately, they launch into disclaimers.

“Normally, I use my laptop,” says Robin.

“Yeah, and normally, I take notes on my Uber App,” says Maya.

“For real?” I ask.

“Just joking,” she says.


Robin & Maya go analog…


I take the opportunity to tell Robin & Maya about this article I read in The New York Times (so it must be true)about analog making a comeback–what with Millennials listening to vinyl, reading real books, snapping pictures with Polaroids, etc.

“It was a review of a new book, actually,” I say.

“Oh, yes, I heard about this,” says Robin.

“I think it’s called The Revenge of Analog–something like that,” I say.

“I was just talking about this with someone…”

“Everything old is now new–like writing in a notebook…”

“We talked about this,” says Robin.

“We did?” I ask.

“No, wait–I may have talked about it with Mike. Never mind.”

Mike’s another Boomer. Guess I’m not the only old timer with this stuff on my mind.

Later on the train coming home, I break out my Sun-Times to read the latest horror stories about my beloved Bulls.

That’s when I notice–I’m the only rider reading an actual newspaper. All the others have their eyes glued to their phones.

Obviously, they missed the memo about analog being back.

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Benny Jay: Breathy Talk

October 18th, 2018

Heading south to Greektown, when my youngest daughter breaks the news….

“You have bad breath,” she tells me.

Not sure what prompted her to drop the bombshell at this particular time. No matter, I must deal with it.

“Is this true?” I ask my wife.

“Not always,” she says.

Well, that’s hardly reassuring.

“Did you plan this?” I ask.

“Huh?” asks my daughter.

“Is this an intervention?”


“Oh, my God — you planned to have a family intervention to tell me I have bad breath.”

“We did not plan a family intervention,” says my wife.

“Don’t be defensive,” says my daughter.

“I’m not defensive,” I say.

“Yes, you are,” says my daughter.

“No, I’m not.”

“Just bring a mint with you….”

“Yeah, you used to carry mints with you,” says my wife. “Why did you stop doing that?”

Then they worry that they’ve gone too far. So they start telling me what a great guy I am. As in — great guy, despite the bad breath.

“Do I have bad breath all the time?” I ask.

“No, just once in awhile,” says my daughter.

I have this flash. Have I had bad breath in public places where it could come back to haunt me?

“When was the last time I had bad breath?” I ask.

“I can’t remember,” says my wife.

“Yes, you can,” I say.

“Okay — when we saw Flight.”

That’s the movie in which Denzel Washington plays this super cool airplane pilot who has lots of problems — excessive drinking, drug taking, womanizing — but not bad breath.

“But you didn’t tell me,” I say.

“I don’t always tell you.”

“You mean — you let me walk around with bad breath!”

It hits me that I’ve probably had bad breath while standing in front of people I was trying to impress only they didn’t tell me cause it wasn’t the politically correct thing to do.

I recall sitting next to a friend — Michelle — in a gym and she handed me a Tic Tac that she happened to have in her pocket. Obviously, she was sending me a subtle message. How could I not see it at the time?

Fast forward several hours….

I’m lying on the couch reading a book. The dog comes by. Sniffs in my general direction and then lays down besides me.

Suddenly, I’m aware of a horrendous odor. I check my shoes to see if I stepped in shit.

Nope. It’s the dog.

“Damn, Nicky,” I say. “You need a Tic Tac.”

It’s reassuring to know that my breath is not as bad as the dog’s.

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Benny Jay: Greek B-ball

October 11th, 2018

I’m on the phone talking politics with the great Dan Mihalopoulos, ace political reporter for WBEZ.

But somehow the topic turns to basketball, as it usually does with me.

And Dan says…

“Greece versus Argentina in the World Cup is about to start.”

To which I say…

“For ten trivia points, what’s the only country to beat a USA team that was coached by Mike Krzyzewski?”

And to my utter shock, Dan says…

“Greece. 2006 World Cup.”

Wow! You never know who’s a secret b-ball junkie.

“That’s the team with Vassilis Spanoulis,” says Dan.

Double wow! Cause, let’s face it, Vassilis Spanoulis, is not what you would call a household name.

Unwilling to let Dan have the last word on great Greek b-ballers, I say…

“Let’s not forget the big man — Sofoklis Schortsianitis.


Sofoklis was the big man in the middle on that great 2006 Greek team…


By the way, I might mention that Dan’s of Greek extraction. So he has something of an excuse for knowing so much about Greek basketball.

In the contrast, the only thing Greek about me is that I love Greek cooking. So, once again, there’s no excuse for the useless stuff I’ve crammed into my brain.

Anyway, one thing leads to another and we wind up asking that timeless question: Who’s the greatest Greek basketball player of all time?

“Kosta Koufos,” says Dan. “He used to play for the Nuggets.”

“Kurt Rambis,” I say.

“Wow — good choice,” says Dan.

Just between you and me, I only learned that Rambis was Greek after I Googled “Great Greek basketball players.”

Please don’t tell Dan.


Everyone remembers Kurt Rambis…


Then Dan says Rony Seikly.

“Actually, I believe he was born in Lebanon,” I say.

“I believe it was Cyprus,” says Dan.

So I Google Rony Seikly. And guess what?

I’m right!! God, I love when that happens.

“You owe me lunch,” I tell him.

I’m already dreaming of Taramosalata and Mediterranean Baby Octopus, even though, technically, he owes me nothing. Cause we had not officially made a bet.

From there it’s only a quick hop, skip and a jump to one of my favorite topics: Great Jewish basketball players.

A list I generally pad by including everyone and anyone who’s good, whether he’s Jewish or not. Hell, if Dan has a good jump shot, I’d put him on the list.

Anyway, I’m set to hang up, when it hits me.

“Wait — there’s that kid who plays for the Bucks.”

“Oh, yes,” says Dan. “Giannis Antetokounmpo.”

“Yeah, that’s the one. Remember that name.”

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Benny Jay: Too Old For B-ball

October 3rd, 2018

For game two of my big basketball comeback, I make a momentous decision: I’m going to buy a pair of sneakers.

To replace the beat-up old running shoes I wore the first time around.

With the new sneakers, I announce to my wife, I won’t slip so much. Slipping being the reason I suck.

I announce this to my wife cause there’s no one else to announce it to.

To which she says: “Oh, that’s nice.”

Which is what she generally says when our conversation drifts to anything having anything to do with sports.

I go to the shoe store. Tell the lady: “I need a pair of basketball sneakers.”

And she says: “Look at you — Michael Jordan.”

I’m not in the least bit offended by her obvious sarcasm.

Bad sneakers and a pina colada, my friend….


I buy a pair called And One. Pull the laces really tight. They won’t budge. Pull them harder.

Realize I stretched something out of whack in my forearm. Game two hasn’t even started and already I’m injured.

This basketball thing’s harder than it looks.

Get to the gym, thinking we’re going to have eight players. Only have three. Not sure why the others don’t come. Probably cause they figure talking about basketball is more fun than actually playing it.

We had four players last time, but this time the Young One can’t come. Something to do with having dinner reservations at roughly the same time our game started.

A convenient excuse.

Point is — with just three people there’s more space to cover and I’m even more exhausted than the last time.

Norm’s the Dr. J of our game….


We play three games of 21. Or maybe four. I’m too tired to keep track. I’m sweating like a horse. Ready to drop.

Norm wins every game. Just like he won every game the last time. Now he’s getting cocky. Says he won’t let me or Cap score ten points.

We both reach the ten point mark. Don’t tell me there’s no such thing as a moral victory!

After the final game, I collapse on the floor — too exhausted to move.

Good news: My feet don’t hurt so bad, on account of the new sneakers.

Bad news: My forearm’s killing me.

“Can you believe my forearm hurts from lacing up my sneakers?” I tell Cap.

He’s too tired to say anything.

My cell phone rings. I struggle to sit up so I can answer it.

It’s a text from J.R — Cap’s brother. It says: “That’s why he’s the MVP.”

Apparently, D Rose just hit an amazing last-second shot to beat the Bucks. I collapse back on the floor.

Fast forward an hour or so….

I tell my wife: I think I got carpal tunnel syndrome from lacing up my sneakers.”

Actually, I’m not sure what carpal tunnel is.

She says: “That’s nice.”

Apparently, she thinks I was talking about sports.

Then she makes me move some boxes to the basement.

I’ll bet you D. Rose doesn’t have to move boxes to the basement after he plays basketball.

It’s going to be a long season….

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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.


My older daughter.

“Who’s phone is this?” I ask.


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.


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….”


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.


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?”


“You’re not a Lyft driver?


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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