I was three days short of my 21st birthday when I came home from the Republic of South Vietnam, where I served with the 11th Infantry Brigade of the Americal Division.
After an 18-hour flight, I arrived at Fort Lewis, Washington, where I was to be discharged. I filled out paperwork, was treated to a steak dinner, measured for a new uniform, given some cash money, about $600, and a plane ticket home.
Less than 48 hours after leaving Vietnam, I was back on the streets of my hometown, Gary, Indiana. It was a cold February morning and I was on the corner of 45th and Broadway, with a duffel bag on my shoulder, a few blocks from my parents’ house, gazing at a landscape that seemed only vaguely familiar. The disconnect between where I had been two days earlier, in a Southeast Asian war zone, and where I was now, standing alone on a street in a Midwestern rust belt city, made me feel exposed and vulnerable.
I wished I had an M-16 handy and a couple of hand grenades within easy reach, just in case.
“Okay, Milo,” I said to myself, “what the fuck are you going to do now?”
Times have changed. The military does things differently these days. Now, when a combat veteran is honorably discharged from the service, he or she has access to a wide range of readjustment programs offered by the Veterans Administration.
Social and psychological services are available to help a veteran transition to civilian life. Bereavement counseling is available, as well as sexual trauma counseling. There are programs that help veterans deal with substance abuse issues. Job training and job placement programs are offered. And every VA hospital and Vet Center offers treatment for PTSD.
Unfortunately, none of these programs were available to the recently discharged Vietnam vet – not a single fucking one. We had to go it alone.
I knew, when I got home from Vietnam, that there was something wrong with me, but I couldn’t figure out the problem. The term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder hadn’t been coined yet. If I had known about PTSD I might have tried to get some help, although I’m self-contained by nature and probably wouldn’t have asked for help even if I knew I needed it.
I wasn’t sleeping well and was eating poorly. I avoided my old high school friends, who seemed like childish strangers to me. Certain sights, sounds and odors disturbed me. I was haunted by violent dreams. I saw ghosts.
I spent most of my time in a car, driving aimlessly, listening to the radio and smoking lots of marijuana. Sometimes I’d pick up a six-pack or a pint of whiskey and drive out to the beach, where I’d find an isolated spot near the shore of Lake Michigan, park the car, and watch the waves roll in and out for hours at a time. The sound of waves lapping at the shoreline soothed me and sometimes I would fall asleep, lulled by the tides.
After being home for a few months, the time had come for me to make a decision. I could either get a job in one of the local factories or do something else. I opted for something else. I decided to take advantage of the GI Bill and go to college for a while, just to clear my head. Maybe I would get a new perspective on things. Maybe my demons wouldn’t follow me to southern Indiana. Maybe I could outrun the past.
It took me years to learn that I couldn’t outrun the past, but somehow I managed to learn to live with it. A lot of my old comrades in arms weren’t as fortunate.
According to the New York Times, there were 1.7 suicides among Vietnam vets for every 1.0 suicide by non-Vietnam vets in the first five years after discharge from the military.
I’m saddened by those numbers, but not surprised.
It was a brutal war. For many, it was a brutal homecoming, too.
And there was nowhere to turn for help.
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Here’s another excerpt from my unpublished novel, tentatively titled Gonorrhea Gardens:
Marlowe and Druliner decided to wait out the storm in Druliner’s hootch. It was one of the sturdiest structures on the island. It had been built in Colonel Delamare’s day, to the old martinet’s exacting standards, before the hardwood resources had been depleted. The hootch had withstood every hurricane since the Korean War.
The storm started slowly, with a steady rain and gusting, but not overpowering winds. It seemed more like a heavy monsoon storm rather than a developing hurricane. There was a chance, just a slight chance, Marlowe hoped, that the island might get off easy. Maybe the hurricane wouldn’t hit the island directly. Maybe it would veer off and spend its force on the empty ocean.
Marlowe and Druliner were crackling with nervous energy. Druliner busied himself securing his possessions. He was something of a packrat, his hootch crowded with odds and ends, most of them worthless. There were several kerosene lamps, but no kerosene, picks and shovels, coils of frayed rope, a pile of tattered clothing, first aid kits, empty sand bags, a box containing dozens of books of matches scrounged from C-ration meals, cans of fruit from the same source, a supply of loose tobacco and rolling papers and several rolls of mosquito netting. In one corner was a small pile of driftwood and a metal tub filled with peeled and chopped taro roots that Druliner planned to use to replenish his supply of Island Lemonade. While he busied himself with his goods, he sipped occasionally from his canteen.
“Better go easy on that stuff,” Marlowe cautioned.
Marlowe was anxious and more than a little frightened, but didn’t want to show it. He craved some sort of physical release, something to drain the tension from his body. He wanted to scream out loud or drop to the ground and do pushups until his arms gave out, but feared that Druliner would think he was foolish or, even worse, afraid. So, he just stood in the doorway, smoking, watching the rains sweep the island, and waiting.
A few minutes later, while rummaging through the pile of discarded clothing for something to wear to ward off the chill, Marlowe heard a thunderclap that was so loud it left his ears ringing and raised the hair on the back of his neck. It was immediately followed by a blast of wind that shook the old hootch to its sandbagged foundation. Marlowe and Druliner looked at each other, their eyes wide with fright, and then both men rushed to the doorway.
The storm had shifted gears. The winds, the rain, the sheer violence of the deluge had reached a level they had never experienced. And it happened in a matter of seconds.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” Druliner said, slowly, awed by what he was seeing.
Marlowe gasped in surprise. The rain, as dense as a living thing, was falling sideways, almost perfectly horizontal, pushed by howling, swirling, unrelenting winds that seemed powerful enough to knock over brick buildings. The wind-driven torrent was so heavy that visibility was less than 10 feet in any direction. The only breaks in the dark wall of rain were jagged bolts of lightning that cut through the storm like tracer rounds on a nighttime battlefield. When the wind suddenly changed direction, pushing a sheet of cold rain into the doorway where the two men were standing, it sent them reeling, wet and cold and, back into the farthest corner of the hootch.
“This is it, man, the big kahuna,” Druliner sputtered.
There was another booming thunderclap, louder than the previous one. A moment later, a blast of wind hit the hootch that shook the old structure to its foundation. Then, to their horror, water starting pouring in through the doorway.
At that moment with cold, muddy water swirling at their feet and the hootch threatening to come down on their heads, the two men knew they had to leave.
“Can’t stay here!” Marlowe shouted, trying to make himself heard over the
hurricane’s deafening noise.
“I know!” Druliner shouted back.
“Drown like rats if we stay.”
“Drown out there just as easy.”
“At least the roof won’t cave in on us.”
“The supply shed.”
The two men considered their prospects. The supply shed was several hundred yards away, and both knew it would be a hellish, grueling trek. They had no choice and they both knew it. They had to leave and they had to do it quickly. The hootch was under constant assault from the unrelenting wind. Frigid water pooled ankle deep on the floor and more was pouring in. Marlowe was afraid the structure would give way at any moment. Yet, neither wanted to make the first move,
“Got to hurry!”
“Give me a minute!” Druliner replied, then started filling canteens with Island Lemonade. He filled one and tossed it to Marlowe, who slipped it into a side pocket of his trousers. Each man grabbed a shovel, too. The heavy spades might come in handy in an emergency. The two men stood in the doorway for a few moments, gathering their courage. Druliner was bouncing on the balls of his feet like a boxer waiting for the bell. Marlowe was taking deep breaths, hyperventilating. Druliner took one last bounce, Marlowe took one last deep breath, then the two men charged through the doorway and into the maelstrom.
Within seconds of leaving the hootch, Marlowe and Druliner were drenched by cold, lashing rain that instantly leeched the warmth from their bodies. The shock of the rain was accompanied by the brutal hammer blows of the howling, hurricane winds. The power of the storm was staggering. Druliner was knocked off of his feet and Marlowe would have fallen, too, had he not planted the head of his shovel into the mud and used it as a support.
At that moment, tottering ankle-deep in mud, pummeled by stinging rain and swirling winds, Marlowe felt like giving up. He had never felt so miserable, so physically abused in his life. As he stood there, shivering, teeth chattering, surrendering to despair, he felt Druliner’s hand on his shoulder. His friend was shouting in his ear, but Marlowe could barely hear him.
Leaning closer and cupping his hands over his mouth, Druliner shouted again.
“Don’t be a pussy!”
Druliner had a maniacal grin on his face. Water was streaming down his face and running down his beard. He was shivering, his teeth were chattering and he seemed ready to topple over with the next gust of wind. He looked pathetic. And yet, Marlowe knew he looked as bad as Druliner, probably worse. The situation was dire, the options were extremely limited, and the outcome was certain to be disastrous. Marlowe couldn’t help but grin back.
“Who you calling a pussy?” he shouted.
Druliner pointed a finger at Marlowe. “Shoe fits, motherfucker!”
“Fuck you! We’ll see who’s a pussy! Let’s go!”
Though they knew time was essential, their progress was painfully slow. It was a struggle just to stay upright. The dirt beneath their feet had dissolved under the hurricane’s onslaught, becoming a treacherous quagmire of shifting mud and eddying pools of water. Each footfall had to be carefully considered. The cold, lashing winds sent torrents of rain directly into their faces. It was difficult to draw a dry breath and almost impossible to see through the deluge. Many of the guide ropes were down and if not for the frequent flashes of lightning that briefly illuminated the cataclysmic scene, they would have had to rely on memory to find their way. Still, they plodded on, miserable, hunched against the buffeting wind, gasping for air, slipping and sliding in the muck.
Marlowe and Druliner passed several hootches that were being badly battered, but, for the moment, were still standing. Blind Wally’s hootch, was another matter. It looked like it had taken a direct hit from an artillery shell, its walls blown outward and its roof collapsed. Blind Wally’s hootch was one of the old ones, with three or four layers of sand bags on the roof. Over the years the sand bags had hardened to the consistency of brick. When the roof collapsed, it came down like a stone wall, heavily, with deadly force. Marlowe wondered if anyone had been inside when it came down.
They passed another hootch that was down and several that seemed on the verge of collapse. Much to Druliner’s annoyance, Marlowe stopped and poked his head into every standing hootch. If it was empty, they plodded on. If there were people inside, he urged them to come to the supply shed. Most listened to reason and agreed to go, but a few, like Blind Henry, refused to leave the comfort and familiarity of their hootches.
“Are you crazy!” Blind Henry said. “I ain’t going out in that shit.”
“The storm’s going to get worse.”
“How the fuck do you know that? You a weatherman now?”
“I’ve never seen it this bad, and it just got started.”
“That don’t mean anything,” Blind Henry replied, stubbornly.
“Come on, man. The roof will come down on your head if you stay.”
“I don’t give a shit.”
When Marlowe, Druliner and their flock of sodden stragglers stumbled into the supply shed, they walked into a scene that resembled a triage station at an overtaxed field hospital. There were more than 70 men packed into a space that could barely accommodate a third of that number, and most of them were in mental or physical distress. Some were in the early stages of hypothermia. A couple were sobbing hysterically, overwhelmed by helplessness and fear. Others were in shock, panting, with glazed eyes, gaping mouths, and complexions drained of color. Some, like the Preacher and his crew, were huddled in small groups, trying to discuss the situation, shouting to make themselves heard over the roar of the wind, the pounding of the rain, and the creaking and groaning of the wooden walls. Even the crazies were behaving uncharacteristically. One had curled up in a ball by the C-ration boxes and was whimpering like a kitten. Another had blindfolded himself with rags and covered himself with cardboard in the hope that the storm wouldn’t notice him.
Many of the men had minor injuries. One had a broken arm and others had cuts, scrapes and bruises of varying degrees of severity. Blind Wesley, however, was going to die. His legs had been crushed in a roof collapse. His screams of agony added to the noise, fear and confusion.
A few minutes after Marlowe arrived, Kline, Cooney, Wozniak and Motown crowded into the shed. They were dragging Jose from LA, who was unconscious and had an ugly, bleeding gash on the side of his head. Just as they entered, a deafening clap of thunder rolled across the sky, followed by a blast of wind, the strongest yet, rattling the supply shed, causing it to rock back and forth. A collective groan came from the terrified men as they looked up fearfully at the ceiling, expecting it to collapse at any moment.
Marlowe struggled to control his fear. Like the rest of the men he felt helpless, on the verge of panic. When another powerful surge of wind shook the building, Marlowe felt the tremors echo throughout his body. He had to do something to clear his mind and keep the fear from overwhelming him.
So, he started working his way through the densely packed shed, checking on the injured men. He did it more to stay busy than with any hope of actually helping anyone. There was little anyone could do to help an injured man. There were no medical facilities on the island, very few medical supplies, and no one with medical training. Of necessity, the men had developed a few basic first aid skills – splinting simple fractures, stitching cuts, etc. – but anything more serious was simply beyond their abilities. An islander with a serious problem was doomed.
As he moved through the shed, talking to the men, trying to calm them, Marlowe felt his fear subsiding. Having something to do, setting himself a task, was a comfort. Taking action, any action, was better than doing nothing. I can get through this, Marlowe told himself. As long as I keep my head I can survive this.
Just as Marlowe was regaining his confidence, a blast of wind hit the supply shed with tremendous, sustained force. The building shuddered under the onslaught, tilting crazily, first in one direction then another, its rotting timbers creaking and groaning under the stress. Then, unbelievably, one entire wall was torn away. The ferocious winds and rain immediately entered the breach and began pummeling the men. The sodden, sand bag laden roof, without the wall’s support, sagged dangerously, its collapse seemed imminent.
The men were stunned. The shock was so great that, for a moment, nobody moved or drew a breath. Even the blind knew that something terrible had happened. The noise of the wall being blown out, the sudden torrent of cold rain, and the cruel, battering wind told them everything they needed to know.
As the reality of the situation began to sink in – there was nowhere to go, no shelter from the storm – the men began to panic. Some began screaming in terror, others fell to their knees and began to pray. One man dashed out into the storm and disappeared. The blind men, milling about like coyote-plagued sheep, were lashing out with their walking sticks, as if they could hold the raging storm at bay. The injured men, some lying on the ground, were in danger of being trampled by the terrified crowd. It was a scene of utter, mindless chaos.
Marlowe fought the panic that threatened to overwhelm him. He forced himself to breathe. He willed himself to stay calm. He knew that if he lost his head now, he would lose everything.
When he regained some control over his emotions, Marlowe glanced around, trying to gauge the situation. When he looked up at the roof, he cringed. It seemed to have sagged even more in the moments since the wall disintegrated. He guessed it wouldn’t be long before it crashed down on their heads.
Marlowe wracked his brain trying to think of a plan, but he was coming up empty. What the men needed was a miracle, something completely unexpected, like when Little Billy told the starving islanders about the taro.
At that instant, as Little Billy’s name flashed through his mind, Marlowe came to a sudden realization. He knew what had to be done. It was a desperate, foolhardy plan, truly a last resort. He didn’t even know if the men could manage it, or even want to try. Marlowe, himself, shuddered at the prospect. Still, he could see no other choice.
Marlowe huddled with Druliner, Kline, Cooney, Motown and the Preacher. He had to shout to make himself heard over the din of the storm and the chaotic clamor of the men.
“We can’t stay here!” Marlowe yelled.
“No shit!” Kline replied, scowling.
“I mean it! We have to go now!”
Underscoring Marlowe’s point, the wind shifted again, seemingly gaining in intensity, pushing sheets of rain in their faces. It was as if tubs of icy water were being dumped on their heads. The men angled their bodies away from the wind-driven rain, but there was no escaping the onslaught. It was everywhere, a bone-chilling, relentless assault on their bodies and senses.
“Where, Brother Marlowe?” the Preacher asked, wiping water from his face and beard. “Where can we go?”
“Up in the hills. There’s caves up there and huge rocks. We can wait out the storm. We can be safe.”
Kline scoffed. “That’s crazy! The hills are too far away.”
“We don’t have a choice. No place else is safe.”
There was a moment of silence as each man contemplated the rigors of a trek to the hills, under the worst possible conditions. At the same time they tried to think of an alternative to what seemed to be an impossible task. Nobody wanted to do it. Trying to get to the hills while completely exposed to the hurricane’s fury was more than any of the men could imagine. It was too daunting of a challenge. Yet, they also knew that they had no other choices.
“What about the blind guys?”
“We take them, too.”
“We’ve got injured people,” the Preacher said.
Marlowe swept his arm across the supply shed. “We take everybody!”
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When Otis appeared on my back porch, about 15 years ago, and tried to weasel his way into my happy household, he was just another lean and hungry stray cat hoping for a handout. He looked like he hadn’t eaten a decent meal in months.
Unlike most stray cats, Otis got lucky. For some unfathomable reason, my wife and daughters took a liking to him. Despite my strenuous objections, the ladies in the house decided to adopt the bastard.
In a matter of days, hundreds of my hard-earned dollars were wasted on the cat. My wife and daughters took the mangy fucker to the vet to get him checked out. They bought a cat bed and a litter box. They spent good money on toys and catnip. They even bought the bastard a fancy collar in a vain effort to pass him off as some sort of respectable house pet.
And they bought cat food, lots of cat food.
Did they go to the Critter Barn and buy a 50-pound sack of cat swill for $3.99? No! They went to Madame Fifi’s Pussy Cat Boutique and bought the most expensive shit they could find.
A few days earlier, Otis had been scrounging for food in garbage cans and dumpsters. Now he was feasting on pureed salmon, tuna pate, sliced turkey smothered in gravy, and the finest organic dried food.
Taking full advantage of his amazing reversal of fortune, Otis went on an epic eating binge. He ate constantly. When he wasn’t eating, he was begging for food.
Otis quickly figured out that I didn’t give a shit whether he ate or not. The women in my family, however, were an easy touch. All Otis had to do was meow at one of them and they’d fill his bowls with enough food to feed a dozen starving cats. It seemed like feeding the cat had become an obsession in the Samardzija household.
“Did you feed the cat?” was the first thing my wife or daughters would say when they walked in the door.
“Don’t forget to feed the cat,” was the last thing they’d say before walking out of the house.
In time, Otis began putting on weight. He must have gained five pounds in the first six months he lived with us. I figured he’d start eating normally when he realized that he’d be fed regularly. But he just got worse. The more we fed him, the more he wanted to eat. He even began supplementing his diet with the occasional mouse, bunny rabbit and songbird.
By the time a year had passed, Otis had gained even more weight. His belly dragged on the floor when he moved around. He was obese, and that had the lovely Mrs. Milo worried. “I’m taking Otis to the vet,” she said. “All that extra weight he’s carrying can’t be good for him.”
On the day of the cat’s appointment, my wife suddenly realized that she had a scheduling conflict. She asked if I would take Otis to the vet’s office.
“Ah, fuck! Do I have to?”
The look she gave me said I had no choice in the matter. I stuffed Otis into a cat carrier and took him to his appointment.
After giving the cat an examination, the vet said, “The cat is dangerously overweight. There’s a lot of pressure on his heart. If he keeps eating the way he has been, his heart will explode like a cheap balloon. I doubt he’ll last a year.”
“Darn, I hate to hear that.”
“He needs to go on a diet immediately. I’m going to give you a list of cat foods that are low-fat and healthy, and, over time, will significantly reduce his weight. If he sticks to this diet, he should live a long and healthy life.”
The vet handed me the list of healthy cat foods and sent me on my way.
When I left the vet’s office I crumpled up the list of healthy cat foods and threw it away. When I got home, my wife immediately asked what had transpired with the vet.
“The cat’s fine,” I replied. “Healthy as a horse.”
“Did he say anything about changing the cat’s diet?”
“He said not to change a thing. By the way, has anyone fed Otis today?”
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I’ve been incapacitated by a raging case of the flu, so I’m posting a blog from the archives.
I was having a few drinks with an old friend, who I’ll call Leonard to spare him undue embarrassment, when he told me that his wife had recently caught him jacking off.
“It was embarrassing as hell,” Leonard said. “I mean, it’s bad enough that a 58-year-old man feels like he has to masturbate, but when his wife catches him red-handed, well, it’s fucking mortifying.”
“Jesus, what got into you?”
“It was just one of those things. I was sitting at the computer when I saw a photo of Helen Mirren in a pink bikini and the urge came over me. I just couldn’t help myself.”
“I hate to state the obvious, but you’ve got a perfectly good wife at home, real nice looking, too. Why didn’t you just go relive the glory years?”
“I didn’t want to bother her. She was watching American Idol. She loves American Idol.”
“What did she do when she walked in on you?”
“She started laughing, then got on the phone with her girlfriends.”
Everything considered, simple masturbation seems like a harmless, pleasant and safe way to pass the time, just a guy, his hand and his imagination. Not that I would know anything about masturbating.
As a legendary pussy magnet, seldom without the company of beautiful women (many of who, by the way, are now prominent, prosperous and pampered North Shore matrons), I’ve rarely had to resort to what the Brit’s call “the gentleman’s comfort.”
The Third City’s motto is “We rarely lie to the American people.” So, I’ll admit to having masturbated at least once, about 25 years ago.
But it was for a good cause. The lovely Mrs. Milo and I were trying to have a family, but there seemed to be a small problem, which required her to have a minor adjustment to her system and required me to provide a sperm sample.
When my lovely wife explained the situation to me, I asked, “What exactly does that mean?”
“It means you have to go to Illinois Masonic Hospital in two days and masturbate into a specimen jar.”
“Are you shitting me? Why can’t I do it here and just drop the jar off?”
“The sample has to be fresh. It can’t be more than an hour old. You have to be there at 6:30 in the morning and you can’t drink or smoke weed the night before.”
Two mornings later, after stopping at a newsstand to pick up a skin magazine, I arrived at the hospital for my appointment. I found the right floor and approached a young nurse sitting at a desk. I gave her my name and explained the reason for my visit. She went through some papers, handed me a specimen jar and, pointing to the men’s room, said, “You can use that facility.”
I doubt there’s a worse place to try and work up a chubby than a stark, brightly lit, hospital men’s room that smells of disinfectant. But I comforted myself with the thought that men have jacked off in the strangest places. They’ve beaten their meat in foxholes and prison cells. They’ve waxed their stacks in boardrooms and department store fitting stalls. They’ve choked their chickens in airplane restrooms and the coal mine at the Museum of Science and Industry. At this very moment there’s probably a Russian astronaut polishing his pole on the Mir Space Station.
When I finished I went back to the nurse’s station and handed the young nurse the specimen jar. I may have been overly sensitive at that point, because I thought I detected a smirk on her face when she accepted the jar and said, “Thank you.”
“That’s okay, sweetie,” I replied. “I’m an old hand at this sort of thing.”
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When I woke up this morning, I realized that I had been so busy shopping for Christmas presents for The Third City’s loyal readers – jewelry for the gals, Stetson hats for the gents – that I forgot to write a blog post for this week.
That said, I’m contractually obligated to post a blog every Monday, so I resorted to the drunken newspaperman’s trick of posting letters from readers, adding snappy replies, and calling it a column.
Fortunately, TTC’s loyal fans are an elite group, educated, accomplished, and many are even gainfully employed. They generally have interesting things to say. Here, then, are a few letters from our esteemed readers.
Hey, Milo! What’s your take on the USA improving relations with Cuba?
Cuba is legendary for producing fine babes, making good rum, and growing excellent weed. If there’s a downside, I don’t see it.
Hello to you my dear Mr. Milo. I am presently being Prince Milton M’bogo of Lagos, Nigeria, Executive Director of our National Academy of Arts and Letters. I am having the great fortune to inform you that your excellent blogging has made you a hero in my country. Your portrait is being displayed in many post offices and government buildings…
Your rotten fucker! I’ve already sent you three checks and I still haven’t gotten that million and a half bucks you promised me. I’m starting to think this is some sort of scam.
Dude, I’ve heard about the problems you’ve been having with that nasty tomcat, Otis. I had a cat that was making my life miserable, too, but I figured out a great way to get rid of him. I wrapped the bastard in Christmas wrapping paper, took him to the Little Village neighborhood, and hung him from a tree limb. Then I rounded up some of the local kids, handed them two-by-fours, and told them that the thing in the the tree was a piñata. Worked like a charm.
Have you ever considered writing for The Third City?
Hey, Milo! I heard you just got a new snow blower. Are you going to do the right thing and get rid of the snow in front of your neighbors’ houses?
Milo, I’m a combat veteran, one tour in the Rock and one in the Stan. I’ve been home for a couple of years and it’s been a real struggle. I can’t keep a job. My girl left me. I’m angry all the time and get in fights for no reason. I’m plagued by nightmares. Sometimes I can’t sleep for days, other times I can’t get out of bed. The only way I can get through the day is by staying drunk or stoned. I don’t know how much longer I can keep going.
Don’t be a dumbass and do something stupid. You survived war, you can survive peace. Call your V.A. hospital or neighborhood Vet Center today. They’ve got programs that can help you. They helped me.
I notice that you mention the lovely Mrs. Milo quite often in your posts. How does she feel about being included in your scurrilous blogs?
I’ve been sleeping on the couch since 1986.
Motherfucker, where’s my money!
Who is this? Marsha? Lucille? Evelyn? Betty Lou? You’re not getting a cent until the DNA results come back. And please don’t bother me while I’m at work.
Hey, Milo, I hope you and your loved ones enjoy a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
So do I.
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I’m not a jealous guy, but it’s not easy being married to a fine looking woman like the lovely Mrs. Milo. In the back of my mind, there’s always the nagging thought that other men are leering at her, giving my wife the old up-and-down, admiring her rack, checking out her butt.
I’ve been tense and on edge ever since I met my wife, more than 30 years ago. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since we began seeing each other. I’m plagued by nightmares. I have horrible dreams about hordes of drooling, slobbering, lust-crazed lechers, all of them scheming and plotting, hoping to get a shot at my wife.
Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not a jealous guy, but I’m no dumbass either. If I find my wife attractive, then I’m sure a lot of other guys feel the same way – and the rotten bastards are everywhere.
Wherever we go – supermarkets, department stores, theaters, restaurants, or just walking down the street – I notice men giving my wife the eye. Some guys are discreet, but others are blatant in their piggishness, eyes bulging, jaws dropping, panting like dogs. And it drives me fucking crazy.
When I mentioned my concerns to Dr. Gretchen, the psychiatrist I’ve been seeing once a week for the past few years, she said, “Your jealousy is fueled by guilt.”
“Your obvious inadequacies as a husband are causing you to fixate on other men who you perceive to be better husband material.”
“What the fuck….”
“You’re afraid that if your wife finds a man who doesn’t drink, smoke, abuse drugs, gamble, lie and cheat, and happens to be a good provider, she’ll dump you without thinking twice about it. And, honestly, I wouldn’t blame her a bit.”
“That’s a helluva thing to say to a guy.”
“Hey, I’m not your friend, I’m your shrink.”
As I was leaving her office, Dr. Gretchen gave me a prescription for some new medications. “Maybe these will help,” she said.
The new meds did make me feel better, especially when taken with bourbon and a little bit of weed, but they didn’t ease my mind. If anything, the meds sharpened my perception, focused my thinking. I was more alert than I had ever been, watching for any sign of trouble.
I began to notice a lot of suspicious activity on my street – cars slowing down as they passed my house, guys walking their dogs and lingering a bit too long by the tree in my front yard, more guys than usual hanging out at the corner tavern, an overabundance of meter readers in the neighborhood.
Then, a few days ago, I spotted my wife chatting with one of the neighbors, a guy named Leonard.
“What were you and Leonard talking about?” I asked when she got home.
“Did he, by any chance, get fresh with you?”
My wife gave me an odd look and said, “What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean.”
“Milo, Leonard’s 90 years old.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t trust the old goat.”
This past Saturday, as I was on my front porch, enjoying a cigarette with my morning whiskey, I saw the mailman approaching.
“What the fuck do you want?” I asked when he rang the doorbell.
“I’ve got a package for your wife.”
“You’ve got what?”
“A package for your wife,” he said, with a knowing look in his eye. “Special delivery.”
“You rotten motherfucker!” I shouted, then grabbed the machete I keep by the front door and went after the bastard. I chased him for half a block, but he’s a lot younger than I am and outran me.
When I realized I wouldn’t be able to catch the fucker, I went home, poured another drink, and waited for the police to show up. I figured they’d be arriving soon.
But I wasn’t too worried about the cops, because I was pretty sure when I explained everything to them, they would understand.
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I was awakened from a sound sleep, about three in the afternoon, by a phone call from Frankie “the Suit.”, the Chief Financial Officer of this scabby, talentless blogging outfit. Frankie sounded uncharacteristically agitated.
“Milo, we’ve got a problem.”
“This time it’s serious. The Third City is broke.”
“Jesus! How can that be? When you hired me you said we had hundreds of thousands of readers.”
“Well, heh, heh, I may have exaggerated a bit.”
“How many readers do we actually have?”
“31 readers! You’re shitting me!”
“Well, I’m still waiting for the numbers to come in from New Zealand. But, never mind that. The point is that we’re in a jam and the only way out is by advertising. We’ve got to sell ads on our site.”
“What kind of idiot would even consider advertising with us?”
“I’ve given it a lot of thought. See, advertising is a lot like writing. You write about things you know. In advertising, you sell ads to people you know, people you do business with on a regular basis, people whose products and services you buy.”
“I guess that makes sense.”
“Right now, Benny Jay is out on the street selling ads to all the fried chicken joints and Chinese restaurants in town.”
“Benny does like his chicken.”
“So, all you have to do is visit your favorite business establishments and sell them ads. Trust me, it’ll be a piece of cake.”
“Okay, I’ll give it a shot.”
I had spent quite a few years in the ad game, and I had hoped never to go back to it. I worked as a copywriter and creative director for several small and midsized agencies. I was a professional bullshitter, the person who comes up with catchy headlines and informative copy that are supposed to convince you that the products or services I’m writing about are things you can’t live without. I was, in essence, a salesman with a keyboard.
I’ve met a lot of interesting people in the advertising world. The industry is filled with talented, driven, ambitious people who could succeed in almost any other fields they set their minds to.
On the other hand, I’ve also met a lot of raging assholes, unscrupulous people who were either borderline psychotics or shameless thieves. Sadly, the ad game seems to attract nutcases. It is an industry driven by creativity, the almighty dollar and merciless deadlines, a combination that’s guaranteed to bring out the absolute worst in people.
Still, as much as I hated getting involved in advertising again, I owed it to Frankie and Benny Jay to help keep The Third City going. Besides, Frankie was probably right. If I stuck to soliciting business from people and companies I knew, I figured I could sell a few ads and keep this fine blog site afloat.
A phone call from Frankie woke me up the next afternoon.
“Well, how’d you do?”
“Selling ads, asshole.”
“Oh, I did real good. Sold three ads.”
“That’s great, man! I knew you could do it. Who’d you sell ad space to?”
”I sold one to Nickel Bag Bernie…”
“The pot dealer?
“Yeah, he wants to expand his business.”
“Ah, okay. How much did you get?”
“Jesus, that’s great. We can use that 50 bucks.”
“There’s one little hitch, though. Bernie got in a new shipment of fine weed from Hawaii.”
“I bought a quarter ounce for a hundred bucks.”
“Are you saying that you sold an ad and lost 50 bucks on the deal?”
“Great fucking job.”
“Thanks. After I left Nickel Bag Bernie’s I stopped by Madame LaFarge’s Whorehouse and sold her an ad for 100 bucks.”
“That’s more like it.”
“Except, there was another little hitch.”
“You see, Madame LaFarge hired a new girl, a cute little thing from Sri Lanka. She’s double jointed and does this weird thing with her hips that…”
“How fucking much?”
“250 bucks, plus a tip.”
“Let me get this straight. You sold Madame LaFarge an ad and only lost 150 bucks on the deal?”
“Plus the tip. Then I stopped at Swillagain’s and sold an ad for 25 bucks.”
“Don’t tell me.”
“Well, I had few drinks, then bought the boys a round…”
“I get the picture.”
“By the way, how did Benny Jay do selling ads to fried chicken joints and Chinese restaurants?”
“I don’t know. He’s in the hospital getting his stomach pumped.”
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