Letter From Milo: A Soldier’s Comfort

May 25th, 2015

Memorial Day is a wonderful day for politicians. There are graves of fallen American soldiers scattered all over this country and the photo opportunities for Senators, Congressman and Governors are endless. No career political hack can resist the opportunity to wrap himself in the flag and be photographed at a soldier’s grave site on Memorial Day.

For other folks, the best thing about this holiday is that they don’t have to work on Monday. It’s an extra day away from the office or factory, another day free of the indignities that come with working for a living.

Memorial Day has an entirely different meaning for veterans, especially combat veterans. Military personnel who have been awarded the CIB (Combat Infantryman Badge), which is given to soldiers who have personally fought in ground combat operations, often have mixed feelings about a holiday that was created to honor the dead.

Chances are, if a person has a CIB, they’ve seen and done some terrible things. They have spent time in the Inferno. They have experienced true horror. And the absolute worst of those horrors was seeing friends die. The ghosts of Alpha Company still haunt my dreams.

Some combat veterans, including me, are uncomfortable with the overly sentimental veneration of America’s fallen soldiers. It’s too little, too late, and the sentiments are usually off the mark.

It makes me uneasy when I hear politicians exalt dead soldiers, or read editorials comparing them to saints, calling them God’s warriors, elevating them to the status of angels with assault rifles. The image of the American foot soldier as a noble warrior, different than all the cruel, heartless bastards that came before him, is a false one.

The truth is, the American foot soldier is a bad motherfucker, a dangerous, highly-trained, superbly armed, brutal and efficient killing machine.

A lot of the soldiers in my outfit were tough kids, urban and rural poor boys, before they went into the service. A few months in the jungles and paddies made them even tougher. Spending three weeks at a time on Search and Destroy missions, sleeping in muddy foxholes at night, waiting for the next bit of Hell to arrive, and wondering if your next breath will be your last, has a way of bringing out the beast in a man.

After three weeks in the bush we’d be sent to a relatively safe firebase to relax and unwind. Those seven days were spent trying to forget the terrors of the previous three weeks. We drank heavily, smoked copious amounts of weed, and visited the whores who set up storefronts near every American firebase.

The liquor and drugs helped us escape the grim reality of our lives. The intoxicants made it possible, for a short time, to forget some of the things we had seen and done.

The young whores made us feel human again. The act of love, the skin-to-skin contact, the primal connection between a man and woman, helped soften the rough edges of our memories.

True, these were coarse comforts, frowned upon by church, state and the general public, but they were all we had. A few drinks, a little weed, and a piece of ass made an intolerable existence somewhat bearable.

No, we weren’t knights in shining armor. I doubt we would have been welcomed in polite society. We were just common foot soldiers, flawed in so many ways. But we were young and valiant, and did the best we could.

Here are a few lines from a Rudyard Kipling poem called “Tommy,” about British soldiers. I believe it captures the ambivalence that some civilians have for the military, why dead soldiers are honored, and living ones not so much.

“An’ if sometimes our conduck ain’t all your fancy paints,

Why, single men in barracks don’t grow into plastic saints,

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ‘Chuck him out, the brute,’

But it’s ‘Savior of our country” when the guns begin to shoot.”

As I mentioned, I’m not a fan of Memorial Day. It brings back too many bitter memories. But I can understand how the holiday can be a comfort to people, especially those that have lost friends and loved ones in wars.

So, go ahead and celebrate Memorial Day any way you like. I’ll honor the occasion properly.

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Benny Jay: The Great Ones Play Hurt

May 21st, 2015

While Benny’s in NYC, attending his daughter’s college graduation, we’re running a blog from his archives.

 

The other day, I got injured in a basketball game. Here’s how it happened…

I was racing down court on the front end of a fast break. Okay, I wasn’t really racing. More like jogging.

And I caught a perfect little bounce pass from Picasso Paul, who doubles as an artist, when he’s not running the break.

I felt Antonio on my right. The dude’s big and strong. Like Tiny Lister, who plays Winston — the bail bondsman in Jackie Brown.

I faked him into the air with a little deke that had the crowd going crazy.

Actually there was no crowd. Just two guys on the side waiting to play.

I was set to pass to Norm, wide open for the easy bucket.

When…

 

raquel-welch-one-million-years-de

I was seeing stars…

 

Bam! Antonio whacked my ear with his elbow.

He didn’t do it on purpose. He just went for my brilliant fake. Did I tell you the fake was brilliant?

I saw stars, people. Raquel Welch. Pam Grier. Liz Taylor…

I was walking around rubbing my head.

“You all right?” someone asked.

“Yeah, fine,” I said. Cause real men don’t admit it hurts.

The crowd cheered my courage.

Actually, a guy on the sidelines said…

“You stayin’ in?”

Clearly, he was hoping to sub for me. It’s a dog eat dog out there, people.

Afterwards when I got home, I told my wife…

“I got injured.”

“Really.”

“Yes.”

“Wow.”

What can I tell you — chicks love a tough guy.

 

tinytommylister

Antonio’s strong like Tiny Lister…

 

“Where?” she asked.

“My ear.”

“I don’t see anything wrong with your ear.”

“What do you mean, you don’t see anything wrong with it. Look closer.”

She looked closer. “I still don’t see anything.”

“You’re not looking close enough.”

She practically had her face in my ear.

She shined the bedroom lamp directly on my ear.

“Oh, yeah, you can see it’s a little red.”

“Told you!”

The next morning, I came down for breakfast and my wife said.

“Oh, my God — your ear’s black and blue.”

“I told you!”

Then I started limping.

“Why are you limping?” asked my wife.

“Cause I got injured.”

“But it’s your ear?”

“So…”

I tell you, man, these women are tough on a baller.

But I will survive — just like Gloria Gaynor said.

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Benny Jay: The Rare Triple Play

May 19th, 2015

While Benny’s in NYC, attending his daughter’s college graduation, TTC will be posting blogs from his archives.

 

 

Around The Third City we have a saying — one good line’s worth an entire post.

That is — if you got one funny, witty and/or incisive line to make, it’s okay to use another 500 or so lines to set it up.

I’m almost certain I came up with that saying, though Milo swears he did.

Since it’s not that great of a line to begin with, I’ll let Milo take all the credit.

I mention this because it’s time to give The New York Times a shoutout for pulling off a rare triple play, coming up with three great lines in one story.

Congratulations, John Schwartz, who wrote the story. Get that man a Pulitzer!

Headlined, “Declared Legally Dead as He sat Before the Judge,” the story tells the improbable tale of a guy named Donald E. Miller Jr., who disappeared without a trace 19 years ago, leaving his disabled wife and their two daughters destitute.

What a guy.

mynameisearl

Jason Lee would be perfect for the role of Mr. Miller….

 

After he disappeared, his wife, Robin Miller, requested that he be declared legally dead so she could apply for social security benefits.

In reality, Mr. Miller wasn’t dead. he’d simply away run away to Florida. Which is apparently where all deadbeats go. Except for Milo, who found his way to Chicago.

Last week, Mr. Miller showed up in the probate court of Judge Allan H. Davis to ask that he’d be declared undead so he could apply for a driver’s license and reactivate his social security number.

Thus leaving Judge Davis with one of those Solomonic decisions for which law school never quite prepares you.

On the one hand, Miller’s clearly not dead. On the other, if Judge Davis declares that Miller is, in fact, alive, he makes life exceedingly difficult for Mrs. Miller, who would have to repay all the social security money she received over the years.

On account of the fact that she’s not really a widow.

Oh, what’s a judge to do?

judgejudy

It was a job for Judge Judy!

 

Mercifully, Judge Davis found a solution in Ohio’s state statues.

Noting that ”Ohio law does not allow a declaration of death to be reversed after three years or more have passed,” the good judge declared: “I don’t know where that leaves you, but you’re still deceased as far as the law is concerned.”

Great line number one!

The decision led an unnamed reporter for the Courier, a local newspaper, to call Miller “the most famous dead man alive.”

Great line number two!

Perhaps my favorite character in the saga is Mr. Miller’s lawyer, Francis Marley, who’s a virtual one-man quote machine.

Marley said his client probably could not afford to appeal the decision.

Translation: I’m not doing this shit for free, even if it does get me great publicity.

When asked if he’d ever encountered a case like this, Marley said, “no, but I’ve only been practicing for 43 years.”

There you have it, folks — the triple play!

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Letter From Milo: Dry Spells

May 18th, 2015

As hard as it may be for my loyal readers to believe, there have been long periods in my life when I simply could not get laid. Yes, it’s true. There were times when even the great Milo, a famous and wealthy blogger, and the beloved Society, Lifestyle and Religion columnist for The Third City, could not get any pussy.

I suppose every man has his dry spells. Charles Bukowski once wrote that in the prime of his life, from his late 20s to his mid 30s, he did not get laid for eight long, dreadful years. Now, I’ve never had the misfortune to suffer through an eight-year drought, but there have been sexless periods in my life that were lengthy enough to give new meaning to the word “desperation.”

Even the most industrious, hardworking ladies’ men sometimes experience a “disruption in the force.”

My colleagues here at The Third City are not immune to these particular blues. For example, that talentless hack, Benny Jay, has not gotten laid since 1987. He has gone on record as saying, “I don’t miss it one bit, either.”

Terrible things happen to men who go without sex for long periods of time. The first thing to go is judgment. It is rumored that Hitler never had sex in his life and he ended up invading Russia. Shortly after Josephine locked Napoleon out of the bedroom, the Little Corporal decided to invade Russia, too. George W. Bush, who has the pinched brow and pursed lips of someone who hasn’t gotten laid in years, ended up invading TWO countries. I guess little old Russia wasn’t good enough for him.

I can only hope Michelle is taking good care of Barack.

On a smaller scale, affection deprivation hits home in different ways. Some men turn to drugs or alcohol. Some become degenerate gamblers. Some masturbate themselves into insane asylums. Others spend their days and nights surfing porn sites.

The worst cases are those pathetic wretches who take up blogging in lieu of sex, and that, my friends, is the very poorest of poor substitutes.

The only advice I can give to a man badly in need of a woman is to keep trying. Never give up. Somewhere, someplace, there’s a woman sitting on a bar stool just waiting for you to come up to her and say, “Hey mama, why is a sweet young thing like you out so late on a school night?”

If that doesn’t work you can always consider becoming temporarily gay or bi-sexual. That way you can basically double your odds of getting some action.

Another option to consider is beastiality. There are a lot of small farms just across the state line in Indiana. In my experience, I’ve discovered it’s best to avoid the poultry farms and stick to the sheep and goat farms, where…

HOLD IT!

This is Mrs. Milo. I just passed by the computer, saw what Milo was writing and chased him away from the keyboard with the can of pepper spray I keep handy for occasions like this. What a load of disgusting, filthy crap. Here he is, sitting around in his ratty bathrobe, hasn’t showered in three or four days, reeks of booze and cigarettes and he’s trying to pass himself off as some kind of expert on love and sex. I’d laugh if it wasn’t so pathetic. The sad thing is that he’s getting worse as he’s gets older. Anybody that takes his advice on sex or anything else for that matter is a bigger idiot than he is. I don’t know what I ever saw in him. What a loser he turned out to be. The same goes for the rest of those morons at The Third City.

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Letter From Milo: Bedside Manner

May 11th, 2015

When the lovely Mrs. Milo was six and a half months pregnant with our second child, she decided it would be a good idea if she and our four-year-old daughter visited her hometown of Fargo, North Dakota. She wanted to spend a few days with her family before the baby was born.

I didn’t think it was a good idea for her to travel to Fargo in her expectant condition. Matter of fact, I don’t think it’s a good idea for anyone, in any condition, to visit Fargo. The place is a backwater, populated by heavily armed drunkards and overrun by wild dogs and feral pigs. I’ve even seen a few buffalo rumbling through the unpaved and muddy streets.

Even worse, the place is teeming with Swedes and Norwegians. Walking the streets of that town is like being on the set of Village of the Damned — nothing but bright-eyed blonds and redheads. Plus, those Scandinavians are too damn quiet and polite for my taste. I don’t trust them. I know they’re up to no good, I just haven’t figured out what they’ve got in mind.

The only thing the town’s got going for it, in my opinion, is its long and storied history of producing fine looking women. Although, to give the town its due, I’ll grudgingly admit that some of the bars in Fargo pour a pretty good drink, and some of the restaurants serve decent steaks.

I voiced my concerns about the trip to my wife. “Do you really think it’s a good idea to travel at this particular time?”

“I talked to the doctor and he said there’s nothing to worry about.”

“Yeah, but has he ever been to Fargo?”

“What does that have to do with it?”

“If he’d ever been to Fargo he wouldn’t be so quick to say there’s no cause for worry.”

A few days after my wife and daughter left for North Dakota, I was in my office trying to come up with an advertising campaign that would convince people to buy a product they didn’t need and would probably never use, when I was interrupted by a phone call.

It was my wife. “My water broke,” she said. “I’m in the hospital.”

“Jesus! What hospital? Where?”

“Dakota Hospital, in Fargo.”

“I didn’t even know they had a hospital in Fargo.”

“Relax, Milo. I’m in good hands. It’s the best hospital in North Dakota.”

“Well, that’s certainly a reassuring statement.”

“They want to deliver the baby within 24 hours. I really wish you were here with me.”

“I’ll be there.”

I ran a few errands, mainly making sure that the pets were taken care of, and was on the road by early evening. Normally, it’s an 11 hour drive to Fargo, but I took a shortcut, drove through the night, and made it in 10 hours and 49 minutes.

The town had changed quite a bit since my last visit. Many of the sod huts and log cabins had been replaced by ranch houses, Victorians and bungalows. Most of the streets were paved and the hitching posts had been replaced by bicycle racks and parking meters.

Dakota Hospital was an impressive facility, inside and out. It wouldn’t have been out of place in Chicago’s lakeside Medical District. It had been built just a few years earlier and still had the architectural equivalent of a new car smell.

“You got here just in time,” my wife said, when I arrived in her room. “They’re going to do a C-section in a couple of hours.”

“Good. That’ll give me time to get some lunch.”

“If you’ll wait a minute, you can meet the doctor who’s going to do the surgery. He’s going to stop by soon.”

When the doctor walked into the room, I was shocked, absolutely shocked, to see that he was wearing cowboy boots and a Stetson hat. What kind of doctor wears cowboy boots and a Stetson hat? This wasn’t a rodeo. This was a hospital, a place where skill, finesse and precision mean everything. And here was this guy, claiming to be a doctor but looking like a ranch hand, stomping around in high-heeled, pointy-toed boots made from the hide of some horrible reptile. I felt like asking him for a picture ID.

When the so-called doctor left, I said, “Sweetheart, did you by any chance notice that the doctor was wearing cowboy boots?”

“What about it?”

“Don’t you think that’s weird?”

“This is North Dakota. A lot of men, and women, wear cowboy boots.”

“He’s a damned doctor. He should be wearing Florsheims.”

“Don’t worry, honey. I’m nervous, too, but everything will be just fine.”

Everything did, indeed, turn out just fine. My daughter was born two and a half months premature, but she was well developed and there were no complications. The medical care my daughter received was exceptional.

Despite my initial reservations, the doctor with the cowboy boots turned out to be a credit to his profession. He visited my daughter twice a day and always took a few moments to chat with my wife.

Nowadays, I don’t care what kind of shoes a doctor wears. However, if I’m ever diagnosed by an MD wearing Zappos, Crocs, or flip-flops, I might consider getting a second opinion.

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Letter From Milo: Chicks

May 4th, 2015

I’m pretty sure that all of the women in my household have lost their minds. Both of my daughters just broke up with their boyfriends, a couple of young men who I happened to like, and the lovely Mrs. Milo has recently gotten that far away look in her eyes. I’m expecting the worst.

I can’t say I’m surprised by this turn of events. Women have always been a puzzle to me. And, for the most part, they have treated me shabbily.

My own mother, for example, is a huge disappointment to me. She’s got Alzheimer’s Disease and now she can’t even carry on a decent conversation.

My sister is a heavily-armed drunkard who holds several long-standing grudges against me. Family gatherings are always chancy affairs.

In fact, it was a woman who caused me to leave Indiana. When I got out of the service, I foolishly began seeing a woman who was dating one of the meanest men in Gary, a real small-town badass. He found out about us and that’s how, overnight, I became a Chicagoan. The dangerous fucker died about 20 years ago, but I never got out of the habit of carrying a pistol when visiting the Hoosier state.

A few years after arriving in the Windy City, I began seeing a woman who, shall we say, had odd tastes. After we had gone out a few times, she said, “I wish you would be more aggressive.”

“What do you mean?”

“I want you to knock me around a bit. I like it rough.”

“Ah, I don’t think I can do that. It’s not something I’d enjoy.”

“Oh?”

She dumped me shortly after that conversation. A little while later, she started seeing a guy I knew and when I’d spot them on the street they’d be covered in bruises, scratches and band-aids. They seemed blissfully happy.

I spent some time with another woman who was looking for a rich man. She wanted someone who would take care of her, in high style. She quickly figured out it wasn’t going to be me. At the time, I could barely take care of myself.

I’m not the only guy that’s been treated badly by women. A dear friend of mine was dumped by a one-legged gal, which, as my friend Roger said, shows you that a woman doesn’t need two legs to walk all over a guy.

I was astonished at my good luck when I met the future Mrs. Milo, but I figured the same old scenario would eventually play out. We’d have some great times. The future would look rosy, nothing but blue skies ahead, and then something would happen, something bad.

I’d do something stupid, she’d lose interest, my thuggish nature would reveal itself, she’d find someone else. But it never happened. The moment I dreaded never occurred.

Well, at least it hasn’t happened yet.

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Letter From Milo: Otis and the Beasts of the Field.

April 27th, 2015

I’m used to seeing wild things roaming around my neighborhood. I live about a half block from the Chicago River and the river is a magnet for wildlife. Raccoons, opossums, muskrats, skunks, turtles, rabbits, ducks and geese are common sights along the riverbanks and nearby streets and alleys. There’s even a beaver living under the Montrose Avenue bridge.

None of these creatures poses a threat to life or limb. At worst, they can be nuisances. However, not all the wildlife in the neighborhood is harmless. A few years ago a mountain lion was spotted in Roscoe Village, in frightening proximity to children. The police had no choice but to shoot the animal.

And, recently, several of my neighbors saw a coyote loping down the middle of Eastwood Avenue, at about six in the morning. For a few days, the coyote sighting was the talk of the neighborhood.

“Coyotes are everywhere now,” one of my neighbors told me. “They’re as common as squirrels. Lincoln Park is overrun with them and the suburbs are being terrorized by packs of coyotes.”

“Jesus! That’s frightening. I didn’t realize coyotes were such a threat to people.”

“Well, they’re not much of a threat to humans. But they’re a real danger to pets. They prey on small dogs and cats.”

“Wait a minute. Are you telling me that coyotes kill and eat cats?”

“Coyotes love to eat cats. They’ll snatch a cat right off someone’s porch.”

A little later, I was in my back yard, enjoying a cigarette with my morning whiskey and thinking about what my neighbor had said about coyotes. I felt bad for the dogs that were taken by coyotes, but I had no sympathy, at all, for the cats.

I have a cat, a big greasy fucker named Otis, and he’s made my life a living hell ever since he showed up at my back door and weaseled his way into my household. I rue the day my misguided wife and children ganged up on me and bullied me into keeping the cat.

From the moment the cat muscled his way into my home, I was determined to get rid of him. But I had to be careful. My wife and daughters had, for some inexplicable reason, grown very fond of the cat. They knew I despised the son of a bitch and would immediately blame me if something happened to him. It had to look like an accident. I had to appear blameless.

I had almost gotten rid of the cat a few times in the past, but my plans never worked out. My best opportunity came when I nearly sold Otis to my dear friend Mr. Choi, who owns a very popular home-style Korean restaurant on the North Side, but the deal fell through at the last minute. Needless to say, I was hugely disappointed.

But I’m a patient man. All good things come to those who wait. When I heard about coyotes running wild in the streets of Chicago, I knew that my time had come. After all, how could I possibly be blamed if a coyote happened to run off with the cat?

First, I had to do a little research. I learned that coyotes are nocturnal hunters, most active for five or six hours after the sun goes down. They are also scavengers, attracted by the odor of rotting, rancid meat. They thrive on the most disgusting, maggot-ridden slop imaginable. They can smell the foul stench of putrid, decaying meat from a mile away.

A couple of days later, my wife came home from work a bit later than usual. “I just saw the oddest thing,” she said.

“What’s that, dumpling?”

“There’s a couple of Big Macs, a Polish sausage and a burrito on the sidewalk in front of our house.”

“That is unusual.”

“By the way, where’s Otis?”

“I let him out.”

“It’s kind of late for the cat to be out, isn’t it?”

“He’s a fat ass. He needs the exercise.”

I quickly discovered that luring coyotes is not that easy. Apparently Big Macs, Polish sausage and burritos are not disgusting enough for them. But I’m not a quitter. I can’t even spell the word advircitie.

Every day, as the sun was going down, I’d let the cat out and plant my coyote bait. I tried everything – lutefisk, corn dogs, turducken, haggis, Vegemite, gefilte fish, Chicken McNuggets, s’mores, slabs of Velveeta, cans of Franco-American spaghetti, bags of barbeque flavored pork rinds, and a lot of food-like products made by Hormel – but nothing seemed to work.

Still, I didn’t get discouraged. I was determined to get rid of the cat. I knew that as long as I kept trying, as long as I kept setting out bait, one day a coyote would come along and settle Otis’ hash, once and for all.

A couple of days later, my wife approached me with a puzzled expression on her face. “There’s something weird going on around here,” she said.

“What’s that, precious?”

“Otis, two skunks and a raccoon are eating this big pile of food that somebody left on the sidewalk.”

“Ah, shit. This is fucking unbelievable.”

“Yeah, why would somebody dump 20 pounds of tuna noodle casserole on our sidewalk?”

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