A few days ago, I went to the Jesse Brown V.A. Hospital to have a few of my vital organs checked and get my meds adjusted
When I walked into the office of my primary physician, Dr. Frankie “Disco” Lopez, I could see that he was in an uncharacteristically bad mood.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Dude, it’s been a shitty day,” he said. “The VA bureaucrats have come up with another way to complicate my life. It seems like every week they establish new procedures for dealing with vets, especially combat vets and the PTSD afflicted. You fit in that category somewhere, right?”
“Well, then, the VA insists I ask you these questions.”
“Sure, go ahead.”
“Are you homeless?”
“Not at the present time.”
“Do you have suicidal thoughts?”
“Do you have anger issues? Is there anyone you want to kill or injure?”
“Yes, indeed! I’ve got an extensive shit list. There are a lot of rotten fuckers out there.”
“Do you wear a seat belt when you drive?”
“Sometimes, and I usually look both ways before crossing a street.”
“Do you ever…”
“Excuse me for interrupting, Doc, but why is the VA making you ask these dumbass questions?”
Dr. Frankie sighed and shook his head. “Because most combat vets are crazy fuckers,” he explained. “HUD estimates that more than 50,000 are homeless. Their suicide rate is 50% higher than those who never served. According to the Washington Post, combat vets have a 75% higher rate of fatal vehicle accidents than do civilians. Combat vets diagnosed with PTSD commit violent crimes at double the rate of soldiers who never saw action. And don’t even get me started on the subject of substance abuse.”
“What happens if I tell you that I’m going to shoot myself or shoot someone else? What if I say I’m living in a cardboard box under the Western Avenue bridge or don’t use a seat belt?”
“I make a note of it on your computer file.”
“I don’t know. I doubt the VA knows, either.” Dr. Frankie said, with a shrug. “You know, I liked this job a lot better when all I had to do was check your blood pressure, give you some good drugs, and send you on your way.”
When I left Dr. Frankie’s office, I began paying close attention to the former soldiers who were wandering the hallways of the hospital. Sure, most of them looked like regular guys, but after talking to the Doctor, I understood that they were actually bunch of loose cannons, drunken, drug-addled, dangerous men, capable of unspeakable violence at any moment. Who knew what monstrous thoughts were squirming in their brains.
Man, I said to myself, I’m glad I’m not like those crazy fuckers.
Still, I was a bit depressed when I left the hospital, so I took a couple of the new pain killers the good doctor had prescribed for me. The pills kicked in as I was driving home and I started feeling better. The unsettling conversation I had with Dr. Frankie was beginning to fade away.
I hoped that after getting home, having a few drinks, smoking some weed, cleaning my weapons, and adding some names my shit list, I would forget it completely.
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I’ve probably got the worst looking front lawn on Eastwood Avenue. It’s an epic eyesore, a pathetic patch of ground, mostly bare dirt and weeds, with a few tufts of grass making a valiant effort to survive in extremely inhospitable conditions.
The lawn is so ugly that dogs won’t even shit on it. I’ve actually seen the neighborhood mutts disdainfully eying my lawn, before deciding to trot across the street to find a more aesthetically pleasing spot to do their business.
I suppose it’s my fault that the front yard is in such terrible condition. Other than mowing the lawn once in a while, I don’t pay much attention to it. I’m a practical guy. I understand the utility of grass, especially to ruminants, but I don’t see the value in a well-maintained lawn.
In fact, there are a lot of downsides to keeping an immaculate lawn. For one thing, it’s a time-consuming business. Mowing, edging, weeding, fertilizing and watering a lawn uses up precious hours that could be better spent in drinking, smoking reefer, having sex, playing poker or taking naps.
Another negative aspect of maintaining a high-quality lawn is the expense. The tools necessary to care for a lawn – mowers, edgers, weed-wackers, clippers, etc. – cost a pretty penny, money that could certainly be put to better use. Several of my foolish neighbors have actually spent good money hiring lawn care companies to come by once a week to keep their lawns looking spiffy.
I refuse to invest time and money in something that serves no useful purpose, something that I consider to be absolutely worthless. That said, not everyone shares my low opinion of lawns.
My wife, the lovely Mrs. Milo, has been nagging me for years to do something about the lawn.
“Milo, the lawn is getting really nasty. It looks worse every year. Can’t you do something about it?”
“I don’t give a shit about the lawn.”
“I know you don’t, but the neighbors do.”
“Fuck the neighbors.”
“Well, I care about the lawn, too. I expect you to do something about it and do it soon. Do we understand each other?”
So, that’s how I found myself standing on the sidewalk in front of my house, staring at my wasteland of a front lawn, wondering how in the hell I was going to fix it. After giving it a great deal of thought, I came to the conclusion that the best thing to do was to cover the lawn in concrete and turn it into a handball court.
I was just about to go into the house and announce my decision to my wife, when I was interrupted by Leonard, a neighbor from across the street, who came up to me and said, “You’ve got lawn grubs. That’s why your lawn looks so shitty.”
“I’ve got what?”
“Lawn grubs. They eat grass roots. If you don’t do something about it, they’ll kill what’s left of your lawn. Eventually you’ll have to dig up this mess, treat it with pesticides and lay down new sod. You should have taken better care of your lawn.”
Leonard is a true lawn snob and I despise him for it. His lawn is immaculate. It looks like the 18th green at Augusta National. He spends his entire weekend, and parts of his weekdays, working on his lawn. I’ve actually seen him with a ruler, measuring the height of the grass before he mows it. He’s even got a digitally timed sprinkler system that automatically waters his yard, mornings and afternoons.
I don’t mind Leonard’s lawn obsession. We’ve all got our quirks. What pisses me off is his attitude. He looks down on people whose lawns don’t measure up to his high standards. I imagine he sees people like me, who care nothing for lawns, as lesser, deeply flawed beings.
Later that day, as I was enjoying a cigarette with my afternoon whiskey, I thought about the lawn grubs devastating my front yard. They had been on my mind ever since my earlier conversation with that arrogant bastard, Leonard. After having another drink I decided I had to see what these grubs looked like.
I grabbed a trowel, went to the front yard, and dug around until I found a few of the grubs. They were disgusting little things, a sickly shade of white and about an inch long. I rooted around some more until I had about a dozen of them in the trowel.
As I watched the grubs squirming on the trowel, I wondered how such tiny creatures could do so much damage. How long did it take them to ruin a lawn? How quickly did they reproduce? How soon did the damage become evident? Those were just a few of the thoughts going through my mind. Some of the thoughts, I must admit, were wicked.
As the sun started to set and it grew darker, I walked across the street and dropped the grubs on Leonard’s lawn.
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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 bamboozled 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.
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, a raccoon, and a couple of possums are eating food that somebody left on the sidewalk.”
“That certainly is weird.”
“Yeah, why would somebody dump a huge pile of sauerkraut, smoked pig tails, and Wonder Bread on our sidewalk?”
“Beats me,” I said.
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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, checking her out, giving her the old up-and-down.
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 alienate my wife’s affections.
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?”
“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 94 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 smirk. “Special delivery.”
“Oh, 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 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 worried about the cops. When I explained everything, I was sure they would understand.
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James Brown, the late Godfather of Soul, was a world-class ladies’ man. When the Hardest Working Man in Show Business was in his prime, traveling from gig to gig, constantly on the road, he enjoyed the company of a different woman just about every night.
It goes without saying that being the Godfather of Soul was a demanding, time-consuming job. There simply weren’t enough hours in the day for James Brown to take care of the business of being James Brown. He was so busy that he didn’t even have time to find his own chicks. He had to delegate that sensitive job to a close business associate, usually his valet.
Fortunately, for the valet, finding women for James Brown was not a difficult assignment. There were probably hundreds of thousands of women willing to make James Brown, who always felt good, feel even better.
The valet would usually find the woman he was looking for during one of James Brown’s spectacular stage shows. He would scan the audience for a lady that he hoped would appeal to his boss. Once he found the right woman, he would explain the situation to her and, if the woman was agreeable, make all of the necessary arrangements.
As I had mentioned, time was of the essence for James Brown. When he arrived for his appointed rendezvous, the lady, as instructed, would already be in bed, awaiting the Great Man’s attentions.
James Brown rarely spent more than a few minutes with a woman. He was a busy man. He had a schedule to keep. According to reports, his rutting was fierce but fleeting. When he had satisfied himself, he would give the woman a memento of the occasion, usually an autographed 8×10 glossy photo, say something like “Baby, I got to go,” and be off to the next town and the next show.
One day, as the valet was driving James Brown to a radio station for an interview, he noticed that his boss was unusually quiet, seemingly lost in thought. After a while, James turned to the valet and said, “Let me ask you something.”
“Sure, boss, anything.”
“What do a man get from eating pussy?”
“Heh, heh, I wouldn’t know nothing about that.”
James Brown pondered the valet’s answer for a few moments, a puzzled expression on his face, before saying, “Got to be something to it. I understand a lot of men be eating pussy.”
The Third City has never shied away from the tough questions. In my role as Society, Lifestyle and Religion columnist, I’ve tackled some of the most sensitive issues of our times. Granted, James Brown’s sex life is ultimately of little consequence, but the question he posed to his valet is a profound one and needs to be addressed.
When James asked, “What do a man get from eating pussy?” he was, in essence, asking, “What’s in it for me?” I was determined to find the answer to this perplexing question and write about it in The Third City’s blog.
This past Friday, I went to The Third City’s plush Michigan Avenue offices to do some research for the story. I was hard at work – a porn site on my computer screen, skin magazines scattered across my desk, a 900-number sex worker on speaker-phone – when I was interrupted by my colleague, Benny Jay.
“Milo, what the hell is going on here? You’re scaring all of the interns.”
When I explained what I was doing, Benny said, “Ah, shit! What are you trying to do, put us out of business? The last time you wrote about something like this the FCC almost pulled our blogging license.”
“Benny, I refuse to let small-minded bureaucrats dictate policy to The Third City.”
“That’s not the point. What about our readers? A lot of them are little old ladies. How do you think they’ll react to an article about eating pussy?”
“I would hope the subject matter would bring back some pleasant memories.”
“Do me a favor and don’t write this story. It’ll be nothing but trouble. And we can’t afford the legal fees.”
Against my better judgment, I took Benny’s advice.
That afternoon, I was sitting in Sterch’s Saloon, sipping cocktails and feeling sorry for myself, when an old friend, named Sarah, walked in and sat next to me. Sarah had married well and become a proper North Shore matron, but I had known her when she was younger and not quite so proper.
After buying her a drink, I said, “Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?”
“Milo! I’m a married woman!”
“It’s not that kind of question.”
She said, ‘Okay,” and then I asked her the same question that James Brown asked of his valet.
Sarah laughed out loud — a laugh I remembered very well. “Honey, it’s all about the Golden Rule.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Give it some thought, Milo. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
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I have a friend who fell in love with a one-legged woman. Despite her missing appendage, which she lost in a freak accident, she was very attractive, with a lush figure and a knowing, sexy demeanor. My friend adored her. He went a bit crazy when she dumped him.
My wife and I were friendly with a couple who were into real estate in a small-time way. They owned a couple of two-flats on the North Side, one of them had a storefront on the first floor. The wife decided she wanted to open a shop in the storefront. The husband, deeply in love with his wife, agreed to spend tens of thousands of dollars rehabbing the place. On the day the last workman left the shop, when all the work had been completed to the wife’s exacting and expensive specifications, she told him she wanted a divorce. She got the storefront building in the settlement.
One of my platoon commanders in Vietnam, a young Lieutenant, was madly in love with his college sweetheart and she, apparently, was devoted to him. She sent the Lieutenant four or five letters a week, including photographs, which he sometimes showed me.
“She’s a beauty, Sir.”
“She sure is. We were thinking about getting married before I left the states, but I decided it would be better if we waited until I got back. Know what I mean?”
“That’s sound thinking, Sir. Anything can happen over here.”
One day the Lieutenant got a letter from his girl saying that she and a few of her friends were going to some sort of rock festival in upstate New York, near a town called Woodstock. The Lieutenant never got another letter from his sweetheart.
I don’t want to give the wrong impression. This is not a screed about faithless or perfidious women. I’m no mathematician or social worker, but I figure that roughly 50% of all relationship problems are caused by men.
I wasn’t always a famous and wealthy blogger. There was a time when I was a man of the people, just a regular guy, subject to the same existential slings, arrows and woes that afflict the average Joe. And, like so many average guys, I got taken to school by women, on more occasions than I care to mention.
There was a woman, let’s call her Jane, who worked me over pretty good (to paraphrase a Warren Zevon tune). She was a beauty who hung out with the same North Side crowd I did, back when I was in my 20s. Jane had just broken up with her long-time boyfriend, Craig, and, for some reason, decided that she wanted to spend some quality time with me. I don’t know why Jane chose me. I wasn’t much to look at in those days, but I was clean, earnest and had a decent sense of humor, which must have carried some weight with her.
I knew, going in, that it was just going to be a fling. It was sure to be a lot of fun, but there was no future in it. I told myself to play it cool and not get emotionally invested. It was great advice. I should have taken it. Instead, I got hooked.
I couldn’t help myself. She was a great looking woman with a sweet personality and a joyous laugh. She was also a performer, an actress, someone used to putting on a show and pleasing her audience. Plus, she had certain amatory skills that were above and beyond anything I had yet encountered. Things were going along wonderfully. I hoped it would last a bit longer. Then, about two months into the affair, we had this conversation:
“Milo, honey, Craig called me and wants to have dinner.”
“He says he has to talk to me. He wants to get a few things straight in his mind. You know, we have a history together.”
“Sure, no problem.”
“Sweetie, I hope you don’t mind. I mean, I owe him something after all those years. You do understand, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I’m getting the drift.”
That was it, the fling was over. She eventually married Craig and had a couple of children. I hear they are still together.
Like most guys that get dumped, I did a few stupid things in the next couple of months. I drank too much, made some phone calls I regret and spent way too much time feeling sorry for myself. It hurt but I eventually got over it. If I learned any lessons from that episode, I’ve already forgotten them. Life, in all its majesty, goes on. Unfortunate things happen to people all the time.
I know a guy whose girlfriend left him for a woman, came back, then left him for another woman.
I ran into a guy in North Dakota whose wife left him for the pastor of their church. I believe he was Episcopalian.
I met a guy…
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Well, it’s Sunday afternoon and it’s time to write my weekly blog. But before I sit down at my keyboard to start writing, I have to go through my routine, a ritual I’ve developed over the years to get my creative juices oozing.
Several of my colleagues here at The Third City also have pre-blog writing routines. For example, Benny Jay won’t sit down in front of his computer unless he has a bucket of fried chicken nearby. And No Blaise won’t write a word unless she’s wearing high heels and a little black party dress. Jim Siergey likes to watch a few episodes of the Twilight Zone before attacking the keyboard. Jonny Randolph, The Third City’s world class photographer, always trims his nose hairs and shaves his back before heading out to a shoot.
As for Rolando, trust me when I say that you don’t want to know what he does before he starts writing his blog.
My pre-writing ritual is actually a very simple one. Matter of fact, I just went through it about a half an hour ago. I walked into the kitchen, dropped a few ice cubes into a large pitcher, and filled the pitcher to the brim with fine bourbon whiskey.
Now, if you’ll excuse me for a moment, I’m going to enjoy a nip from the pitcher.
Man! That hits the spot! I believe I’ll have another.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, the blog. I enjoy writing the blog but sometimes it can be a huge pain in the ass. There are times when I have better things to do than spend a Sunday afternoon sitting in front of a damned computer. Besides, it’s not easy coming up with six or seven hundred words every week, much less words that make sense.
Pardon me a second while I have another drink.
Mmm, mmm, mmm!
I’ve been writing this weekly blog for about six years and I’m starting to get tired of it. It’s wearing me out. Swear to Gd, if it wasn’t for a handful of loyal readers, people who relie on me for sound advice, enlightenment and spiritual guidance, I’d probably give the fucking thing up. I’m sure I could find something better to do with my Sunday afternons, maybe join a softball team and get some exrcise for a change.
Excuse me a second while I quench my thirst.
Yowzah! That’s good! One more couldn’t hirt.
Of course, not everyone appreciates my writing. If fact, there are some rotten bastrds out there who don’t like it at all. I was at a party a while ago when a frumpy, middle-aged womn approached me and asked, “Are you Milo, the guy who rites for The Third Cty?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“I read your last blg and thought it was digusting.”
“I don’t giv a shit aboot you opnion.”
“How could you posibly advise someone to get a gun and shoot sombody, just becaus ther dog pooped on his lawn. That’s crimnal. Yu shuld be locked up.”
“Lissen here, you uglie old cnt. Why dn’t u jus go fuk yousef, since it’s obvus to me that nobody els want to.”
“Oh, yu’r a vile, nastee ol man. An yor ugli, to.”
“Yeah, sayz yu.”
I’m be takng a short brake here. I’m kind of thirsting..
Oh, man, noting like a fine cocktall on a Sundae fternoo. Onli think better wood be twoo.
It’s a fre country. Fee speack is ritten into the consitwoshun. Butt I cant beelleave that btch sad I wus old an ugl. Ther’s no rezon to be rood. What evr happend to sivilized discurse. Everone’s inttled to an opnin, but sum ignorant mutrfuckrs shud do evrone a favr an shit the fck up. If itt wuz ub too me, I’d roun up all of theeze mizrabul cokstickers and…
Due to the avalanche of phone calls, faxes and emails from outraged readers, we’ve had to abruptly cut Milo’s blog short. The rest of it was barely readable, and what was readable was obscene. One of our staff tried to contact Milo, but failed. He did hear a rumor, however, that Milo was recently seen directing traffic on the corner of Southport and Irving Park Road. He also learned that the lovely Mrs. Milo is out of town for a week, which may account for Milo’s odd behavior. He has been known to act recklessly in the absence of spousal supervision.
Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience this blog may have caused. We have always prided ourselves on the professionalism of our bloggers and will do our best to ensure that this sort of incident does not occur again. Thanks for your understanding.
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