Letter From Milo: Road Warrior

August 21st, 2017

I’ve become somewhat of a hermit as I’ve gotten older. My comfort zone has shrunk to a few North Side neighborhoods. I hate to travel. I don’t like meeting new people or seeing new things. I’m uncomfortable with crowds. And I refuse to fly.

I am a weird old dude, and I’ve got the documentation to prove it.

The lovely Mrs. Milo, on the other hand, is the most social of creatures. She loves people, parties and travel. Fortunately, she has a wide circle of girlfriends, some of them also burdened with uncooperative or curmudgeonly husbands, who help her enjoy the social pleasures, things that I am unwilling or incapable of doing.

A few weeks ago, my wife approached me and hesitantly asked, “Milo, honey, is there any chance you’ll go on a road trip with me?”

“Where?”

“Upstate New York. My brother’s going to race one of his cars at the racetrack in Watkin’s Glen. It’s near Ithaca, where, if you recall, I was born.”

“Okay.”

“What! You’ll actually go.”

“Yes.”

“And you won’t grumble and complain.”

“I just agreed to go. I didn’t agree to behave.”

Ithaca is about an 11-hour drive from Chicago. We decided to drive to Cleveland, which is more than halfway to Ithaca, and spend the night at a Bed and Breakfast, which my wife found on the internet. The room was funky, it had a medicinal smell, but the breakfast was excellent.

We stayed at a B and B in Ithaca, too. The room was great, but the breakfasts were horrible. Everything – eggs, potatoes, bacon – was microwaved.

Despite the shitty breakfasts, we had a nice time in Ithaca. It’s a pleasant community, hilly, watered by several streams, with well-maintained homes, and dominated by Cornell University. It reminded me of Gary, Indiana. We did some sightseeing, found a few good restaurants, and patronized a couple of the local watering holes. Then, we were off to Watkin’s Glen to meet my wife’s older brother, Richard.

Richard is a retired naval officer, in his early 70s, with a lot of spare time on his hands. He spends that time buying, rebuilding and racing old Mustangs. And that’s how I ended up, on a fine Saturday in August, wandering around the pit area of the Watkin’s Glen racecourse. My wife and I were going to watch her brother race his Mustang.

I’ll admit that I know nothing about cars. In fact, I have no interest in knowing about cars. If someone had told me that I would spend an entire day nosing around the pit area of a racecourse, I would have laughed out loud and asked what they were smoking.

There were dozens of cars in the pits, most had their hoods up and a couple of guys tinkering with the engines. As I walked past some of these mechanic types, I could hear fragments of their conversations. And I could barely understand a word they said. It was like they were speaking a foreign language.

I realized, then, that these guys were like the kids I knew in high school who used to hang around gas stations, except that they had grown up and were able to afford expensive racing machines.

All of the race cars were covered in product decals – oil companies, auto parts companies, tire companies, etc. As I strolled around with a beer in my hand, I noticed a car with a prominently displayed “Hoosier” decal.

Ah, I said to myself, a fellow Indiana boy. I walked up to the guy working on the car and said, “What part of Indiana are you from?”

“What?”

“I grew up in Indiana,” I said. “I noticed your Hoosier decal and wondered what part of Indiana you were from.”

He looked at me strangely and said, “I’m from Pennsylvania and Hoosier is the brand name of a tire.”

I smiled, nodded and walked away.

My wife and I spent another day in Watkin’s Glen, but stayed away from the racecourse. We sailed on Seneca Lake, ate at a couple of decent restaurants, and bought some souvenirs. The following morning we left New York State and drove straight through to Chicago. I was glad to get home.

About a week later, my wife approached me and said, “A group of us are thinking about going up to Michigan for the weekend. Do you want to go? It’ll be fun.”

“No.”

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Letter From Milo: Help Wanted

August 7th, 2017

The Third City has become an internet sensation. Discriminating readers are flocking to the site. We’re up to 63 readers a day now, 64 when my sister is sober enough to navigate a keyboard.

Benny Jay, the genius who came up with the brilliant idea of starting a blog, says that as soon as we get 15 or 20 more readers, we can start selling advertising. All we have to do is keep up the great work and brilliant writing and the money will start rolling in.

Unfortunately, keeping up the “great work and brilliant writing” will be difficult. In fact, it may be impossible. You see, the staff here at The Third City ran out of fresh ideas early in 2009, shortly after starting this blog site.

That said, we couldn’t let The Third City die just because we didn’t have anything new or interesting to say. We had to keep the site going. There was potentially too much money at stake. So, we all had to figure out ways to compensate for our shortcomings, which include, among other things, lack of talent, inspiration, originality and complete ignorance of the most basic rules of grammar.

For example, that talentless hack, Benny Jay, a die-hard NBA fan, never writes an original word from November to June, when the NBA playoffs end. He has become a master plagiarist, specializing in stealing from Belgian pastoralists from the 18th century. He figures nobody will ever find out. He’s probably right.

Jon Randolph the lowlife who poses as a photographer for this site, ran out of photos more than a year ago. He’s been scanning photos from National Geographic, posting them every Friday and boldly claiming them as his own.

Rolando told us, by phone, that he’s too busy to write anything new. He says he’s working on a story that will make The Third City a legend in the blogging world. After years of the most arduous and dangerous undercover work, he claims to have found Barack Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate. He’ll post the story as soon as he’s released from rehab.

Jim Siergey began outsourcing his blogs to India about a week after we hired him.

As for me, my drug, alcohol and sex addictions have seriously cut into my writing time. I’ve posted the same story for nearly two years, the only changes being different titles and a new dick joke. Nobody seems to have noticed.

All of us agree, however, that the only way to keep The Third City in business is to add new writers to our staff. The problem with finding new writers is that we have extremely high standards. We won’t hire just anybody. Over the years we’ve turned down applications from Joseph Stiglitz, Kingsley and Martin Amis, Stephen King and the late Saul Bellow.

Then a thought occurred to me, a stroke of genius, really. In the past months I’ve become Facebook friends with many witty, talented, accomplished and highly literate people. Surely some of them would jump at the chance to write for The Third City.

I ran the idea by Benny Jay and he loved it. “That’s a brilliant idea, Milo. That’s why you make the big money around here.”

So, I sent notes to some of my dearest Facebook friends, asking them if they would care to write for us. Here are some of their replies:

The always elegant Elaine Soloway immediately unfriended me and changed the locks on all her doors.

The lovely Jessica Gardner replied, “Go fuck yourself and that goes for the rest of those losers you work with.”

The transcendent Chansonette Buck contacted her attorney who immediately applied for a restraining order.

The manly Bill Linden wrote, “I’d rather gnaw off my own foot than be associated with you barely literate clowns.”

The virile Matt Farmer wrote, “Who are you and what exactly is The Third City?”

The glamorous Barbara Biederman answered, “No! No! No! Never! Not in this world or the next. I would rather die a painful, lingering death than write a single word for your stupid blog. Are we clear here!”

The gentlemanly Harlan Stearn wrote, “You rotten bastard, you’ve been stealing my dick jokes for years and now you want me to write for you? You’ve got a lot of nerve.”

Even my old friend, the legendary pussy magnet, Bruce Diksas, turned me down. “Friendship only goes so far. And, by the way, where’s that money you owe me?”

Okay, so things didn’t go too well with the Facebook idea. Normally I would just go to Plan B. Unfortunately, I don’t have a Plan B. Matter of fact, Plan A wasn’t so hot.

That said, we still need writers at The Third City. If you’re interested, send us an application. Oh, and please enclose a crisp 50 dollar bill in the envelope. The money is for, ah, processing, archiving and eventually crumpling up your application and throwing it in the waste basket.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

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Letter From Milo: Feedback

July 31st, 2017

Recently the editors at The Third City hired a research company to figure out the demographics of our readers.

“The more we know about our readers, the better off we’ll be,” Benny Jay said. “Once we know who they are, where they live and their income levels, we can increase our advertising and subscription rates and squeeze even more money out of the dumb bastards. All of the big boys do it — Guns & Ammo, Hustler, The Daily Racing Form, Minnesota Swingers Magazine. We’ve got to do it, too.”

Well, I have to admit that I was astonished by the results of the survey. A surprising number of our faithful readers have been short-listed for the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes. More than 70% have advanced degrees from Ivy League schools. 81% of our readers are independently wealthy or employed at the highest levels of government. We attract more MENSA readers than any other blog, by a margin of more than three to one. And more than 90% of our female readers have big tits.

With such a literate, civilized and genteel readership, I feel an obligation to our fans to let them have their say. That’s why I occasionally turn this column over to our loyal supporters. Here, then, are a few letters from the distinguished followers of The Third City.

Letter:

Hey, Milo! I’ve seen photos of you on the internet and I have to say that you are an exceptionally good looking man for someone of your advanced years. What’s your secret?

Reply:

Photoshop.

Letter:

Hey, Milo, what makes you such an expert on sex? It seems like all you write about is booze, drugs, gambling and sex. Personally, I find your blogs extremely offensive. I caught my wife sneaking a peek at your blogs the other night and immediately made an appointment for counseling with my minister at the Lutheran church.

Reply:

I am a humble man, modest to a fault. I would be the last person to blow my own horn. I prefer to let others blow it for me. That said, there are few men better equipped or as well endowed with the knowledge and experience that is needed to be able to offer advice to the fornicationally challenged. The great ones – Casanova, Don Juan, Sir Walter Raleigh, Porfirio Rubirosa, Catherine the Great’s horse, Errol Flynn, and the immortal Wayne Gray — made it a point of honor to pass on their knowledge of the studly arts to those who followed in their footsteps. Although I am too humble to put myself in their exalted company, I would be doing a grave disservice to aspiring Pussy Magnets everywhere if I failed to do the same. The letter below, from a young man floundering in the sexual widerness, is a perfect example of why it’s important to pass on traditional manly lore.

Letter:

Hey, Milo, it’s me, Benny Jay. This question is not from me, honest. It’s for a friend of mine. Is it true that size doesn’t matter when it comes to sex? Like I said before, this question is not from me. My friend would appreciate an answer ASAP.

Reply:

Benny, let me put your, ah, friend’s mind at ease. Size has absolutely nothing to do with sexual pleasure. The truth is, you can have just as much fun with a fat woman as a skinny woman.

Letter:

Milo, I’ve decided to start my own blog site and get rich and famous like you guys at The Third City. It’s going to be a Christian blog site, dedicated to Christian ideals. I’ll post notices of good, clean, family activities, like hayrides, all-you-can-eat fish fries, spelling bees, corn shucking contests and church outings to Six Flags. What do you think? Any advice would be appreciated. Bless you.

Reply:

Eh, great idea, kid. Add a little good Christian porn, strictly missionary position stuff, of course, and you’ve got a real winner on your hands.

Letter:

What ever happened to your friend Teddy, the bank robber, who spent 22 years in a Mississippi prison?

Reply:

Teddy turned up about a week ago. It seems that he had spent the last four months in the McHenry County Jail on a forgery charge. Teddy assured me it was a bum rap, a simple misunderstanding, something about a questionable signature on a check. That’s what happens when you rob banks. You get on all the authorities’ shit lists. Make the smallest mistake and they come after you. It doesn’t seem fair. A man robs a few banks and he’s considered a criminal. Yet, when the banks rob us, the bank executives end up getting a free trip to Washington, D.C. so they can spend a pleasant afternoon amiably chatting with Senators in an air-conditioned room. What they should do is take the motherfuckers outside, put them up against a wall and…

Note from the Editors:

Due to the flood of angry calls, letters and emails to The Third City, we are suspending Milo without pay indefinitely. He will not be allowed to write for us again unless he agrees, in the presence of witnesses, not do any more letters or advice columns. We want to assure our loyal readers that The Third City does not officially endorse or condone drug use or drug trafficking, indiscriminate sexual activity, pornography, bank robbery or armed violence of any kind. On the advice of our attorneys, we can say no more.

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Letter From Milo: A Common Foot Soldier

July 24th, 2017

Every Friday afternoon, I go to the Vet Center in Evanston and spend about an hour chatting with a psychologist named Dr. Betsy. When Dr. Betsy’s done with me, I like to hang around the place for a while, drinking coffee, making small talk with some of the guys, or just sitting in an easy chair reading a book or magazine.

I like the Vet Center. I’m comfortable there. I feel at ease.

The Vet Centers were established, by Act of Congress, in 1979, as community outreach programs to help Vietnam Veterans who were experiencing re-adjustment problems. After years of being ignored, Vietnam vets now had access to counseling that helped with PTSD, substance abuse problems, homelessness, employment issues, violent or suicidal tendencies, and other situations that plague combat veterans.

In 1991, following the Gulf War, Congress extended eligibility to the men who served in post-Vietnam hostilities. By 1996, the Act was extended to any veterans who had served in any war zone, going back to Korea and WW2.

I’ve been making the weekly trip to Evanston for about eight years now. I keep going back because Dr. Betsy and some of the other counselors have helped me weather a few stormy episodes.

But the real reason I keep going back is because I like to spend time, even if it’s just a few minutes or half an hour, with my fellow veterans.

I don’t know any of the guys very well. We’re just casual acquaintances. Many of them seem like regular guys, working stiffs, family men, retirees, the kind of people you’d run into at the grocery store, corner tavern or bowling alley.

But some of the guys that frequent the Evanston Vet Center – and I say this with love, understanding and compassion in my heart – are fucking crazy. These poor souls may be physically present, right here on the USA, but some essential parts of them are still wandering distant battlefields.

One guy I run into at the Vet Center constantly threatens to get vengeance on people who have offended him or treated him shabbily. He’s got a long shit list and adds names to it daily. To hear him tell it, one of these days there’ll be a bloodbath in the streets of Chicago that will make Iwo Jima look like a brawl at a Serbian wedding.

The guy is in his late 60s or early 70s and, as far as I know, has never harmed anyone.

Another guy I see regularly is a Vietnam vet who sits in a corner and talks to himself. He doesn’t just utter a few phrases. He has long complicated conversations with himself, complete with hand gestures, song fragments, and snorts of disgust. Occasionally, he’ll slap himself on the forehead and say something like, “Serves your ass right for fuckin’ around like that.”

One old-timer brings his wife to the Vet Center, and they bicker constantly. I can’t say for sure, but I believe they have the same argument every time. Once in a while the husband turns to others in the room and asks, “Did you hear that? Did you hear what she just said to me?”

Most people have the good sense not to get involved. When he asks me the question, I usually say, “Sorry, man, I wasn’t paying attention.”

When I mentioned what I had observed in the waiting lounge to Dr. Betsy, she said, “PTSD. Some have it worse than others. The stress of combat on young, not yet fully formed minds can be devastating. And sometimes the damage doesn’t show up for years.”

As I was driving home from my Friday appointment, thinking about my fellow vets, an odd thought occurred to me. What did those old soldiers see when they looked at me?

“There’s something wrong with that guy. He never says shit to anybody, just sits in the corner, drinking coffee, reading a book or scribbling shit in that note pad he carries.”

“I don’t trust him. He’s probably got a lot of nasty shit going through his head.”

“He’s got an evil look in his eye, too.”

“The dude don’t look right. I expect he’ll snap one of these days and do something stupid or dangerous.”

“Best keep an eye on him.”

Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re not.

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Letter From Milo: Night Work

July 17th, 2017

I wasn’t always a famous, wealthy and beloved figure in the blogging world.

I know it’s hard to believe, but before I was overwhelmed by fame, fortune and the paparazzi, I was just a regular guy. By regular guy I mean I was an average Joe, shuffling along in obscurity, content to make a living, raise a family, get drunk once in a while and get laid on occasion.

Then, the feces got into the central air. Like regular guys everywhere I got hit hard by the Great George Bush Economic Meltdown. The small business I had owned and mismanaged for many years, the Dumbass Advertising Corporation, Ltd, LLC & Sons, nearly went under. The cash stopped coming in. The lovely Mrs. Milo had to shoulder the main burden of keeping us afloat. I had to do something, anything, to crank up the cash flow.

So, I got a night job.

It wasn’t a great job. I had never done anything like it before. I won’t even mention what it was except to say it wasn’t anything I’d care to post on my resume.

The best thing about it was the hours, six hours a night, four days a week. It allowed me to keep my normal activities going during the day and it provided much needed cash. It was what I needed at the time.

The business wasn’t exactly a fly-by-night enterprise, but it was real close. The workforce was a mixed bag of characters. There were middle managers who had been downsized, college kids working their way through school, retirees who couldn’t make it on their pensions, whores who were too old to make a decent living, a number of young men with crude jailhouse tattoos, musicians who had wasted their youths trying to get record deals, a few people who were obviously junkies, and of course, an aging, burned out advertising man.

It seemed that anyone who wanted that job could have it. The only requirements were the ability to read and write and minimal computer skills. None of the employees stayed long. Turnover was ferocious. After a month there were only two of us left out of a group of 12 that started with me.

The other guy was a man named Teddy, who, as a young man, had made a living as a bank robber in Mississippi.

Of course, he didn’t blurt out this information at our first meeting. We had to become friends first. And that wasn’t easy. I wasn’t looking for friends and I doubt if Teddy was, either. All we were looking for was a paycheck, preferably one that didn’t bounce.

But as new faces kept showing up week after week, and the people we knew drifted away, Teddy and I began spending more time with each other. We’d eat lunch and take smoke breaks together, and after work we’d walk to the El train together. Teddy generally carried a half pint in his jacket and had a drink or two on the walk to the train. He was a gentleman and always offered me a drink. And I always accepted.

It was while walking to the El one evening that Teddy said, “Man, you don’t know how good it feels to be walking down this street.”

“It’s a beautiful night.”

“It’s more than that, Milo. You see, I spent 22 years in prison, in Mississippi. Got out eight months ago. Just getting on this El train and going anywhere I want is sweet.”

“Damn, man. 22 years?”

“Yeah, robbed four banks. I should have stopped at three.”

When I got home that evening, I opened a bottle of wine, poured a hefty drink and thought about Teddy. I would have thought someone who had served so much prison time would be bitter and angry. But Teddy was just the opposite. He was one of the sweetest natured men I’d ever met, always smiling, always genial. I never heard him say a bad word about anyone. He even had a playful side, which he allowed me to see.

He had begun greeting me at work by giving me an ugly look and saying, “Motherfucker, where’s my money?”

And I’d reply by saying, “Spent it, motherfucker.”

Teddy always laughed at my reply and said, “Shit, man, I would have done the same thing.”

One evening as we walked to the El train, I asked Teddy, “It must have been tough being a black man in a Mississippi prison?”

“It wasn’t easy. The funny thing is that my own people made it tough on me. You see, most of the trustees and guards at the prison are black men. But they have to answer to white men. So they can’t look like they’re taking it easier on their own people than on whites. Motherfuckers can make your life miserable, sometimes.”

“How’d you get this job, anyway? The application form asked about felony convictions.”

“”They just asked if you had been convicted of a felony in the last seven years. Shit, man, I been in prison a lot longer than seven years.”

Another time, Teddy said, “Stolen money don’t last long. This short money we making here last longer than bank money. My biggest hit was $30,000 and it was gone in a month. Course I had to split it with a partner. If you a criminal you got a lot of expenses. Plus, you get crazy with the money. When you work for your money, you watch it closer.”

About a month later, Teddy came in late to work, which was unusual. He never missed work and he was always punctual. He was also disheveled and smelled of alcohol, another unusual occurrence. He never drank at work.

“Are you okay, man?” I asked.

“My woman put me out. I had to move all my shit into my brother’s place.”

“Damn, man, that’s rough.”

“Bitch went crazy. Accused me of all kind of shit. I swear, Milo, I ain’t even looked at another woman since I been out of jail.”

About an hour later, Teddy abruptly stood up at his cubicle, raised his face toward the ceiling and hollered something I couldn’t quite make out. Then he rushed toward the exit door.

That was the last time I saw him.

Word on the street was that Teddy had broken parole, either a domestic dispute, something to do with a car or a concealed weapons charge. I was pretty sure he didn’t go back to robbing banks because I didn’t read anything in the papers about any local banks being robbed. He might be in prison in Illinois or maybe they sent him back to Mississippi. Who the hell knows?

One thing I do know is that I miss him. He was good company and always cheered me up when I saw him.

Sometime in my life I’d like to see Teddy again. If I do, I’ll throw my arms around him, give him a big hug and say, “Motherfucker, where’s my money?”

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Letter From Milo: Old Friends

July 10th, 2017

This past Friday morning, I called the Newton County Jail in Kentland, Indiana. When the receptionist answered, I said, “I’m Milo Samardzija, the Society, Lifestyle, and Religion columnist for The Third City blog site in Chicago, Illinois.”

“What can I do for you, sir?”

“Do you have someone named Thomas Esmond in custody?”

“Yes, sir. He has been detained for several months. He’ll be going to trial in a few weeks.”

“What’s the charge?”

“Attempted murder.”

I met Tom Esmond in the late 1970s, in Sterch’s Tavern on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. He was from Houston, Texas and had come to Chicago to try his luck dealing commodities at the Board of Trade.

Tom and I became barroom acquaintances. He liked to drink and smoke weed, and so did I. When Tom got high he liked to play up his Texas accent. My friends and I started calling him “Texas Tom.”

After I had known him for a while, Tom mentioned that he needed a place to stay for a few months. I was living in Wicker Park at the time, sharing a three-bedroom apartment with another guy. We had a spare bedroom, so I told Tom he could move in with us.

When I got to know Tom better, I noticed that he had some odd mannerisms. He was loud, smug and opinionated, and he didn’t understand the concept of personal space. He’d get uncomfortably close when he talked to you. If you stepped back, he’d just step up and close the gap. He also had a variety of facial tics and twitches, which made it disconcerting to carry on a conversation with him. Other than that, he seemed like a regular guy.

A few months later, the future lovely Mrs. Milo and I decided to set up our own household and I moved out of the Wicker Park apartment. But I still kept in touch with Tom, running into him at various North Side watering holes.

My dear friend, Bruce Diksas, also worked at the Board of Trade, and he ran into Tom regularly. Over the years, Bruce kept me updated on Tom’s circumstances.

Tom was doing real well. He bought a seat at the Board. He got married. He had a son. Tom was drinking a lot. He was doing a lot of coke. He was struggling. His wife left him. He lost his seat. He was deeply in debt. He busted out completely. Tom was tending bar in Uptown, in a joint that catered to Somali taxi drivers.

Tom moved back to Houston to live with his mother. Shortly after moving in, Tom pushed his mother down a flight of stairs, injuring her severely. He spent the next few months in a psychiatric hospital. When Tom was released from the psych ward, he moved back to Chicago.

As soon as Tom returned to Chicago, he began stalking his ex-wife, who was living in Kenosha, Wisconsin. While making her life miserable, he got picked up for drunk driving. He made bail, but didn’t show up for trial. He ended up doing four months in the Kenosha jail for stalking, DUI, and jumping bail.

The last time I saw Tom was purely by accident, about three years ago, at the Jesse Brown V.A. Hospital. I was shocked at his appearance. His teeth were rotten, his clothes were shabby, and his tics and twitches were worse than I remembered. He looked like a bum. We chatted a while. He told me he was living in an SRO, above a dive bar, in the Grand Avenue and Halstead area. Before I left, he bummed five dollars and a couple of cigarettes from me.

Every once in a while, my friend, Bruce, would say we should go down to that dive bar and see Tom.

“I don’t want to see that crazy fucker.”

“He used to be a friend.”

“Yeah, that was before he lost his damned mind.”

Last week, Bruce was driving by the bar and decided to stop in and see if Tom was there. When Bruce asked about Tom, one of the regulars told him that Tom was in jail in Indiana.

He had allegedly stabbed a kid, an eight-year-old boy.

That evening, when I turned on my computer, there was an e-mail from Bruce, with a link to an Indianapolis newspaper. When I opened the link, I saw a scary-looking mug shot of Tom, and a headline that read, “66-year-old man stabs eight-year-old boy multiple times.”

The kid survived. Rumor has it that he was Tom’s grandson.

Tom’s trial is in a couple of weeks, and the good people of Indiana will pass judgment. I doubt I’ll ever see Tom again.

And that’s just fine with me.

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Letter From Milo: “Can you find something to do for a couple of hours?”

July 3rd, 2017

Every few months I go down to the Jesse Brown V.A. Hospital to get my liver checked and try to convince my doctor to prescribe some, ah, more interesting meds. This past Friday, as I was leaving for the hospital, the lovely Mrs. Milo said, “Can you find something to do until about four o’clock this afternoon?”

“Why?”

“I’ve got some gals coming over for a business lunch and it’ll probably run late.”

“How come you don’t you want me around?”

“You can be a distraction sometimes.”

“Well, I wish you had told me about this earlier. I would have made some plans.”

“Honey, it’s only a few hours. I’m sure you’ll find something to occupy your time.”

Friday is generally the best day to visit the V.A. It’s not as crowded and appointments don’t run too far behind schedule. I didn’t have to wait very long to see my primary physician, Dr. Frankie “Disco” Lopez.

“Dude, we’ve got to make it quick,’ Dr. Frankie said, when I walked into his office. “I’ve got a horse running in the fifth race at Arlington and don’t want to miss it. How do you feel?”

“I feel okay, I guess.”

“That’s great. Saves me the trouble of giving you an examination. Anything else?”

“Yeah, I need some new pain meds, preferably some sort of powerful opiate.”

“Are you in pain?”

“No, but every once in a while I get some stiffness in my groin area.”

“Apparently, you don’t need Viagra. I’m going to give you some new pain meds that were recently developed by a Nigerian pharmaceutical company. I should wait for FDA approval before prescribing it, but I’ll make an exception in your case. Take two pills in the morning and you’ll feel better than James Brown all day long.”

“Thanks, Doc, I really appreciate it.”

I had to wait about a half hour for my meds, so I decided to go outside and enjoy a nice refreshing cigarette. While I was having a smoke I thought about what my wife had said earlier. What did she mean when she said I was “a distraction?” Was I a good distraction or a bad distraction? Or did she just use the word “distraction” because she was too kind to use a more fitting description.

I admit I can be a loose cannon at times. I’ll sometimes do things that don’t make sense or say things that I later regret. And I’m pretty sure my behavior is getting worse as I get older. I hate to think that I’ve become an embarrassment, someone too boorish, too rough around the edges, to mingle in polite society.

How long would it be, I wondered, before my wife started chaining me to the radiator.

I still had a few hours to kill after picking up my meds, so I decided to enjoy a few drinks at Swillagain’s Saloon. Although it was early Friday afternoon, the place was already filling up with regulars. It was great to see and have drinks with old friends and acquaintances, people I’ve known for more than 30 years. These people seemed to think highly of me. A couple of them even invited me to smoke a joint with them.

Still, I couldn’t shake the thought that my wife thought so poorly of me that she couldn’t trust me to behave properly around her friends. I decided to express my concerns to my old and very wise friend, Harlan the bartender. He listened carefully as I explained my situation.

When I finished, he asked, “Is your bar tab paid up?”

“Yeah, I settled it last week.”

“Then you’re a fine human being.”

I left Swillagain’s a little after four o’clock. The few hours I had spent sipping cocktails and catching up with old friends had eased my mind. In fact, I felt mighty fine. I realized that I was just being foolish, making a big deal out of nothing. I was not a crude, loutish character, lacking in the social graces. I was, instead, a witty, charming, sensitive, and, if I do say so myself, a very handsome man.

The lovely Mrs. Milo’s business lunch was still in progress when I walked in the door. She and her guests were seated at the dining room table, which was cluttered with laptops and spread sheets. My wife seemed surprised to see me, but quickly recovered.

“This is my, ah, husband, Milo,” she said, introducing me to her guests.

The ladies all smiled prettily, some of them saying it was nice to meet me.

I acknowledged their greetings and said, “So, what are you bitches up to?”

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