Letter From Milo: The First Three Pages

June 3rd, 2019

Dear friends and readers:

As promised (or threatened) here are the first few pages of a work in progress. I plan to serialize the first chapter on this blog site, unless the police, Catholic church, or mobs of torch-carrying peasants intervene. The serialization will run for 4-5 days, every Wednesday and Monday. Those of you with tender sensibilities, sensitive stomachs, high ethical standards or high literary standards may wish to avoid this site on those particular days. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

The Aristocrat House
by
Milo Samardzija

“God gave us sex to make up for all the other awful things he did to us.”

Chapter 1

It didn’t take long to figure out that Uncle Rudy was a worthless human being. I discovered, early on, that he was lazy, a liar, a petty thief, a drug abuser and a habitual drunkard. He was a bully when he was drunk and mean-spirited when sober. He was also coarse and profane, a spiteful, unrepentant racist and misogynist, and completely unreliable. When it came to money, women or responsibility of any sort, he simply could not be trusted.

That said, Uncle Rudy did have a few things going for him. He was a good dancer. And he dressed well when he could scrape up the money to pay for the cheap, flashy suits he favored. And he spoke with a trace of a Slavic accent, which, as he explained to me, “Most cunts can’t resist.”

Uncle Rudy was not a bad looking man, in a raw-boned, beaky Eastern European way. He was tall, slender but strong, with a head of dark hair that he slicked back to cover a growing bald spot, and he had all of his front teeth. He fell just short of being handsome, however, by a receding chin, shifty, calculating eyes, and excessive hairiness.

As I mentioned, Uncle Rudy was pretty much of a disgrace as a human being. He lacked character, conscience, scruples and dignity, but he was all the family I had. I was 15 years old and without him I would have been alone in the world.

We were staying at the Aristocrat House, a seedy, roach-infested transient hotel near the factory district. It was a horrible place, reeking of urine, disinfectant, unwashed bodies and other nauseating odors. The rooms were small, dimly lit and sparsely furnished. The paint on the walls was peeling, the plaster was cracked and crumbling. Yellowed, fading signs on every door read “No cooking or open fires allowed.” The communal bathrooms, located at each end of the long, narrow and trash-strewn hallways were rank, stomach-churning pigsties. In fact, calling them pigsties would have been a compliment. They were so nasty that the Spanish Inquisition could have used them to wring confessions from heretics.

Despite its proximity to the local mills and foundries, I doubt if even one honest working man rented a room at the Aristocrat House. I couldn’t imagine anyone with money or a steady job choosing to live there. It seemed to me that most of the residents were damaged souls, low-lifes and losers, the unemployable and the mentally ill, people who had to look up to see rock bottom. For them, it was the Aristocrat House, the institution or the street.

As disgusting as the Aristocrat House was, it was still a step up from our previous accommodations. For the past week and a half, Uncle Rudy and I had been living in his car, a battered and rusting five-year-old Ford Fairlane that he had received as part of his last divorce settlement.

“I’ve seen worse,” Uncle Rudy said, as we walked into our room and dropped our luggage; a duffel bag, two beat-up suitcases, a couple of shopping bags, and a canvas backpack that held my sketch pads, charcoal sticks and colored pencils. Looking around, he added, “Yeah, I’ve seen a lot fucking worse.”

“Well, I haven’t,” I replied.

“That’s because you’re too fucking young and stupid to know better,” he said, as he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a pint of whiskey. He took a long drink and gestured at me with the bottle before screwing the cap back on. “When you get a little older you’ll find out that there’s always a place that’s worse. Anyway, this is just temporary. We’ll get the fuck out of here as soon as I get my hands on a bitch with some money.”

“Speaking of money,” I said, “how are we paying for this place?”

A few hours earlier we had no money at all. The only reason we hadn’t starved to death was that there was still a bartender in town who was foolish enough to extend Uncle Rudy credit. We lived on bar snacks for a close to a week.

Uncle Rudy ignored my question. He was standing in front of the small mirror above the dresser, absorbed in combing his hair, taking particular care to cover the bald spot on top of his head. When he was satisfied with his appearance, he stepped back, cocked a finger at his image in the mirror and said, “You are one good looking motherfucker. And don’t you ever forget it.”

I looked out of the small grimy window for a while. It wasn’t much of a view, just enormous piles of slag, railroad tracks and billowing smokestacks. And in the distance beyond the factories, shimmering like a murky mirage in a wasteland, was Lake Michigan. I thought about going out later and drawing some sketches of the dismal scene, but I was tired and decided to wait until the next morning.

“You didn’t steal it the money, did you?” I asked. I knew he stole it, of course. That’s how he lived. He preferred to steal from women. They were his favorite target. But he would steal anything, at any time, from anybody. Once, in the back seat of his car, I found an empty charity canister, one of those things you find on store counters asking for donations to fight diseases and other righteous causes. I don’t remember what cause that particular canister was collecting for, but I do remember that there was a photograph of Jerry Lewis on it.

To be continued…

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Letter From Milo: Uncle Rudy

May 29th, 2019

Dear Readers:

Once again, I’m letting down my readers and partners here at The Third City. I’ve got nothing to say. I’m dry as a bone, due to a heavy schedule of cardio therapy, part-time work, rewriting a previous work, heavy drinking. sexual excesses and, of course, lack of talent and inspiration.

Please be patient, and I’ll have something very interesting ready for next week.

Jonny Randolph, the Barn Boss of this scabby, flatulent and talentless outfit, is pissed at me. He thinks that I’m just lazy, or, even worse to his way of thinking, jockeying for a raise. As far as I’m concerned he can go fuck himself. The same goes for his buddy, that low-life bastard Benny Jay.

Those two sons of bitches are threatening to withhold my Christmas bonus unless I start carrying my weight around here. Well, they can take their $5 Burger King gift certificate and stick it up their collective asses. And that’s all I’m going to say on that subject.

By the way, I’m done with the Chicago Bulls. They can go fuck themselves, too. How does any self respecting basketball team lose to the worst team in NBA history on their home court? It boggles the mind. I’m going back to following my other favorite team, the Columbus Blue Jackets of the NHL. As soon as I find out at least one of the players names, I will start rooting for them in earnest.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

Beginning this Wednesday, the 16th, I will start serializing the first chapter my novel in progress. It’s tentatively titled “The Aristocrat House” and there’s sure to be something in it to offend everybody. It is a vile, sexist, blasphemous, and often disgusting story of a sleazy, low-life petty thief and self-described gigolo, named Uncle Rudy, who is trying to raise a 15-year-old nephew in the most unusual circumstances. The serialization should last just a couple of weeks at about 2-3 pages at a time. So, if you have a delicate stomach, religious scruples, high ethical standards or high literary standards. I suggest you avoid The Third City for a while, at least while I’m posting chapter 1 of “The Aristocrat House.”

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Benny Jay: Donna Reed’s Memorial Day

May 27th, 2019

The strongest memory I have of Donna Reed is as Jimmy Stewart’s wife, Mary Bailey, in It’s a Wonderful Life.

I’ve seen that movie a hundred times — watched it nearly every Christmas for as long as I can remember. I love that scene where Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed — young and in love — are walking home at night from the dance. He promises to give her anything she wants in life. Just say the word and he’s gonna “throw a lasso around the moon” and give it to her.

Yeah, yeah, I know — I’m hopeless….

I was thinking of Donna Reed cause of a story in the New York Times by Larry Rohter. Turns out that during World War II — when Reed was still in her twenties — hundreds of soldiers sent off to the battlefields of Asia, Africa and Europe saw her as a beloved reminder of the life, women and country they missed.

They’d write her letters — hundreds of hundreds of letters — “as if to a sister or the girl next door, confiding moments of homesickness, loneliness, privation and anxiety,” Rohter writes.

“The boys in our outfit think you are a typical American girl, someone who we would like to come home to!!!!!” wrote Sergeant William F. Love. He wrote that letter on August 18, 1944 from the jungles of New Guinea.

Here’s another letter quoted in the story: “Sometimes I wish I was back there with the old gang, able to go the usual rounds of the week. Occasionally, I will set on the fantail and look at the moon, wondering how many of our old friends were doing the same.”

Then there’s this 1943 letter from Lieutenant Norman P. Klinker: “One thing I promise you — life on the battlefield is a wee bit different from the `movie version.’ It is tough and bloody and dirty….quite an interesting and heartless life at one and the same time.”

On January 6, 1944, Lieutenant Klinker was killed in action in Italy.

These letters would have been long forgotten. Except Donna Reed saved them — kept them in boxes — and her daughter discovered them. One thing led to the another and Rohter wrote it up in today’s New York Times.

Here’s the thing: Donna Reed “became an ardent antiwar campaigner” during the Vietnam War. She was co-chairwoman of “a 285,000-member group called Another Mother For Peace,” and she volunteered for Senator Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 anti-war presidential campaign, according to Rohter.

The story quotes her biographer, Jay Fultz, who writes: “She looked forward to a time when 19-year-old boys will no longer be taken away to fight in old men’s battles.”

Anyway, on Memorial Day, I’d like to offer a toast of gratitude to all the men and women who served.

And here’s to all the other warriors — Donna Reed among them — who fought just as hard for peace.

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Letter From Milo: Gin Mill

May 19th, 2019

It’s terribly sad when a person loses the place he loves above all others. It’s even worse when a large number of people suffer the same loss.

Right now, there is a group of lost souls on Chicago’s North Side who are walking around with dazed expressions, a little frightened and a bit confused, like homeless people pushing shopping carts in the middle of a cold snap.

The reason these people are in such a sad state is that their favorite tavern, their home away from home, is shutting its doors. Now, this may not seem like much of a loss to most of you, but to people of a certain time, place and mindset the closing of this particular tavern is nothing less than a catastrophe.

This tavern, which I’ll call Swilligan’s, had been around since the early 1970s. It wasn’t much to look at, just a narrow room with a few booths tucked against one wall and perhaps a dozen stools leaning against the bar. To be honest about it, the joint was shabby. The only money the owner ever put into decorating was about 20 bucks a year for new Roach Motels — at least he claimed they were new.

Swilligan’s was located on Lincoln Avenue and it attracted a diverse and eclectic crowd. The regulars included artists, writers, musicans, gamblers, and for a short time, a touring banjo player/clog dancer. Most of the clientele, however, were regular Jills and Joes — carpenters, electricians, factory workers, cab drivers, nurses and teachers, as well as the infrequently employed and the chronically unemployable.

Oddly enough, despite Swilligan’s being a hole-in-the-wall, it attracted the occasional celebrity. Mike Royko would stop in once in a while. Bill Veeck came by to drink beer and talk baseball. The great Hunter Thompson made an appearance whenever he passed though town. The late folksinger, Fred Holstein, tended bar there when money or gigs were scarce.

It must also be admitted that a few drug dealers frequented the place. You could always purchase a little weed or something to fix your nose, if so inclined. The main attraction, however, was alcohol. Most of the regulars were heavy drinkers. In fact, I will go so far as to say that a few of them were world class drinkers. I could put it away pretty well myself in my heyday, until my health began to fail and my knees gave out, but I was always amazed at the amount of booze that some of the boys could handle — on a daily basis.

As I mentioned earlier, most of the customers were regular guys and gals, people who simply enjoyed the tavern life. For some of the regulars it was the only life they knew. For them, Swilligan’s functioned as a living room. It was where they relaxed, met friends, watched TV and entertained. A few even used the place as a mail drop or telephone answering service.

I haven’t spent much time in Swilligan’s in 10 or 15 years. For one thing, my wife never liked the place.

“How come you don’t like Swilligan’s?”

“It’s dirty, it stinks, it filled with low-lifes and losers and every time you go there you get fucked up.”

“So, what’s the problem?”

Whenever I run into an acquaintance from my Swilligan’s days and the subject of the bar’s closing comes up, there is always a palpable sense of sadness in the conversation. It’s as if the loss goes deeper than I could ever imagine. For Swilligan’s regulars, an era has passed, a way of life has gone and won’t be coming back. It’s time to move on. The problem is, where do they move to? How can they recreate what they once had? The short answer is, they can’t.

Dave Van Ronk, the New York City folksinger who passed away a while ago, captured the poignancy of a tavern habitue’s loss perfectly in his wonderful song “Last Call” from his album entitled “Songs for Aging Children.”

And so we’ve had another night
of poetry and poses
and each man knows he’ll be alone
when the sacred gin mill closes.

Sic transit gloria

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Letter From Milo: Bad Judgement

May 12th, 2019

1. I’ve got a friend, let’s call him Joe to spare him any embarrassment, who made it pretty big out in Hollywood. Joe struggled for years before finally finding his niche. He worked as a script reader, tried his hand at acting and failed miserably as a writer before achieving success as a producer.

By way of explanation for you clueless, pathetic losers who aren’t privy to the inside Hollywood shit like I am, the title of “producer” is meaningless. Being a producer is like being a Kentucky Colonel. It’s as much a joke as it is a genuine honorific.

A person doesn’t have to produce anything to be a producer. The only criteria for being a producer is having the audacity to declare yourself one. There must be tens of thousands of people, probably more, calling themselves producers, but only a small fraction of those people have ever actually produced a movie or TV show.

My friend, Joe, is one of the lucky ones. He actually produces films. This is a story about the first film he produced. Against all odds, he ran across a good script, found two bankable actors willing to do it, and rounded up the financing for production.

When it came time to discuss his compensation, the money men offered Joe a flat fee or a piece of the action, whichever he preferred. Now, Joe is no country boy. He is a Chicagoan, born and bred. He understands that making movies is a crapshoot. He also understands that Hollywood bookkeeping is an art form, every bit as creative as writing, painting or musical composition.

Joe opted for a flat fee.

As luck would have it, the movie turned out to be a huge hit, making several hundred million dollars. Had Joe taken a piece of the action, his payday would have been 15 times larger.

The movie did so well that the money men decided to make a sequel. They figured it was a can’t-miss proposition. So did Joe. This time he took a piece of the action. Of course, the sequel turned out to be a huge flop, making about 20 bucks worldwide. Joe claims he didn’t even make expenses.

“The only good thing that came out of it,” Joe explained, “is that now I’m able to produce more movies. You see, making two movies and having one of them be a big hit is an astounding track record in the film business. Now all I have to do is figure out how to make some fucking money.”

2. I have a good friend, let’s call him Bruce Diksas to spare him any embarrassment, who was hanging out in the Pacific Northwest around 1980. He had followed a woman to Seattle in the hope of keeping a romance alive. The woman had enrolled in graduate school and spent most of her days in class or studying, so, Bruce found himself with a lot of time on his hands. And, like any ambitious, industrious, hard-working young man, Bruce decided to spend his free time in one of Seattle’s many legal poker rooms.

Now, Bruce is a pretty good poker player, but, like all of us who enjoy the game, he thinks he’s much better than he really is. He usually lost more than he won. Despite his bad luck, Bruce enjoyed his time at the tables, Playing poker all day was a very pleasant way to pass the time.

One of the main topics of conversation at the tables was a small business located in a storefront across the street from the card room. It seemed that the business was a source of local pride. It was growing rapidly and would soon be going public. A few of the players at the tables discussed the pros and cons of investing in the company, buying a few shares to help out the local boys.

Out of curiosity, Bruce stepped outside to check out the storefront. He was thinking about sinking a few hundred dollars into the company, just for the hell of it. As soon as he saw its name on the storefront window, however, Bruce, knew that the company had no chance of success. It was a stupid name. It made no sense. Shouldn’t a company’s name say what it does? Shouldn’t it at least be catchy, something that sticks in the mind? Why even have a company if you can’t give it a decent name? Any company with a name like that was doomed to failure. He’d be better off investing in lottery tickets.

The company’s name was “Microsoft.”

“I still say it’s a stupid name,” Bruce says to me years later.

“A lot of those internet companies have dumb names,” I reply. “Look at Yahoo or Google.”

Pouring himself another drink, Bruce says, “You’ll notice I didn’t buy any shares in those companies, either.”

3. I’ve got another friend, let’s call him Milo to spare him any embarrassment, who, in the mid 1970s, lived in a coach house on Burling Street just south of Armitage. The neighborhood, in those pre-gentrification days, was still very rough, gang-infested, with run-down buildings everywhere. Milo shared the place with his friends Bruce Diksas and Wayne Gray, and they split the 80 dollars a month rent.

Granted, 80 dollars a month was not a lot of money, even in the 1970s. Still, it was not always easy coming up with the 27 dollars apiece every month. None of the boys worked regularly and what money they scraped up was usually earmarked for drugs and alcohol, and occasionally a greasy hot dog at the Doggie Diner on Armitage.

The property was owned by a retired bartender named John, and he didn’t mind if the boys were late with the rent once in a while. Milo, Bruce and Wayne were a scruffy, eccentric and endlessly entertaining trio, more Stooges than Musketeers. The old barkeep enjoyed their company, joining the boys for backyard cookouts and drinkfests. One of the boys even talked John into smoking his first joint, which, to the old man’s surprise, he enjoyed immensely.

Sadly, John’s health began to fail. He couldn’t take care of the property anymore. Just walking up and down the stairs had become a chore. It was time, he decided, to sell the property and move into the Polish Eagle Nursing Home in Marquette Park.

John offered the property to Milo for $32,000. Think about it. A two-flat with a coach house in the DePaul/Lincoln Park neighborhood for a little over $30,000. Even though he had no money, Milo could have easily purchased the place. As a military veteran he could have taken advantage of the G.I. Bill and bought the property with no money down.

After giving it a little thought, Milo decided NOT to buy the place. When someone asked him why he chose not to buy, Milo haughtily replied, “I’m not into property, man.”

Those five words have haunted Milo for years. The property that he refused to buy for roughly 30K, is now worth in excess of one million dollars.

Sometimes, when Milo tells the story of his lost real estate opportunity, someone will ask, “If you weren’t into property, what exactly were you into?”

Milo always ruefully replies, “At the time, I was into stupidity.”

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Letter From Milo: TV Daze

April 30th, 2019

I’ve been watching a lot of TV during my recovery from surgery. Normally, I would spend more time reading than watching the tube, but my favorite reading position, sitting up with my feet on the coffee table and a glass of wine in my hand, is a bit uncomfortable right now. So, I’m spending a lot of time stretched out on the couch with the remote control in easy reach.

I don’t care for regular television programming — the sitcoms or all the dramas with initials for titles, like CSI, NCIS, SVU, etc. I find them manipulative, formulaic and boring. I don’t even watch the network news anymore. Like many people these days, I get the news from the internet, although I still enjoy reading newspapers on a regular basis.

I also refuse to watch reality programs, MTV, screeching political talking heads, talent shows like American Idol, or anything else that instantly lowers my IQ. Years of self-abuse have left me dangerously low on gray matter. I need to preserve what little sense I’ve got left.

The only television programs I watch anymore are cooking shows, the Discovery, History, Travel and Animal Planet channels, and sports, especially my beloved Bulls. I’ll admit a sneaking fondness for David Letterman, but I suspect it’s probably a matter of one curmudgeon admiring another.

Staring at a TV for days at a time while whacked out on industrial strength pain killers is an experience everyone should have. Watching hyenas pull down a zebra on the Animal Planet, enjoying Nostradamus predict the end of the world on the History Channel, or relishing a heavy-set woman prepare Southern-style pot roast on the Food Network, all while stoned on the finest meds that medical science can offer, is a wonderful way to pass the time. I highly recommend it.

The only problem with being extremely wasted while watching a stew of history, cooking, science, animal documentaries and sports, is that the mind can’t properly process all of that information. It often becomes a confusing jumble of images and sound that sometimes makes no sense.

For example, I have a distinct memory of watching an Italian cooking show hosted by Benito Mussolini. I recall an ancient sage, either Archimedes or Plato, predicting that the Bulls would win the NBA Championship in 2012, unless, of course, the Mayans are correct and the world ends in that fateful year. I also seem to remember watching Leonard Nemoy solemnly explaining that the pyramids were actually transmitting towers built by aliens so that ancient Egyptians could tune in to both AM and FM radio.

Unfortunately, not everyone in my household has the same taste in television programming as I do. For example, one of my daughters has the habit of walking into the TV room, grabbing the remote. plopping down on the couch next to me and abruptly switching the channel.

“Hey, what are you doing?”

“I wanna see what’s on MTV.”

“But I was watching Hitler getting ready to invade Poland.”

“Dad, that’s like beyond boring.”

Or, my wife will walk into the room, wrench the remote from my clammy grip and change the channel.

“Hey, what are you doing?”

“I wanna see who got voted off of Dancing with the Stars.”

“Damn it, Sharon, the fat lady was just about to deglaze the pan and add the root vegetables.”

Or, my other daughter will come in and, without asking permission, switch channels on me.

“Hey, what are you doing?”

“I wanna see the Gossip Girls.”

“Sweetie, the Bulls are in the middle of a huge comeback.”

“Dad, they’re losing by 26 points.”

“Yeah, but there’s almost a minute left in the game.”

“Dad, you’re a pathetic loser.”

Oh, well, I guess it’s time for another pain pill.

Note:

My good friend, the artist Michael Realmuto, finally has some of his watercolors up on the Third City Site. His paintings of iconic Chicago landmarks are not to be missed. Best of all, prints of his work are available for purchase, in many different formats. I highly recommend his holiday greeting cards.

Just click on the Sights & Sounds button on the menu bar and you’ll find the link to his website.

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Letter From Milo: Rabbinical Vision

April 23rd, 2019

The morning of my heart surgery I was pacing around my room at the Hines V.A. Hospital, waiting for the action to get started.

In a little more than an hour a crack team of surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, carpenters, pipefitters, sleight-of-hand experts and candy stripers were going to crack me open like a lobster. They were going to take out my heart, replace a valve and fix an aneurism, all the while keeping me alive by means of a mechanical heart rented that morning from the local Ace Hardware.

Well, I’d have to see it to believe it.

I wasn’t nervous, you understand. Shit like this happens to me all the time. One minute I’m walking down the street, minding my own business, and BAM!, the next minute I’m knee-deep in a situation that Rod Sterling would find hard to believe.

Anyway, as I’m pacing around my room trying to figure out a way to sneak out for a smoke, I happen to glance out of the window and see my doctor pull into the parking lot. As I watch him get out of his car, a late model Trans Am, I see him toss away a beer can, then stop to smoke a joint with the parking lot guys.

A few minutes later he’s in my room. “How’s it going, dude?” he asks.

“Pretty good. How about you?”

“Me? I feel fine. Matter of fact, I feel extra fine. Let’s get this thing started. I’m kind of in a hurry. I’ve got a horse running in the 8th race at Arlington and don’t want to miss it.”

“Sure, no problem.”

The next 20 minutes pass in a flurry of activity. They give me drugs to relax me. They stick catheters and IVs in every available vein and artery. A sweet young thing shaves my chest. The last thing I remember before fading into unconsciousness is the good doctor gleefully clapping his hands and saying, “It’s showtime!”

I wake up about eight hours later, surrounded by family and loved ones — at least that’s what they tell me. I could have been surrounded by zombies, man-eating snakes and the spawn of Satan and wouldn’t have known the difference.

I was too far gone, way deep into the mystic, hiding in the place where the badly wounded go to either recover or not recover, whatever the case may be.

It was another 24 hours before I came to realize where I was — the Intensive Care Unit — and what had happened to me. Once I came to my senses, I knew I was in for a waiting game. Yes, it would be an ordeal. There would be pain and discomfort. Then would be small steps forward and small steps back. But, unless something went terribly wrong, I would improve every day. And in six or seven days, if my doctors weren’t bullshitting me, I would go home, hopefully well on the way to recovery.

I figured I could stand anything for six or seven days. I was tough. I could handle the Spanish Inquisition for six or seven days. Besides, the V.A. hospital system was very generous with drugs, especially morphine and Vicodon. Not only would I be pretty much free of pain, I would also be pretty much free of my wits, good sense and sobriety, which suited me just fine.

In the meantime, I had plenty of visitors. The lovely Mrs. Milo came by every day, spending hours at my bedside. My children visited regularly. My mother and sister stopped by every other day. Even my good friend, Bruce Diksas, dropped in to check on me. I suspect he was worried about the five dollars I owed him and wanted to make sure I didn’t try something underhanded, like die, to avoid paying him back.

The doctors were right on the money. On the seventh day (hmmm, catchy phrase) I went home. And although I was gone (from the hospital) I was not forgotten. They sent me home with enough drugs to sedate the Grateful Dead. Plus, a nurse would stop by every other day for a couple of weeks, to check on my vital signs.

And that, in essence, is what happened. I’m sure I’m leaving a few things out. The doctors told me it might be a few months until my mind regained its usual keen edge. Apparently, heavy doses of anesthetics tend to scramble the circuits.

Besides, I had to get back in the saddle pretty quickly. Big Mike, the Barn Boss of this low-life, scabby crew, has been interviewing other bloggers to take my spot. Rumor has it that he’s just about ready to hire his brother-in-law, who’s in a work release program and needs a job.

It’s good to be back.

NOTE:

One of my favorite visitors at the hospital was Rabbi Norm Lewison, a chaplain at the Hines V.A. Hospital. He stopped by every other day and spent a few minutes chatting with me. The normal practice for someone with a Serbian background would have been to have a Eastern Orthodox priest, in this case a Greek Orthodox cleric, come to visit. But the Greek chaplain retired and opened a drive-thru gyros stand and confessional booth on the West Side, so, for some reason, they decided to send a rabbi.

Rabbi Lewison was a sweet man, friendly, open and full of good cheer. I looked forward to his visits. We had some nice conversations and every time he left he said he would pray for my full recovery. Let’s face it, if you’re in a tough spot it doesn’t hurt to have the God of Abraham, Moses, Solomon, Bob Dylan and Sammy Davis, Junior on your side. Thank you, Rabbi Lewison. May you live 100 years.

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