Jim Siergey: Frontera Grill

August 24th, 2019

I love Mexican food.

Enchiladas, tostadas, tacos, queso fundido, carne asada, pollo de mole, chiles rellenos, bring ‘em all on. I’m a hambre hombre.

A small group of us were discussing this particular cuisine one day and Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill was mentioned. It brought back my memory of the one time I had been there.

FYI, Rick Bayless is an American chef and restaurateur who specializes in Mexican fare.  He has a couple of high end Mexican restaurants in downtown Chicago, and elsewhere, I imagine.

Another FYI, if you dial in one of his televised cooking shows and close your eyes while he speaks, he sounds just like Barney Fife. But, that may just be me.

Anyway, several years ago, another couple along with my wife and I decided to spend the big bucks and dine at the Frontera Grill. We arrived, were seated, and ordered drinks and appetizers.

As we sipped and snacked, who should come walking down the aisle but Rick Bayless himself! We quickly and discreetly dabbed our faces with our napkins and straightened ourselves up to look presentable for El Maestro.

andygriffithVisions of Andy…

It turned out that he knew the people sitting at the booth right across the aisle from ours.  As he stood and spoke with them, visions of the Andy Griffith Show danced (to a Latin beat) through my head.He stayed and visited these people for quite a while.

As he visited, he began to bend over more and more in order to be on the same level as his friends, as they were seated and he stood. But, it being a narrow aisle, his butt began to intrude into our table space. In fact, it intruded right into my friend Chris’ face.

It didn’t touch him but its presence was quite conspicuous.

After a few more minutes of his buttocks bobbing and weaving in Chris’ countenance, Rick finally straightened up and left.

There was nothing more for me to say to Chris except that now there was one dish on the menu that he didn’t have to order since he already experienced it.

“What’s that?” Chris cautiously queried.

“Rick Bayless’ chiles re-anus!” I unashamedly responded.



Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Stardust Golden

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Jim Siergey: I Really Was At Woodstock–Part II

August 20th, 2019

Editor’s Note: If you really want to know what’s going on, read Woodstock, Part I….

Believe it or not — we eventually meet our two traveling mates in the middle of the woods.

It’s pitch back and a hard rain’s beginning to a’fall.  All that plus no one really has an idea of how to set up the five-man tent.

But we do have beer.

Come the morning and the tent, despite last night’s swirling maelstrom, still stands.  And now there are about twenty-five people in it.

Like a carful of soggy circus clowns, we exit the tent to find ourselves in the middle of a beautiful forest.  Glistening green grass, sunshine glinting through the branches of tall trees, fresh country air. To use the day’s vernacular — far fucking out.

It doesn’t take long before hunger pangs hit.   Yes, we brought a tent and sleeping bags and even a few dollars. But did we bring food — or a change of clothes?  Of course not!  We’re nineteen — what do you want?

We drive into town to get supplies and a meal, eating a hearty meal at an Italian restaurant.  The staff keeps bringing food:  “More bread? More pasta?” They must feel sorry for us wet and wanton wastrels of the woodlands.

Sly was there….

With bellies full, we head to the grocery store, which looks like the aftermath of a disaster.  The shelves are virtually empty — an item here, a few items there, slim pickin’s indeed.

That said, having just eaten, our judgment’s not that reliable. We buy a box of Ritz crackers and a bunch of Tootsie Roll Pops to last the weekend.

Somehow, we find a place to park and get back to our tent site.  It’s nearing dusk and the music would soon begin so the time for partaking of drugs has arrived.

I drop my green acid.  The other three fellows take mescaline.  It’s the first trip for one of them.  What a time and place to take an initial psychedelic voyage!

“I never dreamed it would be anything like this,” he says while cowering in the corner of the tent.

Before long, though, he’s grooving.  Wisely, Cindy partakes of nothing — she would be our earth mother.

We grab a blanket and head into the forest, the music wafting through the air serving as a psychedelic pied piper to the drowned rats of Woodstock Nation.

The acid hits during this journey.  It feels like I’m walking through trees and people.  It can’t be helped. They’re everywhere.  As is the mud.  Mud as thick as gravy.  Gravy that we slip and slide through….

There are people everywhere.  People upon people. All of them muddy.  Some naked.  Some clothed.  There are dogs.  And children. Guys on motorcycles ripping through the woods.  A guy pisses in the path in front of us. Off to the side, a couple is fucking.  It’s a Fellini movie come to life.

Finally, we reach the gathered throng. We’re far from the stage but as close as we can get.  It’s night.  The air’s filled with rock music.  We’re surrounded by people in the grasp of the collective unconscious. A beatific karass.  We’re tripping our brains out.

If this isn’t heaven, then what is?  We lay our blanket onto the mud.  I still don’t know if we sat upon it or not. It doesn’t really matter.

On stage, Leslie West, the humongous guitarist of Mountain, is playing.  I lie on my back and watch the show the nighttime sky puts on for me.  The stars dance.  Time flows.

If you look close you can see me….

Suddenly, the emcee is speaking. “Everyone who has taken the green acid,” he says. Then the sound abruptly cuts out.

Searchlights swing over the crowd.  I hear a helicopter.  My companions become agitated.  They know I have taken the green acid.  They believe the authorities are coming in to round up the Green Acid takers.  They’re worried for me.

Look — up in the sky!

Though lost in the cosmos, I still realize there’s no way anyone can know who took what.  I’m unconcerned.

The sound comes back on.  The system had momentarily shorted.  The helicopter’s not carrying the Mind Police — it’s merely transporting more acts.

Paranoia can indeed strike deep.

I look at the stage.  From where we sit, the performers are about an inch tall.  I feel like a giant.

Creedence Clearwater Revival hits the stage.  They get the crowd going for the following act, Sly and the Family Stone, which feeds on the energy. They’re both great.

Janis Joplin in her tiny, spangled dress tears her lungs out in a mighty performance. The Who performs many songs from their new rock opera “Tommy.”

I remember Abbie Hoffman taking the stage during the Who’s performance, urging the crowd to march on Washington.  Peter Townsend hits him in the head with his guitar and pushes him offstage.  “We’re just here to dig the music, man,” he growls.

Or something to that effect.  I am pretty sure this happened.

Then, in one of the most dramatic scenes I’ve ever experienced, The Jefferson Airplane come on stage as the morning sun rises behind them.  It’s enough to make a hippie cream his bell-bottoms.

The magical, muddy night’s come to an end.   With the rays of the early morning sun caressing our backs, we weary cosmic travelers trudge back to our campsites to zonk out for a few hours.

We never do meet up with Tim and Mel.  Later we learn that their “campsite” was in a cornfield and, during the rainstorm, under a truck.  Fortunately, they had enough drugs to help them make it through the ordeal….

In 2009, Cindy, Tim and I revisited the Woodstock site.  Forty years later, we finally met up with him at the front gate.  We took a photo as proof.

Tom emailed it to friends and family.  When his mother saw it, she got pissed.  “I never knew you went to Woodstock!” she chastised her 57-year-old son. “You were only 17!  Who said you could go?”

Forty years after the fact, Tim was afraid his mother would ground him.

So, that’s my tale, as best as I can remember.  It wasn’t until after we got back home that we learned that this Woodstock thing was a big deal.  A great, big far-fucking-out deal.  It didn’t seem so at the time.  To us, it was just a big wet walk in the woods.

Say, did I ever tell you about getting tear gassed at the Sly and the Family Stone riot in Grant Park? Hey, where ya goin’?

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Jim Siergey: I Really Was There–Part I

August 18th, 2019

Many a time over the past forty years I’ve been able to interject into a conversation when the topic had already been raised (or the door opened as they say in legal parlance) that I was at Woodstock.

The original Woodstock.  Is it necessary to add that qualifier?  The others don’t really count, do they?  Harrumph!

Anyway, it never fails to impress.  No matter the age or background, economical status or political persuasion of the party or parties to whom my comment is made, the reaction is always the same. Eyes widen, bodies lean forward, lips are licked and with hyperventilation barely under control, these words are spoken: “Really?  You were there?”

This is quickly followed by a barrage of questions — forty years later folks still can’t get enough of Woodstock.

I’ve been told many times that I should write of my Woodstock experience.  I guess I should have and should still, for the sake of history as if there hasn’t been nearly enough written about this cultural millstone, er, milestone.

A problem with writing about it, besides my rampant indolence, is that it happened four decades ago.  I don’t remember it so well.  Heck, I didn’t remember it so well four days after it occurred.

But today, in an attempt to get into the right frame of mind, I sit here clad in my ill-fitting tie-dye T-shirt, bedraggled love beads and paper-thin water buffalo sandals with my Way Back Machine-tooled hookah at my side.

Ah, everything’s getting misty and wavy as the past catches up with the present.  Why, I remember it as if it were yesterday….

I gear up to go back in time….

August, 1969, Chicago.  Cindy’s brother, Mel says to us: “There’s a folk music festival of some kind happening in upstate New York next weekend.  D’ya wanna go?”

Cindy and I look at one another, shrug, turn back to Mel and say: “Sure.”

Oh, to be nineteen again.

Next weekend Cindy and I are on our way to New York. We are riding in a car with three other fellows who I never met before and after this weekend, will never see again.  A large canvas tent and some sleeping bags are in the trunk.   I have something like twelve dollars in my pocket, four of which will go to purchase a ticket for entry into this music festival.

Mel and our mutual friend, Tim, are riding out on Mel’s motorcycle.  The plan is to meet at the front gate.

We drive all night and by early afternoon on Friday we arrive at the site in Bethel, New York.  We’re driving down a one-lane road with vehicles of all sorts parked on either side of us and hordes of people walking, all of us headed forward to some unseen destination.

Further, I guess (for all you Merry Pranksters fans out there).

I say driving but, actually, we’re moseying, ambling, inching our way forward. A seemingly infinite line of vehicles is in front of us and an equally infinite number of people are around us, hopping onto the hoods and trunks of cars to hitch a ride.

At one point, our driver says to us: “Why don’t you get out here and find the front gate to meet Mel and Tim — we’ll find a parking place and meet up with you later.”

Innocently, we agree.  After eighteen hours, it feels good to get out of that car.  It’s a nice sunny day. Not too hot, not too cool.  Just right.  Off we go in search of the front gate.

We soon discover that a front gate no longer exists.  All around, fences are quashed, flattened to the forest floor by the hordes of people marching, trudging, roaming, and searching.

So many people.  Having never experienced such a thing like this, we don’t know what to expect so all that we are experiencing, we just accept. No front gate.  No ticket booth.  It’s a free concert, man!

But, with no front gate — how do we meet up with Tim and Mel?

Wander and call.  Wander and call.  “Tim!’  “Mel!”  We wander and wander and wander and call and call and call.  It’s fruitless.

We become giddy with the futility of it all. So many other people are wandering and calling the names they need to call.  Alone together in search of one another.

From far away, Richie Havens sings backup to our wandering cries.  Later, there’s the voice of Melanie, but even with the help of Candles in the Rain our search comes up empty.

Somewhere Richie Havens was singing….

We can’t find Tim and Mel but I do find someone selling acid.  Three of my greenbacks go into his pocket and one hit of green acid goes into mine. Bring on the dancing horses!

After hours of wandering and calling, Cindy and I find ourselves lying on the hoods and trunks of cars by the side of the road.  Exhausted, our eyes closed, we croak: “Tim! Mel!”

They have as good a chance of arriving in our dreams as they do in person.  We decide it’s time to give up finding them and time to concentrate on finding the guys with our tent and sleeping bags.  Yeah, right.

But, miracle of miracles, we espy one of those guys just as he espies us.  “Come on,” he shouts. “We found a place to camp.”

This is good because it’s beginning to get dark.  The wind’s also kicking up and the sky looks threatening.

Gimme shelter.  No, wait, that’s a different music festival.  We don’t want to go there….

End of Part I…

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Jim Siergey: Stardust & Golden

August 18th, 2019

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of that eponymous music festival, Woodstock. Now the original attendees are not only stardust but truly golden as well.

Lansing, the Illinois town located smack dab on the Illinois/Indiana border celebrated this notable occasion a week earlier. It took place at Fox Pointe, a brand spanking new outdoor entertainment venue located in the middle of town.

At this mini-Ravinia-like venue Lansingites held their own mini-Woodstock weekend complete with tribute bands corresponding to some of the bands that played at the original event. It was a tribute Woodstock.

All that was missing was the tribute mud.

My wife, Cindy, and I, with friends, attended Friday’s opening night. “The Fortunate Sons”, a CCR tribute band opened and, boy howdy, they were damn good. They got the crowd choogling.

The next tribute band was to be “Marrakesh Express” who covered the songs of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.  I thought that emulating just the harmonies alone, not to mention the musicianship, would be quite an ambitious attempt. It’d be interesting to find out how they did.

Now, somehow word got out that Cindy and I were attendees at the original Woodstock festival. It is, after all, a small town. The manager of the Marrakesh Express contacted me and asked if the two of us would appear on stage during the band’s break to select the winner of the evening’s raffle. The concept made me chuckle so we agreed.


Jim’s in there somewhere…


Break time arrived and, after being introduced, so did we…to a smattering of applause, if any. Being show biz novices, we did not know how to milk the crowd for applause, laughs, etc. , so we stuttered our way through some unprepared remarks we were asked to make. Being the low key folks we are, our reminiscences caused not a ripple.

Or so it seemed to me.

It turned out there was another fellow in the crowd who had been at Woodstock, as a high school junior who, as all high school juniors do, lied to his parents about spending the night at a friend’s house and took off for the happening.

As the MC droned on, we huddled behind him and spoke among ourselves, telling stories that were better left not spoken publicly. Finally, the big moment arrived and Cindy withdrew a raffle ticket from a big ticket-filled jar.

I thought I would get to read off the winning number so I planned to first interject some sort of Woodstock-related humor by making some announcement about bad Metamucil being passed around or to watch out for the brown antacid. My wife warned me that no one in the crowd would get it.

A’course, that’s something I’m quite used to.

But, I never got a chance. The manager/MC read off the number and, of course, the ticket holder, was not present.  Neither was the holder to the next drawn ticket. The half time event was an utter failure, another thing I am quite used to.

So, the MC continued to prattle on until he was interrupted by a bunch of people with a birthday cake. It was his birthday so everyone sang Happy Birthday while the three of us Woodstock “celebs” skulked off stage.

But, I gotta say, the Marrakesh Express band came back on and if there was a roof on the place they would have blown it off. The singers and musicians were incredibly talented and their renditions of tunes from the CSN&Y library were exhilarating. Their version of “Ohio” chillingly put me back in time.

However, something very strange did occur toward the end. I don’t know if it had anything to do with Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” but as they broke into that song, a sea of yellow appeared in front of the stage.

It was, as far as I could tell, an ever-growing throng of women clad in yellow baseball caps and yellow shirts and/or jackets with every one of them sporting blonde hair. All of that imagery plus the jutting yellow ball cap bills made them look like a brood of yellow chicks (which, in a way, they were, if you’ll excuse my sexist term for femdom but I am also speaking farmdom) dancing in front of the stage until the end of the set.

If I had seen such a sight at the original Woodstock festival of 1969 I would have dismissed it as a hallucination but this, this was actually happening.

The next night was to feature tribute bands of Santana, The Who and Jimi Hendrix. Since we left the original Woodstock festival before Hendrix played, we were obligated to stay until the end this time.

And we did.

The whole thing was almost like deja vu all over again. Peace, love and music, man. You can’t beat it.


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was The Garden



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Jim Siergey: The Garden

July 28th, 2019

The garden was thriving. It was abundant with various colors and species that had learned to co-exist and grow together. After all, their roots all intermingled in the same soil.

The colors grew more vibrant with each passing season. Each plant stood proud and tall, its leaves opened up in a pose of welcome. It was almost as if they wished to embrace you.

Certainly there were weeds. There was no escaping them. But they were unable to get much of a roothold in this burgeoning garden so they mostly stayed hidden under the wide swaths of leaves. The flowers knew the weeds were there but they had, over time, overcome their ruthlessness.

But, out of sight, out of mind is not a good philosophy to abide by. The weeds, though hidden from view, grew denser as they spread underfoot, or to be more exact, underleaf.

Meanwhile, the garden had welcomed even more varieties into their fold. More intense colors were displayed along with an array of diverse petal shapes and leaf formations. The garden looked so vibrant and happy that one could almost taste the joy.

siergeygardenIn my garden…


The weeds resented this photosynthetic resilience by the flowering plants. They did not like the welcoming and proliferation of new species. They resented being denied their share of the sunlight and blue skies. It was as if they no longer mattered.The more they didn’t matter, the more they muttered.

Clouds covered the sun and the rains came, as they usually did, but this time it was a different kind of rain. The flowers’ thirst was not slaked by these droplets from the sky. In fact, they tasted terrible. Some of the plants felt poisoned. They began to wither and die. On other plants, leaves began turning brown and petals began to dry up and drop heavily to the ground. Sparseness intervened.

The weeds, however, loved this new rain. They greedily drank it up, slurping vociferously, and expanding their base. They felt renewed and stronger as they began to push their way past the withering flowers. It had been a long time since they were able to develop a choke hold on the beautiful garden.  At last, their time had come again and they were making the most of it.

Knotweed, Deadnettle, Carpetweed, Spotted Spurge, Morning Glories, Ragweed, Thistles, Dodders, Poison Ivy and the Common Couch all grew to greater proportions than ever. They spread and strangled the flowers until the garden looked like a war zone. The flowers held their ground but the skies remained cloudy and the noxious rain continued to fall.

The garden resisted the weeds the best they could but a return to their formal glory of beauty and togetherness looked bleak.  Their hope for a bright future, free of the fear of weeds, now hinged on two things, a change in the weather and the appearance of a compassionate gardener.

They looked to the sky and they listened for footsteps.


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was The Process


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Jim Siergey: The Process

July 22nd, 2019

Time to wake up.

No response.


Still no response.

I said it’s time to wake up.


Wake up.

Wake. The. Fuck. Up.



Come on, all the way.




None of that. Let’s go!

Sputter, flutter, buffer, crackle, pop.

Finally, signs of life.

Blink, blink.

Yes? Yes?


barfly-mickey-rourke-900x0-c-defaultIt takes awhile to wake up, but once I do, I’m the life of the party…


Ah, you’re up.

User name, password, enter and…we have lift off!

My computer is as hard to get going in the morning as I am.

In computer age, it is pretty old. Actually, it’s probably pretty damn old for computers. I tend to squeeze as much life as I can from machines, be they computers, cars or microwave ovens.

This computer is also of the desk top variety.  Do people use those any more? Have they gone or are they going the way of floppy discs, Zip Drives, CD’s and pencils?

It can get rather frustrating dealing with a slow to react, shuffling along computer. It’s kinda like aging parents. You have to try and be patient.

But this hunk of metal, plastic and fiber optic circuitry can certainly try my patience. I don’t know how many more “Not Responding” messages I can take. But I bet I’ll continue to take ‘em.

After all, I don’t respond all that well any more either.

It is said that over time people and their pets begin to look alike. I don’t have any pets but my computer does…ME!

We may not look alike but we do tend to feel alike, creaking and squeaking along with an occasional reboot in the ass.


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Mad Love


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Jim Siergey: Mad Love

July 5th, 2019

Word on the street is that MAD Magazine, after sixty seven years, is ceasing publication.

MAD began as a comic book that satirized other comic strips and in the late 1950s transmogrified into a monthly magazine of satire and humor. One of its unique qualities was that it accepted no advertising, other than its own.

But it will be no more. Perhaps its childish satire could not compete with the childish satire that has become reality.

More likely, it’s reasons for not publishing new material is business-related. That’s usually the case.

Actually, further word on the street is that MAD will continue to publish but its contents will be previously published material. It seems to me that that approach would be narrowing its audience to that of Nostalgiateers. (I think I just made up that word. Perhaps I should trademark it?)

Ah, but what do I know?  Business is all a bunch of furshlugginer potzrebie to me.

It’s been quite while since I’ve seen a copy of MAD. Despite the fact that I’m familiar with and admire the work of a lot of the artists who contribute to the recent MAD, as opposed to the original usual gang of idiots, I just haven’t kept up with it.

When I was a kid in the early ‘60s, copies of MAD Magazine was something you kept hid from your parents. It was strictly under the mattress material. Its humor was a bit too subversive for the generation that came to parenthood in the ‘50s. Questioning authority and the status quo was a capital N no-no.


Required reading…


But the MAD that I fell in love with and was most influenced by were the paperback reprints of its comic book days. The original MAD comics were written by Harvey Kurtzman and the group of cartoonists he had on hand to illustrate his satirical stories were all Hall of Famers; Jack Davis, Will Elder, Wally Wood and John Severin, just to name a few. I never saw the original color comics until many years later.

The comics reprinted in the paperback books were in black and white and you had to turn the book sideways to read it as the panels were printed two (or so) to a page. The paperbacks had titles such as Inside Mad, The Mad Reader, Bedside Mad, Son of Mad, and the like.

“Chicken fat” is a term used to describe cartoon panels that were chock full of STUFF! The aforementioned stuff that filled these panels were dubbed “eyeball kicks”, little extra gags, jokes and puns that were not always related to the story at hand were found littered throughout. Those MAD comics were stuffed full of chicken fat. It was a feast for the eyes.

MAD and later, National Lampoon were two publications that helped corrupt the minds of two generations with their take-no-prisoners approach to pointing out the holes in the fabric of “accepted behavior”.

I don’t know what’s corrupting minds these days, Sponge Bob Square Pants, perhaps?

But fear not! There is a quarterly humor magazine that can be lumped with MAD and Lampoon and, in fact, contains several contributors who worked on those zines. It is called The American Bystander and I must disclose that I am also one of the contributors, so you should take what I say with a grain of salt as I am a tad biased.

It is an excellent publication but you don’t have to take my word for it. In fact, you don’t have to take or do anything. It’s still a free country. But you can find out about it yourself by subscribing to it via Patreon. (It’s a computer thing)

Okay, the unexpected advertisement is over. Let us doff our fedoras, baseball caps and propeller beanies in respect to MAD. It kept us from the straight and narrow.

Say it loud and say it proud: “What, me worry?”



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