Letter From Milo: Dexter

February 28th, 2021

In the late 1970’s and early 80’s I had a little problem with cocaine. I wasn’t the only one. In my social circle the drug seemed to be everywhere. At the parties and gatherings I attended there were more runny noses than in a classroom of first graders during cold and flu season.

At the time there was a lot of misinformation being spread about cocaine. It wasn’t addictive (bullshit). It was great for your sex life (occasionally). It was as harmless as reefer (what a crock of shit). The truth of the matter is that cocaine ruined lives and killed people. And when some genius figured out how to distill the essence of cocaine and turn it into crack, well, you’ve read the papers.

My coke connection was a guy I’ll call Gary. He had been a pot dealer for years before adding coke to his inventory. He had an apartment about half a block from Wrigley Field, and I used to spend a lot of time there, getting high, listening to Gary’s extensive record collection and chatting with his clients when they stopped by to pick up an ounce or two of weed.

I met a lot of characters at Gary’s place. He had been around a long time and had collected an interesting customer base. A lot of theater people and musicians were regulars, as were a contingent of Lincoln Avenue hippies and barflies left over from the 60’s.

The only thing that changed when Gary started dealing coke was that he began making more money. He still liked having people around and was very generous with his product. There were always joints available and a few lines of white powder and a rolled-and-taped hundred dollar bill on a small mirror he kept on his coffee table.

One of Gary’s customers was a guy named Walt, who tended bar at popular local jazz club. I happened to be at Gary’s one day when Walt called and said he was going to stop by. When Gary got off the phone, he was as excited as I’d ever seen him.

“Man, oh, man. Guess who’s dropping by?”

“I heard. It’s Walt, right?”

“Yeah, guess who he’s bringing with him.”

“Prince Charles?”

“Dexter Gordon.”

“The saxophone player?”

“One of the greatest ever. The fucking guy’s a legend. Fuck, man. Dexter Gordon.”

It just so happened that I had read about Dexter Gordon in the Tribune that morning. He was making his first American tour in 30 years. Like many American jazz men, Dexter had been an expatriate for much of his career. The expatriates left the country for many reasons – racism, greater financial opportunities, drug problems. Sadly, in Dexter’s case, it was drugs. America’s drug laws were brutal in the 40’s and 50’s, when Dexter was in his prime. Instead of treatment, addicts were locked up for years, doing hard time just for having “marks,” which are the scars left by hypodermic needles. For a better idea of the drug hysteria of the time, read “Straight Life,” the biography of another brilliant saxophone player, the great Art Pepper.

Dexter Gordon was an impressive looking man. He must have been in his late 50’s or early 60’s, but looked younger. He was about 6’5″ tall, a light-skinned black man with freckles and closely cropped red hair. He looked a bit like the photos I’d seen of Malcolm X. When he spoke, his voice had a growl like Louis Armstrong.

Dexter was warm, open and talkative. We discussed all sorts of things, the upcoming Chicago Jazz Fest, baseball (he was a Mets) fan), a recording date he was planning, his performance that evening. He spent about three hours with us. I don’t recall everything we talked about, but I do remember that Dexter snorted about two grams of coke.

The man was snorting coke as quickly as Gary could dish it out, and, as I mentioned, Gary was generous with his drugs. I did my share but couldn’t keep up with Dexter. He wasn’t a Hoover, he was a Black and Decker Industrial Strength Wet/Dry Vac. Even Gary was impressed by the amount of coke Dexter was putting away.

It was a pleasant afternoon, one I’ll never forget. When it came time for Dexter to leave, he thanked Gary profusely for his hospitality and invited us to his show. He said he’d leave comps with the bartender.

Due to extenuating circumstances, I didn’t make it to the show, but I made it a point to read the Tribune the next morning to see if there was a review of Dexter’s show. There was indeed a review. I don’t remember the exact wording of the review but it went something like this.

“I am in awe of Dexter Gordon. His career, once derailed by drug addiction, is back on the fast track. The show he put on last night was one of the best I’ve ever seen. Now that Dexter has put his drug problems behind him, his playing is better than ever,”

It did my heart good to read that Dexter Gordon had given up drugs and straightened out his life. Good saxophone players are hard to find.

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Letter From Milo: Sex Fiends

February 21st, 2021

Don’t get me wrong. In no way do I promote, endorse or condone extra-marital sex. Nor do the editors and publishers at The Third City espouse fornicating, carnal frolicking or free-form fucking outside of the chains of holy, civil or common-law matrimony.

Marriage is a deal, after all, a legally binding contract wherein the party of the first part swears to love, honor and sometimes obey the party of the second part. There is nothing in the marriage contract, as far as I know, about a party of the third part.

That said, some married men simply can’t help themselves when it comes to sex. They seem to be in eternal rut, prowling the streets like feral dogs, sniffing at every hydrant or tree, desperate to pick up the trail of a woman, any woman. They will do anything, go anywhere, pay any price to get laid, even though most married men have a perfectly adequate piece of ass waiting at home.

A few years ago, a cabal of married sex fiends held a secret meeting in Mokena, Illinois to address mutual concerns. This group of drooling lechers, which included Michael Douglas, David Duchovny and Tiger Woods, came up with a devilish plan to legitimize their extra-marital activities.

They pooled their considerable resources, hired Bill Clinton as an emissary and sent him, along with two suitcases filled with cash, on a top-secret mission to the American Medical Association. Several months later, the AMA announced that hyper-sexual activity was no longer considered simply bad behavior. It was now a legitimate medical condition known as “Sex Addiction.”

imagesBig Bill pioneered a way for philanderers to get away with cheating….

At the stroke of a pen, philanderers all over the world were given the green light to cheat on their wives. It was like they had visited Lourdes and been absolved of all sin, blame and responsibility, now and forever.

This sea change in cheaters’ lives led to a staged event known as the “Sex Addict’s Press Conference.” This is a ridiculous charade in which a celebrity, usually an actor or athlete who has been caught cheating on his wife, stands in front of a crowd of reporters and blatantly lies about the remorse he feels for sleeping with dozens of beautiful women.

“It wasn’t my fault,” the celebrity says, with a smirk on his face. “My agent, I mean, my doctor tells me I have a disease called Sex Addiction. I’m thinking about going into rehab for a day or two.”

The AMA has done its work well. A lot of betrayed women actually take their husbands back. The AMA has convinced these women that tossing their cheating men out in the street would be an act of inhumane cruelty. After all, the man wasn’t actually unfaithful to her, he was just in the grip of a terrible disease.

There is one marital transgression, however, that money, AMA bullshit or a dozen trips to Lourdes cannot fix. It is an act of treachery so heinous, so cold-blooded, that no woman will ever forget it or forgive it.

Never, ever, get caught screwing one of your wife girlfriends. It’s the absolute worst mistake you can make.

Now, I’ll admit I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. In fact, I’ve probably made more mistakes than a dyslexic high school dropout trying to do the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle with a leaky fountain pen. But the one mistake I’ll never admit, heh, heh, is sleeping with one of the lovely Mrs. Milo’s girlfriends.

Oh, sure. The opportunities have been there. Mrs. Milo, after all, does have quite a few good looking girlfriends. And some of them, fortunately, were born with the slut gene. Still, that is a line I, ah, refuse to cross.

Sure, I’ve been tempted more times than I care to mention. For example, when Steve Ivcich is out of town, teaching one of his renowned acting classes, I’ve considered grabbing my Barry White CDs, picking up a bottle of wine and stopping by to visit his vixenish wife, Cathy.

indexHere’s a romance hint from Milo: You can’t go wrong with the great Barry White….

Or when my good friend and poker buddy, Keith, is away on business, the thought has occurred to me to drop by his place and perhaps borrow a cup of sugar from his sexy and voluptuous wife, Sarah.

And when Andy Bell is working late at the law firm, I sometimes give brief consideration to visiting his lovely wife, Janice, just to see how her garden is growing.

I’ve even thought about stopping by…

HOLD IT!!!

This is Mrs. Milo. I just passed by the computer, saw what Milo was writing and chased him away from the keyboard with the can of pepper spray I keep handy for occasions like this. I can’t believe some of the crap he writes. It’s laughable to think that any of my friends would have anything to do with a creepy old lecher like him. Most of them have much better taste in men than that. Matter of fact, if any of them want Milo, they’re more than welcome to him. They can keep him if they like. They’d be doing me a huge favor by taking him off my hands. I don’t know what I ever saw in him. Jeez, what a loser he turned out to be.

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Letter From Milo: Manila Duke

February 4th, 2021

It was one of those days that can drive a man to drink. I believe it was a Sunday.

I had forgotten where I parked my car the night before. There was water in the basement from the ferocious storm that clobbered Chicago a few hours earlier. My wife was pissed off because I had forgotten her birthday. The damned cat was still alive. And the television wasn’t working.

“Dad! The TV’s broken.”

“Go watch the other one. We’ve got a couple of them, you know.”

“The other one’s broken, too.”

“Ah, shit.”

“Dad! Do something!”

A few years ago the lovely Mrs. Milo made a decision to switch from cable to satellite dish. She cited several reasons for the switch – saving money, more channels, better picture quality. Mainly, though, I think she did it to aggravate as many people as possible. Along with being a fine wife, great mother and good cook, Mrs. Milo is an excellent aggravator, one of the best, in my opinion.

When I went to check on the television I saw that there was an error message on the screen. It read something like, “Due to equipment malfunction we had to shut down your system. Please call the toll-free number below to reactivate your system.”

“See,” I said to my daughter, “it’s not broken. It’s just a glitch. Call that number and it’ll be taken care of.”

“Can you do it, dad?”

“I don’t know. I was thinking about taking a nap. I had a rough night.”

“Please, dad?”

“Oh, all right.”

imagesI was hoping to talk to Ernestine, but I got some guy in Manila….

It took nearly 20 minutes to get an actual human being on the phone. I was shunted from department to department by robotic prompters who misconstrued every direction I entered on the touchtone dial. I was sent to accounts receivable, accounts payable, the marketing department, the sales department, the department for blatantly lying to customers, the department for setting bogus installation appointments, the department that threatens to set collection agencies on you and, lastly, the department for blaming all your problems on other departments.

I was ready to toss the phone through the window, when I finally reached the activation department and heard a human being.

“Hello, I am being Duke, spelling D.U.K.E., your current telephone representative in the activation department. How am I to be of helpfulness in your present situation?”

“I want my television activated.”

“Yes, sir, today. I am happily doing this for you. It is about five minutes in the time taking. Please do not leaving away from the telephone you are talking about.”

“No problem. Ah, Duke, do you mind if I ask a question?”

“Please feel fine to ask your question for me.”

“Where are you located?”

“Manila, of the Philippine Islands.”

“So, an American satellite TV company has their call center in the Philippines?”

“Indeed, yes, sir. We have 2,000 people working to here, 24 hours all day. And we are a small call center. There are many others very bigger than we can here in Manila. They work for American banks, credit card companies and oil companies. They are here because we are very good speaking of English language here. I have studied for English for many years from school.”

“Yeah, you speak real well. You’re a regular William F. Buckley.”

imagesWho didn’t really sound like William F. Buckley, Jr….

“The call centers in India are much greater in size than is here. They have hundreds of thousands of many people all speaking English for American companies.”

“Yes, that’s good to know.”

“Sir, your television is now in the state of being very activated.”

“Thanks, Duke. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you.”

“And for you, sir. Please enjoy your watching of television.”

Later that evening I was enjoying a smidgen of red wine and watching the news, when they ran a story about illegal immigration and how undocumented workers were stealing American jobs. Outraged politicians expressed their bought-and-paid-for anger. Titans of industry, the same rotten bastards who have outsourced (great Orwellian term) hundreds of thousands of jobs to other countries, chimed in with their hypocritical opinions. Small business owners, unemployed blue-collar workers and immigration officials all had their say.

When the segment was over, the professional polarizers — both liberal and conservative — the spin doctors, strategists, professional apologists and marginal political hacks, weighed in with their stale, tired and completely predictable opinions. They should just put those fuckers on a tape loop.

The only thing that did surprise me was that not one person mentioned the hundreds of thousands of jobs that been sent to other countries by America’s wealthiest corporations.

I thought back to my conversation with the Duke of Manila. He seemed like a nice guy. I was glad he had a job. He might have had a family to feed, a mortgage to pay, a mistress to keep or a drug habit to support. What I didn’t like was that he had a job that an American should have been doing.

Duke worked for an American company, yet paid no state or federal taxes and did not contribute to Social Security or Medicare. You can multiply his story by hundreds of thousands.

At least undocumented workers in this country spend some of their money in this country. Duke’s money never leaves the Philipinnes. To paraphrase an advertising slogan, what’s earned in Manila stays in Manila.

I don’t see how that does any of us in the USA any good.

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Letter From Milo: Cat Man Doo

January 8th, 2021

“Mom! Daddy was trying to stuff the cat into the microwave today!”

“Milo! Is that true?”

“Heh, heh. Now, honey, you know the children have hyper-active imaginations. We may have to adjust their meds.”

“Well, you just better leave that cat alone.”

“I wouldn’t dream of harming the cat. Besides, it’s probably not that easy to stuff a cat into a microwave.”

I don’t like or dislike cats. I am indifferent to them in the same way that they are indifferent to me.

DSC_0162

There is one cat, however, that is at the top of my shit list. His name is Otis and he is a sneaky, black-hearted, treacherous bastard with the soul of an assassin and the cunning of Meyer Lansky. He is a cat without scruples, remorse or a sense of pity, and I curse the day that the furry little fucker came into my life.

“Milo, I was talking to Cathy Ivcich this morning. She drove by the house yesterday while you were mowing the lawn and she said it looked like you were trying to run over the cat with the power mower.”

“You tell that slutty Cathy Ivcich to mind her own damn business.”

“Is it true?”

“Of course not, sweetheart. What have I ever done to make you think I’d do a terrible thing like that?”

“The children would be heart-broken if anything happened to that cat.”

“It’s a tough old world. Accidents happen all the time. A cat’s got to take his chances like anyone else.”

The day Otis followed my youngest daughter home may have been the worst day of my life. As soon as I spotted him I knew he was a stubborn, hardheaded bastard. For one thing, he wouldn’t take a hint. I yelled at him, threw rocks at him and squirted the fucker with the garden hose, and still he wouldn’t leave.

He hung around the back porch, mewing, purring, grooming his ratty fur, trying to pass himself off as some sort of respectable house pet. The kids put out food for him. The lovely Mrs. Milo set out bowls of water. In a couple of days he had weaseled his way into the household. And there was nothing I could do about.

“Mom! Dad tried to sell Otis to the guy who owns the Korean restaurant.”

“Nadia and Petra saw you talking to our neighbor, Mr. Choi. You were pointing to Otis and some money changed hands.”

“Heh, heh. I believe our darling children misconstrued the situation.”

“Why did Mr. Choi give you money?”

“He was, ah, paying off an old Mah Jong debt.”

imagesBut the thing is — you can’t trust them….

There are a lot of reasons to hate Otis, but the main reason I despise him is that he’s a stone cold, merciless killer. He kills birds, mice, squirrels, anything that he senses he can overpower. He doesn’t just kill them, he toys with them, tortures them and then he eats them, sometimes while they’re still living. Once or twice a week I have to remove the pitiful remains of some small animal from my back yard.

His favorite prey animals, however, are cute little bunny rabbits. Lincoln Square has been overrun by rabbits in the last few years and Otis has had his fill of the helpless little cottontails. At least twice a month, I find the partially eaten carcass of a little bunny rabbit in the back yard.

“Milo, I got a call from an animal shelter this morning. They said someone from this number called and asked if they were a no-kill shelter.”

“So?”

“When they said ‘Yes,’ the caller asked if they had the phone number of a kill shelter.”

“I wouldn’t know anything about that, dear.”

The other day I was on the back porch, enjoying a whiskey with my morning cigarette, when Otis came trotting into the back yard, clutching a little bunny rabbit in his jaws. The bunny was still alive, kicking spasmodically and screeching, “Eek, eek, eek.” It was more than I could stand.

“You bastard!” I shouted, then ran into the yard, grabbed a trowel and chased the cat into a bed of hostas. He was pretty well hidden, but I flushed him out. He still had a grip on the bunny and ran for the shelter of the grape arbor. I caught up with the fucker, took a good swing at him with the trowel and, even though I missed, he released the bunny and ran off.

The bunny was in pretty bad shape. It sat there trembling for about an hour, then keeled over and died. I used the trowel to pick it up. I put the poor thing in a plastic Jewel grocery bag and dropped it in the garbage can. Streets and Sanitation would give the bunny a proper sendoff on Monday morning.

Otis was pretty proud of himself. He was lolling around on the back porch like an Animal Planet lion that had just done in a wildebeest. Enjoy it while you can, I said to myself. Your time is coming, motherfucker.

One of the days I’ll get you, that is, if you don’t get me first.

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Letter From Milo: Loserville

December 27th, 2020

I enjoy the company of low-lifes, eccentrics, misfits and disreputable people. Some of my best friends are folks that wouldn’t be welcomed in polite company.

I don’t know why I developed a fondness for the shady side of life. I suppose it’s in my DNA (check out one of my earlier blog posts titled “The Bum Gene”). I come from a long line of people who have a gift for excess and a healthy contempt for custom.

I’d rather spend time with a failed musician than a successful banker. I’d rather chat with an old whore than a North Shore matron, although there’s probably not much difference. I’d prefer Reverend Ike’s companionship to Pope Benedict’s. I believe Joey “the Clown” Lombardo might be a more interesting drinking buddy than Bozo the Clown. And I’m pretty sure a night on the town with Keith Richards might be a bit more fun than a pub crawl with Donny Osmond.

Keith RichardsYou choose: Sinners?

A while ago I made friends with a man who spent 22 years in a Mississippi prison. He had been out for just a few months when I met him. He was one of the gentlest, best natured men I had ever met, not at all what I would have expected from a hardened convict.

When I asked him what he had done, he replied, “Robbed four damn banks. I should’ve stopped at three.”

Now that’s a line you’ll never hear from a Sunday School Superintendent (apologies to Mr. Clemens).

The point I’m trying to make is that convention and conventional people bore me. As I grow older and note that the pages are flying off the calendar a little faster than I’d like, I’m finding that I have less tolerance for boredom – and no tolerance at all for boring people.

indexOr Latter Day Saints?

This anti-social attitude of mine, as the lovely Mrs. Milo refers to it, has caused no end of problems in our otherwise happy home.

A few months ago my wife told me that we were invited to a dinner party.

“When?”

“Tonight, a couple of hours from now at Jack and Jill’s house.”

“Sounds good. I like Jack and Jill. Who else is going to be there?”

“Walter and Wanda.”

“They’re okay. Is anyone else coming?”

(Silence)

“Honey. Is anyone else coming?

“Dan and Don and their wives are going to be there.”

“Ah fuck! You can’t be serious! I’d rather gnaw off my own foot than spend 10 minutes with those two ignorant cocksuckers.”

“Why do you say stupid things like that? Dan and Don are highly educated, well-known and accomplished men. Just because they’re not drunks and dopers and losers, like most of your friends, doesn’t make them bad people. Besides, they like you. They think you’re kind of interesting.”

“Well, I just wish you would have told me about this sooner.”

“Why, so you’d have time to figure a way to weasel out of it?”

“Ah, fuck.”

A couple of hours later I found myself at an oh so civilized dinner party. We dined under a tent in a beautifully maintained yard. The lamb chops were superb, the wine was plentiful, the laughter was subdued, the conversation was polite and the background music was smooth jazz. Everyone was well-dressed, expensively coiffed and hygienically presentable.

I couldn’t wait to get the fuck out of there.

As is usually the case with boring people, Dan and Don dominated the conversation. And, to be honest, I don’t remember a thing either of them said. I do, however, recall that neither of them said anything that contained wit, interest or originality. I kept waiting for someone to fart or pull out a joint or tell a good dick joke, but it never happened.

I was never so glad to leave a party in my life. The next time Mrs. Milo wants…

HOLD IT!

This is Mrs. Milo. I just passed by the computer, saw what my husband was writing and chased him away from the keyboard with a ball peen hammer. What he’s writing is just a pack of lies. Here’s what really happened at the party.

As soon as we walked in the door, Milo got into the booze. In a couple of hours he was roaring drunk. He couldn’t seem to operate a knife and fork so he ate most of the meal with his hands. And, since he neglected to use a napkin, most of the meal ended up in his lap.

When Don started talking about his favorite episode of “Lost,” Milo interrupted with a disgusting story about a donkey show he had seen in Tijuana in the early 70s. When Dan brought up the subject of his new golf clubs, Milo started talking about his new scheme to get access to medical marijuana.

It got worse after that. As we were leaving, Milo pinched the hostess on the ass and whispered something nasty in her ear. She looked shocked and I was mortified. The problem is that now Jill sends Milo emails all the time, which the bastard deletes before I get a chance to see them.

When we finally got outside, Milo refused to give me the car keys. He insisted that he was more than capable of driving. I had to use pepper spray on him to get the keys.

I don’t know what I ever saw in Milo. I’m sorry I ever married him. What a loser he turned out to be.

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Letter From Milo: Words To Live By

November 17th, 2020

Every few years the lovely Mrs. Milo becomes dissatisfied with the state of our marriage. And, of course, it’s all my fault.

I don’t pay enough attention to her. I’m uncommunicative. I drink and smoke too much. My hygiene is not what it should be. My gambling debts are mounting up. My friends are beastly. I’m inconsiderate to her friends. I snore. I say and do stupid things. I fart at inappropriate times. I’m a hopeless loser whose Lazyboy in hell has been reserved for years.

Okay, so I’m not perfect. I’ll be the first to admit that I have a couple of minor faults. I mean, who gets through this life without developing a couple of character flaws? Even the great ones have chinks in their armor. Winston Churchill was a drunkard. Barack Obama smokes. Michael Jordan is a degenerate gambler. Bill Clinton is a liar. JFK was a womanizer. Louis Armstrong was a pothead. Catherine the Great was overly fond of horseflesh. The list goes on and on.

When I point out these facts to my wife she just laughs at me.

“While you’re at it, why don’t you compare yourself to Jesus and Mother Teresa.”

“Sweetheart, you’re missing the point.”

“There’s no point, you’re just trying to bullshit me.”

“Angel, be reasonable. All I’m saying…”

“I know exactly what you’re saying and I’m not falling for it.”

“Honey…”

“Don’t honey me. We have serious problems in our marriage and we need to do something about them.”

For the next few days after this conversation there is a distinct chill in our household air. Silences, cold shoulders, slamming doors, angry muttering, ugly looks, sleeping on the couch — my lovely wife throws her entire arsenal at me. And that’s just the beginning. I know what’s coming. I’m a scarred and battered veteran of the marital wars. She’s getting ready to drop the big one on me.

“Milo, I made an appointment with a marriage counselor.”

“Shit, not again.”

“If you love me you’ll cooperate.”

“Can I love you and not cooperate?”

“That’s not an option.”

“Shit.”

In nearly three decades of marriage we’ve been to three different marriage counselors. The one thing they all had in common was that they were expensive, charging an hourly rate that would make Bill Gates consider rewriting his business plan.

Our first counselor was a very attractive woman who we quit seeing when she began going through an ugly divorce, leaving her husband for a much wealthier man. We gave up on the second counselor when my wife got the impression that she was too sympathetic toward me. The third counselor lasted the longest. She was a young, heavily tattooed woman who seemed to have a good grasp of the marital condition. I sensed she understood that marriage is an unnatural state, a con game foisted on humanity by a pitiless, vengeful God. We had to stop seeing her when she and her musician boyfriend moved to California.

ann-landersMilo, the anti-Ann Landers….

It recently occurred to me that there are plenty of other poor souls being dragged off to marriage counselors by unappreciative wives. It also occurred to me that I owe it to my fellow married men to help them out in their times of trouble and woe. Therefore, I have compiled a few tips, suggestions, and defensive stratagems that will help them survive even the most savage counseling session.

1. Agree with everything your wife says. If she tells the marriage counselor that she caught you cooking and eating one of the neighbors, just say, “I can see how that would upset you, dear, and I’ll try to do better in the future.”

2. Never admit to affairs, gambling debts, drug habits, or that minor indiscretion with Sarah the Slut at last year’s New Year’s Eve party.

3. In the rare case that you actually like your marriage counselor, immediately begin complaining about her. The more you complain, the more your wife will think the counselor is doing a fine job.

4. Try to moderate your bad habits for a couple weeks at the onset of counseling. Bring your wife flowers and chocolate. If you can stand it, try to watch Oprah and the Lifetime Channel together, at least twice a week.

5. Avoid lesbian marriage counselors at all costs. They won’t succumb to your manly charm, are notoriously hard-headed and nearly impossible to bribe.

I’m not saying that these five tips will turn your counseling into a walk in the park. That’s impossible. Marriage counseling, by its very nature, is a brutal, take-no-prisoners assault on your manhood. It’s designed to break you down and reshape you into the wimpy, neutered wuss that your wife has always wanted for a husband. What I am saying is that by following these rules, you might, just might, come out of counseling with your manhood and dignity intact.

Ignore them at your own peril.

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Letter From Milo: Jimi’s Wars

October 12th, 2020

I guess I’m just an old rocker. My musical tastes were formed in the late 60s and early 70s. I still listen to the old warhorses – Dylan, the Stones, Janis Joplin, the Dead, Cream, Marvin Gaye, Traffic, the Doors, Otis Redding, Van Morrison. If I’m driving down the street and hear one of my old favorites on the radio I turn up the volume until the car vibrates.

That said, there is one musician I esteem above all others, a musician whose music still sends chills up my spine, someone who took the electric guitar to places it’s never been before and created sounds that have been copied but never equaled.

I’m talking about Jimi Hendrix, genius, guitar god and war hero.

28hendrix3-popupThe greatest….

I became aware of Hendrix in 1967. His first hit, “Purple Haze,” was all over the radio. The sound was like nothing I had ever heard before – big, bold, discordant, but undeniably different. It was alien to my unsophisticated ears. I just didn’t get it. But, you have to understand, I had not started smoking pot yet.

A year later I was in Vietnam and I got it. Boy did I get it. The Vietnamese conflict has been called the Rock ‘n Roll War. Music was everywhere. It seemed that every soldier had his own cassette player and collection of cassette tapes. I remember my first day in-country. I had just gotten off an airplane along with 200 other new fish and was standing on the tarmac at the Da Nang air base, listening to a bored 2nd Lieutenant welcoming us to Vietnam. While the 2nd Lt. was droning on about the noble mission we were about to undertake, I heard music in the background, coming from a collection of raggedy tents just off the runway. It was the Doors.

This is the end/
This is the end/
my friend

Welcome to Vietnam.

Just like in the good old USA, there were racial problems among the American soldiers in Vietnam. If you recall, the late 60s were when King, Kennedy and Malcolm were assassinated. There were riots in the streets of our major cities. Students were forming revolutionary cells and plotting to overthrow the government. Lines were drawn between the races, the generations and the body politic. It was a time of supreme tension and nobody could say with certainty what the future held.

What was happening in the States was mirrored in Vietnam. It was like a bizarre reflection of what was occurring on the streets back home. Lines were also drawn, political and racial. Black guys hung with black guys, white guys hung with white guys and Latinos kept to themselves. There were actually mini race riots in some of the division base camps like Chu Lai and Da Nang. We didn’t have these problems in the field because, as infantrymen, we had more pressing concerns, like trying to keep the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Regulars from killing us while at the same time trying to kill them.

It was a different story back in the relative safety of the division camps. The REMFS (Rear Echelon Motherfuckers) had more time on their hands. And they spent some of that time fomenting racial discord. I’m not saying that all the soldiers were like that, but there were enough of them, both black and white, to create serious and often lethal problems. After all, when you mix young men, ethnic strife and automatic rifles together, there are bound to be a few, ah, misunderstandings.

Music played a role in the racial divide. The music you listened to defined who you were. Black guys listened to soul and funk from Motown and Memphis. White guys listened to rock and country. And some poor souls just paid attention to their own demons. There was one musician, however, who crossed all boundaries, someone who both blacks and whites idolized.

That was Jimi Hendrix.

jimi-curtis-corbis-460-100-460-70Jimi — back in the day….

Whenever you saw groups of blacks and white partying together, sitting around bonfires, drinking warm beer and smoking pot, the chances are that the music blaring from cassette machines was played by Jimi Hendrix. There were several reasons for this adoration of Jimi. The first, obviously, was that he was a supernaturally gifted musician. He simply had no equal. His audacious combination of rock riffs, deep understanding of the blues and soulful stylings (he once played guitar in the Isley Brothers band) spoke to everyone.

Another reason he was loved by the troops was that Jimi had once been a soldier himself. Before becoming Jimi Hendrix, he had been James Marshall Hendrix, a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division. That simple connection made it seem that Jimi was one of us. We felt that he understood us and our terrible plights in ways that British fops like Jagger, McCartney and Clapton never could.

On Highway 1, near the South China Sea, there was a hill near the village of Sai Hyun called Hendrix Hill. This particular hill was strewn with huge rocks and boulders. On one of the largest boulders someone had painted, in letters that seemed 10 feet high, the word Hendrix. The boulder was easily seen from the highway and every time I passed it I couldn’t help but smile. It was our Hollywood sign.

When Jimi came out with his “Electric Ladyland” album, there was a song on it that became seared into the mind of practically every soldier who heard it. The song was called “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn To Be).” There’s a line in that song that’s guaranteed to bring a tear to every Vietnam veteran’s eye. The line is:

Well, it’s too bad/
that our friends/
can’t be with us today

The line evokes memory, pain and loss. It brings back memories of old friends and comrades in arms, young men who died far too young, in a country 10,000 miles from home, often in circumstances too gruesome to relate.

To this day, when I hear that line, I have to stop whatever I’m doing and spend a few moments recalling those who made the supreme sacrifice. Faces and names run through my mind – Captain David Walsh, Sweet Jimmy Ingram, Stony Deel and many others whose names are etched on a granite wall in Washington D.C.

I’m going to wrap it up now. I’m going to put on “Electric Ladyland” and try to find some comfort on this rainy day. Jimi had a way of comforting a lot of souls. That’s what heroes do.

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