Letter From Milo: Mickey and Bonnie

December 11th, 2017

Mickey came home from Vietnam in February of 1970, just a few days short of his 21st birthday. He had been an infantryman, a rifle-toting grunt who had slogged through mountains and swamps, bombed out rice paddies and impenetrable jungles. He had seen and done things that no person should ever see or do. Some of the memories would never leave him.

Back home, Mickey was at loose ends. He didn’t know what to do. He was lost and confused. His old friends, high school buddies, seemed like childish strangers. He wasn’t sleeping well and was eating poorly. Even his mother’s cooking, which he had always relished, was tasteless to him.

Mickey spent most of his time in his car, driving aimlessly, listening to the radio and smoking lots of marijuana. Sometimes he’d pick up a six-pack or a pint of whiskey and drive out to the beach, where he’d find an isolated spot near the shore of Lake Michigan, park his car, and watch the waves roll in and out for hours at a time. The sound of waves lapping at the shoreline soothed him and often he would fall asleep, lulled by the rhythm of the tides.

Mickey knew there was something wrong with him but he couldn’t figure out on the problem. The term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder hadn’t been coined yet. If he had known about PTSD he might have tried to get some help, although Mickey was by nature a self-contained type and probably wouldn’t have asked for help even if he knew he needed it.

After being home for a few months, the time had come for Mickey to make a decision. He could either get a job in one of the local factories or do something else. He opted for something else. He decided to take advantage of the GI Bill and go to college for a year or so, just to clear his head. Maybe he would get a new perspective on things. Maybe his demons wouldn’t follow him to southern Indiana. Maybe he could outrun his past. Maybe.

His first months at college were not much different from the life he had been living in his hometown. Mickey wandered around in a daze, keeping his head down, unable to reach out to people, unwilling to expose himself more than absolutely necessary. He attended classes sporadically, spent time drinking alone in the local taverns and smoked pot to take his mind off of, well, who knows what. He may as well have been a ghost, his presence unnoticed except for those whose senses were attuned to the high and lonesome end of the misery spectrum.

And then Mickey met Bonnie.

She was a beautiful, long-legged art student, a farm girl from southern Indiana. She saw something in Mickey that he thought had been lost and gone forever. She saw a spark of intelligence, a glimmer of humanity that he thought no longer existed. For some reason she decided that he was someone worthwhile, someone she wanted to know better.

Bonnie took Mickey under her lovely wing. They became friends, and then they became more than friends. She had a kind and generous nature and, more than that, she seemed to have an intuitive sense of how to deal with Mickey’s damaged psyche. When he went into one of his funks, she knew how to lift his spirits. She was comfortable with his silences and listened patiently when he felt like talking. Although Mickey didn’t realize it at the time, Bonnie was exactly what he needed at that point in his life.

When Bonnie brought Mickey into her life she also introduced him to her world. As an art student, Bonnie’s social circle included other aspiring artists – actors, writers, dancers and musicians. Mickey, who was used to the rough world of soldiers and working men, found himself enjoying the company of his witty and creative new friends. They made him laugh and think and look at the world differently. He was changing.

Slowly, Mickey began to come out of his shell. He felt healthy again. He was sleeping better, too, his dreams less vivid and frightening. He took pleasure in good conversation, good music and even began enjoying some of his classes, although it must be said that Mickey had a low opinion of organized education. He no longer had a sense of dread when he woke up in the morning. He had the odd but welcome sensation that he was becoming a human being again, reconnecting to the person he once was and seeing intimations of the person he might become.

Mickey understood that none of this would have been possible without Bonnie. She had literally saved his sanity and, possibly, his life. She had lifted the darkness from his soul and replaced it with dawning hope. Mickey knew that he could never explain to Bonnie what she had done for him. He could not find words that adequately expressed what she meant to him. In fact, he doubted that the proper words of thanks existed in the English language. The only thing he knew for certain was that without her he might have remained a ghost, a blue-collar Flying Dutchman, doomed to spend eternity wandering. He would never forget what she had done for him.

All stories have a beginning and, sadly, an end. When she finished school, Bonnie decided to move to New York City to pursue her artistic dreams. Mickey’s future lay elsewhere. They went their separate ways, but Mickey always kept Bonnie in his heart, safely tucked away in a place where a person’s most precious treasures are kept. He thought of her often, wondering where she was and what she was doing. Always, when he thought of her, he wished her peace, love and happiness. There was nobody more deserving.

And there was absolutely no doubt in Mickey’s mind that when Bonnie thought of him, she wished him the same.

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Letter From Milo: The Hard Way

December 4th, 2017

A few years ago, when I was preparing for major surgery, the doctor asked my wife about my lifestyle. He wanted to know if I had any bad habits.

The lovely Mrs. Milo replied, “Yes, he does. He smokes and drinks and eats red meat. He likes to gamble and he occasionally smokes marijuana with some of his low-life friends. And I know for a fact that he regularly entertains impure thoughts.”

“Let’s hope this surgery makes him change his ways,” the doctor said. “Maybe a few hours on the operating table will put the fear of God into him.”

“Doctor, you don’t know my husband. He won’t listen to anyone’s advice and he takes direction poorly. I doubt he’ll change his ways.”

My wife was right. Against all common sense, against sound medical advice, and much to the despair of several members of my immediate family, I quickly reverted to form and resumed the low-life diversions that had always been a comfort to me.

Shortly after recovering from surgery, I was, once again, happily wallowing in a mire of liquor, tobacco, red meat, reefer and thoughts of an impure nature.

A while ago, I was sitting on a barstool in Swillagains when an old friend, who I’ll call Pete, sat next to me and ordered a drink. Pete didn’t look well. His skin had a yellowish caste and he looked like he had lost some weight.

When I asked about his health, Pete said, “Fucking liver’s been acting up again.”

“That’s too bad.”

“Doctor says I should quit drinking.”

“Well, that’s something to consider.”

“Ah, the fucker’s been telling me to quit drinking for 20 years. I’m thinking about getting a second opinion.”

A little later, I was standing outside of the saloon, enjoying a cigarette with an old friend, who I’ll call Tim. We were in the middle of a conversation when Tim went into a hacking and wheezing fit that lasted for a couple of minutes.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine. It’s just the fucking emphysema acting up again.”

“Sorry to hear it.”

“Doctor told me if I wanted to live much longer I’d have to quit smoking.”

“What did you say?”

“I told him I’d think about it.”

Later that evening, as I was enjoying a glass of red wine and mulling over the day’s events, I thought about the choices that my friends Pete and Tim had made. When presented with evidence that their behavior would have detrimental and possibly fatal consequences, they chose to ignore it. They didn’t believe it, didn’t understand it, or didn’t care. In any case, they refused to take their doctors advice.

Now, these doctors had, no doubt, seen the damage that heavy drinking and smoking can cause. They have treated people with ruined lungs and corroded livers. They’ve watched heavy smokers slowly choke to death as cancer squeezed the life out of them. They’ve watched heavy drinkers turn yellow and die because their livers failed. They’ve probably told an untold number of people who led self-destructive lifestyles that they were doomed.

Inevitably, when patients are told they have a terminal illness, the first question they ask is, “How long have I got?”

The doctors generally give an educated guess. It could be weeks, months, or even a couple of years. But deep in their hearts, doctors know that the true answer is, “Not long enough, my friend.”

I wish Tim and Pete would have taken their doctors’ advice.

Man, I’m glad I’m not a dumbass like those guys.

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Letter From Milo: Wassermann Gardens, Chapter 10

November 27th, 2017

Here’s a sample of my ebook, Wassermann Gardens, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and 29 other sites.

 

 

THE FOOD SITUATION had become critical. There was enough left, at one meal per day, to feed the islanders for three more days. Marlowe made a half-hearted attempt to convince some of the men that it was necessary to reduce the ration to a half meal per day, but nobody would agree and he gave it up. Even Kline thought it was a meaningless gesture.

“You really think it’ll make a difference,” he said, morosely. He had been drinking heavily in the days after Vukovic’s death, joining Druliner in putting a serious dent in the supply of Island Lemonade. “Another couple of days won’t mean shit to anybody,” he added. “If the helicopter doesn’t show up real soon, we’re all fucked.”

“Well, we’ve got to do something,’ Marlowe said, stubbornly.

“We’ve got to do something,” Druliner mimicked, in a sarcastic, singsong tone. He was drunk, hungry and surly. “You’re becoming a real pain in the ass, you know that?”

“OK, you two dumb asses just sit here and feel sorry for yourselves and I’ll…”

“You’ll do what,” Kline interrupted, angrily, the Lemonade making him belligerent, too. “What are you going to do, save everybody’s ass? Have you got some sort of grand plan? Are you going to pull off a miracle and feed everybody with fish we can’t catch and a loaf of bread we don’t have?”

Marlowe couldn’t think of anything to say, a rejoinder that would make them come around to his way of thinking. He knew that something had to be done, but he had no idea of what that would be. They couldn’t just sit and wait for the helicopter to come and make everything better. Yet, that’s exactly what they were doing.

When Marlowe left Druliner’s hootch, he felt defeated and helpless. When he looked up at the landing zone and saw the crowd of men doggedly waiting for the helicopter, he felt even worse. He walked slowly and dejectedly toward the cliffs, drawn by the sound of the ocean. He found a boulder, sat on it and stared out to sea for a long time.

He hadn’t felt this miserable and filled with despair since he first arrived on the island, almost six years earlier. He remembered his first days as a new arrival, when he wandered in a daze, drugged, frightened and confused. His mind refused to accept the fact that instead of going home, after his tour of duty in Vietnam, he had been declared Missing in Action and quarantined on an island in the middle of nowhere for the rest of his natural life. Almost as difficult to accept was the fact that his body was carrying a sexually transmitted disease that was incurable, virulent and so contagious that his very existence was deemed an unacceptable danger to all of mankind.

He remembered the terrible dreams he had during his first weeks on the island. They were horrible visions of his body infested with malignant worms, eating their way into his bloodstream, working their way into his brain, leaving a toxic slime in their path, driving him crazy, stealing his eyesight, killing him in stages.

Marlowe didn’t know how he had survived those first terrible days. Many men didn’t. The suicide rate of new arrivals was very high, especially in their first few weeks on the island. Marlowe had come close to killing himself several times. He remembered spending hours at the edge of Easy Street, trying to work up the nerve to take the leap. He had actually gone so far as to scrounge up some rope and make a hangman’s noose. The noose lay around his hootch for weeks, a grim reminder that despite the absolute horror of his situation, there was still a way out.

Marlowe also remembered the moment everything had changed. He was sitting on his cot early one morning, after a sleepless, anguished night, wallowing in a mire of self-pity, when Lester Cooper, a tall, thin black man with a huge Afro and a bushy beard, walked into his hootch.

“Hey, man,” Lester said, cheerfully. “You doing anything right now?”

Marlowe didn’t answer. He hadn’t spoken more than 10 words in the weeks he had been on the island. The older islanders tended to avoid newcomers until they showed they would survive the initial shock of arrival. Nobody wanted to invest time or emotion into befriending someone that might be dead in a week.

“I’m talking to you, brother,” Lester said.

“What?” Marlowe replied, without looking up.

“I asked if you was doing anything,” Lester repeated.

“It look like I’m doing anything?”

“No. Looks like you got some time on your hands. That’s good, because I need some help.”

“Help with what?”

“Digging shit holes.”

While Marlowe was sitting on the boulder, listening to the crashing surf and thinking about the past, he saw a familiar figure in the distance. It was Walking Bob, on his endless circuit of the island. Marlowe couldn’t help but smile at the sight of the gaunt, insane man who spent his days and nights just walking. He wondered if Bob was aware of the food situation, or of anything else that happened on the island. The man was so single-minded, so focused on his walking that Marlowe doubted if anything penetrated his diseased brain, other than his next footfall.

As Walking Bob drew nearer, Marlowe saw that he had developed a noticeable limp. It didn’t seem to impede Bob’s progress, but Marlowe felt a pang of concern. The only thing Bob did was walk. If something happened and he couldn’t walk, then what else was there for him?

When Walking Bob came within earshot, Marlowe called out to him, saying what everyone said.

“Hey, Bob, nice day for a walk.”

Walking Bob replied the same way he always did. “Moving target, baby,” he said, without missing a step.

When Bob limped by, Marlowe returned to his memories. He recalled following Lester out to the latrine area, located on a hill just above the cluster of hootches where most of the islanders lived. The latrine was simply a trench, about four feet deep and 20 feet long. Several planks spanned the trench and the planks had holes cut into them so the men could sit in some comfort while taking care of their business. A sagging, weather-beaten canvas awning had been rigged up above the planks to provide some protection from the monsoon rains.

“What we’ve got to do,” Lester explained, “is dig another trench behind this one. We can fill in the old one with the dirt we dig out from the new one.”

Lester waited for Marlowe to say something. When he didn’t respond, Lester continued. “You don’t want to do it, I can understand. It ain’t what you call ‘glamorous’ work. But somebody’s got to dig a new one. This here old one is just overflowing and nasty. It smells so bad that it takes all the pleasure out of a good shit. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy a good shit in the morning.”

Without further conversation, Lester grabbed a shovel and began digging. He dug at a leisurely but efficient rate for about 10 minutes, before stopping to remove his tee-shirt, which was already showing sweat stains from the early morning heat. Then he took a smoke break, sitting on the grassy slope and basking in the sunshine while enjoying his smoke. When he finished, he flicked away the butt, then, looked at Marlowe, who seemingly hadn’t moved a muscle.

“Well, my man,” Lester said, taking a grip on the shovel handle. “What are you going to do?”

Much later, Marlowe realized what Lester had actually asked him. The question was asked in such an offhand manner that its importance didn’t register in his mind for several years. What Lester really asked was, “Do you want to live or do you want to die?”

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Letter From Milo: Timing is Everything

November 20th, 2017

This was going to be a great weekend, a spectacular weekend, a weekend so filled with excess and debauchery that, if everything went according to plan, I’d be lucky to escape with my life.

You see, the lovely Mrs. Milo was going away for the weekend with a bunch of her slutty girlfriends. They were going to a cottage in Michigan where, they assured me, they planned to enagage in good-natured gossip, exchange recipes and knitting tips, and perhaps share a bottle or two of Chardonnay.

I would be alone for three glorious days, free to indulge in low-life pleasures on an epic scale. I was going to swim in rivers of Tennessee whiskey and float on clouds of fine California reefer. I was going to frolic with women, lots of women, preferably two or three at a time. And I intended to spend at least one evening in a brutal all-night poker game, where all the players were sure to be drunk, heavily armed and had aces up their sleeves.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan. Shortly before my wife left for Michigan, I caught the damned flu.

I felt the first symptom on the morning my wife was leaving, waking up with a slight tickle in my throat. I didn’t think much of it. I often wake up with aches, pains, cuts, scratches and bruises of unknown origins. By late afternoon my nose was running and I was firing off sneezes four or five at a time. I felt like shit and sensed that things would only get worse.

The lovely Mrs. Milo exhibited the requisite spousal concern for my well-being.

“Darn, I hate to leave just when you’re getting sick, but we’ve been planning this trip for weeks,” she said, as she snapped her suitcase shut and edged toward the door.

“Don’t worry about a thing, dumpling. This is a mere bump in the road. It’s probably just one of those 24-hour nuisance colds.”

“I hope that’s all it is. Try not to drink too much. I doubt alcohol will help your condition.”

“Your advice is duly noted.”

When I awoke the next morning the flu had settled in my chest. I was feverish and coughing as harshly and steadily as a chain-smoking West Virginia coal miner. By early afternoon I was at death’s creaky door, and the door was slowly swinging open.

I called my physician at the VA hospital, Dr, Frankie “Disco” Lopez and explained my plight. He told me to come down to the hospital. “Make it quick,” he said. “I’ve got a horse running in the eighth race at Arlington and don’t want to miss it.”

Somehow I managed to drag my ailing ass down to the hospital in good time and was quickly admitted into the doctor’s office. When Dr. Lopez saw me, he shook his head and said, “Dude, you look like shit.”

“Is that your professional opinion?”

“I’m pretty sure that would be Stevie Wonder’s opinion, too.”

After a cursory examination, Dr. Lopez said, “You’ve got a real good dose of the flu. There’s a nasty strain of it going around now. I’ve seen a lot of cases in the last few weeks.”

“What’s the prognosis?”

“It depends on your lifestyle and, most importantly, your age. I had a patient last week who had a case similar to yours. He was a heavy drinker and smoker, and had a real bad cough like the one you’ve got.”

“Were you able to help him?”

“I gave him some pills, told him to drink lots of fluids and get plenty of bed rest.”

“What happened to the guy?”

“The fucker died.”

“Jesus! He must have been an old man.”

“No, I believe he was about your age.”

“Ah, shit.”

I’ve had a fear of the flu ever since I read “The Stand,” by Stephen King. The disease has been responsible for tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of fatalities over the years. Not only is it deadly, it’s treacherous, too. The virus mutates at an alarming rate. Every year science has to come up with a new vaccine to battle the latest variation of the fiendish and opportunistic affliction. Unfortunately, the vaccines don’t always work. I know people that have had flu shots and still caught the flu.

But I wasn’t worried. I was in good hands. Dr. Frankie “Disco” Lopez is a master of the medical arts. When I left the hospital I figured I was well on the way to recovery.

The good doctor had sized up the situation and come up with a solution. On my way out of his office he handed me a vial of pills and said “These will make you feel real good.”

He also recommended I drink lots of fluids and get plenty of bed rest.

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Letter From Milo: Bingo Queens

November 13th, 2017

This past Saturday I made the one-hour drive to Munster, Indiana to visit my 91-year-old mother at her assisted living facility. She’s been in the home for a few years now, and I don’t see her as often as I’d like. Fortunately, my sister lives about five minutes away from the place and visits Mom almost every day.

Mom wasn’t in her room when I got there, so I went to the nursing station and asked one of the nurses if she knew of my mother’s whereabouts.

“I believe she’s in the dining room, playing Bingo.”

Sure enough, that’s where I found my mother, playing Bingo with about 20 other elderly ladies. My mother recognized me when I greeted her, which made me happy. The dear lady has Alzheimer’s Disease and I know that in another year, if she lives that long, she probably won’t know who I am.

Mom gave me a big smile and said, “What are you doing here?”

“I just came by to visit.”

She seemed puzzled. “Where am I?”

“You’re in an assisted living place.”

She looked around the room, taking in the scene, then, nodded her head in understanding. “Well, I’m playing Bingo now.”

“Yes, I can see that. I’ll just go sit down and have a cup of coffee. We’ll talk when the game is over.”

While I was enjoying my coffee and watching the Bingo game, it occurred to me that most of the ladies playing the game were very much like my mother – blooded veterans of the cut-throat Northwest Indiana Bingo circuit.

In their prime, they had played Bingo in church basements, VFWs, school auditoriums and American Legion halls all over Lake County, from Hammond to Gary to Valparaiso and beyond. When they were younger, these Bingo stalwarts were fierce competitors, keen-eyed, quick-witted and aggressive. They were apex bingo predators. Some were so good that they played a half a dozen cards at a time.

At least once a week, these badass Bingo queens would hit the streets, looking for action. And they were hardly ever disappointed. Most of the time they came back as winners, bringing home supermarket and department store gift certificates, beauty salon coupons, and, occasionally, some cash money. When the holidays rolled around, the ladies usually came home with Christmas turkeys and Easter hams, bags of frozen shrimp, and boxes of Omaha steaks.

Sadly, the ladies playing Bingo in the nursing home, my mother included, were way past their prime. The skills they needed to succeed at high-level, competitive Bingo were long gone. Dementia, hearing problems, poor eyesight, and various other afflictions had robbed them of the considerable abilities they once possessed. Watching them was like watching one of your childhood baseball heroes hobbling painfully around the bases during an old timers’ game.

When the lady who ran the Bingo game spoke into her microphone and said, “The next number is G 16, G 16,” the old ladies did their best to swing into action.

“What did she say?”

“I think it was B 15.”

“No, that’s not it. The number was B 13.”

“Marge, did you catch the number?”

“No, I wasn’t paying attention.”

“LaVerne, did you hear the number?”

LaVerne said, “Lumma, lumma, lumma.”

The announcer, who, by the way, had the patience of a cicada, repeated the number. “Ladies, that was G 16, G 16.”

“See, I told you it was B15.”

A few minutes later, one of the players hollered, “Bingo!” When the announcer walked over to check the winner’s card, she said, “Edna, you don’t have Bingo. Two of those numbers were never called.”

“Darn, I thought I had a winner.”

A short time afterwards, another lady hollered “Bingo!?” When her card was checked, it turned out that she was mistaken, too.

I was hoping for the best when my mother called, “Bingo!” But, unfortunately, she had also gotten a couple of numbers wrong.

When the day’s Bingo action was over and the cards and markers had been cleared away, I walked over to talk to my mother. She gave me a big smile when she saw me. “Honey, what are you doing here?”

“I just came by to visit.”

She seemed confused. “Where am I?”

“Mom, you’re in an assisted living facility.”

She was quiet for a few moments, thinking things over, then she said, “You look skinny. You should eat more.”

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Letter From Milo: Pull My Finger

November 6th, 2017

To the best of my knowledge, the lovely Mrs. Milo has never cut a fart. Although we’ve never discussed the subject, I’m sure she considers passing gas beneath her dignity.

Unlike my ragged and freestyle upbringing, my wife was raised properly, learning the basics of correct behavior at an early age. In her waspishly proper household (both parents were from Boston and of English descent) farting was, no doubt, frowned upon. That’s why if there’s any farting to be done in this family, I’ll be the one doing it.

I don’t recall ever farting in church, but I’ve cut the cheese just about everywhere else. I’ve flatulated in schools, hospitals, taverns, restaurants, pool rooms, government buildings, Marshall Field’s on State Street, elevated trains, board rooms and foxholes. I have released unpleasant fumes in many of these United States and on four different continents. And I’m not done yet. My bucket list includes the Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramid at Giza, Buckingham Palace, the Pentagon and Carnegie Hall.

I don’t mean to come across as sexist, but I honestly believe that women are not very good at farting. They can’t seem to get the hang of it. On the rare occasions when they have to let off a bit of steam, they fire away with wimpy little tootlets that barely qualify as farts. Worst of all, in my opinion, they don’t seem to take joy in the act.

“Millicent, my precious, did you by any chance emit a bit of gas in the last few minutes?”

“Oh, Harvey, this is so embarrassing. I was praying that you wouldn’t notice. This hasn’t happened to me in years. I hope you won’t think badly of me.”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself, dumpling. Even the most refined and well-bred women are subject to an occasional lapse in dignified behavior. I’ll just fetch the room deodorizer, dear, and we’ll forget this unfortunate incident ever happened.”

Naturally, there are exceptions to male domination of the flatulence scene. A handful of women have equaled and, in some cases, surpassed men in the ability to break wind.  That said, men still dominate the arena. Passing gas, loudly, frequently and rankly, is a macho activity, associated with virile types like cowboys (see Blazing Saddles), firemen, lumberjacks, Navy Seals and, of course, bloggers. The editorial staff here at The Third City is a shining example of flatulent excellence, especially Benny Jay, who has eaten nothing but fried chicken and cheese grits for the past 20 years.

To prove my point, I’m going to release a partial transcript of the minutes of The Third City’s last editorial board meeting.

“Jesus! What the fuck was that!”

“Oh, lord, will somebody please open a fucking window!”

“Goddamnit, Mike! Have the decency to give a guy a warning. Smells like a rat crawled up your ass and died.”

“It wasn’t me. It was that asshole Benny.”

“It wasn’t me, either. It was that bastard Milo. The fucker’s been drinking beer and eating beef jerky all morning.”

“Don’t look at me. It was probably that shithead Randolph.”

“You idiot, Jon’s not even here.”

“Well, what about that greasy new intern we hired. He looks like a nasty fucker.”

“Will somebody please open a damned window?”

As bad as that experience was, it didn’t rank very high on my list of all-time fart horror stories. The absolute worst happened to me when I was in high school.

I was driving around with five of my friends in the 1959 Mercury I had recently purchased for $110. My friends, Dickie Kaiser, Dave Spurlock, Sandy Bordeaux, Kenny Woodside, Jim Krock and I had pooled our meager resources and purchased two cases of the cheapest beer in town. I think we paid four dollars a case.

We were having some good clean fun, just surfing the streets, drinking beer and listening to Dick Biondi on WLS. It was a cold winter’s night, so we had the windows rolled up. At some point in the evening, when we each had four or five beers sloshing around in our bellies, Dave Spurlock cut a monster of a fart, a fart for the ages. It was so loud that I thought one of the guys had set off an M-80 in the back seat.

A second later, the inevitable occurred and the other smelly shoe dropped. The stink that permeated the car was unbearable. It was dense, clinging and as putrid as the grave. The odor was a combination of everything vile – rotten eggs, rotten fish, dog shit, dirty sneakers and a backed up sewer. I doubt anything on earth smelled worse than that particular fart.

I almost lost control of the car. Dickie Kaiser had his head hanging out of the back window, vomiting up all the beer he had been drinking. I could hear Sandy Bordeaux gagging. It was a dangerous moment.

Somehow, through sheer strength of will, I managed to pull the car over to the curb. The guys tumbled out of the car, gagging, coughing, eyes watering and noses running. Jim Krock threw up the beer he had been drinking. I gagged and spat a couple of times, but was able to keep down most of the evening’s refreshments. It was touch and go for a while, but somehow Lady Luck was on our side and we all survived.

After blowing his nose and wiping his eyes with a handkerchief, Kenny Woodside said, “Good one, Dave. That was a hell of a fart.”

Dave had a huge smile on his face. He radiated joy and satisfaction. “I thought you guys would appreciate that one,” he said.

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Letter From Milo: Fore!

October 30th, 2017

I didn’t play golf as a kid. I don’t recall ever seeing a golf course in Gary, Indiana, where I grew up. The main problem, I figured, was that there was simply was not enough open space in town to build a golf course. Most of the available acreage in Gary was taken up by taverns, whore houses and pool rooms.

I never knew anyone who played the game. If anyone in town owned golf clubs, they probably used them to settle grudges, collect debts, or fend off the wild dogs and feral pigs that roamed the streets.

I was perfectly happy with my ignorance of golf. I wanted nothing to do with the dumbass game. I thought of it as a foppish activity, played by privileged white guys who wore ugly clothes and had way too much time on their hands.

Then I met the woman who would eventually become the lovely Mrs. Milo. When, to my surprise, our relationship seemed like it was getting serious, she decided it was time for me to meet her parents, which required a trip to her hometown of Fargo, North Dakota.

My soon-to-be mother-in-law, Elthea, was a lovely and gracious woman, but my girlfriend’s father, Ted, was a tough old bird. After sizing me up, obviously wondering what his daughter saw in me, and making some small talk, he asked, “Do you play golf?”

“Can’t say that I do.”

“I suggest you learn the game if you plan on having anything to do with this family.”

Normally, I don’t take direction well, but I had grown rather fond of the future Mrs. Milo’s, ah, shall we say, domestic skills and decided to take her father’s advice. When I got back to Chicago I bought a set of used clubs and tried my best to learn the game.

I quickly discovered that I would never become a good golfer. Mediocrity was probably beyond my reach. The best I could hope for was to reach a level of skill that would permit me to play a round of golf without humiliating myself.

My main golfing partner at the time was a dear friend who I’ll call 3-Putt Bruce, to spare him undue embarrassment. 3-Putt Bruce had played golf as a kid but gave up the game in his late teens and twenties. He claimed he had been pretty good at one time, but by the time we started golfing together, his skills had deteriorated to the point where it was difficult to say which one of us was worse.

Together, we butchered most of the courses in the Chicago area and Northwest Indiana. We left a pathetic trail of double bogies, triple bogies, and worse, from Grayslake to Michigan City. We needed calculators to tote up our score cards. And we usually had to buy another sleeve of golf balls after finishing the front nine.

Our golf games were not helped by the fact that we always brought along our own refreshments. Although we kept the young ladies in the beer carts busy, we also generally packed a pint of Jack Daniels and a couple of joints in our golf bags. I doubt the USGA would have approved. In fact, I doubt anyone but John Daly would have approved.

“Excellent shot, Milo. Were you by any chance aiming for that pond?”

“Bruce, my friend, I notice that you’ve been spending a lot of time in the woods today. You might consider brushing up on your course management skills. ”

“Milo, that was a nice piece of landscaping you did in the sand trap. Do you recall, roughly, how many strokes it took you to get out of there?”

“Bruce, maybe I’m over intellectualizing here, but what does the term ‘out of bounds’ really mean, in the cosmic sense?”

One day Bruce and I were playing a shitty golf course in one of the northern suburbs. It was one of those tight little courses, where most of the fairways run side by side. The course was crowded that day, with foursomes wandering the fairways and backed up in the tee boxes.

Bruce was getting ready to tee off when I noticed a foursome of older men in the fairway to our left. I thought they were a bit close, 40 or 50 yards away, and said to Bruce, “You might want to wait a minute until those old fucks get out of the way.”

Bruce glanced over at the group, then, continued with his pre-shot routine. “There’s nothing to worry about, my man,” he told me. “I’m hitting this ball about 460 yards straight down the middle of this fairway. Those old bastards have absolutely nothing to worry about.”

As it happened, Bruce hit a wicked snap hook that streaked toward the foursome like a hot line drive. There was no time to yell “Fore!” The golfers in the fairway never saw it coming. The golf ball hit one of the golfers directly in the forehead. I’ve never forgotten the sound of the ball striking the man. It was not much different than the sound of Paul Konerko making solid contact with a baseball, and just as loud.

The man collapsed. I thought he had been killed. By the time we got there his playing partners had him sitting up with his back propped against a tree. He was drooling and talking nonsense, but he was still alive. By the time the ambulance arrived, about ten minutes later, he was coherent and complaining about a headache.

Bruce was a bit shaken and I was rattled, too. Neither of us felt like finishing the round. I wondered why I even wasted my time playing such a ridiculous game in the first place. I didn’t play another round of golf the rest of that year.

So we left the golf course and headed for a nearby bar. It felt good to be in a tavern, sitting on a backless stool, chatting with the bartender, listening to the jukebox and sipping from a cold beer. I felt comfortable. I’m sure Bruce felt the same way.

We may not have been the greatest golfers in the world, but we made up for it by being excellent tavern patrons.

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