Letter From Milo: The Point

October 16th, 2017

The Crown Point Detention Home, in Northwest Indiana, was the first stop on the road to reform school for teenaged Hoosier miscreants.

Every Friday afternoon, buses and vans, hauling young criminals from Lake County jails, would deliver their cargo of underage car thieves, burglars, shoplifters, druggies, armed robbers, rapists and the murderously inclined to “The Point,” which was what the Detention Home was generally called.

There were 50 to 60 kids at a time in residence at The Point. Sometimes there would be a preponderance of black guys from the mean streets of Gary. Other times Latinos from Hammond and East Chicago would be in the majority. And there were times when the inmate population would consist mainly of tough white boys from the factory towns and outlying semi-rural communities like Lowell, Black Oak and Hebron.

The average stay at The Point was 10 days to three weeks. During that time the teenaged inmates would be evaluated by the Detention Home’s staff in a number of areas, including intelligence, socialization, reactions to stress, aggression levels and violent tendencies. The staff’s evaluations would determine which type of reform school and what level of security would be most appropriate for the juvenile offender.

Sometimes, though, for reasons unknown, the staff would recommend that a young man be given another chance and the lucky kid would be unconditionally released or set free on terms of probation.

A high school friend, who I’ll call Nicky, had the misfortune of spending 18 days in the Crown Point Detention Home. Nicky was an odd but somewhat interesting guy, a bad boy, roguish yet likable. He was a tough kid, who grew up in difficult circumstances and hung out with a bad crowd. But he was also bright and had a good sense of humor. He liked to read, too. He always had a paperback book sticking out of his back pocket.

Nicky was sent to The Point because he got caught riding shotgun in a stolen car, which he did not know was stolen. He was 15 years old when he was sent to The Point.

When Nicky arrived at The Point, the majority of inmates were black. Nicky was a tough kid but even he would admit that the sight of all those rugged looking black guys, many of them two or three years older than he was, scared him. Things got worse when Nicky saw a guy he recognized, a wiry Puerto Rican kid named Rico, who was a member of a Gary street gang called “The Mystics.” The Mystics and Nicky’s friends didn’t get along.

Nicky and Rico stared for a while, giving each other cold looks. Had they met on the street there probably would have been trouble. Then, for no apparent reason, a barrier seemed to fall and the mood changed. They nodded at each other in recognition and broke into sheepish grins. When Rico approached, Nicky noticed that his face was bruised, scratched and swollen.

“What happened, man? You look like you’ve been in a fight.”

“The black dudes have been fucking with me. I’ve got nobody to back me up.”

“How long have you been here?”

“Three days.”

“How often have you had to fight?”

“Three days.”

Nicky and Rico spent most of the day together, talking about things they had done and friends and enemies they had in common. They sat together at lunch and dinner. They played checkers in the dayroom. Although nothing had been said and no deals made, they had come to an understanding.

That night, when three black guys approached Rico, who was the only Latino in the dormitory, and the fight started, Nicky dove in, punching the guy that sucker-punched Rico. More black guys joined in, the odds were ridiculous, but the important thing was that Nicky and Rico fought back. Not fighting, being passive or showing fear, might attract even more unwelcome forms of attention.

Fortunately, the fights never lasted more than a minute. The racket always drew the attention of the counselors, which is what the guards were called, and they broke up the battles pretty quickly. Still, Nicky and Rico took a pretty good beating, but they also inflicted some pain. When the counselors rushed into the dormitory to break up this particular fight, it seemed that none of the combatants were sorry to see the melee end.

During the day, the inmates were left to their own devices. They could play handball, watch TV, play cards or board games, or do nothing at all. Rico liked to watch TV. Nicky liked to read. Some old lady had donated her library to The Point, so there was a pretty good selection of reading material.

Nicky was dreading the coming night. He didn’t want to take another beating, but there was no no way to avoid it, no place to hide. He took comfort in the fact that he wasn’t alone. Nicky found a quiet corner and was reading a book, when one of the counselors, a guy called Mr. Toby, who was a grad student at St. Joseph’s College, approached him.

“What are you reading?”

“Lust for Life, by Irving Stone.”

“What’s it about?”

“A couple of painters from France.”

“Did you get to the part where the guy cuts his own ear off?”

“Yeah, that was a couple of chapters ago.”

That night, a couple of black guys approached Nicky. Harsh words were exchanged, threats were made and the fight was on. Nicky was quickly overwhelmed, but Rico jumped in and took some of the pressure off Nicky. They were taking a beating, but were still on their feet and fighting when someone yelled that the counselors were coming and the brawl broke up.

The next day Nicky was in his corner, reading a Jack London novel, when Mr. Toby walked up to him.

“Looks like you’ve been in a fight.”

“I didn’t have much choice.”

Mr. Toby nodded in understanding. “What are you reading?”

“The Sea Wolf.”

“That’s a pretty good book. I read it a couple of years ago. Did you already finish that book about Van Gogh?”

“Yeah, I read pretty fast.”

“That’s a good skill to have.”

That night and the night after, the black guys left Nicky and Rico alone. The day after that, most of the blacks were shipped off to Indiana’s downstate reformatories. They were replaced by equal numbers of Latinos and whites. The new arrivals battled for dominance as ferociously as the blacks had done, but the Latinos never troubled Nicky. Rico was covering his back.

A couple of weeks later, Nicky was summoned to the Superintendent’s office, where he was released to the custody of a probation officer. As he was walking to the probation officer’s car, Nicky saw Rico watching him from the other side of a razor-wired fence. Nicky started walking toward Rico, but the probation officer stopped him

“Where do you think you’re going?”

“I want to say goodbye to my friend.”

“You’re officially on probation now. You’re not allowed to associate with criminals. Get in the car.”

For a brief moment Nicky thought about disobeying the probation officer, but realized that nothing good would come of it. The only thing he could do was wave goodbye to his friend. Rico seemed to understand Nicky’s situation. He waved goodbye also, then made a fist, thumped his chest twice and pointed his finger at Nicky.

On the ride back to Gary, the probation officer said, “You’re a lucky kid.”

“Why’s that?”

“One of the counselors took a liking to you. Said you were a smart kid, liked to read books. Never caused any problems. He said you deserved another chance. If it wasn’t for him you’d be working for the government right now, learning the fine arts of manufacturing license plates and sewing canvas bags.”

“That was nice of him.”

“Personally, I don’t give a shit about books. The only thing I care about is that you show up at my office in the courthouse building every Saturday at 10 in the morning, for the next six months. You got that?”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

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Letter From Milo: Wild Thing

October 9th, 2017

Dickie Kaiser’s father owned a workingman’s tavern on 5th Avenue in Gary, near the main entrance to the U.S. Steel plant. Dickie grew up among rowdy, hard-drinking, and often violent steelworkers. Juke box music was the soundtrack of his young life.

Dickie and I were high school classmates and friends. As teenagers, we enjoyed some of the same low-life pleasures – hanging out in pool rooms, drinking cheap beer, trying to get lucky with the local girls, and smoking reefer when the Serrano brothers had some available.

We were classic bad influences, the kind of guys that parents warned their children to stay away from. As a result of these well-intentioned parental advisories, Dickie and I never lacked for company.

Dickie was always up for a good time. Everybody liked him. He was a lot of fun, but sometimes, when he was drinking, he would get mean. He’d start arguments with people for no reason and sometimes those disagreements turned into brawls.

Dickie was scrawny, about 140 pounds, and not very tough. But he had a big mouth and it regularly got him into trouble. Fortunately for him, some of the boys in our crowd were genuine tough guys. They saved Dickie from taking a lot of beatings. They liked and protected him. Dickie may have started the fights, but the big boys finished them.

After graduating high school, Dickie enrolled in a college. He lasted about two months. Shortly after dropping out, he got drafted into the United States Army and sent to Vietnam, where, I believe, he served as a mechanic or a truck driver.

A year in a war zone didn’t do much to improve Dickie’s temperament. If anything, his time in Vietnam made him even feistier, and he was drinking more than ever.

He tried college again, on the G.I. Bill, enrolling in Indiana State University, where I happened to be studying. Again, he only lasted a couple of months. Despite a few unpleasant incidents, it was fun having my old friend around.

I was in a fog most of my college years and don’t remember much of Dickie’s short stay, but I do recall that he once asked me to call him Rick, instead of Dickie. Apparently, the name Dickie wasn’t dignified enough.

I said, “Sure, Dickie, whatever you want.”

He went to work in his father’s tavern for a while, but argumentative bartenders are bad for business and the old man fired him. Dickie wasted a few years knocking around the country, spending time in Florida, the West Coast, and then back in Indiana. The last I heard, he had relocated to one of the southwestern states.

In the mid-1970s, I had settled in Chicago, sharing a coach house on Burling, just south of Armitage, with my dear friends Bruce Diksas and Wayne Gray. One afternoon, about two o’clock, I was awakened by a phone call from my sister.

“I’ve got some bad news. It’s about Dickie Kaiser.”

“Ah, shit. What did that crazy fucker do now?”

“He’s in a hospital in Phoenix. He got beat up in a bar. I heard his skull was fractured in several places. If he lives he’ll have serious brain damage.”

I made a few phone calls, trying to find out what had happened. The story, as I heard it, was that Dickie had gotten into an argument over a game of pool in a seedy bar in Phoenix. The argument quickly escalated into a fight and Dickie was nearly beaten to death with a pool cue. He had 11 fractures in his skull, which meant that some brutal bastard smashed Dickie’s head 11 times with the cue stick.

Dickie survived, but he would be hospitalized for the rest of his life. Fortunately, he was a veteran, so his medical costs were covered. When he was well enough to travel, his family had him transported to Hines V.A. Hospital, just outside of Chicago, where he would be closer to his loved ones.

When I heard that Dickie was at Hines V.A., I decided to visit him. I had told Bruce Diksas about Dickie’s misfortune and Bruce said he wanted to come along. Bruce and I were both Vietnam vets, living somewhat ragged and uncertain lives, and figured that while we were visiting Dickie we’d check out the hospital’s emergency room facilities, just in case.

I was shocked when I saw Dickie. He was slack-jawed, drooling, and pacing the hallway like a zombie. His head was misshapen, as if his skull had been squeezed in a vise. His hospital gown was stained and he smelled of piss. It was one of the saddest sights I had ever seen.

I was even more surprised when Dickie recognized me. As soon as he saw me he became animated, rushed up to me and grabbed my hand. “Tell my brother to come and get me real quick,” he said. “I got hurt in Vietnam. Tell my brother to come and get me real quick.”

“Sure, Dickie, no problem. I’ll tell him.”

When I introduced Bruce, Dickie recoiled, fearfully, at Bruce’s offer of a handshake. Then he turned to me again. “Tell my brother to come and get me real quick. I got hurt in Vietnam. Tell my brother to come and get me real quick.”

Bruce and I left the hospital pretty quickly. We didn’t have much to say on the drive back to Chicago. Finally, when we got close to the City, Bruce said, “Man, Dickie is in real bad shape. What was he like before this shit happened?”

I shrugged. “He was always a bit of a fuckup, but he was my friend. We grew up together. He and his brother, Danny, once put up 35 bucks to bail me out of jail on a disorderly conduct charge. He didn’t deserve to end up like this.”

“Nobody does.”

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Letter From Milo: The Secret History of The Third City — Part 103

October 2nd, 2017

The Third City fell on hard times after our last Barn Boss, the guy we hired to run the blog site, embezzled all of the company’s money and ran off with our slutty receptionist.

The damage to the company and staff was catastrophic. The Widows & Orphans Fund had been completely emptied. Our pensions were looted. We didn’t have enough money to keep up the rent on our plush Michigan Avenue Office, pay salaries, or pay the necessary bribes to keep our blogging license. The rotten bastard of a Barn Boss didn’t even leave enough money in the petty cash drawer to buy a round of drinks.

I was certain that our blogging days were over.

The financial damage was devastating, but the psychological impact on our staff was even worse. The thought that The Third City was finished, that everything we had worked so hard for over these past few years was gone, was more than most of us could stand.

It seemed that the entire staff went into a tailspin, a long free-fall into the bottomless pit of oblivion.

Benny Jay, my partner here at The Third City, seemed to take our misfortunes the hardest. He went on an epic two-week-long, tri-state, fried chicken bender. The private detectives his lovely wife hired to track him down eventually found Benny sleeping it off by a dumpster behind the Popeye’s Chicken in New Buffalo, Michigan.

Jonny Randolph, our world-class photographer, was inconsolable. He briefly considered selling all of his cameras and getting completely out of the photography business, but changed his mind when he realized he was unfit for any other kind of work.

Rolando disappeared without a trace. I heard a rumor that he was freelancing on the Wisconsin Chippendales circuit, but that information was never verified.

No Blaise went a bit crazy and sought comfort in shopping. In a short time she went through her savings, maxed out all of her credit cards and had to move back in with her parents.

Jim Siergey took the bad news in stride. He claimed that he always expected The Third City to fail miserably. As soon as he heard about the embezzlement he began negotiations with other blog sites.

Despite the abject despair, the palpable air of gloom and doom, that had afflicted my colleagues, I was determined to keep The Third City afloat. The blog site had become a beloved institution, an important part of many peoples’ lives. Tens of thousands of loyal readers rely on us for straight talk, sound advice, and spiritual guidance. I simply could not let it fail.

The problem, of course, was money. It takes a lot of it to run a proper blog site and the company was broke. A great deal of money would have to be raised, in a very short time, if The Third City was going to survive.

Benny had recovered from his fried chicken trauma and was able to help with the fund raising efforts. He sold his entire collection of Barry Manilow CDs and autographed Norm Van Lier basketball jerseys. He also made a pretty penny by selling off most of his art collection, including the poker playing dogs and velvet Elvis paintings.

I brought in a few bucks by selling off some of my possessions, but most of my contribution came from selling my sister’s brand new car to a guy I knew in Gary. My sister happened to be out of town at the time.

I don’t know how we did it, but somehow we managed to save the blog. Slowly, one day at a time, The Third City got back on its feet. The staff came trickling back and soon we were all hard at work, blogging, keeping our readers happy, and making big money again.

Benny and I learned an important lesson from this harrowing experience. We would never again be foolish with the company’s money. We would watch each dollar like it was the only one we had. The company’s fiduciary health was as important as its creative health.

That said, we still needed someone to run The Third City’s day-to-day operations. Benny and I just didn’t have time to oversee every minor detail of our blogging business. We needed a new Barn Boss.

“I think I found the right man for the job,” Benny said. “I’ve been corresponding with this guy through emails and he sounds like the real deal, a sharp businessman with a background in international finance.”

“Great, who is he?”

“Milton M’bogo, originally from London, England, but now he lives in Lagos, Nigeria.”

“When can he start?”

“He can start next week. But we have to send him a cashier’s check for $2,800 to cover his airfare and moving expenses.”

“No problem. Go ahead and send the check.”

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Letter From Milo: Ann and Willie

September 25th, 2017

It was late Sunday morning and I was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and trying to write a blog piece that was due the next day. It was going to be the greatest blog piece ever written, one that would change the fate of the world.

You see, the evening before, while deep into a bottle of Jack Daniels, I had one of those revelatory visions that very few people have the great fortune to experience. In a moment of absolute clarity, I had discovered the secrets to solving world hunger, the economic crisis and the Arab/Israeli conflict.

Unfortunately, I had neglected to take notes.

That morning, as I was hunched over a yellow pad, desperately trying to reconstruct my brilliant ideas from memory, the lovely Mrs. Milo walked into the kitchen and said, “Milo, honey, are you going to mow the lawn today?”

“Hadn’t planned on it.”

“The lawn’s starting to look pretty bad..”

“So?”

“The neighbors might start complaining about it soon.”

“Fuck the neighbors.”

“Oh, quit being such a grouch.”

“I’m not a grouch.”

“Yes, you are. You’re always grouchy when you have a hangover.”

“What makes you think I have a hangover?”

“You always have a hangover.”

I decided not to argue with the missus. As I mentioned before, she’s got a mean streak. It’s not a good idea to argue with her in the kitchen, where there’s cutlery in easy reach.

As I was mowing the lawn, I wondered if all writers had to put up with this sort of shit. Did Anne Hathaway interrupt William Shakespeare while he was writing Macbeth and tell him to go out in the pasture and shear a couple of sheep? Did Mrs. Hemingway interrupt Ernie while he was writing The Sun Also Rises and ask him to run down to the corner and pick up a baguette? Did Mrs. Stiglitz interrupt her Nobel Prize winning husband, Joe (arguably Gary, Indiana’s third or fourth greatest writer), and ask him to wash the car? I doubt it!

When I went back into the house, I told my wife exactly what I had been thinking. She stared at me in disbelief for a few moments then burst into laughter.

“If you’re comparing yourself to Shakespeare, Hemingway and Joseph Stiglitz, then you really have lost your mind. I doubt if there’s 10 people that read The Third City blog. The only money you’ve ever made from it is when you cheated your old friend, Tony Patellis, out of 20 dollars with that ridiculous fund raising scam.”

“Wait a damn minute! Benny Jay has personally assured me that we have a lot more than 10 readers. We’re huge in the New Hebrides.”

“Benny Jay is an even bigger idiot that you are.”

“Damn it, Sharon. I don’t want to argue with you. I’ve got to finish this blog. It could be the finest blog piece ever written. It’s about world hunger, the economy and…”

“Okay, go finish your blog. But can you fix the screen door first? It’s sticking again.”

“Didn’t you hear what I just said?”

“It’ll only take a few minutes. Just do it.”

It took a lot longer than a few minutes to fix that fucking screen door. The cost in blood and sweat was dear, too. I gashed my hand with a screwdriver and nearly lost an eye when a drill bit snapped and bounced off of my forehead.

Somehow I survived and made it back to the kitchen table where my writing tablet and pens were waiting. Sadly, the thread of the idea for my great blog piece had unraveled. I could not recall the great breakthrough I had made in the wee hours of the previous evening. The world would have to limp along without my help, wallowing in the mire of hunger, economic instability and never-ending armed conflict.

And it was all my wife’s fault.

Still, I couldn’t give up on the blog bit. The writers of The Third City blog are blooded veterans of the QWERTY wars. Rolando is meaner than a wolverine. Benny Jay is tougher than a pack of pit bulls. And I’m meaner and tougher than both of them.

Besides, the world is counting on us. People all over this planet are relying on The Third City to provide the leadership, common sense, and compassion that they can’t get from their elected leaders. In essence, the world knows that The Third City may be its last and best hope. We are the caped crusaders of the blogosphere.

The ideas of the previous evening began coming back to me in dribs and drabs. I was beginning to reconnect the dots that would restore harmony to this sorely abused planet. Maybe I could salvage the situation. Maybe all was not lost. I had just starting jotting down some notes when my wife walked through the kitchen toward the back door, on her way to teach a Pilates class. Just before she closed the door behind her, she said, “If you get a minute, will you start the laundry?”

“AAARRRGGGHHH!!!”

That, my friends, was the last straw. I was a broken man, defeated, with nothing to look forward to but pain, despair and a lingering death. When my wife came home, later that evening, she took a knowing look at me, shook her head, and said, “Will you do me a favor, honey?”

“What do you want now?”

“Will you be a dear and open a bottle of Pinot Noir?”

“Now, you’re talking, babe! Maybe I’ll open two.”

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Letter From Milo: Marijuana Blues

September 18th, 2017

In five years, 10 at most, marijuana usage by adults will probably be legal in every state of the union, with the possible exception of Utah, a blue-nosed shithole known for moderation in all things except marriage.

It does my heart good to know that there are some places in this nation where a guy can smoke a little weed without worrying about getting his ass tossed into jail.

But, there is one thing that bothers me about buying marijuana legally – the mechanics of actually purchasing it.

According to some reports I’ve read, there are not enough marijuana outlets in Colorado. In Denver, people have to wait in lines, sometimes for more than an hour, just to get their hands on some reefer.

I don’t like the idea of standing in line for an hour, waiting to buy some weed from a clerk working in a store that will probably have a name like Mister Giggles. I’d much rather get my marijuana the old fashioned way – from my neighborhood dealer.

In the late 70s and early 80s, my connection was a guy named Gary, who lived on Sheffield, near Wrigley Field. Whenever I’d get down to seeds and stems, I’d stop by Gary’s place.

Hanging out at Gary’s was a pleasant way to waste a couple of hours. There was always good music on the stereo, stimulating conversation, and plenty of herb to sample. He enjoyed having people over and was a good host, generous with food and drink. I also met quite a few interesting people, and made some lasting friendships, while sharing joints in Gary’s living room. When I left Gary’s place, I usually had a smile on my face.

And that, my friends, is the way a civilized person, a real gent, buys his weed. When I was a pothead, I did things the right way. I shopped locally, patronized a small business, and kept my money in the neighborhood.

Gary’s been dead for about 15 years, but I was thinking about him recently, wondering how he’d react to the legalization of marijuana. My guess is that he’d be in full panic mode. Aside from a stint in the military, Gary had never held a regular job. He had always been a small-time pot dealer. And that’s all he ever wanted to be.

Legalizing the sale of marijuana in the state of Illinois would have ruined Gary.

Right now, in Colorado and Washington, there are untold thousands of pot dealers out of work, their livelihoods destroyed by arbitrary acts of their state legislatures. Like the ice man, TV repairman, the four-man pitching rotation, and Vaudeville, the neighborhood pot dealer is, or soon will be, relegated to history’s dustbin. These former pillars of the underground community now face a bleak and uncertain future, with nothing to look forward to but the dismal prospect of working for a living.

Good luck, boys. It’s been great doing business with ya.

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Letter From Milo: The Secret History of The Third City, Part 17

September 11th, 2017

A few years ago, when Benny Jay asked me to become a partner at The Third City, he told me not to expect much out of it. He said that the blog site was just a vehicle to entertain ourselves and a few curious friends. He said we could write anything we wanted. There would be no censorship, no rules, no editing, and, of course, no money.

He was wrong.

As soon as I took over as The Third City’s Society, Lifestyle and Religion columnist, our readership boomed. In a matter of six months we went from 14 loyal readers to hundreds of thousands. We became one of the most popular destinations on the internet.

And, in due course, the money started rolling in, shitloads of it. There was so much money that we didn’t know what to do with it. We had money stashed in shoeboxes in closets. We considered opening accounts in the Cayman Islands, but neither of us could locate the Caymans on a map. Benny flew to Switzerland carrying a suitcase filled with cash and opened an account under an assumed name. Unfortunately, a few days later Benny forgot the name he used.

The situation was becoming unmanageable. The Third City was in disarray. The books were a mess. The staff was in an uproar. The main problem was that Benny and I were not businessmen. Benny’s background was in journalism, and I had been a semi-successful advertising man until liquor, drugs, and irresponsible sexual behavior brought me down. Neither of us had a clue about running a wildly successful enterprise like The Third City.

We needed help — professional help.

“Milo, we’re in big trouble,” Benny said. “The Third City is too successful for its own good.”

“I agree. The whole thing is out of control.”

“It’s obvious to me that we’re in over our heads. We need a sharp businessman to look out for our interests, a shrewd operator, someone that will run this place with an iron hand.”

“That’s sound thinking, Benny. But where do we find someone like that?”

“Just leave it to me,” Benny said.

I should have known better than to trust Benny with such an important assignment. We went through three CEOs in six months. The first guy Benny hired was a 300-pound, tattooed brute named Lamar, who insisted that everyone call him “Barn Boss.” Lamar was last employed as a guard at the maximum security prison in Marion. On his first day as Barn Boss of The Third City, Lamar pepper sprayed all of the interns, just to get their attention, and then took a three-hour lunch. He left The Third City after a few weeks to work for the government. He’s now a valued employee of the CIA, in charge of the Waterboarding Department at Guantanamo Bay.

The next person Benny hired to run The Third City was 4th Ward Alice, a long-time City Hall insider who had worked closely with every mayor since the original Richard Daley. We had to let Alice go when we discovered that she had put all of her relatives on the payroll and tried to rig the Board of Directors election.

Then Benny hired a former carnival operator who called himself Colonel Harlan Parker. The Colonel was a fixture on the Southern Indiana carnival circuit. He claimed to have bilked ignorant Hoosiers out of millions of dollars over the last 20 years. He said that if he could scam hicks and yokels out of their hard earned money, he could easily do the same to The Third City’s readers. Shortly after he started working for us, a squad of Indiana State Troopers barged through the doors of our plush Michigan Avenue office, handcuffed the Colonel, and dragged him away. No explanation was given.

When Benny told me that he had found another guy to run the company, I put my foot down. “No, Benny,” I said. “I’ve already found someone and he’s perfect for the job.”

“Who is he?” Benny asked. “What’s his background?”

“He’s a distant cousin of mine, named Wally Popovich. I haven’t seen him in a long time but he’s the right guy for the job. He’s a numbers man, an accountant, and he’s worked for some huge companies, Enron, Bernie Madoff Enterprises, and Bain Capital.”

“That’s pretty impressive,” Benny said. “When can he start?”

“He needs the job. He’s been out of work for the last three to five years. I believe he can start this afternoon.”

As soon as Wally walked into the office, everyone recognized that he was a world class scoundrel. He had the frankly larcenous manner of a raccoon. Yet he inspired confidence in the staff. His felonious demeanor put everyone at ease. With Wally in charge, there was no longer any doubt or uncertainty about the future of the company. We all knew what to expect. His intentions were obvious to everyone.

He was going to rob the company blind.

Although he was clearly up to no good, Wally was popular with the entire staff. He was friendly and courteous to everyone. He had the con man’s gift of instant likeability. He looked you in the eye when he spoke to you, was generous with praise, and never failed to buy the boys a round of drinks after work.

“A capital fellow,” someone said. “It’s a joy having a rascal like him around.”

“A genuine died-in-the-wool rogue.”

“He’s a real gent, a skunk from the old school.”

“Watching a con man like Wally in action is a real pleasure.”

Many in the company were saddened when, as expected, Wally emptied the company coffers and disappeared. The receptionist and two of our long-legged, busty interns took it especially hard. And Lance, our gay and lesbian affairs columnist, also seemed unduly upset.

We hired a private detective to track Wally down. They found him in Massachusetts. He had changed his name to Wally Cabot Lodge, and married into the Kennedy family.

Benny and I considered taking legal action to recover some of our assets. We contacted our attorneys, Dr. Matt and El Dragon, but they advised against taking Wally to court. They said it was nearly impossible to win a lawsuit against a Kennedy or a Lodge in the state of Massachusetts.

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Letter From Milo: Seeking a Second Opinion

September 4th, 2017

“Hey, Milo! Let’s get together tonight for a few drinks.”

“I can’t.”

“What do you mean you can’t.”

“My doctor told me I can’t drink anymore.”

“What! Like forever?”

“Yeah.”

Jesus, man, that’s horrible.”

“I know, but there’s still hope. I’m actively seeking a second opinion.”

I don’t remember when I had my first drink, but by the age of 16, I was getting drunk once or twice a week, usually on weekends. A few like-minded friends and I would pool our meager resources and buy a case or two of the cheapest beer in Northwest Indiana. Then we’d find a quiet spot, somebody’s basement, a backyard, a garage, or go out to the beach, and drink until we ran out of beer or got sick.

That was the beginning of my life-long affair with alcohol. Drinking offered everything I wanted in life at the time. It allowed me to spend quality time with friends, escape reality, feel bulletproof, act goofy, and get up the nerve to approach girls.

After stints in the United States Army — where I added a few more vices to my collection — and Indiana State University, I relocated to Chicago’s North Side. In a short time I discovered the taverns on Lincoln Avenue and quickly became a regular at some of that street’s finer establishments.

Coincidentally, it was during that same time period, when I began acquainting myself with Lincoln Avenue taverns, that I slowly switched from being a beer drinker to being a whiskey drinker. My drink of choice was bourbon on the rocks, but vodka, brandy or rum would do just fine if bourbon wasn’t available.

I don’t know why I tapered off on beer. There was a time I could put away a couple of six-packs – even more if it was a long night and I started early. But as I got older, three or four beers filled me up, made me feel bloated and uncomfortable. That was a problem I never experienced with bourbon whiskey.

I’ve got my wife to thank for getting me started on red wine. She had always frowned on my whiskey drinking.

“You should try red wine for a change. Instead of guzzling bourbon like a degenerate, you can sip red wine like a gentleman. It’s supposed to be good for your health, too.”

I took the lovely Mrs. Milo’s advice and started sipping red wine. In a short time, I was sipping nearly two bottles a day.

And then I suffered a Subdural Hematoma and ended up in the hospital for three weeks. I don’t know if red wine had anything to do with my affliction, but I never had any problems when I was drinking bourbon.

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