Letter From Milo: Nature Not Nurture

October 15th, 2018
Some people inherit great wealth. A select group of inbred Europeans inherit noble titles and vast estates. Some people inherit beauty, brains or great physical skills. Hair color, eye color, freckles, height, weight, even some diseases are embedded in the DNA. Every generation inherits something from the previous generation.

 

In my case, I inherited the Bum Gene.

 

The Bum Gene, as my similarly afflicted friend, Bruce Diksas, explains it, is the component in the DNA that compels a person to make stupid choices, opting for instant gratification over delayed satisfaction. Faced with a choice between a brief moment of pleasure or doing something constructive, a person with the Bum Gene will choose fleeting pleasure, every time. Faced with a choice between being a productive member of society or giving in to your worst instincts, the Bum Gene-afflicted will always opt for the latter, no matter the consequences. In Aesop‘s fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper, the grasshopper was the one with the Bum Gene.

 

My father used to enjoy the old Rip ‘n Roar. He drank, smoked, gambled, ate red meat, cursed freely and, for all I know, had impure thoughts. If the stories I heard are true, so did my grandfather. And I, to borrow a line from Hank Williams, Jr., am carrying on the family tradition.

 

I started smoking at about the age of 13. I remember my first drag from a cigarette very clearly. It happened in Jefferson Park, in Gary, Indiana. There was an older kid, maybe 15, named Pete, who offered me a puff from his smoke. It was an unfiltered Lucky Strike and he handed it to me with the admonition, “Don’t niggerlip it.”

 

I took a drag, held it in my mouth, then quickly blew it out.

 

“No, man, that’s not how you do it,” Pete told me. “You gotta suck it into your lungs. Like this.”

 

Pete showed me how to inhale. and in a moment I was hacking, couching and gagging, while Pete was laughing his ass off. It tasted terrible, burned my throat and made my eyes water. Within a week I was a confirmed smoker.

 

I started drinking a couple of years later, along with a few of my buddies who had also inherited the Bum Gene. It’s funny how people with that particular gene seem to find each other. Anyway, since the drinking age in my town was 21, we had to find older people to buy our booze for us. Then we heard about Mr. Lucky’s.

 

Mr. Lucky’s was a bar and liquor store in Midtown, which was the black section of Gary. It was rumored that Mr. Lucky’s would sell booze to anyone of any age. Since we were paying a premium to obtain alcohol from older folks, who sometimes marked up our purchases 100 percent, we made the fiduciary decision to try Mr. Lucky’s. Since I looked the oldest, easily passing for 17 or 18, I was chosen to make the buy.

 

There was a large black man behind the counter when I walked in. He smiled when he saw me and asked, “What can I do for you, boy?”

 

“I’d like two sixpacks of Blatz and a pint of cherry vodka, please.”

 

“You 21?”

 

“Yes sir.”

 

“Any ID?”

 

“Darn, I left my wallet in my work clothes, in my locker, at work.”

 

“You a workin’ man, are you?”

 

“Uh huh.”

 

The man regarded me suspiciously for a moment, then said, “Next time bring your ID. We can’t be breaking no laws here.”

 

“Sure, no problem. Oh, and can I get a pack of Lucky Strikes, too?”

 

When I started college, what do you think was the first thing on my agenda? Did I spend my time productively, buying books, sharpening pencils, scoping out my professors, figuring out where the library was? No! My first day at college was spent cruising the local liquor stores, trying to find one that would sell booze to my thirsty, underage ass.

 

As the years went by I went along my merry way. I was a child of my times, subject to the illicit enthusiasms of my age. I smoked, drank, toked and joked my way through life. The Bum Gene would not be denied.

 

If there was a party, I was in the middle of it. If there was a card game I had a seat at the table. If there was a joint being passed, it usually passed in my direction. If there was a way to avoid honest work, I found it, most of the time.

 

Don’t get me wrong. A lot of people inherit the Bum Gene and still succeed in life. Ulysses Grant was a drunkard. Bill Clinton was a serial womanizer. Dostoevski was a degenerate gambler. Keith Richards, well, let’s just say that he must have inherited Bum Genes from both sides of his family.

 

In my opinion, the main problem with the Bum Gene is that no matter how much you personally enjoy the condition, the last thing you want to do is pass it down to your children. I’ve got two lovely daughters and both of them seem to have avoided their father’s propensity for the high life, or, more properly, the low life. They are two hard-working, responsible young ladies. I’m very proud of them. But if I ever catch them with a pack of Lucky Strikes…
Editor’s Note: Still haven’t purchased Milo Samardzija’s masterpiece, “Schoolboy“? Whaddya waiting For?
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Jim Siergey: Madame Satan

October 14th, 2018

Well, I’m back at work watching the movies you don’t have to watch and telling you about them.

Today’s selection is a curious little oddity from 1930 entitled Madam Satan. Odd and curious are two very good adjectives to use to describe this celluloid creation. Even curiouser, this oddity was directed by none other than Hollywood legend Cecil B. DeMille.

The story is basically a marriage-on-the-rocks melodrama that occasionally gets interrupted by song and dance numbers and comedic bits.

And what dance numbers! They’re not quite up to the level of Busby Berkeley’s phantasmagorias but they’re only a few steps behind.

The main characters are Reginald Denny as an unfaithful dreck of a socialite husband with Kay Johnson as his suffering socialite wife. The dreck’s buddy, Jimmy, is played by the wonderful Roland Young.

The movie can get pretty stiff at times but it comes to life every time Roland is in a scene. Mr. Young is best identified as the title character in the successful series of Topper films that began later in that decade. Leo G. Carroll, who conveniently bore quite a resemblance to Roland Young played Topper in the TV series that followed in the 1950s.

Also in the flick is a character named Trixie (yeah, she’s the dreck’s dalliance) played by Lillian Roth. I’m not familiar with Ms. Roth but she came off as a combination of Rosie Perez and Madeline Kahn. She tended to play a little bit over the top but it balanced out the somnambulant approach of the lead, Ms. Johnson aka Madam Satan.

MadamSatanLobby

Don’t worry–it’s only a movie…

 

 

There’s a bunch of nonsense with mistaken identities and misinterpretations that were anything but cleverly written. Fortunately, a song or a dance would pop in to ease the embarrassment. Finally, at the end of the picture is a zeppelin!

Yes, up a stairway to a zeppelin we are led.

Jimmy (Roland Young) throws a huge masquerade ball aboard his tethered zeppelin. This is where wifey adopts a French accent and an alluring costume as the mysterious Madam Satan, in order to woo her husband back from the hands of the hussy Trixie, adorned in ostentatious peacock feathers.

Along with the party goers the camera sweeps us into the zeppelin, its interior décor reminiscent of Flash Gordon space ships, up and down staircases filled with festooned frolicers to a ballroom where we are treated to a big dance number with lots of ladies clad as cats. Later there is an extravagantly costumed and machine-like dance number that appears to be a salute to electricity.

That performance is a harbinger of things to come as a sudden electrical storm untethers the zeppelin and it is carried away by the raging winds. Oh, the humanity! There is some good matte work in the scenes where people are parachuting out of the drifting dirigible and fluttering away in the sky.

This exciting episode serves as a pre-climax as the film ends about where it began, except now it’s not a marriage-on-the-rocks but merely a not-so-happily-married couple, mainly because the dreck of a husband is a real drip. A total L7, know what I mean?

There is a lot of Art Déco design in this movie and some alluring and elaborate costumery along with lots of shots of cuties getting close ups and the aforementioned BB-like dance routines as well as a few chuckles along the way but it’s mostly a cornball fest. However, it’s a Cecil B. DeMille cornball fest!

So, if that sounds like something in which you’d like to steep your biocular teabag, then go for it. At the very least, you’ll have Roland Young to entertain you.

 

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

 

 

 

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Randolph Street: Jumpin’ Jagger

October 10th, 2018

 

 

 

mickjagger1jonThe year was 1972….

 

mickjagger2jon

The place was the Chicago Stadium….

mickjagger3jon

And The Third City was there….

 

All photos © Jon Randolph

jonrandolph.com

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Letter From Milo: Secrets

October 8th, 2018
My wife pissed me off the other day. I mean she really pissed me off. She called me lazy, inattentive, anti-social, hygiene-challenged and a drunkard. I want to go on record as saying that I am not lazy. I just spend a lot of time thinking.

 

Anyway, the more I thought about what she said, the angrier I became. I couldn’t let it go. I had to get back at her. I’d show the bitch who’s who and what’s what around here. The problem was that I couldn’t think of a proper revenge. Then, one sleepless night, it came to me. And it was perfect.

 

When I first started doing this blog, my wife said, “I don’t care what you write about, just don’t write about our sex life.”

 

Well, honey, your worst fears are about to be realized. I’m going to expose you as the wanton, salacious woman you truly are. When I get done with this posting you’ll be too embarrassed to ever show your face in public again. Your friends and relatives will ostracize you. I’m going into such lurid detail that your deepest, darkest, most illicit secrets will become public knowledge. I’ll show you.

 

I’ll never forget this one time she…. Wait! Wait, let me get something else off my chest first. A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about Tommy Granger, the poor teenage boy who was hung in 1642, by our Pilgrim Fathers, for having carnal knowledge of a sheep. I thought that it was a terrible miscarriage of justice, hanging some kid for committing an offense that the average Indiana farmboy commits on a regular basis. I asked my readers to help me restore Tommy’s reputation by starting a letter writing campaign to our legislators. To date, I have not received one letter in support of clearing Tommy’s name. Needless to say, I am deeply disappointed.

 

Now, where was I? Oh, yes, getting ready to reveal my wife’s inner tart. There was this one time when she had a little too much to drink and she…. Hold it, I’m going to pour myself a glass of wine and savor it while I’m giving my wife her proper comeuppance. Be right back.

 

Damn! I had to open a new bottle. I didn’t realize I drank so much last night. Good thing I gave up drinking hard liquor. I have to admit I once did have a little problem with booze, but not anymore. I’m a reformed man, for the most part, although I do miss the old rip and roar. Moderation was never one of my virtues. I remember waking up one morning with a foggy head and a pain in my backside. When I checked it out I discovered a large bruise on my ass.
I couldn’t remember the previous evening very clearly, so I asked my wife, “Honey, did we have a disagreement last night?”

 

“Why?”

 

“I’ve got this bruise on my ass and was just wondering if you – heh, heh – hit me with a skillet or something.”

 

“No, you asshole, you got drunk and fell down the basement stairs.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Yeah, you bounced twice before rolling to a stop.”

 

“Darn.”

 

Let me get back to business here. The time has come to reap my well-deserved revenge. Once this blog becomes a matter of public record, my wife will never, ever mess with me again. Okay, here’s the real dirt. She used to own this pair of high heels and one time…. Shit, I’ve got to answer the phone. Be right back.

 

That was Benny Jay. For those who don’t know, Benny is a Bulls fan. Fan may be the wrong word. Zealot would be a more honest description. Tonight is game three of the Bulls-Celtics first round playoff series. Benny is a nervous wreck. He see gloom and doom everywhere. He worries about Derrick Rose‘s inexperience, Ben Gordon‘s hot and cold streaks, and John Salmons‘s injury. Benny remembers the Bulls’ glory days when Michael Jordan was playing and the Bulls were unbeatable. I remember those days, too. I try to reassure Benny, telling him that even if the Bulls lose, they are on the right track. We’ve got a great young player, who one day, barring injury, will lead us back to the Promised Land of raised banners and Grant Park celebrations. Benny seems mollified, but I make a note to contact his wife and make sure she keeps Benny away from sharp objects, power tools and the third rail on the Brown Line, if the Bulls lose.

 

Finally I have to cut Benny off. I tell him I’m working on something vitally important right now and we agree to talk later.

 

Enough’s enough. It’s time to put the final nail in the coffin, show my wife the price she has to pay for messing with me. I swear, when this blog is posted, the Earth will shift under her feet. She may decide to enter a convent and renounce all worldly pleasure. Ha, ha – it’ll serve her right.

 

Wait! The phone’s ringing again. Be right back.

 

That’s Benny again. Something about Derrick Rose’s injured toe. Doesn’t look like I’ll get him off the phone anytime soon. Okay, no problem. I’ll fix my wife’s wagon at another time. Stay tuned.
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Jim Siergey: New Blue

October 7th, 2018

I recently bought a new pair of shoes (regular black leather ones) which is something I do every decade or so.

That rare activity of consumerism must have had a profound affect upon me because the next morning a cornucopia of words relating to footwear came tumbling out of my head. I decided to try and keep up with the subconscious barrage by jotting them down on disparate scraps of paper.

When your subconscious speaks, you listen. Am I right? So I wrote.

Now, with apologies to Mr. Perkins and all song lyricists everywhere, here’s this…

You can call my mother a Babylonian whore
You can nail 95 theses to my front door
You can do all that and a whole lot more
Cuz there’s only one thing that will make me sore

Now don’t you step on my blue suede shoes
You can do anything but stay offa my blue suede shoes

carlperkinsSorry, Carl…

You can comment on my ways and point out every error
You can don a suit of armor and begin a reign of terror

You can interrupt my wedding by kidnapping my ring bearer
You can scratch up all my records by the great Tom Lehrer

But don’t you step on my blue suede shoes
Know you can do anything but lay offa my blue suede shoes

You can bash a hole through my English Garden wall
You can pinch my cheeks so hard that I start to bawl
You can steal all my money and, brutha, that ain’t all
You can even be the mule kickin’ in my stall!
Just don’t you step on my blue suede shoes
They are the priority I choose
So stay the hell offa my blue suede shoes!

Blue, blue, blue suede shoes
Blue, blue, blue suede shoes
Blue, blue, blue suede shoes
Blue, blue
(ad infinitum)…

Y’know, for that matter, stay offa my black leather shoes too. Uh-huh.

 

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

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Letter From Milo: Legalize It Already

October 1st, 2018
Back in the good old days when I used to smoke a bit of reefer (I developed glaucoma at a young age), I paid about $40 an ounce for a bag of decent Mexican weed. Out of that forty dollars I figure about $10 went into the pocket of the dealer, another ten went into the dealer’s supplier’s pocket and the rest of the money found its circuitous way back to Mexico.

 

At the time, in the early 70s, there was an epidemic of glaucoma in the USA and there were literally millions of folks who had to smoke reefer to gain some relief from the affliction. That meant that there were millions of $40 transactions taking place every week. That also meant that a lot of money was going into the dealers’ pockets and a huge amount of money was flowing back to Mexico.

 

But not one cent went into the coffers of the United States government. In fact, the government was actually losing billions of dollars trying the suppress the marijuana trade.

 

As I understand it, the price of marijuana has skyrocketed over the years. The same bag that cost me $40 now sells for several hundred. Yet, the government still does not make a penny from this multi-billion dollar business.

 

It is estimated that marijuana is California’s largest cash crop. Yet California – which is in the throes of a terrible budget crisis, and has to borrow money from the feds just to maintain basic civic services – refuses to even consider legalizing and taxing marijuana. This strikes me, and quite a few other commentators, as the height of fiduciary irresponsibility.

 

The government taxes and regulates tobacco, alcohol and gambling. Why can’t they tax and regulate marijuana? Let the potheads help pay the salaries of our city and state employees. Then we might hear conversations like this:

 

Cop: Did you know you were going the wrong way down a one-way street?

 

Driver: (giggling) Didn’t realize it, officer.

 

Cop: Young man, are you stoned?

 

Driver: Chill, dude, who do you think is paying your salary?

 

Cop: Ah, sorry boss. Didn’t mean to inconvenience you.

 

I won’t even try to argue the ethical, moral or health issues of marijuana, but from a strictly economical viewpoint, the continued prohibition on marijuana makes no sense. It is a costly, ineffective program that has proven to be a complete failure. Marijuana is as popular as ever. It is a multi-billion dollar business with the potential to bring in billions of tax dollars. I just don’t get it.

 

While I’m at it, I’d like to propose the legalization of all drugs. Legalize everything – coke, heroin, meth, crack, cough syrup, model airplane glue, banana peels – everything.

 

Alarmists might say I’m crazy: Milo, are you nuts? The streets would be crawling with depraved junkies.

 

I say, So fucking what? The streets are already crawling with junkies. I doubt if the number will increase just because drugs become legal. A certain percentage of the population will always be drug addicts. Oh, there might be a spike in useage at first, but once the novelty wears off people will come to their senses.

 

Besides, there’s nothing as harmless as a junkie when he’s loaded. They pass their days staring at TV, dozing or picking lint from their belly buttons. Junkies only become dangerous when they don’t have any junk. That’s when they break into your home, rob you on the street or commit senseless murders.
I say let the junkies register in a national addict program, then they can visit their MD, get a prescription, walk down to their neighborhood Osco and pick up their drug of choice. It works with methadone programs, and it will work with other drug programs.

 

Besides reaping huge amounts of tax dollars, legalizing drugs will have added benefits.

 

With the stroke of the legislative pen we could empty our prisons, which are filled with people serving time for drug-related offenses and costing taxpayers billions yearly in upkeep. We could break the power of the narco states in South America and Asia. Terrorists who rely on drug money to finance their schemes will have to get day jobs. The Mexican border gangs, who have created their own mini-states along the Rio Grande, will fade away.

 

If history has proven anything, it’s that vice can’t be stopped. Prohibition is the prime example. Did people quit drinking liquor because the government banned it? The only thing Prohibition did was to enrich organized gangs and entrench them in society, so that even now, 90 years after Prohibition was enacted, mobsters are still a force to be reckoned with. Had it not been for Prohibition, mobsters would never have been anything but a historical footnote in American history. No Godfather, no Goodfellas, no Untouchables.
Let the good times roll!
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Randolph Street: Out & About

September 30th, 2018

1DSCF8964Street StripesBuenos Aires

 

2DSCF8975Crosswalk–Buenos Aires

 

3DSCF8258Late Night Diner–Colonia, Uruguay

 

4DSCF8965Sidewalk–Buenos Aires

 

5DSCF8893Door–Buenos Aires

 

All photos © Jon Randolph 2015

jonrandolph.com

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