Jim Siergey: Self Idolation

March 23rd, 2020

This self isolation has been tough on some people, or so I have heard.

It hasn’t bothered me. In fact, I have used all this extra Me Time to concentrate and work on ME!

I have a bunch of much-neglected workout equipment in my basement, a weight bench, a treadmill, Nordictrack—the works. I chased away the dust bunnies and cobwebs and began using them religiously.

The results have been amazing. My biceps glisten, my abs are so rock hard I could scrub clothes on my stomach. I can’t wear Skinny Leg pants anymore because my calves have grown to the size of cantaloupes. My shoulders have grown so broad and brawny that I have to walk through doorways sideways. My forearms put Popeye to shame.

My transformation, as I stated in the previous paragraph, has been amazing. There’s no other word for it. If my fingers hadn’t become so muscle-bound I could flip through the pages of a thesaurus to find some other words but I can’t so I’ll just stick with ‘amazing’.

rockyandeggs

First thing in the morning…

 

I literally leap out of bed at five each morning because I’m so excited to begin my regiment. After downing a glass of two raw eggs and a cup of Java I’m ready to start my seven hour workout. I tell ya, the whole house is shakin’ as I run roughshod through my routine.

After I’m done I take a nice long steamy shower and pat myself dry with toilet paper. Yes, toilet paper. I have stockpiled so much that I’ll never go through it all so I use it in lieu of a towel. One can never tell what kinds of germs are lurking in those tiny terrycloth fibers.

I also use TP for drying dishes and washing my car.  I’ve made an art form out of it. In fact I have also toyed with creating toilet paper origami. Boy, you don’t want to know how many rolls I had to go through before I was finally able to shape an acceptable swan.

After a lunch of quinoa burgers and acai shakes, I settle down to clean my guns.

I have quite an arsenal–pistols, submachines, rifles, Ak-47s and even muskets. I recently got a good deal on a howitzer from eBay. I’m on hand grenade pins and hypodermic needles waiting for its delivery.

One has to keep all this weaponry oiled, greased and clean so that when it comes time to use ‘em, they won’t, like poorly constructed Florsheims, fail you.

Why all this weaponry, some of you prickly pansies and namby pamby know-nothings, may ask?

The answer is so obvious that I hesitate to type it out, but I will. They are for protection, man, protection! Who knows what will occur over the coming months? We may be inundated with hordes of Virus Zombies. No one knows for sure the effect this COVID-19 will have on people. Ya gotta be ready for anything.

If there are no Virus Zombies, there will still be people looking for food as well as what has become our most precious commodity—toilet paper.

I gotta stand my ground. It’s every man for himself in this dog wipe dog new world. We have to become our own rear guard.

So, that’s how I’ve been using my self-isolation time and I believe I’m a much better person for it. As for you folks, well, keep on keepin’ on but keep it at least six feet away from me cause I’m fully loaded.

 

Editor’s note : Jim’s last post for The Third City was I, Coronavirus

 

 

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Jim Siergey: I, Coronavirus…

March 19th, 2020

Hi, folks. Coronavirus here.
Don’t worry, the typed word won’t harm you. Can’t vouch for that mouse you’re touching, though.
Boy, since my arrival I have picked up a gallon-sized petri dish full of negative publicity. Have you noticed?
Ooh, the big bad wolf is coming. Shut your windows. Lock your doors. Wash your hands.
Now, I admit that I am a rough, tough son of a bitch so it would do you well to stay out of my way.
But everyone is concentrating so much on my bad side that they fail to realize I have a good side too. Y’know, the yang to my yin.
They don’t think of my positive aspects and, believe me, there are some.
For instance, when is the last time you had an unannounced drop-in visitor?
Door to door salesmen, nosy neighbors, Jehovah’s Witnesses—Poof! All gone.
You’re free to lounge around your house and, outside of the incessant hand washing, you have no reason to keep up with personal hygiene or even bother with changing your clothes.
It’s all good.
If you have kids, feel free to send them out to play, even in the street. There’s nobody outside going anywhere. Where is there to go? Because of me, everything is closed up.
It’s like the Brady Bunch episode in the Ghost Town come to life.
Speaking of life, one of the most positive aspects of my existence is the dearth of mass shootings.
Yes! Think about it.
The reduction of large public gatherings is frustrating the be-jesus out of mass murderer wannabes.
The poor shoot-em-all-up aspirants are also anxious to get their loads off before a Democrat becomes president and, heh heh, takes all their guns away.
That makes for some pretty itchy trigger fingers…hmm, I wonder if they’re thoroughly washing them?
Anyway, I don’t wanna brag but, there’s that and it’s a pretty big that, at that.
So would it kill ya (pardon the pun) to, like, maybe…thank me?
Y’know, even viruses need a little love.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Spell On You

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Jim Siergey: Spell On You

March 8th, 2020

I’ve always prided myself on my spelling prowess.

It was my best subject in school. I could ace any spelling test. But it was a sense of pride that I wore with a hair shirt.

This psychological wardrobe choice was made because my friends were not very good at spelling. So, in order to assuage any feelings of envy or deter any taunts of being a Brainiac, however imagined either of these reactions were, I would deliberately spell a word or two wrong just so I wouldn’t get a 100% grade.

Such a boy of the people was I.

No matter my spelling test scores, I knew I was an expert speller.  Because of this innate spelling ability I became a stickler for correct spelling. Within a correctly spelled word lies truth

I wasn’t obnoxious about it. Inwardly I burned but, being a martyr for politeness and the keeping of the peace, I swallowed my dissatisfaction like I would a pocket lint-covered Tums.

I would cautiously point out misspellings and eventually became the person others came to for proofreading written papers. I could spot a misspelling at thirty paces.

Time, like Johnny Unitas would do when leading the Baltimore Colts downfield, passed and I got older. And older. And older yet.

Despite my impending dotage I’m doing well. I feel fit as a fiddle and in fine fettle. Still, I can’t deny there’s been some slippage in the ol’ transmission.

Everything still works, just not as well as it once did. I hate to admit this but one of the things that has slipped is my spelling prowess.

What has alerted me to my loss of spelling ability has been the writing of these Third City pieces. When I transfer the piece from Word to email, Yahoo lights up all the misspelled words. It nearly makes me want to hang my head in shame.

Move over, Tom Dooley.

But, like someone who doesn’t know that it’s time to give up the car keys, I will still insist that I am correct in the spelling of a word.

This stubborn stance really backfired on me recently and released a lot of air from my hot air balloon of a persona. So much that I now flap as I walk.

jimsiergeyscholar

Jim studies his spelling lessons…

 

I had been forwarded a link to a website which held an in-depth and interesting article about Mac Rebennack, the musician better known as Dr. John. I forwarded the article to a few friends.

There then ensued a series of back and forth emails. Many of them dealt with Dr. John’s first album, “The Night Tripper” which was quite mind blowing when it first appeared as it had a sound that was so different and way out there, man.

A song from that seminal album that is the favorite of almost all is “I Walk on Guilded Splinters”, which is how it is spelled on YouTube.

Now, I spent seven years working for Lyon & Healy Harps as a harp gilder. I applied gold leaf to the harps. When I finished with them, the harps were gilded. G-I-L-D-E-D. There is no U. They were not guilded.

A guild is “an association of craftsmen or merchants”. To gild is “to cover thinly with gold”.

I have inwardly bristled (ouch!) at seeing that word misspelled, especially since everyone at the harp shop spelled it with a “u”. One would think that they would at least know better but, alas, this misspelling seems to be universal.

But it’s a thing with me.

It was when I returned to the Dr. John article and scrolled down enough to see a photograph of an Atco 45 rpm record with the title spelled “I Walk on Guilded Splinters” that my cranium erupted.

“The splinters he is walking on…” I shouted at my computer screen, “…are GILDED! They are covered in GOLD! That’s why they’re gilded, NOT GUILDED!”

Cocksure of myself, I spun out of my ergonomic computer chair and stormed out of the room, hustled downstairs and riffled through my albums until I found “Dr. John The Night Tripper”. I flipped to the song titles and there it was.

“I Walk on Guilded Splinters”.

I felt like I always do when I’ve been slapped in the face by reality, stunned. I knelt there in silence.

I regained my senses and headed back up to the computer and Our Savior, Google. I  Googled “guilded” and tracked it down in Wiktionary. The definition read: “Obsolete spelling of gilded”.

It turns out I was right but yet I didn’t feel all that right. I felt…Pyrrhic.

And, yes, I had to look that word up to see how it was spelled.

Sigh.

 

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

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Jim Siergey: Viral Vexation

March 1st, 2020

This Coronavirus has really gotten people shook up…and they should be. But sometimes people can go overboard with their precautions.

Yes, one should wash one’s hands regularly and thoroughly, as one should always do and be mindful of handling things hundreds of other people handle, like railings, doorknobs, drinking fountains, etc. , avoid people who are sick, cover your cough or sneeze, toss used tissues in the trash.

Those are all common sense activities that should normally be followed. A’course, this ain’t no normal virus. We don’t even have a vaccine for it although our reality-challenged president says that prosperity is right around the coroner…er…corner.

People have taken to wearing face masks and gloves out in public. It looks like, to paraphrase the old Vapors tune, we’re turning Japanese.

It’s all a little too much. I recently went to the Shakespeare Theatre on Navy Pier to see one of my favorite plays of the Bard, “Romeo and Juliet”.

To my disappointment and surprise, all the actors were clad in face masks.  Beside the iambic pentameter being muffled, the masks put quite a damper on the love scenes. When it came time for the young lovers to smooch, they pulled out cell phones and texted kiss emojis to one another.

I guess we won’t be seeing a revival of “O, Calcutta” any time soon.

On another occasion I went to the movies and found that every seat in the cineplex was covered in plastic. It made me flash back to memories of my Aunt Sophie’s living room. After the movie ended, ushers in Hazmat suits would enter and remove and replace the plastic coverings.

I know the stock market is plunging but, still, I want to say one word to you. Plastics.

Jimsiergeycoronavirus

Be scared–be very scared…

 

As to be expected, all liquor stores are no longer carrying Corona beers. Many people would say that that isn’t a tragedy but the stupidity factor behind it is.

A soccer game was recently played in front of an empty stadium. Will that be the future of sports? Athletes, clad in face masks and latex gloves, playing their hearts out to empty seats with cheers and boos piped in along with an occasional “Peanuts! Popcorn!” thrown in for old time’s sake.

Beer sales will head in the same direction as the market.

I see a Coronavirus future of people working at home with Peapod delivering their food, Amazon delivering any other items they need, clothing, furniture, legal weed, etc.  Contact with other humans will be like they are today, except even more so, via texting.

It’s a dim view of the future, even dimmer than my pre-Coronavirus view, but it’s difficult to think positively, especially with the Gaslight Gang in charge of everything.

Let’s all cross our fingers, as best we can in latex gloves, and hope we can hold out until November with the Fates being kind to us and putting some adults in charge of the government and then crossing and hoping again that we can make it to January.

Mercy, mercy, mercy.

 

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Jim Siergey: That Darn Cat

February 24th, 2020

I’m not one of those who go ga-ga over animals.

I don’t rush up to a dog-walker’s pet and squeeze its jowls together while repeating in a cloying voice, “Who’s a good boy?”. I can easily ignore a cat purring around someone’s household. I’ll look at fish in a tank or glance at a caged bird, wondering if it knows I know why it sings, without breaking into exuberance.

To paraphrase Charles Bukowski’s comment about cops, I don’t hate these animals, I just feel better when they’re not around.

That said, there’s an orange cat that lives next door.  It appears to have befriended me.  I discovered it one day lying out in the sunshine on the hood of our car. As I approached, it showed no wariness at all. In fact, it was quite friendly.

She allowed me to pet her and in subsequent meetings, would rub against my pant legs and writhe about on the ground accepting my stroking. Whenever I’d see her out there, I’d come out and converse with her as I caressed her fur.

She even once left a dead mouse on my front porch. So, I figured we were pals.

picassocatSome of his best friends are cats…

 

The other day I saw her out in front so I decided to visit. She did her brush against me routine as well as her writhing on the ground one. In between I’d pet her and scratch behind her ears while engaging in small talk.

We were in the shade and it was a sunny day so I strode out into the sun. She followed me.

I crouched down and petted her some more. She flipped onto her back and I scratched her tummy. Something way back in the recesses of my head told me that doing that might not be such a good idea. The next thing I knew she had bitten me and run off.

There on the underside of my right wrist were three puncture marks and they were bleeding. I went in, washed the wounds and poured hydrogen peroxide over them, followed by dabs of Bacitracin and band-aids. Besides my belief in the camaraderie between man and beast hurting, so did my wrist.

My wife, a Nurse Practitioner, then began telling me stories about patients with cat bites and the horrors that ensued from them. That evening we went out to dinner with friends and when I mentioned my feline escapade I heard more stories about infections, cellulitis, swelling and pain.

These tales almost hurt as much as the bite.

As fate would have it, the bites were on my right wrist, my drawing hand, and I had two projects to work on the following week. So now I began to stress about that. Would my wrist swell up to Elephantitus-size?  Would I ever be able to hold a pencil or a utensil again?  Would I have to learn to eat left-handed? Would I start to like Ted Nugent?

The next day I toddled off to a nearby Urgent Care facility and saw a doc. She assured me that I wouldn’t lose the hand but was non-committal about playing the violin. I got me a tetanus shot and some antibiotics and in a week’s time I’m trusting that all will be well.

But I tell ya, if that cat has the nerve to show her puss around here again, I’m not sure what I’ll do…besides snubbing her. I will definitely snub her. I will snub her hard.

Two can be catty, you darn cat.

 

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

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Jim Siergey: Facial Fixation

February 16th, 2020

Throughout my adult years I have played with my face.

My countenance has been adorned with beards, goatees, Van Dycks and Fu Manchus as well as an ever-present run-of-the-mill mustache. I never got up the nerve to sport mutton chops but I ain’t dead yet.

I’ve had a full beard for the past three years or so and a couple of days ago I shaved it off. There was no reasoning behind this action, I was just tired of it. One of the drawbacks of not planning ahead is that I forgot that I would now have to shave which, in my case, would be semi-regularly, but shave just the same.

It took my wife three days to notice that I had sheared all this excess gray hair from my face. Rodney Dangerfield got no respect. I get no attention paid.

Since I’ve whacked the whiskers off I have been in the company of several other people that I see on a regular basis and not a one of them has seemed to notice the excess flesh my face now displays. Perhaps they don’t wish to say anything but I find that hard to accept because people generally can’t help themselves from telling someone who has recently had a tonsorial visit that they got a haircut so why wouldn’t they inform me that I have shaved?

It is just as I feared… I had developed a Bernie Epton look!

haroldwashington

Epton ran against this guy…

 

Bernie Epton was an old white guy who ran for mayor against Harold Washington using the unfortunate campaign slogan of “Before It’s Too Late”. He had a closely cropped whitish gray beard that didn’t show up well in photographs or television but enough that one could sense something weird was going on with his face.

My beard used to be multi-hued with blacks and browns intermingled with silver and gray that made it visible from a distance…or in a photo. But now it had that uniform gray look that just faded into my gray face. Sorry, Buddy Holly, but I am fading away.

I did keep the mustache. It’s been protecting my upper lip since the late ‘60s.

I should rectify that statement. I did remove it once since then. It was on February 15, 1977. I remember the date because that night Muhammad Ali lost his heavyweight title to Leon Spinks. It had nothing to do with me clearing the brush from beneath my nose but the two events are linked forever in my mind.

I had gotten a haircut that day and decided that I would remove my beard as well. Armed with a pair of scissors and a safety razor I filled my bathroom sink with curly dark hair. As I studied my newly shorn face in the mirror. I determined that I would trim my mustache as well. In for a penny, in for a pound—as the old saying goes.

I was aiming for a neatly trimmed cookie duster look a la Erroll Flynn, David Niven and Clark Gable so, snip, snip, snip and voila! I ended up looking like a 16 year old Mexican male prostitute.

Off went the remnants of that ‘stache leaving me clean-shaven for the first time since I was seventeen. I looked at my new face in the mirror, squinted and imagined that I had a Clint Eastwood look going on. I tried to comb my hair to match.

The next day I went to work and a co-worker looked at me and said “You shaved off your beard, eh?”  The man was much more observant than my wife.

“Yes”, I replied, “I’m sporting kind of a Clint Eastwood look, don’cha think?”

He paused ever so briefly before saying “I was thinking more like Ricky Nelson.”

I have nothing against Ricky Nelson but he’s no Clint the Squint so I stopped shaving my upper lip right then and have sported a soup strainer up there ever since.

Time burns on and I continue to play with my face but the older I get the more I come to the realization that it’s actually my face that is playing with me.

So it grows.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Book `em, Danno

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Jim Siergey: Book `em, Danno!

February 10th, 2020

I was reading an article in The New Yorker about writer and critic Vivian Gornick that I have yet to finish and not because it went on and on and on like so many New Yorker articles do, which is my usual reason for non-completion, but because I came upon something that stopped me in my tracks.

The words that paused my perusal were these:  “Gornick didn’t feel sentimental about getting rid of so many of her books. She has a good sense of which ones she can forget about and which ones she’ll want to return to.”

“…which ones she’ll want to return to.”

This made me begin to think of all the books I have read and returned to a second or third time.

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut is a book I return to every few years and have done so since I first read it nearly fifty years ago. I find that it centers me. I admit that it is a rather bizarre way of feeling centered since the book is about the end of the world but, O, it is about so much more than that.  Another reason I reread it is that it makes me feel good that Mr. Vonnegut existed and continues to exist through his writing.

Some books I have returned to for pure enjoyment as well as the appreciation of the writing style. Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Chandler’s The Little Sister and Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon all fall into that category.

kurt-vonnegut

Can’t get enough of Mr. Vonnegut…

 

As an aside, I was quite astonished upon my first reading of The Maltese Falcon and found that the first two thirds of it read like a movie script, meaning that director John Huston mimicked almost verbatim every line uttered and every movement made.

Some books I have returned to because of the times we were and are currently living in. This has induced me to read Ninety Eighty Four a few times. The same goes for Gulliver’s Travels. I was recently induced to reread Brave New World.  The times they are a’changin’… but not much from how they’ve always been.

One of my favorite books, that I also consider an “important” book is Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. I have read it many times and after rereading Brave New World I see that she used that as a jumping off point for her novel. That’s just my opinion, of course, but I suggest you all go out and read Oryx and Crake. Do it, do it now!

A Clockwork Orange is another book I have read again and again and have been pleasantly surprised at how differently it has affected me while reading it at different stages of my life.

Flann O’Briens’ The Third Policeman is a dark comic mystical novel that deals with time, death and existence. It is one of the most unusual books I have ever read. When I finished reading it I did something I had never done before. I immediately began reading it again! I know that someday I will delve into it yet another time.

I won’t count such books as Ulysses, Moby Dick and The Alexandrian Quartet as books I have reread despite having done so. The catch (Catch-22 is another great reread) is that I have never been able to complete any of these literary monstrosities despite several attempts.

Despite there being so many books out there that I have yet to glom my peepers on, I keep returning to these favorites that I have listed. I guess one could call them a sort of comfort food. I’m sure you all have your own favorite books that have enticed you to revisit as well.

By the way, Vivian Gornick has just written a book entitled “Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-Reader”. It sounds like it might be worth a read…or two.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Talkin’ the Dog

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