today is my mom’s 28th birthday

happy birthday!

i first met my mother a long time ago. im not sure what she expected but she got me and you know she didnt predict this, but for a mild mannered southern belle from fort valley georgia, she didnt freak out as much as you’d think.

i was wild as a kid. the doctors called me hyper, but my grandparents called me a kid. my mom was very patient with me and quite smart. she was one of the first computer programmers ever. and definately one of the first black female computer programmers ever.

so when the doctors called me hyper she said, but my boy can sit still and do a whole jigsaw puzzle, and the doctors said, oh, really? because of that, they were unable to prescribe the ritalin or whatever they were going drug me with and we went on our way.

my mom raised not only me, alone, but my sister as well, who is also crazy. needless to say my mother was never bored. she worked long long hours at motorolas headquarters in schaumburg illinois and sometimes i think it was because she didnt want to come home to the madhouse that i was responsible for. but when she did come home it was always with love in her heart and mcdonalds in the car and loving questions about school or homework or basketball scores or the like.

i could never have asked for a better mom.

her mother was a librarian at the state college in georgia. during holidays we would go down there and we’d always end up at the library and i am sure that my love of books and writing is directly influenced by my razor sharp grandmother who read two newspapers before 9am and was working on one of her novels before breakfast was done.

my mother worked on computers all day and paid for my first computer, the apple IIc. i will never forget what she did for my sister and i. i will never forget how difficult it must have been to be a working single mother in a town of so few Blacks.

one day a “friend” of mine fell on the playground and lied to his father and said that his black eye was the result of me punching him. the father came to our door with his son and told my mother that he was informing us that he was going to beat his son because no son of his was going to be beaten up by a nigger.

instead of freaking out my mom sat me down and said that she knew that i didnt beat that boy up, but that race is a difficult thing for people to deal with, and some people are just plain crazy, but that we needed to be patient cuz the world would catch up with reason soon enough.

im still waiting on that one, ma.

my mom always threw big birthday parties for us, she gave presents to all the attendees, she drove us to practices and games and rehearsals and recitals, boy scout crap, girl scout crap, science fairs, parades, amusement parks, field trips, she hosted our sleepovers. she went to parent-teacher conferences, she drove us to the airport and back, she took us clothes shopping for school supplies in the fall, she did it all, and i dont remember her complaining and i dont remember overhearing her ever saying that it was too much of a burden.

there was never anything that i wanted that i wasnt given. ever. and we were not by any means a wealthy family. i have no idea how she did it. she was always there. was there when i went through college. is there now for my sister and my neice and nephew and my brother in law. was there for our dying relatives. is there for our friends of our family. she is rock solid.

one of the finest moments was when my mother took me to my first real rock concert. AC/DC Back in Black tour. i was but a wee lad. she had given my sister the album that christmas and here it was nine months later and somehow i scored 1 ticket in the 12th row. one ticket because none of my friends’ parents would allow them to go to the show. but my mom not only drove me (about an hour away), dropped me off early, and drove home, but after it was over i called from a payphone and she drove back to the arena to pick my little ass up.

not only would most mothers not allow their kids to see devil music (hells bells opened the show and i nearly peed my toughskins), particularily Alone, but how many would make two trips to ensure a safe ride?

when i became of age to drive she tightened the reigns a tad because in her words, “the roads are filled with drunk drivers”, but i was still allowed to drive into Chicago to see the cubs pretty much any time i had saved up enough allowance money to pay for it.

over the years she bought me a few saxamaphones, guitars, drums, lessons of all sorts, sports uniforms, bikes, games, books, junk food of all sorts, anything.

i cannot imagine a better childhood. i cannot think of anything i could have wanted more than the ability to be myself, and free, and trusted, and loved.

my mom did all those things for me and she continues to.

the only thing that she asked in return was that i be a good reflection of her.

and if it werent for the swear words in this blog im doing my best, although i know i fail pretty much every day. although when i quit weed im sure that made her happy.

i love you mom im sure you loved the bears game on sunday!

happy birthday!

ashley moved back to vegas + greg vaine + welch + christie

today’s mike royko’s birthday

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mike royko was the greatest newspaper columnist ever. even he would probably agree.

he was a no-nonsense toughguy who took on the biggest toughguys in chicago, namely the mayor, the cops, ditka, and the owners of the cubs.

he first started writing for real at the Chicago Daily News writing obits. Quickly they moved him to covering politics and folk music as a columnist. When the Daily News went out of business he wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times.

As a Cubs fan I made a point out of not buying the Sun-Times, which was widely regarded as the Sox paper. But in my school they had both the Trib and the Sun-Times in the library and I snuck a peek at what Royko had to say from time to time. Ok, every day. And I wasnt alone. Many Cubs fans snuck glances at his super funny takes on Chicago politics and everyday life.

When Rupert Murdoch bought the Sun-Times Royko quit and moved over to the Tribune.

“No self-respecting fish would be wrapped in a Murdoch paper,” Royko said, and the fish pretty much agreed.

Remember the story of Valerie Plame, the CIA agent who was outted by Rove and newspaperman Robert Novak? Novak is a Sun-Times columnist and has been for years. When Novak dies, he’s got an ass-kicking or two coming to him and I would bet money that the Good Lord will let Royko near the front of the line.

But I digress.

in his 40 year career Mike Royko wrote over 7,000 columns. Right up to the end of his life when he suffered from a brain annyerism, he continued to be biting, critical, and funny. For example, when he made a list of his favorite Westerns someone asked him about his pick of The Magnificent Seven, asking him if he felt weird that one of his faves was actually a remake of a Japanese classic.

Royko replied, “if the Japanese producer had a choice, he would surely have made a western rather than a movie in which the heroes were stumpy, bowlegged guys who wore bathrobes and couldn’t speak English.”

Out of context some of that might appear racist in this PC world, but that sort of crude, street, common language, delivered in an intentionally ignorant manner was part of Royko’s charm. And trust me, he wasnt any easier on the… lets say… plump mayor of Chicago.

Or the cops. In fact late in his life Royko was arrested for drunk driving and resisiting arrest. In the police report the officers wrote down at least a half-dozen ways that Royko insulted them, many times questioning their heterosexuality.

Maybe its a Chicago thing, maybe its a big-city thing, but to me it’s classic.

As I’ve said several times here, there have been a few major influences in my life that are mirrored in this blog. Mike Royko’s hard-hitting tell-it-like-it-is style is all up in this piece. He was afraid of no-one no matter how big they were or how much clout they carried. And ultimately he was the champion for the common folk, and the Cub fans.

And for that he will be loved forever.

here is a column he wrote the day Jackie Robinson died.

Jackie’s Debut a Unique Day

All that Saturday, the wise men of the neighborhood, who sat in chairs on the sidewalk outside the tavern, had talked about what it would do to baseball.

I hung around and listened because baseball was about the most important thing in the world, and if anything was going to ruin it, I was worried.

Most of the things they said, I didn’t understand, although it all sounded terrible. But could one man bring such ruin?

They said he could and would. And the next day he was going to be in Wrigley Field for the first time, on the same diamond as Hack, Nicholson, Cavarretta, Schmitz, Pafko, and all my other idols.

I had to see Jackie Robinson, the man who was going to somehow wreck everything. So the next day, another kid and I started walking to the ballpark early.

We always walked to save the streetcar fare. It was five or six miles, but I felt about baseball the way Abe Lincoln felt about education.

Usually, we could get there just at noon, find a seat in the grandstand, and watch some batting practice. But not that Sunday, May 18, 1947.

By noon, Wrigley Field was almost filled. The crowd outside spilled off the sidewalk and into the streets. Scalpers were asking top dollar for box seats and getting it.

I had never seen anything like it. Not just the size, although it was a new record, more than 47,000. But this was twenty-five years ago, and in 1947 few blacks were seen in the Loop, much less up on the white North Side at a Cub game.

That day, they came by the thousands, pouring off the northbound Ls and out of their cars.

They didn’t wear baseball-game clothes. They had on church clothes and funeral clothes·suits, white shirts, ties, gleaming shoes, and straw hats. I’ve never seen so many straw hats.

As big as it was, the crowd was orderly. Almost unnaturally so. People didn’t jostle each other.

The whites tried to look as if nothing unusual was happening, while the blacks tried to look casual and dignified. So everybody looked slightly ill at ease.

For most, it was probably the first time they had been that close to each other in such great numbers.

We managed to get in, scramble up a ramp, and find a place to stand behind the last row of grandstand seats. Then they shut the gates. No place remained to stand.

Robinson came up in the first inning. I remember the sound. It wasn’t the shrill, teenage cry you now hear, or an excited gut roar. They applauded, long, rolling applause. A tall, middle-aged black man stood next to me, a smile of almost painful joy on his face, beating his palms together so hard they must have hurt.

When Robinson stepped into the batter’s box, it was as if someone had flicked a switch. The place went silent.

He swung at the first pitch and they erupted as if he had knocked it over the wall. But it was only a high foul that dropped into the box seats. I remember thinking it was strange that a foul could make that many people happy. When he struck out, the low moan was genuine.

I’ve forgotten most of the details of the game, other than that the Dodgers won and Robinson didn’t get a hit or do anything special, although he was cheered on every swing and every routine play.

But two things happened I’ll never forget. Robinson played first, and early in the game a Cub star hit a grounder and it was a close play.

Just before the Cub reached first, he swerved to his left. And as he got to the bag, he seemed to slam his foot down hard at Robinson’s foot.

It was obvious to everyone that he was trying to run into him or spike him. Robinson took the throw and got clear at the last instant.

I was shocked. That Cub, a hometown boy, was my biggest hero. It was not only an unheroic stunt, but it seemed a rude thing to do in front of people who would cheer for a foul ball. I didn’t understand why he had done it. It wasn’t at all big league.

I didn’t know that while the white fans were relatively polite, the Cubs and most other teams kept up a steady stream of racial abuse from the dugout. I thought that all they did down there was talk about how good Wheaties are.

Late in the game, Robinson was up again, and he hit another foul ball. This time it came into the stands low and fast, in our direction. Somebody in the seats grabbed for it, but it caromed off his hand and kept coming. There was a flurry of arms as the ball kept bouncing, and suddenly it was between me and my pal. We both grabbed. I had a baseball.

The two of us stood there examining it and chortling. A genuine major-league baseball that had actually been gripped and thrown by a Cub pitcher, hit by a Dodger batter. What a possession.

Then I heard the voice say: “Would you consider selling that?”

It was the black man who had applauded so fiercely.

I mumbled something. I didn’t want to sell it.

“I’ll give you ten dollars for it,” he said.

Ten dollars. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what ten dollars could buy because I’d never had that much money. But I knew that a lot of men in the neighborhood considered sixty dollars a week to be good pay.

I handed it to him, and he paid me with ten $1 bills.

When I left the ball park, with that much money in my pocket, I was sure that Jackie Robinson wasn’t bad for the game.

Since then, I’ve regretted a few times that I didn’t keep the ball. Or that I hadn’t given it to him free. I didn’t know, then, how hard he probably had to work for that ten dollars.

But Tuesday I was glad I had sold it to him. And if that man is still around, and has that baseball, I’m sure he thinks it was worth every cent.

rokyo collection donated to library – nothing from former mayor + some classic columns + a nice piece by salon on royko + royko on daley


with a scream brave ulysees removed the pitchfork
from the throat of the son of a bitch from detroit

“eye dont understand why they still fuck with me
aint my name known and feared through these seven blue seas?”
The boat it did rock and the four winds were blowin
as in came a mighty big terrible storm.
the man from detroit from the deck he was thrown
and the spray and the rain on ulysees came down.
“Seaman Smith come up here, Dr. Know, up you too
i’ve got miserable news to unload upon you.
seems your wives they have written, untrue they have been,
paid that man there to row his boat here from Japan.
They’ve sold all of your cars
and theyve killed all your cows,
actioned off all your boys
then they burned down your house.
They’ve told all your secrets to all of your parents,
the pope, he found out, and annulled both your marriages.
How sad you must be, good men you are too,
but fight we must now, as therrrrres work we must do.
To the port we have pirates, on Acid theyre on,
starboard, fine women, the best to be found.
But we have only one cannon, and only one ball,
and, lo, in bad waters, tis certain death to us all.
but wait till you hear the worst news of the bunch:
in our cargo is condoms, and the girls just made lunch.
“I’m with you Brave captain,” Dr. Know he did pledge,
“I spit on the pirates and that son of the bitch.”
“And I,” declared Smith, and erect did he stand,
“A child I was born, but I must die a man.”
The pirates struck first, but the ball it did miss
but two more blasts came forth and they scored the first hits.
Ulysees, he tacked ‘gainst the old pirate ship
“Prepare ye to fight, boys. Prepare ye to live!
Though it means nothing to no one:
ask Doc and ask Smith,
we ride this ship once, and our lives they are quick,
as we ram these dull bastards, decide we of which:
Shall we howl our arrival or die sons of the bitch?”

The crew, beat and worn-out, were true men of the sea
as little as schoolboys they knew who theyd be,
from Hell and seawater they bounced in the waves
shrieking filth and poor tidings and pretty bad names.
And though their ship was a-sinking and doomed that it was
the men they stood proud as the rockets did buzz.
“If I thought we would die here, I’d shake your hands now,
but there’s women behind us, and that smells like good chow.
Fight on ye, me bastards, dont let one go unslayin
and stab every dead man, for they just may be playin.
Good luck to you all, to the rest happy sailing,”
were the last words brave Ulysees was ever heard sayin.

from the upcoming book Stiff +  nsfw version