Train Tragedy and the Twitter Cruelty That Followed

On Monday night, December 17, two Chicago Police officers were struck and killed by a train while responding to a call of shots fired in the area around 103rd Street and Dauphin Avenue.  The officers were struck near 103rd and Cottage Grove.

According to the ABC7 News, “One of the officer’s bodycam videos shows the officers exit their patrol car, go up a hill to the Metra tracks at 103rd and Cottage Grove Avenue and talk about where the offender could have gone.”

“In the distance, the officers can see a train approaching heading north making noise. Police said it possibly masked the sound of another high-speed, Indiana-bound South Shore Line train full of commuters that was only feet behind them. The bodycam video then fades to black. Police said it happened fast and the officers died instantly.”

Both officers were relatively new to the force.  Both were fathers and husbands.  Thirty-one year old, Conrad Gary had been a Chicago Police officer for eighteen months and leaves behind a wife and a six-month-old daughter.  Thirty-seven year old Eduardo Marmolejo, who’d been on the Department for two and half years, leaves behind a wife and three daughters.

Almost immediately, an outpouring of condolences and support flooded out from around the city and state.  Mayor Rham Emanuel (D) stated during a press conference, “This knocks you back on your heels… There are no words to express our grief, our sense of loss.”

Outgoing Governor Bruce Rauner (R) said in a tweet, “Deeply saddened to learn of the tragic deaths of officers Conrad Gary and Eduardo Marmolejo. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and the entire @Chicago_PoliceDepartment.“

Similar sentiments came in from around the country.

flowers from the NY Yankees

Flower arrangements sent to each of the families from the NY Yankees

It seems that in these days of political vitriol and partisan divisiveness, there are at least a few fundamental things on which people across divides can agree.  That this was a tragic loss of life to be mourned is one of those fundamental things, or so, one would think.  That you don’t make cruel jokes as little children’s hearts are breaking and they face a scary and uncertain future, having had a Dad that afternoon, and then with sudden horror to find out he wasn’t coming home from work tonight.  He was never coming home from work, ever, lost in a split second in a tragic and violent accident. Their young world forever changed, a hole cut into young souls that can and will never be mended.  You don’t mock those deaths.  You don’t add your own little sprinkle of cruelty to those young broken hearts who are learning much too young just how cruel life can be.

But, of course, it’s not.  Even this. Even two men, one white, one Latino, protecting a community from a man firing a gun, are accidentally killed by a train, one week before Christmas, each with little ones at home, is not universally considered tragic.  Sadly even this.

The officers were struck and killed around 6:20-6:30 Monday evening.  Approximately an hour and a half later, Carl Nyberg, a politically active volunteer in several Aldermanic campaigns and a committee person for the progressive advocacy group Northside Democracy for America (DFA), tweeted the following at 7:49pm:  “Two people too stupid to avoid getting hit by a train were given firearms & the authority to kill people by the Chicago Police Department.”

carl nyberg tweet

He posted this in response to a news article by Block Club Chicago about the officers’ deaths.

In the days since this tragedy occurred, journalists, the Mayor, the Governor, the Superintendent of Police, all used to seeing people at their worst, used to tragedy, used to seeing the unthinkable, were all audibly and visually moved to tears and near tears while somewhere in Albany Park, bathed in the icy blue glow of a computer screen sat a little man, his soul twisted and dark and disfigured by hate, fighting windmills and patting himself on the back for what he must see as his heroic crusade.

But why?  What would drive someone to so coldly and callously disseminate such a thing to the world?  He had no personal history with either man.  Didn’t know them at all.  No past slights.  No past arguments or fights.  No encounter whatsoever.  And still he felt the need to mock their deaths the way a Sox fan might gloat about beating the Tigers.

He wasn’t standing up against injustice.  He wasn’t railing against abuse of power.  He was simply being mean for the sake of being mean.

And he wasn’t being mean to these two officers.  They’re gone.  They’ve passed beyond the reach of petty meanness.  So Mr. Nyberg’s post has zero impact on them.  Who isn’t beyond that reach of cruelty, are the ones those men left behind.  Mr. Nyberg was being intentionally mean and cruel to the widows and daughters and parents who just an hour and a half prior lost their loved one, and at the time of the post, were most likely just finding out.

Social media gives voice to everyone, and some of those will be extremists.  Some of those will purposely say inflammatory things to garner attention.  The idea of obscurity frightens them, I believe.  To think that their life is relatively meaningless in the grand scheme of things inspires them to lash out with the most provocative and attention-grabbing statements they can think of in order to garner the attention they so desperately crave. But obscurity is in the cards for us all.

Name the top ten movie stars of the 1920’s, quick.  You can’t? Neither can I.  Even the famous are relegated to obscurity after a few decades. The nameless… they’re relegated to obscurity at birth.  Such is the case with Carl Nyberg.  Only he can’t seem to deal with that.  And so he purposely places himself in the spotlight as much as he can. Nonetheless, obscurity is his destiny.

Now in the days of social media when anyone and everyone can garner a large audience if what they say is extreme enough, it’s no surprise that an obscure attention-seeking inconsequential person would post a defamatory tweet in an attempt to prove to himself his own relevance.  It happens everyday, though rarely so heartlessly.

What is a surprise, is how long it’s taken and how reluctantly, those associated with Mr. Nyberg were to denounce his hate-speech.  Political survival alone should’ve been enough to motivate his friends to deald Raymond Lopez 15th ward reaction to Nybergnounce his hatred in a heartbeat.  But they didn’t.

Within two hours of Nyberg’s tweet, Alderman Raymond Lopez of the 15th Ward took to twitter to publicly denounce and challenge Mr. Nyberg’s post.  In comparison, it took almost two full days for Alderman John Arena, through a spokesperson, to do the same.  Nyberg has long been a supporter and campaign volunteer for Arena.  As of this writing, John Arena has yet to personally, directly, and publicly denounce the words of his long-time supporter, Carl Nyberg, on his social media pages despite a recent visit to the 16th Police District where he vowed support of the Chicago Police officers who patrol his 45thWard.

Arena with the 16th District police officers

It also took nearly two full days for the Northside DFA to sever ties with Nyberg and officially denounce his cruelty.  That is a curiously long time to decide how to react to something that is so clearly and unarguably wrong, hateful, and mean.

And so on a grey, lonely December morning on the south side of Chicago, a young widow stands flanked by two female Chicago police officers, one gripping her hand, the other cradling a six-month old girl who will never have the chance to get to know and love her Daddy.  Shock, sorrow, uncertainty, fear, and the wailing cry of bagpipes are all that fill the frigid air.  Today, the scene replays again.  Another grieving widow.  Three young daughters who’ve lost their Daddy a week before Christmas.

I’m not ashamed to say that I’m brought to tears now at the thought as I have been a few times this week.  I’m not alone.

I will never be able to fully comprehend how a tragic event that has brought hardened politicians, cynical journalists, and strangers citywide and across all walks of life to tears can at the same time ignite such hatred and cruelty in the heart of Carl Nyberg and a slow cautious reaction to that cruelty from his political allies.

There is no understanding of it.  There are mean people in the world, which is exactly why we need people like Conrad Gary and Eduardo Marmolejo to stand up and combat that evil.

As far as Nyberg goes, all that’s left to say is shame on him.  May he scuttle back into the hole of obscurity to chase his windmills in the recesses of his darkened heart.

In the meantime, it’s going to be a very long time before this city forgets Eduardo Marmolejo and Conrad Gary.  Bravery and kindness always outlast cowardice and cruelty.

GoFundMe accounts have been set up for both Gary’s family and Marmolejo’s family. Police on Wednesday confirmed they are official accounts.

carl nyberg tweet

Wednesday afternoon, Edward Brown, 24, of Chicago, was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and reckless discharge of a firearm.


Repeated attempts to contact Alderman Arena’s office have gone unanswered.  His only comments were to the

My request for comment by the Northside DFA was answered with the following press release:

NDFA PR 12-19-18




3 Cheap, Easy and Effective Ways to Increase Safety and Security for Your Home.

Great advice any time of year, but especially now with the Holidays upon us.

The Scout - Outdoor Recreation and Review

See the source image


Yippie! it’s that time of year again. The holidays are right around the corner and they often bring with them work parties, travel out of town, school events, friendly get togethers, and enough eggnog to give you the squirts for a month.

Having to attend these numerous events can leave your home feeling very lonely and empty. The only thing to keep your home feeling full, is all the nice new stuff you stock piled to give away as gifts. 

Your neighborhood dope fiend understands this all to well.  There is nothing they hate more than an lonely feeling home, so they take every opportunity they can to occupy it for you while you are gone. As they say, “tis the season for robbin’ and thievin’ “.  

Theft (package theft big time), burglaries, and robberies typically see an increase during the holiday season. Cars and homes are filled…

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The Strangers We Know, RIP Robin Williams

It’s been 3 years, but I think it’s worth posting again. Be kind, you never really know what someone is going through.

oh brother, here we go again

These people show us one side of themselves. Often a very calculated one. They market themselves to us in a certain way, and though in some cases it is a very different person than reality and in others it isn’t far off, it is just one part of a multi-dimensional person. We invite them into our homes and they make us laugh and that brings them close to our hearts because it’s hard to not like someone who makes you laugh, and we feel connected to them, like we know them. We watch interviews, we see them goof off on Letterman and Carson and Leno, and we see them open up on Charlie Rose or Barbara Walters and we feel we know them from all angles. The truth is, we don’t. If we’re honest, we don’t know the first thing about the actual person, who they are when the cameras…

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A Little Less Magic

There was a little less magic this year. A little less awe. A little less work. A little less fun. The number of ‘believers’ in our home has dwindled down to none. It was a heartbreaking day last year, a few days after Christmas, when my middle-child, the last of the believers, learned the truth. There were a lot of tears and some resentment and anger at having been lied to. Resentment she still hasn’t completely let go.

She was eleven going on twelve and so it was time, and still it was difficult. As a result, Cutie and the other elves took their places on the shelves, but this year, they did not move and there were no little notes written by mischievous magical hands in the dark of night. Everyone had outgrown such things.

Caught up in all the usual little chores and plans and parties that surround the holidays, many of which have taken on a more obligatory feel than one of sentiment and cheer, as well as the rest of daily adult life – work, school, bills, dinner, the dog – I hadn’t really noticed that something was missing until late last night, Christmas Eve. That’s when I stopped long enough to feel it. There was food and wine and presents and a tree and ornaments and stockings and even those little plastic old-fashioned elves, but no sneaking and fooling and – well, no magic.

And, barring some unforeseen craziness, there never again will be, at least not for me as a father. The day will come, I hope, when I will see that magic light up the eyes of my grandchildren, but if all goes according to plan, that day is a long way off. I can still witness it in the eyes of my nieces and the younger children of my cousins and my friends, but it’s not the same. Yes, for them Santa lives; the difference is I’m not him. And that is all the difference in the world. I never really will be Santa again. I will not be the magic-maker anymore. It was a good 15-year run through three kids, but it’s over and that hurts.

I know, I know, that’s not what Christmas is about. It’s supposed to be about Jesus Christ being born to save us from our inherently sinful existence. To bring peace to Earth and goodwill to men. Well, I’ve been in a Wal-Mart parking lot in December, I’ve been to Costco on a Saturday, I’ve been in line at Macy’s on Black Friday and I am convinced there will never be peace on earth and goodwill is in short supply. Of course, that’s the fault of Santa and all the commercialization too, isn’t it? Sort of.

It’s become for some, all about the deals, the presents, the ‘it’ thing to get. It’s as if the whole country no longer has any ‘believers’ left, in Santa, in God, in basic decency toward the people around you, in not pushing your way through, in not short-cutting, stealing, and ignoring. The magic that the holiday is supposed to have, has taken a backseat to getting good stuff at a great price at any cost. I’ll be honest, I stopped going to church when the behavior in the parking lot there too closely mimicked the behavior in the parking lot at the Wal-Mart. If you walk out of Mass only to get in your car and cut people off and nearly run people down in your rush to not have to wait any longer than necessary, then you should’ve just stayed home. They went in the building, but they missed the point. They got up early and dressed nicely and then paid zero attention.



So innocent eyes filled with wonderment at the sight of, or even the mere idea of, a fat, jolly, mysterious, and generous benefactor who will magically break into your home with your parents’ permission to leave you toys and presents he knows you desire, was, at least for me, the second to last vestige of joy left in the Holiday Season. And now, at least for me, it is gone. The kids have outgrown the fairy tale and I must retire that little piece of magic I could perform if but once a year.

What remains is a thread of tradition, memories, and familial legacy. It is the one time a year when, as during Scrooge’s haunted night, past, present, and future all come together. One day my children will take on the role of magical elf as my wife and I have done and our parents did for us and theirs did for them. They will put on a pot of coffee, make blueberry pancakes, and list off the ages of each child as he or she approaches the tree on some sort of recording device for posterity. They will be sure the fat man leaves behind some cookie crumbs as evidence he was there. They will adorn their tree with gifts for their own little ones and we will gather, as we do now, to celebrate at least that goodwill towards the ones we love the most.

Family. That’s the remaining magic. That’s the one thing that will change and morph over time as we lose one generation and gain the next, but that thread, if you keep it in maintenance, will endure, and the result is the magic of timelessness. My grandmother’s elf, which I inherited upon her death, will not move for my daughter anymore, at least not in the way it did when she believed, but maybe he or another like him will create that same kind of magic for another little one someday. In that way, I guess my role as magic-maker will never die. Still, it would be nice to leave behind some awe-inspiring cookie crumbs just one more time.






And the Cubs’ Magic Number is… Oh Brother, Here We Go Again!!!

There’s magic in words, some of it black magic. Words can carry with them painful connotations derived and held onto from past experiences, like the name of the guy your high school sweetheart dumped you for, or the title of the song that was playing while she did it. Words and songs and phrases can transport you to another time and another age when the wounds were fresh, carrying with them the association of loss, of dashed hopes, of long-forgotten pains that float to the top when you hear them again.

For me, one of those phrases has been popping up a lot lately. It’s on the Facebook feed and in the newspapers and bandied about by news anchors as if it were some joyous thing to be celebrated, but I know better. I’ve been here before.

I wasn’t yet twelve years old at the time, though that milestone was approaching. Summer had been sweetened by an emerging appreciation of curls and curves and perfume scented breezes. The buzz of pre-pubescent ardor hummed a constant current through the days img_20160912_223524916and nights.

I got where I needed to be on bicycle, usually with a mitt dangling from the handlebars. The truth is, there were few places I needed to be. There’s a freedom at that age that isn’t experienced again in life. From grass-cutting-job-days to nights at the neighborhood pool to little league games, it was summer with a capital ‘S’, free and easy and dusty and fun. I teetered there on the edge of boy and teen, those childish things not yet put away, but their days certainly numbered.

The summer of 1984 was a magic summer, complete with its own magic number.

img_20160912_223501775From birth I was a Catholic, a Chicagoan, and a Cub Fan. Sitting here now at forty-three years old, eleven years doesn’t seem very long, but in 1984, eleven years was a lifetime. In that lifetime, I’d taken a lot of flack for being a Cub fan. Back then, the White Sox, those South Side Hitmen of the 70’s, the Winnin’ Ugly Division Champs of ’83, they were the city’s team. The Cubs were the team of old ladies in floppy hats and shirtless beer-guzzling men who could somehow get to the ballpark in the middle of the afternoon on a daily basis while everyone else was at work, the ones


Lee Elia & me Wrigley Field 1983

Lee Elia famously referred to the summer before as the “dumb fifteen motherf*ckin’ percent that come out to day baseball”.
My team had been the loveable losers, a dominant force during the first half of the twentieth century and near perennial basement dwellers throughout the second half.

There was the lore of that magical 1969 season passed down by elders who’d been alive to witness it. I’d heard the stories of Banks and Williams and Santo and Hundley and Jenkins. Of the unstoppable boys of summer. It was more a cautionary tale though than a fairy tale; something from the mind of the brothers Grimm rather than

images-5Disney. Those unbeatable Cubbies took a headfirst downhill tumble late in the season. The ’69 Cubs not making the post-season was a nearly statistical impossibility and yet it had happened. They’d been on top of the world and then they fell and they fell hard and they lost and that’s when we, the collective we, started hating the Mets.

Prior to that magical and cursed year, there wasn’t much of which to brag until you counted backwards to 1945.


Steve Goodman on a Wrigley rooftop singing                                  A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request                                   (Sadly Goodman passed away before the ’84 playoffs began)

As Steve Goodman wrote in his song, “the law of averages says anything will happen that can, but the Cubs haven’t won a National League pennant since they year we dropped the bomb on Japan”. If eleven years is a lifetime, thirty-nine years was practically prehistoric. Hitler and Nazis for real not just in the Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Soviet Union was on our side, back before the Bridge Over the River Qui was a whistling tune, and back when Japan had an Emperor and would send Kamikaze pilots to crash into American warships, before they were our source for Sony TV’s and Donkey Kong. Not only had my parents not yet been born, but my grandparents were still young enough to have natural hair color and their own teeth! That may as well have been three days after the crucifixion of Christ as far as I was concerned.

alg-cat-jpgBut these were the color television, MTV, Cold War days of 1984. Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones were in the movies, Van Halen was on the radio, and about two-thirds of my wardrobe consisted of Cubs free giveaway t-shirts – Cub emblem on the front, some form of Vienna Beef ad on the back or better yet, a bold announcement declaring the shirt was courtesy of Old Style beer. I went nowhere without my dingy, sweat-stained, plastic-snap adjustable Cubs cap on my head. At the time I was going for an all-American-leave-it-to-beaver-Bad-News-Bears kind of look. Sadly, what I had was more of a Eugene-from-Grease-when-he-was-on-Punky-Brewster kind of look. In any event, the Cubs were on top, and for the first time in my short life, it was cool to be a Cub fan.

Harry & Me

Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Caray & Me 1985


Actor Eddie Deezen (Eugene in Grease & Eddie on Punky Brewster) here with George Gaynes. See the similarity?

By September, the bandwagon was overflowing. Lakeview was hopping and day-baseball was all the rage. Ryne Sandberg was the star of the show while Harry Caray sang the praises of Jody-Jody Davis to the tune of Davy Crockett, Leon ‘The Bull’ Durham covered first and swung one heck of a bat, while veterans Ron ‘the Penguin’ Cey, and Larry Bowa rounded out the animal infield. And on the mound, dominating baseball was the Red Barron himself, Rick Sutcliffe. No more were ‘we’ the loveable losers. No more were we just old ladies in floppy hats and unemployed drunks. Nope, the Cubs were on top and the nation was watching. Suddenly Cub fans came out of the woodwork. Everyone from Hollywood superstars to President Reagan came out of the closet with their hidden Cub fandom. Lakeview became Wrigleyville, the Cubs became America’s team, and Sox fans became quiet and bitter.

That’s when I learned about the magic number, what it meant and how it worked. ‘Magic Number’, that’s the phraseimages-2, the one that’s been bandied about so much as of late. That summer, when I’d first learned of it, it was the Mets and the Cubs again. I followed the magic number as it dwindled. Those Mets weren’t going to get ‘em this time around. And on a imagesSeptember night, 3 months before my family owned our first VCR, my Cubbies clinched the NL Eastern Division and a spot in the post-season for the first time since “we dropped the bomb on Japan”. It wasn’t the National League pennant, but it was something special, and the way the Cubs were playing,
1984 was going to be the year Chicago got to the World Series again. Even the other side of town hadn’t been there since ’59. The doldrums were over. The skies had cleared. The curse had been lifted. The streams had been crossed and Gozer the Traveler had been sent packing. The sun shone over Wrigley Field once more. A wide-eyed romance with fall baseball bloomed in a little boy too naïve to know to be wary of romance and its many pitfalls. They would win. It was almost certain. Everyone said so. Ths-l225ey were magic.

October baseball at Wrigley Field!  First game – win at home!!!
Second game – win at home!!! One to go and it was on to the Series. No bombs this year and the world would watch on their Japanese TV’s.

images-1And, just like in ’45, it was shaping up to be a battle against the Tigers. In fact, in 1908, the last time the Cubs had won the World Series it was against the Detroit Tigers. The Cubs had faced the Tigers 4 times in their 10 visits to the World Series, twice beating them and twice losing to them. It was clearly a matter of destiny.

And then it happened.   Reality struck and it struck hard delivering a blow that would knock the breath from young lungs. San Diego took three in a row and the newspapers declared the magic number to be 1985.   Which of course it wasn’t. They went images-4back in ’89, again in ’98, ’03, ‘07 and ’08. But none were as magical as that 1984 season, even the dreaded ‘Bartman year’ of ’03 when they weren’t just one game away, but only five outs away from heading to that elusive World Series. 39 years had become 58 years, and yet somehow 1984 was better, more exciting. One could argue it was my age. At 11 years old, everything is more exciting, but that’s only a part of it.

What had changed by ’03 was that it wasn’t my first time around this block. I was a virgin no longer. I’d been in love and had had my heart broken, more than once. I’d tasted the bitterness of love that rises when the sweetness dissolves. I’d been pushed aside by one who was supposed to be destiny. When wounds heal, the scar tissue toughens the once tender heart.

That night, the night of the Bartman game, I was standing in the beer garden of the Piano Man bar at Clark and Grace, about a block north of Wrigley Field, watching the game with co-workers. It was the seventh inning and the Cubs were up 3-0. My friend, a woman from 2003-what-a-yearMichigan who was new to this Cubs thing, turned to me and said, “I thought you’d be more excited. Why aren’t you excited? They’re winning.” I replied, “Because I’ve been here before. It’s still too early to get excited.” At the end of the 7th, we made our way south to Waveland and Clark where the beer gardens of Bernie’s tavern and whatever bar was on the opposite corner that year had merged as spectators jammed Waveland Avenue to catch a glimpse of one of the nearby TV’s and hear the roar of the crowd from the ballpark behind us.

Again, the air was electric. I cracked open that door of hope just enough to let a sliver of light in. It was pretty late in the game now. Was it too early still? Top of the 8th, three run lead, one out. Maybe this time was different.


In his defense, he wasn’t the only one to reach for the ball, he was just the unlucky one to touch it.

Then, from high above, someone with a giant vacuum sucked all the air out of the neighborhood. Bernie’s was silent. The other bar was silent. Waveland Avenue was silent and that ballpark, spilling over with fans, was silent. It unfolded slowly and painfully. Eight runs later and I knew we were done, not just for the game, but also for the year. There was still another chance, a game seven, but you could feel it, a tangible thing – loss. Again.

She’d done it to me again. She keeps breaking my heart, but I can’t let her go.

What do you say about a guy who keeps going back to the same woman expecting different results only to have her crush him time and again? Hopeless romantic or simple idiot? Optimist or Fool? I don’t know. She’s done it to me before. But maybe this time will be differeunknown-4nt. This time she really does love me. This time we’re going to make it, we’re going to be happy, I just know it. It’s not like it was before; she’s changed. Happy day!

Yeah, they’re good. Best team in all of baseball and have been since April. Dominant pitching, a lights-out closer, and bat after bat after bat that you just can’t pitch around. If Bryant don’t get you, Rizzo will, and almost assuredly with Fowler on base.

And so, as the magic number dwindles down to zero, I wiunknown-2ll venture into this post-season in much the same way I venture into any romantic relationship – with trepidation, cautious optimism, and a nagging sense of impending doom.

But really, this time is different. She’s come back to me, and she’s changed. Really, we’re going to be happy this time.

Well… we’ll see.

Oh brother, here we go again.



The Truth About Dad

What Dads try to hide from their children: We really aren’t much smarter than you are. We’ve been around longer and so there are some things we know that you don’t, but we’re still trying to figure this whole thing out ourselves. Still making mistakes, big and small, still learning lessons everyday.

We head out on that unknown path a few paces ahead of you. We face the pitfalls and become slightly familiar with the terrain so we can try to guide you through it. But we aren’t all that far ahead of you. We are also learning as we go, trying hard to be a good guide, but also stumbling and tripping along our own journey. With luck and love, we will all make it to the end of a long journey, me hopefully far ahead of you, you passing the good information I can give back to those following you, without too much pain and sorrow, with many happy adventures, and a whole lot of laughs. My main job is to not lead you into the abyss, to steer you away from the vipers and give you the tools you need to defeat the predators and navigate around the traps. In order to do this though, sometimes I have to double back off the wrong path to find the right one. Bear with me. I’m trying to get us there, but remember, I’m still figuring this out as I go.

One more thing, enjoy the journey, it is shorter than you think.

Generation G

When my Uncle Lenny Ben was born in the 1930’s, his parents were told to put him in a home, he’ll be dead by age 30 anyhow. Instead, they brought him home and gave him a world of love and acceptance where he belonged to a large, loving family, where he had jobs and chores like everyone else, where he knew he had a place in this world where he was loved and where he belonged. Food, water, and shelter are just the tips of the iceberg when it comes to human needs. We need to feel acceptance, to feel a belonging to something larger than ourselves and we need a connection to other people. We also need to be needed. We need to have a role, a reason to be. As a result of being provided these things, Lenny Ben didn’t just survive, he thrived and lived over two lifetimes of what those doctors predicted. Sadly, we lost him in 2009 at age 75. Not everyone is as lucky as Lenny Ben and those basic human needs haven’t changed.  GiGi’s Playhouse McHenry County provides a place of acceptance and belonging, of learning and understanding, of fun and socializing for children and adults with Down Syndrome and they provide it all at no cost to their participants. Please join me in raising money for this wonderful place. Join Team Lenny Ben and run with us by clicking here: or please donate and help provide that place of loving acceptance for our friends with Down Syndrome to go and thrive!


The Good Old Days

It seems I have reached the age at which my contemporaries have taken up the re-writing of history to suit their current mindset and have begun to bemoan the current generation of young people for their clothing, their music and their morals. Memories, it seems, are selective at best.

Case in point, I have seen memes lately stating things along the lines of: “when I was a kid, we were out playing with each other, not texting or facebooking.”   True, because it didn’t exist, but now that it does, what are you doing? Jumping on Facebook, Pinterest, texts, e-mails, etc. to say how shitty kids are today for paying so much attention to Facebook, Pinterest, texts, e-mails, etc. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m as guilty of abusing social media as anybody. Hell my hobby is to write long diatribes to friends and strangers detailing my thoughts for the week. How self-absorbed and introverted/extroverted can you get? But I digress. Let’s get back to you and your haughtiness towards today’s youth shall we?


Think about it. Our parents could say the same thing about us. “You know, when I was forty, if we wanted face-time with someone we went to their house and talked to them! We had one phone, and we kept the line open in case there was an emergency. If we wanted to chat with a friend we went down to the tavern and met them, we didn’t sit alone typing to them- those were called letters and when you got one of those it usually meant someone had died or you’d been drafted. And if you wanted to see a naked woman you had to pay a nickel to sit in a filthy little room with sticky floors and… wait, there’s porn on the Internet?”

But that’s just the beginning of this trend I’ve noticed in my own generation. First off, for those of you with short term memories, before you lash out at kids today for playing their PS 4 instead of going to the park, think about how often you sat in front of your Atari 2600 avoiding scorpions and campfires with your Pitfall guy.

Actually, if I remember correctly, our parents’ generation did say the same thing about us. There were news reports about the lost generation and our addiction to video games and the arcade. Boston even prohibited the licensing of arcade games in residential areas. Remember the flack we took for all hanging around the Ms. Pac-Man and Q-Bert and Jungle Hunt machines? “Why don’t you kids go out and play?”

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But it goes beyond how they spend their time. Today’s youth are criticized for their exposure to sex and violence. First off, who allows this? We do. But before we decry that Miley Cyrus licking a wrecking ball is poisoning their fragile little minds, let’s not forget that Madonna was singing about being touched for the very first time Like a Virgin and Cyndi Lauper was practically going blind a she She Bopped, and name one Prince song that isn’t about that little androgynous weirdo getting laid. And they all played on a constant cycle on B-96 and MTV. Let us also not forget that before there was PG-13, nudity and swearing were allowed in PG movies. Don’t believe me? Watch an uncensored version of Airplane and notice while the naked boobs go bouncing by that it’s rated PG.   The Man With Two Brains opens on a tracking shot of a woman’s bare breast. Yep, big tit in the middle of the screen – also rated PG. (Learned that the hard way when I went to watch it with my 7-year-old son) Most of the movies directed at us seemed to assume we’d all already ‘done it’ (which when you’re a dorky kid with thick glasses gives you a pretty skewed view of reality, when you think you’re the only one who hasn’t and isn’t really even sure how). Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, National Lampoons Vacation and Caddy Shack, all of my favorites, all featuring kids having sex and doing drugs. And we turned out all right, right? Again, I digress.  Don’t even get me started on Blame It On Rio.


Best friends fall in love with each other’s teenage daughter. (1984)  In 2016, it would be called, ‘See Ya In Prison Fellow Pedophile’

It seems to be a right of passage though. Just as tossing aside the values of your parents’ generation, criticizing the mores and work ethic of the new generation must be a part of the human experience. As I pointed out above, we aren’t the first. Our parents, the Baby-Boomers, they weren’t sure where we were heading. We didn’t have the social-consciousness, the work ethic, didn’t know the meaning of sacrifice.

Ironic behavior for a generation that found itself virtually, and literally, at war with its preceding generations. But they reached that age, that age when what they knew had changed into something from the past and the world had moved on. Mutton chops and cut-off denim shorts and tie-dye shirts were out. Neon stretch pants, oversized sweatshirts and oversized earrings and oversized everything else, and turned-up collared shirts on preppy, label-conscious kids, or black lipstick and nail polish on the misfits from Tom Petty’s Zombie Zoo (Petty’s take on 80’s Goth, he’s a baby boomer btw) were the in-things. No more acoustic singer-songwriters. We had synthesizers and computerized music for the computer age. The future was ‘now’ and Max Headroom was the proof. Michael Jackson and Madonna competed to see who could grab their crotch the most in one song.

The space-age wonderment of the 1970’s erupted in a ball of flame and showered its ashes all over Florida in 1986. We lived in constant fear of the Nuke and the Day After. Live for now because there might not be another tomorrow. The cold war, the Iron Curtain, and in a heartbeat Ayds went from being a diet pill to AIDS, the disease that will kill you for having sex. Oh shit, just as I’m about to start dating. And according to John Hughes, all these girls have been around before. I hope I don’t get AIDS and die because I made-out with a slut while I had a canker sore in my mouth.

In my circle of friends, we didn’t smoke pot or do coke, although coke was the drug of choice for those about 5-10 years older than us. But we drank. We drank like, well, like our grandparents. Remember, things skip a generation. There were gang shootings, unrest in the Middle East, the constant threat of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, and AIDS, don’t forget AIDS. Drink up boys. I’d say half of my generation used some form of tobacco – either cigarettes or chew. And there were still those who smoked pot – burnouts we called them.

Minus the cell phones and the texting and snapchatting, my bet is, if you were to turn invisible and follow around a group of high schoolers now, they wouldn’t be much different than we were at that age.

I don’t know what it is that makes us lash out at the upcoming group, but it happens to every generation. Take for example this quote about the lazy, privileged generation:

The counts of the indictment are luxury, bad manners, contempt for authority, disrespect to elders, and a love for chatter in place of exercise. …

Children began to be the tyrants, not the slaves, of their households. They no longer rose from their seats when an elder entered the room; they contradicted their parents, chattered before company, gobbled up the dainties at table, and committed various offences against Hellenic tastes, such as crossing their legs. They tyrannized over the paidagogoi and schoolmasters.

Kenneth John Freeman wrote that in 1907. He was describing the attitudes of ancient Romans to the upcoming generation.

It is eternal. Don’t believe me? Watch an Andy Hardy movie from the ‘30’s or 40’s. The teenybopper flicks of the day. There is an obvious generational divide that spurs the comedy of those very popular pictures that made Mickey Rooney a star. Yeah, Mickey Rooney, the Justin Beiber of his time, well maybe not quite Beiber, maybe more like the Justin Long if Justin Long looked more like Patton Oswald.  Still not a great analogy, but you get it, he was in a lot of movies.

What I’m trying to say is, this is nothing new. We like to remember the good old days as having been good, but they weren’t. Why can’t we go back to the way things were when I was a kid? Nuclear threats? AIDS? Howard the Duck? Our parents thought in those difficult times, ‘why can’t we go back to when I was a kid?’ The beginning of the cold war, Korea, Viet Nam, civil unrest, riots, racial inequality, the civil rights movement and separate drinking fountains in the south?

And the previous generation… why can’t we go back to when… the world was at war? Hitler was very close to taking over the world while he slaughter 2 million people and Americans fought and died on two fronts? When every family on the block had at least one, if not more, loved one overseas in harms way and the fate of the world rested in the hands of elected old men and the young men willing to lay down their lives for the rest of us?

And before them, the Great Depression? The Dust Bowl? Prohibition? Gangland violence in the streets?

And before that, the World at War. Chemical warfare, gas masks, air assaults for the first time in human history.

We can go back and back and back and find the same thing.   The world is shit. Been that way forever. Will be that way forever. But as kids we don’t see it. We only know what we’ve always known and the rest is a new experience given to us by those in charge at the time mingled with our imagination of what it could be.   We tend to look back on those days through rose-colored glasses because, though times were bad for the world in general, we were just kids. We were busy discovering ourselves and each other and freedom bit-by-bit, friends, and bugs, and worms, and love, and ‘like’, and lust, and infatuation, and music, and movies, and tastes of our own in those things and food and drink and we tested the limits and we had fun and we had some responsibility but not much and that made those times so much better than today… And that’s the point.

Today isn’t worse than yesterday, it’s just that we’re in a different place now than we were then and that place just isn’t as good as the place we were in yesterday when everything was new and regrets were few and opportunities were something that hadn’t even presented themselves yet and anything was possible and how it is at that age must be how it’s always been.   But that’s not how it is now. That’s what’s changed – our perspective, our place in the world – more than anything else, that’s what’s changed. And it’s not so nice. So we look back and we remember things differently than they really were. But not entirely because a lot of what we criticize these young kids about, are those things we look back on in our moments of honest reflection and regret. “Don’t waste your time in front of the TV” is really “Don’t waste as much time in front of the TV as I did because if I could trade places with you or go back I would in a heartbeat and I’d eat it all up, I wouldn’t waste a second watching Alf.”

So cut the kids some slack. As Billy Joel said in 1983, “the good old days weren’t always good and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems”.

They’ll learn. One day they’ll be forty and they’ll be telling their kids how wonderful things were in the twenty-teens, when life was so much better.

And to think, you wasted these good old days wishing you were sometime else.

Andy Hardy: The next ten years of my life are the best.
Judge Hardy: The next ten years of anybody’s life are the best.

– Life Begins for Andy Hardy (1941)

P.S.   To support my thoughts, here are some quotes about teens and generation gaps from throughout the years. Seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same:

“Every generation wants to be the last. Every generation hates the next trend in music they can’t understand. We hate to give up those reins of our culture. To find our own music playing in elevators. The ballad for our revolution, turned into background music for a television commercial. To find our generation’s clothes and hair suddenly retro.” ― Chuck Palahniuk, Lullaby

I never expected to see the day when girls would get sunburned in the places they do now. ~Will Rogers

“Now I am old-fashioned. A woman, I consider, should be womanly. I have no patience with the modern neurotic girl who jazzes from morning to night, smokes like a chimney, and uses language which would make a billingsgate fishwoman blush!” ― Agatha Christie, Murder on the Links 1923

Nothing so dates a man as to decry the younger generation. — Adlai E. Stevenson

Images from The Good Old Days:



But you were having fun until the streetlights came on, right?



Caitlyn Jenner, Donald Trump, & Just Another Dead Little Boy

Just another little blurb. Someone has a sex-change, or a cop is too rough, or Donald Trump says something goofy and the world comes to a screeching halt and everyone yells and screams and marches and vents their righteous indignation until the next dumbass distraction comes along. Meanwhile little kids are gunned down on a weekly basis and it’s just another little blurb.

We can build DePaul a new arena, but we can’t hire more police. We can pay millions in no-bid contracts to the Mayor’s friends for poor services, but we can’t invest in teachers. (  

What's he whispering to her,

What’s he whispering to her, “$2.5 million, I’ll split it with you.”?

Why was this little kid out on a scooter after midnight? Who was he working for? Where were his parents? What is society’s plan to fix this? (hint: we don’t have one) We only throw money at problems if we can throw it in the direction of the right pockets. Here, there is no money to be made by the power-players. There is no incentive to fix it other than a purely moral one. The blood of each of these kids is directly on the hands of former Mayor Daley and his decades of corruption and political games that put him first and Chicago second. (

 If we name anything after him, it should be the city morgue.

His legacy can be summed up in brass shell casings and body bags.

His legacy can be summed up in brass shell casings and body bags.

I’m tired of seeing this. I’m tired of hearing about the shootings in the historically gang-ridden neighborhoods and now the historically good neighborhoods. I’m tired of the self-serving indignation and the empty rhetoric. I’m sick of people who focus on flags, flag burning, legalized pot, and other people’s gender while no one bats an eye at the slaughtering of children in the streets of Chicago and in their own bedrooms.


The problem is larger than gun control.  Gun control isn’t a solution when the guns being used in these crimes are already illegal.  They are stolen, they are purchased on the black market, they are owned by and used by felons.  Those guns are already illegal.  The reason the politicians scream for gun control is because it’s a simplistic answer to a complicated problem.  They can get a good sound bite out of it by declaring “we need to get the guns off the streets” they can even introduce legislation and get it passed, but it does nothing to actually solve the larger problem which will take more than simple legislation, more than empty words, and more than a quick sound bite.

We dismantled the mob, we dismantled worldwide communism, we can dismantle these gangs too if we wanted to. So the larger question is, why aren’t we? This isn’t a question for the police, it is a question for the policy makers, those elected officials whose sworn duty it is to represent and protect the rights of the citizens, and yet it seems by their actions that all they are out to protect is their own self-interests and ironically, on occasion, the rights of criminals portrayed in the media as victims.  

The responsibility also falls on us, yes us. It’s in all our interests to put a stop to this senseless violence, but it needs to be a priority when we go to the polls. We have to shout about it, or they have no incentive to do anything to address it. Mention abortion and people on both sides of that issue get red in the face and argue themselves breathless and yet this happens and we just shake our heads, bemoan bad parents, and move on to the sports scores and shopping sales.  It’s time we do something about keeping alive the kids that are here. Let’s focus on the rights of a mother to not have her 7 or 12 year old murdered in the street.


The news story:


Are You Brave Enough To Go Commando?

Is anyone else bothered by that toilet paper commercial where the woman is basically asking the lady if she’s wiped her ass good enough? “Hey mudbutt, did you wipe all the turd splatter from your ass-crack, and if so, did you wipe it good enough to go commando without leaving mustard stains on the back of these white shorts?”
(Not a direct quote, but essentially what she’s asking)

First of all, going commando in white shorts can’t be a good idea no matter how good a wiper you are. You’re always just one wet fart away from major embarrassment. Secondly, I don’t need my toilet paper commercials to be that graphic. We all know what it’s used for. Tell me it’s comfortable, allude to the fact that it won’t leave rolled up poop-paper residue on the seat, and give me a decent price, that’s all I need to know. Cute bears, angels, ribbons, all fine, but please don’t make me picture potential shit-stains on a woman’s white shorts.

From the Cottonelle website:

Do You Dare to Go Commando?

Only Cottonelle® has CleanRipple® texture to get you clean, giving you all the confidence you need to Go Commando. Dare a friend to Go Commando and we’ll send you and your friend a personalized commando kit with a free sample.