January 16th, 2014
The Chicago Cubs have lost nearly 300 games in the past three years. They fired their manager at the end of last season. Any new tyro who might be in the farm system is at least two seasons away from helping the team in the big leagues. And the team is arguing with the city and all their neighbors about expanding Wrigley Field and the surrounding area into something that looks a whole lot like Disney World.
So what’s the best thing to do in this hot stove season? Introduce a fuzzy cub mascot, of course!
By now, everyone who’s the least bit interested has heard about Clark the Cub, so I won’t rehash it here. He’s not popular with the adults, who are staring to act a little juvenile in their objections. I’m no exception. Below you can find the link to an article I wrote for ChicagoSideSports, on how ol’ Clark can ingratiate himself with the fans, at least the young and female portion of that group.
Top 10 Pickup Lines for Clark the Cub
December 10th, 2013
Yesterday was Mike Ditka Day in Illinois, on which the former player/coach’s number 89 was retired by the Chicago Bears. It was an honor long overdue, not to mention a reconciliation between the hard-headed Ditka and the petty and long-memoried Bears. But he’s the only player to return and coach his team to a Super Bowl, so whatever you want to say about him, he was at the helm at the right time. And those of use who watched the 1985 Bears roll to the Super Bowl will remember what a magnificent season it was. While the youngsters might get sick of us reminiscing about it, it was what made me a Bears fan.
So after watching the Bears in the unlikely situation of shellacking their opponent during the game last night, my doggerel muse was tickled a little. I wrote some lines before I went to bed, then finished them up this morning. The good people over at ChicagoSide printed it this noon, and now you can enjoy it here. Go Bears!
Here’s a little taste to get you started:
TWAS THE NIGHT OF DITKA
Then at halftime they rolled out a giant red carpet
And displayed all his trophies like goods at the market.
Us fans held our breath, even though it was froze.
Twas like the coming of Santa, Jesus and D. Rose.
Da Coach came into view, all pink in the face,
In a dapper top coat, not a hair out of place.
He strode tall and erect, like a much younger man,
A youth-giving sight to most of the fans.
And at midfield, what wondrous sight do we see
But Ditka standing next to McCaskey!
This wasn’t the one who fired him, still
Ditka Day is a time for peace and goodwill.
Read the rest of it at ChicagoSide!
December 4th, 2013
Hello, dear friends. With the Yuletide season upon us once again, I’d like to give you all a little stocking stuffer for your ears. I know it’s also last year’s present, but it’s the thought that counts.
“Have Yourself a Monkey Little Christmas” is a heartwarming Top Town tale, starring Rex Koko, private clown. When Rex is doing his stint ringing a bell on the corner for charity, someone manages to cloat his little red kettle. But who? The answer to that question sends Rex on an adventure involving a sick friend, 20 or so uncontrollable monkeys, and a miserly landlord who needs a lesson in Christmas charity. Brought to you by Ludwig Coal Company, “the kind Mother used to burn.”
I’ve also reposted the special edition e-book of the story at Amazon. It’s only 99c, and ALL the proceeds will go to the American Red Cross. You KNOW you want it, just to complete your whole Rex Koko set.
For the electronic story from Amazon, click here.
November 25th, 2013
Thanks for being patient out there, all you kinkers and kinkettes. I’ve finally finished recording and mixing the latest chapter in the Honk Honk, My Darling podcast. This is Chapter 17, “Betting Against the House”, which involves a dangerous, high-stakes poker game that our hero foolheartedly decides to bust into. (Fight scenes take a long time to mix, you know, and I had seven different characters to record. Not that I want to make excuses, but I’m also busy writing a real, all-new Rex book right now.)
So in your travels this holiday, skip the light classical or Michael Bolton tunes on your iPod. They won’t calm you down anyway. Curl up with some Top Town adventures with Rex Koko! Subscribe to the whole she-bang at iTunes if you haven’t already. Just six more episodes to go!
This episode is brought to you by SINK BOMB! Blasting kitchen germs and odor to KINGDOM COME!
November 12th, 2013
Last week I had the distinct honor and pleasure to perform again at THE PAPER MACHETE, which has become my favorite reading series/cabaret in Chicago. It takes place every Saturday afternoon at 3 at the legendary Green Mill Cocktail Lounge in Uptown. Christopher Piatt has been setting up some amazing shows this year — with Marc Maron, Janeane Garofalo, Al Madrigal, and Nora Dunn, to name a few of the bigwigs — but every week, he presents wonderful music and hilarious/scintillating readings from performers all over Chicago. You owe it to yourself to check it out.
In his “Salon in a saloon”, Christopher is interested in exploring the events of the week. You pitch him some ideas by Wednesday, he expects something killer on Saturday. The week of my appearance, the inadequacies of the ACA website was big in the news, and word had leaked that House GOP leaders had wanted to meet with software pioneer and not-at-all-a-fugitive-from-Belize John McAfee. That meeting never took place, in part because Congress wouldn’t spring for the guy’s airfare, but I decided to write what I thought would be his public testimony before the committee. I have an audio file from it, but can’t figure out how to change its format.
So, to clarify, here’s me acting like him. Enjoy.
The following is a transcript of the remarks made by John McAfee to the House Committee, if they had paid his airfare to go to DC.
Hi There. I’d like to thank the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee for inviting me to speak here today. Thank you, Congressman Upton, and the other people on the committee, their security detail, their staff members, and that cute little intern hiding back there next to the flagpole. Yes, you. How old are you, dear? What? 21?
I’m tech guru John McAfee, founder of McAfee Anti-Virus software, thrill seeker, life liver. I’ve been asked for my opinion on the Obamacare website because of my name recognition. Congressman Upton tells me he sees my name every time he switches on his computer. I’ll keep my comments brief to make way for his other invited speakers, Mr. Java, Mr. Adobe, and from France, Mr. Google.
In my life I’ve started and then sold 15 different companies. It’s not easy being a tech visionary, though the drugs do help. The Obamacare website is Without a doubt the worst designed project I’ve seen since my failed online venture, Lunchmeat.com.
I won’t bullshit you, congressman. That’s not what I do. I’m a straight shooter and a maverick. You know I’m a maverick because I’ll say bullshit in a committee hearing, especially in front of reporters. I’m also a trickster. A Gazillionaire. A voodoo priest. A joker, a smoker….Did I say Maverick yet?
People always ask me, Did you really sleep with 10 17-year-old girls? At 67 years old? And I have to say, Yep, Yep I did.
A child can can see the Obamacare website is an unuseable mess. I know how government contracts work. I realize most of the programming was subscontracted to Canada. I have two big problems with Canada: A small tech community, and very sticky extradition laws. Believe me.
Read the rest of this entry »
November 12th, 2013
Just received a glowing review from The White Tops, the official publication of the Circus Fans of America:
“The style of the book is breezy and clever, much like any Sam Spade mystery dialog. Mr. Garner is a master of puns and satire. This is not a book to skim….HHMD is a fun read. It’s a great gift for your circus- and mystery-minded friends.”
Maxine House emailed me about the review, and we had a short interview in which I admitted where I found most of my circus lingo (ironically enough, “Circus Lingo” by Joe McKennon), and the situations when I had to invent my own. It’s in the September/October edition of the magazine.
While I’m sure I’ll get some mail from purists who will tell me that clowns and midgets aren’t natural antagonists, or will ask me what type of diesel train took Boots Carlozo away, it’s very gratifying to hear from someone who knows the circus and understands that I’m going for a rollicking, bigger-than-life story here.
October 28th, 2013
It’s been a crazy Fall Classic so far — pitching duels, sloppy fielding, heroic at-bats. If WP Kinsella had written it, no one would believe the plot. Tonight it looks like the Red Sox have the upper hand, but I can’t cheer for those bunch of bearded barristas because of how they battered my Bengals in the ALCS.
Over at Bardball, we’re putting up a couple of poems a day, fast and furious, as we try and document all the action in doggerel form. Plenty of limericks by Hilary Barta, of course, and other poems from surprise contributors. Please go check it out, and like our Facebook page, which gives you both daily updates AND poems that you can’t get anywhere else.
I’ve been writing a lot of clerihews this season, a very fun structure that fits my style. (And Hilary is such a demanding limericist that I tend to give him the spotlight.) Here are a couple of clerihews from the 2013 World Series:
Has earned his bones
Did it wrong
And now will be mocked for eternity by passels
Into a wall ran
In his Series debut
Cracking a rib in two.
May 20th, 2013
Hi all. A few weeks ago, I read the following essay at one of my favorite live lit shows here in Chicago, The Paper Machete. If you have not been to this show yet — held every Saturday at the history-sodden Green Mill Lounge at 3 pm, with FREE admission, no less — then you should do yourself a favor and haul your keister over there. Great readers, great comedians, and sometimes great/always interesting musicians. The best thing since indoor plumbing (hey, the Green Mill even has THAT!)
One of the big news stories of the week had been the proposed renovation of Wrigley Field and the surrounding neighborhood. The plans involved, among other things, more than 35000 square feet of advertising signage at the intersection of Clark and Addison Streets. I decided to get a little snarky about it. Quel surprise!
WRIGLEY RENOVATIONS: EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSEMONT
Chicagoans are used to threats. We get em all the time. Threats of random street violence. School closings. Government bankruptcy. A second term for Rahm Emanuel.
Now add to that, the threat that owner Tom Ricketts will take his Chicago Cubs out of the city – lock, stock and Marmol – if he can’t get approval to renovate the area around the park and install scads of gargantuan video screens inside Wrigley Field. As threats come, it’s about as hollow as Sammy Sosa’s bat.
He told a business luncheon crowd this week, “I’m not sure how anyone is going to stop the signs in the outfield, but if it comes to the point that we don’t have the ability to do what we need to do in our outfield, then we’re going to have to consider moving.”
Whoa, harsh! If Denzel Washington heard the word “consider”, how fast would the bad-guy corpses start piling up. That’s the kind of hard-charging, take-no-prisoners attitude that made the Cubs what they are today!
First off, where would Ricketts “consider” moving? Rosemont? How peaceful, to rebuild the Friendly Confines within a few hundred yards of the runways at O’Hare.
Maybe a bigger market, like Las Vegas? It’d be tough to build a brand new stadium in a place only slightly less mobbed-up than Rosemont.
Besides, years of negotiations have already happened, among the team, the mayor, the alderman, and the neighborhood. The only hurdle now is the rooftop owners, who worry that the new signage will block their view of games over the wall. If you can only get off on baseball voyeuristically by peeking over the wall like a guy in loose, dirty sweatpants, there’s no better place to be.
The rooftop owners are painting themselves as the little guy in this contest. Some national reporters have even described them as a “neighborhood tradition”. Now, a real neighborhood tradition would involve a picnic table, cheap folding chairs and a cooler of beer, like it did 20 years ago, and not small corporations cramming Miller 64 and chicken wings into people either too claustrophobic to wedge into a stadium seat or too dumb to use StubHub. However, compared to all other commercial ventures in Wrigleyville — ah, Wrigleyville, that friendly northside village where the leafy country lanes stream with beer and vomit – compared with them, the rooftop owners are like Mr. Hooper on “Sesame Street”.
Read the rest of this entry »
April 4th, 2013
After a too-long absence, here is the latest podcast of Honk Honk, My Darling. Chapter 16, “The Wild Widow”, is brought to you by Triple Crown Gelatin, “the thoroughbred of desserts”.
You’ll notice many different characters in this episode, all female. While I did try to handle ALL the voices in this book, here I got some help from the fabulous Mary Dixon of WXRT-FM in Chicago. She plays Boots Carlozo in the series, as well as “Big Jill” and “Stripper #2″.
You can listen to this episode below or download it directly from the LibSyn Page right cheer.
April 1st, 2013
I was expecting the piece below to show up on my formerly favorite sports site last week, but with vacations and miscommunication, nobody bothered to tell me it had been spiked. I might not have spent more than 10 minutes on it, but man, it still hurts. The perfect window would’ve been last week, as the Cubs got ready to move home for the regular season.
I think the feeling at the site is to quit picking on the Cubs. I’ll quit picking on them when they stop pretending they are a major league team and lower their prices commensurate with their talent, about on the par of the Joliet Jackhammers.
CUBS COACHES SUSPICIOUS OF “TUMMY-ACHE” OUTBREAK
As spring training nears its end and Chicago Cubs rookies begin contemplating a season in the big leagues, officials with the team say a number of players have been complaining of “really bad tummy-aches,” and one brought a note from his mother asking if he can be excused from traveling to Chicago with the team.
“These complaints first surfaced when we mentioned heading up north for the regular season,” says manager Dale Sveum. “They became more common when players began discussing that Stephen Strasburg would be pitching against us. That’s when I first noticed some of the kids rubbing their stomachs. I’m starting to think it’s not the clubhouse tacos in Phoenix.”
Coaches have also noticed many players who can’t find their shoes in the morning or complain about “a big mean dog” that they’ve seen on the way to Chicago. They are beginning to question the desire of some players to make it to the big leagues.
“Hey, I don’t lie to the new players,” Sveum told reporters. “There will be some tough times in Chicago: playing in 40-degree April weather, dealing with an outfield turned to hay after some concert, and our mathematical elimination from the playoffs in July. But there’s lots of good things too, and deep-dish pizza, and they’ll make nice friends there. I try to tell them they can’t stay in Phoenix forever but right now they’re not being good listeners.”
February 20th, 2013
Last night saw a literary showdown of epic proportions.
At Write Club, no one is under the delusion that all the speakers are equally worthy. It’s a literary competition with winners and losers, just like life, dammit. Two writer/performers go head-to-head on opposing topics, and one combatant is declared the winner by audience applause. The winner gets to take home the Loving Cup of Deathless Fucking Glory, as well as designate a portion of the proceeds to his/her favorite charity, while the loser must dwell in the Cathedral of Eternal Shame. This is Literature as Blood Sport.
It’s always a helluva fun time, and for those of you living in LA, Atlanta, Athens, Toronto or San Francisco, I urge you to go out and see it. Have a drink and wear a cup. It ain’t the Kiddie Pool.
Last night I competed at the birthplace of Write Club, The Hideout in Chicago. My opponent was none other than the daddy of Write Club itself, the charismatic yet loathable Ian Belknap. We argued our sides of the eternal debate of “Solid vs. Liquid”. After having won the rock-paper-scissors preliminary, I chose to go second. In arguing for “Solid”, Ian spent much of his time deriding Aquaman as the most pathetic of all superheroes. A classic gambit, to belittle the opposing side before bringing out your unassailable persuasive arguments. Only problem: his arguments were very assailable.
Which I did — assail them, that is — and walked home with bloody knuckles and the impressive piece of hardware above, as well as a small piece of the world’s adulation. Below is a quick recording of my victorious defense of the notion of “Liquid”, as well as the text of the argument. I hope you’ll agree with the audience that this is what you would necessarily call an irrefutable argument.
“IN DEFENSE OF LIQUID” Audio
IN DEFENSE OF LIQUID
Think back, to the beginning of our planet. The Big Bang is old news, and our little ball of gas has cooled and condensed. For hundreds of millions of years there’s nothing to see but churning waves of a chemical sea, methane and hydrogen raining and evaporating, over and over. A primordial soup. A liquid planet. And from that funky primordial pho, shaken and stirred and shot through with lightning, emerges life.
Amino acids are cooked up first, then proteins and single-cell organisms. Then worms, jellyfish, snails as big as your head, ravaging massive sea beasties sleek as balloon animals with razor sharp teeth. Armored fish, bi-curious amphibians, blah blah animals, and ultimately Kurt Vonnegut.
For this alone, let honest rational people agree: liquids rule it over solids, for without liquids there would be no proteins, no milkshakes, no protein milkshakes. And no Kurt Vonnegut.
Like Capital-L “Life”, every one of our own biographies is written in liquid. First, two parents had to get together which, depending on the circumstances and no offense, might have needed some liquid to get started. A couple Long Island ice teas, a hot tub, the liquid sounds of the Reverend Al Green. Then, after some friction and energy spent, half a little you erupts from your father, swimming like a maniac, seeking in its damp new world the other half of you. Then a lucky zygote luxuriates for nine wet months of squishy cell division.
In liquid we form a spinal column, lose our gills and vestigial tails – (some of us) – sprout arms and legs, gain wiggly fingers, maybe endure some Mozart if the parents are trying to bake a perfect child.
What are humans anyway, but ambulatory punchbowls? In the final tally, we are 98% liquid. Plasma, bile, blood, sweat and, tears, spit and polish, piss and vinegar, the milk of human kindness.
Solids in the human body? Tumors. Kidney stones. Blood clots. Constipation. Nothing but trouble.
Read the rest of this entry »
January 8th, 2013
If you sat through that awful BCS game last night and are not a Crimson Tide fan, you are probably in need of a little cheering up. Well, think how God himself must feel that all the boys from Notre Dame forgot to play football. Here’s a short article I wrote for the site ChicagoSide, speculating on just that situation, and how God would handle uncomfortable questions from the press corps.
January 8th, 2013
On December 22, I read the essay below at a performance of my favorite Chicago reading series right now, The Paper Machete. Four days earlier, two inmates from Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) staged a daring escape, only the second time in its history that the building has been compromised like that. The picture to the right (credit: Associated Press and Chicago Reader) should give you a hint why. This picture actually makes it look more inviting than it is. The windows are about 6 inches wide.
The story of how the two inmates escaped is actually pretty ingenious (you can read about it here at the Chicago Tribune). For the week before Christmas, the city was wondering what was going on. Frankly, despite the fact that the inmates were considered dangerous, most people weren’t taking it very seriously. It was a welcome diversion from fiscal cliff discussions and the memory of the Newtown massacre. My daughter actually goes to school about four blocks from the MCC, but I wasn’t really worried about her safety. These guys couldn’t be dumb enough to hang around the jail, could they?
No, but they weren’t much more ambitious. The flashier inmate was captured on Dec. 21, in the apartment of an acquaintance. Now, we get word that the other inmate — the one I call “The Escapee Without a Nickname” — has been caught, too, in the vicinity of an old apartment of his. A rather disappointing ending. Their escape held such promise, but these guys never planned for Act II.
Anyway, the essay is here, below the fold. Often, the Paper Machete will post audio files of some of its performers, but for about two weeks, this hasn’t been the case.
Read the rest of this entry »
December 12th, 2012
Well, really, it’s not exactly new, because I unleashed it on the world LAST Christmas, with a podcast and everything.
But this is NEW in the sense that it has a NEW cover, a NEW name for a character within it, and a NEW reason for you to actually click over to Amazon and buy a copy.
“Have Yourself a Monkey Little Christmas” is a heart-warming, poop-flinging tale about how Rex Koko uses a horde of misfit monkeys from Top Town’s infamous Monkey Hostel to help a sick friend out and give a come-uppance to a tight-fisted landlord who needs a little lesson in Christmas charity. It’s like “The Dirty Dozen”, only without the Nazis and the explosions and Jim Brown. Okay, it’s not very much like “The Dirty Dozen” but it IS entertaining.
And when you buy a copy of the story from Amazon, you’ll be helping out a good cause. I’ll take the proceeds and match them, then give the whole wad to the American Red Cross to help with Hurricane Sandy recovery and whatever else is headed this way in 2013.
Now, some of you might already have the story, but this time it’s for a good cause, and it’s only 99c, fer criminy pete’s sake. You can afford that, if only for the cover art. So clickety-click right here and buy it for yourselves and everyone you know:
Thanks for your support with this. I’m sorry the podcasts for “Honk Honk, My Darling” have gotten off-track, but they will begin again sometime in January.
UPDATE: To everyone who downloaded this story, thank you very much. I’m putting a check in the mail today, and taking down this story for the time being. No one should want to read Christmas stories except at Christmas, I think. If you’re good, it might come back next year. As Fats Waller once said, “One never knows, do one?”
November 5th, 2012
By which I mean, the politics is nonsensical, not the poems. A friend threw a dinner party over the weekend, and asked everyone to bring a political poem to share. Some read from others, but I felt the challenge was to write our own. So I wrote a couple. This first one is a comment on who want to dismantle FEMA because of various paranoid fantasies:
To those who want to disband FEMA,
Who say it’s just a brown-shirt scheme, a
Thing that saps our moral will
While siphoning money from the till,
Who hold all government in disdain
And think our fundamental plan
Is to leave each other as we are, in
A twisted sort of nod to Darwin,
To deify the individual
And trash the institutional,
Push “survival of the fittest”
And hoist a vengeful God as witness –
To those I say, all well and good.
Don’t call me during YOUR next flood.
And this second one is in response to a news item from the great state of Michigan, where a Court of Appeals has ruled unconstitutional a law that prohibited patrons from entering libraries while strapped. Here’s the story in the Detroit Free Press. Please be careful choosing the people with whom you argue about Norman Mailer today. Or Zane Grey, for that matter.
If America’s exceptional in any way,
I think it might be this’n:
We care less ‘bout packing heat in libraries
Than ‘bout men on TV kissin’.
October 31st, 2012
Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America (as well as Mr. and Ms. America, Mr. America and Ms. Caldwell-America, and Mr. and Mr. America in 7 states and the District of Columbia), and all ships at sea:
The new podcast for “HONK HONK, MY DARLING: A REX KOKO, PRIVATE CLOWN MYSTERY” is now uploaded. This episode is brought to you by Shakespeare Lard, the Bard’s Lard. You can listen to it below, or download it from this LibSyn webpage.
October 25th, 2012
Nothing is better at this time of year than a Frankenstein movie. So weird, perverse, idiosyncratic. Go and enjoy limericks every day this month at LimerWrecks (run by my pal Hilary Barta) on everyone’s favorite self-made man.
October 9th, 2012
At last! Will wonders never cease!? The time has come! I’ve finally gotten my act together, and recorded and mixed the latest audio installment of Honk Honk, My Darling!
This chapter was daunting because it had a lot of fisticuffs in it, and all those little sound effects and timing gave me a little hesitation. Also, as I get a little more proficient at this, the time each one takes grows and grows. I don’t think of myself as an insane perfectionist, but I do want to do things right the first time. This was another reason for the delay: I was becoming more dissatisfied with the sound of the narration. It felt too boxed in, stifling. So I talked to a friend of mine in the audio field, and of course he knew the problem and solution right away. It pays to ask a person who knows.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this chapter. It introduces a new character who will have a big role to play later in the book. Ooops, that’s too much info. Just sit back and enjoy.
September 28th, 2012
I wrote a short silly salute to the fearsome starting rotation of the 1971 Baltimore Orioles for Bardball yesterday. It was only the second rotation to contain four 20-game winners in 92 years, just a buzzsaw that sent fear into their opponents.
I remember hating the Orioles as a kid, because they were the elite of the AL at the time, and always seemed to have the number of my beloved Tigers. Now, as the team is doing well for the first time in a generation, I feel a certain fondness for them. There’s all the old saws about Baltimore being a great old baseball town that has long suffered, blah blah. It’s probably just nostalgia on my part, or a generous mood to let bygones be bygones. The Oakland A’s are also okay by me lately for the same reason.
The Royals, however, can still suck it.
September 28th, 2012
For those of you out there who are “auditory learners” or want to fall asleep to my smooth-as-cocoa vocal stylings, here’s the audio recording of my essay from last week’s Paper Machete, posted by Kate Dries and the grand folks over at WBEZ.
To all my fondly remembered teachers at Catholic Central HS, I hope you take this as part of a constructive debate. You always tried to get us to think for ourselves, which may have been your undoing.