A Doctor’s Last Will

By Larry Teren

1963- November A young black man in his 20’s walked into a doctor’s office on Madison Street about three blocks east of the old Chicago Stadium. The fellow asked to see Dr. Howard Gless (fictional name). The receptionist pointed to the appointment ledger book and asked him to sign in. He wrote down “Jackson”. There were about a half dozen other patients in the waiting room when she led him go to the examination room.

The nurse didn’t show any concern about this patient as Dr. Gless had been listed by the Illinois Public Aid commission as being one of ten doctors who received the largest income from Illinois for treating relief recipients. In fact, his income for tending to welfare patients for the past twenty months had been more that $31,000. That would be like making over $350,000 in 2016.    Continue reading “A Doctor’s Last Will”

Unphotographic Memories

by Larry Teren

Recently I gave Ma an assignment to find my grade school class pictures. Doing a great job, she handed over to me a manila folder containing items I had not seen in  more than fifty years:  my kindergarten class group photo, the diploma that certified I was ready for first grade and another handful of grammar school class pictures. One important element,  though,  was missing- my memory.

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It’s Not In the Bag

by Larry Teren

It wasn’t in the bag. Really. I’ll explain- in August, 2015, a certain suburban board of trustees decided to go west coast on its residents and nearby patrons. West Coast is double speak for enacting wacky laws that small time legislators feel will improve the quality of our lives better in the long run. In this situation, it had to do with not allowing retail outlets that have at least 10,000 square feet the right to dispense cheap plastic bags for carrying the product to the car and then the house. You know what I mean- the small bags you hang onto for a week or so and then conveniently place as liners in the small wastebaskets in various rooms of your abode. You see, even though these bags are actually being re-used (and in my dictionary, that also means recycled), the local authorities believed that too many were being dispensed and not deteriorating soon enough.

One of the stores- a grocery emporium, decided to replace these thin bags with one that is slightly larger and sturdier. They said that the bag may be re-used up to ninety-nine times. They gave them out freely so those who didn’t want to buy an even sturdier bag for much longer re-use could avoid spending a couple of bucks.

Still paying attention? For the record, I bought one of the real sturdy bags and it lasted about seven uses before ripping at the stitchings. I complained at the service desk and they gave me a replacement bag fearing I would otherwise make a scene. Me? C’mon! The replacement bag lasted three uses before ripping at the same stitchings. Ergo, I elected at that point and on to only use the free semi-sturdy bags.

I was able to collect two of these tougher portable storage devices and made a habit of bringing them into the store for the up to 99 more uses. The checkout clerks would first thank me for remembering to bring my own bags and save them having to keep handing out new ones. But last week, I went into the store with only one of the bags. I had no more than a dozen items at the checkout counter. The lady dutifully rang them up and put all but one of the items into the one bag I had brought (for which she thanked me). The last item was sitting on the counter, bag-less. She then looked at the area behind me and motioned for the next person to come up. I asked why she didn’t put the item in a second bag. She replied-

“I can’t. There is only one item. We cannot waste another of these nicer bags on just one item.”

Me: “So, take an item out of the first bag and pair it with the last item and now you can put it in another bag.”

She: “Sorry, I can’t but I can give you a paper bag if you like.”

I told her I was not interested in paper bags. Otherwise, I’d expect her to total up the bill using a pencil she kept secured over her ear writing chicken scratchings on the bag. But since we were in the 21st Century, and she had grabbed my money instantaneously from my bank after I keyed in a special code, I was entitled to two semi-sturdy bags.

Naturally, she won the debate and I ceremoniously placed the last item in the one and only bag which was the bag I brought with in the first place. Progress. Yeah, sure.


Semi-Tough Guys

By Larry Teren
theo bikel
Theodore Bikel loved to tell stories. One was about the famous harmonica player Larry Adler. Adler told him that when he was about 15 or 16 he was already beginning to develop a reputation as a talented musician. He was in Chicago performing his first show at a night club. After the show, there was a fancy party to celebrate a successful evening. Larry, being too young, had a soft drink.

A man came up to him and said, “you’re terrific- where you from?” Larry replied he was from Baltimore. The fellow then told him that he sounded Jewish and asked if he was. Larry nodded in agreement. The man continued, “you go to shul (synagogue)?” Larry admitted that he rarely went.

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Cranberry Pecan Mix

by Larry Teren

The circular plastic container read in big, bold letters “Cranberry Pecan Mix” on the front. On the back, the ingredients panel read: “golden raisins, dried cranberries, almonds, apricots and pecans”.

There was a dash of sulfur dioxide, sugar and palm oil to give it additional taste and consistency.

Now, where I come from it would be more aptly labeled Raisin Cranberry Mix, or Raisin Almond. After all, the higher the sequence in the list of ingredients, the greater the dominance of that item in the ingredients, right? Continue reading “Cranberry Pecan Mix”

A Bear in the Bedroom

by Larry Teren

“There’s a bear in your bedroom.” That’s how Harry the lawyer greeted Dick, my accountant over the phone. Or at least that’s how he started the story he was repeating to me. Harry and Dick shared clients so it was not unusual for them to have regular phone conversations. Dick’s father-in-law lived next door to Harry. So, it wasn’t Dick’s bedroom- it was his father-in-law’s. And it wasn’t a bear but a– wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

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You Know Me, Pal

You Know Me, Pal

By Larry Teren

What are you suppose to do with a thirteen year old nephew for a day? I’ll tell you what you do, pal. You go to the batting cages in the morning and if the weather holds up, eighteen holes of miniature golf at the same place. Then to lunch and wash it down with a matinée movie. But, you know me, pal- I find some way to make it an adventure.
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Coats Off, Belts Off, Pants Pockets Empty

By Larry Teren

“Coats Off, Belts Off, Pants Pockets Empty” is a familiar enough refrain when you stand in a security check line at the airport. It also happens to be the same greeting you hear when going to court- in this case, traffic court. But first, let’s roll the tape back to the scene of the crime. (Yes, that’s the way the law enforcement officials treat you now-a-days- as a criminal unless you kill someone- then you’re given all the rights.) Continue reading “Coats Off, Belts Off, Pants Pockets Empty”

Say What You Mean But Mean What You Say

By Larry Teren

Voice over phone: “Welcome to the American Association for Better Communications. Press one for English, o para Espanol oprima dos…” Huh?

Okay, so I like to buy used books through Amazon. A lot of people do. In most cases, the books come from trading partners and are at ridiculously low prices- often a penny each. The shipping costs, though, add up- $3.95 a pop. Sounds like I’m gonna make a beef? Right? Yeah. Because that’s what I do.

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Opting Out

By Larry Teren

It seems like “opting out” has become the preferred method for those who want to confuse and take advantage. Recently, I receive a letter in the mail from a company claiming to be the authorized entitlement to supplying electricity for my condominium apartment. The letter states that the Village of So-and-So has an Electric Aggregation Program and I should be grateful to have the opportunity to participate in it. It also states that I am automatically enrolled in it and that I have to opt out if I still want good old COMED to sell me electricity. Aye, there’s the rub.
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