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Peter V. Bella Posts

Giving dad his due on Father’s Day

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Father’s Day is tomorrow. The Day of the dad. The dude. Da man.

Dads will be opening gifts of ties, scents, shirts, sports-themed items, bottles of adult beverages, or other things. Maybe the grill will be fired up, and burgers, hot dogs, steaks, or chicken will be charred. Going out for breakfast, lunch, or dining out might be an option. Or just a lazy day with the family gathered around will be the choice.

For many of us, Father’s Day will be a day of remembrance. Our dads are gone.

The late folk singer, Steve Goodman remembered his father with the song, “My Old Man”. All of us are not songwriters or singers, except in the shower.

We can give our dads their due by remembering them, talking about them, especially to our children, or writing about them.

My dad was one of the smartest men I knew. Maybe the educational system was better in the 1920s and1930s. He was articulate, well-read, and could hold his own in any conversation. He knew and shared his love of Chicago history.

Dad knew people from all walks of life. From successful professionals, people eking out a living, and even some members of a certain Italian organization. He saw to it I met them all from an early age. He wanted me to see possibilities and learn consequences.

There were only two things my dad had a passion for. His family and food. Dad was a foodie before the term was dreamed up. Grocery shopping on weekends was an excursion through various parts of the city. It could start before dawn around any holiday or special occasion.

Dad was a passionate cook, as was my mother. If they were risk-takers, they would have been successful restaurateurs or caterers. After a large meal, especially a holiday feast, dad would lean back and say, “I died right now I would die happy.”

I was an adult before I really appreciated my father, maybe because he talked about his life more. My fondest memories are just sitting at the table eating bread, cheese, olives, Italian cold cuts, and maybe a few glasses of wine. Just sitting, talking, and eating.

My dad worked hard. He had no vices. His family came first and foremost. I can’t make a movie or write a song about him. I can’t write his biography. It would be boring. All I can do is give him his due today. Remembrance.

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The day I became a dad, I was awed. I held that tiny baby girl in my hands, her head barely the size of my palm. I did not want to let her go. I was holding pure love. Being a dad was the greatest accomplishment of my life. It was also the hardest thing I ever did. Children do not come with user manuals. You make things up as you go along. Most times, you are right. Many times, you err.

My daughter is an adult now. She is not the little girl anymore. She constantly reminds me, “I’m still your little girl. I’m just not puny anymore.”

Maybe, someday when I am long gone, she will give me her due by remembering me. That is all I want for Father’s Day. It would be the greatest gift.

A Chance Encounter

I heard him before I saw him. In a loud, kindly voice, he profusely thanked the bus driver for something or other. He moved with the assistance of a cane, pulling a tattered overfilled shopping cart.

He sat down across the aisle from me. He moved slowly, using his cane for balance, as the bus lurched forward. His left shoe had a sole and heel two inches higher than the right.

Two young girls were sitting next to me. Their grandmother sitting on the other side of the aisle from them.

The elderly gentleman tried to talk to the girls. At first, he appeared addled. Maybe he was suffering from some dementia or another mental ailment of the aged.

He offered them hard candy. The grandmother politely refused, saying the girls did not eat candy. Every time a child came on the bus, he asked the parent if he could give them a piece of candy. He offered the adults candy too.

The gentleman had a pleasant demeanor. His accent was East European, so I thought.

As we rode along, he asked about my camera. He offered me a piece of candy. Then he opened up about himself. Becuase his accent was quite heavy, there were things I could not understand.

The gentleman was born in the Soviet Union. He studied and taught history.

He left home and wandered through Europe, picking up languages in places he lived. Italy, France, and Germany. He spent six months touring the Mediterranean. He settled in Athens, Greece for a period. He learned Greek. He traveled around the islands. The gentleman loved the islands. He referred to them as paradise, “as described in the Bible.”

He came to America 42 years ago. He said he lived in Chicago the whole time.

Before we could converse further my stop came up. We shook hands and bid each other goodbye.

He was an elderly gentleman trying to show kindness by handing out candy. Maybe he was just looking for someone, anyone to talk to him or listen to him. He meant no harm. He had a kind face. He appeared happy despite his physical ailments. The one thing I noticed, his eyes sparkled as he reveled in his tales of travel

As I walked to my destination, I thought about what could have happened. In today’s world of nosy busybodies, someone could have called the police to report this gentleman trying to entice children with candy. Maybe someone on that bus could have attacked him.

I thought about something else. That gentleman could be me in a few years or other people I know. People who are aged, have infirmities, and just maybe, looking for someone to pay attention to them, talk to them, or at the very least, listen to them.

I wish my ride lasted longer. I might have learned something. Knowledge is not just in books or institutions of higher learning. Knowledge is in people. People like this elderly gentleman who traveled the world and wanted to share his knowledge with a stranger.

Daytime Drinking

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I remember the first time I was in a saloon. I was four or five years old. My dad took me into a corner bar in the Wicker Park neighborhood. The building was old then and is still standing today. It is no longer a saloon.

My dad hoisted me on the barstool. He ordered a Green River pop for me and a beer for himself. The bartender was a tall, lanky guy, wearing a white shirt with garters on the sleeves. I do not remember much else except sitting on that barstool sipping pop with my dad.

There is something special about daytime drinking. I am not talking about the weekend afternoon drinking in loud, crowded sports bars where drunken puking fans cheer their favorite teams.

I mean drinking in a quiet neighborhood saloon during the week. These are not destination places. They serve people who live in the vicinity. These establishments are usually family-owned, some for generations. They open between 7:00 AM and noon until closing.

They are a dying breed. There used to be more saloons, usually on a street corner, on many neighborhood side streets in Chicago. Those were places of solace. You could spend time watching a ball game, reading a paper, magazine, book, or just stare at your drink pretending to think deep thoughts.

The bars smelled the same, stale beer and tobacco odors. Away from the windows, they were dark. The dark wood of the looming back bar added to the depth of darkness.

Daytime drinking was not for overindulging. It was one or two beers and maybe a shot of whiskey that you took your time drinking. Then, you went about your business. There was a level of comfort and familiarity in these establishments.

There might be a couple of guys playing pool. The click of balls breaking the silence. Others might be staring at the television watching sports. There was one saloon that ran porn from opening to closing if that was to your liking.

Sometimes you could strike up a conversation with one or two people at the bar. You might talk sports, jobs, your family, or anything and everything. In some of the saloons, you could place a bet on the horses or sports.

Most of the good saloons are gone. The places where the beer was so cold it hurt your teeth or get an inexpensive shot and beer. Sometimes there was a table with a spread of lunch meat or ham on the bone and condiments to make sandwiches. They also sold pickled pigs-feet, pickled eggs, and jars of pickles, a drinking man’s culinary delight.

Neighborhood people or local factory workers stopped in for a few on their way home or before their day of toil started. There were local characters who drank, Larry the Mailman, Gino the Gardener, Angry Bob, the Twins, and others with nicknames denoting their jobs or unique personalities.

Suburbanites moved to the city and ruined the neighborhoods. They demanded the corner and side street saloons be closed. It interfered with their sterile culture of manicured lawns, quaint leafy streets, or residential-only properties. They would rather drive a few miles to another neighborhood to get drunk and act stupid in themed bars. Getting drunk and acting stupid in your neighborhood is taboo. So is afternoon drinking. The stroller patrol does not want their crotch critters exposed to people leaving or standing in front of saloons.

One afternoon, I was shopping on Lincoln Avenue. On my way home, I stopped in a small neighborhood German saloon. I ordered a draft and a shot of Bourbon. Soccer was on television, Exeter versus Liverpool.

There were a couple of guys my age at the bar. We started talking about gambling. We reminisced about how easy it was to place a bet in Chicago some years back. There were bookies everywhere. Bars, barbershops, candy stores, and other small businesses were fronts for book joints. Most of the elevator operators in downtown high rises and office buildings were taking bets. Bellhops in hotels were known for the ability to help tourists or business travelers gamble.

One guy was named “Doc.” You can’t get more old school than that. He was a horseplayer. We talked about going to the track, Sportsman’s, or Hawthorne to watch the ponies.

Gambling, drinking, carousing was a way of life for many. I rarely gambled even though I knew where to place bets. Gambling is for two kinds of people, the rare professional who knows what they are doing and suckers. Most gamblers are suckers, hence the term sucker’s bet.

After two beers and a shot, it was time to go. It was a pleasant hour spent with good conversation.

There is another aspect of daytime drinking that started more years ago than I can remember. You went to the saloon for one reason. To meet like-minded friends to watch Jeopardy and see if you can compete. That still happens today, so all is not lost.

Now that Chicago opened up after the COVID pandemic, the saloons, bars, and pubs are opened. Soon, I will find a comfortable friendly neighborhood bar to sip beer and let my mind wander.

Ode to the Voice of Chicago

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Congenital mutant muppets who come to Chicago from someplace else, speaking the King’s English, think and posit the Chicago accent is the worst in the country. They forget we kicked the King’s ass out of America and his oh-so-proper Brit Twit language.

The Chicago accent is a voice.

It is a strong voice.

It is a proud voice.

It is the voice of all the immigrants and races who settled here.

It is the voice of the neighborhoods.

It is the voice of the streets, sidewalks, streets, stoops, playgrounds, athletic fields, and stadiums.

It is the voice of the cigar chompers.

It is the voice of the factory workers.

It is the voice of the blue-collar workers, laborers, ditch diggers, hod carriers, and other tradespeople.

It is the voice of the cops, firefighters, and paramedics.

It is the voice of the neighborhood saloon, bar, pub, tavern.

It is the voice of shot and beer drinkers.

It is the voice of mayors and aldermen.

It is the voice of the people working hard to survive.

It is the voice of the steel mills.

It is the voice of the small grocers, bakers, hot dog vendors, deli owners, and butchers.

It is the voice of the afternoon and midnight shifts.

It is the voice of the cab driver.

It is the voice of the smelt fishermen.

It is the voice of the bleacher bums.

It is the voice of sixteen-inch softball players.

It is the voice of the horseshoe pits.

It is the voice of our grandfathers and fathers.

It is the voice of the horseplayers, craps players, poker players, and other gamblers.

It is the voice of people with callouses on their hands and dirt under their nails.

It is the voice of the tired, who toil to earn a meager living.

It is the voice celebrated in Chicago literature by Nelson Algren, James T. Farrell, and Saul Bellow.

It is the voice of artists and musicians.

It is the voice of professionals who grew up in this city.

It is the voice of the voiceless.

It is the immigrant voice- “The door open please, so out go I.”

The Chicago accent is not just one voice.

It is the voice of many.

It is a chorus, rich and melodic.

It is Chicaga, the frunch room, the stoop, cuz, da, dees, dem, doz, dat, dere, udder.

It is words like wanna, hafta, woncha, gotta, gonna, outta.

It is ged, goin, gimme, didja, couldya wouldja, canya, tellya, sez, and scrooten.

It is aks, gid, and wit.

It is teefs, hoors, yoots.

It adds an s to the pronouns and titles like yous, Field’s, and Jewel’s.

It is the sout side and nort side or souf side and norf side.

It is da old neighborhood.

There are goofs, mooks, mamelukes, chumbalones, and Mickey da Mopes.

There are sanguiches, samiches, and strimps.

It is pop, not soda.

It is the icebox, not the refrigerator.

It is the voice of dat guy. You know dat guy. Not dat guy, the udder guy, da guy dat does doz tings. Da guy who never has to be aksed to do sumptin for udder people.

The Chicago voice is us.

Thou shalt not insult the voice of the people of Chicago. Do so at your peril. Our voices will rise against ya. We will strike back atcha cuz dat’s what we gotta do.

By the way, Chicago dialect is the voice of a Columbia-educated Harvard Law School graduate who became a United States president, Barrack Obama.

Case fucking closed.


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The day Jack died in September, someone asked me if I was getting another dog. The answer was a curt no. Since then, friends have asked the same thing, and the answer is a curt no. I cannot for the life of me figure out why the word no comes out so sharp.

The reason I will not get another dog is simple. Dogs are not human. Too many people treat their pets as if they are human or children. These people are insane. Dogs are not self-sufficient. A toddler learns to be self-sufficient. As they age, they become more self-sufficient and rely less on adults.

Dogs are totally dependent on humans for all their physical and emotional needs. They need us for the basics, food, water, shelter, and care if they become ill.  Dogs live in the present. Humans live in the present and the past. The past is our memories. The memory of Jack pains me every day.

Dogs know love and return it. For all we do for them, they provide little. But, the little they provide is enormous. Dogs provide companionship and bring daily joy to our lives. No matter how bad a day was or how sad or angry I was, seeing Jack waiting at the door window for me to come home made me happy.

Dogs give unconditional love. Need proof? Lock your spouse/partner and the dog in the trunk of the car for an hour. Which one do you think will jump out, wagging their tail, trying to lick your face, and happy to see you.

I never felt alone. Jack was always there, providing joy and comfort. He made me laugh with his antics. Sometimes, he was a knucklehead, which offered much-needed humor.

Some people think it is selfish not to get another dog since so many are awaiting adoption. I do not care what others think. I never want a being that is totally dependent on me again.

Knowing and feeling are two different things. I know Jack getting sick, and his swift death was not my fault. I feel that there were things I could have and should have done to prevent them. I know I did nothing wrong. I feel I should ask Jack to forgive me.

I will cherish Jack’s memory. When I look into the night sky and see a blinking star, I know it is Jack, winking one of those big brown eyes at me.

My father is old and crazy…

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My daughter has been a Cubs fan since kindergarten. When she was nine, her mother and I decided to give her a terrific Christmas gift. We would send her to Cubs Spring Training, which coincided with her school break.

Her mother has a friend who lives near Mesa. She made all the arrangements.

A few weeks before my daughter was supposed to leave, her mother called me. This was the first time my daughter would be traveling alone. Her mother was concerned about some fiend talking to her or trying something funny if you get my drift. She wanted to know what my daughter could say to stop this if it happened.

Now, I am Sicilian. This is not something you want to tell me or even have me think about. When it comes to protecting my family, this is the kind of stuff that could turn me into a cruel, malevolent, brutal, evil, inhumane, vengeful, salt the earth and blow up the world kind of beast. It is genetic. It is part and parcel of my DNA.

God forgives and forgets. Sicilians do not.

I came up with what I thought was a reasonable solution.

Just tell her to say her father is a hitman for the Chicago mob. “If you do not leave me alone, he will kill everything you love. Your mother, father, sisters, brothers, wife, children, dogs, cats, donkeys, chickens, gerbils, goats, everything you love. After that, he will kill you. He will take three or four days to do it. He will enjoy it immensely.”

Her mother did not think this was a good idea. According to her, a daughter should not talk about her father like that. Daughters should not even think about their father like that. Plus, she thought it was too extreme.

I thought it over for a few seconds and had to agree. It was extreme. I told her to leave out the part about killing the dogs, cats, birds, donkeys, and goats, etc. A daughter should not talk or think about her father murdering poor innocent animals.

Her mother did what she always does in these situations. She called me a SOB and hung up.

A few days later she called back. After discussing the possibility with my daughter, they came up with something better.

My daughter was always around my police friends. Most were my age- late forties to early sixties. She was comfortable around men and women who carried guns.

What did they come up with?

“Please leave me alone. My father is old and crazy and carries guns. All his friends are old and crazy and carry guns. Would you like to meet them?”

I guess that would put the fear into any fiend’s heart.

I told my friends about this. Some had daughters. They thought we should have tee shirts made with that saying printed on them. We were old. We were crazy. We carried guns.

What better way to keep the boys, weirdos, and fiends away from our daughters?

You know you’re from Chicago if you know…

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This is an excerpt from a longer piece I wrote for another project.

I despise the young scribblers working for the local online news media and magazines with no fucking clue about Chicago. Now and then, these dim bulb reprobates write pieces titled, “You know you are from Chicago if you know…”

Crayon-wielding toddlers who came from someplace else write these pieces. They do not know their ass from a hole in the ground, let alone anything about Chicago. They make shit up to impress the witless with their wit.

A longtime scribbler for one of the local papers wrote a book on the subject. He is originally from Ohio and lives in the suburbs. What the fuck does he know?

My bona fides? I was born and raised in Chicago. I know this city and its people like the back of my hand. I did not have to do research. Chicago is my blood, my heart, my DNA.

You know you are from Chicago if you know:

Howyadooin is the official Chicago greeting. No one gives a shit how you are doing. It is just hello.

The lovely unlovely Chicago epithet, Jagoff, can be a humorous, friendly put down or an insult.

You drink beer from a bottle or can.

You drink booze from a half-pint or pint bottle.

The definitions of canoodle, boodle, and boondoggle.

What a goo-goo is.

What a ward heeler is.

What a B-Girl is.

Mario’s on Taylor Street.

The Curse of the Goat.

The most popular member of the Chicago Blackhawks.

What a deuce, fin, saw, double saw, half a century, and a century is.

The meaning of buying a hat, pen, pencil, or tie.

The Who- me tribe.

How to open a fire hydrant on a hot summer day.

Who the Lincoln Park Pirates were.

The difference between a sandwich, sanguich, and samich.

What a stoop is.

What a frunch room is.

How to fish for smelt.

The nickname for smelt fishing.

You ask someone where they’re from, and they name a Catholic parish. Up until a few years ago, this was a South Side Irish thing. But the North Siders got into it.

You never, ever put ketchup on a Chicago hot dog. Never, ever is a long, long time.

Why you never ever put ketchup on a hot dog.

The Underground Wacker exists and why it was built.

You can navigate the underground Wacker/Michigan system without GPS. You can walk it on a rainy day to stay dry without getting lost.

Where to find places to drink after hours.

Where to gamble any day or night beside the OTBs and casinos.

How Mailbox Marilyn got her nickname.

Who “Crazy Mary” was.

Sixteen-inch softball is the only softball played in Chicago. Only grown-up boys with little balls play with twelve-inch softballs.

No real Chicagoan wears gloves to play softball. We take pride in our crooked fingers.

The meaning of “I was away at college.”

Why Lakeshore Drive was called “The last bastion of capitalism in America” by former comedian Shecky Green.

What bars open at 7 AM to grab a few after working the midnight shift or an early morning pick-me-up.

The two busiest days at Jim’s Original when it was on Maxwell Street.

What a listen sandwich is.

What Mild Sauce is and where to find it.

What a bucket of blood is.

Why round Chicago pizza is cut into small squares, and its real name.

Trunk music is not extra-large bass throbbing speakers in a car trunk.

There is no such thing as an honest politician in Chicago.

Three Card Monte (Molly) is not a dealer at the Rivers Casino.

You can tell the ethnicity of people by the food odors emanating from open windows.

Nothing is on the legit in Chicago. Not one fucking thing.

You can use ethnic slurs without offending people you know. People in Chicago talk to each other that way.

Last, you know, when traveling through or doing business in Chicago, our public officials and criminals do not take any shit, and they don’t take American Express*.

I am a Chicagoan

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“When you are born in a certain way, in a certain place, from certain people, you don’t really need to wonder who you are.” (Andrea Berti/Coltellerie Berti)

I was born and raised in Chicago. I live here and will die here. I am a Chicagoan. Chicagoans are my people. I know who I am.

Chicagoans have a sense of place. Chicagoans realize we are different than the rest of America. We understand the rest of America is different from us. They can stay that way, as long as they do not impose their differences on us.

Living in Chicago is a way of life, not a lifestyle. Chicagoans learned to live together, not always in peace but in harmony. We get along because that is the only way to live in a city. People who move here from someplace else do not understand this. They refuse to learn HOW THINGS WORK!

There is only one way to do things in Chicago, our way. The same is true in all genuine cities like New York, Boston, Baltimore, or Philadelphia.

Chicagoans do not tolerate outsiders or transplants publicly trash-talking our city. We are Chicago proud, Chicago strong. Chicago united. The transplants do so at their peril. No matter our differences, we will band together to take them down. We are proud, stubborn people who love this city.

Chicago is a city of neighborhoods. The neighborhoods used to be divided along ethnic and racial lines. Except in a few areas, neighborhoods are divided along class and economic lines. While many neighborhoods may appear the same, each is unique. The outer neighborhoods resemble early suburbs, which they are patterned on. Others are densely populated with a mix of single-family homes, apartment buildings, and small businesses to service the population.

Chicago has great open spaces. There are large parks in many neighborhoods. Grant Park is the jewel in the crown downtown. Lincoln Park stretches for several miles, hugging the lakefront. There are beaches from one end of the city to the other. Chicagoans make great use of these open spaces. During the summer, some get so crowded access is closed until enough people leave. There are sports leagues of all kinds utilizing the parks. People picnic and barbecue on weekends from spring through fall. Some of the larger parks offer concerts and other entertainment.

We have many venues offering entertainment of all types. We love our sports teams and have a love-hate relationship with their owners and management. Every sports season opens with hope. Sometimes they end in agony, others they end in celebrations.

Until the pandemic, Chicago was one of the most popular cities for tourism and business travel. Tourism numbers were up by the millions every year. People from all over the world came here. Unlike Americans who travel abroad, foreign tourists are not pains in the ass. They are more polite and less brash. There is a reason for the term “ugly American, and American tourists abroad deserve the title.”

Chicago’s people are its life blood. We help each other when tragedy strikes. We give to tragedies around the world. We are generous to a collective fault. Why? Because it is the right fucking thing to do.

Chicago is one of the best food towns in the nation. We have cuisines from all over the world and at every price point. Unfortunately, we also have the franchises and chains serving mung and dreck to people too stupid to seek out the real good stuff. I guess those promises of unlimited bread sticks and fake Mexican food appeals to the drooling, knuckle dragging, lessons (Lower than morons) who inhabit this city.

With the city opening up, the entertainment venues will be rolling again. We have jazz, blues, country, bluegrass, classical, opera, rock, and other genre venues to appeal to any taste. There are a few comedy clubs and other entertainment venues. We have it all, if they survived.

I, for one, cannot wait to day drink in a saloon, while watching an afternoon ballgame or Wheel of Fortune.

Welcome back Chicago.

“It takes a heap of sense to write nonsense.” (Attributed to Mark Twain)

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I created this site to give people insight into life in Chicago from my warped perspective. I will share some of my street photography, memoirs, and thoughts on food.

I am a curmudgeon and grumbletonian. I am old crabby, ugly, tired, mean, miserable, and ornery. Rage implies I am a stakeholder in the outcome of things. I am more annoyed than angry. I have no power to bring about change. I only have the meager ability to criticize the daily annoyances I encounter in Chicago caused by pestiferous members of the human species.

My issues are my disappointment with humans. The human species devolved into a malodorous swamp of chromosomal effluent over the past couple of generations. It is a good guess those generations of humans were the product of a eugenic alien cross-breeding experiment run amok at Area 51.

Now is the best time to be a curmudgeon. There are many reasons to kvetch. I take joy in pointing out the pernicious quirks of the low-grade forerunners of baboons who inhabit my city. If I am not upset about something, I do not feel right.

Complaining and grumbling are sports and entertainment. Hell, I have to do something to amuse myself in a world inhabited by annoying base snites.

I am not the common man or ordinary man. The worst thing in life you can be is ordinary. I am a malcontent filled with discontent, writing content.

I am educated. I speak five languages, English, Sarcasm, Profanity, Bullshit, and Truth. Sometimes, it is difficult for my brain to override my mouth or keyboard. If people are offended, it is their problem. Being offended is a choice. I am not responsible for other’s choices.

I explore Chicago neighborhoods, research their history, and learn more about the area’s culture. An avid photographer, I take pictures on these forays.

I am an amateur Chicago historian, delving into Chicago’s history, especially its criminal past. Chicago politics and crime are the DNA double helix of this city of scoundrels.

I spent almost thirty years in the Chicago Police Department. I spent over fourteen years working in Forensic Services. I witnessed and experienced too many things that are better left unwritten. One of the benefits of being a police officer was learning how to deal with annoying people. We mastered applied psychology with a modicum of wit and sarcasm.

My mind is like a fine French sieve. It leaks thoughts, ideas, and all the useless trivia stored in my gray matter. I am beyond sarcastic. I am a smartass.