Sunday, May 17, 2015

Exactly how black is your soul?

A Facebook friend of a friend greeted the news that the surviving Boston Marathon bomber had gotten the death penalty with: "C Ya" and "Big Like."

His friends said things like, "Why don't we just let a single bullet do the job?"

I'm disgusted.

The Marathon bombing broke my heart and I hated what it did to one of my favorite most cities. (Here's a TT I dedicated to Boston in the aftermath back in 2013.) I resent that, as a country, we gave hospitality, not to mention complete legal rights, to the kid who admitted the murderous act.

That said, you cannot get me to cheer the impending murder of another human being. Especially a murder done in my name. (Since it was a Federal case, it's "The People of the United States vs. ....".) Not the Boston Bomber. Not Osama bin Laden. No one.

Perhaps these acts are justice. Maybe they must be done. I can accept that unhappy reality.

But I refuse to rejoice in it.

Instead, I'll celebrate Martin Richard, the extraordinary little boy who died that day. His mother and his sister both sustained serious, life altering injuries that day, too. Yet Martin has become a symbol of the best in us. I'm going to make a contribution in Martin's memory to Wiggle Your Toes, a group devoted to helping amputees "regain their independence."

This one's for you, Martin

Riding the rails

I love Amtrak. It's on time (more often than not), it's much cheaper than driving, and I enjoy the slice of life I see when I ride the rails.

I took the train from Chicago to my client's downstate offices on Thursday, just days after the transportation company suffered its worst accident in years. I was touched by how unusually chatty the morning conductor was. It's as though he was trying to assuage any passenger fears.

On the ride back that evening, I found myself next to a young man of 19 or 20. He alternated between working on a paper (looked like it was for school) and binge watching Friends on Netflix. Considering his age, I was surprised by how enthralled he was. Then I remembered at Easter my niece, age 22, told me she had just ploughed through the entire series on Netflix, as well. I know I remain massively fond of the gang from Central Perk, and am glad another generation is embracing them, too.

When he caught me looking at his screen, he graciously offered me a earbug. I told him "no, thanks," that I was enjoying guessing which episode he was watching without the benefit of sound. I did pretty well, too. The New Year's Eve when "Fun Bobby" cried ... Joey's VD poster ... episodes I thought I'd forgotten until I saw them again. (BTW, the friendly young man has also been binge watching How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men. He looooooves Charlie Sheen.) I enjoyed chatting with him, and he's someone I never would have met had it not been for Amtrak.

Oh, yes I did!

I knocked it out of the park on Thursday. Really. I presented six concepts in (gulp) 60 minutes. I held the room. I got unexpectedly glowing comments from the client.

•  Madame Big -- the one I'd been frightened of because she tore into me at our first meeting -- actually said she wished I could work directly for her.

•  Henrietta Henchwoman -- the one who has treated me more like an obstacle than an asset in our recent email exchanges -- told me she'd learned more from me in an hour than she had on the job in six months.

Even better, both my immediate boss and the head of account services were in the room as I shone.

What makes me so happy about this is that I really didn't have time to prepare. I've often wondered if my work is good, or I'm just good at selling it. Thursday wasn't about spin -- I didn't have the opportunity beforehand to concoct any and I didn't have the time in the presentation to spew it. All I could do in 60 minutes is present the work and, in the process, demonstrate how well I know the product and the market.

And I did. Very well.

When I rolled into the office on Friday, my boss greeted me by saying he wished he'd rolled out the red carpet. And he's not always my biggest fan.

I feel good about work for the first time in ages.

Sunday Stealing

Random Meme

1. If you were to attend a costume party tonight, what or whom would you go as? Minnie Mouse, because I still have the costume somewhere.

2. What are your choice of toppings on a hamburger? Ketchup, lettuce, mayo. Or barbecue sauce! Yes, that would be good, too.

3. You are chosen to have lunch with the President. The condition is you only get to ask one question. What do you ask? Oh, Kwizgiver, how many profane and silly RWNJ answers do you think you'll get to this question?

4. It’s your first day of vacation, what are you doing? Where am I? If it's Christmastime in Key West, I'm in the hotel pool until my Conch friends come to pick me up. If it's my Las Vegas birthday trip, I'm having a late brunch and discussing which show and which casino to hit first. If I'm having a staycation, I'm being lazy and recharging.

5. What is your concession stand must-have at the movies? It changes. Lately it's Twizzlers.

6. Which do you dislike most: pop-up ads or spam email? Spam email.

7. What do you think Captain Hook’s name was before he had a hook for a hand? That was his name. He refers to his mother as "Mama Hook." (My source material comes from the Disney Channel.)

8. Rock, paper, or scissors? Scissors

9. Let's say a brick fell on your foot, and your kid is standing right next to you, what is your 'cleaned up’ swear word? Good goobies!

10. Which is worse, being in a place that is too loud, or too quiet? Too loud

11. What is one quality that you really appreciate in a person? These days, being informed but not ridiculously partisan. The way you would answer #3 says a lot about you. Especially if you're a Republican. Nothing turns me off a person faster than knowing they would be disrespectful to a President, any President. It shows such an ignorance of our history and lack of regard for the electorate.

12. At the good old general store, what particular kind of candy would you expect to be in the big jar at the counter? Jaw breakers.

13. What is the most distinguishing landmark in your city? Soon it will the Obama Library. (Tee hee to you haters.) Right now, I'll go with Buckingham Fountain. It's gorgeous and my heart swells a little every time I see it. But I'm only choosing the Fountain because my beloved Wrigley Field is still under construction.

14. Everyone hears discussions that they consider boring. What topic can put you to sleep quicker than any other? That Obama is a socialist/fascist/Muslim/Kenyan. Yawn. (This is a theme today.)

15. How many times did it take you to pass your drivers test? I passed the first time. Of course, I was 30.

16. If you had to have the same topping on your vanilla ice cream for the rest of your life, what topping would you choose? Chocolate sauce.

17. What food item would need to be removed from the market altogether in order for you to live a healthier, longer life? Caffeine. I consume way too much of it.

18. You are offered an envelope that you know contains $50. You are then told that you may either keep it or exchange it for another envelope that may contain $500 or may be empty. Do you keep the first envelope, or do you take your chances with the second? I'll take my chance and go for the $500. Now if it started at $500 with an option for $5000, I'd quit while ahead.

19. If you had to choose, which would you give up: cable TV, or DSL/cable internet? This question causes me agita because I don't want to give up either. But I suppose (gulp) cable because I can watch shows and the news online.

20. What is your highest level of education? I started but didn't finish college.

21. How much is a gallon of gas in your city? What was the highest it’s been? I don't drive, so I'm only dimly aware of these things. But I just walked by BP this afternoon and saw it was $2.99. I remember everyone squawking when it $4.00+ a couple years ago.

22. What kind of lunch box did you have as a kid? It included Barbie, Francie and Skipper.

23. What would you rather have, a nanny, a housekeeper, a cook, or a chauffeur? Chauffeur

24. Would you rather be trapped in an elevator, or stuck in traffic? You didn't mislead us. This is a very random meme, indeed! If I must choose, I'll go with stuck in traffic.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: No Myth (1989)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) The girl in this song is "just looking for someone to dance with." Who was your most recent dance partner? My cat Reynaldo.

2) Michael Penn wonders if he'd do better with the ladies if he was Romeo or Heathcliff. What fictional character represents your romantic ideal? Romeo was too young and fanciful and Heathcliff was way too intense. I'll go with Professor Bhaer from Little Women. He loved and supported Jo and was a genuine help to her career. He was exactly who she'd been dreaming of.

3) The lyrics refer to "knots I have yet to untie." Do the shoes you're wearing have laces? Ha ha. Fooled ya. I'm barefoot.

4) Name a character from mythology. Zeus.

5) Michael Penn is the brother of Oscar winner Sean Penn. Give us the title of a Sean Penn movie. Dead Man Walking. Sister Helen has been in the news recently so this movie is top of mind today.

6) Their father, Leo Penn, was a busy TV director from the 1960s through the 1990s. He specialized in detective shows (Magnum PI and Cannon) and medical shows (Trapper John and Marcus Welby, MD). Are you more likely to watch a program with lots of car chases, or one that's set in a hospital? I think I've seen every episode of Magnum at least twice, so I guess I have to say car chases.

7) 1989, the year "No Myth" was popular, is the year of the first HDTV broadcast. Do you watch many shows in "high def?" My TV is more than 10 years old and not high def, so I don't know how many shows I watch in HD. It doesn't matter.

 8) 1989 was also the year The Simpsons premiered. Who is your all-time favorite animated character? Nana from Peter Pan.
9) Random fill-in the blank: If I never had to ______________ again, it would be too soon. Do another load of wash. Unfortunately, I have to do it again this weekend.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Of Reynaldo and Rosemary

I'm riding the rails as I update this, on my way downstate to meet with my client in their offices. I'm happy for the private time to finally post something.

I've got two loved ones on my mind. One has fur. The other doesn't.

Reynaldo is my skinny beige demon. Ever since last month's trip to California, I've been working very long hours and this has triggered his old separation anxiety. When I am home, he seems to feel we must be interacting. And so he yowls and rakes my hair with his claws and knocks things over and is generally an unrepentant pain in the ass. It got so bad Sunday afternoon that I actually went out, just to get away from him.

He's no longer a kitten. Rey is now 11 years old, so this is not something he's going to outgrow. I've discussed this at length with the vet and we have ruled out any physical cause for this exasperating behavior. He's just Rey. I could try having him shot up with hormones again -- that worked with great success in Summer 2013, when he was extraordinarily destructive -- but I don't want to do that until/unless I absolutely have to. The shots are expensive and who knows what the long term ramifications of hormone injections could be?

The vet says Rey is "aggressively possessive" of me, that we are "unnaturally bonded." And he's also very, very routine oriented. So when his dinner dish isn't on the kitchen floor by 7:00 PM, he freaks out. So I know that in his own little plum pit shaped mind, Reynaldo isn't being bad. He's compelled to act out because he's worried about me and frightened by his disrupted world order. I must be more patient.

Rosemary. My cousin is now retired and wants to come up and spend time with me. I should be happy about this, since Rose has loved me forever and when I was a teenager she was not only a wonderful role model, she was my #1 advocate within the family.

But here's the thing: Rose is a devout Catholic and her divorce of about 12 years ago devastated her. She truly never, ever thought this could possible happen to her. It rocked her world enormously and left her harsh, impatient and intolerant. I truly cannot be around her for more than 4 hours or so at a crack. Her constant carping over everything (Why do I carry such a big purse? Why do I have a shower radio; it's stupid to spend that time in the shower. How can I NOT shop at Costco? How can I waste my time with the news when it's all so sensational?) leaves me depressed, on edge and sad.

So, when she said she wanted to stay with me over Memorial Day, I concocted an elaborate lie. My friend from California is coming in (she's not) and my friend from the Keys is meeting his friend here in Chicagoland and wants to have a reunion (also not true). I explained to Rose that I didn't know what I would be doing when that weekend, so it was difficult to make plans. She was very understanding. I thought I was off the hook.

What I forgot is that she's retired. She doesn't have to be in the office on the Tuesday after Memorial Day. So she wanted to know if she couldn't stay with me the following weekend.


So I lied again. I told her I'd probably have to work that weekend and that California and Key West still hadn't committed to dates/times for their visits. She was so nice, so understanding. She said she completely understood and that, maybe, when this crunch time at work is over, we can meet somewhere for a "girls' getaway."

Her kindness made me feel even more guilty. I hate lying to someone who loves me.

I think I'm on the verge of a universal truth here. When someone loves us, they have a hold on us and we have a responsibility to them -- whether they have fur or not.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Sunday Stealing


1. YOU HAVE 10 BUCKS AND NEED TO BUY SNACKS AT A GAS STATION. WHAT DO YOU GET? A Coke and chips. Or maybe Cheez-It Crackers.

2. IF YOU WERE REINCARNATED, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD BE? A cat. But only if I had a life like the ones I've given my cats. I hate thinking about the fear and hardship strays suffer.

3. WHO’S YOUR FAVORITE REDHEAD? Like all right thinking Americans, I love Lucy.

4. WHAT DO YOU ORDER WHEN YOU’RE AT AN I.H.O.P. OR BREAKFAST PLACE? On Saturday I went to the local coffee shop and had a 2x2x2 -- 2 scrambled eggs, 2 sausage links and 2 slices of french toast.

5. LAST BOOK YOU READ? Remember Me Like This. It's an intense novel about what happens to a family when their son, who had been kidnapped, is returned to them after four years.

6. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? True Story, starring James Franco and Jonah Hill. Also very intense.

7. DESCRIBE YOUR FAVORITE PAIR OF UNDERWEAR. White cotton. I believe they are commonly referred to as "granny panties."

8. DESCRIBE THE LAST TIME YOU WERE INJURED. I twisted my ankle. It hurt.

9. IF YOU COULD INVENT ONE THING, WHAT WOULD IT BE? A way to know if the washer/dryer are free without having to climb four flights of stairs to the laundry room.






15. ANY BUTTONS OR BLINKIES IN YOUR SIDEBAR? I believe you can check that out yourself.


17. WHAT’S THE LAST PIECE OF CLOTHING YOU BOUGHT? I just answered this for Saturday 9, so instead I'll share that I just hemmed the second-to-last piece of clothing I bought. Navy slacks.

This was SO great

Kris Bryant connects for first career HR, returns to empty dugout

Kris Bryant went deep for the first time Saturday and got the extreme silent treatment.
Kris Bryant went deep for the first time Saturday and got the extreme silent treatment. (USATSI)

Our super fabulous rookie third baseman Kris Bryant got his first major league homerun tonight in Milwaukee. His teammates responded in true Cubbie fashion. Instead of congratulating him on what will be the first of hundreds and hundreds of round trippers, they gave him the silent treatment. En masse and in a big way. They all left the dugout.
Of course, they all returned in just a moment and hugged him.
God, I love baseball. 

So I took a nap

Oh, yes I did!

I'm going through one of those periods when it feels like my life has gotten away from me.

It's been crazy busy at work, as it will be in advertising. As Hyman Roth said in Godfather II, "This is the business we've chosen." If I can't handle the stress, I should do something else. But lately the stress isn't about the work, it's the drama.

The New Girl is back at work and really working -- hard, if not efficiently. She apologized for her meltdown and I'm trying to let bygones be bygones. But we are about two weeks off schedule, and September ineffably comes after August 31, regardless of her unscheduled four day weekend in May.

The tension is exacerbated by our "open work space." There are four of us in this tiny space. My most annoying coworker continues to be annoying. When I tried to take the lead -- because, let's face it, she's lazy -- she snapped at me that she knows her job and is thinking about it all the time. Yes, she knows her job but no, she's not thinking about it all the time. I have to prod her. And she gets pissed, and then there we are, stuck together in this tiny space. WALLS! I NEED WALLS!

My boss seems upset with me, too, though I don't know why. I think it may be because he needs me on this project. I don't know. I don't care, actually, except that again I feel so pitilessly exposed and am unable to get away from the agita.

So I haven't been working out at lunchtime and I haven't been getting home until 10:00 or 11:00 at night. This leaves me feeling depleted. I've been missing Sinatra. I'm reading this massive biography of him -- 800 pages and it only takes us through the mid-1950s -- and it's left me feeling immersed in his life and his music. (If you like biographies, I really recommend this one.)

My home is a mess. My finances are a mess. My skin is blotchy and my waist is non-existent.

And so today I haven't done anything I haven't wanted to do. I enjoyed a nice coffee shop breakfast with Francis Albert and then I took a long nap and watched a little baseball and a lot of Columbo. And now I feel better.

I may even take a gay, madcap stab at organizing the sea of paper on my dining room table.

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Harper Valley PTA (1968)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) This week's featured artist uses her middle initial (C. for Carolyn) all the time. Do you use your middle initial very often? Only when I write checks, and that's something I seem to do less and less each month as more of the world goes online.

2) In this song, a mother tells off the local PTA. What's the most recent school event you attended -- whether as a parent, a teacher or a student? I guess it was my nephew's 8th grade graduation, more than a year ago.

3) The lyrics reference the mom's miniskirts, which were trendy in the 1960s. The website Popsugar reports that gingham checks are trendy for 2015. Tell us about the most recent addition to your wardrobe. Navy wedge pumps at DSW. For when I need to look like a grownup.

4) Thinking of moms, Access Hollywood named Carol Brady of The Brady Bunch TV's #1 mom. Who is your favorite TV mom? She wasn't TV's most conventional mom, but I'll go with Lucy Riccardo. She loved and encouraged her little boy.

5) Mother Winters always gave Sam peppermint tea to calm her stomach. Do you have any tried-and-true home remedies to share? Ginger ale and saltines for tummy trouble. I got that tip from my own mom.

6) Sam's mother always tips 15% in restaurants. Sam has worked in food service and is more judgmental, tipping between 10% and 25%, depending on the quality of the service. What's your tipping policy? Are you more like Sam or her mother? I'm more like Mrs. Winters -- 15% to 18% almost all the time.

7) When the tip of her shoelace becomes frayed, Sam's mother snips off the end and then paints the tip with clear nail polish. Good as new! Sam thinks that's crazy because you can just buy new laces for less than $2. Are you more frugal like mother or spendthrift like daughter? Let's face it -- I'm terrible with money.

8) Mother Winters loves how french vanilla smells and burns her Yankee Candles all year around. Do you use scented candles or air fresheners? Always. Right now it's Lavender and Chamomile in my livingroom, bathroom, and walk-in closet (where the litter boxes reside).

9) Sam is celebrating Mother's Day with her mother's favorite, Hershey Bars. Would you prefer classic milk chocolate, dark chocolate or chocolate with almonds? Milk chocolate with almonds, please.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

So she's nuts

Here it is, Sunday night, and I'm watching Mad Men. I cannot begin to explain how much this show has come to mean to me. It's got the advertising business down so cold it gives me chills. And the fact that it's on Sunday, when I have to get up tomorrow morning and go through the lookingglass from Madison Avenue 1970 to New Millennium Michigan Avenue is oh-so fitting.

Tomorrow is going to be very weird. For The New Girl will be back in the office after a long, 4-day weekend. After a massive meltdown.

I won't go into detail. What brought her to the brink is too inside baseball for this blog and going over it again will just upset me. But just about everything I was so worried about occurring has. On Wednesday, when it all came to a head, she snapped at me twice and really tore into her staff, loudly complaining that their performance is "unacceptable" and that now the client is "way up her ass." The New Girl really shouldn't talk to people the way she did Wednesday, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The bigger problem is that nothing of consequence had been done on The Big Project (and all its ancillaries) since before I went on vacation on April 17th. I think the New Girl is overwhelmed and embarrassed by her inability to proceed, so she's lashing out.

She missed a big meeting on Thursday morning, a kick-off so that the creative team could finally start working, because a pipe at her mother's house burst.* She's only been in this job for a month. It made more sense for her mother -- who is healthy and has her wits about her (she works for a custom closet designer) -- to stay home and work with the contractor. Michelle knew we were all waiting for her, depending on her.

Then she took Friday off, a personal, "get out of town" day. She left word through her staff that she wouldn't be available, not by email/voicemail. After barely a month as a director for a major ad agency, with a client that's not only in the Fortune 500 but the Fortune 50, and she takes a personal day? She must be nuts.

Now with my boss' permission I got the team working on The Big Project on Thursday morning. But The New Girl doesn't know that. As far as she knows, we lost two days that we couldn't afford to. This work has to be completed and in customer's homes in September. September isn't going to begin two weeks late because The New Girl fucked up.

What was she thinking?

She's not thinking. She's nuts.

I have to get my mind right for tomorrow. I have to act as though nothing is wrong, no matter how deeply I resent the way she first melted down and then bailed on us when she has responsibility to the client and project. I have to try to recapture the enthusiasm I had for working for her ... you know, before I knew she was crazy.

And, just to put it in perspective, she's still better than The Chocolate Covered Spider.

*She's living with her mother in a rather remote suburb. 40, broke and living again in her old bedroom in her widowed mother's house.

Sunday Stealing

Anyday Meme
1. What is your dream career, and what path do you plan to take to get there? I think perhaps the next step in my career is to be a catsitter. To do that, I'll have to make enough money at my advertising job to retire and then I'll supplement my 401(k)s and IRAs by playing with neighborhood critters. There's a group called NAPPS that can help me do this ... one of these days.

2. Who do you aspire most to be like? Oh, golly, so many women! In fiction, there's Miss Melly
Strong, graceful, inscrutable Jackie
Wilkes from Gone with the Wind. She's smart and strong but also kind, and she works to believe the best in people. In recent history, there's my all-time idol, JBKO. She lived through so much, endured so much, and ultimately triumphed by being true to herself. In real life, I admire my friend Barb for the way she's managed to maintain a work/life balance, concentrating on her career while building a happy home with her husband.

 3. What do you like in a best friend? Availability. The older I get, the more I appreciate friends who are willing to be present, to put the time in. There are so many demands on our time, so many distractions. Seldom does a week go by that I don't hear from my dear old friend John or my oldest friend in California, and I'm grateful that they believe our relationships are worth the effort.

4. Do you currently have any squishes (people you really want to be best friends with)?  Maybe I'd like to be closer to Joanna and Martha from my classic movie group, or maybe I prefer seeing them monthly and keeping it light ...

5. What is your ideal platonic relationship? I suppose it would be John (question #3) because I've learned so much by knowing him. At first glance, we're complete opposites. He's black, I'm white. He's gay, I'm straight. He's tall, I'm short. He's a little bit country, I'm a little bit rock and roll. (Just wanted to see if you were still reading.) And yet we're so comfortable with one another. So we can exchange our views about sensitive topics without offending. Or, if we don't feel like being heavy, we can just blab about the Cubs or what JLo wore on American Idol. I really treasure this.

6. Best late night IM/phone conversation story. I fell asleep one night while listening to my friend Ed. I'm not proud of this. I'd had dental work that day and was more than a little woozy from the anesthesia. I blamed it on the phone lines, saying the extension in my bedroom came loose from the wall and cut us off. If he knew I was lying, he was too polite and kind to bust me.

7. List one person you’d like to wear the sweater of, one person you’d like to bake cookies with, and one person you’d like to drive around and get lost with. Sweater: Mika Brzezinski from MSNBC's Morning Joe. She layers a lot using cardigans and seems to have an unending supply. Baking: my niece. She's just about done with culinary school and I want to see her in action. Car ride: Kevin Spacey, because he's so neat.

8. Describe your current best friend(s). See #5

9. What is a strange, little-known fact about you? I once won $500 in a movie trivia contest run by The Chicago Tribune and the late Gene Siskel

10. What is a career you wanted to have when you were younger, and still kind of want to have now? I got nothing for this one.

11. If you could have tea and pleasant conversation with one person, who would it be? The Queen. I mean, who wouldn't love to have with HRH? We could talk about her new great granddaughter.

12. If you had a time machine, what era would you go to? Either the 1860s or the 1960s.

13. What celebrity or historical figure would you love to have as your best friend and why? I always wanted the late Nora Ephron as my older sister.

14. What fictional character would you love to have as your best friend and why? Miss Melly from Gone with the Wind. See #2. Oh, and she'd be especially handy to know if I time travel to the 1860s.

15. If you could have one wish, what would it be (cannot be related to romance or sex)? More wishes

16. If you were trapped on a deserted island and could only take one item, what would it be? iPod (and a power source)

17. If you could pick one career other than the one you are pursuing/plan to pursue, what would it be? See #1

18. What is your best memory you have with a friend? So many! One that comes to mind is New Year's Eve in Key West. At the stroke of midnight I hiked up my skirt and ran into the warm waters of the Gulf while my dear friend stood on the shore, laughing affectionately. It seemed like a good way to ring in the New Year.

19. Do you have any peculiar interests that most people don’t know about? If you read this blog regularly, I think you know it all.

20. What were your favorite childhood toys? Do you still have them? My Lassie dog went with me everywhere. She's still with me, up in my closet somewhere.

21. Favorite baked good? I'll be happier if it involves chocolate.

22. If your best friend were here right now, what would you do with them? Hug

23. Who would you love to play video games with? Coop and Rolling Thunder. Sheldon Cooper and Stephen Hawking. (I'm referring to a memorable episode of Big Bang Theory.)

24. If you could visit any country, which one would it be? Canada. Because I wouldn't have to fly over water.

25. Are there any friends you miss having around? Yes

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Careless Whisper  

1) You can't miss George Michael's gold hoops in the photo above or in the "Careless Whisper" video. Are you wearing any jewelry right now? Not at this very moment. I just took off my earrings because as soon as I'm done with this meme, I'm getting in the shower.

2) Though the label says this hit is performed by "Wham! featuring George Michael," George Michael is the only member of the pop duo who appears in the video. Do you remember the name of the other guy who was in Wham? Andrew Ridgely. Don't these two look gloriously 80s? Can't you imagine the Ewings and the Carringtons dancing around their massive manses to "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go?"

3) Much of the video was filmed on Watson Island, a man-made island near South Beach. Have you ever been to Miami? I've changed planes there several times while headed to Key West. It's not the easiest airport to navigate. Beyond the airport, I haven't seen Miami in decades.

4) Born Georgios Panayiotou, George Michael is of Greek descent, the son of the Greek restauranteur in East London. When you think of Greek cuisine, what comes to mind? Lamb.

5) Today he lives in a tony suburb called Highgate, and his neighbors are Kate Moss and Sting. Tell us about one of your neighbors. Pedro lives next door. He's very tall, very good looking, and about 25 years old. Pedro's father made the down payment on the condo (I know because Dad told me so himself when they were remodeling the place). When Pedro brags about his "small mortgage," which he does at condo board meetings, he neglects to mention why. He seems to take his privilege for granted. 

This annoys me greatly, because Pedro wants us to raise our condo association fees as much 15%. Our building isn't home to Sting or Kate Moss. We do have working moms, retirees, people who work retail for minimum wage. Pedro should walk the halls and get to know more of us, and see for himself what a hardship an overnight 15% increase would be.

6) George Michael fans can purchase officially licensed merchandise from his website, including an iPhone cover with his photo and signature. Tell us about your cell phone. Is it Apple or Android? Is it a smartphone? LG, Android and not smart.

7) George Michael sang Stevie Wonder's "You and I" for Prince William's wedding to Kate Middleton. What's your favorite love song? It changes. I'm very into Sinatra these days so I'll go with "I've Got You Under My Skin." Frank and Cole Porter made a very potent team.

"I would sacrifice anything, come what might, for the sake of having you near/in spite of a warning voice that comes in the night and repeats, how it yells, in my ear ..."

BTW, I'm so happy that William and Kate had a healthy baby girl.

8) In 2014, George had a health scare. He was rushed to the hospital for tests and released the next day. Have you ever ridden in an ambulance? Nope. I don't really want to, either.

9) Known for hard partying in his youth, George is now in his 50s and says he's quite happy to spend his evenings eating takeout and watching DVDs. Are you doing any socializing this weekend? I'm feeling very George Michael this weekend. If I don't speak to anyone, I won't be unhappy. I really need to recharge my battery.

Baby Girl Windsor has arrived!

Depending on your time zone, the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth yesterday/last night/this morning. A healthy baby girl, fourth in line to the throne.

Congratulations to William, Kate, George and Lupo.

This baby news makes me very happy. I watched William grow up. I feel very invested in Diana's boys. I wish she'd gotten a chance to hold her grandchildren.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

I'm trying. Really, I am.

The New Girl tells me not to worry. The New Girl tells me that, when it comes to The Big Project (and all its ancillaries), she's "on it." The New Girl reminds me that there are things going on behind the scenes that she hasn't shared yet. The New Girl assures me that, if anything goes wrong, she'll "take the hit."

I have to trust her, she says. I must not worry.

Only I'm worried. We have ambitious creative due dates, and we're not even ready to start, much less deliver, concepts.

While I do trust that, when pitfalls arise, The New Girl will take responsibility, I'd prefer we avoid these pitfalls. And I don't think yet she has the know-how to do this.


I'm trying to remember that worrying will not have any impact on the outcome.

I'm reminding myself that for all The New Girl's faults, she's much, much better than The Chocolate Covered Spider was.

But I haven't been able to convince myself not to worry.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

How do people with children do it?

Connie's a quirky little girlcat, fond of hanging upside down and hooking her claws in net (like my suitcase). She's sweet natured and happy and has become a wonderful companion to me, Joey and especially Reynaldo.

Friday I almost did terrible damage to her. She was prescribed antibiotics for her gum infection and I overdosed her. Directly down her throat.

Ashamed, upset and so very worried, I left work early to make sure she was OK. She was. In order for an antibiotic OD to do real harm, it would have to be massive, and this wasn't. It was just a stupid, ugly and dangerous mistake on my part.

So now she's fine, but suddenly Reynaldo is not his usual manic self. I thought having a laid back Rey would make me happy, but it's actually very worrying.

It's probably just a hairball. It's that time of year, you know. I just wish he could tell me what's up.

I missed Frank

I like books. Bound books. With pages. I have a Kindle Fire, and it's fine for reading magazines and answering quick emails, but I don't want it to replace my books!

But I get it in a way. I'm reading this massive (800 pages!) biography of Frank Sinatra and it was just too heavy for my carry on. So I left The Voice behind when I went to Los Angeles, and I missed Frank.

This billboard was right across the street from my hotel, and it made me long for my book. The hotel had OnDemand and I was able to watch the HBO special again at bedtime.

I love reading heavy books about complicated men. In 2013, it was Capone: The Man and the Era. In 2014, it was The Patriarch, about Joseph P. Kennedy. Now it's Frank. Rogues all. (Though it's not fair to Kennedy or Sinatra to equate their undoubtedly darker deeds with the murderous Capone's.) Somehow the battle between their angels and their demons makes them more interesting than reading about a straight-up hero.

The thing about Sinatra, too, is that he was an artist. He's enjoying a renaissance in time for his 100th birthday, and I bet people not yet born will enjoy his music and his movies on his 150th birthday, too. Sinatra's secret seems to be that heard music different and he felt life so very keenly. Love, vulnerability, lust, confidence, loss -- and he poured it all into his singing. He could soar and he could ache, all in the grooves of a record. The downside to that sensitivity was selfishness, anger and regret.

Sometimes as I read, I'm grateful that I'm really not that special. As John Lennon once told Rolling Stone, "Genius is a kind of madness … genius is pain."

"It was a mistake"

So I spent Friday night through Monday morning with my oldest friend. She's certainly not doing well, but she's not doing as badly as I feared.

Since we've known one another since Kindergarten, it makes it easier for her to be real with me. Please note that I said, "easier." It's still not completely easy. For example ...

When I called her from my hotel room on Saturday morning, she said, "Give me an hour and a half. I'll pick you up at 11:00." At 11:00 she called and told me she'd fallen back to sleep and would be there in half an hour.

I was angry. This is my vacation -- a vacation I didn't especially want to take -- and I'm spending it with her. The least she could do is get her fat ass out of bed! Then I told myself to chill. It's only 30 minutes (actually it was 40) and we had no firm, set plans. Relax, Gal! And we did have a nice day, wandering around Beverly Hills. I introduced her to The Paley Center, right there in her neighborhood, which she could visit and enjoy again and again on her own. She needs more activities, more distractions, when she finds herself going down The Stoney End.

Then on Sunday morning I called and she said she'd be over, you guessed it, at 11:00. And she arrived, you guessed it, at 11:45. This time she said she was late because her cat wouldn't eat. It was hard for me to hide how pissed I was. As we had brunch, she confessed ...

With the meds she's on, she can't get up in the morning. Librium is essential to evening out her mood swings but it makes rousing herself every dawn like, "storming the beaches at Normandy." It takes her 2 to 3 hours to get ready for work each day. Her bosses don't mind her getting to the office until 10:00.

But she doesn't like California. At all. She kept referring to the move as "a mistake." Well, it's not one she can undo. Her house here is sold. Her boss here replaced her.

Besides, her new bosses in Tarzana adore her. And if she came back, she'd only be disappointed that the Chicagoland she has so romanticized is a fantasy.

For example, traffic. She says there "are no road closures" in Chicago. That's just silly. Every day I get an office email about this street or that intersection being closed for a festival, or a TV shoot, or a 10K race or a visit from the President or Vice President. She remembers "no road closures" because she never worked in Chicago. She lived in a town called Westmont and worked in one called Oak Lawn (how bucolic is that!) and no, Chicago Fire wasn't filmed there and no, Barack Obama never took a motorcade through there and no, there's no Run to Wrigley through those burbs. The NFL Draft is not taking place in Westmont.

And it still gets cold here. And it still rains here. And Chicago is still 2000 miles from her cousin. (Though her cousin is no support whatsoever.)

Hopefully, when she moves to Tarzana and has a nice suburban existence out there like the one she had here, all will look and feel better.

And no matter what, she'll still have me. That's a lot.

What a wallow for book lovers!

One passion my oldest friend and I have always shared, since we were little girls, is for the written word. We both dreamed of being writers, we both wrote and read obsessively. As women, we both participate in Nanowrimo every year and are always comparing notes on books.

So when I saw there was a massive book fair going on at the USC campus when we were there, I didn't see how we could stay away. And I wasn't disappointed.

Behold USC's Tommy Trojan
I've never been on a campus the size of USC. It gave me pause. I can't imagine what it would be like to be a freshman, away from home, taking in the enormity. Would I be exhilarated? Or overwhelmed?

As it was, on this sunny Sunday, I was dazzled by a sea of booths with white canvas roofs. All filled with books and authors! Chicago has a similar annual event, The Printer's Row Lit Fest (sponsored by The LA Times' big sister, The Chicago Tribune), but it doesn't sprawl through a big campus like this fair does.

I met two authors whose work I have enjoyed, and I acted quite starstruck.

First, Hallie Ephron. I read her earlier book, There Was an Old Woman, and quite liked it. It wasn't the plotting -- I figured out whodunnit rather early on -- but the details that touched my heart. The "old woman" of the title displayed Empire State Building collectibles because she worked there at the time of the 1945 crash (which I'd known nothing about until the book) and a drawer of "get well" and sympathy cards, stamped and ready to go, because that was the reality of her friends' lives at this time. When I told Hallie how memorable those little traits were, how they brought her character to life for me, she said, "Thank you. If I could, I'd jump over this table and give you a hug." She signed a copy of her new book (Night, Night, Sleep Tight) for me.

Then I got to say something that meant a great deal to me. "I miss Nora." Nora Ephron's kid sister smiled and said, "I miss her, too."

Then I met Lisa Scottoline. A NY Times best selling author of the popular Rosato and Associates series about an all-woman Philadelphia law firm. Seriously, she's sold like a gazillion books, and quite a few were sold to me. 

I can't believe this, but I told this rock star of a mystery writer that "next time" she should "add more Murphy." Anne Murphy is my favorite of the fictional lawyers and she's gotten short shrift in Scottoline's recent efforts. "She'll be in the next one," Scottoline assured me. "I've got to give each girl a turn." She didn't sound anywhere near as interested in thoughts as Hallie had been. And why should she be? Do I have brass balls or what?

Scottoline did tell me that the evil sister adventure in Think Twice was loosely based on her own tribulations with a suddenly discovered, rather awful sibling. I thought, "how fascinating." At the same book table were two authors -- one who had a dream of an older sister and one who suffered a nightmare older sister. And then there was me, with my own heinous sister issues.

By the way, Lisa Scottoline looks just as good as on her book jackets and is a slim and stylish 59 year old. Good for her!

Whenever I travel, I always bring back something for the team at the office. Because we had such fun at the LA Times festival, I chose these matchboxes, each one bearing the cover of a classic book. I disposed of the matches before I checked out of the hotel. I can't imagine how the TSA would respond to someone trying to board with more than 300 matches in her carry on.