Saturday, December 10, 2016

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Snowbird (1971)

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

1) In this song, Elvis wants the snowbird to fly away and take the snow back with her. Have you seen a measurable snowfall yet this season? We had snow last weekend but it's all melted away. It's supposed to start again this afternoon and continue until ... I dunno ... April?

2) Drivers in snowy climes are encouraged to keep salt, sand or kitty litter in the trunk because those items can help a car regain traction in the snow. Do you have an emergency kit in your car right now? If so, what's in it? No car. But I've written so many articles on this, I know what you're supposed to carry: flares, shovel, energy bars, a charger for your phone, blanket, and a protein shake or two (less likely to freeze than water). And a 5 lb. bag of clay kitty litter.

3) Back in 2007, North Dakota set the world record for the most snow angels made at one time (8,910). Do you enjoy playing in the snow? I used to love sledding. Do kids still do that? Or is it too low-tech?

4) Chionophobia is the fear of snow. Astraphobia is the fear of thunder and lightening. Lilapsophobia is the fear of tornadoes and hurricanes. Do you have to cope with any of these fears? Nope.
5) Elvis' daughter Lisa Marie split her childhood between Memphis and Los Angeles, so she seldom saw snow. When she was a little girl, she was whisked her off to Denver in her father's private plane so the two of them could spend an afternoon playing in the snow. If you could take off and spend the afternoon anywhere in the world, where would you go? I'd fly off to Los Angeles to meet my oldest friend for lunch at her favorite place -- the Hotel Casa Del Mar on the beach. Her birthday is this weekend and I fear no one is fussing over her. This would make her happy. And, considering all the snow that's expected here, it would make me happy, too!

6) At home and onstage, Elvis refused to wear jeans and only wore denim if a film role demanded it. This is because when he was young, classmates teased him for "dressing poor" in jeans and coveralls. What did you wear to class when you were in grammar school? This page from a 1967 Sears catalog is pretty indicative. I wasn't allowed to wear slacks unless the mercury dipped below 20º. But I could wear a "pantdress" or "culottes," which I preferred because I never did like dealing with slips. And knee socks! No self respecting girl in my gradeschool wore anklets. (BTW, it makes me sad to think of Elvis being bullied. Kids can be so cruel.)

7) Elvis and President Jimmy Carter are distant relatives (the President is the sixth cousin of the King's great grandfather). Your turn: Tell us about one of your more interesting relatives. My dad was a talented auto mechanic and he enjoyed his work. Before I was born, he spent summer weekends working in the pits at the drag raceway. It wasn't until after he died that I learned my mom persuaded him to give that up when my older sister was born because it was too dangerous. I wonder if that didn't have something to do with his lukewarm attitude toward parenting.

8) In 1971, when Elvis released his recording of "Snowbird," You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown was a hit on Broadway. Who is your favorite Peanuts character? Charlie Brown had a good heart.

9) Random question: You receive a gift certificate from a gourmet food company that can be redeemed for one of these three things: 1 lb. of caviar, 5 lbs. of steak or a 10 lb., live lobster. Which would you choose? I would have gone with the lobster, except that the question specifies "live." Sorry, I just can't. So I'll take the steak, please. They "don't have legs and don't run around."

Friday, December 09, 2016

I refuse to be that person

It's not news to you if you read this blog -- I was very much against Donald Trump's election. And, if you're one of the people who applauded when he mocked the disabled reporter, or dismissed John McCain's heroism because he captured, or called Senator Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas," or ... or ... I do think the word "deplorable" fits you. It may even be too polite.

That said: Donald Trump will be my President on January 20. He won. I respect that.

I want him to succeed. I want to learn that he isn't the homophobe his selection of Mike Pence would indicate. I want to believe that somewhere under that bullying, power hungry facade beats the heart of a true patriot.

I respect my country. I respect the Presidency. And I refuse to be one of those people. You remember them -- the ones who insisted on disrespecting Barack Obama, referring to him as "obama" with no initial cap, or "obummer." The people who maintained that he "hated America." The people who applauded when Mitch McConnell and John Boehner vowed -- before he even took office -- to make Barack Obama a one-term President. The people who cheered when Congress refused to hold hearings for Merrick Garland. Those people alternately confused and disgusted me with their ridiculous, toxic partisanship, and I hope I learned from their very bad example.

A coworker told me his wife is still so depressed about Trump's election she can't get excited about Christmas or decorating the tree. My friend Barb says she hopes he will be impeached. My Facebook feed is filled with posts about how dismal the world looks now that we are in Trump's America.

I am still unhappy with the election results. But I have to move on. I have to hope for the best but  be vigilant and, when Trump does something that I cannot abide, I must be ready to act. Within the system. And with respect for the man and the office.

I've always been a Kennedy Girl and the Kennedy brother who lived a full life was Ted. The  Lion of the Senate authored legislation throughout the Nixon, Ford, Reagan, HW Bush and W Bush administrations. If he could fight the good fight without losing his belief in the system or joie de vivre, so can I.

Happy birthday to me, part 7

Wednesday night was a mixed bag with Barb, as time with Barb just naturally will be from now on. She is, after all, dealing with her husband's lung cancer while building a new house in another city and trying to get her own breast reconstruction done.

So the fact that she point zero thought into my birthday gift -- a candle and bar of soap -- hurt at first but then I got a hold of myself. No, I'm not a priority for her right now. And while that stings, I have to suck it up and accept that this is how it has to be

Barb also didn't like the play. I sent her a link  days before, but she never opened it. So I was offended at first when she said she hoped it would be a musical -- showtunes about autism? -- and she was offended that a dog was killed (before the play starts). But again, the regular rules don't apply right now. Her life is overwhelming her. This is my time to step up and be more sensitive.

The good news is that her husband has actually gained 10 lbs.! That's an indication that the chemo is working. The contractors on her home in Hilton Head have figured out how to add an elevator to their new home without prohibitive cost. It will make it possible for her husband to go from the garage up to their bedroom without using stairs, which will probably always be too taxing for his compromised lungs.

I'm a little confused about her the state of her reconstructive surgery. First it was on hold because of her infection, then there was dimpling and now her breasts don't match. I don't have any more detail than that because I don't ask questions. I just let her talk. This is intensely personal and she'll let me know what she's comfortable with me knowing.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016


To participate, and to see how others responded, click here

1. What are you currently reading? Hercule Poirot's Christmas. An eccentric, wealthy old Brit unexpectedly decides to invite his family (some estranged) and friends for Christmas. Somebody gets dead. I just started it, but I appreciate the way Christie is setting it all up. It's the framework she herself devised, so it's no wonder that she's expert. She's coloring within the lines, but she's doing it masterfully and I'm thoroughly enjoying being in the hands of an old pro.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Till the End of Tom by Gillian Roberts, an installment in the Amanda Pepper series. I'm a fan of this series. I like our heroine, high school English teacher Amanda, her fiance detective CK and best friend Sasha. I also enjoy that, in addition to the mystery, Roberts always uses something more universal and substantial as a backdrop. This time it's eating disorders and how a young girl's self image can be developed, or warped.

BUT the mystery itself in this outing was rather uninvolving. I truly didn't care who killed wealthy, old-money cad Tomas Severin. Also, there's a pretty big hole in the plot. For a family as established as the Severins to have -- and keep -- such a big skeleton closeted is pretty hard to believe. (There! Told without a spoiler! Feeling quite proud of myself.)

3.  What will you read next? A biography from my tall TBR pile.

Happy birthday to me, part 6

A box of books! My friend in Key West, Henry, now works at the library. He loves it. He loves being surrounded by fellow book lovers, loves the enhanced benefits, and loves the unexpected perk of free books. Once every quarter, they go through and pull books that haven't been checked out, not even once, in a long while. This way they have room on the shelves for new books, and they have something to sell at their book sale.

In preparation for the book sale, which was last Saturday, Henry asked if he could check out the books and pull some for me. The result was two biographies of Ted Kennedy, a New Yorker collection of cat cartoons, and a 2003 book about how women have helped shaped American history.

I love hardcover books and was happy to get such a thoughtful gift that really only cost him the price of postage (media mail, at that).  And Connie loved the big box it came in as only a nest-making girlcat can.

Monday, December 05, 2016

A quiet gem

No gunplay. No explosions. No car crashes. While this movie has heroes, they do not possess super powers.

Loving is the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, the Virginia couple whose interracial marriage brought them to The Supreme Court.

They were in love. She was pregnant. He bought an acre of land to build his new family a house. They drove to Washington, DC, to get married.

Eight weeks later, they were arrested in their home -- dragged out of their bed in the middle of the night -- for violating "the racial integrity law." Because marriage rights were state's rights and Virginia didn't recognize their DC marriage license.

It took Robert Kennedy, the ACLU and the Supreme Court to make it legal for them to live in peace with their children under the same roof, anywhere they went.

I'm ashamed I didn't know more about this story before I saw the movie. It's an important chapter of recent history and the parallels to same-sex marriage are unmistakable. It should serve as a cautionary tale every time Trump refers to marriage as a "state issue."

As a movie, it's interesting. As I mentioned at the top, it's pretty quiet. It moves at its own pace. I appreciated the way the director used the soundtrack. Sometimes there was music but at other times it was quiet. Still. A sensitive and mature way to enhance the tension of these real-life events.

See it before all the Oscar nominations come out.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Sunday Stealing

Sunday Stealing

1. YOU HAVE 10 BUCKS AND NEED TO BUY SNACKS AT A GAS STATION. WHAT DO YOU GET? Chips and the biggest Coke they've got.


3. WHO'S YOUR FAVORITE REDHEAD? She who stomps grapes.

4. WHAT DO YOU ORDER WHEN YOU'RE AT A DINER? A burger sounds good, doesn't it?

5. LAST BOOK YOU READ? I finished Till the End of Tom by Gillian Roberts. It was OK. Liked the characters and the setting but there's something disappointing about a mystery when you don't much care whodunnit.

6. DESCRIBE YOUR FAVORITE PAIR OF UNDERWEAR? Well, a picture is worth 1000 words.


7. DESCRIBE THE LAST TIME YOU WERE INJURED. In spring 2015, I twisted my ankle while running to catch the bus.

8. ROCK CONCERT OR SYMPHONY? LAST SEEN? I saw Sir Paul at Lolla couple summers ago.

9. IF SOMEONE WERE TO BUY YOU A GIFT, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE IT TO BE? Airline tickets. I'd love to take my nephew Washington DC.

10. WHAT TYPE OF SHIRT DO YOU BEST IN? This one goes with everything I own.


12. WHAT IS YOUR DEADLY SIN? None has killed me yet.

13. MOST RECENT MOVIE YOU'VE WATCHED IN A THEATER? RATE IT. The last movie I saw in a theater wasn't new. It was a special 55th anniversary showing of Breakfast at Tiffany's. I loved it. 

14. IF YOU COULD INVENT ONE THING, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Something like the Jetsons' Rosie.
15. NAME AN ACTOR/ACTRESS YOU'VE HAD THE HOTS FOR? Bruce Willis. I wish he worked more. I miss his smirk.


17. WHAT'S THE FIRST WORD THAT COMES TO MIND RIGHT NOW? "Itch." My skin is very dry.


19. WHERE HAVE YOU LIVED THE LONGEST? My previous apartment.

20. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON THAT SPENT $100 ON YOU? Probably my friend John for my birthday.

21. WHAT'S THE LAST PIECE OF CLOTHING YOU BOUGHT? A lilac cardigan with black trim.

22. WHAT WAS/IS YOUR FAVORITE JOB?  I worked in new product development for a haircare company. That was a lot of fun, and I won a Clio.


25. WHAT'S ON YOUR MIND? Elvis. (That phrase is a song cue if ever I heard one.)

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Take My Breath Away

1) When were you last breathless? Friday. Hustling up the stairs to the el. It's two flights and I'm an old broad.

2) This is the love theme from Top Gun, and the romance was between a pilot and his instructor. Have you ever had a crush on a teacher? Oh, yes. One of my high school English teachers. He was Jewish, which was very exotic in my white-bread community. And he had very long, curly hair, which made him indescribably sexy.

3) The pilots in Top Gun all had cool nicknames -- including Maverick, Goose, Merlin, Cougar and Stinger. Give yourself a cool pilot name. Go To Gal. I get things done!

4) The actress who played the instructor, Kelly McGillis, owns Kelly's Caribbean Bar/Grill and Brewery in Key West. It's known for its cheese and beer dip appetizer, served with warm pretzels. What's one of your favorite between meal snacks? Lately it's been crackers. Either Club (if I want salty) or graham (if I want sweet).

5) The group who recorded this week's song is called Berlin, but they're really from Southern California. Have you ever been to Berlin? How about Southern California? I've been to both, having spent time in both Beverly Hills and Berlin, WI. (And trust me, you can't find two more different towns.)

6) Lead singer Terri Nunn has a weekly radio show, Unbound on KCSN. How often do you listen to the radio? Do you tune in for music, comedy, news or talk? I love my shower radio. I listen to the oldies and play their morning trivia game while drying my hair.

7) In 1986, when this song was popular, PeeWee's Playhouse premiered. While ostensibly for children, PeeWee Herman's show had many, many adult viewers. Do you watch still watch any kid's shows? Nope.

8) Robert Pattinson, the actor who played Edward the vampire in the Twilight series, was born in 1986. Have you read the Twilight books? Seen the movies? Nope.

9)  Random question: In an alternate universe, which of these professions would you like to find yourself in -- United States senator, Ivy League professor, or imminent psychiatrist? I'd be honored to be in the world's greatest deliberative body, the United States Senate.


On the house!

One of my favorite things to do has always been to celebrate the weekend with a coffee shop breakfast while reading my book. This morning I decided to get into the swing of the holidays by ordering something distinctly seasonal -- pumpkin pancakes topped with cream cheese, a side of bacon, and a glass of OJ.

Before my breakfast came, the hostess came over to me and asked me what I ordered. Because another patron had asked her if she could pick up the bill for "a restaurant regular" as a Christmas present.

Huh? What? This has never happened to me before.

I turned around and a woman at the cash register waved sheepishly at me. I waves and started to get up but she shook her head. Then, as she walked out of the restaurant and passed my window, she mouthed, "Merry Christmas."

And here I had been happy to get a table near the Christmas tree! I never dreamed my meal would be comped.

When I left the restaurant, I asked the hostess to be sure, next time she sees that woman, to tell her that I intended to take a little of the money she saved me and use it to buy something for the food pantry donation box at Trader Joe's.*

"Ah!" the hostess said happily, "I knew I picked the right patron!"

Don't you just love Christmastime?

*And I did. Instead of one box of mac 'n' cheese mix, I donated two.

That was humbling

I'm riding the el home the other night, my nose buried in a book. A man across the aisle keeps saying, "Miss! Miss!" but I don't look up because I assume he's on his phone. (I assume everyone is on the phone.)

Then a hand waves across my line of sight and I look up and a homeless man has been trying to capture my attention.

"Miss, do you have a Kleenex?"

I dug through my purse and produced one of these pocket packs, which had cost me 20¢. He started to take a tissue out and I told him to just keep it.

"The whole thing? Thank you!"

It made me sad to think how much this meant to him, and it humbled me to help him.

My new tradition

In years gone by, I've gone to the local grocery store and plucked "ornaments" off the "giving tree." Each ornament detailed the Christmas wish of a kid who lives below poverty level and attends daycare at the children's home next door. But I'm not doing it this year.

A restaurant is having an event for those kids, so is a quasi Starbucks: Bring in an unwrapped toy and get a discount. Add that to the grocery store giving tree, and I don't worry so much about those kids feeling forgotten.

So instead this year, I've dropped gifts into the Toys for Tots bin at Walgreens. Hopefully they will find their way to a child who would otherwise be forgotten. I hate thinking that anyone stops believing in Santa, just because their parents or guardians hit hard times.

I would have loved Spy Barbie

The joy of the end of the line

Every year the CTA has a holiday train. There's car a decorated for the holidays and The Big Guy himself follows along. It's a cheery tradition.

While I didn't have occasion to ride it this year, I did see it a couple times because I live along the tracks. It lifted my spirits every time.

Happy Birthday to me, part 5

I love this movie. Yes, underneath all her charm and glamour, Holly Golightly is a hooker. And I suppose it's not a stretch in the slightest to call Paul ("Fred") a whore, too. And yet ... and yet ... I love almost every moment* of this movie. So I was very happy last Sunday when I got to see a restored print of Breakfast at Tiffany's on the big screen. It was part of my day long birthday celebration with Kathy.

Also part of the gift: dinner at Maggiano's and a trip to the biggest local mall to finish my Christmas shopping.

It was an all-day affair -- 10 hours! -- which is an awful lot of Kathy. But the older I get, the more I appreciate how hard she's willing to work to keep our friendship in tact. I treasure that.

*Not Mickey Rooney's over-the-top and racially insensitive supporting part, though.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sunday Stealing

 Silver Thanksgiving Questions

How many Thanksgivings do you attend? Just one. I don't personally know anybody who attends more than one. Though I do enjoy that two-part episode of Will and Grace where the gang attends five. (It was on Thursday as I was getting ready to go to my own Thanksgiving.) 

 Where do you attend Thanksgiving(s)? The Weber Grill Restaurant on North State Street in Chicago.

What is your favorite dish? At the time, it was the pumpkin pie. Though now I am reliving the sweet potatoes. I remember them with great affection.

What is your least favorite dish at Thanksgiving? This year it was the turkey. I wanted to try an oven grilled bird and I'm glad I have. But I thought it was a little salty.

What, if any, are your Thanksgiving traditions? For the past four years I have joined John and Gregory, every year at a different restaurant. I enjoy it because it's both delicious and chill. When I celebrated with my family, the tradition was stress and hostility.

Name your FAV thing about Thanksgiving. It kicks off the most wonderful time of the year.

Do you make anything for Thanksgiving? If yes, share what and why. Just the reservation. (Yuck, yuck.) Except I truly did choose the restaurant and make the reservation.

Out of everything you eat at Thanksgiving, what can YOU cook the best? All of it is well beyond my culinary skill set.

What do you drink with your Thanksgiving feast? This year I had a flirtini (vodka, champagne and pineapple juice).

Has there ever been a feud during your Thanksgiving? My family Thanksgivings were always tense affairs. When I was in a relationship, I always tried to convince my boyfriend we should celebrate with his family.

Do you have appetizers before your Thanksgiving meal? This year I had butternut squash soup. It was yummy.

How many people attend your Thanksgiving(s)? If yes, who? Just we three.

Have you ever missed a Thanksgiving? Not that I can recall.

What kind of pie/cake/dessert do you eat for dessert? Pumpkin pie.

Do you ever play games at Thanksgiving? Not that I recall.

Name 3 things you are Thankful for: 1) THE CUBS! 2) My cats are healthy and happy 3) I kept my job.

Is there anyone who has normally attended Thanksgiving, that will not be there this year?  Nope.

Name the funniest person at your Thanksgiving this year and tell us more. Me. I'm adorable.

Which person eats the MOST? Me. At least at the table I'm the one who ate the most. John and Gregory both got their pie to go.

Which person eats the LEAST? Didn't notice.

Do any animals attend Thanksgiving dinner? Nope.

If so, do they get Thanksgiving scraps? 

Who carves the turkey? The chef in the kitchen.

Have you ever had to make Thanksgiving all on YOUR OWN? If I did, it would look like this:
Do you get along with the people you have thanksgiving with? Indeed.

Is your Thanksgiving formal, or do you just do whatever? I was a bit more formally attired than usual.


I don't like her and you can't make me

Movie stars are funny creatures. Their charisma often overwhelms their performances, but if you like them, you don't care.

Katharine Hepburn is the most Oscared Best Actress in history, so of course she can act. But her acting isn't why I love her. It's her voice, the way she moves, the way she lived her life. There's a moment at the end of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, a two shot, where old and angry Matt Drayton tells his dinner guests that he vividly remembers being swept away by romance. His wife Christina tears up. And so does this old Gal, because I'm watching Katharine Hepburn listen to her dying partner, Spencer Tracy, say he loves her. Judged by Meryl-Streep-standards (she's never a star and always an impeccable actress), this is a false moment. But I love The Great Kate and so I love this moment.

Elizabeth Taylor ... Barbra Streisand ... Robert Redford ... Cary Grant ... Marilyn Monroe ... Sandy and Jen ... the galaxy of my heart is filled with major stars who I will watch do anything and will forgive anything because I like them.

And then there's Ida Lupino. I know I should like her. She was daring in her choices both as an actress and a director. The latter is especially important because she chose to direct back in the days when women simply didn't. And the model she used -- appear before the cameras in popular entertainment to finance her riskier independent projects -- is the one one Redford adopted.

But I don't like her. She's brittle and harsh. I adore one of the movies she directed -- The Trouble with Angels -- but I avoid her in front of the camera.

Which is why I'd never seen last night's movie group film, Road House. Everyone seemed to love it, and I like to be an active participant in the after-movie discussion, so I only voiced what I liked about it and kept my reservations to myself. But here's the thing: so much of the plot depends on two men falling head-over-heels for this chanteuse. And I just didn't buy it. Ida Lupino is just so ... icky.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Baby's in Black

1) Black is this week's signature color because Friday, November 25, was "Black Friday," when retailers cut their prices and consumers flock to the stores. Did you score any "Black Friday" bargains? I did, but I didn't go to the mall. Better World Books had a coupon for 30% off 5 or more books, and I took advantage of that.

2) Feasting and football are also popular Thanksgiving weekend pastimes. Do your Thursday-Sunday plans include pigging out or watching a game? Pigging out, definitely.

3) At Thanksgiving dinners, Crazy Sam's homemade gravy is always a hit. (Probably because she's so generous with the cognac, which gives the gravy a nutty taste.) What was particularly delicious at your Thanksgiving table? Dessert was hitsville. The pumpkin pie was particularly cinnamony (which I love) and a nutty glaze was drizzled across it.

4) Among the biggest the Black Friday advertisers are Target, Kohl's, Macy's and Best Buy. If you could have a $100 gift card to any one of those stores, which would you choose? Best Buy. I suspect that the TV in my bedroom is going to crap out soon. When it does, I'll move the set in the living room to the bedroom and buy a new one for the living room. That $100 would come in awfully handy.

5) This week's song, "Baby's in Black," is about a girl who wears black because she's in mourning. Do you find that the color you're wearing reflects your mood? I admit I love wearing Cubbie blue (Pantone 294). Especially this World Series winning year!

6) The woman who inspired this song, Astrid Kirchherr, has been friends with Paul McCartney since he and his bandmates (John Lennon, George Harrison, Stu Sutcliffe and Pete Best) met her in Hamburg back in 1960. Tell us what you believe are the components of a strong, lasting friendship. As life gets busier, I value availability more and more. There's always something to fill up our days and evenings. Friends make time for one another.

7) In the early days of the Beatles, Paul McCartney and John Lennon began writing a play but abandoned it. Do you have a novel, painting, play, song or poem that you're going to finish "someday?" Dozens! Every year I take a crack at Nanowrimo and write for fun, not profit. I never finish my great novel, though. Oh well, there's always next November.

8) When he was 16, George Harrison dreamed of moving to Canada, Australia or Malta. In just a few years, he would visit all those places with Beatles and eventually decided there was no place like home and stayed in England. Have you ever thought about moving to another country? If so, where? I never think about leaving the country, not even on vacation. I do sometimes fantasize about living in Boston, Philadelphia or Washington, DC. But I'd never leave Chicago.

9)  Random question: Finish this sentence -- If you want me to give you "yes" for an answer, the best time to approach me is _____________________. while I'm eating pizza.

Friday, November 25, 2016

So now I've seen it

I crashed when I got home from Thanksgiving dinner, and then found myself wide awake at 1:00 AM. I grabbed the remote and can now report that, for the first time, I've seen Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Roger Ebert reviewed it by saying it's not really a movie, it's a social event. I agree. As a movie, I was unimpressed. It's disjointed and dumb, even by kitschy B sci-fi standards. And Susan Sarandon is really not very good at all.

On the other hand, much of the cast -- especially Tim Curry -- throw themselves into it with such commitment and abandon. So I can see how it became a camp classic.

And now I've finally seen it. I've felt remiss as a movie fan until now.

Happy Birthday to Me, Part 4

John, Gregory and I got together for Thanksgiving at the Weber Grill restaurant. We sat in the first booth you see there, right behind that white lamp. The restaurant was freaking packed! Since that's the kitchen where the meats are grilled, right there to the right, it was very noisy. But we got used to the noise rather quickly and had a nice time catching up.

We all had the soup, then I had the sweet potatoes and asparagus along with my grilled smoked turkey. And the pie! The pumpkin pie had some kind of glaze drizzled over it and it was the best part of the meal.

The turkey itself was eh. In my opinion. I realize the reason the restaurant was so very full of patrons is that a lot of people really like grilled, smoked turkey. But I thought it was too salty.

John gave me the cutest birthday present -- Cubbie pajamas! He's very tall and I'm very short so he couldn't have known that the bottoms won't fit because they are desperately too long. But that's not the point: they're adorable. And the top is the best! It's a W, like the flag, with 2016/103 scrawled across it (for this season's astonishing 103 wins). The pajama top will make a perfect tshirt to add to my collection.

He also got me a B&N gift card because he was afraid someone else would have gotten me Bruce Springsteen's book. John always gives good gift.

Happy Birthday to Me, Part 3

I forgot! When I got home from Memphis I found a package for me in the lobby. My aunt/Godmother sent me a big box filled with different teas. She does this every year on my birthday, to ward off both colds and the cold. It's very thoughtful of her, and I appreciate this sweet little tradition she's started.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Birthday to Me, Part 2

Wednesday night, Barb and I had dinner and then saw a play. She, of course, forgot my gift at home. She's done this in the past. I suspect that she hasn't chosen my gift yet, but never mind. I'm seeing her again in a couple weeks. At least this year she was on time. Barb is usually late ... very late. So that was a good sign.

We went to 312. I had the calamari/shrimp appetizer and lasagna for dinner. It was delicious. It was great to catch up, even though much of what she had to say left me sad.

Gooey and certain to not be part of the Thanksgiving menu.
 Her husband is suffering from Stage 3 lung cancer and is going through chemo. She teared up when she told me how one of the doctors warned him that only 25% of patients with his condition make it 5 years, that he can only count on "8 months to 2 years." And that was two months ago.

"He's not even an oncologist!" Barb raged. I asked her what the oncologists did say, and she replied that "they don't talk in those terms." Barb is aware that her husband is not going to be cured, but she says his medical team is devoted to "managing it."

Then she showed me the photos of her new home in Hilton Head. It's still under construction, but will be done early next year. She referred to the guest bedroom as my room, which was sweet of her, and made a point of showing me where my private bathroom will be.

I want to be happy for her. I mean to be happy for her. But as we went through her photos, two thoughts kept running through my mind:

1) I'm so bad with money! She's building a house and furnishing it to order -- complete with a private office,  a gallery room for her paintings and an area for a built-in wine rack -- and I can't afford to finish my own little tiny bathroom.

2) Her husband may not live to move to Hilton Head. He's already unable to fly down there with her to supervise the construction, and she's adding an elevator to the plans because he probably will never again be able to negotiate stairs without being left breathless. The man is dying, and she knows it. Will she really want to live there by herself? It's all unutterably sad.

The play we saw, Finding Neverland, was very appropriate for the night. A very glossy retelling of how Barrie came to write Peter Pan, there was little in it to make us sad. It made it nice that there were so many kids in the theater. Seeing children all duded up for a night out of live performance is always uplifting.

So it was a bittersweet birthday celebration. But I think every encounter with Barb from now on is going to be bittersweet, so I better get used to it.

Random Observations from Graceland

The Cubs don't just belong to me. Naturally I traveled with my wardrobe of Cubs Championship tshirts. I was surprised and happy by how many times I was greeted with, "Cubbies!" I stopped to talk about Game 7 a few times, too. One of the Graceland employees asked for a closer look at one of my shirts and said, "Lemme see. I haven't seen that one before." I admit this surprised me. Everyone seems to love my guys!

Graceland employees love Priscilla. I heard over and over -- from the front desk to the gift shops to the restaurants to the airport shuttle -- how she comes by every few months to make sure they're being "treated right." Everyone who works there seems rather happy, too. I find this fascinating. After all, the woman in charge of Elvis' legacy is not his widow, she's his ex.

Sir Paul is a gentleman. I heard the story the same way three times from three different people: When Paul McCartney played Memphis in 2013, he requested a private tour. He was very respectful and polite, and left a guitar pick on The King's grave so he could "jam in Heaven." OK, so Paul's nice. But, I asked, which celebrity wasn't nice? The woman at the Lisa Marie (Elvis' plane) told me she couldn't divulge, but said darkly, "You'd be surprised."

So, in case you'd like to play, "Guess the Douchebag," here's the official list of celebrities who visited Graceland.

Lord Almighty! I really do love The King.

I sang almost every moment I was in Memphis. No shit. I sing badly, so it was done softly. And in public, it was mostly absent minded, crooning along with the Elvis songs that are piped in everywhere. Really, even at the airport.

Because here's the thing ... yes, it's easy to make fun of the jumpsuits and massive, rhinestone belt buckles. And the peanut butter and banana sandwiches. And the creepy monkeys I just discovered. But he was extravagantly talented and cast a huge shadow over American culture. I was moved by how much he did in his 42 years, and how good he could be (when he wasn't phoning it in).

Official Gold Record for one of my faves.
As a movie lover, I appreciate three of Elvis' early, pre-Army movies. His favorite, I learned, was King Creole. But mine remains Jailhouse Rock. So I was completely tickled to see Elvis' own well-worn copy of the shooting script.

Jailhouse Rock was originally called "Untitled Presley Film"