Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Godfather

Today should be my godfather's birthday.

He died six years ago, and I think about him every day. So today I'll paint a word portrait of him.

He would be 74. Nearly 16 years my senior, he was a sophomore in high school when my mom -- his sister -- asked him to be my godfather. That meant a great deal to him and helped cement our bond.

He bought me my first Beatle record (Love Me Do/PS I Love You) before the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan. How do you thank someone for giving you the soundtrack to your life?

He could make me laugh harder than anybody, before or since. I believe to this day he had magic in his soul, because of all the imagination and fun he brought with him.

He served in Vietnam for two years. I loved getting letters from him and looked forward to seeing his handwritten "FREE" in the upper right corner instead of a stamp.

When he was in country, he enjoyed getting tapes from me. My grandmother bought a reel-to-reel tape recorder so he could hear our voices. But most of the family was tongue-tied, whereas I was a naturally blabby young thing. He still remembers how I updated him on Batman and Robin TV show or my school lessons. One of his fellow soldiers christened me "The Magpie."

When he came home from Vietnam, I brought him to school for "show and tell." I still remember him sitting on the window sill of my third grade classroom, in his uniform, answering my teacher's questions about teamwork. I was so proud!

Upon his return from Vietnam, he put what money he had in real estate. By going in with an investment group for a building on Chicago's Michigan Avenue, he became a millionaire. That showed such his exceptionally good money sense, even though he only had a high school education.

When I moved out on my own, he taught me about money. I know I probably rolled my eyes a lot when he took me to get a new stereo and pay for it on time so I could build a good credit rating. Not the sexiest of topics, you know. But now that I'm older and wiser with a 700+ FICO score and a good mortgage, I'm grateful he shared his wisdom.

A naturally gifted athlete, he tried to teach me to ski. That didn't go so well. He also ran marathons all over the country. He gave me the t-shirts.

He loved cats. He named his first cat Dumbo because of its ears. His last cat was a very chill gray and white striped cat named Bennie. She was his constant companion during his illness and I like thinking that she's back by his side now.

He died from Parkinson's when he was only 69. That's the double-edged sword in all of this. For while I take tremendous comfort in knowing he's no longer suffering, I am forever angry that his service in Vietnam exposed him to the Agent Orange that exacerbated the condition ... and yet the Bush-era VA refused him treatment upon his diagnosis because he made too much money.

Think about that: No one from the military asked him how much money he had when they drafted him, did they? Then they sent to the jungle where he was exposed to what would kill him, and denied him assistance until he was so ill he was unable to work and had gone through his assets.

And while I'm being political ... Toward the end of his life he struggled mightily with Parkinson's. He was so ashamed of the twitches and tremors, so certain that assholes were making fun of him.

So if you think this is worthy of applause, yes, you are deplorable.



Serge Kovaleski suffers from arthrogryposis. This disease attacks the joints. For Mr. Kovaleski to wake up every day and go to work for The Washington Post is worthy of our celebration, not Mr. Trump's scorn. One can criticize his reporting, certainly, but not mock his condition.

Compassion and respect for people like Serge Kovaleski. That's also part of my uncle's lasting gift to me.



The Queen's Meme


 The Hodgepodge Meme


1. Do you have a favorite chair in your home? The dining room chair nearest the kitchen. Why is it your favorite place to sit? Location, location, location.

2. You've been given a billboard space on the highway of life. What is the ONE word you'd place on the billboard to describe your life right now? HUH? (I understand the question; that's the one word I'd choose.)


3. Do you own a string of pearls? Nope.


4.  Whose initials would you carve on a tree? I don't think I would. I carved my initials in a picnic table and it took me for freaking ever. Not as easy at it looks.


5.  Could you go without your cellphone for an entire day? Sure. I often forget to charge it, which leaves me without it. I left it in a restaurant once, so I had to go phone-free overnight.

6.  If you could pre-install an app on every human being born today, what would that built-in app be? What Jennifer Aniston famously referred to as "The Sensitivity Chip."






Sunday Stealing


Sunday Stealing: The "Doing Questions Like It's 2003" Meme


1. Tell us about your pets. If you don’t have one, share why you don’t. As I write this, Connie is trying to distract me from the keyboard. She is a compact gray and white female feline, terribly sweet. The skinny beige demon, Reynaldo, is nearby. Reynaldo is always nearby. I've never had a cat as devoted to me as Rey is. I feel like he's more of a roommate than a pet.
2. Name three things that are close to you. Sunglasses, headphones, coupons.
3. How was the weather for your summer? Humid!
4. What was the last film you saw? Did you like it? I just saw Bridget Jones' Baby. While Patrick Dempsey and Colin Firth are completely adorable and very, very hot, I found the movie entirely predictable. Gal's recommendation: Wait for cable. Go see Hell or High Water with Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine instead.

5. Tell us about the last trip that you took. To Michigan for my niece's college graduation. I'm endlessly proud of her. She chose the school, she got the funding, she worked the crappy jobs to pay her living expenses. Her strength and drive impress the shit of out me.
6. Where do you buy groceries? Why? Saturday I went to Trader Joe's. It's my favorite place to shop. It's tiny and it doesn't always have what I need (so I end up going to another store anyway), but what the hell. The staff is friendly and cooperative. The collection box for the food pantry is front and center. The food is wholesome. It makes me happy to shop there.
7. Tell us something that you did today. Or will do if you haven’t had your morning coffee yet. I'm going to Carson's (maybe it's Bergner's in your part of the country). I have coupons!

8. Have you pulled an all-nighter? Often.
9. Can you taste the difference between Pepsi & Coke? Yes. Coke is better.
10. Tell us about your siblings. How many and what do they do? Two sisters. One 17 months older, the other 8 years young. They successfully annoy me.
11. What’s the oldest thing that you own? I'm a packrat, so I have a lot of old shit. For example, the mixing bowl currently on my counter -- it's a good size for making Jello, which honest to God I'm gonna do one day soon -- had belonged to icky grandmother. I have no idea how old it is, but 65 years isn't an unreasonable guess.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: One Night in Bangkok (1984)

1) This song is from the play Chess. It's been said that the most successful players are fluid in their thinking. Do you consider yourself flexible or set in your ways? A coworker recently predicted that my tombstone will read: Change Is Bad.

2) Nigel Short, a real-life chess grandmaster, used to wear a t-shirt that said, "He who cares, wins." Do you always play to win? Or do you play board/card games or sports for the fun of it? I have no killer instinct for games at all. Now in business, that's another story.

3) The singer is in Bangkok for an important tournament. He maintains that he doesn't mind missing the sights and dismisses Bangkok is just another "crowded, polluted stinking town." Do you find big cities exciting? Or do you think of them as noisy and dirty? I have always been a City Mouse.



4) Air pollution has reached serious levels Bangkok. Do you suffer from allergies, asthma or another condition that could be aggravated by pollution? Lately my eyes have become rather sensitive to smoke and grit.

5) To reduce traffic, commuters travel through Bangkok on ferries that make regularly scheduled trips up and down the Chao Phraya River. When was your last boat ride? It's been so long I truly don't recall. Too bad, because I love Lake Michigan.

6) Round trip airfare between ATL and BKK is $1750. If we gave you a travel voucher for that dollar amount, how would you spend it? I'd use that travel voucher to take my nephew to Washington DC. I'd love to show him all the memorials and museums. He's a history buff, and he's never been there! What an honor it would be to introduce him to his American heritage.

7) The Holiday Inn Express in Bangkok has a McDonald's onsite. When you go somewhere new, do you find it comforting to be surrounded by what's familiar? Or would you prefer to try new things? Both. "When in Rome ..." and all that. But there is something to be said for the dependability of a Big Mac when you're on the road.

8) One of Bangkok's most popular restaurants is DID, which stands for Dine in Dark. The dining room at DID is 100% light free -- cell phones must be stored in the lobby to avoid distracting from the experience -- so customers eat their four course meal without seeing it. This heightens the diner's sense of taste and smell. When you prepare a meal, do you put a great deal of care into its presentation? None. When I prepare a meal, I often consume it standing in the kitchen or in front of the TV.

9) Random question: Think about your last professionally prepared meal. Did you dine in, carry out, or have it delivered? Carry out. A slice of pizza at my desk, Friday lunchtime.

My good deed for Friday

I sit across from a rather adorable boy -- he's not yet 30, so to me, he's still a boy. He works hard, is personable, and he's a Cub fan, so we have much in common. Every morning, after a win (and we've had more than anyone else this magic season) he pastes a blue W on the wall. Currently he has blue W's wrapping all around his cubicle!

He was gone Friday afternoon, from lunchtime on. Just before 5:00, he reappeared. He was en route to his office space and I was on my way to the ladies' room. I could smell the liquor on him. He literally did a soft shoe when he saw me. "Home field ad-van-tage!" he sang, referring to the Cubs still improving fate as we move toward the playoffs. I figured he'd gotten free tickets to this afternoon's game, would grab his backpack, and go home -- or to a Wrigleyville bar to continue partying.

When I got back from the restroom, I saw him talking to a coworker. Nonono. Not good. I thought that, since everyone from my team had left for the weekend, that his group had cleared out, too. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. And he was, frankly, too obviously drunk to be interacting with coworkers.

I've openly drunk beer at my desk -- swigging from a bottle handed to me at one company celebration or another. I've got a bottle of cheap bottle of vodka in my bottom drawer and have surreptitiously  mixed it with fruit juice and sipped away with complete impunity. As long as we don't appear high, no one cares. But there's the rub. No one cares if we drink at work, but it's dangerous to been seen drunk.

He was drunk.

I didn't want him to get in trouble, so instead of going home, I sat knee-to-knee with him and started a conversation. My sense was this -- if anyone wanted to talk work with him this close to the end of the workweek, and saw him in animated conversation with me, they'd just let it go until Monday. Who wants to stay late on Friday?

It worked. We talked until nearly 5:40, until I couldn't hear a printer whirring anywhere else on the floor.

He hadn't been to The Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field. One of our agency's vendors had an open house and much, much food and liquor had been provided. We talked baseball first and then he let IT drop: he's one of about 25 of employees being transferred to our sister agency in January. This could be a very important move for him, a chance to show he can handle more responsibility than he's heretofore been given.

How shitty if a little harmless and out-of-character partying jeopardized that?

So I missed the opportunity to slip out early Friday. I served the greater good.



Friday, September 23, 2016

Fame can blot out a lot of sunshine

Earlier this year I read that the three most recognizable men on the planet were Barack Obama, Muhammad Ali and Sir Paul. With The Champ's passing, I guess this means Paul moves up to #2. (I'm betting the Pope has cracked the big three, but I don't know for sure.)

That level of fame is inconceivable to me. It not only must be hard to be Paul McCartney, it's probably also very difficult to be tangentially connected to him. Your achievements very easily get lost in shadow cast by his light.

Take, for example, Dr. Richard Asher. Born in England in 1912, he began practicing medicine in London in the mid-1930s. He specialized in hematology and endocrinology. But beyond his chosen fields, he made discoveries and encouraged innovation that had impact all around the world.

•  In 1947, he began advocating for "early ambulation." Very (perhaps overly) simply put, in those days, complete and total bedrest was the prescription for just about everything. Dr. Asher insisted his hospitalized patients walk a bit every day. If you've been in a hospital lately, you know here in the States, doctors agree with him on this.

•  He proved that a body being too cold is as dangerous as being feverish, which is why hospitals now have thermometers that detect hypothermia.

• He defined Munchausen Syndrome in 1951. When a person repeatedly pretends to be sick to gain attention or sympathy, they have Munchausen Syndrome. Parents or caregivers who make those in their care ill for the same reason have Munchausen by proxy. And Dr. Richard Asher was the first to identify and write extensively about it.

Yet he's best known as the father of Jane Asher, the actress once engaged to Paul McCartney. I appreciate you, Dr. Asher, and I'm sorry that it's taken me so long to learn about you. Rest in peace.




... and so I cried a little

My mom died four years ago this month. She'd been very ill for a while, and I was exhausted by worry about her. And her death was just the beginning of a very ugly adventure with the legal system and banks and my sisters as we laid her to rest and dismantled her life.

I spent a lot of that time equal parts angry, disillusioned and bone tired. I was angry that my mom didn't really work at her rehab or cooperate with the doctors. I felt she died before she had to, and when I still needed her.

I was upset to learn that my mother never saw fit to maintain her life insurance, so we (and by "we" I mean "I") were facing a big bill for her funeral. I asked her not to make her executor but she did it anyway. This was like painting a target on my back for my sisters to aim at -- and my older sister is an especially lethal shot -- so to be honest, I'm still pissed.

Still, since my mother had no cash or stocks, no will and a reverse mortgage. I thought being her executor would be simple, at least legally. It was not. And don't think there's not a weight to opening your purse and seeing your mother's death certificate -- a necessity as I had to carry it with me when I did the rounds from one columned building to another.

I also had to revisit a lot of the fissures within my family, and to come to grips with the fact that my mother was at the fulcrum for much of it. Then there were the new revelations. My favorite was having to keep my face composed as I listened to my mom's best friend tell me my mother used to explain away the hostility between me and my older sister as "jealousy over your sister's great beauty."

 
This all came back to me Tuesday night. My friend Mindy's mother died over the weekend. I never did cotton to that woman. She was all about appearances. (It must be said that, for my part, I left Mrs. G. shaking her head, as well.)

She also very obviously favored Mindy over her older sister. I could see this damaged both of her daughters. Mindy felt tremendous pressure to be "the good girl," something that's traveled with her, and inhibited her, throughout her life. Now that she's over 60, she's still worried about putting a foot wrong. Her older sister, on the other hand, always felt frustrated and misunderstood. And here's the thing: BOTH women are people you'd be glad to know, and that their mother should have been proud of.

Yet the older sister posted the sweetest tribute to their mother. Photos taken throughout the woman's life -- with great emphasis on her early years as a fashion plate and a beautiful bride, which she would have wanted. But it was the song choice that made my throat close up. "For Good," from Wicked.

Like a comet pulled from orbit as it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good


It was such a beautiful, generous sentiment. And I started to cry. Sitting at my computer at my desk at work, I started to cry.


For Mrs. G.'s daughters, who didn't get the mother they deserved but got one they loved anyway. For Mrs. G., for not being able to appreciate her girls for who they are.


For me and my mother. I do love her and I do miss her. I am angry at her. And I know all these things can coexist.


I haven't genuinely mourned her because, I think, I was afraid I would fall apart. It was all too much. She was the parent I was closest to, depended on the most. To see her as less than perfect was scary.


On the other hand, I am what my shrink used to call "a truth teller." This photo always resonated with me. The solitary figure, howling at the moon. I was the one in my family who couldn't help yelling, "THIS IS ALL FUCKED UP!" Whereas my mother, the child of two alcoholics, was just as driven ... to keep it all together, to avoid conflict at all costs, to insist everything was fine (even, and especially, when it wasn't), to say, "There's nothing to see here."

So there was always destined to be friction between us.

And that's OK. 


Our parents love us, and they damage us because they aren't perfect. We love them, and we disappoint them, because we came from them but grew into autonomous human beings. It's the natural, albeit painful, order of things.


With the distance that comes from four years, I'm able to see that.


No, scratch that. I always SAW it.


With the safety that comes from four years, I'm able to feel that.




Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ba de ah!

Do you remember that it's the 21st of September?



Yeah, but what IS it?


The doctor's office called and reports that I DO NOT have diabetes or thyroid disease. Yea!

On the other hand, I still rather suddenly have thinning hair, fatigue, dry eyes and a fuzzy memory. So while I'm glad I don't suffer from the more consequential conditions, I do still want to know what's going on.

My doctor herself is going to call me later in the week to report on my full labs -- including my pesky cholesterol -- and I hope she'll have some suggestions for me. If not, I think I'll visit my dermatologist. He can address the itchy scalp and thinning hair.




Tuesday, September 20, 2016

That's 2 days and 18 hours from now



I'm not used to seeing my team get national attention. But look at this! An entire issue of ESPN Magazine devoted to my guys!

It's on newsstands Friday. I only have to wait 2 days, 18 hours and 46 minutes till it can be mine!


Monday, September 19, 2016

Who votes thyroid?

I do! I do!

Diabetes is still on the table, but thyroid maladies are more common in women of my age. (Still, since both John and Kathy have diabetes, I won't say, "Why me?" I'll say, "Me, too!")

Here are my symptoms:

•  Fatigue
•  Changing vision, dry eye
•  Thinning hair, itchy scalp
•  "Fuzzy" thinking ("what was the name of that place?" and "what's that word I want?")

Of those four, three are symptoms of thyroid disease. Two are symptoms of diabetes. So we'll see.

I'm lucky to have good insurance and a good doctor. I'm also lucky that both hypothyroidism and diabetes are common and manageable.

I'll be glad when I have a diagnosis and I start feeling better.


I think September is breaking a sad record

I've made three "in lieu of flowers" donations already this month!

1) I just sent money to St. Jude's in memory of my friend Mindy's mom, who died Saturday morning.  I think it's a blessing that Mrs. G. died. Her health has been failing all year and she's been in hospice since spring. A 90-year-old with chronic COPD and dementia was never going to get well and this ordeal has been so hard for her daughters.

2)  Less than a week ago, I made a contribution to a canine rescue organization in memory of Ben, the brother of my coworker, Katie. He was only 24 when cancer claimed him. He was never going to get better, either. His case stymied doctors at both Northwestern and the Mayo Clinic.

3) The Key West Botanical Garden was one of the charities listed in the obit of a friend of a friend. My friend Henry loved her very much, and it made him so happy to see that I'd honored her in that way.

To be completely honest, I'm not personally mourning any of those three people. I didn't know the young man, and I can't say I ever cared for those two women. But I love Henry and Mindy and I hate how much stress Katie is under, so that's why I made the contributions.

But then there's this: My own mother was put to rest four years ago this past week. September 25 would be my favorite uncle's birthday. In memory of them, I made a contribution to the animal shelter where my mother adopted her favorite cat, Ethel, and to a different cat rescue organization my uncle supported in life.

I'm sure the money I donated will do a lot of good for some worthy organizations. But I hope I'm done now for a while.







Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sunday Stealing

Sunday Stealing: The Martial Arts Meme


Who was the last person that you held hands with? My nephew. We squeezed hands when we said goodbye last night because I didn't want to embarrass him. (He's a high school junior; everything embarrasses him.)
Are you loud, outgoing or shy? Yes. I'm very chirpy and extroverted in public. Then I go home and collapse into my shell.
Who are you looking forward to see? Alexander Hamilton! We've got our tickets for the Broadway hit, Hamilton, and will be in the audience on the second night it's here in town.
Are you easy to get along with? I think I am. But my sisters would tell you otherwise.
Have you ever given up on someone, only to let them back into your life? Why? Yes. Because I have no common sense when it comes to l'amour. 
If you were ill, which TV doctor or nurse would you want to take care of you?
How could you help but feel better when this man is tending to you?
Does talking about sex make you uncomfortable? No.

Who was the last person that you had serious conversation with? My nephew.
What was the last text message you received about? My friend John was teasing me, as is his wont. I shot him a message about our friend Mindy. Her mother died and I knew John would want to know. John tweaked me with: "... and? You left off Go, Cubs." OK, so I am a little over the top with my Cubbie love these days. Gloriously guilty as charged! (Go Cubs!)
Do you believe in luck and/or miracles? Not intellectually. But emotionally? Yes.
What good thing happened this summer? How I love this Cub team!

Let's look at this again.

Convince us why we should or should not believe in life on other planets? No. Sorry, but I don't feel like doing science this morning.
Who was your first crush on? Little Joe Cartwright on Bonanza. But that crush made sense. So this morning I'll humiliate myself by sharing one of my most powerful, yet stupid, crushes.

Favorite part of daily routine? Feeding the cats. I love seeing them so healthy.
Do you like your neighbors? Depends on the neighbor. There are 24 units in this building. We're a very mixed bag.
What’s your worst feature? Right now, my complexion. My chin looks like a relief map of the moon.

Have you ever had trust issues? Yes

So happy it's scaring me

My two most enduring passions are The Beatles and the Cubs.

Thursday night, the Cubs became the NL Central champions. I've been walking on sunshine ever since.


Saturday night I went to see Eight Days a Week, the documentary by Ron Howard, at the Music Box Theater. It was a delight. Seeing Paul and John sharing a mic, sharing their genius with such exuberance, lifted me higher, higher, higher. Watching it on the big screen in a grand old movie palace with a huge, diverse audience -- the line wrapped around the block! -- was thrilling. Sharing the experience with my nephew was best of all.

He's such a great kid. Smart and funny. And so geeky. (A high school junior whose new idol is FDR.) Love him so.


And I love The Lads. And I love the Cubs. And I love life!

Think about Marie Tippit before you post

Let me be clear: I am not a conspiracy theorist. Conspiracies go against human nature. At some point, someone is going to find it in his/her best interest to spill the beans. Hell, Nora Ephron had exposed the true identity of Watergate's Deep Throat years before Mark Felt came forward; she was simply dismissed because her motive was so obvious it was suspect. (She and ex-husband Carl Bernstein had endured an epically bitter divorce.)

Conspiracy theories serve a valuable purpose for us frail humans. They even the scales and restore the notion that there is balance in what is, in reality, a completely chaotic universe. They give us comfort by supporting the narrative we can most easily live with. I get all that.

I grew up reading extensively about The Conspiracy. You know, the one about The Most Public Murder in American History: The JFK Assassination. I know what feeds that one -- no one wants to believe that a smug, prematurely balding  wife-beater who failed at everything he (heretofore) attempted could vanquish a hero in the bloodiest way possible in plain sight of thousands of people.

But he did. Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone and killed John F. Kennedy during a happy, sunny parade. That's just how it happened. That's simply the truth. Whether conspiracy theorists will ever grow up and accept it is something else again.

But when theorists give oxygen to dark conspiracies they help them burn brighter. Take the case of J. D. Tippit. History -- that means facts and forensics -- tells us that, 45 minutes after the assassination, a Dallas beat cop saw a suspicious young man at the corner of 10th and Patton. He approached Oswald, and Oswald shot him and chillingly walked away, leaving the officer dead in the street.

OR J. D. Tippit was Oswald's getaway driver, a co-opted Dallas cop who had been paid by the mob to get Oswald away from the Texas Book Depository.

OR J. D. Tippit was a dirty cop, a drug dealer, who was supposed to use his police car to transport Oswald to the airport (again at the behest of the Mafia).

OR J. D. Tippit was a pawn, murdered by the CIA so they could frame Oswald for two murders that day -- Kennedy's and Tippit's.

All of these theories have Tippit's family "well taken care of," either by the Mafia or the CIA.

Here is Tippit's widow, Marie. She was left to raise three children all by herself on a cop's pension. In the aftermath of the assassination and her husband's murder, she did receive gifts from the public. The most touching one:  a new wedding ring. Tippit had ordered the ring as a surprise for their upcoming wedding anniversary and had been paying for it on layaway. The jeweler recognized the officer's name and simply sent the ring to the widow with a note. Romantic, yes, but has anyone ever described the Mafia or the CIA as romantic?

Look into her face. Imagine what it was like for her to explain these conspiracy theories to her late husband's three children.

Look into her face. This little old lady says she is still hounded by conspiracy theorists who demand "the truth" (meaning: their "truth").

Someone always suffers when conspiracy theories flourish. Sometimes we all suffer. (Swiftboat Veterans for Truth, anyone?) This election cycle, it's disturbing to hear progressives who feel comfortable mocking those who are gullible enough to believe Barack Obama is a "Kenyan-born secret Muslim" or that climate change is a hoax turn around and insist that:

•  Hillary Clinton is a criminal
•  Hillary Clinton is at death's door
•  A third party vote is NOT a vote for Donald Trump.

The hypocrisy is astonishing. It's fun to laugh at conspiracies that flout all reason, facts, math and science when they don't make sense to you but acceptable to embrace equally crazy ones when they enhance your personal comfort level?

I'll let Awesomely Luvvie have the last word. Remember that social media is powerful and be careful when you post.




PS I'm very guilty of this at times. I was going to post about my theory on the JonBenet Ramsey murder and then I thought, "Gal, you are sooooooo full of shit."

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: September in the Rain (1956)


1) This song refers to "leaves of brown." Can you see any leaves outside your window? What color are they? Still green.

2) It also mentions whispered words of love. What did you say last time you lowered your voice? "Here she comes." My officemate was telling me the amusing yet incredibly awkward story of accidentally running into one of our teammates when she was waiting for a blind date. At the good part, the girl came around the corner and I never heard the end of the story.

3) Clearly this song is about a treasured romantic memory that took place in autumn. Think about your favorite romantic memory. In what season did it take place? Autumn. I don't recall which specific month. A friend and I were taking a walk along the riverbank and I knew he wanted to kiss me and that we weren't going to be "just friends" much longer.

4) This week's featured artist, Julie London, was famous as a singer and actress. Less prominent in her bio is her appearance as a "pin up girl" in Esquire magazine when she was just 17. What's in your resume that you'd prefer to de-emphasize or gloss over? My first job. Because it was so long ago. I'm afraid that if I was interviewing now, I'd be "aged" out of the competition.

5) Julie recorded more than 30 albums and was named "most popular female vocalist" by Billboard magazine in 1956. If you could see any entertainer -- male or female -- in concert, who would you choose? I'd love to see Sir Paul again.

6) She became well-known to another generation when she appeared in the 1970s TV show Emergency! The younger actors credited her for keeping everything calm on the set. Who has a calming influence on you? My coworker Kevin. He's a dad. His "dadness" brings out the best in me.

The cast of Emergency! In 8th grade, we all thought the guy on the far right was so cute.
7) Her Emergency! costar was her husband, Bobby Troup, and the show was produced by her ex-husband, Jack Webb. Do you have an ex that you're on very good terms with? Yes. In fact, I'm Facebook friends with his wife. He recently became a grandfather for the first time, which made me feel very old.

8) Julie was a chain-smoker since she was a teenager and in the 1950s recorded a jingle for Marlboro cigarettes. Yet in the 1970s, when she saw Bobby Troup's health negatively effected by smoking, she pressed him to quit. Tell us about a time you found yourself in a "do as I say, not as I do" situation. I was sucking down my umpteenth Coke while chastising a friend about her smoking habit.

9) Random question: You have won an all-expenses paid trip to an exclusive resort in the Hawaii. When you get there, you discover that the private beach is bathing suit optional. Do you swim nude? Hell to the no. I'm too pale for such nonsense. It's a second degree burn just waiting to happen.


Friday, September 16, 2016

Well look at this!


The first team in the major leagues to clinch the division title. Because we are so good. Go, Cubs, go!


Poor Will

Will is the moderator of our classic film group. He once taught a class on film appreciation, so he knows his stuff. He puts such care into our meetups: lovingly selecting the films, developing preview material and enthusiastically leading post-film discussion.

Which is why I feel so bad that I can't stand Preston Sturges.

Will is a passionate Sturges aficionado. And this Preston Sturges series he put together this past summer has been one of the worst attended in the years of the meetup. There were only a handful of us sitting in the dark last Tuesday for Hail the Conquering Hero and so it was easy to identify the one person who laughed out loud at all the jokes throughout the film.

Yup, it was Will.

Hero was the last of this series. We're going back to film noir next. Will knows when he's beat.


Poor Riley

Ben, the brother of my coworker Katie, died last weekend. He'd battled cancer, long and hard, for 9 months. He came home from the Mayo Clinic two weeks ago, when there was no longer any hope. He was 24.

Katie is a dear and darling girl, pregnant with her first baby, and of course I'm worried about her. This must be a hideously painful time for her, and I hate that.

But the one that really gets to me is Riley, Ben's dog. They were so close that Riley is mentioned in the obit. As hard as this is for Katie, at least she understands what's going on. This must be so awful for Riley. His person was gone for months, came home for a while but behaved very differently, and then disappeared.

Katie's parents requested donations be made in their son's memory to the local high school's PE dept. Whatever. I never met Katie's parents and they don't know me, either.

I went my own way and contacted their neighborhood animal shelter, sending a donation "in memory of Ben and in celebration of his relationship with Riley." The shelter is sending notification to Katie directly, not her parents.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

All it takes is 3

Any combination of Cubs wins and St. Louis losses that equals 3 will lock the Division Championship for my heroes.

Considering we're playing St. Louis, we can really do ourselves some good. On Monday, behind a surprisingly powerful Kyle Hendricks, we lowered the Magic Number from 5 to 3 because we not only won, the Cardinals lost.

We face St. Louis again Tuesday and Wednesday. So Wednesday could be the day.

We could officially be the Central Division Champions by Wednesday night.

By contrast, in the East, the Nationals' number to clinch is 8. The Dodgers' magic number to clinch the West is 16.

Let's let Jake's shirt tell the story.



From morning till night ...




Sunday was a good, good day. I didn't post about it yesterday because it was 9/11 and it seemed somehow disrespectful to enjoy a terrible anniversary so much.

The weather was fabulous. Mid-70s and not a cloud in the sky.

I met Nancy at the local Irish pub and we had mimosas with our brunch. I mentioned how much I liked having someone I could get together with, right here in town and she told me how she looks forward to me making her laugh. We vowed to make these brunches a regular occurrence, and even chose our next venue.

Highlight of the brunch: Nancy asked me "which Cub" is Jake Arrieta. I told her to pick up her phone and google "Jake, ESPN body issue." She literally began to drool. When the waitress came over to refill our glasses, Nancy handed her the phone and said, "Look at this Jake Arrieta." The two of them scrolled through, transfixed. I'm happy to share the joy of baseball with other women.


Then I went to the movies. Hell or High Water, starring Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges. A wonderful, modern day Western. A bit more violent than I'd like, but it wasn't gratuitous Clint-Eastwood-Spaghetti-Western bloodshed. Everything that happened had to happen. There was a terrible inevitability to this very American story. Chris Pine is one of a pair of brothers who runs through west Texas, robbing banks. Jeff Bridges is law enforcement, a veteran on the force on the verge of retirement, just doing his job. Neither is portrayed as the bad guy in this fable. The villain is ... well, I don't want to spoil it. The highest praise I can give this movie is that, in another time, I could see the Jeff Bridges role played by Jimmy Stewart. (Not that Bridges isn't very, very good.)

At any rate, I love going to the movies and I really should do it more often. It's just that I haven't wanted to miss a single Cub game during this magical season!

Speaking of the Cubs ... which I do a lot ... I got home in time to watch the Cubs beat the Astros. Yes, Jake was on the mound. Sigh.



Saturday, September 10, 2016

Sunday Stealing

Sunday Stealing: The Alice Through the Looking Glass Meme


If your life was a book, what would be its title? The Thing of It Is. It's a phrase I say quite often.

Who is/was the weirdest person in your life? I've given this some thought -- because many people in my life (including me) can be weird -- but I think the title has to go to the friend of a friend. She was only in my life peripherally, but I found her completely fascinating. She was angry all the time ... at her children, her students, her husband, Gov. John Kasich and President Obama. It seems the only one she wasn't eternally mad at was Barry Manilow. 

She was an obsessive Fanilow, and the Manilow fan forums were the center of her world. Woe be to anyone who didn't worship the way she did -- she'd "rant" away at  them from her keyboard. At one point, she truly believed she had been befriended by the woman who was secretly married to Barry and the mother of his children. (Yes, plural.) She reveled in her "insider" status to the tune of $5,000 that she "lent" Mrs. Manilow. (Yes, "Mrs. Manilow" was a con artist she'd met online and never seen IRL.) She and my friend drifted apart, which makes me kinda sad. I would have enjoyed hearing how she reacted to Barry Manilow finally coming out of the closet and marrying a man. If it sounds like schadenfreude has gotten the best of me, let me reiterate: she was a bully. Genuinely mean to anyone who disagreed with her (I suspect this is because her marriage and career weren't going so well, but that's a reason and not an excuse). She was so proud of annihilating people with her "rants."

What is a special thing that someone once did for you? My friend John not only got me tickets to the Cubs Convention, he attended it with me. John's a casual fan, not a passionate follower like me, so I was touched that he did this for me.



If you could erase someone off the planet, who would it be? I wouldn't.

What’s a big goal that you have? I would like to feel better. I've had a rough year, healthwise.

If you could time travel and meet yourself at 16, what would you tell yourself? That high school is an awful time of life, and once I get out and am on my own, I will be happier. Just hang in there, Gal.

If it were the last day of your life, how would you spend it? I hope to not know when -- as Sinatra sang -- "the end is near." I'd like to just die suddenly, the way my grandma did. She was lying on her bed, reading a Louis L'amour book from the library, when she had a heart attack and died. Her glasses were still on her nose and the book on her chest. 
 
If you could meet any celebrity, who would it be and why? Joe Maddon, the Cubs fantastic manager. I adore him, and have so many questions.

What is one thing that you would never do that others you know have done? Get a tattoo.

What is one romance depicted in film that you’d love to experience? Maria and Capt. Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. They saw the best in one another. And they gave up everything to flee the Nazis, which is everlastingly cool.

Describe yourself in just one sentence. Like no one else.

Who is the most beautiful person on earth? While I haven't seen everyone on earth, I am tempted to say that Elizabeth Taylor in her prime was beyond beautiful.

What was the best experience in your life? I remember being awoken one morning because the man I was with was holding me so tight. That one moment stands out in our relationship, and in my life.

If you could rule the world, what would you change? I'd wash everyone's bias away.

Where were you when you heard the news of 9/11? I was tying my shoes. Then I was going to turn off the TV and run out to catch the 8:20 train. That's when I saw the second plane hit. In honor of 9/11 and all the heroes we met as a result, I'm closing with Bretagne. This beautiful girl was the last surviving search/rescue dog, and she died earlier this year at age 16.

Good, good girl!

 

I'm fine, but ...

I've got the windows open! It's been so hot and humid lately that I've had the AC running almost nonstop. It's a delight to listen to the gentle whir of the fan instead.

John Lackey is healthy! I was worried about his rehab but he had a quality start today against the Astros -- and even though we didn't quite win, we still have the best record in all of baseball.

Breakfast was great! Cheese omelette, with hashbrowns and oj as I read about Sir Paul.

I save $11.52! I used coupons to great advantage at CVS and am feeling proud of myself.

Peace and quiet abound! I enjoy Saturdays when I have nothing planned. At work, I sit in an exposed space, surrounded by my team members. Having time to myself, with no due dates snapping at my ass like turtles, is bliss.

So why aren't I happy? Because I've been so fucking tired all day, that's why.

After I got back from CVS, I was so tired I curled up on the sofa and slept ... and slept ... and slept. For two hours. When I woke up, I felt like my Saturday was all gone.

I'm taking matters into my own hands. A week from Monday -- the 19th -- I'm returning to the doctor's office to have bloodwork done. She wanted to do it sometime before year end to confirm that I don't have any lasting aftereffects of c. diff. We're doing it in September instead of October because I want her to know about this fatigue ... and thinning hair ... and the new and ongoing trouble with my eyesight.

I'm tempted to think I have diabetes, because people in my life have it. But from conferring extensively with Dr. Google -- and with input from people in both my real and cyber lives -- I realize it's just as likely to be thyroid.

But here's the thing: I don't want to sleep any more Saturdays away. So it's time to take control of my own health.