Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sunday Stealing

Sunday Stealing: The Bungalow 26 Questions

1. Which living person do you admire the most, and why? My friends in Key West. Right before Christmas they took in a woman they barely knew. She'd had a stroke, which left her unable to work, and that cost her the rented room where she'd been living. Here we are, two months later, and she's still sleeping on their couch and attending rehab. She literally has no money, so she contributes nothing to their household financially. They know they may have this woman in their living room for years to come. That's how long it could take her to learn to use her arm again, get another job, and make enough money to get another rental. I try to be kind and giving, but I know this level of altruism is beyond me.

My friends are gay. It makes me angry when "Christians" look down their judgemental noses at them. For in so many ways, important ways -- their fidelity to their relationship, their generosity to their neighbors -- they are living the faith the judgemental espouse.

2. When were you the happiest? In my mid-late 30s. I felt mature and sexy and accomplished and in love.

3. Besides property, automobile or furniture, what is the most expensive thing you have bought? My vacations. The holidays in Key West costs me about $2000/year, and I've been doing it for nearly 20 years. That doesn't count spa getaways, trips to Las Vegas, etc.

4. What is your most treasured possession? A ceramic cable car that had belonged to my Grandpa. He kept his dress watch, cuff links and favorite licorice lozenges in it. When I was little, he let me play with it. It's now in my den.

5. Where would you like to live? The Palmolive Building in Chicago. It was completed in 1929, not long before The Crash, and is known for the Lindbergh Beacon. It was added in 1930 to help guide Lindy himself.

The early 1940s

 In the 1960s it was home to Playboy magazine. Today it's condos. I think it would be delightful for this old-school, unreconstituted feminist to hang her hat in Hef's offices. Also, it has tremendous views of the Lake and the Gold Coast. A 1BR rental on the lowly 8th floor goes for $4,500/month. The purchase prices can go up to $7,000,000+. So all I can do is dream.


6. Who would you get to play you in a film of your life? This is hard for me because my stock answer was always Carrie Fisher. Virtually the same age, and with a similar worldview, she seemed like the perfect, albeit idealized choice.

7. What is your favorite book? The best book I've read recently is the two-volume biography of Sinatra -- The Voice and The Chairman -- by James Kaplan. That gave me about 2000 pages worth of Frank, and after having him in my head like that, I miss him. He was a peerless recording artist, a tender lover, a loyal friend, a compulsive womanizer, a cruel bully, a superficial social climber, a beloved father, a quick intellect and a Mafia groupie ... sometimes all in the same chapter! Absolutely everyone else ever is less interesting than Frank Sinatra.

8. What is your most unappealing habit? Laziness.

9. Twitter or Facebook? (Or if both share the differences in your opinion.) Facebook, I suppose. I check it the most. But it's not so much fun anymore. People can be so fucking mean, angry and dumb.

10. What would be your fancy dress costume of choice? This, by Lanvin. Meryl Streep wore this to the Oscars a few years ago and I love it. It's glittery, but grown up, too.


11. What is your earliest memory? Trying to stand up in the living room of the house we lived in when I was born. It's not much of a memory, just a moment, but I do remember looking at my hand, pressed flat on a red checked ottoman, and trying to push myself up. My mom told we moved away from that house -- and left that ottoman behind -- when I was just over a year old.

12. What is your guiltiest pleasure? Bad TV. I can watch stupid TV for hours and hours.

13. What do you owe your parents? From my mom I got my patience with and love for animals. From my dad I got my love of history.

14. To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why? Coworkers. Because we've been very busy at work lately, and as activity increases, so does the opportunity for mistakes.

15. What or who is the greatest love of your life? The man I was thinking of when I answered questioned #2.

16. What does love feel like to you? Consuming. When I'm in love, it's first thing I think about when my feet hit the floor in the morning and the last thing I think about when I drift off to sleep.

17. What was the best kiss of your life? Someone I had no business kissing. I knew he was Mr. Wrong, but he was very enthusiastic about wooing me. I remember saying, "OK, so kiss me." Oh, my.

18. Which words or phrases do you overuse? I'm sure I say, "fuck" too much.

19. What's the worst job you have done? I was secretary to a man I really didn't like or respect. I remember being the last person off the train one morning, and thinking that it would be better to just ride back and forth, back and forth, all day than to go into that office.

20. If you could edit your past, what would you change? Less time in an abusive relationship.

21. What is the closest you have came to death? In 2008, I almost got creamed by a speeding cab. I think about it whenever I pass the spot.

22. What do you consider your greatest achievement? Sometimes I'm very proud of myself for what I've overcome. My childhood was not good, and it set the table for some unwise choices. I went into therapy and worked at it. I built a career and a network of good friends.

23. When did you cry last? Tears of joy.


24. How do you relax? Fart around on the internet.

25. What single thing would improve the quality of your life? Staying focused. If I concentrate on my home and my finances, I can make my own life better.

26. What is the most important lesson life has taught you? To reach out, and let people love and help me. I'm still working on it.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

So this is what all the fuss was about

Whenever I read about "Pre-Code Hollywood," the movie Baby Face is mentioned. This 1933 film is emblematic of what disturbed the public about Hollywood back before ratings and censorship. So Saturday, I finally saw it. On the big screen and with my movie group.

Basically Stanwyck is a woman who approaches sex the way men do. She is appalling. So are all the men in this film. I can see why God fearing Americans were shocked and dismayed.

I'm glad I saw it. It puts the films of the early 30s into perspective for me. And John Wayne -- an actor who usually leaves me quite cold -- was actually charming in a bit role as one of Stanwyck's early, cast-off boyfriends.

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Johnny Angel (1962)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.
1) In this song, a girl sings that she'd rather spend a quiet evening at home than go out on a date. How about you? Do you enjoy quiet time? Or do you prefer keeping a busy calendar? This week I've gone out twice already, and have plans for Saturday night. It’s too much. In my long ago party girl days, I thought it was a scandal if I was home on both Friday and Saturday nights. Now I resent it when I’m not. 

2) She dreams of how her life with Johnny would be. What did you most recently daydream about? Boston. I'm reading a Spenser mystery and it makes me want to wander the Public Garden.

3) Shelley never considered herself a singer and is more comfortable acting. A costar on The Donna Reed Show, she was pressured to make this record by the show's producer, who wanted extra exposure for the show by having this song on the radio. Tell us about a time you ventured outside your comfort zone. I'm confident when I meet new people in a professional setting, but socially ... ugh.

4) Elvis said she was his favorite leading lady, and she appeared with him in three films. What qualities do you appreciate in a coworker? Dependability and a generous spirit.

5) She met her close friend and fellow teen star Annette Funicello when they were 12 and attended the same Catechism class. What do you recall from your middle-school years?  The first taste of freedom! It was heady going to the hotdog stand with my friends, but without an adult.

6) After The Donna Reed Show, Shelly went on to a recurring role on One Day at a Time and was twice nominated for an Emmy for her work on Coach. Her husband is Mike Farrell, who played BJ on M*A*S*H. Which of those four sitcoms would you enjoy binge watching? Maybe One Day at a Time interspersed with Donna Reed. Then I could watch TV moms evolve from the 1950s to the 1980s.

7) In 1962, the year this song was popular, is also the year Jack Nicklaus began his successful pro golf career. Do you enjoy playing golf? Watching it on TV? No, and no.

8) A 2013 study said most Americans will have 12 romantic relationships in their lifetime. Does this mean you've had more or less than your share? Less. 

9) It's closing time at the mall and you find yourself accidentally locked in a toy store. You call the police and they say someone will be there in about half an hour to rescue you. While you wait, will you play with any toys? (If so, which ones?) I'd like to see how today's Barbie and her accessories compare to my Barbie.

This looks like my favorite Barbie

One of the Christmas 2016 Barbies


Thursday, February 16, 2017

He walks it like he talks it

Our movie group meets in the auditorium at a small Christian university in the South Loop. I can tell by the decor that the room is also a playroom for the afterschool daycare center. (I saw evidence of their "Roaring 20s" dress-up party.)

Before the movie, I always pick up something at their little, onsight coffee shop. I like the fresh-faced college students who work there. I enjoy their tip bottles, which enable us to vote with our change on a burning question of the day: Cubs or Sox, Books or Movies, Toilet paper over or under, etc.

This past Tuesday I ordered a ham/cheese quiche and hot chocolate to take into the movie with me. The young man (19?) who prepared it went out of his way to make milky heart on top of my cocoa for Valentine's Day.

How did I repay him? On the way into the auditorium, I had trouble with the door and splashed hot chocolate on his textbook! I could tell by the cover he was studying The Book of Psalms.

I apologized. He was very kind and showed me that the inside pages were all just fine. I apologized some more, his kindness making me feel even worse. "It's for reading, not for show, and the pages are all fine," he repeated, as I helped him clean up the chocolate.

As I went into the movie he made serious eye contact with me and said, "I've already forgiven you. Now you just have to forgive yourself."

What an extraordinarily sensitive thing for him to say!

It's stayed with me for days.

"People have got to know whether their President is a crook"

I know a Trump supporter who used Nixon's favorite phrase, "the silent majority," to describe those who put #45 in office. I wonder if she knew how prescient she was.

The Trump Presidency is not even a month old, and I'm already exhausted. Everyone knows about the ugly spectacle of our Commander in Chief picking fights with federal judges over his immigration ban. As an animal lover, I'm disgusted that Trump's USDA has removed public access to information about puppy mills and research labs. As the HSUS says, “This action benefits no one, except facilities who have harmed animals and don’t want anyone to know.”

But worst of all is Michael Flynn. You remember Flynn. He participated in the appalling, "Lock her up!" chant at the Convention this summer. Well, since as National Security Advisor, he may have lied to the FBI, guess who could be looking at prosecution.

It's not Flynn himself who bothers me. Yes, he has a hair-trigger temper and had indulged in some dubious behavior that should have tipped someone (anyone!) off that he might not have been the best choice for the position. But it's what he may reveal about the Trump Administration and Russia that is most disturbing.

Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and Donald Trump have all benefited "bigly" from investing in Russia. As Donald Trump, Jr., said at a real estate conference, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

Russians hacked the DNC and leaked their findings, much to Trump's advantage. As pissed as I am at Bernie Bros for naively taking the bait, I'm even angrier that every American isn't horrified by Russia meddling in our elections.

It's not hard to imagine Trump's campaign being privy to the election tampering in real time. After all, the POTUS who decries leaks today was once the candidate who entertained rallies with, "I love Wikileaks!" and called for the Russians to find Hillary's missing emails.

Nor is it impossible to believe that Trump keeps praising Putin because he's afraid of Russian blackmail, that he doesn't want his loans and other financial dealings revealed.

This brings us back to Nixon. I deserve to see Trump's tax returns because I have a right to know whether my President is a crook.

I fear that Trump's Presidency will end as Nixon's did. And what a painful era that was. Since I don't believe for a moment that Trump has Nixon's loftier, laudable patriotic impulses and consequently will never step down, I'm afraid we're on the verge of a long, very ugly nightmare.

No wonder my stomach hurts!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

It's almost here!

Tomorrow is February 15th. Important because it's payday ... and because the 15th is the day I crack open a new pair of contact lenses ... and because pitchers and catchers report to spring training!

Behold Sloan Park, the team's spring home. It's not as beautiful as the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field, but it is a sight for sore eyes.

Lucky fans will get to see my guys take the field for the first time next month.

I can't wait. For, if I may mix two of my all-time favorite things, "it's been a long, cold, lonely winter" without them.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

31 Days of Oscar Blogathon: Best Supporting Actress



A Best Supporting Actress Winner Went from Oscar's Bad Girl to Perfect TV Mom


Richard Burton is quoted as saying every actor wants an Oscar so that he'll know how his obituary will begin.  That almost wasn't true of Donna Reed. Her TV fame very nearly overshadowed her Academy Award. When the lady died in 1986, her NY Times obit referred to her as "Oscar Winner and TV Star." The Los Angeles Times story began by mentioning her Oscar but acknowledged she "found her wildest success as the ideal TV wife and mother."

As a "vid kid" who grew up in front of the TV, I knew Donna Reed as the perfect sitcom mom. From 1958 to 1966, she starred on The Donna Reed Show as Donna Stone, wife to a handsome pediatrician, mother to Mary and Jeff and Trisha, champion folder of laundry, volunteer at every charity bazaar.

As wife of the producer, Tony Owens, and co-owner of the show's production company, ToDon, the show made her a great deal of money, both first run and in syndication. It also garnered her three Emmy Award nominations.

Lorene & Maggio & their Oscars
While I knew she'd made a film or two (It's a Wonderful Life had become a holiday staple) I was surprised and delighted to learn one of my childhood faves had once been a bona fide movie star. This first came to my attention when she took over for Barbara Bel Geddes as Miss Ellie on Dallas. When Donna gave interviews to publicize her new role, she was asked about her famous film roles and her Oscar.

"Cool," I thought. Doing a little research, I learned that she had won for Best Supporting Actress for From Here to Eternity, a movie I hadn't yet seen. All I knew about it was that it was a war epic featuring a clinch between Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster in the surf. I figured Donna won her Academy Award playing a nurse or something.

Or something, indeed!

Donna Reed made her way to Oscar by playing Lorene, one of the girls who works in the New Congress Club. In 1953, the filmmakers were not able to refer to the club as an Oahu brothel, so Lorene is never explicitly called a hooker, but there's no doubt about what kind of comfort she provides the troops.

Lorene is sad and smart. She doesn't like the life she's leading and hopes to marry a "proper" man and lead a "proper" life. It's not too great a stretch to say that Lorene dreams of the domestic bliss enjoyed by Donna Stone.

Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) falls head-over-heels in love with her. She gives him the acceptance that he longs for, but isn't getting, from the men in his company. After Prew kills a man -- and is injured himself -- in a knife fight, he goes AWOL and hides out with Lorene. While he's recuperating, the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. Even though Lorene desperately tries to dissuade him, he insists on rejoining his company ... and is killed for his efforts.

I believe she won her Oscar for her last scene, leaving Hawaii by ship for the Mainland. She finds herself standing next to Deborah Kerr, who is also heading home alone. Sedately clad in a suit befitting that "proper" life she longs for, Lorene concocts a fiction about her life in Oahu. Prewitt wasn't her john, he was her fiance. He wasn't an Army private, he was a fighter pilot. He wasn't a deserter killed by friendly fire on the beach, he died a decorated war hero. As she shares this fairytale in a dull voice, watching Hawaii drift away, we realize how shattered she is. She's been destroyed by Prew's death, by the attack on Pearl Harbor, and most of all, by the life she led in Oahu.

Another actress might have played it weepy. That would have made this moment conventional ... and forgettable. Instead it's Lorene's controlled, flat voice and defeated dry eyes I remember. She's the perfect portrait of tearless agony.

For more posts about Oscar, visit Paula's Cinema Club, Once Upon a Screen and  Outspoken and Freckled.

Here's to our favorite favorite son

It's Abraham Lincoln's birthday. You're welcome, America. Hell, you're welcome, World.

Sunday Stealing

Sunday Stealing: The Disappearing Questions

1. Last movie you saw in a theater? I saw Hidden Figures last weekend, and really enjoyed it.

2. What book are you reading? Wonderland, by Ace Atkins. It's a Spencer mystery, so it's set in Boston ... so I've been daydreaming about Boston lately.

3. Favorite board game? I always liked Sorry because you could sliiiiide your game piece.

4. Favorite magazine? People.

5. Favorite smells? Cinnamon apple. Lavender. Currently, my favorite scent to wear is Black Pearls.

6. Favorite sounds? My cats' purr. (Either one. Connie is smaller, but her purr is deeper than Reynaldo's.)

7. Worst feeling in the world? Helplessness.

8. What is the first thing you think of when you wake up? What day is it?

9. Favorite fast food place? I've really been jonesing for McDonald's lately, so I must go with The Golden Arches.

10. Future child’s name? At this stage in my life, there certainly is no "future child."

11. Finish this statement. “If I had lot of money I’d….? Finish my bathroom! I need new tile in there so badly! But, alas, there's always something else around here in more immediate need of repair.

12. Do you sleep with a stuffed animal? No.

13. Storms – cool or scary? Almost always cool.

14. Favorite drink? Coke.

15. Finish this statement, “If I had the time I would….”? Get the livingroom ready to be painted. That's the home improvement project that precedes my new bathroom tile.

16. Do you eat the stems on broccoli? Sure.

17. If you could dye your hair any color, what would be your choice? I was a redhead for decades. If I were to dye my hair again, I'd go back to red.

18. Name all the different cities/towns you’ve lived in? My answer to this is really boring. I've only ever lived within 8 miles from my girlhood home.

19. Favorite sports to watch? Only 51 days until my guys begin defending their championship. (Not that I'm counting or anything.)

Anthony Rizzo is my favorite Cub.

20. One nice thing about the person who sent this to you? Yes, our host Bud is funny. We all know that. But he also has integrity. He's a very good guy.

21. What’s under your bed? Stuff.

22. Would you like to be born as yourself again? Sure. I might make better choices the second time around.

23. Morning person, or night owl? I like the time when night becomes morning.

24. Over easy, or sunny side up? Over easy.

25. Favorite place to relax? My living room

26. Favorite pie? Strawberry rhubarb

27. Favorite ice cream flavor? Mint chocolate chip

28. Of all the people who play, how many of the posts do you usually read? Not as many as I should. I visit/comment on everyone who plays Saturday 9, and that takes a lot of time ... It's a lame excuse, I know, but really, I have to back away from the keyboard sometime!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

ONEWORD: Sharpening My Focus

to concentrate: to focus one's thoughts

I want to end 2017 by being able to point to concrete achievements. To do that, I must focus

I spent Saturday being present and really thinking about every cent I spent. I took a Lyft to the vet for Reynaldo's prescription kibble, but instead of a car or the bus, I walked home. En route, I stopped at the Mom-and-Pop grocery store, because I like to support small, independent businesses. But I also got a bargain -- a $1.99 box of Creamette mostacciolli on sale for just 79¢ (perfect for my bag of food pantry donations).

A few blocks later was our village's thrift store. It's a two-story house with basement, which means three stories of bargains. I'd just said Friday that after three months, I was sick of my sweaters already and wanted something new. Well, hell, I thought, why not take a look? After all, this thrift store splits all the proceeds among 5 local charities (2 daycare centers, an infant health clinic, the food pantry and the animal shelter).

I got two sweaters -- a soft purple/gray pullover from Old Navy, and a dark gray off-the-shoulder jersey knit. FOR $5!

I was going to stop at a coffee shop for lunch, but I really wasn't hungry. Why spend money on food when my heart's not in it? So I went home and took a nap.

Then my friend from Key West called me. We had a drink together over the phone (OK, mine was Dr. Pepper, but he doesn't know that). We blabbed for two hours and really reconnected ... and it didn't cost me a cent.

I feel loved. I feel smart. I feel focused.

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Love Yourself (2015)

1) In this song, Justin sings that he doesn't like to admit he's wrong. When did you most recently cop to a mistake? I don't know if this counts because I didn't say I wrong, but during a meeting on Thursday I kept admitting how confused I was.

2) He also complains that his girl doesn't like his friends. Who is someone that you've met recently and liked? Lauren. She's new to Chicago and new to our agency and every now and again I get a kick out of hearing her observations. For example, she's obsessed with public transportation. She's from a small town out East where everyone drove, and this business of taking buses and trains just delights her.

3) Justin first performed this song live on The Ellen Degeneres Show. Who is your favorite talk-show host?

4) Young Mr. Bieber recently had his credit card rejected ... at a Subway Sandwich Shop. Think about your last trip to a fast food restaurant. Did you pay with cash or plastic or your phone? Cash.
Even though we're featuring a lack-of-love song, this is the last Saturday  9 before Valentine's Day and so this morning we shall focus on the upcoming holiday. 

5) In Victorian England, it was considered bad luck to sign a Valentine. Have you ever received an anonymous card from a secret admirer? Years and years ago, I got a Valentine from Paul McCartney. It said, "I was wrong. I'll leave her. I love you." It was actually stamped and postmarked London, England. I never knew for sure how I got it. I suspect the instigator is a friend whose sister traveled a lot on business. Or maybe Sir Paul finally came to his senses.

6) Retailers report that approximately 3% of pet owners buy Valentines for their furry friends. Have you ever purchased a gift for a pet on a special occasion? Yes. I buy Christmas gifts for my niece's and nephew's pets (that's three cats and a turtle).
7) It was once believed that if a maiden ate a heavy meal before bed on February 13, her dreams that night would reveal the identity of the man she would eventually marry. Do you find that eating too close to bedtime disrupts your sleep? Yes. But this doesn't stop me.

8) The postmaster in Verona, Italy, reports that Shakespeare's Juliet Capulet still receives love letters. Without looking it up, can you give us a quote from Romeo and Juliet? "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
9) Necco's Sweethearts -- those little candy hearts that say things like "Be Mine" -- are Valentine Day's top-selling confection. Sam never could stand eating these candies. Do you like them? Ew. Ick. I hate them.

Thursday, February 09, 2017


I don't know why this fascinates me so, but it does. In preparation for next week's sitdown with my accountant, I collected all my 2016 receipts. I gave to 26 charities in all, and here are my Top 10, the ones I donated to the most.

My church

Tree House Animal Foundation -- a cageless, no-kill cat adoption center


Harmony House for Cats -- One of Chicago's smaller shelters, and it's struggling

Greater Chicago Food Depository -- I send them money. I drop canned goods off at my local food pantry.

Operation Shoebox -- My entire 2016 donation to this group was postage. I collected and sent sample-size toiletries throughout the year. This organization packages them for our troops.

Feeding America -- A national group that combats hunger

WTTW -- Chicago's PBS station

Toys for Tots

Puppy Rescue Mission -- This wonderful group reunites soldiers with the animals they adopted in Afghanistan and Iraq

I'm proud of my charitable impulses, but I hope that in 2017 I give more.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017


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

1. What are you currently reading? Wonderland, by Ace Atkins. I just picked it up, but I'm happy to be spending time again with Spencer, Robert Parker's most famous creation. Henry Cimoli was a bit player in previous books, good buddy to Spencer and Hawk. In this volume he moves to the fore. Developers want to buy the condo building where Henry lives. In fact, they rather brutally insist on it. So Henry hires his old friend Spencer to help him keep his home.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Royal Sisters by Anne Edwards. A sympathetic look at Elizabeth and Margaret Rose before and after the older sister became Queen Elizabeth II. I found myself unexpectedly touched by the two love affairs at the center of the book: Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth and Prince Philip, and Princess Margaret and the divorced commoner Peter Townsend. A decorated RAF pilot, Capt. Townsend was a genuine war hero. It's shocking to me that he was considered "not good enough" for the Queen's younger sister, especially now, when divorced Prince Charles is about to ascend to the throne as the husband of divorced Camilla. But Margaret's ill-fated affair was 60 years ago, not so long after the Edward/Wallis mess. Queen Elizabeth didn't think she could put the country, or the Church of England, through more turmoil, so Margaret was stuck with a broken heart. So unfair!
3.  What will you read next? A biography from my tall TBR pile.

Sunday, February 05, 2017


After Jackie and Manchester by the Sea, I was beginning to associate movie going with heartache. Thank God for Hidden Figures!

It's America at our best. Always evolving, willing to right our wrongs. In today's political climate, this is an especially important and moving message.

Hidden Figures is a hit, nominated for three Oscars, including Best Picture. It's the story of three women who performed the calculations at Langley that led to John Glenn's orbit around the earth.

In 1962, women were not allowed to attend Cabinet meetings, even though the information disseminated was vital to the work they were doing. There were restrictions on what they could wear -- no slacks, of course, and minimal jewelry (only Jackie-esque pearls). It was worse for these women. Being black, they couldn't attend the classes required to progress in their careers or even use the nearby "whites only" ladies' room. It only seemed like the system was conspiring against them because it was.

So what did they do? More. They worked harder, and better. They overcame. They succeeded. And they made history.

Of the Oscar-nominated movies I've seen, Hidden Figures is by far the most conventional.* But that makes it the most accessible. I've read that middle school girls in St. Louis and Milwaukee have gone to the movies to see this and received class credit. Taraji P. Henson, who plays "the girl" John Glenn depended on and trusted, spends a great deal of time here in Chicago filming Empire and recently bought out a Southwest Side theater to allow those who can't afford a ticket a chance to see it.

That makes me happy, too.

*Of the Best Picture nominees I've seen, Hell or High Water is still my favorite. It's available OnDemand. Like Hidden Figures, it's a uniquely American story, with a tragic inevitability that reminded me of Bonnie and Clyde or In Cold Blood. And it has a pair of wonderful performances at its center -- Oscar nominee Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine are the antagonists on a collision course. See it, see it, see it. Warning, though: It's more violent than I would have liked.

Godspeed, John Glenn

With the orgy of grief over 2016's celebrity deaths -- beginning with David Bowie and continuing through Debbie Reynolds* -- one was undeservedly overlooked. I'm ashamed of myself that his passing without barely a notice from me.

John Glenn changed the world. And then kept trying to improve it. He was an example to us all by living with tenacity, decency and courage.  

•  He dropped out of college to enlist after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He became a fighter pilot and during WWII and Korea won six Distinguished Flying Crosses.

•  In 1962, he became the first American to orbit earth. It was a perfect, five hour flight. President Kennedy awarded him the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.

•  For more than 20 years he served as Senator from Ohio. He authored the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act, which declared nuclear devices a threat to the United States and world peace.

•  In 1998, he returned to space. He was 77 when he volunteered himself as the subject of weightlessness on seniors.

He and his wife Annie were married for 73 years, until his death two months ago. She's a hero in her own right. For while she was married to a photogenic media magnet who almost always had a microphone in his face, Annie stuttered. So badly that it was rumored that she was either deaf of "retarded." Her solicitous husband did what he could to preserve her privacy and dignity.

In the 1970s, she finally received treatment she could respond to and used her newfound voice to become a crusader, in Ohio and beyond, for those with disabilities. I was aware of this in real-time but didn't really pay too much attention. Of course John Glenn and his wife were doing great things for others. That's what John Glenn did.

John Glenn, like Muhammad Ali, was an American original and an American hero. The 1960s were the years that shaped my sensibilities. And these two gentlemen shaped the 1960s. I owe them a great deal. We all do.

Seeing Hidden Figures this afternoon reminded me of Col. Glenn. I'm going to say a prayer for him tonight, and I'll apologize for not doing so on the night he died.

*Only in death would those two be mentioned in the same breath!

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Sunday Stealing

Sunday Stealing: The Racquet Questions

01  What is the worst nickname that anyone has ever called you? When we were in junior high, my older sister used to call me "Butchy Boy." Because she wanted to make me feel ugly.

02  Have you got a favorite flower? Marigolds. They were my grandpa's favorite flower.

03  Do you add a sauce, ketchup or other artificial flavorings to your food? Depends on the food.

04  Describe yourself using only words that begin with the letter 'T'. Time-honored (so much more flattering than "old") and talented.

05  What is/was your lover's pet name for you? "Moonbeam."

06  What is your least favorite color? I look terrible in yellow.

07  Who did you vote for in the last election, and did they win? I was with her. Haven't you heard? She didn't win.

08  What is/was your grandfathers’ names? Roy and Albert.

09  What is the best present you ever received? Blaze. When I was 4, I wanted him desperately. Santa came through. I'll always remember coming into the livingroom and seeing him under the tree.

10  What is 17 1/2% of 97 + 42 x (6 / 2) – 137 ? [Editor's note: Holy shit!] I was promised there would be no math.

11  What would be the best possible way you could die? Suddenly and painlessly in an accident of some sort.

12  Given the choice of absolutely anything, what would be your dream job? I think I'd enjoy being a pet sitter.

13  What position do you sleep in at night? On my side.

14  What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you? Back when I still wore skirts, the wind caught one and blew it up, a la Marilyn. Unlike Marilyn, I wasn't wearing panties under my hose.
15  Who is your favorite fictional character? Jo from Little Women.

16  What food do you hate most in the world? Raw tomatoes. They make my skin crawl.

17  When was the last time you were ill? Last year at this time, I was battling c. diff.

18  If you were transformed into a wild creature, what would it be? An okapi. I love them. So gentle and unique.

19  What was your favorite toy as a child, and whatever happened to it? My plush Lassie dog. She's in my closet.

20  What's the most amazing thing you've ever seen? Game 7 of last year's World Series. I'm still not over it.

Aren't my guys just the best?


I got the "old cat" dish out

Reynaldo is going to be 12 this year. If he were a human, he'd be about 65 years old.

He's still lively, social and affectionate. But I can tell his vision is beginning to fail him. He's always eaten out of the big beige and black bowl, but lately he thinks his bowl is empty when it's not. I don't think he can see the kibble against the black anymore.

So I dug out the blue/white bowl for him. It was a gift to me from my late uncle. Decorated like the tiles at Hemingway's Key West home. This bowl was first used by Tara, decades ago, back in my old apartment. Then by my beloved Joey. And now Reynaldo.

I know this is the natural order of things. We all grow older. But Rey is right here as I post this, and accepting that these things happen does not make it any easier.

"Seven spots on his brain"

I went to see The Bodyguard with my friend Barb. We had a lovely dinner and, since we took it on its own terms, we enjoyed the play. But the news she had wasn't good.

Her husband John is battling lung cancer. His lungs have responded well to chemotherapy, not eradicating the cancer but slowing its growth, but the disease has spread to his brain.

"Seven spots on his brain," she said with an apprehensive casualness. She reminded me of a toddler who falls down and watches for your reaction before she starts to cry. I tried to remain impassive.

"Oh, I didn't know it had spread. How will they treat it?"

She told me they "zapped" his brain -- I didn't ask how many times -- and think that "did the trick." They're waiting for test results. It's not the brain cancer that's the problem, it's the fact that the lung cancer spread that is disturbing to his oncology team.

Then she went on to tell me about the house they're building in Hilton Head. It's already $20,000 over budget and still nowhere near done -- mostly because of the elevator she added. He will never be able to walk up stairs again. So she's come out of retirement to freelance. Between his doctor appointments and her new job, she's fallen behind in preparing their current home for sale. She's simply too tired to keep packing as she'd planned.

I feel like telling her, "You're never moving to Hilton Head! He'll never be strong enough!" But I am her friend. My job is to be supportive, and so I simply let her talk.

We never talked about her surgery. She had a mastectomy last year, which went well. Her breast cancer is, blessedly, in remission. But her reconstructive surgery has been very complicated. She's suffered infections and setbacks. It was scheduled for last November but had to be postponed.

I couldn't bear to talk about that over dinner. Instead I let her complain about Donald Trump. She hates Donald Trump, and I think ranting about Washington gave her hectic, complicated and suddenly sad life a veneer of normalcy.


And I will always love him ...

… until I move on to my next crush.

HE is Judson Mills,  the best thing in the touring company of The Bodyguard. Maybe he is a good actor. I'm willing to believe he is. He's just not called upon to do much in this show -- except be strong and studly and look good without his shirt. And he was sublime in those areas.

He's in the Kevin Costner part. A leather-lunged lass named Deborah Cox is in the Whitney part. She sings well, but it's something of a suicide mission. The producers added some of Whitney's other hits to the show -- "So Emotional," "The Greatest Love of All," "All the Man that I Need" and "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" -- and those songs are so indelibly connected with Houston that it's hard not to hear the original in your head when someone else sings them.

The play itself is dumb. A bad idea, poorly executed. The source material isn't that good. The staging is ham-handed (the audience actually giggled at the video image of the cartoon-crazy stalker).

And yet I really had a nice time. Judson Mills/Frank Farmer is hot. He has a moment during the encore when he snaps his cuffs and grabs Ms. Cox for a twirl and my old heart went pitter patter.

Also, it's because we bought tickets to this turkey that we got face-value tickets to Hamilton the moment it opened in September. Hamilton was as innovative and smart as this was predictable and dumb. As wonderful as Hamilton was, not a single person in the cast made my old heart go pitter patter.

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Some Guys Have All the Luck (1984)
Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) Do you consider yourself lucky? Want to hear how lucky I am? So far this year I've won a whopping $6 in the Illinois State Lottery. And it only took me $10 in tickets to do it!

2) When did you last risk money in a game of chance (lottery, raffle ticket, slot machine, etc.)? How did you do? This very week I won $1 on $2 worth of lottery tickets. Jealous, aren't you?

3)  There's a major football game this weekend. Will you be watching? Do you have any money riding on the outcome? I won't be watching. And now that I think of it, no one came around selling squares for a pool at the office this year.

4) The composer of this song, Jeff Fortgang, is an interesting guy who's had two disparate careers: first pop musician, then Yale-educated clinical psychologist. It's possible that many of the patients who see him for help with anxiety or depression have no idea that he wrote this song. What's something your coworkers (or, if you're not working, casual friends) would be surprised to know about you? Most everyone I know in real life would be surprised to know this blog exists.

5) Similarly, fans are often surprised to learn that this week's featured artist, Rod Stewart, is a history buff who loves reading about WWII. Is there a period of time or historic event that has captured your interest? I'm a mid-century girl. The 1860s and the 1960s both fascinate me. Talk to me about Kennedy and Lincoln. Let's discuss Mary and Jackie. I love immersing myself in those eras.
6) Rod met his current wife as the result of a dare. Penny Lancaster, then in her 20s, spotted the decades-older celebrity in a bar and only approached him because her friends bet her she didn't have the guts to talk to him. Are you, like Penny, vulnerable to peer pressure? Can your friends talk you into doing things you might not otherwise do? Not anymore. I'm too old for that.

7) Rod vividly recalls being 11 years old and going to see  Little Richard perform in a film comedy called The Girl Can't Help It. When you were a kid, did you enjoy going to the movies? What do you recall seeing? One of my more vivid cinematic memories is the re-release of The Parent Trap. My oldest friend and I were in third or fourth grade. Her mom was in the hospital and her dad got the idea of dropping us off at the movies while he visited her. Her dad and my mom had a summit and my mom agreed to this and so it was the first time I ever went to a movie without an adult. Thrilling! My friend and I felt soooo grown up and sophisticated, sitting together surrounded by those babies who still needed their parents to see a movie in the theater. And it took my friend's mind off worry about her mom, which in retrospect I see was probably the point.
8) The lyrics tell of when Rod's car overheats and he calls a friend, who doesn't come through. Tell us about a time recently when you were there and helped a buddy out. He's not a buddy, I don't even know his name. But I hung around in the laundry room a minute or two after I finished folding, waiting for the neighbor whose clothes were done and sitting in the washers. I wanted him to know there was time left in the dryers. I probably saved him 50¢! But it wasn't the money, of course. Washing clothes in our laundry room can be depressing, and I was happy to provide even a tiny bright spot.
9) The lyrics mention that "some guys do nothing but complain." Who do you know who is like that? Do you have a friend, relative or coworker who just always seems to find fault? A different neighbor. Peter. The Saddest Boy in the World. I ended up waiting on the platform with him as we were both leaving work. We had to wait two minutes in the cold for the next train. He was complaining but I reminded him 2 minutes is less than the time it takes to microwave popcorn. Then he started complaining that the train was pausing too long at the stops. We're dry and warm, I reminded him. He complained about the new construction around our condo building, how he can't breathe for all the dust and debris it's kicked up. I told him I was sorry but I hadn't even noticed it. Every moment of our 45-minute ride together was like this. By the time we got home, I wanted to kill myself.