Sunday, April 26, 2015

How do people with children do it?

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

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

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

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

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

I missed Frank

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It was a mistake"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a wallow for book lovers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hills of Beverly

I went out to the West Coast to visit my oldest friend. She's been suffering a lot lately, her moods rising and dipping precariously, and she doesn't feel like she has much support. So I played cavalry and rode out to her side.

This is quite possibly the last time I'll visit her in Beverly Hills. My third trip out to see her since she moved, and I've never seen Rodeo Drive. I've never dined at The Ivy. I've never seen what makes Beverly Hills the golden ideal to so many. I told her we were spending one day in her neighborhood, taking it all in. She feels no connection to the neighborhood she lives in, so it was a revelation to her.

First, Rodeo Drive. Big fucking deal. Didn't see anything here that I couldn't find on Chicago's Magnificent Mile. Oh well. Now I've been here.

Now the Paley Center for Media was cool. It's a museum/research facility devoted to TV. There was an exhibit devoted to Survivor, which I couldn't have cared less about. But I really got my geek on when we came to The Soboroff Typewriter Collection.

I got all squeally when I saw the typewriter John Lennon pecked away at as a teenager, living with his Aunt Mimi. Then there was the one Carolyn Wirt Keene used to compose the original Nancy Drew books. How many generations of girls learned to love reading on the pages that came from her machine? Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams were represented, too. I even saw a page from Tennessee's original manuscript for The Glass Menagerie displayed with the machine that created it.

By far my favorite was this one, the Underwood where Charles Foster Kane got his start. I adore it not only because I'm a big classic movie fan. Look at that typewriter case! (I checked, and the Hotel de la Tremoille is still open and still providing its guests with luxury accommodations.) I came away thinking that we've lost something, now that we're all on PCs and Macs. These new word processors have neither the charm nor the gravitas of these gorgeous old typewriters.

Then we went to dinner at The Ivy. Ever since Jennifer Aniston made a point of eating there, proudly visible outdoors and in the open, after Brad dumped her, I've noticed how often The Ivy turns up in People and Us. Bruce Willis and George Lucas seem to dine there a lot. So does Khloe Kardashian. In my midwestern head, the white picket fenced Ivy has become synonymous with Beverly Hills.

It's a nice little restaurant. More casual and more family friendly than I expected. I saw kids there,
and I did not feel under dressed in my gray capris and navy Polo. But it is luxurious. As soon as you arrive, the waiter offers you champagne. Gratis. And it's good stuff, too, not Asti. Those are fresh flowers, too.

As you can see, the tables are awfully close together. If I'd had Jen and Courtney Cox's girltalk to eavesdrop on, I wouldn't have minded. But instead we got a middle-aged couple on a first date. She was a recent and very stylish Russian émigré and he was working overtime to impress her, telling her over and over how much nicer Miami is than Los Angeles. My oldest friend suspects she may have been an escort, but I'm not so sure. Why would a john care what a sure thing thinks of him?

I had the lobster pizza, and it was very good (though I'm not sure white pizza is really pizza at all), with a very generous side dish of sauteed spinach. My friend had a pasta dish and was pleased with it, too. On the way out, we got a small box of six very good chocolate chip cookies, fresh from Dolce Isola, the Ivy's bakery. Just their way of thanking us for stopping by. 

So while there are restaurants in Chicago where the cuisine is just as good, and just as expensive, you don't have the TMZ bus tour driving by. It was a delicious little bit of glamor and I'm glad I finally got to enjoy it.

Flew out with Gibbs, flew home with Adam

Have you seen the E-trade commercial where Kevin Spacey congratulates "Type E" traders for having the insight to know when a trend is soooooo over? As he speaks to the camera he walks purposefully through a store and stops to pick up a portable DVD player, blowing dust off the box. I figured that if DVD players were now the punchline of financial services spots, I'd better get one while they're still available. Plus, the new MacBooks no longer have disc drives. I can read the writing on the proverbial wall.

And so I got myself a charming little Philips DVD player with a 7" screen. That way my handsome TV boyfriends could distract me from the terror I undoubtedly would feel as I made the long trek from ORD to LAX and then back again.

Because I freak out when I fly, I squirrel out over things that don't matter. On the 17th, I was worried that my seatmates would judge me harshly for my low-tech electronics and my decidedly uncool viewing choices. I needn't have worried ... and not just because I've found that no one is really watching me as closely as I think they are when I embarrass myself.

Going to LA, with Gibbs to keep me company, I was on the aisle. My seatmates were a young couple. He had the window seat, she was in the middle. After I buckled myself in, I glanced at the view out the window and that's when I saw what they were doing. He was either picking something out of her hairline or, worse, squeezing a zit. And I was embarrassed by my passion for NCIS?

Coming home, I chose Adam Cartwright to occupy me. I had a window seat. This time I was flying with a pair of young adults who were en route to a band competition in Chicago from their home in Japan, or maybe China. At any rate, they spoke no English whatsoever. They filled with overhead with their instruments (I could tell one was a saxophone), leaving precious little room for my
little overnight bag. They made us late at take off because they didn't understand about not using their phones during the flight. I tried not to let my exasperation show, since I wanted to present the best image of Chicagoans I could. And I knew they could not possibly know enough about American pop culture to realize what a geek my Bonanza obsession makes me.

I'm so glad to be on terra firma.

Sunday Stealing

Funky Twenty-Five Meme

1. Most unflattering hairstyle you ever had? What made it so unflattering? When I was trying to grow it out. It was all cowlicky and impossible to rule. I finally gave up and cut it.

 2. Favorite movie(s) that were made in the 90's? Pulp Fiction and Titanic are the first two that come to mind.

3. Do you rent movies? If so, from where? Well, I order movies On Demand. Does that count?

4. Do you like cookies better when they're just out of the oven or after they've cooled? After they've cooled. I don't like to burn the roof of my mouth.

5. Do you still talk to the person who gave you your first kiss? No. I don't even know where he is anymore or how I'd reach him if I wanted to.

6. Did you go to pre-school? If so, what was the name of it? No pre-school.

7. How do you take your coffee? I don't take it, I leave it.

8. Do you like fuzzy things? Depends. Slippers, yes. Hard candy that's rolled on the carpet, no.

9. Favorite kind of chocolate? Dark.

10. Are you more optimistic or pessimistic? I'm a worrier about the little things, but mostly positive about big/global things.

11. What about Do you think the site is mean, funny, or both? Mean

12. Do you like fat sandwiches? If so, what does your favorite one have on it? I'm not exactly sure what a fat sandwich is.

13. One restaurant you'd never been to but would like to go to? Ah ha! I just went to The Ivy in Beverly Hills, after reading about it in People mag for years. The decor was charming. The special touches -- free champagne when you come in and a box of chocolate chip cookies on the way out -- are nice value adds, indeed. But the tables are too close together, and the menu is comparable to a high-end restaurant in any big city. Still, I'm delighted I got to try it. If you're ever in Los Angeles, treat yourself.

14. Last time you got a haircut? Do you need one? Just got a hair cut yesterday.

15. What's your favorite pattern for clothing (stripes, plaid, etc.)? Pin stripes, I suppose. I like solids.

16. What's your age backwards? 75.

17. When you see typos in a survey, do you correct them? No. I'm a writer by trade. I know no one likes making a typo. I'm not into rubbing anyone's nose in a simple mistake.

18. When was your last vacation? Did you go someplace special? I just got back from Los Angeles. I must update this blog to include details about the trip before I forget.

19. What's your favorite kind of pancakes? Buttery, syrupy. And I can make any pancakes buttery and syrupy.

20. Do you like movies with computer graphics, like Avatar? Sci-fi feels irrelevant to me.

21. Do you know how to sew? I can mend and hem.

22. Are you good at wrapping gifts? I'm OK.

23. Do you like flavored yogurt? I prefer strawberry.

24. How old will you be in December of 2015? 58.

25. What's the age difference between you and your siblings? I'm in the middle; a little over a year younger than my big sister, 8 years older than my little sister.