Monday, November 20, 2017

Oh, how could you?

I've always been a little in love with Charlie Rose. The intelligence, the sly humor, the ability to carry on comfortable, revealing conversations with everyone from Condi Rice to Ron Howard.

And yet today I found out that he has been accused -- by eight different women -- of sexual harassment.

I hate this so much. How could he not know it's bad to walk around your house naked when your assistant is there?

Yes, I know here in the US of A, we have the laudable standard of innocent until proven guilty. But that's for jail. I get to decide who inhabits my fantasies. And Charlie, you're outta here!

So now he is dead

I refuse to rejoice in the passing of another human being, so you won't find me among those cheering the death of Charles Manson. On the other hand, I do appreciate Charlie's timing.

Leslie Van Houten has been approved for parole and Governor Brown is weighing whether she should be released. Perhaps all this attention on what she did will help him decide.

She, at Charlie's behest, broke into the home of this woman, Rosemary LaBianca, and her husband Leno. Then Leslie (and these are Van Houten's own words) "took one of the knives and started stabbing and cutting up the lady." In all, Rosemary LaBianca was stabbed 14 times.
This is Rosemary LaBianca. She is in my thoughts this morning. She was a hardworking, ambitious and imaginative businesswoman back in the days when "entrepreneur" was not something most women aspired to. She was a loving wife, mother and stepmother. Her life should not have ended in horror.

I believe in Heaven and grace and yes, I believe that Christ has forgiven even Charles Manson. I believe He will forgive Leslie Van Houten, too, and, when her time comes, will welcome her to Heaven.

But that doesn't mean society has to forgive Van Houten or welcome her back among us. She belongs where she is -- in prison.

This makes me sad

A coworker likes to tease me that my tombstone will read, "Change Is Bad." She has a point. Some things I won't change unless absolutely forced to. I've been going to the same dry cleaner for decades. Likewise my dermatologist, gynecologist and GP. Just as I don't like to throw serviceable things away, I don't like to switch from something that's still working. Hell, I still have an AOL email address!

Which, I guess, is why I was sad to see a "For Rent" sign in the window of my former eyeglass provider. I've been going there for 20 years. I impulsively went in one afternoon and asked the woman at the counter (who I would learn is Cindy) to replace the screw on my sunglasses. My $10 drugstore sunglasses. She did it at no charge but with a smile, saying she had a favorite pair of cheap sunglasses, too. Next time I needed a new contact lens prescription, I moved my business over there.

Three pair of glasses and countless boxes of contacts later, I was still happy. I came to know Cindy and Sharon, who ran this location efficiently for a woman they really liked -- the owner who spent all her time at the original store in a northern suburb. I participated in their holiday toy drive and dropped a pair of my old glasses in their recycled eyewear box. The optometrist on site was trustworthy and careful. I was happy. They were kind and friendly, so I was loyal.

Then, early in 2016, everything changed. When I called, I had to identify myself and say what I wanted. Usually, Cindy or Sharon would recognize the Caller ID and say, "Hi, Gal! Do you need more green contacts?" But now I had to spell my first and last name out for a new and very young girl.

When I went to pick up my lenses, I was met by Ray, the owner. His wife had died and he was running things now. He had a big personality, very chatty, all about the selling. While I was waiting for my order, I heard him tell another customer he had given Cindy and Sharon "early retirement."

Then he laughed.

What the fuck? Those two women ran this place and I liked them. They deserved more respect than that!

But I began to have eye trouble and I trusted the optometrist to shepherd me through it. I like my new frames, chosen during the summer of 2016, even though Ray pressured me to buy designer frames. So I stayed.

Until around Halloween. Yet another new counter girl answered the phone, "Hello." Not terribly professional. When I went over for a Saturday morning appointment with the optometrist, the office was locked tight. No one even bothered to called me to cancel.

I went around the corner to another eyeglass shop. They were more expensive, but they take insurance. They have a wider variety of frames in my price range. (As Sharon used to say, "Gal is all about the lenses" as she steered me to more affordable frames.)

So I've moved on. But still, I was sad to see that sign in the window of my former shop. I hope Cindy and Sharon have moved on, too. They were so good at their jobs I'm sure someone snapped them up. I just hope they still get to work together. I suspect my former optometrist just retired. He was only there three days a week anyway.

And even though he was a slimy jerk, I feel bad for Ray. I don't know what his story is, but his wife ran these two eyewear stores and she's gone. Now this location is shuttered. That's sad.

Although I wonder about the legality about just closing the doors. After all, they have my medical records ...

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday Stealing

Thanksgiving Thoughts

1.  What made you feel patriotic this year? Watching this young man stand tall by not apologizing for kneeling. The President of the United States took him on, and he didn't back down. When it comes to free speech, in this country we are all equal, and that makes me so proud.

2 . What do you value most about your life? My independence

3.  What do you appreciate about your friendships Acceptance and accessibility

4.  Name one person who can make you laugh, even months later. Why? My oldest friend. She and I share a sense of the absurd. I've laughed the longest, the loudest and the most often with her.

5.  What is the funniest thing you remember about a Thanksgiving past? I'm sorry, but nothing comes to mind.

6.  Do you have any unusual traditions, rituals or habits around Thanksgiving? As an adjunct to #5, Thanksgiving with my family was always stressful. Guilt was the main dish, served with ladles of resentment. While I am sorry that my family never enjoyed a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving, I do not miss those gettogethers.

See these happy people? They are not my relatives.

7.  Name one ancestor that you think about on Thanksgiving and tell us why. My nice grandma made the best rolls from scratch. And she refrained from martyrdom about how hard she worked on the meal. I wish we had spent more holidays with her and fewer with my icky grandma.

8.  Is there a family heirloom at the Thanksgiving table? What its story? No heirlooms.

9.  What is your favorite part about Thanksgiving Day? Delicious food, and lots of it.

10. What random act of kindness did you perform or that was done to you this year that makes you feel grateful? On Valentine's Day I encountered a kind young man I never saw again. He worked in the coffee shop at the auditorium where my movie group meets. I ordered a hot chocolate and he made a milky heart with the foam. Then, as I went in to watch the movie, I had trouble with the lid and splashed the cocoa all over the place, including on his book. He was studying The Book of Psalms.

I apologized. He was kind enough to show me the inside of the book. "Look, the pages are all fine! It's for reading, not for show, so don't worry about it!" As I tried to help him mop up, he looked me square in the eye and said with great seriousness, "I've already forgiven you. Now you have to forgive yourself." What a dear, sensitive young man.

11. What do you appreciate about the change of seasons? The difference in the trees. I love watching the trees go from leafy green, to colorful, to bare branched, and then back again. I feel so fortunate to live in Chicagoland, where we have four distinct seasons.

12. Name five things that make you happy about today. 

•  My cat Reynaldo let me sleep in
•  Reynaldo has also been a very good, very affectionate boy this morning
•  My girlcat, Connie, is happy and healthy, too
•  I'm getting a fresh pedi this afternoon
•  I just ordered tickets to see a play with my friend Barb on 11/27.

13. How has the celebration of Thanksgiving today changed from when you were little? Now I celebrate with my friends instead of my relatives.

14. If you could share Thanksgiving dinner today with one person in history who would it be? Why? (Note: it can be a relative) My mom. I'd love to spend time with her again, just the two of us.

15. What is one wish you have for the next generation as they begin to establish their own Thanksgiving traditions.


Happy birthday to me, part 3

Behold the official burger of Gallapalooza 2017. John took me to celebrate at Monk's Pub, the bar where we regularly hung out in the long-ago 1980s and 1990s. Back in those days, we could always get a table. Then it became famous, named for having one of the best, most affordable bowls of chili in the city. It immediately went from a blue-collar dive to a white-collar afterhours destination. John and I refuse to wait for a booth at a place we supported during the lean days, and so we quit going.

Because this is a landmark birthday (60! Gulp!) we decided to go back to the future and returned to Monk's. I had the same burger I ordered at my first birthday celebration earlier in the week, but it was cheaper and more delicious at Monk's. Cheddar cheese, bacon, and egg ... with tater tots on the side. Heaven!

Got a couple little gifties: a 2018 desk calendar and a cat pen holder. But better than that was spending time together. John and I have known each so long, there's just tremendous comfort in observing big events with him.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Saturday 9

It came on Halloween and I still haven't touched it
Saturday 9: Son of a Preacher Man (1968)

1) This song was originally offered to Aretha Franklin, who turned it down. What's the most recent thing that you said "no" to? Renewing my subscription to People magazine. I just don't keep up with it and have back issues waiting for me on my bed. If there's a story I really want to read, in 2018 I'll pick up the issue at the newsstand.
2) Two years later, Aretha recorded "Son of a Preacher Man." What's something you changed your mind about? Salad. I used to hate feeling like a rabbit, nibbling on lettuce. Now I enjoy making salad and like adding stuff to the greens, like slivered almonds, or raisins, or croutons, or cheese ...

3) This song tells the tale of Billy Ray, a young man who could be very persuasive. If we wanted to change your mind about something, would you be more easily swayed by an emotional argument, or with verifiable facts? Emotional
4) If you ordered a "Son of a Preacher Man" in a bar, you'd get a cocktail made with
peppermint schnapps, gin and lemonade. When did you last have lemonade? Was it just lemonade, or was it spiked with alcohol? It was last summer. On the way home from church, I happened upon two little girls and their lemonade stand. Obviously it was "just lemonade."

5) Dusty had a thing for maps. She admired them artistically and enjoyed using them to take long car trips. Do you use printed maps? Or do you rely on technology, like GPS or Google Maps? I do not own a printed map.

6) As a girl, she attended convent school. There, one of the nuns discouraged Dusty from performing, telling her that if she would do better to be a mother or a librarian. When you were growing up, did the adults in your world encourage your dreams? My cousin Rose was always very encouraging. Also, she was a powerful role model. When I was growing up she was a junior high school geography teacher so she had summers off and traveled. I lived in a family of women who married young, didn't go to college, and didn't go anywhere farther than Wisconsin. Here was Rose, getting a degree, getting a job, spending her summers going everywhere from Los Angeles to Guatemala.
7) That nun inspired Dusty's first major act of rebellion. In an attempt to make herself look less like a future librarian or housewife, she bleached her hair platinum blonde. In school, were you much of a rebel? Or did you conform to the expectations adults had of you? Among my high school classmates, I was considered geeky and aloof. Schizoid, I guess. Within my family, I was considered a non-conformist because I didn't join clubs or go to dances or do any of the things my older sister did, the things that my mother maintained would make me look back at high school as the best years of my life.
8) Early in her career, Dusty provided the entertainment at a family summer camp. She appeared on the bill with a clown, a fire-eater and a hypnotist. Have you ever been hypnotized? No.

9) Random question: Have you ever played matchmaker to your friends? If yes, did your efforts lead to romance? No. I'll be interested to read everyone's answers and see if anyone had any luck in this area.

Happy Birthday to Me, Parts 1 and 2

It's Galapalooza Time! The kickoff was earlier this week, and it was lunch with my coworker. We tried a new -- and, I thought, too pricey -- restaurant that she chose. At first I was a little disappointed because I had expected her to ask me where I wanted to go and I had privately chosen a restaurant. Oh well, her birthday is a few weeks away. When it's my turn to buy, I'll choose.

Anyway, the meal turned out to be very good. The burger was completely awesome. Huge and gooey, complete with a fried egg. Dessert was a pair of fabulous, huge, freshly-made donuts.

This luncheon gives me a moment to reflect on our relationship. She and I have been working together, off an on and at two different agencies, for more than 15 years. She can be exasperating and selfish, but she's also grown a great deal and become more sophisticated as a designer and better at handling responsibility (which I appreciate). I wonder how she views my professional and personal evolution over that same time.

Today, when I got home from work, I was greeted by two (2) packages! One was from my cousin Rose. A pretty nightshirt festooned with books. The other was from Snarkypants herself -- a body butter and bar of holiday-scented soap. Such nice gifts, so nice to be remembered, and so much merrier than the Bed Bath and Beyond coupons and credit card bills that usually greet me.

Friday, November 17, 2017


I had so hoped Napoleon, Caleb and Randi* were happy, safe and warm, living indoors in Cleveland. Caleb and I had said our goodbyes week of 11/6, and at that time he told me the kind of embarrassing, personal things that are easier to share with someone you're never going to see again. Now I know how he became homeless. It's a story I'll post someday. Or not. It's very depressing.

Anyway, he was hopeful and enthusiastic about a fresh start with a steady job in Cleveland. Randi was going to take her boards and resume working as a hair stylist. Napoleon would live indoors for the first time in his life. It was all going to be good.

Today, unfortunately, I saw Caleb and Napoleon on their usual corner again. Napoleon was delighted to see me, climbing up my leg and wanting to play. Caleb had the blues ... bad.

It seems that the company that had trained him and made him an offer to be a window washer rescinded it. It was taking him "too long" to make his way out to Cleveland. They had wanted him to start sometime in October and now here it was, November, and there were still obstacles and so basically they said, "don't bother."

This little family had been counting on this! Caleb blames the bad news for Randi's chest cold, thinking it's a psychosomatic manifestation of her depression. I don't know ... it's also flu season. But still, I can imagine how devastating this news was for them. He said she resting in their tent this afternoon while he tried to raise the funds ($46) for them to sleep indoors tonight. I put $6 in his cup but had to run to the bank and then back to the office.

Meanwhile, we had a Friendsgiving gettogether at the office. Everyone brought something -- I brought Frango mints -- and there was a ton of food leftover. I ran back outside with a plate of turkey for Caleb, a little extra gravy for Napoleon and donuts and the zinc lozenges from my last cold for Randi.

He mentioned that he was going to apply for jobs as a forklift driver and as a seasonal helper at the USPS, but that it's hard to be considered when you don't have a permanent address. I mentioned to him that soon Christmas tree vendors would need part time help and that's when he said he'd forgotten how soon Thanksgiving would be here. Now that the job has fallen though, he tends to forget the day and date. That made me sad.

I told him I had a warm coat I'd try to bring for Randi and he thanked me, saying he also hopes I'll bring him some books so we can discuss them. He likes talking books. Then I went back to the office.

What will happen to these two now? Funny, but I no longer worry so much about Napoleon. He's so happy, knowing he's loved, and he has so much food donated by passersby, and a clean box. He doesn't understand how close he was to life as an indoor cat, so he's not sad about the lost opportunity. But Caleb is heartbroken about the setback and now Randi is sick.

I am nagged by realization that there are approximately 2000 "unsheltered" homeless people in The Loop. Caleb and Randi (and Napoleon) just make it more real to me.

*Why can I never remember her name? It's Randi!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The ground felt solid under my feet

Last week, the brother of my friend Kathleen contacted me with the offer of a freelance project. He has started his own IT company and wants to promote it through a series of emails. The thing is: how many emails? What should they say?

I went over my work with him today at lunchtime. He seemed pleased by the positionings I'd devised for his product, and took notes as I told him how I arrived at them. He listened intently when I explained the way the content was structured, so that it would appeal to the reader whether he was looking at a phone or a laptop.

He's a smart guy, and he thought I was impressive. What a boon that was for my bruised ego!

Oh yeah, and so far I have earned $260 toward my Christmas trip to Key West. The final tally should be between $400 and $600. That makes me happy, too.

I hate this

Al Franken, too.

Meanwhile, back at the office ...

The drama continues. It turns out that the merger with the St. Louis agency may not happen after all. No one talks about it, so I can't say for sure what happened. Apparently it "fell through." Or maybe it didn't. I don't know. It simply no longer seems to be on anyone's radar.

But Thursday at 11:00, we begin talking about our merger with the New York office. Now that's official and definitely happening. It's complicated, but here's the topline ...

1) No one in the New York office will work on my client's business anymore

2) Their salaries, and their billings, will be moved to the Chicago office

3) This means there are now more than 35 open slots in our office, that HR will begin looking to fill come Monday

4) But there weren't 35 New York employees working on my client's business. So what gives?

5) Supposedly the more expensive, senior New York employees will be replaced by more junior and more affordable bodies. In short -- more people at the same price point.

6)  And we will all be "reorganized."

I don't know for sure what any of this means for me, except that I think I'm OK through February 15.

I can foresee a scenario where I meet and interview my own more junior and affordable replacement. I can also foresee a scenario where my position stays exactly as it is right now.

I don't know. Maybe I'll learn more tomorrow. Maybe I won't.

I don't want to let this ruin my birthday/Thanksgiving/Christmas celebrations, so I'm trying to stay zen about it all.*

Thanks to everyone who has been thinking about me. I appreciate your support, and I'm just trying to take it one day at a time.

*And if you think I'm successful, you haven't been reading this worryfest of a blog.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

What do these two trophies have in common?

The Oscar and the World Series Trophy are connected.  In 1944, Casablanca won three Oscars -- Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. It was written by Julius and Philip Epstein. In 2004 and 2007, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series Trophy and in 2016, my beloved Chicago Cubs won their first World Series Trophy in 108 years. The 2004/2007 Sox and the 2016 Cubs were led by baseball executive Theo Epstein.

Julius and Philip Epstein were brothers. They began their career as well-paid "script doctors," brought in by Warner Bros. to punch up the dialog on dozens of scripts, usually without credit.When they got an opportunity to actually work on their own stuff, they did it with relish. When Howard Koch approached them to adapt a short story called, "Everyone Comes to Rick's," they came up with some of the most-quoted dialog in film history:

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.

We'll always have Paris.

Round up the usual suspects.

Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Play it, Sam. Play "As Time Goes By."

Here's looking at you, kid.

Philip Epstein had a grandson (meaning Julius had a grand nephew). His name is Theo. First, as Red Sox general manager and then (fabulously) here with the Cubs, Theo ended baseball's two longest droughts by bringing the World Series to two victory-starved cities.

Unfortunately, Philip and Julius had passed away by the time Theo brought new millennium glory to the family name. But isn't theirs just the most fantastic gene pool?

All of this is top of mind because my movie group took a field trip to see a special TCM-sponsored screening of the restored Casablanca. In a special video intro, Ben Mankiewicz reminded us of the Epstein connection. (He know what he's talking about, as the Mankiewicz clan is pretty impressive, too.)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

We get it, Chuck. We've always gotten it.

I just saw Chuck Todd interview Sen. Amy Kobuchar on Meet the Press. He asked her if Democrats assume some responsibility for decades of sexual harassment because of the pass he thinks Bill Clinton received in the 1990s.

First of all, Bill Clinton didn't receive a pass. He was impeached. Yes, I know he was charged with perjury and (are you listening, Donald Trump?) obstruction of justice. But if you ask anyone on the street why Bill was impeached, you'll hear, "Monica Lewinsky." The 42nd President of the United States' legacy is forever tainted.

Second, women have always understood how ugly Bill's behavior was during the Lewinsky scandal. Here is what I wrote about it in 2010.

The prompt was to write a letter to "a hero that has let you down." I haven't changed a syllable. I don't have to.

Dear Mr. President:

Every time I think of you, that old Laura Nyro song starts playing in my head. You know the one, "BILL! I love you so, I always will ..."

And I did and I do. But you broke my heart.

It wasn't the infidelity that bothered me. Hell, I'm a Kennedy girl. I grew up believing we can and should separate personal behavior from public performance.

It was the way you allowed your good ol' boy horndog behavior to seep from the personal to the public that makes me nuts. You did a young and emotionally vulnerable girl in the Oval Office! How did you think you were going to get away with that? And I don't for a moment think you cared for that poor kid. You saw more interesting, more attractive women every day on the rope line in front of the White House (remember, this was before 9/11 when we could tour 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue). You chose her simply because she was there, and you did her simply because you could. And then you not only lied about it, you demeaned her ("I never had sexual relations with that woman ..."). The imbalance of power between you two and your fates appalls me. YOU were the most powerful man in the free world, YOU were the one with a wife and daughter (a daughter not that much older than your mistress). Yet today you remain one of the most popular men on the planet, and she's a punchline, a synonym for oral sex. How is that fair?

You're a good man and you have done a lot of good. But you had the capacity to do more and be a great man. I believed in you, and you let me down. You let the nation down. And you let yourself down. Every account of your presidency will include the phrase, "impeached by the House of Representatives."

And yet ... and yet ... When you talk about the Clinton Global Initiative, I'm transfixed. When I watched you walk Chelsea down the aisle, I got misty. Every time you have a health problem, I say a little prayer.

So even though you broke my heart, I love you so, and I always will.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sunday Stealing

The Simple Life

What are five things you would like to do more.
1) Exercise
2) Volunteer
3) Read
4) Write for pleasure
5) Attend church
What is your quote to live by


What was the best thing that happened this week?
Friday evening, I got a new pair of contact lenses. YEA! Those glasses were really cramping my style.

What is something you are stressed about?
Ha! There's a possibility that I'll be let go on November 15. I believe that's worth a sleepless night or two.

What book has influenced your life?
Saving Graces by Elizabeth Edwards. I read it a decade ago, and I still think about it.

Share a childhood memory
The Christmas I was in second grade, Santa brought me this very poster. Which I hung on my bedroom door and kissed every morning and night. 

What fictional character would you most like to be?
Mary Poppins, because she was practically perfect in every way.

What is something you are proud of?
I have given good homes to the cats I've rescued. 

What was the last thing you celebrated?
Last weekend, I had lunch with my friend Nancy for the first time in months, and I gave her a mug ("Potent potables for $20, Alex") to celebrate her appearance as a contestant on Jeopardy.

What are weird things you like?
I watch very weird TV. Like Autopsy: The Last Hours of .... And What's My Line? from the 1950s.

What is your favorite song to sing?
I found myself singing along to "Memories" with Elvis. "Holding hands and red bouquets and twilights trimmed in purple haze ..." The King sounded so sincere on those ballads.

Name three things you do well.
1)  Bonding with critters
2)  Present to clients
3)  Laundry (I hate it, but I'm good at it)

What are your priorities in life?
I try to live by the Golden Rule. 

What is something that scares you?
Losing my job on November 15.
Best book you read this year?
Perhaps it's the sin of recency, but I'll go with the one I just finished, Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter. Haunting and heartbreaking.

It gives me hope

Anika is an Indian-born market researcher who has worked at my agency for four years now. Early in her career here, she sat outside the office I share with my coworkers and did the most wonderful thing: she surprised me with a Christmas present for being "the most thoughtful person I've ever had the good fortune of knowing. You spread holiday cheer year around." Because she sees me that way, I work hard to be a good person, to live up to her expectation.

This past week, she showed what an extraordinary woman she is.

She's been researching marketing to the LGBTQ community, which is important to our clients because demographically-speaking, gay HHs have an impressive amount of disposable income. Yet while she was collecting data, she worried she was missing nuance. After all, she grew up in India, where homosexuality is still illegal. Since she's been in Chicago, she's watched us all become more accepting and welcoming, but she doesn't know a single "out" LGBTQ American.

Without any prompting, she approached our HR department and asked how to find a gay coworker to help her craft a more sensitive and inclusive presentation. Her request gave Human Resources a pause. Sexuality is not a box to be ticked on any form. But they put Anika in touch with Andy, a numbers-cruncher at one of our sister agencies, who is out and proud and just thrilled to be involved with something more creative than monthly billing.

Anika and Andy's presentation was well attended (yes, lunch was provided) and sensitive. At times, I welled up. Partly because of the content -- I was thinking of my friends John and Henry and Reg and the obstacles they have faced, and how far our society has come in accepting them. Partly because of the fact of it.

I mean, here was Anika. Reaching out. Going beyond her upbringing, working hard to assimilate into her chosen country and to open her heart. I find this so moving, and it gives me hope.

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Get Down Tonight (1975)

1) Tonight, KC has three things on his "to-do" list: do a little dance, make a little love and get down. Tell us three things you'd like to accomplish this weekend. 1) Make a dent in that freelance project I took on. It's not due until Thursday, but I'd like to knock it out now and then spend the rest of the week refining it. 2) Laundry. There's always laundry. 3) Attend a special screening of Casablanca with Will and my movie group.

2) This week's song is considered emblematic of disco, a genre that had as many detractors as fans. Is there a kind of music you simply cannot stand? That would be disco. (Though I admit a certain fondness of the Brothers Gibb.)

3) Before becoming a musician, KC, aka Harry Casey, worked in a record store. In those days, record stores were very popular. Peaches, Coconuts, Sam Goody and Tower Records are four store chains that once dotted the landscape but now are gone. Today, if you wanted to purchase a CD, where would you turn? Amazon. I always check out the ones I see by the register at Starbucks, Walgreen's and Whole Foods, but I seldom buy.

4) One of his duties at the record store was unloading the big corrugated shippers filled with LPs. What's the heaviest thing you've lifted lately? My fat ass.

5) KC is proud that he's lived his entire life in Miami-Dade County. Do you expect to change your address in the next year or so? No.

6) In 1975, the year this song was popular, former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa disappeared, never to be seen again. Many theories flourish about what may have happened to him. Is there a famous criminal case that has a hold on your attention? I recently befriended a pair of millennials who had absolutely no idea who Patty Hearst is. I suppose that's a good thing for Patty, but it got me thinking about her case again. I picked up Jeffrey Toobin's 2016 book on the case and it's waiting on my TBR pile.
7) Jaws was the most popular movie of 1975. Are you afraid of sharks? Not especially.
8) Actress Angelina Jolie was born in 1975. People magazine once named her
"most beautiful." Who is the most beautiful woman you can think of? Every time I see CNN's Erin Burnett, I think, "God, I wish I looked like her."

9) Random question: A wizard offers you a choice -- would you like your life to stay as it is right now (in terms of your health, your career, your relationships and your finances) for the next 5 years, or would you like to take a chance that the future will be brighter? I'm frankly terrified of the future. I'd like to stay frozen here. At least I know this life.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday 56


*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
From A Murder Is Announced by Agatha Christie. Everyone in a small British town (Chipping Cleghorn, I love that name!) reads the ads placed by their neighbors in The Gazette.  Amid the help wanted's and the puppies for sale, they find one announcing a murder. At 6:30 PM. At an exact address. The woman who lives at that address didn't place the notice. Everyone assumes it was a prank or a game and her neighbors assemble at her home at 6:30 to see what happens. 

Instead of good fun, something terrifying occurs. The lights go out, shots are fired, and ....  Inspector Craddock is called. He begins questioning the attendees. One guest points a finger at the household help.
From page 56:

"Mitzi's mixed up in it! Awful temper she has, and oh! The airs she gives herself!"

And in this corner ...

I feel sorry for Brian, our condo board president. He has become the leavening influence in the battle between me (the secretary) and John (the treasurer). Or, as I've come to think of us, Norma Rae and Ayn Rand.

A little background: For at least 10 years, this building has had a rule against renting. The reasoning? The more rental units a condo building has, the more expensive the insurance on the common areas. There is also some evidence that renters are not as careful about their homes as owners. I must admit I don't care whether or not we have renters. I was a renter for most of my adult life and can attest I am just as lazy a housekeeper as an owner.

But the "no rental" rule is in the by-laws. When he buys in our building, every owner agrees to live in his unit. And I believe in rules being fairly enforced. Nearly 30% of our building is now illegal renters. That's not fair to all us who follow the rules. Plus, there's a security problem: our management company does not have contact information for these renters because they've rented illegally and the landlords don't admit they're there. This pisses the village off, because there's no resident to contact in case of emergency.

I came on the board back in April, and we talked about the problem back then. It wasn't a priority, really. We had more immediate problems -- a leak in the ceiling over the stairwell, a balky coin slide on one of the dryers in the laundry room, a problem with the water meter reading ...

Last month we met again to discuss the budget. Obviously we need more money. We always do, if we want to do everything that needs to be done around here. The matter of renters came up again. Our management company said a way to bring more money in is to fine the owners who rent. We can legally demand to see the leases and fine them for all the months they've been renting. We can assess them in advance for the $175 move-out fee. And we can set a date certain that their tenants have to be gone. If the renters remain, the owners can be fined even more.

"Let's do it!" Our treasurer was so enthusiastic. "Ayn Rand" is all about personal responsibility. The owners knew they were breaking the rules. He wanted to send out a letter, dated October 31, that deemed all renters were evicted as of November 30.

"No!" countered "Norma Rae." I reasoned that was unnecessarily punitive to renters, who signed their leases in good faith and don't realize they are living in illegal apartments. 30 days to find a new home  when there aren't many apartments for rent? At a time when kids are still in school? Over Thanksgiving?

That's me in the beige trunks.
No fucking way am I signing off on that. And no one can make me.

"OK," Ayn Rand responded. "60 days." Then he warned me that, if people realize they can appeal to my conscience, they'll use that against me. What the fuck! Of course you can appeal to my conscience! I have no intention of changing!

Besides, 60 days puts us to Christmas/New Year's. And, undoubtedly, snow. I will not literally throw my neighbors out into the snow. Oh, and by the way, if we're all about "personal responsibility," then as a board we have to own the fact that we didn't act on this problem in April. I told him that, if he had wanted to send a letter out on May 1, having everyone out on June 30, I would have been amenable. But we didn't bother to investigate our options until October. Shame on us. Now we have to accept the responsibility of that oversight.

I suggested the letter go out January 1 and give the tenants until August 15 to move out. Now I know that was too generous. I really wanted June 15, so the later date was just my negotiation tactic.

As the emails between Norma Rae and Ayn Rand got more heated, our president weighed in. When I received the message that began, "Gal, bless your heart ..." I knew I wasn't going to get everything I wanted.

But I got a lot.

We're working with the lawyers on a letter that will go out December 1, giving the owners/tenants notice that all renters have to be out by May 31. The board will collect a lot in fines and penalties, which will enable us to make some of the renovations everyone wants without an increase in assessments (which no one wants).

And we'll all live happily ever after.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017


WWW. WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here

1. What are you currently reading? A Murder Is Announced, by Agatha Christie. Everyone in the small English town of Chipping Cleghorn reads the ads in The Gazette. Amid "help wanted's" and "dachshunds for sale" notices is one that reads, "A murder is announcd and will take place on Friday, October 29, at Little Paddocks at 6:30 PM ..." The woman who lives at "Little Paddocks" didn't place the ad, and that's only the first mysterious thing to happen. What appears at first to be a prank and a game turns into a real murder. Thank goodness Miss Jane Marple just so happens to be there. 

In addition to the sleepy British charm is the mystery of this paperback. Published in 1991, it was on the shelf at the Charlestown Branch of the Boston Public Library until June 8, 1995, when it was "withdrawn for discard." How did it make its way to a library book sale in a suburb of Chicago? How many hands held it before me? I simply love the romance of used books.  

2. What did you recently finish reading?  Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Lawson.  There is so much pain on the pages of this book. Joe and Rose Kennedy's third child and first daughter was "different." In the first half of the 20th century, America wasn't kind, understanding or accepting of children with learning disabilities. There was no differentiation between mentally challenged and mentally ill. The stigma the families of these children faced was unfair and bruising.

Rosie faced special challenges. Her eight siblings were exceptional. Legendary. Among her brothers and sisters were a marchioness, an activist, an ambassador, a war hero, two Senators and a President. Yet Rosemary couldn't cut her own meat. While she was physically and mentally challenged, she was not unaware. She knew her siblings loved her and she loved them -- one at a time -- but her competitive and gifted family overwhelmed her. Her frustration at being outflanked by her siblings gave way to rage. These fits made it impossible to keep her at home, yet, despite all their money and power, the Kennedys couldn't find a school to educate and care for her. They refused to institutionalize her, because in those dark days, institutions weren't hospitals, they were warehouses that kept patients alive, but little more. This led her father to make a tragic, irreversible decision about his oldest, prettiest daughter.

I'm glad this book finally told her story. For Rosemary Kennedy inspired her brothers and those brothers championed the landmark legislation that made life better for other families with special children. When one of the country's most famous families admitted they had a mentally challenged sister, it helped remove much of the stigma that undeniably existed in America at that time. Without Rosemary, her sister Eunice would not have been as furiously dedicated to making The Special Olympics the internationally influential organization it is today. Rosemary is a historic figure not because of anything specific she accomplished, but because of how much she was loved. That was powerful and enormously moving. (With Emma Stone slated to play her in the upcoming movie, Rosemary's story will reach even more of us.)

This one will stay with me for a long time.

3.  What will you read next? Maybe another mystery? Or a biography