Monday, September 25, 2017

Now what?

Self portrait
It's 2AM and I cannot sleep. Part of it is that I cannot breathe. I woke up because of this woeful summer cold.

But the reason why I can't sleep is money. Regret over my life choices. Fear of the future.

If I lose this job, I'll get three months' severance. I have between 5 and 6 months' worth of expenses in the bank, so that puts me to 8 months. Figure in unemployment benefits and that puts me to 9 months.

So by this time next year I had better be ensconced in another decent-paying job. Or by this time next year I'll file for bankruptcy. By then I will be nearly 61 years old. I am terrified.

Sunday I reached out to two former coworkers and asked them to write recommendations for my LinkedIn page. One did already, and offered to help me with my online portfolio.

But I don't feel good and I'm scared and lonely. I really don't have much family anymore. Just my niece and nephew, and this isn't the kind of thing I can discuss with them -- at least not my nephew. He's only a senior in high school and battles depression himself.

My cousin Rose loves me. She's an interminable pain in the ass, but she does love me. My aunt will be in next week -- she's been a trick bag herself lately, consumed by anger over family dramas,* but maybe I can talk to her about my panic.

I know Reg and Henry care, but they are rebuilding their lives after Irma and don't really have the capacity to listen to my woes. Besides, they are more than 700 miles away. My oldest friend in California is in even worse shape than I am! Although she does have her cousin, who is being quite supportive, both financially and emotionally. I'm glad she family to lean on, and jealous because I don't have that resource.

Barb just lost her husband. She doesn't need to hear this shit. Besides, she's planning on moving away, too! 

I haven't heard from Kathleen in months. Mindy and I are going to get together. Really we are ... but it doesn't happen.

I've got the newbies, Joanna and Nancy. They both have been through their own "stuff" in life and may have valuable insights to share.

And John and Kathy. We've been friends more than 30 years, with all that entails. John and I are going to the Cub game this Friday. YEA!

AND OH, YEAH! THE CUBS! They won today! The magic number for the playoffs is two. I wish that were enough to calm me back to slumber.

*Which I am trying mightily to avoid.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

I am sick and tired

Literally. Sore throat, runny nose, headache, exhaustion. It took me till 1:00 to get dressed to go out and then I thought about what "going out" actually entailed -- meaning 90º+ heat and relentless sun. I just couldn't. Not even to go clothes shopping. So I put my pajamas back on and got back into bed.

I did do laundry! I want to sleep on my brand new sheets tonight. That should make me feel better.

Him Pretty

That is a very young William Holden from his first movie, Golden Boy (1939). I'm familiar with his work -- The Country Girl, Sabrina, Sunset Boulevard, Network ... and, of course, I Love Lucy. I always think of him as craggy and boozy and cynical. Seeing him 21 and idealistic and so very handsome was a revelation.

Fangirl Lucy pisses him off at The Brown Derby
As always, when I see films with my movie group, I enjoy the community as much as the film. I was fascinated by one young woman (25?) who sat on the floor and knitted by "cinelight." I missed Joanna -- she had a stomach bug made worse by the heat -- but said a quick "hi" to Betty and met a friend she brought along. Then I chatted on the street corner a while with our moderator, Will. I was waiting for an Uber, he was walking home.

While we were talking, a man stopped and insisted on talking to him. The man was unkempt and a little scattered. Will was embarrassed and didn't encourage the conversation. Turns out the guy was a regular at the food pantry, where Will volunteers. He has "problems," Will volunteered by way of explaining why we didn't want to stand and chat with him.

Then he told me the story of another man -- a musician -- who is also homeless. Charming, literate, and completely down on his luck. Will said he and friends were going into a theater and the musician interrupted his dumpster diving to say, "Hi." His friends were astonished. "How do you know him?"

I liked Will so much for that. I thought of telling him about Caleb and Napoleon, and how often I've thought of them this weekend, but I didn't ... I don't know why ... I'm much more forthcoming on this blog than I am in real life.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Da Doo Ron Ron (1977)

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

1) This song begins by stating that he met her on a Monday and his heart stood still. How did your past week start? It may be a lot to expect you to report that you met someone who made your heart stand still, but did anything noteworthy occur? Well, I did discover something that made my heart stand still, but it wasn't a good thing. I found out that my company is thinking of reorganizing ... again ... and I worry about what this means for my future. (Gulp!) I'm terrified of being unemployed at this late stage of my career.

2) While making hit records, Shaun Cassidy also starred as Joe Hardy on the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books have been popular with generations of American kids. Were you a fan? I was a rabid Nancy Drew consumer. Which is why I was so tickled to see this manual typewriter when I visited the Soboroff Typewriter Collection in 2015. (Yes, I'm geeky enough to actually go look at old typewriters, and then to be thrilled.) There, along with Truman Capote's and Tennessee Williams' and Ernest Hemingway's, was the typewriter used by Carolyn Keene to write about Nancy, Bess, George and Ned. This typewriter is too modern for the first book, which was written in 1929 and published in 1930. But it's still pretty damn cool.

 3) Shaun went to Beverly Hills High School. Over the decades, BHHS has had many good footballs teams. Do you remember what sports your school excelled at? We had one very good basketball team when I was a junior. We actually made it to the Sweet 16! But that was a rare bright spot. Our teams were otherwise pretty dismal.

4) Shaun followed his older half-brother, David Cassidy, into TV/records/teen stardom. Do you have siblings? If yes, what career paths did they follow? One sister is an accountant, the other is a grade school lunch lady.

5) His middle name is Paul, after his maternal grandfather. Tell us something about one of your grandparents. One of my grandmothers was such a do-er. She sat on church committees and was an election judge and stayed involved in Girl Scouts long after my aunt was grown. I wish I had a portion of her energy.

6) Shaun's mother, actress Shirley Jones, reports that he was more than 3 weeks late and born by Cesarean. Have you heard family legends about your arrival into the world? I was born at the stroke of midnight. Legally, midnight doesn't exist, so my mother got to choose my birthday. Did she prefer 11:59 PM on November 21? What about 12:01 AM on November 22? She chose the latter. Once, when I had my chart done, the astrologer was entranced by this. I was born on the exact cusp of the cusp between two signs!

7) "Da Doo Ron Ron" was originally recorded by The Crystals. Can you think of another song that has been a hit by more than one artist? "You Can't Hurry Love" by Diana Ross and the Supremes in the 1960s, and then by Phil Collins in the 1980s, and then by The Dixie Chicks in the 1990s.
8) In 1977, when this version of "Da Doo Ron Ron" was popular, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak incorporated Apple. Are you Mac or Android? Laptop is a Mac, phone is Android.
9) Random Question: You're exhausted. You collapse into bed and are about to drift into slumber when you hear the drip-drip-drip of the bathroom faucet. Would you kick off the covers and go turn it off? Or would you stay in bed, letting it drip until morning? I like to think I'd get up and take care of it. But I'm not sure I would.


Friday, September 22, 2017

$6.40 and an old paperback

I spent a little time with Caleb, aka "Napoleon's dad," at lunchtime today. He was low energy, a little down. I thought at first it was the heat. It's been horribly, unseasonably warm this week -- 90º and oh, the sun! But then I remembered, today is Friday. This is the day he's usually traveling to Indiana, where he's apprenticing the window washing trade so he can begin making a decent wage and move indoors with his wife and Napoleon, instead of sleeping in a tent.

So why was he here? He missed his ride because he had no clean clothes. Their belongings were damaged in a recent rainstorm and he had nothing suitable to wear. They washed their clothes -- I'm not sure where -- but now they're taking a bus. They're $30 short because Napoleon requires his own ticket and his own seat for his cat carrier. Otherwise the kitten would have to ride in a crate in cargo department, under the bus.

"No way," Caleb insisted. "He's like my baby. He'd be miserable in a box, away from people!"

He spoke to his prospective employer, who has been very understanding about the special challenges homelessness presents, and explained the situation. His boss wants Caleb there by Sunday night so he can start working Monday morning.

I hadn't expected to see Caleb today, because I thought he'd be en route to Indiana. I knew it was possible I'd see his wife, so I tucked an old paperback in my purse. He likes to read true crime and he's about done with Ann Rule book I gave him, so I brought him Patty Hearst's autobiography. I figured it's a compelling story -- kidnapping, brainwashing, bank robbery, a fatal fire, a Presidential pardon -- told by the victim herself. I love books and it makes me happy to put them into the hands of someone who will appreciate the stories.

But I didn't have my wallet with me. In terms of currency, all I had was four nickels in my pocket.

I left $21 and change at the office. I know I can't responsibly just give it to Caleb, even though I wanted to. I'm on a budget these days myself. I must resist the temptation to just go to the ATM and get them all the money they need.

On the other hand, Napoleon and his humans have touched something deep in me. Yes, I need to buy new clothes this weekend, because there's a big sale at Carson's and I may be interviewing soon. Yes, I should pick up something for tomorrow night in celebration of Joanna's birthday. Yes, the $60 I just spent on skincare was important because I have to look younger than my years if I'm on the job market again.

But I have to do more for this little family. I think about the heart these two people showed when they found that kitten last spring, in the bushes, huddled up against its dead mother. They have meager resources, and they chose to share them with a little furball in need. Plus, I know cats, and little Napoleon is healthy and has never known anything but love. That deserves something.

So I hurried back outside with $6.20. It seemed to make Caleb happy, even before he counted what I dropped into his empty coffee can. The money appeared to mean as much as the book. I think he values really being seen and given the chance to be heard in the same way he appreciates cash.

$6.40 puts them 20% of the way to getting Napoleon on that bus and on to a new life. It's very possible that one of these days they'll be gone from my life forever. I shall miss them, of course, but it will make me happy to imagine them dry, safe and clean.

Haven't slept much since

Earlier this week, someone left a "confidential" deck on the printer for hours and hours. I started reading it in all innocence -- I was afraid my project, which also bore my client's logo -- might be tucked within the pages.

It wasn't. But the deck proved quite illuminating. Every time I returned to the xerox room, I read more of it. In retrospect, I wish I'd just copied the damn thing so I could read it carefully and not torment myself, wondering if I misunderstood what I furtively peeked at.
We have a sister agency in St. Louis. They have complete direct response capabilities. The deck suggests they may be a valuable addition to my client's roster for 2018.

Where does that leave me? Unemployed, come January?

I asked my boss, and he claimed to know nothing about it. He said it's possible they'll help our little skeleton staff.

Or replace us.

I'm so broke. My finances are such a mess. I don't have anywhere near enough for retirement, and I worry about finding a new job and starting over at this late stage.

And so I either can't fall asleep or I have nightmares.

I'm glad I got that new life insurance policy now, before my BIG birthday in November. I had thought it might be "gilding the lily" to have both this group policy at work and then a personal life policy of my own. But if the group policy is going away, then I actually made a rather prudent decision.

So unlike me!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Starting to breathe easier

Last weekend, I was freaked out. My friends in Key West were being Irma'd. My aunt and cousins were on the road, fleeing the storm. My Cubs were not exactly awash in glory in their series against division rival Milwaukee.

This weekend, it's all different. Henry and Reg are OK. My aunt and cousins are OK. And the Cubs have won six in a row.

My outlook is completely, 100% rosier. I suppose I shouldn't let myself be so influenced by the outcome of a ballgame, but ... fuck it. WE SWEPT THE CARDINALS! WE'RE IN FIRST PLACE! WHOOMP, THERE IT IS!

Yin and Yang

As a barren spinster, I find married people fascinating. And over the past few weeks, I've had a chance to ruminate about two happy couples. I conclude that there's something to that whole "opposites attract" thing.

Take, for example, Reg and Henry. They have been together close to 25 years, legally married less than one. After weathering many storms -- literal and metaphorical -- they remain very much in love. While Reg appears to be the alpha, since he's the moodier and more blunt of the pair, I know that Henry always gets his way.

They share some very important values, like friendship and their love of animals. But in other ways, they are different, and their reaction to life in Key West after Hurricane Irma illustrates that.

"We're fine!" Henry keeps insisting. Minimal damage to the house -- just a cracked window, and it was double pane anyway, and a fallen tree in the backyard. The generator is humming along. They have food and booze and the car is fine. Some of the bars are even open! Can't wait to see you! C'mon down!

Reg, on the other hand, is hot and dirty. They are flushing their toilet with a bucket and they can't wash their clothes. He's taking military showers, and is brushing his teeth once a day with water he's boiled. To preserve gas, they're cooking whatever they can on the grill, including Spam. And the smells! The fallen tree limbs and vegetation are starting to rot and stink. Tons of seaweed washed far ashore by Irma and there it sits, getting more fragrant by the minute. He can't avoid these odors because all the windows are open -- the AC isn't working. He wants to go back to work, just to escape the smells, and the boredom! No TV, spotty phone reception, no internet. He trusts life will get back to normal some day, but when?

They live in the same house, wake up in the same bed on the same island, and yet their lives sound so different! Yin to yang. Somehow it makes their happy relationship work.

At the memorial service for Barb's husband, much was made of their differences. He fantasized about being a rocker, her favorite musician is Yo-Yo Ma. She went on a safari in Kenya and climbed the Himalayas, he was content to relax every summer by carrying his own canoe along the Chain of Lakes. He ran every morning and avoided fats, she loves rich French food and the only exercise she gets is walking to her car. His drink of choice was whiskey, hers was a good red wine. Yet every night they toasted one another, "TEL." Those three letters were on the inside of their wedding bands. It stood for, "To Everlasting Love."

For them, opposites attracted, fused, and created something very special. Yin to yang.

Sunday Stealing

To play along, click here.
1. Have you ever had chicken pox? Yes.

2. Have you ever shopped in Home Depot? On occasion. And, since they were once a client, I know that they prefer being referred to as The Home Depot.®

3. Have you ever spied on your neighbors? I have peered through the peephole every now and again, but only when there's hubbub in the hall.

4. Have you ever ridden in a limo? Yes.

5. Have you ever had a pet fish? When I was in high school, my uncle got me a big fish bowl and guppies. One was a perpetually horny male named Giuseppe. He was so randy and so potent I had to separate him from his womenfolk and he lived out his days in his own spacious abode -- a peanut butter jar that I decorated with plants and gravel. I felt bad when he died.

6. Have you ever lied about your age? Yes.

7. Have you ever fired a gun? Once, when I was a very little girl. I hated how it practically leaped from my hand. This is one of the few times I remember my mother ever yelling at my father. "You let her WHAT?"

8. Have you ever been ice skating? Yes. I sucked at it.

9. Have you ever played golf? Only miniature golf.

10. Have you ever hidden on Halloween because you had no candy for trick or treaters? Once. Now it seems I'm never home when the kids come by.

11. Have you ever made a prank call? Decades ago! How do kids do it today with Caller ID?

12. Have you ever gotten a tattoo? No

13. Have you ever had a massage? Yes! Sigh ...

14. Have you ever locked your keys in the car? No.

15. Have you ever ridden a horse? Yes.

16. Have you ever been to the circus? Yes. What I remember most clearly is the bad candy.

17. Have you ever been to Europe? Yes.

Have you ever built a fire? Yes, but I used  newspaper for kindling and lit it with a match.

19. Have you ever been skydiving? No.

20. Have you ever bought something at a garage sale? Yes. Which is why I don't go to garage sales anymore.

21. Have you ever walked in on someone having sex? According to my mother I unknowingly did.

22. Have you ever faked an injury to get out of something? Injury? No. Illness? Yes.

23. Have you ever been to a nude beach? I've been a clothing optional pool, if that counts. I kept my top on. I burn too easily for such nonsense.

24. Have you ever received a speeding ticket? No.

25. Have you ever run a marathon?  I consider just living this life running a marathon.


Saturday afternoon, we celebrated the life of my friend Barb's husband after his blistering battle with lung and brain cancer.

It was a lovely little affair at their favorite bistro. There was a lot of food, though I really didn't have much. All the wine and whiskey you could drink, because those were his favorite drinks, though I stuck with water. A lot of laughter, as his best friend, cousins, nephew and sister recalled his life. Barb spoke a bit, too. Hers wasn't the best eulogy, but it was the most difficult to deliver. Today was excruciating for her, because now it's really "goodbye." The love of her life is gone.

Afterward she gave me a call and we rehashed the day. I made her laugh when I pointed out that only for her would I forsake jeans on a Saturday afternoon. I was even wearing spanx! But now, with the service behind her, comes the return to everyday life. A pile of bills that need to be paid. Veterinary appointments for her beloved old dog, Lucy, whose health is declining. Housework, which was neglected when her life consisted of waking up and going to the hospital.

Her husband's older sister turns 70 this fall and they were going to whisk her away to celebrate. Barb is going to honor the plan and is taking her sister-in-law to New York for a long weekend. She's not excited about it, but she's doing it because he would want her to. Plus, Barb loves shopping in New York. I like seeing her face forward in a way that lets her still hold him dear.

She was so proud of her nephew, now 21, who read this prayer and toasted his uncle with a beer.

In all, not bad at all!

I spoke to Henry today! After several rounds of phone tag and texts, we finally connected in real time. I'm so very relieved.

They're fine. The car is fine. The house is fine -- they lost one pane of a double-pane window, and Henry's favorite tree went down, but that's the only damage sustained.

Key West still doesn't have any power, but they have a generator so they aren't suffering. No TV, spotty phone service, no internet. They have running water, but it isn't drinkable. They are happy to home.

The people that I saw receiving emergency aid at Publix were mostly from the trailer parks. Those poor folks, it seems, lost a great deal. But most of the island is, in Henry's new favorite word, "fine."

Some of the bars have reopened. Now that's Key West!

PS But please, Hurricane Maria, give us a break and stay away.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Don't Talk to Strangers

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

1) When did you recently have a conversation with a complete stranger? What did you two discuss? It was Friday, a phone conversation with the Ball State University alumni office. It was requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in memory of my friend's husband to BSU. But it turns out that the university foundation has many different funds and I didn't know how to make out the check. The woman could not have been more sensitive and helpful.

2) In the video for this song, a woman is having a "hot" conversation on a corded, rotary dial phone in her bedroom. Do you have a landline? If so, do you have an extension in your bedroom? Yes, I have a landline. And yes, I have an extension in my bedroom. My friend Henry, who lives in Key West, has always, always recommended I maintain the landline because in the event of a disaster, it's unlikely that both cell phones and landlines will both go out. Well, guess who didn't take his own advice! Since Irma touched down on Key West last weekend, I lost a lot of sleep waiting to hear that they're OK. (And they are. YEA!)

3) This week's artist, Rick Springfield, says he wrote this song when he was worried that his girlfriend (now his wife) would cheat on him when he was touring. Would you describe yourself as suspicious or trusting? Trusting.

4) He became a daytime heartthrob as Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital. Do you think it would be cool to have a really attractive doctor? Or would it make you uncomfortable? Actually, my gynecologist is a handsome man. Fortunately, I don't find him attractive. I've managed to put doctors and men of the cloth in some other, completely non-sexual category where it doesn't matter how they look, I'm simply not attracted.

5) He's discussed how sad he was when, as a boy, he had to leave his dog Elvis behind when the family left Australia. While you were growing up, did your family often move? Nope. I grew up in the same suburb where my parents grew up and met.

6) In 1982, when this song was popular, Italy won the World Cup. Do you ever watch soccer? Nope.
7) "Smiley," the first emoticon, was introduced in 1982. Do you use emoticons in your communication? Or do you avoid them? Sure, I use them. I once avoided them, but now they're part of the vernacular.
8) The Vietnam Memorial was dedicated in Washington, DC, in 1982. Do you know any veterans of that conflict? If so, tell us about him or her. My favorite uncle was a Vietnam vet. He was very proud of his service, even though he later told me the war was unwinnable. It was the service itself. The people he met. The places he saw. The events -- both positive and scorching -- that changed him.
9) Random Question:  Your friends are throwing a birthday "roast" in your honor. Which one quality of yours are you sure will be singled out for laughs? I have three passions that amuse my friends: my cats, the Cubs and The Lads from Liverpool. One or all of those would be zeroed in on.

It was a wild affair

Cubs manager Joe Maddon is an original thinker. He is famous for his words of wisdom to the team ("Try Not to Suck," which has become an anthem across the city) and his team building exercises (like replacing batting practice with a petting zoo on Wrigley Field). So I was confused but not exactly surprised when he made a wacky decision for Thursday night's game.

Now, in the final weeks of a tight pennant race, he gave a rookie pitcher his first start in a key game and matched him with his minor league catcher. Yes, the starting lineup for the game against the Mets included two young men who had never played major league baseball before.

Together they hit a batter and made an error and gave up stolen bases, walks and runs. After three ininnings, Joe decided the experiment hadn't quite worked out as he hoped and he pulled them for an experienced battery.

But here's the thing, it woke the rest of the team up. They played like the World Champions they still are. And the game ended in a romp.

I'm so happy I was there!

Word finally came in!

Thursday night, while I was in the stands at Wrigley Field, I got a text. FROM HENRY! It says (typos corrected):

Phones still not working right but we are okay. Minimum damage to the house. Tree's gone.

That's really I know about their situation in Key West. But it's enough. It's plenty, in fact. So much better than I was dreading. We missed each other again today, probably because the phones are so hit-or-miss. But it's "okay."

I also got a long IM from my aunt, who has returned to their home outside of Tampa, gave me a brief overview of the what Hurricane Irma did to their property, and then a long and angry update about an upcoming family wedding. So that's good. Not that she's pissed about the wedding, but I look at it this way: if she can be that angry about the way her son is treating her, than she can't be that upset about the damage to their sea wall.



Thursday, September 14, 2017

I like to think it was the Ann Rule book

I saw Napoleon's dad yesterday.  He was alone -- no wife, no kitten. A solitary figure on a street corner, huddled against a street lamp, behind a sign that reads, "Homeless and ashamed," with a Big Gulp cup for collecting donations.He had his nose buried in a paperback.

If I understand his schedule, he leaves for Indiana tonight (Thursday), where he spends two days/week learning a new trade -- window washing. His goal is to first move to a shelter that affords regular access to running water and then, hopefully, an apartment. Once they live where they can dependably have clean hair and clothes, his wife will try to pass the Indiana boards so she can resume working as a cosmetologist.

Dad didn't see me. I'm glad. I didn't have any change for him -- the only bills in my purse were $5s and I couldn't afford that -- and I didn't really have time to talk. But it made me happy that he seemed so enthralled in that book. Earlier this week I gave him an Ann Rule book I found at my local Free Little Library. He loves books, especially true crime. Rule is an author he mentioned by name. I'm glad I could unite a book which might otherwise be discarded with a reader who will really concentrate on it. Win-win!

It hurts to think about

I still haven't heard another peep from Henry and Reg, other than they're "fine."And don't get me wrong -- I'm beyond grateful that they made it through Irma. I feel blessed that their love and support is still out there somewhere.

But tonight I saw a shocking sight. News footage of an Army helicopter landing at the "Sears Town" Publix and troops distributing bottled water and emergency meal rations to the Key West residents. There's no food, no running water, no electricity. The island is so isolated, there's no way to reach it by the highway and as of today (Wednesday), the port is still closed. I didn't see Henry or Reg in line for handouts, but that's not really a comfort. It could just mean they didn't have a running car to get to the shopping center. Without electricity, gas can't be pumped into cars.

At dusk on a better day
I know that Publix store. It's usually our first stop after Henry picks me up at the airport. I get my Coke and apple or orange juice to stock my little hotel frig or ice bucket. As we walk the aisles, I tell him anecdotes about my flights and the harrowing adventures I had changing planes in Tampa or Ft. Lauderdale. He tells me what kind of mood Reg is in, and how much time they both have been able to get off work so that we can all spend time together during my visit. We have done this at least 18 times.

I know it sounds mundane, just grabbing something cool to drink and checking out through the "10 items or less" line. These are memories I didn't even know I had, much less cherish.

But tonight, I long to wander those aisles under fluorescent lights, talking about the minutiae of our lives. I don't want to think of those guys hot, hungry, dehydrated and suffering.

I can't wait to be looking back on these helpless, frustrating days.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

When the going gets tough, the tough go to the movies

I have always been afraid of clowns. The summer when I was 7, I saw The Greatest Show on Earth. A doctor is unjustly accused of killing his wife and avoids prosecution by escaping and joining the circus. He always wears his clown makeup so he won't be recognized and taken back into custody. I entirely missed the "unjustly accused" detail and was terrified of his pointy "I-killed-my-wife" smile. (BTW, I may be the only person in the world who grew up afraid of Jimmy Stewart.)

And so, on Sunday, I went to see IT. Stephen King's Pennywise is the ultimate in clown horror. I didn't misunderstand Pennywise. I got it, loud and clear, when said he liked scaring children before he eats them because fear makes them taste better. He's a voracious, sadistic bastard who is aided and abetted by adults, who either ignore their children or terrorize them in their own way.

I was frightened about my friends in Key West. I tried to watch baseball, but my darling Cubbies were losing ... and to the BREWERS in these all-important late season games. I needed to thoroughly distract myself from real life. And damn, if Pennywise didn't do it for me.

Sunday, terror was my mental sorbet. And I'm grateful.

Four little letters: F-I-N-E

My friends, Henry and Reg, are, in a word, "fine." Have you ever heard a more glorious word?

Instead of evacuating Key West, they rode out Hurricane Irma. They've been incommunicado since Friday night. I can't begin to describe what a frightening and anxious four days I've had.

Somehow today, Reg got word to his father in Maine that he and Henry are "fine." Dad told Reg's sister, who posted it on Facebook. I spread the word to Henry's friend, Katie.

I'm worried about those guys, of course. I can't imagine what their lives are like. Few passable roads and bridges. No power. No gas. No fresh water. I just heard that electricity isn't expected to be restored to Key West until the 22nd, a week from Friday.

Is their house OK? What about their car? And the dogs? Do they have enough food? Are they able to wash and brush their teeth and flush? I mean, it's hot and humid down there!

Right now, all I have are those four letters: F-I-N-E.

It's a relief, but it's not enough.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Sign of the Times (2017)
... because Cat recommended Harry Styles  

1) In this song, Harry sings, "We don't talk enough, we should open up before it's all too much." When you have something serious on your mind, who do you share it with? Depends on the situation ... and the timing. Right now, with so many of my friends struggling (see posts below), it would be John because he's the one with the greatest bandwidth. Everything seems to be good with John right now (knock wood).

2) As a kid, Harry wanted to be a lawyer because he can see "both sides." Are you good at seeing both sides of an argument? Professionally, yes. Personally, no.

3) He can't decide which is favorite color -- orange or blue. Help Harry out: which of those
colors do you prefer? BLUE! Specifically Pantone 294, which is Cubbie blue.

4) Harry says he prefers older women, but would never go out with someone older than his mother. Do you think age disparity matters in romance? Yes. Not in terms of sex. I think we can be attracted to the most unlikely people! But in terms of cultural references and shared experiences, I believe age does matter over the long haul.

5) He admits to a big crush on Adele, who is six years older than he is. Who are you crushing on right now? (It doesn't have to be a celebrity.) I once watched the sun rise and bathe the Swiss Alps in pink and gold light. It was almost as beautiful as this face.

6) It makes Harry's skin crawl when he sees people use their teeth to open bottles. What creeps you out? Certain smells. Strong coffee, those sickly sweet skinny cigars, marijuana. BLECH! 

7) When he's on the road, his go-to food is tacos. Do you like Mexican food? Mexican food does not like me.

8) Harry has never smoked. Have you ever been a smoker? If you quit, how did you successfully kick the habit? I have never smoked anything. I forgot to add that the thought of blowing smoke out of my nose and mouth into the air around me is one of the things that creeps me out. I mean, how is that NOT germy and filthy?

9) Random Question: As she pulls out of her parking space, an elderly woman in an old car scrapes an expensive car. Then she drives away. You witness the whole thing. Do you make a note of her license plate and leave it for the owner of the expensive car? Or do you just mind your own business? Oh, hell, I don't know. Not being a car person, I don't really have a strong feeling about this. I might think, "Oh, she's old and probably poor or she wouldn't be driving a beater so let's give her a break." Or I might think, "Isn't this why people have insurance?" and leave a note. Or maybe I won't be able find a scrap of paper in my massive purse. This question is beyond me today.

Which leads me to this: As Crazy Sam's staff, I try to visit everyone who plays Saturday 9. But this week, I'm Irma obsessed. Many of my loved ones are waiting for the impact of this storm and I'm sick with worry. So if you don't hear from me this week, I apologize for my distracted slackerness.

The Round Up

So much is going on with my friends and loved ones! So little of it is good!

My oldest friend is battling depression big time this week. She was told that, on October 9, she will be unemployed. The doctors she works for have sold the practice to a Catholic, not-for-profit healthcare service. Ironically, this company that prides itself on providing affordable healthcare to those in need, has told her that the job she needs so badly has been eliminated in the merger. So now, at age 61, with little money in the bank and a litany of health problems, she's starting over ... again. This is the fourth (fifth?) job she's had since she's moved to California. She only left one of her own volition. She's bereft. Unfortunately, I really can't be there for her right now. I'm too keyed up about Hurricane Irma. Besides, I tried to call her right after she shared the news and she didn't bother to pick up. When she gets like this -- when she doesn't want to talk, just wants to pour her feelings out in email after email -- there's little I can do for her. I love her, I depend on her, I worry about her. But I know her. She doesn't want to hear from me. She just wants to know I'm here.

My cousin and aunt are fine. Not happy, but fine. Though they don't know each other -- different sides of the family -- they both happen to live outside Tampa. Cousin Rose is headed for Birmingham with her sister. My aunt, her husband and their big poodle are may already be in Macon. I'm worried about what they will return to after Irma, but at least I know they are safe right now.

My friend Barb has more worries. Yes, she just lost the love of her life to cancer. Yes, she is pre-occupied with planning his memorial service. Yes, she has serious health problems of her own. And yes, the beautiful new home they built -- from scratch, to spec, over the space of more than a year -- is in the path of Hurricane Irma. Hilton Head, SC, has been evacuated. I tell myself this may be a blessing. If God and Mother Nature take her house out, then she doesn't have to decide whether or not she wants to live in it without her beloved husband.

The Cubs lost to the Brewers this evening. At any other time, that would be the lead story of my Friday. Now the Brewers and the Cardinals are tied for second place, four games behind us. This late in the season, I would prefer a bigger lead. I don't expect another World Series, but I would like my champions in blue to make a showing in the play-offs. Also, John Lackey got the loss. Since I have decided to be John Lacky's fan -- I've seen no fans in Lackey jerseys, ever -- I take this very personally.

Good News! My nephew started his first job today! He went through orientation at McDonald's and will work his first shift on Sunday.

"We are leaving it to Irma and Geico"

I texted with my friend Henry all day today and spoke to him tonight. He was really quite cheerful and very busy, preparing to ride out Irma.

He and Reg cleaned out the garage and to make room for their patio furniture and potted plants. They are taking care of the car that runs, the hybrid. But as for the one that doesn't run, the one Reg really, really is going to find parts for someday, "We are leaving it to Irma and Geico."

They set up the generator. I didn't quite understand what he told me he decided to do with the big tree near the back porch. I know he loves that tree, but sometimes his Puerto Rican accent comes between me and comprehension.

Then, Friday evening, he let me know that they relocated, after all. At first I was relieved, now less so. For, while they have their three-story townhouse* farther inland ("inland" being a relative term when you're talking about a small island), they have taken refuge in a big (for Key West) house nearer the ocean. Henry says this house is "sturdier" their wood A-frame. He is more worried about wind than water. The noises here, he believes, be less terrifying to Reg, who is just more naturally afraid of hurricanes.

"We are en suite," he happily reported. They are sharing this 6BR, 3BA with (I think) three other couples. Since they were last to arrive -- and came with three dogs -- they were put in what would, at other times, be the best room in the house but for Irma is the least desirable. They're in the master bedroom on the ground floor in the back. But they have their own bathroom, and this makes him happy, since he assumes they will be there for two nights.

Yes, he thinks he and Reg will pack up "the fur babies" and drive home on Sunday afternoon.

He barely knows the couple who took him, Reg and the dogs in now, at the last minute. The man is the ex-husband of Henry's friend, Sherry. The divorce was decades ago and, apparently, amicable -- perhaps because Sherry left him because she wanted to live as a lesbian, the truest manifestation of "it's not you, it's me" I've ever heard. Anyway, that's Key West at it's best. "You're scared? You need room for a night, or a week? C'mon in, and bring your dogs."

In the meantime, I am sick with worry. I wish it was Sunday night, and I was journaling here about how safe my friends are.

*The ground floor is the garage.

Friday, September 08, 2017


I saw little Napoleon TWICE in two days! At first I was ambivalent about it. After all, this lively little fluff ball brightens my day every time I see him. On the other hand, I'm really pulling for his humans to get consistent, full-time work before it gets too cold. Sleeping in a tent by the river is not healthy and not safe -- especially not with a Chicago winter on the way.

Thursday I saw him with his male human and got more of the story. Yes, Dad is doing an internship as a window washer in Indiana. And he has to put in a certain number of hours with a supervisor before he can legally make  the full hourly wage. But he has nowhere to live in Indiana, so he's dependent on a friend who travels back and forth to Chicago. I mean, they're homeless. They don't have a car and he can't afford a hotel room in Indiana. So he lives in his friend's car and is dependent on his friend for rides. When his friend returns to Chicago, so must he. His new boss is very understanding of Dad's unusual situation and is supportive, allowing him to spread his internship over the month (where, I guess, most employers would insist it done in a week). He hopes to soon have a marketable skill and begin making $15 to $20/hour. Then he can afford to send for his wife, and Napoleon, and live indoors at a shelter that allows animals until they have enough to get an apartment. His wife is trained as a beautician and once they're living indoors, where she can bathe regularly and keep her clothes clean, she will take the boards to be licensed in Indiana.

Then we started talking about my book, Helter Skelter. He is a fan of true crime books, and knows that Ann Rule is the author of the definitive book on Ted Bundy, The Stranger Beside Me. I found a free copy of an Ann Rule book at my local Free Little Library. I will carry it in my purse until I can get it to him.

All the while, Napoleon slept. Blissful in his dad's lap.

Then today I ran into Napoleon with his "mom." Dad's in Indiana for at least the next few days. She says she's afraid of heights, so she's not crazy about his new career, but he's so enthusiastic about being able to make steady money that she's happy for him. She told me that Napoleon was vaccinated this morning. A kind stranger prepaid it with her credit card and emailed the vet a photo of the kitten so he'd know who to expect. Isn't that great?

She also mentioned to me how much her husband likes talking to me. "The lady with the short hair," he calls me. I was touched. I certainly haven't spent $100+ on shots for them. I think that in the last month I've given them $20 in total, and a can of cat food -- the flavor that my Connie girlcat had rejected. Not a great investment. I think he just likes that I treat him like an equal. We talk cats. Now we talk books. He tells me about his career aspirations. I haven't asked him how he got here -- why a well-spoken young man is begging on a street corner and sleeping with his wife in a tent -- though I'm dying to know.

Today, when I've been so worried about Hurricane Irma and my friends in Key West, cat fur works as a tonic. I'm so grateful to see and play with Napoleon, and to come home to my own two cats.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

No friend of mine!

The 2017 hurricanes have such benign names: Harvey and Irma have arrived and Jose is on the way. And I've come to fear and loathe those names.

My friends in Key West have chosen to ride out Irma. I believe this is very unwise and I'm sick with worry.

Their motivation is financial. Henry insists that they are still making their honeymoon trip to see his family in Puerto Rico on the 14th* and doesn't want to "waste" money on motels and dining out. When I pointed out at that it would only be for a night or two, he argued that's not the case -- once you leave the island during an evacuation, the authorities decide when you can return. He's afraid it could be weeks, and that would result in big bills.

I countered that insurance would reimburse him, but he argued that would take months. He really misses his mother and needs to see her. Between the hurricane causing damage to his hometown in Puerto Rico and her advanced age, he feels real urgency about being with her.

I mentioned to him that I he was being crappy, to me. After all, I'm worried about Barb, whose husband just died. I'm worried about my aunt and cousin, both of whom live in Tampa and have fled the storm. I am worried about my oldest friend. I am worried about my own finances. I don't need this additional patina of worry.

He apologized, but said his mind was made up. I could hear his husband Reg in the background, not especially amused or sanguine about riding out a Category 4 storm with a generator, Spam and wine. I figured if Reg can't convince him, I certainly can't.

And so now I worry and pray. These guys are closer to me than family, and I love them very much.

* I have no confidence that the airports in Miami and Puerto Rico will be operating on the 14th, but Henry believes.