Sunday, January 21, 2018

When the going gets tough, I go to the movies

It's my happy place. Sitting in the dark, letting the magic take me somewhere faraway. Today it was Oregon.

I saw I, Tonya. I must confess that I, like most of America, was transfixed by the lurid Tonya Harding trainwreck and always felt sorry for her. But I was also motivated by my disdain for Nancy Kerrigan. She just annoys me.

Kerrigan is a bit player in I, Tonya. This is all about the badass, plucky little blonde. She's emblematic of what often happens when an American girl doesn't fit the mold. Margot Robbie is fierce as Tonya. Allison Janney is going to give me nightmares as the stage mother from hell.

Mostly, I'm glad there's a movie theater that I can run to in literally less than 10 minutes.It's the tonic I needed. I'm happier today.

Sunday Stealing

Friday Questions on a Sunday

1. Have you ever tried to learn (or re-learn) a foreign language as an adult? Which one? What worked for you? I took a stab at relearned Spanish a few years ago. I got sidetracked by surgery, and shame on me for not picking it back up.

2. Do you donate blood? Do you know your blood type? I don't donate often enough. My blood type is AB+.

3. Have you ever been in a play or musical? Not since junior high.

4. Do you use certain text or ring tones for specific people? Who gets their own? Or do you just use the default on your phone? Nope.

5. When did you get your first digital camera? Do you still shoot on actual film, or all digital now? I don't recall when, exactly, but I was rather late to the digital game. For a while I really liked disposable cameras. Now I'm all digital.

6. What do you think someone else would say the most daring thing you’ve done is? I suppose when I went for an executive job I had absolutely no training for. I wonder what happened to that young woman. As I get older, I get more spooked, less likely to take chances.

7. Do you talk with your hands? Yes.

8. Do you have a lucky number? What is it, and what is the story behind it? Seven. I won a prize at a grade school birthday party by guessing it, and I've stuck with it ever since.

9. What kind of milk did you drink, growing up? And now? I don't know what kind of milk I drank growing up. My mom bought it, I drank it. I have 2% in the refrigerator now.

10. What is your favorite kind of pie? Strawberry rhubarb.

11. Are you a note taker? Yes.

12. Do you have an eclectic mug collection, or is your stuff all matchy matchy? Eclectic.

13. Do you have a junk drawer in your house/garage/at work/wherever? OH, YES!
14. What is the longest amount of time you’ve worked at one job – and what was/is it? I've been at this job for (gulp!) 13.5 years. I'm an advertising writer assigned to a very nice, honorable client that I admire very much.

15. How old were you when you took your first commercial flight? To where did you fly? I was 17. I'd just graduated from high school. My cousin and I flew to/from ORD to FLL to visit her dad, my favorite uncle.


Last week was very slow at work. That offered me opportunities. I could have taken long lunches and worked out. I could have straightened out my files and caught up on emails. I could have surreptitiously worked on my online portfolio or updated my resume.

I did none of those things.

I had the blues, and that kept me frozen in place.

Part of it is my coworkers. One is still (naturally) mourning the loss of her mother last month. One is dealing with his son, who was hospitalized (again) with mental health issues. I've always been a bit of a sponge, and I suck up their sad vibes. My natural impulse is to try to fix things, and these are unfixable problems. Plus, I have had to withstand snark from each of them, which I guess is to be expected as they deal with what they're dealing with. But that doesn't make it fair, or easy for me.

Part of it is fear and panic. I worry about what is going to happen to me (which reminds me that doing nothing isn't smart, which leads to self loathing). I actually found myself jealous of my oldest friend, because she's moved in with her cousin and is looking at subsisting on aid because of her pre-diabetes, heart trouble and bad knee. Damn! I'm too healthy for welfare, I thought. Then whoa! It hit me how incredibly fucked up that is.

Oh well, today is Sunday. The dawn of a new week. An opportunity to start anew and remember my OneWord. Reynaldo is on the mend. I'm fine. I must remember to enjoy the moment.

January 20, 1961

Even if he'd had access to Twitter, the man who said that would not demean the office with bullying tweets.

It isn't that John Kennedy couldn't be vulgar. He spent four years in the Navy. During WWII. A popular joke among servicemen in those days had a soldier explaining the condition of his jeep by saying, "The fucking fucker's fucked." More tellingly, when he was quoted in the press as saying, "My father told me all businessmen were sons of bitches," he complained bitterly about being misquoted. Not because of the vulgarity -- he said he may have said "bastards" or "pricks" -- but he refused to believe he tarred "all businessmen."

Kennedy was too elegant, too respectful of language, to tweet the way President Trump does. He read extensively and constantly. (His wife recalled he often propped a book or magazine on the sink so he could keep reading as he shaved.) His second book won the Pulitzer Prize.

He was also hardwired to be gracious. Nellie Connelly, wife of Gov. John Connelly, was in the car with him when he was assassinated. She reports that he spent the parade route saying, "thank you" to the crowd as he waved. Even though, she noted, they couldn't possibly hear him.

And, unlike Donald Trump, John Kennedy was confident in his alpha dog status. Our current President graduated from Wharton. According to PennLive, he didn't receive honors. JFK graduated cum laude from Harvard and his senior thesis was published and made the NY Times best seller list as Why England Slept.

Donald Trump didn't go to Vietnam because of "heel spurs." Another rich man's son, John Kennedy, had his father pull strings to get him into the Navy, despite being underweight and having a bad back. He lived to see his heroics in the Pacific immortalized first by The Reader's Digest and then on the big screen.

Original 1963 movie poster
Women? JFK's wife wasn't The Next Jackie because she was, well, you know, Jackie. Where Donald Trump is denying he paid porn star Stormy Daniels for sex, Kennedy was linked with actresses Gene Tierney, Angie Dickinson and most famously, Marilyn Monroe.

There's no reason to compare hair or teeth.

When a man knows he is the real deal, he doesn't need to try elevating himself by bestowing childish nicknames on his adversaries.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Jump (1984)

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

1) David Lee Roth does a lot of jumping in this video. He credits his flashy moves to his study with marital artist Benny Urquidez. Have you ever tried karate, judo, or jiu-jitzu? Nope

2) Dave claims to be fluent in Spanish.
Say something "en español." ¿Cómo están Pablo y Luisa? I don't know Paul and Louise. This was just the way our high school Spanish 101 drill began.

3) Dave appeared as himself in an episode of The Sopranos, playing poker with Tony Soprano. Are you a good poker player? No.

4) Though known for his prowess on the guitar, Eddie Van Halen wrote the opening of this song at the keyboard when he was still new to the synthesizer. When did you recently venture outside your comfort zone? Was it a success? I'm working on building a web page so I can showcase my work online. It's slow going.

5) Eddie's older brother Alex is the Van Halen drummer and his son, Wolfie, began touring with the band in 2007. Have you ever worked with a family member? No.

6) Van Halen's first manger was Marshall Berle. Mr. Berle's uncle was Milton Berle. Does the name Milton Berle mean anything to you? A staggeringly unfunny comedian from the early days of television.

7) In 1984, when this song was popular, AT&T/Bell Telephone was broken up into 24 separate companies. Today, who is your phone provider? TMobile

8) Also in 1984, Michael Jackson was severely burned while filming a Pepsi commercial. Would we find any Pepsi in your kitchen right now? There's a 1L bottle on my counter (because it's too tall to fit in the cabinet). I drink Coke by preference, but this was on sale and I thought it will do in a pinch. If only it fit in the cabinet.

9) Random question: Have you ever been so angry that you kicked or hit an inanimate object? I've given this considerable thought and no, I haven't. I'm more of a thrower.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Forget Meryl, go for Tom

I went into The Post with a great deal of skepticism. All the buzz was about Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham, which is fine but expected. I always found Mrs. Graham (as she preferred to be called) interesting and I appreciated her as a transitional feminist figure. But she inherited The Washington Post ... Her father retired and left it to her husband, not to her. She ended up as the owner/publisher when her colorful husband Phil committed suicide.

On the other hand, I've always been more than a little in love with Ben Bradlee. The smartest thing Mrs. Graham ever did was hire him. Brilliant journalist, legendary ladies man, war hero, raconteur ... sigh. Everything he did, he did with his own take-no-prisoners style. In The Post, he's played by Tom Hanks. A warm and versatile actor, to be sure. But I just didn't see him as Ben Bradlee.

Hanks is revelatory. Bradlee's sexy swagger is there. It comes in equal parts from knowing he's the coolest guy in the room, and his uncompromising commitment to quality and to doing what's right. This is an edgier, more serious, more adult Hanks than we loved in You've Got Mail. I still think the definitive Bradlee performance is by Jason Robards in All the President's Men, but Hanks is a delightful surprise.

You can't watch The Post without thinking of Donald Trump. For reasons all his own, our President is about to give out Fake News Awards. (The man who shamelessly lied about Barack Obama's birth and time at Harvard is suddenly a stickler for the truth, or his version of "the truth.") The audience in the theater with me literally applauded when the Supreme Court ruling regarding The Pentagon Papers was announced:

In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday Stealing


1. What are some small things that make your day better? Cuddling a cat. Making note of the sky (I love the colors of the sky). Hearing a forgotten oldie on the radio. Yesterday it was this:

2. What shows are you into? I've just discovered Pawn Stars, which fascinates me beyond all reason. And This Is Us. I used to love NCIS, but it's lost something since it lost Tony.

3. What TV channel doesn’t exist but really should? I'd watch Diana's Boys TV.

4. Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished? My young nephew. Adolescence is such a difficult time, and he is battling depression and migraines. Yet he's getting good grades in his senior year of high school and holding down a job at McDonald's. He compares himself to his sister, who is just naturally smarter and more driven. I wish he wouldn't do that. He has a wonderful heart and an acute social conscience.

5. What age do you wish you could permanently be? 35. I felt sexy and indomitable at 35.

6. What TV show or movie do you refuse to watch? Duck Dynasty. Whenever I see that Robertson family, I throw up a little. 

7. What is something that is considered a luxury, but you don’t think you could live without? Cable!

8. What’s your claim to fame? I've built an award-winning career, even though I don't have any college. I've done it all with savvy. I just wish I had the confidence that I can do it again and have a successful last chapter.

9. What’s something you like to do the old-fashioned way? Read.

10. What’s your favorite genre of book or movie? Biography. In both books and movies. The last films I've seen have been Finest Hour and All the Money in the World, and next on my "to-see" list is The Post.

11. How often do you people watch? Often

12. What have you only recently formed an opinion about? Pawn Stars! It's been on since 2009, and I now just discovered it.

13. What are you interested in that most people haven’t heard of? Old movies. I realize that classic Hollywood is of little/no interest to Millennials, and yet I'm endlessly fascinated.

14. What’s the farthest you’ve ever been from home? Luxembourg

15. What is the most heartwarming thing you’ve ever seen? My little heart grows three sizes whenever I cuddle a dog or cat.

16. What is the most annoying question that people ask you? When someone learns that I have two cats and then asks, "I hate cats. Does that bother you?"

17. What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?

18. If you were dictator of a small island nation, what crazy dictator stuff would you do? I would make my island a Trump-Free Zone. Like Chicago, and now apparently London, he would not be welcome. Nor his family. (OK, Melania, Barron and Tiffany can come.) Oh, well. I'm sure that, as he is of Chicago and London, he'd be dismissive of my little island.

19. What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives? Whatever it is that you're sure SURE you won't enjoy, because you might. For me, it was Lollapalooza. 100,000 people -- and me. I didn't see how that would be anything but awful, but instead it was great.

On the mend

Guess who is hungry? REYNALDO!

My little beige demon is more affectionate and social, too. I can tell his mouth is still bothering him a bit, but he's no longer holding his tongue at the incision site. 

This is such good news. Rey is such a big personality, that when he's not 100% I really notice it. And yes, even miss his misdeeds.

Running the numbers

Because I wake up worrying about my job security, and my ability to find another position at age 60, I ran the numbers. Were I to be let go on February 15, I would get 13.5 weeks of severance. Combine that with my What If I Lose My Job? Fund, and I can live for 9 months without any money coming in. (I'm figuring my unemployment benefits will go to healthcare, which could be mega-expensive.)

I could probably stretch it a little further, because I pay my mortgage a few months in advance (just in case I have to skip a month).

After that, I'll have to turn to my retirement funds, which I do not want to do.

There are so many things I need to do in this condo, if I were to get a decent price for it. I must finish the bathroom. There's a problem with the windows. The carpet should be replaced. I guess that would all cost me about $20,000. I understand that the $20,000 could mean a $35,000 return at sale. I get that, but I have exactly $1,400 saved in my What If There's a Household Catastrophe? Fund.

My friend, John, reminds me that I am in better shape than some of our friends. This is true. But I don't have any friends/family to lean on. Kathy has been living with her daughter for years now. My oldest friend just moved in with her cousin. Me? I'm an island. (Though Reg and Henry have always, always assured me there's a room with them in Key West. I don't know what I'd do for a living down there, but it's a comfort nevertheless.)

Still, I'm scared. Must keep clinging to my OneWord.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

My happy heart beats Cubbie blue

Kris Bryant signed his contract and will be ours next season. Which is why I'm walking around the house on this cold day singing, "Warm it up, Kris ..."

Saturday 9

1) As she sings, Ariana muses about the songs she could compose on her piano. Do you play the piano? Nope. I'm sadly non-musical.

2) She compares love songs, saying there are sad ones about how hard love is, and happy ones that make you want to dance. What's your favorite love song? Is it sad or happy?  It changes. Currently, it's "The Way We Were," which is very sad, even though it emphasizes "the laughter we will remember." Here's Gilda's luminous rendition. (It's a little long, so if you're in a hurry, you might want to start at the 2:00 mark. Though I love the whole thing.)

 3) Ariana's mother always told her that they took her name from Princess Oriana in the 1988 movie Felix the Cat. Who is your favorite cartoon character? Mr. Peabody.

4) Ariana's favorite board game is Monopoly. What's your favorite board game? Scrabble. I miss playing Scrabble with my nephew. He doesn't seem to enjoy games unless they're on a screen.

5) She relaxes by baking. When you feel keyed up, what do you do to relax? Farmville. Old movies. Napping.

6) She is a huge Florida Panthers fan, even though once, as a little girl, she got hit by a puck. Now that the NHL season is underway, how's your favorite team doing? The Blackhawks aren't doing so well this year.

7) In 2013, when this song was popular, the NHL reached an agreement with the players union and averted a strike. Have you ever belonged to a union? Nope. I wish I did. I think I'm about to be aged out of a job, and that might not be so easy to do with a union behind me.

8) Also in 2013, Pauline Philips died. Ms. Philips was better known to millions of readers as "Dear Abby." At its height, her advice column appeared in 1,400 newspapers across the country. Do you still read a printed copy of your newspaper? Yes. I have the Chicago Sun Times delivered Tuesday through Friday and then on Sunday.

9) If you could get the answer to one question about your future, what would that one question be? Will I still have a job when I'm sitting here next year?


Friday, January 12, 2018

Hooray for Hollywood!

 It looks like Will has negotiated a better price for a smaller room at the venue of his choice, so our Classic Film Meet Up will go on! Yea!

I'm happy because it's fun to get my geek on with other geeks. And because I met Joanna there, and who knows what other new friend might be joining us in the future?

And because this makes Will happy. Our moderator really cares about this group and puts so much thought and attention into the schedule and then his Power Point presentation about each movie. It's his passion. It makes him happy to share it. And I get joy watching him do what's so dear to his heart.

Oh, Reynaldo!

Today my little man had major dental work. In addition to a thorough cleaning, he had one of his molars removed. It required anesthetic and pain meds and stitches. It was miserable for him.

He's home now. Sleeping soundly -- very soundly! -- in his favorite wintertime spot in front of the radiator. But when he wakes up, he'll be sore and I have a week's worth of additional pain meds for him. (Though the vet thinks a week's worth is a precaution; Rey should be feeling much better by Sunday.)

I'm exhausted. I worried about him all day, while he was under the knife. Now I'm exhausted with worry about his current condition. I love the little beige demon, and his welfare is my responsibility.

I don't know how people with children do it.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

She's revealed herself again

One of my coworkers and I have become rather close over the last year or so. Mostly because we're the last two left on our creative team, the last two left in our age group, etc. And we have a lot of shared history.

This cordiality makes the day go faster/easier, but it masked something I always knew about her: she's fundamentally self interested.

This revealed itself to me again yesterday. She was daydreaming aloud about what she wants in her next lover. "A nice widower," she said. Not someone who has never been married! People who have never been married are immature and can't be there for her the way she deserves. (This said while conveniently forgetting that I have never been married.)

I told her about a guy I went to grade and high school with. He's kept up with my oldest friend via Facebook and coincidentally is a musician whose path crosses regularly with my favorite cousin's. So when I got the "friend" request, I clicked "yes." He looooves all my posts. I mean, we seem to have a scary amount in common. We even get our hair cut at the same place. So I was thinking of reaching out to him. Except, I added, I really have no recollection of him past junior high. So, I joked, wouldn't it be like dating a 7th grader?

"Who? Who are you talking about?" She clearly hadn't been listening. Even though it was just her and me sitting there at the round table in our office. So I patiently repeated it all again.

"If he's never been married, he probably is like a 7th grader," she said -- not only completely missing my point (that I last remember him in junior high) but again not caring if she offends the never-married me.

Because we were no longer talking about her.

In the past, she has gotten jealous when coworkers talk to me about The Cubs, because she can't participate. (And believe me, that's a CHOICE. There is no dearth of information flying through the ozone about the Bears and the Cubs.)

I've also been thinking about the way her last relationship ended. He wasn't attentive to her. He didn't interest her. Valid points, I'm sure. But still, it occurs to me that she never seemed to have a moment of self doubt about whether she was a good lover for him.

And, for some reason, she is opposed to my helping Napoleon's family.  Come to think of it, I've never heard her mention a cause or charity she truly believes in.

I am cataloging all this not to slag her. It's to remind myself. Someone like me can be very badly hurt by believing someone like her is a true friend. She can't be. She can't get out of herself long enough.

This is the way she is. She's over 55 years old, and expecting her to be different is folly. We can be friendly, but not friends.

Good News!

With the thaw, Napoleon is wide awake and livelier than I've seen him all year. Literally leaping as high as his leash would allow as he tried to capture a discarded styrofoam cup or climb into his mom's jacket pocket. It was a delight to watch.

And even better, his "parents" have a lead on a room to rent! One they can afford, every night. It's in Chicago's Boystown, the very gay neighborhood. An older gentlemen* owns a house that's in disrepair and he's looking for tenants to help him raise the cash to fix it up. But he won't rent to gays. He'd rather have Caleb and Randi, a married couple, and little Napoleon. Plus Caleb has carpenter skills. For $525/month, they will get their own furnished bedroom, access to the kitchen and (most important to them) bathroom. They have to come up with $1050 cash (first month's rent and security deposit), which will take a while. But the old guy* has more than one bedroom to rent so even if it takes till March 1, they are confident a room will still be available.

Caleb is working! It's part-time, only a few hours/night. It doesn't pay much -- and the employment agency takes something off the top -- but it's a real job. Enough to pay the rent on the room (just the rent, not their food or transportation costs). He drives a forklift over night at a grocery warehouse. I'm proud I could help him get that long-ago, teenage shoplifting conviction expunged, because he acknowledged he didn't have to sweat the background check this time. He and Randi continue to augment this by panhandling, but it's a start.

Randi has a job interview Thursday at 1:00! There's a chain salon that needs "help." She didn't specify what she'd be doing, exactly, since she's not licensed in Illinois. Perhaps shampoo girl. Anyway, she just found out about the interview Wednesday afternoon when she went to the library to check her email. She asked me to help her because she doesn't have any "black dress slacks" for the interview. I gave her $20, which I had because my boss took our little team out for lunch today. She'll go to Goodwill first thing in the morning and pick up her interview outfit. (They kept saying they'd pay me the $20 back and I told them to forget it. Now I wonder if I should have said that. There is pride involved. I think I will refrain to giving them any money next week, and explain, saying, "you know, because of the $20.")

I'm less confident about her prospects than she is. I worry about the figure she'll present tomorrow in her new/used (and likely unlaundered) blouse and slacks. I hope she gets to take a shower tonight.  Also, it's supposed to be wet and in the teens and 20s over the next few days ... Oh, well, fingers crossed.

It's been so long since they had anything to celebrate. I hope at the very least, February or March finds them indoors. They told me that when, given the opportunity to sleep in a bed (instead of the sleeping bags in their tent), Napoleon loves burrowing under the covers next to Caleb's feet.

*Who might be my age. Gulp!

I'm getting old

Because of his birthday on Monday, I've been thinking about Elvis a lot this week. I watched King Creole and Elvis and Nixon. And Grease.

I don't really like this movie very much. It's so synthetic. The cast is entirely too old (example: Stockard Channing was 34 when she played the 18-year-old Rizzo). It lacks the grit and sincerity of the original Broadway production. Yet it remains ridiculously popular. My friend Kathy tells me how both her daughter and granddaughters watch it over and over and over and know all the lyrics.

Watched through that prism, as family entertainment (something the play was never intended to be), I really didn't enjoy Grease. It glamorizes smoking and drinking and unprotected sex, without showing any of the consequences. And then there's "Greased Lightning," the number where Travolta channels his inner Elvis. He's got the hair and the hips but here he's something Elvis never was: vulgar.

The thought of generations of little girls hearing these lyrics and thinking it's OK for boys to sing/feel this way makes me very uncomfortable:

"You know that ain't no shit/we'll be getting lots of tit in Greased Lightning ..."
"You are supreme/the chicks will cream for Greased Lightning ..."
"You know I ain't bragging/she's a real pussy wagon, Greased Lightning ..."

Oh, well. Maybe I'm just one of those old-school, humorless, unreconstituted 70s-era feminists.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A little gem

When I think of my favorite Elvis movie, King Creole, I think of two of my favorite numbers: "Trouble" and "King Creole." When he performs "Trouble," he seems to be having so much fun (both here and on his 1968 TV special). And "King Creole" has him in such fine and versatile voice as he swings that guitar. Those two songs overwhelm another number from the film, which is just so cinematically sound it's left me gobsmacked.

Look at the shadows. Michael Curtiz and his cinematographer Russell Harlan treat it like a set piece in a film noir. These two were masters of black and white: Curtiz is best known for Casablanca, and Harlan went on to do To Kill a Mockingbird.

So this is what Elvis could do, would have done, if his manager and producer allowed it. But Col. Tom saw they could make more money off the movie soundtracks than the movies themselves, and Hal Wallis seemed to believe the bubble would burst and Elvis would fade into oblivion at any moment, so once Elvis got out of the Army they cranked out movies at an alarming rate.

Amazingly, those subpar films all made money. Elvis fans are nothing if not loyal -- his continued popularity proves that. They would have enjoyed him in good movies as well as the Technicolor mediocrity they saw him in.

Of course, Elvis earned some culpability in this sad situation. The teenage usher at Lowe's Palace in Memphis, the kid who loved movies and John Wayne and especially Tony Curtis, wanted to be a good actor and wanted to appear in prestigious films. Then he went into the Army and a switch was flipped. Drugs, the loss of his mother, ennui ... He stopped standing up for himself and for quality. Which is tragic.

So as delightful as I find King Creole, it also makes me sad. I watched it twice this year in honor his birthday week. I think next time, I'll stick with Jailhouse Rock. It's not as good, but it is more fun.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Odds are good that I don't like you

It's been one of those days. Which is really unfair, because it started out so well! The coldsnap seems over -- for now, at least -- and we cranked out a lot of work.

But after lunch -- a delicious solo lunch in my beloved Pittsfield Building, first time this year -- just about everyone I interacted with annoyed me.

First, there's Elvis. Yes, The King. I wrote a rather sweet and certainly well-intentioned post in honor of his birthday (below), and someone actually responded that I need to "get informed" about his drug use. Oh, give me an ever-loving break! Just a cursory search of this blog provides evidence of how "informed" I am about Elvis' life and career. And besides, this blog is my cyber living room. When you stop by, exhibit good manners or don't stop by.

Then there's my officemate. We were talking about movies and the Golden Globes so I mentioned All the Money in the World. Turns out she knows nothing about J. Paul Getty and claims to have never even heard about Claus von Bulow. And, she said, "I don't care." Well excuse the fuck out of me. Give me a list of approved movies and topics and I'll stick to it.

Then there are the unit owners in this condo building. This coldsnap has taken its toll on the plumbing. Is this the responsibility of the unit owner or the board? Now this is something I would admit I need to "get informed" about, except that we have a lawyer on retainer. Hey! Here's an idea! Let's ask the lawyer to do his job!

Then there's my oldest friend. She's owed me $100 from my birthday trip since late November. She asked me, while we were still in Vegas, when/how I wanted the money. I told her a check would be fine, and I'd like it before I left for Key West on 12/22. She agreed, and then never delivered. OK, she's broke, she's embarrassed. Trying to be sensitive to her situation, I never mentioned it. Today she sent me a breezy pair of emails, detailing how relaxed and happy she is to be laughing with her cousin. How this move is exactly what she needed. And oh yeah, doesn't she still owe me money? Yes, girlfriend, you do.

Oh well, now I've put it all in a post and I can move on. I'm going to settle in front of the tube, cuddle a cat, and try to appreciate the here and now.

Happy Birthday, Your Highness

Today would be Elvis' 82nd birthday. Here he is celebrating his 23rd birthday during pre-production of King Creole. It is, in my humble opinion, not only his best movie, it's the last one he made before he went into the Army. Directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca) and with a top-quality supporting cast, it gives us a poignant peek into what his film career could have been if it hadn't been interrupted by the draft ... and then derailed by the combined evils of Col. Tom Parker's/Hal Wallis' greed and lack of faith in his ability.

One of the most tantalizing "what might have been's" is how his life would have unfolded if Elvis hadn't become a slave to the drugs that seemed to sap his earlier ambition and undermined his ability to say "no" to the crappy post-Army movies they put him in.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Sunday Stealing

End of Year Questions

1. What did you do last year that you had not done before? I went through a friend being widowed. The enormity of it was humbling.

2. Did you keep your New Year's Resolutions/goals for the year and will you make/set more for next year?  What are they? What are your new ones? Last year, I vowed to FOCUS. That was a bit too ambitious/ambiguous, so this year I have narrowed my OneWord to NOW.

3. Did anyone you know give birth? Or become pregnant?  Or adopt? My faraway niece had a baby in November. I don't really know her at all because of distance and because her mother is, well ... "psycho bitch" is unkind so let's just say my older sister is "difficult." Still, my niece has tried to have a relationship with me and I honor that so I sent her a pink infant's t-shirt emblazoned with a Cub logo. It was, literally, the least I could do. I mean, I bought it because I was at the park and I wanted a 2016 World Champions gift bag for myself and had to buy something to get the bag. Anyway, the baby now fits into the shirt and my niece proudly posted a pic of her in her present from me. Gulp. That was humbling, too.

4. Did anyone you know die? Or have a serious illness/injury? See #1.

5. What places have you visited? Grand Haven, Michigan. Las Vegas, Nevada. Key West, Florida.

6. Any new pets? Lost a pet? No. These two are just fine -- and much loved.

7. What would you like to have next year that you lacked this year (doesn't have to be a physical thing i.e. love, job security, peace of mind...)? Love, job security and peace of mind would all be nice.

8. What date from last year will remain etched in your memory and why? November 22. I woke up on my birthday in Vegas.

9. What was your biggest achievement last year? I'm healthier than I was last year. I had a rather detailed life insurance physical and a colonoscopy that bear this out.

10. Did you get sick or injured? No. YEA!

11. What was the best thing you bought? Almost exactly a year ago, I bought a commemorative magazine about Barack Obama for my friend Kathy. Here in Chicagoland, we're naturally all very proud of him, but Kathy loooooves Barack Obama. I also bought her lunch at the restaurant of her choice and made a contribution to Organizing for Action in her honor and called it an early birthday celebration. The joy this brought her made me happy and taught me something: The old saying is true and it IS the thought that counts.

12. Where did most of your disposable income go (money leftover after you pay for food, medical care, basic clothing, transportation and shelter)? I haven't actually checked this, but I bet it's dining out. I dine out way too much.

13. What song will always remind you of last year?  Doesn't have to be a song released last year. Nothing springs to mind.

14. What do you wish you would have done more of? Worked out.

15. What do you wish you would have done less of? Worried.

16. What was your favorite new TV program? Movie? Album/Songs? Or if you didn't pick up any new ones, what are you still watching/listening to? Any recommendations? I loved This Is Us. I appreciated -- and was frightened by -- IT. Of movies that are playing now, I really liked All the Money in the World.

17. What was the best book you read this year?  How many did you read? I read 14 books this year. The best was Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter. It was educational and very, very moving. And important. Since Rosemary and her mental disability had such a big impact on her siblings, her life had an impact on America.

18. What did you do on your birthday and how old were you? Did you feel differently? I turned 60 in Las Vegas. I can't believe I'm this old. But still, I had fun. We went to Madame Tussaud's Celebrity Wax Experience (it's more than "a wax museum," because everything in Vegas is more) and then we saw The Beatles' Love. It was fun. Celebrating in Vegas is fun.
19. What political or social issue stirred you the most? Oh, God. I suppose the indictment and guilty plea of General Michael ("Lock Her Up") Flynn. I fear we're on our way to impeachment. Fortunately, I remember Watergate and believe the center will hold. I have faith in our Constitution and our institutions.

20. Who was the most interesting new person you met? Caleb, Napoleon's "dad." He helped me learn important things about the plight of the homeless.

21. Describe how a relationship changed. Nothing comes to mind. Sorry.

22. Do you think you are still the same person that you were at the beginning of the year?  How so? Yes. Nothing life-altering happened this year.

23. Summarize the year in three words or less. Bonus points for doing it in one word. Explain.  Nothing life altering.

24. How have people around you changed? Barb lost her husband. Kathleen changed jobs. Mindy's husband faced health issues. Joanna faced money trouble.

25. What have you learned throughout the year? (Other than crafts) See #20. Caleb has given me a window into the lives of the homeless and I'm peering in. I know the difference between shelters. I know where they can get free legal help.

26. Did you learn any new crafts or techniques? What was your favorite thing you made? I don't have anything to point to here. Sorry.

27. What changed about your physical appearance? (Hair? Wrinkles? New makeup style? Etc) I noticed my varicose veins are more pronounced.

28. What are your hopes and dreams for the new year?  (Some suggestions-family, travel, work, lifestyle, hobbies, pets, appearance) To stay in the present. To enjoy the present. To not let my worry about money or job stability rob me of the here and now.

He is a crafty one

I wasn't going to go to church today. It's cold. I didn't feel like putting on nice clothes (you know, ones that require a bra). Yet somehow, for some reason, I found myself getting dressed and going out the door.

As usual, our minister today preached first to the children in our congregation, reading them a story before they went down to their Sunday School classes. I loved today's story. It was about noticing things. She reminded them that just because they don't pass pyramids, like in Egypt, or lonely bears fighting to survive, like on the North Pole, every life has interesting and important things to notice. (Like your neighbor, who named her dog Shirley and dresses Shirley in sweaters for walks when it's cold.) While good for the children, it's also important for me. To stay in the here and now. To stay aware and enjoy the world around me.

Then our closing hymn seemed directly at me. #350: "The Ceaseless Flow of Time." The final verse goes, "The past and future ever meet in the eternal now/to make each day a thing complete should be our New Year vow."

I'm surprised anew by the ways God reaches out to me. He is supporting my intention for 2018, my OneWord.

Live by the sword ...

So President Trump doesn't want us to read this book because it's filled with untruths. President Trump feels the libel laws in this country are too weak. President Trump hates it when people say things about him that aren't true.

Let's suppose, for a moment, that everything President Trump says about this book is true. He's still full of shit.

We are, after all, talking about a man who -- for years! -- spread completely unfounded rumors about President Barack Obama.

•  Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Trump's "private investigators" went down to Hawaii to dig up dirt. At least that's what he told The Today Show and Meredith Viera in 2011. He's since said Obama was indeed born here and somehow all his birther-ing was Hillary Clinton's fault.

•  Barack Obama didn't really go to Harvard.

•  Barack Obama was a "terrible student" and didn't deserve to get into Harvard. Also in 2011, Trump made this claim to the AP. Of course, if Obama didn't really go, this is irrelevant. We knew more than six years ago this man spewed inconsistencies. Why would we doubt Mr. Wolff for saying it again now?

• Barack Obama had Trump's phones "wires tapped" in Trump Tower and is "bad (or sick.)" The kindest thing to be said about our current President's paranoid rant against his predecessor is that he's been unable to provide proof.

And this is just Barack Obama. Shall we discuss how Trump denied ever being rejected for a Florida casino gambling license during Jeb Bush's administration? Or spread the rumor that Ted Cruz' dad was involved int he JFK assassination?

If Donald Trump's kids haven't turned out to be exemplary citizens, I don't know that we can blame them when they had this sterling role model.

With all due respect, Mr. President, you need to get over yourself. And take a good, long look in the mirror before you throw stones at Michael Wolff.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

A highlight of a lowkey Saturday

Here is why I can't wait for Christmas 2018. I got this Ugly Cubs Christmas Sweater on sale at the local Rally House. It was 30% off! The ones they had left in stock were all big and cut for men, so it's ginormous on me, but I think that only adds to the charm.

So today I woke up and couldn't remember what day it was. Delighted to look at my calendar and see nothing on it, I indulged in episode after episode of my latest obsession: Pawn Stars. (It's on again as I post this; I think it's like the new millennium I Love Lucy and is on somewhere at all times.)

Then I took myself out for a lovely breakfast of blueberry/ricotta pancakes with a side order of bacon and a mug of gingerbread hot chocolate. (How's that for a hearty meal on a cold day?)

Then I took a long winter's nap, woke up and did laundry.

It's scary how much I enjoy doing nothing.

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm (2006)

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

1) Bette Midler sings about the storm that's raging outside. How's the weather where you are today? Today we're looking at double digits! 15º! Yea! Otherwise, it's been zero or below and that's such a drag. I'm always surprised and delighted by how warm 15º can feel. Oh, well. It's winter in Chicagoland. Let's just concentrate on how soon the Cubs will be playing the Marlins in their 2018 opener (March 29).

2) She mentions her gloves. Tell us about your favorite pair of gloves or mittens. The Cubs touch-texting gloves my nephew gave me for Christmas 2015. Those fingertips are so convenient! Unfortunately, it's been too cold this week for them. I had to go with my bulkier mittens.

3) Does your home have a fireplace to keep you warm? No. Not necessary. The colder it gets outdoors, the hotter and drier it gets indoors.

4) Bette's father, Fred, supported his family as a house painter. Have you ever held a job that kept you outdoors a great deal of the time? Nope.

5) Her mother, Ruth, was a talented seamstress. How about you? Can you sew on a button? Raise a hem? Darn a hole? I'm hardly talented, but I can sew a button. And being 5'2, raising hems is essential.

6) 2017 was a big year for Bette. At the age of 72, she opened on Broadway in the revival of Hello, Dolly! and won a Tony. As we kick off 2018, what would you like to accomplish this year? My OneWord for 2018 is NOW. There's where I'd like to keep my wandering mind this year. I think I'd be happier if I stayed in the here and NOW.

7) Bette and her husband Martin have been married for nearly 34 years. Their wedding was officiated by an Elvis impersonator. Are you looking forward to any weddings in 2018? I hope not. Every time there's a wedding in this family, there's so much drama. (PS, Good for Bette! I'm always hearing online complaints about how "immoral" the "libtards" and denizens of "Hollyweird" are ... usually from people who have a divorce or two in their own households. I think it's cool that Bette and her husband have managed to make their union work.)
8) Bette and Martin are very proud of their daughter, Sophie, now 30, who graduated from Yale in 2008. Do you expect to attend any graduation ceremonies in 2018? My nephew graduates from highschool in 2018. Bravo!

9) Random question: Yesterday, who did you spend the most time with? My coworker. We sit practically on top of one another in this office we share and we've been busy this week. Also, she just lost her mother and her father is responding in a wildly inappropriate manner. As a motherless daughter myself, I'm glad I could help her through this week. She hugged me before she left.

Friday, January 05, 2018

The 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 X by Sue Grafton. If you're a fan of the "alphabet series," you know that the enjoyment doesn't only come from seeing a mystery solved. We've also all come to love Kinsey and the cast of characters we encounter every time we curls up with one of these books.
And so I'm going to toss the spotlight on an exchange between Kinsey and her landlord, Henry. As she tries to get to the bottom of a tangled web of deceit, he searches for innovative ways to conserve during one of California's punishing droughts.
From page 56: Henry glanced at me with a wry smile. "I made a discovery today. You know how Ed (the cat) has been getting out?"

"No clue."

"Dryer vent. The tubing came loose and I spotted the hole when I was crawling through the bushes, checking the water lines."

"You close it up?

"I did. He'll probably find another way out, but for now, Ed is housebound."

Apparently Henry hadn't noticed the cat at his feet, and I made no mention of him.