Tuesday, June 15, 2021

WWW.WEDNESDAY

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

SPECIAL NOTE: This week, I also judge books by their covers.

1. What are you currently reading?  Kennedy's Avenger by Dan Abrams and David Fisher. I first picked up this book because I wondered why, when the Kennedy assassination is discussed, no one ever refers to the trial of Jack Ruby to substantiate his/her theory. Now I know. I'm about halfway through and have found nothing to support a previous relationship between Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald. None. Zip. Zilch. Looks like the facts will leave conspiracy fetishists disappointed.
 
Back in 1964, the trial focused on whether or not Jack Ruby understood what he was doing when he shot Oswald. If he didn't, he wasn't guilty of first-degree murder. Following the testimony, I'm riveted. Beginning in the late 1920s, when he was a teenager, Jack Ruby began getting knocks to the head. He boxed. He was beaten up in street fights. He was injured at the workplace (warehouse, lumber yard). He worked as his own bouncer at his Dallas strip club. One of his strippers (stage name: Penny Dollar) testified that, in 1963, she saw Jack bang a man's head on the sidewalk, look down at his victim and then ask her, "Did I do that?"
 
Re: the cover -- John F. Kennedy is our first President whose life was extensively photographed from his infancy (his parents were enchanted by the Kodak brownie box camera) to his murder (the Zapruder film). I'm intrigued that this is the picture Abrams/Fisher and the publisher selected for the cover. It's an official portrait, but it's grainy black and white and doesn't even attempt to capture his personality. I think they chose it because it takes him out of history and makes him, in the most human terms, an ordinary crime victim. He was murdered by Oswald, who was in turn murdered by Ruby. It's only when we look at the assassination (and the events surrounding it) as a crime, not as a cataclysmic event that sparked a sea change, that we can understand what really happened.

2. What did you recently finish reading? The Rooftop Party by Ellen Meisner. Dana Barry is knocking on 30 and still hadn't made it as an actress. Her student loan would go unpaid if not for help from her older sister. Her 1BR apartment is really a studio with the furniture arranged to create an alcove. She loves acting, but it had become increasingly difficult to support herself in New York City, doing what she loves.
Out of desperation, Dana auditioned for a hosting gig on a TV shopping channel, got the job, and was surprised to find she was not only good at it, she liked it. She liked her coworkers, she liked being recognized on the street, and she liked being able to pay her bills. It's her enthusiasm for her new job that encouraged her to approach the new CEO with a marketing idea at the channel's annual rooftop party. Their encounter goes terribly wrong. The CEO takes a tumble off the roof. Could Dana in any way be responsible?
 
I liked this book so much that I'm sorry I didn't love it. The dialog is funny without being overly jokey. I liked the workplace setting. (I had no idea how a shopping channel worked; the intersection of marketing, retail and showbiz interested me.) The murder itself was well plotted. I spent about 80% of the book sure I knew who did it, and I was 100% wrong.

BUT there were things that really bugged me. Dana performs onstage with her theater group in a small auditorium under an assumed name. All she changes is her name and yet she's never recognized in the small theater as the lady from TV. Really? Even Superman donned glasses to become Clark Kent. It's a distraction in a subplot that really doesn't add anything to the story. And Dana's dad! He was heartless as a villain in silent movie -- just give him a mustache to twirl. I know Dana's daddy issues color her romantic relationship. I get it, I get it. I had a dad, too! But why not give him at least some redeeming qualities? After all, his wife and other daughter love him.

Re: the cover -- I love those colors! I don't often see orange and teal. I love the string of lights, the little black dress and the vodka martini. The cover put me in the mood for sophisticated fun.
 
3. What will read next? A novel.
 

Monday, June 14, 2021

Setting boundaries, sticking up for myself

I won't rehash this sad story again. I wrote about it. I discussed it with Brian, the other board member. Most important, I discussed it with my shrink. 

Since covid, she and I have been having Zoom appointments. She in her family den, me at my dining room table. But Saturday, we met over the phone where I was tucked away in my bedroom, which is as far away from the front door as possible. Because I am afraid in my own home. Neighbor Kevin could be in the hallway.

I am afraid in my own home.

My gut told me that having this week's condo association meeting would just exacerbate a volatile situation and could put me in actual danger. My "good girl" proclivities told me not to make waves and inconvenience everyone.

While talking to my shrink, I realized: I have power. 

Because I am on the board, they can't have the meeting without me.

After our session Saturday, I sent a message to the management company and to Brian saying that I want the meeting rescheduled to give Neighbor Kevin time to cool off and digest the cease-and-desist order (since it was mailed, he may not even have it yet). I closed by saying, if they can't accommodate me, I hope they understand why I will not be in attendance.

Brian responded that he understood. The meeting will be rescheduled.

This, right here, is why I'm in therapy.

Professionally, I am very comfortable fighting for what's right. I always keep my client's best interests in mind and will step on toes to deliver it. 

Why don't I afford my own well being the same respect?

Why in my personal life is it so important to be a "good girl?" A 63-year-old "good girl."

Oh well. That's a bigger question for another time. Right now I'm going to take a moment, breathe and appreciate that I put myself first here.

 


Sunday, June 13, 2021

SUNDAY STEALING

 LEP

1. Describe your phone lock screen. Just ten white sanserif numbers against a black background. I didn't know I could change it. Not that I would. I like that the numbers are so big and bright that I could read them from highway in the rain. Now my cellphone wallpaper is a sea of Cubs logos. I chose that and love it.
 
2. How often do you journal? This is my journal. I'm here almost every day.
 
3. What’s your favorite thing to teach others? "Best practices." I specialize in 1:1 (formerly called "direct response") marketing and there are little things I've learned work. Like using "you" in the headline of an email or letter. I don't even realize how many of these I know. I'm just excited when a situation comes up when I can share one.
 
4. How do you like to spend Sundays? I like to just let Sundays unfold. No plans.
 
5. What would you describe as your kryptonite? Any distraction. By nature, I'm a very lazy gal and when something interesting enters my line of sight, I drop what I should be doing and follow it.
 
6. A TV show or movie you thought was really bad TV: Seinfeld. Hostile, passive-aggressive people doing unpleasant things. Movie: Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri. An angry woman allows hate to eat her alive and joins forces with a dim-witted, racist cop to become a vigilante duo. It's an ugly movie. I don't care how many Oscars it won.
 
7. Do you know your mail carrier? No. Every time I see the mail delivered, it seems to be a different person. Some get here around 1:00, others just before 5:00.

8. Which regional foods are your favorite? Brownies were invented in Chicago, right here at the Palmer House. You're welcome.

9. What was your life like 20 years ago? In 2001, my life was in flux. As a creative director in charge of three teams, I was making enough money to buy this condo. But I hated being a boss. I am naturally distrustful of authority, so being in authority was uncomfortable. One of our agency's clients was an airline, so 9/11 hit us hard. I had to lay people off. I found that the only thing I hated more than nagging employees about timesheets and arriving on time was deciding who stays and who goes. After two rounds of layoffs, I talked my bosses into allowing me to let myself go. I freelanced for 16 months. It was a wonderful opportunity to reset. I learned that I preferred writing to bossing writers and art directors around. My friend/mentor Barb used to chastise me for working my way down the corporate ladder. So be it. I'm my own gal and I'm good with the path I chose, even though my retirement would be more comfortable if I'd stayed on the ascendant. (That does worry me.)

10. Crafting hobbies that you’d like to learn or improve I'm not a crafty gal.

11. What is your favorite type of YouTube videos? Old news clips. I read a lot of non-fiction and biographies, and I find myself checking out YouTube to see how the events I'm reading about were covered in real time. (Yes, I'm a nerd.)
 

12. Describe your surroundings I'm laying on my bed and just changed my sheets. White with little blue flowers.

13. You're making a Time Capsule to be opened in 50 years. What 3 things would you put in it? A mask, hand sanitizer, and thermometer.

14. Something you learned recently that resonated with you When writing: RAVEN, which stands for, "Remember affect verb effect noun." When changing light bulbs: Righty tighty left loosey.

15. Songs that get stuck in your head often… 

¿Quién es más macho?

Remember, this whole sad tale begins with an umbrella. Kevin, my neighbor on the third floor left his wet umbrella open to dry outside his front door. Unit owners are not supposed to do that. After a spot check, the fire department once fined our condo board because an owner left his bicycle in front of his door. Safety regulations state that the hallway has to be clear so that nothing interferes with firefighters in case of emergency.
 
Brian, the condo board president with definite prick tendencies, lives two doors down from Kevin. When he saw the umbrella, he locked it away in the storage closet. Brian had every right to do this. However, it was an unnecessarily provocative move. I would have just closed the umbrella, leaned it against the door, and left a note for Kevin explaining about the fire department regulation. But whatever. It happened. It's done.

Kevin spun out. Really went bananas. He called the management company and demanded to see the security films to find out who stole his umbrella.

He was told it wasn't stolen, it was just locked away and would be returned to him. He was furious. He began emailing the management company over and over and over again. More than 20x in an hour. He sent a photo of his umbrella hanging from his door knocker (therefore not obstructing the hallway) with a sign that read, "HAPPY ST. UMBRELLA DAY!"

Then Kevin came looking for me. He knows I'm on the board and that I live on the top floor, and he wanted to discuss all this with me. Only he doesn't know my last name so he couldn't tell from the mailboxes which unit is mine. I heard some banging down the hall but dismissed it as someone hanging a picture or putting up bookshelves. He never actually got to my door. Got bored knocking on doors and finding no one home, I guess. It wasn't until the next day I learned the banging was him looking for me.
 
Then he insisted we allow him to speak at the next board meeting (scheduled for this coming week). He has 5-10 minutes worth of issues he'd like to raise and wants to encourage other unit owners to chime in. His complaints included the umbrella -- aka the theft of his property -- and a neighbor who leaves garbage in her parking space. (No, she doesn't. He may believe she does, but she doesn't. I walk past there often.) He also wants to know why a unit owner was allowed to turn her unit into "a bed and breakfast." I think he meant Airbnb. He's imagining this. Our building has no units listed on any vacation rental sites.

When the management company told him protocol doesn't allow for this (he's lived in the building three years but only ever attended one meeting), he said he was contacting his lawyer. We're violating his civil rights. BTW, his lawyer is Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul. He brought the removal of his umbrella to the attention of Springfield.

Our management company tried to keep up with the deluge of emails. Patty began every response with, "Hi, Kevin." He accused her of being disrespectful. He was to be referred to as "Mr. Gleason." If she couldn't afford him that dignity, he would be forced to insist she use his military title, bestowed upon him by confidential executive order in 2010. He didn't like using it, because women find it intimidating, but if she continued disrespecting him, he would have no choice.
 
Then he began posting photos of his war injuries on the management company's YELP! page, along with conspiracy accusations. The scars up and down his leg broke my heart. They are gruesome. They also do not belong on a YELP! page. Anyway, he accused the management company of demeaning veterans. He threatened to show up at their offices and "break some arms" in defense of his dignity and property.

Then there was a confrontation in the parking lot. He chest bumped Brian and promised to "fuck him up" if not allowed to talk to at next week's board meeting. The police were called.

Finally we contacted our law firm. On Friday, Kevin was sent a cease-and-desist order. He is not to speak to, phone or email me, Brian or the management firm. Any communication has to be in writing, delivered by the United States Postal Service, and the law firm must be copied.
 
The police were here, accompanied by the VA, and they took Kevin to a hospital. They cannot make him stay. He may be back by the time you read this.
 
I have told Brian and the management company that I am afraid of Kevin and will not attend this week's board meeting. I suggested it be rescheduled.
 
All this started with an umbrella.
I know from my friend Henry, who has a TBI, that this really is not about the umbrella. I'm no shrink, but it seems obvious that Kevin is suffering from PTSD and off his meds, so if he hadn't been set off by the umbrella, something else would have lit this fuse. 

But it was the umbrella. Brian had to be the alpha. 

As it is, I'm afraid to be in my own home. I'm nervous about encountering Kevin when I'm taking out the trash, or doing laundry, or waiting out front for an Uber. I'm scared when I hear footsteps in the hall.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Ain't That a Kick in the Head (1960)

Unfamiliar with this song? Hear it here.

1) Dean Martin asks the musical question, "How lucky can one guy be?" Tell us about a time when you got a lucky break. Last week. I was insanely busy with work, and while I was pounding away at the keyboard, my leg started to itch. I could not scratch the inside of my left knee enough. The skin was broken and so dry, it felt like tissue paper. It was over my varicose veins. Apparently this can be very serious because the veins are so close to the surface and if bleeding begins, it's hard to stop. Anyway, my skin didn't get that dry overnight. How did I not notice? I knew I should go to the dermatologist and get a prescription-strength cream, but I simply didn't have time because I was on deadline. So I started slathering ... Neosporin, hydrocortisone, body butter. Luckily my clumsy self-treatment did the trick. I must remember to moisturize that area of both legs every day from now on. You know, as I get older, things go wrong that never even occurred to me.

2) This song was introduced in the original Ocean's 11 movie. Have you seen it, or the remake and its sequels? I've seen both the first remake and the original. I most memorably watched the original with co-star Angie Dickinson, poolside at the 2019 TCM Film Festival.

3) All the Ocean's movies are about heists. Why do you suppose audiences enjoy watching caper films? I think it's the vicarious thrill of getting away with something.
 
4) Dean was born in Steubenville, OH. Though he seldom returned to his hometown, he kept Steubenville in his thoughts, regularly donating toys to area children hospitalized over the holidays. Who received the last gift you gave? I sent these socks to my aunt/godmother for Mother's Day. She was so tickled! It's nice when a little thing can make someone so happy.
 
5) Dean was extremely claustrophobic and avoided elevators whenever possible -- and even when it wasn't. He was late for the first night of an engagement, even though he was staying at the hotel where he was performing, because he insisted on taking the stairs from his luxury suite to the showroom (18 flights). The hotel put him in a smaller, less prestigious room on a lower floor so he could more easily arrive on time for his own shows. Have you ever been stuck in an elevator? I've been working in skyscrapers since I was 18, so yes. It's really not a big deal. I've never been stuck more than 10 minutes.

6) He and Frank Sinatra were great friends, but they had their differences. For example, Frank loved to party and Dean hated it. One of Sinatra's favorite stories was about how Dean got bored with a party in his own home and went up to his bedroom to watch TV. When the guests didn't take his hint and leave, Dean made an anonymous noise complaint to the police, who came over and broke up the party. When it comes to parties, are you more like Frank or Dean? Am I throwing the party or attending it? As a guest, I'm Frank. As a hostess, I admire Dean's imaginative approach.

7) Dean Martin had a secret passion for comic books. He loved them, but was too embarrassed to buy them himself. What's your guilty pleasure? I love TV marathons. I can watch episode after episode of Law & Order, Magnum PI or Friends, even though I've seen them a million times.

8) In 1960, when this song was released, Princess Margaret married photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones. Their relationship began when he was commissioned to take her official portrait. Who took the most recent picture of you? The photographer at my niece's wedding.

9) Random question (Not really so random, considering Dean Martin's reputation): Do you have a hangover remedy to recommend? Back in my party girl days, I also drank a lot of water. I don't know that it really helped, but I did it anyway.


 

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

No, I got the stubborn gene

My aunt is a hard case. But I'm tougher. Her aggressive Trumpiness has alienated many of the people who have known her the longest. Her former brother-in-law, with whom she's shared a friendship since she began dating his brother back in 1963, has "unfriended" her. Their relationship could withstand divorce, but not Trump.

Her oldest granddaughter was once her favorite. "A spitfire," she used to called Alexa. They shared two passions, mystery novels and Grey's Anatomy. They used to regularly trade books and exchange texts about Meredith Grey. My aunt was unaware that, last month, Alexa earned her MFA. They no longer communicate, since the younger woman has gay friends and black friends and just can't listen to Grandma's Trumpy tirades.

Her oldest son is the one that seems to hurt the most. But as he told me, it's hard to handle it when the woman who taught you right from wrong and emphasized the importance of Christian values turns out to be loud and proud of her intolerance. She often tells me all that flows between them now is radio silence.

When she loses her temper, she loses her reason. She has scolded me publicly for my Facebook posts and has shared some jokes and opinions that left me, like her son and brother-in-law and granddaughter, appalled and disillusioned. I'm confused as to where her sense of grievance comes from. She was born white and raised Protestant in a solid middle-class household. That's like getting 5 of 6 numbers in the lottery. (If only she'd been born a man, she'd have won it all!) 

But before I block her and unfollow her, I stop and think and remember. She's the only person left alive who attended my parents' wedding. She's one of two people on earth who held me as a baby. When I was a little girl, I looked at the framed portrait of JFK on her nightstand, so I know that somewhere in there beats an idealistic heart. And I know she loves me, despite my "libtard" tendencies. 

So, to curtail her MAGA toxicity in my presence, I just stop reading her feed, and change the privacy settings on mine so she can only see my posts pertaining to cats and baseball.

Her birthday and Mother's Day fall within a week. I sent her a book for her birthday and slippers for Mother's Day. She was over-the-top excited because my gift was the only one she got for Mother's Day. When she thanked me, she commented that I must have gotten "the generosity gene."

No, Auntie, I got the stubborn gene. 

Donald Trump's mismanagement of covid cost us our lives. His ignorance and incivility cost us our standing in the world. He's diminished our faith in our free and fair elections. He conspired to destroy the sanctity of our Capitol. He's not taking another thing away from me. 

He's not. I refuse to let him.

He's not worth it.



Tuesday, June 08, 2021

WWW.WEDNESDAY

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? The Rooftop Party by Ellen Meisner. 29-year-old Dana Barry finds herself something of celebrity in an unexpected way. An underemployed actress, she goes on an audition for a hosting gig on a TV shopping channel, gets the job and finds she's not only good at it, she likes it. She surprises herself with how much she cares about the network and, at a rooftop company party, she tries to pitch an idea to the new CEO. Unfortunately, he ends up dead at the party, and she ends up a suspect.

Usually I don't read mysteries back-to-back, but I broke my own rule when this one turned up available at the library. I'm glad I did. The dialog is funny and insightful and helps establish the characters. I like the behind-the-scenes workplace setting, too.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. I really enjoyed this, more than I thought I would. After all, I've seen the 1974 movie more times than I can count, so I certainly know whodunnit and why. But this freed me to enjoy the construction. Dame Agatha really did create the perfect crime here. And, decades before Law & Order, her story was ripped from the headlines. 
 
BTW, part of why I picked this up was curiosity. I've seen two major big-screen adaptations -- Sidney Lumet's (1974) and Kenneth Branagh's (2017). I love the earlier film so much that I almost resented the more recent one for changing anything about it. I wondered: which is closer to Christie's book? Hands down: 1974.

3. What will read next? Kennedy's Avenger by Dan Abrams and David Fisher. When the Kennedy assassination is discussed, no one ever refers to the trial of Jack Ruby to substantiate his/her theory. I wonder why. I mean, more than a week's worth of evidence and testimony were presented under oath in open court. How can that not be relevant? So I'm nerd excited for this book -- by a genuine lawyer, not some hotblooded conspiracy fetishist -- about Ruby's "day in court."
 


Welcome to San Diego!

This street sign is displayed in San Diego's Little Italy neighborhood. Apparently San Diegans -- like all right-thinking Americans -- love Anthony Rizzo.

Last night the Cubs played the Padres at Petco Park. The results of the game were not as we would have wished, but he went 2-4 and scored a run.

Saturday, June 05, 2021

Sunday Stealing

 LET'S GO TO DINNER

1. When is the last time you went out to a meal with someone special? Tell us about it. In the past month I've been out three times. After more than a year of observing covid protocol, each one felt special. I went to Shake Shack with Elaine from movie group, to my favorite pub with Nancy and her husband, and to our favorite burger joint with my nephew.

2. Show us a picture of your favorite cuisine. In the immortal words of Jimmy Buffett, I like a big warm bun and a huge hunk of meat.

3. What is the funniest thing a man/woman has said to you lately? Oh, if Bud were here, he'd make a man/woman crack. But I'll leave the comedy stylings to him. A former coworker of mine recently admitted that, when he's working from home alone all day, he pretends he's Rod (Twilight Zone) Serling and narrates his life for his dog. "Imagine, if you will, a college graduate who cannot fathom how to use a Terra Kaffe coffee machine," "Submitted for your approval: a boss who actually says things like, 'in it to win it,' and 'teamwork makes the dreamwork.'" He says his dog stares deeply into his eyes, as though he finds the narration riveting.

4. What makes a gentleman a gentleman in today’s dating world? Are there any left? The same thing, I suppose, that makes a lady a lady: Respect for the feelings of others. And yes, nice people are out there!

5. Is there anything you won’t tolerate when out to dinner with your significant other? I'm very intolerant of intolerance. Don't try to call it the "China Virus" or "Kung Flu" around me. Don't dismiss something as "gay" or "retarded." You're not telling it like it is. You're being an asshole.

6. What type of ambiance do you enjoy in an eating establishment? Friendly and unpretentious.

7. Tell us about the worst public dining experience you ever had, whether it be a date or with your family. I endured some family dinners that were unbelievably tense.

8. What is the lamest or rudest thing a man/woman has said to you lately? Nothing comes to mind.

9. Are you a good tipper? Better than I was. The pandemic made me more appreciative of delivery people.

10. Do you ask for doggie bags when you leave food on your plate at a restaurant? If I'm leaving the food on my plate because the portion was too big, yes. If I'm the food on my plate because I didn't like it, no.

11. What is your pet peeve about restaurants and dining out in general? I'm so happy to be back out there, enjoying the world again, that I've got nothing for this.

12. Do you prefer to order yourself or do you ever let your significant other order for you? I don't have a significant other. Though I once had a boyfriend who was a real beer snob and could not abide my fondness for Miller Lite. He'd say: "Sam Adams for me and monkey piss for the lady."

13. Describe your most intimate romantic dinner ever. (fantasy or real) The night Sir Paul got all dressed up -- even a flower in his lapel! -- and proceeded to woo with me wine and song.


14. Do you enjoy piano bars? Not in more than a decade. I can't even think of one anywhere near me.

15. If you could go anywhere in the world for dinner, where would it be and who would you be with? I'd love to go back to Vegas with my oldest friend. We had such fun there, and I miss her.

 


 


I got 'em!

Chicago is opening back up, and to me, that means BASEBALL! Wrigley Field will be back at full capacity on Friday, June 11, and today at 2:00, tickets went on sale for home games through the end of the season.

One special Friday next month, my nephew and I will be in Section 229, Row 7, Seats 14 and 15. I really hate hot weather, so I hope it's not blistering that day. But you know what? So what! We're going back to the Friendly Confines.

And, I'm proud to say, I got our tickets before the website crashed. The demand was so great that sales were suspended. But not until my tickets were tucked safely into my cyber wallet.

My nephew and I both realize this could be Anthony Rizzo's last year in Cubbie blue,* so we're sitting along first base, facing the Cubs dugout. We want to see as much of our favorite most Cub as we can, while we can.

 
*Though in my heart, I refused to accept this possibility.


Friday, June 04, 2021

Saturday 9

 Saturday 9: You'll Never Know (1943)

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



1) In this song, Haymes sings he must have reassured his girl "a million times or more." Does it frustrate you when you have to repeat yourself? Not especially.

2) The lyrics were inspired by a poem written by a war bride to her soldier husband. Have you ever been in a long-distance romance? Yes. I was here in Chicago and he was in Philadelphia. We talked every other night and spent a long weekend together each month, plus the holidays. I admit it suited me nicely. Things didn't go off the rails until we decided it was time to take it to the next level and get hitched. Oh! The arguments we had when it came time to really merge our lives! Still, I remember him very fondly.

3) This was the biggest hit of Dick Haymes, a popular singer in the 1940s. He got his big break when he replaced Frank Sinatra, who left the Tommy Dorsey Band to go onto bigger and better things. Are you a Frank Sinatra fan? More every year. When I was a kid, I thought he was silly and irrelevant. Then I had my really heart broken. (See #2.) When he sings, you can tell Frank had his heart really broken, too.

4) During the 1940s Dick Haymes toured with the Dorsey Band, made hit records, had his own radio show and appeared in nine movie musicals.  Yet by the early 1950s, he was broke. Part of it was that musical tastes changed, but more of it was that he enjoyed night life and high living too much. If you wanted to shave unnecessary expenses from your budget, where would you economize? Impulse buying! It's so easy to see something online and then "add to cart." I must stop and ask myself, "Really, Gal? Do you really need this?"

Behold my downfall!

5) He blamed his money problems for his ongoing hypertension. How do you combat stress? Poorly. I'm always worried about something.

6) Though he needed his voice to sing and suffered from high blood pressure, Haymes was a chain smoker. What bad habit would you like to quit? I'd like to spin this around a little. There's a good habit I'd like to adopt: drinking more water. I did this when I was in the office daily, because getting up to go to the coffee room and filling my mug with ice water was a nice way to get away from my desk. But now that we're working from home, there are so many other distractions. I really need to  remind myself to swig more often from my water bottle.

7) Though raised since early childhood in the US, Haymes was born in Buenas Aires to an Argentinian rancher and his Irish wife. This enabled Dick to claim Irish citizenship later in life. Have you ever lived abroad? If not, do you wish to? No, and not really.

8) Dick Haymes never regained his popularity as a singer. After touring Europe for years, he returned to the United States in the late 1960s and tried his hand as a dramatic actor, playing small parts on popular cop shows like Adam 12, McMillan and Wife and McCloud. If you had to support yourself as a performer, would you be more successful as a singer, a dancer, or an actor? I'd starve.

9) Random Question: We're at the booth of a gypsy fortune teller. Would you be more embarrassed if she loudly and correctly guessed your age, or your weight? I think I look good for my age, so I'd be proud if she guessed that. But my weight? SHUDDER!


 

And so I'm schlepping to Jewel

To get to the Jewel grocery story, I have to pass Target and Whole Foods. Yet I shall do it this month, because at checkout I can support my favorite most Cub and his good works.

Click here to learn more

 


Attention Must Be Paid

On June 4, 1979, I began my career as a writer. Wearing a dress, pantyhose and high heels, I entered a beige metal cubicle. I sat down before a manual typewriter, rolled in a piece of ruled pica paper, and pounded out copy about men's work pants and tube socks for The Sears Big Book. I will never forget the thrill, months later, of seeing someone lug The Big Book under his arm onto the train. People actually read what I wrote.

Today, 42 years later, I'm still at it. Only today I worked from home on a MacBook Air. I wrote a post for my client's blog and composed dynamic content for a trio of Gmail ads. I wore a t-shirt emblazoned with a recent vacation destination, but if I felt like working in my pjs, I could have just opted to not turn on my camera.

I've been supporting myself, without interruption, as a writer my entire adult life. I lost one job when the company I worked for bellied up, but I've never been laid off or fired. That is very rare in this industry. I'm more proud of that than I am of my Tempos, Echo and Clio. I've moved my clients' business along and maintained my integrity. I'm proud of that, too.

I've learned a lot from terrific mentors. I've had great coworkers who have become friends, closer than family. June 4, 1979 is the date I met John and Mindy and they are part of my life to this day.

 As I round third and head for home, I realize I am fortunate that I've made something of a success doing what I enjoy and what comes naturally to me.


 

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

WWW.WEDNESDAY

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? Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. There are few movies I've seen as often or enjoyed as much as the 1974 film version of this book. Dame Agatha herself saw the movie and approved, which is indeed high praise! So when I found the book on the shelf of my local library, I snapped it up. I want to see if the movie I'm so fond of tracks with the original work.

So far it does. Knowing whodunit does not diminish my enjoyment. As Poirot interrogates the passengers, I hear Albert Finney as Poirot and the cast of the '74 film (especially Vanessa Redgrave's Mary Debenham and Wendy Hiller's Princess Dragomiroff). It's like spending time with dear old friends.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Natalie Wood: A Life by Gavin Lambert. The lady was complicated. Beginning at the age of 7, and until her second marriage to Richard Gregson at age 30, she was the main breadwinner of her family -- Mom, Dad and kid sister, Lana, all lived off of her. She felt their love was conditional, based on her working (and frankly, I'm not sure she was wrong about Mom and Lana; Dad is a more sympathetic character). Then she married a successful producer/agent, had a baby, and wanted to concentrate on being a wife and mother. When she and Gregson divorced and she remarried Robert Wagner -- by now he was a successful TV star -- she still thought being a homebody was her greatest ambition.
 
But she was like a firehorse, pawing at the dirt when she hears the bell. After a few years, she wanted to go back to work. Not for the money, not for the fame, but for the satisfaction it would give her. But there was a desperation to her quest to revitalize her career. She was now over 40, a dangerous age for beautiful Hollywood actresses.
 
There was guilt attached to leaving her little girls. There was her husband, who was supportive of her theoretically, but not entirely in practice. He appreciated her talent, but he liked having her home, too.
 
She couldn't sleep without sedatives. She liked wine too much. She had a dangerous penchant for "swishing her tail" (a friend's euphemism for Natalie's flirting) when she felt ignored or unappreciated. Her beloved father died, and her mother and sister began leaning on her more and more for money and attention. 

This was the woman who went overboard that fateful Thanksgiving weekend. A woman bedeviled by demons. 

But she was also hopeful about the future. She was about to make her stage debut in Anastasia the following February and was enthusiastic about the wardrobe and casting. If the play had been a success, she could live a structured and comparatively normal life with her family for the run of the show. She was looking forward to coordinating her personal and professional lives.

She also had a loving, supportive network of friends -- including Wagner's adult stepsons from his second marriage to Marion Donen  -- and I liked her for that. She clearly had an open and generous spirit. I also admired several of her films. So I enjoyed this portrait of her as a woman and an artist.

I don't know that I recommend this book, though. Gavin Lambert, who actually knew Natalie, spends an inordinate amount of time on Maria, Natalie's mother. I get it: she was a monster. Maria Gurdin shoved her little girl into a career and then proceeded to live through her, controlling her daughter largely with guilt. But this could have been established in far fewer pages than he devotes to this thoroughly unpleasant woman.
 
3. What will read next? Fiction. Not exactly sure which book.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Little Gal, Happy at Last

Walking through my neighborhood today, enjoying the sunshine, listening to the Cubs in my headphones, I was happy

Happy to see faces again and not masks -- though we are respectful enough of one another to still wear them indoors. It's nice to smile at people and, especially dogs. (I like dogs!) 

Happy that I'm healthy this Memorial Day, happy that the country seems to be healing after the pandemic, the heartbreak of George Floyd and the horror of January 6. Knowing that the country they died for is back on track to being a more perfect union must help some of our late servicemen and women rest more peacefully.

Happy that I was picking up barbecue spare ribs from my favorite Chinese restaurant. (Gotta remember to check that fortune.)

Happy, happy, happy.

I hope you're enjoying a similarly happy, healthy, reflective Memorial Day.



Saturday, May 29, 2021

Sunday Stealing

Stolen from Journal Buddies

1. When do you feel the world will stop? I don't think it ever will. Things will evolve, of course. That's the natural order of things. But I don't believe it will ever end.

2. What is your personal motto? "Above all, be the heroine of your own life. Not the victim." Nora Ephron.

3. What is the greatest gift you ever received? So many! I've been lucky that way. Most recently I've received flowers from unexpected sources. Snarkypants sent me a bouquet when she sensed I was feeling low. My oldest friend sent another on behalf of my cats for Mother's Day.

Reynaldo examines the flowers from Snarkela

The Happy Fur Mom's Day bouquet

4. Who is a leader who inspires you? President Kennedy. (BTW, his birthday was yesterday.)

5. What irrationally annoys you more than anything else? The tinfoil hat brigade, the ones who post that they know "the truth." About Dr. Fauci and the vaccines. About the Clintons and Jeffrey Epstein. About Q and "the storm." These poor people deserve my pity more than my scorn. It must be really hot under those tight tinfoil bonnets, with only suspicion and hate for comfort.

WWG1WGA!

6. What small thing can always bring you a bit of joy? Singing with my shower radio each morning.

7. What is your favorite thing to do on a lazy day? Watch the first-place Chicago Cubs. They've won six in a row!


 

8. How often do you take risks? I'm less inclined to take risks each year, it seems.

9. Write about your happiest memory, Again, I'm lucky to have so many happy memories! One of my favorites is of Easter, when I was 5. My favorite uncle hid our gifts somewhere in his car. Then he put the top down and drove us around the block until we found them. Mine was a book under the floor mat in the back seat. It was about a girl who had yellow curtains in her tree house, and I had yellow curtains in my bedroom.

10. How long do you think it will be before we see a female president? You know, I don't much care about the President's gender. If he or she isn't a crazy racist homophobe, I'm happy. (Isn't it wonderful to wake up each morning and not have to hear about the hate your President tweeted overnight?)

11. Do you think it’s important to be part of a community?  Why? Why not? Very much so. It's one of the things our reverend reminds of us often: we're part of something bigger. A congregation, a community, a nation and a world. We have a responsibility to each. If we all do our best to honor that, the world will be a better place for us all.

12. What piece of modern technology are you most grateful to have. It's a toss up between the a/c and the microwave.

13. Do you feel anonymous on line? Depends on what site I'm on and what I'm doing.

14. What is something you’ve always wanted to try but have never gotten around to. A sleep study. I wake up in the middle of the night, and sometimes suffer headaches first thing in the morning, and I suspect I have sleep apnea.

15. What would life be like without the internet? I bet we'd all be more fit. I know I moved more before I spent so much time online.


 

More than beautiful

It's hard to believe that anyone was ever as gorgeous as Elizabeth Taylor was in Butterfield 8. She's so lusciously proportioned and her hair and lashes are so thick and her face is so flawless that you can't not look. So it would be easy to dismiss her as an actress and just regard her as a force of nature.

That would be a mistake.

During the first 10 minutes of the movie, she barely speaks. Her character, Gloria, wakes up alone in a strange bedroom after a one-night stand, and wanders around in a sheet, slowly remembering how she got there. When Gloria finds the torn remnants of her dress on the floor, she's alternately disgusted that it's destroyed and turned on by the memory. She's about to go home in the nice cloth coat with a fur collar she finds in her absent, married lover's closet when she sees an envelope addressed to her. Inside is cash and a note: "$250. Enough? L." 

$250 in 1960 would be $2,200 today.

Gloria may be a slut, but she's not a hooker. She went to bed with "L" (Weston Liggett) because she dug him, and she's furious that he treated her like a prostitute. She scrawls "No Sale" in lipstick on the bathroom mirror and switches the sensible pale coat for the far more expensive, full-length mink. That'll teach him!

All this with no dialog. 

By the end of the segment, when she gets into a cab and tells the driver she'll double the tip in exchange for a cigarette, we already know a lot about our very feisty, very tarnished heroine. And we like her. We get that she's self-destructive, has poor impulse control, and now we're worried about her.

Sure, Elizabeth Taylor was beautiful and controversial. There have been many gorgeous movie stars (from Lana Turner to Angelina Jolie) with equally tumultuous private lives, but there's only ever been one Liz. She was genuinely gifted. Especially when it was just her and the camera. She knew how to communicate with us through the lens.  

She won her first Oscar for this part. Hollywood legend has it she won for surviving a near-fatal bout of pneumonia. Look close at that LIFE cover and you can see her tracheotomy scar. That all may be true. But it all happened before I ever saw Butterfield 8 so it doesn't affect my assessment of the film. It's a messy, far from perfect movie, but she is perfect. I appreciate her more every time I see it.




Happy Birthday to My Favorite C Student

In honor of his May 29 birthday, I give you John F. Kennedy's 7th grade report card.

Known as "a prankster" (aka "smart ass"), he could be disruptive in class. Throughout his academic career, teachers commented that he was "charming" and "clever," but none of his report cards was cause for celebration. He was, at best, an undistinguished student until he got to Harvard, where he graduated cum laude. Actually his college grades weren't so hot, either. His senior thesis, however, was outstanding, received a magna, and that high honor put him over.

As a solid C student myself, I love this very, very much. Some of us turn out OK. 


Friday, May 28, 2021

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: If You're Reading This (2007)

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



Memorial Day is the federal holiday designated to honor American service people who died in battle. 



1) Memorial Day was introduced after the Civil War. War memorials, as well as graves of veterans, are to be decorated with flags and flowers this weekend in a show appreciation. Is there a war memorial in your neighborhood? There's a statue in honor of WWI veterans next to the public library. General Pershing himself attended the dedication.

2) Here at Saturday 9, we regard everyone who served -- veterans and active military -- as heroes. Have you, or has anyone in your family, worn the uniform of our armed forces? We want to hear about them. My dad was a Navy corpsman in Korea. He was known in the neighborhood for being able to do butterfly stitches on cuts that were long but not too deep. He saved more than a few local kids trips to the ER after falling off their bikes. He never talked about the sailors he must have cared for. I wish he had. He was all John-Wayne-flag-wavy about his service, but he never talked about it in human terms. I could have related better to it, and to him, if he had.

My favorite uncle was drafted into Vietnam. He loved to tell colorful stories about the men he served with, and oh, how they partied in Bangkok! I asked him about combat itself and those memories caused him great pain. He took me to dinner and told me I had one evening to ask him anything I wanted to know, and then we would never discuss it again. I hated how he carried all that ugliness in his heart.

Until about two years ago, my oldest nephew was in the Navy and served on the USS Nimitz. He never saw combat, but the experience was very good for him. He'd been pretty aimless before he enlisted. Now he's married and has a good job as a firefighter, using the skills he learned on ship.

3) Similarly, we're grateful to those who served on the front lines during the Covid 19 pandemic. Tell us about anyone you know who was an essential worker, a first responder or administered vaccines. They deserve a shout out, too! I learned that one of my TCM Film Fest buddies, Patricia, is an LPN. She volunteered her time to give shots at the drive-thru vaccination site. Fortunately, enough of us have behaved responsibly and gotten our shots, so the drive-thru option is no longer needed.

4) Memorial Day is the traditional kick off of the summer season. Have you packed away your winter clothes yet? I never took them out. I was indoors so much Winter 20-21 (and my condo is always so warm) that I didn't need my sweaters.

5) What's your favorite picnic food? Potato salad. I don't seem to eat it anywhere else except outdoors, off a paper plate.


6) As you answer these questions, is there a fan or an air conditioner cooling your room? There's a fan in the window, but it's not on. It's rather chilly here today.


7) This week's song is about a heartbreaking situation. The lyrics are a letter from a soldier to his family, which was only to be sent in the event of his death. What's the saddest song you have ever heard? "At Seventeen" by Janis Ian.

8) This week's featured artist, Tim McGraw, has a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame. It's near those honoring William Shatner and Julie Andrews. If you could have lunch with one of those luminaries -- Tim McGraw, William Shatner or Julie Andrews -- which would you choose?


 
9) Random Question: Think of the last thing you bought. Was it a wise purchase? Wise? Probably not. Yet I refuse to regret it.