Saturday, December 16, 2017

Sunday Stealing


1. What’s your favorite thing about the holidays? The good will. The hugs and kisses and wishes for a happy holiday season.

2. Do you send out Christmas cards and if so how many do you send? I sent 25-30.

3. Be honest: holiday newsletters. Love ‘em or hate ‘em? Hate 'em.

4. Be honest: photo cards. Love ‘em or hate ‘em? Depends on how I feel about the family.
5. How soon do you start shopping? I shop all year around.

6. Real or fake tree? No tree. I won't be home on Christmas to enjoy it.

7. When do you put up your tree? See above.

8. When do you take down your tree? See above above.

9. Describe your typical tree (size, decorations, type) Here's my tree, the last time I put it up. That's Reynaldo trying to decide how to respond to this massive temptation for mischief.

10. What do you top your tree with? A cat angel

11. Do you put Christmas lights outside your house? Nope

12. Is there a wreath hanging on your door? Yes. It's a grapevine wreath (no needles). I spray it with cinnamon and apple once/week. That scent makes me happy when I put my key in the door.

 13. Do you hang up stockings? No

14. Your favorite Christmas Movie(s) Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol and Die Hard

15. Be honest: A Christmas movie you don't like I just watched Dick Van Dyke's Fitzwilly (1967) for the first time. It pains me to say this, because I adore DVD, but it's stupid.

16. Favorite Christmas Song(s) Andy Williams singing "Happy Holiday."

17. Be honest: If I hear this/these Christmas songs again I will throw up Dean Martin's version of "Baby, It's Cold Outside." It sounds particularly lecherous from him.

18. Give or Receive? Yes

19. Eggnog or Mulled Cider? I haven't had mulled cider in so long, I'm not sure.

20. Ham or Turkey?  I like them both.

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

This past week I toasted Christmas twice -- once with my friend, Kathleen, and a second time with my nephew.

Kathleen and I had a delicious dinner here in town. I had the butternut squash ravioli, she had the cheese/charcuterie. I had a cosmorita, she had wine. We caught up on each other's lives. (It's been six months!) We exchanged gifts:

•  I got  a cool handbag and a special edition package of Reynolds Wrap renamed Rizzo Wrap after my favorite Cub (and she picked up the tab for dinner)
•  She got a decorative tile for her collection, this one from Key West, and a canvas portrait of her family (I stole it from her Facebook page and sent away to have printed onto canvas)

Today I celebrated Christmas with my nephew. I gave him a pair of t-shirts befitting his enthusiastic participation in The Resistance: CNN and "Democracy Dies in Darkness/The Washington Post." He gave me a copy of Joe Biden's book, purchased when he went to see the former VP at The Chicago Theater last week. (You can tell what we talk about when we get together!)

He had cheese pizza, a chocolate shake and an order of fries. I had the pulled pork, fries and root beer combo. This time I paid.

I feel comfortably Christmasy today.

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Silent Night (1957)
Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) How well do you know "Silent Night?" Without looking up the lyrics, could you sing along with Elvis? Certainly the first verse. I've got that down. Second verse? I'm a little shaky. I know it opens with "Shepherds quake at the sight" and then there's another line I can't recall, and, "Heavenly hosts sing 'Hallelujah!' Christ the Savior is born." Third verse? I need my hymnal. (PS Singing this by candlelight is my favorite part of the Christmas Eve service.)

2) The Christmas with Elvis album hit the stores in October 1957. Were you already preparing for Christmas back in October? Yes. I pick up gifts for people as I find them. I bought my first Christmas 2017 gift before Christmas 2016. My friend Kathleen displays decorative tiles and I brought one home for her from Key West last year.

3) Clearly Elvis liked a flocked white Christmas tree. Is your tree flocked, aluminum or pine green? Real or artificial? Or do you skip the whole tree thing altogether? All I have here at home is a wreath on the front door. I skip the tree altogether because I'll be visiting my friends in Key West again. I will decorate my hotel room with a tiny nativity scene and a Santa door hanger.

4) Back in the late 1950s, Elvis left his hair its natural brown color. In the 1960s he began having it dyed black. Do you have a salon appointment scheduled between now and year end? Today is my last hair cut and color of the year. I really don't need the cut just now, but if I wait two more weeks (the next opportunity for an appointment), my hair will get all swoopy and swishy, like Hermie the Elf.
That's me on the left. There are even more cowlicks under my cap.

5) Have you ever peeked, looking for a Christmas gift you know is hidden for you somewhere in the house? Ever? I may have as a child, but I don't recall specifically. And as an adult, I've lived alone, so snooping would be silly.
6)  Which do you prefer, candy canes or gingerbread?  Gingerbread!
7) Is anyone receiving a home made or do-it-yourself gift from you this year? Nope

8) Do you wrap holiday gifts in paper, or do you take the gift bag route? Usually I wrap. With paper. As opposed to rapping. As in, "I'm just like my country, I'm young, scrappy, and hungry and I'm not throwing away my shot." (Hamilton, of course.)

9) This time of year is big for charitable fundraising. Here's your chance to plug a cause or organization that's near and dear to you. The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. Because every child deserves a little magic at Christmas.


Friday, December 15, 2017

$500 will do it

Today was the first day of my vacation. I paid bills, treated myself to a deep dish pizza lunch, went to the bank, and took a long nap. I know it sounds lazy and boring. It was. Yet I am happy.

Because an extra $500 was direct deposited into my checking account. A holiday bonus! I'd heard rumors that it was on the way, but if you read this blog regularly you know I hear many work-related rumors. Happy that this one turned out to be true.

I'm now out of the office all the way until January 2. That's more than two weeks. That should give me time to decompress and re-evaluate. I anticipate coming out of this vacation feeling stronger and more confident than I was yesterday.

My top 10 books of 2017

Compiled by Goodreads, inspired by Kwizgiver, and in a format stolen from Casey Kasem. I recommend them all. I gave 10 through 3 each ****, while 2 and 1 absolutely earned their *****'s.

10. Robert B. Parker's Wonderland: A Spenser Novel by Ace Atkins
9. Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe
8. Kennedy and Nixon by Chris Matthews
7. Prince Charles by Sally Bedell Smith
6. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
5. Royal Sisters by Anne Edwards
4. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
3. Jackie's Girl by Kathy McKeon
2. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry

And now, here's #1!
1. Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson. This book touched me deeply and will stay with me forever. It's a tragedy that shaped the Kennedys and therefore affected all our lives in ways I never realized. The Special Olympics, The Americans with Disabilities Act are just two of the far-reaching ways Rosemary's life influenced ours. To paraphrase the author, Rosemary mattered. God bless this heartbreaking woman.

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 A Christmas Return by Anne Perry. It's the 1890s. Crusty old matriarch Mariah Ellison simply is not feeling the Christmas spirit. A package arrives that sparks memories of a 20-year-old murder that shattered her friendship with Rowena, the victim's widow. It inspires her to take a Christmas journey, to seek out her old friend, to try to both repair the relationship and solve the murder.
From page 56: "I know what it is to be frightened," she said quietly. She even considered reaching out to touch Rowena's hand, but that was too outside the character she had always shown.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

What I've Learned

Last October, when I was feeling helpless about work and blue about my finances, I found that physical activity and putting someone else first made me feel better. That day, I got pleasure from the stationery bike and seeing Randi, Napoleon's "mom," engrossed in the book I'd given her as she sat on the corner, panhandling for change.

Today I put that theory to the test. I had an errand to run, and instead of sticking to the mall that's virtually across the street from home, I walked 15 minutes to the big grocery store. It was nice to be outside, to have Christmas carols in my headphones, to breathe fresh air.

I picked up what I needed to get. Then I thought about the cash in my wallet, the money I didn't spend last night because I didn't go out for tapas and sangria with Joanna. Why not put a portion of that cash to good use?

So I collected little things throughout the store for Caleb and Randi. Chapstick, cough drops, tissues, earmuffs, slipper socks and gloves. Pineapple chunks and a packet of tuna. An oversized candy cane filled with M&Ms. I put all of this, along with a $10 gift card and a like-new copy of Racing in the Rain that I got for free last summer at the library book fair, in a holiday gift bag that I had in the cabinet. I've also enclosed a little something for the homeless couple's cat, Napoleon. I'm giving him the heavy metal comb I always used on my beloved old Joey. I don't use it anymore, but I can't bear to toss it away. It makes sense to give it to Napoleon.

On the way home, I cut through the mall and stopped at the book store for a birthday card. I remembered the toy drive in the lobby of my office building. It's specifically for abandoned and abused children. Yes, I already gave to three other toy drives this season and yes, I am broke. But I'm so broke that an additional $5 won't really make any difference to me and this book might make a real difference to the boy who receives it. With the hurricane relief efforts on the news, perhaps Clemente's heroism will seem especially relevant. Certainly his talent and charisma on the diamond will appeal to some young reader. This is the kind of gift I like thinking of Santa handing out on my behalf.

All this reminds me that a movie, tapas and sangria are luxuries. Small ones, I grant you, but they are not on Mazslow's heirarchy, are they? And I must remember that I  chose not to see Betty and Will Saturday night. I have friends who care about me and want to celebrate the season with me. That, while sometimes life wears me out, I have a lot to enjoy and a lot to be thankful for. That I have heart and imagination to share.

I am feeling Christmas-y.

Sunday Stealing

Bah Humbug! 

TV show I loathe: Seinfeld

Movie I loathe: Anything with subtitles. I'm very lowbrow when it comes to foreign films.

Music genres I loathe: Classical and opera

Magazine which annoys me: National Enquirer. I enjoy trash on occasion, but the Enquirer is insulting to my intelligence.

Makes me cranky at restaurant: Slow service

Makes me cranky in public: People who take up too much space. You don't get two seats on the train unless you pay for two seats!

Makes me impatient at home: When the electricity or cable/internet go out

Makes me impatient at work: EVERYTHING these days!

Celebrity I hate: Patricia Heaton of The Middle and Everybody Loves Raymond. Shrill, unfunny and none too bright.

You're not even remotely likeable, or funny, or credible. Go away.

Music artist I hate: Eminem

I could NOT care less about: The HGTV celebrities. You know, those twins. And the couple from Flip or Flop who are getting divorced. Or maybe they quit their show. I don't know because I could not care less.

Blogger's habit that annoys you: I don't have one. If I don't like your blog, I won't visit it. Problem solved.

Feature on your blog you hate: If there was something here I hated, I'd change it.

Politician that you hate: Steve Bannon. What a hostile  jerk.

I just didn't want to

I don't know why I didn't go to our movie group Christmas gettogether. I just didn't feel like it.

Will, our moderator, chose an unusual holiday-themed movie this year: The Apartment. It's Billy Wilder, so it's funny and cynical. But it has a lovely happy ending. I've never seen it with an audience, so maybe it would have been fun.

But I just had a feeling that tonight wouldn't have gone well. Joanna and I were supposed to go out afterward to toast the holiday and that's what propelled me to get ready to go. While I was checking my makeup, my tummy started to gurgle and I thought, "Oh, this isn't good." But I had committed to see Joanna.

Then I got a text from her. She was going to skip this evening because she had too much work to do before leaving Tuesday for client meetings in New Orleans. I was happy for her, as I knew she was worried about money through year end. And I felt strangely liberated. If she wasn't going, I didn't have to go.

We agreed to celebrate the holidays after I get home from Key West. I was happy. I curled up on the sofa, under an afghan, and watched the 1970s Murder on the Orient Express (and fell asleep).

And now I'm not. My stomach calmed down and I was fine. I saw the "Oh, we miss you!" messages from Betty and Will and I wished I'd gone.

What's wrong with me? Do I have the holiday blues?

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: My Church (2016)

1) This song is about a woman who loves singing along with her car radio. Is that something you enjoy? I take public transportation. My fellow commuters appreciate my not singing.

2)  The video begins with Maren Morris finishing her cigarette before getting behind the wheel. Do you allow smoking in your car? Each car on every train I take has this sign:

3) In this song, Maren admits she's lied. What's the last fib you told? It wasn't a verbal lie, but I was dishonest nevertheless. Friday afternoon, a coworker used Google Maps to show me the route she used to walk from home to school, and I pretended to care.

4) She mentions having her radio on the FM dial. Are you loyal to a single radio station? Or do you spin the dial? I'm loyal. Chicagoland has two oldies stations: the dial on my shower radio is set to the one that gets the best reception, and my iPod alternates between the two.

5) Maren was inspired to write this song while on a long car trip from Nashville to Los Angeles. When do you get your best ideas? (In the shower, behind the wheel, over lunch with friends ...) Shower
6) She performed this song on Saturday Night Live last year. The host that week was John Cenna. Do you follow professional wrestling? No. It annoys me.

7) In 2016, when this song was popular, Alex Rodriguez played his final Major League Baseball game. He has embarked on a second career as a broadcaster. Would you be comfortable on camera? On camera? No. Public speaking doesn't bother me. But I hate watching myself.

8) A 2016 study revealed that 43% of Americans own mutual funds, many in their 401(k)s and IRAs. Are you involved in the stock market? Yes. I have a little less than half of my "emergency" savings in a mutual fund and about 85% of my retirement savings in mutual funds through my 401(k).

9) Random question: You have something awkward and embarrassing that you simply must tell a pal. You know your friend will not be happy with the news. Would you prefer to deliver it by email, in a phone call, or face to face? I'd prefer a live, real-time phone call. That way I can gauge how the person is taking the news, and then, once we hang up, my friend will have time alone to process it. 

Wednesday, December 06, 2017


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

1. What are you currently reading? A Christmas Return by Anne Perry. Set in the 1890s, this is the story of Mariah Ellis. A wealthy, crusty and rather lonely grandmother takes a Christmas trip to mend a broken friendship and maybe solve a twenty-year-old mystery. I've just cracked it open and hope that it delivers the Victorian-era atmosphere and yuletide spirit the cover promises.

2. What did you recently finish reading? The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. What a frustrating book! I wanted to love it so much, and I did ... until I didn't.

This is the autobiography of Enzo, a dog at the end of his life looking back on his "dogness." It's a captivating book -- charming, imaginative and filled with provocative insights. It's filled with charming and inspirational little moments that will stay with me for a long time.

But the plot reminds me of the Elvis song, "You Gave Me a Mountain." In that song, a guy's life begins in the desert heat, which causes his mother to die in childbirth. As a result, his father hates him. Then he ends up in prison for a crime he didn't commit. That's just the first verse. 

The Art of Racing in the Rain becomes like a corny, over-the-top country song. When the story centers on Enzo and his nuclear (human) family -- Denny, wife Eve and daughter Zoe -- it's a touching, delightful tale. It's about the stuff of life, touching on compromise and love and sacrifice and success and overcoming challenges. Then the story introduces villains -- "The Twins," as Enzo calls them, and Annika -- and suddenly the saga of Enzo's master, Denny, began to resemble the trials of Job. The bad guys are too bad, too one-dimensional, and there's a soupcon of misogyny tossed in, too.

I'm not sorry I read it. I was quite touched by Enzo. I just wish the story had retained a tighter focus on him and his conventional, day-to-day doggy life. That's what made it special.
3.  What will you read next? Maybe another mystery? Or a biography

Hemorrhaging Money

Monday night, my phone died. It was never a very good phone. (OK, it was a piece of shit.) And it was 2 1/2 years old, so it wasn't a surprise. It just didn't make me happy because I'm very short of funds this month.

I replaced it with an LG Aristo, the cheapest one they had. $50 down and $6/month for the next two years. It's fine. It has a better camera than my old phone did, and if this phone lasts 2 1/2 years, I'll consider it a god value. I just didn't feel like buying a new phone now. But I need to be able to text and access my Uber/Lyft accounts, and since I'll be traveling again at Christmas, I need a phone that's up and running. It is what it is.

Then tonight my Ventra card crapped out. I need it to board the el every day, twice a day. It had more than $30 on it. The CTA will send me a new card with my funds loaded on it -- minus a $5 processing fee -- but that will take a week. So on the way home, I had to buy and fund another card. Sigh.

I'm so fucking sick of worrying about money.

It's not Eugene O'Neill, but then it doesn't have to be

Last week I went to see Escape to Margaritaville with my friend Barb. Chicago was the last stop before Broadway. It's a silly show -- about boat drinks and flip flops and vacation romance. I like Jimmy Buffett's music and suspect it could have been more. The songs have a wistful, subversive quality that could have taken the show in a more substantial direction.

But I'm glad that the writers went the sitcom route. This was the first time I've seen Barb since the memorial service for her late husband in September. Since then, she's tried hard to not be home, spending time vacationing in Manhattan and at her new house in Hilton Head. But she can't run away forever. She's back in Chicago for the holidays, and to make some tough decisions about her future. She's going to sell the house here, where she and her husband were living during his year-long battle with cancer.

She's not doing well. She gets teary very easily and admits how much time she spends talking to her new therapist. I suppose I shouldn't have expected her to be doing any better than this. She has been through a tremendous amount these past two years -- her own mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, debilitating arthritis, her retirement, and most of all, her husband's illness and death. She's doing the best she can. I'm confident she will come through this on the other side. But she's on a sad and lonely journey.

So a silly show about booze with a sing-along to "Why Don't We Get Drunk (And Screw)?" might just have been what the doctor ordered.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Sunday Stealing

Sunday Stealing: A Book Meme

1. Do you prefer hardcover, paperback, or Kindle...and why? Lately I like oversized (not pocket) paperbacks. They feel substantial, but they still fit neatly in my purse.

2. If I were to own a book shop I would call it ...  The Shop Around the Corner. It would be an homage to Nora Ephron, who used the name in her screenplay for You've Got Mail, which in itself was an homage to an old movie called The Shop Around the Corner.

3. My favorite quote from a book (mention the title) is ... In Gone with the Wind, Grandma Fontaine tells Scarlett, "I like the way you meet things. You don't make a fuss about things that can't be helped. You take your fences cleanly, like a good hunter." I know there are many things about Scarlett O'Hara which are not admirable. But in this way, Scarlett is completely my role model. Scarlett dealt with life as it came to her, and she got shit done.

4. The author (alive or dead) I would love to have lunch with would be ... Doris Kearns Goodwin. I have so many questions for her! Considering she's an expert on both the Kennedys and Abraham Lincoln, maybe we ought to make it lunch and dinner.

5. If I was going to a deserted island and could only bring one book, except for the SAS survival guide, it would be ... Something massive and expansive. Maybe Gone with the Wind. Maybe the Sinatra saga by James Kaplan.

6. I would love someone to invent a bookish gadget that ... I think there are too many bookish gadgets already. Please let me keep reading old-school!

7. The smell of an old book reminds me of .... I'm going to change this a bit to make it about used or library books. I love wondering who has held them before me, where the books has traveled.

8. If I could be the lead character in a book (mention the title), it would be.... Jo from Little Women.

9. The most over-rated book of all time is.... The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

10. I hate it when a book.... just doesn't grab me. It makes me sad when I pick up a book and I find myself not caring. Wasted reading time makes me nuts.

"It's never too late to change"

So said the esthetician who performed my Thanksgiving Day facial at the spa at the New York, New York hotel. She was referring to a client she'd had the day before, a 70+ woman who suffered still suffered breakouts of cystic acne and insisted on continuing to use ProActiv. Because the woman's skin is older, that treatment is too harsh. The esthetician recommended spot treating with something different, something milder. The woman refused.

Being told, "It's never too late to change," during my 60th birthday celebration feels significant. I'm taking her advice and putting toner back in my skincare regimen. But I'm also trying to look at it in a larger context. I must be ready to put all aspects of my life into a new and fresh context as I go forward.

Happy Birthday to Me -- In Retrospect -- Part Two

I am in touch with my oldest friend at least once a week, sometimes more. I wish we talked on the phone more, but she often doesn't pick up. I guess that should have been my first clue.

I just wasn't prepared. Until I saw her in the lobby of the New York, New York casino, I had no idea how badly she was doing. Yes, I knew she was out of work, an unexpected career setback which is hard to handle and difficult to surmount at age 61. But I really didn't think it was so bad. She moved 2000 miles from Chicagoland to Southern California to be with her cousin. Her cousin has always had an in-laws suite at her home (kitchen, bedroom, bathroom) and now it's vacant. What's better than actually living with her cousin? I thought on some level this would make her happy. A 24/7 slumber party with her favorite relative! Yea! But her life is so much more complicated than that.

She has serious health problems. There's arthritis in her knee, that makes it impossible for her to walk distances. Just navigating LAX to catch her plane put too much stress on the knee. At one point, on The Strip, she sat on a bench and watched as I crossed the street to check out the attractions on the other side. Granted, it was a four-lane street. But still. She honestly didn't feel she could cross it in the time allotted. She needs injections in the knee but without a job, she doesn't have adequate health insurance, so she gets by on Vicodin. Let's not even consider the long-term ramifications of that.

Which leads me to her teeth. They are discolored, and the spacing is uneven. I didn't want to ask her about them ("Hey! What's up with your teeth?" didn't seem like a supportive thing to say) but she must be aware of them. I wonder if the Vicodin she's taking for her knee isn't masking the pain from her teeth. For some reason, she's always been a bit of a dentalphobe. Plus, she hasn't had dental insurance in quite some time. But aside from the hygiene and health issues, I worry about the impact this can have on her job hunt. She's a pretty woman -- very Marie Osmond -- with a light and lilting voice. But she's overweight and now this with her teeth. I wonder what impression she leaves in job interviews.

And her depression is still evident. I know I'm not the easiest person to be around -- I can be too chirpy and high energy, I can be too opinionated -- and I treasure her for putting up with me. But I found it frustrating to travel with her because she just quit answering her phone. Between her plane landing and her arrival at the hotel, I had no idea where she was, or why it was taking her more than an hour to arrive. (Turns out she took the shuttle and it made a lot of stops.) When her adult kids called or texted, she stopped what she was doing and answered right away. So I know it was just me.

She can't make up her mind about anything. When I checked into the hotel on Tuesday, I asked about late check out. My friend's flight would be leaving until 8:00 PM on Friday, we had to relinquish the room at 11:00 AM, and what was she going to do all day? The concierge gave me a tiered deal -- $20 till 1:00 PM and $30 till 3:00. I mentioned to my friend that she should take. After all, she would probably spend $30 on coffee while waiting for her late flight. (I was leaving at 8:00 AM.) I told her what I was told: to get this deal, we had to let them know right away. I asked her about it twice on Tuesday, twice on Wednesday, finally after I asked her again on Thursday she made up her mind, but they hotel could no longer accommodate us.

She can't get up in the morning. To be ready to leave the room by 11:00 was a trial for her. I know it's meds she's taking, but it struck me as so sad. And, between Tuesday night and Friday morning, when I left, she took one shower. I don't think that's normal or healthy. (Though she might have showered on Friday after I left.) And again, how is this going to translate to a new job?

I'm afraid for her. I can't wait for her to move in with her cousin, so she'll be under the watchful eye of someone who loves her. She's a wonderful person -- funny and generous and smart. I understand that with her health issues, life is hard for her. But she is so important to me. I need her. She is my touchstone. I wish I knew how to make life easier for her.

And I don't like the mirror she holds up to me. Look at me. Job problems of my own. Financial problems of my own. Weight problems of my own. Now I'm 60, too.

Must remember to make an appointment with the dentist and break out those Crest White Strips!


While I was in Las Vegas I saw someone wearing this shirt.

I admit it was something of a shock. First of all, I'd literally never seen one before. Here in the Land of Lincoln, we're all still wearing the 2016 shirts in Cubbie blue with the big red C logo. Secondly, it made me sad. My Cubs are not the World Champions anymore.

I knew that, intellectually. Of course. I'm not stupid.

But emotionally? I'm not ready for it to be over.

Happy Birthday to Me -- In Retrospect -- Part One

I'm a week late posting this because I simply haven't felt like it. My trip to Vegas has left me with such conflicting feelings that I didn't want to confront.

This post will be all about the surface stuff. The good stuff. And there was a lot of good stuff. I don't want to lose sight of that.

First: kudos to American Airlines. Their inflight entertainment is superduper awesome. Going to LAS, I watched Casablanca. TWICE. Coming home I caught a documentary about Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Never mind that the documentary wasn't so hot. I'm a white-knuckle flyer, and having familiar and beloved images -- like Rick, Ilsa and The Lads -- dancing before my eyes works just as well as Xanax, but without the after effects. Being able to watch on the seat back monitor is so much easier than using my own device. Bravo, American!

Applause to New York, New York. The staff at our hotel couldn't have been nicer, kinder or more helpful. From making spa reservations for us to helping me out when I got a scary phishing email (pretending to be from my credit card company), they were uniformly great.

Bravo to Tom's Urban Kitchen. This was great!
Oh! The food! There are other hotels on The Strip that have a reputation for cuisine, but I loved eating at New York, New York. My birthday dinner at Tom's Urban Kitchen was mac and cheese with lobster and shrimp and it was fucking awesome. Our traditional Thanksgiving feast at Nine Fine Irishmen was so plentiful that I literally ate myself sick. The food in Vegas is more expensive than it was in the old days, because Xers and Millennials don't gamble as much as Boomers did and food is now a profit center, not a loss leader. But the prices are not out of line with big city restaurants and the quality was great.

Beautiful weather. It was in the 80s during the day and the 60s at night. Just perfect.

Girl bonding. It was good to be there with my oldest friend. We went to see the Beatles Love show by Cirque du Soleil (I thought it was too much Cirque and not enough Beatles, but that's me). We drank a toast in memory of David Cassidy. We posed with the wax figures at Madame Tussaud's. We had a facial and a massage. We laughed ourselves stupid watching Valley of the Dolls ... again. We celebrated my crossing the Rubicon from middle age to senior citizen. It was important to do that with someone I share a lifetime of memories with.

Vegas Strong. The October nightmare of 58 dead and 546 injured is still with those who live and work in Las Vegas. It should be wake up call for all of us. I bought and proudly wear a Vegas Strong bracelet. I was afraid that the mass shooting would cast a pall over The Strip but instead it seems to have brought everyone together.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree (1971)
Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

In memory of David Cassidy, who died on 11/21/17.
1) This song mentions celebrating the holidays in "the new old-fashioned way." What's a holiday tradition that began with you (or your generation)? There's a charming little Methodist church in Key West that has a candlelight Christmas Eve service. My friend Henry and I attend it every year, either before or after dinner. I love how friendly and happy everyone is, including Henry. It's the only time all year he goes to church and I can tell he misses formal worship. At least the music. He really gets into the carols. (I lip synch.)
2) The lyrics include dancing, caroling and pumpkin pie. Will you enjoy any of those three between now and year-end? Pumpkin pie! I don't know where I'll have it again, exactly. But I guarantee it's in my future.
3) David Cassidy and The Partridge Family were intensely popular for a short period of time. For example, this song was from the best-selling Christmas album of the 1971 holiday season. Have you added any holiday music to your collection this year? Nope. No plans to, either.
4) In 1971, the official David Cassidy fan club had a membership that exceeded both Elvis' and The Beatles'. Have you ever joined a fan club? Nope.
5) David recalled that his first hero growing up was the Yankees' Mickey Mantle. When you
This is a great man. Read about him here.
were a little kid, what grown-up did you look up to? Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks. He was the first ball player I ever "knew." An infielder with magic wrists who hit more than 500 homeruns, he was sometimes the only thing worth cheering on some really wretched Cub teams -- and the centerpiece of that glorious and heartbreaking 1969 season that's tattooed on the soul of every fan who lived through it.

During the turbulent 1960s -- when all the grown-ups around me were arguing about civil rights and Vietnam and long hair, etc. -- he was the only thing everyone agreed on. "Did you hear about Ernie?" was almost the only safe topic of conversation. With his talent, professionalism and sunny disposition, the man literally brought my family together.

When my nephew claimed his genetic destiny and became a Cub fan, Ernie is the first Cub I told him about. So I loved it when, as a third grader with a biography project, he chose to do his paper on Mr. Cub.
6) David was a notoriously bad driver. In 1990, he was sentenced to traffic school for speeding. He was late for the class because he was stopped for speeding en route. Do you have a "lead foot?" I don't drive.
  7) David's parents divorced when he was only four years old. He and his mom lived with her parents until he was 10. Have you ever lived in an extended, multi-generational household? Nope.
8) In 1971, when David and the Partridge Family were at their height, the US Mint introduced the Eisenhower Silver Dollar. Think of the last thing you bought. Did you pay with cash or plastic or your phone? On the way home from work Friday evening, I impulsively stopped and picked up a slice of pizza. I paid cash. 
9) Random holiday question: Let's talk regifting. Tell us about a time you regifted, or you received a present you suspect was regifted. My cousin Rose gave me a pair of amber earrings, purchased for me during her trip to Poland. I know they weren't very expensive (customs and all), but they were cute and the little red gift box was impressive. Here's the thing: I don't wear gold and having anything with a yellow cast (like amber) that close to my face makes me look a wee bit jaundiced. Guess what I added to my niece's birthday gift bag.

The Lucy-Desi Blogathon: I Love Lucy in Palm Springs

Familiarity Breeds Hilarity. My favorite episode of I Love Lucy is from Season 4, "In Palm Springs." I enjoy all the hilarious "Hollywood" episodes, where most of the humor comes from Lucy's fan-girl overreaction to meeting superstars of the day, including Cornell Wilde, John Wayne, Harpo Marx and (my favorite) William Holden.

But this episode stands out because there's no slapstick or pratfalls here -- all the humor is rooted in real life. Much of it is tender, all of it is authentic, and that makes it very funny. The icing on this comedy cake is a very deft turn by Rock Hudson.

Tension arises from too much togetherness. Not only have the Riccardos and Mertzes been neighbors for years in New York, now they are spending too-too much time together in Hollywood. The little things that had always been easy to overlook have now become massive irritants.

It all starts with the four them, trapped indoors on a rainy Hollywood afternoon. Lucy reads an article in the paper and begins laughing aloud. The story is about a wife who becomes so irritated by years of her husband cracking his knuckles that she took a baseball bat to him. This begins a conversation about how each of the four has a noisy little habit that could drive a spouse to distraction. 

•  Ricky absent-mindedly taps his fingers
•  Lucy keeps stirring (and stirring and stirring) her coffee
•  Ethel makes sucking and slurping noises as she eats
•  Fred jingles and jangles his loose change

The conversation turns from good-natured ribbing to out-and-out fighting. The Mertzes retreat to their own room to leave the Riccardos to battle in private, and to continue their argument. Finally, when the four of them reunite, Lucy shares a truth. The problems caused by their annoying habits has been exacerbated by all the time spent together in close quarters. It's agreed that two of them should getaway to Palm Springs.

But which two? Fred and Ricky or Ethel and Lucy? How to decide? They agree on a coin flip. "Heads we win, tails you lose," Lucy suggests. First Lucy and Ethel lose 2 out 3, then 3 out of 5, then 4 out of 7. Finally Ricky just agrees to let the girls go because he doesn't have the stamina to toss "233 out of 349."

The girls get to Palm Springs and find it's raining there, too. It rains, and rains, and rains. It hasn't rained this much in this desert resort community in 20 years. Stuck indoors together, Lucy and Ethel begin to irk one another. Lucy comes to the thunderbolt realization that she's irritable because she misses Ricky. "I can top that," Ethel counters, "I miss Fred." Their longing is as touching as it is amusing.

The clouds part and the girls race down to the pool. From a distance, it appears they're having a good time, but they're still sad and lonely without their men. Unbeknownst to them -- because it's I Love Lucy, after all -- Ricky and Fred have slipped into Palm Springs unannounced. Ricky persuades his new MGM buddy, Rock Hudson, to grease the skids and prepare the wives for a reconciliation with their husbands.

Rock Hudson joins the girls by the pool, telling them he has a message for Ricky. Naturally they are wowed to see him. At the time he was best known for lush, big-budget "women's pictures," like All That Heaven Allows, One Desire and Magnificent Obsession. A flabbergasted Ethel offers him a chocolate, asking, "Would you like a piece of Rock, Mr. Candy?"

Rock shares the news for Ricky. It's a ridiculous, completely made-up story about a woman he and Ricky both know from the studio, a script girl named Adele Sliff. Adele has just suffered a tragedy. She and Sam were married for decades, and over all those years Sam absent-mindedly, tunelessly whistled. Just one note. Over and over. Finally she could take it no more and filed for divorce. Once he was gone, she realized how much she loved him and wanted him back. Before they could reconcile, Sam died in a car crash.

(Hudson makes this so much more charming than it sounds in the retelling. I couldn't find a YouTube clip of this scene to share, but trust me, I have just done him a great disservice in the preceding paragraph. He had a gift for light comedy. I wonder if this turn on I Love Lucy gave producers the idea of casting him comedies like Pillow Talk at the end of the decade.)

The girls buy his sad story and start to cry. Just then, Ricky and Fred appear and the lovers are reunited. And we all live happily ever after!

BTW, "Adele Sliff" was actually a script girl on I Love Lucy.

Still want more Lucy and Desi?