Wednesday, February 29, 2012



Here it is, the top of the bottom. The Siena Research Institute has been polling presidential scholars since 1982. Much is made of those who ranks highest (it's always the usual suspects -- Lincoln, Washington and FDR -- in the top slots), but who brings up the rear?

In 2010, these 13 men ranked the lowest in everything from "intelligence" to "luck."

30) Rutherford B. Hayes
31) Jimmy Carter
32) Zachary Taylor
33) Benjamin Harrison
34) William Henry Harrison
35) Herbert Hoover
36) John Tyler
37) Millard Filmore
38) George W. Bush
39) Franklin Pierce
40) Warren G. Harding
41) James Buchanan
42) Andrew Johnson (pictured)

I admit I know very little about 11 of these 13. I lived through the Carter and GW Bush years but could probably learn more about the inner workings of their Administrations. But I wonder if it matters? Is history always important? Is there as much to learn from failure as success?

For more information about the Thursday Thirteen,
or to play yourself, click here.

And the crowd goes wild!

For the second month in a row, I have reached my goal of 13 workouts/month (with a workout defined as 25 minutes of cardio and 10 minutes of either floor exercises or weight machines).

And remember, February is a short month. That makes my accomplishment even more awesome! Thank you very much.

Of course, I'm still a big fat moo-cow. Maybe that's why that girl (middle left) is sticking her tongue out at me. But I'm making progress. Fitness is becoming a part of my life.


To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

1) What are you currently reading?
2) What did you recently finish reading?
3) What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading? LA Mental by Neil McMahon. It's a thriller about Dr. Tom Crandall, the oldest son of one of Los Angeles' oldest and wealthiest families. His siblings are all coming undone at the same time. Wild child Nick's drug habit has landed him in the hospital, dull Paul is suddenly cheating on his wife with a sophisticated lady film producer, and his only sister, engaged Erica, decided to have one last fling before the wedding and unfortunately someone found out and is blackmailing her. These family catastrophes can't possibly be related ... can they? Of course they can! Otherwise we wouldn't have a thriller! It's one of those books that's fun while it lasts, but I suspect I won't remember a thing about it when it's done.

What did you recently finish reading? Star, Peter Biskind's biography of Warren Beatty. The end of the book is sadder than I expected. He went from being one of Hollywood's power players throughout the 60s, 70s, 80s and even the early 90s. But now he's old and irrelevant. He is, by all accounts, finally happily settled down with one woman and a passel of kids. Yet you're left to wonder -- did he "retire" from film to be a good dad, or is it just a convenient excuse to get around admitting that he's no longer young, handsome and in demand?

What do you think you’ll read next? I don't know for sure, but I think I'll pick up Mona Lisa in Camelot: How Jacqueline Kennedy and Da Vinci's Masterpiece Charmed and Captivated a Nation.


I Want Wednesday

I want my problems to be less complicated and weird. I get the feeling  that when I try to explain to my best friend why I'm upset over stuff like this and this, his eyes roll back in his head and he wishes he hadn't signed up for such hazardous duty.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Trifecta "Check-In"

I'm answering these questions in response to the Trifecta Friday Check-In, where the authors who participate in this challenge provide verbal snapshots of themselves. 

  1. What is your name (real or otherwise)? The Gal Herself
  2. Describe your writing style in three words. Conversational, honest, journalistic
  3. How long have you been writing online? Since May 2006
  4. Which, if any, other writing challenges do you participate in? I participate in Nanowrimo, though I have yet to finish
  5. Describe one way in which you could improve your writing. I need to keep at it -- both in beginning new pieces and refining/editing the ones I've done
  6. What is the best writing advice you’ve ever been given? "Writers write."
  7. Who is your favorite author?  Robert B. Parker, William Goldman
  8. How do you make time to write? I am a writer by trade, so I'm always at the keyboard. I do these Trifecta challenges between the raindrops when I'm working. They give me an opportunity to write without having to sell something!
  9. Give us one word we should consider using as a prompt. Straight
  10. Direct us to one blog post of yours that we shouldn't miss reading. No. I won't. Instead I'll refer you to The 30 Days of Honesty posts I did as part of an online challenge in 2010. Considering how quickly I whipped them out, they reflect pretty well on me as both a woman and a writer. 


This week's challenge: Use the third definition in no less than 33 and no more than 333 words.  Have fun. This week's word is wretched.
1: deeply afflicted, dejected, or distressed in body or mind
2: extremely or deplorably bad or distressing

It was only a little after 4:00 PM, but it was already dark as night when Margaret exited through the revolving doors and found herself on windy Michigan Avenue. She reflexively clutched the collar of her full-length mink. This coat attracted many compliments from strangers on the street, as well as the occasional raspberry from silly animal rights activists, but its beauty isn’t why she valued it. Over the years it had proven to be a terrific investment – still toasty warm and she’d only had to have the shoulders altered a bit to keep it fashionable. Also, she learned cabbies were quicker to pick her up when she was swathed in fur.

At the corner cabstand she saw that same homeless man, leaning as always on a railing, rattling spare change in an orange and blue Bears mug. “Your kindness will not be forgotten,” he said to each sap who deposited a coin or two. Even though it was too dark just now for her to see them, Margaret knew from countless previous encounters that his eyes were rheumy and she was certain he couldn’t even see who he was thanking or what they had given him. The “kindness” for which the wretched old man was so grateful could be bottle caps. He annoyed her. If he wouldn’t get his damn eyes fixed and couldn’t get a job, couldn’t he at least find a spot in a publicly funded shelter and stay out of sight until his sad, sickly life ended? The presence of beggars lowered the prestige of the office building she paid very high rent to be in.

Sliding into her cab, she saw a pair of merry shoppers practically sprain themselves, patting themselves on the backs for putting bills into his mug. Yes, so it’s Christmas Eve, so what? Does that mean suddenly tonight he won’t waste their hard-earned money on smokes and booze and drugs? 


Monday, February 27, 2012

Santorum's take on Church and State makes ME want to throw up

Over the weekend, Rick Santorum ragged on John Fitzgerald Kennedy and how he handled "The Catholic Question" back in 1960. According to Mr. Santorum, JFK said that people of faith "have no role in the public square. You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case. That makes me throw up.”

It's obvious to me that Mr. Santorum never read Kennedy's remarks. I have. They are wise and measured and profound. I will repeat them at the end of this post. And if Santorum is serious in his disagreement with JFK, then I think I'd like Pope Benedict to appear alongside him at the next GOP debate. After all, the Vatican seems to be where Santorum will be getting his guidance, not our Constitution.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew — or a Quaker or a Unitarian or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you — until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.
John and Robert Kennedy both spoke so beautifully, even when they were talking off the cuff, and used exquisite grammar. Even if I didn't agree with their content (though I almost always did), they were a pleasure to listen to. (She said, ending a sentence with a preposition.)

This Dog Has His Day

Yes, The Artist was a wonderful movie. And yes, Jean DuJardin was a charming and compelling leading man. But for me, the movie (and therefore its Best Picture Oscar) belongs to Uggy. I was so happy to see him included in the celebrations during last night's Oscar telecast.

I heard that, since Uggy is now 10 years old, he may be retiring from long-format film and TV work and will just concentrate on commercials from now on. If that's true, I'm happy see he went out on top.

I LOVE that dog!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Stealing

Cheers to all of us thieves!

1. Where are you from and where do you live now? "I am Chicago bred and Chicago born. And when I die, it'll be a Chicagoan gone."

2. Favorite childhood story/book/film?
Book: The Little Leftover Witch by Florence Laughlin; Movie: Mary Poppins

3. If you could change gender for a day what would you do?
Wow. I have always wondered how it would be to get dressed with an upfront package, but I could get the answer to that in just a short time. Do I really have to be a guy for a full 24 hours?

4. Do you feel you family is complete or would you like more/some children?
If by "family" you mean "household," then I feel very complete. At 54, I'm not prepared to care for a baby!

5. What do you do/Where do you work and do you enjoy it?
I am an advertising writer. And yes, for the most part, I do enjoy it.

6. Which three words do you think sum you up?
Loyal Cub fan

7. If you were a fairy what magical powers would you possess?
Remember how Mary Poppins could straighten up the kids' playroom simply by snapping her fingers? I'd like to be able to adopt that approach to housework.
8. If you were invisible, where would you go and what would you do?
Why? I'd make my way into all those rooms where I wished I was "a fly on the wall." Why? So I could eavesdrop, of course!
9. What song can’t you listen to without crying?
"Have I Told You Lately that I Love You"

10. Which book changed your life – or at least made you think a lot?
Saving Graces by Elizabeth Edwards
11. Why do you blog?
To create a snapshot of how my life looks at a given moment.

12. What is your top ‘me-time’ tip?
First, insist on getting your "me-time!"

13. What can’t you live without?
This "me-time" you speak of.
14. Which of all your blog posts are you most proud of and why?
This one! It's my 4,190th. (No shit.)
15. Have you ever met a famous person? Who and where?
I kissed Bruce Springsteen. Yes, it was very exciting. I have told this story soooo many times. If you still need details, here you go.

16. When did you last have a full nights sleep?
Uninterrupted? About a week ago. I'm not good at sleeping.

17. What would you think is harder: Going to work or staying at home with children?
I am not the one to ask.
18. What are you doing for Easter?
Whatever my mom and kid sister decide I'm doing. I stay out of the planning of these events.

19. What is your favorite drink?
Classic Coke.

20. Do you play any sports?
Not well.

21. What is your most embarrassing moment?
Oh, there are so many. I am such a klutz!

22. How clever are you?
I'm pretty clever.

23. Name a new favorite TV show?

24. Any guilty pleasures?
Nancy Grace

25. If you could have chosen your own name, what would it be?
Julia, so I could be Julie as a younger person and then evolve into Julia as an older one\
26. Who do you most admire in life, and why?
My all-time idol is Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis because of her exquisite self-control and indomitable spirit. According to Amazon, there are more than 800 books about her, and yet she remains an enigma. Since I wear my heart on my sleeve and am about as mysterious as a glass of water, I wish I could be more like her.

27. What is your most treasured possession?
I am very attached to the snow globe I got from my best friend

28. Tell your favorite funny joke…
A grandmother is watching her grandson playing on the beach. A huge wave comes and takes him out to sea. She pleads, "Please, God, save my only grandson. I will live a blameless life if only you return him to me. I beg of you, bring him back." And a big wave washes the boy back onto the beach, good as new. She looks up to Heaven and says, "He had a hat."

29. What is your biggest fear in life?
Being dependent and unable to care for myself

30. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? What does it remind you of?
Mint chocolate chip. Um ... it doesn't really remind me of anything. Sorry.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The time approaches!

My annual spa getaway (like the professional baseball season) is little over a month away. I am returning to Colonial Williamsburg and this past week I booked my spa services.

Day 1 -- Advanced Alpha Hydroxy Facial to "soothe, replenish, and firm dehydrated or sensitive skin." Then a Longevity Pedicure, which is supposed to last and last.

Day 2 -- My "historically-inspired" spa day. As the website says: "Colonial Herbal Spa Experience. This wonderful spa experience begins with a warm and soothing aromatic foot bath inspired by a historic herbal recipe from Toilet de Flora. Next, our delightful orange and ginger body scrub softens the skin and invigorates the senses. Historically, orange and ginger were imported and used in the apothecary for a variety of remedies. This recipe of yesterday has been carefully re-created in a modern way. A warm wrap follows the scrub to encourage increased circulation and ease muscle tension. This memorably luxurious experience finishes with a Williamsburg Massage using 18th-century-inspired oil."

Day 3 -- A 90-minute hot stone massage.

I've booked each of these sessions for about 3:00 so I can get plenty of sight seeing and shopping in before my daily pampering.

If you're jealous of me, I understand.

Saturday 9

1. When do you feel that you are at your sexiest? In my mid 30s. I was proud of my body and I was in love with a good man.

2. What's your favorite magazine? Why? I read alot and I still subscribe to a lot of magazines, but I'm always happiest when Allure arrives. It covers health and beauty and lotions and potions and I'm fascinated by this stuff. But Allure writes about it from a consumer standpoint, with the emphasis on what works and what doesn't, so we can separate the hype from the reality.

3. What’s something you do more quickly than most people? Write. Both composition and typing come easily to me.

4. When do you first remember using a computer? I remember what it looked like, but not my very first experience.

5. Who is the craziest person in your family? My older sister. Her grasp of reality is tenuous at best.

6. What one thing are you craving today? Tee hee. What I always crave on weekend mornings. Alas, I'm not in a relationship.

7. What is your favorite thing to spend money on? PURSES!

8. What’s the part of your morning you least look forward to every day? Fighting with my cat, Reynaldo. He seems to feel that it's up to him when I get up and when he gets fed, and I disagree. I am, after all, the one with opposing thumbs so I always win. But he puts up a good fight. For example, this morning he successfully gained my attention by knocking a brand-new box of cereal off the top of the refrigerator and into his water bowl. This soaked the box, ruined the cereal, and made quite a mess. GOOD MORNING!

9. What are some rules you have for yourself that don’t really make much sense? I can be a very messy housekeeper, but my TOWELS ALWAYS MATCH. I get very upset if they don't. I know it doesn't really matter and I don't know why it's so important to me, but it is.

Friends Update

No, not Ross and Rachel and Phoebe. MY friends. I have received eagerly-awaited news on these three, and I'm happy to report their futures are so bright, I've got to wear shades!

My best friend managed to tie himself in knots over his annual performance review, certain that his bosses were underwhelmed by his efforts. I'm happy to report that instead he got high marks. My favorite comment was that he is "nimble," a reflection on his ability to jump from client to client, project to project. This is not something he thought he would be able to do, and now he's doing it well.

My oldest friend had a job interview yesterday for a position at a doctors' office. She thinks it went well, and even if she doesn't get the job, she's expanded her thinking. She moved to Los Angeles for a job in a massive, world-famous hospital, but it didn't go well. I asked why she hasn't been pursuing work for a private practice, which is what she did so well here, and her reply was that the doctors don't tend to post on positions online. In a nice turn of events, she's taking my advice and cold calling doctors' offices and working with a recruiter (it was a recruiter that got her this interview). She's more likely to get a job that suits her this way. She needs some good news, and I'm glad she's moving in this direction.

My friend in Key West is getting nibbles at his resume, too. He really wants a specific position in Portland, and he found out he's still in the running. This is good news because he hates his underpaying job down there in Key West, and with the economy as it is, he knows he has to relocate is he wants to continue teaching at the college level. What has caused me worry is his lover. For he is the one who wanted so desperately to move to Key West in the first place, and he has consistently grown in his career down there -- transitioning from waiter to bartender to restaurant management. I was afraid that my friend and his lover were going to experience tension in their home life as they decided whether or not to move. I'm happy to report that they are on the same page about this next chapter in their lives! His partner is only concerned that the move be worth it financially, since relocating can be very expensive. (I wish my oldest friend had been as wise about her own move.) The important thing to me, though, is that they are are strong and supportive as a couple. I'm glad that, after 20+ years, they are still in love and committed to one another. My friend deserves nothing less!

Me and my temper

I get angry easily, and it's not a good thing. I can be sharp tongued and hot headed and I hurt people, including myself. I am not proud of this, and I battle it.

Which is why I surprised by how last night's therapy session went. I told my doctor how angry I still am about what happened with Kathy, expecting her to help me work through it, dismiss it. Instead, she said, "Of course you're angry. That sounds awful!"

Along with the anger comes a big dollop of hurt. This time, my anger is a healthy reaction to someone exploiting my vulnerability. It means I have the impulse to protect myself, that I know I don't deserve such treatment.

Who knew?

Friday, February 24, 2012

A whole month!

As February draws to a close I'm finally beginning to trust what's happening: my least favorite coworker, The Chocolate-Covered Spider, is changing toward me.

Instead of going over my every written word with a fine-tooth comb, looking for (and delighting in finding) errors, she just glances and makes helpful (!) suggestions (as opposed to dictates). She has come by my office to tell me that one of her daughter's dolls reminded her of me, and she showed me the photo she took on her cell to prove it. She told me about her vacation and apologized for not bringing back souvenirs (I always bring back trinkets for the team, but I don't expect anyone else to).

It's pleasant, and sure beats the hell out of dreading every encounter with her.

I'm a little embarrassed, though, for her about-face happened right after her half-day (literally, she was behind closed doors with her boss for close to three hours) performance evaluation. Since her behavior has only changed toward me, it's obvious that her boss busted her for her responsibility for the friction between us. It's almost mortifying to imagine him saying, "Now you make nice with The Gal."

Tom, who works with both of us, says that this is an example of how the review system is supposed to work: an employee receives input, recognizes the validity of it, and improves. He says this is a good thing. I wish I could trust it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thursday Thirteen #160


 As we wait to see which song will be honored as Best Song of 2011, here are 13 songs that have not only won the Oscar but have stood the test of time. I guarantee that at least one of these will work it's way into your brain ...

1) Just the Way You Look Tonight. "Lovely, never ever change. Keep that breathless charm. Won't you please arrange it because I love you ... just the way you look tonight." Swing Time. 1936.

2) Over the Rainbow. "If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why, oh why can't I?" The Wizard of Oz. 1939

3) When You Wish Upon a Star. "When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are. Anything your heart desires will come to you." Pinocchio. 1940

4) White Christmas. "May your days be happy and bright, and may all your Christmases be bright." Holiday Inn. 1942.

5) All the Way. "When somebody loves you it's no good unless she loves you all the way ..." Joker's Wild. 1957.

6) Moon River. "Moon River, wider than a mile, I'll be crossing you in style someday." Breakfast at Tiffany's. 1961.

7) Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head. "So I just did me some talking to the sun and I said I didn't like the way he got things done. Sleepin' on the job ..." Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. 1969.

8) The Theme from Shaft. "Who's the black private dick that's a sex machine with all the chicks?" Shaft. 1971.

9) The Way We Were. "So it's the laughter we will remember, whenever we remember the way we were." The Way We Were. 1973.

10) Evergeen. "You and I will make each night a first, every day a beginning ..." A Star Is Born. 1976

11) I Just Called to Say I Love You. "I just called to say how much I care. I just called to say I love you, and I mean it from the bottom of my heart." The Woman in Red. 1984.

12) Can You Feel the Love Tonight? "It's enough to make kings and vagabonds believe the very best." The Lion King. 1994.

13) Lose Yourself. "You better lose yourself in the music, the moment, you own it, you better never let it go." 8 Mile. 2002.

For more information about the Thursday Thirteen,
or to play yourself, click here.

WWW Wednesday

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

1) What are you currently reading?
2) What did you recently finish reading?
3) What do you think you’ll read next?

1)  Star, by Peter Biskind. It's a fascinating, compulsively readable biography of Warren Beatty. There's a lot about moviemaking, even more about women. As I wind toward the end, I wonder if his career really deserves such an exhaustive study.  He's only made 22 movies (compared to about 40 for his contemporary and chief competitor, Robert Redford), and really only about 6 were important. Though granted, Bonnie and Clyde is one of the great, influential American films. Instead I think Biskind named the book Star for a reason, for it's about how Beatty leveraged power and persona that played a bigger part in his career than his actual work.

2) MWF Seeking Same by Rachel Bertsche. I didn't finish this book, but alas, I am done with it. This began as a magazine article and, in my humble opinion, that's how it should have stayed. The premise is charming. A newly wed moves to Chicago and wants to find a new BFF. The author claims this is hard to do once you're out of the dorm. But expanding the story to book length doesn't enhance it. There's a sameness to her "friend dates." Plus, as the book wore on, I realized I didn't really like Rachel that much. So I ditched it and moved on.

3) LA Mental by Neil McMahon. A psychological thriller set in Los Angeles. According to the foreword, James Patterson loved it, so I know what to expect -- a literary candy bar that's plenty of fun while it lasts. All the studio politics, the on-set clashes and the sexual sturm und drang of Beatty makes me long for some mindless literary empty calories.

I Want Wednesday

I want to go back. Like a lot of people, I have been listening to Whitney Houston again for the first time in years. Literally. I bought and enjoyed her last CD, but it's not like she's forever in my headphones, the way her sister divas Barbra Streisand and Diana Ross are.

As I listen to "Didn't We Almost Have It All?" and "Saving All My Love for You," I am touched not so much by how fabulous Whitney's voice was (though it was), but how energetic and hopeful I was when these songs were popular. I don't so much long for Whitney -- after all, these songs are forever -- as I do my youth, which, alas, is gone forever.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Queen's Meme

1. How many gravy boats do you have in your kitchen? That would be none. (Hey, this meme is gonna be easy!)

2. Do the clothes in your laundry basket need ironing? No, just laundering.

3. What is the last thing you wallpapered? I'm not crazy about wallpaper. When I moved in to my current home, I had the paper in the kitchen removed. Does that count?

4.  Wooden floors or carpet? Carpet. Though when I get enough money ahead, that will change to wood again.

5.  Why do we put out guest towels if no one is supposed to use them? In my case, I guess the more relevant question would be, "why do I have guest towels when I so seldom have guests?"

6.  If your spatula could talk, what would it say about your duvet? Nothing positive, that's for sure!

7.  Have you replaced the batteries in your smoke alarms this year? "No," she said, hanging her head in shame.

Monday, February 20, 2012

President's' Day Meme

Taken from Ms. Kwiz

1. Can you name the American Presidents we are honoring? Bonus: Any idea when their real birthdays are?  Hel-lo! I lived my whole life in Illinois, the Land of Lincoln. We are celebrating honest Abe (our favorite son, though born in KY on 2/12) and George Washington, Father of our Country, born on 2/22.

2. Why do you suppose car sales are an important aspect of our President's Day observations in the U.S.?  Because car sales have been a huge component of our economy since the days of Henry Ford. But I've noticed white sales are a bigger deal on Presidents' Day. I have no idea why.

3. Have you ever been President of a club or organization? How did that feel? Nope. I have never even run for anything.

4. If you could have dinner with any President of the United States no longer living, who would it be? Any particular questions you would like to ask? (
Mr. Lincoln. Of course. I'd love to just hear him speak. Such eloquence, such heart. Have you ever read his Farewell Address, given off the cuff when he left Illinois for the last time? It's beautiful and wise. I also would love to ask him about the Reconstruction. Like JFK with Viet Nam, the tantalizing what-would-have-been is how Lincoln would have/could have brought us together. And then there's the Mrs. I have always found Mary Lincoln a very moving character.

5. On a more serious note, what are the qualities you hope for in our next President?  I long  to inspired by a President the way JFK and FDR rallied us. I want a Commander in Chief who touches what Lincoln (Abe, again!) referred to as "the better angels of our nature."

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly ...

I'm watching the PBS American Experience documentary about Bill Clinton and I find myself smiling. I know who he is, I know how he is. I know what he risked and what he sacrificed for nothing more important than a piece of tail. I have no illusions. And yet ...

I believe in him. I did then. I do now. I remain proud of the work I did on those campaigns.

Watch Clinton Extended Preview on PBS. See more from American Experience.


My federal tax refund will be just under $4000. Half of that will go for my mom's 2013 Medicare Part B. Knowing that it is already taken care of is such a relief. The rest will be split between my upcoming vacation and ongoing credit card debt. The state refund will go to pay for the tax preparation.

I am a happy gal.


This week's challenge: Use the third definition exactly as it appears below and weave it into a stunning work of art of between 33 and 333 words.

fool noun \ˈfül\

1   : a person lacking in judgment or prudence
a : a retainer formerly kept in great households to provide casual entertainment and commonly dressed in        motley with cap, bells, and bauble
    b : one who is victimized or made to appear foolish : dupe
a : a harmlessly deranged person or one lacking in common powers of understanding

I was stuck next to our coats. She was opposite me, having slid into the booth beside my husband.

I appraised her with an experienced eye: mid-30s, pert breasts, tight ringlets. I almost said, “1985 wants its hair back,” but that was trite and besides, I was tired.

Poodle Perm touched his hard bicep. “How does he bathe his wings in hot sauce and still stay in this shape?” Her finger lingers in an intimate, possessive gesture. But I don’t think they’ve had sex yet. Probably just a Clintonian moment in the front seat of our car.

I was going to ask how she knew we’d be here tonight, but I realize he told her. He wanted this confrontation. He's enjoying it.

They both work at the airport. He’s a baggage handler, she’s a secretary. Oh, the tales she told me about my mate of more than 25 years. In the breakroom, his favorite song came on and he started dancing with such abandon he didn’t realize he was in front of the dartboard! Lucky she pulled him out of the way! He called her from the runway but by the time she picked up, he forgot what he wanted to ask her. So he stammered and then sang, “I just called to say I love you, I just called to say how much I care.” He often sneaks offsight for beers, and she lowers her voice as she explains how she takes care of his timecard for him.

“Honey,” I almost say, “I know he’s high maintenance. I work a 70-hour week to support this functioning alcoholic so he can waste his pay on booze and blow. By the time I get home he’s encouraging our son to join him, farting around on Facebook, ignoring his homework and disregarding me as a workaday drudge. If you think you can handle my husband, you’re welcome to him. You may be enchanted by a boyish fool, but I live the corrosive reality.”


Only words

My best friend is an interesting case in that he speaks fluidly and expansively but he simply cannot write. Something happens when he takes pen in hand or places his fingers on the home row: He freezes.

So this is a tough time of year for him, for he has to complete his annual performance self-assessment. He is certain that "they" are unhappy with how he handles his clients on a day-to-day basis and maintains that his last review was "horrible." (It wasn't; he asked me to read it and it wasn't that negative. It just smacked of bosses looking for a reason not to give him much of a salary increase.)

Anyway, he turned to me for help. Which is goofy because I haven't worked in double harness with him for years. But on the other hand, I used to be a boss so this is a language that comes easily to me. So I trotted out all those phrases. Here's my favorite: "My creative/critical thinking allows me to successfully identify problems that can have long-range implications for deadlines and budgets, which reduces the need for crisis management."

HR reps and bosses lap that language up like a kitten with a saucer of milk, because it gives back to them all the crap phrase they give their employees. But the question becomes: What's the value? It's purely a word game. If I can write the review for someone who works for a company I have never stepped foot into, how valid is this process? This looking over the past four quarters, recalling our triumphs and searching our souls for our goals and objectives to help us improve in the future and grow the business is nonsense.

We're all still Tony Manero at the paint store, asking for a raise every week and being thrilled and delighted when the boss unexpectedly comes through. Because we're white collar, we like to pretend it's more sophisticated than that. But it ain't.

I'm reasonably certain this is the one and only time anyone has compared my best friend to John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. He was upset recently when his two young daughters, discovering Friends through a Nick@Nite marathon, told him they decided nerdy Ross was based on him.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Stealing

Sunday Stealing: The 99'er Meme: Final Part

Cheers to all of us thieves!

76) In your opinion, what makes a great relationship? Safety and acceptance.

77) How did/could someone win your heart? Bruce Springsteen won my heart by singing, "Show a little faith, there's magic in the night."

78) In your world, what brings on more creativity? Water. I find I'm frequently more creative after a shower, which is why I think it would serve my coworkers well to make sure I have time for lunchtime workout and subsequent shower. They don't seem to get it and keep scheduling meetings for 11:30 to 12:30.

79) What is the single best decision you have made in your life so far? Back in the days when I was a secretary (before there were "administrative assistants") in a huge corporation, I applied for a position as a copywriter in the internal creative department. I didn't have any training whatsoever, but there was a mid-level executive, one of the few women in the company in that role in those days, who encouraged me. That's when I went from "job" to "career."

80) Why did you break up with your last ex? He moved to Ohio to be nearer his big brother and it just didn't seem worth the long-distance thing.

81) What would you want to be written on your tombstone? The way Wilbur eulogized Charlotte: She was a true friend and a good writer.
82) What is your favorite word? "Gubernatorial." It's fun to say.

83) Give me the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word: delusional. Meds.

84) What is a saying you use a lot? " ... then we'll miss our deadline and Christmas will be cancelled!"

85) Are you watching Idol this season? If yes, how do you like it? I keep forgetting to tune in.
86) Were you surprised that House got canceled? Nope. Never watched a full episode from start to finish.

87) What is your current desktop picture? I've told this story before, and I'll tell it again here:
These two photos take turns on my desktop, revolving from one into the other, telling the story of the day in the life of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis that provides just one example why I admire her so.

These photos were taken the same afternoon, moments apart, in autumn, 1971. The photographer who took the first shot and appears in the second shot is Ron Gallela. He hounded Jackie on a daily basis, dressing up as Santa Claus to shoot her while shopping at Christmastime, hiding in coat racks for photos of her dining and sometimes even smoking (gasp!) with friends, chasing her in a speed boat while she water skied, following her into movie theaters, etc. When her children were young they still had Secret Service protection and she would ask the agents to, "Please smash his camera," and usually they would. It got so bad that in 1972, just months after this incident, she actually took him to court and got a restraining order. I often wonder what would have happened if Princess Diana had been as ballsy as JBKO; perhaps she'd still be with us.

Anyway, Jackie was running a quick errand, crossing Fifth Avenue in front of her apartment building, when Galella sidled up near her and called her name. She reflexively turned and smiled. When she saw who it was, and that this time he had an accomplice with a camera, she simply slipped the dark glasses on (thereby making the subsequent photos he shot worth a little less), kept her face impassive and kept going.

She hated Galella. He was a stalker and he frightened and enraged her. Yet look at her control. Sure, she could have lost her temper with him (Marlon Brando literally punched his teeth out), but that would have given Galella a front-page shot he could have retired on. So she just withdrew into herself and kept going.

I wear my heart on my sleeve. I have a difficult time with my temper, which often hurts no one else as much as it does me.

I hope if I gaze at her long enough and remember the story, some of it will rub off on me. "Remember, Gal, just put on your sunglasses and keep going."

88) If you could press a button and make anyone in the world instantaneously explode, who would it be? Oh, I don't like this question.

89) What would be a question where you'd not tell the truth? "Do you want to get together?" I really like my alone time, and I've learned that people take it personally when I'd rather just sit home "doing nothing" rather than hang out with them. So I lie.

90) One night you wake up because you heard a noise. You turn on the light to find that you are surrounded by WEEPING ANGELS. The Weeping Angles aren't really doing anything, they're just standing around your bed. What would you do? Pray that I wake up from this dream really quick.

91) You accidentally eat some radioactive vegetables. They were good, and what's even cooler is that they endow you with the super-power of your choice! What is that power? I would suddenly burn double calories for every move I make!

92) You can re-live any point of time in your life. The time-span can only be a half-hour, though. What half-hour of your past would you like to experience again? I was really in love with a very nice man. We were staying with his sister and had to share a twin bed. It was very uncomfortable and I woke up because he was holding me soooo tight in his sleep. I realized at that moment how happy I was, how easy it felt.

93) You can erase any horrible experience from your past. What will it be? Something ugly happened to me when I was in high school at the hands of a male relative.

94) You have the opportunity to sleep with the music-celebrity of your choice. (let's say that you are both single and available) Who might it be? See Question #2. The Boss had me at "Thunder Road."

Isn't it nice to see The Big Man again?

95) You just got a free plane ticket to anywhere. You have to depart right now. Where are you gonna go? Boston. I have been thinking about Boston a lot lately.

96) Do you have any relatives or friends in jail? Nope.

97) Who's winning the U.S. Republican presidential nomination? Why? If it's Romney, it's because people are thinking about their wallets. If it's Santorum, it's because Republicans are afraid of anyone who doesn't think exactly like they do.

98) Who's winning the next U.S. Presidential election? I'd like to be sure it's Obama, but I can understand Romney winning. No way will it be Santorum.

99) If the whole world were listening to you right now, what would you say? "The demonizing and polarization in this country is killing us!"