Friday, November 28, 2014

Saturday 9

Paint It Black

1) This song was chosen because yesterday was Black Friday, the traditional day of sales. Have you begun your Christmas shopping? I'm almost done. I have a couple of gift cards and stocking stuffers left to pick up, and then I'm done. By the way, this is the first year I ventured out into the Black Friday madness. I went to Macy's after Thanksgiving dinner because it was right there, open around the clock starting at 6:00 PM Thursday night. The prices didn't impress me but the crowds did. So many little kids, so many strollers! I hadn't expected that.

2) Are there any Thanksgiving leftovers in your refrigerator right now?  No. We ate out. The upside is no clean up. The downside is no leftovers.

3) AAA says Thanksgiving is a big travel weekend. Did you venture far from home for your holiday dinner?  No. I took the el downtown like I always do, but got off at an earlier stop.

4) Keith Richards likes France but, alas, the French authorities haven't always been fond of him and his criminal record. Have you ever been to France? Yes. Decades ago I went to Paris and Nancy. I still can't get over the fact that I saw the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees.

5) Mick Jagger jokes that, to be polite to fellow hotel guests, he always finishes trashing his room by 10:00 PM. What kind of hotel/motel guest are you? Are you rockstar rambunctious, or are you quiet? Are you neat? Have you stolen any towels, bathrobes, etc.? Except that I sleep with the TV on, I believe I'm a perfect guest.

6) Mick Jagger got his financial savvy as a student at the London School of Economics. Are you good with money?  Ha!

7) In the early 1990s, a then little-known actress named Angelina Jolie appeared in a Rolling Stones video ("Anybody Seen My Baby?"). Name an Angelina Jolie movie. Loved Maleficent. I'm still Team Aniston, but Maleficent was awesome.

8) In the early 1960s, the Stones nearly avoided tragedy when their tour bus skidded off a bridge. Tell us about a near miss you're thankful for. I can't believe it's been six years, because I remember it like it was yesterday. One Tuesday, when I was on my way back to the office after a lunchtime workout, I very nearly got hit by a cab that was racing through the yellow light. Considering the speed at which it was traveling, if it had made contact with me, I would have been killed instantly. (Shudder.)

9) In 1966, when this week's song was popular, CBS telecast How the Grinch Stole Christmas for the first time. What's your favorite Dr. Seuss story? 

Giving thanks

My friend John and I celebrated our third Thanksgiving together. His friend Gregory joined us (or, rather, I joined them, as they have been celebrating the holiday this way for years). We ate at McCormick and Schmick's and here's what we had.

Once again I was impressed by how easy and comfortable our new tradition is. I'm thankful for no guilt, no stress, no clean up. I highly recommend it.

Bright light city, the final chapter

Las Vegas is such an aggressively tacky, silly place. There are even slot machines at the airport. After I put my friend on her flight to Los Angeles, I had about 20 minutes before my flight boarded. I went to the ladies room and then played the Dolly Parton slot machine.

I won $36! And then my flight was called, so I didn't have time to lose it.

Thanks, Dolly!

Bright light city, Part 3

We stayed at the Luxor, which is a charming but completely ridiculous Las Vegas hotel. It is literally a pyramid, so when we went up to our room on the 23rd floor, we actually swayed. Our room was
shaped like a pyramid, too, so the window was at a severe angle. It's one of those Vegas spectacles that just has you shaking your head and saying, "What the fu ..." over and over again.

We ate at two of the Luxor's restaurants, the Pyramid Cafe (which is a nice coffee shop) and Rice and Company (a very good Asian restaurant).

We also saw its Titanic exhibition. This was my fourth time seeing it. I saw it more than a decade ago in Toronto, then here in Chicago, then another time in Vegas at the Tropicana. It's a very moving to see luggage and dishware and glasses and shoes (laces still tied) that belonged to the passengers. There's also a simulated iceberg that you can touch, so you can actually feel what the ship confronted.

What was new this time was The Big Piece. An actual chunk of the ship is now on display, close enough to touch. To borrow a phrase, this is when shit got real. Maybe it was the late hour, maybe it was the booze I'd already consumed, but seeing the actual portholes that the doomed looked through, moved me to tears.

If you ever have the opportunity to see this exhibition, please do. It's intense, it's beautiful, it's thought provoking.

My friend and I discussed it at length afterward and she maintains the reason why the Titanic story has such a hold on us is that there are so many times the tragedy could have been mitigated or avoided. They could have loaded the ship with more lifeboats, they could have stocked the ship with the right grade of coal, the look outs could have used binoculars, they could have hit the iceberg head on, which would have damaged but not sunk the ship. If only ... if only ... if only ...

Bright light city, Part 2

These two are both grandparents.

This humbling fact kept going through my mind as Donny and Marie performed at the Flamingo on my birthday.

They are both in exquisite shape, performing for 90 minutes, two shows a night. I was tired just watching them. If I may be permitted a bit of snark, Marie's had a bit too much work done. But maybe that's me being jealous.

My Vegas companion, my oldest friend, loved Donny when we were in junior high. I mean, she loved him. Photos on her bedroom wall, writing his name on her folder, the whole nine yards. So seeing him with her was a particular kick. And I must give her credit for knowing how to pick them. My fave rave from the early 1970s, Bobby Sherman, doesn't look anywhere near as pert as Donny these days.

My oldest friend and I laughed a great deal on this trip. It was good for me to get away, good for me to enjoy a change of scenery, and nowhere is the scenery more different than Vegas!

Bright light city, Part One

A week ago today I went to Las Vegas for my birthday.

They say all bags on the carousel look the same. Not mine. Connie sees to it by shedding all over my bags so they are the ones covered in cat hair.

The flight to Vegas was uneventful, which makes me happy because I'm a white knuckle flier. We were book for Gate D10 and guess what plane we rolled past to get there. Yes, the most famous plane in the world. They say President Obama was in Nevada to talk about immigration policy. But I think it's a Chicago thing, and our favorite son just wanted to show me a little support on my birthday.

As always around my birthday, there are observances in memory of President Kennedy. The Tropicana Hotel hosted an exhibit that included a replica of the JFK/LBJ Air Force One. It was an especial kick to see it after meeting the real thing. BTW, my all-time idol JBKO is the one who designed the distinctive look Air Force One still sports today. She chose the two shades of blue for the nose (both lighter than the field behind the stars of the flag) and the font for UNITED STATES OF AMERICA up the side and flag on the tail. The only change from Jackie's original sketch is the addition of the Presidential seal.

Playing catch up

I can't believe how long it's been since I've updated this blog! Part of it has been that old demon sloth, part has been that first I was busy and then I had the blues, part has been that I've been working fiendishly on my Nanowrimo, and part has been that I haven't known where to start. That's how I am when things get too far away from me -- once I finally pick up the shovel I don't know where to start digging.

So let's consider this post a bit of spadework.

At the beginning of last week I was battling the blues, and it's always easier to write about that once it's past.

Birthdays tend to be a time of reflection, and when I was reflecting I didn't like what I saw. I'm broke, my home is a mess, my career is stalled, I felt unappreciated by my friends ... once things started looking bleak, it spun out of control.

Looking back, there were four catalysts:

1) My poor Joey. He's fine now. Today he's affectionate, a little bit thinner, playing (even able to jump onto the bed on his own!) and eating. But my senior citizen kitty had been very ill earlier this month and, as I was preparing to go away to Las Vegas, I was worried about leaving him.

2) Financial woes. Not only are my personal finances a mess, it's come out that our condo association is broke, too. Like me, the board has been guilty of laziness and poor choices. I believe my dues are going up more than $40/month in 2015.

3) My cousin Rose. I love her, but if I spent more than 4 hours with her at a crack (really, I've timed it)  I want to kill her. Since her divorce more than a decade ago, and then menopause, she's been judgmental and inflexible and more than a little angry. Last summer, I lied to her about the extent of my bathroom renovation because I didn't want her staying here. Well, guess what! She's coming back -- in March, maybe sooner! AAAARGH! Now I've got to get my bathroom done pronto or be caught in the lie. I don't want to hurt her, so as soon as I file my taxes I'll call Cute Handyman. Even though I resent doing it before I'm ready. And I don't want her staying here. And I feel guilty about how I feel about someone who is so dependably good to me.

4) My bedframe broke. I was getting into bed on Wednesday night and bam. I felt so helpless, like such a loser. Here I was leaving for Vegas Friday morning, and I was going to be in the Loop all day Thursday (try to find a hardware store in the Loop), plus I had to no idea how to fix the thing anyway. Well, I figured it out (duct tape, wood glue, and c-clamps).

Well, that's it for now.

Birthday and Thanksgiving updates to come.