Saturday, February 28, 2015

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Stop! In the Name of Love (1965)

1) When this song was popular, the Supremes were known for their long gloves and full-length gowns. When was the last time you got dressed up? The last time I put any real thought into what I wore was when I met my friend and her husband for my birthday dinner late 2014. They took me to a restaurant I'd never been to, so I wanted to be appropriate. In Chicagoland parlance, my friends are very "North Shore" -- very nice and very good people, but very aware of appearances -- and I didn't want to embarrass them. (BTW, I wore a red blazer over a black blouse, and I was fine.)

2) With a record 12 #1 hits, the Supremes remain America's best-selling vocal group. This must have been hard for Betty McGlown, the fourth Supreme, who left the group before they recorded their first song. Can you think of an opportunity you missed? In 2004, I weighed two job offers. One was from a start up agency that had just hired a friend and former boss as her their chief creative, the other was from the venerable agency with the sterling reputation where I'd been freelancing. I took the latter because 1) I didn't want to risk the friendship by making my former boss my new boss and 2) I really liked my team at the grand old agency and 3) I wanted security. Well, I'm still at that agency more than 10 years later, which is an outstanding accomplishment in advertising. But the Recession hit the big shop harder than it did the smaller, more nimble start up, so I'm very, VERY sure I'd be making more money if I'd gone to work with my friend. In 10 years, I've gotten exactly two raises and one $500 bonus. Taking inflation into consideration, I'm making less money than I did in 2004. Gulp.

3) When "the girls" (Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Flo Ballard) first started hanging around Motown, founder Berry Gordy was reluctant to let them record. After all, they were still in high school. They refused to give up and eventually convinced him to let them add hand claps and finally back up vocals to recordings by other Motown artists. Tell us about a time when your persistence paid off. It's funny. I can think of many times I've been persistent, but in retrospect I was really just stubborn and I'm not sure it's ever "paid off." I think maybe instead of being persistent I should learn when it's wise to let go and move on.

4) 50 years after its release, "Stop! In the Name of Love" is one of the most popular karaoke songs. Do you know the lyrics?
Baby, baby, I'm aware of where you go each time you leave my door. I watch you go down the street, knowing your other love you meet. But this time before you run to her, leaving me alone and hurt, think it over. Haven't I been good to you? Haven't I been sweeeeeeeet to you? STOP! IN THE NAME OF LOVE! Before you break my heart. Think it over. Think it over ... I could go on, I most certainly could. I am a 24K Diana Ross fan. Seen her in concert at least four times and am always, always impressed. 

 5) There's a children's playground named in Diana Ross' honor within New York's Central Park. It includes swings, slides, rope bridges and a fountain. When you played in the park, what did you run to first? The swings. Swings are one of the few things I've loved more and longer than Motown.

6) Diana stumbled in her high heels and broke her ankle as she left the stage after a November 2012 concert. What do you have on your feet right now? I'm barefoot.

7) Ever the trooper, she honored her commitment to perform at a White House-sponsored Christmas concert just weeks later, even though her leg was still in a cast. Tell us about a time when you "played hurt." I went to work the other morning even though my tummy was bothering me. Throughout the commute, I wondered and worried that perhaps I hadn't made the right decision, if you know what I mean. I know this sounds silly, but February seemed too early in the year for a sick day.

8) Young Diana Ross was a good student and a tough competitor who made her school's swim team. Are you a good swimmer? Yes. My form may not be great but my endurance is awe inspiring!

9) Diana's older sister, Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee, was the first African American woman to be appointed dean of an American medical school. Decades ago, Barbara juggled post-graduate studies and raising small children. Are you good at multi-tasking? I used to think I was, but I've discovered I'm not. When I do two things at once, I don't do either of them well. 

By the way, one daughter is the lead singer of the best-selling girl group of all time, and the other is the first woman to be appointed dean of a medical school. Are the Ross girls trying to make me feel like an underachiever?


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Thursday Thirteen #231


How to rank something so incredibly subjective? By turning to the TV Bible, aka TV Guide, of course! It's been publishing regularly since April 1953. And here are their thirteen most frequent cover subjects.

1) Lucille Ball -- 31 covers

2) Mary Tyler Moore -- 24 covers

3) Johnny Carson -- 23 covers

4) Bill Cosby AND Oprah Winfrey -- tied at 19

5) Larry Hagman -- 18 covers

6) Carol Burnett -- 17 covers

7) Barbara Walters AND Carroll O'Connor -- tied at 16

8) Michael Landon AND Michael J. Fox -- tied at 15. These two Michaels grew up before our eyes on the cover of TV Guide 
•  Landon was 23 when he had his first cover, as Little Joe Cartwright of Bonanza, in 1960 and 54 when TV Guide ran a cover story memorializing him upon his death in 1991.
•  Fox was 21 when he appeared on his first cover as Alex P. Keaton of Family Ties in 1982, and 52 at the time of his most recent cover in 2013.

9) Cybill Shepherd -- 14 covers (I was surprised she was this popular)

10) Lawrence Welk AND Raymond Burr AND Jaclyn Smith (what an odd combination!) -- tied at 13

11) Richard Chamberlain AND Roseanne AND Ted Danson -- tied at 12

Tom Selleck in 1980 ....

... and 35 years later

12) Bob Hope AND Candice Bergen AND Mike Wallace AND Tom Selleck -- tied at 11 (Selleck was on the cover for the 11th time earlier this month)

13) Andy Griffith AND James Garner AND Jerry Seinfeld AND Hugh Laurie -- tied at 10

Please join us for The NEW THURSDAY THIRTEEN. Click here to play along, and to see other interesting compilations of 13 things.

Speaking of moving on and letting go ...

In the post immediately below, I write about a blogger whose unrelenting partisanship can make her posts very ugly (regardless of how many times she quotes Jesus). And it got me thinking about people who get so wrapped up in their hate, they are stuck.

This got me thinking about one of the coolest guys ever, Ben Bradlee, and one of the most uncomfortably formal guys ever, Richard Nixon. No two people could have been more at odds throughout their professional lives than these two. Ben Bradlee, after all, published Woodward and Bernstein. Next to Nixon himself, no one did more to bring down the 37th President than Ben Bradlee.

Yet they managed to be cordial whenever thrown together. One of my favorite stories about Ben Bradlee (whom I admit I was a little in love with) concerns the party he threw for one of his longtime reporters, a man who was retiring from the newspaper business because he was dying of cancer. Everyone who had worked with this reporter agreed he was a great guy, and they wanted this farewell party to be a big, important celebration of the man's life and work.

Throughout this reporter's long career, one of the people he had covered most often and most closely was Richard Nixon. By the time of this party in the mid-1980s, Nixon had long since resigned the Presidency. But two things are eternally true: 1) anyone who has held the Office inspires awe, regardless of how they left it and 2) Richard Nixon and Ben Bradlee are adversaries.

Because of #1, friends of the reporter's wanted Nixon to participate somehow in the party. It would mean so much to their dying comrade. Because of #2, no one thought it likely.

Everyone underestimated both Bradlee and Nixon. During the party at Ben's home, the Bradlee landline rang. When the call was put on speaker, a familiar and oft-imitated voice was heard by all. "They said I would never visit China, but I did," Nixon announced to the room. "And they said I'd never call Ben Bradlee's house, and I just have."

I love this story. The way Bradlee and Nixon got past their massive, historically consequential differences makes me believe anything is possible.

In the age of Google, there's no excuse

There's a blogger out there that I visit on occasion because she plays Saturday 9, and since I took that meme over from Bud, I try to be inclusive and check out everyone's responses. But this Floridian dipshit is not only a RWNJ, she's literally an ignorant one, and such people make me nuts.

Her most recent rant was about the Oscars, and how in her opinion it's not a place for politics. OK, it's her blog and naturally she's most certainly entitled to her opinion. But then everyone's friend in Florida went off on how Jane Fonda spoiled the Oscars by using them as her political platform.

Except Fonda didn't use Oscar night that way. Never. Not once. Proud daughter of Hollywood that she is, she wouldn't. After all, before she was Hanoi Jane, she was Henry's daughter.

When she won for Klute, this is her acceptance speech in its entirety. This is it. At the height of her Vietnam activism, these two sentences are all she said:
"There's a great deal to say, but I'm not going to say it tonight. I'd just like to thank you very much."

When she won for Coming Home, she didn't talk about Vietnam, even though she could have because returning Vietnam vets were the subject of the movie. Instead, she signed most of her speech because, well, I'll let her say it:
"I'm so happy. I wanted to win very much because I'm so proud of Coming Home and I want many people to see it. I'm signing part of what I'm saying because when we were making the movie, we all became more aware of the problems of the handicapped. Over 14 million people are deaf. They are the invisible handicapped and can't share this evening. This is my way of acknowledging them."

What a bitch that Hanoi Jane is, huh?

I understand people who object to many of Fonda's activities during the war. Hell, in retrospect she denounces some of those actions herself.

It's how sloppy some bloggers are with the facts. It's like this Floridian would rather slag Fonda, and hang onto her rage toward Fonda, than be accurate or, God forbid, move on. I mean, Coming Home was made in 1978, and Jane hasn't won an Oscar since.

Oh well, with this post I'm moving on. I'm never visiting "everyone's friend from Florida" again. Life is too short. (Sorry, Bud.)

While I'm oversharing ...

... I must remember to take my acid controller (generic Pepcid) before heavy meals AND whenever I have just a touch of alcohol. Tonight when I got home I had just a wee bit of brandy,* and guess what happened.

I worry about the long-term impact that acid can have (my mom suffered from Barrett's). Plus it's gross. So I must be more vigilant. My doctor tells me this doesn't have to turn into anything more if I work to control it.

So I have a zit on my lip and I throw up a little in my mouth. Yes, I feel like a prize package.

*I don't know why I'm suddenly channeling an old Irish sea captain, but really, it was less than a shot.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The post where I reveal ...

... how deeply, incredibly shallow I am.

I have a zit on the right side of my lip. On my lip line. I hate it. It looks like a cold sore. I think about it constantly.

I never notice anyone else battling this. And I've been looking. On the train, in elevators, I check out faces, hoping to find comfort in company. But no. Everyone is dewy as a fresh morn but me, the one with the zit on my lip.

I do take strength in knowing I'm not the only one to ever face this tragedy. A quick Google search for "lip line pimple" brought me 141,000 responses.

I think it might be caused by all the chapstick and other emollients I've been applying to my lips this very dry winter.

Don't worry. I'll publish updates to keep the blogosphere aware of this fast-moving event.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Stealing

The Colorful Meme. To play along, click here.

Could you tell me please, what color each of these things are?
~ Your hair: Light brown
~ Your eyes: Green
~ Your shirt: Bright gold
~ Your socks: I'm barefootin'
~ Your shoes: See above
~ Your purse: Light brown
~ Your wallet: Reddish brown
~ Your phone: Black
~ Your computer/laptop: Silver gray
~ Your earphones: Black
~ Your best friend’s hair: Dark brown
~ Your best friend’s eyes: Brown
~ Your sky today: Cloudless, pale blue


My sleep is usually dreamless, at least as far as I remember. Which is why it's noteworthy that over the last 10 days I've had three rather vivid nightmares.

1) The Work Dream. The Powers that Be at the office replaced the Chocolate Covered Spider with the one person I want to see less: my older sister. Because our last names are different, they didn't realize what they'd done until it was too late. And suddenly I find myself having to put up with her hostile crazy on a daily basis all over again.

2) The "I Broke a Heart" Dream. There's a party at church today at 4:00. It's for all of us in the Secret Pals program. I meet the little girl (code name: Pink Giraffe) that I've been corresponding with this month. Judging by her handwriting, she's about 5. For this afternoon's party, I have purchased her favorite food (Hostess chocolate cupcakes), printed out line art of giraffes for us to color, and found this "gemstone excavation kit" for just $5 (the dollar limit assigned by the church). That's all reality. Now for the nightmare: I lay down after lunch for "just a minute" and wake up at 9:00 PM -- hours after the party ended. I imagine Pink Giraffe sitting there, dejected, surrounded by adults and children and wondering where I am. I hate myself.

3) The Purse Dream. I'm on vacation in a touristy outdoor park, like Venice Beach. One of the street vendors is a woman who gives doggie pedicures. She has her own adorable little white mutt there -- painted nails, oversized glamorous sunglasses -- to drum up business. I drop my bag and fall to my knees to pet the pup and when I'm done, my purse is gone. So is my wallet, my ID, my phone, and the Epipen I need in case of bee sting. So I'm stranded and feeling completely vulnerable in a strange city.

No wonder I woke up this morning with a zit. Lately being asleep is as stressful as my waking world!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Freeway of Love (1985)

1) In this song, Aretha's ideal car is a pink Caddy. What's your dream vehicle? Any car that comes with one of these.

2) Have you ever owned a convertible? Nope. The only car I ever owned was a big old boat, an old Chevy Impala. No convertible roof, no sun roof ... you even had to crank the windows.

3) Aretha longs to "drop the pedal and go." Are you a careful, conservative driver? Or do you enjoy going fast? I don't drive.

4) Aretha's grandmother Rachel helped raise her. Tell us about one of your grandparents. My dad's mother was a fascinating little lady. Born nearly 100 years ago, she grew up in a world that didn't offer women many employment options. She was a happy stay-at-home wife and mother, even during the tough years of the Depression. But her outlet was community involvement. She was on just about every church committee, was on the PTA Board, and became President of one of the biggest Girl Scout Councils in the country. She was a successful and very effective leader, and her style was inclusive, gentle but very focused. She touched many lives in tangible ways, raising a lot of money and doing a tremendous amount of good.

5) Aretha played a waitress in the 1980 movie, The Blues Brothers. Have you ever worked in food service? Nope

6) Aretha was a chain smoker for decades and had a terrible time giving up cigarettes. What habit do you wish you could break? I take in way too much caffeine.

7) A sculpture of Aretha is at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in New York City. What's the last museum you visited? In December I returned to Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. If you ever get a chance to see it, GO, GO, GO!

8) Since Aretha has many honorary degrees, it would be appropriate to refer to her as Dr. Franklin. Who is the last person you addressed by his or her title (Officer, Father, Pastor, Dr., etc.)? While my minister carries the title of Reverend, I call him by his first name. So the last one I referred to by title is the vet. One of my cats requires a prescription diet, so I visit his office about every six weeks.

9) The daughter of a minister, Aretha enjoys singing "church music" and her 1972 CD Amazing Grace is one of the best sellers in gospel music history. Do you have any gospel music on your phone, iPod or MP3 player? I've got Elvis singing "Up Above My Head," as only Elvis can.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

And so it begins!

Today, one of the coldest February days ever recorded here in Chicago, is the day when pitchers and catchers report to sunny Mesa, AZ.

Hey, hey! Holy mackerel! No doubt about it! Holy cow!

The "next year" we've been waiting for is finally here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Thursday Thirteen #231

Thirteen Things about Zynga

... because I was wondering about the company responsible for where I spend so much of time online.

1) Zynga is the online developer responsible for some of social media's most popular games.

2) More than 400 million people have played Farmville and/or Farmville 2 (I'm one of them; Level 96).

3) According to Zynga, more than 55 million matches of Words with Friends are being played at any given moment.

4) Founder Marc Pincus named his company after his late and much missed bulldog, who graces the company logo.

5) The company is headquartered in a six story building in San Francisco.

6) In addition to health and life insurance, employees enjoy free meals all day long.

7) Every day is "bring your dog to work day" and there's a dog park on the building roof.

8) Employees are encouraged to take public transportation to work and are reimbursed dollar for dollar for their BART fares.

9) If they drive, they can use the onsite car wash.

10) Despite all these perks, some employees complain that there is little room for advancement at Zynga. Of course, I think it's fair to say that any big company is going to have its share of anonymous, disgruntled employees.

11) Zynga also has smaller offices in Austin, Chicago, Eugene, New York, Orlando and San Francisco. 

12) Their chief, and more successful, competitor is King, the company who gave us Candy Crush Saga.

13) Zynga's stock fell in the fourth quarter of 2013. Experts blame that on the difficulty the company has had converting it's most popular games from desktop mobile apps. For companies like Zynga and King, mobile now represents 60% of their business (I only play on laptop).

Please join us for The NEW THURSDAY THIRTEEN. Click here to play along, and to see other interesting compilations of 13 things.

More than a little ashamed of myself

It's cold here. Really cold. And it's been this way for a long time. In December and January it didn't bother me so much, but it's been dragging on so long I must admit it's even now getting to me.

Yesterday, as I was boarding the el, I was stuck behind two old men. They were moving onto the car soooo slowly, not because of physical infirmity, but because they were trying to decide where to sit. AARGH! So as the train pulls out I'm still standing there in the aisle, holding the strap and being jostled with my laptop bag off one shoulder and my purse off the other, both sliding off my big, puffy coat. My thoughts about these old men were most definitely unkind.

Oh, poor, poor pitiful me.

When they finally settled into their seats, I got a look at them from the front. One of them was wearing an Honor Flight cap. So he was a veteran. Maybe WWII, but judging by his age, more likely Korea.Yeah, Gal, you can stand in the aisle for a second or two while men who served and suffered overseas because that's where their country sent them settle into their seats.

To make me feel even worse (and at this point I didn't think that was possible), the one wearing the cap was talking about a college course he was taking. I get home from my little job and veg out. Here he is, more than old enough to be my father, still improving himself.

It was an everyday reminder that today, I can do better.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sunday Stealing

To play along, click here.

Love, to you. 
Define love in your own words. When the person I think of first thing in the morning is the same one I'm thinking about when I close my eyes at night. Or, to borrow from Broadway ...

What do you want in a relationship? A genuine connection on many levels -- spiritual, physical and intellectual

What do you contribute to a relationship I'm very loyal and funny

Do you have a Valentine? Nope
If not, are you happy being single? Sure
Describe the perfect V-day date in your opinion: 
Dream Date? Movie and dinner
What is your crush's name? Adam :)
Do you believe in love at first sight? "Yes, I'm certain that it happens all the time." Now aren't you supposed to ask me what I see when I turn out the light? "I can't tell you, but I know it's mine."

This or that 
Chocolates or must pick one! Flowers
A short kiss or a big hug? Hug
Cute and dimwitted, or Average and brilliant? Julie speaks for me ...

Turn-ons? Confidence and competence
Turn-offs? Right wing nut jobs
What thing should a guy never say to you? "Obama is a socialist"
How do you feel about kissing on the first date? Dates without kissing are also known as nights out with the girls. I want all the physical affection I can get.

A boy and his appetite

Dear Lord, my nephew can eat! Now a freshman in high school, he's tall and thin as a rail and always, always hungry. It's as though his appetite is a motor roaring inside of him.

We met for lunch today and he had three slices of thin crust pizza, an order of fries and three mini candy bars.* He practically inhaled all of it. I was stunned.

He's also growing a beard. A straggly, awful looking thing. He seems quite proud of it.

He's also still completely into his classes. He loves high school so much and it's all about the learning, not the grades. I know from my sister that he's been on the honor roll, but he never mentioned his marks once today. He wants to be a middle school or high school history teacher. He admits that he and his classmates can be jerks, but confesses he has no interest in or tolerance for little kids. Besides, he really appreciates the influence one of his junior high teachers had on him and wants to pay it forward.

Oh! And he's recently discovered The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Next to the Lads from Liverpool, they're now his favorite band (displacing the Rolling Stones). He also loves Queen. Naturally I approve of his taste in music.
*I gave him the three mini candy bars and a $5 bill in a small giftbox festooned with monkeys holding hearts. It's the kind of thing my mother would have done for him on Valentine's Day. They were extraordinarily close, and I was trying to fill the "grandma void." I think I done good, as he responded with the loveliest smile I saw all day.

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: All Dressed in Love (2008)

1) In this song, Jennifer sings, "I look good in love …" What about you? When you're happy, or sad, does it show? Or do you keep an even demeanor, no matter what? I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I hate it. That's part of why I so admire JBKO. No matter how public her life became, we never knew what was really going on behind the sunglasses. I envy that discipline and control.

2) This song played over the closing credits of a hit movie, Sex and the City. When you go to the movies, do you visit the concession stand for popcorn, or a soft drink, or candy? I either get a Coke (I love Coke) or Twizzlers.

3) Think of the last movie you watched at home. Was it a DVD, DVR, streamed or cable presentation? Before I began answering these questions, I watched From Here to Eternity on TCM. (It's 31 Days of Oscar on TCM! What a wallow for us classic movie fans!)

4) Jennifer Hudson got good grades in high school and went away to Langston University in Oklahoma. But she was homesick for her family in Chicago and came home after just one semester. Have you ever been homesick? I'm hopelessly sentimental. Whenever I leave a place -- whether it's home to go on vacation or my vacation destination to go home -- I get sad. 

5) Jennifer received acclaim for her renditions of "The Star Spangled Banner" at the 2008 Democratic Convention and Super Bowl XLIII. Do you agree with critics who say that our National Anthem is hard to sing? Yes! You have to be Jennifer Hudson to sing it well. I wish we could replace it right now with "America, The Beautiful." It's a lovely song and the message re: our country is so positive.

6) Jennifer is a spokesperson for Weight Watchers and, with diet and exercise, went from a size 18 to a size 6. She says that while she's committed to healthy eating, she still enjoys ice cream occasionally. Do you prefer your ice cream in a cone or a cup? The last ice cream I had was neither. It was an ice cream sandwich.

7) Her fiance, Daniel Otunga, is a graduate of Harvard Law School. Harvard is the most famous of the eight "Ivy League" schools. Do you know the other seven? This is Big 10 Country, and I can't even name those. Sorry.

8) With a Grammy and an Oscar, Jennifer Hudson is one of the most successful American Idol contestants. Can you name another singer who appeared on AI? Kelly Clarkson
9) Last year, Jennifer nearly bought a brand-new Ferrari because it was so great looking. At the last moment she backed out of the deal because she doesn't drive enough to warrant such an expensive car. What's the last impulse purchase you either made, or resisted? I keep toying with losing the cords and getting WiFi. But I'd still need the modem anyway for the phone, and my Comcast bill is already insanely high. So I'll continue to live with the cords. I was comforted when I learned that 3% of Americans still use dial-up. That's literally millions of people who remain lower tech than me.

Friday, February 13, 2015

So disappointing

 On these blustery winter afternoons, it's fun to remember the glory days of last summer when the boys of Jackie Robinson West brought the Little League World Championship here to Chicago.

Or is was fun to remember. Until Little League International announced they'd stripped the kids of their title.

The adults in their lives screwed up. The adults in their lives let them down. The adults in their lives broke the rules by recruiting players from outside the city limits to play on the team.

This sucks big time.

The boys who practiced and drilled after school, who played their hearts out on the field and behaved like perfect gentlemen off of it, deserve better from the adults in their lives.

I hate this so much.

I may never eat again

Last night my dear old friend Barb took me to dinner. I hadn't seen her since fall. I think this is the longest we've gone without getting together in 20 years. It was good to catch up.

She chose the restaurant -- a steakhouse called Rosebud Prime. She told me I could have everything I wanted, and I settled on the cowboy steak. (After all, yesterday was the 100th anniversary Lorne Greene's birth. I had to honor Pa somehow.) It was thick and juicy and wonderful.

So were the sides. We ordered lots of sides. Spinach salad and sweet potato fries and mashed potatoes and asparagus spears. I had a pair of Moscow Mules, she had a margarita and a glass of wine. We even had dessert. It was positively decadent. We couldn't get through all the food so I woke up this morning and discovered all the delicious leftovers I'd stowed in my frig last night.

It was good to find out about her life. She's been overwhelmed by work -- even more so than she always is. But she's happy with her husband and happy with their vacation home in Hilton Head. She even did the Polar Bear Plunge into the Atlantic Ocean on New Year's Day!

It was a nice time, but I did feel kinda crappy this morning. I can't eat and drink anymore like I used to.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Thursday Thirteen #230


1) "Would you prefer smoking or non-smoking?"

2) "Do you have a pay phone?"

3) "The Walkman ate my cassette tape."

4) "The picture tube blew."

5) "I got this with Green Stamps."

6) "Be kind. Rewind."

7) "Operator, get me the police."

8) "I can use a paperclip to eject that floppy."

9) "Here comes the milk man."

10) "I need a new needle for the record player."

11)  "Adjust the rabbit ears."

12) "I have to defrost the freezer."

13) "I hate how it tastes to lick a stamp."

Can you add any more?

Please join us for The NEW THURSDAY THIRTEEN. Click here to play along, and to see other interesting compilations of 13 things.


This meme is no more. And yet I persist in answering the three questions it asked each week. Stubborn, ain't I?

• What are you currently reading? Wake by Anna Hope. I just picked it up, so I can't vouch for the quality yet. But it's about three women in London, 1920, "dealing with the aftershocks of World War I and the impact on the men in their lives."
• What did you recently finish reading? The Cracker Factory by Joyce Rebeta-Burditt. Written in the late 1970s, this book about an alcoholic housewife's stay in a sanitarium ("The Cracker Factory" of the title) is very dated. First of all, everyone smokes. Patients, doctors, everybody! I was a little concerned about the hospital giving possibly suicidal patients matches, but beyond that, I couldn't get past how awful that hospital must have smelled! And then there was the "you're like OJ Simpson" reference, which at the time meant graceful and efficient.

Still, I enjoyed the book. It was funny and very compassionate toward its characters, even the ones it was hard to like at times. I became rather fond of our heroine, Cassie, because while she was clever and very funny, she was also very flawed and in some ways quite ordinary, which made her easy to relate to.

• What will you read next? I think I'll return to my own private library. That's how I stumbled upon The Cracker Factory. I wonder what forgotten gems are hiding in my den!

Well, that was a first

Since I don't drive, I take cabs all the time. It's unusual for a week to go by without me in the backseat of one taxi or another … either because public transportation doesn't go to where I'm headed or it's not safe at that hour or I've cut it too close.

Yesterday something happened to me while taking a cab that's never happened before: My cab driver refused to leave me alone at the address where he dropped me off.

The Comcast customer service location nearest my home was only 5 miles and 15 minutes (in traffic) in distance but a lifestyle away. I knew the neighborhood had a bad reputation, but I didn't realize how bad. Or how well deserved.

Here I was at an office building in a strip mall at 10:00 on a sunny Tuesday morning, and the cabbie said, "I will wait for you here for half an hour. No charge."

I told him not to worry about it, that I had my cell phone and would call for another cab when I was done.

"No cab driver will pick you up here. I'll wait for you. No charge."

I went into the service center, saw the line, and ran back out to the cab. "There's a line," I said, "you should go."

The cabbie gave me a small, chilled bottle of water to drink while I waited in line, told me he would go out on another call, but would meet me right here. "Do not worry," he said.

I wasn't worried. It was cold but bright and sunny morning and I couldn't see any harm coming to me in this standard-issue strip mall (though, come to think of it, all the other storefronts were abandoned). But he was insistent. So he drove off (without my having paid him a cent yet) and came back just as he promised and drove me home, charging me $28 for the round trip.

This morning I checked the crime stats in that neighborhood and it's sobering. Statewide in Illinois, there are 38.1 crimes per square mile. In this neighborhood, there are 389 ... more than 10x the average.

So I'm grateful to my over protective cab driver for taking such good care of me (and for the bottled water)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Paging Adam

Here I thought I'd just become unpopular.  I hadn't received a call on my landline since the Saturday  when we learned Ernie Banks had died. Turns out there was trouble with my phone service.

On Sunday I spent a crazy long time on my cell phone with Comcast customer service. It was a frustrating experience because the rep -- though very nice and polite -- spoke in very heavily accented English and we had a difficult time understanding one another. After doing a series of remote diagnostics, he reported that the problem was with my phone. I accepted that. It was a cheap model purchased from Radio Shack more than two years ago and I don't know how long these things are supposed to last. Back in Bell Telephone's glory days, a phone would last decades, but those days are long gone.

So on Monday I went to Staples and bought a lovely new phone, on sale, for about $60. I was happy. I charged it. I plugged it in. It didn't work.

At dawn this morning I was back on the phone with Comcast customer service. I got a different man who responded to my problems from foreign shores who did the same diagnostics -- ignoring my cries of "no, no!" and "wait, wait!" -- and told me the problem was with my phone.


I told him I wanted a new modem. He told me I could get a new one for free if I went to "the nearest Comcast service center." Which he looked up for me. Turns out the nearest isn't anywhere near me. It's a $14 cab ride to a terrible neighborhood.

I got the brand-new, cellophane-wrapped modem home, hooked it up, and called Comcast customer service to activate it. The phone worked. Hurray! But now the computer was non-responsive. It took, literally, an hour on the phone to customer service to get everything I pay for.

So from dawn until 2:00 PM, I was concentrating on Comcast. It was the waste of a day off from work. It was exasperating.

And so I did what I do, and sent my mind to the happy place. I couldn't decide, though, exactly where the happy place was. I knew I wanted a competent cowboy to rescue me. That's a given. But did I want a new millennium hero who wouldn't be overwhelmed by the demands of today's technology? Or would I prefer to travel back to the 19th century, when life moved at a slower pace, and if I wanted to pick up my messages, I'd climb upon my horse and ride into town to the telegraph office?

Sunday, February 08, 2015

"Baby has a yellow shirt!"

One of my coworkers had her baby last week. A son, to go with her two-year-old daughter. It's her daughter that's been on my mind since the latest arrival.

Her daughter sounds very willful. As two year olds will be. The tales of her diva behavior have reliably amused me. My favorite: Recently she demanded egg yolks and cheese for every meal because "yellow is best."

It makes me sad to think of how being a big sister is necessarily going to impinge on her "center of the universe" outlook. At two, she couldn't possibly have understood what a sibling would mean, no matter how hard Mommy and Daddy tried to explain it.

And so I sent this doll to her. I figured if she had a baby of her own to care for, it would take some of the sting out of sharing Mommy and Daddy with that howling, yowling little blue bundle. 

Her mother tells me the doll was hitsville, even accompanying her to "Show and Share Friday," which is the biggest event on the weekly daycare center calendar. My eye for sartorial detail was not lost on her. Mommy reports that the first thing she said when handed the doll is, "Baby has a yellow shirt!"

I must have looked at that email and the photo of her clutching Baby under her arm a dozen times since Friday. That thing they say about it being better to give than to receive is, sometimes, very true.

What I was reading in the Spring of 1986

I locked myself in the den and spent an hour going through my books. I am parting with three bags full of paperbacks and hardcovers. Sigh. I hate doing it.

In concept, that is. In reality, it's not so hard.

Take, for example, Martina Navritalova's 1985 autobiography. I don't care much about Russia,* nor have I been interested in tennis since Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe retired. Yet for some reason, I bought and read this book. I found the ATM receipt and Burger King coupons -- which expired in September, 1986 -- that I used as bookmarks.

Judging by the bookmarks, I did plough through it. But I remember nothing about it and will never read it again. And so it's off to Goodwill. With bags and bags of others.

I have more books to go through. And then there are the audiobooks. But I'm done for tonight. What I've put aside is already too much for the bus and will require a $12 cab ride. I promised myself I'd take one bag of stuff over to Goodwill every month in 2015, and this is one resolution I'll make good on.

*Sorry, but I never have. I have a very American-centric world view.

Sunday Stealing

To play along, click here.

What TV gameshow/reality show would you like to be on? Wheel of Fortune. Isn't that the most criminally easy show?

What was the first movie you bought in VHS or DVD? I'm sorry but I don't remember. The first movie I saw on cable was In Praise of Older Women. Do I get points for that?

If you had one million dollars to spend only on yourself, what would you spend it on? I'd redo my condo, get season tickets at Wrigley Field, and worry a lot less about retirement.

One place you've visited, can't forget and want to go back to? Since the King's 80th birthday, I've been considering a return to Graceland.

Do you trust easily? Probably more than I should.

Do you generally think before you act, or act before you think?  Probably less than I should.

Is there anything that has made you unhappy these days? There's been a lot of drama at work and it's been weighing on me. But hopefully it's behind us.

Do you have a good body image? No. And nor should I.

What is your favorite fruit? It changes. I'm going through a banana phase these days.

I’m always being asked… if my eyes are really that green.

The last big belly laugh I had was… during the movie Whiplash, which I just saw at the theater. Specifically the line was, "Four words you'll never hear from the NFL."

What websites do you visit daily? Amazon, news feeds, the web roll at right ...

What have you been seriously addicted to lately? Salted chocolate

What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is? I wasn't tagged.

What's the last song that got stuck in your head? "Go Ask Alice." I have no idea why. "Remember what the doormouse said: feed your head, feed your head ..."

Favorite clothing? Jeans

 Do you think Rice Krispies are yummy? No, I think they're rather bland.

What would you do if you saw $100 lying on the ground? 

Items you couldn't go without during the day? Coke, my tunes, my cats
What should you be doing right now? So many things! I promised myself I'd sort through my books today. (I have a lot of books.)