Tuesday, April 28, 2015

I'm trying. Really, I am.

The New Girl tells me not to worry. The New Girl tells me that, when it comes to The Big Project (and all its ancillaries), she's "on it." The New Girl reminds me that there are things going on behind the scenes that she hasn't shared yet. The New Girl assures me that, if anything goes wrong, she'll "take the hit."

I have to trust her, she says. I must not worry.

Only I'm worried. We have ambitious creative due dates, and we're not even ready to start, much less deliver, concepts.

While I do trust that, when pitfalls arise, The New Girl will take responsibility, I'd prefer we avoid these pitfalls. And I don't think yet she has the know-how to do this.


I'm trying to remember that worrying will not have any impact on the outcome.

I'm reminding myself that for all The New Girl's faults, she's much, much better than The Chocolate Covered Spider was.

But I haven't been able to convince myself not to worry.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

How do people with children do it?

Connie's a quirky little girlcat, fond of hanging upside down and hooking her claws in net (like my suitcase). She's sweet natured and happy and has become a wonderful companion to me, Joey and especially Reynaldo.

Friday I almost did terrible damage to her. She was prescribed antibiotics for her gum infection and I overdosed her. Directly down her throat.

Ashamed, upset and so very worried, I left work early to make sure she was OK. She was. In order for an antibiotic OD to do real harm, it would have to be massive, and this wasn't. It was just a stupid, ugly and dangerous mistake on my part.

So now she's fine, but suddenly Reynaldo is not his usual manic self. I thought having a laid back Rey would make me happy, but it's actually very worrying.

It's probably just a hairball. It's that time of year, you know. I just wish he could tell me what's up.

I missed Frank

I like books. Bound books. With pages. I have a Kindle Fire, and it's fine for reading magazines and answering quick emails, but I don't want it to replace my books!

But I get it in a way. I'm reading this massive (800 pages!) biography of Frank Sinatra and it was just too heavy for my carry on. So I left The Voice behind when I went to Los Angeles, and I missed Frank.

This billboard was right across the street from my hotel, and it made me long for my book. The hotel had OnDemand and I was able to watch the HBO special again at bedtime.

I love reading heavy books about complicated men. In 2013, it was Capone: The Man and the Era. In 2014, it was The Patriarch, about Joseph P. Kennedy. Now it's Frank. Rogues all. (Though it's not fair to Kennedy or Sinatra to equate their undoubtedly darker deeds with the murderous Capone's.) Somehow the battle between their angels and their demons makes them more interesting than reading about a straight-up hero.

The thing about Sinatra, too, is that he was an artist. He's enjoying a renaissance in time for his 100th birthday, and I bet people not yet born will enjoy his music and his movies on his 150th birthday, too. Sinatra's secret seems to be that heard music different and he felt life so very keenly. Love, vulnerability, lust, confidence, loss -- and he poured it all into his singing. He could soar and he could ache, all in the grooves of a record. The downside to that sensitivity was selfishness, anger and regret.

Sometimes as I read, I'm grateful that I'm really not that special. As John Lennon once told Rolling Stone, "Genius is a kind of madness … genius is pain."

"It was a mistake"

So I spent Friday night through Monday morning with my oldest friend. She's certainly not doing well, but she's not doing as badly as I feared.

Since we've known one another since Kindergarten, it makes it easier for her to be real with me. Please note that I said, "easier." It's still not completely easy. For example ...

When I called her from my hotel room on Saturday morning, she said, "Give me an hour and a half. I'll pick you up at 11:00." At 11:00 she called and told me she'd fallen back to sleep and would be there in half an hour.

I was angry. This is my vacation -- a vacation I didn't especially want to take -- and I'm spending it with her. The least she could do is get her fat ass out of bed! Then I told myself to chill. It's only 30 minutes (actually it was 40) and we had no firm, set plans. Relax, Gal! And we did have a nice day, wandering around Beverly Hills. I introduced her to The Paley Center, right there in her neighborhood, which she could visit and enjoy again and again on her own. She needs more activities, more distractions, when she finds herself going down The Stoney End.

Then on Sunday morning I called and she said she'd be over, you guessed it, at 11:00. And she arrived, you guessed it, at 11:45. This time she said she was late because her cat wouldn't eat. It was hard for me to hide how pissed I was. As we had brunch, she confessed ...

With the meds she's on, she can't get up in the morning. Librium is essential to evening out her mood swings but it makes rousing herself every dawn like, "storming the beaches at Normandy." It takes her 2 to 3 hours to get ready for work each day. Her bosses don't mind her getting to the office until 10:00.

But she doesn't like California. At all. She kept referring to the move as "a mistake." Well, it's not one she can undo. Her house here is sold. Her boss here replaced her.

Besides, her new bosses in Tarzana adore her. And if she came back, she'd only be disappointed that the Chicagoland she has so romanticized is a fantasy.

For example, traffic. She says there "are no road closures" in Chicago. That's just silly. Every day I get an office email about this street or that intersection being closed for a festival, or a TV shoot, or a 10K race or a visit from the President or Vice President. She remembers "no road closures" because she never worked in Chicago. She lived in a town called Westmont and worked in one called Oak Lawn (how bucolic is that!) and no, Chicago Fire wasn't filmed there and no, Barack Obama never took a motorcade through there and no, there's no Run to Wrigley through those burbs. The NFL Draft is not taking place in Westmont.

And it still gets cold here. And it still rains here. And Chicago is still 2000 miles from her cousin. (Though her cousin is no support whatsoever.)

Hopefully, when she moves to Tarzana and has a nice suburban existence out there like the one she had here, all will look and feel better.

And no matter what, she'll still have me. That's a lot.

What a wallow for book lovers!

One passion my oldest friend and I have always shared, since we were little girls, is for the written word. We both dreamed of being writers, we both wrote and read obsessively. As women, we both participate in Nanowrimo every year and are always comparing notes on books.

So when I saw there was a massive book fair going on at the USC campus when we were there, I didn't see how we could stay away. And I wasn't disappointed.

Behold USC's Tommy Trojan
I've never been on a campus the size of USC. It gave me pause. I can't imagine what it would be like to be a freshman, away from home, taking in the enormity. Would I be exhilarated? Or overwhelmed?

As it was, on this sunny Sunday, I was dazzled by a sea of booths with white canvas roofs. All filled with books and authors! Chicago has a similar annual event, The Printer's Row Lit Fest (sponsored by The LA Times' big sister, The Chicago Tribune), but it doesn't sprawl through a big campus like this fair does.

I met two authors whose work I have enjoyed, and I acted quite starstruck.

First, Hallie Ephron. I read her earlier book, There Was an Old Woman, and quite liked it. It wasn't the plotting -- I figured out whodunnit rather early on -- but the details that touched my heart. The "old woman" of the title displayed Empire State Building collectibles because she worked there at the time of the 1945 crash (which I'd known nothing about until the book) and a drawer of "get well" and sympathy cards, stamped and ready to go, because that was the reality of her friends' lives at this time. When I told Hallie how memorable those little traits were, how they brought her character to life for me, she said, "Thank you. If I could, I'd jump over this table and give you a hug." She signed a copy of her new book (Night, Night, Sleep Tight) for me.

Then I got to say something that meant a great deal to me. "I miss Nora." Nora Ephron's kid sister smiled and said, "I miss her, too."

Then I met Lisa Scottoline. A NY Times best selling author of the popular Rosato and Associates series about an all-woman Philadelphia law firm. Seriously, she's sold like a gazillion books, and quite a few were sold to me. 

I can't believe this, but I told this rock star of a mystery writer that "next time" she should "add more Murphy." Anne Murphy is my favorite of the fictional lawyers and she's gotten short shrift in Scottoline's recent efforts. "She'll be in the next one," Scottoline assured me. "I've got to give each girl a turn." She didn't sound anywhere near as interested in thoughts as Hallie had been. And why should she be? Do I have brass balls or what?

Scottoline did tell me that the evil sister adventure in Think Twice was loosely based on her own tribulations with a suddenly discovered, rather awful sibling. I thought, "how fascinating." At the same book table were two authors -- one who had a dream of an older sister and one who suffered a nightmare older sister. And then there was me, with my own heinous sister issues.

By the way, Lisa Scottoline looks just as good as on her book jackets and is a slim and stylish 59 year old. Good for her!

Whenever I travel, I always bring back something for the team at the office. Because we had such fun at the LA Times festival, I chose these matchboxes, each one bearing the cover of a classic book. I disposed of the matches before I checked out of the hotel. I can't imagine how the TSA would respond to someone trying to board with more than 300 matches in her carry on.

The Hills of Beverly

I went out to the West Coast to visit my oldest friend. She's been suffering a lot lately, her moods rising and dipping precariously, and she doesn't feel like she has much support. So I played cavalry and rode out to her side.

This is quite possibly the last time I'll visit her in Beverly Hills. My third trip out to see her since she moved, and I've never seen Rodeo Drive. I've never dined at The Ivy. I've never seen what makes Beverly Hills the golden ideal to so many. I told her we were spending one day in her neighborhood, taking it all in. She feels no connection to the neighborhood she lives in, so it was a revelation to her.

First, Rodeo Drive. Big fucking deal. Didn't see anything here that I couldn't find on Chicago's Magnificent Mile. Oh well. Now I've been here.

Now the Paley Center for Media was cool. It's a museum/research facility devoted to TV. There was an exhibit devoted to Survivor, which I couldn't have cared less about. But I really got my geek on when we came to The Soboroff Typewriter Collection.

I got all squeally when I saw the typewriter John Lennon pecked away at as a teenager, living with his Aunt Mimi. Then there was the one Carolyn Wirt Keene used to compose the original Nancy Drew books. How many generations of girls learned to love reading on the pages that came from her machine? Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams were represented, too. I even saw a page from Tennessee's original manuscript for The Glass Menagerie displayed with the machine that created it.

By far my favorite was this one, the Underwood where Charles Foster Kane got his start. I adore it not only because I'm a big classic movie fan. Look at that typewriter case! (I checked, and the Hotel de la Tremoille is still open and still providing its guests with luxury accommodations.) I came away thinking that we've lost something, now that we're all on PCs and Macs. These new word processors have neither the charm nor the gravitas of these gorgeous old typewriters.

Then we went to dinner at The Ivy. Ever since Jennifer Aniston made a point of eating there, proudly visible outdoors and in the open, after Brad dumped her, I've noticed how often The Ivy turns up in People and Us. Bruce Willis and George Lucas seem to dine there a lot. So does Khloe Kardashian. In my midwestern head, the white picket fenced Ivy has become synonymous with Beverly Hills.

It's a nice little restaurant. More casual and more family friendly than I expected. I saw kids there,
and I did not feel under dressed in my gray capris and navy Polo. But it is luxurious. As soon as you arrive, the waiter offers you champagne. Gratis. And it's good stuff, too, not Asti. Those are fresh flowers, too.

As you can see, the tables are awfully close together. If I'd had Jen and Courtney Cox's girltalk to eavesdrop on, I wouldn't have minded. But instead we got a middle-aged couple on a first date. She was a recent and very stylish Russian émigré and he was working overtime to impress her, telling her over and over how much nicer Miami is than Los Angeles. My oldest friend suspects she may have been an escort, but I'm not so sure. Why would a john care what a sure thing thinks of him?

I had the lobster pizza, and it was very good (though I'm not sure white pizza is really pizza at all), with a very generous side dish of sauteed spinach. My friend had a pasta dish and was pleased with it, too. On the way out, we got a small box of six very good chocolate chip cookies, fresh from Dolce Isola, the Ivy's bakery. Just their way of thanking us for stopping by. 

So while there are restaurants in Chicago where the cuisine is just as good, and just as expensive, you don't have the TMZ bus tour driving by. It was a delicious little bit of glamor and I'm glad I finally got to enjoy it.

Flew out with Gibbs, flew home with Adam

Have you seen the E-trade commercial where Kevin Spacey congratulates "Type E" traders for having the insight to know when a trend is soooooo over? As he speaks to the camera he walks purposefully through a store and stops to pick up a portable DVD player, blowing dust off the box. I figured that if DVD players were now the punchline of financial services spots, I'd better get one while they're still available. Plus, the new MacBooks no longer have disc drives. I can read the writing on the proverbial wall.

And so I got myself a charming little Philips DVD player with a 7" screen. That way my handsome TV boyfriends could distract me from the terror I undoubtedly would feel as I made the long trek from ORD to LAX and then back again.

Because I freak out when I fly, I squirrel out over things that don't matter. On the 17th, I was worried that my seatmates would judge me harshly for my low-tech electronics and my decidedly uncool viewing choices. I needn't have worried ... and not just because I've found that no one is really watching me as closely as I think they are when I embarrass myself.

Going to LA, with Gibbs to keep me company, I was on the aisle. My seatmates were a young couple. He had the window seat, she was in the middle. After I buckled myself in, I glanced at the view out the window and that's when I saw what they were doing. He was either picking something out of her hairline or, worse, squeezing a zit. And I was embarrassed by my passion for NCIS?

Coming home, I chose Adam Cartwright to occupy me. I had a window seat. This time I was flying with a pair of young adults who were en route to a band competition in Chicago from their home in Japan, or maybe China. At any rate, they spoke no English whatsoever. They filled with overhead with their instruments (I could tell one was a saxophone), leaving precious little room for my
little overnight bag. They made us late at take off because they didn't understand about not using their phones during the flight. I tried not to let my exasperation show, since I wanted to present the best image of Chicagoans I could. And I knew they could not possibly know enough about American pop culture to realize what a geek my Bonanza obsession makes me.

I'm so glad to be on terra firma.

Sunday Stealing

Funky Twenty-Five Meme

1. Most unflattering hairstyle you ever had? What made it so unflattering? When I was trying to grow it out. It was all cowlicky and impossible to rule. I finally gave up and cut it.

 2. Favorite movie(s) that were made in the 90's? Pulp Fiction and Titanic are the first two that come to mind.

3. Do you rent movies? If so, from where? Well, I order movies On Demand. Does that count?

4. Do you like cookies better when they're just out of the oven or after they've cooled? After they've cooled. I don't like to burn the roof of my mouth.

5. Do you still talk to the person who gave you your first kiss? No. I don't even know where he is anymore or how I'd reach him if I wanted to.

6. Did you go to pre-school? If so, what was the name of it? No pre-school.

7. How do you take your coffee? I don't take it, I leave it.

8. Do you like fuzzy things? Depends. Slippers, yes. Hard candy that's rolled on the carpet, no.

9. Favorite kind of chocolate? Dark.

10. Are you more optimistic or pessimistic? I'm a worrier about the little things, but mostly positive about big/global things.

11. What about peopleofwalmart.com? Do you think the site is mean, funny, or both? Mean

12. Do you like fat sandwiches? If so, what does your favorite one have on it? I'm not exactly sure what a fat sandwich is.

13. One restaurant you'd never been to but would like to go to? Ah ha! I just went to The Ivy in Beverly Hills, after reading about it in People mag for years. The decor was charming. The special touches -- free champagne when you come in and a box of chocolate chip cookies on the way out -- are nice value adds, indeed. But the tables are too close together, and the menu is comparable to a high-end restaurant in any big city. Still, I'm delighted I got to try it. If you're ever in Los Angeles, treat yourself.

14. Last time you got a haircut? Do you need one? Just got a hair cut yesterday.

15. What's your favorite pattern for clothing (stripes, plaid, etc.)? Pin stripes, I suppose. I like solids.

16. What's your age backwards? 75.

17. When you see typos in a survey, do you correct them? No. I'm a writer by trade. I know no one likes making a typo. I'm not into rubbing anyone's nose in a simple mistake.

18. When was your last vacation? Did you go someplace special? I just got back from Los Angeles. I must update this blog to include details about the trip before I forget.

19. What's your favorite kind of pancakes? Buttery, syrupy. And I can make any pancakes buttery and syrupy.

20. Do you like movies with computer graphics, like Avatar? Sci-fi feels irrelevant to me.

21. Do you know how to sew? I can mend and hem.

22. Are you good at wrapping gifts? I'm OK.

23. Do you like flavored yogurt? I prefer strawberry.

24. How old will you be in December of 2015? 58.

25. What's the age difference between you and your siblings? I'm in the middle; a little over a year younger than my big sister, 8 years older than my little sister.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Hawaii Five-O (1969)

1) This is the theme from the TV show that originally ran from 1968 to 1980 and is on now again with a new cast. Were you/are you a fan? No. I never watched either incarnation. I've been to Hawaii twice and would love to go back, and think I've seen every episode of Magnum PI (at least) twice, but for some reason the appeal of Five-O eludes me.

2) On both shows, Five-O is an elite police task force led by Det. Lt. Steve McGarrett. Who is your favorite TV cop? Just one? It's hard. But I'll have to go with one of the L and O officers -- Lennie Briscoe, Elliott Stabler or Mike Logan.

3) On both shows, the part of Danny "Danno" Williams was played by a second generation performer. (James MacArthur was the son of Broadway legend Helen Hayes; Scott Caan is the son of movie actor James Caan.) If you followed one of your parents into their chosen profession, what would you be doing? My dad was an auto mechanic. Being a real gear head is clearly not a trait passed on from generation to generation. Similarly, my mother was a stay-at-home mom, also something that holds no attraction for me.

4) Both shows are filmed in Hawaii, the boyhood home of President Obama. Have any of our 44 Presidents hailed from your state?
Abraham Lincoln. Our best-ever president. No matter who your state claims, Illinois wins. Because he's Abe. 
You're welcome, grateful world
 5) Kona coffee is made from beans cultivated on the Big Island of Hawaii. Are you a big coffee drinker? No. The smell makes me a little nauseous.

6) This week's song was written by the late Morton Stevens. In addition to composing for TV shows, he was the musical director for a group of entertainers known in the 60s as "The Rat Pack." Can you name any "Rat Pack" members?

7) This week's featured band, The Ventures, began when Don Wilson purchased a used car from Bob Bogle. During negotiations, they discovered a shared passion for playing guitar. Did you buy your current ride new or used? Did the negotiations go smoothly? No car.

8) The year this song was popular, 1969, is when Donald and Doris Fisher opened a San Francisco clothing store called The Gap. Today there are more than 3,200 Gap locations. Do you shop at The Gap or gap.com? Nope. There's an Old Navy (owned by the same company) just around the corner from The Gap and its jeans fit better and are more affordable.

9)  Random question: What's on your Saturday to-do list? Hair cut, lunch with my nephew, and update this blog. I still haven't posted a word about my trip to LA! I want to get it down before I forget anything.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Neon Lights

1) Think of a neon sign you pass by often. What does it say? There an EXIT sign on either end of my hall. Not terribly attractive nor original, but they get the point across.

2) In the video for this song, Demi Lovato spends a great deal of time in the water. When is the last time you swam? Over Christmas in Key West. I swam in this pool every morning.

3) The song encourages us to "look up at the sky." OK, we will. How does the sky look where you are today? Gorgeous. Clear blue, not a cloud in sight.

4) Demi is a contributing editor for Seventeen magazine. When she was in junior high school, Crazy Sam eagerly awaited each new issue of Seventeen. When you were younger, which magazine(s) did you read regularly? I loved flipping through Mademoiselle. It was like Glamour, but the lifestyle it promoted was more affordable and attainable for a gal on an allowance. Unfortunately, Mademoiselle went belly up years ago.

5) Demi is an investor in the company that makes Texas Tea, a bottled beverage available at Whole Foods. Do you have any tea in your kitchen right now? Yes. I have two boxes of tea bags. They both smell yummy. I like to spoil myself with flavored, fragrant teas.

6) Demi is currently on tour, performing halfway around the world in Australia and New Zealand. Have you ever had a job that required travel? Never as far as New Zealand!

7) Demi had a recurring role on the show Glee. That show's series finale aired last month. Is there a show that's no longer on that you miss?


8) Fast-growing fast food chain Chipotle reports that their top sellers include a burrito bowl with steak or chicken, salad with chili-corn salsa, and a soft taco. Which of these would you order? I'm not a big fan of Mexican food, but I'll go with the taco.

9) What beverage would you like to enjoy with your burrito bowl, taco or salad? Can I have Dr. Pepper at Chipotle?

Oh, great!

After I blog I'm going to pack for my trip to Los Angeles. My spring vacation. This trip has always felt like something of a consolation prize. I had wanted to take a spa trip -- I love those solo getaways to relax and recharge -- and had almost decided on Memphis, when my oldest friend dropped a bombshell on me. Her doctor told her she suffers from "bipolar, cyclical, clinical depression, which typically doesn't respond well to meds."

She goes through periods where she can't get out of bed. She also has physical problems, like vertigo, and has taken a ton of time off work already. This is her fifth job in 4 1/2 years she's been in California. She can't afford to lose it.

So I'm going out to be with her. To lend her moral support. She hasn't made any friends in the time she's been out there, and the cousin she moved to be with hasn't not made herself available in times of need. I want my oldest friend to know that she's not alone.

That's why I'm flying for hours and hours (which I hate) to shop and go to the movies (which I could do here). I figured I'd have fun. After all, no one makes me laugh harder than my oldest friend. It's just not what I want to be doing. But I've been trying to get my mind right.

Except yesterday my friend told me she was going to the doctor because a bad head cold has her ears all plugged up.

Oh, great!

If I end up on her living room sofa watching Me-TV all weekend, I'll scream. What a waste of stress (air travel) and money and time off that would be!

I know she can't help being sick -- whether she's congested or bipolar. But I can't help being exasperated, either.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015



Abraham Lincoln died 150 years ago this week. Since he's been on my mind, I thought I'd make this week's Thursday Thirteen a little snapshot of life in America on April 15, 1865.

1) We married younger back then. In 1865, the average age was 21 for the bride and 26 for the groom. 150 years later, the average bride is 27 and the groom is 29.

2) Princess Leia would have fit right in. One of the most popular do's began with hair parted down the middle and then rolled up on the sides.

3) The French influenced how we dressed. Bright Zouave red, like the French infantry wore, was the "in" color for ladies' jackets.

4) And how we smelled. Guerlain, the French perfume house, provided American women with the most popular scent of the decade. A version of it is still available today. 

5) Dying was already an effective marketing strategy. You know how when a recording artist dies, his sales and downloads go through the roof? We weren't that different 150 years ago. American composer Stephen Foster had recently died, and with his passing came the renewed popularity of his songs, including "Oh, Susanah!" and "Camptown Races."

6) Charles Dickens had another hit on his hands. His latest novel, Our Mutual Friend, was published in installments between May, 1864 and November, 1865.

7) Culture came to Chicago. The Crosby Opera House was all set to open this week in 1865, but the gala premiere performance was rescheduled out of respect for Illinois' favorite son, the late President Lincoln. This building had a lot of bad luck. First there were cost overruns, then the President's assassination interfered with its opening, and finally it was destroyed in The Great Fire in 1871.

8) We liked our desserts. Pumpkin pie, apple pie and plum pudding were tops.

9) We liked our beer. While beer had been popular here since before the Revolution, brewing started becoming more sophisticated in the mid-18th century. The most successful breweries were built over artesian wells.

10) Mr. Lincoln started a trend. He was the first of our Presidents to be photographed extensively. The last known picture was snapped just weeks before his death. He appreciated the importance of preserving important moments for posterity. I bet if Abe was alive today, he'd be taking selfies.

11) Husbands and wives were seldom photographed together. And the Lincolns were no different. The style for formal portraits back then would be separate shots taken during the same sitting and then displayed together in a hinged frame.

12) The Civil War lightened up mourning, literally. Antebellum Americans grieved publicly in a Victorian fashion. Siblings wore nothing but black for six months, mothers and children dressed in black mourning for a year, and wives were expected to remain clad in "widow's weeds" for at least than two years. That became untenable during the Civil War. First of all, nearly one of every four soldiers died, and it was likely that more than one person mourned a single soldier (say, his mother, his sister, his wife and his child), so it's possible that most of your town could be in black, day in and day out. Very bad for morale. Then there was the expense. New black material or black dye could be costly, and the War had brought hardship to just about everyone. So the Victorian mode of "perpetual mourning" went by the wayside.

13) The marriage rights parallel. Just as today we're debating whether same-sex couples should have the right to marry, legislators and journalists were all over the civil rights and moral issues raised when married couples wanted to split up. Some states thought a divorce should be granted if the wife was unfaithful, whereas straying husbands were just "boys being boys" and a not sufficient reason for a union to be severed. States differed on how many times a wife had to be beaten before she could legally leave her husband. And then, just as now, people piously claimed their point of view was the right one because they believed that's what The Good Book says.

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

Why I love keeping a blog

This morning, while waiting for the train, I found myself gazing yet again at the vacant lot across from my el stop. It seemed sad to me that it's still empty. I knew the construction project that was to happen here was a victim of the Recession, but I couldn't recall exactly how long it's been like this. Then I did a search on this humble blog and look what I found:

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Gone, baby, gone

The Gay House is gone! Demolished! It makes me very sad.

The Gay House was a building I saw every day, twice a day, because it's across from the el tracks. The first floor was a trio of small, affordable offices. No one ever stayed there very long, and I enjoyed checking out who was currently renting space. Sometimes it was local political candidates. At tax time there was frequently an accountant. You get the idea.

Upstairs was an apartment with the most beautiful rooftop garden. I called it The Gay House because in addition to a grill and plastic Adirondack chairs, all year around there was a gay pride rainbow flag on the porch. I loved watching it change from season to season.

Between yesterday and today, it's gone! The three offices, the apartment, the grill, the chairs and the gay pride flag. I feel like I've lost something.


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

1. What are you currently reading? Frank: The Voice by James Kaplan. I read a lot of biographies, and I'm pleased to report that this time, the author and his subject are very well matched. Kaplan manages to be both admiring and clear-eyed when writing about the man and his music.

For example, I just read a passage about Frank's unfortunate infatuation with The Mob. It began, "Bugsy Siegel, the jaunty sociopath, was uncharacteristically nervous ..." So yes, Kaplan goes there when writing about Sinatra, and he does with style. This book is a most entertaining read.

And I'm getting to know Nancy Barbato (still alive and kicking), the first Mrs. Frank Sinatra. A pretty, smart, level headed Jersey girl. She didn't belong in Manhattan or Hollywood, but she went there because she loved the boy she met in Hoboken. She's not naive, she's not plain, and she's not masochistic -- all attributes commonly attributed to her as the Sinatra yarn is spun. I'm coming to admire her very much.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston. One of those "Have You Seen Me?" milk carton kids -- an 11-year-old boy -- is found four years later. Then what? How do the kid and the family adjust to the trauma they have endured? How do they deal with justice system and the press that keep the trauma alive?

At first I enjoyed the book. The point of view is original and the writing is talented. Then the plot took a strange turn. I don't want to give too much away, but just let's say it was deja-In the Bedroom. I didn't buy it.

3.  What will you read next? I don't know. I've had very good luck lately with books I've had laying around here that I've either skipped or forgotten. I think a trip back through my den will be in order.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

On my mind today

Remember that scene near the end of Spielberg's Lincoln? The President is speaking informally to members of  his cabinet when he gets word that Mrs. Lincoln is waiting for him to go to Ford's Theater. "It's time for me to go," he says, "but I would rather stay." That scene always makes me cry.

That was 150 years ago today.

My mind keeps going back to JBKO in her oral history, Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy. Jackie tells us that in July 1963, JFK asked Princeton historian David Donald, "Would Lincoln have been as great a president if he'd lived?" Four months later, well, you know.

 "It's time for me to go, but I would rather stay."

Oh, Mr. Lincoln, you haunt my imagination!

That went well!

In the olden days, when I presented my work internally, every meeting was followed by a sotto voce postmortem. We creatives would huddle together and relive the meeting, bemoaning that our best work would likely never be seen by the client because The Chocolate Covered Spider overstepped her boundaries and killed it during the internal review. My boss, who always prefers maintaining calm to quality, would back Spidey up. We'd feel bruised and helpless.

Today was the first day of a new chapter. We presented creative to The New Girl. She was exhausting ... lots of questions, lots of blab, lots of enthusiasm ... but even though the meeting was overlong, it was positive.. She had criticisms, she had opinions. That's to be expected, that's her job. But she's a collaborator, not a dictator. "What do you all think? I don't want to make the final decision."

We no longer felt dominated. We felt like part of a team. That's so much better.

This job feels almost new again.

It's not my fault

I am predisposed to men with brown eyes. And Marco Rubio's are the sweetest puppy brown.

Naturally there's no way I'd cast a vote for him. I'm reminded of a quote from JFK about who a liberal is -- someone who cares about the health and welfare, civil rights and civil liberties of the people -- and that's just not who Marco Rubio is.

But he does have sweet puppy brown eyes.

Don't judge me.

This made me so happy

For a brief time I worked with the absolute nicest woman you'd ever want to meet. Sweet, smart, pretty and loaded with integrity. We're Facebook friends and we meet for lunch every six months or so. She left me a message saying she needed "a Gal fix" and so today was our lunch date.

She told me "proud mom" stories about her three young sons, how much she likes their new home in the burbs, how much she loves doting on her nieces ... and then she told me the reason why she called me out of the blue.

Her career, which has taken off like a rocket even though she is mothering three sons under 6, has suddenly hit a rough spot. The boss who promoted her, who sees himself as her mentor, has begun to expect her to act as his henchman. She's supposed to support him in his quest to "clean house," to "toe the party line" and scapegoat people so they can be fired.

She won't do it. I wouldn't expect her to. She's not that kind of person.

She told me that last week her boss came to her office confront her about her decision. He was very angry. Things escalated. She said that as they "exchanged f bombs," she caught sight of the tiny "Just be yourself" pillow I'd given her years ago, as a going-away present when she left the agency where we once worked together.

It gave her strength.

How cool is that!

Of course, now she's in her boss' sites and expects to be let go herself before year end.

She's lucky that her husband is very supportive and makes nearly as much as she does. She can afford to take some off and perhaps would welcome being able to spend more time with those divine little boys.

I'm happy that my little gesture so many years ago left her feeling supported and believed in.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday Stealing

The Sizzle Says Meme

1. If money were no object, what would you be doing with your life? I'd log lots and lots of hours volunteering. Probably at an animal shelter. Perhaps on political campaigns.

2. Money is just that - an object, so why aren’t you doing it? I'm confused. Doesn't this question answer itself?

3. What’s better: horses or cows? For what?

4. What do you think the secret to happiness is? 


5. When was the last time you had a dream that you either remember well or did not want to awake from? Can you share a bit? In February I had a lot of bad dreams. The scariest was The Purse Dream. I'm on vacation and visiting 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.

6. When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A singer and dancer. I realized rather early on that I'm a tone deaf kltuz, which dashed that dream.

7. Complete this statement: Love is… what makes you feel alot. It's intense.

8. Can you tell a good story? Yes. I think I'm quite the raconteur.

9. Can you remember your last daydream? What was it about?  Sigh. It was a silly romantic daydream.

10. If you were to thank someone today, who would you thank? My friends, for always being there. I'm very lucky in that regard.

11. If you could be anyone's mojo, whose would you want to be, and why? (For those you do not know what mojo is, it's personal magnetism; charm.)   Leroy Jethro Gibbs, the "Boss" of the NCIS team. I love him, you know. He'd catch the bastards in The Purse Dream.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Back to back jacks!

The Cubs got back-to-back homeruns tonight for the first time this season. Yea! Go, Cubs, go!

And the groom wore yellow feathers in his hair ...

... and a dress cut down to there.

So this man is gay. The news broke this week that Barry Manilow has been secretly married to his manager. A man.

Female Fanilows -- primarily post-menopausal women -- are shocked because they didn't know he was gay. Look at that photo. They didn't know. Okeedokee. Some insist that since Barry himself hasn't officially confirmed the marriage, it's just a filthy lie and the man in this photo is straight. Okeedokee.

I find this very sad.

First, Barry Manilow is now 71 years old. He didn't just "become" homosexual. So he's been in the closet all his adult life. He waited until now -- when he's well over the age to begin collecting Social Security and on his farewell tour -- to finally marry the lover he's been with for decades. And he's still not announcing and openly celebrating his relationship. There's something poignant about that.

Secondly, his fans are pissed. Not all of them, of course. The man has sold a staggering number of records (hell, even I bought one) and many are wishing him well. But others are truly upset.

"I'm unhappy he lied to his fans for 40 years and wasn't honest years ago at the gay bath house he and Bette Midler played. But I'll forgive him & move on and pray that God forgives him too!"
Doesn't look prepared to kick ass, does he?

"Barry is going to sue! Barry needs to get them good for doing this to him!"

"Who's the low life that started this ridiculous story? They're in for it now!"

I've been a fan girl all my life, beginning with my pre-school crush on Little Joe Cartwright. So in a way, I can tap into the Fanilow mindset.* I suppose I understand how they'd feel betrayed. I'm told that onstage he really plays to the ladies, presenting himself as something of a romantic ideal, and every night the competition is fierce to be the CSWY Girl -- the one he plucks from the audience to dance with during "Can't Smile without You."

What makes me sad is the implicit homophobia in some of these posts. Is "gay" really the worst thing you can accuse a person of? In 2015? Maybe Manilow was right to not trust his fans with the truth.  

Obviously Barry Manilow brought these women a lot of joy. His music meant something to him in a very real way. Clearly it's not my cup of tea, but that's not the point. The man who sang the love songs that set their hearts a pitter patter has found love himself.  

I wish they could be happy that he's finally found what he's been singing about.

*Though I insist that Michael Landon is far more attractive than Barry Manilow ever was, and maintain that at age 3 I had better taste, and a more finely tune gaydar, than the some Fanilows.