Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sunday Stealing

Click here to play

Have you ever played the bongos? Yes, but not well.
Have you ever handled a snake? Touched? Yes. Handled? No. But snakes don't scare me, so I'm not averse.
Have you ever assembled furniture by yourself? Yes.
When did you last go to the beach?
Christmas Day. My friend and I were walking the beach in Key West and met a couple who made celebrating Christmas morning at the beach a tradition. Every year they bring their tree to Higgs Beach and decorate it. I hope we run into them again Christmas 2015.
When if ever did you last go to London? Alas, I've never been.
What do you do to cool down when its hot? Retire to the AC.
What's the most unusual thing you've ever eaten? I once had shark for lunch at the Taste of Chicago. It tasted like any other fish would, baked and breaded and smothered in tomato sauce and capers. But still, it was shark!
Do you have a favorite mug?  During the summer, it's my Cub mug.
Do you know any self-defense or martial arts? Nope.
Who's your favorite movie action hero? My favorite action hero in one of my all-time favorite movies.

Have you ever ridden a motorcycle? Ridden? Yes. Driven? No.
Do you collect anything? If it's Beatle-related, I want it.

Is there anything you wished would come back into fashion? I don't think a bag can be too big, so I'd like to see massive purses come back.
Do you stick to conventional fashions or like to try and be original? In fashion, I am conservative.
Have you ever given someone a handmade present? A few Christmases ago, I baked cookies for my best friend, who is a foodie.
If you could have any feature from an animal what would you want? I'd like to have my cats' sense of hearing.

I hope he's gay

My oldest friend has been having a terrible time since she moved to California. She's had health problems, money problems, family problems ... and she has precious little support.

I've tried to convince her to make friends by joining a book club, a movie club, a church congregation ... all to no avail. She seems almost frightened by the prospect of making female friends, yet she's tried two different dating services in search of a boyfriend. It hasn't worked out. The first guy was an angry RWNJ who expected her to be sylphlike and consequently dumped her, the second wasn't her type at all and yet wanted to marry her because he was lonely and wanted a wife. These romantic failures made her sad.

A couple weeks ago, she met a younger man at work. He runs the janitorial service that maintains her office. She really enjoyed talking to him and sent me a couple of texts, referring to herself as a cougar. Then last night I got a flurry of emails about how they were having coffee that evening. She was so excited. Yet today I've heard nothing about it.

I hope it went well, but not in the way she expected. I hope he was warm and funny and that they have loads in common. I also hope he's gay. Because if he's everything she wants and needs in a friend, she'll have the companionship she longs for without having to endure a breakup.

BTW, you have just read my 6000th post! That sure sounds like a lot, doesn't it?

Friday, May 29, 2015

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: California Nights (1967)
Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.
1) Lesley Gore premiered this song on an episode of Batman. She played Pussycat, the protegee of Catwoman. (That explains her outfit in the video.) How many of Batman's nemeses can you name? Lots. The Joker was my favorite. But there's The Riddler, The Penguin, the aforementioned Catwoman, Mr. Freeze, Egghead, King Tut, The Black Widow, Shame ...

  2) At least five actors have played The Caped Crusader already (Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale) and Ben Affleck will play him in 2016's Batman vs. Superman. Who is your favorite Batman? (If any Batmen were inadvertently omitted, Sam apologizes.) In my world, there will only ever be one.
3) Unlike most superheroes, Batman doesn't have any superpowers. This Saturday, you're more fortunate. We're bestowing any superpower on you that you want. Which would you like? I'd like to magically, effortlessly glide everywhere and slide up banisters. Part Mary Poppins, part Peggy from Mad Men.

4) Though she's singing of warm California nights, Lesley Gore was a New Yorker, born in Brooklyn and, in February of this year, dying in Manhattan. Which coast have you spent more time on, the West Coast or the East Coast? I prefer the East Coast, especially Boston and Philly, but lately I've spent more time in Los Angeles because my oldest friend moved there.
5) Not many people know that while she was making records, Lesley was also a student at Sarah Lawrence and graduated with her BA in 1968. What's something we would be surprised to know about you? I don't change unless absolutely forced to. I still have AOL. I've never changed cell phone providers. In the 1980s, the Columbia Record Club had to literally bribe me to switch from vinyl to CDs. I bet you can guess how I stand on e-books.

6) In 1967, when this song was popular, the best selling new
camera in the United States was the new Polaroid Swinger. Think about the most recent photo you took. Did you use a camera, a tablet, or a phone? My little Kodak Easy Share M350 camera.
7) The big fashion trend of 1967 was bright tights, in shades like Hot Pink, Shock Orange and Grass Green. Tell us about something you wore when it was trendy but now you look back and think, "Oh, God, that was awful!" In the 1980s, I spiked my then-red hair with purple mousse. I am only grateful that no photos have surfaced.
8) In 1967, drivers complained about "gas wars." The price  was unpredictable and would rise and fall, day by day, as much as 30¢ per gallon. How much does it cost you to fill up your tank today? No car

9) Random question: Are there dishes in your kitchen sink right now? Now and always.

Mom was wrong

My mother never understood my passion for hanging on to newspapers and magazines. Unless they contained a real-time story about a momentous news event, she said, "toss it." I always resisted. I liked looking back a year or two. Especially at the ads. There's the Yardley cologne I was saving for! There's the poncho I wanted so badly!

This post is inspired by a specific issue of LIFE. June 20, 1969, to be exact. I found it while we were staying at a cottage in small-town Wisconsin in August of that year. Previous tenants had left it behind.

I was in love with Joe Namath that summer. I hated the awful resort town that summer and every other summer I was dragged up there. And so I killed a great deal of time gazing at this magazine. When our week was over, I tried to bring it home. My mom saw it in the car and told me to throw it away or put it back. She didn't care which, but she certainly didn't want my bedroom cluttered with yet another old magazine! (Also, my mother didn't approve of Joe Willie. No, not one bit.)

How I wished I'd kept it! For the issue has become rather famous. See if you can zero in on what makes this issue one of note.


Pg... 4 Column: How Many Huts? How Many Tents? By Barry Farrell

Pg... 9 “18 Reviews: Book: "Men in Groups," by Lionel Tiger, Reviewed by Robert Ardrey

Pg... 9A 18 Reviews: Movie: "True Grit" with John Wayne, Reviewed by Richard Schickel

Pg... 22A Letters to the Editors

Pg... 22B Broadway Joe's Friends: Regular Customers at Bachelors III, Namath's New York Bar, Included Three Cosa Nostra Men and Two Thieves. By Sandy Smith

Pg... 34 Newsfronts: Red Summit in the Place of the Czars

Pg... 36 Editorials: An End to Capital Punishment

Pg... 36 Editorials: A First Step at Midway

Pg... 40 Our Happy Moon Journey: The Apollo 10 Crew Describes how it was. "Well, Now that We're Here, what Do We Do?" By Tom Stafford, John Young and Gene Cernan

Pg... 46 Movies: One Film Turns Life Upside Down for the New Star Named Ali. Photographed by Art Kane

Pg... 52 Two Cops on a Tough Beat: A Hard Patrolman and His Patient Partner Work the Menacing Streets of Haight Ashbury. By L. H. Whittemore. Photographed by John Oldenkamp

Pg... 64 Close Up: Mark Van Doren at 75: a Complex Poet Who Talks Calmly in a Troubled Time. By Melvin Maddocks

Pg... 65 Ideas in Houses: Part 39: At Home on a Private Plaza

Pg... 68 The Class of '69

Pg... 69 With Eloquent Defiance, Top Students Carry Their Protest Right Through Commencement

Pg... 74 Miscellany


Did you spot it? It's the pair of stories that begin on page 68 about the graduating Class of 1969. Speaking for Wellesley, wearing wire-rimmed glasses and very groovy striped slacks, is 22-year-old Hillary Rodham. She hasn't yet been to Yale Law School. She hasn't yet met Bill.  

The way I poured over that magazine, I must have seen this article that summer when I was 11. What did I think of her? I remember thinking "the star named Ali" (MacGraw) was pretty, despite the tooth thing. What were my impressions of Hillary? Did I admire her talk of protest as a way to "question great institutions?" Or did I dismiss her as plain? I truly don't recall.

But this is why, if I didn't absolutely have to, I would never throw anything away.

To Sir, With Love

President Kennedy died on my sixth birthday. That's a tender age, and having my Big Day marred by a national tragedy left its mark. In trying to restore order to my little universe and understand the pervasive agony* all around me, I began reading obsessively the man. And have never stopped.

John F. Kennedy taught me much about life. The biggest lesson is that the way a life looks on the outside isn't necessarily how it feels from the inside. Though he was insulated by wealth, young Jack was plagued by severe, painful medical problems that kept him in the hospital or home convalescing. He missed years of school and had to drop out of Yale because of his fragile health. (And this was as the second son in a family that valued achievement above all else.) His parents had a troubled marriage, and that resulted in a complicated, unsatisfactory relationship with his mother that may have colored his attitude toward women throughout his life. (I've read just as much about his wife, so I'm not unaware of his own failings as a husband.)

So whenever I'm tempted to compare my life to someone else's, whenever I feel envy nipping at my heart, I remember how the world looked at JFK and thought he had it all, while in his heart he always felt rather lonely and isolated.

But look what he accomplished! Cum laude graduate of Harvard, decorated war hero, Pulitzer Prize winner, and the youngest man ever elected to the Presidency. The first Irish Catholic, at a time when people still remembered signs in store windows that said, "Irish need not apply."

Yes, he lucked out being born to one of the country's wealthiest family. But the wit, the intellect, the elegant turn of phrase, the fascinating combination of empathy and detachment he brought to every situation ... those money didn't buy. 

He taught me that if you have imagination, you can visualize your own destiny and if you don't cut yourself too much slack, you can achieve your goals. 

He remains the single biggest influence on my politics. He wrote this before I was born, and it still sums up my view of what my country can be if we listen to our better selves.

If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal", then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal.”

That's how I'm honoring him, with gratitude, on his birthday.

*Adults, please hear me. I remember the trauma of 11/22/63 so clearly, remember the riots and assassinations of 1968 so clearly, and I worry about other children when major news events happen. Like children in Boston after the bombing, or St. Louis and Baltimore after the riots. Talk to the kids in your life. They feel the impact without necessarily understanding it, and that can make a painful period even scarier.

Monday, May 25, 2015

She a Ho

I'm always happy to see actress Mariette Hartley. She never became a bankable star, but she's worked regularly, dependably giving very good performances on TV and on stage* for more than 50 years now.

Which is why I am shocked (!) to report that she's clearly a woman of easy virtue. Through my Bonanza obsession I've discovered that she romanced the nearly the entire Cartwright clan.
Season 6, flirting with Adam

Season 10, crushing on Ben

Season 12, preparing to break Hoss' heart

I do wonder how she avoided a lip lock with Little Joe, the swain of the Ponderosa. But that might be just as well, since Little Joe's women tended to die at the :58 mark.

I also found a completely charming interview with Hartley where she said she enjoyed working on the show because the four main actors were so irreverent ("they were all so dirty!"). She was amused that after her second appearance the producer got a letter from an irate fan, wondering how Ben didn't recognize the girl who tried to seduce him as the teacher who'd made eyes at Adam just five years before. Astonishing, really, when you consider that this was before streaming, DVDs, VHS or even Beta. Back in the day, Bonanza had a really slavish fan base.

*I saw her on stage in the touring company of Copenhagen (2001) and she was quite good.

I didn't mean to make him cry

People who knew me in the 1980s and 1990s have delighted in the similarities between the young Gal and Peggy Olsen of Mad Men. I see it, too, of course. We both:

•  Came up through the secretarial pool to become copywriters
•  Were frequently hindered by lack of formal education
•  Slept with wildly inappropriate coworkers
•  Got where we wanted to go professionally in spite of our idiosyncratic work habits

I was a creative director until I quit and decided to work my way down the corporate ladder. I am proud to say that was my choice. I have never been laid off -- rare in this industry -- though God knows there's still time. I have won a Clio, an Echo and a Tempo.

I have found my career both exhilarating and disappointing, both more and less than I dreamed it would be.

And, I suppose, I had a Don Draper. He was not breathtakingly handsome (though he's always had a wonderful head of hair) and, frankly, I ended up surpassing him.

But that's only because he taught me. 

I'd been in the industry a decade by then, still painfully aware of my lack of formal training. I was operating on instinct, not craft. For some reason, my bosses to that point were reluctant to give me any real help with my writing. For example, I had a job for a major catalog house for five years and at the end of my tenure still didn't know what made one page "better" than another. I was rather successful as a writer for a major haircare company, doing product packaging, but any guidance I got was from R&D and the marketing department, not the creative director.

All my supervisors used to tell me was which ass to kiss. I also got stern warnings about my smart mouth and party girl proclivities. But, no matter how I worded the questions, I didn't get any help about my writing. Somehow, perhaps by the dint of my stubbornness, I still moved along and got better jobs.

Then I met Ed. He taught me craft. The rules of the road. The tried-and-true tricks. I had another very good boss a few years later (my friend Barb) but he was the first supervisor to bother, to pay attention, to hear what I was asking and to give me what I needed, and I've always been enormously grateful.

He's also one who never tired of pointing out the Gal/Peggy similarities in Mad Men. So when the last episode aired, I posted this to Facebook:

It isn't just that Don is hot (though God knows he is), it's that he was such a careful and successful mentor to Peggy. When I first made the quantum leap from secretary to copywriter, all my bosses discussed with me was office politics. I was ten years in before a Creative Director finally gave me craft to augment my instincts. If I haven't said it already: THANK YOU, ED.

Ed, who has been unemployed for so long now that people assume he's retired, messaged back that my post made him cry. He's very proud of my success and so pleased that I have been so "generous" in giving him credit.

Sometimes social media is a good thing. Ed's family has been beset by setbacks: he lost his job, he faced down cancer, his daughter was stricken by leukemia and now, while in remission, has embarked on a very high risk pregnancy.

I'm glad I was able to give him such a public shout out. I'm glad it meant to much to him.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

At least they have each other

I'm so worried about my friends in Key West. So far, for them, 2015 has been a drag.

My buddy went into the year on a high note, having gotten his book published. He had readings scheduled in coffee shops, book clubs and even one of the upper Key libraries. But then the wheels kinda came off at work. He began working crazy long hours at the office at just the same moment when he found he'd been passed over for a promotion. His book is no longer his publisher's most recent and so he's not her priority anymore. So he's rundown and a little disappointed.

But the big story is his partner. (I'l call him Dave.) He decided during 2014 that he didn't need Obamacare. He works 50 hours/week between three jobs, none of which offer benefits. Though over 50, Dave's always been rather healthy, so he chose to pay the fine rather than enroll. Then, in the fall of 2014, he had an anxiety attack that mimicked a heart attack. One of his coworkers called an ambulance. Thankfully Dave turned out to be fine ... until he saw the bill. It was more than $2000. He didn't pay it.

Dave's attitude toward finances used to be a point of contention in their relationship. My buddy's approach couldn't be more different. Things came to a head about ten years ago and they separated. They realized how much they love one another and how committed they are to the relationship and when they reconciled, decided that they must keep their money separate.

So now it's 2015. Dave has decided that insurance might be a good idea after all and he went on my buddy's policy. It has a very high deductible, but it's better than nothing -- which is what he had before. Anyway, it's a good thing he did because shortly after New Year, he discovered a growth on one of his testicles. He had tests and found it was, blessedly, most likely benign. But it has to be removed.

It's called an epididymal cyst and its removal can be done on an outpatient basis. The thing of it is, the doctor's practice insists on payment upfront and the patient will receive payment from the insurance company. They require payment of $3,500 before the doctor can do the procedure. This sounds barbaric to me. THEY KNOW THEY'LL GET PAID BY THE INSURANCE COMPANY. The thing of it is, they don't. So many people in the Keys who visit healthcare providers are either vacationing or only living there temporarily and the doctors get stiffed. Plus, there's Dave's rather dicey history with the ambulance company to consider.

Then there's the two weeks off work. Dave works as a bartender at least 35 hours/week and that's time on his feet. There's no way he can do that after having the cyst removed. He gets no paid time off from the bar, nor from his two bookkeeping clients.

Bobby, his boss at the bar, has offered to pay the hospital the $3,500 -- a loan with no finance charges -- but when Dave can return to work, he has to work for free until the $3,500 is paid off.

All things considered, Dave estimates he needs $7,500. He's in pain. He's scared.

He went to and set up an account to raise money for the surgery via social media. My buddy is mortified. Again, he has a very different approach to these things. He wants to borrow against their home (which is in my buddy's name exclusively) and if that doesn't get them where they need to be, then privately ask family.

But their deal when they moved back in together is that finances remain separate, and my buddy is respecting that. He doesn't like it, but he respects it.

For some reason, Dave's parents haven't chipped in a dime. I don't know what's going on there. But Dave's website has raised $1,795 from 20 people (including me). On the one hand, it's not enough. On the other hand, it's tax-free money they don't have to pay back, which is nice.

My buddy has made it plain that he doesn't expect me to give more (or anything), but I will. These guys are my family. They take me in and celebrate Christmas with me. They were beyond gracious to my mother and uncle -- two people they'd never met -- when those blood relatives of mine visited Key West.

My uncle left a bequest to my buddy, a coin from the Atocha. I've told them they have my permission to sell it. My uncle had terrible medical problems at the end of his own life and would understand. But my buddy is sentimental and very respectful. He was so honored that my uncle thought to give it him that he refuses to part with it, even though I'm sure they could get nearly $1,000 for it.

Anyway, here's the thing -- despite their differences, my buddy and Dave are in love and committed to one another through thick and thin. A few years ago, when my buddy was battling depression, Dave could not have been more patient and supportive. Now it's my buddy's turn.

They have been together for more than two decades. Longer than many straight couples I know. When the going has gotten tough, they didn't throw in the towel. The bad times have made their relationship stronger.

I'm grateful they're together.

And I'll be glad when this is behind them.

Sunday Stealing

Very Much Questions Meme

1. What was the last clothing item that you bought? Haven't bought anything since the blue shoes at DSW last month. I really need some new belts. I hope the next time this question comes up, I'll have belts to report.

 2. If you could stay one age forever, what age would you choose? 35. I felt very womanly and sexy at 35.

3. When you say “lol”, are you really laughing? Seldom

4. What is the most interesting thing you’ve done in the past year? I think the Titanic exhibit in Las Vegas was the most interesting. Certainly the most sobering. Doomed souls actually looked out those portholes.
An actual piece of the Titanic, and I was thisclose

5. If you started a business, what would it be? I've thought about becoming a petsitter.

6. Do your friends/family/coworkers know about your blog? God! No.

7. How long does it take you to write an average blog post? 15 minutes/half hour

8. How do you keep up with the blogs you follow? I click on the links at right.

9. What is your bedtime? When I go to bed. No real schedule.

10. Introvert or extrovert? I'm an extrovert who thrives on alone time.

11. What is your biggest wish? That everyone I love stays healthy. I have my concerns. More about that later.

12. What is the best job you ever had? I was very happy developing packaging copy for a haircare company. It was fun.

13. Dog person/cat person/both/neither? I suppose I'm a cat person, but I like dogs, too.

14. If you had $1,000 to spend any way you wanted, what would you do with it? I'd buy a purse and a belt, and I'd send the rest to my friends in Keys. (Health problems in that household. More on that in a later post.)

15. How do you “dress” your toast? Butter and syrup.

16. How do you feel about snow? With both hands. Tee hee. I like snow.

17. What was the worst job you ever had? I was working for a software developer. He had no idea what he needed me to do, and the days just dragged on ... and on ... Fortunately I was in love and in a long distance relationship, so I was able to use the time to write epic letters.

18. What song can you not stop listening to? It changes. These days it's unbeatable the combination of Sinatra and the greatest city in the world.

19. Love your name or hate it? Don't think about it much.

20. How did you choose your blog/twitter handle? It was available.

Good to remember

I went to my local food pantry yesterday. It was the first time I'd been to the actual location in months.* It's in a church basement, and as I trotted down the stairs with my donation, the first words I heard were, "Who needs a ticket? The wait this morning is two hours."

Two hours! Now granted, the wait may have been unusually long because it's a holiday weekend, but still, that's a long time for my neighbors to wait for four cans of vegetables/fruit/soup, frozen meat, and bread designed to last a week. (The rules state a household may only visit the food pantry once a month. Otherwise there won't be enough to serve everyone in need.)

People are always generous around Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. The good spirits surrounding these special days just make helping others top of mind. But we must remember that need extends into summer, too.

Especially because kids don't take advantage of school lunches in summer. I'm glad I included a package of cookies and a bottle of mustard along with all the soup and tuna. I like thinking that somewhere in my community, kids are going to enjoy hot dogs for lunch with chocolate sandwich cookies for dessert.

Every time I visit the grocery or drugstore, I pick up something that costs $1 or less. There's always something on sale -- a can of peas, a packet of mashed potato mix, a box of mac and cheese. I never notice the expense and it makes me happy to see that, in no time, I have enough food to share with my neighbors.

If you don't know where the local food bank is in your area, click here.

*I donate food to the organization regularly via the drop box at our Visitors' Center, but this summer The Center is being renovated.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Saturday 9

Battle Hymn of the Republic

1) This recording was made live at St. Patrick's Cathedral, during Sen. Robert Kennedy's funeral. (Hear it here.) While both of Bobby's older brothers were decorated war heroes, he served too -- enlisting in the Navy in 1943. Are you a veteran? Are there veterans in your family? (We are grateful and want to hear about it.) My father was a medic in Korea and my favorite uncle was a foot soldier in Vietnam. My nephew is currently in the Navy, assigned to the Nimitz. We're waiting to see if he re-ups later this year.
2) Memorial Day also kicks off the summer season. What's your favorite picnic food? Hotdogs, burgers, chicken, steak ... it's all good as long as it's slathered in barbecue sauce.
3) Name a scent that reminds you of someone special in your life. Black licorice reminds me of my favorite grandpa. He carried licorice flavored throat lozenges with him at all times, and I could smell them when he hugged me. (He was a great hugger.)
4) When was the last time you had your hair cut or trimmed? I had a haircut three or four weeks ago. I'm looking pretty shaggy and am pleased to report I have a salon appointment for next Saturday.
5) Crazy Sam runs on Dunkin'. Are you loyal to a particular brand of coffee? I don't drink coffee.

6) If money was no object, what home improvement would you like to make this summer? I'd love to finish my bathroom! Those icky tiles around the tub just have to go. If only I had the time and money ...

7) What was the last thing you bought purely for your own enjoyment? This book. I met the author while I was on vacation in Los Angeles and she signed it for me. I just started it, but so far it's very cool and evocative.

8) When was the last time you rode a bike? I rode the Lifecycle at the health club twice this week. It was a big deal because I'm trying to get back into working out after twisting my ankle back before Easter.

9) Sam worries that many of her song selections reflect her decidedly Baby Boomer sensibilities. Is there a song or a performer that you'd like to see featured in a Saturday 9 this summer? I've rediscovered Frank Sinatra and would be up for some Ol' Blue Eyes.

Happy Memorial Day!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Exactly how black is your soul?

A Facebook friend of a friend greeted the news that the surviving Boston Marathon bomber had gotten the death penalty with: "C Ya" and "Big Like."

His friends said things like, "Why don't we just let a single bullet do the job?"

I'm disgusted.

The Marathon bombing broke my heart and I hated what it did to one of my favorite most cities. (Here's a TT I dedicated to Boston in the aftermath back in 2013.) I resent that, as a country, we gave hospitality, not to mention complete legal rights, to the kid who admitted the murderous act.

That said, you cannot get me to cheer the impending murder of another human being. Especially a murder done in my name. (Since it was a Federal case, it's "The People of the United States vs. ....".) Not the Boston Bomber. Not Osama bin Laden. No one.

Perhaps these acts are justice. Maybe they must be done. I can accept that unhappy reality.

But I refuse to rejoice in it.

Instead, I'll celebrate Martin Richard, the extraordinary little boy who died that day. His mother and his sister both sustained serious, life altering injuries that day, too. Yet Martin has become a symbol of the best in us. I'm going to make a contribution in Martin's memory to Wiggle Your Toes, a group devoted to helping amputees "regain their independence."

This one's for you, Martin

Riding the rails

I love Amtrak. It's on time (more often than not), it's much cheaper than driving, and I enjoy the slice of life I see when I ride the rails.

I took the train from Chicago to my client's downstate offices on Thursday, just days after the transportation company suffered its worst accident in years. I was touched by how unusually chatty the morning conductor was. It's as though he was trying to assuage any passenger fears.

On the ride back that evening, I found myself next to a young man of 19 or 20. He alternated between working on a paper (looked like it was for school) and binge watching Friends on Netflix. Considering his age, I was surprised by how enthralled he was. Then I remembered at Easter my niece, age 22, told me she had just ploughed through the entire series on Netflix, as well. I know I remain massively fond of the gang from Central Perk, and am glad another generation is embracing them, too.

When he caught me looking at his screen, he graciously offered me a earbug. I told him "no, thanks," that I was enjoying guessing which episode he was watching without the benefit of sound. I did pretty well, too. The New Year's Eve when "Fun Bobby" cried ... Joey's VD poster ... episodes I thought I'd forgotten until I saw them again. (BTW, the friendly young man has also been binge watching How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men. He looooooves Charlie Sheen.) I enjoyed chatting with him, and he's someone I never would have met had it not been for Amtrak.

Oh, yes I did!

I knocked it out of the park on Thursday. Really. I presented six concepts in (gulp) 60 minutes. I held the room. I got unexpectedly glowing comments from the client.

•  Madame Big -- the one I'd been frightened of because she tore into me at our first meeting -- actually said she wished I could work directly for her.

•  Henrietta Henchwoman -- the one who has treated me more like an obstacle than an asset in our recent email exchanges -- told me she'd learned more from me in an hour than she had on the job in six months.

Even better, both my immediate boss and the head of account services were in the room as I shone.

What makes me so happy about this is that I really didn't have time to prepare. I've often wondered if my work is good, or I'm just good at selling it. Thursday wasn't about spin -- I didn't have the opportunity beforehand to concoct any and I didn't have the time in the presentation to spew it. All I could do in 60 minutes is present the work and, in the process, demonstrate how well I know the product and the market.

And I did. Very well.

When I rolled into the office on Friday, my boss greeted me by saying he wished he'd rolled out the red carpet. And he's not always my biggest fan.

I feel good about work for the first time in ages.

Sunday Stealing

Random Meme

1. If you were to attend a costume party tonight, what or whom would you go as? Minnie Mouse, because I still have the costume somewhere.

2. What are your choice of toppings on a hamburger? Ketchup, lettuce, mayo. Or barbecue sauce! Yes, that would be good, too.

3. You are chosen to have lunch with the President. The condition is you only get to ask one question. What do you ask? Oh, Kwizgiver, how many profane and silly RWNJ answers do you think you'll get to this question?

4. It’s your first day of vacation, what are you doing? Where am I? If it's Christmastime in Key West, I'm in the hotel pool until my Conch friends come to pick me up. If it's my Las Vegas birthday trip, I'm having a late brunch and discussing which show and which casino to hit first. If I'm having a staycation, I'm being lazy and recharging.

5. What is your concession stand must-have at the movies? It changes. Lately it's Twizzlers.

6. Which do you dislike most: pop-up ads or spam email? Spam email.

7. What do you think Captain Hook’s name was before he had a hook for a hand? That was his name. He refers to his mother as "Mama Hook." (My source material comes from the Disney Channel.)

8. Rock, paper, or scissors? Scissors

9. Let's say a brick fell on your foot, and your kid is standing right next to you, what is your 'cleaned up’ swear word? Good goobies!

10. Which is worse, being in a place that is too loud, or too quiet? Too loud

11. What is one quality that you really appreciate in a person? These days, being informed but not ridiculously partisan. The way you would answer #3 says a lot about you. Especially if you're a Republican. Nothing turns me off a person faster than knowing they would be disrespectful to a President, any President. It shows such an ignorance of our history and lack of regard for the electorate.

12. At the good old general store, what particular kind of candy would you expect to be in the big jar at the counter? Jaw breakers.

13. What is the most distinguishing landmark in your city? Soon it will the Obama Library. (Tee hee to you haters.) Right now, I'll go with Buckingham Fountain. It's gorgeous and my heart swells a little every time I see it. But I'm only choosing the Fountain because my beloved Wrigley Field is still under construction.

14. Everyone hears discussions that they consider boring. What topic can put you to sleep quicker than any other? That Obama is a socialist/fascist/Muslim/Kenyan. Yawn. (This is a theme today.)

15. How many times did it take you to pass your drivers test? I passed the first time. Of course, I was 30.

16. If you had to have the same topping on your vanilla ice cream for the rest of your life, what topping would you choose? Chocolate sauce.

17. What food item would need to be removed from the market altogether in order for you to live a healthier, longer life? Caffeine. I consume way too much of it.

18. You are offered an envelope that you know contains $50. You are then told that you may either keep it or exchange it for another envelope that may contain $500 or may be empty. Do you keep the first envelope, or do you take your chances with the second? I'll take my chance and go for the $500. Now if it started at $500 with an option for $5000, I'd quit while ahead.

19. If you had to choose, which would you give up: cable TV, or DSL/cable internet? This question causes me agita because I don't want to give up either. But I suppose (gulp) cable because I can watch shows and the news online.

20. What is your highest level of education? I started but didn't finish college.

21. How much is a gallon of gas in your city? What was the highest it’s been? I don't drive, so I'm only dimly aware of these things. But I just walked by BP this afternoon and saw it was $2.99. I remember everyone squawking when it $4.00+ a couple years ago.

22. What kind of lunch box did you have as a kid? It included Barbie, Francie and Skipper.

23. What would you rather have, a nanny, a housekeeper, a cook, or a chauffeur? Chauffeur

24. Would you rather be trapped in an elevator, or stuck in traffic? You didn't mislead us. This is a very random meme, indeed! If I must choose, I'll go with stuck in traffic.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: No Myth (1989)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) The girl in this song is "just looking for someone to dance with." Who was your most recent dance partner? My cat Reynaldo.

2) Michael Penn wonders if he'd do better with the ladies if he was Romeo or Heathcliff. What fictional character represents your romantic ideal? Romeo was too young and fanciful and Heathcliff was way too intense. I'll go with Professor Bhaer from Little Women. He loved and supported Jo and was a genuine help to her career. He was exactly who she'd been dreaming of.

3) The lyrics refer to "knots I have yet to untie." Do the shoes you're wearing have laces? Ha ha. Fooled ya. I'm barefoot.

4) Name a character from mythology. Zeus.

5) Michael Penn is the brother of Oscar winner Sean Penn. Give us the title of a Sean Penn movie. Dead Man Walking. Sister Helen has been in the news recently so this movie is top of mind today.

6) Their father, Leo Penn, was a busy TV director from the 1960s through the 1990s. He specialized in detective shows (Magnum PI and Cannon) and medical shows (Trapper John and Marcus Welby, MD). Are you more likely to watch a program with lots of car chases, or one that's set in a hospital? I think I've seen every episode of Magnum at least twice, so I guess I have to say car chases.

7) 1989, the year "No Myth" was popular, is the year of the first HDTV broadcast. Do you watch many shows in "high def?" My TV is more than 10 years old and not high def, so I don't know how many shows I watch in HD. It doesn't matter.

 8) 1989 was also the year The Simpsons premiered. Who is your all-time favorite animated character? Nana from Peter Pan.
9) Random fill-in the blank: If I never had to ______________ again, it would be too soon. Do another load of wash. Unfortunately, I have to do it again this weekend.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Of Reynaldo and Rosemary

I'm riding the rails as I update this, on my way downstate to meet with my client in their offices. I'm happy for the private time to finally post something.

I've got two loved ones on my mind. One has fur. The other doesn't.

Reynaldo is my skinny beige demon. Ever since last month's trip to California, I've been working very long hours and this has triggered his old separation anxiety. When I am home, he seems to feel we must be interacting. And so he yowls and rakes my hair with his claws and knocks things over and is generally an unrepentant pain in the ass. It got so bad Sunday afternoon that I actually went out, just to get away from him.

He's no longer a kitten. Rey is now 11 years old, so this is not something he's going to outgrow. I've discussed this at length with the vet and we have ruled out any physical cause for this exasperating behavior. He's just Rey. I could try having him shot up with hormones again -- that worked with great success in Summer 2013, when he was extraordinarily destructive -- but I don't want to do that until/unless I absolutely have to. The shots are expensive and who knows what the long term ramifications of hormone injections could be?

The vet says Rey is "aggressively possessive" of me, that we are "unnaturally bonded." And he's also very, very routine oriented. So when his dinner dish isn't on the kitchen floor by 7:00 PM, he freaks out. So I know that in his own little plum pit shaped mind, Reynaldo isn't being bad. He's compelled to act out because he's worried about me and frightened by his disrupted world order. I must be more patient.

Rosemary. My cousin is now retired and wants to come up and spend time with me. I should be happy about this, since Rose has loved me forever and when I was a teenager she was not only a wonderful role model, she was my #1 advocate within the family.

But here's the thing: Rose is a devout Catholic and her divorce of about 12 years ago devastated her. She truly never, ever thought this could possible happen to her. It rocked her world enormously and left her harsh, impatient and intolerant. I truly cannot be around her for more than 4 hours or so at a crack. Her constant carping over everything (Why do I carry such a big purse? Why do I have a shower radio; it's stupid to spend that time in the shower. How can I NOT shop at Costco? How can I waste my time with the news when it's all so sensational?) leaves me depressed, on edge and sad.

So, when she said she wanted to stay with me over Memorial Day, I concocted an elaborate lie. My friend from California is coming in (she's not) and my friend from the Keys is meeting his friend here in Chicagoland and wants to have a reunion (also not true). I explained to Rose that I didn't know what I would be doing when that weekend, so it was difficult to make plans. She was very understanding. I thought I was off the hook.

What I forgot is that she's retired. She doesn't have to be in the office on the Tuesday after Memorial Day. So she wanted to know if she couldn't stay with me the following weekend.


So I lied again. I told her I'd probably have to work that weekend and that California and Key West still hadn't committed to dates/times for their visits. She was so nice, so understanding. She said she completely understood and that, maybe, when this crunch time at work is over, we can meet somewhere for a "girls' getaway."

Her kindness made me feel even more guilty. I hate lying to someone who loves me.

I think I'm on the verge of a universal truth here. When someone loves us, they have a hold on us and we have a responsibility to them -- whether they have fur or not.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Sunday Stealing


1. YOU HAVE 10 BUCKS AND NEED TO BUY SNACKS AT A GAS STATION. WHAT DO YOU GET? A Coke and chips. Or maybe Cheez-It Crackers.

2. IF YOU WERE REINCARNATED, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD BE? A cat. But only if I had a life like the ones I've given my cats. I hate thinking about the fear and hardship strays suffer.

3. WHO’S YOUR FAVORITE REDHEAD? Like all right thinking Americans, I love Lucy.

4. WHAT DO YOU ORDER WHEN YOU’RE AT AN I.H.O.P. OR BREAKFAST PLACE? On Saturday I went to the local coffee shop and had a 2x2x2 -- 2 scrambled eggs, 2 sausage links and 2 slices of french toast.

5. LAST BOOK YOU READ? Remember Me Like This. It's an intense novel about what happens to a family when their son, who had been kidnapped, is returned to them after four years.

6. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? True Story, starring James Franco and Jonah Hill. Also very intense.

7. DESCRIBE YOUR FAVORITE PAIR OF UNDERWEAR. White cotton. I believe they are commonly referred to as "granny panties."

8. DESCRIBE THE LAST TIME YOU WERE INJURED. I twisted my ankle. It hurt.

9. IF YOU COULD INVENT ONE THING, WHAT WOULD IT BE? A way to know if the washer/dryer are free without having to climb four flights of stairs to the laundry room.






15. ANY BUTTONS OR BLINKIES IN YOUR SIDEBAR? I believe you can check that out yourself.


17. WHAT’S THE LAST PIECE OF CLOTHING YOU BOUGHT? I just answered this for Saturday 9, so instead I'll share that I just hemmed the second-to-last piece of clothing I bought. Navy slacks.

This was SO great

Kris Bryant connects for first career HR, returns to empty dugout

Kris Bryant went deep for the first time Saturday and got the extreme silent treatment.
Kris Bryant went deep for the first time Saturday and got the extreme silent treatment. (USATSI)

Our super fabulous rookie third baseman Kris Bryant got his first major league homerun tonight in Milwaukee. His teammates responded in true Cubbie fashion. Instead of congratulating him on what will be the first of hundreds and hundreds of round trippers, they gave him the silent treatment. En masse and in a big way. They all left the dugout.
Of course, they all returned in just a moment and hugged him.
God, I love baseball. 

So I took a nap

Oh, yes I did!

I'm going through one of those periods when it feels like my life has gotten away from me.

It's been crazy busy at work, as it will be in advertising. As Hyman Roth said in Godfather II, "This is the business we've chosen." If I can't handle the stress, I should do something else. But lately the stress isn't about the work, it's the drama.

The New Girl is back at work and really working -- hard, if not efficiently. She apologized for her meltdown and I'm trying to let bygones be bygones. But we are about two weeks off schedule, and September ineffably comes after August 31, regardless of her unscheduled four day weekend in May.

The tension is exacerbated by our "open work space." There are four of us in this tiny space. My most annoying coworker continues to be annoying. When I tried to take the lead -- because, let's face it, she's lazy -- she snapped at me that she knows her job and is thinking about it all the time. Yes, she knows her job but no, she's not thinking about it all the time. I have to prod her. And she gets pissed, and then there we are, stuck together in this tiny space. WALLS! I NEED WALLS!

My boss seems upset with me, too, though I don't know why. I think it may be because he needs me on this project. I don't know. I don't care, actually, except that again I feel so pitilessly exposed and am unable to get away from the agita.

So I haven't been working out at lunchtime and I haven't been getting home until 10:00 or 11:00 at night. This leaves me feeling depleted. I've been missing Sinatra. I'm reading this massive biography of him -- 800 pages and it only takes us through the mid-1950s -- and it's left me feeling immersed in his life and his music. (If you like biographies, I really recommend this one.)

My home is a mess. My finances are a mess. My skin is blotchy and my waist is non-existent.

And so today I haven't done anything I haven't wanted to do. I enjoyed a nice coffee shop breakfast with Francis Albert and then I took a long nap and watched a little baseball and a lot of Columbo. And now I feel better.

I may even take a gay, madcap stab at organizing the sea of paper on my dining room table.

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Harper Valley PTA (1968)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) This week's featured artist uses her middle initial (C. for Carolyn) all the time. Do you use your middle initial very often? Only when I write checks, and that's something I seem to do less and less each month as more of the world goes online.

2) In this song, a mother tells off the local PTA. What's the most recent school event you attended -- whether as a parent, a teacher or a student? I guess it was my nephew's 8th grade graduation, more than a year ago.

3) The lyrics reference the mom's miniskirts, which were trendy in the 1960s. The website Popsugar reports that gingham checks are trendy for 2015. Tell us about the most recent addition to your wardrobe. Navy wedge pumps at DSW. For when I need to look like a grownup.

4) Thinking of moms, Access Hollywood named Carol Brady of The Brady Bunch TV's #1 mom. Who is your favorite TV mom? She wasn't TV's most conventional mom, but I'll go with Lucy Riccardo. She loved and encouraged her little boy.

5) Mother Winters always gave Sam peppermint tea to calm her stomach. Do you have any tried-and-true home remedies to share? Ginger ale and saltines for tummy trouble. I got that tip from my own mom.

6) Sam's mother always tips 15% in restaurants. Sam has worked in food service and is more judgmental, tipping between 10% and 25%, depending on the quality of the service. What's your tipping policy? Are you more like Sam or her mother? I'm more like Mrs. Winters -- 15% to 18% almost all the time.

7) When the tip of her shoelace becomes frayed, Sam's mother snips off the end and then paints the tip with clear nail polish. Good as new! Sam thinks that's crazy because you can just buy new laces for less than $2. Are you more frugal like mother or spendthrift like daughter? Let's face it -- I'm terrible with money.

8) Mother Winters loves how french vanilla smells and burns her Yankee Candles all year around. Do you use scented candles or air fresheners? Always. Right now it's Lavender and Chamomile in my livingroom, bathroom, and walk-in closet (where the litter boxes reside).

9) Sam is celebrating Mother's Day with her mother's favorite, Hershey Bars. Would you prefer classic milk chocolate, dark chocolate or chocolate with almonds? Milk chocolate with almonds, please.