Wednesday, November 04, 2015


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1. What are you currently reading? The Chocolate Cat Caper by JoAnna Carl. I just started it, so I can't comment on the mystery that's certain to unfold. But I can share the setting -- a newly divorced big city girl returns to the sleepy little Michigan resort town where she spent her girlhood summers, and it's here that she plans to start anew. So far I enjoy it because I visited my niece in such a sleepy little Michigan resort town and like the way Ms. Carl is presenting it.

2. What did you just finish reading? Franklin and Lucy by Joseph E. Persico. This biographer took an interesting take on an oft-told tale and I appreciate his originality. Persico tells the story of FDR (and Eleanor) by putting his (and her) extracurricular relationships into historical perspective. What a sad, sad story it is. I came away believing that Roosevelt and the Lucy of the title (Lucy Mercer Rutherford) truly did love one another, and as a romantic I always find it heartbreaking when True Love Doesn't Conquer All. On the other hand, if he had divorced Eleanor and married Lucy, he most certainly would never have been President and that would have been a tragedy for the entire world. 

This also solidified a feeling that's been gnawing at me since I watched the Ken Burns/PBS series on the Roosevelts: I don't like Eleanor. This disturbs me because I appreciate her life story, all she endured, and all she accomplished. But dear Lord, she was a drag. If it was fun, she was against it. As someone observes in this book, it's hard to be around a saint. There have been First Ladies I'd love to spend an hour with: Abigail Adams, Mary Lincoln, JBKO (of course), Pat Nixon and Laura Bush. But not Eleanor. And, since she's a quintessential feminist icon, I feel very guilty about it.

3. What will you read next? Dunno.

Turning back time

Last weekend is when we turned the clocks back. As luck would have it, I spent that weekend in the past, in Springfield, IL.

First, my hotel. The State House Inn, so called because it is almost directly across the street from our State Capitol. I imagine it's very popular with lobbyists and others in town to conduct state business. I loved it though because of it's charmingly retro mid-century modern decor. Pop art and blonde wood was everywhere! It reminded me most fondly of my uncle, for this is the style of decor he always favored. (It's why I have such affection for the sleek, light colored coffee table upon which my feet rest as I post this.) It's also very Mad Men.

Then there is our State Capitol Building. In all the times I've visited Springfield, I've never even seen it because our current state house is not one of the Lincoln sites. Built in 1870, it's more attractive than I realized. (News coverage is always a reporter close up, on the steps, holding a mic.) It's also more majestic than our current legislators deserve.*  

The way the Capitol looked from my hotel
I wonder if 50 years in the future, this state house won't join the Old Capitol on every school kid's tour. The Old Capitol is preserved because it's the site where legislator Abraham Lincoln delivered his "Nation Divided" speech. From 1997 to 2014, Barack Obama was a state senator here.
I was surprised by how nondescript the other buildings in this part of town are. So many of the issue that impact my life have been decided in gray squarish structures -- The Illinois Supreme Court and Illinois Secretary of State -- that look like boring little community colleges.

Of course, I also spent a good deal of time with Abe. I visited his house in the morning, followed by a visit to the train station where he gave his impromptu farewell to Illinois (a short, lovely little speech that revealed so much about the way his glorious mind worked) and ended the day with a stroll through the Presidential Museum.

I've visited the Truman, Kennedy, Nixon and Clinton museums, as well, and Lincoln's is the one aimed most directly at children. I understand this. To kids, Abe is the Elvis of Presidents. (As, of course, he should be.) But it's disappointing because on this day (Sunday, November 1), I had the place virtually to myself. Truly, I've never been here when it's been so empty. It would have been nice to linger and learn from a terrific, challenging new exhibit. Alas, that didn't happen.

I was excited to see one of the original sets and many costumes from the recent movie Lincoln, generously donated by Steven Spielberg. Sally Field lent her thoughts on playing the much-maligned Mary, and I appreciated that. But did I learn anything new? Not really.
Me in Cubbie blue, waving from Abe's house

Still, time spent with Abe is always time well spent. Impressive and inspirational. It was also cool because this year's Nanowrimo is historical fiction, and it was nice to immerse myself in the world my characters would have lived in.

I also loved getting away by myself. Reading magazines, working on my 2015 novel, wandering streets where no one knows me. It's so refreshing! En route to Springfield, I rode the train partway with a neighbor. Upon my return, I ran into neighbors in the hall and the laundry room and was intercepted by the janitor. Nice people, all, but blah-blah-blah. I enjoyed, and was rejuvenated by, my anonymity. This may come as a shock to those who know me in real life, because I can be quite blabby, but I do dearly love my alone time!

*Our state finances are now such a mess that Illinois has stopped paying our lotto winners. Gulp.

Dona Nobis Pacem

I am a peace blogger, because like Mimi Lenox, I believe words are powerful.

In today's hothouse political climate, where some Presidential candidates like to trumpet their machismo and their eagerness to talk tough and "stare down" other world leaders, it might be helpful recall that this is how an American President addressed the United Nations in September 1963, at the height of the Cold War.

It was that approach that brought the world from the brink of disaster in Cuba a year earlier.

It's been said that Americans vote their wallets, that the economy is a principal motivator when we go to the polls. I hope everyone who sees this will also think about what kind of world we want to live in, and how who we elect as President will help shape that world, when we vote.

For more about the Blog 4 Peace movement, please click here.