Wednesday, February 28, 2018

It's good to feel rich

I'm not rich, of course. I'm one of the 33% who has more debt than savings. But today I feel rich. For my federal tax refund hit my checking account on the same day as my paycheck. This is double the amount usually have at the end of the month.

Bring on the bills! I'm ready to pay!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Sunday Stealing

From Smellyann

1. What is more difficult for you, looking into someone’s eyes when you are telling someone how you feel, or looking into someone’s eyes when they are telling you how they feel. Making eye contact when I tell someone how I really feel.
2.  Think of the last time you were REALLY angry. WHY were you angry? Do you still feel the same way? I'm sure it was one of my sisters. They really are not very nice people.
3.  You are on a flight from Honolulu to Chicago non-stop. There is a fire in the back of the plane. You have enough time to make one phone call. Who do you call?  What do you tell them? I'm not sure I'd call anyone. It would be too awful. I mean, imagine the screaming and chaos in the background. I'd text Kathleen and remind her she promised to take care of my cats.

4.  You are at the doctor’s office and she has just informed you that you have approximately one month to live. Do you tell anyone/everyone you are going to die? What do you do with your remaining days? Would you be afraid? I wouldn't be afraid of dying, because I'm Christian and I believe I'm good with Him. I would, however, be very afraid of any pain associated with whatever I have. I'd try to get everything together for my niece and nephew. The rest of my plans would depend on what I was able to do.

5.  You can have one of the following two things.  Which do you choose?  Why?  Love and Trust. Love

6.  You are walking down the street on your way to work. There is a dog drowning in the canal on the side of the street.  Your boss has told you that if you are late just one more time you are fired. Do you take the time to save the dog’s life?  Why? Why not? This is a nightmare that I've had more than once! I see a dog drowning in the Chicago River, near the Wells Street bridge, and I have to dive in to save him. My shrink told me that this has something to do with vulnerability. In dream logic, I'm both me and the dog. By saving the dog, I am re-establishing control over my environment/destiny/life.

7.  Would you rather be hurt by the one you trust the most or the one you love the most? By the one I love.

8.  Your best friend confesses that he/she has feelings for you more than just friendship.  He/she is falling in love with you.  What do you (or did you) say? "Thank you. But I'm sorry, I don't love you that way."

9.  Think of the last person you know who died.  You have the chance to give them 1 hour more of life back, but you have to give up one year of yours.  Do you do it?  Why? Or Why not? No. He had lung cancer and was in great pain. I'm sorry he had the disease, but I thought it was a blessing when his suffering was over. I wouldn't want to prolong that pain.
10.  Are you the kind of friend that you would want to have as a friend? Yes

11.  Does love = sex? No.

12.  Your boss tells your co-worker that they have to let them go because of work shortage, and they are the newest employee.  You have been there much longer.  Your co-worker has a family to support and no other means of income.  Do you go to your boss and offer to leave the company?  Why or Why not. No. Because I have no other means of support, either. And besides, this is not how companies should make decisions. If so, would a woman with three children be a more valuable employee than a man with two? Is a man with a baby at home more protected than a woman caring for an elderly parent?

13.  When was the last time you told someone HONESTLY how you felt regardless of how difficult it was for you to say?  What did you have to tell the person? I don't recall. Sorry.

14.  What would be (or what was) harder for you to tell a member of the opposite/same sex – you love them or that you do not love them back. That I don't love them back.

Cookies, Colleges, California and the Cubs

Had lunch with my nephew today. So much has been going on in his life, and I was grateful for the download.

He's been accepted to two colleges: Western Illinois University in Macomb and Drew in Madison, NJ. A third school in Minnesota has yet to be heard from. Right now he has no favorite. He and his mother are touring Western Illinois on Monday.

Mostly he's happy to finish with high school. He mentions friends in passing, but since breaking up with his girlfriend last summer, there isn't anyone he feels especially attached to. He's more fond, and more eager to spend time with, friends he's met gaming online than his classmates. I said, "You sound like you're ready to start the next chapter," and he heartily agreed.

He's happy for his cousin. He and his parents spent a long weekend in Southern California, and my nephew got to hold his cousin's baby girl (born in November) for the first time. He was touched by how fulfilled she was by motherhood. The family spent an afternoon at the Nixon Library in Loma Linda, and he got to sit behind a replica of Nixon's Oval Office desk and board the helicopter the Nixon's used to leave the White House the last time. For a political junkie, this was a high point.

He's thrilled by the Cubs' rotation. With the addition of Yu Darvish, aren't we all? I'm impressed by how knowledgeable he is. There were seasons, when he was a little boy, where we would read the box scores and batting averages together and I felt he was indulging me. I'm happy to see it's something he enjoys on his own. Cub fandom is his birthright, you know.

Girl Scout cookies. I bought a box. I'm not proud to report that was dinner.

Saturday 9

The Love Club (2013)

Unfamiliar with this week's song. Hear it here.

1) Lorde has said this song is about a time when she fell into "a bad crowd." Her high-maintenance new friends were all about their romantic dramas and it overwhelmed her. Have you ever had a friend who was just too much work? Oh, yes! I don't mind friends who are hard work if they invest in me, as well. But my coworker expects me to hang on her every word and then calibrate my responses based on her moods. Yet when I called the office to tell her I had to deal with a breast cancer scare (I'm fine, thank God!), her entire response was, "Yeah, OK."

2) She sings that she longs to be alone. Where do you go when you want peace and quiet? I cocoon at home. Sometimes my perfect weekend is one where the only person I speak to is the pizza delivery man.

3) Lorde credits her mother for encouraging her verbal skills. "Mum" let her join a theater class when she was just 5 and was always giving her books. Tell us about an encouraging, understanding adult who assisted you when you were growing up. My Cousin Rose. She was wonderfully supportive of me during my difficult teen years. When I think about how terrific she was then, it makes me sad to see how bitter she's become over time. But we love each other. We never let more than a week go by without reaching out.

4) Lorde is not the only celebrity from her class at Belmont School in Auckland, New Zealand. Olympian Eliza McCartney was a classmate who went on to win a bronze medal in Rio for the pole vault. Did you participate in any sports in high school? No.

6) Lorde wrote music for one of the Hunger Games soundtracks. Have you seen any of the Hunger Games movies, or read any of the books? No. I can never keep up with the movies and books I want to consumer, and The Hunger Games encompasses two genres I don't have much time for: YA and sci-fi. So, no.

7) Her favorite candy is Peanut M&Ms. Do you prefer Milk Chocolate, Peanut, Almond, Mint or Cripsy M&Ms? Peanut!

8) When Lorde was on stage at Lollapalooza, a sudden storm interrupted her set. The music festival was evacuated and her performance was cancelled. Can you think of a time when the weather had a major impact on your plans? Between Christmas and New Year's, my friend Joanna and I just couldn't get it together to
celebrate and, indirectly, it was because of the severe cold. She was just getting over a chest cold and inhaling the frigid air hurt.


9) Random question: Please complete this sentence -- Before I leave the house, I always __________________________.    
I always make absolutely sure I have my keys. I'm more than a little obsessive about it.



2 1/2 hours!

Henry called Thursday night and we blabbed, and blabbed and blabbed. It was great to reconnect with him. I don't know why he reached out, but I'm glad he did. I've been feeling adrift, and it's good to know that I'm tethered to people who love me.

Family was on his mind. He told me a story he'd never mentioned before -- that his paternal grandfather shot (but didn't kill) his grandmother. He was so matter of fact about it that it was almost as if he didn't realize that not everyone has a shooting in their family tree.

More important to him Thursday was another family legend -- this his father has an illegitimate daughter in New York City. Dad has always denied it, Mom believes it or doesn't (depending on how hostile she happens to be feeling toward Dad that day), and Henry isn't sure. But he was thinking about it in terms of his parents' relationship, how his father never loved his mother the way she deserved.

The subject of family returned him to us. How he loves me, how I'm the sister he chose, and if he hadn't moved from Puerto Rico to Chicago to attend and teach at Northwestern, we never would have met and how sad that would have been. So many of my relationships lately have felt transactional -- specifically based upon what I can do for you -- and it was lovely and comforting to hear this from my old, dear friend.

He's been exploring these feelings for his writing. He's been attending a poetry workshop and working through his relationships, especially the one with his father, through writing. I completely support this because Henry deserves to be at peace. But when our call hit the two hour mark, I had to start winding it down. I had an early meeting Friday morning!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

31 Days of Oscar Blogathon: The Controversies


March 30, 1955, was supposed to be the capper of the best spring of Judy Garland's life.  She was a patient at Cedars Sinai, but for the best reason imaginable -- she'd just given birth to her son, Joey. Weeks before, she'd won the Golden Globe Award for her bravura performance in A Star Is Born. Now she was the odds-on favorite to win her first competitive Oscar.

It's hard to overestimate how much this meant to Garland, her career and her reputation. A Star Is Born was the first film she'd completed in four years. Beginning in 1936, when she was just 14, she had been in front of movie cameras, cranking out as many as three films a year. She'd won a special juvenile Oscar as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. She'd introduced dozens of songs onscreen and made them standards. Then she was fired. Ignominiously canned amid rumors -- not all unfounded -- of cost overruns caused by booze and drugs and suicide attempts.

But she'd done it. Judy had crawled and clawed her way back. She married a third time -- this time to burly Sid Luft, who helped Judy establish herself as a concert performer. Her onstage triumphs weren't the only reason for the Lufts to celebrate. They had a baby girl, Lorna, and developed a reputation as a happy couple. Tempestuous, certainly. Both Judy and Sid liked to drink and they liked to fight. But he seemed like a better match for Judy than her first two husbands (David Rose and Vincente Minnelli) had been.

Then Judy and Sid made A Star Is Born. The idea was originally Judy's. She'd played Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester years earlier on the radio and wanted to do a musical version of it ever since. Sid made it happen for her. He found the financing to buy the rights to the original script and commission an updated one. He got a deal out of Jack Warner to produce. He convinced George Cukor that the older man was the only director sensitive enough to get the performance out of Judy that she was capable of.

And, oh! How she delivered! She gives what Bosley Crowther called a performance that makes "the heart flutter and bleed." She's daring -- laughing, crying and holding nothing back. She sings and dances, commanding the screen in the famous "Born in a Trunk" sequence and performing new songs, written expressly for her, including "The Man that Got Away."

The public that watched Judy grow up before their eyes was eager to see her back on the screen in A Star Is Born. The pre-publicity practically ordained that she would win the Oscar for Best Actress. The Los Angeles premiere itself was an event. A who's who of Hollywood appeared on the red carpet, and the proceedings were broadcast by both Armed Forces Radio and newsreels.

But within the industry, there were ominous rumblings. Jack Warner was at odds with the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences over his refusal to advertise and lobby for any of his pictures, in any category. George Cukor was complaining far and wide about how Warner Brothers  hacked up the finished film -- cutting more than 20 minutes without his or Luft's consent.

Still, this was Judy! She's luminous up there on the screen. She was back! She got her nomination, of course. And the field for Best Actress really didn't seem to present her with much competition.

•  Dorothy Dandridge for Carmen Jones. Being black, she couldn't possibly expect to win -- the nomination was award enough from America in the 1950s.

•  Jane Wyman for Magnificent Obsession. She was fine, certainly, but her nomination was the film's only honor. Ms. Wyman was a serious actress, having won for Johnny Belinda, and Magnificent Obsession was a soapy melodrama, not a prestige project.

•  Audrey Hepburn for Sabrina. She was beautiful, of course, and beautifully dressed as the chauffeur's daughter romanced by not one but two wealthy brothers. But she had just won the year before (Roman Holiday) and this nomination was seen more as confirmation of her popularity than an accolade for this particular performance.

•  Grace Kelly for The Country Girl. The stylish daughter of Philadelphia's Main Line had made quite a splash in High Noon, Mogambo, Dial M for Murder and Rear Window. She had class and presence. But did she have talent? With her performance as Georgie in The Country Girl, she had to rely on her acting alone. Her blonde mane was smoothed back, her face obscured by thick glasses and her figure covered by lumpy cardigans. It was agreed that she had real promise in addition to her Kelly pedigree. Soon she would be ready for her Oscar, but conventional wisdom said this wasn't the year.

Judy was the veteran in this field, so heavily favored that NBC sent a film crew to Cedars Sinai, ready to broadcast her acceptance speech live to an international audience. Judy, fully made up and coiffed, watched the show from her hospital bed. When Grace Kelly’s name was announced, the technicians wordlessly, unceremoniously packed up and escaped in embarrassed silence. It was a humiliating end to a shocking night.

So what the hell happened? How to account for what Groucho Marx referred to as “the greatest robbery since Brink’s?” Sid Luft believed it was Jack Warner’s refusal to advertise and organize on behalf of A Star Is Born. Paramount was galvanized in support of Grace. They’d invested a great deal in her, not only for The Country Girl but also The Bridges of Toko Ri, and they were protecting their investment.

Some film historians maintain it was that Grace’s performance was so radically against type. Or course Judy could sing and dance! We've been seeing her do that since she was a kid! But it was a stretch for Grace to play older and frumpy. As we would see in years to come, with Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Nicole Kidman in The Hours, Oscar is drawn to glamour girls who dress down.

It's rumored that Judy thought she lost because “they” still hated her. Who were “they,” exactly? The Hollywood establishment. Confident of the public’s love, Judy felt misunderstood and misused by studios. She pointed to the brutal editing job the studio did, excising her best scenes, without even giving her a heads up. Apparently Jack Warner didn't have any greater regard for her -- as a person or as an artist -- than Louis B. Mayer had at Metro.

Judy also always said that she was prouder to leave the hospital with a healthy baby boy than a gold statue. And so that is the joyous image I'm leaving you with.

Still want more Oscar?

Paula's Cinema Club, Outspoken and Freckled, and Once Upon a Screen.

Monday, February 19, 2018

A nice way to celebrate President's Day

Back in 2016, my friend John and I had planned to go down to Springfield to see the Lincoln sites. He was impressed that I returned to Springfield every few years, kind of like a geeky swan returning to American history's Capistrano. John has lived in the midwest his entire life, and in Illinois for nearly 40 years, and yet he's never seen the history just hours away. He thought I'd be a good tour guide. We were set to go.

And then he went into the hospital. And came out without one of his toes. It's hard for me to admit this, even now, but he nearly died from long-term, untreated diabetes. His rehab was long and slow and so we couldn't make our trip.

Earlier this month, John mentioned that he'd like to try again. So in June, we're heading down via Amtrak on a Thursday night. We'll spend all day Saturday getting reacquainted with Illinois' favorite son, and then come home very early Saturday morning.

Barack Obama was a state congressman in Springfield and announced his historic Presidential candidacy from the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln delivered his "house divided against itself" speech. So planning this trip seemed to be a fitting way to celebrate President's Day.

Well, that was weird!

I've been going to the same local accounting firm to get my taxes done for more than a decade. They
do good work, but they're expensive. When I got word this year that they were raising their prices 10% to 30%, I gulped. I paid $360 in 2017. My tax prep bill in 2018 could be (at least) $396.


I have charitable contributions, mortgage interest and property taxes to deduct. I have capital gains and interest income to declare. But even so, my return is not that complicated. I can't see paying $400 to have it prepared.

So I went to H&R Block. They're popular. They're venerable. They're $328.

But oh, the accountant who prepared my return was odd! She started by telling me she was mixed race and adopted by white parents. Um ... don't care. She was later reunited with her twin, who had also been given up for adoption. Um ... interesting story, but can we start on my taxes? She thought it was wonderful that I support my church, and said that she'd pray that I find love and a husband, like hers. Um ... uncomfortable. When we were done, she actually hugged me.

Compared to the CPA who has handled by returns in the past, her work was spot on. She got me a little more from the Feds, a little less from the State. And she charged me about 20% less. So I'm good.

Even though she is weird.

It's been a long time

My movie group took a field trip! We saw The Philadelphia Story on the big screen. The rest of the multiplex was packed with young people, in line to see The Black Panther. But our little group (six in all) met to see the TCM event.

It's the first time we've met this year. First we thought we'd lost our venue, but Will managed to work that all out. Then the mother of our moderator, Will, passed away. Dealing with her passing, traveling out east for the final goodbye, was naturally preoccupying him. But TCM planned this, so it was easy for him to just send out the invitation email.

Hepburn was glorious. Her leading men -- Cary Grant and James Stewart, for Christ's sake -- were beyond adorable. I enjoyed the conversation with fellow movie geeks. I wish Joanna had been able to join us. I realized that I need to go out more! It was fun. I always think I'm too tired when I get home from all the depression and sadness at work, but Sunday it occurred to me that it does me good to get out there.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sunday Stealing


1. What is your middle name and what is a middle name you'd rather have instead? Why? Since my nom de blog is The Gal Herself, I guess my middle name is "Gal."

2. How would you spend $1MM (you have to spend every penny!) I would pay off my bills and have a zero balance on everything. Then I'd fix this place up -- hardwood floors, finished bathroom, spruced up kitchen. Then I'd give my nephew some tuition assistance, and help my niece with her college loans. Then I'd help my friends: I'd pay for Reg and Henry's dogs to get the surgeries they need, I'd pay off my oldest friend's car, I'd help Kathy get new furniture for her new apartment. How much do I have left? This is fun!

3. Yellow light - speed up or slow down? Slow down.

4. What was the last movie you saw and what did you like/dislike about it? The last movie I saw was The Shape of Water. I loved the colors and the intensity. I disliked the violence.

5. If a movie was made about you, who would portray you in that movie? My go-to answer for this had always been Carrie Fisher. Now I have to rethink it. Maybe Valerie Bertinelli? I grew up on her, so that feels comfortable. (Even though there is no physical resemblance.)

6. What is the strangest thing you've eaten and what did it taste like? I once had shark. It was heavily breaded, with capers and tomato sauce, so it really just tasted like any other baked fish. But that's not the point. I felt very brave eating it.

7. What color is your bathroom? Pink and white.

8. If you could vacation anywhere in the world RIGHT NOW, where would it be and why? I would take off to Washington DC with my nephew. He really wants to see it.

9. What is your least favorite thing to cook? Anything. I hate cooking.

10. What is the dish you make that your family rolls their eyes at? Nothing comes to mind.

11. What are three things on your bucket list? I don't have a bucket list.

12. How many skeins of yarn do you think you are currently hoarding? None.

13. Today is my birthday.  What virtual gift are you going to give me? Since I don't know the Swap-botter this meme was stolen from, I have no clue. Perhaps a virtual gift card?

14. What is your favorite candy? It changes. Today, it's Chunky.

15. What is your favorite time of the day and why? Around 9:00 PM. Everything that's got to be done has been done by then. Now it's my time.

16. If you could call in sick for a day, what would you do with the time? Nap. Take a long bath. Take a long lunch. Read.

17. How much did your last crafting run cost you? I don't do crafting.

18. Can you play a musical instrument and if so, which one? I am not musical.

19. What is your least favorite craft that you still do? Why? Enough with the crafting questions, Swap-botter!

20. If you could have any job for just one day, what would it be and what would you do? I would work in the cat adoption room at an animal shelter. I would cuddle cats and clean cages and answer questions for prospective adopters.

Answer hate with love. Answer cruelty with kindness.

That's what this man advised schoolchildren to do. My bullshit meter is spinning. I imagine theirs is, too. After all, no one's bullshit meter is more sensitively calibrated than an adolescent's.


PS As I was composing this Sunday morning, our Tweeter in Chief chose to nickname Rep. Adam Schiff as a "monster." Way to foster an atmosphere of love and kindness.

In praise of low tech

I have two very old TVs. Produced around the turn of the century. So old they still have tubes built into the back. They work just fine. Picture quality is bright. No problem working with the Comcast/Xfinity equipment.

I love them. I love how they keep working ... and working ... and working. This is identical to the one in my bedroom. Keeping it tuned to old sitcoms (MeTV or Cozi) helps me get to sleep at night. When it crapped out last Wednesday evening, I was bereft.

I am most happy to report that the problem is not my little tugboat of a retro TV but the little cable converter box. Replaced for free by Comcast/Xfinity. So all is good.

I know, it's crazy how attached I become to stuff. But I can see no reason to add my tube TVs to a landfill before their time.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Baby Love (1964)

1) When this song was popular, the Supremes were known for their elaborate hairstyles, make up and full-length gowns. When was the last time you got dressed up? The memorial service for my friend's husband. Even in her grief, she teased me. "Gal! You're not wearing jeans!"

2) "The girls," as they were known to the engineers and executives at Motown Records, were Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson and Diana Ross. They began singing together when they were high school classmates. Are you still in touch with any friends from your high school days? Just one. I owe my oldest friend an email.

3) Mary Wilson was born in Mississippi and her family moved a great deal before settling in Detroit, where she fatefully met Florence and Diana. Were you uprooted often when you were a child? Or did you spend your school years in the same neighborhood? My family never moved. My mom and dad both grew up in that town. Both sets of my grandparents lived there, too. My kid sister raised her family there, as well.

4) The Supremes began as a quartet called the Primettes. In addition to Mary, Flo and Diana, there was Betty McGlown. In 1960, Betty left the group to get married and was replaced by Barbara Martin. In 1962, Barbara left the group to have a baby. They quit trying to replace the fourth voice, soldiered on as a trio, and made pop history. Have you ever found yourself in a position similar to Betty's or Barbara's, where you had to make a difficult decision and choose between your personal life and your career? In my 20s, I was involved in a very, very unhealthy relationship. We met at work, where we were both writers. When he found out that I made more than he did, he freaked out. Did all our friends know? Was I trying to humiliate/castrate him? So I did something then that has me shaking my head today: I quit and found a lower-paying job. It turned out for the best, though, because I really hit my stride creatively and I went from having a job to a career.

5) Thinking of babies and "baby love," is anyone in your life expecting a baby in 2018? Nope.

6) With twelve #1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, The Supremes remain America's most commercially successfully recording group, and this song (along with "Stop! In the Name of Love") is one of the most popular karaoke songs. If we handed you the mic this morning and absolutely insisted you perform, what song would you choose (any song, any genre)? This one. It has no notes that I can't hit.

7) Original group member Florence Ballard left the group in 1967. She died of cardiac arrest in 1976 at the age of 32. Since February is National Heart Month, it seems appropriate to ask: Is anyone in your life battling heart disease? My friend, John, suffers from congenital heart disease.

8) Florence Ballard's brother, Hank, wrote Chubby Checker's famous dance song, "The Twist." When did you last dance? I dance around the house all the time. I'm terrible at it, but it makes me happy.

9) Random question: Close your eyes and visualize the most beautiful place you've ever been. Now describe it to us. So you enter the structure and it's old. It's sunless and you can literally smell the history -- the beer and pretzel salt and hot dogs and sweat. Then you climb the gray cement stairs and VOILA! Everything is sunny and green and everyone is happy. That moment, when I see the outfield clock for the first time, never fails to thrill me.

Meanwhile, in Chicago ...

I realize that the country is reeling from yet another school shooting. This one in Florida. 14 students were mowed down on Valentine's Day.

I'm aware of it, of course. But it hasn't touched this old heart of mine. Because I simply can't handle it right now.

Because on Tuesday, this happened here.

Look at how she's holding her daddy's hand.

Commander Paul Bauer was technically off duty but in uniform here in the Loop. Right in the center of the nation's third largest city. At 2:00 in the afternoon. He had just completed a training session of some sort when he heard a radio call. A suspect in a weekend shooting had been spotted around the The James R. Thompson Center.

AKA The State of Illinois Building. It's a government building, right in the middle of our theater district, surrounded by courthouses.

Commander Bauer approached the suspect. He took off. Bauer followed. Bauer was shot six times. In a stairwell in a government building. At 2:00 in the afternoon. In the nation's third largest city. The suspect was wearing body armor and had a Glock with an extra clip.

I pass The Thompson Center every day, twice a day. That government building is busy at 2:00 on a weekday afternoon. Those streets are busy at 2:00 on a weekday afternoon. And a Police Commander in full dress uniform got plugged in a stairwell.

As the old folks used to say, "What is this world coming to?"

Commander Bauer's wake was held Friday, which would have been his and wife Erin's 16th wedding anniversary. He also leaves behind the little girl in that photo, Grace. He was 53 and had been a cop for 28 years.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


WWW. WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here

1. What are you currently reading? Vulgar Favors by Maureen Orth. I read this book decades ago, when the Miglin/Versace story was still top of mind. (And make no mistake about it: here in Chicago, Lee and Marilyn Miglin were better known and more influential than Versace.) With American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, I found it on my bookshelf and decided to give it a reread.

2. What did you recently finish reading? The Lonely Lady of San Clemente: The Pat Nixon Story by Lester David. This is not a very good book, which is a shame because I learned while reading it that Mrs. Nixon lived many lives. She was a teenaged rebel who regularly "stole" cars from her neighbors and older brothers so she and her friends could go to dances and other social events, and went out of her way to dress in a way that raised eyebrows. She was a poor kid in a poor town, who lost both her parents before she was old enough to be on her own. 

Then she became a most serious young woman, 100% dedicated to absolutely everything she did. She was a teller who had to testify in court against a bank robber, a cleaning lady, and finally a teacher beloved by her students. Then the quintessential political wife, even though she hated politics and public attention. There's source material here for a riveting book ... but this ain't it.

For example, there's her courtship with Dick Nixon. Here she is, past 25, longing for a family. She was dating several men, almost to the day she accepted his proposal, but Nixon was the most ardent suitor. David supposes she was attracted to how much he loved her, and the security he offered. OK, I get that. Then, a scant chapter or two later, he talks about how unhappy she was when Nixon was attacked in the press because she was a woman who "deeply loved" her husband. Really? When did that happen? Was it their separation during World War II that made her heart grow fonder? The birth of their first daughter? When did she fall "deeply in love?"
It reads like one of those women's magazines my mom used to devour -- McCall's or Ladies Home Journal. It's breathless, simple and superficial. I hope I find a better book about her someday.

3.  What will you read next? Maybe another biography? Or a mystery. My TBR pile is stacked dauntingly high with both. 

Catching Up with the Whole Family

It's been more than a week since I saw Napoleon and his parents, Caleb and Randi. And Monday I saw all three of them, walking up Michigan Avenue. They were pushing their belongings --  two big roller bags and a cat carrier -- in a tall cart. Napoleon was in the carrier, looking every ounce the irritated teenager that he now is. At 9 months old, he's all attitude and energy and he clearly resented being in the carrier.

The snow has made it hard for them to panhandle. The areas where they usually park themselves are now either wet or covered in dirty snow. The damp has made it hard for them to sleep in their tent, so wherever they're sleeping -- I wasn't clear where -- is costing them money. But while it's not ideal, it's not as bad as it would have been a few months ago because ...

They're both working! Caleb drives a forklift four hours/night, four nights/week at a grocery warehouse. Randi "helps out" (answers phones, sweeps up, makes appointments) at a salon during the day. (They can't work at the same time because someone has to stay with Napoleon.) She says the women she works with at the salon aren't as welcoming and supportive as she hoped they would be, but at least she's warm and dry at work.

Hopefully, in two weeks, they will have the cash they need to pay two months' rent in advance on a room in a big house in Boystown. They will have a furnished bedroom and access to the kitchen and bathroom anytime they want. I worry about how Napoleon will make the transition. While being homeless is rough on humans, it's really a pretty spectacular life for a cat. He's literally never alone, one or both of his parents is always with him, lavishing attention on him. He's outdoors almost all the time -- though they report he likes sleeping in beds, burrowing under the covers by Caleb's feet -- and enjoys watching birds and shoelaces and leaves and paper that float by. I'm afraid that the boredom and confusion that will come from being left alone all day will result in destructive behavior on his part.

But won't that be a nice problem to have, after a year of not having a bed to call their own?

Monday, February 12, 2018

HBD, Big Guy!

It's 2/12, the day we Illinois schoolchildren used to get off. Today our favorite son would be 209 years old. Here's hoping that, with the gubernatorial race and the all the #MeToo talk in our state capital, Springfield begins to deserve the enduring affection Mr. Lincoln had for the city.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sunday Stealing

1. Do you prefer winter or summer? Why? I like snow. I like my sweaters. On the other hand, I like baseball and my sandals. There's beauty in all the seasons. (Though I really can't stand hot weather. Truly, I'm miserable as the temperature climbs above 85º.)

2. What are your favorite winter activities? I enjoy walking in the snow, looking at snowmen, listening to children playing. Kids get the glory of snow in a way adults don't.

3. Can you tell me about a time you went skiing or skating? No, thank you. I suck at both

and don't have many good memories. 

Now sledding! I loooooooved sledding! My favorite uncle would take me, my older sister and cousin. My oldest friend's dad, a lovely man, would take her and me, and often my older sister. Gliding down the hill like the wind! Dragging my sled back up while pretending my nose wasn't running. I treasure every moment.

4. Have you ever made a snow angel? Of course!

5. Is your house cold? Seldom. My place tends to run on the warm side. Today, the mercury outside hit 23º and I had to crack my living room and bedroom windows.

6. Do you have a fireplace in your house? No.

7. What do you usually do to keep warm in the winter? Down coat and long johns. I have an aerosol water repellent and I spray my boots liberally every day. Cold, wet feet are the worst!

8. Have you ever gone hiking in the snow? I consider them long walks.

9. Tell me about a snowball fight you had. I truly can't recall a snowball fight. An older kid once smooshed snow in my ear -- I can't recall why -- but that wasn't really "a fight" because I responded by standing there, stunned.

10. Have you ever looked at a snowflake carefully? Only in pictures.

11. Do you have a sled? Have you been sledding? See above. Obviously I don't read these questions before I start answering.

12. What do you usually do after a big snowfall? Hibernate.

13. What’s the best thing about winter? Snow! Christmas! My holiday trip to Key West (I love those guys)!

14. What’s the worst thing about winter? Cold, wet feet.

15. Have you ever been in a blizzard? Oh, yes. We're getting socked now. There's 11" on the ground now, and it's supposed to snow even more this morning. And in 2014, we got 18"! The grandddaddy of all Chicago blizzards was The Big Snow: 23" when I was 9 years old. They are all quite thrilling!

16. Can you describe ice for me? Smooth, slick and cold.

17. Have you ever slipped on ice and hurt yourself? In 2012, I slipped on my neighbor's driveway and landed on ass. Hard! For some reason the landing made a deafening noise in my ears. I went to the ER, and a CT scan confirmed I was OK. (I love having good health insurance!)

18.Have you ever had to shovel snow? Oh, yes. I sometimes think that's why my parents had me, so they could send me out with a shovel.

19. Will you be watching the Olympics? No.

20. If yes, what are your favorite events? Shrug.

When baseball and Peter Frampton collide

Ever since I heard the news, I've had, "I Want Yu to Show Me the Way" running through my mind. Of course, "I've Got My Mind Set on Yu" works, too. Ah! What a rotation we will have in 2018!

In happier news

I went to a community rummage sale today. It benefited several local charities. I was in search of a denim jacket, as mine is quite the worse for wear. I was unsuccessful, but instead found a black and white Liz Claiborne sweater.  I think it originally sold at JC Penney for about $35* and I got it for $3.

Next week I'll be in the office all five days -- no more work from home -- and it will make me happy to wear something new (or at least, new to me).

*Though isn't everything at Penney's always on sale these days?

I get it

Today is my friend Reg's 60th birthday. He denies it with a full-throated insistence that he's 59. (Again.) Oh well.

It's not the lying about his age that bothers me. It's the depression that has accompanied this birthday. According to Henry, he feels bad about his life. They are heavily in debt. Their home is in bad shape (no a/c, no dryer). They are down to one car, and it's not new. The trip they took to Puerto Rico last fall was the first vacation they'd been on in years. (It's important to note that, between them, Reg and Henry work three jobs. Their financial hardship is not due to lack of effort!)

Reg cancelled his own birthday dinner and went to bed at -- get ready -- 5:30! I tried calling to wish him a happy day and cheer him up, but he was already asleep, and Henry was in tears of frustration.

He loves his husband so much. They have been together more than two decades and have shared so much. It makes him sad that Reg values himself and his life so little.

It sounds so sad when Henry says it of Reg. Yet I could say all the same things about myself that Reg says. Crappy home, dead-end job, insufficient retirement account. Add to that -- I don't have a successful romantic relationship of 20 years+. What does it all mean? What's it all been for?

But today wasn't about me and my existential woes. It's about Reg. So I began listing all the furry lives Reg has saved -- beginning with the beautiful collie, Toby, who had been abandoned by the side of the road because his hips weren't perfect and he wasn't breeding material. We came up with the idea that, if Reg wants to "leave something behind," when he dies the obit can say, "in lieu of flowers, a donation to the Key West SPCA." I know, it sounds like a bummer here, but it made Henry happy in the moment. And that's what was important.

But the call left me so drained, I took a nap. Even though my taxes still aren't done, and I have a quick turnaround freelance project waiting for me.