Saturday, June 30, 2018

Saturday 9


1) This song lists seven cities -- New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, Chattanooga, Baton Rouge and St. Louis -- that Linda just loves. How many have you visited? Four

2) The lyrics refer to hamburgers sizzling on the grill. What toppings do you believe make a perfect burger? Cheddar cheese, lettuce, and a fried egg. Awesome!

3) The original recording of this song by Chuck Berry has always been one of Linda Ronstadt's favorites, one she used to enjoy singing along with in the car. What's the most recent song you sang? I sang "Kiss on My List" along with Hall and Oates and my shower radio. Funny, because it's a song I don't particularly like. It just burrowed its way into my consciousness.
4) Linda sang The National Anthem at Game 3 of the 1977 World Series. 
The New York Yankees won both that game and the series. How is your baseball team doing this season? My Cubs are currently in second-place in the National League's best division. 2 1/2 games behind Milwaukee and 3 games ahead of St. Louis. We had a tough June, with a 5-game losing streak. But we've won 3 of our last 5, and I'm hoping for a powerful, victorious July! (BTW, I'm celebrating Independence Day with a trip to Wrigley Field with my nephew on 7/6.)

Since this is our last Saturday 9 before Independence Day, let's ask some questions about the holiday. 
5) During the Revolutionary War, General Washington celebrated the 4th of July by giving his troops a double ration of rum. Will you imbibe any spirits on Independence Day? Probably not. We only have Wednesday the 4th off work, no long weekend for this gal. So I don't foresee any partying or celebrating.

6) The first man to sign the Declaration of Independence, John Hancock, said he wrote his name so large King George could see it, even without his glasses. Do you require glasses for reading? I need my "cheaters" for small print. 

7) Since July 4 is a federal holiday, banks are closed and there's no mail delivery. Thanks to email and ATMs, Sam finds going without those services isn't a hardship. What about you? Will you find it inconvenient that banks and the USPS are closed on July 4? Not at all.

8) The first 4th of July parade each year is held at 12:01 AM in Gatlinberg, TN. Will you attend a parade or fireworks to celebrate the 4th? Golly, I haven't been to my local parade in years! Maybe I'll make my way over to watch on Wednesday morning.

9) More and more Americans celebrate our nation's holiday by eating foods from Italy and Germany. For the July 4, 2016 holiday, more than $50 million was spent on Italian sausage and bratwurst. What's on your 4th of July menu? I don't have a July 4th menu this year. In recent years, I've celebrated the 4th together with my friend John's birthday as part of a long weekend. But John and I have already celebrated his birthday with a special trip to Springfield to see Mr. Lincoln, and with the 4th landing mid-week, I guess I'll just celebrate with whatever I bring home from Boston Market on the 3rd.

Wednesday, June 27, 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?  
Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn. Our narrator is Chet, a dog who flunked out of police school. Chet lives and works with his human companion, Bernie, a down-on-his-luck private investigator. The mystery at hand involves threats against a show dog named Princess.

I just cracked this one open, so I don't have much to say about it. It was gifted to me by someone I gave The Art of Racing in the Rain to. He figured if I enjoyed a dog narrator then, I'll enjoy one now, though I can see already this book doesn't have Racing's artistic aspirations.

And that's OK. Just as I enjoy a popcorn movie at the theater every now and again, I can have fun reading lighter fare.

2. What did you recently finish reading?  
Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit by Chris Matthews. This book was a difficult read. Not because of the writing -- Chris Matthews is far more graceful in his prose than his TV persona suggests. No, it was hard because of Bobby is such a challenging topic.

This is, after all, the kid JFK used to call "Black Robert." He could be a prig. He could be without nuance. He had an unfortunate penchant for seeing the world (in his wife Ethel's words) "as black and white hats." His puritanical outlook made it hard for him to fit in -- at college, in the service, in the workplace.

Then he fell into politics and he hit his stride. He was successful in running John Kennedy's campaigns, he was effective as an activist Attorney General. He believed he was making a difference. He was happy. But that happiness ended in the worst way possible after only 1000 days.
President Kennedy's death transformed his brother. He became more sensitive and almost achingly empathic. He yearned to close the gap between generations, between races, between classes. Bobby was driven to run for President himself because he believed he could do real and lasting good. Then the unthinkable becomes inevitable, and Bobby himself is murdered. At just 42. 

The parallels between 1968 and 2018 are inescapable. Reading this book is like walking around with a pebble in your shoe. Bobby annoys and reminds and cajoles you into doing what you can to help your country now, when your country really needs you.

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

That was fun!

I spent 90 minutes on the phone to my oldest friend! We just blabbed and blabbed. We just laughed and laughed. It felt so good to reconnect. I have been so worried about her health and well being that I'd forgotten how much I depend on her, how much our connection means to me. I've known her since Kindergarten. I can literally think of only three people on earth who have known me longer. I feel rejuvenated after our talk.

I didn't tell her that a finance company contacted me, looking for her. She knows she's not making her car payment. She knows they are trying to reach her. Why embarrass her? Especially when we were getting along so well.

I am not fooled by what happened here. Just because I feel better doesn't mean she feels better. She is still unemployed and beyond broke. She is still trying to get her welfare straightened out so that she can get the meds she needs. She is still battling heart trouble, arthritis, bad teeth and most of all, depression.

But I think of that phone call as a little bud, a little shoot on a venerable old plant. I'm going to nurture and make sure our connection stays strong.

All good

Napoleon update. Before I went to Springfield, Caleb asked me to bring him something from my trip, so I'd been carrying a postcard from Lincoln's Home. When I gave it to him, he told me that his grandfather told him about touring the house when he was a little boy, and that his grandfather was "a Lincoln fanatic." It was the first I'd heard about Caleb's grandfather, and was glad the card brought back happy memories (though I'm still not reading Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, even if it is one of Caleb's favorite books).

While he and I were talking, a woman walked up with a 24-can case of Friskies cat food. Napoleon's favorite! Napoleon acted as though he knew what it was. He hopped into the plastic bag and started pawing at the cardboard. Now he could not possibly smell the gravy through the cardboard box and the metal can ... could he? At any rate, the woman knew her act of kindness was enthusiastically received by both human and feline.

Caleb has a lead on another place for the little family to live. His wife still needs a wheelchair off and on throughout the day -- with her weakened heart, when she feels tired she must stay off her feet -- so sleeping in their tent by the river is an impossibility. The furnished room where they are makes both Randi and Napoleon uncomfortable because they neither trust nor like their landlord. Plus, it's an illegal rental, which means they have no lease and no rights. This worries me.

Anyway, a woman who works for IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) walks by Caleb and Napoleon every day and has taken an interest in them. She is investigating a state-sponsored home where Caleb and Randi would have their own furnished room, a shared bathroom and access to a kitchen. He seemed excited about having a lock on his door and extra privacy. I hope it works out. It would be nice if Randi could relax and recuperate in a room where she feels safe and comfortable.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sunday Stealing

Cricket's Drivel

1. When was the last time you went to the doctor? Do you like your doctor? I went to the doctor in April. I like and trust her. I have issues at times with her office staff, but I'm not thinking of switching doctors. BTW, this reminds me that I need to make an appointment with my dentist.
2. My back is itching, will you scratch it for me?
Through your shirt? Certainly. But if you're wearing something backless, I'll hand you a nice ruler to do the job.

3. Do you have nice handwriting?
I have very nice handwriting. This confuses me, since I can't draw for shit.

4. We are sending you to either New Zealand or Canada, which one do you choose?
Canada. I don't want to fly that far, and I mean, just look at him:

But seriously, folks, I had a serious brush with matrimony in the 1990s and back then, the groom decided that I would enjoy Quebec City for our honeymoon. The wedding never took place, and enough time has elapsed that I could tour the city without feeling sad. I'm curious as to why he thought I'd love it so much.

5. Do you sing in the shower?
Every morning.

6. Have you ever been streaking? If so, how far did you streak and did anyone see you?
Is this from 1975? I not only have never streaked, I've never seen a streaker.

7. How soon is too soon for Christmas decorations and music playing in the stores?
I'm all for November 1. Once the Halloween decorations come down, put up the holly.

8. If you celebrated Halloween as a kid what was the costume you wore at 5?
I have no recollection. Sorry.

9. How many cavities have you had in your life?
A gazillion.

10.  Is there anyone you regret meeting.
Oh, I don't know. Sometimes I look back on a relationship and rue the day we met. On the other hand, I learned a lot. But does anyone need to learn about cruelty? So I'm back to, "Oh, I don't know."

Good enough for what it is


It's summer. When the dinosaurs return to the movie theater, so do I. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is not high art. It's a movie where the CGI dinosaurs are the most interesting characters, and I'm good with that.

Watching from a mostly empty row,* I waited to see my girl Blue.

Yes, I bought my ticket to see one specific dinosaur. I'm a fan.

She's very loyal to Owen (Chris Pratt) and is capable of both trust and empathy. She's also impulsive, willful and really, really smart. Just because she hears you, doesn't mean she's listening. (Reminds me of my cat, Reynaldo.)

Jeff Goldbum's scientist has a cameo where he makes a compelling argument for letting the dinosaurs die of natural causes. We messed with nature, to disastrous results, by bringing them back. It's wise to step back and let nature resolve this.

I was all for it. Until I thought of Blue.

SPOILER ALERT: She's alive at the end of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

*Though at my local theater, it's playing on two screens and offers a stunning 15 showings, from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM. I suppose they can't all be full.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Shut Up + Dance (2014)

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

1) This is about a man who meets the woman who is his destiny on the dance floor. Do you think we each have One Great Love preordained by fate? Or do you think life offers each of us many opportunities for romance? I think life offers us many opportunities. I disagree vehemently that fate or God "preordains" who we love, or who is "right" for us. As a woman of faith, I believe Jesus smiles on us when we behave lovingly, well and honorably in our relationships.

2) Lead singer Nick Petricca says this song is inspired by a true story. He was all keyed up and his girlfriend dragged him onto the dance floor, insisting that dancing would cheer him up. Therefore he considers this song an "anthem to letting go and having fun." Think of the last time you really had fun. Who were you with? What were you doing? On Monday, I had an Olive Garden lunch with Nancy. I never really laugh with her, but it was a comfortable, good time. She may join my agency and I would like seeing her every day again.

3) The dance floor incident that inspired this song took place in Echo Park, an LA neighborhood located near Elysian Park and Chinatown. Tell us about your village or city. Do the neighborhoods have interesting names? My Chicago haunts are The Mag(nificent) Mile, The Loop, South Loop, Old Town, River North and, of course, Wrigleyville. There's also Hyde Park, Logan Square, Englewood, Chinatown, Logan Square, Pilsen and Austin. (And more I'm sure I've forgotten.)

4) Walk the Moon promoted this record by a performance on Good Morning America. Are you enthusiastic and energetic at 7:00 AM? Or do you hit your stride later in the day? I feel best beginning at about 2:00 PM and into the evening.

5) "Shut Up + Dance" is the biggest hit by Walk the Moon. The bandmembers met as at Kenyon, Ohio's oldest private college. Tell us about something that's old and revered where you live. The Chicago Tribune staff has left The Tribune Tower (1923) and the building is going condo. Much care is going into preserving it. The facade features stones from famous buildings, all around the world. Every time I walk by, I stop and touch them. 

Here's more about the "Stones of the World"

6) Walk the Moon took their name from the Police song, "Walking on the Moon." What's your favorite song by Sting and/or The Police? "Don't Stand So Close to Me."

7) In 2014, the year this song was popular, Robin Williams took his own life. What's your favorite Robin Williams performance? Moscow on the Hudson (1984).

8) Also in 2014, the Apple Watch was introduced. Are you wearing a watch as you answer these 9 questions? Not right now.

9) Random question -- You must create a coat of arms for yourself, representing your life and spirit. Which of these items would you place at the center: a heart, a sword, or a pen? A pen. 

Whereas I got high and fell asleep

One of the benefits of working where I do is "summer hours." We work an extra hour Monday through Thursday and then get to leave the office at 1:00 on Fridays.

I always try to do something with those four extra hours. Those four wonderful, free hours. On Friday 6/22 I thought maybe I'd go see the new Jurassic Park movie. Or wash clothes when I know I'd have the laundry room to myself.

Instead, I just got high and fell asleep.

Thursday I was, literally, stuck in place for about four hours. I was working to a crazy tight deadline. I didn't get up and walk around periodically, nor did I keep chugging water -- two things I know I'm supposed to do. Consequently, Thursday night, my kidney stone became irritated. And it irritated me to the point of OW!

I soaked in the tub for a while, getting pruny and waiting for the pain to subside. Then I slept for a few hours.

I woke up feeling a pinch. I wanted to stay home and soak some more, but I had to go to work. I was afraid the pain would linger and get worse. So I popped one of those "break glass in case of emergency" Vicodin I have in my purse. It didn't complete obliterate the discomfort so I took a couple Advil on top of it.

My head was thick-thick-thick. But it was also only for a few hours, just while I tied up some loose ends on my four-hour Summer Friday.

On the way home from the train, I started to hurt again. I treated myself to lunch -- clam chowder and a pulled pork sandwich -- and popped another pill. It had been more than seven hours since the morning dose. I got home and fell asleep for about four hours. So that the summer Friday wasn't a total waste, I did head on over the grocery store and bank, and was then able to mark two errands off my list.

I understand the appeal of Vicodin. It's interesting to walk around with a twinge, knowing that if it wasn't for the meds it would be a distracting, awful pain. But I was desperately tired and found it hard to concentrate first at work, then on my book as I ate my lunch.

And lest you think I'm on my way to ending up like Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland or Whitney Houston ... I've only taken 15 pills in the last month.

My goal is prevention -- to stop the attack before it starts. That's far preferable to masking the pain.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Those halls

I keep thinking of the last time we see Mr. Lincoln alive in Speilberg's Lincoln. It's an evening meeting at The White House. He gets word that Mary is waiting for him to accompany her to Ford's Theater. "It's time for me to go," he says, taking his hat and gloves from his valet. "But I would rather stay." Then he ambles down a White House hallway, never to return.

Donald Trump walks those halls now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

My favorite moments

At the Lincoln Presidential Museum, I saw this big bit o' bling.

At the Old State Capitol, where Mr. Lincoln gave his "house divided against itself" speech and then, where his body lie in state. This was taken from his actual seat. (Though, as John pointed out, not the original chair.)

I love being where he was. I love revisiting his life and times. I'm so proud that he called Illinois home.

He's not well

I spent two nights with John in Springfield. I put the trip together as my birthday gift to him. I took care of his Amtrak ticket, bought him a souvenir and a birthday dinner. I made the hotel reservation and played tour guide.

I had such high hopes for this trip because I believe everyone should visit the Illinois Lincoln sites. And he said he wanted to go! The trip was his idea! Which is why I'm so blue about how it went down.

Before we went, I told him there would be a lot of walking involved. The three sites I wanted us to hit -- Lincoln's home, the Old State Capitol and the Presidential Library -- are all within a mile and can be walked well within 30 minutes. I know. I've done it -- several times. With my school-aged nephew, with my oldest friend, and by myself.

Yet John couldn't do it. He walks slowly and it's difficult for him. Granted, the mercury hit 95ยบ that day and he will soon be 63 years old. But I had no idea how his diabetes and heart issues had compromised him. He moves very slowly, which just prolongs the exposure to heat. And he gets easily confused and annoyed. "Why aren't there more trees down here?" he kept complaining. I finally just threw up my hands and we took Ubers.

Then there's his vision. He literally cannot read anything without his glasses, which he refuses to wear. At one point, he started bitching about the map I was using. I told him the problem wasn't the map but the map reader, and admitted to him for the 300th time that I have no sense of direction. "You're welcome to take over as navigator," I said, more than once.

"I can't read that," he'd say.

Only the center dress is Mary's!
He also had no idea what he was looking at in the Museum. There's a display about fashion of the day, with Mary and her dressmaker, Mrs. Keckley, at the center and dresses like those worn of other Cabinet officials (and Mary's rivals in Washington society) surrounding her. John was snapping photos without having any idea that they weren't all Mary's because he was unable to read the cards. Why go to a museum if you can't read anything? "I get the gist," he said.

We each had our own hotel room. Each had two beds. He complained after the first night that he didn't like the mattress. I asked him if he wanted to switch rooms. "No, I'm not that guy." I asked him the next morning if the other bed had a more comfortable mattress. He didn't bother to try it! No, it's easier to bitch than to move to the other bed.

I warned him before we went that, in Southern Illinois, he wouldn't find a Chase ATM on every corner and he should pick up cash before we went. Guess what. He didn't. We couldn't find an ATM. He got angry at me when I suggested he use his card for purchases. 

By the time I got home, I was so dispirited. I had wanted this trip to go well. I had wanted John to enjoy this special birthday gift. And yet, here's the thing: he did! He sent me texts all day Sunday, thanking me and reliving what he thought were the trip highlights.

So why was I so dissatisfied?

I feel my 60 years. I have gut trouble. I have a big kidney stone. I am taking meds that make me goofy. But I can walk. I can see. And I can go 30 minutes without complaining!

But John is 63 and already old. John is sicker. I am going to outlive John, and I hate that. I hate that so much.

Will wonders never cease?

My 6/15 paycheck was bigger than usual. I most unexpectedly got a raise!
No one gave me a heads up, so I thought it was a mistake, a computer glitch.

This is, after all, the first raise I've received in seven years.

I checked an inflation calculator, and you could argue that I'm still not keeping up with the cost of living.

On the other hand, I know my boss had to make the argument to his boss ... who had to take it to her boss ... who has never given me any indication that he knows I'm alive.

Am I confident that I'm no longer on the bubble? A little. Of course, this could just mean I get a little bit more in my severance checks.

Still, I insist on being happy about this.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Dawn breaks slowly

My oldest friend never answers her phone. Frustrating! Especially because I can't even leave her a message! Her voicemail box is always full.

I thought this was a manifestation of her depression, and it terrified me. She was diagnosed as suffering from "bipolar, cyclical, clinical depression" in 2015. I know there have been days that it's hard to get out of bed. I know she wrestles with making decisions. So I thought this isolation had to do with her personal and mighty battle.

Then, over this past weekend, something happened that cast a new light on her behavior. A California finance company called me. She used me as a reference, back when she was getting a new car. They need to talk to her about a personal matter, and wanted me to provide them with a phone number.

She's not avoiding me or her other friends! She's dodging bill collectors!

I'm not returning the finance company's call. I'm not telling her I received it. She knows she's not making her monthly car payment. She doesn't need me embarrassing her.

I saw a picture of her Sunday on Facebook. She and her cousin visited her cousin's husband in the nursing home for Father's Day. She didn't look great, or especially well, but she was out and about and surrounded by her cousin's kids. Not isolated.

So I suppose under other circumstances, discovering that your oldest friend is broke would be a bad thing. But under these specific circumstances, it's a good thing.

They say it's your birthday

Happy Birthday to Sir Paul McCartney, MBE CH.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunday Stealing


1. Five ways to win your heart
Be nice to my cats
Overlook my idiosyncracies
Care passionately about something (your job, your hobby, your family)
Be politically aware and think for yourself (meaning: no FOX News)
If you can't be a Cub fan, then at least don't cheer for the Brewers or the Cards

2. Something you feel strongly about

The separation of Church and State. The intermingling is a bad business, and something that makes us regressive and less inclusive. (Plus, as a Christian, I don't need these "faith based" leaders pretending they speak for me on policy. They don't, and I have my own minister, thankyouverymuch.)

3. A book you love

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy by Kate Clifford Larsen. It was the best book I read all last year. There's just so much humanity on every page. While Rosemary's story is tragic and at times brutal -- just thinking about the lobotomy makes me shudder -- there's no doubt that her family loved her. The last chapter, "Rosemary Made the Difference," literally made me cry. For this woman who most of America knows nothing about had an impact on all our lives. Her sister Eunice Shriver championed The Special Olympics and her brother Ted fought for the Americans with Disability Act. In October 1962, her brother brought intellectual disabilities out of the shadows by being the first President to ever speak of them, and establishing The President's Panel on Mental Retardation. Hidden through much of her adulthood, Rosemary lives on and that's her triumph.
4. Five pet peeves

Space hogs (if you didn't pay for two fares, don't take up two seats); smoking right next to the No Smoking sign; using an umbrella for protection from the sun; not turning off the neon OPEN sign when the business is obviously closed; people who insist that I must be a "cat person" or a "dog person" when I can love them all.

5. What you ate today

A bowl of cereal, some Club crackers, a chicken salad sandwich on a croissant, a green salad with vinaigrette, an ice cream sandwich.

6. How important do you think education is?

Very, very, very. 

7. Five people you find attractive

Bruce Springsteen, Bruce Willis, Hugh Grant, Pierce Brosnan, Jake Arrieta

8. What you wore today

Denim shorts, Cub tshirt

9. Something you always think “what if” about
 Oh, romantic choices I made

10. Something you’re proud of

I've given a good, loving and healthy home to cats that someone else disposed of. Adopt, don't shop! 

11. Five items you lust after

A renovated bathroom, exposed brick in my dining room, new hardwood floors, unlimited nights at any Hyatt in the country, $1,000,000.

12. Five words/phrases that make you laugh

These don't make me laugh, exactly, but I do love saying them: Deuteronomy, gubernatorial, penal, pudding, hackneyed

13. A quote you try to live by

"Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim." Nora Ephron

14. Something you like and dislike about yourself.

Like: I'm as strong as I need to be. Dislike: Objectively speaking, I'm a lazy slob.

15. A problem that you have had

Objectively speaking, I'm a lazy slob.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Saturday 9

Cat's in the Cradle (1974)

1) This song began as a poem, written by Harry's wife Sandy before the couple even met. Have you ever tried your hand at writing poetry? I suck at poetry. I have no discipline when I write.

2) The lyrics include a reference to "The Man in the Moon." The original Mother Goose rhyme ends: "It's time for the children on earth to think about getting to bed." Do you remember what time your childhood bedtime was? I remember it was a big deal when it went from 8:30 to 9:00. I was probably in 5th grade.

3)  When did you go to bed last night? 11-ish. The Cubs were really creaming the Cardinals (as the Good Lord intended), but that made for a boring game.


4) In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed the proclamation that made Father's Day a holiday on the third Sunday in June. Can you name all 45 Presidents? (No, you don't have to list them here.) Not in order. But I'd start with the ones I always forget about -- like Garfield and Tyler and Pierce -- and then maybe I could hit 45.

5) Since Sam's father is particular about his Cole Haan loafers, her Father's Day present to him is always a DSW gift card. Who on your gift list is especially easy to buy for? Nobody. I put a lot of thought into everyone's gift, partly because I enjoy gift giving and partly because they each present a challenge in their own way.

6) Sam's father is a voracious reader. So much so that the local librarian knows him on sight and by name. When did you last visit your neighborhood library? Ooh! This is a sore point with me. I'm trying to visit it more often, specifically for each of our condo board meetings, but one of the members is resistant. The rooms are free and available every weeknight until 9 PM. But our board president has some arcane complaint about the library parking lot. It's less than two blocks away! Why does he have to drive?

7) Back when Sam was in high school, her father gave her driving lessons. Do you consider yourself a good driver? No. I'm even worse behind the wheel than I am at poetry.

8) He is a stickler about car maintenance and reminds Sam to check her car's air filter regularly, because a dirty air filter can reduce mileage. Share your own car maintenance tip. Nope. Sorry.

9) Whenever he fills up the car, Sam's father also stocks up on his favorite candy: LifeSavers. So Sam is celebrating Father's Day by giving everyone a roll. Would you prefer Wild Cherry, Butter Rum, Winter Green or Peppermint?  One of the mints.