Thursday, February 28, 2019

Rehoming Kate, Marilyn, Barbara and Jackie

I checked the Free Little Library on the corner and am happy to report that four of the paperback biographies I dropped off have been picked up by others!

Kate: The Life of Katharine Hepburn by Charles Higham was published in 1975. The lady herself was still alive, perhaps that's why it was so "affectionate" (OK, it was fawning). Still, The Great Kate is a feminist and film icon and when I was a girl, this volume helped explain why. I like thinking it will do the same for another fledgling fan.

Legend: The Life and Death of Marilyn Monroe by Fred Lawrence Guiles was published in 1991. It's a sympathetic and rather well regarded biography of Marilyn. But there are other books that had a greater emotional impact on me. Still I'm glad I was able to share a book that treats Marilyn with respect.

Barbara Stanwyck by Al Diorio is a book from the 1980s that I really didn't like. It's not really the fault of the author. Stanwyck was a dreadful mother. Not abusive, as Joan Crawford has been rumored to be. But disinterested to the point of neglect. Since she played such compelling mothers on the screen (Stella Dallas, Victoria Barkley on The Big Valley), I found this disturbing. Still, she has her loyal fans, and I hope this lands in the hands of one of them.

The Kennedy Women by Lawrence Leamer is from 1994. It was an easy read that goes well beyond my girl Jackie. It introduced me to Bridget, who immigrated to America and married Patrick Kennedy. Her great-grandson was John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The book is a fine intro to women who were Kennedys by birth or marriage. I like that I'm sharing this slice of American history with someone else.

Instead of just yellowing with antiquity and collecting dust, these books are being cracked open again. To borrow from Marie Kondo, giving these books a second life "sparks joy."

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Sunday Stealing


1. What is the most fun thing you have ever done? Ever? That's a little broad, isn't it? So instead I'll tell you the most recent fun thing I did: I laughed a lot with my oldest friend on the phone on Friday. That made me happy.

2. Are you left-handed or right-handed?
I'm a rightie. In fact, my chiropractor deemed me "unusually right dominant." Meaning I have strength in my left arm but little dexterity in my left hand. Can't even brush my teeth with my left hand.

3. What is the nicest thing someone has ever done for you?
Again, ever is just too broad for me. So instead I'll you the most recent really nice thing someone did. A former coworker, Doreen, sent me a magazine published to commemorate the 50th anniversary of The Beatles White Album. She said the moment she saw it, she thought of me. How sweet was that?

4. What is the biggest animal you’ve seen in the wild?
I've never been in the wild. I think the biggest animal I've ever seen was Ziggy the Elephant. He weighed about 2000 lbs.

5. What is the smallest animal you’ve seen in the wild?
I've never been in the wild. I suppose a baby bunny is the smallest animal I've ever seen.

6. Do you ever have funny dreams at night?

7. If you could make a law for your country, what would it be?
I'd ban assault weapons.

8. What would you do if you were invisible for a day?

9. If you could be someone else for a day, who would you be?
Emma Stone. Because she's so cute.

10. What would you like to change about yourself?
My complete lack of discipline.

11. What is your daily routine.
Get up, get out of bed. Drag a comb across my head.

12. What would your perfect day be like?
Sleep in. Have a coffee house breakfast. Go to the ballpark. Sit in the sun and watch the Cubs beat the Cardinals. Stop for a beer in Wrigleyville to celebrate.

13. How old were you when you learned to read?
First grade.

14. What is the most interesting thing you know?
President Kennedy's classmate and lifelong best friend, Lem Billings, invented Fizzies.

My favorite flavor was root beer

15. What makes you nervous?
Air travel

16. What is your favorite flower?

17. Have you ever ridden on a horse or any other animal?
I've ridden a horse and an elephant (though not Ziggy as referenced in Q4).

18. What time do you go to bed?
11:00 ish

19. What time do you get up?
6:00 ish

20. Do you know how to swim?

Photos I found when looking stuff up

Discovered when working on my Oscar blogathon post. Here are Natalie Wood and her new hubby, Robert Wagner, demonstrating their domestic bliss for a fan magazine. What the hell is going on here? Are we supposed to believe that Nat called out, "Hey, RJ! I'm perched on the ironing board, with our poodle. Let's make some phone calls!"

From the ridiculous to the sublime. While reading about the passing of Lee Radziwill, I came upon JBKO photos I've never seen before. They were taken in Virginia during the summer of 1945, while the Bouvier sisters were vacationing with their father. Sixteen-year-old Jackie looks so natural in these pictures, taken at least seven years before she met John F. Kennedy and entered history.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: No. 9 Dream (1974)
Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) John Lennon liked the number 9. It shows up in three of his songs (in addition to this song, he performed "Revolution #9" and "The One after 909" with the Beatles). He was born on the 9th of October, as was his son Sean. Coincidentally, "No. 9 Dream" hit #9 on the Billboard chart. Do you have a favorite number? 7

2) The phrase repeated in the chorus, "Ah bowakawa pousse pousse" means nothing. It's gibberish that John sang until he could come up with "real" lyrics for this melody. Then he decided he liked the sound of it, so he kept it. Can you think of a word that's fun to say just because you like how it sounds? "Deuteronomy." Since I'm no Old Testament scholar, it doesn't come up in conversation often, but it is fun to say.

3) John referred to "No. 9 Dream" as an example of "craftsmanship writing." A snatch of the melody just came to him and he got it down on a tape recorder, wrote lyrics, arranged it and recorded it in short order because he needed another song to finish the LP, Walls and Bridges. What's the last thing that you did because you were supposed to or you had to, and not because you wanted to? Every day, I do something toward reducing the clutter in my home. Friday it was winnowing out a few more books.

4) Yet once "No. 9 Dream" was recorded, it became one of John's favorite of his solo songs. He loved its ethereal feel. Tell us about something that turned out better than you thought it would. Open seating at work. Instead of offices, we all just sit out at picnic tables. I dreaded it. And I do feel piteously exposed all day long. But on the plus side, it exposed me to Trisha. 

She's an executive vice president in another department. In the conventional office set up, we may not have met. But now we sit side-by-side all day. She's been an unexpectedly delightful, friendly and influential neighbor, and I appreciate her so much.

5) When he was working, John drank a lot of tea, as many as 30 cups in a day. Do you take your tea with cream, sugar, honey, or lemon? Two sugars, please.

6) During his reclusive years (1975 to 1980), John didn't have household help, preferring to take care of his young son and housework himself. He did, however, have a chauffeur on call around the clock. If you could afford to a staff of one, what single thing would you have him/her do? A chef would be nice. I'd love to create a menu, have someone do the shopping and the food prep and the clean up.

  7) When John was a boy, he requested water colors and colored pencils for his birthday and at Christmastime. Do you recall a special birthday or Christmas gift you received as a child? The Christmas I turned 5, I got Blaze. He was a pinto rocking horse that went back and forth AND up and down. Even better, he whinnied! Like all Mattel toys of his vintage, he made noise when you pulled the string. He was awesomely special.

8) Beatles producer George Martin said John was "a completely impractical man." Would you describe yourself as impulsive, with flashes of practicality? Or are you practical, with flashes of impulsivity? Practical, with flashes of impulsivity.

9) Random question -- Congratulations! You just won the Saturday 9 Sweepstakes, and the prize is your choice of a boat or a motorcycle. Which one do you take? A motorcycle, because I think it would be easier to sell.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

31 Days of Oscar Blogathon -- Tha Actors

Nominated three times by age 25.

At the luncheon for the 1955 nominees
Google her and you'll find lurid headlines: "Sister Says Natalie Wood Murdered by Robert Wagner" and "Why Natalie Wood's Death Remains a Mystery." This reduces her to her final hours, minimizing her hard-earned place in film history.

And Natalie Wood was once one of the hardest working actresses in Hollywood! Here are just some of Nat's stunning stats:

•  74 acting credits over 40 years

•  The year she turned 9, she made three films, including two classics (The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and Miracle on 34th Street)

•  Between 1953 and 1956, she was a regular on three early TV series (Mayor of the Town, The Pride of the Family and Kings Row) while also filming big screen classics like The Searchers and Rebel without a Cause

And there are her Oscar nominations. Three by age 25.  
The only other actress to achieve that stat, before or since, was Teresa Wright in the 1940s. 

Let's take a closer look at those three roles and celebrate Natalie Wood for the career she built.

•  Best Supporting Actress: Rebel without a Cause (1955). She's Judy, the high school siren. Judy "goes with the kids," wears tight sweaters, smokes and breaks curfew. In fact, when the audience first meets Judy, she's in the police station. But she's not a bad girl, just misunderstood. As she moves from childhood to a troubled adolescence, she acts out. She attracts attention from the boys, especially Jim (James Dean) and Buzz (Corey Anderson), and the results are tragic.

Wood showed her range as she ping-ponged between false bravado and romantic yearning. When she's "with the kids," she's loud and casually cruel. Alone with Jim, she's tender and tentative. "I love someone," she says, her voice and eyes filled with awe. "All my life I've been looking for someone to love me, and I love somebody."

She didn't win the Oscar that night. In true Judy fashion, she was all attitude as she feigned disappointment for photographers. At the time, she told friends she didn't care about the statuette. A child of Hollywood, the Oscars just felt like prom night to her. Instead, it was the nomination -- the promise of the meatier roles it represented -- that mattered.

 •  Best Actress: Splendor in the Grass (1961).  The movie begins in 1928, where everything in Bud's and Deenie's world is on the cusp. They are high school seniors, impatient to graduate and start on their adult (and sexual) lives. The nation doesn't know it, but America is on the verge of the Depression.

Warren Beatty is Bud, star athlete. Natalie is Deenie, eager to please everyone. She works for good marks from her teachers. She wants to be the dutiful "good" girl her parents expect. And she longs to please Bud in every way possible, but if they go all the way, she won't be "good" anymore. The stress of living up to every one's expectations causes Deenie to lose herself, and briefly, her mind.

Deenie is achingly sensitive, like a human tuning fork. She's smart, too. Her best scenes are the quiet ones at the very end, when Deenie understands what happened to her, and why. You may wonder what's next for Deenie, but you're confident that she will be OK. Maybe not happy -- not in the way her schoolgirl self defined happiness. After all, "Nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass ...". But Deenie is now strong and self aware ("We will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind ...").

When Natalie Wood attended the Oscars in April, 1962, she was as big a star as she would ever be. She caused a sensation on the arm of her costar and lover, Warren Beatty, at a time when their affair had Natalie competing for magazine covers with Jackie and Liz. In addition to Splendor in the Grass, she starred in West Side Story, which would be the evening's big winner. Gypsy was already in the can and would be released before Christmas.

She didn't win that night, either. But it was an important milestone in her career. She was powerful, having earned director and costar approval.

 •  Best Actress: Love with the Proper Stranger (1964).  Imagine kohl-eyed, glamorous Natalie as a clerk at Macy's. She pulls it off in her third and final Oscar-nominated role.

Angie lives in a crowded apartment with her mother and three brothers. They pressure Angie to marry the man chosen for her (Tom Bosley). Anthony is kind and shy and would undoubtedly be good to her, but she doesn't love him. Angie believes that both she and Anthony deserve romance, "bells and banjos."

Angie has a one-night rebellion with a musician named Rocky (Steve McQueen). She discovers she's pregnant and seeks him out to help her arrange an (illegal) abortion. This is no easy predicament for an Italian Catholic girl to find herself in, and it goes from painful to humiliating when she learns Rocky doesn't even remember her.

Natalie captures the desperation of a young woman with no privacy, no freedom. She is also sweet and tender (especially in her scenes with Bosley). She wants a husband and a baby, but she refuses to settle. It's important to note that she doesn't want either man to settle, either. She won't trap Rocky into a marriage he doesn't want, and she refuses to keep Anthony from a wife who will truly love him. And so we root for Angie to get her happy ending with "bells and banjos." 

I could find no photos of Natalie at the 36th Academy Awards ceremony and can't confirm she attended. (But I bet she was there; Natalie was always "a company girl.") Here she is with McQueen at the Golden Globes. Both were nominated, but neither won, so I can't tell you whose Globe McQueen is holding.

This final Oscar nomination marked the beginning of the end of Natalie's superstar days. She worked crazy hard during this period -- five movies in two years -- but none of these big-budget films made much money. 

While not successful, two of those subsequent five were important. Inside Daisy Clover and This Property Is Condemned helped propel Robert Redford from TV to the big screen, and This Property Is Condemned helped launch Sydney Pollack as a director. Natalie used her clout to hire both men, and history proved her prescient. 

She took time off to have two daughters. Then she returned to work, because Natalie Wood got great satisfaction from acting. She went where the roles were, and found success on the small screen. She was especially good as the struggling but irreverent housewife in The Cracker Factory and won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Karen Holmes in the From Here to Eternity mini-series (both in 1979). At the time of her death, she was working on the feature film Brainstorm and enthusiastic about making her stage debut as Anastasia in Los Angeles.

And so, when I remember Natalie Wood,  
she's not a victim. 
She's a dedicated actress. 

Among my bookshelves

So Wednesday night, I decided to choose 10 books to part with. Among them are biographies of the Beatles, Katharine Hepburn and JBKO that I read when I was very young and that I find too superficial to refer back to. That doesn't mean they won't appeal to someone just learning about these people, and so it makes me happy to put them in the Goodwill sack. If they engage or charm someone else, well, that's lovely.

But on the bottom shelf, by the window, I found a paperback biography of Barbara Stanwyck. By Al Diorio. That I bought approximately 35 years ago.

And that I purchased again 2 1/2 years ago.  I actually read it -- and didn't much care for it! -- during the summer of 2016.

So that's what a mess my personal library is! Two copies of a book I don't even like! I know Stanwyck has her aficionados -- my movie group moderator adores her -- so I wouldn't be surprised if the Diorio book is appreciated more elsewhere. So it makes me happy to toss it into the Goodwill bag.

Which is why I sent Surrender, Dorothy to Kathy. It's a book I appreciated more than liked, but I recognize it has value. Rather than let it languish in my den, I slipped it into a padded envelope and mailed it off to Dekalb. It's a thought provoking book, and I'm happy to give Kathy a crack at it.

I just finished it and January and WHOOSH! It's gone. That's a far cry from the Stanwyck paperback that I moved with me from one apartment to another but never read. (Or never recalled reading.)

Again, this is my version of Marie Kondo. For me, the question isn't, "Does this spark joy?" Instead, it's "would having this make someone else happier than it makes me?"

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Another trip to the dumpster

Tonight I disposed of three cardboard boxes, a bathmat and a rag that had been in my den since October. I've been hanging onto the boxes because I thought I could use them for ... something. In more than three months, that something hasn't presented itself, so I guess there's no reason to keep them.

The mat? Oh, it was a "what if?" As in "what if the new bathmat I bought doesn't work out?" The new mat has been in the bathroom for more than three months. I think that's long enough to establish that it's fine. The rag? I could wash it and put it in the closet with my other rags, but why? I have plenty of rags in there already.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, gives you a window into how my home has become overstuffed.

These four!

Monday night, my movie group watched Libeled Lady. You know how the old folks say, "they don't make them like this anymore?" This 1936 screwball comedy is the kind of movie they're talking about.

Libeled Lady boasts classic MGM star power. Three-time Oscar nominee, suave and divine William Powell. His favorite leading lady, elegant Myrna Loy. Reigning sex symbol, feisty Jean Harlow. Hollywood's new favorite Everyman, Spencer Tracy.

Myrna Loy is the "lady" of the title. Tracy's newspaper prints a story, claiming that she was the other woman in a messy, high society divorce. She wasn't. She retaliates with a lawsuit that could bankrupt the paper. William Powell is brought in to entrap her in a compromising situation, so Tracy can blackmail her into dropping the suit. Harlow is Tracy's long-suffering fiancee, a girl who is beyond sick of playing second fiddle to her boyfriend's job.

The plot machinations are too ridiculous to recount. And they don't matter, anyway. The point of this movie is to let Powell, Loy, Harlow and Tracy charm us. And to transport us to a world where newspaper men drink whiskey at their desks, and heiresses take cruises and escape to their country homes, and bell boys are tipped to forget what they just saw.

We all had a delicious time watching it.

Monday, February 18, 2019

These two!

Bryzzo has arrived at Training Camp. All is right with the world.

I hate me

I had so many things I was going to do on Sunday. I had nothing specific planned. I was just really gonna attack the clutter.

I didn't. I soaked in the tub.* I watched the Sunday news shows. I went out for Chinese. I did laundry. I napped -- for just a minute -- and then woke up six hours later!

Monday is President's Day. I am going to attack the stack of stuff on the chair in my living room. I know it doesn't sound like a very ambitious goal, but I have plans for the day -- mammogram, filing my tax return, movie group.

And maybe, if I give myself something measurable and specific to do, I can actually get it done.

*My chiropractor wants me to soak in epsom salts, hoping it will help the knot at the base of my spine.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sunday Stealing

1. when did you last sing to yourself? Well, I sang to my cat. Does that count? Her name is Connie. When I was putting her dish down, I sang, "Connie, how I love you, how I love you, my dear old Connie ..." She purred. No music critic she.

2. if a crystal ball could tell you the truth about anything, what would you want to know?
What will my life look like one year from today? Will I still have this job? Will I be living in this condo?

3. what is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
I have built a pretty good career, even without much formal education.

4. what is the first happy memory that comes to mind, recent or otherwise?
Meeting Connie at the animal shelter. She had been rescued from a hoarder situation. Her gums were a mushy mess. She had an eye infection. And yet, she was still so affectionate and trusting! Her spirit touched and inspired me. Here she is with my nephew, while I was filling out the paperwork to bring her home. It's been my pleasure to give her a good life.

5. if you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living?
I would make sure that I didn't leave things unorganized or unsaid. I saw a lot (and hopefully learned a lot) from my mother's passing and the aftermath.

6. do you feel you had a happy childhood?

7. would you ever have a deep conversation with a stranger and open up to them?
I remember having a serious conversation about the death penalty with a woman I'd just met at a party. Her husband -- a coworker of mine -- laughed that he wasn't surprised, since neither she nor I have any talent for small talk.

8. what would you title the autobiography of your life so far?
The Thing of It Is. I say it an awful lot.

9. how do you feel about tattoos and piercings? explain.
I don't want any more piercings or any tattoos at all, but that's me. Your body is your business.

10. do you wear a lot of makeup? why/why not?
I wear less with each passing year. I think it ages me. Now I only wear tinted moisturizer, shadow and mascara. No more lipstick, blush or eyeliner for this old gal.

11.The world is listening. pick one sentence you would tell them.
Donald Trump is not representative of America.

12. who in the world would you most like to receive a letter from and what would you want it to say?
A man I was once involved with, and who I still love in my way. After we split, he had some career problems and then a special needs child and a divorce.
I'd like to hear, after all that, that he's OK. 
13. do you have a desk/workspace and how is it organised/not organised?
I'm a slob. And yet, at work, I can always find everything. (At home is another matter.)

14. what’s your starbucks order, and who would you trust to order for you, if anyone?
Hot chocolate, no whipped cream. And then, a dash of cinnamon on the way out. And no, I wouldn't trust anyone to order for me.

15. what is the most important thing to you in your life right now?
I'm obsessed with my home. Will I have to prepare it for sale? Or will I stay here forever?


But you got to have friends

 Bette Midler's "Friends," in this particular context, has been running through my mind. The Last of Sheila is one very twisted movie. A group of friends/coworkers take a weekend pleasure cruise that reveals just how contemptuous, vindictive and perhaps even murderous they can be. Bette sings over the closing credits.

I think I may have behaved badly with my own friends on Friday night. Or maybe I was right to be annoyed because they are annoying. Certainly I love them. But maybe it was the group dynamic. Maybe I'm a bitch. But I would have preferred Friday night not happened.

Mindy and Alan. John and me. We get together for Christmas/Hanukkah every year. We begin planning it in October. This year it didn't actually happen until February 15. That's three months of, "Oh? Did I say that date? We'll be in Florida." and "I have to reschedule." Etc., etc. It's frustrating. Here's how my life works: I have a calendar; I check it before I commit to something; then I write it down; if something else comes up, I say "no." I believe this is the way people have been planning their schedules since the Middle Ages. More than three months of back and forth is exhausting.

We finally had a restaurant chosen: Boston Blackie's. Convenient to the train for Mindy and Alan. Literally across the street from John's office. A bit of a trek for me, but I don't care. Good burgers. Good sandwiches. Casual atmosphere.

So hurray! We finally have a date and a place we all agree on! Except we didn't.

Day of -- just hours before -- John changes his mind about Blackie's. They don't take reservations, and it's Friday after work. "Millennials" are loud when they get together on Fridays after work. Mindy recommends Rivers, a bistro in the same neighborhood that takes reservations. Rivers is a lifestyle away from Blackie's. It caters to the pre- and apres-opera crowd. Plans were changed. Without me.

I had a doctor's appointment on Friday when the emails were flying back and forth. I didn't think I needed to check my phone because, well, planning since October. Date and place chosen. Why would it change now?

Because it's Mindy and John, that's why.

Mindy works from home. She could slip into a lovely pair of slacks, black blouse and bright pashmina before leaving for Rivers. I was already downtown. At work. Dressed for Blackie's. Old Navy fleece and jeans and heavy boots with treads. I also had cash in my wallet for Blackie's, not Rivers, where everything is ala carte.

Oh, well. Fuck it. I didn't even respond to the emails. I just showed up at Rivers.

Where John was at the bar already. Rivers was virtually empty, but they wouldn't seat us until we were all there. I hate places like this.

Then John starts freaking out about the prices on the menu. He just had lunch at 2:30! He didn't want to pay these prices for dinner!

At this point, I really hated him. First of all, he knew we were meeting for dinner tonight somewhere. Why wait until 2:30 to eat lunch? And he was the one behind the venue change because he decided he hates Millennials. You know what Millennials do really well? They check menus  before making a reservation.

Mindy and Alan showed up. None of the three of them like the menu. Everything is "too heavy," "too much." See comment above. At this point, I am trying not to scream.

John asks the waitress if he can order off the bar menu. She graciously acquiesces. I don't know what difference it made, though, since John barely touched his plate and asked her to package everything to go.

Mindy hates Facebook. Alan hates his job. John hates noise ... and Millennials. No matter who or what we talked about, John asked the age of the person at the center.

I was telling a happy story about a new coworker. She's a Senior Vice President, but because of open seating she doesn't have an office and ended up next to me. She's been wonderful to me, helping me with advice and acting like a guardian angel. My point: I thought I'd hate open seating (and I kinda do), but isn't it great that it brought Trisha into my life?

John: How old is she?

Me: I don't know. 45? I really don't know.

John: How old does she look?

Me: I don't know. I guessed 45 because she has seven year old twins and when she told me her sons were seven, she said, 'You were expecting me to say 17, weren't you?' So ...

Mindy: So she had fertility problems? Do you think she had IVF?

Me: I didn't ask.

Mindy: I wonder where she had her fertility treatments.

Me: She just moved to Chicago and ...

John: So she could be in her 50s.

Oh, for fuck's sake! Shoot me now!

While I didn't say that out loud, I know I was snappish all night because I couldn't stand them. My dear friends, I really couldn't stand them. I'd only had one drink, but though it was strong, I wish I'd had more.

When the bill came, Mindy and Alan paid it. Which was gracious, and I was grateful. But even that annoyed me because I ordered the cheapest thing on the menu because that was all the cash I had. I am trying not to dream of the jumbo crab cakes and remember that at least the pasta/chicken dish was free.

I would have been happier home alone watching TCM.

And I love these people! Sometimes I think I'm no longer fit for polite society.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Valentine (1993)
Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

This song was specially chosen for the Saturday 9 closest to Valentine's Day.

1) This is a love song written by Willie Nelson for his young son. Have you sent any Valentines this year to someone you love who isn't a romantic partner? Yes. I mailed a card to my friend Henry. It has macaroons on the front, and wishes him a "sweet day." The improvement in his condition over the past two months has been stellar, and worth celebrating at every opportunity.

2) Today that little boy, Lukas, is a singer/songwriter who wrote eight of the songs for the 2018 A Star Is Born soundtrack. Have you seen the Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga big screen romance? I saw it back in the fall. I thought Bradley Cooper was just great. However, good as she was, Lady Gaga just isn't Judy Garland.

3) On Valentine's Day in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell patented the first telephone. Who did you most recently speak to on the phone? A coworker with a really boring question about a project.

4) Penicillin was also introduced on Valentine's Day (in 1929). When you get a shot, do you look away when the needle touches your skin? For shots, yes. But when I donate blood, I keep an eye on the tube. It never ceases to amaze me that we can give a baggy full of blood and not even miss it.

5) According to legend, a gift of red roses signifies love and romance. When did you last purchase flowers or plants? Did you buy them for yourself, or someone else? I haven't bought flowers in more than six months. I have no room for them in our new office space, and at home, I'm afraid my cats will confuse a floral arrangement with a salad bar.

6) This week's artist, Willie Nelson, can trace his family tree
back to the Revolutionary War. Captain John Nelson served with the Minutemen back in 1776. If you could go back in time to witness any great moment in American history, which would you choose? I'd like to go back to Springfield, IL, in 1861. That's when President-elect Abraham Lincoln left Illinois for Washington DC and he gave this really touching, completely impromptu speech at the train station. He spoke so eloquently, especially impressive for a man with little education, and he was off to do great things. 

I've been here!

7) Before he became a musical success, Willie was a door-to-door salesman, peddling first Bibles, then vacuum cleaners. INC magazine tells us that the traits of successful salespeople include resilience and good listening skills. Do you think you'd make a good sales person? No.

8) In 1993, when this song came out, Saved by the Bell aired its series finale. Crazy Sam likes to tease her brother because he once admitted to her that he has seen all 86 episodes of this teen sitcom. Is there a show that you believe you've seen every episode? Friends.

Photo chosen because it illustrates Questions 8 and 9
9) Random question -- We're having milkshakes! What's your favorite flavor? Strawberry.

Call me Goldilocks

Thursday night, I attacked the stack of clothes next to my nightstand. I am parting with the Paul McCartney tour t-shirt I bought back in 2015, but have never worn because it's way too small. Someone else might come upon it and be thrilled. Better they have it than me. (My version of Marie Kondo.)

And I'm getting rid of a mess of mesh laundry bags. Some were way too small for my use. One was gigantic. But I never got rid of them because they were virtually new and usable and it seemed like a sin to add them to the landfill.

I still feel that way. But I feel that way about just about everything. And that's why my home is overstuffed and overcrowded. I'm too picky to use this shit but unwilling to toss it away.

I have to get over that.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

My favorite movie kiss


A girl, a guy, her cat. A reunion in the rain. This one makes me sigh every time.  
Breakfast at Tiffany's, 1961

Honorable Mentions


Their first kiss in Aunt Pitty's parlor. Gone with the Wind, 1939

George and Mary grab "the chance of a lifetime." It's a Wonderful Life, 1946

Paula leaves the factory in style. An Officer and a Gentleman, 1982


Five books and a bucket of cleaning supplies

Since I long to feel less stuck, I'm not waiting till Saturday to declutter. I've decided to do it a little every night.

So five book and a bucket of cleaning supplies are departing my bedroom. Why did I have a bucket of cleaning supplies in my bedroom? Because I put them in there when I removed them from under my bathroom sink back in October, and I just kinda got used to seeing them there. That's how I roll when left to my own devices.

So the books are in a bag for Goodwill. I used my own version of Marie Kondo's technique. Do these particular volumes make me happy? Could they make someone else happier? So that's why I'm giving up some of my later Grafton/alphabet mysteries and a coffee table book on Bobby Kennedy. I'm truly sad that Sue Grafton died and will miss Kinsey's adventures. But keeping these books don't really help me feel better and someone else might enjoy them. The RFK book is really pretty superficial, it was an impulse "50 years ago today" purchase. But to someone new to his story? The photos and text might be inspiring.

That was Wednesday. Let's see how long this resolution lasts.

The cleaning supplies? They're under the kitchen sink.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019


I'm frozen in place, and it has nothing to do with the weather. My home is a mess, and yet when it comes to housework, I am immobile.

I returned home from vacation before New Year's, and my empty suitcase is still in my bedroom. I haven't even screwed up the energy to move it back to the den closet.

I have books everywhere! Papers everywhere! Clothes everywhere! I can write my name in the dust on my TVs. I do laundry, grocery shop and take out the garbage. Period.

I promise myself I will spend Saturday and Sunday getting the place in shape. Of course, I promised myself last Sunday I would do that ... and didn't. I'm smart enough to know this is a manifestation of depression. I'm not smart enough to know what to do about it.

There may be another bed bug inspection. As icky as that sounds, it might be a good thing. Since I'm on the board, I can't very well exempt my own unit. I have to set an example. Therefore I would have a date certain to have my place clean. It worked last time.

With me luck!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sunday Stealing

#10: I'd like to be greeted by books in every room.

1. Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews? It's a three-way tie: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and The Hunger Games.

2. If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be? I like the idea of just hanging out over a beer or two with Spenser, Kinsey Milhone and Archie Goodwin. I can see Archie and Kinsey pairing off, leaving Spenser and me to compare/contrast baseball's two great cathedrals: Wrigley Field and Fenway.

3. You are told you can't die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realize it's past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave? Moby fucking Dick

4. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you've read, when in fact you've been nowhere near it? The Handmaid's Tale

5. As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realize when you read a review about it/go to 'reread' it that you haven't? Which book? I can't think of any.

6. You've been appointed Book Advisor to a VIP (who's not a big reader). What's the first book you'd recommend and why? The Princess Bride. Because it is funny, unique yet familiar, and really is about something if you choose to give it additional thought.

7. A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with? Spanish.

8. A mischievous fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick? Gone with the Wind. I used to read it every summer. The last time I picked it up, I found the insensitive racial attitudes painful and intolerable. I like to believe that I'll be able to get past that next time. I'd hate to think that I will no longer spend time with Scarlett, Melanie, Rhett and Will (who isn't in the movie). Ashley is far more attractive in the book than he is the movie.

9. What's one bookish thing you 'discovered' from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)? Kwizgiver introduced me to the Spellman mysteries. They're a delight! Thanks, Kwiz! (If I could have a fourth, I'd invite Rae Spellman to join us in #2.)

10. That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she's granting you your dream library!

Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free. I'd like built-in bookshelves in every room of my house, so I could have a biography room and a mystery room and fiction room and a coffee table book room. And I'd like to rescue used books. There's such romance to holding a book in your hands and wondering who held it before.


Saturday's equation

Heavy meal + heavy conversation = long nap. Caught up with Nancy today at a burger joint. Had two delicious sliders, a side of mac and cheese, washed down with a margarita. Quite possibly the least nutritious meal ever, but it was all good.

Nancy's life is complicated right now. She is beginning work on a website and starting to network to launch her own business. Her children are in a state of flux for different reasons -- her daughter is having trouble adjusting to college life, her son is struggling with sobriety. And the issues with her kids have put her int he path of her ex-husband an awful lot lately, and that's not a good thing.

I enjoyed talking to her. She is smart, informed about the world and has a good heart. But different people play different roles in your life. And Nancy is never gonna just be light and laughter. That's not who she is.

So when I got home, I took a nice long nap.

I missed my movie group again tonight. I just couldn't make the suburb-to-city logistics work. But I had one of those "path not taken" moments. As I was closing my eyes, I wondered how different my Saturday would have been if I'd sat in the dark with other movie lovers, watching a Ginger Rogers comedy from 1943.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Waiting for a Star to Fall (1988)

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

1) "Waiting for a Star to Fall" was literally inspired by a falling star. The singing/songwriting duo of Boy Meets Girl was at a big, outdoor concert and could have sworn they saw a falling star in the night sky. Have you ever seen a falling star? No.

2) They offered this song to Whitney Houston, who declined to record it. Whitney did have hits with two other songs they wrote: "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" and "How Will I Know?" What's your favorite Whitney song? Remember how overwhelming it can be when love meets lust? This song captured that for me. (Plus, I really liked her little jacket.)

3) Boy Meets Girl were George and Shannon, a husband-and-wife team originally from Seattle, WA. In 2016, Seattle was named America's most "bike-friendly city." Do you own a bike? Not anymore.

4) George and Shannon met for the first time at a wedding. She was a guest, he was in the band. Think of the last wedding present you bought. Was it from the bride and groom's registry? I can't recall exactly what it was -- it was so long ago that the bride and groom now have two children -- but it was from the registry.

5) In 1988, when this song was popular, 98% of American homes had a TV set. Today, that figure has dipped to 96%, presumably because Millennials are watching more content online. What's the last video you watched online? "So Emotional," Whitney.

6) In 1988 saw the introduction of one of the most memorable slogans of all time: "Just Do It." Without looking it up, do you know what brand "Just Do It" promotes? Nike.

7) In 1988, Sonny Bono went from entertainer to Republican politician when he was elected Mayor of Palm Springs. Have you ever met the mayor of your town? Yes, but he wasn't yet mayor. Just a candidate. I told him I wasn't crazy about how the incumbent had privatized animal control, virtually handing it over to a local animal shelter. The shelter is good, but since it's a volunteer organization I worry that the quality of care depended on the volunteers and I wished there was more oversight. He responded -- rather refreshingly, I thought -- that he really didn't know much about this but would look into it.

8) Michael Douglas took home the Oscar in 1988 for his portrayal of Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street. The American Film Institute named Gekko one of the "top movie villains of all time." Do you think bad guys are as interesting as good guys? I think the best movies have the most balanced conflict, with an evenly matched hero and antagonist.

9) Random question: Have you ever seen a photo of yourself naked? (Baby pictures don't count.) I recently saw an xray of my spine. Does that count?


Thursday, February 07, 2019

She lost her fella

My friend Kathleen's dad last week. It was not sudden. He was over 90 and had been in declining health -- both mentally and physically -- for years now.

As her husband began to fade, Mom promised him that she would keep him at home. Despite hardship -- she's nearly 90 herself and not very strong -- she made good on that. A day nurse was hired, and every evening one of their adult children would come to spend time with Dad and put him to bed. If the nurse noted a change in his condition that indicated the end might be near, his son or daughter would stay the night, so that Mom wouldn't be alone when she found her husband had passed. There had been several close calls over the last month and finally, on the coldest day Chicago had seen in decades, he died in the wee small hours.

I feel bad for Kathleen, of course. Losing a parent is rite of passage -- a big one. But I'm glad that she had those evenings with her dad. She noticed that, around Thanksgiving, he stopped using her name and she suspected he no longer knew which daughter she was. It didn't hurt her feelings. Instead, she took it as a sign the end was even nearer. She was content to sit with him, singing showtunes for a while, and then putting him to bed.

She was disturbed, though, by the explicit nature of some of their conversations. He was never inappropriate about her. Dad seemed to still realize that he shouldn't view his daughter -- whichever daughter she was -- sexually. But he did enjoy comparing and contrasting the bustlines of his various nurses, expressed a curiosity about their genitalia, and even leered at Julie Andrews as they sang along to My Fair Lady.

Kathleen is no prude, understood it was age and medication talking and not her dear old dad. But when dad started talking dirty, she felt bad for her mother, who could overhear.

When Mom looked at Dad, she didn't see dementia or impending death. She saw her husbandEvery evening, when her adult son or daughter arrived, Mom excused herself for about a half hour. She then fixed her hair and make up so she'd look nice for "dinner with Dad."

It breaks my heart that -- after more than 65 years and seven children and 13 grandchildren -- she has lost her boyfriend.