Tuesday, April 30, 2019


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 

Kick Kennedy: The Charmed Life and Tragic Death of the Favorite Kennedy Daughter by Barbara Leaming. Kathleen ("Kick") was the second daughter of Joseph and Rose Kennedy. She had a style and personality that naturally drew people to her. A close confidante of her brother Jack, she was sophisticated beyond her years and yet still very much the Boston convent girl.

When Joseph Kennedy was named ambassador to England, Kick took London by storm. Fleet Street deemed her "The Little American Girl," and published photos of her on society pages, attending embassy parties and doing charity work. Young aristocratic men flocked to her, and that's where the trouble starts.

For in the 1930s and 40s, Catholic girls were expected to marry Catholic boys. All the boys in Kick's London set were titled and Anglican. Wartime heightened passions, and she falls for England's most eligible bachelor, William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington. Or "Billy" as he was to Kick. It's a recipe for heartache.

This isn't Leaming's first book on the Kennedys. She brings a sure hand to the subject matter, inclusive but not sensational. She places her reader in London society and the Kennedy family at a very particular time. Even though I know the barebones of Kick's story, I am enjoying this book and learning from it.

2. What did you recently finish reading?  
I Am Not Ashamed by Barbara Payton. It's hard to imagine a life less similar to Kick Kennedy's. As the book opens, Barbara Payton was a 35-year-old prostitute, with hole in her smile where her front tooth used to be and a long scar across her stomach where a john knifed her. In the afterward, we learn she died at age 39.  

Barbara was a real woman, a tabloid staple in the 1950s. She was once a natural beauty who quickly found success in Hollywood. She put more effort into offscreen partying than onscreen performance, and consequently threw her career away.

Barbara didn't think about learning her craft, or being a mother to her seldom mentioned son. She concerned herself with clubs, furs and jewelry. Relationships for her were strictly transactional. For a book saturated with sex, there's very little passion and no joy on these pages.

Barbara was one of those people who excused her own bad behavior by saying, "At least I'm honest." Her road to an early grave was inexorable and excruciating. This book, while compulsively readable, was fascinating but not likeable. I'm not sorry I read it, but I don't recommend it.

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

April Prompt -- Day 30

"Your preferred method of communication" 

Phone calls. I like to blab. My niece, nephew and my friend John are all confirmed texters. I find that keyboard frustrating. I prefer to blab and blab.
For more about the April Challenge, click here.
Image courtesy of Youngkeit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, April 29, 2019

I was afraid of this

When I took Friday off as a sick day, when nothing was particularly wrong, I was worried that I would pay a karmic price for it. And I have.

My back aches. On the left. It's from the right that my spinal stenosis emanates, so this is something else. Dr. Google seems to indicate it's my old friend, the kidney stone. It makes sense, I suppose. I was guiltily aware during my trip to California -- 6 days, including travel -- that I wasn't "pushing water," as my GP suggests I do every day. It's just that between 4-hour flights and all those movies, I didn't want all the bathroom time that goes with "pushing water."

Oh well. I have two meetings today that I can't miss. And I don't know that staying home would make me feel any better, anyway. As I understand it from last year's battle, I just have to let it run its course. My friends at CVS just so happened to send me a coupon for $2 Extra Strength Execedrin.

I know it's silly to believe that I brought this upon myself with Friday's mental health day. But I think this might be a case of what Snarkypants lives by, a kind of pre-knowing. Perhaps on Friday, when I was consciously still feeling fine, my body was already sending almost imperceptible messages to my brain about the discomfort to come.

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

April Prompt -- Day 29

"A happy moment" 

Looking into my Connie Cat's bright eyes.

She came from a hoarder situation and was in difficult shape when I adopted her. A young life of nothing but a bad diet and minimal care had taken its toll. Her gums were mushy and eyes were cloudy and light sensitive. She was afraid to be held.

It's taken some effort on the part of me and the vet, but her eyes are clear and her breath isn't as bad and her appetite is good. Best of all, she crawls into my arm and purrs and purrs. She loves to play with Reynaldo. I have given her a happy life. Whenever I consider that, I am happy.

For more about the April Challenge, click here.
Image courtesy of Youngkeit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sunday, April 28, 2019

April Prompt -- Day 28

"Where you want to be" 

The corner of Clark and Addison. Within the Friendly Confines of  Wrigley Field. Watching my Boys in Cubbie Blue!

For more about the April Challenge, click here.
Image courtesy of Youngkeit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Sunday Stealing

 Sunday Stealing: Facebook Favorites

    Your favorite songs All My Loving (The Lads from Liverpool), Tears Dry on Their Own (Amy Winehouse), September (Earth Wind & Fire)

    Your favorite bands
The Beatles ... and, um ... more Beatles

    Your favorite actors or actresses 

It changes. Currently I'm going through my Cary Grant period. He was both debonair and fearless. I like a handsome man who is willing to be silly, and does silly so well!


Lucille Ball, too. Gorgeous and goofy. And, always, all in.


    Your favorite books
The best books I've read recently have all been biographies. The one that has stayed with me is Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larsen. Her life was a tragedy, but the influence she had on her siblings was lasting. Because of that, this largely unknown woman has had an impact on millions of lives over generations. In no small part, because of her, we have The Special Olympics and the Americans with Disability Act.Your life wasn't for nothing, dear Rosie.

    Books you dislike There's a series about a Key West food critic who solves mysteries that almost caused me physical pain. The heroine is SUCH a ninny!

    Your favorite movies
I recently saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid again on the big screen and found it even better than I remembered. Funnier, more touching, and too cool.


    Your favorite TV shows
Friends and This Is Us spring to mind.

    Your favorite foods/drinks
Burger, fries and Coke

    Your favorite animal
I suppose I must say these two. Though I consider them less "animals" and more "roommates."

    Your favorite scents

    Your hobbies/ things you do in your free time
Fart around on the Internet, read, watch movies

    Your pet peeves
Space hogs. Unless you paid for two seats on the train, you shouldn't take two seats on the train. You're rude, and you're stealing. Shame on you!

    Things you collect

    Things you like to swap
Nothing comes to mind

    Places you've been
Here and there, hither and yon, around

    Places you'd like to visit
There are places I'd like to return to. Colonial Williamsburg, Boston, Hot Springs, Graceland, The TCM Film Festival ...

    The songs you dislike
Blurred Lines. Whenever people talk about how positive and upbeat Pharrell Williams is, I'd like to remind them that he wrote this piece of shit and appears in the video.

    The movies you dislike
I really didn't like Wolf of Wall Street.

    The TV shows you dislike
I don't like sci fi

   Classes you liked in school
American History, English

    Classes you disliked in school
Math, science

    Crafts you would like to learn
Is cooking a craft? Maybe I should learn to cook.

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Every Time You Go Away (1985)

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

1) This song is about separation. Who is the last person you said goodbye (or maybe just "so long") to? You know, I don't recall. Sorry.

2) This week's featured artist, Paul Young, was a gifted athlete during his school days and briefly played professional football (aka soccer). Sam enjoys playing tennis, though her serve doesn't give Serena Williams anything to worry about. What's something you enjoy doing, even if you don't excel? I am a terrible singer, and yet every morning I sing in the shower.

3) Mr. Young and his wife Stacy were married for 31 years, until her death in 2018. What do you think is the key to a happy marriage? I have no earthly clue.

4) Paul Young's performance of this hit song was one of the highlights of the July 1985 Live Aid Concert. This international benefit raised more than $100 million to alleviate hunger in Ethiopia. Tell us about a charity you support. Planned Parenthood. I want all babies to be wanted, and all mothers to be healthy.

5) This song was written by Daryl Hall, of Hall and Oates. What's your favorite Hall and Oates song? "She's Gone."


6) In 1985, when this song was popular, the New Coke was unsuccessfully introduced. What's the last beverage you drank? Milk

7) In 1985, the New York Stock Exchange had to close because of Hurricane Gloria. Has a hurricane shared your name? (Find a list of recent/upcoming storm names here.) I don't see myself there.

8) 1985 was the year that the Titanic wreckage was discovered. There have been at least 11 movies and TV shows about the fatal voyage. Have you seen any of them? I've seen Leo and Kate as Jack and Rose, of course. And I've seen parts of a Barbara Stanwyck/Clifton Webb version in glorious black and white.

9) Random question: Would you rather own and run a coffee shop or a shoe store? Why? I admit neither one of these options stirs my soul. I suppose a coffee shop. I really hate the smell of coffee, but I guess that means I wouldn't be tempted to drink the merchandise. My niece majored in culinary arts, so she could help me. 

April Prompt -- Day 27

"A recent compliment" 

"Thank you for doing all this." On Tuesday, a coworker appreciated my 1) staying late to make sure our admin had her gift on her chair on the next morning (Administrative Professionals Day) and 2) taking it upon myself to get to the source of some friction on our project. 

For more about the April Challenge, click here.
Image courtesy of Youngkeit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, April 26, 2019

Playing hooky

I called in sick today, pleading migraine. I worry about the karma of this move, since I was pretty much fine. Just bored and a little annoyed by my boss.

Very little was accomplished. Legs were shaved. Cats were cuddled. Farmville 2 crops were tended. At about 3:00, I was reasonably sure no one from the office would call me and I took myself to lunch.

I had a massive bowl of the best clam chowder in town and tried their drink of the day: vanilla vodka
Must remember to order this again.
and Coke. Separately, vodka and Coke are two of my favorite things, so why not try them together? It was good, tasting a bit like a black cow with a kick.

I enjoyed checking out who else is at the bar on a Friday afternoon at 3:00. There was:

•  A trio of older men who appear to meet here regularly. They were watching a rerun of last night's Cub game, and it all seemed new to them.

• A man in a blazer and khakis who had his laptop under his arm as he bellied up to the bar. The bartender knew him, so I guess this isn't the first time he's done this. I've heard of "work from home" days, even "work from Starbucks" days, but not "work from pub" days. Oh well, I was a delinquent myself today so I have no room to judge. Is it common for bars to have wifi?

•. A table of tourists having a late lunch. They were animated and happy.

Then I went grocery shopping. Then I took a nap. I wonder how many days like this I could string together before I got bored ...

 Image courtesy of gt_pann at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

April Prompt -- Day 26

"Organized or messy?" 

Let's see now: I arrived home from Hollywood on April 15 and my suitcase is still in the living room. It's empty. But I haven't gotten around to re-rearranging the closet in the den to make room for it. So what does that tell you?

For more about the April Challenge, click here.
Image courtesy of Youngkeit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, April 25, 2019

April Prompt -- Day 25

"Happiness is ..." 

I'm very lucky that I can take pleasure in the little things. It's a gift I inherited from my mom. My day can turn when I notice how blue the sky is, or if Anthony Rizzo gets a clutch hit, or Connie begins purring in my arms, or I hear Sir Paul on the radio.

Life is full of happiness.

For more about the April Challenge, click here.
Image courtesy of Youngkeit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

She's back in my inbox

My oldest friend is back online, and back in touch! It's been about a year since she fell off the radar. She lost her job, then lost her car and her apartment and moved in with her cousin. Her health problems and depression escalated and she withdrew. Never logging onto social media, seldom checking her email, not often answering her phone.*

I've been worried about her, of course, but I have given her space. She moved to California to be with her cousin, she adores her cousin, and I thought she just wanted to be with Sharon. Too bad that wasn't the case. She's been stuck inside her own head. She told me she was becoming agoraphobic.

Anyway she has a new doctor who added Rexulti to her prescription cocktail and it has made a big difference. Her sense of humor -- one of our bonds -- has returned. She's begun writing (fan fiction, just for herself). Is back on email and Facebook and I am always happy to see her name on my screen.

She still has lots of health problems -- primarily bladder issues -- and in addition to meds she's doing talk therapy with a PhD. But she seems to feel that she's making progress, and that is exciting.

I have missed her. I am glad she is back.

*It's an "Obama Phone," a flip phone, so if I want to send her a photo, I have to do it via email.

April Prompt -- Day 24

"A motto to live by" 

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

For more about the April Challenge, click here.
Image courtesy of Youngkeit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

April Prompt -- Day 23

"Something that is always easy for you" 

Loving critters. I have a natural affinity for things with fur.

For more about the April Challenge, click here.
Image courtesy of Youngkeit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, April 22, 2019

He's huge!

Today brought an unexpected Napoleon sighting! Caleb and the now very, very BIG kitty were on their familiar corner at Michigan and Lake. They are, unfortunately, homeless again. The "apartment" they'd been living in -- really, the attic space over a garage -- had mold and it was disruptive to wife Randi's breathing. She's had such health problems that they decided it would be better to sleep outdoors in their tent until they can find another place.

There's good news here. Caleb is still working, still driving a forklift at a grocery warehouse. Since he's been moved back to nights, he's decided to augment their income by panhandling. I didn't see Randi because she was picking up new socks and underwear at Macy's (which is just up the street). This is great because she's battled cancer, and I was afraid that her absence meant she was sick again.

I'm always surprised by how comfortable Caleb is with working the corner. His sign says he needs money for a place to stay and that's true, so he's not taking the money under false pretenses. Napoleon has been to vet recently, and the cat's health is always paramount in their lives, and, of course, that costs money.  Caleb honestly needs help and isn't ashamed to ask for it.

She's skipping the salon!

I saw Joanna Saturday night for the first time in ages. I knew that she's been crazy busy. Self-employed, she lost her longest-standing and most lucrative client and has been scrambling for a replacement. I also knew her kid brother is dying of cancer and is in hospice somewhere down south, which naturally has been weighing on her.

I was surprised when I saw her. Her normally lustrous dark brown hair was stringy and the gray was visible at 20 paces. It's the first time I've ever seen her without an armful of bangles or a decorative clip in her hair. She suddenly looked like what she is -- a 60-something woman who is tired and weighed down by the circumstances of her life.

After our movie group movie (Lost Weekend), we went to the tapas restaurant next door. All she had was water. She said she was stuffed from the Passover Seder she'd just attended at her neighbor's apartment I didn't believe her and offered to buy her a drink. She said after watching Ray Milland's portrayal of an alcoholic, she's never drinking again. Color me unconvinced. She just didn't have the money.

She spoke enthusiastically about the project she's working on with my a former coworker of mine. I brought them together, and I'm pleased and proud it's working out. Especially now that I know how much it means to Joanna. They haven't paid her yet -- that's not how it works; freelancers bill when the project is done and then have to wait weeks (sometimes up to two months!) to be paid -- but she is really depending on the money they will give her. She confessed that she had to dip into her life insurance policy to pay her rent, and has negotiated a two-month extension with her landlord. Her rent was going to be raised on May 1, but she convinced him to wait until July 1. She sold her brand-new pressure cooker (still in the box) to a neighbor for $80. The neighbor gave her a $100 bill and told her not to bother with the change. She said without that $20, she wasn't sure she'd be able to put gas in her car.

No wonder she's not getting her done! 

This is not the first time she's been here. She previously told me that, years ago, she filed for bankruptcy while still living in New Orleans. At that time, she viewed it as just a bump in the road. She was confident that she could bounce back from it. But now, she worries that she'll never be able to retire.

That was Saturday. Sunday was Easter, the day of rebirth.

I hope she had a good holiday. I hope she believes that she can turn it around professionally, that she believes in the good things in her life.

I want to help. But I don't have a lot of extra cash right now, and when I do I've been sending it to Henry and Reg. Still, I want her to feel supported.

I put a $20 Walgreens gift card in an envelope with a note: telling her to hang onto it because we all have those moments when our budget won't budge but we still suddenly need fabric softener, or trouser socks, or something else incidental, and you can always find that stuff at Walgreens.

I tried to word it as though it's no big deal, that we all find ourselves where she is now. I hope she takes it in the spirit its meant.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

April Prompt -- Day 22

"Your last important decision" 

To finally redo my bathroom, back in October 2018. It was years in the making, but I think it was a good investment. And it was a Russian nesting doll of decisions -- once I decided to do it, I had to decide how to finance it, and choose a contractor, and select tile and finishes ... I didn't enjoy it, but I'm glad I did it.

For more about the April Challenge, click here.
Image courtesy of Youngkeit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sunday, April 21, 2019

At the Movies -- Part 3

Last week I went to the TCM Classic Film Festival and had a freaking awesome time. A wallow for movie lovers, like me. It was about the camaraderie of meeting fellow buffs in line, of watching classics I love with others who love them, too, and on the BIG screen.

SUNDAY.  One of the first movies announced by TCM for the festival was Holiday (1938). It's not an especially popular film, yet it's perhaps my favorite movie of all time, and so I took its early inclusion as a sign from God and Robert Osborne that I was meant to go to the festival this year.

Kate plays Linda Seton. She's rich, sheltered, and confused. The alienated black sheep of a prominent New York family. She wants to do good in the world, but is confused about how. She just knows that she's not content with the way her family and their friends worship the almighty buck.

Her kid sister, Julia, brings home a most fascinating chap. Johnny Case (Cary Grant). Julia and Johnny met and fell madly, instantly in love on the slopes in Lake Placid. Now that they're back from vacation, Julia and Johnny have to deal with the reality of their lives. Julia is a Park Avenue heiress who (unlike Linda) loves her life of privilege. Johnny is a self-made success, who believes that money is the means to an end.

Now that he has some money socked away, Johnny wants to take time off -- like a year or three -- to spend it. He wants a "holiday," to travel and meet people, learn the meaning of life.

Julia is appalled, but Linda thinks this is fantastic! Loving her sister as she does, Linda wants the wedding to take place. She believes Johnny is just what the Seton family needs. Julia wants Johnny, because he's clever and good looking, but she wants to change him into a Seton.

Oh, yeah. And Linda is falling in love with him. This causes her much pain, because he belongs to her dear Julia.

Despite its star power, this is a "little" movie. Dialog driven, it takes place mostly in the Seton home. I loved seeing it with people who appreciated it like I did. I watched one of the final scenes through tears, and I wasn't the only one sniffling. That's the wonderful thing about the TCMFF -- we lose ourselves in these films.

Magnificent Obsession (1954) in the same theater. I just love Douglas Sirk movies. There's a school of criticism that maintains Sirk was making sharp-eyed observations about the bourgeois values of the post-war middle class. Yeah, yeah, whatever. For me, they are freaking fabulous soap operas, filled with unbelievably attractive people who suffer unbelievably dramatic hardships and prevail to live unbelievably happily ever after. These movies make me happy, same as Elvis movies do. And I wasn't missing an opportunity to see one on the big screen.

The barebones of the plot: a wealthy playboy learns the value of doing good and turns his life around. In glorious technicolor! My favorite scene has brain surgeon Rock Hudson scrubbing for an emergency operation ... shirtless. What? Don't all brain surgeons spritz their bare chests before grabbing the bone saw? I wasn't the only one in the theater laughing out loud, but our laughter was affectionate, not derisive. We were all there because we love these movies.

It was introduced by Barbara Rush, who was the movie's ingenue back in 1954. I was tickled to see her. She was in TV's Peyton Place and she starred in the first professional theatrical production I ever saw -- Same Time, Next Year at the Blackstone Theater here in Chicago -- back when I was still in high school. She's frail, but quite glamorous.

The Complicated Legacy of Gone with the WindThe only TCMFF panel I attended, but it was so provocative and intriguing. A quartet of film historians and authors discussed two inarguable points: GWTW is un-PC to the point of being offensive, and yet it's a great and highly watchable movie. As women, how do we process Scarlett, Mammy and Melanie? As people of color, how do we handle the romanticized depiction of slavery and Reconstruction? It lasted an hour and it could have gone on an hour more.

Gone with the Wind (1939). Back to the BIG screen for the biggest movie of all time. The first movie ever shown on TCM. It was so very fitting that this was the last movie I saw at my first TCMFF.

Sunday Stealing

1. What Did You Have For Lunch? Saturday, I had breakfast for lunch. Two eggs, over easy, bacon, hashbrowns and wheat toast.

2.  Do You Dance In The Car?
No car.

3.  Favourite Animal?
These two. (Though I consider them more roommates than animals.)

4.  Do You Watch The Olympics?

5.  What Time Do You Usually Go To Bed?
Sometimes 8:00. Sometimes 1:00 AM. Or anytime in between. Depends on how I'm feeling.

6.  Are You Wearing Makeup Right Now?
Remnants of yesterday's makeup.

7.  Do You Prefer To Swim In A Pool Or The Ocean?
Now why aren't lakes even included in my choices?

8.  What Was The Last Thing You Ate?
A bowl of cold cereal.

9.  Bottled Water Or Tap Water?
I don't care.

10. What Makes You Happy?
Seeing the W fly high!

11. Did You Like Swinging As A Child? Do You Still Get Excited When You See A Swing Set? Yes and yes.
12. Do You Work Better With Or Without Music?
With music. Too much quiet freaks me out.

13. Do You Make Your Bed In The Morning?

14. Do You Like Your Music Loud?

15.Do You Fear Thunder / Lightning?

April Prompt -- Day 21

"How do you show people you care?" 

I believe it's little things, done consistently. For example, every time I spend the night out of town, I send postcards to my cousin, my aunt, my niece* and a handful of my friends. My oldest friend had a medical procedure scheduled for this week, so I sent her a little get well gift: a little Lego of her favorite hockey player ($7.50). I've sent Easter greetings to Henry with a Walgreen's gift card inside to help with his prescriptions.

It's just my way of letting people know they're on my mind.

*My nephew doesn't check his mailbox.

For more about the April Challenge, click here.
Image courtesy of Youngkeit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net