Monday, December 30, 2019

At least I was stuck in The Thompson Center

The Thompson Center is a controversial building here. Designed by Helmut Jahn, this State of Illinois office building is all glass and peach and aqua and red. I've always loved it, but there are many fellow citizens who hate it. It's fallen into disrepair, and estimates are that fixing the heat, the a/c, the mold and the leaks would be cost prohibitive. Rumor has it that it's going to be sold soon, and likely razed. I will miss it.

So today, I wasn't altogether unhappy that I was stuck there getting my Real ID card. I got to see the Christmas tree, the skylight and the big bear. I'm afraid I don't know the reason for the big  bear, except that, to me, a bear was once a cub. What is a better reflection of The State of Illinois than the Chicago Cubs?

Worrisome postscript

Sunday afternoon, Henry had series of seizures and was airlifted to a hospital in Miami. It seems unreal to me. Here I am, not yet completely unpacked from my trip to visit him, and he's out of it, in a sterile hospital room in Mt. Sinai Medical Center.

Reg explained it all to me over the phone. Henry had a tempestuous phone call with his younger brother. The details aren't clear, but apparently Albert made Henry feel like a bad son, a bad brother, because Henry has made no plans to come home to Puerto Rico and see their ailing mother. Albert knows Henry can't fly because he's at risk for seizures; Reg believes Albert was just being cruel. The stress seems to have triggered the seizure series.

The doctors have led Reg to believe that these seizures will not cause Henry to lose any ground in his recovery, that they aren't unexpected in traumatic brain injury cases.

One step up, two steps back.

My poor, darling Henry.

A Bookish Merry Christmas

This trip to Key West is notable for books, lots of books! It was too cool to swim, so each morning I read instead. Here's the spot on the patio in front of my room where I had a piece of fruit, a muffin, and read the one I brought with me: A Fatal Grace, the second in the Three Pines mystery series. I broke down and bought it because I wanted to read something set at Christmas. How strange to be reading about pines when surrounded by palms!

Then there are the books I received:

Life by Keith Richards and the Bob Dylan Chronicles from Reg and Henry. I'm not terribly enthusiastic about these, to be honest, but I can see myself reading them if my TBR pile gets too shallow.

The Hollywood Book Club is a charming little tome  that shows everyone from Marilyn and James Dean to Gregory Peck and Ginger Rogers with their superstar noses in books. I got it from Patrick -- whom I just know gets me.

Then during the layover in Miami, i found myself in Hudson News, which was having a Buy 2/Get the Third Book FREE! sale. I got The Other Windsor Girl, a novel about Princess Margaret, The Big Fella, a biography of Babe Ruth, and No Judgements, a Meg Cabot book set in the Florida Keys.

I got home to find my Christmas gift from my oldest friend: Writers and Their Cats. It's a nice companion to The Hollywood Book Club!

Of course, now that I'm home, I won't be reading these books among the tropical flora.

Chrismas Getaway -- Day Four

Key lime martini @ Duffy's
Christmas Day. A lovely lunch at Duffy's, my favorite Key West restaurant. I don't know why it's my favorite, exactly. The menu isn't special. Neither is the decor. It's just that I've been going down there for 20+ years, and Duffy's has always been there. It's a happy place, favored more by locals than tourists, with positive vibes, and it comforts me.

After lunch, Henry, Reg and I went to their house to exchange gifts. By now, Patrick was up and about. We four spent several lovely hours gabbing and giggling and it felt very festive.

Henry felt bad about Christmas Eve. He attempted to explain again, but I reassured him no explanation was necessary. We were together, it was Christmas, and that's all that matters.

Henry retired early, so Patrick and I split an Uber back into town. We spent another couple hours over perfectly adequate bar pizza and enjoyed ourselves. I really like him. He really likes me. He's Reg's friends, I'm Henry's, so it's like we're in-laws.

Then he went off to celebrate Christmas at The Island House, perhaps being naughty, just as likely not.

Christmas Getaway -- Day Three

Christmas Eve was a mixed bag. On the positive side, the weather was ideal. Mid 70s and sunny and virtually without wind. It was too cool to swim, but I managed to wiggle my pedicured toes in the pool and in the sand.

Henry and I were on our own. We had a seaside lunch at the southernmost resort in the contiguous United States. Really, we were closer to Havana than we were to Miami. I had the coconut shrimp with pasta salad, and he had a sandwich, which he only picked at. But he did manage to drink down two glasses of wine to my one drink.

All this alcohol, all these medications, and no food. This concerns me. So I reiterated that I have elevated blood sugar, that booze turns to sugar very quickly in the bloodstream, and I'd appreciate it if he didn't have any more wine in front of me.

"Then turn around," he snarled. Really, my darling Henry was angry at me. His defensiveness spoke volumes. Two glasses of wine in 90 minutes is plenty. Henry's liquor intake clouds his judgement and could be interfering with his recovery. When I ask him if he's been honest with his doctor about his drinking, all he says is, "Dr. Jackson knows I like my wine." That is not an answer to my question.

So things were tense on and off throughout the rest of the afternoon. We were doing last minute Christmas shopping. Henry was supposed to find something for Patrick, Reg's old friend and their houseguest. This assignment made him almost as unhappy as my curtailing his drinking. I already had a gift for Patrick -- a t-shirt from the TCM Film Festival -- but I saw things I think he'd appreciate. My favorite was a mug from The Tennessee Williams Museum gift shop that had a quote from Streetcar: "I don't want realism. I want magic!" Patrick drinks coffee, has enjoyed the museum, and is a self-proclaimed theater nerd. Yet Henry was dismissive.

He began complaining about one of their dogs. He said he never wanted to adopt the pair of dogs, and if it was up to him, he'd just open the door and let the male dog run away. What a horrible thing to say! I know he didn't mean this. To slightly change the subject, I told him I bet he was glad they had both dogs last spring, when his beloved Lola died. Otherwise, the girl dog would be alone and lonely.

"No," he said. "Lola was long gone before we got these two."

"No," I corrected. "Lola was alive last Christmas. I played with her."

"No," he insisted, "Lola has been dead for four years."

I realized now we were in Crazy Town. "You let Lola sleep wherever she wanted, because she wasn't feeling well. She chose a stack of pillows. You said it was her throne."

"I know what I know, Gal. She has been dead for four years."

"She died last spring, Henry. I'm not talking about this anymore."

To make matters worse, he got us lost. The shop he was absolutely certain was near the entrance to the cemetery was nowhere to be seen. He was getting angrier, and angrier.

Even though he still denies it, Henry is recovering from a traumatic brain injury. He is doing the best he can. I'm disturbed by his hostility, but I'm not hurt or angry. The situation is difficult, but it's the one we're in.

We got to church for Christmas Eve service and it was like a balm to his soul. The other congregants greeted him warmly and welcomed me. He sang the carols with gusto. I took communion. I continued to make an effort to get along with Phyllis, even though, ugh. Christmas spirit trumps ugh.

On the way back to my hotel, Henry got weepy and apologetic. He says he gets confused. I told him I know he does and I understand. He said is mind does not work like anyone else's, and he came close to admitting he has an injury. This one step up, two steps back dance is worth it if accepts his condition. If he's at peace with what happened, he'll be able to be a more active participant in his recovery.

In my room, I found that the staff had left me some goodies -- cupcakes and a bottle of wine.

Sorry about the angle; my hotel room was tiny & hard to photograph
I fell asleep watching Christmas movies, loving Henry, missing my late Uncle Ted (who made Christmases extra magical when I was a kid) and missing my cats. I thought about Jesus, of course. It was overwhelming. I slept soundly.

Christmas Getaway -- Day Two

The weather improved and the sun came out. But the world was still a very wet place. To stay safe and dry, this feathered family took up residence on the porch of my hotel. Key West is known for wandering chickens, and one of the things I like best about the island is that everyone -- locals and tourists alike -- always brake for them, no matter how busy the street.

Look close, there's a chick hiding under mom.

Henry, Reg and I spent December 23 together. We went to visit Robert, the Devil Doll at the East Martello Museum. Robert has always been a favorite of mine. He's over 100 years and supposedly has supernatural, and not entirely wholesome, powers. Go here to read more about my possessed little buddy.

The East Martello Museum was originally built as a fort during the Civil War. It went unused, and now it has lovely grounds with lush plants, metallic sculptures and a turn of the (last) century child's playhouse. That was one lucky little girl, and I love imagining what it would have been like to play in it.

Alas, the ground were all under water. To get an idea of how bad the the flooding was, that's a standard street safety cone peering out of the water.

We had a lovely late lunch by the ocean at the Half Shell Raw Bar. It's located at Key West's original seaport. I thought it was enchanting that their Christmas tree was constructed on lobster traps.

We had a good day. I wish Henry wouldn't drink so much. Two glasses of wine over lunch and then another with dinner is not necessary, especially not when with all the medication he's taking. But he's healthy and engaged and Reg is way more relaxed than he was last year.

And no Phyllis! Yea!

Christmas Getaway -- Day One

The trip got off to a promising start. Yes, O'Hare was crazy crowded. But I used curbside check in, where there was a very short line, and was able to go straight to security ... with TSA pre-check. Yea!

The United Terminal was decorated for Christmas with these massive lighted snowflakes. I admit I prefer the American Airlines Terminal, not only at the holidays but all year around. But I was in good spirits because I'd managed to get an affordable seat on one of the few non-stop flights from Chicago to Key West.

Alas, the flight was not a smooth one. The corridor between Miami and Key West was rainy. I don't know what the final total was, but I believe about 15" of rain fell in a 24-hour period. Our flight was an hour late, as the pilot tried to avoid the center of the storm. I admit I was very frightened as we bounced around in our seats.

When you disembark your flight at EYW, you have to wait for an a staircase to come up to your plane. You climb down and then traverse the black top to the airport -- all outdoors. It was so rainy and wet that my jeans were soaked through.

I was happy to see Reg and Henry. They seemed to be getting alone and Henry was alert and engaged. They dropped me off at my hotel with plans to pick me up in a few hours for Henry's birthday dinner.

When the rain finally stopped, I wandered around the neighborhood a little to confirm that the weather had been as intense as I'd suspected. Here's the view of the ocean just blocks from my room.

The breakwater is supposed to keep this side of the road dry. But it didn't stand a chance against Sunday's rain and wind.

Then I decorated my room for Christmas. It helps me get into the spirit.

Then four of us -- me, Henry, Reg and Phyllis -- celebrated Henry's birthday at Cafe Sole. I am never happy to see Phyllis. At 70, she drinks and tokes like a teenager on spring break. However, she is Henry's closest friend as well as his publisher* and it was his birthday, so I acquiesced. She did give Reg a check to cash and cover the cost of her dinner, which I appreciated. I mean, I don't like her and didn't invite her and it was the first night of my trip, so ...

I went to sleep feeling hopeful that we'd all have a Merry Christmas.

*Hers is a subsidy publisher, which means she facilitates Henry in self-publishing his books.