Tuesday, December 29, 2020



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? Marina and Lee by Priscilla Johnson McMillan. Ms. McMillan examines one of the most unlikely and at the same time most consequential marriages in modern history. A pretty Russian girl moves to Minsk to live with her uncle. At a dance, she happens to meet a former US Marine, a local celebrity because he was one of the few Americans to defect to Russia, instead of the other way around. They married just six weeks later, emigrated back to the United States and landed in Dallas. Their tempestuous marriage exacerbated the husband's financial, sexual and emotional issues until, on 11/22/63, he murdered John F. Kennedy.
This is one of those books I've always meant to read, and now is finally its time. After reading Vincent Bugliosi's brilliant Reclaiming History, I am convinced Oswald acted alone and McMillan attempts to explain why. Like the Civil War, JFK's assassination is one of the wounds this country has never recovered from, and it's important to understand it.
2. What did you recently finish reading? The Battered Badge by Robert Goldsborough. I love the adventures of genius detective Nero Wolfe and his sexy, smart ass assistant Archie Goodwin, so I'm enjoying this one. It's not written by Rex Stout, who created these wonderful characters, but Robert Goldsborough who took over the series after Stout died. He does a creditable job.

The story starts at breakfast, when Archie sees a newspaper article about a murder. Lester Pierce was a crusader with the GGG (Good Government Group), a consumer organization that had been campaigning for the removal of Inspector Cramer from the homicide division for going easy on organized crime. When Pierce is assassinated, it looks like Cramer might somehow be involved, and the NYPD suspends him. While never friends, exactly, Cramer and Wolfe have been crossing paths and annoying one another for decades. Wolfe is a good judge of character and simply cannot believe that, despite all his shortcomings, Inspector Cramer could be a murderer. Savvy Archie smells a set up. And so they set out to clear Cramer's name by solving Pierce's murder themselves.
This mystery was entertaining and comfortable as a pair of slippers. The old gang is here: Fritz, the chef who serves Wolfe and Archie gourmet meals and insights on what he naturally overhears; Saul, the homely but fabulously talented private investigator hired by Wolfe when an extra pair of hands or legs is required; Lily Rowan, Archie's girlfriend, of whom I am insanely jealous. 
My only complaint is that one of the characters stutters, and Archie stoops to imitating him. Archie is a wiseacre, but he's never cruel. This was sadly out of character. I don't recall Stout ever writing Archie this way.

3. What will read next?  I don't know.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Guess who's feeling passive aggressive

Ah, my oldest friend. I love her more than anything, but man, she can grind my gears. Case in point: She is very comfortable going weeks without conversing with me. Remember, this is a woman who is retired, does no volunteer work, has no circle of friends and takes no adult education classes. I do not understand how she can't carve out 30 minutes on a Wednesday night to call me, but she cannot. She has no explanation for this. Yet if I -- who has a job and does have commitments to other friends and my movie group -- don't instantly return her calls or emails, she wants to know what's up.

Similarly, I have often called her and gotten a text in return that says, "Sorry, I was having dinner with my cousin" (with whom she lives) or "Sorry, my daughter is here visiting." OK, so when she told me earlier in the month that she was spending Christmas with her cousin and her daughter, I didn't bother to call. She questioned me about this, to which I responded I didn't want to bother her. "Oh, Dear, you never bother me!" Then why do you screen me and let my calls go to voicemail?

When she still hadn't mentioned the Christmas gift I sent her in plenty of time for the day, she responded that she "left it on the dresser and forgot about it." Oh, and my gift won't be here until God knows when because it's so hard for her to get a ride to the post office.

I am hurt and saddened by all this. I have always felt so close to her, ever since her daddy took us sledding and then out for hot chocolate. She is my touchstone. No one makes me laugh harder or makes me feel more comfortable. When I embarked on my battle with covid, she nurtured and supported me by calling every day. So it hurts to suddenly feel superfluous.

She has done this to me before, and I think I know her reasons. One is balance of power. I think that she resents that I'm still working, and as a writer,* while her career came to an ignominious end when she helped her doctor-boss merge with another medical practice and was repaid for her efforts by being let go. She was unable to find another job and became so broke that the finance company that had her car loan called me, as her reference, in hopes of getting paid. When she lost her apartment, she moved in with her cousin because she had to.

Another is depression. She battles it, it's a physical condition, and it's real. I think she gets so blue that she feels frozen. When I think of how she faces her depression day in and day out and tries so hard to be happy, positive and "normal," my heart breaks for her.

Her life is more difficult and more complicated than mine, so allowances must be made. I will make them. But I have to be allowed to work through my feelings before I just verbally open my arms to her again.

*She writes fan fiction every day and has begun reading "how to" books for aspiring authors. I've been supporting myself as a writer for 41 years now. She once said something so cruel -- so out of character -- that it revealed her resentment. "No offense, Gal, but I use what you write to light the barbecue." 


Sunday, December 27, 2020

Bread! How I've missed you!

Yesterday I had a Potbelly turkey sandwich, on white with mayo and lettuce, for lunch. For dinner, I grilled myself a hot dog and served it on a bun. I also ate two chocolate chip cookies!

So far, no adverse reaction from the interior.

It isn't just that I like baked goods (though I do). It's that I felt like a regular person again, instead of a corona virus sufferer. Other people don't just eat a slab of plain white chicken on a plate. Other people put it between two slices of bread and garnish it with condiments. This weekend, I feel like other people!


Saturday, December 26, 2020

Sunday Stealing

 For Those Who Celebrate Christmas/Part Two

Star or Angel? I have a kitty angel to top my tree.

White Lights or Colored Lights? White.

Blinking Lights or Still Lights? Still.

When do you open your gifts? I opened some on Christmas Eve during our Zoom celebrations, others on Christmas morning.

Do you buy gifts for your pet? No. Because I spoil them 365.

Be honest: What's the worst gift you've ever gotten? Nothing that rises (or sinks) to the title of "worst."

Have you ever traveled for the holiday? Oh, yes. Most years I'm in Key West for Christmas. Hopefully I'll be back there again next year. I miss celebrating with Henry, Reg and Patrick. There's so much love there.

Did you see Santa as a child? Only at the mall.

Can you name all the reindeer? Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph.

Have you ever gone caroling? Nope.

Do you drive around and look at the Christmas lights? My mom loved it and nagged my dad until he acquiesced. So we'd pile into the car and drive out to the fancier suburb and look at the lights on the bigger, nicer houses. I was sensitive to the tension between my parents, and wondered about but couldn't articulate my problem with the class distinction thing (which felt very unChristmasy), so I didn't enjoy it. My sisters both loved it, though. In fact, my kid sister and her husband just posted Facebook pictures of their drive to that same tony suburb.

Have you ever left Santa cookies? Yes

Have you ever had a white Christmas? Not this year. In fact, not most years. January is, unfortunately, the big snow month here in Chicagoland.

Have you ever made a gingerbread house from scratch? From a kit? Nope.

Be honest: Do you think the season is too commercial? Nope. It's as commercial as you allow it to be.

Imagine you were going to create the quintessential holiday soundtrack -- which song(s) absolutely must be included? "The Christmas Waltz," "Blue Christmas," "Silent Night," "River," "Joy to the World."

What are your Christmas pet peeves? ONE: Die Hard is so a Christmas movie! Your basic holiday tropes are there: It takes place on Christmas Eve, the hero heals his estrangement from his family, and the disgraced cop is redeemed at a critical moment. TWO: "My Favorite Things" is not a Christmas song! Maria sings it during a summer rain storm in Salzburg. Trust me, it snows in Austria. If they wanted snow behind her as she sang, they could have it. Plus, in those days, brown paper packages tied up in string usually came from the mailman or the butcher, they were not gifts. She recalls her favorite things when "the bee stings," and bee sting is not one of your typical wintertime maladies. So leave "My Favorite Things" off your Christmas playlist.
In the movie, this was just days after she sang "My Favorite Things."  Clearly not Christmastime.

I kinda like being the arbiter of these things. Let me know if there's anything else Christmasy you need me to decide.


Friday, December 25, 2020

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Purple Snowflakes (2018)

1) The lyrics ask where the snowflakes go. Sam can answer that: she shovels them! Do you shovel or use a snow blower? Or do you live in a warmer climate with no snow? None of the above. I live in a condo building, so we have a snow removal service. I wish we had a janitor on premises, like Fred Mertz, because sometimes by the time the service gets here, I've already been through the front door, down the stairs and over the walk, trudging through the white stuff. If I wasn't already paying for the service, I might get out there and shovel it my damn self.

2) This week's artist, John Legend, recalls his Christmases growing up, singing carols with his family around the piano. Do you have a piano, or any other musical instruments, in your home? Nope.

3) This song is from John Legend's first Christmas album, A Legendary Christmas. It was a massive hit. Did you add any new music to your holiday collection this year? Kinda sorta. In that I never got around to playing my own Christmas carols and just let Alexa handle it. Yeah, I was lazy. But she has a much wider selection than I do.

4) John and his wife Chrissy Teigen go caroling with friends. What's the last song that you sang? "C'mon it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you." Of course I dueted with my annual Christmas date, Andy.

5) Chrissy's hobby is cooking. While she likes experimenting with new recipes, her young children prefer their familiar favorites, like mashed potatoes. She tosses a bay leaf into the water as the potatoes boil to add enhance the flavor. Do you have a dish that's considered your specialty? Nope.

6) John prefers to unwind with a good book and loves comparing reading recommendations with friends. Did you discover any books in 2020 that you'd like to recommend to our Sat 9ers? If you like mystery/thrillers, I recommend Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger. In non-fiction, I finally got to Night to Remember. Written back in the 1950s, it's the definitive study on what happened the night The Titanic went down. It was engrossing!

7) This song was written by Motown powerhouse Marvin Gaye. Who is your favorite Motown artist? The supreme Miss Diana Ross.

8) In 1972, Marvin wrote another Christmas song, "I Want to Come Home for Christmas." He dedicated it to the troops then serving in Vietnam. Do you know anyone who is protecting us this holiday season? Tell us about him or her. Whether they are in the armed forces, the police or fire department, or the ER, we want to say thank you! I'd also like to thank all the essential workers who kept our lives going, day to day, during this past year. It must not be easy to deal with the public, some of whom are silly and selfish and refuse to wear masks, thereby putting you at risk.

9) Random question: You go into the kitchen to make your perfect sandwich. What fixings do you need? Oh! Since I've been on a bland diet,* I think of food more than ever! Right now I'd like ham on wheat, with lettuce and mayo. And a pickle.

*Everyone thinks of respiratory issues when they think of covid. During my bout with the virus, I never had any breathing issues. But my gut has been more than a little rebellious! If you find yourself having tummy trouble, call your doctor. It could be covid!

Christmas gift symmetry

I celebrated my socially distanced Christmas Eve on Zoom. It was fine. I was especially amused by my time with my nephew. I know he loves playing Among Us, so I got him a themed mask. I also got him the world's smallest Cubs figurine (a 3.5" Javier Baez) and an Amazon gift card. I was delighted that he got me a pair of Cubs masks, identical to the ones the players wore in the dugout. So we were on the same page with our masks and the Cubs! 

This morning I opened a trio of presents. One was from Kathleen. I was touched by how moved she was by Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death. RBG was a hero, and she posted pictures of herself wearing pearls in the Justice's honor as she voted. So for Christmas I got her a Ruth Bader Ginsburg wall calendar. Meanwhile, on the other side of town, she was shopping for me. She chose a selection of rose scented bath products and a tin of Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dissent Mints. A silly but important little touch, because it gave us Notorious Holiday Symmetry.

Icky, but important! Please share.

Thanksgiving was 11/26. Two Southern California families that I have personal connections to celebrated with traditional, multi-household sit-down meals.

Of the six people who attended the dinner in Hesperia, three came down with covid. Two had the more publicized symptoms -- dry cough, headache and high fever with chills -- but the third (my best friend) had diarrhea.

Of the nine who had dinner together in Chino Hills, four were concerned that they had a bad case of stomach flu, or maybe food poisoning. The two youngest (in their 30s) recovered in more than a week. Their 83-year-old grandfather was hospitalized on Wednesday, 12/23. He is spending Christmas in a fight for his life. His lady friend recovered on her own. They all had/have the corona virus.

I most likely contracted the corona virus on the day before Thanksgiving. I had a headache and fever, lost my sense of taste and smell, but the most severe and lasting symptom was diarrhea. I know this isn't anything you want to read about, so I'll be brief. A month later, I'm still on a restricted diet.*

So spread the word: If you have diarrhea for more than two days, CALL YOUR DOCTOR! Yes, it may be food poisoning. But it could very well be covid. And you could be contagious!

I know it's not a very merry Christmas message, but I want everyone who reads this to be smart and stay healthy.

*Though I'm getting better every day and had a roast beef sandwich for Christmas! (I've missed beef so much that it felt like a Christmas Miracle.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Well, look who's a social butterfly!

I spent all day Tuesday socializing. It was fun and heartening, but exhausting.

First I left a message for Henry. Tuesday was his birthday. I got his voicemail because he was talking to his family in Puerto Rico. His older brother moved back home to take care of mom -- she's over 80 now and is having cognitive issues -- so I'm glad he got to connect with them.

I heard from Darius! He's the prison penpal I was matched with through my church. I wrote him two letters in October that went unanswered and, frankly, I was afraid he was dead. I know that Covid is a major problem among the incarcerated. I sent an inquiry about him to our church/prison coordinator, but before I heard back, I got his letter. 

It was short and sad. Darius has had the blues because of prison covid protocol. They keep moving prisoners from one area to another, trying to contain the virus and keep the prisoners safe. This constant disruption has been hard on Darius, especially because it means that his time outside in the yard has been cut to 60 minutes every 30 days. Also, Christmas is a depressing time for him. He didn't elaborate on why, and I didn't ask. I did answer his letter today, letting him know that I've been concerned about his well being and that I'm happy he's OK. That's the point of this correspondence -- to let him know that someone out here cares. I know he won't get my letter in time for Christmas, but there's time for it to get there for the New Year. I reminded him of what's said during our church service: "We light this chalice to remember that life is born again every day." New day, new year, new President, new vaccines, new opportunities to be healthy and to make the most of each new day.

A nice long check-in with John.
He worries about me because of covid. I worry about him because he gets the blues. He really misses the neighborhood bar where he's been spending his afternoons since he lost his job in September 2019. The other regulars have become his ballast, now that he doesn't have an office to go to. This second covid lockdown is harder on him than the first because it takes place over the holidays. So it was good for us to reconnect. I wish we did it more often because it benefits both of us. But he doesn't really like talking on the phone, despises social media and won't even try Zoom. It's funny to me that he's become such a crusty old man. When we first met, back in the 1980s, John was already bored by new things before I'd even heard of them! Now he's a Luddite.

"Gal, give me a quick call." So said the email from my new boss, Aaron. He apologized for "bothering" me while enjoying a day off, but he wanted me to know something before our next paychecks are automatically deposited: he requested and got me a raise. He said it was to thank me for all my help since he joined the team! He took the initiative to get me this raise, I didn't ask for it. That he thinks so highly of me means the world to me! That he used his influence to get me a raise this year, when we had lay-offs in the second quarter, left me gobsmacked.

Movie group. We discussed A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Our last meetup before Christmas.

Joanna. When I got my covid diagnosis, I was frozen with fear and reached out to Joanna. She's so sane. She heard Monday that her brother finally died. He's been battling cancer and has been in assisted living since an auto accident complicated his care. He contracted covid and was just so miserable that his death, while sad,  feels like a blessing. Anyway, Tuesday night, when the weight of her loss began to overwhelm her, Joanna reached out to me. I was happy I could be there for her, to distract her and even make her laugh for a moment.

All this companionship did wear me out. I did little on Wednesday and the day of nothing zipped by.

"I will honor Christmas in my heart"

So Scrooge promised. I woke up Wednesday and vowed to do the same. I'm not having much in the way of celebration with others this year, so I've got to make like Scrooge manufacture my own Christmas spirit.

I put on carols and taped my cards to the door. It's not a lot -- most of my decorations are still in the closet in the den -- and didn't take me long, but it cheered me up enormously.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020


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? Lucy & Desi by Warren G. Harris. I still love I Love Lucy. I'm not alone. It's never been off the air since it premiered nearly 70 years ago, and it's currently available on cable, streaming services and DVD.
This dual biography looks at the two at the heart of this cultural touchstone. Lucy was a force of nature in front of the camera, Desi the visionary behind it. The show was born of their desire to be together after enduring long separations through the first decade of their marriage. Unfortunately, their love story wasn't as successful as their TV creation.
2. What did you recently finish reading?  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Considering how beloved and acclaimed this book is, I'm afraid that anything I say here deserves nothing more than a "duh." But Mockingbird is a riveting, moving read. Not only for the timely and compelling message, but the craftsmanship. Scout is a wonderful narrator. Her voice is authentic and true, and her observations are both sharp and consistent with a precocious child's point of view. 
I admit I've seen the movie more often and more recently than I'd previously read the book, so there were things that surprised me. For example, I barely remembered Aunt Alexandra, Atticus' sister. She doesn't appear in the film at all but plays a bigger role in the book than I recalled. She is fanatically a Finch, fiercely protective of the family's reputation and tiresomely concerned about Scout's tomboyish attire and behavior. I really felt for the widowed Atticus when he exclaims to his perfectionist sister, "I'm doing the best I can!" In his role as a single father, Atticus has doubts about his abilities, just like any other parent. 
This passage near the end made me cry. In context, it is as touching as anything I've ever read: "Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives. But neighbors give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given nothing, and it mad me sad."
I haven't read Go Set a Watchman and don't intend to. To Kill a Mockingbird is a beautiful standalone novel.

3. What will read next?  A mystery, I bet.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

What the hell did I ever do to you?

Mr. Peanut tried to kill me Saturday night. I've been eating a very bland diet all month, per doctor's orders as we try to get my Covid-related diarrhea under control. Last Monday, almost a week ago, my doctor recommended I begin adding other foods to make sure I get the nutrients I need and to ensure that my gut gets used to working again. 

I added chocolate back without incident. The same cannot be said for peanut butter.

I will spare you the gory, messy details, except to assure you that they were indeed gory and messy. And exhausting, since they took place between 1:00 and 3:00 AM.

I threw the peanut butter away. I fear I will forever feel about it as I do Harvey Wallbangers, the drink I'd consumed that resulted in my first hangover. Some experiences are just too searing to risk replicating.

Oh, well. I must remember that more than 16,400 of my neighbors here in Cook County have died of this disease. I have gut trouble. I should get over myself and consider myself lucky.

It's just worse to be sick at Christmastime.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Sunday Stealing

 For Those Who Celebrate Christmas

What’s your favorite thing about the holidays? The prevailing feeling of goodwill.
Do you send out Christmas cards and if so how many do you send? I sent about 25 cards this year, purchased from The Shops at Colonial Williamsburg. I know tourism is down this year, and I wanted to do something to support the historic sights, like the Peyton Randolph House.


Be honest: holiday newsletters. Love ‘em or hate ‘em? Eh. They're fine. I have no passionate feelings one way or the other.

Be honest: photo cards. Love ‘em or hate ‘em? Love 'em.

How soon do you start shopping? I shop all year around.

Real or fake tree? Fake

When do you put up your tree? Not putting it up this year. I'm still recovering from covid and I just don't have it in me to decorate right now.

When do you take down your tree? N/A

Describe your typical tree (size, decorations, type) About 4' high

What do you top your tree with? I have a kitty angel

Do you put Christmas lights outside your house? No

Is there a wreath hanging on your door? No. This year I hung a little Rudolph ornament on my door.

Do you hang up stockings? No.

Your favorite Christmas Movie(s) Elf, It's a Wonderful Life, many versions of A Christmas Carol

Be honest: A Christmas movie you hate White Christmas. I don't know why, but it annoys me.

Favorite Christmas Song(s) Andy! 50 weeks/year, I give him no thought whatsover. But at Christmastime, I must have Andy.

Be honest: If I hear this/these Christmas songs again I will throw up Bing Crosby/White Christmas. I have no issue with Bing, but there's an interlude in the middle that sounds like chirping birds and Dear Lord, it gets on my nerves.

Give or Receive? I enjoy them both!

Eggnog or Mulled Cider? Cider

Ham or Turkey? 
I enjoy them both!


We're friends again

Yesterday, I had brownie crisps. The first chocolate I've had all month! Nothing bad happened as a result.

Welcome back to my daily diet, old friend. Chocolate, how I've missed you!


Friday, December 18, 2020

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Happy Holidays! (from the archives)

1. Sam loved giving her annual wish list to Santa. Yet some children are reluctant to climb into Jolly Old St. Nick's lap. Did you enjoy the tradition or were you shy? Or did you by pass it altogether -- either because you wrote him a letter or because your family didn't celebrate Christmas? We had this very mailbox and every year, I wanted to use it for my letter to Santa. But my mom enjoyed watching us on Santa's lap, and so we went. I found it kind of embarrassing, but it made her so happy that it felt like my job as her kid at Christmas.

2. Are you currently on the Naughty or Nice list? How did you get there? I try to be good, so I'll put myself on the Nice list as a reward for the effort.

3. Did you ship any gifts to friends and family this year? If so, which one traveled the farthest? I shipped all my presents this year, even to my friend Kathleen who lives less than a mile away. As I recover from Covid19, I'm not celebrating with anyone in person. The one that went farthest traveled 1,940 miles. I sent my oldest friend a silly coin purse printed with a saying that references her outsized love of coffee, and I slipped a gift card in it. I know she's broke, but I also wanted to give her something that will make her smile and feels more personal and festive than just money.

4. Did you buy yourself a gift this year? Yes. I bought myself a 6' aluminum step ladder. I haven't used it yet, but I like knowing that I can safely change my smoke detector and do other such chores. (I used to put a pair of thick reference books on my top step of my step ladder and teeter ... not a good plan.)

5. What's your favorite holiday-themed movie? Have you seen it yet this year? There's a version of A Christmas Carol I'm going to watch on YouTube. A Diva's Christmas Carol stars Vanessa Williams as Ebenezer Scrooge/Diana Ross. She's very good -- pretty, in fine voice, and convincingly imperious, which makes her late-night conversion from naughty to nice great fun.



6. Thinking of movies, Christmas is lucrative for Hollywood. Have you ever gone to a movie theater on Christmas Day? No. But I miss going to the movies so much! I can't wait for my local theater to reopen.

7. Have you ever suffered an embarrassing moment at the company Christmas party? It wasn't the Christmas party, but I did embarrass myself thoroughly and will disclose no more.

8. What's your favorite beverage in cold weather? I can't drink liquor right now, so my answer is Bigelow Salted Caramel Tea. My aunt sent it to me. I love how it smells as I bring the mug up to lips.

9. Share a memory from last Christmas. I was in Key West last year (and hopefully will be again next year). Our big meal on Christmas Day was lunch, and then Henry, Reg and I opened gifts and laughed a lot with Reg's lifelong friend, Patrick, who was staying with them from Maine. After a few hours, Patrick and I split an Uber back to town and my hotel. We had a couple slices of pieces of pizza at the hotel bar and got to know each other better. It's the first time we spent any time alone together. After all, I'm Henry's friend and he's Reg's. It was nice. If Henry and I are family, that makes me and Patrick in laws. I like that.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

I said I was sorry

I was short and snappish with my art director today. I am not proud of this. She is battling breast cancer and spent the day in the hospital, having tests required before her next round of chemotherapy. She called me when she got home ... mostly to fill me in on the events of her day but also to touch base on a project. When she disagreed with me on how to incorporate a client request, I was impatient and willful. Yes, she was overstepping. Yes, I apologized for being argumentative. But I missed the bigger picture: she was working after spending the day at the hospital in preparation for chemotherapy.

What is wrong with me?

I am recovering nicely from covid. My issues now are strictly gastrointestinal with a side order or fatigue. But when you consider that 7,500 of my neighbors here in Cook County have died of the virus, I have no complaints.

I got a holiday bonus in my paycheck.

I got word that my mortgage refinance went through and I'll close on it this Monday, saving me hundreds of dollars every month.

And I respond to all this by beating up on a cancer patient. 

I can be such a brat! 

PS Thank you for caring, Country Dew. I'm doing better than I deserve.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Santa Baby (1987)

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

1) In this song, Madonna refers to Santa as "baby," "honey" and "cutie." What's the most recent endearment someone called you? My oldest friend begins and ends every call by calling me "dear."

2) At the top of her list are a fur coat, a new convertible and a yacht. If you could receive any of those luxury items, which would you choose? The convertible, because I think it would be the easiest to sell.

3) She would like to decorate her tree with ornaments from Tiffany's. Do you have a favorite holiday ornament or decoration? This is my teeny-tiny nativity. I kept it on the hotel nightstand every year when I visited Key West for Christmas. It always reminds me of the true meaning of the day.


4) "Santa Baby" was written in 1953, before electronic payments. While her wish list includes blank checks, a 2017 survey revealed that 51% of consumers felt check writing was "a pain." Who received the last check your wrote? Who most recently gave you a check? Wrote: Commonwealth Edison for my electric bill. Received: I can't recall.

5) Madonna has been a successful singer for decades, and 1985's "Into the Groove" is her top-seller. What's your favorite Madonna song? I'm not really a fan, but I have good memories attached to "Into the Groove."

6) Madonna was born in Bay City, MI, and traveled to New York City to find fame and fortune. When she first arrived, she supported herself by working at Dunkin' Donuts. What's your standard DD order? I don't drink coffee, but I do enjoy their chocolate frosted long john.

7) The only Christmas card Sam has received so far this year is from her dentist. Have you received many cards this year? Six

8) Will you wrap many presents? Or do you prefer to use gift bags? Mostly paper. Only one gift bag. (It was a baseball cap for my friend Kathleen. Caps are not easy to wrap.)

9) Madonna recorded "Santa Baby" to benefit The Special Olympics. Here's your chance to plug a cause or organization that's near and dear to you. Chicago's Night Ministry, dedicated to providing health care and shelter to those who need it most now. Whenever I hear someone bitch and moan about how they've had to "suffer" through this pandemic because of the mask mandate or they can't eat pizza indoors, I think of the homeless. The forgotten. It breaks my heart to consider what life is like for those who live on the street and depend on the generosity of office workers who are no longer going to the office, who depended on the restrooms in the Starbucks that is no longer open. They're struggling and they're scared. If you would like to help the homeless in your part of the country, here's a valuable link.


Happier today

My oldest friend and I had a lovely conversation today. It's her birthday and even though she's sick, she was in very good spirits. I have not laughed this much in a very long time.

For her birthday I gave her a trio of facemasks. (I know, it was funnier before we both got sick.) One says "Merry Treksmas," because she loves Star Trek. The second is decorated with icons from the John Wick movies (which I know nothing about but she loves those, too). The third features the Beatles from the cover of the HELP! CD because, like all right-thinking people everywhere, we are Beatle fans. She referred to them as her "wardrobe" and is glad to have masks that reflect her many moods.

It was good to hear her laugh because it means her lungs are good. Like me, her corona virus seems to have settled in her gut. Her doctor is most worried about her fever and prescribed extra strength Tylenol. She still hasn't had the nasal swab, but I suppose it doesn't really matter. Her doctor believes she has it, is aware of all her symptoms, and is treating her accordingly. She's isolated herself. Her daughter is coming up to wave through the window and leave a birthday present on the stoop.

Today was the first day that the IL Department of Health didn't check on me. Five straight days with no fever and no new symptoms means I'm officially on the mend. I appreciate their vote of confidence. I am feeling better, but I am soooooo tired. And I miss food emotionally. I've been dreaming of beef! It used to be Mark Harmon, you know. Now it's a cheeseburger with condiments, a corndog, a slice of meat loaf ... 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

"Now I have it"

That was yesterday's news from my oldest friend. She's in the hills north of Los Angeles, so obviously we weren't exposed by the same person. Her family sat down for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and of the 8 who attended, 3 now have the corona virus.*

At least she and her doctor suspect she has it. Her doctor was having a hard time lining up a test for her in their small mountain community. Their local healthcare system is severely overtaxed. It made me feel grateful anew that I have received such attentive care from the moment I suspected I'd contracted it.

I am so worried about my friend, though. She turns 64 tomorrow. She's overweight. She has heart trouble and diabetes. She basically ticks all the boxes of those at real risk.

I'm grateful I had a mild case. My fever broke five days ago and I no longer get those killer headaches. But I still can't stay awake for more than a few hours at a time. I now have a rash on my chest and my calves. I haven't been hungry in 12 days. 

Trust me on this. Anyone who tells you "it's just the flu" is not your friend. Anyone who risks giving someone else this virus because they resist wearing a mask when they could be asymptomatic should not have a clear conscience.† I hate living like this and I want my old life back. But the people who just go rolling along as if this isn't real are just prolonging the agony for the rest of us. Shame on them.


*This wasn't as reckless as it might sound. My friend's cousin died at home the week before (a combination of diabetes and liver failure) and they all assembled at his bedside to say goodbye. The family had a "what the hell else could happen to us?" mindset that I suppose I understand. OK, not really. But since I was more careful and still caught the fucking virus, I'm not comfortable being too judgey here.

†I don't care if they quote scripture. I'm not impressed by their misinterpretation of the Constitution. They are neither good Christians nor good patriots. Nearly 14,650 of their fellow Americans are dead.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

The Celluloid Road Trip Blogathon takes us to Springfield

Learn More

Illinois can lay claim to four Presidents. Ulysses S. Grant lived in Galena before the Civil War and after his Presidency. Ronald Reagan was born in Tampico and lived in Dixon until he was 22. Barack Obama is undoubtedly the most successful community organizer in Chicago history. We're proud of them all.

But our most favorite Favorite Son is Mr. Lincoln. Abe. His name is everywhere, even on our Land of Lincoln license plate. As a school girl in Chicagoland, I studied him. My family often took weekend trips to Springfield to see where he lived and worked before heading for Washington DC and immortality. As an adult, I've returned to Springfield, just to walk where he walked.

Because I'm such a big fan of both Abe and Springfield, I love Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940). For audiences today who are familiar with Daniel Day-Lewis' portrayal in Spielberg's Lincoln, this is a wonderful prequel.

Based on Robert Sherwood's play, it opens in 1831, when Abe leaves Kentucky to strike out on his own, and ends on February 11, 1861, when he says his heartfelt farewell to Springfield as his train departs for Washington DC.

Raymond Massey* is terrific in the role he originated on Broadway. His Abe is humble and honest, plainspoken but eloquent, wise yet flawed. A good man on the precipice of becoming a great one. And he came of age in Illinois.

Early in the movie, Abraham Lincoln makes his inauspicious arrival in New Salem, IL. Transporting pigs along the Sangamon River, his barge got caught in a dam. Chasing one of his porcine charges, he lands at the feet of Ann Rutledge, the daughter of a New Salem tavern owner. He's smitten, by the town and the girl, and decides that this is where he wants to put down roots.

His romance with Ann goes nowhere because she is engaged to another man, and he's no more successful as a merchant or postmaster than he was as a lover. But New Salem's townspeople are drawn to his warmth, kindness, and almost inexhaustible stockpile of stories. He's also admired for his intelligence and integrity. His neighbors convince him to run for the State Assembly, which takes him the 20 miles or so to the state capital, Springfield.

After his term ends, he stays in Springfield, studying and then practicing law. He also meets and courts socially prominent Mary Todd, who sees his potential. They make a formidable team, starting a family and establishing themselves in legal and political circles. His career really takes off in 1858, when he debates Mary's former beau, Senator Stephen Douglas. It puts Mr. Lincoln in the national spotlight. He wins the Presidency in 1860 and leaves Illinois to preserve the Union. 

If you want to visit the sites shown in the movie, these remain. Before you hit the road, call first. Between the coronavirus and restorations, public access is unpredictable.

•  Abraham Lincoln's home. In the movie, you'll see Ruth Gordon, in her movie debut, as Mary Lincoln, reigning supreme in the only house the Lincolns ever owned.

•  The Lincoln-Herndon Law Office. It features prominently in the movie. Here's the window seat you see Massey/Lincoln lounging in on the poster.

•  The Lincoln Depot. The last scene of the movie, where Lincoln bids farewell "to this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I lived a quarter of a century and have passed from a young man to an old man ... I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return ..."

Nearby New Salem has been recreated. In one of the movie's more poignant scenes, Abe returns to find once lively New Salem a ghost town. History tells us it was abandoned around 1840, when the townspeople drifted to larger towns. In the 1920s, the town was reconstructed as a tribute to Mr. Lincoln, and you can see the road where, in the movie, he pined for Ann.

If you can't get behind the wheel and head on down to Springfield, you can still spend 110 inspiring minutes with Abe Lincoln in Illinois. It turns up often on TCM, and is available on Hulu.

*Neither of the Oscar-recognized actors who played Mr. Lincoln were American. Nominee Massey was born in Canada, and winner Day-Lewis is British.

I've read the comments!


In some ways, I think people who read my blog know me better than those I meet in real life. So it made me so happy to see the warm and thoughtful "get well" messages on my covid post. Thanks to each of you -- so much! I mean it.

I had a telehealth visit with my doctor yesterday and she thinks I'm doing just fine. I'm actually doing a little work today, too. She did warn me, though, it will likely be weeks until my wakefulness and appetite return, so I have to be careful. Just because I'm unlikely to become a covid fatality doesn't mean I'm well yet.

Thank you again to each of you thoughtful ladies. I appreciated the jolt of kindness more than you know!

Monday, December 07, 2020

Guess what

I have the coronavirus. I woke up Monday morning (11/30) feeling fine, but with no taste or smell. I called my doctor, who got me in to the clinic for a test at 8:00 AM Tuesday. By then I started feeling tired, really tired. Wednesday I began running a fever and battling diarrhea. 

I also got my test result: "Detected." That's how it reads: "detected," vs. "not detected." I felt very alone and frightened. Fortunately, it appears I will recover without going to the hospital. By Saturday my fever had broken and the diarrhea had ceased.

I sleep all the time. I'm awake two or three hours at a time. I talk on the phone and then I go back to sleep. I think I'm doing OK -- I mean, I'm in no physical discomfort and I breathe comfortably -- but I have a telehealth appointment with my doctor on Monday and hopefully she'll confirm that I'm progressing as she hopes/expects.

I am lucky. A nurse called me, unsolicited, to follow up. She encouraged me to eat the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast). Otherwise, she reasoned, I won't get nutrients I need and we'll never know if the diarrhea persists. But I don't have all those things in my pantry, and now I'm sick and I can't go to the store and now I'm scared again. She was lovely. "Let's see what you do have," she said and asked me for the contents of cabinet. Friday I had handful of Ritz Crackers. Saturday I added applesauce to the crackers. Today it was Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup, crackers and applesauce. No appetite, but no diarrhea, either. I appreciated the nurse's initiative, patience and sensitivity.

I hear from the Illinois Dept. of Health every day, too. A survey of my symptoms and whether I left the house or not. I suppose I can see how this would seem intrusive, if I chose to look at it this way. After all, I didn't tell them I have covid, the clinic did. But at the end of each call, I'm asked if I need help with groceries or medication. I'm fortunate to live in Illinois, where my state is reaching out with assistance. I feel supported.

I haven't told many people. My oldest friend, because she and I go so far back (Kindergarten) and I needed that continuity. Kathy, because, frankly, I knew she'd be home. Joanna, because she's so take charge. John, because I knew he want to know. Henry and Reg, because obviously I won't be traveling to Key West to see them this year. They've all been loving and supportive. Henry sent me the link to his church service, and I was delighted to hear the shoutout from his minister. It made me feel stronger to know I was included in that congregation's prayers.

Once I hear from my doctor that I'm on the mend, I'll let more people know.

Yes, I was careful. Yes, I think I know how I caught it. Wednesday afternoon -- before Thanksgiving -- I helped a woman at the post office. She had a pair of shopping bags full of wrapped gifts and was struggling. Her mask had fallen and her nose was exposed. I tried to explain to her that she should take her gifts to the UPS Store, because here they wouldn't put her packages in shipping boxes for her, but she just didn't get the difference. (Her time at the counter didn't go well.) All the while we were talking, I was watching her nostrils and wondering how she didn't know her mask had fallen. Anyway, the rep from the Dept of Health explained that as little as two minutes of direct conversation with someone not wearing a mask properly can spread the virus. So ...

I used to think that the saddest thing about 2020 was that merely acknowledging that "Black Lives Matter" was somehow controversial. I was wrong. Now I think that saddest thing about 2020 is that trying to help a grandmother with Christmas presents likely gave me covid. What a world!

PS Thanks, Bev!