Tuesday, August 11, 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? The Road to Jonestown by Jeff Guinn. A friend recently used the phrase, "I drank the Kool-Aid" on her Facebook page and I wanted to scream. She's old enough to remember the origin of the phrase, and really, it's not funny. More than 900 people died at Jonestown in Guyana. Painfully, and for nothing. For me, 40+ years is still "too soon."

With that as my mindset, this is a good book for me to read on this topic. Guinn is both a researcher and a storyteller. He keeps to to the facts and resists sensationalizing, yet he holds my interest.

I'm learning a great deal about a story I thought I knew. Early on, he did a great deal of good, particularly during his days in Indianapolis. Once he became powerful within Peoples Temple, Jones was never held accountable and refused to answer criticism. It's chilling and especially relevant today, when the cult of personality has led 40% of the country to say they actually approve of the way a reality TV star has run our nation into a ditch. 

2. What did you recently finish reading? Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I could not have loved this book more. I grew up (and remain) a Cub fan, bonded to my father over old-school score keeping, so Doris had me hooked when she shared how she and her father discussed the Brooklyn Dodgers game each evening while going over her scorecard. She grew up on Jackie Robinson, in awe of his skill and unaware of the burden he carried as the MLB's first player of color. I grew up on Ernie Banks, delighted by Mr. Cub's natural gifts and unaware of how difficult it was for him to maintain his sunny disposition while carrying the weight of being the Cubs' first black player. I could go on and on, but I'll spare you. Let's just say that after a lifetime of saying "Wait Till Next Year" myself, in 2016 I finally got to the Cubs win the World Series. At that moment, I felt at one with my dad, my uncle and grandparents: the Cub fans who came before me and never saw such glory. You may not understand, but Doris Kearns Goodwin would.

This book is about family, tradition, victory and loss (in its many forms), and going from girlhood to womanhood. If you've ever listened to a game on the radio, gone to the park and enjoyed a cool one on a hot day, or thrilled to the crack of the bat, this book is for you.

3.  What will you read next?  Something a little lighter. While Road to Jonestown is engrossing, it's a difficult read.


August Happiness Challenge -- Day 11

Today's happiness -- Women supporting women.  Yesterday we had a rather important Zoom meeting. Two of the more powerful men on our account enthusiastically tossed out some very bad ideas. I was in the call, but they treated me like I was invisible and I was too intimidated by their bravado to say anything. 
After the Zoom meeting, I called my art director and said, "Can you believe those bastards? They're so arrogant and uninformed. They're going to lose us this account."

"Why don't you call Jill and tell her what you think?" Jill is a Vice President. She's not as elevated as the men, but she's pretty high up.

"She doesn't want to hear from me," I said. My art director assured me that she did, and that what I had to say was important.

Here's the thing: my clients like me and talk to me, perhaps more frankly and certainly more often, than they do those two powerful men. I know in my bone marrow that if those two start talking to our clients the way they said they intended to, they were going to come off as offensive and dumb.

I also assume that my two powerful male coworkers view me as an old Boomer woman who should just die already.

Still, I swallowed my lack of confidence and reached out to Jill. She answered me immediately and set up a private Zoom for just the two of us. It went so well.  She took everything in the spirit in which it was meant, taking notes and thanking me more than once for reaching out.

"You helped us avoid a landmine, Gal," she said.

I was walking on air.
So let's see: my art director (a woman) told me I was "brilliant" and that I need to speak up more. An account VP (a woman) thanked me for stepping up. With their support, I did the right thing. Sisterhood is powerful.

Each day in August you are to post about something that makes *you* happy. Pretty simple. And, it doesn't even have to be every day if you don't want it to be. It's a great way to remind ourselves that there are positive things going on in our lives, our communities, and the world.

Monday, August 10, 2020

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 10

Today's happiness -- Playing catch up.  Today was a very weird day. I woke up to hear that the city had been rocked by organized looting after midnight on Sunday. Then we had wicked storms and a tornado warning. And, of course, the ongoing threat of the virus. What a day!

So I'm very glad Joanna invited me to a little Zoom call. She's so happy these days. Tomorrow she's taking a little birthday cruise up the Chicago River with the family of her fella, Sid. He's turning 69 and has suffered two strokes, so everyone is being careful about how they celebrate in these days of the corona virus.

Joanna is twice divorced and has had many complicated relationships. I'm glad that she's settling into a time of domestic tranquility. It was also good to get good news on a day when the world around me felt downright Biblical.

Each day in August you are to post about something that makes *you* happy. Pretty simple. And, it doesn't even have to be every day if you don't want it to be. It's a great way to remind ourselves that there are positive things going on in our lives, our communities, and the world.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 9

Today's happiness -- I finally did it.  I've been meaning to clean my bathroom from top to bottom. To wash the floors and scrub the tub and sink and soap-and-water the walls and even the radiator and Windex the mirror and shelves.* I imagine myself doing it so many times that I sometimes I truly kid myself into thinking it's done.

Well, today, it's done!

It feels good, but I do wonder why I'm not bald. Judging by the hair in my bathroom, I shed like a St. Bernard.

*I didn't mention Comet-ing the bowl because I always do that. As for the rest of it, I can be quite a slob.

Each day in August you are to post about something that makes *you* happy. Pretty simple. And, it doesn't even have to be every day if you don't want it to be. It's a great way to remind ourselves that there are positive things going on in our lives, our communities, and the world.

Sunday Stealing


1. What are your plans for August? To develop a plan. There are two big projects I really should attend to, sooner rather than later. A) I need a new TV (mine is 20 years old) that will accommodate today’s technology. My friends at Xfinity warn that they won’t be able to support that old-school cable box forever. B) A new frame for the living room windows, and that requires getting bids and hiring a contractor. Both projects seem like a hassle so I keep procrastinating.

2. Review the first half of 2020. Well, January/February and early March seemed devoted to worries about my friend Henry’s condition and my own work situation. Blissfully, both of those situations seem to have resolved themselves.

Next up: the corona virus. Of course! It’s been a scary time and I’ve felt it in every aspect of my life, from my inability to get my mammogram as quickly as I (desperately) wanted because of a breast lump, to watching two friends unable to mourn/bury loved ones as they would have wished.

But I’m trying to look at 2020 as a learning experience. We’re living through historic times. Personally, I’ve learned that I worry about too many things I can’t control. And I find I’m both heartened by and disillusioned with my fellow Americans … Some everyday heroism is so beautiful and unselfish, it makes me well up a bit with emotion at the very thought. But there's also a most unattractive whiny streak. Our neighbors are dealing with job loss, homelessness, inequality in the healthcare/justice systems and some of luckiest among us are obsessed with their own “oppression” because they have to wear masks or postpone their hair appointments. You can’t smoke in public places, you have to wear a seatbelt in your car, now put on the damn mask. Get over yourself and try opening your heart to the pain around you for just one moment.

3. A place you’d go if money were no object.
Nowhere right now. But when the corona virus is a memory (and I truly believe that if we behave like adults, it will go the way of polio and TB), I’d like to revisit either New York or Las Vegas and do all the things I haven’t done on previous trips because, well, money is an object. I’d stay in the best hotels, dine at the best restaurants, get the best seats for the shows, visit all the museums and exhibits (yes, even in Vegas), enjoy the spas. Since money is no object, I can stay as long as it takes to take it all in. Oh, I’ve enjoyed this fantasy!

4. Who was your childhood best friend.
I’ve known my oldest friend since Kindergarten. We grew up across the alley from one another. It occurred to me the other day that she’s known me longer and better than just about anyone else left on earth, except my Cousin Rose. I’m lucky to have her (and Rose, too; I owe her a letter).

5. The city or town you love most. My kind of town, Chicago is. Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin’ town. Sinatra only sang one song about New York, you know, because Francis understood we deserve the extra attention. Home of the Chicago Cubs and the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field. The Art Institute and The Museum of Science and Industry. Beautiful Lake Michigan and Lollapalooza. And me.

Isn't this a pretty sight?

6. How do you spend hot days? Avoiding the heat! Hot weather makes me grumpy.

7. Are you a skilled cook or baker?

8. One thing you wish you could currently do. Organize my personal life as deftly as I have my professional one. (See Question #1.)

9. A time when you learned your lesson.
Oh, good goobies! Even at this late stage in my life, I’m forever learning my lesson! And that is to “let go and let God.” I waste my worry and dread over things I cannot possibly control.

10, What consistently makes you laugh. So many things. I’m lucky that way.

11. Routines that bring you calm and peace.
In the morning and evening, when I feed the cats. I find it heartening that they know they can trust me for the kibble and fresh water (and the meds they don’t suspect they’re getting).

12. Who annoys you the most? WWG1WGA. I mean, really! These conspiracy theorists are just so fucking self-obsessed! Instead of merely proclaiming your faith, live it: help an animal or a child in need (after all, they aren’t yet godless socialist liberals). Do something constructive and quit spinning/spreading paranoid yarns.

13. Describe some of your favorite household items.
My George Foreman grill and my Kohl’s microwave. What terrific little workhorses they are!

14. What have you gotten better at?
Working from home. I struggled at first, but it's become comfortable. Of course, Monday we start talking about a BIG project that may present wfh challenges. (Here I am with the worrying again.)

15. Share a random memory.
When my cat, Reynaldo, was still a kitten and a resident of the animal shelter, he was known as Houdini because he could open his own cage and escape. Sixteen years later, he’s still like that. It’s not that he’s smarter, per se, than other cats. He just has a longer attention span and can be quite dedicated to getting what he wants.

16. How many pairs of shoes do you have? Too many. If I were more organized, I’d dispose of many of them that don’t fit or are too banged up.

17. Who do you go to for encouragement? My faith and my friends. I’m very lucky that way, too.

18. References you make that others don’t get. My friend Tony and I were laughing about this very thing! Discussing people who refuse to wear masks, I said Barney Fife would lock ‘em up, and he said, “Yeah, in the cell next to Otis.” His 20-something son looked at us as if we were speaking in tongues.

19. What are 10 things you consider essential for you? In no particular order: cable, cats, books, the internet, the phone, air conditioning, refrigerator, microwave, running water, my blow dryer. (A good hair day can really improve my mood.)

20. Is there any accent you wish you had?
Lady Mary’s.

I admit it isn't only her accent I envy.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

No baseball this weekend

Nine Cardinal players and seven of their staff have tested positive for the corona virus. While I'm sorry to miss baseball's greatest rivalry,* I am grateful that my guys are still safe.

At least Anthony Rizzo gets to spend his 31st birthday at home with his wife and dog, Kevin. Being Rizz, he's celebrating his birthday with a raffle to help the families of kids with cancer. Some lucky winner (hopefully ME) will receive a signed bat, ball or photo.

*Oh, shut up about the Red Sox and Yankees already!

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 8

Today's happiness -- 30 good minutes.  My dear friend Henry and I caught up. I told him about my niece's bridal shower and the good news about my mammogram. He was delighted. He told me about his problems with his laptop and how frustrated he'd become. I commiserated, and feeling understood made him feel better. I hung up happy, and I think he did, too.

OK, so it started with a lie. I called Henry at 6:25 and told him we only had until the top of the hour to talk because I promised my friend Joanna I'd call her at 7:00. In reality, Joanna asked me to call her "sometime this weekend," and I have no intention of calling her tonight at all. But I've learned that, when it comes to phone calls with Henry, less is better. If we're on the phone too long, we get into dangerous topics -- his brain injury, the accident, his ongoing problems at work -- that leave us both upset.

So I'm also happy that I'm adapting. It's been nearly two years since his accident, and I'm coming to accept him for who he is now instead of waiting for him to magically return to he was.

Each day in August you are to post about something that makes *you* happy. Pretty simple. And, it doesn't even have to be every day if you don't want it to be. It's a great way to remind ourselves that there are positive things going on in our lives, our communities, and the world.

But her emails!

Friday, August 07, 2020

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Mad About You (1992)
Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) Mad About You was a sitcom that ran from 1992 to 1999. Are you familiar with the show? Were you a fan? I watched it every now and again. Mostly I remember it for the scene-stealing dog they had. Murray went from shelter rescue to star!

 2) The show was rebooted in 2019/2020 on the Spectrum streaming service. Do you have any streaming services? If so, which ones? I have three: Amazon Prime, Netflix (which was a gift from a friend) and Disney+. I got Disney+ in July to watch Hamilton and forgot to cancel it. I'm getting rid of it at the end of this month, honest I am, after I watch 101 Dalmations and Tangled (the last being an enthusiastic recommendation from my niece, who loves her animated Disney).

3) The series revolved around Manhattan newlyweds Paul and Jamie Buchman. They met at a newsstand, where they were both purchasing The New York Times. With so many publications online, newsstands are now uncommon. When you want to purchase a printed newspaper or magazine, where do you go? There's an independent bookseller nearby that I try to toss business to, so I'd go there.

4) Paul is played by Paul Reiser. He created the series because he believes marriage is a tough but satisfying adventure. He and real-life wife Paula have been married for more than 30 years. They met when she was a waitress at the comedy club where he was performing. Have you ever waited tables? Nope.

5) Helen Hunt won four Emmy Awards as Jamie. Over 10 million people watch the Emmys each year. She also won an Oscar, which has an annual viewership of twice that. Therefore huge audiences witnessed Helen's acceptance speeches. Are you comfortable speaking in public? Yes. One thing that has always shown up in my employee reviews is that when I present to clients, they like and trust me. I'm proud of that. (I also firmly believe that it's my credibility with my clients that accounts for that paycheck being deposited in my account every two weeks; otherwise, I think my agency would have axed me long ago.)

6) During the opening credits, Paul and Jamie are sharing an ice cream bar. When did you most recently have ice cream? Friday evening. Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Chunks are my official indulgence of the pandemic.

7) Paul and Jamie's best friends were another couple, Fran and Mark. Eventually Fran and Mark divorced, and Paul and Jamie worked at being friends with both of them. Have you been friends with a couple who split? Did you manage to stay friends with both of them? Yes. And in both cases I lost track of him and stayed friends with her.

8) In 1992, when Paul and Jamie were playing New Yorkers, real New Yorkers were following the trial of mobster John Gotti. Mr. Gotti acquired many nicknames, including The Teflon Don, The Dapper Don and Black John. Is there anyone in your life that you call by a pet name or nickname? Yes.

9) Random question  -- What subject do you wish you knew more about? I wish I stayed with my Spanish lessons of a decade ago. I let myself get distracted by a health scare, and then, after surgery, I didn't pick it up again.

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 7

Today's happiness -- Done! The larder is full and my laundry basket is empty. My two big weekend chores are already done and it's just Friday night. What a great feeling!

Each day in August you are to post about something that makes *you* happy. Pretty simple. And, it doesn't even have to be every day if you don't want it to be. It's a great way to remind ourselves that there are positive things going on in our lives, our communities, and the world.

It's turning out to be Will

I've been attending this classic film Meet Up for seven years now. When I first began attending, I gravitated to Martha and Joanna. Martha is the opposite of me in every way: nearly 6' tall, black, Buddhist and a bus driver! But she and I share a love of old movies, especially Jimmy Stewart. Unfortunately, her shift made her drop out of the group. I'd hoped that, with our Meet Ups having gone online, she'd resurface, but that hasn't happened.

Joanna and I have grown closer through the years because we're more alike. We're both writers, both politically aware, share a sense of humor, and, of course, love classic film. But as Joanna's relationship with Sid has taken off -- which, during a pandemic presents its own unique problems because of his health issues -- we've drifted apart a bit.*

But the friend from the group who has kinda sneaked up on me is Will. When I first started attending, I just thought of him as our nerdy moderator (since this is a group of movie fanatics, that makes him a nerd's nerd). He's very private, a closeted gay man who must have suffered greatly to think that, in 2020, his sexuality still matters. I know that, seven years ago, he tentatively asked me for help getting a job at our agency, which I wasn't able to do, and I think that might have embarrassed him a bit.

So he didn't seem like friend material. But slowly, we've clicked.

In spring 2019, he was my sherpa through my first TCM Classic Film Festival. We agreed beforehand that we would go our own ways -- we each had movies we wanted to see on our own -- but would check in every day. It worked out well. For someone like me, who prefers to travel alone, he was the perfect companion.

Then there was the night in summer 2019, when he and I continued chatting about that month's movie as I waited for my rideshare. An obviously homeless man came up and addressed Will by name. He wasn't panhandling, specifically, just saying "hi." I was impressed to learn that Will belongs to an open, giving church congregation that runs a soup kitchen and he volunteers. I like someone who quietly lives his faith rather than loudly judging others.

In autumn, he was my "date" for the Noir City Chicago Film Festival. It was going to be four of us from the Meetup on this field trip, but Betty is a fucking flake and Joanna got sick, so it ended being just me and Will. We had a wonderful time.

And so it's gone. Subtly getting to know one another better and appreciate one another more. IMing about podcasts we're both following. Sharing our Baby Boomer love of old TV shows (Peyton Place, specifically). He's the one who recommended the Doris Kearns Goodwin book Wait Till Next Year to me because he knows I grew up loving baseball. This week's MeetUp movie was chosen because it's one of my favorites and he found a great print for free on YouTube. I regularly deposit $5 or $10 via Venmo into his account because I know he's out of work through the pandemic and his is one of those jobs that may never return. But I offhandedly tell him it's to reimburse him for all the work he does to prepare for our Zoom Meet Ups, and remind Joanna to do the same.

I like Will. Will likes me. I'm glad we're in each other's lives.

*I should call her. Or at least send a chatty email. Just because she's not available on Tuesday nights doesn't mean we can't still talk and I could make a greater effort.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 6

Today's happiness -- Baking soda freshness. This is going to sound like a ridiculously little thing, yet it's the little things that can really make a difference.

I like to keep my bathroom door closed when I've got the air conditioner on. I want to reduce my energy use, do my part for the planet, etc. I have to keep the door closed after my shower because otherwise, the steam sets off the smoke detector. That all makes sense, right? Except my bathroom is windowless. Up until recently, it could smell and feel pretty swampy in there.

Then I discovered the Arm & Hammer Moisture Absorber and Odor Eliminator! Economical, easy to use and super effective. (OK, very unattractive. I can't peel that label off, but nothing in life is perfect.) You can get them at Target, Walmart and Amazon. Only $5 or $6 and it lasts months.

Each day in August you are to post about something that makes *you* happy. Pretty simple. And, it doesn't even have to be every day if you don't want it to be. It's a great way to remind ourselves that there are positive things going on in our lives, our communities, and the world.

Good morning, World!

Guess who has the best record in the National League. Go ahead, guess.

Guess which team is the only one in the league to not have a single player test positive for the corona virus. Go ahead, guess. While they're very careful on the road -- going straight to the hotel to stay put and alone in their rooms -- they admit sometimes during the heat of the game they forget themselves and high-five one another or hug after a big play. Still they're good about the masks and who can forget Rizz on Opening Day, sharing his hand sanitizer? They're more than ballplayers, they're role models, and they know kids are watching.


Wednesday, August 05, 2020

It's habit now

I have 4 of these Cubbie blue masks
Come home ... head to bathroom ... wash hands ... remove mask ... soak mask in the sink with a squirt of shampoo ... wipe first my nose and then my phone with alcohol.

It occurred to me this evening that I don't even really think about the corona virus accoutrement anymore. It's just a part of life. I'm only reminded of the pandemic and peril when I turn on the Cubs game and see all those empty seats in the stands.

I suspect the very ordinariness of it means we're half way done with this global tragedy and a vaccine will be available around February. For I believe that's how life works: as soon we become used to the masks and sanitizer, we can put them away.

I do wonder about the sillies out there who refuse to believe the threat is real and deny that masks help. Do they rage every time they approach their dwellings, ripping off their masks, licking the door knob and yelling, WHERE WE GO ONE WE GO ALL?

Farewell, Pete Hamill

When I was a teenager, I read Pete Hamill all the time. In those pre-internet days, this required me to visit the library. Pete Hamill was worth it.

His prose was clean. His insights were sharp. He was a big city guy who wrote about big city guys -- Sinatra,* Muhammad Ali, Jimmy Breslin, Norman Mailer, Joe DiMaggio. He was a hard drinking city guy himself. I think I was a little in love with him.

I think she was, too. To celebrate his life on the day of his passing, I give you his words on the woman he knew, certainly dated and likely bedded but never discussed during her lifetime.

 This Pete Hamill column was published in New York Newsday May 22, 1994.

A Private Life Defined by Wit, Compassion

We were on a train heading south through the June afternoon, carrying another Kennedy in a coffin to the dark permanent earth of Arlington. I was sitting in one of the crowded cars with Jose Torres, who had been the light-heavyweight champion of the world. He had torn his Achilles tendon in the gym and his right foot was in a cast and we were talking, and trying to make jokes to erase grief, glancing out at the ruined faces standing beside the tracks.

I was drinking then. I saw an old man standing at attention, saluting, and I turned away and sipped my whiskey and then, coming down the aisle, there was Jackie Kennedy.

She was moving slowly, stopping to murmur words of consolation to this person and that; and then came to us. Jose introduced himself and then me. She shook our hands and asked about Jose's leg.
"I know Bobby loved you guys," she said. "I'm so sorry."

The words were simple and correct, of course; so was the stoic grace, the refusal to weep in public, cry to Heaven for vengeance, or issue some gushing demand for pity.  But there was something unstated too, moving around in her eyes, present in the coiled tension of her stance. She was bitterly angry. In 1968, with Martin Luther King gunned down and now Robert Kennedy, she wasn't alone.
That morning in St. Patrick's Cathedral, anger stained the air; it was here on the funeral train too, impossible to tame with either words or whiskey. The murder of Jack Kennedy provoked horror and grief, the killing of Robert Kennedy, a generalized absurd fury.

Jackie Kennedy, as everyone called her then, had been to King's funeral in April; now she was part of still another, less than five years after the bloody finality of Dallas. American public life was beginning to resemble a death cult and in her eyes, and the slight tight-lipped shake of the head, she seemed to be wondering if the killing would ever end.

The train rocked slightly; she didn't lose her balance.  She turned to console someone else and then she was gone. Four months later she married Aristotle Onassis.

"I wanted to go away," she told me once. "They were killing Kennedys and I didn't want them to harm my children. I wanted to go off. I wanted to be somewhere safe."

After the marriage to Onassis, of course, much bitterness was directed at Jackie herself. Three public versions of the same woman emerged, often warring with one another: Jacqueline Bouvier, Jackie Kennedy, Jacqueline Onassis. By refusing to play forever the role of Jackie Kennedy, Grieving Widow, by resisting the demands and hypocrisies of the cult she'd helped create by telling Theodore White it was like Camelot, by insisting instead on her right to live, Jacqueline Bouvier invited the pikes and lances. In the process, she made a brave and difficult life.

A decade after Robert Kennedy's death, after Onassis had died, and after Jackie had begun to build her life in New York, we went around together for a while. I don't know of any public figure whose public image was at greater variance with private reality.  "I picked up the newspaper today," she said one evening, "and read this story about this absolutely horrible woman — and it was me."

She did not retail herself, of course, did not work the talk show circuit or give interviews or issue press releases. The absence of information was filled with gossip, rumor, the endless human capacity for malice. She was able to immunize herself from most of this with irony and detachment, laughing at the more overblown printed fevers. She understood that she was the stuff that tabloid dreams are made of, combining in one person the themes of sex, death and money. But she could be wounded too.

"I just don't understand sometimes why they work so hard at hurting me," she said. "There are so many more important things to do."

Books have been written about her; more will come in a ceaseless flood. I hope they all make clear how much she loved her children and the man she once described to me as "this young handsome guy who later became president." Loved them: and the geometries of the French language, the marbled acres of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the lanes and green surprises of Central Park, the light of the Mediterranean. She loved riding horses through the fields around Bernardsville in New Jersey and loved rogues, too, men who reminded her of her father, Jack Bouvier. She is one of the few women I ever met who could be equally comfortable with Jimmy Breslin and Andre Malraux.
Her intelligence was subtle and surprising. She could discuss characters from Proust and dances by Fred Astaire. She had a wicked sense of humor, saw sham when it appeared, had little patience for fools, expressed herself with wit.

She worked hard at editing, reading more manuscripts at home than ever were published, urging people into good work. And she could write too. Her notes were models of grace and precision. The most appalling thing about the suddenness of her death is that she apparently never wrote her memoirs, she who had so much to remember. "Sometime, when I'm old and creaking," she said, "maybe I'll write some of all that."

Instead, she wrote notes to people who were in trouble, to men whose wives were dying, to women who'd lost their men. The world was full of the wounded. She had the gift of sympathy, which is rarer than we all care to admit, and brought it more often to the hurt than to the triumphant. She was gracious with strangers, particularly people astonished by the sight of her, amused by the absurdity of her own celebrity, but never cruel or dismissive to those who thought it was important. She used that celebrity for decent causes: the saving of Grand Central, the campaign to rehab 42nd Street, the curbing of Mort Zuckerman's skyscraper on the edge of Central Park. In those and other endeavors, she wasn't assembling scrapbooks; she was being a citizen. Most of the time, she hung the celebrity in the closet like a dress, and lived her life.

She didn't need to do any of these things. She could have lived out her days in icy exile in Europe, hugging some mountain in Switzerland, walled away from the world in some personal fortress on the Riviera. She chose instead to live in New York, a city as wounded as she was.

In the last decade, when every sleazy rumor about Jack Kennedy was treated like fact, she maintained her silence.  And silence, of course, is communication.

Now, in silence, she will make her own final journey to Arlington. To be forever with the man she loved, long ago. God bless.

*His book on Sinatra is very good.

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 5

Today's happiness -- Afternoon nap. I expected our 11:00 AM client Zoom meeting to be consequential. I was primed and ready to do the work for Tony, a client I really like and especially want to deliver for, but he really isn't ready for us.*

So here I was at 11:30, adrenaline pumping and no Tony project! I made myself a big lunch (steak and mixed vegetables). OK, now it was 12:15. I knew no one would be calling upon me for anything for at least an hour, so I took a nap. It was glorious!

Hurry-up-and-wait happens all the time in advertising. But before work-from-home, I wasn't able to wind down with a refreshing nap.

Each day in August you are to post about something that makes *you* happy. Pretty simple. And, it doesn't even have to be every day if you don't want it to be. It's a great way to remind ourselves that there are positive things going on in our lives, our communities, and the world.

*Shorthand version: Tony wants me to drive customers to download an app that's still in development. Uh oh!

Tuesday, August 04, 2020


To participate, and to see how others responded, click here.

1. What are you currently reading? Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin. My friend Will virtually put this book in my hands.* I know why: it's about a girl who grew up loving baseball, and I was certainly a girl like that.

But that girl was Doris Kearns Goodwin, who gave us Team of Rivals, The Kennedys and The Fitzgeralds, and No Ordinary Time. She is a gifted storyteller, expert in making American history accessible to the masses. She maintains she learned to spin a yarn while listening to Brooklyn Dodgers games on the radio and then recounting them to her dad each evening.

But it's more than tales of Jackie Robinson and PeeWee Reese. It's about how baseball helped define her. It was her identity within her family -- she was the daughter who inherited Dad's love of baseball; within the community -- theirs was a Dodgers household, while the neighbors were Giants fans; and on the playground -- the first boys she ever spoke to, she talked baseball.

It's nostalgic but not overly sentimental. I recently finished The Nine of Us by Jean Kennedy Smith, and her story of growing up whitewashed a great deal. Ms. Goodwin, on the other hand, addresses her father's own difficult childhood and her mother's harrowing health issues, and the impact these things had on her, but she does it recalling her younger self's outlook. It makes her narration more poignant, like Scout's in To Kill a Mockingbird.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Cloche and Dagger by Jenn McKinlay. Scarlett is an executive in Florida's thriving (at least it was thriving pre-Covid) hospitality industry. Then her life implodes and she needs a change of scenery. Her cousin suggests she move to England to help run the hat shop their grandmother left them. The plan: Vivian will create the hats, Scarlett will build the business.

So Scarlett packs up and moves to London to join Cousin Vivian. Only Vivian is nowhere to be found. Then a high-profile millinery customer is found murdered ... stabbed and nude except for the hat Vivian designed for her. (Hence the title.)

This is the first in The Hat Shop Mystery series, set in London. The protagonist, Scarlett, is good company. She's gutsy and smart but amusingly flawed (example: no one gets her jokes). There were things about the story that bugged me, though. She becomes an enduringly infamous internet celebrity through a YouTube video that in real life would be forgotten in a day. It's an unnecessary and silly distraction. And then there's the mystery itself. I won't spoil it, but I felt let down when the murderer was revealed. There is no way any of us could have guessed whodunnit.

Still, it was an entertaining cozy mystery. Taken on its own "Hallmark movie" terms, it was fine.

3.  What will you read next?  Road to Jonestown about Jim Jones. I think. Maybe. After all, I hadn't figured on Wait Till Next Year.

*Virtually because we haven't seen each other since March. But he waved it at me during a Zoom gettogether.

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 4

Today's happiness -- My little man. Reynaldo is pressed right up against my right arm as I compose this post. He's 16 years old now, and I've had him since he was nearly as little as this year's happiness icon. Rey-Rey and I have been through a lot together, and even though we exasperate one another, we're partners ... buddies ... roommates.

His vision is failing and he sleeps more, and more soundly. The vet reassures me that he is doing just fine for a senior citizen (if he were human, he'd be approximately 80 years old). He enjoys playing with the girlcat, Connie, his appetite is healthy and oh! Is he ever affectionate!

But to borrow from Sir Paul in the song "Two of Us," Rey and I have memories longer than the road that stretches on ahead.

So I love it extra specially now, during covid19, that he takes such comfort in having me here with him all day. It touches my heart when I hear him call me back whenever I leave the apartment. (His meows carry all the way to the elevator.)

There are gifts to be found during this pandemic, and this tender time with Reynaldo is just one of them.

Each day in August you are to post about something that makes *you* happy. Pretty simple. And, it doesn't even have to be every day if you don't want it to be. It's a great way to remind ourselves that there are positive things going on in our lives, our communities, and the world.

Monday, August 03, 2020

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 3

Today's happiness -- Down 25%! I just opened my ComEd bill and am delighted to report that, even though the temperature was virtually the same (76º avg. in 2020; 75º in 2019), my power usage is way down. This is especially significant when you realize that I've been home, day in/day out, this year with the a/c running. 

It's gotta be the new, more energy-efficient air conditioners. A lower bill is just another reward for conserving power.

Each day in August you are to post about something that makes *you* happy. Pretty simple. And, it doesn't even have to be every day if you don't want it to be. It's a great way to remind ourselves that there are positive things going on in our lives, our communities, and the world.

The hardest part of life

Over chicken on Friday, Nancy shared how her son died. First he felt heart palpitations. He knew something was wrong, so he went to the ER. They did an EKG but told him they saw no evidence of heart disease. He went back to his apartment and called Nancy, who told him to "take it easy" and make an appointment with his internist. She suspected it was anxiety. Two days later, he went out to his backyard to have a cigarette. And died. According to the coroner, his heart gave out.

He was two days shy of his 24th birthday.

Nick had been living in Boston and wanted to come home. His younger sister had survived a bout with Covid19 and ever since then, he'd been obsessed with his mother and/or grandmother coming down with it. Also, he was never called back to his restaurant job and he was worried about money. Unfortunately, both his shrink and his internist advised against travel.

That's haunting Nancy. Her boy wanted to come home, and he died alone.

She looked pale and tired. She complained about the food -- which amused me because it's a greasy spoon never known for haute cuisine. But that's the place she's in right now. Her heart is broken, and so nothing is satisfactory.

Nick abused drugs -- including heroin -- for nearly a decade but was two years clean. That's why he was in Boston. He found a sober living house that worked for him. Yet the coroner insists that, because of Nick's history, an autopsy and tox screen be done. Nancy is furious. She knows they won't find drugs in his system.

He was cremated. Her son's remains are being returned to her by USPS. She can track where he is on her phone. This left her bemused.

She is grateful that he called her just before he died, and that they had a good call. They knew they loved one another. She knew he was concerned about her safety; he knew she was proud of his sobriety. She takes comfort in that.

She guiltily admitted that, in a way, she feels "free." She began dreading that phone call about Nick ever since she discovered what he'd been using that vape pen for. Now it's come. The worst thing she could imagine happening has happened. And she's putting one foot in front of the other and living through it.

Her daughter Ivy, who lived through the corona virus, is in pain. Ivy misses her big brother and wonders why him and not her. Nancy knows she has to be there for Ivy. I think that's a good thing.

Her husband, Paul, has been a rock. He's not only a good egg, he's able to work from home so he's able to care for her without missing a beat. They've been listening to Mary Trump's audiobook, Too Much and Never Enough, together. That has distracted Nancy, so I guess our President really is good for something.

Before I had dinner with Nancy, I contacted my friend Amy. The two women have never met, but Amy was raised Roman Catholic and converted to Judaism when she married. AND Amy is a mom. I asked her what to say to Nancy that would help but not offend. I hope I did OK.

I also realize for the millionth time that I'm glad I believe in Christ and Eternal Life. I get the beauty and wisdom in what Amy told me, that Jews live a good life for the sake of living a good life, not for the promise of being with Jesus. But I am so relieved and comforted by knowing that no one I've loved is ever really gone, and that I will see them again. I don't know how Nancy can go on without that.

Image courtesy of  FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sunday, August 02, 2020

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 2

Today's happiness -- Deep, honeyed tones. It's August, and for classic movie fans, that means one thing: Summer Under the Stars on TCM.  24 hours of programming devoted to a single star. Today, it's Rock Hudson.

When I was a kid, I thought he was corny and passé. Then he became the poster child for AIDS. Over the last decade or so, I've come to appreciate him as a screen presence. He was a truly gifted light comedian* and, in the right role, a very sincere and compelling performer. And oh, that voice!

Today I'm happy to see the focus on Rock Hudson's career, because I've read his work was important to him.

Each day in August you are to post about something that makes *you* happy. Pretty simple. And, it doesn't even have to be every day if you don't want it to be. It's a great way to remind ourselves that there are positive things going on in our lives, our communities, and the world.

*Have you ever seen him in the "Palm Springs" episode of I Love Lucy? He is charming in his monologue about Adele and poor Sam.

Saturday, August 01, 2020



1. Name 5 people you admire and why:
a) Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. She was smart, classy and courageous. No one has ever made steel look so feminine.

#44 on your scorecard, #1 in our hearts
b) Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs Gold Glove first baseman is a tireless advocate for children with cancer and, during these dark days of Covid19, first responders. At 30, he's already done more to raise money and awareness than some do over a lifetime. He's a role model with unconquerable joie de vivre. 

c) My former boss. He built a successful agency from the ground up. At its height, he employed more than 500, and we called ourselves The Fortunate 500. He was tough, honest and kind. 

d) Nora Ephron. Funny, talented, uncompromising. She made mistakes in life but she owned them. She's the big sister I wish I'd had.

e) Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That little lady has the strength and heart of a lion. May she go on eternally!

2. When was the last time you did something adventurous?
Saturday I roadtripped through three states to get to my niece's bridal shower in Holland, MI. That is literally the farthest I've travelled this year, and I was surrounded by people I've never met. Fortunately we all behaved like adults and wore masks when we were indoors, only taking them off to eat on the patio. Hopefully two weeks from today I'll still feel as good about the adventure as I do right now.

3. I felt I got older when I went through menopause.

4. What one thing that could happen today would make you extremely happy?
These two unfailingly do something that touches my heart, each and every day.
Connie is looking at the camera, Reynaldo is fast asleep
5. An experience you don’t want to go through again. Worry about a suspicious lump, in my breast or anywhere else.

6. One decision you made that changed your life completely.
Not going on a third date with Bill with the mustache. He was a lovely guy, but I really didn't give him a chance. I was too crazy about someone else. That "someone else" turned out to be a narcissist who took a decade of my life. There's a fine line between working hard on a relationship and martyring yourself, and I crossed it. Oh, Bill! Sometimes I wonder how that third date would have turned out.
7. How do you participate in saving the earth? I recycle. I contribute to organizations that protect endangered species. I'm ridin' with Biden.
8. A gift you would like to get on your next birthday?
A safe, effective vaccine against the corona virus.

9. Things you miss about your childhood?
My mom, my favorite grandparents, my uncle, Adam West as Batman.

10. The greatest invention?
Air conditioning.

11. Your favorite super hero. See #9

12. Your views about veganism.
I don't actually care.

13. If you could be anything else in the world, what would you be?
I would be downtown, in the City of Chicago as it was before the virus.

14. How did you parents meet?
My dad was newly home from the Korean War and just started a new job at a garage. He was working on this lady's car and she said she thought he would like her daughter. He told the lady he was having a party that evening and his daughter should stop by.

15. Your morning routine
. It's really not that interesting, now that I work from home and my commute is from the bedroom to the dining room table.