Friday, April 30, 2021

Saturday 9


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

1) The lyrics tell us about a romantic summer night on a balcony. Does your home have a balcony? Nope.

2) Taylor Swift sings that her father warns her boyfriend to stay away, but she sees him anyway. Tell us about a time you defied your parents. Oh, golly. I rebelled in a million little ways all the time. But most of my infractions were verbal or clothing-related, nothing big. In retrospect, I think I was a pretty obedient kid.

3) The castle in this video looks European, but it's in Arrington, TN. Castle Gwynn is the site of the annual Tennessee Renaissance Fair. This May the festival will be back, and among the items food vendors are offering are Scotch eggs. When did you most recently eat eggs, and how were they prepared? I just had a hard boiled egg.

4) Love Story is also the story of Jenny and Oliver in a book by Erich Segal and a movie starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal. Are you familiar with either the book or the movie? When I was in junior high, I loved the book. My girlfriends and I saw the movie at the theater, twice. I had this poster in my bedroom. I saw the movie again a few years ago and I still enjoyed it.

5) Taylor was born in Reading, PA. which is home to the Reading Railroad, one of the four railroads featured in Monopoly. Without looking it up, can you name the two most expensive Monopoly properties? Park Place and Boardwalk.

6) When she's not performing on stage, Taylor likes to keep it casual and prefers to wear cowboy boots. Tell us about your favorite footwear. Since the pandemic and work from home, I find myself wearing my Crocs more often. Don't judge me. There's so easy to slip in and out of if all I'm doing outside is taking out the trash.

7) Taylor's brother, Austin Swift, is an actor and
producer who studied photography at college. Think about the last picture you took. Did you use your phone, tablet or camera? (Feel free to share it, if you'd like.) I took this last Sunday because I get a kick out of how alert my Connie Cat always is. She doesn't want to miss a thing. I took it with my phone.
8) In 2008, the year this song was popular, the Emmy Award winning show Breaking Bad premiered. Were you a fan? Nope.
9) Random question: You and your best friend sit down to write the story of how/when you met. Do you think the stories would be almost the same or quite different? (In other words, will you two remember the event the same way?) I know we don't remember it the same way. She claims to remember me from Kindergarten, and she's right, we're both in the class photo. But the first time I remember noticing her is when her family moved in across the alley from mine, in first grade. We were classmates and walked to/from school together. It was life changing, because it meant that 1) I wasn't stuck with my older sister anymore and 2) I had someone to talk about the Beatles with.


Thursday, April 29, 2021

Friendly Update

I sucked it up. I called my oldest friend Tuesday night. She kept posting pix of her son's wedding on Facebook and them IM'd one to me specifically. So I put my ambivalence behind me and called her. She loves her son's new wife. The wedding went well. Her life is about to change -- she has to move and is trying to decide between Los Angeles with her daughter or Austin with her son. To walk any distance, she needs a cane. Yet she sounds happy! And when she's happy, I laugh. And she was generous in listening about my problems. I must remember that when she can give, she does.

Speaking of canes ... I'm going to see John on Friday! We're both vaccinated,* we haven't been in the same room together since July (!), and so this is exciting. He gave me a heads up that he's using his cane again these days. Whereas my oldest friend is having trouble with her knee, John is suffering from a respiratory problem and the cane helps him move faster and more easily. I worry about his health and will feel better when I can see that he's OK.

And then there's Elaine. I know her from movie group. She messages me in the chat all the time. Sometimes she wants affirmation about her comments, usually she wants to say "hi" to Reynaldo, who enjoys crashing my Zoom get-togethers. Anyway, she's eager to meet in person. Her vet has recommended this particular brand of CBD for her senior cat and she wants to see how Rey responds to it. That's extraordinarily kind of her. I don't know why I'm surprised that she's drawn to me. I'm funny, I'm smart, I obviously lavish attention on my skinny old cat. All those are good things, right? Yet I am surprised. I met Joanna and Will through movie group, but that was in person. Elaine's entire exposure to me has been through a screen. I've never had a friendship that began this way.

*I'll be 72 hours away from the two-week mark, but I think Dr. Fauci will cut me slack if I remain masked most of the time.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Accentuate the positive

Today really kinda sucked. It started with an impossible project kick off that I'm not going to talk about here, and then went on to include a root canal. Oh, and I found out I need a porcelain crown on the tooth, and this could set me back between anywhere from $700 to $2400, depending on where the procedure is done.*

But nothing is all bad. It's not going to be as taxing financially as I thought. Not because of any good planning on my part. Just good fortune and timing.

For years, I specialized in card marketing. To learn more about our competitors, I said "yes" to every credit card offer that came my way. Consequently, I have a drawer full of cards. 

One card has $140 in unused cashback rewards. I used that one to pay today's $387 bill for the root canal. I just cut my portion by more than 30%. Yea!

My Sears Master Card just sent me a "please come back" offer: 0% financing for 18 months on any single purchase over $549. I called and asked if the service of a dentist counted as a purchase. It does!

So for all I have on my mind right now, money is not one of them and I'm grateful.

 *My dentist just retired and referred me to an endodontist for the root canal. I have to find a new dentist to handle the crown.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021


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? Peyton Place by Grace Metalious. Originally published in 1956, it became what Vanity Fair called "one of the best-selling dirty books ever." Its success grew into an Oscar-nominated film and TV's first nighttime "continuing drama" and today it remains short-hand for small-town scandal and hypocrisy. 
65 years later, Peyton Place doesn't seem trashy. It's less about sex than the pressure to conform, and the price one pays for being different. The book begins in the late 1930s, so there are aspects of life that are gone (listening to the radio, anxiously awaiting the next edition of the newspaper and going to movies were this town's -- and most towns' -- only entertainments). But the fixation on "them," and always asking what "they" are thinking of us, is timeless.  

The writing is less soapy/melodramatic and more slice of life than I expected. For example, eighth grader Allison MacKenzie is embarrassed by her mother's sophistication. Mrs. MacKenzie spent her 20s in Manhattan, and it showed. She was the only mother, among all Allison's classmates, who "prepared dinner" and "attended worship services." Everyone else's mother "made supper" and "went to church." This exacerbated Allison's feeling of otherness, as though she had a red line drawn around her. I remember being 12, and I understood. Allison had no idea that her best friend, Selena, secretly wanted to grow up to be just like Mrs. MacKenzie.

I don't know that I'll continue enjoying the book as much as I do now (I'm about a quarter of the way in), but I can say regardless, it's a pleasant surprise and better than I thought it would be.
2. What did you recently finish reading?  Dolls! Dolls! Dolls! Deep Inside Valley of the Dolls by Stephen Rebello. This book was terrific fun ... until it wasn't. I'm reminded of what Orson Welles once said, "If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop the story." I wish Mr. Rebello had stopped  this tale with the hilarious premiere voyage (the film was premiered onboard ship, and everything that could go wrong, did). Because up until and including this, the story was highly entertaining. Jackie Susann goes from showbiz neverwas to best-selling author, then Hollywood took her book and -- with hammy acting and a terrible script -- turned it into a camp classic. The hair! The clothes! The makeup! The awful songs! It was gloriously bad.
But Rebello goes on to tell us what happened to the Dolls gang after the film. The fun stops fast. The damage to Patty Duke's reputation and career lasted a decade. Jacqueline Susann battled and succumbed to cancer. So did Susan Hayward. The producer dropped dead on the golf course. Judy Garland, fired from the film, never made another movie and was dead in less than two years. Sharon Tate died the same summer as Judy, and in the worst way possible.

So if you're interested in the wonderfully bad movie, by all means pick this book up! I just recommend you put it down and move on as soon as the movie premieres.

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


Monday, April 26, 2021

Don't like doing it, proud I've done it.

The Big Project was done today at about 2:30. I had a miserable time working on it. And yet, when it was done, I felt elated. In a fortuitous coincidence, I just so happened to get word that the client was happy with the results of last month's Big Project.

My relief was short-lived, though. At 6:30 this evening* I got an invitation to start a new project. I'm rattled by this, since I have a dental appointment tomorrow afternoon which means I lose 4 hours. And, since the office officially closes at 2:30 on Fridays, I had hoped to take my newly-vaccinated self downtown and maybe meet John. But that might not be possible now.

I also worry because I don't yet know what this new project is. Will I be able to do it? I really hate doing new things now. My fear of failure is enormous. Fortunately, I exude confidence so my newer coworkers don't smell the terror.

You would think that, with time and experience, I would gain confidence. But that's not what's happened. Whereas earlier in my career, I only saw the potential, today I only see the peril.


*That's the bad thing about work from home. They assume I'm always here, regardless of the hour, and they're always right.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Sunday Stealing


1. What issues are important to you? Commonsense gun laws, reproductive freedom, an end to the pandemic. I have faith that Joe Biden is the man for this moment.

2. Which breakfast foods are your favorite? If I'm not cooking, I like Eggs Benedict. If I'm in the kitchen, I like yogurt and cold cereal.

3. How often do you change your hair style? Probably not often enough. I worry about aging myself out of credibility at work. Questions like this make me realize that, when retirement arrives, I'm emotionally ready.

4. Your most peculiar talent or interests? I am fascinated by everything mid-century. I just indulged in Valley of the Dolls (1967) one more time. To paraphrase dialog from the film, it's a rotten movie, but I love it.

5. Something you’re a natural at. Words. I'm naturally very verbal.

6. Women who inspire you. My all-time idol is JBKO. Jacqueline Onassis endured more than anyone should. She handled much of it with the public staring and judging. Yet she did it her own way, mixing strength and femininity.

7. How often do you take a break from everything? Last night, I watched Valley of the Dolls.

8. What are your go to dancing songs? "September" by Earth, Wind and Fire.

9. Favorite carryout and takeaway foods to order. I've been longing for Chinese food lately. The place around the corner has great egg foo yung.

10. People you like to spend time with. I miss my friends! Joanna, John, Nancy ... hopefully by this time next month we'll all be vaccinated and together.

11. Hobbies you started within the last year. Mask wearing and hand sanitizing.

12. What scents, sounds, and sights of Spring do you like? I like the smell of a mowed lawn. I love the sight and sound of a bat meeting a ball, or a ball landing hard in a glove.

13. Cultural aspects you cherish and enjoy I don't understand this question. I'll be happy to see how others responded.

14. TV shows and films you liked this month. I was very moved by the Oscar contenders I saw: Trial of the Chicago 7, Compromising Young Woman, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and The Father.

15. What do people usually come to you for help with? I wish my friends had smaller problems. Let's leave it at that.



I admit it: I'm insincere

My oldest friend is bipolar. I know this is a real condition. I know there's a lot in her behavior that she can't help. She has poor impulse control and few financial resources.* To my knowledge, she hasn't made a single friend in her eleven years since she moved to California. This makes me sad because she can be one of the funniest people on the planet. But she gets depressed and filled with self-loathing. No one would want to hang with her because she's divorced ... overweight ... unemployed ... broke ... She's so sure everyone is judging her she seems to get paralyzed.

I love her. My heart goes out to her. But here's the thing: she really can't be there for me in any meaningful way, and I'm hurt.

In the run-up to her son's wedding in Austin, I offered to help her with a wig. I sent her a visor and masks to wear on the plane. I heard nothing back. For a month. The wedding was Friday. My phone kept going off. 

Ping! She'd arrived in Texas. Ping! She loves Texas barbecue. Ping! She's staying at an airbnb! Ping! She's getting her hair done. Ping! It's raining really hard. Ping! She's home.

Ping my ass. I don't give a shit. I'm angry.

Last fall, when my niece was getting married, I got no support from my oldest friend. She has known my family nearly as long as I have -- we've known each other since Kindergarten -- and she knew how deeply ambivalent I was about spending time with my kid sister, how alone I felt going into the ceremony. She knows I'm afraid to fly under the best circumstances, and during a pandemic before anyone had been vaccinated is not the best circumstance. She didn't care what I wore or how my hair was done. She didn't ask about the coach house I stayed in. 

She could not have cared less.

She never bothered to check the wedding photos I posted to Facebook. She knows my niece. She didn't "have time to log into Facebook." She was too busy writing fan fiction about Keanu Reeves on a website called Wattpad. That was, literally, more important to her than me or my niece.

Well, guess what: People pay me for what I write and I am facing a Monday deadline. I'm supposed to take time away from that while she couldn't tear herself from fantasy Keanu.

She doesn't know about Henry's decline since losing his job. She doesn't know about my broken tooth. She doesn't know how isolated I feel, how lonely I am for my friends but I've been too busy with work and Henry and Kathy leave me depleted.

She doesn't care about any of that. She's begun writing fan fiction about Beatle George circa 1964 and an American girl with a pretentious name. Oh yeah, and my friend has to find a place to live.† But here's the thing about Wattpad: entries are date stamped. So I'm not the only thing she's ignoring for fantasy.

Intellectually, I know she can't help any of this. Intellectually, I forgive her 100 fold because I support her struggle with a very real condition. Intellectually I remind myself how much she has to offer when she can. Intellectually I honor our history.

But emotionally, I'm struggling. I'm hurt. I feel used and I miss my oldest friend as she was.

Still, if she chooses to call me this week -- after my deadline and dental work -- I will ooh and aah about the wedding. I will be insincere, but I will do it. Because I am her friend.

Thanks for listening to me vent.


 *In 2018, when I was away for the weekend with my friend John, I got a call from the finance company that held the loan on her car. She'd used me as reference. They were about repossess it. I never returned the call -- I'm 2000 miles away, after all -- and never told her about it because she'd be mortified. She never told me what happened to her car.

†I'm not exaggerating: her cousin sold the home she's been living in.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Saturday 9


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

1) The lyrics tell us that some men search for silver, some for gold. Are you wearing either silver or gold right now? No jewelry except for my tiny pearl stud earrings. They are not real pearls, having been purchased at CVS for $5.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
2) This song was a top 20 hit in the United States but sold much better in Canada. What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of our neighbor to the North? I should be embarrassed to reduce a man who holds two college degrees, a world leader whose environmental policies have reduced greenhouse gasses and benefited us all to a mere sigh but I can't help it. Him pretty!

3) It's performed by one of pop's most successful duos, Sonny and Cher. Can you name another duo that made hit records? The Everly Brothers. I would include their photo, only they are nowhere near as pretty as Justin Trudeau.

4) In addition to their recording career, Sonny and Cher were TV stars. In a recurring sketch on their variety show, Cher played a "v-a-m-p: VAMP!" These characters were always sexy and seductive. Do you consider yourself a good flirt? Nope. I've always been kind of clueless, even back in my party girl days. One of my running buddies insisted I didn't recognize a pass until the guy had his hand in my bra.

5) Sonny dropped out of high school in Inglewood, CA. Cher dropped out of high school in Fresno. What's the last year of education you completed? Lucky 13. Yes, you are reading the musings of a community college dropout.

6) Sonny first became Mayor of Palm Springs, and then represented the district in Congress. The city erected a statue in Sonny's memory. Tell us about a statue or monument in your town. There's a war memorial next to the nearest branch of public library. It features three figures, representing troops who fought on land, sea and air during WWI, and is inscribed with the names of more than 2000 neighbors who served. It's on a slight, grassy hill and little kids love running up and then rolling around it. I wonder when it will dawn on them, what they're playing on. I guess that's when we stop being children.
7) Cher is often described as outspoken. Ask her for her opinion on anything from politics to plastic surgery, and you will get a frank answer. Does "outspoken"  apply to you, as well? Yes. If you don't want to know what I think, don't ask.

8) In 1971, when this song was popular, Sears sold a portable manual typewriter. Described at the time as, "lightweight for travelers," it weighed 10 lbs. Today the average laptop weighs half that. Do you own a typewriter? No. I wish I still did. I really liked the tappita-tappita sound.
9) Random question -- Which has gotten you out of more scrapes: your smarts, or your charm? I wouldn't say "charm," exactly, but I have found that my good manners have prevailed more than once.


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

"Gal, mute!"

Last night, during movie group, I became the Zoomer you hate most. Yes, I was the one who carried on a personal conversation without muting myself. I honestly thought I had, but instead of shutting off my mic, I'd turned off my camera.

So everyone heard me yelling at Henry. "I can't talk to you this week! I told you this last night! I sent it in an email and texted you this morning!" I told him I was sick from my coronavirus vaccination,* that I have a broken tooth and I'm working under deadline. My movie group heard it all. It was mortifying.

But I snapped because Henry is so obnoxious at times. I told him over the weekend that while I love him very much, I just can't talk to him this week. Our conversations are always rambling affairs and they leave me unsettled. I know it's not his fault, it's his brain injury, and allowances but be made. But it's something I just can't cope with right now, when I have so much work to do. I take time off to eat, and to attend my movie group or toss off a post like this one, but other than that, I've got to work because I've got a deadline. I lost a day to illness this week and next week I'm getting my tooth fixed.** My deadlines don't move because of these things.

So what does he do? He calls me, drunk, on Monday. To complain about losing his job at the library. "You didn't lose your job," I corrected. "You retired. You quit. Let's not talk about a job you didn't want anymore. Let's talk about your future." 

"But you don't understand! Miguel wanted me to ..."

"Miguel is not your boss anymore. Miguel doesn't matter now. What are you going to do going forward?"

He pivoted to his "misery" over his second coronavirus vaccination, insisting it was as bad as the virus.* Now I had the virus, and I reminded him that his short-term 100ยบ fever was nothing like what I went through. "I had diarrhea, too!" He insisted. And then told me how the only thing that made him feel better was the box wine he and Reg picked up after a long car ride to the discount liquor store.

"Were you wearing a diaper?" I asked, annoyed.


"You took a long car ride when you had diarrhea."

"When you have been married as long as Reg and I have, these things don't matter."

Drivel. He was spouting drunken drivel, and I was busy. So I repeated Monday night what I told him over the weekend: "I am too busy to talk to you now. But it doesn't mean I don't love you. I have an unmovable work deadline and a broken tooth."

"Yes. I understand. I love you."

I reminded him of this in a Tuesday morning email and a text. I know sometimes he doesn't check his email, but he has to be holding his phone in his hand to make a call, so a text should get through to him. Should.

He called anyway, saying, "I am worried about you! We have not spoken in so long!" I snapped. I admit I was angry. He didn't even remember speaking to me less than 24 hours before! What's the point?  

Without his job at the library, he's going to be unmoored. I guess I can look forward to this for the rest of our lives.

I suppose I can't help that, but I can remember to hit "mute" on Zoom.


*I had a bad 24 hours -- headache, chills and muscle aches. But you know what? It was nowhere near as bad as the six weeks I was sick with covid.

**At least I hope I am. The endodontist's office still hasn't called me back!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021


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? Dolls! Dolls! Dolls! Deep Inside Valley of the Dolls by Stephen Rebello. Previously Mr. Rebello shared tales of how a great film -- Hitchcock's Psycho -- was made. Now he gives the same treatment to one of the all-time worst. He celebrates it for its "gloriously entertaining badness," and I agree! Valley of the Dolls is both wretched and one of my favorite movies. I adore every campy frame, and so I'm enjoying this book.
No one sets out to make a bad movie, and that's one thing Rebello makes abundantly clear. Author Jacqueline Susann dreamed that the movie version of her book would star the biggest actresses of the day ... and her dream nearly came true. Her trashy novel was so staggeringly successful that stars did think about joining the cast, certain that a movie based on the year's runaway best seller would be a sure-fire hit. Barbra Streisand was considering the part of musical phenom Neely O'Hara, but she couldn't do it because she was caring for her new baby. I bet she's grateful to her son every day for keeping her out of this drek. Ann-Margret, an actress who can sing and dance, also wanted the role but instead they went with Patty Duke, an actress with no discernible musical talent. 20th Century Fox had a pair of handsome unknown 20-somethings under contract: Tom Selleck and James Brolin. They both auditioned to play callow, commitment-phobic Lyon Burke, the charmer who seduces 26-year-old Barbara Parkins and is seduced by 22-year-old Duke. Instead they went with 40-year-old TV actor Paul Burke and were so happy to get him they paid him more than any other castmember. Who? Indeed. Bad choices like that were made every step of the way. Make enough bad choices and you get a fabulously catastrophic movie.
Fun fact: that's Tom Selleck nuzzling Sharon Tate in a publicity still for Valley of the Dolls. He doesn't mention his involvement with Dolls in interviews. Can you blame him?
If you like movies and juicy tales of old Hollywood, you'll like this book.
2. What did you recently finish reading?  The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood by Jane Leavy. This was an overwhelming book. At more than 450 pages, it includes just about every human emotion on a grand scale, because everything about The Mick was larger than life. 
Much of his career was glorious. He had seven (7!) championship rings and still holds the record for most World Series home runs. He was the World Series MVP two years in a row. No one in professional baseball has ever hit a ball farther (565 feet).
He was big, blond and muscled with a perfect smile. He was also the victim of childhood sexual abuse and wet the bed until well into his teens. He felt deeply and cried easily but didn't know how to show affection. He was pushed into marriage to a woman he loved like a sister, and felt entitled to cheat brazenly. At the height of his stardom, he patiently visited sick children in hospitals (without press coverage) but had no time for his own sons. He was an alcoholic who got sober just in time to battle cancer.
Jane Leavy was a fan, so the book is affectionate. But she's also a reporter, so it's clear-eyed. He was a flawed, self-effacing, ridiculously talented kid who never grew up. I was so sad for the damage he endured -- both in baseball and in life -- and the damage he unintentionally inflicted. As Leavy portrays him, he was a good man at heart, and I bet if he could have done it all differently, he would have.
3. What will read next?  Time for some fiction. 


Sunday, April 18, 2021

Row C, Seat 9

I went to the movies today! First time in a year. There was something just so delightfully normal about slipping away for a Sunday matinee. Me returning to the theater, sitting in the dark and watching an Oscar-nominated movie is just as natural as the swallows returning to Capistrano.

It was different than a year ago. Every other row was blocked off to limit capacity. Seats were assigned to ensure social distancing. Masks were required, except for when you were enjoying your refreshments.

I've been reading so many online complaints about STILL having to wear masks, and what an encroachment they are on our rights (though I wonder why being required to wear a shirt isn't an encroachment on the rights of our nipples, but whatever) that I looked around furtively in the dark to check compliance. No ushers were wandering the aisles, enforcing the mandate. Yet I am happy to report that everyone was masked for the duration of the film. We respect one another in my neighborhood, we listen to science and common sense. I am proud of us.

Now about the movie. In The Father, Anthony Hopkins is searing. He is charming and angry and desperate as an old man losing his faculties. It's an awesome performance. Much of the movie is told from his point-of-view, which makes it confusing and exasperating. It's difficult to follow and keeps us off balance, but that's the point. That's how this man experiences his life.

It disturbed me, because I have three friends who are battling mental/emotional issues right now. Issues that are not going to be easily resolved, or perhaps not resolved at all.

•  My oldest friend is bipolar. She doesn't control how she spends her time, her moods decide that. Her son is getting married on Friday, she has to find a new place to live, and what has she been up to? She's been finishing her fan fiction story about an American girl named Joie who marries George Harrison at the height of Beatlemania. I haven't heard from her in a month. She never acknowledged the present I sent her -- my unused visor and a collection of masks for her to wear when she flies to Texas for the wedding. Joie and George take precedence. I'm trying not to be angry. She is doing the best she can.

•  Henry is battling a traumatic brain injury. He forgets things. I told him on Friday that I would not be available to spend hours on the phone with him this weekend or into this week. I have a big project and I'm trying to work ahead because I may need time off (second vaccination; broken tooth). He keeps calling and emailing me because he's upset and he forgets. I'm trying not to be annoyed. He's doing the best he can.

•  Kathy is in her early 70s and, literally, can't keep a thought in her head. So while we're talking on the phone, she'll ask me to slow down so she can take notes. It makes me feel like Meghan Markle being interviewed by Oprah. It's futile, because the next time we talk she doesn't remember the last conversation at all. Talking to her is upsetting, but I hang on because she's doing the best she can.

So while going to the movies was fun, and I appreciated the film enormously, the experience wasn't as uplifting as I'd hoped.


Saturday, April 17, 2021

Sunday Stealing


1. The best story your parents or grandparents tell about the good ole days. When my mom was a little girl during WWII, she spent a few late summer weeks each year with her grandparents. They didn't live on a farm, but it was during rationing so they kept chickens and traded the eggs with their neighbors. Anyway, this was her favorite end-of-summer tradition: she would choose the buttons, rickrack and bows that her grandmother would use to make her a new back-to-school dress ... out of a chicken feed bag! It sounds sad, but the way my mom told it, you could tell the memory delighted her. The decorations were sold by a door-to-door "notions" salesman, and when my mom saw him come up the walk with his case, she thought life couldn't get any better.
2. The best things in life are... Books, baseball, the Beatles, and cats.
3, Things that drive me batty. People who excuse thoughtless, hurtful or rude behavior by using words/phrases like "truth bomb" and "keeping it real." They aren't honest and authentic, they're just selfish boors. (And usually wrong.)
4. A place I'd like to live and why. The Palmolive Building, right here in Chicago. It's a historic old building (that rotating light at the top was added to help Lucky Lindy find his way!) and it provides awesome views of The Lake and Michigan Avenue. And it used to be Playboy's national headquarters. I think Hugh Hefner was a dreadful, dangerous man, so the idea of an old-school, unreconstructed feminist like me putting her feet up there is appealing.

The shortish bldg w/the bright beam, left center, behind the Drake, is my dream home

5. The best thing I've ever found. I don't know if this counts as "found," but the ATM at the local convenience store gave me two 20s instead of one, and no receipt. I asked the kid who worked there what to do -- expecting him to give me a phone number to call or something -- and he pretty much told me to go away. No one had ever asked him anything like this before and it genuinely annoyed him to be confronted by a new problem. The bank never deducted any money from my account, so I got $40 free. I was perpetually broke in those days, so I mightily appreciated the good fortune.
6. The best thing that happened recently is. Anthony Rizzo got a triple. I've been very worried about him this season. His bat's been cold and I hate it when he's not doing well.

7. I admire people who... remember to give. Here's another picture of Anthony Rizzo, this time with the service dog he provided to The Joe Dimaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood, FL.

8. What makes me special.  Aw, hell. I'm just an all-around great gal.
9. I am looking forward to... the end of the pandemic.
10. Things that scare me. Clowns, squirrels, and the Cubs not extending Anthony Rizzo's contract.

11. Complaints I have. Selfish assholes STILL complaining about the mask mandate. More than 565,000 Americans have died of the virus and they insist on making this about themselves. BTW, Douches and Douchettes, you do realize that when this is over, you'll still be mandated to wear shoes in public. Does this interfere with your toes' right to "live free?" (Oh, you don't like being referred to as a douchebag? Pardon my truth bomb. I'm just keepin' it real.)

12. I could never live without... caffeine.
13. Things that make me laugh. Here are two of my favorite jokes:
a) Larry the Lobster played the harp in Tommy Dorsal's band. One night they were performing a swimphony at the undersea disco run by his friend, Sam Clam. After the show, a fishy shook her tailfin at him. He put his harp down so they could swim circles around the dance floor. Then he swam home. "Oh, no!" he exclaimed, "I left my harp in Sam Clam's disco!" (You know, like "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." Yuk yuk.)
b) A grandmother is watching her grandson play on the beach. He's wearing a sunhat, shoveling sand into a bucket. A huge wave comes and takes him out to sea. She pleads, "Please, God, save my only grandson. I will live a blameless life if only you return him to me. I beg of you, bring him back." And a big wave washes the boy back and his bucket back onto the beach, good as new. She looks up to Heaven and says, "He had a hat."
14. What is a new skill that you would like to learn? I want to learn Spanish.
15. What brightened your day today? The Cubs got 13 runs! 


Saturday 9

 Saturday 9: Don't Rain on My Parade (1968)

1) Is rain expected where you are today? Nope. (I just heard it's going snow Tuesday. SNOW! Is this why they say April is the cruelest month?)

2) In this song, Barbra Streisand warns everyone to not spoil her optimistic mood. What is something you're feeling really good about today? My local movie theater has reopened! I'm so happy to see films on the big screen again. (And just in time for the Oscars!)
3) She sings that life is candy and the sun is a ball of butter. Which have you consumed more recently, candy or butter? Butter. I had mashed potatoes as a late-night snack.

4) This song is from the musical Funny Girl. It's based on the true story of Fanny Brice, who starred on Broadway, in movies and on the radio between 1910 and 1951. At the beginning of her career, no one thought she would succeed because of her unconventional looks, but she forged ahead, saying, "I make things happen for me." Are you focused, like Fanny? I am when I'm working. In my personal life, I'm nowhere near as directed or productive.

5) When the stage version of Funny Girl was in pre-production, the part of Fanny was offered to actress Anne Bancroft, but she felt the songs were too difficult for her. Singer Eydie Gorme dropped out when told her husband, Steve Lawrence, could not play the male lead. Carol Burnett said she'd love to do it, but also admitted she thought she was wrong for the role. Running out of time and options, producer Ray Stark decided to give lesser-known Barbra Streisand a try ... and the rest, as they say, is history. Has there ever been a time in your life when you were glad things didn't work out as you'd originally planned?
If I may toot my own horn, I have a way with critters. So when I went to the animal shelter, I asked for their most unadoptable cat. I wanted to rescue one with special needs, or the one who had been there the longest because I knew I was up to the challenge. Checking my references, the shelter manager learned from my vet that my cat Billy had just died after a long illness and she decided I needed "a break." She steered me to a healthy, lively 7-month-old kitten. I named him Reynaldo. We've been together 17 years now. I can't imagine my life without him.

6) Funny Girl was the top grossing movie of 1968. #2 was 2001: A Space Odyssey. Given the choice, would you rather watch a musical or a sci-fi flick? A musical. Definitely!

7) Streisand's favorite color is burgundy because it reminds her of when, as a little girl, she received a hand-knitted sweater as a gift and wearing it made her feel special. What color is your favorite sweater? Light blue. It's ribbed and has a tie at the throat. I love that sweater. I got it at an after-Christmas sale at Old Navy at least 7 years ago. It must be one of my most cost-effective purchases ever.
8) In 1960, she began performing in New York clubs but she had a hard time getting work because she was only 18 and most nightclubs wouldn't hire a girl not yet old enough to drink. Do you remember your first legal alcoholic beverage? What did you have? A Singapore Sling. My fellow secretaries (we were not yet administrative assistants) took me to a Chinese restaurant for a celebratory lunch on my 21st birthday. I remember that lunch clearly (right down to the breaded shrimp entree) but can't recall anything about the party I must have had that evening.

9) Random question: How many people know the real you? Sometimes I wonder if I know the "real me." I think of myself as generous, defensive and available. As part of an exercise, I asked people who have known me well and long to describe me in three words. This is what I got back. The larger the word, the more often it appeared. While I liked the results, I do wonder why "generous, defensive and available" do not appear. Maybe I am not as I seem. (BTW, EVERYONE said "funny." Maybe it's me, Fanny and Babs, just three Funny Girls.)

Oh, Henry! Part 2

When I last shared Henry's sad saga, he was on Administrative Leave from his much-loved job at the library. Patrons had complained about his attitude. He said he was regularly disrespected as a gay Hispanic and it's his right to respond in kind. He blames Donald Trump for normalizing homophobia and racism. While I agree Trump did ugly things to us as a nation, and I believe Henry believes everything he says, I doubt these incidents happened as he describes. Key West is known as gay-friendly, and 1 of every 4 Conchs is Hispanic. Also, bigotry is born of ignorance. Would ignorant people flock to the local public library?

No, this is all the result of his traumatic brain injury. It makes him paranoid. (Check out the "Behavioral Impairments" section of this fine article to see a portrait of my friend.) It also makes him impulsive, and that impulsivity has cost him his job.

Apparently, when a library employee is placed on leave, a meeting is automatically scheduled with the County. Both Henry and the library were given two weeks to cool down and prepare. A representative of the County would listen to both sides and mediate.

I spoke to both Henry and his husband, Reg. I said "get appointments on the books." Henry has not been getting the care he needs. I explained that if they could show that Henry is working to get professional help from a psychologist and a neurologist, they would be giving the County a reason to keep him as an employee.

But Henry didn't want to wait two weeks for the County meeting. He can't wait. He made an appointment to meet with the head of human resources for the library. Mistake.

I told Reg to call and cancel it. "Say anything. Say Henry has diarrhea or a migraine. Whatever you do, don't let him go."

Reg started to cry. "I can't, Gal. I won't. He doesn't realize I have his best interests at heart. He wants to do this. He insists."

I pointed out to Reg that, since they are married, this is his healthcare we're talking about, too. Reg said that their home had become a nightmare, that Henry insists he knows best.

I spoke to Henry myself. I told him to wait for the County meeting. I said, "Bring a spoon and prepare to eat shit. Just keep this job." I am afraid that he won't be able to get another one if he loses this one.

"I cannot do that. I cannot sit and listen to them cut me to shreds. I will retire first."

And so he did. He went to the meeting with library human resources and retired.

The thing of it is, he didn't understand what "retire" means. Now he is complaining bitterly that they aren't giving him the 10 weeks severance he expected. There are strings attached to accessing his pension he didn't expect. He doesn't understand that Medicare is a federal program that isn't the County's to give him. He is shocked by how expensive Obamacare is. He is angry.

I am tired. Henry has yelled at me, demanding to know how he can get the reality of his mistreatment through my "thick skull." I have yelled back, telling him he will not talk to me this way and if he continues to, I will hang up. 

He apologized. That is progress. He is doing the best he can with his condition as it stands. And even though he is not yet 60, he can access his pension. That is a bright spot.

I worry that now, under less Obamacare coverage, he will never get the care he needs. I wish he'd been fired instead of retiring, because perhaps he could have been declared disabled to receive state benefits.

I am trying to be positive, though. I have done what I can do. I will continue to do what I can to support these people I love. But I will try to face forward, try to keep perspective, and continue to remind Henry of the Old Testament Bible verse that has become my prayer for them:

The Lord said, "I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." 

Friday, April 16, 2021

Oh, Henry! Part One

Henry was already an employee of the local public library when his bike and the van collided. He loved that job. He arrived early every day, so early that he was asked to cut it out because he was giving them too much overtime and they couldn't afford to compensate him. He wasn't doing it for the OT. He just felt at-home among the books. He had ambitions -- he taught a short-story writer's workshop at the library and wanted to do more. 

After the accident, he couldn't wait to get back to work. He was still in a wheelchair, still had pins in his ankle, but they welcomed him back. They had him in the back office during the day, handling paperwork (literally, because ever since the accident he has trouble with the computer). When he was more mobile, they gave him a job that he came to enjoy: taking books off the shelves that hadn't been checked out in 24 months. Some would be sold at the annual library book sale, some he set aside for his dear friend Suzanne, who runs a bookstore that handles second-hand books, anything about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis ended up in my den.

Was he earning his salary? Honestly, probably not. He was doing tasks that could be handled by a volunteer or an intern. But his boss, Miguel, and his coworkers were happy to have him back. They appreciated that he was disabled by the traumatic brain injury and was doing the best he could. Miguel also appreciated how important the comprehensive healthcare insurance was to Henry's recovery.

He had a seizure and one of his coworkers kept him from biting through or swallowing his tongue before the ambulance arrived. He suffered panic attacks. He had mood swings and was paranoid. But Miguel and the gang who knew him before the accident hung on. Henry had earned so much goodwill that they forgave him a great deal. They were happy to have him back.

Then the pandemic hit. In March 2020, the library closed its doors. Most of the employees were furloughed. A handful were given work-from-home computer tasks. No way Henry could deal with those programs after the TBI. Instead of laying him off, Miguel put Henry on medical leave because it excused him from working remotely but still protected his paycheck and benefits. It was a generous thing to do.

That was not how Henry saw it. He insisted he was being "singled out" and "diminished" by medical leave. That it was done to embarrass him. He wanted to know why he'd been put on leave and not furloughed like everyone else. There was no reaching him. Henry was convinced he was the victim of a plot to marginalize him. 

"Miguel is messing with the wrong queen," he told me over and over (and over). "I have information on him. I have seen him commit infractions ..." I know he confronted Miguel over the phone with his delusions and threats. Miguel bore it all. 

When employees were required to go back to work, but the library was still closed to the public, all of Henry's coworkers were doing the busywork he once did. Dusting books, updating the inventory, scanning publications ... So last month, when it reopened to the public, there was nothing left in the back for Henry to do. They were caught up behind the scenes. Henry had to take his turn at the front desk. There were no longer any other options.

Henry insists he's become a punching bag, a victim of being a gay brown man in Trump's America.* Every day, another patron would come in and deride him for his sexual orientation or his accent. He insists he is regularly told by patrons to "go back to Mexico." I don't believe any of this has actually happened. I do believe Henry believes it.

He has been warned not to argue with patrons. He insists it's his right as an American to defend himself. Finally, Miguel put Henry on a 14-day Administrative Leave. This automatically triggered a hearing with the county. Representatives from the library (probably Miguel) and Henry would be asked to explain what happened and next steps would be decreed. Perhaps an action plan, perhaps termination. That meeting was supposed to happen Thursday, 4/15.

It never did. More on why in another post. I just can't do this anymore right now. In the meantime, if you'd like to read more about TBI, click here. The section on Behavioral Impairments paints an accurate portrait of Henry.

*My friend Kathy still talks about MAGA Country. It's so fucking tiring. Donald Trump is gone, people! Rejoice and let him go! Face forward and enjoy life in Joe Biden's America (aka America).