Sunday, May 30, 2021

Little Gal, Happy at Last

Walking through my neighborhood today, enjoying the sunshine, listening to the Cubs in my headphones, I was happy

Happy to see faces again and not masks -- though we are respectful enough of one another to still wear them indoors. It's nice to smile at people and, especially dogs. (I like dogs!) 

Happy that I'm healthy this Memorial Day, happy that the country seems to be healing after the pandemic, the heartbreak of George Floyd and the horror of January 6. Knowing that the country they died for is back on track to being a more perfect union must help some of our late servicemen and women rest more peacefully.

Happy that I was picking up barbecue spare ribs from my favorite Chinese restaurant. (Gotta remember to check that fortune.)

Happy, happy, happy.

I hope you're enjoying a similarly happy, healthy, reflective Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Sunday Stealing

Stolen from Journal Buddies

1. When do you feel the world will stop? I don't think it ever will. Things will evolve, of course. That's the natural order of things. But I don't believe it will ever end.

2. What is your personal motto? "Above all, be the heroine of your own life. Not the victim." Nora Ephron.

3. What is the greatest gift you ever received? So many! I've been lucky that way. Most recently I've received flowers from unexpected sources. Snarkypants sent me a bouquet when she sensed I was feeling low. My oldest friend sent another on behalf of my cats for Mother's Day.

Reynaldo examines the flowers from Snarkela

The Happy Fur Mom's Day bouquet

4. Who is a leader who inspires you? President Kennedy. (BTW, his birthday was yesterday.)

5. What irrationally annoys you more than anything else? The tinfoil hat brigade, the ones who post that they know "the truth." About Dr. Fauci and the vaccines. About the Clintons and Jeffrey Epstein. About Q and "the storm." These poor people deserve my pity more than my scorn. It must be really hot under those tight tinfoil bonnets, with only suspicion and hate for comfort.


6. What small thing can always bring you a bit of joy? Singing with my shower radio each morning.

7. What is your favorite thing to do on a lazy day? Watch the first-place Chicago Cubs. They've won six in a row!


8. How often do you take risks? I'm less inclined to take risks each year, it seems.

9. Write about your happiest memory, Again, I'm lucky to have so many happy memories! One of my favorites is of Easter, when I was 5. My favorite uncle hid our gifts somewhere in his car. Then he put the top down and drove us around the block until we found them. Mine was a book under the floor mat in the back seat. It was about a girl who had yellow curtains in her tree house, and I had yellow curtains in my bedroom.

10. How long do you think it will be before we see a female president? You know, I don't much care about the President's gender. If he or she isn't a crazy racist homophobe, I'm happy. (Isn't it wonderful to wake up each morning and not have to hear about the hate your President tweeted overnight?)

11. Do you think it’s important to be part of a community?  Why? Why not? Very much so. It's one of the things our reverend reminds of us often: we're part of something bigger. A congregation, a community, a nation and a world. We have a responsibility to each. If we all do our best to honor that, the world will be a better place for us all.

12. What piece of modern technology are you most grateful to have. It's a toss up between the a/c and the microwave.

13. Do you feel anonymous on line? Depends on what site I'm on and what I'm doing.

14. What is something you’ve always wanted to try but have never gotten around to. A sleep study. I wake up in the middle of the night, and sometimes suffer headaches first thing in the morning, and I suspect I have sleep apnea.

15. What would life be like without the internet? I bet we'd all be more fit. I know I moved more before I spent so much time online.


More than beautiful

It's hard to believe that anyone was ever as gorgeous as Elizabeth Taylor was in Butterfield 8. She's so lusciously proportioned and her hair and lashes are so thick and her face is so flawless that you can't not look. So it would be easy to dismiss her as an actress and just regard her as a force of nature.

That would be a mistake.

During the first 10 minutes of the movie, she barely speaks. Her character, Gloria, wakes up alone in a strange bedroom after a one-night stand, and wanders around in a sheet, slowly remembering how she got there. When Gloria finds the torn remnants of her dress on the floor, she's alternately disgusted that it's destroyed and turned on by the memory. She's about to go home in the nice cloth coat with a fur collar she finds in her absent, married lover's closet when she sees an envelope addressed to her. Inside is cash and a note: "$250. Enough? L." 

$250 in 1960 would be $2,200 today.

Gloria may be a slut, but she's not a hooker. She went to bed with "L" (Weston Liggett) because she dug him, and she's furious that he treated her like a prostitute. She scrawls "No Sale" in lipstick on the bathroom mirror and switches the sensible pale coat for the far more expensive, full-length mink. That'll teach him!

All this with no dialog. 

By the end of the segment, when she gets into a cab and tells the driver she'll double the tip in exchange for a cigarette, we already know a lot about our very feisty, very tarnished heroine. And we like her. We get that she's self-destructive, has poor impulse control, and now we're worried about her.

Sure, Elizabeth Taylor was beautiful and controversial. There have been many gorgeous movie stars (from Lana Turner to Angelina Jolie) with equally tumultuous private lives, but there's only ever been one Liz. She was genuinely gifted. Especially when it was just her and the camera. She knew how to communicate with us through the lens.  

She won her first Oscar for this part. Hollywood legend has it she won for surviving a near-fatal bout of pneumonia. Look close at that LIFE cover and you can see her tracheotomy scar. That all may be true. But it all happened before I ever saw Butterfield 8 so it doesn't affect my assessment of the film. It's a messy, far from perfect movie, but she is perfect. I appreciate her more every time I see it.

Happy Birthday to My Favorite C Student

In honor of his May 29 birthday, I give you John F. Kennedy's 7th grade report card.

Known as "a prankster" (aka "smart ass"), he could be disruptive in class. Throughout his academic career, teachers commented that he was "charming" and "clever," but none of his report cards was cause for celebration. He was, at best, an undistinguished student until he got to Harvard, where he graduated cum laude. Actually his college grades weren't so hot, either. His senior thesis, however, was outstanding, received a magna, and that high honor put him over.

As a solid C student myself, I love this very, very much. Some of us turn out OK. 

Friday, May 28, 2021

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: If You're Reading This (2007)

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

Memorial Day is the federal holiday designated to honor American service people who died in battle. 

1) Memorial Day was introduced after the Civil War. War memorials, as well as graves of veterans, are to be decorated with flags and flowers this weekend in a show appreciation. Is there a war memorial in your neighborhood? There's a statue in honor of WWI veterans next to the public library. General Pershing himself attended the dedication.

2) Here at Saturday 9, we regard everyone who served -- veterans and active military -- as heroes. Have you, or has anyone in your family, worn the uniform of our armed forces? We want to hear about them. My dad was a Navy corpsman in Korea. He was known in the neighborhood for being able to do butterfly stitches on cuts that were long but not too deep. He saved more than a few local kids trips to the ER after falling off their bikes. He never talked about the sailors he must have cared for. I wish he had. He was all John-Wayne-flag-wavy about his service, but he never talked about it in human terms. I could have related better to it, and to him, if he had.

My favorite uncle was drafted into Vietnam. He loved to tell colorful stories about the men he served with, and oh, how they partied in Bangkok! I asked him about combat itself and those memories caused him great pain. He took me to dinner and told me I had one evening to ask him anything I wanted to know, and then we would never discuss it again. I hated how he carried all that ugliness in his heart.

Until about two years ago, my oldest nephew was in the Navy and served on the USS Nimitz. He never saw combat, but the experience was very good for him. He'd been pretty aimless before he enlisted. Now he's married and has a good job as a firefighter, using the skills he learned on ship.

3) Similarly, we're grateful to those who served on the front lines during the Covid 19 pandemic. Tell us about anyone you know who was an essential worker, a first responder or administered vaccines. They deserve a shout out, too! I learned that one of my TCM Film Fest buddies, Patricia, is an LPN. She volunteered her time to give shots at the drive-thru vaccination site. Fortunately, enough of us have behaved responsibly and gotten our shots, so the drive-thru option is no longer needed.

4) Memorial Day is the traditional kick off of the summer season. Have you packed away your winter clothes yet? I never took them out. I was indoors so much Winter 20-21 (and my condo is always so warm) that I didn't need my sweaters.

5) What's your favorite picnic food? Potato salad. I don't seem to eat it anywhere else except outdoors, off a paper plate.

6) As you answer these questions, is there a fan or an air conditioner cooling your room? There's a fan in the window, but it's not on. It's rather chilly here today.

7) This week's song is about a heartbreaking situation. The lyrics are a letter from a soldier to his family, which was only to be sent in the event of his death. What's the saddest song you have ever heard? "At Seventeen" by Janis Ian.

8) This week's featured artist, Tim McGraw, has a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame. It's near those honoring William Shatner and Julie Andrews. If you could have lunch with one of those luminaries -- Tim McGraw, William Shatner or Julie Andrews -- which would you choose?

9) Random Question: Think of the last thing you bought. Was it a wise purchase? Wise? Probably not. Yet I refuse to regret it.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Thank you, Matt and Matthew


I just saw the Friends reunion on HBO Max, and would like to thank Matt LeBlanc for getting heavy and letting his hair go white, and to Matthew Perry for getting jowly and not bothering to hide his bald spot. Without them, just looking at "the girls" and Schwimmer, I was beginning to think I was the only one who aged over the last 17 years!

It was fun to see the gang from Central Perk as they are today. For me, they're frozen in the 1990s. Whenever I stumble upon episodes on TBS, I stop and watch. I think about who I was when they aired first run, and then again ten years ago when they kept me company in the hospital after surgery, and six months ago when I was battling the corona virus

"Joey's tailor is a very bad man!"

"You have to stop the Q-tip when there's resistance!"

"Smelly Cat, Smelly Cat, what are they feeding you?" 

"He's her lobster."

Ugly naked guy

Miss Chananadler Bong

Yes, I love my friends.

Tuesday, May 25, 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? Natalie Wood: A Life by Gavin Lambert. I recently heard a millennial coworker reduce Natalie Wood to, "That pretty actress who drowned. Wasn't she murdered?" That made me sad, for Natalie Wood was so much more than her mysterious death. One of the few child stars to transition to adult success, she had three Oscar nominations before age 25. Hers was a career that was thrust upon her by an exploitative stage mother, yet one she nurtured on her own. She was talented, smart and savvy. Her legacy should be more than just her going overboard one November night. 

This biography works hard to give us a view of her life in full. Too full, in fact. The background on her mother/grandparents and their escape from Russia to Shanghai and then the US was a confusing (and actually rather irrelevant) slog. Once the focus shifts from mother to daughter, the story takes off.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Where We Belong by Emily Giffin. What happens if your life is built on sand and not solid ground? Is there a difference between a secret and a lie? Marion is a 30-something TV producer, successful in her career and happy (enough) in her relationship with her lover, a network executive. Her New York life is moving along smoothly, until her Midwestern past unexpectedly comes roaring out of nowhere and suddenly her life isn't so smooth anymore.

For chick-lit, this book takes on some serious serious topics and handles them with surprising sensitivity. Some online reviews expressed disappointment with the ambiguous ending. Not me. Everyone doesn't always live happily ever after with their first love -- in fact, most of us don't -- and I personally don't think these characters will or should. But it's left open. A little messy. Like life.

3. What will read next? A mystery or a thriller.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Was this the best margarita ever?

I'm talking about the one I ordered Sunday afternoon. I enjoyed it along with a massive bowl of clam chowder, outdoors in the sunshine from the patio of my favorite local sports bar. 

Even better than the drink and the weather -- I was showing off my first pedi of the year! -- was the company. I was with Nancy and her husband Paul. New blood!

So much of my covid contact has been with the same people, over and over, and it's been tiresome. Tiring. For John, Kathy, Henry and my oldest friend are all very dear, but very damaged, people. With emotional and physical problems that are difficult for me to deal with.*

Nancy's and Paul's life isn't perfect. Nancy is still dealing with the loss of her son last summer. She is mourning her son while trying to mother/mentor her daughter, who just graduated from college. Paul is her second husband, and I know from days gone by that Nancy's children have resented his "intrusion" in their mother's life. And, of course, everyone has had quite a time this past year during the pandemic.

But Nancy and Paul aren't defined by their problems. Or hiding from them. Or exacerbating them. So spending time with Nancy and Paul was fun. Energizing, not depleting.

Last weekend I saw my nephew. This weekend I saw Nancy and Paul. Joanna and I are trying to carve out time to get together.

The pandemic is receding. I feel like I'm tentatively coming out of the shadows.

*And, obviously hard for them. I don't mean to be insensitive to their suffering. I love my friends.

Cubs vs. Cardinals

As you can see, watching Sunday night's thrilling, 10-inning pitcher's duel at Busch Stadium aged me considerably. But it ended happily, with Javier Baez knocking one out of the park. Final score: 2-1. PHEW!

2-1 was the score of Saturday's night game, only the Cards saw themselves on the winning side of the equation. Friday was decidedly more lopsided (12-3). 

These games were important. Yes, it's always important when the Cubs play the Cards. But especially now. The Cardinals are in first place, but now only by two games. My guys are nipping at their tail feathers!

Since this is likely the last year that the heart of this team will be together, I want to savor every moment. And I want them to go out winners. 

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Sunday Stealing

Ned the Duck

A - Annoyance: People who don't break down their boxes before putting them in the recycle bin. When it's full up, unit owners start putting their recyclables in the garbage bin and that's not good. (I spend entirely too much time thinking about this.)

B - Bestest Friend[s]: I've known my best friend since Kindergarten. We Beatle bonded. She loves George, and I am forever a Paul Girl.

C - Car: I don't have one.

D - Day or night: You are the one. Only you 'neath the moon or under the sun. (Yes, I know it's and. But it's always nice to work Sinatra into a meme.)

E- Easiest person to talk to?: My best friend.

F - Favorite Month:
November. My birthday month!

G - Gummy Bears or Worms: No gummies for this gal. I literally lost a filling in a fiber gummy. 

H - Hair Color: Light brown with streaks of gray at the temple and the part. I wish I was grayer. Then I wouldn't have to get highlights anymore.

I - Ice Cream: Lately I've been enjoying Neapolitan.

J - Jewelry: I quit wearing my rings during covid because I didn't want to get hand sanitizer all over them.

K - Kindergarten:
I remember sitting on the floor around the piano, watching my teacher play. And one of my classmates (Gail) used to cry every day because she missed her mom.

L - Longest Car Ride:
Chicago to Fort Lauderdale with my Cousin Rose and her friend, Natalie. 20 hours over three days.

M - Most missed person:
I miss my friend John. He has health problems and is keeping to himself. I respect his privacy so I'm giving his space and besides, he's afraid I will nag and harangue him to take better care of himself. (And I would.)

N - Number of Siblings: Two

O - One regret: That I don't like my sisters.

P- Part of your appearance you like least?:
I photograph so fat! (Because I am fat.)

Q- Quote:
"Art is art, isn't it? On the other hand, east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like prunes they taste more like prunes than rhubarb does." Groucho Marx

R - Reality TV Show:
My bad-tv guilty pleasure is Autopsy: The Last Hours of ... on the Reelz channel.

S - Shoe:
I wear them two at a time. (Sorry, I was channelling Bud there for a moment.) I just had a pedi yesterday, so I've dusted off my Birkenstock sandals to show it off.

T - Time you woke up: I woke up at no particular reason at about 4:00 AM and then rolled over and went back to sleep until 8:00.

U - Unpredictable?:
I don't think so.

V - Vegetable you hate:
Uncooked tomatoes

W- Worst Habits: I'm sharp tongued

X - X-Rays:
My dentist just took a mouthful in April

Y - Year you were born:

Z - Zoom:
Has become a generic term, like Kleenex. I say Zoom whether I mean Webex,  Microsoft Teams, Skype or Zoom.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Saturday 9

The Way You Look Tonight (1936)

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

1) They lyrics tell us that no matter how low the singer feels, it will raise his spirits to recall the way his lover looks tonight. Share a special moment in your life that brings a smile to your lips, no matter what. I've experienced this special moment many times and it never fails to delight me. Wrigley Field is more than 100 years old. Upon entry at street level, The Friendly Confines don't seem that special. Dank and bereft of sunlight, smelling of beer and salt and sweat. Then you go up the steps. Voila! A bright miracle! Sunshine, green grass and ivy. A sea of like-minded Cub fans. I think of my grandparents, my parents and my late uncle. I'm thrilled to be back at Wrigley Field, happy to be the third generation of Cub fans to make memories here.


2) This song was introduced by Fred Astaire in the 1936 movie, Swing Time. It won the Oscar for Best Song. What's your favorite movie song? So many! Too many, in fact. But here's the first one that comes to mind: "A Hard Day's Night."

3) Though today Fred is revered as a Hollywood legend, producers had to be convinced to give him a shot. The initial notes on his screen test were: "Can't act. Slightly bald. Also dances." Tell us about a time when someone underestimated you. I think sometimes I underestimate myself. I find as I get older, I'm less sure of myself.

4) Fred's legion of fans includes Jackie Chan. The martial arts star says Astaire's movies influenced the way he choreographed the Kung Fu fight sequences in his films. Mr. Chan is one of the most popular film stars in the world. Have you seen any of his movies? Nope. I don't really care for action movies.
5) Fred was always fascinated by new things. In the 1970s, when he was in his late 70s, he took up skateboarding and became so good at it he was awarded life membership in the National Skateboard Society. Have you been skateboarding? If not, is it something you're tempted to try? Me on a skateboard would not have a happy ending.
6) Fred's friends were amused by his passion for daytime soap operas. In the days before video recording, he would call home from the club house at the golf course and ask his maid what had happened that day on his favorite "story," As the World Turns. Is there a show you try not to miss? This Is Us. I don't think Kevin and Madison are going to make it down the aisle next week.

7) In 1936, the year this song was popular, the US patent office issued a patent for the Zippo lighter. Beginning in WWII and for decades after, Zippo lighters were issued to our soldiers. During the Vietnam War, troops had their lighters engraved with personal mottos. What's something you have had engraved or personalized? What did it say? "Kathy & Kris. Friday Harbor. May 2016." I stole some photos from my friend Kathy's Facebook page and had a jigsaw puzzle made, and that was the title in the center. Kathy loves puzzles, is losing her memory, and I know how much that getaway with her sister meant to her.

8) Also in 1936, a killer tornado struck Tupelo, MS. Have you ever been in a tornado? How about a hurricane or an earthquake? No. I've been very lucky that way. The worst weather I recall enduring was the summer of 1995. The mercury rose to 105º and then stayed in the 90ºs for days after that. As if that wasn't bad enough, it never got cool at night. It was hot and humid, even after dark. Over 700 people died from the heat! I learned we're an "urban heat island." A 20th century phenomenon, metropolitan areas have too much cement, asphalt and air pollution absorbing heat. It was miserable. In cold weather, we pull together. Chicagoans smile at one another and shrug as if to say, "Can you believe this shit?" But when it gets hot, people get mean.
9) Random question -- We're creating an action figure of YOU. What two accessories should we be sure to include in the box? A cat and a can of Coke.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

I'm free!

It's hard for me to write about what I know nothing about. For the last two weeks, I've been working non-stop on a complicated project -- brochure, magazine ads, digital ads -- designed to encourage entrepreneurs to buy a car care franchise. I have no interest in cars. I have never wanted to be in business for myself. I have little experience with digital ads. (Emails and blog posts? I'm your gal! But not digital ads. That kind of writing is a craft that requires skills I don't have.)

I have been miserable. I was "loaned" to this account. The team that usually works on it was busy elsewhere, and I was "up." But I work for a company with offices in New York, Chicago, St. Louis and Los Angeles. I can't be the best-qualified writer we have to work on this project! It's not only been harder for me than it would for another writer, I don't believe I was giving the client their money's worth.

The project was supposed to be done this week. For reasons too tiresome to explain, it's fallen off schedule. This morning (Thursday) I was supposed to get another round of revisions. It's likely I would have to work (again) this weekend.

Guess what! My financial services client came through with a project! I am contractually obligated to work for them so I found out at 8:43 this morning that I was off the car care project. 

I'm free!

I should feel sorry for the new writer/art director team that's been put on the car care project -- a team that will have a devil of a time getting up to speed and meeting the deadline -- but I'm too fucking giddy just now.

This new project, for my client, will also have a digital component. But I'll be working with my boss, Aaron. He wants us to have a collaborative work session on Monday afternoon, where he'll look over my ideas and help me adapt them. Then next Wednesday, we'll show the account team and get their feedback. THEN we'll have three or four days to make the work as good as it can be before we present it.

Imagine that! The time, the resources and the freedom to actually do a good job! During a 40-hour workweek, too!

Tuesday, May 18, 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? Where We Belong by Emily Giffin. Marion is a 30-something TV producer, successful in her career and happy (enough) in her relationship with her lover, a network executive. Her New York life is moving along smoothly, until her Midwestern past unexpectedly comes roaring out of nowhere and suddenly her life isn't so smooth anymore.

I picked up this book (published in 2012) nearly a decade ago but never finished it. I don't recall why. I'm enjoying it now. It's perfectly serviceable chick-lit.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Murder at Archly Manor by Sara Rosett. This was a lot of fun. I loved the way Rosett recreated the 1920s. In those days, when a bob was a statement, you could tell a lot about a girl by her hair. Our heroine, Olive Belgrave, comes from a society family but she has no money, so she bounces back and forth between the upper crust and the working class, which creates a nice tension. Also, Olive is very believable as a sleuth. She has no training in this, and she sometimes makes mistakes. I liked that.
But the mystery itself was a little weak. Too many characters! Some were suspects, some were there for atmosphere. Not all were necessary. The book would have been more interesting if there had been some winnowing.

Still, I look forward to picking up another in series for further adventures with Olive.
3. What will read next? A biography.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Sunday Stealing

 Days of Gratitude

1. Name something in the room you are grateful for. My cat Connie is right here beside me. She's such a sweetheart.

2. Recall a favorite memory you are grateful for. My apartment is in the middle of a long hall. When I first moved in, my nephew really took off down that hall with delight. He was crawling and thrilled to have such a long expanse to traverse without obstacles. I still remember the joyous look on his face. That baby boy and I had lunch together yesterday. He's now 21.

3. Who helped you today? No one. It's still very early as I answer these questions.

4. What possession makes your life easier? My microwave

5. What’s the best thing that happened today? Again, it's very early so not alot has happened today. But I am happy to realize it's Sunday and I don't have to work. It feels luxurious.

6. Name something in nature that you are grateful for. I'm always happy to see the color of the sky. It always makes me happy. Light blue, bright blue, dark blue, it's all good.

7. What painful experience helped you grow?
 When bad things happen and I come through. There's always a morning. I've learned I just have to have faith that I can endure the dark night.

8. What is your best skill?
 I write well.

9. What person in your past are you most grateful for?
 My mom.

The first catalog I worked on
10. What risk are you most grateful for taking?
 40 years ago, I took a test to become a catalog copywriter at Sears, Roebuck and Co. It was the beginning of a career that I was arguably not qualified to embark upon. Looking back, I'm amazed by my chutzpah.

11. Name something/someone that makes you feel safe.
 I feel safe in my neighborhood.

 12. Name a challenge you have overcome.
 I was abused as a teen.

13. What small things are you grateful for today?
 Again, I'll go with my Connie cat. She's a compact little package of feline affection.

14. What smell are you most grateful for?
 Any of them! I had covid, and the first symptom was the loss of my sense of smell. I sniff things throughout the day, just to reassure myself I'm OK. PS The corona virus was terrifying. Don't be selfish. Think of your neighbors. Get vaccinated.

15. What is your proudest accomplishment. I've made mistakes, but they have been (for the most part) errors in judgement, not motivation. I am, on balance, a good person. I am proud of that.



Saturday, May 15, 2021

My first post-vaccine hug!

My fully-vaxxed nephew had lunch with his favorite fully-vaxxed aunt today. It's the first time we've been in the same room since his sister's wedding last October! Yet some things even the passage of time won't change. He still had as much pizza as he could bear and a strawberry shake. That's been his standing lunch order for as long as I can remember, even back when he was still in single digits.

He's home from school. Junior year of college was his best so far. He enjoyed his classes because they were more closely aligned to his poli-sci major. Even his general ed English class was devoted to exploring race in modern American literature. His circle of friends has expanded. He's happy to be home, but not eager for college to be over. He knows by this time next year he will be a graduate and will need a job in his profession. He will likely be leaving his hometown. It's overwhelming.

We talked about baseball (Rizzo!) and I caught him up on my life. Telling him about John and John's curious, dangerous refusal to take control of own healthcare gave my nephew an opportunity. He shared that he sometimes suffers from similar anxiety, and that he's found it to be more disturbing and disruptive than depression. I'm sorry he's suffering this, but grateful for the opportunity to talk to him about it. There's a lot of truth in the old saying: "We're only as sick as our secrets." It's healthy to shine the light into the dark corners.

When we parted, we hugged. My first hug in seven months! 

Friday, May 14, 2021

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Don't Get Around Much Anymore (1942)

Unfamiliar with this song? Hear it here.

1) In this song, our lonely Romeo shares how he amuses himself these days. Which of the activities that he mentions have you most recently enjoyed: playing solitaire, reading a book, or listening to the radio? I just listened to the last innings of the Cub game on the radio.

2) The lead singer is tenor Bill Kenny. Which range is your voice: soprano, alto, tenor or bass? When I was in junior high, they put me in the with the altos because that's where I could do the least damage.

3) When Bill was on vacation in Atlantic City, he entered a series of talent contests and won 21 of 22. This led to his first professional booking. Tell us about a vacation of yours that took an unexpected turn. Shortly after I broke up with my boyfriend, I went away to California with my friend, Mindy. After three days in Disneyland we went to stay with a friend of hers in San Francisco. When Mindy knew him, he was married. Now he was divorced. He and I hit it off ... big time. It's the only vacation romance I ever had. Once I got home, my boyfriend and I reconciled, and Mr. California got on with his life, too. But it's a sweet, sexy memory.

4) This song was composed by Duke Ellington. He received many honors, including a coin struck in his honor. In 2009, he graced the District of Columbia's commemorative quarter. Do you save coins in a jar or piggy bank? I keep quarters for laundry in a heavy beer mug, and pennies in a piggy bank.

5) In 1976, Stevie Wonder recorded a tribute to Ellington called "Sir Duke." What's your favorite Stevie Wonder song?

6) The lyrics were written by Bob Russell. When he began his career, he shared an apartment with future novelist and TV screenwriter Sidney Sheldon. Have you ever tried your hand at writing lyrics, a novel or a screenplay? Every year I participate in Nanowrimo. I don't know how good my stories are, but it's fun.

7) In 1942, when this record was released, the federal government established a rationing system to conserve crucial supplies for our troops. Sugar was the first food to be rationed, followed by coffee and then meat. If you were around back then, which of those items do you think you'd miss the most? Can you imagine if we found ourselves in this situation today? Oh, the whining! I mean, if wearing a mask is too much for some of us, going without would be intolerable. FDR would probably be a puppet of the Deep State, and the Concentration Camps would be dismissed as Fake News.

8) Also in 1942, actor/singer Peter Tork was born. Without looking it up, do you know why Peter Tork was famous? Hey, hey! He was a Monkee!

9) Random question -- Have you ever deliberately lost a game? I admit that, when playing with children, I don't play to the best of my ability. But I've never thrown a game, either. Kids have to learn sportsmanship. 


I am a lucky gal

Yesterday afternoon, I was actually done with work at 5:30! I've been so overloaded these past few weeks that this was noteworthy. The sun was still bright, the skies were blue, and I celebrated by taking a walk. I took my canvas bag to the BIG grocery store, which is just a shade over a mile away. It took me half an hour, which is longer than it should because I am hideously out of shape.*

After hearing the good news from the CDC, I wore my mask on wrist. It made me crazy happy to be able to smile as I waved at the driver who paused for me at the crosswalk. I was amused by the little boys rather aggressively hawking lemonade from their stand outside the community softball game. (I still wasn't ready to drink a beverage mixed by grimy little hands, though.) I wore my mask while shopping, though. It's still mandated here in Illinois and I respect the law as well as the science. 

As I walked the mile back with my heavy bag -- not even Friday and most of my weekend grocery shopping is done! -- I stopped at the bakery for a chocolate brownie. I don't think I've been in that particular bakery in a year!

I thought of John and my oldest friend and realized how lucky I am. She's 11 months older than I am, he's 2 1/2 years older, and neither of them could have enjoyed a similar walk. Both of them require canes to walk any distance. With John, it's fatigue and trouble breathing as a result of (currently untreated!) congenital heart failure. My oldest friend suffers from severe knee pain.

I haven't been to the chiropractor in a year. As things reopen, I must return. While I no longer suffer those horrible, shooting pains up and down my right side, I do notice that I have regressed. My balance is off, I'm pretty damn creaky when I get up, and it took me forever to walk that mile.

But I am healthier than they are. I don't exercise, but neither do they. I don't smoke, like she does. I don't drink, like he does. But I eat too much fat and sugar and am way, way too sedentary. 

I must take a moment to appreciate how lucky I am and then be more mindful. Drink more water. Get back on my lateral thigh trainer, if only for a few minutes a day.

Appreciate what God's given you, Gal!

*It wasn't that long ago that I could walk 3 miles in an hour.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Henry Roulette

Today I got a giggly voice mail from my friend Henry. He thanked me for the "anniversary" greetings and gift card I sent him and his husband, Reg. This weekend it will be 30 years since they first set eyes on each other on the crowded dance floor of Carol's Speakeasy, a legendary gay bar in Chicago.

I was happy to hear him so happy. But that doesn't mean he's having a good day. That only means that, at about 2:30 PM CST, he was happy. By 2:45 he could be angry, or depressed, or withdrawn.

When I see Henry's name on my caller ID, I feel like I'm spinning the wheel. Will it come up red, and I'll get a "good" Henry? Or will the little ball fall on the black, saddling me with "bad" Henry?

It pains me to report that, after his bicycle accident almost 3 years ago, he's no longer getting better. He's not making progress in his recovery from his TBI. His grip on reality is more tenuous. Everyone discriminates against him as "a brown gay man in Trump's America." Never mind that he lives in Key West, where 1 of every 5 citizens is Hispanic and 30% of his neighbors openly identify as gay. Don't bother pointing out that Donald Trump is now a private citizen in Mar-a-lago and we're all living in Joe Biden's America. Henry won't hear you.

He hasn't been getting the care he needs for a while. Part of it was the pandemic. He met with a new neurologist shortly before everything shut down and never went back. Part of it is his confusion. He had every-other-Wednesday telehealth sessions with his shrink but got mixed up on which week was which. He insists the fault is clearly with his shrink, who doesn't really care about him and never returned his calls. I know better. If Henry doesn't happen to be holding his phone when you call, he won't hear from you. He never checks texts or voice mails. 

Then last month he retired. This is not a good thing. He was somehow expecting severance that of course he didn't get. He wasn't expecting there to be a lag time between when he retired and his first pension check arrived (it hasn't yet). He didn't understand that his healthcare would end when he retired or that Obamacare would be so expensive (he can't afford coverage until his checks start rolling in). No one misled him. He just didn't understand what he was told.

Now he has no job to keep him tethered. He doesn't see friends. He can't afford to see his shrink. I've recommended that he make an appointment with his minister, Rev. Steve, whom he respects. But guess what: even Rev. Steve is a disappointment because when he reached out, Rev. Steve didn't call him back. (Yeah, I know; Rev. Steve is just one of the unheard voicemails.)

Back in 2018, I believed Henry would get better. Not well, mind you, but better. Then, about a year ago, I made peace that with the "new" and somewhat diminished Henry. What I had not anticipated was regression. 

I cannot accept this, but at the same time I am helpless to change it.

Tuesday, May 11, 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? Murder at Archly Manor by Sara Rosett. Set in England in the early 1920s, this book introduces pretty young Olive Belgrave. She has a specific problem: money. Her family is prestige rich but newly cash poor. 

She needs a job but she's too well-bred for most jobs and not qualified for others. She visits family for a few days and soon finds herself working to clear a cousin accused of murder. Olive discovers she's a natural, if unconventional, sleuth, and a career is born!

So far I'm enjoying this book. It's so perfect in its time and place. People live in places called Tate House, Parkview and Archly Manor. Men are named Sebastian, Alfred and Jaspar. Women wear hats with plumes. Everyone says things like, "One really shouldn't, should one?" And yet, there's a murderer among them! They're really no better than us declasse Yanks, are they?

2. What did you recently finish reading?  The Watergate Girl by Jill Wine-Banks. Today she often appears as an MSNBC legal analyst. Now in her mid-70s, she seems wise, self-effacing and careful. But this sedate lady was once a trailblazer. Decades ago, she was "the Watergate Girl," the young mini-skirted lawyer who was on TV and in the newspapers every day as the only woman on the team of special prosecutors assigned to Watergate. 
After the drama and consequence of bringing down a corrupt President, she had a hard time adjusting to private practice. She took a job as General Counsel of the Army at the Pentagon under Jimmy Carter. Once again, she was a trailblazer, advocating for women in the military.

This is as much a story of her personal life as it is of her career. She may have been a trailblazer but not a radical. She had a hard time extricating herself from a terrible marriage. She was the oldest daughter of a family in the Chicago suburbs. She was expected to get good grades, to behave, to make a good marriage and stay married. I found this part of the book almost as involving as Watergate. While more than a decade younger, I am familiar with this milieu and attitude. I understand her concern with disappointing those who have expectations.
I just read Katie Holmes has purchased the rights to this book. I hope it actually makes it to the screen.
3. What will read next? I don't know.


Farewell, Helmut Jahn

The Thompson Center -- aka The State of Illinois Building -- has always been one of my favorites. I'm afraid I'm in the minority on this. Constructed mostly of glass, it's difficult to cool in summer and heat in winter. New leaks spring up constantly and are almost impossible to detect/repair in a timely manner, which had led to mold. Tenants complain that they can smell and hear the basement food court.

But I love it. I love looking all the way to the ceiling and then down to the floor. I love the Christmas Tree in the lobby. I love the food court.

And so right now I'm sad. 

First the State officially put the building up for sale. The only restrictions are that the new owner must keep the el station (not disrupting service) and keep the name (James R. Thompson was IL's longest-serving, never-indicted governor). That won't preclude the building being torn down. In fact, it's far more likely than not that it will go. It's across the street from City Hall, central to the court houses and not far from the theater district. I understand why this would be the perfect location for a more functional and efficient office building with a prestige restaurant at street level (along with a Walgreens or CVS, or maybe a Dunkin or Starbucks; we seem to need a drugstore or coffee shop on every other block).

Then this weekend, the architect died in a terrible bike accident. Helmut Jahn pedaled into an intersection and was hit by two different cars from opposite directions. He was pronounced dead at the scene. He was 81.

I suppose it's a blessing that he won't have to endure interviews when his creation is destroyed.

He also designed the United terminal at O'Hare. There's a pedestrian tunnel between the concourses with a neon ceiling. It always makes me happy when I come down the escalator and see the red and blue lights. I wonder how many travelers enjoy it every day.

Helmut Jahn enhanced my city life. I'm grateful to him.