Tuesday, June 29, 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? Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella. Lara Litton is struggling -- romantically, professionally and financially. She's fragile and vulnerable, so when she begins seeing an apparition, it's easy to dismiss it as stress.

Only Sadie won't be dismissed. Lara's recently-deceased great aunt is now a fixture in Lara's life. Sadie appears to Lara (and only to Lara) as she was when she was happiest -- during her 1920's flapper/party girl days. She turns Lara's life upside down and leads her on zany adventures. (Yes, "zany" is the right word. If you've read any of Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic books, you know she specializes in "zany.")

I enjoyed The Ghost and Mrs. Muir so much (see below) that, when I stumbled upon this book, I snapped it up. But it suffers from the comparison. This is funny and fast-moving, but it lacks the character development and emotional depth of R. A. Dick's much shorter book. Maybe the fault is with me. Perhaps it's unfair to compare modern chick-lit to a 75-year-old classic.

2. What did you recently finish reading? The Ghost and Mrs. Muir by R. A. Dick
Mrs. Muir was a petite woman who tried not to make waves. Consequently, everyone called her "Little Lucy Muir." When her husband died suddenly, leaving her a young widow with two small children and limited funds, she found herself surrounded by in-laws, all with an idea of how "Little Lucy" should live. She shocked them by rebelling. After all, she'd gone from her parents' house to her husband's house. She didn't want to be a guest in her sister-in-law's home. So she took a cottage of her own for herself and the children. Her husband's family figured it was just a matter of time before she returned to them.

It seemed like a good bet. The house Mrs. Muir chose for herself and her kids was Gull Cottage: long empty, and rumored to be haunted.
A dead sea captain's ghost refuses to leave the house where he died. Somehow she's not afraid of him, which surprises her as she had begun to believe she really was meek "Little Lucy Muir." The ghost falls in love with her. They have a necessarily chaste relationship but she blossoms under his attention. He never saw "Little Lucy Muir." He saw her as "Lucia."
In addition to the romance, there are interesting observations about self image, spirituality and eternity. This slim volume was a delight on many levels. I'm so glad I read it.
3. What will read next? I don't know.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Ben speaks for me.


Sunday Stealing


1. Do you like or dislike surprises? Why or why not? Am I doing the surprising (which I enjoy) or being surprised (which I'm not always a fan of)?

2. In the evening, would you rather play a game, visit a relative, watch a movie, or read? Which relative? If my cousin, niece, nephew or aunt is here, I'd like to visit. Otherwise, I'll choose a movie.

3. Would you rather vacation in Hawaii or Alaska, and why? Hawaii. I've been there twice and, if it wasn't for the length of the flight, would happily go for a return trip. I've heard about a beachfront spa at the Hilton in Waikiki that I think needs a visit from me.

4. Would you rather win the lottery or work at the perfect job? And why? Win the lottery! I've enjoyed my career enormously and, if I was 33 instead of 63, I'd choose the job. I've been fantasizing about this again since seeing In the Heights and hearing the song "If I Won the Lotto."

5. If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to? 1992. My career was beginning to take off, I was in love and felt sexy, and I was a Clinton campaign volunteer. That was my first winning campaign and the most fun.

6. Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without? The internet. Because I play games, email, listen to music, Zoom and watch movies, all from my laptop. Amazing, when you think of it.

7. How many pairs of shoes do you own? Lots and lots.

8. What would you do if you won the lottery? Today, the Illinois State Lottery jackpot is $7,250,000. After taxes, I'd have about $4,500,000. I would: RETIRE! Pay off my bills and my mortgage, make minimal updates to my condo so I could sell it and buy a nicer place (and I'd have a maid service every week). I'd help my friends in very specific ways. I'd set up an account at a veterinarian in Key West, so Henry and Reg can always give their beloved dogs the care they need, regardless of their finances. Similarly, I'd set up an Uber/Lyft account for my oldest friend. She no longer drives and her world has gotten so much smaller as she waits for relatives to drive her places.

9. What form of public transportation do you prefer? (air, boat, train, bus, car, etc.) Yes, please! I miss public transportation being plentiful and safe. Hopefully it's on its way back after covid19.

10. What's your favorite zoo animal? The okapi. They're rare and gentle, and they communicate with one another by making a "chuff" noise.

11. If you could go back in time to change one thing, what would it be? Oh, I don't know! Do I want to change the world or change my life? This is simply too big a question for me today.

12. How many pillows do you sleep with? Three (two under my head). I sleep better if my head is elevated a bit.

13. What's the longest you've gone without sleep (and why)? 20 hours. I was on deadline. I didn't so much fall asleep as surrender to it.

14. What's the tallest building you've been to the top in?  I began my career at the Sears/Willis Tower (108 floors) and then worked for years in the AON Building (83 floors), so going to the top of tall buildings just feels like a busman's holiday. It's just not something I pay attention to.

15.  What are your hobbies?  Cubs baseball, TV, movies, reading, blogging.



Saturday, June 26, 2021

I'll watch this a few more times

I am told there are people who don't like baseball. I don't understand these people. 

There is a beautiful continuity to baseball. Little Abigail (video below) learned to love the Reds from her mom. I am a third generation Cub fan (both sides of the family). When I was 6, my favorite Cub was Ernie Banks. I never got to meet him, but I wore a Cubs helmet when I watched the games and my dad affixed a "14" to it so I could be just like Mr. Cub. I'm proud to now own my favorite grandma's Ryne Sandberg jersey, and am thrilled that I'm the one who took my nephew to his first ballgame. Today he's a 14K baseball fanatic, and yes, I take credit.

I've seen this video a dozen times. I love watching Abigail fidgeting as she watches her favorite Reds player sign her book. (God bless you, Joey.) Her little body cannot contain the excitement. 


We have today

My little man is old, and likely dying. It's hard to believe, because he is still so social and affectionate, still good about eating and drinking and using his box.

But Reynaldo is 17 years old. That's equivalent to 84 in people years. His body is failing him. He has arthritis and cataracts, which don't seem to bother him so they don't bother me.

He is also losing weight, despite his thyroid medication. He suffers from long-term kidney disease. And today, the vet detected a heart murmur. 

The vet and I chatted a long time about all of this. While Reynaldo is in good spirits right now, he is not well. One of these maladies will, likely, kill him. Because everything that is alive just naturally dies of something. Which sucks. Because I want him to be my little man forever.

I expressed my preference that his comfort, not his longevity, be our top priority. The vet drew blood and we'll know Monday if we need to change his treatment plan.

I hate this. Because it hurts so much. I don't want it to be happening.

But I also don't want it to interfere with the months we have left together. He's OK today. He's happy today. We have today.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Saturday 9

One Bad Apple (1971)

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

1) This song is a play on the old saying that one bad apple can spoil the bunch, or that the bad behavior of one member can reflect badly on the whole group. Do you think that's true? Yes. Of course. Boomers complain about Millennials, Millennials complain about Boomers, etc. It's not fair or smart, but painting everyone in a group with one broad brush happens all the time, every day.
2) The Osmonds began as The Osmond Brothers, a barbershop quartet that performed at the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Today there are 9 Disney Resorts all around the world, as far away as Shanghai. Have you ever been to a Walt Disney property? I've been to Disneyland and Disney World.
3) By the time the Osmonds made this record, Donny had joined the group and became their breakout star. Without looking it up, can you name any of the other four brothers who performed in video clip? Merrill, Jay, Alan and Wayne. I do not mean to remember such things. I just do.
4) In the 1970s, adolescent girls learned through teen magazines that Donny's favorite color is purple, and that he was especially fond of purple socks. Today, socks are a very big business. There are designer sock manufacturers and even a sock of the month club. Is there a wardrobe item you're very particular about? I love my Gloria Vanderbilt "Amanda" jeans. I wear a pair almost every day.

5) Donny and younger sister Marie had their own TV variety show. One regular segment had them performing a medley of popular songs, and it began with Marie singing, "I'm a little bit country," followed by Donny's musical reply, "I'm a little bit rock and roll." In this regard, are you more like sister or brother? I suppose I'm as rock and roll as Donny. Back in 2014, my oldest friend and I celebrated my birthday in Las Vegas with Donny and Marie. They were great fun, and they were pure pop.

6) Donny's popularity continues today. Fans have seen him win Dancing with the Stars (season 9) and come in as a runner up on the first season of The Masked Singer. Do you watch either of these shows -- or other competition series, like American Idol, The Voice, America's Got Talent, etc.? Nope. I always mean to, but I never get around to it. There are so many shows, books, movies and CDs I mean to get to!

7) Donny has also appeared on Broadway. He surprised audiences and got rave reviews as arrogant bad guy Gaston in Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Tell us about a time when your behavior surprised those who know you well. About 20 years ago, when I had just entered my 40s, I got involved with a much younger man. I liked him well enough -- he could be very funny -- but really, it was just about sex. I didn't like being in my 40's, and he met a girl he was getting serious about and was looking for a last fling before settling down. My friends were quite shocked by this. John was all surprised and all "atta girl." Henry and Kathleen clucked and warned me there was "no future in this," completely missing that neither he nor I wanted a future. I gotta give it to my oldest friend. She neither encouraged nor discouraged me. She just listened. I never did anything like this before or again, but it was a phase I had to go through. (He and I
never broke up, really. He lost his job, had money trouble, and moved to Cleveland to crash with his brother. His girlfriend joined him there, they got married, had two sons and by all accounts built a nice life in Ohio. So maybe I was a just a phase he had to go through, too.)

8) Donny is also a grandfather, many times over! Sam admits she's not crazy about that revelation because it makes her feel old. What's something that makes you feel your years? To get my attention, my naughty cat Reynaldo knocked my makeup tray off my dresser. A tube of mascara rolled under my bed. I got on the floor to retrieve it, and realized getting up wouldn't be so easy. I'm a creaky old broad.

9) Random question: We're filling a pinata with your favorite candies. What should we buy? Nothing that will stick in my teeth! I'm in the midst of some dental work and am not willing to lose it in a piece of candy! So I'll go with those little "fun bars," the mini candy bars that are so popular at Halloween.


Tuesday, June 22, 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? The Ghost and Mrs. Muir by R. A. Dick. At the dawn of the 20th century, Lucy Muir's husband died, leaving her with two small children and barely enough money. To stretch her funds, she sold their home and most of its furnishings and rented rural, fully-furnished and under-priced Gull Cottage. It was a bargain because no tenant stayed there overnight. Because it's haunted. The ghost works hard to drive everyone away.

But the ghost takes a liking to Lucy. They learn to co-exist in his house, then become confidantes. He appreciates her and sees an integrity in her that no one else does. When he began referring to her as "Lucia," I melted. In its way, this is a very romantic book.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Kennedy's Avenger by Dan Abrams and David Fisher. Jack Ruby was a murderer. He shot Lee Harvey Oswald on live national TV. There was, literally, a world of witnesses to his act.

This book chronicles his 1964 trial. It could have been dry, but it isn't. It's factual, detailed and riveting because of the human drama represented by Jack Ruby, who is largely forgotten by history. Oswald's assassin is now a footnote, only invoked by conspiracy fetishists who need him to bolster their theories.
He was a confused misfit. He thought that since Dallas policemen accepted free sandwiches and coffee from him in exchange for looking the other way at his nightclub's liquor violations, they were his friends. He thought he was an insider. To the Dallas business community, he was seedy and small time. He worked day in/day out with scantily-clad burlesque dancers, but his dog Sheba was his best girl. (There's also a lot about his medical condition and psychological outlook, but I don't want to give too much away.)
All of this came from trial transcripts and real-time press coverage. I put myself in the place of the jurors and, after reading this book, don't believe I could have found Ruby able to pre-meditate the murder we all can see him commit on YouTube.
If you're interested in our justice system, this is a compelling read. I recommend it.

PS Strippers in the early 1960s had great names. Ruby jurors heard testimony from Penny Dollar, Tammi True and Little Lynn.

3. What will read next? I don't know.

I am Carrie. Carrie is me.

Last week was my staycation. I let everyone I work with know this. Yet the team that handles our car care client ignored that and sent me my July assignment (five blog posts) on Wednesday. I saw the assignment but didn't read it. I shot them an email reiterating that I was on vacation and would start on it Monday.

Today is Monday.

I just wasn't gripped by the first of the five. Motor oil filters. The client wants these posts to be conversational, perhaps a bit cheeky, to have personality. I couldn't settle on a way in, a way to infuse motor oil filters with personality.

So I went grocery shopping. I checked in with my boss and my art director. I took a nap. I reminded myself that since I may have a big dental bill on the horizon, I need this job. I met with my movie group and had a margarita. I loathed myself. I started to watch the ballgame but fell asleep again.*

Then, when I woke with a start at midnight, I had an idea! I'd solved my big problem. I found my "way in."

I suffer from tinnitus. I always hear a constant, distant sound, like the one you hear when you press a seashell against your ear. That's why complete silence makes me crazy. I need background sound to distract me. So I turned on the E! channel and there were the Sex and the City reruns I count on to keep me company.† 

So there I was in bed, my MacBook Air on my lap, pounding away. And there Carrie was, in her bedroom, pounding away. Life imitating art. Of course, she was writing about whether or not she and Mr. Big had a future, and I was waxing eloquent on what happens when a good oil filter goes bad,

4 hours and 418 words later, I'm halfway done. My agency got their money's worth out of me today, just not during regular business hours.

*The game didn't go well. The Cubs lost 4-0, and Rizz was 1-3. 

†If it hadn't been Carrie Bradshaw, I would have switched to Carrie Heffernan and The King of Queens on TVLand.


Sunday, June 20, 2021

Sunday Stealing


1. Ignoring nutrition, could you live off veggies for the rest of your life? Not happily.

2. Elaborate on a way you have volunteered? I'm so glad this question came up. Darius, the prison penpal I was paired with through my church's outreach program, has quit writing to me. Part of it, I think, is depression over covid restrictions. More of it, though, I'm afraid, is his disappointment with me. I signed up to write him monthly, letting him know that someone out here cares for and prays for him. I do this with a willing heart. But I am not going to visit him, I am not going to be his "girlfriend" and I'm not going to give him money for the appeal of his murder conviction. I keep meaning to email the congregation's facilitator for a new penpal. I learned a lot during the six months that Darius and I corresponded regularly. I like to think I helped him. I believe in the program.

My other pet project is the local food pantry. Every time I go to the drug or grocery store, I pick up something for $1.50 or less. It makes little or no impact to my budget, and I find I have a bag filled with canned goods for the pantry in no time at all. They ask for pinto beans, condiments like mustard and catsup, and pastas that kids love (like Spaghettios). It's such an easy way to make a difference to someone's life.

3. Can you walk in heels, or do you feel awkward in them? I haven't tried this in decades.

4. Any TV shows you sit down weekly to watch? I love This Is Us, but it's in reruns now.

5. Will you tell someone if there’s something in their teeth? Yes.

6. Do you ever actually make your bed? No.

7. Do you make an effort to eat healthy? Well, yesterday I looked over what I'd eaten and was appalled. I tried to make amends with my gut by having a bowl of fiber cereal and a cup of Greek yogurt before bed.

8. What kind of booze did you last take shots of? I don't recall.

9. What’s something you want to purchase next time you’re at the mall? Wow! The Mall! I hardly ever even think of going there anymore. The only store I'd stop at there is Kohl's, so my answer must be clothes, sheets or towels.

10. What were you doing at 10:00 this morning? It hasn't arrived yet.

11. What do you miss the most about your past? My waist.

12. Last time you were really happy? Saturday afternoon I had lunch with my nephew. We make one another laugh ... very hard.

13. Did you get a full 8 hours of sleep last night? Yes, but not consecutively.

14. Have you spoken to your mother or father today? They're both dead.

15. Are you good at filling awkward silences? NO! I babble.


Friday, June 18, 2021

Saturday 9

 Saturday 9: Papa, Can You Hear Me? (1984)

This song was chosen in honor of Father's Day. Hear it here.

1) The song begins with a prayer to "God, our Heavenly Father." Do you often pray? Every day, all the time. I don't do it in a conventional way, though. I talk to God during those moments when my mind is otherwise quiet: folding laundry, doing the dishes, washing my hair ...

2) This song is from the movie Yentl. Set in the early 1900s, it tells the story of a Polish girl determined to receive a religious education, even though the custom of the day banned girls from studying the Talmud. What subject do you wish you knew more about? Sabermetrics. My nephew knows this stuff inside and out, and I love talking baseball with him. He's 21 now, but when he was a little boy, we used to read the Sunday sports page together. I taught him about batting averages and ERAs. Now the student has far surpassed the master when he talks about OPS and WAR.

No more squinting for Connie!
3) It took Streisand more than 15 years to get Yentl made. Studios initially rejected the project, telling her that audiences no longer want to see musicals. Then, because it centered on Judaism, she was told it was "too ethnic." But Yentl was a success at the box office, becoming one of the most profitable movies of the year -- and since Barbra was producer, director and star, she enjoyed those profits. Tell us about a time you're glad you stuck with something. This is Connie. When I first adopted her, I was told that she was "special needs." She came to the shelter from a hoarder who was unable to give her proper care, so she was a mess. She arrived there pregnant with a litter of dead kittens, most likely because the diet she'd been on was so inadequate. By the time I brought her home, the shelter's vet had taken care of that problem, but her eyes were cloudy, her gums were mushy and her breath was terrible.

I wasn't deterred. It took months of medication, and she'll be on a special diet and a supplement for life, but she's fine now. Her eyes are clear and her teeth are good. She's such a snuggle bug. I am grateful she's here every day. 

If you're presented with the opportunity to save the life of a shelter animal with special needs, consider it. You may find, like I did, that you really are up to the challenge.

4) The movie, and this song, were so popular that they earned a parody on The Simpsons. (See it here.)  That video has had more than 250,000 views. Before the Yentl parody, what's the last YouTube video you watched? Liza Minnelli singing "I Gotcha." After seeing Krysta Rodriguez perform it in Netflix' Halston, I wanted to see the real thing again. I hate the song but I love the dancing. This is how I move in my head. Not with my legs in real life, but in my dreams.

5) Barbra Streisand's father died suddenly, the result of complications after an epileptic seizure, just after her first birthday. He held degrees in both English Literature and Education and was a school superintendent. Do you know anyone who made a career in education? My Cousin Rose was a junior-high geography teacher for more than a decade, but when she married and moved New Mexico, she embarked on a different career path. Today, our blogging buddy Kwizgiver is the only teacher I know.

6) Sam's own father wasn't an educator, but he is crazy about the local library. He's there so much the librarians greet him by name. Do you have a library card? Yes! I've given it quite a workout since Covid19 began. I hope this is a good habit I'll maintain.

7) For family barbecues, Sam's dad proudly dons his "Kiss the Chef" apron and mans the Weber. What's the last thing you cooked on the grill? I prepared a hotdog on my handy George Foreman grill.

8) He takes his grilling very seriously and jealously guards his marinade recipe. Do you have a recipe you're willing to share this morning? Not a recipe, really, but a tip. I recently learned that honey mustard salad dressing can make a decent marinade and will give a cheaper cut of meat a flavor kick. (Did everyone know this already? It was new to me!)

9) Sam's father hates it when his daughter swears. What's the latest curse word you used? (It's OK, we don't blush easily.) "Hell." When I couldn't remember where I left my water bottle, I said, "What the ever-loving hell did I do with it?"


This happened

The dental assistant removed the wrong crown. It took her two tries and what my grandma would call "elbow grease," but she did it. When she first wrestled with it and paused, I said, "You're not removing the wrong one are you?" She laughed and said, "Boy, you'd really feel that!" Then after she went back in and pulled more and harder and had succeeded in removing a crown, she wordlessly disappeared for a moment.

When she returned, it was with three other women. One was the dentist. I don't know who the other two were. The dentist said, "Emily has something to tell you."

Emily did. She was very sorry. Whoever put the note clipped to my file indicated the wrong tooth. She should have checked the file before she pulled. She is so sorry.

I was shocked into silence. That does not happen often.

Then the dentist told me decay is indicated in what remains of that tooth, and additional work will be required before she can permanently affix a new crown to it.

What the ever-loving fuck?

Let's back up a bit. Yesterday was Thursday, June 17. I had a root canal (done at a different office by an endodontist) in late April. I went to this office for the first time in mid-May to have the tooth prepped for the porcelain crown. I paid for the crown in advance. An appointment was made for June 7, to have the new crown affixed.

On June 6, the office called. The crown wasn't in yet. They'd call me to reschedule.

I heard nothing.

On Tuesday, June 15, I sent an email, asking if my new tooth was in yet.

24 hours went by and I heard nothing.

I would have gone somewhere else to finish the procedure, except I'd paid in advance for that crown. So Wednesday I called.

The woman at the front desk didn't apologize, exactly. But she did say the crown was in and she could "squeeze me in" at 5:30 on Thursday. Yesterday. A full 10 days after my original appointment.

I thought I was being a wonderfully good sport when I went in to the office yesterday and chatted about the heat and didn't ask why it took 10 days, an unanswered email and a phone call to get this appointment. 

Then this happened.

The dentist asked me what she could do "to make this right." When I started to speak, she apparently didn't like my tone and warned me, "But you won't be rude."

"Oh," I said, "But I will be heard. My care has not been a priority since I first met you all. Now this has happened. You don't answer emails. You don't reschedule appointments. If I wake up in pain tonight as a result of this botched procedure, will anyone answer the phone?"

The dentist said she'd give me her personal cell number. Then she asked again, "how can we make this right?"

I said, "What are my options?"

I have a meeting with the dentist and the office manager prior to an appointment at 4:30 next Thursday.

I have to take off work to do this. 

Then the dentist will prep the tooth and put in a post. Another porcelain crown will be ordered to replace the metal one that was destroyed when Emily yanked it away.

The dentist can tell me all she wants that the tooth was damaged under the crown, but here's the thing: I was in no pain. The second crown didn't feel loose. I may have needed to have this work done eventually -- after all, I got this second crown back in 1992 and they don't last forever -- but there is no proof that it would need to be done in Summer 2021. Especially after I just spent $1000 on the work that I was there for.

I am reeling. I called my oldest friend, who worked for decades in a doctor's office, and asked what she suggested I say when I meet with the dentist next Thursday.

I will settle for paying 50% of what my insurance company won't cover, and I won't pay any finance charges as I pay it off. After all, I probably would need this work done eventually. And so they can paid for it ... eventually.

I won't offer this, though. I want to see what they offer. It's possible they will offer me something better, and I don't want to shoot myself in the foot by speaking first.

I can't believe this happened.

My neighbor Kevin goes off the rails. Now this. I feel like this week, I'm stuck under a bad star!

Oh well. I'm not in pain. I have insurance. And I have a big mouth. If I'm not pleased with the resolution, I will make a complaint to the Illinois State Dental Society. 

You say it's your birthday


 In celebration of Sir James Paul McCartney, CH MBE, 

on his 79th birthday.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

28 minutes

That's how long it took from the moment the truck arrived until I approved the payment on the removal
tech's iPad. In 28 minutes I got rid of decades of more than 30 years of stuff:

• 35-year-old Sears electric broom (they don’t make bags for it anymore)
• 30-year-old tube TV
• Broken window a/c
• Broken stereo
• Carpet remnants and padding
• Panes that don't fit my windows
• VHS tapes (recorded by me, yet I have nothing to play them on)
• Broken cat carrier (help together by bread bag ties)
• Leaky winter boots
• Curtains with frayed hems
• Towels with extensive pilling
• Wood slats to support a mattress I no longer have

I was inspired to do this because of the ladder. I gave myself a 6' ladder for my birthday, and had no room for it any of my closets. I live alone, so all four of the closets here are filled with only my stuff. And they were so full, so poorly organized, that I couldn't jam the new ladder in anywhere. So every morning, I woke up to see a ladder leaning up against my armoire. 

I am a woman with very low standards, but this was too much even for me.

Losing the a/c and the window panes made room for ladder. Yay!

It took me 2 1/2 days to get this organized. But now it's done and I can spend my vacation doing what the Lord intended me to do: watch movies and fart around on the internet.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021


WWW. WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here.  

SPECIAL NOTE: This week, I also judge books by their covers.

1. What are you currently reading?  Kennedy's Avenger by Dan Abrams and David Fisher. I first picked up this book because I wondered why, when the Kennedy assassination is discussed, no one ever refers to the trial of Jack Ruby to substantiate his/her theory. Now I know. I'm about halfway through and have found nothing to support a previous relationship between Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald. None. Zip. Zilch. Looks like the facts will leave conspiracy fetishists disappointed.
Back in 1964, the trial focused on whether or not Jack Ruby understood what he was doing when he shot Oswald. If he didn't, he wasn't guilty of first-degree murder. Following the testimony, I'm riveted. Beginning in the late 1920s, when he was a teenager, Jack Ruby began getting knocks to the head. He boxed. He was beaten up in street fights. He was injured at the workplace (warehouse, lumber yard). He worked as his own bouncer at his Dallas strip club. One of his strippers (stage name: Penny Dollar) testified that, in 1963, she saw Jack bang a man's head on the sidewalk, look down at his victim and then ask her, "Did I do that?"
Re: the cover -- John F. Kennedy is our first President whose life was extensively photographed from his infancy (his parents were enchanted by the Kodak brownie box camera) to his murder (the Zapruder film). I'm intrigued that this is the picture Abrams/Fisher and the publisher selected for the cover. It's an official portrait, but it's grainy black and white and doesn't even attempt to capture his personality. I think they chose it because it takes him out of history and makes him, in the most human terms, an ordinary crime victim. He was murdered by Oswald, who was in turn murdered by Ruby. It's only when we look at the assassination (and the events surrounding it) as a crime, not as a cataclysmic event that sparked a sea change, that we can understand what really happened.

2. What did you recently finish reading? The Rooftop Party by Ellen Meisner. Dana Barry is knocking on 30 and still hadn't made it as an actress. Her student loan would go unpaid if not for help from her older sister. Her 1BR apartment is really a studio with the furniture arranged to create an alcove. She loves acting, but it had become increasingly difficult to support herself in New York City, doing what she loves.
Out of desperation, Dana auditioned for a hosting gig on a TV shopping channel, got the job, and was surprised to find she was not only good at it, she liked it. She liked her coworkers, she liked being recognized on the street, and she liked being able to pay her bills. It's her enthusiasm for her new job that encouraged her to approach the new CEO with a marketing idea at the channel's annual rooftop party. Their encounter goes terribly wrong. The CEO takes a tumble off the roof. Could Dana in any way be responsible?
I liked this book so much that I'm sorry I didn't love it. The dialog is funny without being overly jokey. I liked the workplace setting. (I had no idea how a shopping channel worked; the intersection of marketing, retail and showbiz interested me.) The murder itself was well plotted. I spent about 80% of the book sure I knew who did it, and I was 100% wrong.

BUT there were things that really bugged me. Dana performs onstage with her theater group in a small auditorium under an assumed name. All she changes is her name and yet she's never recognized in the small theater as the lady from TV. Really? Even Superman donned glasses to become Clark Kent. It's a distraction in a subplot that really doesn't add anything to the story. And Dana's dad! He was heartless as a villain in silent movie -- just give him a mustache to twirl. I know Dana's daddy issues color her romantic relationship. I get it, I get it. I had a dad, too! But why not give him at least some redeeming qualities? After all, his wife and other daughter love him.

Re: the cover -- I love those colors! I don't often see orange and teal. I love the string of lights, the little black dress and the vodka martini. The cover put me in the mood for sophisticated fun.
3. What will read next? A novel.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Setting boundaries, sticking up for myself

I won't rehash this sad story again. I wrote about it. I discussed it with Brian, the other board member. Most important, I discussed it with my shrink. 

Since covid, she and I have been having Zoom appointments. She in her family den, me at my dining room table. But Saturday, we met over the phone where I was tucked away in my bedroom, which is as far away from the front door as possible. Because I am afraid in my own home. Neighbor Kevin could be in the hallway.

I am afraid in my own home.

My gut told me that having this week's condo association meeting would just exacerbate a volatile situation and could put me in actual danger. My "good girl" proclivities told me not to make waves and inconvenience everyone.

While talking to my shrink, I realized: I have power. 

Because I am on the board, they can't have the meeting without me.

After our session Saturday, I sent a message to the management company and to Brian saying that I want the meeting rescheduled to give Neighbor Kevin time to cool off and digest the cease-and-desist order (since it was mailed, he may not even have it yet). I closed by saying, if they can't accommodate me, I hope they understand why I will not be in attendance.

Brian responded that he understood. The meeting will be rescheduled.

This, right here, is why I'm in therapy.

Professionally, I am very comfortable fighting for what's right. I always keep my client's best interests in mind and will step on toes to deliver it. 

Why don't I afford my own well being the same respect?

Why in my personal life is it so important to be a "good girl?" A 63-year-old "good girl."

Oh well. That's a bigger question for another time. Right now I'm going to take a moment, breathe and appreciate that I put myself first here.


Sunday, June 13, 2021



1. Describe your phone lock screen. Just ten white sanserif numbers against a black background. I didn't know I could change it. Not that I would. I like that the numbers are so big and bright that I could read them from highway in the rain. Now my cellphone wallpaper is a sea of Cubs logos. I chose that and love it.
2. How often do you journal? This is my journal. I'm here almost every day.
3. What’s your favorite thing to teach others? "Best practices." I specialize in 1:1 (formerly called "direct response") marketing and there are little things I've learned work. Like using "you" in the headline of an email or letter. I don't even realize how many of these I know. I'm just excited when a situation comes up when I can share one.
4. How do you like to spend Sundays? I like to just let Sundays unfold. No plans.
5. What would you describe as your kryptonite? Any distraction. By nature, I'm a very lazy gal and when something interesting enters my line of sight, I drop what I should be doing and follow it.
6. A TV show or movie you thought was really bad TV: Seinfeld. Hostile, passive-aggressive people doing unpleasant things. Movie: Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri. An angry woman allows hate to eat her alive and joins forces with a dim-witted, racist cop to become a vigilante duo. It's an ugly movie. I don't care how many Oscars it won.
7. Do you know your mail carrier? No. Every time I see the mail delivered, it seems to be a different person. Some get here around 1:00, others just before 5:00.

8. Which regional foods are your favorite? Brownies were invented in Chicago, right here at the Palmer House. You're welcome.

9. What was your life like 20 years ago? In 2001, my life was in flux. As a creative director in charge of three teams, I was making enough money to buy this condo. But I hated being a boss. I am naturally distrustful of authority, so being in authority was uncomfortable. One of our agency's clients was an airline, so 9/11 hit us hard. I had to lay people off. I found that the only thing I hated more than nagging employees about timesheets and arriving on time was deciding who stays and who goes. After two rounds of layoffs, I talked my bosses into allowing me to let myself go. I freelanced for 16 months. It was a wonderful opportunity to reset. I learned that I preferred writing to bossing writers and art directors around. My friend/mentor Barb used to chastise me for working my way down the corporate ladder. So be it. I'm my own gal and I'm good with the path I chose, even though my retirement would be more comfortable if I'd stayed on the ascendant. (That does worry me.)

10. Crafting hobbies that you’d like to learn or improve I'm not a crafty gal.

11. What is your favorite type of YouTube videos? Old news clips. I read a lot of non-fiction and biographies, and I find myself checking out YouTube to see how the events I'm reading about were covered in real time. (Yes, I'm a nerd.)

12. Describe your surroundings I'm laying on my bed and just changed my sheets. White with little blue flowers.

13. You're making a Time Capsule to be opened in 50 years. What 3 things would you put in it? A mask, hand sanitizer, and thermometer.

14. Something you learned recently that resonated with you When writing: RAVEN, which stands for, "Remember affect verb effect noun." When changing light bulbs: Righty tighty left loosey.

15. Songs that get stuck in your head often… 

¿Quién es más macho?

Remember, this whole sad tale begins with an umbrella. Kevin, my neighbor on the third floor left his wet umbrella open to dry outside his front door. Unit owners are not supposed to do that. After a spot check, the fire department once fined our condo board because an owner left his bicycle in front of his door. Safety regulations state that the hallway has to be clear so that nothing interferes with firefighters in case of emergency.
Brian, the condo board president with definite prick tendencies, lives two doors down from Kevin. When he saw the umbrella, he locked it away in the storage closet. Brian had every right to do this. However, it was an unnecessarily provocative move. I would have just closed the umbrella, leaned it against the door, and left a note for Kevin explaining about the fire department regulation. But whatever. It happened. It's done.

Kevin spun out. Really went bananas. He called the management company and demanded to see the security films to find out who stole his umbrella.

He was told it wasn't stolen, it was just locked away and would be returned to him. He was furious. He began emailing the management company over and over and over again. More than 20x in an hour. He sent a photo of his umbrella hanging from his door knocker (therefore not obstructing the hallway) with a sign that read, "HAPPY ST. UMBRELLA DAY!"

Then Kevin came looking for me. He knows I'm on the board and that I live on the top floor, and he wanted to discuss all this with me. Only he doesn't know my last name so he couldn't tell from the mailboxes which unit is mine. I heard some banging down the hall but dismissed it as someone hanging a picture or putting up bookshelves. He never actually got to my door. Got bored knocking on doors and finding no one home, I guess. It wasn't until the next day I learned the banging was him looking for me.
Then he insisted we allow him to speak at the next board meeting (scheduled for this coming week). He has 5-10 minutes worth of issues he'd like to raise and wants to encourage other unit owners to chime in. His complaints included the umbrella -- aka the theft of his property -- and a neighbor who leaves garbage in her parking space. (No, she doesn't. He may believe she does, but she doesn't. I walk past there often.) He also wants to know why a unit owner was allowed to turn her unit into "a bed and breakfast." I think he meant Airbnb. He's imagining this. Our building has no units listed on any vacation rental sites.

When the management company told him protocol doesn't allow for this (he's lived in the building three years but only ever attended one meeting), he said he was contacting his lawyer. We're violating his civil rights. BTW, his lawyer is Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul. He brought the removal of his umbrella to the attention of Springfield.

Our management company tried to keep up with the deluge of emails. Patty began every response with, "Hi, Kevin." He accused her of being disrespectful. He was to be referred to as "Mr. Gleason." If she couldn't afford him that dignity, he would be forced to insist she use his military title, bestowed upon him by confidential executive order in 2010. He didn't like using it, because women find it intimidating, but if she continued disrespecting him, he would have no choice.
Then he began posting photos of his war injuries on the management company's YELP! page, along with conspiracy accusations. The scars up and down his leg broke my heart. They are gruesome. They also do not belong on a YELP! page. Anyway, he accused the management company of demeaning veterans. He threatened to show up at their offices and "break some arms" in defense of his dignity and property.

Then there was a confrontation in the parking lot. He chest bumped Brian and promised to "fuck him up" if not allowed to talk to at next week's board meeting. The police were called.

Finally we contacted our law firm. On Friday, Kevin was sent a cease-and-desist order. He is not to speak to, phone or email me, Brian or the management firm. Any communication has to be in writing, delivered by the United States Postal Service, and the law firm must be copied.
The police were here, accompanied by the VA, and they took Kevin to a hospital. They cannot make him stay. He may be back by the time you read this.
I have told Brian and the management company that I am afraid of Kevin and will not attend this week's board meeting. I suggested it be rescheduled.
All this started with an umbrella.
I know from my friend Henry, who has a TBI, that this really is not about the umbrella. I'm no shrink, but it seems obvious that Kevin is suffering from PTSD and off his meds, so if he hadn't been set off by the umbrella, something else would have lit this fuse. 

But it was the umbrella. Brian had to be the alpha. 

As it is, I'm afraid to be in my own home. I'm nervous about encountering Kevin when I'm taking out the trash, or doing laundry, or waiting out front for an Uber. I'm scared when I hear footsteps in the hall.