Saturday, July 03, 2021

Saturday 9

 Saturday 9: The National Anthem (2016)
... because it's 4th of July

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

1) An early handwritten manuscript of "The Star Spangled Banner" (complete with scratch outs) is preserved at the Maryland Historical Society. Today, much of what we write is preserved in The Cloud. Do you often write down your thoughts with pen or pencil? Or do you do everything on your laptop, pad or phone? Oh, my God! In this way I am becoming my late mother! She used to keep a small, spiral-bound notebook beside the phone in the living room. It's where she sat to watch TV, too. So if she heard something on TV, or someone mentioned something to her in a call, she'd make a note of it. Easy enough. Smart, too. But for some reason (lazy? wanting to save paper?) she seldom turned the page. Scribbled notations on a variety of subjects were crammed together. She could never find what she meant to remember. "I have it right here ..."

I look at the handwritten notes next to my "workstation" in the dining room. Titles of Margaret Sullavan movies available to stream are scribbled beside billing codes for my timesheets beside 800 #'s for fuck-if-I-remember. All on the same page. For pity's sake, Gal! Turn the page!

2) It's well-known that the lyrics were written by Francis Scott Key. Not so well known is John Stafford Smith, the British composer who gave us the music. He is buried in England's Gloucester Cathedral, under both the US and UK flags. Where is the nearest United States flag waving near you right now? If you stand in front of the post office, just around the corner from me, you can see three big flags, all at once. 1) Post office, 2) library, 3) war memorial.

3) This week's video features Lady Gaga singing The National Anthem before the 2016 Super Bowl. She also performed it at President Biden's Inauguration last January. When is the last time you sang it? I don't recall the last time I saw I sang it, but I know the next time will be at Wrigley Field on July 23, when my nephew and I watch the Cubs play the Diamondbacks.

4) Our second and third Presidents, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both died on July 4, 1826. OK, it's your turn. Share a Presidential fact. Here are two bits of trivia about my favorite POTUSes: 

a. Tom Hanks is the third cousin of Abraham Lincoln. 

b. John F. Kennedy unfailingly requested soup for lunch, regardless of the weather. New England clam chowder was his favorite, but he wasn't picky. 

Because I am a nerd about these things, this will undoubtedly be my favorite response to check this week. 
5) John Hancock said his signature on the Declaration of Independence was intentionally large so King George could see it without his glasses. Do you need glasses to read? Only for very small print. Mostly I need my glasses to see things at a distance.

6) The Revolutionary War still raged during that summer of 1777. General George Washington allowed his soldiers to celebrate with a double ration of run on July 4. Will you be toasting the United States with an adult beverage this weekend? There's a bottle of Jose Cuervo in my kitchen that may get my attention.

7) Since this year, July 4th falls on a Sunday, banks and post offices will be closed will be closed on Monday. Thanks to email and ATMs, Sam doesn't find this a hardship. How about you? Do you find it inconvenient to go an extra day without regular USPS delivery or access to a teller at the bank? Not at all.
8) Celebrity chef Rachael Ray says she considers mini-hamburgers, or "sliders," the All-American food. What will you be eating this 4th of July? I picked up some chicken salad at the deli counter. They make it with almonds. I love it.

9) The 4th of July is a highlight of the summer season. Have you yet suffered the traditional warm weather maladies: sunburn or bug bites? Not yet. (And hopefully I'll make it to Labor Day without either one.)



I spent almost two hours on the phone with John Friday morning. Normally I would consider this a good thing. But this wasn't "normally." No, wait, it's becoming our normal. Let me explain.

We were supposed to spend my day off together. In person. For his birthday. We were going to have lunch at Italian Village. His choice. It's a venerable Chicago institution. I was enthusiastic about it because I haven't seen him -- literally -- in a year. Not since his last birthday. He completely forgot my November birthday until the last minute and then, with enhanced corona restrictions, we were unable to get together. Then he'd cancelled on me a couple of times because he couldn't make it. Literally couldn't. It turns out he'd been hoarding and meting out his meds and was doing a bad job of it. Even though he's diabetic and suffers from chronic heart disease, he hasn't seen a doctor since 2019. Because he never bothered to sign up for Medicare. Just writing these words makes me angry. A man with serious pre-existing conditions willingly went through a pandemic without healthcare. He claimed it was a money thing, but he managed to visit his "home away from home," aka the bar up the street, several times a week. 

He's been hobbling with a cane because he needs help to walk any distance. He tires that easily. He took hours-long naps every afternoon. He had trouble breathing. But, since he finally got his entire prescriptions filled, we thought those days were behind us. Even better, as of today, he's covered by Medicare and has an appointment with a cardiologist. So I thought the illness cancellations were behind us.

I thought we could celebrate his birthday, America's birthday, and the reopening of Chicago Friday afternoon. I thought we could share appetizers and enjoy our big plates of pasta in one of the Loop's classics. Then we were going to stroll (slowly) and check out what's happening as the city reawakens. Home by dark, all caught up, happy and filled with good food and friendship.

That was the plan. 

But Friday morning he cancelled. Again.

He was OK to talk on the phone, and he was working up to a trip to the grocery store. Three blocks away. He had to work up to that. Then he planned to go back to bed. He is spending his actual birthday (Saturday) alone by design. Sunday he's going to a "low-key get-together" at his "home away from home." Just a drink and a burger, on the house. I suppose I could join him, but trains will be running on a special schedule and, frankly, I'm not in a good mood and I don't trust John not to cancel that, too.

I am sad. I miss my friend. 

I am angry. He takes his own health and welfare so casually. I admit it, I'm in terrible shape. But I don't need a cane, I can stay awake and I am able to honor my commitments. How is he satisfied with living this way?

I am resentful. I didn't make any other plans for this weekend because I prepared to spend $150 or so (more counting the gift*) on John Friday. I thought it would be sensible to do my celebrating on Friday and then save the money I'd be spending on Ubers and drinks. Now I'm alone over July 4th. Thanks, John.

We have been friends for 40+ years. He is part of the fabric of my life. I love him. I hate what he is doing to himself. I hate how it affects me. I don't understand how he is content to live like this. I am very tired and sad.

 *It's a great gift, if I do say so myself. I had a set of coasters made specially for him, stamped with the name of his "home away from home." And I got him giftcards to DoorDash and GrubHub. I was going to tell him I wanted him to still be able to eat during the dogs days of summer when it's too hot to go out. I didn't know how prescient I was.