Tuesday, February 28, 2023


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

PS I can no longer participate in WWW.WEDNESDAY via that link because her blog won't accept Blogger comments. I mention this only to save you the frustration I experienced trying to link up.

1. What are you currently reading? Jackie & Me by Louis Bayard. This is historic fiction about the courtship between Sen. John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier. But the "me" in the title isn't JFK, it's Lem. Lemoyne Billings, Kennedy's lifelong best friend. Mr. Bayard imagines the relationship between Jackie and Lem, two people who loved the 35th President and the only two I can think of that he invited into The Kennedy Clan.

The thing I like best about this book so far is the author/Lem tells us from the get-go that there were many "Jackies" familiar to the public: regal First Lady, gallant widow, jet-set wife to a billionaire, New York working girl, and good mother/keeper of the flame. We know little about who she was before. Jacqueline Bouvier, diffident about her future, struggling to craft the life she wants for herself while conforming to what's expected of her.
Bayard gets some things wrong (example: Jackie only worked for Vogue for one day and quite a bit before she was introduced to Kennedy at the Bartlett's dinner party). This kind of thing bugs me because there's so much drek out there about The Kennedys -- Jackie herself called it "the river of sludge." But so far there's no damaging misinformation. And it's nice to see Lem get his sliver of spotlight. There's Jack & Lem by David Pitts, but beyond that, Lem is just that guy with JFK in just about every group photo throughout the years. I know Rose Kennedy expected him at Hyannis Port and Palm Beach for every holiday, that he tenderly squired young Rosemary Kennedy to social affairs, that he was a guest at The White House during the Bay of Pigs invasion, and Eunice Shriver delivered his eulogy. He really was "in the room where it happened."

2. What did you recently finish reading? Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Rayburn. The book opens with four warm and witty friends celebrating their retirement. These lovely 60-something women have worked together for 40 years and their employer for has rewarded them for their years of service with an all-expenses-paid cruise. Perhaps I should mention that these old girls have spent their entire adult lives as paid assassins, and the organization they worked for has no intention of letting them enjoy their golden years. 
From the moment they discover the cruise is a trap, the book is filled with action and tension. After all, their very lives are at stake. It's occasionally very funny, too. I liked the quiet moments when the women reminisced and shared their feelings about "the job." I mean, it can be hard to root for paid assassins, and finding out about their inner lives helped me stay on their side. I just wish this was the first of a series, but alas, no.

PS Thanks to Kwizgiver for turning me onto this book.

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

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Trying, but not succeeding

I have two friends who are doing the best they can. Kathy is rapidly losing it because of dementia. My oldest friend is bipolar. I have no idea how their lives feel to them. I try to (using Stacy's wonderful phrase) "meet them where they are." Or,  in classic movie vernacular, when I deal with them I try to be more Melly and less Scarlett.

But it's hard.

Kathy takes the simplest things and complicates them. Because she doesn't understand what's going on. Example: I posted on Facebook that I was treating myself to lunch because that night was my condo association meeting "and those get togethers diminish my will to live." 

Most of my 102 Facebook friends understood that I was being flip. Not Kathy. She wrote some long rambling comment about being with me in spirit and that when the weather gets warmer and and her "feet are firmly on the ground again," she will drive the 60 miles from her home to mine. Dear God, no! A woman with Kathy's cognitive issues should never, ever get behind the wheel of a car! Shit, she can't even remember when/if she received a package from me, or recognize a building in her own neighborhood.

I didn't say that, of course. I responded with "thumbs up" and moved along. 

Two hours later she commented to me again, wondering, "Are we still connected? Why so quiet? I feel like I'm wandering in circles ..."

Oh, for fuck's sake! It's just Facebook. Pre-teens have mastered it. I didn't say that, of course. I responded with, "Scroll up and you'll see your original comment and my positive response. We're connected. All is good." That satisfied her.

My oldest friend ignores me for long periods. This month I sent her an article about Bobby Hull's passing. No response. I've tried calling her. She doesn't pick up and her voicemail is full, so I couldn't even leave a message. When we talked about this last month, she explained that she doesn't bother to listen to/delete her voicemails because every so often she picks up her phone and sees who called.

Never mind that this is childish and, I suspect, her way of ignoring the landlady who wants her to move out. It's also her way of avoiding me. She as much as told me she looks at her phone, sees it's me who is calling, and chooses not to engage.

Well, fuck you.

Instead she has been IM-ing all day with pictures of snow outside her window in Southern California. I responded to the first with a photo of the snow outside my living room window. I ignored the rest. This is inane drivel. Besides, I'm not a housemaid she can summon by ringing a bell. 

Did I mention fuck you?

I'm being full metal Scarlett and I know it. Kathy posts incessantly on Facebook (11 times so far today) and comments when she doesn't understand what she's saying because it's the only way she feels like part of her old world.

My oldest friend gets so paralyzed with depression she can't respond. Or she knows she's making choices that aren't in her own best interest and I'll yell at her.

I want to be a good person. I try to be a good person. I know I come up short. But at least Kathy and my oldest friend don't know how I'm feeling. While my insides may be Scarlett, I'm working hard to keep my demeanor Melly.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Saturday 9

Saturday 9 -- Mahler: Symphony No. 8 (1968)

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

1) Mahler's No. 8 is sometimes referred to as "Symphony of a Thousand" because it was scored for a large orchestra and choral force. Do you often listen to classical music? No, no. Never, never. Nuh-uh-uh. 

2) This piece has solos for each of the main vocal ranges: soprano, alto, tenor, bass. Do you know which range your voice is in? In junior high, my music teacher declared me an alto. But I think that's simply because she needed more sound from that part of the choir. I'm tone deaf and can't carry a note in a bucket.

Photo by The Nix Company on Unsplash
3) Historians tell us Mahler kept fit by swimming and riding his bike along the Alpine trails. What's your favorite form of exercise? In December I began doing yoga. I'm not good at it (at all!) and I don't really enjoy it yet. But while I don't like doing it, I like having done it. I'm proud of my commitment to getting myself to the studio and I like how much better my back feels.

 4) Mahler could be difficult to work with because when it came to his music, he was a stickler over even the most minor details and wouldn't give an inch. Would you rather work as part of a team or on your own? I was a writer by trade and that's a rather solitary endeavor. There were parts of my job where I enjoyed collaborating (like brainstorms), but for the most part I thrived on my own.

5) This week's featured artist, Leonard Bernstein, said his father didn't want him to pursue music. Instead the elder Bernstein wanted his son to either join the family business (a beauty supply company) or become a rabbi. Did your family try to influence your choice of career? No. I don't recall ever discussing it with my dad at all, and my mom just wanted me to be happy.

6) Bernstein's best-known work is West Side Story. Without looking it up, can you name a song from this beloved Broadway classic? "When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way from your first cigarette to your last dying day."

7) Born in Lawrence, MA, Bernstein "went home" when he performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in Lenox, MA. Tanglewood has played host to a variety of musical artists. In 2022, Ringo Starr, Bonnie Raitt, and James Taylor all performed there (with James Taylor scheduled to return this summer, as well). What's the first concert you ever attended? Bobby Sherman. 1970. I swooned over the hair, the teeth, the fringe and the swively hips.


8) In 1968, when Bernstein released this album, a sitcom called Mayberry R.F.D. premiered. It was a spin off of the highly successful Andy Griffith Show, which ran from 1960 to 1968 and is still broadcast and streamed today. Were you an Andy Griffith Show fan? Yes. Sheriff Andy Taylor remains my favorite TV dad.


9) Random question: When people ask for your advice, what do they usually ask you about? Usually work stuff or pet stuff. I'm really not good with relationships or money.


Thursday, February 23, 2023

Well, that was intense

The call with Rita didn't go as I expected. She's a former co-worker, a more junior writer that I hired and mentored at my last job. I like to keep the lines of communication open because last time I saw her, when we were toasting our time together, she hugged me and whispered, "You're like the mother I never had." It never occurred to me that she viewed me that way, but I was touched and am eager to honor that. So every couple weeks I reach out: an email, a get well card after her leg surgery, a postcard from the road, etc. Then she calls. Typically she tells me about her kids (a preschool son and two preteen stepdaughters) and her job and she asks me if I'm ready to come out of retirement and work with her at her new job. The calls are usually about 45 minutes.

Not yesterday. 

She was done working for the afternoon, her stepdaughters were doing homework, her son was with (great) grandma* so she she settled herself on the back porch with a beer and a joint and decided it was time for "a real catch up."

We started with work. She excitedly told me about a success she'd had and I told her -- writer to writer -- that her headline was clever and seamless and that I was proud of her.  I also told her I wasn't surprised. More than talent, I told her that her passion for her client's business will carry the day. I reminded her of what I always told her when we worked together: put the client's interests first and you'll succeed. "Don't try to be sophisticated or blase. Your clients want to hear how much you care."

Then we pivoted to the kids. She got surprisingly emotional. Not about the children but about the breadth of our conversation. 

"I miss this." Said with surprising intensity.

"I'm always here," I replied. She said that wasn't what she meant. Talking to me, bouncing with equal emphasis from the professional to the personal, she realized how lonely she had become. 

She told me she and her husband don't communicate. She said things had changed with her best friend. She wanted to talk about it.

"Sure," I said. I didn't expect what came next.

Tears. Lots of tears. 

She and Brian no longer share a bed, and she stopped enjoying sex with him three years ago. He had a DUI with their son in the car, and she can't forgive him for that. He lied to her about going to a strip club.

I wasn't aware of any of this. There was more.

She thinks she's in love with her best friend. Girl-on-girl romantic love. Last fall, her friend's husband jokingly suggested a threesome. This emboldened Rita to confess her sexual feelings to her friend, who doesn't reciprocate. They're still friends, their kids still play together, but it's not the same anymore. She misses their easy give-and-take and fears that by confessing her attraction, she "ruined everything."

Rita and Brian have agreed to "co-parent but live separate lives." She doesn't want his daughters to go through another divorce. But she wants love and companionship, and she no longer loves her husband.

Gulp. I'm so over my head here!

She also told me I was the first person she was sharing this with. She has her "work friends," those that she discusses "career stuff" with, but they tend to be childless. She has her sister, also a young mother, but Rita is afraid her sister will "judge" and "blame" her for "blowing up" her family. Her relationship with her best friend is now strained. 

Again, I feel honored that Rita trusts me with all this. But, I reminded her, I'm a barren spinster and my advice is coming to her through that prism. Maybe, I ventured carefully, the romantic feelings she has for her best friend aren't born of sexual desire but loneliness. It might make sense for her to expand her circle of friends away from her identity as a career woman or a mommy and base new relationships off something more personal. Something that's hers and hers alone. I told her that I joined my movie group looking for information and appreciation of classic films and came away with Will ... and Joanna ... and Elaine ... and now Karen. These are friendships that have grown organically and comfortably.

"You need to find your tribe," I told her. Then her sexual/romantic confusion will lessen when she finds the companionship she craves. Or not. What do I know? I did tell her, though, that if she goes to gay bars, she will find sex. Liquor does that. She needs to make clear-headed decisions ... for the sake of her family and her fragile, wounded heart.

She told me she likes to draw and would love to pursue that, but ... She already feels guilty being away from her son as much as she is, between her job and P/T. I told her to check that at the door. One night a week away from her little boy is not going to wreck him. Especially if he is in the care of his father! Besides, he'd understand. He goes to school during the day and makes pictures, she will go to school at night and make pictures. And maybe the best gift she can give her son is healthy, happy mother.

After about two hours, she seemed calmer and more peaceful. I hope I helped. Or, to borrow from the Hippocratic Oath, I hope I did no harm.

 *Post-surgery Rita can't drive, so on the days she has P/T, her grandmother drives her and then keeps the little guy overnight.


Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Thursday Thirteen #298

Thirteen most profitable movies of all time. It costs $9 to see a movie at my local theater. That's why this list of box office champs with all those new millennium titles seems like bullshit to me. After all in 1939, movie goers saw Gone with the Wind for 25¢. In 1965, a ticket to The Sound of Music cost about $1.00. So the following list, which is adjusted for inflation, makes way more sense to me. 

By the way, this is based solely on tickets sold. TV, rental and streaming revenue is not included. I imagine if it was, you'd see The Wizard of Oz on this list, too.

1. Gone with the Wind (1939)

2. Star Wars: Episode 4 -- A New Hope (1977)

3. The Sound of Music (1965)

4. ET, The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

5. Titanic (1997)

6. The Ten Commandments (1956)

7. Jaws (1975)

8. Doctor Zhivago (1965)

9. The Exorcist (1973)

10. Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs (1937)

11. Star Wars: Episode 7 -- The Force Awakens (2015)

12. 101 Dalmatians (1961)

13. Star Wars: Episode 6 -- The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

I'm beginning to think I'm the only one on earth who's not into Star Wars. How about you?

Please join us for THURSDAY THIRTEEN. Click here to play along, and to see other interesting compilations of 13 things.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023


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

PS I can no longer participate in WWW.WEDNESDAY via that link because her blog won't accept Blogger comments. I mention this only to save you the frustration I experienced trying to link up.

1. What are you currently reading? Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Rayburn. Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie have been friends and coworkers for decades. Now it's time for retirement. The organization they work for has rewarded them for their years of service with an all-expenses-paid cruise. The thing of it is: it's a trap. These lovely 60-something friends are highly-trained assassins, and there are some jobs you simply can't walk away from.

It's a fascinating premise and so far, every page is dripping with girl power. Or perhaps I mean granny power.

PS Thanks to Kwizgiver for turning me onto this book.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Who Is Maud Dixon by Alexandra Andrews. Florence is a low-level publishing employee who believes she's destined for great things. She's convinced she must be talented because God wouldn't put such a burning desire to be an author in someone who can't write. When she loses her job and finds herself with few resources, she's not worried. The universe is looking out for her, she just knows it. For a while it looks like she's right. The mysterious, best-selling author Maud Dixon offers her a personal assistant job and they're off to Morocco. She realizes Maud is living the life Florence wants.
Florence does that a lot: imagining herself in some other woman's life. First there was a highly respected stage and screen based out of New York that Florence followed and began dressing like. Now there's Maud Dixon. It's not a healthy way to live.

This twisty book has more than one character who seems to believe she's absolutely fine, but as readers we see they are most emphatically not. Their behaviors are neither normal nor justified, no matter what they seem to think. This story is about what happens when two such people find themselves in the same orbit. Reminds me of The Great Gatsby. Jordan told Nick she didn't have to be a careful driver because she was sure other drivers would watch out for her. Later, when life doesn't go her way, Jordan says, "I met another bad driver, didn't I?" In Who Is Maud Dixon, two "bad drivers" collide and the results are explosive!

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

Friday, February 17, 2023

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Saturday Night's Alright (1973)

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


1) In this song, Elton John tells us it's 7:00 PM on Saturday evening and he's ready to rock with his friends. What will you be doing at 7:00 this evening? I don't know. Nothing planned. I had a rather busy week and I am looking forward to unstructured time so maybe I can accomplish something (like watching this week's movie group film or adding some jewelry and tchotchkes to my February Goodwill bag).


2) His sister is ready to party, too. The lyrics tell us she looks cute with "a handful of grease in her hair." What haircare products would we find in your bathroom right now? Shampoo, conditioner, hairspray. And a can of mousse that I never use but won't part with because you never know when a hair emergency will arise that only mousse can solve. (An example of why is why my home is so overstuffed.)

3) He sings that by Saturday, he's had it with the aggravation and discipline of the past week and now he's ready to cut loose. How did last week treat you? It was more complicated than I would have liked: took my Connie Cat to a vet appointment  a couple towns over for a consult and while the news was (gratefully) pretty good, it was expensive and stressful; my microwave suddenly crapped out; got my taxes done (never fun); found myself tied up in red tape with the Illinois Department of Employment Services (aka unemployment) and while every person I spoke to was kind and helpful, the issue still isn't resolved.

4) This Saturday night finds Elton and his friends "packed pretty tight" in their bar of choice. Agoraphobics have a hard time feeling safe in busy, crowded places. How about you? Are you comfortable in a crowd? It doesn't bother me.

5) The lyrics were written by Bernie Taupin, Elton's frequent collaborator. Bernie ranks this near the top of his favorite Elton John records. What's your favorite? First of all, I'm surprised this is one of Bernie's favorites because his clever lyrics are nearly unintelligible. I've been hearing this song since high school and truly didn't know Elton was singing, "She's with me!" until I looked up the lyrics for this meme. Anyway, this would be my favorite. (Reminds me of my schoolgirl crushes on middle-aged dream men.)


6) Elton has turned his bad eyesight into a hobby, claiming that over the years he has purchased well over 200,000 pairs of glasses. Do you wear glasses? If so, how many prescription pairs do you own? Four pair: two with my current prescription and two with a recent-but-still-obsolete ones. I keep meaning to donate the old ones at the Walmart Vision Center, but I go to Walmart so seldom .... (Note to self: Make a trip to Walmart!)


7) Elton once had to cancel an international tour because of an emergency appendectomy. Do you still have your appendix? Yes.


8) In 1973, when this song was popular, M*A*S*H was at the top of the ratings. Who is your favorite M*A*S*H character? Hawkeye, of course. Alan Alda was one of those middle-aged dreams referred to in #5. (Watching this clip, I still think he's pretty perfect.)



9) Random question: Who is the wisest person you know? Depends on the situation. I'm fortunate to have many really good people in my life I can turn to for wise counsel.



Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Thursday Thirteen #297

The most Oscared movies. I love the Academy Awards. Oscar night is my Super Bowl Sunday. I try to see as many of the major movies as I can before the show. 

This year the most-nominated movie is Everything Everywhere All At Once. I haven't seen it yet but I will. It's streaming on Amazon Prime and Showtime so I have ample opportunity to catch this 11-time nominee.  

While 11 nominations is prestigious, nominations aren't wins. It's got to grab at least 8 of those gold nude dudes to break into this Thursday Thirteen of Top Oscar Winners.

1. Ben Hur (1959). 11 wins of 12 nominations.

2. Titanic (1997). 11 wins of 14 nominations.

3. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). 11 wins of 11 nominations.

4. West Side Story (1961). 10 wins of 11 nominations. 

5. The English Patient (1996). 9 wins of 12 nominations.

6. Gigi (1958). 9 wins of 9 nominations.

7. The Last Emperor (1987). 9 wins of 9 nominations.

8. Amadeus (1984). 8 wins of 11 nominations.

9. Cabaret (1972). 8 wins of 10 nominations.

10. From Here to Eternity (1953). 8 wins of 13 nominations.

11. Gandhi (1982). 8 wins of 11 nominations.

12. Gone with the Wind (1939). 8 wins of 13 nominations.

13. On the Waterfront (1954). 8 wins of 12 nominations.

Please join us for THURSDAY THIRTEEN. Click here to play along, and to see other interesting compilations of 13 things.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023


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

PS I can no longer participate in WWW.WEDNESDAY via that link because her blog won't accept Blogger comments. I mention this only to save you the frustration I experienced trying to link up.

1. What are you currently reading? Who Is Maud Dixon by Alexandra Andrews. Florence is a low-level publishing employee who believes she's destined for great things. She's let go by her employer but she's not worried. The universe is looking out for her, she just knows it. So when the reclusive and insanely popular author Maud Dixon offers Florence a personal assistant job, she snaps at it. A new world opens up to her. And then dark and mysterious things begin to happen. How will Florence handle herself in these tricky, tempting and very consequential situations? So far, for me, the crux is: how well do we really know anyone, including ourselves?

PS Thanks to Kwizgiver for turning me onto this book.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Reclaiming History by Vincent Bugliosi. First of all, this isn't a book, it's a doorjamb. More than 1500 pages! But it's important.
Vincent Bugliosi, successful as both a prosecutor (Charles Manson and his "family") and defense attorney, examines the JFK assassination as a crime and follows the evidence wherever it takes him. It takes him to Lee Harvey Oswald, no one else. He explains in clear, easy-to-understand prose why this is the only conclusion he could reach.

The book is in roughly three parts. First, what happened before, on, and after 11/22/63. Second, investigating the investigators (Dallas police, FBI, and The Warren Commission). Third, why the three biggest conspiracies (the Mob did it, the FBI and/or CIA did it, a foreign power did it) are simply paranoid fever dreams.

Because of the way the book is constructed, there's necessarily redundancy here. The reasons why the Mob wouldn't/didn't/could never have hired Oswald and/or Ruby are the same reasons why no one else would. But it's apparently necessary because conspiracy theorists are a notoriously tenacious lot.

For me, these are the most obvious reasons why Oswald was a lone wolf:
1. He escaped Dealey Plaza by bus. Who would trust the Dallas transit system to spirit away their hitman? Why would anyone hire a hitman who didn't know how to drive in the first place?
2. Why would Oswald commit this risky crime for free? He lived like a pauper before the assassination and his widow and daughters received no windfall after. We know this because Marina Oswald was under FBI surveillance for quite some time after 11/22. (When this surveillance began, Robert Kennedy was Attorney General. Does anyone really believe Bobby was "in on it?") For years to come, she was approached by news outlets and often gave interviews. She's never hidden from the spotlight and, to this day, leads a distinctly middle class life. Where's the money?
3. While Robert and Ted Kennedy had quibbles with investigatory techniques, neither of the President's brothers questioned the Warren Commission's final conclusion. Ever. This is impressive when you consider Ted Kennedy lived more than 45 years longer than JFK and, as a high-ranking Senator, had access to classified information. Do you really believe he never looked at it?
There are many more reasons -- dozens upon dozens. If this topic interests you, this book is the gold standard.

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

Better than I thought

That applies to Sunday. All of it was better than I thought it would be.

Elaine got tickets to play ... months ago. When I was still working. Elaine is very into taking advantage of everything Chicago has to offer, which is wise and wonderful of her. So when tickets to the rather controversial production of Wuthering Heights at the Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier became available, she grabbed them. She invited me to go along and I said "yes." Things I didn't know then:

1) She had three tickets, not two, so someone else would be accompanying us

2) I'd be unemployed, and a $100+ Sunday spent watching a play I wasn't passionate about would be unwise

So I didn't want to go. I didn't know how to get out of it, but I knew I'd rather stay home. 

But Elaine has been very kind to me, working hard at nurturing our new-ish friendship, and so I committed to going. Also, I haven't seen live theater in, oh, I don't know how long. And Navy Pier is always fun, but I haven't been since before covid.

It was with more than a little anxiety I got on the train Sunday. Though it was the first time that I got to ride at a reduced fare, just for flashing my spanking new "Hi! I'm old!" card.

I hung around the train station for a while then I took a Lyft to Navy Pier. My driver seemed surprised that I was going to the theater entrance, not a sports bar entrance, since it was, after all, Super Bowl Sunday. It was kinda nice to tell a stranger what it's like to have been in advertising for decades (43 years, to be exact) and not feel pressured to watch The Game and scrutinize the commercials. I only saw one in advance (Anna Faris for avocados) and it was so high concept I didn't think it would resonate with a wide audience. But you know what? It doesn't matter a damn what I thought of the ad. I'm not in advertising anymore.

Elaine was there, right on time, at the entrance to the theater. She kept checking her phone because her other friend, Rosie, was nowhere in sight. She was in the lobby already. I admit I was very nervous about meeting her. I know very little about Rosie -- just that she is mom to an adult daughter and still working, teaching dance and music to little kids at a rather prestigious Chicago private school. This made me self conscious. Here I am, a roly poly retiree!

She could not have kinder or friendlier. Phew! I appreciated that enormously. At one point she turned to Elaine and said, "You're right. She's smart and funny!" I loved that because it means she asked Elaine about me before we met, and maybe she was as nervous beforehand as I was.

The play was interesting, too. A very imaginative, minimalist set. Unexpectedly funny in an absurdist English way. I mean, Heathcliff and Cathy weren't exactly a laugh-a-minute couple, but this production did wrest a few giggles from us.

Afterward we had a lovely dinner at Reunion and Elaine drove me home. 

So let's re-examine what I'd been freaking out about:

1) Rosie was completely charming and welcoming

2) The play didn't suck and the tickets were Elaine's treat because she got them from a neighbor who couldn't use them and ... I admit I got lost in the story, but no matter. Plus Reunion offered a discount for theatergoers, so I got to try a favorite dining spot of both the Obamas and Oprah at 20% off!

So I'd twisted myself up in knots over nothing.

I'm glad a fine time was had by all, but I really have to work at trying not to be an ass.


Sunday, February 12, 2023

Sunday Stealing


LAYER 1: Tell us your...

* Eye color: Green

* Hair color: Light brown with more gray each and every month

* Height: 5'2

* Righty or lefty: Righty (or, as my chiropractor told me, I'm "significantly right dominant") 


LAYER 2: What's...

* Your heritage: I grew up believing I was 88% German, 12% Irish, with the Irish coming from my maternal grandmother. My aunt recently shared the results of her Ancestry/DNA kit. Her mother's daughter, she was expecting to find she was about 25% Irish. No Irish whatsoever. Mostly German, the rest nearly equal parts Danish, Norwegian and Swedish. So who knows? I also wonder if it matters.

* The shoes you wore today: Gray Nikes.

* Your weakness: Lack of discipline.

* Your fears: Losing my independence.

* Your perfect pizza: Thin crust, plain cheese.

* Goals you’d like to achieve: I'd like to be serene.

* Your first waking thoughts: "What the hell was that?" It's a question I ask myself because I've had some freaky dreams lately.

* Your best physical feature: My cute turned-up nose.

* Your most missed memory: I'm sorry but I don't understand the question

LAYER 3: Do you...

* Smoke: Never

* Cuss: Constantly. My father constantly admonished that when I cussed I was revealing I had a small vocabulary. So it's kinda funny I built a career as a writer, isn't it?

* Sing: I'm tragically tone deaf.

* Do you think you’ve been in love: I know I have.

* Did you go to college: Oh, I went. For a short time. No degree.

* Liked high school: Ugh. No.

* Believe in yourself: I have my doubts.

* Think you’re attractive: I can be.

* Think you’re a health freak: No.

* Like thunderstorms: I don't like or dislike them. I take them as they come.

* Play an instrument: No.

LAYER 4: In the past month have you…

* Drunk alcohol: I had to. Last Wednesday was Joe Maddon's birthday, a holiday every Cub fan must observe.


* Smoked: Never once. Not anything.

* Done a drug: Nope

* Made out: Regretfully, no.

* Gone on a date: Nope.

* Gone to the mall: Nope.

* Eaten an entire box of Oreos: Not in the past month.

* Eaten sushi: Nope.

* Been on stage: Nope.

* Been dumped: Nope.

* Gone skating: Nope. I'm equally inept ice and roller skating.

* Gone skinny dipping: Nope. 

I suppose it's been a slow month.

LAYER 5: Have you ever…

* Played a game that required removal of clothing: Nope.

* Been trashed or extremely intoxicated: Yes.

* Been caught “doing something”:  I don't understand this question.

* Been called a tease: Not to my face.

* Gotten beaten up:


* Age you did get/hope to be married: I've never really wanted to be married.

* How do you want to die: Suddenly

* What did you want to be when you grew up: Taller. I know that seems like flippant answer, but I do wish I was taller.

* What country would you most like to visit: I'm pretty incurious about the rest of the world. I think it's because there's so much of this country I haven't seen or would love to revisit.

LAYER 7: Now tell...

* Name a person you could trust with your life: My oldest friend. Now that he's older, my nephew.

* Name a favorite CD that you own: 

* Number of piercings: One in each ear

* Number of tattoos: None

* Number of times my name has appeared in the newspaper: I was the subject of one major news story. A long, long time ago I won the Chicago Tribune's movie trivia contest. They devoted a full page to moi. The top prize was $1,000. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $2,500 today. I was always broke in those days, so I was more thrilled with the prize than the short-lived fame.

* Name a past experience that you regret: I try not to regret anything.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: My Funny Valentine (1953)

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

1) In this song, Frank sings that his lover is his favorite work of art. Tell us about a piece of artwork you can see from where you're sitting now. (Yes, that crayon drawing by your 5-year-old nephew counts.) This is Thomas McKnight's Lake Shore Drive. It's hanging in my living room right now, and I love it. If money were no object and I could live anywhere, it would be high above LSD, enjoying this view.

2) He asks her to not change her hair. When will you next find yourself in the stylist's chair? I may be getting my locks colored and shorn as you're reading this on Saturday. I have an afternoon appointment.

3) Sinatra is often photographed in hats because he began losing his hair while in his 30s. He wore "a rug" for TV, concert and film appearances but really didn't like it, considering the toupee merely part of his work attire. What do you wear when you wish to appear professional? I layer. The right cardigan can make even an Old Navy t-shirt look professional.

4) Sinatra is best known for his singing and won an Oscar for his acting. But not many people know he liked to paint until he widow sold his paintings at auction. Do you have a secret talent? I have beautiful handwriting. I have no idea why this is, since I am tragically challenged when it comes to drawing. Doesn't it seem that, since both skills depend upon manual dexterity, they would go together?
5) As a kid, he was a paperboy in his hometown of Hoboken, NJ.  Tell us about one of your early jobs. How I loved babysitting! I wish I could still get paid to drink Coke, eat potato chips, and watch movies while kids sleep in the next room.
This is the last Saturday  9 before Valentine's Day and so this morning we shall focus on the upcoming holiday. 

6) The holiday is also known as The Feast of St. Valentine. Do you have a special meal planned for Tuesday? Nope.

7) The phrase "wear your heart on your sleeve" began in medieval times. On Valentine's Day, men would celebrate the holiday by displaying their lady love's name on their sleeves. If you were going to adopt this custom, whose name would you wear?

8) Women buy and send more Valentines than men do. Who received the last greeting card you sent? I sent a Valentine to my dear friend Henry. I love him very much.
9) Sweethearts, those candy hearts with sayings like "BE MINE" stamped on them, began as throat lozenges. Are you fan of these little candies? Nope. I don't like how they taste and I think the messages are dumb. Sorry.

What's it like for her?

My friend Kathy spends a lot of time on Facebook. She's posted 9 times today, and today's not over yet. Most of it is reposts of Snoopy cartoons and clips from America's Got Talent. She "likes" everything our friend John or I post, and when she comments she uses "quotes" and cAPs randomly. Clearly it makes her feel connected and I shouldn't be so judgey. 

But here's the thing: she's online constantly. I know from USPS tracking that her gift was delivered last Saturday, well in advance of her 75th birthday on Wednesday. But she didn't mention it -- not in any of her countless Facebook posts, not via email. I thought maybe she was saving it for her actual birthday.

When her birthday rolled around Wednesday, I posted a Facebook "happy birthday" asked her if she received my gift. I heard nothing until Thursday, when she responded cryptically: "Someone did say YES. Thank you from my heart." What does that mean? She lives in the upstairs apartment of a house. Did her neighbor sign for the package but hadn't yet given it to her? Then Friday she emailed me -- three times, identical emails -- photos of my unwrapped gift and card. I answered the first two but not the third. I didn't want to embarrass her, in case she didn't realize she sent it three times. 

Then there was the Facebook exchange about the Egyptian Theater in Dekalb, where Kathy lives. It's a very distinctive art deco building on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. A woman I met at the TCM Film Festival and I were sharing how gorgeous this old movie palace is and how much it resembles the one with the same name and same architect on Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles. 

Kathy commented -- as she always does -- that I "know how to have FuN." I responded, truthfully, that I'd never have been inside the Egyptian in Dekalb if it wasn't for her. She said, "Hmm?" She truly didn't:

• Recognize it as a building in her town that she must pass regularly. Trust me, Dekalb, IL, is not a bastion of Egyptian art. This theater stands out.

Remember that we'd been there together three years ago.

Kathy lives within walking distance & doesn't remember this

I don't know what's wrong with her because she won't see a doctor. She is surrounded by family in Dekalb -- her adult grandchildren are right there and have keys to her apartment, so at least I don't have to worry about her getting lost or lying prone on the floor for days ("I've fallen and I can't get up"). 

I am pretty sure I'll never see her again. The nearest train station is 20 minutes away from her home. I can't, in good conscience, encourage her to visit me here because she'd have to drive the 15 miles to the station. I know she still drives, but she shouldn't. Similarly, I'm not taking the train to visit her because she'd insist on picking me up at the station -- after all, she maintains there's nothing wrong with her and she gets very upset if you suggest there is -- and there's no way I'm getting in a car with her behind the wheel. 

This is why John seldom if ever interacts with her. He says he doubts she really notices who is there for her anymore and who isn't, and it causes us more upset than it brings her joy.

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash
But is that true? What's it like inside that head? How does her life feel for her? She's posted two more times on Facebook while I've been composing this blog post. Is she glued to her phone, trying to connect to the people she's known over the years? Or is she completely in the moment, not realizing that she's been posting all day? 

I think this post is just my way of working through this, or coming to terms with the fact that John may be right. I've been upset about Kathy's birthday for almost a week now. Her cognitive issues are going to get worse, not better. I have to learn to separate, even though that's really not my instinct in matters of friendship.

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Thursday Thirteen #296

What I value. President Joe Biden has said, "Don't tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I'll tell you what you value." That quote is top of mind for me because when I uploaded my financial documents for the accountant, I noticed I gave to 23 charities in 2022.* This list of the 13 organizations I gave the most to (listed highest to lowest) does say something about me.

1. My church.

2. The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation. No surprise if you read this blog very often. Anthony Rizzo is my favorite-most baseball player of all time, and I pledged to donate every time he hit a home run. He hit 32 in 2022 during one of his best seasons. 


The funds help families battling pediatric cancer, reimbursing costs not covered by health insurance -- parking and meals at the hospital, rent and mortgage, etc. In 2022 he also took kids on outings to amusement parks in Chicagoland and Florida, and on a shopping spree at the FAO Schwarz flagship store in New York, and catered meals for hospital workers in the pediatric wards. Rizz survived cancer himself as a teen and uses what he and his family endured to inform where the money goes.

3. Harmony House for Cats. Chicago has a lot of animal shelters. I've chosen to devote my greatest efforts to this one. They do great work, but they don't get a lot of publicity.

4. My local food pantry. Because these are my neighbors. In addition to monthly cash contributions, I also throw a non-perishable ($1.10 or less) into my cart every time I go grocery shopping. Today it was a can of green beans (on sale for 69¢). Anyway, by doing that, I'm able to bring a bag of food over to the pantry in person every month without even feeling the cost.

5. Feeding America. This national organization supports food pantries and meal programs all across the country.

6. Doctors without Borders. If you're like me, you see stories about Ukraine, or the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, and you wonder, "What can I do?" Through my monthly donation to DWB, I am helping provide aid.

7. Greenpeace. I do this for my late mother. She worried about the impact of climate change on endangered species.

8. Planned Parenthood. I am personally opposed to abortion. But that is a decision arrived at through my faith, and I don't expect -- nor do I want -- every woman to believe as I do. Legislating one faith's tenet over any other is very UNAmerican. Secondarily, I want every child born to be wanted, and every woman to have access to reproductive healthcare.

9. The Night Ministry. The homeless are our neighbors. The Night Ministry supports them with food, shelter, and medical care.

10. PAWS Chicago. PAWS stands for Pets Are Worth Saving. I believe that, and so I support this organization. More than 95% of the animals that enter PAWS survive.

11. Tree House Animal Foundation. This Chicago humane organization has great PR, deservedly so. They are a model for no-kill shelters nationwide.

12. Goodwill. In 2023, I have committed to carrying gently used items to Goodwill once a month. In 2022, most of my support for this organization was monetary and to the national organization. Next year I'd like to see this one fall out of the Top 13, with the cash replaced by contributions of my gently used STUFF.

13. Colonial Williamburg Foundation. I know I can be a patriotic sap, but I believe knowing where we've been can help us decide where we want to go. And so I support Williamsburg. It really is a living museum.

Before you give to any charity, make sure it's worthy of your money. Check it out at Give.org.

*Don't be too impressed; all I gave to one of them was $4.

Please join us for THURSDAY THIRTEEN. Click here to play along, and to see other interesting compilations of 13 things.