Tuesday, October 31, 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 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? Bogie & Bacall by William J. Mann. This year, I've been reading about people I've heard about my whole life but know little about. So far I've taken a little dive into the lives of Winston Churchill, Aristotle Onassis, Dwight Eisenhower and Babe Ruth. Now I'm turning my attention to Humphrey Bogart.

Within the pantheon of classic film stars, he's way, way up there. The American Film Institute named him the #1 Movie Actor of All Time. Yet he's not someone I always gravitate to, like his contemporaries Clark Gable, Cary Grant, and William Powell. And except for Lauren Bacall's recollections of their marriage -- which seem sincere but also understandably rose-colored -- I know nothing about his personal life. 

This 650+ page book is a dual biography of the stars and so far, I'm all in. The "dese dem and dose" guy on screen was a New York blue blood. He tried many jobs before landing in the theater, which gave him a sense of belonging and provided an outlet for his creativity, even though Hollywood's PR machine did everything it could to make him seem like an "accidental actor," because his more sensitive yearnings didn't fit his image.


One thing that makes me smile: so far (he's in his 20s), everyone calls him "Hump." I wonder when he became "Bogie," which is far more fitting for his image. Was it organic, or was his new moniker a product of PR machine, too?


2. What did you recently finish reading? The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House by Franklin Foer. This book takes us from the end of 2020 campaign, through the historically fucked-up transfer of power and into the Biden White House. It's about how Biden, a politician who is proud of his profession and believes in our institutions, tried to govern after the shambolic Trump years.


However, after the Administration recovers from the Trump team's willful obstruction and gets its bearings, it's not about a compare/contrast between Biden and Trump. It's about the CHIPS act, the American Rescue Plan and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. These are ambitious pieces of legislation and it was not easy to get them passed. Yet Biden did it, and we're all the better for it. That's one of the interesting things about Biden: for an 80-year-old man, he's remarkably forward thinking, and has an eye on future generations. I find this refreshing and wonder why it's not emphasized more.

This book is similarly granular in its examination of Biden and Zelenskyy. These two men are of different generations and different cultures. One is a lifelong politician, the other a showman. Theirs is not a natural relationship and it's been personally rocky. But Biden is a pro and Zelenskyy is a patriot, so the personal has not gotten in the way of their collaboration. It makes me grateful that we have a President who has been a politician for most of his life and has the muscle memory to do the right thing in these situations.

That's the thing about this book: it appeals to the Kennedy Girl in me. I grew up believing that politicians are public servants, and that being good at politics is something to be proud of. Joe Biden believes the same. Yes, it's corny and certainly not in step with today's "drain the swamp" mentality, but I think it's that attitude will help (to borrow a phrase) keep America great.


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



At least there was movie group

Monday was not a good day. It started with me waking up pre-dawn (not unusual there) and unable to get back to sleep. I was too nervous and upset.

I admit I found this idea very satisfying
•  I'd spent all day Sunday trying to transfer my data from my old Motorola phone (fully functional,
cracked screen) to a new Motorola phone (seemingly demonically possessed). My old phone was deactivated. After three -- count 'em, 3! -- calls to Consumer Cellular, I was told I just got "a lemon" and should return it via UPS.
So I awoke Monday without a fully functioning cell phone. I was so frustrated I fantasized about throwing the new phone through the window.

•  I was supposed to start my first new job since George W. Bush was in office. I admit it: I'm scared of the the cash register. I can't get my phone to work, why should I have any confidence about mastering a computer with a cash drawer?

•  Somehow it made sense to use this time to touch up my pedi. I dropped the nail polish into the bathtub and it splashed all over. I have a tub liner. I can't just use Comet to remove it. It took a wildly fragrant combination of rubbing alcohol and Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. 

•  I tried to distract myself with the local news and the oldies station. Have you noticed how many commercials there are for cell phone providers? I started getting angry again.

•  Then I got a phone call from my I-hope-to-be new boss. She didn't want me to come in Monday, after all. My heart sank. I was sure this meant that "corporate" (out of NYC) didn't approve my hiring for some reason. No ... it's not that. The job is still mine if I want it. Her concern stemmed from an incident on Sunday at about 5:30. The store was robbed. Two 50-something men came in, claimed to be armed, and demanded small bills. They were likely unarmed homeless men, but the girl at the counter wisely handed over the money. Why take the chance? Anyway, the store manager told me that her "head wasn't in onboarding me," and she wanted me to hear about the incident from her, just in case I wanted to change my mind about working there. Here's how I look at it: I live around the corner from the card shop. I could have just easily been stopped by these men while walking to the grocery store. Also this was the first robbery in more than five years. I'm not overly concerned about it happening again right away. So we rescheduled for Wednesday at 4:00. 

•  That left me with a free afternoon. Instead of returning my phone (as Consumer Cellular advised), I took it to a little mom-and-pop electronics repair shop. What the hell. I had nothing to lose at this point. The guy behind the counter took my phone and told me to come back in an hour. He'd either get my new phone up-and-running ($40) or swap the SIM cards so my old phone would be operational again (no charge). I went to the bank and had a sandwich at Potbelly's. An hour and $40 later, my new phone was working. (The keyboard, or G-Board as Motorola calls it, was obsolete but he updated it and moved all my apps over perfectly. Why didn't the techs at Consumer Cellular think of this? I don't know and I no longer care.)

•  Movie group was a ton of fun, though. The movie we saw, The Secret Beyond the Door, was spooky and silly and just right for Halloween week. I enjoy this happy band of movie nerds so much.

Photo by Salah Ait Mokhtar on Unsplash

Sunday, October 29, 2023

RIP, Matthew Perry


Like Joey, I'll miss him

Chandler Bing got me through some tough times. In 2020, when I had covid and was scared ... ten years ago, when I was recovering from surgery and in discomfort ... those Friends marathons were a genuine comfort.

This past spring I read his memoir. It was unflinching and brave, and I admire him for writing it. He put a familiar and well-loved face on the disease of addiction.

This morning I'm more than sad. I'm angry. Conspiracy theorists are blaming his untimely death on -- wait for it -- the Covid vax. As though 40 years of alcohol abuse, 25 years of pills and a tobacco habit so powerful he was allowed to chain-smoke in the hospital didn't damage his heart, the vaccination did.

Matthew Perry wanted to be remembered as someone who helped people battling toward sobriety. To those who want to exploit his death for their hysterical, paranoid agenda, I say this with all sincerity: Fuck you.

Happy Birthday, dear Kwizgiver!

May this year unfold like the chick-lit of your dreams!

If you aren't reading Kwizgiver, you should! You can find her here.

Of you can go there yourself and wish her many returns of the day.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Saturday 9

 Saturday 9: Spooky Scary Skeletons (1996)

Unfamiliar with this week's featured song? Hear it here.
1) In this song, Andrew Gold sings that these skeletons send shivers down his spine. Do you often involuntarily shudder or shiver? Yep. I think it's probably tied to the cold beverage I'm drinking and has nothing to do with frights.
2) While they appear frightening, these skeletons are harmless and only want to socialize with us mortals. Can you think of something -- or someone -- that intimidated you at first but that you were more comfortable with as you became more familiar? Betty from movie group. She didn't intimidate but she did really, really annoy me. But she seems to be improbably fond of me, so I experimented with dialing back my inner snark and find that, while we'll never really be friends, I appreciate her more.

3) The video for this song was originally created in 1929. Skeleton Dance was a short movie produced and directed by Walt Disney himself. In 2006, Disney Studios paired Gold's song with this animation for a Halloween DVD. Do you have any DVDs that you watch seasonally (every Halloween, every Thanksgiving, every Christmas, etc.)? I try to find this on cable, but if I can't, I'll dust off my DVD. I love it so.

4) You may not realize it, but you likely already know one of Andrew Gold's songs. He wrote "Thank You for Being a Friend," the theme to TV's Golden Girls. Blanche, Dorothy, Rose or Sophia: Which is your favorite? Sophia. "Picture it. Sicily. 1922 ..."

These questions will help us get into the Halloween spirit ....

5) Introduced in the 1880s, candy corn was originally called Chicken Feed. It was developed by a candy manufacturer who gave it the orange/white color and special name to differentiate it from jelly beans. Do you like candy corn (a) all year around or (b) at Halloween only or (c) never? C

6) What candy will trick-or-treaters get when they show up at your front door? I'm not really expecting any trick-or-treaters, but any that show up with get a handful of individually-wrapped Life Savers. Then, on November 1, I'll start slipping them into my purse.
7) Halloween was a 1978 movie by John Carpenter about Michael Myers, who kills while wearing a ghostly mask. In the original movie, the mask used was a $2 Captain Kirk mask, painted white. Both Halloween and Star Trek are successful franchises of more than a dozen movies. Have you seen more of Michael Myers or Captain Kirk? I suppose Kirk. I don't really care for Star Trek, but my oldest friend is obsessed so I watched several episodes with her.

8) In 2022, a survey of California schoolchildren revealed that Buzz Lightyear was the top pick of Halloween costume. When you were little, did you prefer to dress up for Halloween as a hero, like Buzz, or a scary monster? My mom picked my costumes, and she never would have chosen monster.
9) Some long-time White House employees claim they have seen Abraham Lincoln's ghost wandering the halls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Have you ever seen a ghost? Nope.


Friday, October 27, 2023

22,362 days later ...

On August 4-5, 1962, my family went on a trip to Springfield to see where Abraham Lincoln lived. I was just 4 years old and remember little of it except for two things: 1) it was the first time I had apple butter, which I loved and 2) Marilyn Monroe died.

It was really hot and I've never done well in heat, even as a little girl. We were touring New Salem, the small town outside of Springfield where Lincoln lived when he first arrived in Illinois. Because I was so short, I got to be in the front when we looked into the log cabins. The railings were smooth and cool and I rested my cheek on one. A young man behind us -- I never saw his face -- held a transistor radio over his head and blasted some news. I didn't really hear it but I recall thinking a radio didn't belong here because Abe wouldn't have had a radio. 

Anyway, it turns out it was an early news report that Marilyn had died. I didn't know who she was, but my mom did and was upset. My dad was upset with my mom for being upset. I was hot and the railing was cool. That's the moment I remember with great clarity.

Over the decades I've been back to Springfield countless times. I love Abraham Lincoln and I never tire of immersing myself in his world. As an adult, I've gone down either solo or with friends, usually by train. It's a lovely, scenic Amtrak trip and I enjoy it, but that means we're without a car. New Salem is about 20 minutes away from Springfield and so it's just never been part of our itinerary.

Until now. According to the "days between dates" calculator I found, it took me 22,362 days or 61 years and 2 months and 21 days to return, but I did.

My friend Elaine got a new Mazda CR-something and wanted to take a road trip. Also, since she's newly retired and eager to fill every moment,* she was up for it. 

First on the agenda: apple butter! Our hotel shared a parking lot with Cracker Barrel and so I got to indulge in that.

Next up: fall colors! Like I said, I have never liked heat. It was lovely to wander through the reconstructed town on a 60ยบ-something day when the trees were putting on a show.

And, of course, Abe. I love Mr. Lincoln. This cabin is a reconstruction of the Onstot Cabin. Abe never owned a home in New Salem, he boarded with different families. He never lived with Henry and Susannah Onstot but he hung out at their place in the evenings. He needed light so he could study his law books in the evenings and the people he lived with were not so agreeable. The Onstots welcomed him at night.

New Salem has about 20 of these cabins in all. Including the Rutledge Tavern, where he stayed for a while and met -- and maybe fell in love with -- their daughter, Ann. Historians disagree about whether or not they were in love, but I grew up on the tale of his doomed romance with Ann and I'm reluctant to let it go. I'm apparently not alone. Elaine asked if I wanted to visit her gravesite and when I said yes, we were surprised by how easy it was to find.

*Not me; I'm lazy as shit.

From Springfield to Lewiston to Colorado Springs

Let me tell you about the emotional journey I took this week.

First, Springfield. Tuesday afternoon, my friend Elaine and I took a quick road trip down to Springfield, IL. She wanted to show off her new car, I wanted to spend a little time with Abe Lincoln. We checked into our hotel and walked across the parking lot to The Cracker Barrel for dinner.

After dinner we saw the "shelter in place" order. A Springfield trooper stopped a car, the driver got out and began shooting. Then he fled. The suspect was arrested a few hours later, but it's disconcerting to be part of a "shelter in place" when you're away from home. Weird plot twist: He fled the Springfield trooper because he was on the run for a murder he may have committed 7 miles from my home. Isn't that a kick? Here I am, 200 miles away, and I'm sheltering in place to avoid a gunman from my backyard.

Then Lewiston. On Wednesday, a man in Maine took an automatic firearm and shot up first a bowling alley and then a bar. Then he fled. Citizens in Maine had to shelter in place, too, adding to their trauma. As I write this Friday night, his body has just been found. This was a tragedy. There's no more to say.

Then Colorado Springs. On Thursday a FedEx package arrived for me. It was a t-shirt I'd purchased in November 2022, and it finally arrived. Yet I'm not at all upset. For the t-shirt was from the Altreveda Beer Company in Colorado Springs.

You may not remember, because November 2022 is literally hundreds of mass shootings ago, but there was a tragedy in Colorado Springs, too. An anti-LGBT nutjob with an AR-15 walked into one of the area's few gay clubs and opened fire. 

Robert Fierro happened to be in the club that night with his wife, son and his son's boyfriend. An Army vet, Fierro went into "combat mode." He attacked the gunman from behind, wrestled the gun away and beat the shooter with it. Mr. Fierro said he was defending his family. His human family. 

I wanted to show my mad respect for Fierro somehow. I heard that his own bar, Altreveda Beer Company, was still struggling after covid so I ordered a t-shirt. Apparently a shit ton of people had the same thought and demand was massively greater than supply. Then they wanted to redesign the shirts to carry a message of diversity. Of course I didn't mind, and I will wear my Altreveda shirt proudly.

BTW, "altreveda" means "daring woman." Jess Fierro is Robert's wife, business partner and the brewmaster. In fact, she was Colorado's first Latina brewery owner. So this family was at Club Q that night out of support and love for their gay son and his lover. Again, I will wear my Altreveda shirt proudly.

But I am so fucking tired of guns. I'm afraid of guns. I'm sick of guns. No, I do not for one moment believe that anyone needs an automatic rifle to hunt squirrels. No, I do not for one moment believe that this is what our founding fathers had in mind. With Donald Trump's fondness for saying "Second Amendment people" should do this or that, I fully expect there to be political violence on top of our now garden variety mass shootings. This is possibly the only thing Speaker Mike Johnson and I agree on: There's something wrong with the "human heart" of this country. Only I believe that problem is his MAGA Republican party.

The only silver lining I see is that so many of us are sick and tired, and so many of us are going to vote, VOTE, VOTE

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Thursday Thirteen #332

13 commonly misspelled words.
 According to the website Wordtips, here are the words we stumble over the most frequently. My personal bugaboo, diarrhea, didn't make the list. (And unfortunately, there's no elegant synonym for it.) Is there a word that regularly stumps you in your writing?

1. Coolly

2. Minuscule

3. Sergeant

4. Liaison

5. Protester

6. Supersede

7. Drunkenness

8. Millennium

9. Dumbbell

10. Bellwether

11. Ignorance

12. Playwright

13. Occasion

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


Tuesday, October 24, 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 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? The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House by Franklin Foer. This book takes us from the end of 2020 campaign, through the historically fucked-up transfer of power and into the Biden White House. It's about how Biden, a politician who is proud of his profession and believes in our institutions, tried to govern after the shambolic Trump years. (I said "shambolic" because I already used the f-word once to describe The Former Guy's administration.)

I had covid in November-December 2020. I suffered and was very frightened. I was just one of thousands and thousands of Americans during that surge. It is disgusting to learn how little time our then-President spent on our plight, so obsessed was he with overturning the election. So obsessed was he with himself. With himself.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Resilience by Elizabeth Edwards. Elizabeth Edwards came to national prominence in 2004, when her husband, Sen. John Edwards, first ran for President and then accepted the VP slot with John Kerry. 

She was a successful lawyer in her own right. Her husband included her in all of his professional decisions. They were wealthy beyond their expectations. But life handed her tragedies to overcome. Her 16-year-old son was killed in a car accident. Then her father suffered a debilitating stroke. She was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her mother went through cognitive decline. Her husband's infidelity was exposed by the tabloids.

With breathtaking candor, she discussed how she -- and people she met on the campaign trail and knew throughout her life -- faced adversity and found strength in friends and faith to go on.

There is much about this book that resonated with me. Elizabeth and I approach our faith in the same way. I'm paraphrasing, but here goes: God gives us our lives and our souls and eternal life. What happens in between is on us. God promises Heaven but not an easy ride on earth. Don't blame Him for what happens and don't count on Him to fix it for us. Knowing this, accepting this, is key. Hearing it again from Elizabeth helped.

It also helped to see that she wasn't perfect. At the time she wrote this book, her cancer had returned and she and John were trying to repair their marriage. Now, after her death and with the details of his affair public knowledge, she was foolish and wrong to place so much blame on The Other Woman. It seems clear that he misled Rielle Hunter as well as Elizabeth.

Elizabeth's honesty and strength could be intimidating except for that foolishness. I feel in a way it's her last gift to me. If this good but imperfect and entirely human woman could make her painful life work, so can we. My favorite quote is how she said she's like to be remembered: "She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails."

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



Get Ready!

On November 4, I'm joining in Mimi's Blogblast for Peace.
Why don't you do the same? It would be lovely if we filled the blogosphere with peace signs and gentle good wishes for a better future.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Sunday Stealing

Stolen from League of  Extraordinary PenPals

1. October reading & writing goals and plans: I don't have any such goals, which is a good thing since October has just a week to go and I'd be unlikely to hit them now.

2. Something I did that totally paid off: I sent a personal letter to a prospective employer (see post below).

3. I want to see this make a comeback: Cash. I feel so sorry for the server when I dine out with friends and everyone wants a separate check. That's why I bring cash (including singles) and wish my friends did the same.

4. Generational traits I really value: Having worked in a multi-generational workplace and (hopefully) doing so again, I know that attitudes toward the job are different. I'm generalizing, of course, but Boomers compete over who can do it faster so we can do more, while Millennials want to do an effective, efficient job so we can get outta here. I just interviewed for a job and prospective employer said her first requirement of me is that I "be kind." Trust me, that was never a Boomer top priority. For bosses of my generation, it would be: How well do you handle stress? How eager are you to take on more responsibility? I can see that both approaches have benefits, but I value the work-life balance and humanity Millennials espouse.

5. Changes I’d like to see in my daily environment: I'd like more structure to my days. When I first retired, taking impromptu afternoon naps felt delightful. Now they feel rather indulgent. I want to look back on my day and feel like I've accomplished more. (But alas, I am undisciplined.)

6. Favorite soup dishes: I like basic soups, like chicken noodle and clam chowder.

7. Start with the best part, or save the best for last: What are we talking about here? If it's a book or movie, I think the most effective structure is to have the climax near the end but not the very last. If it's a meal, I guess it's how you define the best part. I'm not sure dessert is always the best part.

8. The most chaotic part of my daily life: Breakfast with these two. No cats have ever been as hungry as they are in the morning.

9. If I could only eat 10 things, I’d pick: Thin crust pizza, cheeseburgers, breaded shrimp, oatmeal, yogurt, cinnamon applesauce, mashed potatoes, coffee cake, chocolate chip cookies, ham and cheese omelette.

10. What Autumn feels like where I live: Cool, crisp, happy

11. The teacher who would be most proud of me: Mrs. Rath. Junior high. She worried that I was pretending to have a smaller vocabulary and less knowledge of current affairs than I did so that I'd more easily fit in with the other girls. She was right, of course.

12. My go to Halloween snacks & treats: If Trick or Treaters come to the door, they're getting a fistful of individually wrapped Life Savers. If they don't, said Life Savers will go into my purse and jacket pockets.

13. 10 ways my life is great right now: I'm so proud (and relieved) Joe Biden is President right now, A Hard Day's Night is on TCM, my cats are healthy and happy, I likely have a part-time job, but I don't need a part-time job, my buddy John has evolved into a more sensitive friend, I've got a nice little road trip with Elaine this week to look forward to, I'm pretty healthy, it's sunny today, I think our new minister is going to work out just fine.

14. A perfect day indoors looks like… A long shower with good tunes on the shower radio, a good movie or ballgame on the telly, a chapter or two of a good book, time with a friend 

15. Pumpkin spice… is a welcome addition to my oatmeal.

Fortune favors the bold

That's former Cub manager Joe Maddon's philosophy. He believes in bunting, base-stealing, and letting opposing batters see his pitchers the third time through the order. He does these things precisely because other managers don't. He has nearly 1,400 career major league wins. And so this past week I decided to make him my role model.

I've been retired a year now. I've been living off the funds I set aside decades ago, just in case I found myself between jobs. That cushion was supposed to carry me for six months and it's stretched nicely. But it's almost gone.

I just made the first withdrawal from one of my retirement accounts. I know that's what the money is for and since it's only earning 3%, it's really not doing me a lot of good where it is. It makes good fiscal sense to withdraw these funds first. But they have been growing tax deferred and with this withdrawal, the government gets the cut they've been waiting for. Plus, I opened this particular account back in 1992. More than 30 years ago. The woman I was then never really thought I'd be the woman I am now. 

Touching this money has left me surprisingly anxious and emotional. To the point where I discussed it with my shrink. I mean, this is nuts. This is what the money is for! I probably have at least a decade of life ahead of me, perhaps more. If I freak out every time I make a withdrawal, I can look forward to a lot of out-freaking.

So what can I do? I can begin collecting Social Security. I began paying into it when I was 17. It's mine. That will go a long way. And there's something else I can do. I can get a job.

Why not? I'm healthier right now than I've been in years, and am certainly healthier than I will be when I'm 75. And it would give my days the structure they have been lacking. I over think everything, and if I had a job I'd have something to occupy me beyond worrying. 

There's a stationery store around the corner from my home. They sell cards, gift wrap, journals, and calendars. And candles, so it smells good in there. I think it's over-priced so I don't shop often there, but I do browse. It's never terribly busy. It reminds me of the card shop in the office complex where I used to work. When things got super stressful at my advertising job, I'd say, "Fuck this. I want to work in the Hallmark card shop." 

So when I saw a "Help Wanted" sign in the window of my local stationery store, I thought, "This is meant to be." I went to the web site and saw that it is part time for the holiday season. "No retail experience required." Which is good, since I worked in an office setting for 46 years. I filled out the online form, clicked "submit," and waited for them to call me.

No one called me. This hurt my feelings. I was very good at my chosen profession. I won awards working on high-profile campaigns for Fortune 50 companies. I'm used to being wanted. Now, all of a sudden, no one wants me? Ouch.

So I got thinking, WWJD. What would Joe do? Joe Maddon would think outside the box and do something bold ...

Maybe the manager of the stationery store never saw my application. After all, it went to the corporate website, headquartered in NYC. Maybe the corporate software buried me in the queue under applicants who have retail experience. 

So how do I get the manager of the local store to see me? I could just drop in, but how do I know the manager would be there when I happen to show up? What if the manager is busy? I wouldn't be exhibiting much respect for his/her time, would I?

So I did what I do best: I wrote a letter. I began with the sentence: I love your store. I explained that while I have no relevant work experience (zip, zilch, none) I do have something to offer. Over my career I've learned how to work as part of a team, I'm reliable, and I'm comfortable discussing good/services. 

I knew it would make me stand out because no one gets letters delivered by USPS anymore.

"I received your letter and I am enamored." That's what the store manager said on my voicemail. We had a phone interview on Friday and Saturday, I went on my first job interview since George W. Bush was in office.

She liked me! She said there are 65+ applicants in the queue but she hadn't even opened them because she isn't sure how many new people she will need. Because she is bringing back people who worked holiday last year,* she told me she can "only" give me 8 hours/week.

That's OK with me. Two four-hour shifts will be a good way to get my feet wet in the retail world. If I like it, then maybe I can continue, at this store or another.

The important thing for me isn't the paycheck anyway. The reality is, I'm working for the tax withholding. Taxes that I pay on these wages will help mitigate what I owe on my tax-deferred withdrawals and stretch my retirement funds further.

Corporate still has to approve me. My references still have to be checked. But Cecelia, the manager, did say, "You're hired." She told me my letter left her feeling "cartwheels on fireworks happy."

Lesson: Employers don't expect applicants to send personal letters, just like infielders don't expect a hitter to bunt. That's why I should do it. Thanks, Joe.

*I like that she's loyal to her team from last year.

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

Friday, October 20, 2023

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Something More (2005)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.
1) Sugarland's lead singer Jennifer Nettles describes a busy morning that begins with a cup of coffee. Do you start your day with a cup of joe? Never. I hate the way coffee smells. I drink milk in the morning.

2) When she gets home from work, she sings that her house is dirty but says housework can wait until she has a glass of wine. Is there a particular chore on your "to-do" list that you keep putting off? I have a box from the office that I need to go through. Considering I've been retired a year, I think it's time! To be honest, I don't really remember what's in it.

3) The lyrics tell us happiness is something we can create. Do you agree? I think it's true to a large extent. But I also think each of us has to face challenges, and it's okay to not be okay.

4) In the video of this week's song, the members of Sugarland ride along in a vintage Cadillac. Are you one of those drivers who has a nickname for your car? No car.

5) The group hitches a ride in a red truck. The auto insurance industry tells us that Americans favor vehicles in the grayscale colors. Nearly 80% of cars on the road today are white, black, gray or silver. What color is your vehicle? No car.

6) Nettles achieved her dream of performing on Broadway when she took over the role of Roxy in Chicago. What's your fantasy job? Millionaire.

7) She wrote a cookbook with her mom called Sweet, Savory and Simple. When it was originally published, it was spiral bound. That way, it could be laid flat on the counter as the cook tries one of the recipes. How many cookbooks do you own? I believe I still have one around here somewhere. It has a recipe for the perfect fried egg on toast, which I wanted to master for a certain guy I was crazy about. The desire to please him soon passed, but I think the cookbook remains.

8) In 2005, when "Something More" was topping the country charts, Paul McCartney won a People's Choice Award for his concert tour. Do you have any plans to enjoy music performed live between now and the end of the year? Nope.

9) Random question: Who received the most recent compliment you gave? I reminded my former coworker, Rita, that her greatest gift is her enthusiasm. I warned her not to try to be more senior or sophisticated than she is, that her joy in the work makes her stand out in a very good way.

My hero


My favorite-most ball player was named one of the three best first basemen in the American League. He earned this nomination because his defense has been stellar. The metrics bear this out. What these stats don't reflect is that he did this while playing two months with a concussion.

I am so proud of him. Not only for this -- though being one of the league's best first baseman while playing with a concussion is pretty damn big -- but because he remains committed to doing good. His foundation has adopted 100 pediatric cancer patients and through this gift drive will ensure they get what they're wishing for this holiday season.

He's also sponsoring the runners representing CHAM (Children's Hospital at Montefiore) in the New York City Marathon on November 5, and his wife Emily is running along with them.

Appreciate him, New York!

Dekalb derailed

John, Gregory and I planned a trip to Dekalb to see our friend, Kathy. None of the three of us really wanted to do this, but Kathy has been commenting on Facebook that she misses us and is contemplating a trip to Chicago to see us. 

We can't have this. It's an hour by car. 90 minutes by train. Kathy is suffering cognitive decline. She doesn't belong behind the wheel of a car and could easily get off the train at the wrong stop. So we have to go to her.

John and Gregory don't interact with her as often as I do. They don't know that she retains little and angers easily. They don't know that she regularly contacts me using Facebook Messenger and then scolds me for answering her. ("I DO NOT USE MESSENGER!")

Or that she recalls herself as was one of "the first women in Sears advertising." That is so incredibly not true. I had already been there more than a year when she joined the team. There were literally dozens of female creatives there already, several in positions of power. After all, it was 1983, not 1953. John and Gregory know this. They were at Sears before me. But here's the thing: Kathy is not lying. She somehow truly remembers herself as the Sandra Day O'Connor of the Sears Wish Book. I didn't correct her. Her flights of fancy harm no one. It's just disturbing to hear such things.

I did my best to prepare them. Then we made our plans to hit the road.

John's aunt had Alzheimer's, so he consulted his cousin about how best to deal with Kathy. His cousin recommended we make arrangements that Kathy can just insert herself into. And that we have to be firm. It doesn't matter how insistent she is that she pick us up at the train and drive around town, or how angry she may get. While we can't stop her from driving, we don't have to encourage it. We would be Ubering around Dekalb. Period.

So we coordinated trains (I'd be getting on at a different stop) and found a bar blocks away from her apartment. We would meet there for lunch and, if she felt like it, we'd go back to her apartment for a visit. Or we could just linger longer over lunch. Her call. John handled corresponding with Kathy. She's been more than a little in love with him for 40 years -- even though he's gay -- and she's less likely to get snappish with him.

We were set! She told John she was so excited to see us that she cried. That was humbling. I admit that I wasn't thrilled about traveling three hours both ways to have a burger and some awkward conversation. But it was just one day of my life and it was obviously very important to her. It occurs to me that I spend time every week writing to lonely strangers as part of Letters Against Isolation. Shouldn't I be at least that compassionate with a 75-year-old woman I actually know?

Then an unexpected plot twist. Kathy sent John two separate, rambling emails. He isn't sure if she remembered sending the first one. She apologized but said she wasn't certain she could get it together to meet us at a specific time. She suggests that she will be better "in spring" and we should plan on getting together then.

I admit I'm not sorry the trip didn't happen. I try to be patient with Kathy but it's hard. (Just last night we did the tiresome Facebook Messenger dance ... again!) And I guess she's a walking/talking reminder of how fragile we each really are and how easy it would be to lose my independence.

Photo by Marko Mudrinic on Unsplash

Thursday, October 19, 2023

A silver lining

I have lived in Cook County my entire life. I am aware that in some quarters we are a joke. A hotbed of crime and corruption. We're famous for Sam Giancana and Al Capone. The first Mayor Daley left a complicated legacy. At one point in recent history, we had two former governors in prison at the same time.*

But right now, as I look the politicians who represent me, I am pleased. I believe they do, indeed, represent me.

Governor JB Pritzker was not my first choice when he initially ran in 2018. After Donald Trump, after Bruce Rauner, I was not enthusiastic about a really rich guy with little legislative experience learning the job on my dime. But covid changed me. He took care of us. He brought us through. And today, when the State of Texas is heartlessly sending busload after busload of illegal immigrants up here, he's taking care of this, too. He's coordinating with Catholic Charities, he's confronting the White House, he's using every weapon in his arsenal to protect both Illinois tax payers and the human beings Greg Abbott has tossed away like used Kleenex. It's important to note that Pritzker is the scion of one of America's wealthiest Jewish families. (They own Hyatt Hotels, among other things.) He has been unerringly sensitive during this conflict, using his considerable gravitas and credibility to denounce anti-Palestinian violence.

Senators Durbin and Duckworth make me smile. I used to be a champion letter writer to DC, letting my Senators know how I want them to vote. I don't need to with these two. On the items I care passionately about, they represent me well. On the items I know less about, I trust their judgement. 

President Joe Biden made me proud this week when he flew to Israel. He spoke with compassion, not only for the Israelis but for innocent Palestinians. I appreciated his wisdom and candor when admitted that, after 9/11, America made mistakes. He showed tremendous courage making the trip to a hot war zone (just as he didn't shy away from traveling to Ukraine). 

I left out the representative to Congress because, OK, he's a hack and he's been there so long I think he's gotten lazy. I can't recall the last major piece of legislation he supported, much less co-signed. But as I watch the Republican House of Representatives embarrass themselves, I am grateful I know he'll vote each time for Hakeem Jeffries, an honorable man who is many things but most of all not Jim Jordan.

I know it's become fashionable to denigrate politicians. To complain about the current batch of candidates running for office. But for once, I'm not one of those complainers. I'm grateful for the public servants who are, indeed, serving me.

*Rod Blagojevich was pardoned by President Trump. Just sayin'. Barack Obama, whose senate seat Blago tried to sell, was very willing to just let him serve out his sentence.