Monday, April 29, 2024

Teaser Tuesday

Here's how to play.

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

My Name Is Barbra by Barbra Streisand. Page 221.

The news was a shock. Elliott and I had lived together since I was 19 and now I was 24. For years I had honestly thought there was something wrong with me because I hadn't gotten pregnant. Having a baby seemed like something for other women, not for me.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

It could not have happened to a nicer guy. Literally.


Today Anthony Rizzo hit his 300th home run! I am of course happy it happened. But I'm even happier it happened in Milwaukee, where the fans boo him for his illustrious Cubdom. 

Even better than being one of just 160 players in the history of the game to hit this milestone, he uses his fame and position as a role model to help families battling pediatric cancer. During this last Yankee homestand, he did what he often does -- invited young cancer patients to visit him on the field before the game and asks them to sign one of HIS jerseys, emphasizing that any kid who fights cancer is a hero to him.

Anthony Rizzo is a hero to me. My friend John and I were at Wrigley Field when he hit his first home run as a Cub in June 2012. How I wish I could share today's news with him!

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Sunday Stealing


1.    What's the best thing to inherit other than money? Good genes.

2.    What one  thing would you most like to happen tomorrow? That Anthony Rizzo hits his 300th career home run. (He hit #299 tonight in Milwaukee.)

3.    Who is the person with whom you've been most infatuated? 

4.    In what part of the day does time go slowest and fastest? For some reason, the hours pre-dawn go the fastest. The last hour at work goes the slowest. I like my job at the card shop, but I'm always ready to go home when my shift is over.

5.    Whose thoughts would you most like to read? I've changed my mind about this. I used to wish I could read minds, but I now think I'm better off not knowing.

6.    Who is the person you'd least like to touch? Donald Trump. EW! ICK! I mean, now we all know where he's been.

7.    What is the best quality you inherited from your parents? I got my baseball love from my dad and my animal empathy from my mom.

8.    Who is the friend you most often disagree with? My oldest friend. I love her, and it makes me CRAZY to watch her make bad choice after bad choice.

9.    What's the best ritual of your daily life? I'm very good about taking my meds in the morning. I lost my friend John earlier this month and he was notorious for not listening to his doctors. My friend Henry is relegated to a nursing home, and he never received the aftercare suggested. So I'm careful about taking what I'm supposed to take when I'm supposed to take it. They went to doctor school, after all.

10.    What is the most useful job you've ever had? Instead of my paid jobs I'm going to select my volunteer efforts. Today I wrote postcards to GOTV. I think that's very useful.

11.    In which year of your life did you change the most? I suppose it's the year I moved from the secretarial pool to become a catalog copywriter at Sears. It's when I went from having a job to embarking on a career. I also made lifelong friends.

12.    What's the best thing you've ever gotten for free? The flowers in spring, the robins that sing, the sunbeams that shine, they're yours and mine. And love can come to anyone because the best things in life are free.

13,    What is the thing you are best at? I'm a good friend.

14.    What was the luckiest moment in your life? Every time my flight concludes safely I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

15.    What is the single most important thing you have ever learned? The only way out is through. There are no shortcuts.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Saturday 9

 Saturday 9: Stay (I Missed You) 1994

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

1) In this week's song, a woman is accused of only hearing what she wants to. "Selective listening" is when you choose to focus on what's important to you and ignore what isn't. Are you often, sometimes, or never guilty of selective listening? The lyrics begin with, "You say I only hear what I want to/You say I talk all the time, so ..." I'm guilty on both counts.

2) She turns the radio up when she hears her favorite song. What song have you recently sung along to? This morning I inexplicably heard myself singing along with "Deep Purple" on my shower radio. I was surprised because I wasn't aware I knew the lyrics. "In the mist of a memory you wander on back to me, breathing my name with a sigh ..." I can't remember where I left my phone, but I can recall the lyrics to a song I don't even like. Go figure.

3) This week's featured artist, Lisa Loeb, has always been a big reader. Her band was called Nine Stories as a tribute to her favorite author, JD Salinger. If you were to name a band to honor your favorite author, what would you call it, and why? The Six-Fingered Sword. If you've read (or seen) The Princess Bride, you know why.

4) This week's song is her first and biggest hit. "Stay" was on the soundtrack of Reality Bites, a movie starring her friend and one-time neighbor Ethan Hawke. Ethan gave this song to the film's director, Ben Stiller, who agreed it was perfect for the film's closing credits. When you watch a movie, do you stick around for the closing credits? Most of them, but not all.

5) In the 1990s, Lisa was popular for her style and appeared on many magazine covers, causing People magazine to comment, "Though she rose to fame as a singer, she's probably just as well known for her glasses." Do you wear glasses? If yes, do you consider your eyewear purely functional, there to improve your sight, or are your glasses an extension of your personal style? I'm very near-sighted, and during covid I discovered I like how I look better in glasses than in contacts. So I pay more attention to my frames as an accessory than I used to.

My current frames

6) Today Lisa does a show on Sirius Radio, and she enjoys broadcasting while her favorite collaborator, her cat, sits on her shoulder. Is there a pet in the room with you as you answer these questions? Yes. My Connie Cat is right beside me.

7) Lisa raises funds for SCOPE, a charity that helps children from low-income families attend summer camp. When you were a kid, did you go to camp? Girl Scout daycamp every day for a week each summer. I really kinda hated it.

8) In 1994, when this song was popular, the nation's attention was riveted to a white Bronco driven by a man named Al Cowlings. Without looking it up, can you recall why this was newsworthy? OJ Simpson's infamous slow-speed chase.

9) Random question: Can you do a cartwheel? HA! Thursday I had to get down on the floor to pick up a tomato that had fallen out of a customer's lunch bag and rolled under one of the display cases at the card shop. I had such a hard time getting up that I thought I might die there. It was very humbling. If I can't easily rise up from the floor, no way am I gonna turn a cartwheel!

Let's Go to the Movies

12 movies on 6 screens over 4 days. It was glorious!

Day 1. Two films, both in Chinese Multiplex 4.

Only Yesterday (1933). It opens with the Crash of 1929. James Stanton, already depressed about his loveless marriage, has lost everything and is contemplating suicide while his wife entertains New York's elite in the next room. He's literally holding the gun in his hand when he sees an envelope on his desk. It's a thick letter from Mary Lane, a girl with whom he'd had a casual fling before the War. What could she possibly have to say to him? From there the story is told in flashback. I always love pre-code movies because of their natural, healthy approach to sex. Almost forgotten now, it was a big hit in '33 and introduced us to Margaret Sullavan. I guess she's almost forgotten now, too, huh? (New to me)

Grand Hotel (1932). The goings-on in Berlin's plushest hotel. This movie has an all-star cast led by Garbo, who I don't much like, and includes two (!) Barrymores and Joan Crawford. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Even Garbo, who "vants to be alone." Lionel and John Barrymore steal the show, though. Especially debonair ladies' man John who, alone in his room, literally rolls around with his dog and confesses this good little boy is the only thing he truly loves. C'mon! How can your heart not break for a dog lover? (New to me)

Day 2. Four films, bouncing between the El Capitan, Egyptian, Chinese Multiplex 1 and Chinese Multiplex 4.

101 Dalmatians (1961). "Cruella deVille, Cruella deVille, if she doesn't scare you, no evil thing will." It's the songs in Disney movies that always stick with me. This film was introduced by a Disney animator from the olden days who explained how being able to Xerox the backgrounds revolutionized the creative process and enabled Disney Studios to keep making "cartoons," which (surprisingly to me) cost so much more than the Hayley Mills movies and Mickey Mouse Club TV Show they'd been cranking out.

That's Entertainment (1974). A compilation of MGM's greatest hits. I saw it back when I was in high school and it was the gateway drug to my classic film addiction, so it seemed fitting to watch it again here.

Lady Sings the Blues (1972). Introduced by Billy Dee Williams, this was a highlight for me. Not just because I have always enjoyed the film, but because my late friend John was such a massive Diana Ross fan. Last time I saw it on the big screen, I was sitting beside him. So this was very emotional, almost like my own personal memorial for my dear old friend. But I'm so angry at him for dying so I couldn't tell him all about Billy Dee and the crowd.

Jailhouse Rock (1957). This is a great movie musical. Yes, I truly believe that. Yes, I will die on this hill. I am so used to people mocking Elvis' movies, and many of them deserve to be mocked, but not this one and watching it at night, on the big screen in a theater filled with the faithful, was a delight. I learned something new: the script was originally written for Gene Kelly! MGM didn't want to make it in 1953 because the screenwriter was blacklisted and by 1957 they felt Kelly was too old. With a few tweaks -- the old con Vince shares a cell with was changed from a vaudevillian to a country singer, and instead of opening a New York supper club, Vince starts his own record label -- and, naturally, a complete new soundtrack, Untitled Musical became Jailhouse Rock.

Day 3. Three films at the Egyptian and the TCL IMAX.

The Mad Miss Manton (1938). OK, this is kind of a stupid movie. But I enjoyed seeing it with my Chicago movie group moderator because Will loves Stanwyck and I'm often in love with young Henry Fonda. (Or maybe I'm in love with young Jimmy Stewart, depends on who I've seen most recently). 

Westward the Women (1952). Remember the 1970s TV Show, Here Come the Brides? This is a grittier black and white movie version. Robert Taylor leads 150 women from Chicago over the Rockies to the California Valley, where they will become wives. The thing I liked best about it was that, after the girls face some genuinely grueling and terrifying shit, they get to the Valley and let the men know they will choose who they marry, not the other way around. Enduring all that gave them, in new millennium parlance, agency. PS The dog does NOT die! (New to me)

On the Waterfront (1954). A nearly perfect movie, with a beautiful performance by Marlon Brando. The older I get, the more conflicted I am about how/why it was made, since it was Elia Kazan's cinematic excuse for naming names during The Blacklist. How to separate what's on the screen -- which is breathtaking -- from the motivation of the filmmaker -- which was cowardly and compromised? Maybe I don't have to. On the big screen, it was wrenching. PS The pigeons DO die!

Day 4. 3.5 films at Chinese Multiplex 1, Chinese Multiplex 6, Chinese Multiplex 4, and the Chinese IMAX. 

My gift from Liz
National Velvet (1944). Velvet Brown loves The Pie, a gorgeous but wild stallion. Velvet's mother loves her and encourages her to run the horse in The Grand National. This is the beautiful technicolor fairytale that made Elizabeth Taylor a star. Introduced by Tim Mendelson, Liz' executive assistant for the last 20 years of her life, trustee of her estate and now an officer of the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. He had lovely stories about her and gave each of us a little swag as we left the theater. Again, I'm so pissed at my friend John for being dead, because he would have loved hearing about this. (New to me)

The Big Heat (1953). Remember Violet, Bedford Falls' blonde bad girl in It's a Wonderful Life? She is fucking awesome in this film noir. She is the blissfully happy girlfriend of a bad guy on the rise, until he does something genuinely awful to her. (<<< I won't tell you what.) That was a mistake, because Girlfriend knows how to exact revenge. I'm making her part sound bigger than it was, because I thought she was equally authentic as daffy and dangerous. Loved her! (New to me)

Prisoner of Shark Island (1936). This is the story of Dr. Samuel Mudd's time in prison in the Dry Tortugas. I've been to Fort Jefferson and it was more accurately recreated than it needed to be, which I appreciated. It was thrilling, even though I already knew the bare bones of the story. John Carradine played a very bad bad man. His son, Keith, said his father's movies gave him nightmares as a kid. He'd dream he was on his trike, pedaling to get away from his dad, who was chasing him while wearing a red cape. Like I said, a very bad bad man! (New to me)

Spaceballs (1987). I don't care for Star Wars or sci-fi and I thought this was stupid, so I didn't stay for the whole thing. But I'm glad I went because it was introduced by Mel Brooks and damn, he's funny. Quick and irreverent and strangely obsessed with sour cream (don't ask). The man is a treasure. This is the first time I've seen him since learning that the character of Buddy on The Dick Van Dyke Show was based on him. How I would have loved to hang around with Mel and Carl Reiner. (New to me)

Loved my hotel. Loved the festival. Loved being among the TCM movie nerds once again. Here's hoping I can return in 2025.


Thursday, April 25, 2024

Before I start with the movies ...

I'm back from my trip to Hollywood and the TCM Classic Film Festival. I had a wonderful time and it was great to get away.*

But before I dove into 4 days of movies on six screens, I spent a little time with civilians. You know, non-movie nerds.

Wednesday night, my first dinner in Hollywood was at Mel's, "America's Most Iconic Diner." My companion was my oldest friend's 27-year-old daughter. I can't get over how delightful she was! I remember when she was a teenager and nothing but trouble. But she has a job she loves -- a tech at an ophthalmologist's office -- and a boyfriend named Jose and a black mutt named Mia Rose. I loved hearing about her life now, and she wanted to hear about her parents way-back-when. They divorced when she was in Kindergarten and have nothing good to say about one another, so she was fascinated by my memories of when they first met. I told her I never thought they should marry -- they were just hot for one another but they didn't seem to have anything in common -- but if they hadn't, I wouldn't be sitting here, drinking with her, so I'm glad they did. She confessed she feels a little guilty for liking her stepmom. I reiterated that I don't think her parents would have made it, even if her dad had never met "The Other Woman." I hope I helped. I'm really glad I got to see her and if I return next year, she wants to do it again.

Thursday I had lunch at The Grove. It's a high-end shopping mall in LA. It's pretty and it's got some great stores, but we have Charlotte Tilbury, Coach and Nordstrom here, so that was kind of a yawn. What we don't have here is outdoor seating almost 12 months a year, so I enjoyed dining outside -- in April! -- while gazing upon a gorgeous fountain.

My companion was Tina. We worked together back when Bill Clinton was President. Before the turn of the century. I was surprised she wanted to see me. We weren't that tight in the olden days but we've stayed connected via social media. She moved to Redondo Beach early in 2023 and, when she saw my TCMFF photos on Facebook last year, made me promise to let her know if I return, so ...

I had a surprisingly good time. She's been a stay-at-home mom, raising two kids now in their 20's. I don't know many women with that profile, so I found this glimpse into her life interesting. It was nice to hear how she remembered working with me. My boss in those days led me to believe I was difficult. I was glad to hear that isn't how Tina experienced me. Plus, it was flattering that she thinks of me so fondly. I've had a rough month or so, and I'll take all the positive reinforcement I can get!

 I hope now you're ready for some movies, because that's what the following posts are gonna be.

*Thank you, Country Dew, for thinking of me. Much appreciated. ❤

About that suitcase in my living room

It's been sitting there since Tuesday night. I really have to do something with the contents. And I will. Just not tonight.

It's filled with silly magnets, a couple of photographs, and some of my friend John's shirts.

I starting getting texts Monday PM when I landed at O'Hare. Gregory was letting me know that John's brothers -- already out of town and back to their lives in Virginia and Massachusetts -- wanted John's friends to take whatever they wanted out of his apartment ... now. Beginning tomorrow morning (Friday) his belongings are going to packed up and "disposed of" by arrangement with the apartment building's management company.

Strangers are going to be handling all of John's stuff. The Saran Wrap in the drawer under the sink, the prescription bottles in the medicine chest, the dirty clothes in his hamper. His beloved vinyl LPs. His photo albums, which I couldn't find but I know included pictures of me with the lover I spent my 20s with.

He moved into that building in Chicago's Old Town back in 1980. I've celebrated birthdays, watched Oscar ceremonies and cheered the Cubs countless times over more than 40 years. I'll never be there again.

Just crossing that threshold the last time was upsetting. I asked Gregory what was going to happen to the three chairs along the counter in John's kitchen. I perched on those chairs. He said I could have them if I wanted them. "No one cares," he said. Then he added, "It doesn't sit right with me, but this is what's happening."

I admit I was overwhelmed. I wanted to grab everything I could, and I wanted to run away fast and empty handed.

I didn't take anything of real value. I retrieved the magnets I gave him over the years, happy to see them displayed in his kitchen and alongside his bathroom mirror. I wanted some of his clothes. Before Covid, I recall John teasing me about being familiar with so many of the panhandlers I passed in The Loop. "I know the bartenders, you know the homeless," he joked. I told him their stories and then, a few weeks later, he offered to share a pair of new shoes that didn't quite fit right. I'd made a convert! That meant a lot to me, so Tuesday I grabbed shirts and sweaters to donate. It seems like a good way to honor him.

I took a lovingly framed photo of Miss Diana Ross he snapped years ago. He couldn't believe how good his seats were or how close he was able to get to the stage.*

And I took a cardboard W on a black rope necklace. It's what gained us admittance to the 2016 Cubs Convention. We didn't go because we wanted to, we went because he knew how much it would mean to me. Here's what I wrote about it in real time:

He also said something very sweet to me. He said that the times in life he's laughed the hardest have been the times he's been with me. "You know, when your face hurts from laughing." And he said he that in addition to giving me this experience for my birthday, he wanted to spend the time with me. How cool is that?

The last time I saw John, before he slipped out his consciousness, I made him smile, too. I am so grateful for that memory. 

I guess the memories will have to do. They are really all I have left now.

*He performed onstage with Miss Ross once, back in the 1980s. She pulled him on stage to sing "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)" with her. Gregory captured that moment and it's only fitting that Gregory took that framed photo.

Photo by Sun Lingyan on Unsplash

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Teaser Tuesday

Here's how to play.

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

My Name Is Barbra by Barbra Streisand. Page 49.

Barry Dennen was also in the cast. I was drawn to him. He was smart. He spoke French. He was 22-years-old and THIS COULD CHANGE MY LIFE.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Farewell, John


One of my best friends died today at about 10:00 PM. I take some comfort in knowing he lived his life the way he wanted to, and tremendous comfort in the knowledge that now John is happy and whole in Heaven. 

I am so grateful for these moments

On Wednesday, I went to say goodbye to my friend John.  I knew he had been moved back to the ICU on Tuesday when he vomited blood, but we were all still talking about what it would be like when he was discharged. Could he still live alone? Would the cognitive effects of his stroke be lasting? I had planned to go visit him today (Friday).

Then on Wednesday morning, John suffered another heart attack. John's baby brother flew up from Virginia right away, and his middle brother would come in Wednesday night from Boston.* John's and my friend Gregory, who has been our boots-on-the-ground since Good Friday, when John was admitted, gently advised me I shouldn't wait until today to see him. As bad as the information had been till now, Gregory admitted he had been "sugarcoating it somewhat" for me because he knew I was recovering from oral surgery and the laser treatments for plantar fasciitis. He encouraged me to the hospital right away if I could.

I showered, put on a Cubs shirt and jeans, and did my makeup. John would notice the makeup in good times and it felt fitting to do it for him now. I took an Uber downtown because I didn't feel like dealing with the train schedule just then. 

There's something surreal about riding along the expressway on a bright, sunny day to say goodbye to your friend of more than 40 years. I have said goodbye to both of my dying parents, and while that was painful there was also something very natural about it. We all know, deep inside, that at some point we're going to lose our parents. John is less than two years older than I am. I am not ready for this. Because of the cavalier way he treated his health and body, I expected his world to get smaller as he struggled more and more with mobility. But I truly never thought about him dying. Not anytime soon.

Yet here we are.

He was sitting up, frighteningly thin but conscious. He couldn't hold a cup so he had to ask for Sprite if he was thirsty, or water if he wanted someone to dab his lips with a sponge. His voice was barely a whisper and it was very hard to understand him. Was his trouble communicating the product of brain damage (his stroke) or pain killers? I don't know. His feet were bandaged. They were so damaged by diabetes that doctors had wanted to amputate -- toes? his feet? I didn't ask -- but then decided his heart was too weak to withstand it.

His eyes did lock on mine and he said, "Wow." I said, "Yeah, I know. Can you believe this shit?" I asked if I could touch him and was told yes, so I stroked his arm and told him I loved him. He asked me how the Cubs were doing. I told him they were fine, playing on the West Coast, and that Rizzo is fine, too, in New York.

John's brother and sister-in-law asked me how long I'd known John. I told them about how we met, and then regaled them with tales that made John smile and nod. The night he sang "Be My Baby" onstage with Ronnie Spector. The night he sang "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand") onstage with Miss Diana Ross. All the Cub games we watched together. 

They didn't know about any of this. It made me sad in a way. Decisions about the end of John's life are being made by blood relatives who love him but don't really know him. I spent the last ten Thanskgivings with John. His family never visited Chicago for Christmas, or his birthday, or anything. He never visited them, either, what with his aversion to flying. He went to the middle brother's wedding four years ago ... I think that was the last time he saw them.

At one point the nurses were moving him to another bed so they could manipulate his limbs and let him sit at another angle. At that point I caught sight of the catheter and I got up to leave. "I shouldn't see this, " I said as I made my way to the hall.

His sister-in-law followed me, afraid I was upset. I told her I didn't care what I saw in there, but I was sure he would. I told her the story of when he and I discussed JBKO's death. The paparazzi hounded her to her last and snapped on her last trip to Central Park. She had checked herself out of the hospital and gone home to die. But she just wanted to go outdoors one last time.

The photo that started an argument
"She should not have gone out in public in that cheap-ass Dynel wig," John said. I told him that was bullshit. Her life was ending and she wanted to do what she wanted to do, no matter what the rest of the world thought. I thought it was courageous.

"She was royalty. Royalty should not be seen in a cheap-ass Dynel wig," John said.

I still believe John was full of it. But, knowing how he felt about Jackie being seen in that cheap-ass Dynel wig, I was pretty sure he wouldn't want me to see his urine bag.

His sister-in-law said, "I love that." 

When the nurses left, we returned. I asked John if it was OK if I told his brother and sister-in-law about our first boss. He brightened and said, "yes." She was a character.

I was there about two hours in all. Then I left to catch a train. John drifted off to sleep, and he has not opened his eyes since.

Our friend Mindy went to see him Thursday, and Mark went today (Friday), and they were unable to converse with him.

I made him smile. I told him about the Cubs and Rizzo. We reminisced about Diana Ross and Ronnie Spector. He knew it was me. He heard me say I love him.

While this situation is cruel, I am grateful that God was kind enough to grant me those moments.

*The only bright spot in this sad saga is that it takes place here in Chicago. John has been able to easily access world-class care at Northwestern and his brothers had no trouble getting same-day flights to O'Hare.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Thursday Thirteen #356

13 facts about traveler's checks.
One of the things I always did in the run-up for any vacation was go to the bank and buy traveler's checks. I kinda miss that pre-trip ritual.

I'm also sure most Americans under 35 have no idea what traveler's checks are. How about you? Did you ever use them?

1. Traveler's checks are paper documents. Your funds aren't loaded onto a card or accessed via smart phone. They are in the form of checks that can be used to pay for goods and services.

2. They were introduced in 18th century England for use across the nations of the British Empire. They made it to this side of the pond when American Express got into the act, just before the turn of the 20th century.

3. They were once sold by most banks and credit unions. No more. Major banks like Wells Fargo, Chase and Bank of America quit selling them years ago.

4. Each check had a set denomination. Unlike a personal check, where you fill out how much it's worth, a traveler's check has an amount printed on it. $20 and $50 were most popular. 

5. You signed each check twice. Every check had two signature lines. You signed one in front of the teller when you bought it. When you cashed it, you sign the second line and presented ID. That gave the merchant three signatures to compare before accepting the check.

6. Each check had a unique serial number. The bank kept a copy and you received a separate "register" with the number listed so you could make note of when/where you spent it. If your traveler's checks were lost or stolen while you were on the road, all you had to do was let a local, participating bank know and your funds could be refunded.

7. All this security came at a price. Banks charged a service fee for issuing the checks.

8. Traveler's checks didn't expire. When you get home you could cash your unused checks at the bank, use them at local merchants, or save them for your next trip. Banks loved these last two options. You paid the bank a service fee, but they aren't paying you interest on your money, so the longer they went unused, the better for the financial institution.

9. Traveler's checks declined in popularity in the 1990s. ATM cards that carry the Visa or Mastercard logo are welcome worldwide, give you immediate access to your funds wherever you go, and are more convenient for both you and the merchant.

10. Bad guys got wise. Fraudsters counterfeited traveler's checks, which ended up costing banks, restaurants and stores a ton.

11. For domestic travel, traveler's checks don't make much sense anymore. If you can still find a bank or credit union that issues them, you likely won't find stores or restaurants who will accept them.

12. They remain more popular in Europe. Note that I said "more popular." That doesn't mean they are widely accepted. If you plan to use them to pay for your hotel in Lucerne, call ahead to make sure they will take your traveler's checks.

13. Here's an advantage to using them abroad: There are fees every time you use your card in a foreign ATM machine and with every purchase you make with your credit card. Generally (not always) you can cash traveler's check at the counter in a foreign bank with no fee. Again, before you go overseas with traveler's checks, do your homework.

I, however, am not going abroad any time soon so traveler's checks just seem like a relic of my past.

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

Uncomfortably numb

Scared. Heartbroken. Angry. I have a lot of feelings just waiting to overwhelm me. But right now, I prefer feeling nothing. 

John is back in the ICU. He had been moved to cardiology, where nurses reported that he was improving every day. But suddenly, Monday, he began vomiting blood. They did some kind of endoscopic exam and discovered healed over stomach ulcers. They think it was "old blood" and now that it's expelled, he may start feeling better and eating again. I admit I have no idea what I'm talking about here. I'm getting the information on his condition from Gregory, who is getting it from John's brother, who is getting it from the medical staff. Asking questions doesn't really do me much good, because Gregory can't answer.

His condition is worse than I was originally led to believe. The reason he decided, back in January, to take time to himself and "re-evaluate" is that he fell in his apartment and blacked out. He thought he'd passed out from too much liquor and weed. Turns out it was a stroke (strokes are not uncommon for people like John with congestive heart failure).

This frightened him but, rather than contact a doctor -- like anyone would! -- he chose to withdraw, believing that if he stopped drinking and smoking he would get better. Instead became seriously depressed and his health worsened as he grappled with an undiagnosed/untreated stroke. Now here we are ...

More than 10 days at Northwestern Memorial Hospital with no release date in sight. It's a world-class hospital, where the doctors are trying to prioritize and treat his:

•  Irregular heart rate and congestive heart failure

•  Infection and internal bleeding

•  Depression and brain damage

•  Diabetes and rollercoaster blood sugar level

Most disturbing to Gregory now is the attention paid to ongoing assessment of damage from the stroke. John continues to be "foggy," often struggles to find the right word, and has short-term memory loss. How much of this is a result of all the meds coursing his veins and what's permanent brain damage? We don't know.

"If he comes home, he has a life expectancy of 5 to 7 years."

I simply cannot process this right now. I feel nothing. I woke up this morning to tummy trouble, which makes sense because that is where everything I don't acknowledge goes.

Tuesday, April 09, 2024


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? She's Not Sorry by Mary Kubica. This is an intricately plotted thriller about Meghan, an ICU nurse, who gets too involved with a mysterious patient and finds her, and her daughter's, lives in danger. It's set during wintertime in Chicago, and Ms. Kubica is good at establishing this familiar time and place for me.

I knew nothing about this book or the author before I picked it up. My public library recommended it and I'm in the mood for a mystery so what the hell. The writing is pretty good, though, better than I expected. Two moments early on have won me over: 1) Meghan can't get to her phone in her big bag until the ringing stops (that's me, all the time) and 2) She describes her decision to divorce with: "Alone and lonely is better than neglected and ignored." I get this woman.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Hollywood: The Oral History compiled by Jeanine Bassinger and Sam Wasson. I do not recommend this book. Not because it isn't exhaustively researched and, in its way, well written. It is both of those things. It's just that 700+ pages of reminiscences from actors, directors, screenwriters, producers from silents to present day can get tiresome. This is a reference book you turn to when you want a primer on, say, when movies transitioned from silents to talkies. Or you're curious about Disney's approach to cartoons vs. Warner Bros. It's not a book to curl up with and read, which I had to do since it was the inaugural choice for the Hollywood book club I just joined.

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


Monday, April 08, 2024

Teaser Tuesday

Here's how to play:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

I just picked up She's Not Sorry by Mary Kubica. It's a thriller, and since I don't want to spoil it for myself, I'm going to tease with a passage from the prologue, when a mother sees she missed a call from her daughter:

Sienna texts from school sometimes, sneaking her phone when the teacher isn't paying attention -- Can I hang out with Gianna today? I lost my water bottle. Did U buy tampons? -- but she doesn't call. My mind goes in a million directions, thinking how, if she was sick, the nurse would call and, if she got in trouble, the dean would call. Sienna wouldn't ever be the one to call.

And we're off!

Eclipse 2024

I didn't think I cared. So many people across Chicagoland were planning where to be at 2:07 PM when the eclipse took place, but I wasn't one of them. Until I was. 

I haven't been feeling well and took today off work. Waking up whenever I woke up made a big difference this morning to my mood and my gut. I decided, belatedly, that I wanted to be part of it. Of course, by today there were no glasses to be had.

So if I couldn't watch the eclipse, I decided to watch others watch the eclipse. On my way to the dollar store, I stopped by the middle school. Students were virtually wrapped around the building, waiting for the big event.

Look at all the heads visible over the cars on the right.

Then I parked myself on a bench and waited for it to happen. I hoped to see shadows grow long or the world to go dark but alas, that didn't happen. Chicago was just too far from The Path of Totality.

But something interesting did happen: Jen from the card shop saw me sitting there and lent me her glasses so I could take a peek at the sky. The sun was a black circle.

I felt funny being caught sitting on a bench in the sun after calling in sick to work. But she said she was happy she got to share this "celestial event" with me.

So we're done eclipsing now until 2045. When I'll be (gulp!) 87 years old. So I'm glad I participated today.

I can't save them all

One of my co-workers at the card shop sent a text to the team. She has to find a home for a 2-year-old black girl cat. In the photo she attached, the black cat is curled up with another cat, so it's easy to assume she would eventually slide nicely into this feline household.

She has bright eyes, like the cat in this stock photo. Staring up at me from my phone. Content and unaware that her owner is about to dump her God knows where. This breaks my heart in a dozen places.

But I can't take her just now. Between now and the end of the month, I'm not going to be home very much. Introducing a new cat into Connie's and Roy Hobbs' world has to be done with care, and I just don't have that capacity right now. Also, I will most certainly have a major home repair coming up soon. I can't in good conscience adopt a third cat if it could in any way compromise my ability to give any of the three the food and health care they deserve.

Then there's this: the woman who is offering this cat up is not someone I work with often and I'm not sure how I feel about her. Helping her out this way -- as I understand it, she's doing this on behalf of her elderly father -- would mean intertwining our personal lives in a way that just doesn't feel comfortable.

Oh, but those bright eyes! Shining out of her calm and unsuspecting face. She's about to lose her home and her kitty sister.* I hate it, but I can't take her.

*Being adopted by another worker in the card shop.


Photo by Anton Ponomarenko on Unsplash 

I miss him so

Letters Against Isolation has hit a rough patch. The portal -- where we all sign up to send letters to seniors -- has gone glitchy again. I started a new (and hopefully temporary) account and found that the there was an urgent need for correspondence in Spanish.

I used my remedial knowledge of the language, as well as a couple online translation sites, to create a pair of notes that began, "No hablo espanol a menudo, pero lo estoy practicando en esta nota amistosa para ti." (I don't speak Spanish often, but I'm practicing it on this friendly note to you.) Yeah, I know it's not poetry, but I'm sure my notes will be appreciated when received by lonely seniors in their Meals on Wheels deliveries.

It wasn't hard to do, but these notes did take longer and writing them was tedious. And it made me miss my friend Henry so much. I longed to call him, to blab with him a bit and then tell him to check his email so he could translate my LAI notes from Spanish to English for me.

He easily toggled back and forth between English and Spanish. He wasn't comfortable with his pronunciation in French and Italian but he could read and write in those languages, too. Languages were his natural talent and he enjoyed sharing it. For years he taught novels in their original romance language at the community college and tutored hotel and restaurant managers in Spanish to help them better communicate with their employees. After his accident in 2018, and until he left Key West last summer, he put tremendous care into translating the lesson into Spanish for the weekly church service. 

I am becoming accustomed to the fact that my friend is lost to me. But I will never stop missing him.