Saturday, April 17, 2021



I'm watching a good documentary on Netflix:  This is a Robbery.  It's about world famous paintings being stolen from a museum in Boston. This reminded me of a story I love to tell.  It was in my book.

Many years ago I was friendly with a man who owned a warehouse on the near south side.  The business specialized in small items stored for short periods of time.

One day a man came in with a package, left it for storage, took his claim ticket and left.  Over time, since no one picked it up, and since the package was sturdy and flat, someone put it next to the coffee machine.  It was a convenient surface for cups and sugar.

A few months later, the FBI arrived.  "We need to search the warehouse."  They found what they were looking for: the Cezanne painting stolen from the Art Institute.  It was undamaged except for a few coffee stains on the packaging.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Courage and the Burden


The Courage and Burden of the Investigative Journalist

I have a friend who is a journalist.  Just starting out.  Just starting to catch the attention of publications around the country.  She is excited, enthusiastic and dedicated to bringing powerful, corrupt people to our attention. 

“These articles require so much research and detective work.  It is really time consuming.

And the pay is so low.  I just can’t quit my job.  I hope I’ll get some free lance marketing work soon.  Maybe that will free me up for my real passion.”

She went on to tell me how victims in this one story were coming forward to her every day.  She felt such a responsibility to them and to telling their truth.

Caught up in admiring her completely, I couldn’t help feeling a little dread.  “Please remember to protect yourself and your life”, I said.  “There are so many victims, so many stories”. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Liddy and Judy


The death of G. Gordon Liddy brought back memories of my friend Judy Wax.  I was intrigued and inspired when she became a writer well into middle age.  Her piece about her son, who had gone to India with a cult, was picked up by the New York Times.  I heard her interviewed by Studs Terkel about her new career, including a poem titled The Love Song of G. Gordon Liddy, published in Time magazine. I still have a copy of her book Starting in the Middle.  Her story spoke directly to me.

She was on her way to a booksellers convention in Los Angeles when she was killed in the plane crash at O'Hare.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Roth Revealed


There’s a new biography of Philip Roth.  It has been reviewed both in The New Yorker and in the New York Review of Books and in both articles he's depicted as a difficult man (I’m watering  that down). He was left in constant pain from an Army incident which may explain some of it, but certainly not all.  I loved American Pastoral and The Human Stain, so I’m going to remember him for that.

At lunch with my friend Bonnie, I mentioned the Roth articles.  “I met him!”  “I interviewed him and wrote an article about him for The Reader.  He was totally dislikable.”  Here is Bonnie’s column:

You’re going to love reading this.  Yes, it’s about Roth, but it is so much richer.  Bonnie perfectly captures a time when booksellers were at the center of the cultural scene.  When a major author appeared, everyone turned up.  Think literature as a Hollywood premiere. 

Great writers deserve the red carpet.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Stitches in Time


My knitting years occurred way before the internet and its knitting site Ravelry which is discussed at length in an article in a recent New Yorker.  It was personal then.  The person I’m thinking about is Sis Franklin who held forth in her shop on Wells Street.

Sis was a very large woman who sat (am I only imagining this?) on a raised chair and conducted audiences with her devoted followers one knitter at a time.  While we waited for the great one, we lamented our mistakes to each other.  Some showed off their prowess.  It was impressive.

My big accomplishment from the Sis Franklin experience was a black mohair sweater.  It was gorgeous.  To start, the wool was expensive, then I paid to have it lined (mohair is very picky) and assembled.  You’re probably thinking I could have bought something just as good for the money I spent, but you would be wrong.  It was my triumph.  

Funny how life is. The sweater was discarded sometime that I don’t even remember. But I still cling to a gorgeous mohair coat sweater than I bought in Norway many years ago. 

Today looks like a good day to find it in the closet.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Black and White Together


Evanston passed a law offering reparations to African American residents who can prove they, or their ancestors,  have a history of living in the suburb.  This brought back memories both happy and poignant.  Memories of black and white in the 1950’s while attending Northwestern.

We lived at Orrington House.  It was called a “foreign student home.”  It really was several black girls from Chicago who had obtained music scholarships.  And, a few white girls like me who applied too late to obtain housing in a dorm.

I didn’t know what awaited me at college, but I never imagined anything like this. It was magic.  The music girls were so talented.  Every night a jam session could erupt.

When we attempted to go out together for a coffee or a meal, Evanston was unrelenting.  “Sorry, we can’t seat you.”  “We are all full.”  “What kind of a group are you anyway.”  The saddest time was when we showed up for a reservation at the Empire Room in the Palmer House.  We had pooled our money to celebrate a birthday.  Even in Chicago, we were turned away. 

The law in Evanston passed easily.  The city is being hailed as a model to be admired.


Sunday, March 21, 2021

The Cruelty of Leadership


Rebecca Traister is a journalist who I have found to be particularly insightful.  I listened to her last night as a guest on The Ezra Klein Show podcast.  Klein is most recently with The New York Times.  The immediate subject was the career, and now the what appears to be the fall, of Andrew Cuomo.

I was one of those millions caught up last year in watching Cuomo's daily TV appearances as he seemed to be exhibiting great leadership handling the startling covid crisis in New York.  Bill kept warning me about him.  At the time, his warnings seemed besides the point.

What made this discussion extraordinary was when it branched out to talk about toxic white male leadership in general, including observations about Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Steve Jobs and Hillary Clinton's campaign to survive in it.

It ended with a plea: Does it have to be this way?