Friday, August 21, 2015

"I've Lived a Wonderful Life."

Oliver Sacks, the neurologist, professor, and masterful story teller, is facing death.  He is doing it in the way we love best about him -- writing a revealing story that draws us close.  Sacks is the author of so many best selling books.  His brain damaged patients become inspiring characters we can learn from and admire.  I'm sure you also remember Sacks' book Awakenings.  Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams played in the film.

Now, Oliver Sacks is giving himself the dignity and love he lavished on his patients as he opens up about his own life. Early on,  he fled from his Orthodox Jewish upbringing -- even from religion itself.  For many years he exiled himself into a sexual wilderness before accepting his homosexuality and love.  Sacks says: "Life is a welcome gift."  The gift of Oliver Sacks is ours to receive.

Jimmy Carter once again astonishes us with the calm way he moves in the spotlight  -- his only purpose to improve the lives of those around him.  This time we learn about his brain cancer.  Because he is not afraid,  maybe we can better face our fears.

People rush to agree that Carter has been a wonderful ex-President, devoting himself to humanity at every turn.  I agree of course, but also say that he was a great President in many important ways.  No wars, no drones, no prison camps, and those solar panels on the White House roof.  I'm happy enough with that.

Shortly before he died, Bill visited with his boss Sydney Pollack.  He told Bill he was sad to go and then said "I've lived so many of my dreams.  I've lived a wonderful life."

Friday, August 14, 2015

Two Kings

Michael Jordan returned to Chicago this week.  Adoring fans flocked downtown to catch a glimpse of him as he entered the Courthouse.  Michael was here to testify in a lawsuit over protecting his identity against illegal use. The illegality had already been affirmed.  Now it was time to find out what that identity is really worth.  Jordan's hefty contracts with Nike, Gatorade, Hanes and others add up to millions.
It's very good to be Michael Jordan.

Le Bron James returned to Akron, Ohio last year.  He chose to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers because he missed his roots.  Adoring fans forgave him for leaving and cherished his return.  Today, King James announced that, through his foundation, he is going to put up the money for more than 1,000 grade schoolers to attend college.   If they keep up their education, they will be able to attend the University of Akron with Le Bron footing the entire bill.

It's very good for deserving kids to know Le Bron James.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Could it be?

When my baseball loving friend Don died a few years ago, I lamented: "Another Cub fan dies too soon."  I was thinking about the White Sox fans who in 2005 flocked to cemeteries around Chicago to let their loved ones know that the Sox had finally won the ultimate prize and were world champs.  It wasn't quite as startling as when Obama was elected President, but it had that same feel of "I never thought I would live to see the day."

 Wrigley field held no allure for me. It seemed like a falling apart dump the last time I was there.  Maybe I didn't get near enough to the ivy to feel it was special.  And, the owners always seemed like they wanted to big foot the neighborhood.

But now I am ready to put this all aside and hope that the Cubs win.  When they swept the Champion San Francisco Giants over the weekend, I decided it would be small minded not to urge them on.

So, this White Sox fan is embracing diversity.  I'm not going to watch or anything.  Just wish them well.

Saturday, August 1, 2015


There was a time when "disposable" was considered cutting-edge innovation.  I remember when, at the hospital, I was offered a sample supply of the new disposable diapers -- the first ones on the scene before they reached the market.  They were pretty awful so I stuck with the diaper man who picked up and delivered the cloth ones twice a week.

I was reminded of "disposable" when I went to the grocery store today.  No more plastic bags.  You get one free shopping bag -- the next time you have to pay for one.  "Re-use" and paper is the new innovation.

So is Uber and Airbnb.  They are the two "sharing" services that take advantage of internet connections.  Just as everyone can be a journalist on Facebook, etc., now everyone with a car or spare room can have a "job."

The diaper men were the ones who became disposable.   Will pensions, safety regulations, and "expertise" be next?

I wonder.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

No Guns Allowed?

"No guns allowed." I noticed the sign on the doorway to my doctor's office.  These signs have been popping up a lot lately.  I guess they're a small gesture against the epidemic of gun violence.

 I went into the waiting room ready to take my stress test. Suddenly, a man in one of the offices started screaming threats and obscenities.  We couldn't see what was happening but it sounded like a fight or an effort to subdue him.  A nurse came out and asked us to wait outside.  "We've called 911," she said.  The man was still screaming.

I left.  I could schedule my stress test for another day.  Stress indeed.

And what would have happened if the man had a gun?  Was the sign enough?  I'm pretty sure no one would have frisked him.  So that's how it is now.  Your in school, in a movie theater, in church, at the doctor.  You're there and then you're dead.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Out of the Bubble

David Raup and Bumble Bee Bob died this week.  I was friends with them at one time or another along the long and winding road.  Raup was a famous paleontologist at the University of Chicago. When I knew Dave, he was eager to prove that an asteroid killed off the dinosaurs.  I helped him with a few sentences and he was generous enough to acknowledge me in one of his books.

Bob Novak was a funky musician and popular artist -- Chicago through and through.  Marguerite has one of his paintings.  I'm sure his life will be celebrated now at bars around town.

As an oldster,  I joke that I live life in a bubble.  My friends and I seem to look at life through the same lens. Yes, there are a few other-minded men in some of my classes, but nothing too challenging.

Last week, my friend Trudy posted this quote on Facebook:  "Become friends with people who aren't your age . . .   people whose first language isn't the same as yours . . . who don't come from your social class. . ."

Thanks Elsa, Shelby, Soo, Gerry, Helena, Molly and of course Dave and Bob for some good times out of the bubble.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Oak Lawn Memories

I woke up this morning thinking of my detour years in Oak Lawn.  Before I lived there, I thought of it as the place where south siders moved when real estate hucksters knocked on their doors crying: "the blacks are coming . . . the blacks are coming" and the homeowners scurried away.

By the time I arrived things were built up:   ranch homes, Catholic churches, great park facilities. It was the good union middle class life we yearn for today.  I loved it.  Probably because I was in love with Gerry -- the man who had brought me there.  And probably because his friends were so welcoming of this exotic north sider.

On Sundays we would go to one of the many golf courses.  He played, I struggled.  I say now: "I loved everything about golf except the golf:  the early morning quiet, the grass and trees, the sunshine and the big breakfast after.

There were comedy clubs, dance clubs, diners and steak houses, many on and around 95th Street.  The joke was: "on the north side it's "sauce."  On the south side it's "gravy."  Oak Lawners loved to jitterbug and drink.

Gerry and I (and Oak Lawn) lasted for about 5 years.  Then the impossibility of it all caught up with us.  That impossibility was definitely personal, not geographic.  I'll always have Oak Lawn.