Saturday, December 27, 2014

For Those Who Choose to Go

I saw the movie Wild with Reese Witherspoon.  If given a choice of how to face life's blows, I'd much rather do it as Tracy Flick or Legally Blonde.  Cheryl Strayed, whose memoir inspired Witherspoon to make the film, chose another path:  hiking The Pacific Crest Trail.

A woman alone in the woods is a rape waiting to happen.  And, Cheryl's drug-infused sexual past doesn't protect her (or us) from being afraid.

Some of my friends called the film Eat, Pray, Hike, an obvious dig at the chick lit franchise.  Not me.  I thought it was an edgy depiction of all of us on our journey through life: lack of preparation, disappointment, surprise, wonder, and profound satisfaction with accomplishment. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

As Time Goes By

These end of the year death lists leave me with a warped sense of time.  Sid Caesar.  Didn't he die years ago?  Pete Seeger.  He immediately becomes immortal.  James Foley.  Please let this not be true. Phillip Seymour Hoffman.  Will Hollywood ever be able to make a thoughtful film without him?
My ex-husband Jay.  I loved seeing the pictures of him when he was young and so handsome.

The beautiful Clark Terry didn't make the list.  He's still keepin' on at 94.  Dick Cheney missed it.  The machine in his chest that allows him to spread his poison is working quite well.  Just another reminder that we're not in charge.

Again in 2014, the grim reaper has been busy mowing down the invisible boys as well as the protested-over. As always, the famous take their identical place next to the heaps of humanity caught in the path of war, disease, and yes, old age.

For those of us still here to love some more of life:  HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Before he moved to California, a very handsome young man lived in the corner apartment on my floor.  He, and the friends who visited him, were obviously gay.
At Christmas, he would cover his outer door with beautiful holiday paper.  Very creative.

He was around during the day and we would chat while waiting for the elevator. One day, I asked him what did for work.  He said: "I'm a policeman."

Just another moment when life surprises you and gives you an opportunity to take in a little more of it.  To have a little wider point of view.

All lives matter.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Just Thinking Out Loud

Here's a pipe dream worth piping up about:  A Major League Baseball team in Havana!  The Island is mad about baseball.  Generations of talented players have been winning Olympic Medals and World Titles.  Some, (nineteen today) have made it past the travel restrictions and are playing in our big leagues.  We've got MLB the Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu right here on the South Side.

Now come the second thoughts.  Would a Major League franchise, with its relentless assault of commercialism, overwhelm the Cuban people?  Concerns of a thoughtful Cuban were expressed in today's Sun Times.  "I wouldn't want to lose that uniquely Cuban solidarity or for this to become a mere consumerist or individualist society."

It will be interesting to see if solidarity survives the invasion of corporate interests.  Yes, Major League Baseball is corporate . . . but, at least, it promises us a lot of fun.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


The email from Elsa wasn't a news item.  It was personal.  "I haven't stopped crying since I heard the news.  Most Cubans in Miami are super happy, specially ones that have relatives on the island.  I think that I won't be able to sleep tonight!"

Obama does what he can for immigration reform.

Obama pardons non-violent drug offenders.

Obama strikes pollution deal with China.

Obama unleashed?  I hope so.

Maybe he's humming: "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Starting in the Middle

It wasn't until middle age that I sought and landed a job involving writing and the creative process.  It was in the marketing department of a very weary organization.  Management looked and acted like the failed Republican candidates.  You know, the ones who were too dumb to keep their attitudes about women to themselves.

I think the only reason they kept me as long as they did was because my work was good and they were too lazy to figure out how to get rid of me.

I really liked my colleagues.  We distracted ourselves with endless rounds of gossip and inspired moments of push back.  When told one holiday season that we would be allowed to decorate our cubicles, we found a life-size Elvis and played an endless loop of "Blue Christmas."

I recently reunited with the heroine of my era in the workplace.  She was young, had everything to lose, yet found the courage to confront our impossible boss with "take this job and shove it," to pack up, and to walk out.

Recently, a very good looking woman with a great resume popped up on TV as the new President of this organization.  My first thought was: "she must have embezzled at her last place, or she's fleeing a bad divorce."  Or, could it be that times have changed?

Every month when my tiny pension arrives, I salute my survival -- then and now.

P.S. The title of this entry is a salute to my friend Judy Wax.  She also came late to her creative career.  She wrote her book "Starting in the Middle", was on her way to a book sellers convention in Los Angeles, then was killed in the plane crash at O'Hare.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Louis Saved America

There's a stunning moment in my friend's book when the horrific Ty Cobb encounters Louis Armstrong in front of the Palmer House Hotel.  Cobb sneers at Armstrong and threatens him in the way certain white men knew they could do in 1927.

The scene got me to thinking about the beloved Armstrong: how he made the rest of the world like us during the cold war.  If he was thinking:  "I can't breathe" when he blew his horn, we didn't find out about it.   No,  he smoothed a path for us to "think to ourselves what a wonderful world."

I wish we had a little of Louis today.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Three Words

A friend sent me his novel to read before publication.  I'm a sucker for any story involving baseball, so it's a treat.  I'm also enjoying the book because this writer loves playing with words and the results are unique and delightful.

So, with words on my mind, I thought of the power of Eric Garner's final plea:  "I Can't Breathe." Words that bring up whatever woeful story your life has to tell.  Or whatever empathy you feel for the next man's tale.

Three words worthy of a meditation on all of life itself.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Looter Land

Those who want protesters to go away, especially to stop disrupting traffic or prevent shopping, can always focus on the looters.  "See," they say, "they are a bunch of "scumbags" (Charles Barkley's word), or "thugs."  

Yes, protesters are in our face.  All we want to do is get back and forth to work or to the store.  Some of us appreciate their effort and give them the thumbs up.  For others, looters are the perfect excuse for lumping protesters all together and hating their uppity presence.

Now, in a galaxy far away, live another band of looters.  Here the bankers live and thrive. The "too-bigsters" who looted our treasury.  Next door live the investment people, who loot companies, ship the jobs elsewhere, or close them down and pocket the profits. This neighborhood is so popular, the politicians and regulators can't wait to leave their jobs and move in.

I'm not saying anything new.   Still, the image of a guy walking through a smashed window carrying a TV set sticks in our mind.  It's hard to capture an image of looter land.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Beast is Born

I've decided that our next President needs to be a white man.  I say this with a lot of regret, but this time my rational side deserves to win.

Having a black President drives people crazy.  Ever since Obama entered the White House, our country has entered into a period of national psychosis. We can't afford to go on this way.

As for Obama himself, I wonder if he really wants to keep us in endless wars and bowing to Wall Street, or if he is trying to prove he "fits in."

Hillary?  Imagine a different sort of venom unleashed.  This time a period of anti-woman furor.  And, what disastrous paths may she take us on to prove that she is "man enough for the job."

Black?  Female?  Take your pick.  Yeats' "rough beast" has slouched toward us and has certainly been born.

I'm trying to make myself feel better by thinking we might get a left-leaning white man.  

So far, my rational side says: "You're kidding, right?"

Monday, December 1, 2014

Doing it Over

When Marguerite and Shelby were over for Thanksgiving dinner, we asked each other what ideal career would we have liked to have.  I said civil rights attorney.  Today, I changed my mind:  sportswriter and television sports commentator.  I am inspired by Jemele Hill.  

Jemele is from Detroit (sound familiar?) and worked her way up from smaller newspapers, to the Detroit Free Press to her show on ESPN.  Even though her high profile is unique,   (or maybe because it is),  she hasn't played it safe.  If you're interested, look up her comments about the Celtics, Barry Bonds vs. Lance Armstrong, ice dancing, or WNBA players "coming out."  

Jemele Hill's interview with Janay Palmer Rice splashed over on to the mainstream network shows this week.  If the NFL is going to take a huge hit because of domestic violence, it seems right that Hill should get great access to the story.

I'm glad we can still have "do overs", if only with our imagination.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ghosts Arrive

Yesterday, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  The ghosts of the three civil rights workers, who were murdered in Mississippi during Freedom Summer, were allowed to mingle with today's luminaries: Meryl Streep, Stevie Wonder, Marlo Thomas and more.  The half-ghost Ethel Kennedy received a medal too.

They say that the three dead young men received the biggest applause when their names were called.  That's what we do.  When enough time has passed to make it okay, we lionize the ones we treated so horrifically when it would have counted. 

I wonder in what year the names of today's dead boys will be called.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Middle of the Night

Maybe it was the countdown to the new century.  Maybe it was loneliness.  Maybe it was just an oldster's inability to stay asleep all night.  Whatever the reason, from about 1997 to 2000, in the wee dark hours, I loved to listen to Art Bell's Coast to Coast radio show.

Like Jerry Springer, Art had a knack for taking a calm and reasoned approach to some pretty crazy stuff.  He was a great interviewer.  Guests included the survivalists who were convinced that Y2K2 was going to bring civilization to an internet - crashing halt.  CIA plots and UFO sitings were discussed with the same seriousness as a segment on "60 Minutes."

There was lots of discussion of an alien space ship riding in the wake of the Hale-Bopp comet.  This came to a very disturbing conclusion.  Thirty nine members of a group calling themselves "Heaven's Gate" committed suicide leaving messages that they were going to join the aliens in outer space.

My favorite guest on Art Bell's program was the charismatic physicist Michio Kaku.  He has gone on to author several best selling books and appear on PBS. Looking back, I think he had a lot of guts going on Art's "far out" show.  I believe he just wanted to bring factual thinking about physics to as many people as possible.  I certainly learned a lot.

Art Bell is retired.  Talk radio has been taken over by another set of far less interesting kooks.  And the dark hours are darker for that.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fantasy Football

I'm still mad at Pat Fitzgerald for not supporting Kain Colter's brave effort to bring some equity into the student-athlete situation.  I'm still disappointed at Northwestern's won-lost record this year.  But I'm not going to mention that today.  I'm just going to stand tall with my team for beating big, bad Notre Dame.  And, the way they did it in overtime brings all of us underdog loving fans to their feet to give one thundering round of applause.

And while I'm being sappy about the Wildcats, here's another great story:  Tom Hruby, a 33-year old active Navy Seal made it onto the team as a walk-on.  Tom served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq before donning the purple pads in Evanston.  He plays on the special teams squad.  Perfect spot for him.  Go Tom!  Go Cats!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Remembering A Year

Jane Byrne's death prompts a blizzard of memories.  In the snowy year of 1979 my husband's business was on Ravenswood Avenue and I worked downtown.  Getting to and from work was the challenge. Ravenswood was considered a side street and went completely unplowed after the big storm hit.  Even Sheridan Road and Lake Shore Drive were compromised.  Service was unreliable at best, and huge clumps of commuters shivered waiting for overcrowded buses.

Our plan was to drop Len off as close to his business as possible, the rest was up to him on foot.  I had it easier as I drove downtown and ate (gagged on) the parking fee.  From day one I felt so sorry for the people at Belmont, that I stopped and picked up two of them for the ride downtown.

Those same commuters were there on day two so the ride became routine.  I didn't think of it so much at the time, but later I thought: "Nobody offered me a penny for gas or to contribute to my parking fees. And one man asked me to go out of my way to drop him off at a more convenient spot. Oh well."

If the winter was bad, the summer was worse.  The airplane crash at O'Hare killed five people I knew.  One, Judy Wax, had just successfully resumed her career as a writer, and was on her way to the Los Angeles Book Fair.  Jane Byrne was making a name for herself.  What could Judy have become?

I'm sure lots of wonderful events took place in 1979.  I'll remember them eventually.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Next Best Thing

I've been reading a lot lately about the movie Interstellar.  I haven't seen the film yet so this is not a review; just a comment on the story line.  An astronaut/scientist goes looking for a habitable planet for us earthlings since we have trashed our initial home beyond repair.
Planetary exploration has always been a staple of science fiction, and now there's the added intensity of forced evacuation.

Critics are saying the scientific explanations are accurate and the TV astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson agrees.  Those of us who find out about worm holes by watching The Big Bang Theory are certainly not going to challenge that.

During the great depression we had Shirley Temple, the cheerful child, to help us feel better.  Is Interstellar today's feel good distraction from capitalism's failures and politicians' cowardice?  Can't get together on any plans to save us and our environment?  That's okay.  Move on to the next planet.  

Hope rests not on ourselves but on our imaginary tour of the galaxy.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Bye, Bye Ebola

A few weeks ago I went to my doctor at The Rush Medical Center.  Usually the waiting room is filled with oldsters navigating their canes and walkers around the crowd.  Not this time.  The place was empty.

"Come this way", chirped the nurse before I had a chance to sit down.  I was x-rayed, patted, reviewed, encouraged, and back in my car in 45 minutes.  "What was that?", I mused to myself as I drove home.  "Could it be ebola?"  After all, Rush had been designated as the care center in Chicago should ebola show up here.  So far, no ebola, but no people either.

Apparently, the election being over is the best cure for ebola here in the USA.  The scare-mongering governors have done their work and reaped the political rewards.   Ebola is back in Africa now and will likely draw little attention.  But, since "westerners" contracted the disease, the effort to find a vaccine has been accelerated.  "W", in a belated profile in courage,   thought it was safe enough to visit the Texas hospital that botched the early response. He happily hugged the nurse who was cured elsewhere.

I bet the waiting room at Rush will be crowded again the next time I have an appointment.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Jerry! Jerry!

Jerry Springer was on TV today talking about the election.  Most of you probably know that he was once Mayor of Cincinnati and is now a lefty political pundit and contributor to the Democrats.  

This side of Jerry is not nearly as flashy as his other side:  the ringmaster of the raucous Jerry Springer Show -- now in its astonishing 24th year!  Jerry takes a bemused attitude towards his over the top guests.  And those frequent trips to the bank help too, I'm sure.

They say the show is a favorite among college students.  Maybe that would give him enough cred to inspire some voting among them.  Nothing else seems to work.

Jerry was pretty calm today about the Democratic debacle on Tuesday.  He was in the mood for "the arc is long but leads towards justice" stuff.  I guess so.  Black poverty is better than slavery, and the "right to same-sex marriage" I'm sure will lead to the "right to same-sex divorce."  

Maybe it's all that whoopin" and hollerin" on the show that necessitates Jerry's  zen like approach.  Long arcs don't work too well for oldsters like me.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bravo Brittany

Before she went to Oregon to die, Brittany Maynard went to the Grand Canyon.  That's exactly what I would have done.  When my time comes I hope to have images of the Grand Canyon vivid in my mind.

I visited the Grand Canyon twice.  The first time was with an Elderhostel group accompanied by an anthropologist, a geologist and a literary scholar.  Indians took us rafting on the Colorado river and we slept overnight on the beach.

The next time I was with a love of mine and friends.  We left from Scottsdale foolishly wearing flimsy clothing.  When we got to the Canyon it was snowing.  We jumped out of the warm car, over to the railing to take a peek, and then back into the warmth of the running engine.  Just a few seconds with eternity.

Coming down the mountain, the snow was so fierce that we had only the lights of the car ahead to guide us.  It would have been scary, but the Canyon takes away a lot of fear.

So, RIP our brave Brittany.  I hope the Canyon was some comfort at the end.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Up Staged

The movie closed the next day.  The Music Box guy said one of the stars had attended the opening. That was  still not enough publicity to penetrate my tiny world.  Keep on Keepin" On is a documentary about Clark Terry and the young pianist Justin Kauflin.  Even as diabetes hacks away at his legs, Terry's huge heart remains intact.  Justin is just the latest of the thousands of young jazz wannabes Terry has inspired and helped.  Quincey Jones plays a big role too.

If you can find it playing somewhere or if you can rent it, please see Keep On Keepin" On. Go for the music, the history, the camera work.  You'll stay for the stories of determination, generosity, talent,  and love. 

These old jazz lions are way too hip not to be kind.

The week before I went to see Birdman, another film about life on the stage.  Two and a half hours of whining,  self-centered actors taking themselves so seriously to prove they are really important.  You know, we're making art here!

Birdman is getting all the buzz.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The "little guy" pipes up

Every so often an individual is willing to step forward to challenge the political and government "untouchables."  The latest is Kaci Hickox, the ebola-fighting and politician-fighting nurse.  She is convinced that common sense beats hysteria.  According to the polls, the rest of us aren't so sure. I say "three cheers for her articulate effort."
And, she scored a slight victory by depending on the law to sort things out.

Edward Snowdon is convinced that we can, and should, depend on the law as the U.S. fights "terrorism."  Katrina vanden Heuvel and Stephen Cohen of The Nation magazine went to Russia and conducted a wide-ranging conversation with the most famous American in Moscow. 

The Edward Snowdons of history usually get crushed.  We have yet to know what will happen to him.  Snowdon says: "The atomic bomb was the moral moment for physicists.  Mass surveillance is the same moment for computer scientists . . . Being confronted with the realization that work you intended to benefit people is being used against them has a radicalizing effect."

God may not play dice with the universe, but some scientists apparently think they do.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Nice or Spice?

I just read about Al Franken's totally boring (oh no, it's about the issues) and about-to-be totally successful re-election campaign.  Okay, I'm happy for him.  But not for me.  The whole idea of wanting Al Franken to make it to the Senate was that he would be interesting.  A quip here and there.  A well-aimed arrow.  Remember Rush Limbaugh is a Big, Fat Idiot?

I just saw the latest episode of The Good Wife.  Alicia has to go on some preacher's talk show and back away from being an atheist. (She's running for States' Attorney.)  Remember when McCain and Obama had to go on with Rick Warren?  Both candidates were "purpose-driven" alright.

Alicia longs to be able to be herself.

I wonder if Al does, too.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Lots to Learn

Dave Zirin, the savvy sports columnist and author, says it best:  "The NCAA rules are stealing a generation of wealth from African Americans."  No amount of hyperbole can overstate the story out of the University of North Carolina. (Remember, this is Michael Jordan territory.)

For 20 years, "student athletes" in the basketball and football programs have been allowed to keep their eligibility intact by taking "paper" classes.  The so-called student is not required to attend any classes, only to submit a "paper" that no faculty member actually examines, and, magically, a good grade appears.

There's more.  Most of these "paper" classes are in the African American studies departments. At many universities, there has been a huge effort by students and faculty members to install these classes. They know that history belongs to those with enough power to make a story visible and make it relevant.

Zirin says this is not a UNC problem.  It is happening at all of the "big program" schools.  As for those students who really want to take advantage of getting a good education (the ones that the NCAA is always touting), they had better keep their skills up because they can be cut and thrown off campus anytime the millionaire coaches decide.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


They're not ours, so I'm not as excited about the Kansas City Royals as I was about the Jackie Robinsons, but I love a good story, especially an improbable one, and the Royals' undefeated march to the Worlds Series fits the bill.

But, if I was going to have a place in my heart for the Giants, it would be because of another improbable story.  For those who haven't been paying attention (most of my friends), there was a walk off homer to clinch the game and the series spot for the Giants.

Frank Burke was the fan in the stands who caught the ball.  Afterwards, he took the ball down to the dugout to give it back to the hitter, Travis Ishikama.  "I believe in karma," Frank said.  "I didn't hit that ball. If anyone should have it in their trophy case, it should be the guy who hit it."

Frank's faith in karma paid off.  He now has a signed bat and four tickets to the World Series.  He's going to take one of his friends who is battling cancer.

More karma. I'm not surprised.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tear Downs

Lately, I've been surrounded by the theme of moving on.   My son and his family just completed a cross country odyssey as they left Los Angeles for a different kind of life in upstate New York.  And, one of my dear friends just told me that she is selling her big, old, comfortable house on the North Shore. The one with the screened in porch, and great green yard.  The one where she ended up being the last one left.  So, now it's on to a condo, new neighbors and other neighbors who are already her friends.  Since houses like hers are only valuable for the property, it will become a tear down.  And, a "McMansion" will take its place.

I remember when the stately Victorian homes on La Salle Street became tear downs.  Arthur Rubloff Real Estate bought them up one by one to eventually build Sandburg Village. There was actually a pile where savvy scavengers could go to pick up hardwood shutters and brass doorknobs.  Things are much more organized now.

My friend and I were sorority sisters at Northwestern.  The condo where she is going to live is on the same street where our sorority house stood.

It was a tear down many years ago.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Not in My Back Yard

So far, no country wants to host the 2022 Olympic Games.  Norway, Poland, and Germany put the invitation to a vote.  They all turned it down.  The only countries that have shown any interest (and where there is no vote) are China and (get ready) Kazakhstan.

Did the corruption finally catch up with the IOC?  Did countries finally realize that the cost of infrastructure cripples their economy?  The IOC doesn't pay the athletes.  It doesn't pay for transportation.  It never shares the revenue.

While we in the U.S. are busy bashing the NFL for their lame approach to player and owner misconduct, the rest of the world is doing the same to the IOC.

We love our athletes.  Why can't we treat them better?

The only good thing about the IOC is that they immediately rejected Chicago's bid to host the games. Whew!  Speaking of that silly effort :
Note to ex-Mayor Daley:  You are permanently banned from any civic exercise that criticizes the IOC. You will always remain a sucker for your Olympic bid.  (And don't think we haven't figured out it was a land grab.)

Where in the world is Kazakhstan?  I'm going right now to look it up.

Friday, October 3, 2014

I've Got Mail

Everyday, when I open my email, there are 20 or 30 messages waiting for me.   A sudden surge in popularity?  No. It's election season and the electronic precinct captains have found my inbox.

These messages leave me annoyed and dismayed.  Who WRITES these things?
First, there are the weepy supplications:  "we're begging . . . we're pleading with you . . . "we're not going to last another day . . ."  Then, there are the creepy accusations:  "why haven't we heard from you? . . . "you are deliberately ignoring us . . ."  They think they're cute because they know how to insert your first name.  ("Hi, Joan, it's President Obama here.") Or, they lead with a little story before they get to the donation plea.

Sorry, precinct captains.  It's too late to get creative.  I'm clicking off these emails now as fast as they appear.  So much for engaging in the democratic process.

Here's what would get me engaged:  Campaigns that begin on Labor Day and end in November.  A voting day holiday. Public financing for all candidates.  A limit on TV ads. Televised debates that include candidates other than the Democratic or Republican nominee.

I'm not foolish enough to go begging or pleading for this . . .  am I?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Da Coach

My friends's daughter is studying to be a Life Coach and I agreed to let her practice on me.  I  thought I was in for a little light weight therapy. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

I had some goals in mind and a vague desire to work on them. The coach started putting me through the paces the minute I stepped on the field.  Pushups. Weights. Crunches. Squats.  Of course the "field" was mental and so were the "activities" but they left me out of breath and reaching for the gatoraide.  And definitely inspired.

You know what?  I feel like I made the team.  Yes, my image of today's session was like being with "Da Coach".  Whew!  But, eventually, as I work on my goals (and I intend to) maybe I'll get to be with Phil Jackson.  Ahhhhh.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Let's Have Rants

If there were ever a "rant contest" Keith Olbermann would win every time. His expert writing and rapid fire delivery are tops.  And, in order to deliver the best rant, you have to have a cranky soul. It's that soul that gives him the fearless "scorched earth" approach. He leaves nothing standing, including himself.  Are we surprised that he has been fired so many times? Or, that he always lands another gig?

When I heard him bash the NFL,  or Derek Jeter's too-adoring retirement tour, I longed for the time when he gave that same treatment to "W" on MSNBC.  Now that I'm tired of Rachael Maddow over-explaining everything and I've reached the point where Chris Hayes is too peppy for me, couldn't we have Keith on again?  At least for the fairly short time it will take before he explodes?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Hester is Bester

A few weeks ago I went to a dinner party where the guest of honor showed up radiant with her handsome new husband.  The last time I saw her she was pale and quiet as she suffered through a humiliating divorce.  This time, there were cheers all around.

I thought of her this morning as I read that Devin Hester broke the NFL record for touchdown returns. Alas, Hestor danced his way into the history books for the Atlanta Falcons, not the Bears.  As a "dummy" fan who relies on the big play to keep me interested, Devin was my guy.

So, BOO on the Bears for letting him go.  And, cheers for him.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Powerful Stuff

It's not too often that we get to watch the powerful squirm.  The powerful operate out of the limelight.  Not in elevators.  Not where there are cameras.  And certainly, not where they are held to account by the rest of us.

Doesn't this whole Ray Rice/Roger Goodell, NFL thing remind you of Watergate?  The months of being able to sweep it aside.  The slow moving investigation?  Then finally, the smoking gun!  In Watergate it was the tapes.  This time it is the tape.

The reaction is typical of the response that the powerful mount.  An "independent" investigation.  (The ex-FBI guy hired to conduct the investigation is the NFL's lawyer.) Tsk. Tsk.  Now, every time there's a question about the scandal, the powerful can say: "It's under investigation."

I wonder if Roger Goodell, or any of the owners will eventually get on their helecopter and fly off to their affluent life.  In the meantime, I can't help but enjoy the moment.

Friday, September 5, 2014

To Another Joan

Joan is one of those names that has had its day.  My friends Phyllis and Barbara know what I mean. Joan Rivers and I fit into the same time frame.  I saw her once at Gulf Mill where there used to be a great theater in the round.  She was dirty (what went for dirty back then) and very funny.  Not lamenting the role of the housewife, or even being a woman.  She was doing the same kind of standup as the boys.

A few years back there was a biopic of Joan's life.  A few things in it remain vivid.  One was that her worst fear was to look at her calendar and see empty space.  She needed, desperately needed, to be working.  Why?  Later in the film she explains how many people she took care of.  Many relatives,  people who worked for her,  and their families.

She loved having big dinners at Thanksgiving.  There was a lot of thanks (and giving) in her heart.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Too much, too soon

The sportswriters are right.  The pressure on the young boys of the Jackie Robinson West team poured on them by the relentless media coverage is unfair.  It's unfair . . . and totally understandable.  Here we are in Chicago, reeling from news of young black boys and girls being cut down every week by gun violence. It doesn't change and it doesn't stop.

Then, along comes this team.  Bright black faces sporting bright yellow uniforms. Home runs.  Parents in the stands.  And it comes just at the same time as the stories from Ferguson, MO.  They are about as bad as any we've had in awhile. It's no wonder that we want these boys to win.  Win the game?  Or, win something good to take away some of the frustration and pain.

I love sports because it is the ultimate reality show.  As in life, the outcome unfolds and surprises.  So, reality will determine how far these Jackie Robinsons go.  It's a moment.  Let's enjoy it.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Let's Cheer for Them

Surprise!  There's a Chicago baseball team that is going to the World Series!  (Take that you lowly Sox and Cubs.)

Meet the Jackie Robinson West Little League team who are Illinois Champions.

With participation by African-American baseball players in the big leagues at an all time low, this is special . . . for now and for the future.

So let's get behind them.  It's about time we won something around here!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Death and the 4th of July

He may be a beast to his bosses, but Keith Olbermann keeps working because he is one of our great broadcast journalists.  Keith loves baseball and he loves the Yankees.  He poured that love into his piece commemorating the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig's farewwell "I am the luckiest man alive" speech on the 4th of July at Yankee Stadium.  Remember, Gehrig was known as the "iron man",  but as ALS ravaged his young and vital body, Lou was able to find gratitude.

Earlier in the day, I read the riveting article in the New Yorker about the crushingly uncertain days of the Chilian miners.  The 33 trapped and starving men agreed to completely share the minuscle amounts of food on hand.  They were able to find solidarity.

In the evening, I went to my friend Lail's for her annual party.  She has a big, old house with a great screened porch, just perfect for the 4th of July.  My friend Jim said it best: "Everyone who comes to the party is someone you want to talk to or listen to."  We always have fun.

When an ambulance pulled up in front, we all said: "I wonder what's happening across the street."  But, it wasn't out there, it was right in Lail's living room that one of her guests had suffered enough heart trouble that the 911 call had been made.

This was a gathering of oldsters, with a keen sense of savoring the idea of "annual."

 Gratitude and solidarity indeed.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


The last few days in rehab, I was able to get around on my walker and join the other oldsters on our beautiful patio.  When I mentioned that we should all be grateful to FDR (social security) and LBJ (medicare) for our lovely surroundings, many of them muttered that their children wouldn't be so lucky and their grandchildren probably won't even remember these benefits.

"Well, they have to fight for them", I said.  "None of this came easy."  The worst thing people can do is think that things are in place to stay.

I thought of this again as I am watching the programs on "Freedom Summer" remembering the 50th anniversary of the bus riders and others who fought for civil rights.  And now, to see the voting rights laws falling in those same southern states one by one.

I am feeling very grateful right now for my daughter and my friends who have stepped up to help me, keep me company, and let me know in so many ways that they care.  And, I am grateful to FDR and LBJ and the more compassionate country they made possible.  I would not be here at all without them.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

What the Spurs Can Teach America

The NBA Championship Series helped me through rehab after hip surgery.  I was rooting for the Spurs because I like the title to change hands as often as possible.  The Heat was a favorite with some, but many sports people thought San Antonio was certainly capable of winning.  What stunned everyone was the way they won.  After they lost to the Heat by just two points in game two, they blew them away in every game to win in five.

The Heat are the team of the "big three."  These are the mega watt stars who get all of the publicity and LeBron is King.  The Spurs have their own "big three."  Can you name them?

With so many players being identified as having talent when they are in high school, then being promoted like crazy during their (usually) one year of college, the cult of the individual star hangs over the game.

The Spurs are the exception.  They play as a team.  They communicate. They collaborate.  Rather than go for the dunk, they pass, then they pass again until they set up the "best shot."  They spread the points evenly.  Some of their best players are from other countries.  Dare I call them immigrants?

I hope when President Obama welcomes the Spurs to the White House, Washington will pay attention.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Times They Are A (Not) Changin'

It's going to take a Vietnam era level of disruption, confrontation, coalitions and citizen action to turn around the culture of gun violence in the U.S.  It's going to take another "counter culture" of students, performers, clergy, minorities, and those beleagured "liberals."  The government will not be moved until it is upended.

I believe the cold war idology that produced the Vietnam War  was even more entrenched than the "second amendment" ideology is today.  Washington supported the war even when they knew, as historians now tell us, that it was futile.  Washington sucumbs to the lobbying power of the NRA even as we know they will eventually regret their cowardice.

I don't know when the tipping point will come.  I don't know who the leaders will be.  I know the effort will have to be "revolutionary."  I say bring it on.

Friday, May 23, 2014


My friend Camille sent me this photo from Barcelona.  Isn't it fun?  I wish I did have a house there.  I was in Barcelona many, many years ago with Len.  We were strolling through a fancy section of the city when I admired a ring in a shop window.  Len said: "Too bad our plane leaves before the shop opens."

When we got to the airport we found out that our plane was delayed by several hours so we went back into town.  Yes, I got the ring.  But, a few years later, in one of the mysteries of my lifetime, the ring disappeared, never to be found.

So, I guess I wasn't meant to have it after all.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Time for Marianne?

Marianne Williamson is running as an independent for the Congressional seat being vacated by the retiring Henry Waxman.  Pundits are having fun calling this the "Hollywood" seat,  With "Arnold" and "Ronnie" still in our memories, I guess we can allow the pundits some snickers.  But, make no mistake, there was nothing trivial about the great career of Henry Waxman.

I knew Marianne when I was connected to the "Human Potential Movement."  It was the time of est, Esalon, "I'm OK You're OK", and in Chicago, Oasis, where I worked.  Back then, Williamson was teaching the book "A Course in Miracles."  Believe me, people were into it. As an aside,
Bill's college roommate and friend Tammy Cohen was attached to the book because her mother published it.

Some call Marianne a minister, others a guru, and still others a spiritual leader.  I'm going to borrow from Howard Dean and call her the leader of the "Imagine" wing of politics.  One of her 10 books (four of which were No. 1 best sellers) is "Imagine What America Could Be . . ."

Did you know that she has spearheaded the effort to establish a Department of Peace?  Did you know that checking the box "spiritual but not religious" is an extremely popular thing to do?

I'm rooting for Marianne Williamson for Congress.

 Imagine it.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Let's Get Real

Michael Sam, the gay football player,  is going to be the star of a reality show produced by Oprah for her OWN TV network.  The show will follow Sam's experiences as a late round draft pick for the St. Louis Rams NFL team.  NFL/Oprah.  Now there's a combo I never expected to see in the same sentence.

So far, the official word from Sam has been that he just wants to keep his head down, work hard and concentrate on making the team.  He is not guaranteed a spot.  I don't know how much access Oprah's people will have to the practices, but, in my opinion, none of this amounts to concentrating on football.

And choosing Oprah?  Not ESPN?  Maybe I'm missing something here.

Bill Russell, the iconic basketball star, who is now 80, likens Sam's situation to what black athletes faced in the '60's during the civil rights battles.  Integration didn't come easy.  My all time sports movie "Remember the Titans" is testimony to that.

I think Russell and the others who integrated major sports had it a lot harder than Sam.  I don't remember huge outpourings of support for Russell and his contemporaries.  Not until many years later when their courage was acknowledged and applauded.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


During his ceremony for being named this year's MBA MVP, Kevin Durant made an extraordinary tribute to his mother.  Replay went way beyond the sports world and seems to be anchoring media coverage of Mothers' Day.  Keeping up with the theme, the NFL players chosen in the draft were asked to comment on their mothers.  The result is an outpouring of love, thanks, and excitement about being able to give back.  So, take that you mean spirited people who castigate poor, single mothers as "takers."  I'm going to think of these mothers as "givers" because we get so much pleasure watching the talented players they have raised.

And, speaking of appreciation, I just received an extraordinary invitation.  It is for a Patient Appreciation party that my dentist, Dr. Beaty, is hosting.   During the many years I've been in her care, I knew she was one of a kind and I know I am so lucky to have her.  Now I can add giving a party for her patients to her unique stature.  Wow!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Rob Ford, the crack cocaine smoking Mayor of Toronto is missing.  He said he was coming to the U.S. for rehab, but he did not enter the country and hasn't been seen since.  The maylasian airline is still missing.  As far as I know, (and I stopped following the story), despite all of the resources devoted to finding it, there has not been a trace of evidence from the downed plane.

There's another "missing" story out there that needs our immediate attention. This is about the Nigerian girls who have been kidnapped and are being, as we speak, "sold into slavery."  These girls are who we really need to find!  C'mon people. If we can spend millions on looking for the plane, and thousands of hours of air time talking about the plane, we can gear up for finding these girls!

As for Ford, I'm convinced he'll show up on his own.

Sunday, May 4, 2014


A friend asked me who I was rooting for in game 7: Thunder or Mavs.  I said: "I can't say I really care because Oklahoma and Texas are at the bottom of my favorite states list."  My mind just works that way.  But then I thought: "I really cheer for the players."  So, it was Thunder because I love Kevin Durant.  Did you know he contributed one million dollars to Oklahoma tornado victims?  Pretty special for a black man in that racist state.

Besides basketball, Oklahoma is in the news this week because of the state's botched effort to inflict the death penalty.  Man commits gruesome crime and gets gruesome execution.  A local poll says the people there like it that way.  He got what he deserved.

Yesterday, I heard the most clear argument agains the death penalty: If you knew when you say "Yes" to a certain person getting death, you were also saying "Yes" to an innocent person being executed, could you still say "Yes"?

I'm glad the Clippers won and are on to the next round.  If they end up playing OKC, I'll take California.

Friday, May 2, 2014


My financial advisor divorced me a few weeks ago because I no longer have the minimum amout of money to warrant her services.  It was a blow.  This was after I've learned to live with the repeated "discontinued" label being slapped on so many of my favorite products.  The latest is the Marimekko store at Crate and Barrel.  I've loved the Marimekko look since it first came here in the 1950's.  The last outlet in Chicago closes at the end of May.  But, it's one thing for your possessions to be discontinued, it's another when it's you.

So, I really would understand how crushing it would be for Hillary to look inward and decide not to run for President in 2016.  Today I read an interesting take on this from Tina Brown at
the  Tina says Hillary should skip being President and go right to a more satisfying role: ex-President.  Look what it's done for Bill, and Jimmy Carter, and even W. who is painting away.  I think she could pull it off because we've been examining her for years as if she held highest office.

Hillary could be a strong and effective voice for the issues she cares about and we would pay attention instead of sniping about her pants suits and hairdos.

One totally satisfying way I've found to not feel "discontinued" is being a grandmother.  Those kids still attach some importance to me and I love it.

Hillary might enjoy that too.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Two Donalds

Donald Trump blames it on the scheming girlfriend.  She put Donald Sterling up to it, egging him on to make those racist comments, all the while taping the phone call.  Poor Sterling didn't even know she had him at "hello." The one percent know how to stick together even if the rest of us don't.

I was once sureptitiously taped by my boss when he called me in for a job review.  Later, at a board meeting I was attending, he pulled out the tape and was about to play it for the group.  I was totally outraged.  I grabbed the tape, left the room in a fury,  and never went back to that job.  The deception really hurt, and it really hurt to give up the paycheck.

So, does being a racist get you voted out of the basketball billionaires club?  Mark Cuban, another owner,  calls it a slippery slope.  Maybe Mark's been in on some other conversations that the girlfriends never heard.  Or, the rest of us never heard.  Remember, the infamous Romney speech was caught by a waiter with a cellphone.

Bill used to have season tickets to the Clippers. He liked them because they were the "other guys" -- not the Lakers.  Oh well.

Here's an idea that's too radical to seriously explore, but, in the Donald Sterling moment, deserves our attention:  Public ownership of sports teams.  Green Bay Packers for all!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Readers' Rebellion?

A few years ago there was a literary moment that sparked discussion and debate.  It was when several books about atheism captured our attention.  Titles like Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris, and God is Not Great by the late great public intellectual Christopher Hitchens, all reached the top of the best sellers lists.  There was a "Freedom From Religion" display at Daley Plaza this Easter.  And yes, the writers of The Good Wife series had the courage to have Alicia Florrick express atheistic thoughts on network TV.  Hardly a trend.

Now, the literary moment belongs to discussion and debate about income inequality.  Who knew those scruffy Occupy people would occupy our syntax.  "One percent" and "Ninety-nine percent" indeed. Two books on the subject have soared to the top this time:  Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty and A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren.  Capital is 700 dense pages from a French economist, but readers got right to the "good parts" and are quoting away.  The compelling idea is that merit cannot stand up to inherited weath and power. And history, aside from a few years after World War II,  affirms this.

Elizabeth Warren is, of course, the straight talking professor/Senator who tells it like we apparently want to hear it.  She believes in the more optimistic idea that democracy, if only we would participate,  can even things up.

Will income inequality be a momentary topic?   I laughed the other day when I heard that the three contestants on Jeopardy were all stumped when asked to come up with the name of the pizza magnate who ran for President of the U.S.

It was Herman Cain, remember?  One of his famous lines was:  "If you're not rich, blame yourself."

There's more than a moment invested in that sentiment.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Kain Colter Channels Curt Flood

The Northwestern football players are going to vote tomorrow on whether to form a union.  The ex-quarterback Kain Colter spearheaded the fight which he and his supporters took to the National Labor Relations Board.  The issues were about coverage for medical expenses if a player is injured, guaranteed scholarships, and a voice at the table.   It was NOT about players earning salaries even though the media seized upon this possibility.

I'll be shocked if the Northwestern players vote "yes."  There is too much intimidation, and much confusion.  But, the door has been opened.  You can laugh at the NCAA giving a few more meals to the players after a star basketball player said he went to bed hungry.  ("Let them eat cake.")  But, you didn't see that happening last year, right?

Maybe it was the flavor of the 1960's that encouraged Curt Flood to challenge baseball's reserve clause.  This clause gave baseball owners total control over a player's career.  It took until 1975 before the clause was overturned.  Sadly, Curt Flood never played again.

I don't expect the Northwestern players to sacrifice their future.  Especially when their own coach who controls their playing time, tells them to vote "no."

That's why Curt Flood, and the others like him, deserve every bit of our attention when thinking about this vote.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bulls Blues

The Bulls are who we hoped they weren't.  Hustle losing out to talent.  Just short of enough.  It's only two games in, but I don't think I have the heart to keep a close eye on the rest of the series.  So, thanks Bulls for a great regular season.  You kept me happy watching you on TV during some of the worst weather ever.  Okay, I'll say "it ain't over 'til it's over."  But that's just a whisper.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Lawyers Then and Now

A few months ago, I endured the polar vortex by binge watching a TV series I had missed while watching the White Sox, Bulls, et al.  One of my favorites was "The Practice", a lawyer show from the late '90's.  The plot revolved around a criminal defense firm struggling to pay its bills because so many of its clients were the poor and middle class who needed dedicated legal help . . . which they got.  It was riviting.

Last week I came across another TV lawyer show: "Suits."  The lawyers in this one are busy serving their "one percent" clients when they aren't fighting Darwinian battles among themselves. The penthouse offices -- all glass and steel --  are as cold as the "take no prisoners" personalities and plots on display.  Watch it for the dialogue, the wit, the audacity.

But, feel with me a little sad about how --  in TV lawyer land --  the ideals of "The Practice" gave way to the conquering  "Suits."