Monday, December 12, 2016

What if . . .



A group of us were talking about a couple in a bridge group who were getting divorced.  The wife is disabled.  "Whatever happened to in sickness and in health?", someone said.  I've been thinking about that.

My Aunt Mary formed a bond with her future husband Irving in the visitors' lounge at Elgin Mental Hospital.  Mary was keeping her sister company as she visited her son.  Irving's wife was there.  Death eventually allowed them to marry.

I met a man who told me right away that his wife was in a nursing home.  I was certainly willing to be his friend.

I always regretted that Sandra Day O'Conner resigned from the Supreme Court to care for her husband who eventually didn't recognize her and was "in love" with a fellow patient.

And what about the people in Congress who are planning to destroy the Affordable Care Act, plus Medicare and Social Security?  There are many more ways to abandon "in sickness and in health" than divorce.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Rest of us (Part Two)



My Festivus rant continues.

It's improv time.  There are no bad ideas (except for the ones that may require ammunition).  If you can envision the long game, here's a plan:  Let's convince thousands of liberal-minded voters who are clustered on the coasts (we'll call them Pilgrims) to move to fly-over country.  They can form Colonies. The second "First Thanksgiving" can take place in Nebraska or Oklahoma.  We can call it Spread the Vote!

And if the "natives" resist this infusion of culture, we can remind them of what happened to the Indians.  In this case ammunition may be required.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Rest of Us


I am working on my rant for the Festivus Party hosted by my friends Gerry and Alita.  This is the celebration made famous on the Seinfeld Show when guests are invited to express their grievances for the year about to end.  Here's what I have so far.

I'm tired of listening to my friends who are still moaning about the election .  Of course we are appalled by Donald Trump.  Does the sun rise in the east?  It's time to stop pouring over his tweets; time to stop rolling our eyes at his "mad dog" cabinet picks.  When Mitt Romney begins to look good, you must get help! The apocalypse is now and so is the time for resistance.

I'm old enough to remember those Paul Muni movies where the resistance fighters are huddled around their radio waiting for assignments from Britain.  We need to keep watching our laptops to see what Bernie is urging and what the Standing Rock protesters are doing.  Light a fire under the fossilized Democrats?  Start a new party?  There's work to be done!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

NY Land



I'm glad I was able to get to New York City during my visit with Bill and family in upstate New York.  It's a drive, but oh how exciting to go over the George Washington Bridge, down Broadway.  The Empire State Building.  Times Square blasting away.  One more time . . . it feels so good . . . thanks Bill.

He was hosting a Q and A after a screening of La La Land for the Producers Guild of America -- East Coast.  It was a theater full of producers.
They come from all media now:  Film, TV, Internet, Commercials, Documentaries.  They are young.

I hope they will keep the cavalcade of stories interesting, inventive, stirring, substantial.  Bill says that only 11% of us actually go to the movies more than 6 times a year.

The parade is moving on. . . as it always does.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Music Everywhere



Miro and Bill are jammin'.  Dad on the keyboard, son on the guitar.  Miro is a whiz at picking up a tune, just like the old man.  I showed him some Pete Seeger and Paul Simon songs which he immediately absorbed.

Bill plays flute in a volunteer pickup orchestra.  An hour of rehearsal immediately followed by the performance.  The man in charged is a legend.  A pied piper for every wannabe in NY and environs.

When Bill invited Michael and Annie, they came more out of loyalty than enthusiasm.  "We were blown away!  It was tremendous!," they cried.  Annie is so impressed that she is going to recommend the orchestra to one of her corporate clients who encourage CEO's to participate in innovative and unusual experiences.

Memo to CEO's:  Bill is the flute player on the right (and a film producer).  He is always looking for ways to finance a new idea.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Defeat

Most of my friends are in the pits because they watched the pendulum swing way beyond it's expected arc.  While the "madness" of a Trump Presidency was becoming real, my perspective was widened as I've been taking a class entitled "Why the South Still Matters."

The Union beat the Confederacy.  The United States was saved.  The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were passed.  Slavery was abolished.

What I knew -- but needed to be reminded of -- is that Reconstruction only lasted until 1877.  Then, the Union army left the southern states, the plantation owners returned to power, the slaves were forced into sharecropping, and it would take almost 100 years before the north would dare intrude upon the south again.

And now?  We fret that the popular vote does not determine the winner.  I needed reminding that the electoral college was a byproduct of slavery.  It was designed to protect the less populated (by whites) southern states.

My quality of life depends on the times of FDR and Lyndon Johnson.  I need to remind myself that the pendulum keeps swinging.  Always swinging.




Friday, November 4, 2016

Parade Day



Today is Parade Day.  The event that wasn't in your date book a week ago.  You will work around your work.  You will change your plans for lunch or dinner.  Either to go -- or to stay away from the crush.

Why did we empty our bank accounts to score a ticket or even to occupy a bar stool near the park?
Why are we lined up outside pop up stores to grab the instant gear?
Why does the stadium wall become a chalk covered shrine?  We climb ladders to give those who are gone an inch of space.

We clutch at history.  Please stop.  Give me a solid place to stand.
And history keeps moving to tomorrow.  As memory of Parade Day will keep us anchored to today.  

Monday, October 31, 2016

Hillary in History



A novelist, writing in the New Yorker, imagines Hillary as entering the White House with a bitterness
that reminds him of Richard Nixon.   When I think of Hillary, the Duke of Windsor comes to mind. The one who gave up his place at the top for love.

She was a star at Yale Law School and a rising star in Washington, even earning a spot on the Watergate Committee.  Then the move to Arkansas that stunned her friends and admirers.

And now?  Is it regret or revenge?

P.S.  I've said all along that having the first black President followed by the first female President is messing with too much primal stuff.  It's not going to be over when it's over.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The End of Secrecy










Harry Browne, a famous Libertarian, said:  "Don't do anything that requires your signature."  His lament was in response to "big brother" when "brother" was small, very small.  So now, what to do? What to do?

Spies meeting on a park bench?  A cell phone or long range lens gives them away.  Meeting with Deep Throat?  Garages have cameras everywhere.
Having an affair?  Think you're safe because you're not texting?  If you keep your phone turned on, that motel location can be easily identified.

When everything can be hacked, it's foolish to make Ed Snowdon into a traitor.  Hillary suffers from "not wanting to be bothered" syndrome rather than evil intent.

Maybe it's time to just give up and give in.  No more "Lock 'em up!" We're going to have an "examined life" whether we want one or not.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A White Sox Fan Gets Ready to Watch the World Series








Am I remembering this wrong?  About when the Sox won it all in 2005?  Wasn't there a lot of griping (or maybe just scratching of heads) about how the "other team" won it first?  Everyone was happy  -- as in "I'm happy for you." And that was about it.

 I'm happy for Steve Bartman.  I really hated Cubs fans during the whole ugly, ugly Bartman episode.  How despicable.  Blaming the team's ineptitude on an innocent who did what we all would do instinctively?  That's about as bush as it gets.  So I hope Steve is excited about the Series.  I hope he has a good seat -- even if it's still in his den.

I'm happy for my friend Myles who got tickets for Sunday's game!  He's taking his superfan son.  Yes, he reached deep into the bank account.  But he reached with a grin.  I'll try to spot him on TV.

I'm happy for one of my favorite sportscasters : Mike Wilbon.  And, of course, Michelle.

 I'm happy for you Cubs.  You've got a great team and a great manager.  I hope -- like the Sox -- you win it all.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Robots Rising








Ever since I read the book The Rise of the Robots and discussed it with a group of very smart people, I have been startled by the amount of artificial intelligence (A.I.) already among us and wonder how much of the future it will determine.

I'm sure the article "Adding a Zero" in this week's New Yorker (the one with Donald Trump as Miss Universe on the cover) was written with the "wow" factor in mind, and it doesn't disappoint.  If you think self-driving cars, airbnb, Uber, and Dropbox are pointing to the future, you are a fossil.  And so am I.

One takeoff point in the article is a profile of Sam Altman who plants a very large footprint in Silicon Valley.  He's tired of people saying he is on the autism spectrum but he is certainly aware that many of autism's "drawbacks" work to his advantage.   Even as Altman and his colleagues work on A.I. being able to incorporate social skills and empathy,  his leadership does not draw upon them.  This makes me wonder if autism will turn out to be a useful adaptation in the evolutionary march ahead.

In the meantime, I know it's boring -- not cute -- when I say I haven't been able to figure out all of the functions of my computer or cell phone. I do like reading about this stuff even as I am left in the dust.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

What We Wore


Elsa was telling me about Open Studios Day in Newburgh, NY.  It's a poor town whose Mayor has encouraged art as a way of bringing joy and notoriety to the community.  (Elsa said it reminded her of Cuba.) She was thrilled by an art installation of dresses.  First the dresses, then the story of their significance to the women who wore them.

I immediately thought of wedding dresses.  For in the galaxy of gowns, these surely are bright stars.  My dress was ankle length (did that idea ever last?) purchased at Bonwit Teller.  I wanted one from Saks Fifth Avenue because I had worked happily at their Detroit store one college summer.  But this Saks was so snooty they demanded an appointment before they would let me look. So friendly Bonwit's got my business.

My dress was worn three times.  By me, and two good friends.  The result?  Two divorces and one enduring marriage.  I'd say this is tough but common for my generation.

Another wedding dress with a story was the one my friend Marcia -- as a widow -- bought years after her husband's suicide.  She didn't have a groom or even a romance at the time but she was determined to have hope.  "I can see myself wearing this some day," she smiled.

Marcia died before the imagined wedding.  Since it was cancer that killed her, I'd say this too was sadly all too common.

P.S.  to Ruth:  I still have the book you gave me:  Love and Loss and What I Wore.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Diviner














C'mon friends.  Look with me in another direction.  There's a much more intriguing story developing right now than the one about the ever unpopular Donald and Hillary.  Okay, it's the baseball race, and some of you will say that it's not serious enough for your attention.  So then, just have some fun with it. We can use some fun.

The hero is Theo the Diviner.  The one who makes it rain where only parched earth prevailed.  First he did it in Boston,  the place where -- despite its "founding of the Republic" history --  fielded the hapless Red Sox. There was the curse of trading Babe Ruth which doomed them to nipping at the heels of the big time Yankees.  Then came the beautiful young Theo. Eighty six years of misery washed away.

Can he do the same here?  Can he find the underground stream?  There is so much to wash away. The more than a century of failure.  The curse of the goat.  The unbearable mistreatment of Bartman.

I love sports because it brings us -- safely -- the unpredictability of life.  It's a harmless war where we get to love our heroes, hate the "other", and the only suffering is maybe with our purse or our blood pressure.

And, would'nt it be fun if the ultimate fight is between the unstoppable Cubs and the red hot Red Sox?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Water






Yesterday, images of water flooded my mind.  I woke up to the news that the sensational Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, just 24, had died in a boating accident. This, after getting here from Cuba.  After saving himself and his mother from drowning.  Death snatched him up after all.

Then, I saw the movie Sully.  You know --  the story of the clear headed pilot who landed his plane on the Hudson river.  All of the 155 passengers survived.  The water didn't take any of them and this time death was disappointed.

I imagine that a successful brush with death gives us the ultimate high.
So, is it the knowledge that every defeat of death is temporary that makes us so destructive?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Family Stories


My grandson Miro is going to come to visit.  He just graduated from college in California.  The last time we talked he said he wanted to know more about the family.

My grandmother was a seamstress who wore a housedress to work at the B.R. Baker Men's Clothing store in Toledo.  They would let her come out from the back room to say hello to us when we visited from Detroit.

Then, we would go over to the tire store owned by my two uncles.  I remember the smells.  From the big cigars they smoked or held unlit between their teeth. ("Ugh!" when they tried to kiss me.)  And, of course, from the tires.  They let us go into the back room where the tires were stacked in enormous black piles.

Sometimes we would visit my Aunt Rose.  She baked cakes at a deli.  This time the back room was the kitchen where we would find her dusted with flour while stirring chocolate batter with a wooden spoon in a huge bowl.

The very cool thing about Aunt Rose is that many years later her children encouraged her to write a cookbook and she was on the Johnny Carson show!

The cookbook has disappeared  -- but I still have the stories.  I still have them, Miro,  if you are interested.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Out of Jail



Our attitudes about race and class determine our decisions in so many ways.  I've overlooked or forgotten so many times I was insensitive -- and I'm nowhere near the front lines.  Last night I watched a group of sincere people on TV having one of those "conversations about race" that we think will help.  Everyone agreed that jobs were crucial to any progress.

The moderator seemed happy to announce that the Mayor was going to find a way to hire more police.  "Oh, so 500 more cops are going to be out there shooting at us?", a young man replied.  I didn't see that one coming.

I was married to a man who owned a business with a warehouse.  He was approached by an organization that finds jobs for ex-offenders.  The representative pleaded:  "He's been trained for warehouse work.  We watch our people closely." Apparently there was a law that prevented finding out if the ex-offender had been in for marijuana or murder.  We considered it, but eventually decided "no."  We used the excuse that the other workers may not feel safe.

Much later it turned out that the woman in charge of keeping the books and paying the bills had embezzled thousands of dollars from the company over the years.  She came highly recommended. No one thought twice about hiring her.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Night I Met John Carlos











Maybe someday the statue of John Carlos, Tommie Smith and Peter Norman will be regarded with the same reverence as the Raising of the Flag at Iwo Jima.  Not yet. Far from yet. But the arc of justice is bending.  And, as Donald Trump and his followers gasp and flail,  it bends a little more.

I was thinking about this as I noticed Dave Zirin's post that a statue of the "great salute" of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City was being installed in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Dave Zirin is a sportswriter (Nation magazine, Edge of Sports), humanitarian, activist and all round great guy.  He covers the place where sports and social justice intersect.  He's having more company  now, wouldn't you say?

I met Dave at a book signing several years ago and we have stayed occasional email friends.  I met him again with John Carlos by accident in a coffee shop in Evanston.  They were speaking at Northwestern on their book tour for The John Carlos Story -- The Sports Moment that Changed the World.

I got to chat with both those champs that night.  Very special indeed.

By the way, if your wondering about Peter Norman, he was the Aussie silver medalist who stood in solidarity with John Carlos and Tommie Smith.  Dave says it was John Carlos who insisted Norman be included in the statue because "that's just the kind of guy John is."


Friday, September 9, 2016

Trapped



I've been trapped and "rescued" twice.  Once, I was stuck in an elevator between floors.  Firemen got it going again but it was a long, hot wait.  The other time was worse.  On the 20th floor of my high rise apartment building, black smoke was clogging the hallway ( I remembered those wet towels under the door).  Firemen down on the street used their bullhorns to warn us to stay put.  This, when the smoke was now filling up the place.  Both times, it took awhile before I was able to calm down.
That's why I am hesitating to see the movie "Sully" and why I avoided "United 93" even though Bill worked on that one.

Sometimes, it takes even longer to calm down.  I was listening today to an airline employee who happily checked the highjackers onto one of the 9/11 planes.  It's taken him until now to be able to talk about it.  Another story popping up in early September.  It seems to happen every year.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A Date to Remember?



I think today is the date of my father's death.  I know it was 1941.  I was eight years old.  I remember waking up wondering why no one got me up to go to school.  When I went to my mother's bedroom, she was with my Aunt Doris.  "Your father has died," they said.

I wore my good white dress to the funeral.  My mother leaned over the casket and cried: "Someday we will be together again.  Someday."

When she died, I asked Jo if she was going to be buried in Toledo next to our dad.  He said: "No, she's going to be here."

The eight year old inside me was confused.  I thought they would be together again.  The way she said and the way it's supposed to be.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

It's Promising



Bill is off to the Toronto Film Festival this weekend where his film, The Promise, will have its premiere.  Bill described it to me as an epic tale set again the tragedy of the Armenian genocide.  The stars, Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac, are sure to attract a lot of buzz.

The film was financed by the Armenian American billionaire Kirk Kekorian as a tribute to his ancestry.  Unfortunately he didn't live to see it completed.

If you think the Kardashians are the only famous Armenian Americans, here are some others:  Cher, William Saroyan and (my favorite) Andre Agassi.

The premiere is Sunday, September 11.  How poignant that it is scheduled on the anniversary date of our own mass killing.  The last line of one of Pete Seeger's ballads pops into my head:  "When will it ever end, oh when will it ever end."


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Better Editor



I am in the midst of reading Jonathan Franzen's latest novel Purity.  My friend Phyllis selected it for me when I told her I was looking for a good plot.  I admire these writers who give us big stories full of characters living contemporary lives.

So yes, there's a lot to dive into here.  Especially because Franzen let's us know what everyone is thinking while the characters struggle to be understood.  So then, I was wondering:  why do I feel engrossed and tired at the same time?   Does Franzen need a better editor?

Or is it simply that omniscience is exhausting.  And that's why nature provides us with our own
sanity-saving inner editor.  "Real life" doesn't allow us the same rights of invasion that we look to the novelist to provide.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Over Before it's Over













I wish I could like Hillary, but I don't.  I wish I could get excited about the first woman President, but I'm not.  Marrying your way to the top is no fun. It makes it a tired idea and it hasn't even happened yet!  We all admire the athlete who leaves while he's ahead.  Or retires gracefully when he's behind.  If athletes can give up money and power, why can't people in public office ever go away on their own accord?

I was thinking about this today after reading my friend Gerry's blog about people on the rebound.  How do they get over a lost love, if they ever do.  Obama beat Hillary because he was fresh and new.  And, he ran a superb campaign with a new approach to winning.

Hillary on the rebound?  The pattern seems the same.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Every Heroic White Man



I'm looking forward to seeing the movie "Sully."  It will tell the story of the heroic pilot Sully Sullenberger who saved all of his passengers by landing his crippled plane in the Hudson River.  Sully will be played by (who else?) Tom Hanks.

It seems like whenever Hollywood wants to celebrate a heroic white man it turns to Hanks. He played James Donovan, the obscure lawyer who successfully negotiated the release of the U2 spy, Francis Gary Powers, and refused to leave the hapless student Frederic Pryor behind.

Hanks played Captain Richard Phillips who put himself in danger to save his cargo ship and crew when they were attacked by Somali pirates.

I wonder how Tom Hanks feels about all these roles?  Is he glad for the steady income for a middle-aged actor and lets it go at that?  Or, does he envy and maybe even yearns for that one "real life'" moment of smart thinking and courage that separates these heroes from the rest of us?

If I were Hanks, I know I would take pride in one iconic role that's certainly my favorite:  it's Woody from the three Toy Stories.   Let's put Woody up there with the "real life" guys.




Saturday, August 20, 2016

Deciding Which Lives Matter



My young relative Abby visited the other day.  She was with her parents returning to Indiana University for her sophomore year studying American History.  I thought of her today as I read two extraordinary articles in The New Yorker.  Each in their own way contemplates history's essential point:  whoever gets to tell the story determines the characters and the plot.

Jeffrey Toobin writes about Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer devoted to death penalty defense, who is attempting to chronicle and commemorate the thousands of the people who were the victims of lynchings.  Kathryn Schultz, a Pulitzer Prize winning staff writer, contributes a thoughtful exploration of the many books and TV projects devoted to the Underground Railroad.  

These are old stories that never quite made it, did they?  Are they catching a wave?   Both writers warn us not to fall for the myths in the textbooks, or the myths that try to move the needle in another direction.  Can we finally go for more than comfort here?

I hope that Abby's professors will stress history's ambiguity.  That's a good perspective to have on history and on life.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Sunday in the Park with Dads



It was heartening to see all of the fathers with their children in my favorite park:  sprawled on the grass with an infant; tossing the ball with their nine year old; pushing the stroller with baby and dog; manning the swing set at the playground.

I hope the moms were home with their second cup of coffee and enjoying a leisurely read of the Trib or the Times.

In some ways, it's better now.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Summer of the Passing Parade



It's time to turn our attention away from the manufactured drama of the Conventions to become immersed in that other dishonest spectacle: The Olympics.  Yes, the bureaucrats weasel their way to the top and demand to stay in place.  Countries and cities are thrown into financial ruin over the prize (?)  of hosting the games.  Bribes and drugs emerge as scandal but always live for another day. And yet . . .

I love watching the Olympics.  The Parade of Nations gives a glimpse of how things could, but never seem to be:  people from around the world wearing their national identity as they peacefully walk side by side.  The games are a benign way to harness the human urge to compete and excel.

The Conventions and the Olympics have the power to stop us in our tracks.  Last week the Muslim father woke us up with his profound dignity.  I will be looking (and hoping) for a "John Carlos moment" in Rio.






Thursday, July 28, 2016

We All Need A Laugh



Al Franken is suffering from a previous career inferiority complex.  The evidence is his steadfast refusal to be funny.  For his entire first term as Senator he did not appear on TV.  He preferred to attract no publicity.  He was probably devoting himself to his conversion therapy aimed at scrubbing away all of the SNL lingering inside.

Now that he is "safe" he has been popping up here and there for interviews.  When coaxed to give us just a little of that old twinkle, Al stays serious . . . very serious.  He made an appearance at the Democratic National Convention with Sara Silverman.  I still can't believe he stood there and let Sara show him how it's done.

C'mon Al, everyone says we need diversity.  And authenticity.  And, if Republicans keep control of the Senate, our sanity is going to depend on some comic relief.



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Not My Words


I have a simple cure for the outbreak of plagiarism infecting the Republican Convention.  Politicians, family and hangers on:  Write Your Own Speeches!  Then, subject them to the various web sites that catch famous phrases that may have seeped into your brain.  Or, if you don't want to spend the time or the effort to craft your speech,  at least attribute the words to the person who actually came up with them.

Peggy Noonan leaped from obscurity for delivering to Ronald Reagan the famous "touch the face of God" line in his Challenger disaster speech.  "Faulty o-rings" would have left us infinitely more shaken and sad.  Did you know that she lifted the phrase from a poem written by John Gillespie Magee, a pilot who died at 19 during WWII?  (Yes, I googled that.)

See what I mean about attribution?

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Living Small




As I was reading my friend Gerry's blog about marriage, I thought us oldsters face the fact that the big decisions and the high stakes lie in the past.  And, along with them lies the drama and excitement attached.  Is that depressing or comforting?  Most likely, it's both.

Keeping attached to the newness of today for me involves living "small."  A new job, a new love affair, or new home becomes new book, new class, new restaurant.  Or even, unwrapping a new bar of soap.  Boring?  Remember, we can put danger, guilt and regret in the rear view mirror too.

And if you fall into the trap of "I've seen all this before,"  just think of President Trump.  C'mon, it may not be small but this is definitely new.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Hope -- Then and Now



My friend Margaret Power teaches history at IIT.  Along with two of her historian colleagues, she has written a new book:  Hope in Hard Times.  I am proud that they used the title I suggested.

The book traces the history of Norvelt, a federal subsistence housing development in Pennsylvania.  Margaret grew up just seven miles away.  The story begins during the Depression and New Deal and continues to be relevant this 2016 election year.  Margaret and I talked recently.

Joan:  Tell us about Norvelt.

Margaret:  During the height of the Depression, Eleanor Roosevelt learned of the plight of unemployed miners in Southwest Pennsylvania.  Her leadership was instrumental in creating Norvelt (incorporating her name).  Norvelt provided a dignified life to the destitute miners and their families.  It was a success!

Joan:  What is the significance of Norvelt in today's political landscape?

Margaret:  The all white inhabitants of Norvelt still adore Eleanor Roosevelt and the New Deal.  For years, the community was pro-union and pro-Democrat.  That changed in the 1980's.  Today, they look back at their parents and grandparents as the hard working deserving poor caught up in an economic calamity.  Now they vote Republican and don't want their tax money to go to those they consider the undeserving poor.  The majority of Norvelters voted for Trump in the primary.

Joan:  Many of us feel that we continue to need hope in hard times.  What sources of hope do you draw upon?

Margaret:  I used to be a Republican from SW Pennsylvania who held racist ideas.  I have changed, so I know others can too.  The young people I teach are much more progressive.  They are the future of this country and this world.



Thursday, July 14, 2016

Champions


I watched the ESPY Awards show last night because I am a sports fan and I love this stuff.  It proved to be an important, dramatic, and incredibly moving look at our American selves.  The evening began with four of our superstar basketball players, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Paul, urging their fellow athletes to become more socially and politically active.

The Arthur Ashe Courage Award went this year posthumously to Zaevion Dobson.  Zaevion was a 15 year old football star.  He was hanging out with friends when they were caught by gunfire.  He shielded the girls with his body -- saving their lives while losing his own.  His mother gave a stirring speech as she accepted the award.  Arthur Ashe died during the AIDS epidemic.  This is our American story now.

Craig Sager, the TNT broadcaster, who is battling leukemia, received the Perseverance Award.  I wish we could fight racism and gun violence with the unity and purpose we address to cancer.


Monday, July 11, 2016

Not Miss Lonely Heart




I have succumbed to surveillance.  Surprised?  An old leftie, former ACLU employee, fan of Edward Snowden.  Okay, it isn't all of me that big brother is watching (big doctor?) but absolutely the most vital part.

I am currently hooked up via electronic monitor with my heart doctor.  (This wasn't the last hook up I had in mind.)  The surveillance idea hit me when the nurse called to inform me that for six seconds my heart had skipped a beat.  "Don't worry", she said, "but we will keep you informed."

So, my heart has no privacy -- and I guess I am grateful.

Remember the classic tune "Heart and Soul?"  Maybe I still get to keep my soul here with me.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Forever Young



My friend Gerry said it best.  Commenting on his ode to his grandson's first July 4, he said:  "When you are new, everything is new."  I think that's what my friend Lail and I had in mind when we made a pact to "die young."

Looking around my life at what is wearing out (computer, carpeting, TV, please not yet my heart) I realize this needs to be offset with what can still be unexpected, challenging, stimulating.

One of my favorite new expressions is "Stay woke."  What that means to me is: keep paying attention, keep being interested, don't let firm habits turn your head away from the still to be discovered.

So here's to new books to read, new shows to get excited about, new classes.  And, maybe even a new friend who may come along if my eyes are open.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Detour



A funny thing happened during the Gay Parade on Sunday:  my heart decided it needed a detour at the ER on Halsted, center of all things LGBT.  So, my loving "ambulance" man Chris was once again at the ready.  ("We've got to stop meeting like this!" and more important "There are no words to tell you how much I appreciate you.")

Turns out I have very low potassium so I guess in my case a banana a day could keep all of these docs away.  (The ER doc was dreamy.)  They also said that delirium is a symptom.  Did Bernie get the nomination?  Did Rahm resign?  Ah, delirium has its benefits, doesn't it?

So, now I am home and have to wear a heart monitor for a month.  This is a serious situation for a fashionista like me.  Help!  They say the monitor sends a signal directly to my doctor.  Is this a high-tech equivalent of the appointment that's so hard to get?

Thank you my lovely Marilyn for showing up to visit and take me home.  You lit up my life on a very difficult day.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

He's Back!









If you've read this blog through the years you may remember my feud (as if he cares) with Walter Mosley for killing off my favorite character Easy Rawlins, the hero of Mosley's earlier and better books.  My writer friend Rex and I discussed the idea that characters can take over a writer's life.  Rex suggested that maybe Mosley killed off Easy because he was tired of him and Easy wouldn't go away.

Well, Mosley has now brought Easy Rawlins back in his new book Charcoal Joe.  And, just for cover, he is teaming him up once again with another abandoned favorite -- the unforgettable Mouse.

So I ask the question: do authors get to slip the bounds of the ultimate inevitable?  As for me, I say "Okay, Walter Mosley, I give up and give in".  I will happily read Charcoal Joe.  I will follow Easy and Mouse to infinity.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

My Brexit Rant



I got into a little Facebook back and forth yesterday and I realized that I am not in step with even the people who I thought were living in the same bubble that I've been inhabiting for years.  Of course, it was about Brexit.

The "coming of the apocalypse"  coverage that we are getting from all of the news channels also woke me up.  Why is it that immigrants are losing their lives while fleeing for their lives; people are being massacred in one place or another; shootings and killings are occurring every day a few miles from me; to say nothing of climate change and all of the misery I haven't mentioned; and the only thing that warrants the "apocalypse" title is when the stock market falls and falls?

The rap is that Brexit is about keeping out "the other."  It's about toxic nationalism.  I think some very sinister types have realized they can seize the moment of unsustainable inequality and are jumping in front of a parade that was already marching.

The rap is that uneducated people voted for Brexit.  We want to be in with the smart people.  If the purpose of an education is to give you a leg up in a winner take all world, what's so smart about that?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

I Love a Parade












Maybe the reason I was for Golden State is that I didn't think the Cavaliers could actually do it.  And, when they were down 3-1, I was sure the axe would fall.  Why be disappointed by another outcome, when the Sox and the Bulls give me all the grief I can bear.

So, now Cleveland is the center of the Universe and I am happy for LeBron.  Goodyear has a lot of nerve bragging about saying "Akron born."  That's what they have to say since they moved all of their jobs away years ago.

And no, the Cavs and not going to bring the jobs back.  And Tamir Rice is not cheering at the parade.  But, let's let the folks enjoy their heros with the same excitement Cubs fans will have if they ever crown their great season with the ultimate prize.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Against the Wind


Remember the Bob Seeger classic Running Against the Wind?  A line has been sticking with me:  "what to leave in . . . what to leave out." Writing is about that.  Every word is a choice.  I've been listening to a lot of writers lately, on C-Span (Q & A) and at the Chicago Lit Fest.  I am impressed by the amount of research they do.  Years in the archives at one library or another.

The archives are where everything is left in and it's the author's job to decide what to use.  Bob Seeger was singing about growing up.  The authors are crafting a good story.  Maybe Bob's line applies to both.  The more we hang around, the more there is to overlook or declare unimportant.
And, don't we want our lives to be a good story as we keep running against the wind?

Friday, June 3, 2016

At the Zoo



That gorilla death has me thinking about zoos. I think I am changing my mind.  I loved taking my children and then my grandchildren to the zoo.  A perfect way to spend a summer day.  Hippos and giraffes were my favorites.

Thoughts creep in.  Are any enclosures -- no matter how natural --  more than a cage?  Are any live creatures here for our amusement?  Does being entitled to capture or even kill them at will contribute to our disconnect from awareness that we too are on the animal continuum?

No, I'm not going to go all vegan and PETA on you.  My fur coats keep me warm at the bus stop.  But I also remember summer days spent at amusement parks where you could go into a dingy tent to see the "fat lady", the "lizard man", or Siamese twins.

Circus elephants are being retired and people are mad at Sea World.  Am I just catching up to this?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Elephants, The Gorilla and Me



My friend Yvonne sent me this story today.  She knew I would love it and I do.

Lawrence Anthony, a wildlife enthusiast, and author of The Elephant Whisperer, spent his life rescuing and working with animals all over the world.  When he died at his home in South Africa, thirty one elephants walked there, some from more than 100 miles away.  They stood silently at the home for two days and then returned to their territory.

I am content to enjoy the mystery of this event as it enlarges my concept of connections.

I've been reading all week about another animal event:  what happened with the gorilla at the zoo.  As I keep wondering why it happened I am left feeling very small.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Happy Sad Place


With the police in the U.S. under so much scrutiny from cameras and from commentary, the rank and file might want to watch and learn from Happy Valley -- the saddest but maybe the most dramatically rich place on British TV.  The show follows the chaotic life on the streets and in the home of a hard charging policewoman.  She is living and has seen far too much for any lifetime.  And it is taking its toll.  But she never loses her empathy and compassion when it counts the most.

I usually wilt before tension this strong.  This time, the acting and the story kept me in place.  By the way, no guns.  No shots fired.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

On Your Mark



I saw Mark Cuban on a political talk show today.  His name is being mentioned as a VP choice for Trump OR Hillary.  Mark came across as likeable and reasonable. (Has Trump softened me up for this?  Or made me desperate?)

I've always liked Cuban on Shark Tank and as a basketball team owner with oomph.  He was my vote to buy the Cubs. Cuban said Trump's success may be opening the door to more non-traditional candidates.

I would love a wider choice of candidates but I was thinking of campaign finance reform as the door opener not another set of billionaires with their eyes on the prize. When we were talking about baseball, my friend Rex said:  "There is nothing above first place."  Mark Cuban has already won a Championship with the Mavericks, so maybe for him . . . there is.

P.S.  I like the idea of 400 people running for Congress with a unified progressive message and national internet funding.  They could call it "The Ride of the 400."  (Oh right, nobody rides into battle anymore.)  It's still a fresh idea.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Bigger Picture



One of the powerful elements in the movie Money Monster is that George Clooney, the star of a reality TV show,  wears an earpiece which connects him privately with Julia Roberts, the producer.  In the crisis that ensues, Julia uses the earpiece connection to soothe and calm down George while informing and instructing him at the most dangerous moments. "There are snipers you can't see who are aiming at you."  "Nothing's happening now because we're waiting for them to find the wife."
Thus, George gets the benefit of an expanded experience. It saves his life, and maybe his soul.

And, isn't that what we think would improve our lives -- "an expanded experience"?  Don't we think of it as the key to empathy, problem solving, peace?

Many years ago I took a course on expanding the functioning of the brain.  One of the exercises was to imagine a "guide" who would inform us or provide an imaginary "other point of view."

Kind of like an earpiece.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Friendly Franzen


A few weeks ago I brought the latest Jonathan Franzen novel home from the library.  It sat unopened with my other books and papers and, after about a week, I took it back.  Just wasn't in the mood.  When I saw his name on an article in this week's New Yorker I started reading it immediately and am not sorry.

The piece is about his trip to Antarctica on a luxury expedition.  ("Don't call it a cruise," says the Captain.)  The Franzen who duked it out with Oprah over the "seriousness" of his work doesn't show up here.  This is an engaging travel story of fellow passengers, endless ice, rare birds, blackness and, of course, the penguins. "I had never before had the experience of beholding scenic beauty so dazzling that I couldn't process it, couldn't get it to register as something real."

With warmth and love he also tells the story of Uncle Walt, who provided the unexpected inheritance that financed the trip.  I remembered the time I received an unexpected inheritance.  I was a bewildered young mother.  I didn't sail away.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Am I lonely?

I was talking with a friend who revealed that she was lonely.  I started thinking: "Is that true of me too?"  I live alone and when I think of the times when I didn't, and since I've reached a time when I have a choice, I think I prefer it this way.

To live with others continuously and successfully you have to honor their rhythms, their need for their own story and the space to let it unfold.  I'm so quick with my inner -- and expressed -- opinions.  And yes, as you suspect, they do get in the way.

I recently picked up the notes I took when I was heavy into self-help philosophies.  They revealed familiar struggles.  Too familiar.  "Am I doomed?  Has nothing changed?"  I'll cling to this:  I am more content to live with my own story and the space by myself in which it unfolds.

Is that enough?  I'll never know for sure.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Two Wives



My favorite TV show aired its final episode last Sunday.  Seven years ago, it started when the image of Eliot Spitzer's wife, standing sadly beside him as he resigned his Governorship in a sex scandal, brought the "good wife" into our vocabulary.  The show promised a look at what that "good wife" could be all about -- and delivered with excellence week after week.  A smart woman in mid-life meets the world.

In the end, she remains "the good wife" and in the process loses some of her soul.  We don't hate her.  We sigh.

Now, Donald Trump wants to remind us of the other "good wife" who took up even more of our nation's consciousness.  He wants to rip her for being a fraud;  this woman who moved into her own territory -- lofty territory indeed -- while remaining the "good wife" through the years.   Has she too  lost some of her soul?  Do we hate her?  Or do we sigh?

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Last Bite


My empathy for The Biggest Losers reminds me of one fat man who had the last laugh (or bite).  Ronnie was very large and had a personality to match.  His wife was a marvelous cook who didn't hold back.  Ronnie thought it would be a "piece of cake" for her to make the dessert he found in Vincent Price's cook book of recipes from famous restaurants.  The Whitehall Restaurant's entry came out of her oven as a sad lump.

Ronnie called the restaurant and insisted on speaking to the pastry chef.  He demanded a replacement cake and -- it being Ronnie -- he got one.  Then he sent a picture to Vincent Price of Gloria showing the tale of the two cakes.  A few weeks later, he received an apology from Price himself (accompanied by an autographed picture).  The editors had printed the wrong measurement of a key ingredient.

I lost track of Ronnie so I don't know if he is still large and having his way.  There is a part of me that hopes so.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Eternal Losers?



I like tuning into the final episode of the TV show The Biggest Loser.  When the confetti falls on a face beaming with pride at having lost so much weight I cheer and believe it when they say:  "My life has changed forever."  And I am just as happy for the others who didn't win the big prize but still lost all those pounds.

So today I am filled with dismay reading the article following up on the TV show stars and how much lost weight has found them again.  And it isn't because they are inferior slackers.  Their metabolism will not -- refuses -- to adjust to their new weight.  They simply cannot not burn enough calories.  Maybe they should have lost the weight very slowly, over several years.  No TV show that way.  And who wants to wait for less weight?

Or, does this mean that the genetic Gods continue to laugh at our delusions?  Willpower, guts, determination, the possibility of change -- are all of it a squandered effort?   Science will probably spend billions attacking the metabolism problem, but the patience problem?  That lies somewhere else.

Maybe we can make peace with ourselves very slowly.  I'll start with me.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Plain Jane?



Another remarkable wife has shown up in the 2016 election season:  Jane Sanders.  Bernie was so little known when he first piped up that I didn't know he even had a wife.  And, I have to admit that my first reaction to her was very bitchy:  "Please don't wear those print overblouses." And, "she is going to need one of those major makeovers you see on daytime TV."  Well, shame on me.

Her presence is the perfect complement to the bombastic Bernie and the perfect antidote to the over-manufactured Hillary.  Jane Sanders is every bit as determined as Bernie . . . and she is calm, friendly, and steadfast in her optimism.  She reminds me of the nurse who walks into the room and convinces us that we are going to get well again.

Boy, do we need that.

Friday, April 22, 2016

My Private Prince



There are some people who step up in such extraordinary fashion that  they deserve a pass for whatever happens from that moment on.  In public, I put Jackie in that category.  After the assassination and the funeral, she could marry the ugly Greek or spend as much as she wanted and I would still wear those signature sunglasses proudly.

My friend Phyllis doesn't need a pass but would get one willingly any time.  She was the one who was determined not to let me feel like a loser when I was reeling from a second divorce.  She was the one who introduced me to all of her great friends and made me feel like something new was possible.

When Prince died yesterday, I immediately thought of Phyllis and how she took me along with her friends to see Purple Rain.  I loved it.  Yes, life is always waiting.

I didn't follow Prince's career.  But I never forgot that moment and I'm certainly thinking of it now.