Saturday, December 30, 2017

Stopped Short

The mystery writer Sue Grafton died.  She was famous for her alphabet series of private detective stories.  Her titles started with "A is for Alibi" and went on from there.  She got as far as "Y" before cancer stopped her short. 

Her daughter said that Grafton would never allow a ghost writer to write in her name.  So "Z" , in her writing career,  remains untouched.  I hope her family finds that as satisfying as I do.  The final letter remains open to the imaginations of those she left behind.

And maybe she'll start all over again with "A is for Afterlife."

Thursday, December 14, 2017


In the spirit of the New Yorker's year-end Yuletide romp,
I'm reaching out to friends,
Please tell me not to stop.
Merry, merry to my movie buddy Lail,
I hope our favorite stars,
Have avoided sex-crime jail.
To my music loving friends: Gerry, Bonnie and her Bruce
I wish you as much fun as Bill is having with his flute.
To Phyllis, Camille, Jim, Lisa, Marguerite and Myles,
I hope the year to come brings nothing but great smiles.
I know my Nation group could use some cheering up.
Unite All! We will outlast him,
That Scrooge we know as Trump.
Happy Holidays to everyone who visited my blog,
Eat fruitcake and be merry,
Wash it down with stiff eggnog.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Curse of the Unlikely Past

I feel bad about Al Franken.  Mostly because we need his voice.  And, because I admired his decision to go for being a Senator.  After his impossibly close victory, he spent his first term learning the ropes, away from TV, and relentlessly refusing to be funny.  After he was re-elected by a wide margin, Al felt it was safe to start being Al  -- while being a solid legislator.  The people "really liked him."

Well, being funny turned out not to be the problem.  Being too touchy, feely and the ubiquitous man-style jerk has Al in a deep hole.

I guess it was too much to ask for:  A successful trip from SNL, not from being a lawyer, prosecutor, billionaire, or "player" in your state.  You know, the trip that leaves most Senators being a sanctimonious man-style jerk.

The fate of the funny man is yet to be determined.  As for now, only the Gods are laughing.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Are We Alone

We've reached the point in my class about the search for life in the universe when we will discuss alien abductions, UFOs, Roswell, and "are they or have they been among us."

It reminds me of the years leading up to the turn of the century.  I discovered the world of late night radio host Art Bell and his guests and followers.  There was a frenzy of speculation surrounding what would happen when the calendar would contain those zeros. (Remember Y2K?)

One of the saddest events around this time was the mass suicide of young men convinced that there was a space ship approaching Earth on the tail of the Hale-Bopp comet.  They shed their bodies in a quest for a better existence in outer space.  At some level, I get it.

Intellectually,  I totally believe --because of the vast universe -- that it is impossible we are the only conscious ones.  Emotionally, because it's so remote, I feel left out. 

Maybe it was an overwhelming urge to participate that took those Heaven's Gate guys.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Location, Location

In the late 1980's my friend Gerry and I took a trip to West Virginia.  The people we went to see lived in a southern-style mansion complete with "grounds."  I was astonished to learn that the price of that place was less than what someone would pay for my itty-bitty condo today.

The four of us went to the nicest restaurant in town.  Fried chicken and the best strawberry shortcake I've ever tasted.  Gerry gasped when he picked up the check: less than $25.

On the ride back to Chicago, I mused:  "I guess if, money wise, my back was really against the wall, I could always move to a trailer in West Virginia.  Maybe in a college town?"

My friends Carole in Mexico City and June in Asheville are happy with their decision.   I've been able to follow them on the internet, so I imagine they would stay in touch with me.  The digital world is always a click away.

What about making friends?  Would the natives welcome a big city "elite"?  I would start with bridge.  In my experience, there's always a game.   Everywhere.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Good Tax?

My friend David mentioned a Bruce Rauner re-election ad extolling the lower taxes in neighboring states. I was thinking: "Is it the taxes themselves or what the money is spent on that annoys us the most?" At the top of my hate list are settlements we have to pay out for harm done by bad cops, and hefty pensions and perks for greedy politicians.

The most direct pleasure I got from my tax dollars occurred when I lived in Oak Lawn.  I loved the parks, forest preserves and indoor sports facilities provided by the Park District.

As for Rauner and high-tax Illinois:  I think I'll still take Chicago over Indianapolis, St. Louis, or Milwaukee.  But, we'd all like to be "Queen (or King) for a Day" so we could rearrange things.  Right?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Two A's

Chicago has gone gaga over Apple and Amazon.  My friends are calling me to visit the new Apple store with the same enthusiasm they would have for an exhibition or other cultural event.

Amazon has set up a competition for a corporate headquarters not unlike the bids for the Olympic Games.  And the hungry cities dig deep into their taxes and real estate in the hope of "winning" the "prize."

In our city of big shoulders, the ghost of Steve Jobs and Amazon's siren call of jobs, jobs, jobs is creating a dazzling devotion to corporate commerce.  

I'm afraid we're going to feel pretty duped, maybe like Greece and Brazil, when the robots that are dazzling the corporate lords snap up those same jobs we fight so hard for today.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

My Boss is a Moron

I challenged "morons" at work twice and came away batting .500.  The strike out occurred when I was fired from a job in October.  The employment policy stated that if a worker was employed in July of a given year, the person was entitled to the year-end bonus. 

Because I had friends who were employment attorneys and did me a favor, we took my case to arbitration.  When I saw that the Governor's lawyer was representing the other side, I knew it was strike three.  Small consolation that they changed the policy after my case.

The home run was when I was caught in a mandatory drug testing situation.  Just because some folks from the mail room were smoking dope in the stairwell.  I refused, even though my attorney friends said it was legal and I had to comply.

I guess in this case the bosses really were morons, or just lazy, because I was never forced to take the test.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

When We Were Typecast

I hope many of you remember the IBM Selectric Typewriter.  What a marvel! It changed my working life.  The best feature was a little white spool -- correction tape -- that you could use to white out your typos.  Ah, the beauty of erasure.  I believe that only the lowly pencil had that feature until IBM made the leap.

Yesterday I was at the American Writers Museum.  There was a collection of typewriters on display.  There were the usual clackity-clack black ones.  And, among them the sleek Selectric.  I started to touch it fondly, maybe tapping into some sisterhood of secretaries.

I'm glad that in the sea of our forgotten words, there were some great authors who were touching the same keys.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Keys

At a party at Bill's home, I met a charming young couple who had just come to Hollywood to pursue their promising careers.  The next day they were dead.  Two of ten struck down by an "old man" driver who plowed into pedestrians at a mall in Santa Monica.  It was one of those "I put my foot on the accelerator instead of the brake" stories.

The man was so universally despised that I believe some of the rage was directed at the cruelty of randomness itself.  Isn't that the reason we search so relentlessly for the "meaning of life"?

Recently Venus Williams broke down over her involvement in a fatal accident even though she was held completely harmless.  Laura Bush admitted to carrying forward a lot of pain.

As for the "driving while old" situation, I am not going to agonize too much when my time comes.  It's going to be 90 years or sooner if I decide I am slipping.

If you're around, can I have a ride?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Mystery Remains

I heard a great story on the radio.  There was this husband and wife team who were very popular magicians in the late '40's and '50's.  They had one amazing trick that sealed their fame.  I missed the part where the trick was described, but it was very complicated.  Eventually, the couple retired and grew very old.

They decided never to reveal how they accomplished the trick.  Famous magicians like Penn and Teller begged them to let them in on the secret.  "We'll name the trick after you," they said.  "You will live on in magician history."

After the husband had died and the wife was on her deathbed, she was asked one last time.  "No," she said, "I believe it's better if you figure it out for yourself."

So now the question is:  Would you rather be like most of us who strive to set things up for our children? Wills, tax shelters, executors, etc.  Or, are you among the few who believe that you deserve to find your own fate and your sense of accomplishment in the process?

Is it better if you have to figure it out for yourself?

Monday, September 4, 2017

After the Line

One of the loveliest place in nature I've visited was on the grounds of a trailer park near Kissimmee, Florida.  As I was suffering through the last days of a crumbling marriage, my great friend Kathy suggested I tag along when she drove to pick up her folks and bring them back to Chicago.

I had never been to a trailer park or stayed in a trailer.  This one was nothing like my silly expectations.  Spacious, modern, and situated in a park with a club house, little putting green, swiming pool and lots of green space and water.

Kathy's father and I walked around.  He told me that most of the people who lived in the park were retired auto workers from Detroit.  They had been able to secure this amazing retirement because of social security and the wages they earned from working forty, even fifty years on the assembly line.

Now, we've turned much of that work over to robots.  No retirement required.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Solidarity Forever

When I was a teenager in Detroit, Walter Reuther moved in across the street.  It was after he got shot and he had a security detail guarding him and the house.  They were big guys who kept an eye on everything.

They kept an eye on me when I would be sitting in a car with my date, or acting goofy with my girlfriends.  My mother loved it.

I didn't know who Walter Reuther was when he "made us behave."  But later, I made it a point to read up on his amazing life.  Especially the sit down strike at the River Rouge plant.

The relentless attack on unions has destroyed what I believe was most "American" about this country.
The ordinary guy had a chance.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A New Country for Soo

Aside from a few harrowing tales surrounding World War II, most of the immigrant stories I know about took place one or two generations ago.  My friend Soo is from Korea.  After our lovely breakfast last Sunday, I became curious.  Here is part of her story.

Q:  When did your journey begin?  Was it sometime around the time of the Korean War?

A:  I was born three years after the end of the Korean War.  Then, as a teenager I came from Seoul to Chicago.

Q:   Were there a lot of difficulties?

A:    Definitely.  My mother had only recently obtained permanent resident status (Green Card), so, she could only bring me over on a tourist visa. There was a huge set back when the US Consulate denied my visa initially during the visa interview.  It took another year and the help of a very compassionate stranger. He was a minister who was a friend of my mother's pastor in the US.  I remember going to the visa interview with that minister and, although I did not understand a single word he spoke in English, I could tell that he was making a cogent plea on my behalf. I had already withdrawn from my junior high by the time the first interview was scheduled, and was devastated because everyone in my school was absolutely thrilled that I would be making an imminent journey to "America" where everyone was rich and beautiful.

Q:  What was it like to be a teenager in a new country?

A:   At fifteen, there was real culture shock. Pizza and hot dogs were so salty! Other food was so bland. 

For my first day at Evanston High I wore a dress my mother made from a Simplicity pattern.  It was a white one piece with red stripes and a red cloth belt.  I also wore faux patent leather pump shoes.

I was completely shocked at the behavior of my fellow students, smoking: and African-American girls bullying and hitting white girls in gym classes and white girls just taking it.  The kids thought I was either Chinese or Japanese.  No one knew where Korea was back then. 

I had a friend Stephanie who had a locker near me and she was pretty nice to me. In Korea, you hold hands with your friends of the same sex. When I tried to hold her hand walking up to our biology class on the second floor she batted it away.

Q:  Do you still have a “Korean identity” ?  If so, how does that play out?

A:  Because Evanston had hardly any Koreans and my mother was a 'self-hating' Korean (being a single mother carried a big loss of face in the Korean community), I distanced myself from other Koreans in Chicago. For for a long time, I think I behaved as if I were "white."  I had worked pretty hard to assimilate and speak English without an accent. It wasn't until l went to Michigan State University for graduate work that I realized I was still the “other.”   It was a huge shock to me when I went to the Dean to ask what happened to the teaching assistantship I had been promised. He told me that it was only available to graduates from US universities.  When I told him that I had graduated from University of Illinois in Champaign, he then said that the it was only available to US citizens.  I told him I also qualified on that account.  This interaction left me bitter about MSU.  Because U of I in Champaign had so many Asian American students, I did not realize how provincial some academic institutions could be.  

My Korean identity also took a toll in my relationship with my American ex-husband.
I also think that my affinity to Buddhism has something to do with coming from a country where Buddhism was one of the early religions and the philosophy of Buddhism, especially Chan/Zen/Son Buddhism is still quite deep in the culture.  

Q:  And, your “American identity”?

A:  I am very grateful to this country for taking me in.  Even with harassment and other very insensitive behaviors, I am deeply committed to the ideals of this country. I do think of myself as more American than Korean.  America, where there are more equalizers than many other nations.  America, where programs like Job Corps is funded by its citizens to help the disadvantaged youth to become productive citizens.  America where immigrants come with only $200 to their name to start a whole new life to prosper and contribute to the fabric of the country. 

And no, this is not blind adoration. This country does have a history stained by blood of those it exploited and abused.  But I think that there is more good than evil here.  And I cannot tell you how upsetting it is to see this administration trying to dismantle all that is noble and good about this country.  

Thanks, Joan, for this opportunity to share my story with you.  

And thanks to you Soo, for giving us a glimpse of your life.  I’m really glad I know you. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Not done yet?

It's been so long since a woman draped herself over a man I was with.  And to think, I was the one who waved her over to join us.  "Oh well," I thought as she turned her back on me to gaze at her desired object, "might as well observe and maybe enjoy this."

I readily admit that I live in a political bubble, but now I have to consider whether I have totally left the flirtation bubble behind.  Without doing it on purpose.  Just slipped away.

Is this another part of life relegated to the past?  A lost talent like when I could play a decent game of tennis?

No, I don't think I'm through with this yet.  We'll just have to wait and see.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

"Readers Live a Thousand Lives"

I remembered that great quote that Carole Reedy posted on Facebook as I finished reading The Nix.  This is a big, sprawling story a la Tom Wolfe (Craig's idea) or Jonathan Franzen, but it definitely has its own voice.

The Nix is a family saga while it looks around at America, then and now:  computer gaming, low-life academia, sexual abuse, police brutality, the Iraq war.  One of the best chapters takes place during the riots at the Democratic Convention.

The Nix is a mix of satire and sincerity.  It manages, amid all of its twists, to have a heart.

P.S.  May this is "Nix picking" but I don't think any book needs to be 600 pages.  Save some of those exquisitely worded riffs for another book or short story.

Friday, August 4, 2017

A Fading -- But Not Silent Voice

I didn't realize how much I miss Bill Moyers until I heard him interviewed the other day.  There was a time when I always could find The Bill Moyers Journal somewhere on PBS.  His personality and his choice of guests made me feel that somehow the world was okay.

He's 83 now, and still writes a blog and an occasional column.  When I see what passes for a White House press briefing these days, it's hard to think that the same podium was occupied by Bill when he was LBJ's press secretary.

After he talked about how Johnson worked with Congress to get medicare passed, he had a chance to be philosophical at the end of the interview.

"I don't know where I came from or where I'm going," he said.  "Religion is where I got my questions answered and life is where I got my answers questioned."

I'm glad he's still here.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

My Elevated Life

When you live on the 26th floor, your time on the elevator adds way up.  One perk is that the
people-watching can get interesting.
Since my building welcomes residents of all colors, ethnicities, sexual preferences and attire, the elevator becomes "crossroad of a million lives."

My history with elevators has had its ups and downs. (Groan.)  At my office building on LaSalle, I was stuck between floors with too many others one hot day.  The rescue was pretty quick . . . the recovery not so fast.

Bill and I were stuck in our apartment building elevator.  He had his comic books.  I had nothing but my creeping hysteria.  After that, I vowed to live no higher than I could climb.  Of course, that wore off over time.

My favorite elevator experiences were when I worked at the Monadnock Building.  They had operators!  Friendly men who remembered you and your floor. I'd like to think they were all union guys who made good pay.

Elevator etiquette has changed dramatically.  Before cell phones, my elevator mates were happy to give me a smile and maybe a few words. Now, except for us oldsters, they stare at their devices, barely noticing when we reach the lobby.

Final thought:  Thanks to you, Mr. Otis, I have my fabulous sky-high view.  Worth the ride every time.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Et Tu Wimbledon?

"I'm so glad I can turn off the news, and turn to my favorite July sports event: Wimbledon!" That's what I was saying to myself in anticipation of this year's drama.  The grass, the players all in white, I need some tradition.  No Serena, but on the men's side, the big four still going strong.

The 2017 Gods laughed.

Even before the players got on the court, John McEnroe made a fool of himself by saying Serena would rank 700 against the guys.  Really John, that's so Bobby Riggs.

Right away, players were annoyed and interrupted by swarms of flying ants.  A "rare occurrance" said the commentators.  Sure.

Two injured men started their matches against Federer and Djokovic and retired early.  The explanation was that it was the only way they could get their minimum pay.  There must be a better rule that doesn't cheat the fans.

Upon losing, a real jerk of a pro threw coins at the judge in the chair.  Another jerk said he was "bored" on the court.

And here's McEnroe again, gossiping that Djokovic may have "problems in his personal life like Tiger Woods."

On another scale altogether, Bethanie Sands suffered a gruesome injury and left the court in an ambulance.  Please let this be less serious than it looked.

That was week one at Wimbledon.  Please, can we just have one great five-setter in week two?

My hope?  Nadal beats Federer in the finals.  Very traditional.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

I've Got The July 4 (No Red or White) Blues

I used to love the Fourth of July.  I'd go around singing: "You're a grand old flag, you're a high-flying flag . . ."  I have a cap decorated with the red, white and blue all made of sparkly sequins. It came from Long Beach, CA one July 4 when I was celebrating with Elsa.  She was all brand new to the family  -- and to America.

One of my favorite July 4's was 1976 -- The Bicentennial Year!  My friend Kathy and I hosted a fabulous party.  We asked our friends to entertain by "doing something you would only do once every 200 years. (Phyllis: do you still have your kazoo?)

I miss so much the July 4's I spent on the screened-in porch of my friend Lail and her husband Steve.  Great group, great company.  Then sadly, Steve died and Lail moved.  No Steve, no porch, no party.
Pay attention to the good years . . . but then, you already know that.

This July 4 is tough.  I don't know if great memories are going to get me through the day and star-spangled night.  My mood about the country staggers between contempt and despair.

Tonight, as I watch the sky light up, I'll be searching for my inner-patriot.  I suspect the only way I'll find it is through hope.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Conversation with the Future

Natalie Mora Horberg is an exceptionally articulate fourteen year old.  As I was feeling dismal about the present, I decided a dip into the future via an interview with Natalie is just what we may need right now.  Here she is -- with her enormous curiosity and enthusiasm.  Enjoy.

Q:School’s out!  Do you have plans for your summer vacation?

A:Yeah! My parents both are part of a new art center called ArtYard, this was their first year up and running, and the core members of the ArtYard team are having an island retreat off the coast of Maine! Luckily my little brother Diego and I are able to tag along, too!

Q:I know you love to read.  How do you choose books?  Do you stick with them ‘till the end or stop if you don’t like the book?  What are you reading now?  Do you have a favorite for this year so far?

A:Often times I choose books through the internet by finding out what people I admire like. For example, I found out about the book “Too Much and Not the Mood” by Durga Chew-Bose through Tavi Gevinson, and I read “A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki thanks to my older brother, Miro. Also I am very fortunate to have a dad who at times will bring home a haul of books for me to read that he likes. ;) 

I definitely will stop if I’m reading a particularly terrible book, maybe other people find the need to always read from cover to cover, but if I’m not enjoying the story, I will put it down. Occasionally I try to come back to it and start over with a better understanding, and sometimes it actually helps! For example, I tried reading “Lord of the Flies” in 5th grade, then again in 6th, and I found it a lot more enjoyable in 6th. (Though I can’t say that “enjoyable” is the best word to describe Lord of the Flies.)

Right now I’m reading one of the best books ever called, “The Freedom Writers Diary”. It is a compilation of the diary entries of 150 students who, for their whole life, had never experienced the type of love and immersive learning experience that teacher, (genius), Erin Gruwell gave them. Most of them were in gangs, had experienced abuse, and struggled daily to survive as a teenager on the streets of Long Beach. The entries are kept anonymous, but even despite the fact that there are no names linked to the stories you feel like your diving into the heart and soul of each person; like there are no boundaries between the reader and writer. I highly recommend the book to anyone, it is definitely one of my favorites I’ve been reading this year, (besides Carrie Brownstein’s amazing memoir, “Hunger Makes a Modern Girl”). 

Q:You combined your talent for writing and drawing to create a graphic history of WWII.  I showed it to an historian I know and she was really impressed.  Did your teacher welcome your creativity?
Do you have a favorite teacher?

A:Thank you and the historian! Yes, I had been making small watercolor study guides for myself all year and I desperately wanted to make one that my whole grade could use, so when my teacher offered me the chance to do it, I was ecstatic! I rushed home and designed it, then came to school the next day to show him. He was pleased and made copies for everyone! I am still so grateful that he asked me to create it and I hope my teachers in the years to come also invite me to create their study guides! 

I did not really have a favorite teacher this year, I enjoyed them all equally. But I guess if I had to choose, they would be my english and art teacher because those are subjects I enjoy.

Q:You’ve travelled a lot in your 14 years: Spain, France, Cuba, Australia.  Do you have a favorite travel memory?

A:Yes! I am very thankful to have had these wonderful opportunities to see the world with my own eyes, so I try to retain as much as I can! 

In Spain I remember the peachy pinkness of the sunset the time I sat in a wobbly boat with my cousins and old friends of theirs; I played Bob Marley and refused to swim. 

Q:Do you, and the kids at school, concern yourself with current events like climate change, the government, or policies at your school?

A:Definitely. And I even believe that it’s not only me and the kids in my school, but everyone in every school. My generation in general has to be more aware of everything going on, mainly because the problems of today will most definitely affect our future. We cannot wait until then to be active in the environment or in politics. Many of the kids in my school actively participate in groups trying to make the community more eco-friendly, and many know a lot more about current events than some adults may! Of course this is not true for everyone, but I would definitely say that as a whole we are concerned and we want to fight for our, and everyone else’s rights. 

I personally do not want this Earth to die so I read the book “No Impact Man” by Colin Beavan at the beginning of the school year -- a book every single person should be forced to read -- and ended up writing a letter to Colin in the Letters About Literature competition that my english teacher introduced us to! In the end I won a Certificate for Honorable Mention, so I’m eternally grateful that he wrote it in the first place because now people like me get to rant about how amazing the book is to judges and teachers and fellow students AND spread awareness at the same time about how to help the planet out.  

Q:If you could reveal one thing about your mom and your dad that might surprise us, what would it be?

A:Some things that may surprise you about my parents are:

Besides being a film producer and part-time floutist/pianist, my dad does incredible illustrations almost daily of jazz musicians, often in colored pencil and pen. You can find them on his instagram which is: @nettlehorst (He even compiled a book of all the portraits!)

And, although my mom is an artist and the creative director of ArtYard, unknown to most she was actually a great athlete when she was younger! Which sport? Fencing! She even won a second place prize at a fencing competition! 

Thank you so much for interviewing me!

If you want to find out more about ArtYard, click here!

If you want to keep up with me, follow me on Instagram at:


(The photo is of Natalie with her brother Miro.)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

When a Father Dies Young

If I could have my father with me again for one day, how old would I like to be?  Young I think.  Sitting on his lap or holding hands young?   I think teenage years.  I hope he would be a dad who would encourage his daughter to be her own person.  To seek her own accomplishments and fate. He would have had to be a rare man to be of that mind, but there were a few of them back then, so it's not impossible.

In the one photo I have of us together, he is wearing a snappy hat and good suit.  He looks satisfied.
Secure enough to let his children know when he is proud of them.  From time to time.

An absent father keeps your dream life close.  Imagination keeps it going.  Removed from disappointment, an absent father lives on as the "good listener".  Not the real father I ache to have had, but still an influence.

The mind has room for everything.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Lawmaker's Life Matters

I hope that Steve Scalese recovers.  And when he does, I hope he remembers that . . .

A man with a very disturbed public record was able to get the high powered rifle that
tore through his body.

A black lesbian woman saved his life.

He received state-of-the-art health care and carries the insurance to cover the costs.

Think it over Steve, think it over.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Importance of Paper

I asked Elsa about her upcoming show in Oregon and learned she is still working with paper to create her remarkable papercuts.  "This time it's going to be deeper," she said.  "I'm thinking of the versatility of paper as a metaphor for the mind."

I love paper.  My friend Diane gave me some beautiful notecards for my birthday and it was the perfect gift.  I'll mail them out during the year with good wishes while I enjoy affixing my carefully selected stamps.

I miss paper as it disappears from so many familiar parts of our lives.  My newspaper for more than fifty years is barely hanging on.  What's left of it seems not worth salvaging.  And please, please let my library stay stocked with books for as long as I'm around.

We need paper to preserve our democracy.  I'm serious.  Paper ballots are the only safe way to achieve the most accurate count.

And now I will send this out over the internet . . . but I can still make the point about paper, can't I?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Mother Effect

No matter how much or how little you want to acknowledge it, I bet there are a few things about your Mother that stick.  The one that immediately comes to my mind is the hair and make up thing.  I don't ever remember seeing her without both done to perfection.  I heard that she went to the beauty parlor on the day she died.  If that is "fake news" or "alternative facts", its essence is certainly true.

I made sure to pack my cosmetics kit before going to the emergency room.  The doc told me I was having a heart attack but that I looked damn good.

My Mother was a great cook -- American style.  Baked ham, parker house rolls, apple pie, roast beef, chicken salad.  As in all things, she created her own rules.  She loved a good corned beef sandwich.  On white toast with thousand island dressing.

Sounds good to me.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Lead Up

Casual observers are paying scant attention to the NBA finals so far.  Why should they?  It's just the undercard to the inevitable meet up between LeBron and Steph.  I say: "Listen.  There's a lot going on right now.  Last night the Wizards beat the Celtics with a three point shot at the buzzer.  Can't get any better than that."

And then there are the stories.  The up close and personal stuff.  The Spurs won the series against the Rockets despite being complete underdogs because of injuries to their star, Kawhi Leonard, and their vet Tony Parker.  Jonathon Simmons played the mythical understudy role.  The unknown who steps up and steals the show.  He started out undrafted, bounced from team to team, even paid $150 of his own money to secure a tryout. When his moment came . . .

Steve Kerr, the Warrior's coach,  (don't forget he was a Bull) is watching from a hospital bed somewhere because of botched back surgery.  His father was murdered in Beirut when Steve was in college.  (That generation of terrorism.)  Steve deserves the best from life.

Games Sunday and Monday.

Friday, May 12, 2017

What Remains

Years ago, my great friend Beverly suffered a severe stroke and went into a nursing home.  Inexplicably, and to my dismay, I learned that she didn't want any visitors.  It was difficult for her to talk on the phone, so I was reduced to writing her little notes.  At one point, I called her rabbi.  I thought I was calling to ask how she was doing, but I realized I wanted to vent about being cut off and how sad it made me feel.  The rabbi, a very loving man, gave me advice about letting go.

The other day my friend Marilyn told me how disturbed she was that her friend Paul was dying and she wasn't able to see him for one last time.  I wrote back.

Don't be concerned about Paul and his caretakers.  When his soul leaves his body, he will leave knowing what a great friend you were and how you were there for him.  He is beyond your reach now, except for his place in your mind.  You are in charge of that.

Bev remains alive in my mind.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Out of Service

I wanted to tell you about the extraordinary driver of bus no. 4125.  It was last Wednesday morning on the 147 express.  It's usually crowded and there are always opportunities for people to get testy, or noisy, or whatever happens with "the public."

This time there were two mothers with babies and strollers.  And, an old black man struggling with an enormous suitcase.  The seniors were angry about losing their seating area.  The driver stopped.  He helped the mothers collapse their strollers.  (First time I had ever seen that.)  He help position the suitcase. The seniors took their seats.

As the bus moved on to the express run on Lake Shore Drive, a very excited young fellow cried out:  "I missed my stop!  I missed my stop!"  The driver calmly told him to wait.  He turned off at Lawrence, let the man out, and immediately got back on the Drive.  (First time I had ever seen that.)

When we got on Michigan Avenue and the mothers needed to get off, the driver helped with the strollers.  By this time a passenger was willing to help by holding one of the babies.

When I got off at Washington, I saw a CTA dispatcher.  I told him I wanted to pass along praise of the driver to the higher ups.  He grumbled:  "Call this number."  When I got home, I called.  "This number is out of service."

"Well", I thought:  "Bus no. 4125 wasn't out of service.  Not today."

Monday, May 1, 2017

From A to A

The Lost City of Z is a good old fashioned movie.  Old fashioned because it is about exploration when earth was a mysterious place upon which it was still considered bold for man to leave his mark.  Not the exhausted planet over which we weep today.

And, it is the classic story:  Travel into the unknown excites the imagination, fosters ambition, attracts glory. Then, the ultimate discovery is revealed.  It is the hidden place inside.  From ambition to acceptance.  Some find that "lost city."  Some never do.

Friday, April 28, 2017


Why am I so disappointed that ex-President Obama has entered the "star" speaking circuit at $400,000 a pop?  And, that his first gig is with a Wall Street firm?  Some say:  "We're only mad when the black guy or the woman (Hillary) want to cash in."  And that makes some sense, but doesn't make me feel any better.

Maybe the disappointment comes from an overblown estimate of him (and us) in the first place:  decent, well meaning, determined to prove that our better instincts of fairness and inclusion can reach all the way to the top.  Could his inner dialogue now be:  "They disrespected me at every turn, so now I'll take from them the only thing that matters to them -- amassing the big bucks."

I suspect that Obama is smarter than that.  He knows that the $800,000 (so far) and what Michele can add is just a token.  Small change to the big boys.  And, I suspect that this decent man knows he was a token too.  He'll make his bank deposits as he watches his accomplishments "blowin' in the wind."

Sunday, April 16, 2017

No is Not Enough

I saw a video of Naomi Klein on Facebook.  She was talking about "brand jamming."  She referred to a book she wrote years ago, No Logo, where she explains that if a brand is designed to convey a certain image or message, the alternative message can be just a powerful.  For example, Nike was damaged so severely by sweat shop images that it had to change its policies. ( I know you're thinking right now that United Airlines inflicted the brand jamming directly upon itself.)

Turning her attention to Trump, she says he is an ideal candidate for brand-jamming because brand means everything to him.  She has a lot of ideas on how to make the Trump name toxic wherever it appears.

Naomi Klein's brand is super intelligent creative thinker who can lead us to some innovative actions. At a time when the brands of diversity, empathy, and community have been jammed almost to oblivion, she is worth listening to.

Her new book is No is Not Enough.

Friday, April 14, 2017

My Spartacus Moment

Here is my fantasy about the recent incident aboard the United Airlines plane.  When the doctor (a.k.a. everyman) was singled out for removal against his will and against all notion of a rational universe, all of the other passengers, perhaps led at first by one brave soul, would have unbuckled their seat belts, rose as one and declared: "I am Spartacus!"

What if the "security" people had said: "Hey United, that's your problem.  Sorry, not our job."

These fantasies have a tendency to go on and on, don't they?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Billionaires Forever

The billionaires on Wall Street and Silicon Valley are at it again.  Remember when I wrote a few weeks ago about how, looking for safety,  they are turning abandoned missile silos into luxury bunkers? And are buying up property in remote areas of New Zealand?

Now, according to a flurry of articles in the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, they are employing A.I. and other possibilities, to attack death as if it were a company ripe for a hostile takeover.

"I want to live to 150!  200!  Forever!"  Sounds like how they squeal about quarterly profits.

Even Vanity Fair is addressing this hot topic in an article about Elon Musk.  Of course, this mag is delighted to include a shot of his knockout gorgeous mother.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

We'll Always Have. . .

As I was channel surfing a few week ago I came across CASABLANCA and I stayed right through to the "beginning of a beautiful friendship."  So much has been heaped upon this film that it's remarkable how it bears the weight and remains its beloved self.

Maybe I'm being too sentimental about the stars and the story:  the best character actors ever surrounding the iconic Bogart and Bergman; fleeing refugees released to freedom; underground resistance; cynicism conquered.

And maybe that's because it feels so immediate.  Rick calls out from the archives: "Someday you'll understand."  And here we are all over again.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Just Dreaming

Last night I had the strangest dream I ever had before.  Bernie was able to get Donald on the line.  "Hello Mr. President.  I have a feeling you would really like a "win" right now.  You sensed what to do about health care in your campaign when you promised great health care for everyone.  There's a way to get that win.  Forget that we've been calling it "single payer."  We'll let that go.  Let's call it the Trump Plan.  You don't have to work on it yourself.  We've got the details already lined up.  It will be HUGE. People will love you."

"Let's get together at Mar-a-Lago and talk it over . . . That's great!  See you Saturday on the golf course."

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Amazing and Unhappy

The people I listen to on the radio and the people I read are talking about it.  A class I took last year examined it in depth.  I see it everyday in my elevator, on the street, at the theater.  It is our attachment to our electronic devices.

Two quotes stopped me in my tracks.  One was from the comedian Louis C.K. in an article by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker:

Everything is amazing and nobody is happy.  Each citizen carries on her person a computer more powerful than any available to a billionaire two decades ago, and many are using their devices to express their unbridled rage at the society that put them in our pockets.

The other quote came up in a discussion between Terry Gross and Adam Alter about his book "Irresistible.  The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked."  His research shows that addiction to video gaming and electronic devices has the same effect on us as does heroin.  In commenting on this he says:

"These people have less of an attention span than that of a goldfish."

Gopnik's essay examines the crushing re-examination of liberalism and capitalism.  Alter's book lays it out pretty clearly in his title.

Two authors. Two Adams. Is the "original" Adam trying to tell us something?

Friday, March 17, 2017

Deep Purple

My team, Northwestern, made it into the NCAA tournament for the first time ever.  And, they won their first game by two points.  The other team made a mistake in the final seconds while the Wildcats kept their poise.  The stands were a sea of purple, dotted with the many famous alums from TV and radio.  Now they face one of the powerhouse teams.  We have until Saturday.  And then . . .?

At a moment like this it's easy to understand why the dark side of the NCAA is so hard to address.  Who wants to think about the moveable money and the exploitation when it just feels so good to win.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Another March Madness

Orr Academy, a high school on Chicago's west side, won the Illinois State High School Basketball Championship last night.  I watched because I had become captivated by Rick Telander's five part series in the Sun Times.  Rick, the long time sportswriter, spent time with the boys and their coach Lou Adams.  The series was titled:  A Season Under the Gun.  Everyone in Chicago knows what that means.

As I was cheering, I thought: "My best hope for these champs is that this isn't the best moment in their lives.  That they will have a good life to grow into.  Of course you know what's behind that thought: "I hope they don't get shot like so many of their friends and family members."

March Madness indeed.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Creatures From the Past

My friend Sue takes a pill when she wakes up in the middle of the night.  I listen to the radio.  I used to like Art Bell and his gaggle of conspiracy people, cranks, and survivalists.  Reputable scientists like Michio Kaku would come on too.  Those were the best nights.

Now I listen to BBC News.  When they are not covering all the wars and other misery, they have fascinating programs about how creative we can be.  Last night I learned about "genetic rescue" and "back-breeding" as ways of fighting the extinction of so many species.  Turning around the Darwinian clock can also be used to restore lost forests.

Yesterday my friend Myles sent me one of those cute internet posts about nostalgia.  Scientists are using our healthier "good old days" to -- maybe -- save our future.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

An Illusion?

One of my favorite contemporary philosophers is Daniel Dennett.  (He looks the part, doesn't he?)  He tackles the problem of illusion this way:  We experience a world full of other people, plants, animals, home runs, problems, opportunities and mistakes.  To scientists, the world is made up of molecules, atoms, electrons, gravity, and all that Steven Hawking stuff.  Dennett seems fully aware that most of us will say: "Okay. So what?" and move on with our day.

So, for us complex creatures, he introduces the idea of competency without comprehension.  This was the genius of Steve Jobs, et al.  Make it easy to use and carry around, and the mind-numbing complexity of the systems behind it all are of no concern.  Thus, illusion keeps it going.

What about our subjective inner lives?  Are we ready to see them as illusions? Are we ready to succumb to the furniture vs. the molecules?

I agree this is eye-rolling stuff, but these are the kinds of questions we will have to deal with politically now that the robots are among us, taking over our work,  and maybe being in the process of developing minds of their own.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Singing the Illinois Blues

No, I'm not talking about the sorry state of the Bulls and the Bears.  Their ownership deserves our contempt.  It's just so sad to be a fan.  I'm talking about other "ownership" deserving of our contempt -- the politicians.

It was good "pol-watching" at Gibson's a few weeks ago.  George Ryan looked fit and happy.  I guess a few years out of jail gets your bounce back.  The Illinois Blues goes like this:  first we vote for them, then we hate them, then we jail them.  And they just keep their big fat pensions through it all.

Jesse Jackson stopped by to schmooze with George.  Everyone's a pal at Gibson's.  And, we're around to pick up the check.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Who will Survive?

One of my favorite experiences was when Bill, Natalie and I went from Melbourne to Phillip Island.  The lure was the arrival every evening at sunset of hundreds of penguins.  They would emerge from the ocean, cross the beach and climb the slopes to their natural nesting place.

The Australia tourism people -- always in good taste --had erected stands where we could watch the penguin parade but not interfere.  We were instructed politely to maintain quiet and no cameras.  It was magical.

The recent article in The New Yorker about the survivalist billionaires reminded me of my "back to nature" moment.  Despairing of our institutions, or maybe fearing a revolt, they are "getting away from it all" by burrowing down in bunkers in Kansas.  Or, buying up property in remote New Zealand at such a rapid pace that the natives are feeling invaded by nervous Yanks.

I don't know if there are penguins in New Zealand.  But I'm sure there are other sea creatures who eye the shore.  Maybe they see the panicky humans searching for a nesting place. Making sure "I've got mine."  Maybe they just turn around and return to the sea.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

What a Day

Oh yes.  It got to him.  It got to him good.  On a day when every inch of space was occupied by people expressing their disgust (no more dismay!) he noticed.  So he sent his little underling out to have a tantrum for him.  He sent him out to squeak: "The media is to blame!" None of this is happening.  Women?  Oceans of women?  We don't have to see them.  They don't exist.

What next? When one woman in Hawaii can start a global stampede,  there is going to be a "next."
People don't turn off these feelings when they put their signs down.  So yes, it got to me.  As my friend Marilyn said yesterday: "Doesn't this feel good again?"

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Medal for my Freedom

When President Obama presented the Medal of Freedom to Joe Biden yesterday it seemed a uniquely personal act.  More like a precious gift from the family vault than a bow to history or the gold watch at the retirement party.

The President, in his final days in office, has been emphasizing how much he loves his Vice-President.  "I found a brother,"  he says.  I was reminded of Ta-Nehisi Coates' insightful essay My President was Black.  He looks at Obama's "audacity" and success by looking at the boy raised by loving whites rather than by the history of the whip or fear of the uniform.

So, maybe Joe Biden, the scandal-touched politician, visited by early tragedy, was again the improbable white presence that gave us this special time.

When it's over next week, I wonder if Barack Obama and Joe Biden will stay close or go their separate ways.  In either case, the connection belongs to history.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Hidden Feelings

President Obama is giving his Farewell Speech here tonight.  I saw the movie Hidden Figures yesterday.  Deep feelings of astonishment are welling up in me.  Of course I knew all along that Obama was a "once in a lifetime" presence.  But now it is getting to me.

When I was a young girl and my mother was away working, we had black maids who took care of us.  They looked and acted just like the computer programmer in the film.  Comfortable in her heavy set body and always nurturing.  Competent.  We were safe.

One scene in the film was especially powerful.  The blond department head says something like "We don't mean any disrespect."  The reply?  "I'm sure you believe that is true."

Could one of those loving women who helped get me through my childhood taken us to the moon?  I'll never know . . . and neither will they.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Being Girls

I heard via my wonderful alumnae news chronicler that a high school classmate has died.  I remember her so vividly.  She was the pretty, petite, popular one.  The ultimate wannabe of the ungainly girls like me.  The girl who kept us in a perpetual state of longing.

She wasn't my first.  There was another one in fourth or fifth grade. Several years ago I was at a business event.  I was chatting with a woman and when she told me she grew up in Detroit, I knew.  I expected if she opened her coat I would see her smartly starched dress.  The frilly one that dazzled me then and still appears in my dreams.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My Listening Tour (Part Two)

When you invite comments you should be ready for whatever may come your way.  My favorite doorperson is a funny, friendly pro.  We've been chatting for years.  When I asked her how she was greeting the Trump presidency, she spouted some pretty strong racist stuff while embracing Trump.  When I asked her if she worried about eventually losing medicare or social security, she said:"Oh, that will never happen."

I thought about the literature surrounding domestic violence.  There's a lot of false optimism among those who choose to stay.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

My Listening Tour

Now that 2017 is upon us, I've decided to conduct a "listening tour."  The objective?  At a minimum, to gather ideas about how to survive the Trump years; and, (oh, please) find out how I can help stop him and his cronies.

Friday, I had lunch with the ever-energetic Trudy.  She says: "keep writing to your representatives on every issue.  Protest, protest, protest."  She was at the March of the Crosses on Michigan Avenue on December 31 and is going to the Women's March in Washington during the inauguration.

Tomorrow, it's lunch with my friend Margaret.  She is an historian and professor.  In touch with students and academics.

I'll keep you posted.  We need ideas!  We need energy!  No depression allowed.

Happy New Year

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one