Saturday, July 4, 2015

I Never Get Tired of the Old Fashioned 4th of July in Chicago

This crazy world stands still for a few hours every July 4th.  Actually it doesn't stand still as much as it goes back in time.  This spectacular sunrise lived up to its promise of a beautiful day.  Off we went, as we have for many years to the Chicago History Museum.  You may remember it as the Chicago Historical Society.  Volunteers with programs and little American flags greet us in the east plaza of the Museum.  Hundreds of Chicagoans and visitors of all backgrounds and ages have gathered here for 52 years to  experience an old fashioned 4th of July. 
As the children prepare themselves with painted faces and lots of beads for the parade, led by the worlds tallest Uncle Sam, the adults are treated not only to patriotic music by a real live orchestra, but also renderings by Cole Porter, George M. Cohan and a wide array of old time familiar music.  I love that the kids are being introduced to some of the oldies but goodies.

The Childrens' Parade is a real family affair, with moms, dads, grandparents and even dogs joining in the action.  Our Uncle Sam mingles with the kids and even jumps rope as though he wasn't on stilts.  I admire the parents who are setting an example of patriotism for their little ones.  I hope it sticks. 

After the parade is the "meat" of the program.  The posting of colors, this year by an honor guard of the American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER)..  After the introduction of the dignitaries on the dais and the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance and singing (yes - the crowd knows the words) of the National Anthem,  the entire Declaration of Independence is read.  This year, by Jim Darby, president of AVER.  He did a great job  - it is not an easy piece to read with the elaborate language of the day in 1776. 

The anthem of all the branches of the U.S. Military are played one by one as the veterans of each of those who served are asked to stand and be recognized.  I never get a picture of my husband, served in the Air Force, because I'm sitting next to him.  Maybe next year.  I did get this picture of a stunning female Naval Veteran of Vietnam, who served on a munitions ship for several years and is a proud VFW member.

There are many teary eyes as this part of the program is in progress, mine included.  We really do owe a debt to our U.S. Servicemen and Women.   It is they who preserve our right to gather and express ourselves freely.  Thank you.

As in the old days, an elected official is asked to deliver a keynote oration.  This year's was ably presented by a relatively new U.S. Representative from Illinois, Mike Quigley.  I must say I was impressed with his words, and also his humorous look into the U.S. House.  I think he will serve his constituents well.

Most impressive is the retiring of the colors-  lots of pomp and circumstance and pride in carrying a variety of banners.  The finale is a  reenactment of the Bess Brown musket firing  by the King's Regiment, Eighth of Foot. The Brits are unceremoniously whisked off the podium and the crowd is invited to tour the museum free of charge. 

This experience is well worth the effort to get over there.  Put it on your calendar for next year, you won't regret it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Guilt Trip

It's all my sister's fault.

  Patsy and I spent a week in Tucson enjoying the sun and the company of our mother's youngest sister.  I had a few medical episodes while we were there and made the decision to leave earlier than I had hoped.  I just didn't want to be there alone and  wanted to be close to my own doctor and my favorite  NWM hospital..... funny how we chose our condo downtown to be near the Oak Street Beach and now cherish it because we can walk to the hospital.

On departure day, I actually felt just fine.  At the pool the day before, my sister (a nurse), my friend Martha (a nurse) and my old college roommate ( the mother and grandmother of nurses) had decided that I was to order a wheelchair to meet me on my arrival at Midway Airport.
 They were already mad at me for shunning most of their medical advice, so I went along with it.    I couldn't fake the ordering of the wheelchair, as my sister was with me at Tucson's one-horse, six gate airport. 

Sheepishly, I approached the  agent at the gate and asked if I should order the wheelchair for Midway or have the  attendant do it after take-off.  She said she'd take care of it.  I know she probably thought I was one of those disability scammers who will do anything to board early.  To her credit she didn't betray her suspicion that I was a perfectly healthy senior looking for a free ride.  She couldn't know that I had every intention of cancelling the wheelchair once in flight.  

I fly standby........ and didn't make the flight that my sister was on, but the next non-stop had plenty of empty seats. I buried my head in a book and killed a few hours, At boarding time, I again approached the gate to get my boarding pass.  A new CSA at the counter kindly said "I see you're getting a wheelchair in Chicago.  Do you need one to board? "   I told her I could walk just fine down the jetway and thanked her.   She handed me my boarding pass - in a blue, pre-board authorization sleeve. I tried to protest, but she was on to helping the next customer.

When they called for the pre-board  group, I took a deep breath, said "What the Hell!" and stepped up to join the line of wheelchairs, canes, walkers and a few other scammers like myself.  Okay - the third row window seat was nice.  I admit it.  As I sipped my Bloody Mary ( a travel requisite) I thought of when would be the time to cancel the wheelchair.  I read and slept all the way and we had landed before I knew it.

 I unbuckled, picked up my purse and sat up in anticipation of a long wait while those in front of me retrieved their obnoxiously huge "carry on" items from the overheads.  It didn't happen.  They were all the wheelchair people in front of me and they didn't move.  I was up and out in no time.

 As I thanked the pilot for the smooth landing and stepped off the plane, a young man said,"Mrs. Crawford, my name is Javier and I have your wheelchair."  I gave it another "What the Hell!"  and sat in the chair and leaned back while Javier skillfully maneuvered me up the jetway and into the terminal.  We whizzed past the moving walkways and I looked up guiltily at the  mobs of people walking, pulling bags and waiting in lines. We stopped  only so I could buy a bottle of water (so I'd have tip money).   When we got down to the baggage claim, I told Javier I was okay to get my bag and go.  He leaned in and said, "If I stay with you out to the curb, you can cut the taxi line because of the wheelchair."  You guessed it......"What the Hell!"  Javier grabbed my bag, pushed me to the front of the taxi line and I was home in record time.

I still feel a little guilty when I think about that trip,  but I keep hoping my band of nurses will force me into a wheelchair again the next time I fly. 

"What the Hell!"

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Just Don't Ask Me.

Don't ask me:                                              
  • If I prefer the pink or the purple
  • What movie I want to see
  • Where I want to go to lunch
  • What time I want to eat
  • Whether I want my bangs a little shorter
  • Who should win DWTS
  • Why I hate to shop
I have spent a lifetime making decisions.

   In the early years it was.... what to wear, who to date, what classes to take, how to solve for "x",  who to support for student council, whether or not to smoke, how to choose real friends, how to get a summer job,  how to pass botany,  what classes to cut, how to sneak out of the dorm, how to sneak stuff into the dorm, who to marry, who to invite, what to wear.

As a wife/mom it was.....what to wear,  how to cook, what to cook, how to stretch a dollar, how to bathe a baby,  how to potty train a kid, how to retrieve a dime a kid has swallowed, how to keep a kid safe, how to safely cross a street with a bunch of kids, who to let ride in the "way back", whether to get a dog, how to potty train a dog, how to keep a dog safe from a bunch of kids, how to fix that
many heads of hair every morning, how to juggle a job and night school and a bunch of teenagers, how to keep a bunch of teenagers from peril, how to keep the family car safe from a bunch of teenagers, how to detect when they: smoked, drank, snuck out of the house,  how to plan and
enjoy all those weddings, what to wear.

As a career person it was.....what to wear, how to relearn to type, how to tell debits from credits,  how to interact with adults in groups, how to get promoted, how to help customers, how to fit in the cooking and cleaning with the day job, when to keep my mouth shut at meetings,  how to express my ideas at meetings, what community groups to support,  how to plan corporate parties and events, how to write strategic plans, how to meet goals, who to mentor, who to promote, how to survive a truly horrid boss, how to drink the kool aid without gagging,  how to fit in at "headquarters",  when to tender my resignation, what to wear.

Now I'm retired.    I know I can wear my keds and khakis and polos and crew necks everyday and it doesn't make a damn bit of difference.  Kids and corporations can make their own way in life.   I am tired of making decisions.  You decide.

Just, don't ask me.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking In The Rearview Mirror From 2013

One hundred years ago both of my parents were born.  If they had been here in 2013 we'd have had one big party.  Sadly, many of their peers and siblings would not have been around to celebrate with us.

Fifty years ago I experienced two big losses.  My father died of Camel cigarettes and airplane fumes.  He worked for American Airlines right out of high school.  They were flying prop planes back then.  I remember flying in them.  Imagine all the things we take for granted today that he never
experienced or knew about.  Two of my children have now lived longer than my dad.  He would have loved all the grandkids.......our place in Arizona.....and Patsy and Jan's beaches.

We also lost the first president for whom I was able to vote.  I remember sitting in my college dorm watching the debates (they were pretty civilized back then.)  He was the one who inspired me to get active in politics.   I thought of him when I canvassed for Obama in Iowa a few years go.  I also remember the day he was killed.  We lived in a Quonset hut on campus with no television or telephone.  Joe was at work at one of his many jobs and when he showed up at home in the middle of the day I knew it was not good.
  We high tailed it out to Grandpa Jack's and stayed glued to the television for hours (actually days.)

Nineteen years ago I lost my mother.  I can't tell you how many times over those years I have reached for the phone to share some news with her.  I regret the times I made fun of her for watching Golden Girls - little did I know I'd grow to love them too.  She would be so proud of all of her ten grandchildren.  They were a big part of her life, and she theirs.  I still use her wooden spoon and her teapot and we all use her mother's pierogi recipe that she shared with us.  Christmas always brings her to mind.  Nobody could eat enough to make her happy.  I think she'd be satisfied on that point in 2013.

Five years ago I retired from a job that I had loved for  30 years.  I miss most of the people I worked with, resent the last boss I had who made my decision to retire easy, and stay in touch with many of the colleagues who enriched my life.  Retirement is great.  Never bored, no regrets and many thanks to the hard working people who worked for me and made me look good.

We have had many joys and losses during this year, as well.  When I look back at the end of 2014, I hope it will hold more joys than losses.  I wish only good health and happiness to my family and friends.  A little bit more peace on earth, a lot more sanity in Washington, a lot less crime in my city.  Most of all - may we all wake up breathing each morning and just be nice to each other.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Practice Makes Perfect... and other old adages

We spent a few pleasant  hours today at Millennium Park watching the Grant Park Music Festival Orchestra rehearse for tomorrow's  concert.  It is always fun to watch the musicians perform in their shorts and flip flops - knowing that tomorrow night's audience will see them in their casually elegant black and white ensembles.

We had a crazy mixed up summer, so this is actually our first time at the Pritzker Pavilion this year.  Hoping to make up for that from now until summer's end.   We've been enjoying the Grant Park Orchestra since the 1970s when it was a well kept secret over at the Petrillo band shell.  We could always spread out and enjoy the music, the wine and the food.  That is kind of hard to do in the seat structure today, so these day- time rehearsals are very special in that they are not crowded and we can bring our lunch once again.

Today was not my favorite kind of music, but exciting nonetheless.  I always learn something new from the wonderful docents who speak during the union-mandated breaks in the action,  Today I learned the difference between a soprano and a tenor saxophone.  That being said - saxophone music is an acquired taste.  Many of the others there were really into it.  I was listening and reading my New Yorker.  I stopped to watch when the famed solo sax player, James Carter joined the orchestra.  He is not only a good musician, but a showy performer, moving with ease between the tenor and soprano saxophones before him. 

After the rehearsal, we stuck around and were lucky enough to see the Detroit born Carter, Roberto Sierra, the Puerto Rican composer who wrote the Concerto for Saxophones And Orchestra, and Carlos Kalmar, who was raised in Uruguay and is our Principal Conductor putting their heads together.  It was a very spirited conversation and I would love to have been a fly on the wall as they discussed the performance of the piece.  Smiles all around.

A large group of Chicago Park District day campers joined the audience when the soloist took the stage.  They were extremely well behaved youngsters and appeared to enjoy the music.  When the rehearsal ended, a trumpet player and a violinist from the orchestra came down to the seating area and held a lively,  interactive  session with the kids, talking about the orchestra, the study of music and their own special instruments.  That made for a  heartwarming and uplifting end to a pleasant visit to the park.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

What I Learned This Weekend

Had an activity packed weekend and learned  (or confirmed) a few things.  It's never to late to learn.

  • There is hope for the future when a 13 year old and a 6 year old demonstrate intellectual curiosity.
Hebrew is written right to left.

Trader Joe's has the best brownie mix on earth.

WGN Radio (confirmation) should stand for World's Grossest Nonsense.  The only intelligent conversation taking place is from Lou Manfredini, to whom I listen even though I'm never going to fix anything for the rest of my life.

Some of the most civil people in the world volunteer at the Newberry Library.

The face of the Newberry Book Fair is shifting.  As bookstores disappear and people gravitate toward electronic reading devices, the number of fiction, mystery, romance and sci-fi book donations is shrinking - leaving those real book lovers like me disappointed on our finds in those genres.

Free speech is still alive in Bughouse Square.

Cooking Mexican food (confirmed) from scratch is messier and more work than Thanksgiving Dinner.

If it wasn't for the BBC,  Saturday night American television would be irrelevant.

And finally.  CONFIRMEDIf you live in Chicago you can never safely put away your winter clothes.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Let The Games Begin!

         Today was the first day of the Farmers' Market at Daley Plaza.  It really  put me in a summer mood. No coat, no long pants, plenty of sunshine and lots of my favorite things. I went for asparagus and bagels and wound up with all kinds of other goodies - honey, bread, cheese.  The crowd was upbeat - almost a party atmosphere.  I guess I'm not the only one who is tired of winter.   I rode my CTA chariot home to deposit my treasures in the appropriate places and headed for the Oak Street Beach.

I got my first pre-beach hug of the season from Carlos at the Drake and headed for the tunnel.  I worry that the ceiling is going to cave in along with one or more  of  the thousands of cars driving over it every day.  Come on - Park District - get with it.

Happily, the murals escaped graffiti over the winter.  A few touch ups and they should be okay.  Bruce, the massage guy, needs an eyelift on his likeness (though not in real life.)

Marcia and I stayed until the bitter end.  I even stuck my toes in the frigid, but clear water.  The measure of success for today is threefold.
  • My bathing suit fit
  • I could get up out of my chair on my own
  • I got up the ramp without a backache
Oh how we lower the bar on success as we age.

Now it's time to sample some of that bread and cheese and roast the asparagus for dinner.
Happy Summer.