Friday, December 30, 2011

Twelve Reasons Why I Don't Write a Christmas Letter

I have many friends who write clever Christmas letters describing their kids' accomplishments,  exotic travel,  winning golf scores and even some of the bad stuff that happens in their lives.  I do look forward to reading them all and save them for a quiet moment when I can  savor them.   In past years I often thought about writing one myself, but never did.  Today, as I was re-reading some of my friends' letters, I grabbed my calendar and looked for a couple of highlights for each month. 

  • January:        Saddest funeral, bad opera, Florida visit too short.

  • February:   Blizzard, Dr. appointments, back to my writing group.

  • March:       Hospital overnight, missed City Council meeting, missed Jill's b'day, filed taxes.

  • April:        Chicago Latino Film Festival, lots of lunches with friends, lots of rain

  • May:         Dr. Appointments, trip to Tucson,  quality friend time, missed major funeral in N,J,

  • June:        Kathryn graduated 8th grade, Carrie H.S., Colleen in town, 50th. Anniversary.

  • July:        Jury duty, Martha & Mercer visit, Newberry Book Fair, discount days at Art Institute

  • August:    Grant Park concerts end, John (Bob) turns 87. Farmers' market peaks. Friend time+

  • September: More Dr. appointments, Sisters' weekend in Cape Cod, German Fest with the kids

  • October:   Last two beach days, two good operas, lots of rain, Jacky's for Joe's 75th birthday

  • November:  Made pierogi in Oak Park & Tucson, U of A football game, cooked Thanksgiving.

  • December: Holiday fests in Tucson, H.S. buddy and wife visit Tucson , pierogi fest in Oak Park with loved ones.

Are you still awake?  Aren't you glad I don't write a Christmas letter?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Occupy Tucson - Not My Kind of Tucsonans

Nursing a bad shoulder, with camera, husband and friend in tow, I ventured into the Occupy Tucson world.  Having had a positive experience with the Chicago Occupiers, I expected more of the same.  But no.  The only similarity was the statue of a horse  and rider.  Now that I think about it, what self respecting American park doesn't have such a statue.

Instead of being welcomed, as I was in Chicago, and respectfully told what the objectives were, I was questioned about my presence there.
One young man, who claimed to be a leader, said that it was all about homelessness. There have always been homeless living in downtown Tucson, near the courthouse.  If I were homeless I'd sure go to Tucson and not Minneapolis.   They had been removed from the park across from the courthouse and allowed to move to Parque 20 de Agosto.  The park commemorates the birthday of Tucson.  On August 20th, 1775 this site was established as a new Presidio - San Agustin de Tucson - making it the northernmost outpost of Spain in Arizona.  I had asked a guy earlier what the name of the park was, before I found the marker.  His response - "Don't ask me, I just got in town yesterday." - gave me hint of what made this so different from Chicago's.

I decided to avoid the self proclaimed leader and headed into the fray for a self guided tour. Husband and friend declined to join me.  So into their midst I went.

  There was a clear buzz of anger.  There was foul language.  There was loud expounding on the M-F'n cops and the court system.  I didn't hear any reasonable voices or see  signs of peaceful protest.  I saw a largely unwashed, or at least disheveled, crowd. Many were asleep in the tents.  I took in the scene of outdoor grills and cases of water and lots of food. Donated?  Where did all the expensive tents come from?  I did see a small bookcase labeled "Library" and  a poster with an agenda scribbled on it.  I guess 2:00 PM was their down time.  No one was manning the stage or the microphone. I crossed the busy street to climb up a few steps to allow for a bird's eye view of the park. 

There was a security guard there to keep the Occupiers out of the small shopping center in their pursuit of bathrooms.  I asked him if most of the people were homeless.  "Hell, no - some of them are, but there are others. Students  with time on their hands -over there in Berkeley and other California schools- decided to get involved and they split themselves into groups and some went to Tucson and some went to other cities." Well, that explained the expensive tents.  I asked why the cops weren't chasing them out of the park - as they were clearly in violation of the law.  "Well, two of our idiot councilmen want to let them stay there - they sympathize with 'em.  So the cops are going easy.  Pretty stupid if you ask me."

The spot I chose from which to shoot my photo is right next to this kiosk, at the gateway to downtown Tucson.  I'm sure the scene I witnessed from this spot is not what the Chamber of Commerce had in mind when it created the sign.   We left downtown to head out Mission Road to our all time favorite Mexican Restaurant, Karichimaka.  It's been there since we were all in college and nothing has changed - except us.  At the same time that we were enjoying our cheese crisps and Dos Equis- we later learned -the police had moved into Parque 20 de Agosto and arrested six people for drunkenness and fighting over the tents.  I am not surprised. And I am not going back.  These are bad apples using the Occupy movement to break the law.  These people don't represent Tucson.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Occupy Chicago - A Horse of a Different Color

One Sunday in November, before we left Chicago, I wandered down to Grant Park.  Well I didn't exactly wander.  I went there purposely, seeking the Chicago Occupiers, who gather  by the horse statue in Congress Plaza.  Actually, the statue depicted is The Bowman, one of two bronze statues installed in 1928 and created by Ivan Mestrovic.  The other is called The Spearman and both were commissioned to honor Native Americans.  If I had trusted the media, I would have been wary of an unruly mob.  Having visited with the Occupiers at Jackson and LaSalle, I knew better, but wasn't sure if they had continued to maintain their cool. 

What ensued was a lot less rowdy than some  high school graduations I've attended.  They had a speaker, a well known university professor, who is an expert in housing.  As she spoke, through a portable megaphone, the crowd reacted not with loud cheers and boos - but by raising their hands and wiggling their fingers - a silent yeah or nay.  Speakers from the crowd were given the opportunity to respond, or add, to the speaker's remarks.  Everyone was respectful of the platform and the other speakers.  I closed my eyes and pictured these folks in suits and ties and I was back in an educational seminar at work.  What?

note the CPD in background

I had a lengthy conversation with a very young woman and a man older than I am.  I asked why the media hadn't picked up on the peaceful nature of the Chicago group - as they had the lawlessness and confrontational nature of groups in other cities.  This time, I was quoted from Gandhi.  I hope I don't  mess this up, but I failed to write it down.  Something like..."First they ignore  you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then you win." 

They had games and artsy activities for children and a big chalk drawn sign saying "Keep Your Kids Occupied".  They claim to have no leaders, but the whole thing was so damn organized that I find it hard to believe.  If you think they're not organized, check out their website
Their calendar abounds in educational events as well as action oriented gatherings.  It's not just about corporate greed any more.

I asked if they had a problem with the homeless joining in and creating disturbances as they have in other cities.   They said they welcome everyone.  They also said when they do encounter the mentally ill or addicted homeless, they deliver them to where they can get help.   I didn't see any out of control, or obviously homeless people.  The crowd is still pretty diverse and seems to be growing.

 I'm sitting here in Tucson reading the New York Times recap of the arrests and evictions in  places like Atlanta, Boston, Burlington, Vt., Denver, L.A., Oakland, Portland, Ore., Salt Lake City and St. Louis.  I am hoping that the Chicago Occupiers are staying on higher ground and sticking to their theories of peace and inclusion.   On the other hand, I hope  they don't get too corporate.  They may succumb to the things they claim to protest.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ants In My Pants - Annoying Debate

I usually sit through every minute of each debate to catch every last word and gesture.  Last night I found myself making excuses to leave the room, as though I had ants in my pants.  I don't think I missed much on my forays into  other rooms.  If I missed anything "juicy" I'm sure I'll read or hear about it. A number of things really annoyed me.

The set itself, with the eye-popping red in dominance was a huge distraction.  It was good to see John Harwood and Maria Bartiromo -but give me a break- Jim Cramer?
Not only is he mostly wrong about the economy, but also his shouting drove me into the kitchen for a glass of wine.  Keep him out of my house.

 To top it off, in every screen shot of him was a face, over his shoulder, of a dead ringer for Alfred E. Neuman.  That may have typified the annoying audience who booed Maria's questioning of Cain and cheered  Cain's response on the harrassment accusations.  While I know the only topic that was promised to be covered was the economy, I hope audience reaction isn't typical of how America views harrassment in general.

Some old annoying phrases: flat tax, obamacare, 9-9-9, repeal, do away with, Obama failure.

Some new annoying phrases: Princess Nancy, General Axelrod

Funny moment:  Newt vs. the media - he clearly is the smartest guy on the stage.

Sad moment:     Poor Rick Perry - I wanted to hug him, but only in the spiritual sense.

The expected:
  •    Michelle Bachmann's 1000 yard stare into space.
  •  Romney wore his flip-flops again.
  • Nobody said how they would actually do what they thought needs to me done. What are they waiting for?
  •  Most of them didn't even answer the questions - and there were some good questions. 
The unexpected:
  •   Huntsman on China and the markets. 
  •  Santorum on job creation.
  •  No mention of ending the wars from Paul.

Oh and did I mention the most annoying thing of all?  Try concentrating on the speakers with the stock market quotes crawling across the bottom of the screen and all those bright red down pointing arrows.

Thumbs down on this debate. I don't want to have lunch with any of them this week.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Occupy Chicago - A Picture of Diversity

I'm not sure if it is truly diversity or a case of protest schizophrenia. On a fine October day I decided to go to the  Occupy Chicago meeting place, where the Board of Trade sits opposite the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank, to see for myself.  The group was small - under 100 people- and clearly diverse in terms of age, ethnicity and walk of life.  Deciding not to judge a book by its cover, I approached several in the group to ask why they were there and to what end.  I suggested to a woman about my age, dressed in a stunning, expensive outfit, that I wasn't able to sort out the major theme.  She responded by handing me a fresh- off- the- press flier stating that the one message should be campaign finance reform.  It condems Citizens United and cites numerous elections that have been "bought" by that group and other special interest groups consisting of wealthy corporations and especially financial institutions.

I then approached two young women who could have been my granddaughters.  One turned out to be a  high school student - done for the day - and the other a college student who didn't have class until 4:00.  I asked them what the 99% means. The high school student cited Marx- that in the worst economic times the 99% control 1% of the the wealth and vice versa.  I am not a reader of Marx. The only similar quote I found on Google was during the Gore/Bush debates in 2000.   I was impressed that a  high school student was articulate and even knew the name Karl Marx.  They also said they were tired of banks charging them money to use their money and the fact that jobs are scarce.

The group was having a good time, being respectful to the police and the passersby, and for the most part sincere.  I suspect the employees of the Ann Taylor shop behind the insessant drumming were also sincere in their anger.  There were a few colorful weirdo people and lot of colorful signs.    Interesting to note that most of the people who honked  to "Indict Banksters" were driving cabs and buses.

I'm still not sure what they're all about - but they are surely not the great homeless, lawless, unwashed mob that seems to have infiltrated  Occupy groups in other cities.  For once, The Chicago Way is a good way.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Chicago Dummies and Mannequins

The transportation board of the City of Chicago recently installed mannequins on Wacker Drive along the river.  They represent the 32 pedestrians killed last year in Chicago.  According to an article in the Chicago Tribune:

 The move to shock drivers into being on the lookout and yielding to pedestrians is part of a new large-scale safety effort aimed at reducing injuries and fatalities citywide, officials said.

 I agree that this a noble undertaking.  I disagree with the onsidedness of the campaign.  After photographing the dead pedestrian mannequins at Wacker and Chicago, I headed up the Mag Mile to Pearson and Michigan, where the old pumping station meets the Water Tower Place mall.  I walk this route many times a week and am always amazed at the stupidity of those who look like perfectly normal, full grown adults.
This scene - please note the red light and the flashing do not walk symbol- was repeated through 6 light changes.  Coming at these pedestrians from the left were cars trying to turn left off of Michigan Avenue onto Pearson.  I was astonished at the diversity of the jaywalkers, old, young, tourists, locals, disabled, those texting and those talking on cell phones.  The worst of the bunch are the parents of young children and babies, who not only endanger their offspring, but also set  bad examples for obeying the rules.  I scratch my head in wonder.

So go ahead and shock the drivers into paying attention.  But who is going to shock the pedestrians?
Maybe the Mayor will deputize me and some of my law abiding friends to hand out tickets involving fines.  We could make a good dent in the budget shortfall by enforcing the jaywalking ordinance. We might even be able to save a lives. I know of at least 2 fatalities that took place at this corner.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Mystery Men In My Bedroom

I’ve always preferred the company of men.   From a very young age I was attracted to and hung out with the boys in the neighborhood.  It wasn't  physical or romantic, I just fit in better with them.   I think like a man.  I hate to shop. I’m too lazy to dye my hair or bother with makeup. Women in groups give me the hives.  In high school and college I'd rather hang out with the players than the cheerleaders. At work I preferred working with men; most of them are not jealous or petty.  I liked having at least one man in each department – it made the women behave themselves.  One of my early bosses suggested I needed a jock strap.
That being said, I have been physically and romantically connected with my spouse for well over 50 years or about 73% of my living and breathing time on earth so far. That include the flirting,  dating and breaking up and making up that constitute a courtship.  It doesn’t change the fact that I still enjoy the company of other men.  Many of our male friends have gone on to whatever awaits us after death.  Nobody’s reaching out to me from beyond, so the pickings are slim for male companionship outside my marriage. 
 Thank heavens for my mystery men.   I have many of them and I’m grateful.  They live only on the pages of the many books I read and in my imagination, but they are as real as those neighborhood kids were back in the 40s.
Now for the bedroom part; I love to read in total silence. My spouse needs music and TV and all manner of distractions.  Therefore, he reads in the den and I read in my favorite chair in  the bedroom.  Let me introduce you to my bedroom companions, in no particular order.
MacDonald at work

 John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee is  rugged,tall, tan, and lives my dream life on a houseboat in a marina in Ft. Lauderdale.  He won the boat in a card game, thus its name, The Busted Flush.  He is wildly adventurous and bills himself as a salvage consultant.  What he really does is recover lost or stolen property or people for a handsome fee.   He manages to attract the good at heart, but gone astray women who pop up in every mission he undertakes.  He and his chess genius, economist friend, Meyer, collaborate to bring these gals back on the path to goodness.  He is gentle with women, but doesn’t hesitate to bed them if he thinks it will help them.
 In spite of some of the scrapes he gets into and his sometimes unorthodox methods of dealing with the bad guys, he manages to stick to his principles of honesty and personal integrity.  He is a cynic and increasingly concerned about the demise of the environment in Florida. What’s not to love?  I could live on a boat, and drink martinis at sunset (although he drinks gin and I can’t stand it) and only work when the cash starts getting low. And I so enjoy the conversations between Meyer and Travis.  I want to join in.
Robert B. Parker
Robert B. Parker’s Spenser is a New England version of Travis McGee.  He doesn’t live on a boat, but in a house and sometimes with his significant other and their dog Pearl.  He is a private detective and ex-cop who has a mutually respectful relationship with several law enforcement officers. Unlike Travis, he is in a monogamous relationship with a smart, beautiful psychiatrist, Susan.  Women throw themselves at him, but he resists temptation every time.  His gorgeous, slightly criminal, black sidekick and boxing partner is as bright as Travis’ Meyer, but tries to hide it.  Women also throw themselves at him. He doesn’t deprive himself – well, almost never. 

Spenser and Hawk have taken on organized crime, both in Boston and on the west coast.  This provides me with a wide array of characters to boo and hiss.  I can picture their habitats from the sleazy bars in Boston to the mansion outside of L.A.  It doesn’t make me want to go there, but the pictures are as clear as photographs. There are several episodes that take place on the college campuses in and around Boston.  The students and administrators alike are well defined and while Spenser is less cynical than Travis, he cleverly illustrates the flawed characters of the privileged class and the bureaucracy, while still making some of them pitiable, but likable.
 The conversations between Spenser, Hawk and Susan are smart, clipped, and given to some one or two word wise-crack sentences and indeed paragraphs.  They also reveal that although they are in a tough business, they stick to their  ethical standards and honest values.  The literary references interspersed in the dialogue give me a  feel for their level of intelligence – but it’s not thrown in my face. 
 Spenser, too, is gentle with Susan. He also cooks for her.  I’ve used his chicken and linguine recipe.  His drink of choice is scotch – another spirit I can’t stomach.  I mentally join Susan in her occasional cocktail or her regular glass of wine instead.  I think Spenser and Susan are happy in a committed, but married state.  If they ever decide to get married, I hope they invite me.  I’ll watch Pearl for them, and I don’t even like dogs.


Donna Leon
Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti has sparked in me a love affair with Venice, Italy.   Unlike Spenser or Travis, Guido Brunetti  He is a smart, highly principled and compassionate second in command of the Venetian Questura who solves crimes that are not always obviously  crimes.  His boss is a somewhat incompetent bureaucrat who is more interested in keeping bad news from tourists and shielding elected officials reputations, than fighting crime. 
Brunetti is married to the love of his life, Paola, who unlike him, is a child of wealthy aristocrats and the mother of his two teenage children, whom he adores in spite of their typical teenage ways.  The balancing of his home life and police life are sometimes as great a challenge as trying to solve crimes that his boss doesn’t want made public.

Unlike Spenser, he doesn't cook.  Paola does the cooking. The descriptions of the aromatic foods and fine wines that accompany them practically jump out at you from between the pages.  The fact that they’re talking about mid-day meals in these descriptions makes me think that maybe those three martini lunches in the 60s weren’t such a bad thing.  Civility seems to reign in the haze of the long lunch.   Brunetti has his favorite Inspector,  Vianello, who is as much a sidekick as Hawk or Meyer.  Vianello and Brunetti  complain at length if they have to settle for a sandwich instead of a decent meal for lunch.  The fact that when the Commissario goes home for lunch he has to climb up three flights of stairs to his kitchen, may justify the meals they eat.
He and Paola, a university professor with a weakness for Henry James, have no secrets from each other and are both intellectuals.  They dismiss organized religion in a way you wouldn’t expect in Italy. They don’t insult my intelligence by explaining references to great works or translating the occasional French or Italian phrase – although I admit, I sometimes have to look them up.  Brunetti is hopelessly behind the times, but his beautiful and savvy secretary, Signorina Elletra ,has the skills to hack into any data base and the connections to glean information from agencies all over Europe.
Although often showing the seamy and criminal side of Venice; most notably the problems with illegal immigration, fake artifacts, corrupt public officials and a totally broken judicial system, I still want to visit Venice and experience the architecture, the people and the food.  I am hoping the Commissario will invite me to lunch.  Paola will whip up a wonderful dish of pasta with fish fresh from the sea and vegetable concoction fresh from the market.  After walking up  those stairs, I will deserve that glass of chilled Moet.  At last, a drink I can share with one of my mystery men.

Note:  I have chosen to depict the authors instead of the protagonists.  As readers, we all have mental pictures of the characters.  To try to depict them universally would be a literary crime.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What Happens In Vegas..........

It has taken me almost a week to figure out what to write about the latest G.O.P. debate in Las Vegas.  I'm still not sure I've got the angle right.  Judging by the ratings, viewers seem to be hooked on these sessions.  Are they truly trying to decide - or hoping for a possible train wreck?  The sheer number of televised debates leads me to quote Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. " Less is more", he famously said about his style of architecture.  I think I can agree with this sentiment after having watched all the debates from day one.

While "familiarity breeds contempt" (Aesop) is far too strong, "absence makes the heart grow fonder" (anonymous) may come closer to the truth.  Some of the candidates are becoming less likable and others are becoming less believable as  presidential material.  The spot light is fading  their strong points and highlighting their weaknesses.  A no-win situation for all.  In fact I think the biggest winners last week were Jon Huntsman, who chose to go to New Hampshire instead, and Herman Cain whose book jumped onto the New York Times best seller list at number four.

By far the biggest loser was CNN whose sloppy moderation allowed some pretty petty exchanges to occur.  Since when do the candidates have to remind each other of the rules?  That's the job of the moderator.  Although maybe they did it on purpose. Here is one scenario:

Borrow Andy Cohen from Bravo and have him stage "The Real Candidates of the G.O.P Reunion".

  Watch what happens now - There can be a screaming match featuring Mitt Romney inappropriately touching Rick Perry.  Newt, Paul and Santorum can gang up on Cain and quiz him mercilessly about world geography and current events.  Andy himself can chide Michelle Bachmann about her manicure as a distraction from her words - and does she care, and does it matter?
And will Andy visit her husband's clinic for a "conversion"?

What do you think?  Emmy winning stuff?  Move over NeNe, Ramona and Vicki.  Here come the new reality show leaders.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Low Hanging Fruit

Throughout my business career I avoided the lingo and the buzz words like the plague.  Call a spade a spade.  Don't call your employees some quirky name to make them feel different.  They are employees. I think I was still calling personnel just that - long after others adopted human resources and people teams.
 Don't christen every damn sales campaign with some cutesy slogan.  A sales campaign is just that - not a Quest for Success or any other thing.  And yes, we were in the business of lending and borrowing money from customers for their profit and ours,not making anyone's dreams happen.  Just keep the money safe, send me an accurate accounting, smile when I visit and occasionally remember my name. I'll make my own dreams happen.  I think you get the point.  So back to the title of this post.

I loved budget season when it was really a bunch of decision makers sitting around a table doing a reasonable job of give and take and "who can cut what and on what do we need to spend more to make our numbers?"  To start our budget sessions we would rattle off a list of "low hanging fruit" - the easy to do, obvious, no harm to the customers type of spending cuts or revenue enhancers. 

So I now break my own rule of not using the lingo, by offering a few "low hanging fruit" suggestions to some of the many governments and institutions drowning in budget deficits:
  • Medicare -  Quit sending this book out every year.  Send it out the first year of enrollment and thereafter only send page 4 which tells of all the changes from the prior year.  Don't send spouses each their own copy - we can share.  Give medicare recipients a $10.00 break on their premium for reading this only on line.  The day after they come in the mail our dumpster is filled to the top with them - mostly untouched. I also don't need a 5 page monthly summary of my drug expenses - there are only two drugs and I know what they cost and how often I get them.  Once a year is enough.
  • USPS - You still haven't figured out that we have 6 mailboxes within easy walking distance of our building and other neighborhoods have none.  Share the wealth and cut down the drivers' time in any given area.  You should also QUADRUPLE the postage rate for junk mail and political propaganda. Stop Saturday mail or charge for it.
  • City of Chicago and other governments - practice temperature control.  Every time I go to City Hall, the County Building or the Harold Washington Library I go equipped with sweaters in the summer and a fan in the winter.  Turn the thermostats up or down 10 degrees and see how much you save.
  • CTA -let me count the ways.  Start by getting rid of live staff at the stations.  They are seldom helpful and almost never look busy.  Spend some of that money on infrastructure, install cameras for safety and machines in working order for buying fares. With those improvements you will increase ridership.  You also need to adjust the heat/cooling on the buses and trains. Call New York or D.C. and ask for their advice.
  • CPS - look at the expenses of the Chicago Board of Education members.  I've heard and seen some pretty boondoggle sounding stuff.  I know the board has been re-vamped so maybe that is in the past.  But it is worth a look.  Get the board members out visiting the schools instead.
I think Rahm Emanuel and Tony Preckwinkle are on top of expenses and Governor Quinn is trying. Our elected officials in Congress and the Senate seem clueless and probably need to be replaced since they'll never allow themselves to be subjected to term limits.As soon as they are elected it is just the start of one lifelong re-election campaign.

We need to start making suggestions whenever we see waste - especially when we experience it first hand.  No need to march or occupy just let those in charge hear your voice. Sort of a national suggestion box.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bloomberg Republican Debate - #4 - Some Shifts

Okay - it may have felt like more of the same, yada, yada, yada............ BUT there were some  changes of note in addition to the seating and the moderators, who were very good.  In alphabetical order:

  • Bachmann - the circular seating forced her to actually look at someone and not stare into space and she abandoned the red jacket look.
  • Cain - finally treated like a contender. 9-9-9 under scrutiny.
  • Gringrich - still free to say whatever he thinks.  Entertaining if not electable.
  • Huntsman- nice sense of humor - who'dda thunk?
  • Paul- still the guy with whom I'd like to have lunch.
  • Perry-came in second place for being out of it only after the inappropriate Katy Perry acne ad that interrupted Charlie Rose's introduction.
  • Romney-held his ground without a hair out of place.
  • Santorum- the red tie isn't working.  Change to the yellow power tie like Herman did.

There are exactly 6 more days until the next forum for these 8 candidates.  Time to winnow the field?Anybody else think there are too many "debates"?  Have we heard any new ideas?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Republican Debate # 3. Journalistic Questions.

WHO - the hell is Gary Johnson?

WHAT - was Michelle Bachmann thinking? The short Sara Palin jacket didn't work, what made her think the  Michaele Salahi red sari look would work?

WHEN - will Gingrich, Huntsman and Santorum drop out?

WHERE-   Do Mitt and Rick get their wardrobes and Reagan facial expression coaching?  Maybe they share an advisor.

- do I really want to have lunch/drinks with Caine, Paul and Gingrich?  I think they are smart and not afraid of public opinion. I would love to have them to myself for an hour.

WHY B. -do I really think the rest of them have all said what they have to say.  I don't think I'd like lunch with them. Fill the time with Top Chef or Real Housewives.  I've heard enough.  Somebody come up with a real plan.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Real Live OMG Moment in Streeterville

Last summer I followed the activities of Sid the Streeterville Spider and his friends from late July until late October, when the window washers ended their residency on our windows.  This year I have been lamenting the absence of spiders, even though our neighbors have had their fair share.  In the back of my mind I was picturing Sid or Sally or even Saul organizing a boycott because of my unauthorized use of their names and activities in my blog.  Don't laugh - these guys are real to me.

I wrote it off as bad karma and went on with life. Saturday, September 10th, I reluctantly joined Joe in watching the ND vs Michigan game.  I would root for the Hell's Angels  if they played Notre Dame - so my reluctant participation was joyously rewarded by their loss to Michigan in the last two seconds.  Life is good.

Saturday, September 11, I sat on our deck in the sun looking at the eerily empty lake just as I had 10 years prior when only the Coast Guard boats were out.  Helicopters buzzed in and out of my sight line and disturbed the wonderfully silent landscape.  I was determined to avoid all media coverage of the endless 9/11 tributes all over the country. I buried my head in my book and stayed outside until the sun left the deck to hide behind the Hancock.

When I came back inside the Bears game was in full swing.  The Bears football pool I have been in for years - that started at Ferndell's bar during my working years at North and Pulaski- is now defunct.  Ferndell's was razed a few years ago to make way for the new bank building, but the organizers of the pool were able to keep it alive through phone contacts.  Now enough people have died or moved so that they couldn't get enough players for a real pool or even strip cards.  The pool had been my only reason to keep track of the Bears.  I am a supporter of all Chicago teams and a sometimes lone supporter of Lovie Smith and his understated style.  I was happy to see them win, even though I don't have any skin in the game this year.

At some point during the game I glanced out the window at the ever annoying helicopter and I almost jumped out of my seat.  If you were there you could have seen the OMG in a bubble over my head.
There on the window looking in at the game was Sid.  I knew he was a football fan, but this was too unreal for words.  "Nobody's going to believe this!" I shouted.  Since Joe doesn't read my blog, he didn't have a clue what I was talking about. I had to give him a blow by blow.  He thinks I'm nuts, as many of you probably do - but this is the ultimate OMG moment and a bright spot for me on a very somber day.  I had to grab my camera as proof.  Sid is back in Streeterville. Oh yeah. 

In case you missed the Sid The Streeterville Saga, here are the links.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Republican Debate II= Tea Party Sponsored - A to Z

A = Audience:  Overfed, over-dressed, over- coiffed, hirsute

B= Bad hair.  Mitt added grease, Michelle didn't bother to wash hers,

C= Colors - Red ties by Perry, Romney, Cain, Huntsman and Wolf Blitzer.  Red white and black Palin outfit didn't work for Bachmann.

D=Diversity - striped/plaid ties by Newt, Paul and solid by Santorum

E= Energy - I think they're all tired.

F= Familiar refrains:  Yada, , yada.   No Obama, No Health Care, NO-NO-NO-.  Okay, then what?

G= Government is bad, government is dumb, government is useless. So why am I running?

H= High School.  My parents would never let me date Perry.  Romney would never have dated me....

I= I am the one. I care, I vote, I am overlooked. 

J = Joy is lacking from this debate.

K = Kids, kids, kids.  Between them these candidates have lots of kids.

L = Lapel pins.  Romney, Huntsman, Perry, Cain and Santorum had them.  What were they?

M = Makeup artists need not apply,  These are all good looking people.

N = Nuclear energy has not been a topic.

O = On a scale of one to ten.  This debate was a four.

P = Politicians!  Where are the Statesmen?

Q = Quest for votes trumps quest for greatness.

R = Royalty may have a point.  Do we need this democracy?

S= Seniors tend to vote - who won them?

T = Taxes = we pay these jokers on both sides of the aisle with taxes?

U = Universal love for the country and hate for the government should lead us somewhere.  Where?

V = Very sad about the mood of the country. Encouraged about Chicago's new mayor. And Toni Preckwinkle at Cook County.  Love em.

W = Why can't we play well together?

X = Xylophone  ( give me a break - what else begins in X?)

Y = You are what you believe and probably also what you eat.

Z = Zero tolerance for hate and obstructionism should be the norm.

Ever Wonder Why in the World......

My personal pigeon
  • Someone would walk in the sand in four inch heels?
  • A mom would bring her energetic little boy to the beach, in his bathing suit, sit right near the water and spend the next two hours trying to keep him out of the water?
  • Everybody assumes there are no beach days after labor day?
  • A guy would bring his precious child and his elderly mom to the beach and blow cigar smoke as he cares for them tenderly?  (In all fairness, the grandma was chain smoking cigarettes) - but think of the kid.
  • The ice cream vendor would offer me and another woman a big can of Bud Light out of his push cart?  (If it was not Bud, I might have bought one)
  • No one has yet defaced the colorful mural on the underpass wall?
  • Dog owners think they own the beach after Labor Day?. Go to the dog beach.
  • The same lone, dark pigeon winds up at my feet every time I'm at Oak Street?
  • A father would ride his bike, with his toddler on the back across a busy intersection AGAINST THE LIGHT -and never look to see the left turners coming at him?
  • I never realized why all the Latino workers I passed on my way home were giving me the thumbs up?  I had my Banco Popular shirt on and didn't compute.  Gracias, amigos.
Mural at Oak Street

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Republican Debate

I try to keep politics and religion off my blog.  I will however comment on tonight's Republican Presidential candidates debate.

Worst hair do-  Michelle Bachmann - she also makes Sarah look like a Rhodes Scholar.

Best Hair dos - tie between Mitt Romney - greasy kid stuff and Rick Perry - misplaced part and dye job

Nothing to lose - Cain and Paul - they make sense so they'll never get elected and they are short

Most plastic wife - Newt Gingrich- his wife  makes Cindy McCain look relaxed

Actually answered the questions - Huntsman and Paul

Never listened to the questions - Bachmann

Most improved from last debate - Santorum


In my honest opinion, the job problem is that companies were bloated with excess employees.  When they started to cut jobs they saw that they could keep productivity up with fewer employees and more technology and they loved it.  Also - many Americans are unwilling to perform manual labor for minimum wage  - so go overseas and pay someone $1.00 a day or hire illegals who work their butts off.  I'm no expert - but none of those 8 people have a clue about creating jobs,  I'm doubtful that the current administration does either.  The private sector has to do it.  Go Buffet, Gates, Jobs, etc., etc..

Sorry.  I had to post this. I still care even though I've dropped out of politics because of the haters.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hurricane Musings

Now that I know all my kids, grand kids, nieces, nephews, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins are safe after Irene - I thought is was okay to talk about some hurricane experiences of my own.  Growing up in New Jersey, we were no strangers to hurricanes  I won't be able to name most of them.  Even though the rest of the world started naming hurricanes in the 1800s, the United States Weather Bureau didn't start naming them until 1953 and until 1979 they were always named after women.  Not being a weather buff, I guess it wasn't important to me at the time.

In the 40s, when I was a child, in Chatham, New Jersey, there was a hurricane that was catastrophic to my aunts and their friends  They were in their early twenties and late teens.  Although Chatham is over 70 miles from the Atlantic Ocean we were hit with roaring winds and torrential rains.My mom and dad and I huddled in the living room around the radio.  In the midst of the storm there was a frantic knock at the door and, to our surprise, my aunts and their entourage descended upon our front hall, soaking wet and crying hysterically.  My parents figured that one of them had been injured in the storm.  It turns out that the hysteria stemmed from the impassable roads and their inability to get to a Frank Sinatra live performance - I know not where.  My mother made them some tea and my father dug out some Frank Sinatra records and put them on the  Philco record player.  Small conciliation to them but the best we could do.

In the 50s, when I was in high school we spent our summers at the Jersey Shore.  One summer we had a hurricane that caused the Atlantic Ocean to meet Barnegat Bay and turned the streets into streams of water several feet deep.  My mother and sisters all stayed huddled in the house and my dad and I went out exploring.  We found a passable path from the bay to the ocean  where we watched 40 foot waves put on a spectacular show.  Call us crazy,  but we felt invincible.  I love this memory. They have done a good job of building up the dunes so that doesn't happen any more.

Fast forward to the 80s.  There were many hurricanes between the 50s and the 80s, but living in New Jersey makes you take them in stride, and my  moving to Arizona in the 60s kept me immune.

In August, 1985 we arrived in St. Petersburg, Florida with our second youngest in tow.  She was heading for St. Leo College and we were stopping in St. Pete to spend the night with my sister and her family and to pick up our daughters zillions of boxes that had shipped ahead.  I'm not sure if we were crossing the Howard Franklin Bridge or the Courtney Campbell Causeway from Tampa to St. Pete, but it doesn't matter.  What matters is that the water was surging over the road and we felt like we were driving on Tampa Bay.  The palm trees were bending down to meet the earth,we could barely see where we were going and we were scared out of our minds.  It seems, that Elena, a category 3 hurricane, arrived at the same time we did.  ( DISCLAIMER::  I looked up the name of the hurricane and got the picture of Elena from the Internet - ain't Google grand?)
Our overnight turned into a week and my brother-in-law's friend and his family also came to bunk in, as they were too close to the water.  Crankiness and claustrophobia ensued with all those people trapped in the house.  It got so bad that we started taking turns going out in the hurricane, just for some solitude.

In 1992 we traveled to Key Largo for the first time.  We didn't experience a hurricane first hand, but we drove through the remnants of Hurricane Andrew and the absolute devastation it wrought on Southern Florida.  I have never witnessed anything like it.  There was not a palm tree and nary a house left standing.  To this day, they are still recovering and the vegetation is still struggling.
I hope Irene is the worst of our season for this year.  Looks like there are storms developing in the Gulf and the Atlantic.  I channel good thoughts to our nephew who is living in Houston after escaping New Orleans and losing his house to Katrina in 2005.  That's his story to tell.
 Keep that tropical storm out of Houston. Maybe if enough people face east and/or south and blow with all their might, we can chase those bad guys back where they came from.

Post Script:  My husband passed by and asked what I was writing about.  He said "Be sure to put in that I lived through seven really bad typhoons in 18 months while in the Air Force in Okinawa."  To which I lovingly replied, "Get your own damn blog!"


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

So Not Ready For My Closeup. Time for Rehab.

No silly, not me.  My beach.  My once magical, classy, quiet Oak Street Beach. My haven, my reading room, my own personal meeting place.  Walk onto the beach with me.  I walk west on Walton, get my hug from Carlos the Drake Hotel doorman, cut through the lobby of the Drake and exit past the Cape Cod Room to East Lake Shore Drive.
  I wait outside of Channel for the light to change.  I am on the most expensive block of real estate in Chicago.  I am looking down at this mucked up excuse of a sinking manhole cover.  Just fix it. Do it right the first time.  I would avoid the street by going under the street  through the pedway - guess again.  Pedway closed.  Good thing, because it was crumbling,  smelly and quite frankly, a little scary.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is the gateway to our magnificent lakefront.  Real impressive to the many tourists who visit our beach.  We recognize them by the hotel towels and the foreign accents. 

The light changes and I cross north onto the sidewalk.  Time to fix/change these signs. Not only are they crooked, they are also misleading.  The pedway is closed and people turn on red any old time they want to.  I pass the welcome sight of the Chicago Police Department team assigned to the beach that day.  I thank them for being there.  Those bullet proof vests must be hot on such a glorious beach day. 

I walk down the ramp to the beach tunnel, hoping some hot-rod biker or skateboarder doesn't forget which side of the ramp is his or her side and wipe me out. The graffiti is under much better control this year, and the far wall at the end of the tunnel now has a colorful mural that the taggers have still not defaced.  One of the images is of  our friend, Bruce, the massage guy.  A very good likeness.  He has become the mayor of Oak Street and he cares for the beach by picking up garbage every morning when he arrives.  Thank you, Bruce.  Sticking out of the wall across from Bruce's likeness are some exposed wires. I sure hope they're not alive. the bottom of the cement wall is crumbling.

Up the steps onto the boardwalk which leads almost to the water's edge and I am on the beach.  The boardwalk is a big improvement, especially when the sand is burning hot. Thank you Park District.
Thanks also for the awareness campaign and having beach goers sign a pledge not to feed the seagulls.  It is making a difference.

Now to the real reason this place needs a rehab.  The lakeside restaurant.  It used to be the Oak Street Beachstro.  Caring owners, well maintained, good somewhat pricey food.  I always hated the palm trees, but others seemed to enjoy their shade and the novelty.  This year a new owner took over.  Mediocre to bad food, pricier than pricey prices, tacky music ( not really music, just bass thumping).

Most of the palm trees have been dead since the first beach day and this one is leaning precariously over the walkway.  Hope no one is under it when it falls.  The people on East Lake Shore Drive had complained about the old Beachstro's large tent which was used for clambakes, weddings and the Air and Water Show.  I wonder what they think of the hodge podge of smaller tents along with the dumpster, beer truck and vodka distributors truck.- -dont' even mention the cheesy music.  If we wanted North Avenue vibes, we'd go to North Avenue. I hope when the license comes up for renewal next year the powers that be will either go back to the old owners or just do away with the restaurant all together.

Walk with me as I leave the beach to go home.  I forgot the scariest thing about the tunnel.  Tens of thousands of vehicles whiz overhead on Lake Shore Drive.  In the ceiling is a crack through which I can see daylight.  I wonder if the street performer standing under it is as wary as I am.

Every time I hear of plans to spend zillions on re-making Navy Pier to attract more tourists I get livid.  I know it is two different pools of dollars, but lets fix what we've got.  And that goes for the crumbling infrastructure of the downtown El stations and subways.  Navy Pier is already the number one tourist attraction.  If visitors have to take their lives in their hands to get there - what's the point?

You can start with my beach.