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.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Great Expectations

Wednesday was a day filled with expectations.  Here's the scorecard.

Expectations Exceeded:

We had an appointment at Fidelity to update some of our records.  We fully expected to have to endure a meeting with some slick young product pusher.  Imagine our surprise.  There were two of them and they were young.  They were also knowledgeable, personable and very respectful of our wishes not to make a lot of changes to our account.  Their follow up was superb. We would now be open to their suggestions for changes to our account.  GRADE:   A +

Expectations Met:

There is never a doubt that Mariano's will provide us with good food at fair prices and with the best of service.  Their employees  love ( or are trained to act like they love) shoppers and are helpful at every turn.  The meat and produce are exceptional.  We decided to go big and stock up and ask for delivery.  The charges are somewhat high and the time for delivery a little longer than promised and one item didn't make it to our home, but the delivery guy was so apologetic and helpful, that all is forgiven.  GRADE:   B+

Expectations shattered and dumped into the abyss.
  We have loved the Chicago Shakespeare theater since the days back at the Ruth Page Theater.  We really don't mind classic theater set in modern times.    Rigoletto set in Vegas in the 60s was good.  The music was true and the performances stellar.  This production of Julius Caesar was violent, noisy,  and populated with jerks - set in Washington, D.C. in modern times.  That would have been okay.  What wasn't okay was the bad acting, the inability to project voices and the NOISE, NOISE, NOISE.   I pity the poor ushers who have to endure this night after night.  I question why Ms. Gaines would put her reputation on the line with this inferior product and why it got generally okay reviews.
GRADE:  D-  The only reason I didn't give it an "F" was that the woman sitting next to me was delightful and the bar service at intermission was great.
So much for Wednesday expectations.  Take that, Miss Havisham.




Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Dilemma

“#$@%.  It’s still there. Damn it all to hell you %^$#.  I know you’re there.  **%$#@….go away!”
As my kids faced an imaginary monster, named Chunky, in our basement several times a year, many years ago, I face this very real monster several times a day, every day. I have survived raising six kids, the deaths of loved ones, giant jackasses in the workplace, two great recessions, two terms of “W”, the promised rapture a few years ago and the recent Mayan end of days.  Why then, is this a challenge?
I’m a procrastinator by nature and a terrible housekeeper.  That being said, I am amazed that since emptying a big house – garage – attic – basement and all, and downsizing to a condo, I have managed to limit the amount of clutter that surrounds me.  The one exception is my monster… the bedroom closet.  Every day it confronts me with its ugly disorder and forces me to grab my clothes and run. Because of its size, this closet has become the repository for all things labeled “I’ll deal with that later”.
 It is the boxes of photographs, including the ones I salvaged from my mother’s own closet when she died over a decade ago.  I really ought to throw them out because once I am gone nobody else will care about them – they’re not digital. Both of my aunts who could help me identify long gone relatives have macular degeneration – so I can no longer ask them to help.
  It is also the assorted paperwork that was so darned important to keep, that I don’t even remember what it is.  Then there are the boxes of mementos that I’ve set aside for my kids and will one day really ship out to them.  I want to relieve the sense of loss they are suffering without their old little league shirts and their 3rd grade class photos.
 Did I mention the 20 years of tax returns?  And the documentation to back them up?
            I am holding on to a pair of shoes with high heels that I can’t wear now – high heels always make your legs look great – and who cares?  Add a Pendleton suit that I just know I will need on that someday when an old colleague calls on me to impart my banking knowledge as a paid consultant. Banking has changed and so has my body.  I cannot bear to face trying on that slim, fitted suit to discover that it can no longer be buttoned and is wildly outdated.
Gaze upon my colorful supply of gift wrapping paraphernalia that I should give away.  We no longer shop for gifts – we write checks.  Ditto what’s left of the box of sand dollars that I collected from the Gulf of Mexico and lovingly bleached and polished for my grandchildren?  I have a few that have not been distributed – and keep meaning to pack and ship the rest of them.  They were little kids when I collected them and now they’re college kids whose friends would LOL were I to actually deliver them.
Glance through the box of assorted items that really need repair at a jewelers.  The bullet that came through my office window that I want to make into a pendant, one of the kids’ baby cups that needs the handle re-attached and the one I am saving for the first grandchild of my oldest daughter. My favorite bracelet needs the clasp fixed. I also have the costume jewelry – both mine and my mothers, that I was going to divide among my granddaughters to use to “play grown up”. You guessed it – they’re all grown up.

Need medical supplies?  I have two back bolsters that helped me through a herniated disk, assorted bottles of crap that I ordered from the TV – all guaranteed to make me live longer- and a lifetime supply of diabetic testing needles.  I had forgotten I had a heart monitor and a pedometer for my walking and treadmill days.  Somehow they got on the same shelf with the heating pad, the incontinence aids from the hospital, a navy blue arm sling  and three old Mickey Mouse watches that need new batteries and resetting.  Rolled up in the corner of that shelf is the Velcro fitted heavy weight belt that was supposed to be worn while active to restore my waistline to 21 inches.
Whatever messy picture you are getting of this closet is absolutely correct, and then some.  I know that with a scanner, a box of big garbage bags and a shredder I could knock this sucker out in a few days.  I really want to.  This is not procrastination – this is the dilemma.
I keep saying to myself, “I really need to clean this closet out before I die.  I don’t want to be embarrassed. And… I don’t want my kids embarrassed when they have to sort through this stuff.”
 Therein lies the problem:
 If I don’t clean it out, I will  have this  closet as a future project and final embarrssment.
If I do clean it out,  the powers that be might take it as a sign that I’m ready to die.

What do I do?