Sunday, December 29, 2013

Five things that are great and how could you possibly disagree?

HAPPY 2014!

We are keeping it nonsexual here, folks.

FIRST and above all other things including food and even birthday cake is my absolutely tip top favorite thing -- a hot shower.  Don't get me started.  The water, the pressure, the heat, the cleanliness.  Dear god in heaven, a shower beats it all.

2.  A performance by a musician who is giving everything and gives everything every time and has a great talent and a lot to give.  A musician who never ever phones it in, doesn't think you're a philistine because you don't like that kind of music, but here, it's all here, all of it and more, just in case you change your mind.

Third:  CHAMPAGNE.  Not Andre.  Not the expensive vintage stuff.  Solid, nonvintage champagne that can be found for $12.99 to $38.  Brut so it's dry yet a smidge fruity and as it goes down reminds you that la vie est vraiment belle, it really is.

4. Going to the movies.  I am of the group who goes to a movie to see the movie.  I don't eat.  (If you must have popcorn, I don't judge you.  Please chew quietly.)  I don't drink anything.  (I don't want to have to use the restroom in the middle of the movie.)  I don't talk much (if I even say a thing).  Going to see a movie in a movie theatre is a beautiful thing and as the director intended.

5.  PAYDAY!  Yeah, yeah, you've got money and you are rich.  How wonderful and lovely and special for you.  I don't envy you because I can experience the joy of realizing it is payday and there is again hard-earned cash in my bank account.  It is joy.  It is elation.  It is something simple, like a shower or a song by someone giving everything they have, that can make a questionable day much better as often as every other week.


R.I.P. Chicago Bears 2013 Season.  In the last 44 seconds of the game, the Packers and Aaron Rodgers pulled pure talent and skill out of their rumps and scored a touchdown, leaving the Bears with 44 seconds to get it back.  It's Jay Cutler, y'all, so that was that.  (I really thought they had it won.  I need to not think so much.)  We have the better part of 2014 to dream of better.  The good news:  Robbie Gould signed a contract extension for four more years!  Four more years of magnificent kicking!  I should have included him in five great things and how could you possibly disagree.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Merry Christmas

My Christmas gift to me and to you:  No blog this week!  I wracked my brain about what the topic might be as I stood in line at Ulta to buy hair dye, lip balm, and lipstick at 20% off.  I thought and thought as I drove to Target to get a small infant gift for a newborn.  I considered and contemplated as I drove home.  I then realized that the best Xmas gift is nothing at all for any of us to think up or read, respectively.

Next week is the blog before the new year and some topics might be:

1.  Bears football (joy because the Bears are going to the playoffs or misery because they aren't).

2.  Resolutions for 2014 (last year I resolved to taste as many olives as I could and I did, too, by the end of January and they all taste like ... olives).

3.  Five things that are damn great and how can you possibly disagree?

4.  All/Some of the above.

Merry Christmas to all and for those who, like me, have to work on Christmas Eve until 5pm and then be back the day after Christmas at 8am, I say, "My sympathies.  I know your pain."

A picture of Santa Claus at the CTA station at O'Hare Airport:
Here comes Fatty with his sackful of crap

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Congrats and I am bushed

Massive congratulations to my niece, Claire, who graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit last night.  Summa cum laude, bitches!  It was a very nice event.  Her parents and sister and I all braved constant snowfall which added up to 7 inches.  Detroit has negative money, which mean snow removal on the other-than-main streets takes not just forever but the next part of forever as well or a mid-winter thaw or the arrival of spring.  I am pleased to report drivers were not driving too fast, they were mostly considerate, and we took our time and respected the situation.  And it was a great day!  My niece, Claire, graduated summa cum laude from college!

The snow was exhausting, however, I am going to knock off, unpack, and go to bed early.

And did I mention it?  My niece, Claire, graduated summa cum laude from college!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The city in the air

Where and what the F?

I have a new camera and I like it a lot.  Using it, I successfully got a couple of handheld photos of the moon.  I was hoping to get a cool picture of a city from a boat on the water.  I was unsuccessful and I was wholly successful.  I am disappointed and I am thrilled.

The disappointment comes from it not looking how it's supposed to look which is like downtown Seattle across Puget Sound.  (What did I expect?  The boat was moving fast, there was a lot of late fall wind, and the was a certain degree of rocking.)  The thrill comes from my wild imagination and what this picture could really be.

It's a city from the future!  It's from another dimension, a la The Golden Compass.  It's on another planet that I just happened to be visiting.  It's a mess and it's beautiful and it's stacked and it's electric.  It's welcoming and formidable and what is up with that cloud (the only thing that successfully moved over).  It's an utter flop and I could not hope for anything better.

And if it were an alternate planet or dimension or universe, what would I do when I got there?  Look for handbags, natch.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Rest your head in the Mushroom Forest

The Pacific Northwest offers rain, rain, moisture, rain, drizzling, showers, the skies opening up and depositing water, and, in case I'd not mentioned it, rain.  All that precipitation gives us beautiful green forests and from the moist earth can spring absolutely ginormous mushrooms.  Now look at this picture.  Those mushrooms are so huge you could just walk under one and set up a table and some chairs and have a nice hot cup of tea and catch up with friends, their fungal gutters catching excess drips.  Or you could roll out your sleeping bag and knock off for the night, your head protected from the elements.  I'm not saying that a slug or six won't crawl into your bag as you doze, but I think this just looks inviting and cozy.  Except that one mushroom?  On the left?  Why does it look like it's been through a storm?  It's gathering liquid up top but it should hold out just fine for one more night.   Rest for the night.  Relax.  Sing "The Song of the Slug" as you drift off and then be awakened by birds.  (I am most willing to hear different versions of "The Song of the Slug.")

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I'm in love with the Man in the Moon

The moon looked pretty damn full last Tuesday night when my brother-in-law brought over the whoopie pie my sister made.  The whoopie pie was also full of deliciousness and when I gave it my attention, I ingested it pretty quickly.

Before I put that tasty thing into my gob, I went outside to get a picture of the moon.  I live in a city.  It wasn't like in Bremerton, Washington, standing by the harbor where there are many charming boats and not a lot of lights and you can get a good shot of the orb without a lot of city-light distractions.  Chicago is a city that likes its streetlights -- I am pretty fond of them myself -- and I went outside and stood pretty much underneath one so I could get the moon and not trees.  (Chicago also has lots of trees.)  I managed to keep still and my new love, the Man in the Moon, made my evening.

Is my new love sticking his tongue out at me?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

How I spent my fall vacation

Seattle, y'all, is a very hip and happening place.  They also don't frown on nonhipster types like me.  All are welcome!  There are great restaurants and hotels, beautiful scenery, and delicious donuts.  Of course I mean Top Pot Doughnuts.  There are Top Pot locations around town but I chose to walk 2/3 of a mile from my hotel to eat at the Mothership location.  (The roast beef sandwich they make is also delish.)

My trip to Seattle coincided with getting a new camera.  I'd been talking about getting a new camera for a while, wanting something more robust than the point and shoots I'd been using that would also give me more control.  Of course, after buying it, I thought it was too extravagant a purchase but I decided to shut up about it because I'd been saving and I wanted it a lot.  This was my first outing with my new camera-love and I enjoyed photography again.

So what did I do on my vacay?  Walked a lot -- one day I walked about 4 miles -- and got together with good friends (had an excellent time with them) and an old boyfriend (yikes) but I also took some pictures of my food plus I got the moon to cooperate.  Yeah, I lassoed that rock and got it to hold still for a moment so I could take its picture.  Of course, it was a little dot on the original picture but with minimal cropping, you can almost think you see the Man in the Moon himself.  And what else did I see on my vacay?  A genuine mushroom forest!

Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts, 2124 5th Avenue, Seattle

Double Trouble on top, Maple Glazed Old-Fashioned below

Living the dream in the Mushroom Forest

Handheld photo!  (I sometimes have a steady hand.)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

My obsession

Last year, my best pal asked me if I wanted to see "The Hunger Games."  She couldn't persuade me to see any of the Twilight franchise and thought maybe I'd give this new one a go.  I agreed.  The books were totally off my radar and I'd no clue about what they offered.  When I found out, I was okay with it:  vampires and werewolves scare the bejeezus out of me but a country made smaller by global warming and melted glaciers, run by bloodthirsty despots, was okay.  Yeah, all kinda nuts right here.

In case you've been ignoring it, "The Hunger Games" takes place in what might be a post-apocalyptic America.  There are 12 districts and a capital.  There were 13 districts, but the thirteenth was nuked into Kingdom Come for trying to rebel against the Capital.  To keep the remaining districts in line, every year there is a fight to the death to win the games.  The players, called Tributes, are chosen from a pool of all 12-to-18 year olds in each district.  The books have 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen volunteering to take the place of her 12-year-old sister in the arena.  Yeah, kids killing each other to satisfy the Capital.  The winner gets a house and an escape from a lifetime of poverty.

I enjoyed the movie.  (One of the supporting characters is played by the superultamega tasty Lenny Kravitz, who brought us "Are You Gonna Go My Way."  Yes, Lenny, I will go your way.  Call.)  I even agreed that I might like to see the second one.  (Lenny's in this one, too, and I am betting he's still looking luscious.  Seriously.  Call.)

A year goes by since we'd seen the movie in a suburban theatre and I didn't have a book to read.  I was at work, it was a little slow, I was trolling the internet for news and current events, political and otherwise.  Oh, I thought, the second movie is coming out.  Hmmm, maybe I should read the first book.  Hmmm, maybe they have it at the library.  Hmmm, I will be right by the main branch this evening.  Hmmm, is it on the shelf?  Computer says yes.

I checked out a copy that evening and I started reading it the next morning.  I was instantly hooked like a Facebook addict, a Second Life addict, a chocoholic.  In other words, a benign addiction, a distracting obsession.  The writing is pretty good.  The story is darn interesting.  The characters are well drawn.  (The movie is mostly faithful to the book which I know because I watched it again on Netflix.)

When I was done with the first book, I decided I would read the second book after I saw the second movie.  One morning I woke up and I couldn't wait.  I had to have it.  After work, I raced to the library and got the second book, "Catching Fire."  I could hardly breathe going over there and about danced when I found a copy and checked it out.

"Catching Fire" goes places I didn't think they'd go.  I was totally sucked in and I was sad when it was done.  I had to find the third book, "Mockingjay."

The main library's copies were checked out.  "The second movie is opening soon," they said. "People want to read them."  I went on line to see which branches had it.  I decided to get it at a library on the way home as it was right on their shelf.

A day goes by,  another day begins, and the book is "In transit."  IT IS ON THE SHELF!  GO GET IT!  At the end of the day I could take it no more -- yes, all of a day and a half had gone by -- and I went to the library.  I breathlessly presented myself to the librarian.  She listened and checked in the system.  She said mine was still in transit but one had just been returned and was probably on the cart behind the checkout desk.  We walked over and she found it.  I hope I didn't rip it from her hands.  I am pretty sure I thanked her.  I checked it out and raced out to the bus stop where I stood reading as night fell in my town.

I was enjoying it so much that I went to Costco and purchased a boxed set of the paperback version of the books.  I figured if I like it this much now, I will probably read it again at least once.  Yeah, I am obsessed.  But like my other obsessions -- the movie "The Secret in Their Eyes;" foaming hand soap; Dannon coffee yogurt; handbags and looking at pictures of handbags -- no one is hurt by it, not even me.

If you're so inclined to share in my enthusiasm, dash over and get the books at the library.  They're for young adults but you were a young adult once.  They might make you forget whatever crap it is you were thinking about before you snagged them off the shelf.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

He drives

Yesterday, I spent the better part of a day with my friend and his friend who was visiting from Dallas.  She told stories of road construction.  One particular road is going from like 6 lanes to 26 lanes.  TWENTY-SIX LANES OF TRAFFIC!  North of Dallas.

"And," I said, "I bet no homes were knocked down for it."

"Very few," she said.

Texas has oodles of space, y'all, and can accommodate a 26-lane highway with very little displacement.  It's almost hard to imagine.  From her description, almost every highway in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is under major construction.  That's also almost hard to imagine.  But everything, I gather, is totally effed up and it takes a couple of hours to go 50 miles on an interstate.

My friend's friend is a lucky person.  Her situation is enviable.  She lives with her dad who is 88.  Her dad is totally with it.  He makes no insane demands on her.  He still drives.  Think about that:  He still drives.  All of that makes for a very lucky situation.  His 15-year old Buick recently died -- in the driveway as they pulled in, right outside his door -- and would be moving no more as the engine was blown.  He decided to buy a new car.

Think about that, please:  He's 88 and he decided to buy a new car. 

It wasn't as easy as 1-2-3 but after going back and forth between a couple of dealers, including one in Fort Worth, 50 miles from home (hence the information about Dallas-Fort Worth road construction), they ended up buying at a dealer right by their home.  He got a great deal on a 2014 Camry with a sunroof because he wanted a sunroof.  As she said, "He's 88 and if he wants a sunroof, well, he deserves it." He even got them to give him $400 for his deceased Buick.

So the Toyota Camry in Attitude Black -- described as black with blue flecks and pretty -- has come to their house.  It is driven by the 88-year-old man whose Texas drivers license is in order, whose daughter lives with him (he helped her out by letting her move in when her personal life went awry and its worked out well for them both), who takes her dog out for long walks every day.

Please let me say it again:  he drives.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

May You Tube bring you joy

So what do you like? you might ask me.  Like if you were roaming around You Tube, looking at stuff, what would you look at? you might ask me.  Since you've asked so nicely, I will share.

You Tube has cats.  Lots and lots cats.  I like to look at some cats but not too many cats.  Maru is a Japanese cat who lives in or near Tokyo.  He loves boxes, his owners love him, they love putting his antics on You Tube, people love cats on You Tube, a star is born.  I used to subscribe to Maru's You Tube channel but it's someone else's cat and he is like cartoon-cat pretty but I will never be able to give him a sweet kitty hug.  There seem to be limitless boxes in Japan; still Maru is just a cute cat who does cute cat things.  I unsubscribed.

You Tube has Jenna Marbles.  Jenna Marbles is a cute, well educated young woman who has managed to make a career out of her You Tube videos about her life and her imperfections and her two sweet little dogs.  She's great, the dogs seem to always be smiling, her language is foul, and I find them amusing to watch when I choose to watch.  Subscribe?  Nah, but I wish her nothing but continued success because she is smart and clever and doesn't take all of this fame too seriously.

You Tube makes stars out of people like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.  They've worked hard for their fame and they are awesome.  I say it again:  They are awesome.  Awe-freaking-some.  "Thrift Shop" is insanely genius.  "Same Love" is touching and tender.  "Can't Hold Us" makes me want to do step aerobics, even if I'm driving in my car.  Seen all of that?  Listen to "Penis Song." 

My favorite by far and for quite a while is The Slow Mo Guys.  They blow up stuff.  They shoot arrows through things.  They put a drop of water onto the surface of more water.  They shoot a gun underwater.  They are Gavin Free and Daniel Gruchy.  Gavin's a cinematographer who specializes in slow motion photography.  Dan's in the British Army.  Just when I think I will be sick of their stuff, they do something like put paint on a speaker, crank it up to You Will Be Deaf, and make me realized I didn't know just how much a speaker throbs.  They blew up a car.  They had dozens and dozens of geeks throw water balloons at them and taped the attack in slow motion.  (Seriously, geeks with water balloons have surprisingly good aim and throw nothing like girls.)

For your viewing pleasure, here are three videos which you might've seen already, which might make you happy.

First, the French Ninja Cats:

Next, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and the uncensored "Thrift Shop":

Finally, the Slow Mo Guys, a pool in the fall, and a gun:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

In praise of my friend, a selfie pioneer

I was going through the photos on my computer, trying to find a photo I'd scanned to use as wallpaper.  I found a lot of photos of myself.  Over a period of two years, I took a picture of myself every day.  For the first year, I used my first digital camera -- an Olympus that was a mighty workhorse for years, never gave me a problem, and let me pass it along to someone to use.  For the second year, I used the Photo Booth feature on my computer.  I eventually just stopping the daily photos but it makes me think of my friend who passed away in 1988 from AIDS.

Eddis was a handsome man, tall and slender with medium brown hair, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, a first-generation American born of Latvian parents.  We met in college doing theatre.  It was a production of some Winnie-the-Pooh play or other.  I got to wear a great costume and be over the top.  I also became friends with Eddis, who played the narrator and was handsome offstage for the whole show.

In addition to being handsome, Eddis was also charming and quite brilliant.  With little effort, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and got into grad school.  Things went mildly awry at this point.  His professors insisted he read and work on his Masters program.  He wanted grad school to be as easy for him as his undergraduate days had been.  He had a great student job in the office of the school's performing arts manager.  He loved this job but it required his full attention both at and after work.  About his demanding graduate program he told me, "I don't have time for that!"  (I wanted to tell him it was graduate school and this was what happened in grad school but he was into a total full-of-himself mode and he wouldn't have listened to me.)  Six months of graduate school and he had to drop out, losing his job in the performing arts office.  He moved to Detroit (a pretty good place then) to try to find some work.  I moved to New York City, which he didn't know, and we lost touch.

I'd been living in New York about 18 months and went to a movie with one of my roommates.  It was a Katherine Hepburn retrospective because this one roommate was so into the film works of Ms. Hepburn that I can't even begin to describe her fervor, "Philadelphia Story" being her favorite.  [She would get up at 2 a.m. to watch a rerun of it.  Three of us shared a large studio, so you know this meant we watched (or heard) the movie when she did.]  As we waited for the movie to start, a tall, handsome man came in and sat about five rows ahead of us.

"Eddis!" I exclaimed.

He didn't even look.  He got up out of his seat, came over and sat next to me, and said, "How are you?" like he'd seen me the week before.

And we were again friends.

Eddis had an amazing ability to meet people and because he was so handsome, he met them way more easily than the rest of us.  Other gay men wanted this gorgeous creature around as arm candy, wallpaper, window dressing, coach covering.  Women wanted him to be their best friend, their boyfriend, their husband, their passionate misstep.  Because he was smart, he could hold up his end of a conversation.  He went to spectacular parties in fabulous residences.

Once he was over at our puny apartment and picked up my roommate's copy of Vogue, leafing through the pages.  He stopped at an article about two male designers who shared a fantastic apartment.

"I was here," said Eddis.  "I went to a cocktail party here."

"Really?  Was it fun?" we asked.

"They had steak tartare.  I'd never seen steak tartare before and I sort of shouted out 'There's raw hamburger in this bowl!'  They quietly said to me, 'That's steak tartare.'"

I knew what steak tartare was because my family members were well read and somewhat sophisticated.  He'd managed to never hear about steak tartare.  He wasn't invited back but it didn't bother him because he was 25 years old and they were decades his senior which didn't appeal to him at all.  There were plenty of other parties being held by impossibly rich people.  He could have had a swanky, ridiculously wonderful life but rich, old, gay men did nothing for him and that was that.

One day, Eddis happened upon a photo booth.  He whipped out 25¢ (yes, a quarter, decent money in those days) and took a strip of photos of himself.  The next day he did the same.  He roamed around the city looking for photo booths and every day he took a strip of photos and put it in his journal.  He took pictures when he lost a contact lense and had to wear an eyepatch so he could see with his one still encontacted eye -- he never wore glasses -- and if anything looked even more handsome and interesting.  He had favorite photo booths -- the Woolworth's near his home and another in some sort of Times Square arcade were preferred -- but if he wasn't near those, any booth would do.

Eddis might have ruled the world but he was an alcoholic.  His stepmother was an alcoholic and he followed that path.  When it came to things that could alter one's state, he couldn't help himself.  If he came to someone's home and they had marijuana, he had to smoke as much as there was.  If he went to a bar, he had to drink to the point of being totally drunk.  When he got home he would drink a quart of vodka before bed.  He lost job after job because he was either sleeping it off or too hungover to function.  He worked in a bookstore where customers wrote letters about him saying because of his recommendations, their Christmas was better.  He worked for record companies where he might have succeeded except he overslept or was drunk when he was there.  In a period of about eight years, he lost more jobs because of alcholism than I will ever have in my whole life.

He was lamenting to my oldest friend who'd been one of my New York roommates that he was having trouble finding challenging work.  She told him she thought she could get him in where she was but he would have to straighten up his act; he'd have to get sober and stay sober.  If she was going to do this for him, he had to behave and not make things bad for her.  She liked the company and they liked her.

And so he got sober and never drank again in his life.  Things went well at the company for them both but for him especially.  He made friends with someone who lived up in his part of Manhattan and they shared a gypsy cab into work every day.  He was promoted and then promoted and started travelling for the company.  Everywhere he went, he found a photo booth to take a picture of himself that day.

I was collecting postcards at the time and he would send me cards.  Because of his addictive personality, he would buy every sort of that particular card and write it out like it was one letter.  They would arrive in order sometimes but mostly they'd arrive whenever and I'd have to wait to figure out the point.  There were cards that featured anthropomorphic cats doing human things like going to work, shopping, or getting married.  He later told me these pictures scared him, that cats scared him, but he knew I liked cats and I would enjoy them.  They were my favorites of all the sets he'd ever sent me.  I love that even though he was frightened and they bothered him, he knew they would make me happy and he unselfishly persevered.

When Eddis got sick, his partner took a picture of him every day of his hospital stay so he'd have a record of it.  When he was finally released from the hospital, he worked when he could but he wasn't as good as he'd been before.  Someone not as deserving got the big promotion but he didn't think badly of the company.  Every day he slowly walked to get his picture taken at the booth nearest home.  He could finally not live on his own and his partner moved him to his home out on Long Island.  The pictures stopped because he was just too ill.

So here's a picture of me from my days of Photo Booth on my computer, when I was still using the mirror image instead of a true one.  Let's celebrate photo booths everywhere and selfies on Instagram and elsewhere.  Pictures of himself made Eddis happy, selfies make me happy, and maybe sometime they will make you happy, too.
If you see me on street, say hello.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The value of laziness

I've been wracking my brain trying to come up with something and today, I got nothing.

Therefore, I will be lazy.  I will vacuum my brain and perhaps an idea will be there in the dust and mini-debris chunks.  I have a week to examine the findings.

There will be an offering next week.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

So long, summer, you heartless son of a bitch

And so fall arrives.  We've enjoyed some great very warm weather interspersed with the storms one gets with warm weather and I have enjoyed it.  High humidity?  Great!  I love it because it makes my hair all large.  No jackets, cute little shoes, windows open at night -- all the lovely benefit of a surprising longer summer.

Then summer admits it's stayed too long, tooooo long, waaaaaay too long and bye.  Summer flees without a goodbye and we get the glorious cooler weather of autumn.  Fall in the midwest with the painted trees and the dazzling puffy clouds that make their way to somewhere that's not here, a cumulus nimbus march of the seasons.

Winter hovers, friends, with its need for a warm coat, a hat, gloves/mittens, a scarf, thick socks, boots with a lot of tread, long-sleeved garments, thicker-weight pants, and, for the truly frozen among us, long underwear.  Crack out the walking sticks if you have 'em!  (Yes, I have 'em and I use 'em.  Mostly they seem to be useful for getting seats on the bus at rush hour but I'm down with that.)  We all must tread carefully because people are a little shy about tossing down salt and/or shoveling their walks.

There was a period of a few years when I worked second shift and didn't mind winter.  I had friends who liked winter and we'd go for interesting walks on quiet streets at our 9 p.m. meal break, the nights sharp with cold and the skies clear.  Even in the city we could make out the Belt of Orion and the Big Dipper.  It felt peaceful and life-affirming and almost serene.  There was not much traffic on my way there and none on the way back.  It was easier to get around, even if there were major storms or the temperatures dipped well below 0ยบ Farenheit.  Winter offered less crime when I went home from work and gave me the chance to look for Orion's feet.

My second shift job went away to the distant suburbs and as I am not a long-distance commuter, I got a day job downtown.  There are always others to deal with on public transportation, there is always traffic if you drive, there are daily challenges just going from one's house and coming back there.  Winter adds to the aggravation in the form of idiot drivers, angry motormen, delayed trains, and soggy commuters jammed into a small spot, all smelling like soggy animals.  There were never constellations waiting to be seen and there still aren't.  On occasion, there's a sliver of the moon or maybe Venus with a soft blaze.  Or is it a plane?

I am now firm in the I-hate-winter mindset.  Once late October comes, a hair dryer comes out and we twirl into the Months of Skank, when my hair looks ghastly and straight and lifeless.  Jam a hat onto it and there's almost no chance of looking like anything other than another middle-aged lady trying to get through the week without smacking the crap out of someone.  Winter hangs on for months and boots with tread never leave my feet during the day.  Snow falls and sticks to every surface and it takes longer to walk to the bus and home from it.  I think of the next step, and the next, and getting home without landing on the ground.  I don't mind when it's supercold and there's no snow.  It might be cold -- nose-hair freezing, frostbitingly cold -- yet there's less of a chance of slam-dancing the earth.

Don't think I like summer because I really don't.  I am not a fan of small shirts and shorts and heat (although the humidity makes my hair all sorts of awesome).  Fall is a beautiful relief from the throes of great heat but I love neither coat nor hat nor gloves nor scarf nor boots nor thick socks.  I am a great fan of me and my handbag alone together, walking to the bus stop, walking home from the bus stop, and if summer is the price to pay for it, then oh well, I guess I'll crack my emotional wallet, even if summer is a heartless son of a bitch.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bears! Lions! The World!

The Bears are playing the Lions at Ford Field.  As a native Detroiter, once might think I have sentimental allegiance to the Lions.  Not just no, but hell no.  Go, Bears!

Last week we talked about being a new friend.  Today I want to tip my hat to a co-worker who is a also friend and the kind, generous, wonderful thing he did for me.

My younger niece came to visit a few months back and brought along her boyfriend.  He described going into a bar to meet someone and suddenly all the lights went low, the crowd got quiet, and all the TVs were turned to AMC.  It was "Walking Dead" night at the bar and from how his description, it was a good time.

I don't watch that particular zombie apocalypse offering but I do have a cable show I like.  I don't subscribe to cable.  I am strictly a network-TV person and would never be able to afford the amount of money premium cable demands.  (I have friends who are "Game of Thrones" fans and my eyes about bulged from my head when they shared how much they paid each month just so they can watch their favorite when it is on.) However, Netflix got me hooked on "Breaking Bad."

As almost everyone knows, "Breaking Bad" is the story of Walter White, an easygoing chemistry teacher with a pregnant wife, a high-school-age son with cerebral palsy, and no savings.  When the series begins, it's Walt's 50th birthday and he has found out he has a particularly virulent form of lung cancer.  He decides to cook meth to amass a nest egg for his family and it changes him.  I watched seasons 1-4 on Netflix.  AMC split season 5 into two parts.  The first half was last year -- and viewed by me on rented Netflix discs as soon as they came out -- and the second half is this year with the season finale airing tonight.

At the suggestion of my niece's boyfriend, I tried to find a "Breaking Bad" viewing party in my town.  There are a few, all in restaurants and when I called to ask, the employees advised you need to get there early.  In other towns, I've heard they have viewing parties in small auditoriums, light armories, or theatres and they charge admission.  Apparently no one thought of it here.  Then again bars already have cable installed and other venues probably would not.

I have a co-worker who is the most lovely person.  I lamented to him how much I wanted to watch the final episodes of "Breaking Bad" without waiting nine months.  He has fancy cable and has two roommates with whom he splits an AT&T package that also includes a landline and cable TV (and I think cell phones).  My friend told me he would see if he could tape it.

Remember tapes?  A few months ago, I was considering ditching my VCR-DVD combo because I didn't think I'd ever use the VCR portion again, the combo was hooked up to an analog TV, and I could not watch regular TV on it because those damn conversion boxes like to not work for me.  It's true.  They worked fine for several weeks and then just stopped.  I had a couple as backup and revolved them around, each working anew and then not working at all, until I surrendered, got a small HD TV for the bedroom, and gave up watching the analog TV except for DVDs because my living room chairs are comfortable.

My friend had a severely sprained ankle and he hopped all around his furniture, hooking up the VCR, test taping, moving wires, test taping some more, all so I could watch "Breaking Bad."  He decided he had to be home to turn it on to make sure it would tape.  He started it early and let it run longer "just in case."  The next day he brought the tape to me at work and I watched it that Monday night right after I watched "How I Met Your Mother."  And so it has gone all season.

I've struggled to adequately describe how much this has meant to me.  I have said to him, "I can't tell you how much this has meant to me."  My friend made the commitment to me and he stuck to it.  I get the satisfaction of knowing what happens to Walter White before the media spills it and before Netflix offers it on disc.  There's not a reason in the world I couldn't have waited for it but I didn't want suspense for nine months, I wanted satisfaction.  If it was out there and could be had, I wanted it.

Here's what it's meant to me:  the world.  My friend gave me the world.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Bears Play Tonight but this is better

Before I go on, let me say, "Believe in Monsters."  Go Bears!

I had a friend whom we will call William and he was one of those people whose looks were so unusual and intriguing that he was catapulted into the category of handsome.  He was naturally thin and had white hair which he made whiter by using a shampoo with a bleaching agent.  He started going white when he was just 16 and decided not to fight it.  It was what added him to the handsome category.

He had a very strong personality.  All his friends had strong personalities, including me.  The personalities were all different which made for rollicking discussions, laughs, and performances, since most of us were in theater at the time.  His personality and his looks attracted a lot of people.

This is not about any of those friends.  This is about a new friend who came on the scene and decided she was the head friend and her friends were, therefore, his friends, and the rest of us were just background noise.

Here's something about being friends with the friends of new friends:  Hold back, get to know them slowly, don't act like you've saved that person from insanity, don't talk down to the old friends, be at least a little grateful to be included.  Don't reject or dismiss the old friends.  Chances are if someone's been friends with someone for a while, the friendship will continue.  Your new friendship might not last.  Relax about it.  There is no new-friend crown.

William and his partner, whom we will call Z, lived in a building in a marginal neighborhood.  It was a huge apartment, the rent was low, and they weren't too far from public transportation.  At least once a year, units were vacated and new tenants moved in.  This one particular year a woman whom we will call Sarah moved in.  She was quite pretty and had a huge personality.  She thought she was the head new friend.

William enjoyed having people over to play games, listen to music, and talk.  Sarah and another new tenant -- let's call him Carl -- were invited, as were all of William's usual old friend subjects.

William happened upon Sarah one day in the hall and after coffee together, he thought she was a great person and that they'd be friends.  He was not so keen on Carl although Sarah and Carl had been fast friends and confidants.  Because she was fond of Carl, she thought William would be, too.

Sarah swept into the party and totally dominated William.  The rest of us had known each other for a long time so we talked and caught up.  When William toured around the party, Sarah was right there to make us feel like we were all now minor players in his life.

At the time of the arrival of Sarah and Carl in the building, William had been diagnosed with full-blow AIDS and could no longer work.  He was spending his days at home doing not much of anything until he decided to have a garden.  His parents came from Peoria and brought small trees and plants and garden tools.  William happily spent his days tending the flowers and making sure there were no weeds creeping in.  He never knew he'd like gardening so he was pleased that something so simple yet so pretty could come from him.  He was a natural landscape architect and put together a lovely plot.

Carl was a nice guy but thought he knew it all and often said so.  He was friendly but not the sharpest knife in the drawer.  Not being the sharpest knife in the drawer but thinking you know it all is not a good combination in life even though being nice and friendly lessens the blow.

Sarah was functionally nice.  She was quite bright and had terrible taste in men.  She was friendly only as it suited her.  She liked to be first in the hearts and minds of those she thought of first.  That she would not be first didn't occur to her.  Sarah thought if she was in someone's life then all others before her had to step aside and she treated William's other friends curtly.  She was all passive-aggressive shyness but mostly, Sarah was arrogant.

We'd all come across people like Sarah.  We just mentally hunkered down and waited for her to make some sort of misstep that would send her packing.  We didn't have to discuss it because we knew.

William and I had long phone chats almost every day and he asked if I like her.  I was forced to say that I didn't.  I found her kind of overbearing in how she treated those of us who'd know him longest which surprised him.  He hadn't noticed.  Sarah was between boyfriends, worked strange hours, and had lots of time to spend with William when he wanted company.  He liked her, he said.  I told him good because she was company for him when Z was working.  I left it alone.  I knew he'd figure it out for himself eventually.

Sarah was very fond of Carl probably because Carl mostly flattered her.  William told her he really didn't like Carl at all.  He said he found it difficult to be civil to him and Sarah agreed that, yes, knowing William as she did -- which she didn't -- there was no way he'd be able to get on with Carl.  William differed, saying he could do it for money.  Sarah suggested they make it interesting and they made a bet.  They wagered $10 -- huge for someone who wasn't working because he was too sick.  If William could be nice to Carl for 3 months, he would win the $10.  If he couldn't Sarah, would claim the prize.

When William told me about this, it was the end of May and his gardening was going into full swing.  "How you gonna do that?" I asked.  William didn't suffer fools gladly.  "I can do it for three months.  It's just three months."  "You're right," I said.  "I hope you win."  Of course I hoped he'd win.  It was winning over that Sarah person and I could not stand her.

So, William turned on his charm.  He invited Carl to his apartment for afternoon coffee with himself and Sarah.  Then he invited Carl to just come over on his own then told him to stop over any time.  They took short walks together.  Carl listened to William's beloved music collection.  Carl would watch William do his gardening, blabbing happily to William.

One day William told me Carl had said to him, "Our friendship just keeps getting better and better."  Carl meant it and William laughed because he was on his way to winning the bet and because Carl was too dumb to recognize insincerity.  William was an actor and this was his final great performance.  (No, he wasn't the nicest guy either but he never tried to be.  He was what he was and we loved him and all his faults.)

In early July, William stepped out onto his back porch one morning and found Carl weeding the garden.  He had the hoe William's parents had brought from Peoria and was really having at the weeds.  Except they weren't weeds.  These were actually plants that he was ripping out.

Before I went to work that evening, William called me.

"I just lost the bet," he said.

"Oh!  What happened?" I asked.

After watching William at his gardening, Carl decided to help him out and get rid of the nasty weeds so William could relax that day.  Remember -- Carl thought he knew it all but was also a dope.  He didn't know a weed from a dusty miller which is what he was removing.  He was about to smack the shit out of the begonias when William stopped him as William did best.

William ripped him a new one.  He screamed at him up one side and down the other.  He called him as many names as he could come up with that are associated with being a dunce.  He let Carl have it.  Carl finally blurted out that he was sorry, dropped the hoe, and fled.

William surveyed the damage and took a deep breath to calmly assess the situation.  He regarded the  scene and slowly walked up the back steps to Carl's apartment and gently knocked at the door.

When Carl answered, William went off on him again.  He plumbed the depths of his vocabulary to find new descriptions for Carl's knuckleheadedness.  He felt like he burned a hole into the porch with his anger.  His parting shot was telling Carl to stay away from him and his garden.  Carl had the good sense to listen.

He paid Sarah the ten bucks and she, too self-centered to see that this amount of money was a hardship for him, took it.  He continued to be friends with her although he talked of her less and when their leases were up, Carl and Sarah each moved out.  Sarah and William continued to be friends but then they were acquaintances and then she was someone who used to live in the building.  When William passed away, no one thought to call Sarah to come and celebrate his life at his memorial gathering.

No one missed her.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Maybe the Bears will win again!

Thin, lanky, looks-like-he-does-yoga, ex-CFL coach and now NFL Bears coach Marc Trestman started off the season with a win at Soldier Field.  The Bears are at home again this week against the Minnesota Vikings.  It's raining today.  It will be raining at kickoff, half time, and when people leave the stadium to go home.  Fingers crossed for another win.

Meanwhile, I am feeling super bla today.  So let's look at this funky picture I took last weekend at a baby shower.

The happy parents-to-be were given a tiki-themed party on the rooftop of a condo building on the Near South side.  The views were tremendous.  Soldier Field, the lake, downtown, even the western skies and some seriously wonderful clouds -- all were in view and this was just the 5th floor.  There weren't a lot of high rises too terribly nearby which made for the great view.  The tiki-themed food was tasty but most amazing was the entire roasted pig.  This had to be 50 pounds of oink and, yes, it was delicious.  The head, the trotters, the skin, all were intact for the presentation.  After the party had been going for a while, the photographers had managed to find each other -- me and my iPod Touch included -- and after discussing equipment, where to buy equipment, how much equipment is carried, storage for the equipment, equipment cases, and vacation pictures, we looked at the head of the pig.  "Look at the teeth," someone said.  Out came the equipment.

I tell you this picture is pretty damn unsettling.  I have put in several lines of warning so you can change your mind at any time and decide to not look at the picture of the head of the roasted porker.

You have been warned.

You have been warned.

You have been warned.

You have been warned.

You have been warned.

You have been warned.

Vegetarian curious?  This picture could send you over the meat cliff.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Do you think it'll rain?  London, February, 2013
I am still on vacation and am so enjoying vacation that I've not given a single thought to my beloved blog and its loyal readers.  I think said readers will forgive my taking another day to loaf before heading back to what we will call "the salt mines" as it plunges my sanity into the depths.

Bears season opens today, y'all!  Maybe Jay will finally be a real NFL QB.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


I am on it.  Please come back next week.

Here's a picture of a stack of pictures:

Can you find the porno pic?  Hong Kong, February, 2012

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Destination: Flamingo

When it's a lovely, clear day in Chicago, there are other places I might also suggest a tourist go to sit and watch the world walk by and Federal Plaza is a another great place to pause and enjoy.  (Hey! "Meet me under Flamingo" could be a thing!)  Here are some reasons to choose Flamingo and Federal Plaza:

1.  A nice, steady flow of locals.
    1.a.  Weekly farmers market featuring locally grown fruits and vegetables and locally baked goods.
    1.b.  Occasional protest march/action ending/beginning in Federal Plaza.
    1.c.  A mediocre Oktoberfest featuring loud bands, drunken young professionals, and decent beer.
    1.d.  [Insert nationality here]fest but Daley Plaza is the preferred venue for that sort of fest.

2.  A nice, steady flow of tourists.    
3.  The law enforcement officials that linger and rest for a minute.  I was advised that about 60 minutes after the picture below was taken there were five or six bicycle police officers congregated together by Flamingo instead of the single one I caught.  Since it's Federal Plaza, there are sometimes many different law enforcement groups in attendance, sometimes on horseback.  Of course, the CIA guys?  If they're doing their jobs right we will never ever know which ones they are.

4.  Flamingo is pretty darn awesome.

5.  Just five blocks west of Flamingo, in the Wacker St. lobby of the Willis Tower, there's another Calder called "The Universe."  It's a mobile but powered by electricity.  It's worth the visit because there is just so much going on it.  I would bore you all to death with my photos of it but I am never close enough to the Willis Tower to go in and snap a pic, ever ever ever.  Occasionally I whiz by on a bus bound for Federal Plaza but that's about it.  Here is a link with very jumpy camera work:  )

Take a load off!  It's Calder!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Oh, please stop talking about Flamingo already

I left work early on Thursday as I had an hour overtime that I had to take.  I got over to Federal Plaza, guards were still on duty in the lobby of the Kluczynski Federal Building, and I went in and asked a question.

"Can I go to the passport office, please?  I want to take a picture out the window."

This brought a barrage of negatives.  The passport office takes no one after 3:30 pm.  No pictures can be taken inside that building.  No pictures can be taken inside that building looking out.  No pictures.  No.  None.  Nope.  Ixnay.

My response:  "Really?  Really?  Really?" to every single negative.


Finally one of the guards gave information.  (Clearly, when you see just saying no is not enough, give up something even if you know the something will probably lead nowhere.  It will stop the flurry of "really?" and get the strange woman out of your face.)  Get approval from the General Services Administration (GSA) and maybe I could do it, he said.  Call them, he said, or write them a letter.  He couldn't let me up there to visit them because it was 4:10 pm and they close at 4 pm.  I said thanks and strolled out with information (maybe solid, maybe gassy).

I haven't called them yet but I will because for me, there is one last shot that needs to be taken of Flamingo, and until I get it, I'll feel like the horse that I'm beating to death still has some life.

Until then, allow this picture taken from the architecture firm on the second floor of the Marquette Building which looks upon Federal Plaza and offers an interesting perspective.

From the 2nd floor of the Marquette, overlooking Adams and Federal Plaza; Dearborn is on the left
Yeah, I'd be staring out the window all the doodah day.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Flamingo set to stun!

It depends on the time of day that I approach, but it's usually about 5 pm, after work, that I've made my way to Federal Plaza.  One day was right after a rain and I grabbed a few Panorama shots and didn't wait for everyone to leave.  The remains of the passersby were tremendous.  Observe:

He had a cart, he was booking, he might even be flipping me off.

No, this wasn't the Twin Parade.  XOXO to Panorama!   

A day later, it seemed like it could become a Transformer and blow a hole in that movie franchise.
(No need to blow a hole, just make it stop.)

Ready?  Aim! ...

One of my favorite summer flowers is the hollyhock, especially the red ones.  In Detroit, where I grew up, if people had alleys behind their homes, they seemed to plant them near their garbage cans.  Bees also love hollyhocks so taking out the trash or even walking down an alley was an adventure.
No bees! 5:30 pm on a weekday

I walked from the Blue Line El stop to the library and found this red offering which I am pleased to share.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

My Goofy Little Gym

So I belong to a goofy little gym that's part of a goofy little chain.  There's nothing about this goofy little gym that's luxurious.  The parking situation is weird -- either park on the roof or park on this street.  If you park in the street level parking lot, you will be towed.  There are no classes offered.  There is no swimming pool.  There are no massage chairs or tanning beds.  You cannot ever get a haircut.  The locker rooms are spare but clean and the showers are the same way.  The toilet area has never made me cringe.  The towels are threadbare washclothes.

The employees are nice or nice enough and don't seem to have attitude issues.  If you need to know how to do something, they will show you.  They all seem to get along, especially the weekend crew of three men.  The weekend crew used to be two women but no two men could ever replace two women and so a third man was brought in.  The women bustled about more, getting things done that needed it.  The men enjoy entertaining each other but eventually get around to cleaning and straightening and folding the towels.  Sometimes they are nowhere around to make sure everyone has their card or to call 911 if something unpleasant happens.  Sometimes I am there for my whole workout and never see one of them.  I've decided this is okay because the place is stuffed with testerone-y types with muscles and determination.  I also work out near an exit and if I have to flee, it's right there.  When they're there, they seem to be glad to see me.

During my (so far) yearlong membership, the club has brought in equipment, all of which is for the body builder types.  The belts on treadmills need to be replaced, the TVs built into the treadmills need a lot of attention and often don't work, and the channels on each machine depends on the caprice of the staff at the time.  I finally asked if I could call from the treadmill if I wanted another station programmed in and they said yes, they would not be opposed to my doing that (but I've not done it yet).  The place now has probably 20% more equipment than when I joined last year.  It's a small space, so it looks stuffed.

Recently, a shiny new health club opened a location two blocks away.  It's huge, in a former grocery store space that had been empty for many years.  The equipment is all new and the choice of TV stations is great.  When my contract was up last month, I went to check it out.  It was nice in there and I was greeted by a young man at the counter who seemed to be taking up space and giving out towels and not much else.  He could answer no questions.  His associate then came over and gave me their spiel and a lot of attitude.  Lots and lots of attitude and no explanation for why their enrollment fee was so high.  Then he thought he would share that the enrollment fee changes depending on the day of the month you came in.  Then he offered me some more attitude and as I was leaving, a little more attitude than that.  It must be a perk of the job:  giving attitude to everyone.

Yesterday I came into the club and it was stuffed with muscular men pushing around weights, leaping onto different heights of table, running on the treadmill like they were being chased by bad men with guns.  The employees were nowhere to be seen.  Later they materialized by the treadmills, one standing on the still treadmill belt while the other two talked to him.  When I was leaving I said hi and bye and they seemed glad to see me.  I decided I would just stay put.

AFTERWORD:  I went to my goofy little gym tonight and there were no employees to be seen.  I really wanted to watch "60 Minutes" but my treadmill TV didn't offer it.  Yes, I called.  Yes, a guy answered and yes, he sweetly and politely checked to make sure my treadmill's TV was programmed for it and then came over and put it on for me.  He was absolutely lovely. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Flamingo Schlamingo

Y'all, it's a lovely cool weekend and Bears Training Camp has opened in Bourbonnais, IL, out in the intense cornfields.   It takes at least an hour for me to get there.  I went once, bedazzled by Love of Bears Syndrome.  I have since been stricken anew with the condition called If It Takes Over An Hour To Get There And I Am Not Getting Damn Autographs From Anyone But People Who Might Get Cut Then I Ain't Going.  If I want to be ignored I will go hang out in a hipster bar.  I can get to one of those within 10 minutes and I harbor no hope for how that might turn out.  The Bears want their fans to come and then basically ignore them.

I've stated this in  years past:  the fans are what make you a commodity, Messrs. Bears.  If the fans stopped caring about yours asses, you'd be bagging groceries and hanging on street corners, wishing you'd finished your degree programs.  Yeah, yeah, you heard me.  If you have fans, treat 'em nice so they stay your fans.  Of course there are exceptions!  There are always exceptions!  EXAMPLE:  Hunter Hillenmeyer, forced out of the NFL by a concussion, earned a sweet MBA at Northwestern, which means the bagging groceries/hanging on corners scenario does not apply.

After training camp, we will experience the extreme agony of exhibition football, i.e. why the feck does the NFL allow its best players to maybe get screwed up for the season?, followed by pre-season ball, i.e. good grief the NFL and owners value money more than the talent of their players.  "It's a business!" you might cry.  What's the cost of that particular business, y'all?

But then the season starts and in spite of my best efforts to do otherwise, I will pay attention, I will have discussions with other fans, I will sing "Bear Down Chicago Bears" a couple of times, and I will care.  I will also figure out a way to get this one view of Flamingo so I can drop that topic for good.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Did Someone Say "Flamingo"?

The Art Institute of Chicago has a show called "Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity" and it's pretty darn cool.  There are wonderful paintings, amazing clothing (those dresses were done by hand and how the hell?), and makes for a stunning exhibition.  What fascinates me most about an exhibit of this nature is how long it takes to assemble it.  Bottom line:  years.

What came to my mind -- and I am sure I am missing steps -- is that first, they come up with a theme.  Next, they start researching museums and private collections that have pieces they might include.  Continuing,  they request permission to use the pieces in the respective collections or museum.   And onward, they collaborate with other museums and corporate sponsors to underwrite transit, insurance, packaging (including just what immediately springs to mind).  The pieces usually are together and moved to different museums as a unit -- this show was at the Musee D'Orsay in Paris, the Met in NYC, and will wind up on September 29th here in Chicago -- and they will no doubt never be together again.  Finally, the works need to be shipped back to where they belong.

What a lot of work!  And worth it.

I've been to the National Gallery in London when they've borrowed a single painting from a museum and advertised and raised a lot of excitement about just the single painting.  People flocked to see it because it may never again be out of the owner museum or private collection.  They flock there because art is often thrilling and satisfies an emptiness within our hearts, brains, and souls.

And while we were there, "Oh, say, do you mind if we go see the modelo of 'Flamingo'?"  A guard is consulted, "Might you please tell us where the Calder is?  The one like the big one in Federal Plaza?"  "You mean the red one?"  "Yes, that's the one."  Directions and thanks are exchanged and then, there is the Flamingo modelo, here for your viewing pleasure and mine as well.

There it is!  Not in the Post Office basement at all!

Panorama just makes it more awesome and the base seem curvy/bent

Sunday, July 14, 2013

More Flamingo!

So I was over by the Calder in Federal Plaza, having been disappointed by yet another day of zero mail delivery at the post office.  It had rained but the rain clouds had passed.  People love taking pictures of their loved ones when they are on vacation.  Sometimes they are taking pictures that I know will be a picture of the thing -- a Chicago landscape or some landmark or other -- and the person(s) will be a dot(s) in the picture as well.  I then have to decide if it's worth it to me to offer my services, i.e. "Do you want me to take your picture?" My photos of things are respectable but my pictures of people are really quite nice.  I don't know why but I can really get the best out of total strangers.

In this case, I let it go.  The young man kept sending the woman farther and farther away.  She was going to be a dot in the picture.  She could be a total stranger.  He missed the TV show I saw in the early 70s where a photographer, giving tips on how to take good vacation picture said, "Bring the person with you into the picture.  You're taking a picture of them and the Eiffel Tower, not the Eiffel Tower and them."  One can tell from demeanor if the person is approachable or not and the guy wanted to take his serious picture which was fine with me because one of my favorite things to photograph is people taking pictures of other people.  Thanks, Young Serious European Man!

(He was also opening himself up for serious Photobombing.  I've inadvertently been a photobomber -- a grandma lined up her daughter and three granddaughters on the steps by where I was sitting.  I was scanning the approaching crowd for the people I was meeting and not really paying attention to all the touristic scrambling.  Had they said, "Might you please move?" then I'd have done so.  They did not and I suddenly realized it was coming.  I smiled sweetly.  I've deliberately photobombed -- I was dining with a work friend, the two tourist couples at the next table asked their waiter to take their picture.  He lined it up perfectly with me in the middle.  Yeah, I smiled but it was that of a fricking-loser-idiot-asshole photobomber who was not at all sorry she did it.)

No, the lady in the black sleeves is not his subject (and l'auteur has a nice cigarette in his left hand)

Way off in the distance, his subject is the lady in the red pants

They left, I was distracted, and snapped.  The angle makes even me dizzy but I like it.

It rained!  Then it stopped!  Federal Plaza at 5:30pm on a weekday

Sunday, July 7, 2013


In 1974, Alexander Calder's 50-ton, 53-foot Flamingo was unveiled in Federal Plaza in Chicago.  Unlike some of Calder's better known works which are mobiles, it is an abstract stationary sculpture.  It's doesn't move with the wind but its designs makes it look like it might.

There used to be a modelo of it in the lobby of the post office that was an exact smaller scale made by Calder so the blind could experience it.  There was a plaque next to it describing it in American English and in braille.  It was quite thrilling for me to see it and touch it.  It disappeared from the post office and I imagined it languishing in the basement of that facility but have come to find out the modelo (also called a maquette) resides in the Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago, roughly three blocks east of its former location.

Flamingo is right in front of the post office where I have my PO box.  I have been trying to take pictures of it every day I am over there as long as (1) I remember a camera of some sort and (2) it isn't raining.  (I was there twice on Saturday and managed to leave the camera at home both times.  Clever, huh?)

I've tried different angles.  There are panoramas.  I have tried looking right up its legs at its underbelly.  I have done reflection shots.  I still think there are angles in there that I've not yet visited.

Allow me to share my latest photo fascination:
June 2013, looking at the underside, southwest and up

May 2013, looking east at it

May 2013, looking east with reflection
December 2012, looking northwest
First panorama, January 2013, during a snowless afternoon lull, looking southeast

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tell Your Mother She Wants You

Last week we talked about those teens who can barely wait to come to the city so they can see art and see awesome things that can be found in the city.

This week, our beloved Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup and there was a parade and a downtown celebration and ill-mannered teens came downtown with liquor they'd stolen from their parents which they put in thermos bottles.  Clever!  No one ever ever ever has thought of that before.

I work in an urban train station that serves the northern and northwestern suburbs of Chicago.  When I entered the building, there were multiple clumps of teenagers who'd come into town for the day.  I say clumps because they weren't going anywhere.  They were standing around and chatting, sharing their thermos bottles filled with booze.  Standing near the bottom of an escalator was just as good as off to the side.  Standing in front of the mailboxes would also do.  They were also very, very loud.  It was 7:15 a.m.

"But you must see things like that all the time if you work in a train station!"  No, no, no, no.  The G8 or a NATO conference or a sports team winning big is what brings them in.  When the Hawks won last time, school was still in session.  Because of the shortened season that started and finished late, everyone was out of school and there is no better way to spend one's summer than disrupting the working world.

In past blogs, I've remarked how well mannered Hawks fans are compared to other fans, like the Cubs, the Bulls, and even the Lyric Opera.  These were not those fans.  These were children looking for an excuse to be drunk and unruly and come downtown and scream.   Yes, there were adults who'd be doing that but they're 21 and can buy their own hooch; they don't go to the liquor cabinets of their parents and pour something into that handy thermos.

There were still plenty of Hawks junior fans hanging around at the end of the day but we bolted from the building so we didn't have to look at them.  We had a bigger idea!  My friend wanted to go to a local grocery store where he bought two 1.75 liter bottles of vodka.  It's okay, though because he's an adult, and while he wore red in honor of the Blackhawks, he did it mostly so he could wear his matching sandals.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Wide Open Spaces of Chicago

After work on Friday, I was walking from the South Loop to the river to meet family members.  I enjoy looking at people.  I like looking at their faces and into the eyes and maybe we'll share a smile; maybe the person will look away like I've tried to rob their house; maybe the person just never ever wants to meet the gaze of a stranger because strangers are scary, dangerous, or uncomfortably odd (of which I am proudly the latter).  Sometimes you see strangers doing things that make you instantly like them because you know what's going through their heads.  Such was the case on Friday.

There is a very nice McDonald's on the northeast corner of Clark and Monroe, right by Chase Plaza.  It's in a glass-walled building that allows patrons seated at the window seats to look out and enjoy the city; it allows pedestrians the chance to view them.

As I walked by on Friday, there were three teenagers sitting in the window.  One of the teenagers had taken his 49¢ cone and made a very large and handsome ice cream mustache.  It was magnificent and the three of them -- two boys and a girl -- thought it was wonderful.  I saw this and our eyes met and I smiled.  He looked slightly embarrassed but grinned back.  It was, after all, a wonderful thing.

When I am strolling around after work, I see a lot of adult tourists.  If there are kid or teen tourists, they are usually with their parents or in packs led by two-to-four adults.  They are requesting the teens keep up and are at the front and the back of the packs, respectively.  The kids are not being given the opportunity to think for themselves.  That's how I knew these kids were not tourists.

These kids were escapees.

The wide open spaces of the suburbs are wholly suffocating to them.  They have to drive or be driven everywhere and it was all a chore and so much work to just get to the library to get a book.  The city has busses and subway trains and lots of libraries to which you might even walk.

These kids had the look of kids everywhere who live in the suburbs of exciting cities whose parents, teachers, friends' parents, grandparents, etc., are constantly telling them how dangerous the city is; that people there are killed (or worse!) all the time; that horrible things happen in the city.  The city should not be approached.  The city was constantly dangled in front of them as the most poisonous of fruits. 

These were kids who could hardly wait to take a bite.  They had to come to the city to see for themselves.  They wanted to experience the danger and maybe eat something and see some art.

Boy A probably told his parents that he and Girl would be spending the day at the mall with Boy B.  Boy B and Girl each told their parents corresponding tales.  Asses were covered unless something happened.

They didn't want to go to a Cubs game which was as naughty as their friends got.  They wanted to walk all around downtown and see all the free art.  They wanted to see the Chagall, the Calder, the Picasso, "Cloudgate" by Kapoor (also called "The Bean"), and the Miro.  They wanted to touch the Dubuffet.  They were going to have their pictures taken at the Oldenberg Bat.  They were going into the lobby of the Willis Tower to look at the Calder mobile.  Unless weather prohibited it, they were going to dance in the waters of Crown Fountain (from Spanish artist Jaume Plensa) and take too many pictures of the faces spitting water.  They would sit and have their $4-Subway-sandwich lunch in Millennium Park while looking at Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion and then sashay themselves over to Buckingham Fountain to check it out.  They wanted to pay something -- a dollar was about all they could afford -- and have a run through the Art Institute.  Then they would go home.

But first, hey, there's time, let's have a 49¢ cone.

It was a dizzying day and entirely thrilling and satisfying.  The McDonald's treat was cool and creamy.  And there was a little ice cream on an upper lip, then a lot, then a mustache, then the odd woman saw it and smiled.  It was, after all, a wonderful thing.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

She Is Where, Part 44

Every signing in their town took place at the massive title company in the central part of downtown.  The real estate attorney -- or, if  one were recognizably fortunate, one's very own boyfriend -- would accompany the about-to-be owners and a lot of papers would be signed, maybe they'd realize how much money was being spent and how long debt would go on and they'd break into a cold sweat, and then it was over and the place was purchased.

But first, she had to meet her boyfriend at his office.

Mike's offices took up the entire 29th floor of a midrise building that had space overlooking the lake, the park, and a museum.  Mike's corner office looked east and south which gave him a lot of sun and let the three tropical plants in his office get enormous.  The rest of the space was occupied by his less-senior law partners, more than several paralegals, an IT department of some size, plus many administrative assistants.  People seemed mostly not miserable.  Mike's own administrative assistant was competent, professional, polite, the mother of four, and happily married for 25 years.  What Mike liked to say about her was that she eased his path.  She was fiercely loyal to him as he'd taken a chance on a mother of four who was reentering the work force because she wanted to help her family make ends meet.

Her own boss got up and left abruptly about thirty minutes before she was supposed to leave telling her, "Oh, yeah, good luck with that signing.  Ha ha ha!  Debt!  Ha ha ha!"  He then blushed and ran out.  She didn't think much of it because she didn't know him that well.

When she got into the lobby, she was hoping to run into Mr. King to share the good news but he was nowhere around.

"Is Mr. King nearby?" she asked the young man at the desk in the lobby.

"He had to go some place," said the young man with a strange smile.

"Thanks," she said.

"Good luck to you, then," he said.

Usually he told her to be safe; maybe he had a new catch phrase.

She walked quickly to Mike's office, arriving right on time.  She prided herself in arriving on time.

"Oh!" said the receptionist when she walked in.  "Hello!"

The receptionist blushed.

"How are you doing?" she asked the receptionist.  "Are you okay?"

"Oh!" exclaimed the receptionist.  "Yes!  Of course!  Why?"

"You're blushing," she told her.  "Like you're embarrassed."

The receptionist stood up and said, "Mike's in the big conference room finishing up a brief.  Go there.  You know where that is, yes?"

"No," she said, "I'm not sure I do."

"Good!" exclaimed the receptionist.  "I will show you.  But first, let me lock the door and put the phones on hold."

The door and phones were all done through her computer screen in about twenty seconds.  When the task was completed, the receptionist, blushing even more deeply, escorted her down the hall to a set of double doors.  She knocked with an excited vigor.

Both doors swung open with no one standing there and she walked into the large room.

There was an enormous conference table where Mike was seated at the head, with her cousins and their husbands and his father sitting next to him.  Lee was at the other end with Mr. King and her boss.  Her former boss, who'd had so much faith in her, was with them.  Mike's partners and what seemed like every other person in the office was either sitting at the table or standing against the wall.

A very handsome man came from behind the door.  He had a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist.  His eyes met hers and suddenly his eyes welled up and tears came rolling down his cheeks.  He gasped and seemed to gain his composure.

"May I share with you all about the locks of love?" he said and delivered a moving speech that she'd heard before in her own office.

It was delivered with such elegance and grace, such beauty and longing, that those in attendance got misty; they would all talk about the lovely things he said for the rest of their lives.  At the end of the tender speech, Connie unlocked the handcuffs and the briefcase and produced the most sensationally large diamond on a ring that anyone of them had ever seen.  He handed it to Mike.

Connie stood tall, trying not to look at her, trying to smile.

Mike had walked around the table during Connie's speech and went down on one knee and took one hand in his and said, "No, I'm the lucky one.  Will you marry me?"

She closed her eyes and teared up herself and said, "Well, of course I will."

Mike stood and they kissed.

The ring fit perfectly.  Everyone applauded and people started embracing her and Mike.  Connie went over to the side to pack up his things which seemed to be taking a long time.

She stepped over to thank the jeweler.

"Thank you so much, sir," she said.  "The ring is terrific.  You don't see diamonds like this every day."

"I got it in Africa.  It was a long process.  It took months really," he said, looking like he was about to say more.

She suspected what would come next and she had to make Connie understand that she was perfect with how things had turned out for her.

She said, "I'm a very lucky woman."

She reached out her hand to shake his.  He stared at it and then shook her hand with a few hard pumps.

Connie spoke quietly so only she could hear it, "No, he's the lucky one."