Friday, July 17, 2015

Happy 84th Birthday, Grandma Ginny!!

Grandma Ginny isn't my grandmother. She's my stepma. But Grandma Ginny is what my kids called her growing up, so I did, too. If I don't use Grandma Ginny, which is usually saved for family occasions, I call her Virginia. After my mother died when I was 23, my father remarried a year or so later. As much as I liked my new stepma, I didn't call her Mom. She was 16 years younger than my father and only 12 years older than I, and more like my sister. I was also so bonded to my biological mother that psychologically I couldn't replace her. Regardless, I was thrilled my father had remarried. Plus I got two half brothers out of the deal.  

Since then, every year for the past fifty or so years, Virginia's birthday has come and gone during the same month and, coincidentally, on the same day. So you'd think I could remember those two things. But no, I usually find myself calling her up a week or so after the event to wish her a belated HB and we go out to dinner or something. She never seemed to mind, preferring to ignore the passage of time. She also hates calling attention to herself. 

This year I decided to have a party on her actual birthday with as many of her friends as I could find. I was prompted to do this because one of her best friends, Jody, a pal since junior high school, had past away in 2014.  

In a brilliant move on my part, I contacted another one of her childhood-through-college chums, Ruth, and mentioned my idea to her. She was on board from the get go, calling everyone, ordering a cake, and even encouraging one of their group to fly in for the occasion. We spent a lovely afternoon during the tea time hours -- 3:00 to 5:00 PM -- sipping raspberry tea, enjoying a delightful cake confection. reading some funny cards, passing the homemade fudge. And talking, talking, talking. 

So, without any more pre-mumble, here are some photos from a couple of days ago, with this great group of lo-o-o-o-o-o-ongtime girlfriends, all of whom attended Wellesley or Smith, back in the day when our high school, New Trier, was a feeder school for the Ivy League colleges. 

Mostly they can't believe so many of their group are still around to celebrate Virginia's natal day. Their only deceased friend, Jody, had gone to Stanford, but she was forgiven long ago. 
Grandma Ginny is easy to spot -- she just came from her stylist and her hair is brown. 

This was a discussion of medical mysteries, which usually take over most conversations. 

I'm only 83. They're 84. 

Lynn's smile matches her sense of humor. 

One of the Wellesley girls.

Grandma Ginny was having a great time.

Tish has some serious fudge-making skills.

Didn't you JUST take my picture?

Ruth, our hostess with the mostest. 

Betsy flew in for the event. And took even more pix than I did. 

It was nice to go Olde Schoole and use real silver and china. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Weekend in Indiana

It cost me less than $20 to get to Indiana and back on the train last weekend. One of my train rides was from my suburb to Chicago: $6 roundtrip. The other was the 94 miles from Chicago to South Bend: $11.50. Okay, senior discount. So half price. I also got picked up at the South Bend stop, which is at the South Bend airport, just an FYI. 

For comparison, it cost me $8 one way, including tip, to travel one single mile across the Loop from Union Station to the South Shore station. These pix below are from breakfast at the Mill Creek Kitchen in South Milford, IN. There used to be a mill on the creek. The creek is still out back. And there's a huge granery behind that. Huge. But no more mill. This little restaurant has grown since I was last there in August of 2014. Open more hours and days. With more people working there. Check them out on Facebook -- did I mention their name is Mill Creek Kitchen? Really good food. And a large menu. 

We also ate dinner at my favorite Amish place, Tiffany's, filled with long tables of Amish men and women, speaking Amish, with the most pleasant service from Amish teens. Not to mention wonderful, inexpensive food. And great pie. 

Drove through Shipshewana. We didn't stop because it was raining, but we've taken the Amish buggy ride -- a gift from my friend for my septuagenarian birthday. Try saying that three times in a row. 

Had such a nice, relaxed time at my friend's home on one of the many glacially formed lakes. Visited with her daughter/son-in-law and four of her grandkids. 

I also baked browned butter chocolate chip cookies for dessert on Sunday night. Way worth the train ride.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Fifteen Minute Post

In fifteen minutes I will leave for my weekly rehearsal of the ladies who wear sequins and polyester. We've also added boas to our costumes. What's next? Tap shoes? 

We are working toward our Really Really Big October Show, which will feature 10 to 12 new tunes from the sixties. And choreography taught to us by a Las Vegas Singer and Dancer. [Put that in your hat and sit on it!!] 

Meanwhile, over the next few months we will also be performing at several venues using selections from the repertoire of songs we sang for our last show. Can you count? That means we have to keep more than two dozen tunes tiptoeing through our heads at any one time. You try remembering that much. Did I mention that we are not spring chickens? 

PLUS -- we have a whole repertoire of Holiday Tunes which we perform during December. Show bidness is not easy.

As the engineer at our recent recording session noted, "For a group that only rehearses once a week, you're pretty good." 

I see that my fifteen minutes is up. Until next time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Movoto Top Ten Lists are Total Bull

I love when companies latch on to a marketing idea to build awareness about themselves that's basically just a bunch of B.S. wrapped up with a pretty bow. 

For example, Movoto Real Estate. This is an online real estate company, licensed in thirty states, that has become ubiquitous around the internet for its Top Ten Lists. Their motto seems to be "We make real estate easy." It should be "We make real estate cheesy."

Somehow they've came up with a bunch of exotic algorithms, which [they claim] help them determine which cities, towns, counties, states, etc. are the best places for people to live. I'm sure they've done a bunch for your state.

I think they are full of shit.

Let me use my state and a town where I've lived [Northbrook, IL] as two prime examples of how insanely inaccurate these people are. 

Recently, Movoto posted the list of  the Ten Best suburbs around Chicago. I know Chicago. I have lived in the city and its 'burbs most of my life -- not only Northbrook, but Winnetka, Glencoe, and Evanston. According to Movoto:
First of all, La Grange, La Grange Park, and Western Springs are right next to each other. They are carbon copies of one another, too. So, pick ONE, not all three. 

All that aside, Kenilworth and Wilmette are the only two suburbs that should be on this list. Why? Because they are the only two towns listed that are located on the lake. Or any lake. 

As far as I am concerned, the lake is the ONLY reason Chicago exists. If your town doesn't sit on the beaches of Lake Michigan or any one of the smaller inland lakes, or a river, you got nothing, no matter how big your lawn is. 

Movoto says they based their [ridiculous] choices on 1] amenities per capita 2] standard of living 3] total crime 4] violent crime 5] high school grad rate 6] commute time.

If high school grad rate is so important, where's Winnetka on the list? Business Insider just named Winnetka the most educated town in Illinois. 

So why pick Kenilworth over Winnetka? Kenilworth has a train station. And huge houses on big lots. [Winnetka may have even more] That's about it. Oh wait, I forgot its residents have an insanely high median salary [$230,000 give or take a few thousand]. 

But Kenilworth has nothing else besides their one beach, which isn't nearly as big or as swank as Wilmette's or Glencoe's. Plus Evanston and Winnetka have more beaches. Kenilworth has no downtown. No grocery. No drug store. No Starbucks. Only a travel agency, a brokerage firm, and an assisted living service, that I can recall. You have to go to the towns on either side of Kenilworth to get anything to eat, anything to wear, anything to fix your car, a plumber, a dry cleaners, anything. I know for a fact that Winnetka, Glencoe, and Evanston have way more to offer besides rich people in enormous homes. Movoto even admits that Kenilworth doesn't have much in the way of amenities. So WTF? 

Not to mention, Kenilworth has no park district either. No golf course, no tennis courts, no parks to play basketball or baseball or soccer, nothing. You have to use the facilities in other towns. And yet, Kenilworth made this stupid list. 

Here's where it gets even more interesting. Movoto published another Top Ten list for my state. Actually they've published several Top Ten Lists, mainly to create awareness of themselves for having Top Ten lists. They also list the Best Cities for Cats, Snobbiest Cities, Most Boring Cities, Most Stressed Cities, Most Caring Cities. . .blah blah blah. 

However, the list I'm referring to is the Top Ten List of Best Towns to live in for the entire state of Illinois. Not just around Chicago, but the whole state.

The towns they chose are all suburbs of Chicago. Did anybody look at a map? They couldn't consider Galena, Rockford, Springfield, Princeton, Wayne, Libertyville, or anything else outside Cook County? Or downstate?

And the number one town they picked? Northbrook. Granted, Northbrook is the only town around with a velodrome! And not one, but two post offices. Acres of forest preserve. A dog park. Four tennis clubs. Five Starbucks. A skateboard park. A destination mall. A Harley store. A huge hill for sledding. A river. A pond with fish to catch. Two aquatic centers. Two indoor skating facilities. A Jewish day school AND a mosque. Did I mention a world class park district? Plus Jim McMahon and Gale Sayers live in Northbrook. Here's the whole list. Not one of these towns is outside Cook County, where Chicago is located. 

I can't believe that Park Ridge and Glenview made both Top Ten lists. Neither one is on Lake Michigan. Both towns are perfectly fine places to live. But they're not that wonderful. Meanwhile, where are Schaumburg, Orland Park, and Naperville in the mix? Not one mention? 

So odd that even though Northbrook was considered good enough to rank Number One on the list of the Ten Best Places to live in Illinois, it couldn't make the Ten Best Suburbs around Chicago. How messed up is that? But there's more!!! Here's what Movoto said about Northbrook:

This photo of Northbrook's Village Hall [ABOVE] is just another example of Movoto stupidity, lack of knowledge, and failure to do their research. 

They described the building in the picture like this: "[T]he town is dotted with old buildings like the Village Hall. . ."

In fact, the Village Hall is practically brand new. Maybe ten years old. It was designed to look retro/classic rather than modern. Apparently they succeeded. Movoto calls it quaint. Right next door to the Village Hall is the public library which doesn't qualify as an old OR quaint building. So suck it, Movoto. 

Next time you see a Movoto Top Ten List for anything, be sure to take it with a grain of salt. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

When Death Is An Option

Four people -- a family member, two guys I had dated, and the adult son of a close friend -- have died in the last four weeks. Only one death was anticipated. The others were sudden and unexpected. Two of the funerals were on the same day. So I am tapped out emotionally. And it's made me a little philosophical about death, LITTLE being the operative word. 

The longer I live, the more I appreciate how close I have come to dying. At the time these near death experiences took place, I didn't think I was that close to terminal, but on reflection, I realize that the Grim Reaper had tiptoed a lot closer than I ever thought.

The first time -- that I am aware of -- I was sixteen. One summer afternoon, my best girlfriend and I were hanging around at the beach in my hometown. I lived six blocks from Lake Michigan growing up and spent many summers on our suburban sands trolling for cute lifeguards and frying my epithelial tissue to a crispy bacon shade with baby oil. 

On that fateful day, a bunch of guys in a powerboat was hovering close to shore and asked if we wanted to go for a ride. Yes, we did. After tooling around for a half an hour or so, they drove us back near the shore to let us off. We planned to jump off the boat and swim the short distance to the beach where we'd left our towels. The boat was stopped, idling in deep water so they wouldn't get stuck on a sand bar. 

Except there was a hidden sand bar that nobody noticed. 

We spent about five minutes saying our thank yous for the nice ride. As we were executing the teenage girly giggle and flirt thing, nobody noticed that the idling boat had begun to drift into much shallower water. Finally we had worn out our welcome. My girlfriend stood on the stern of the boat and jumped out. I followed about a second after, but in a moment of teenaged stupidity, I had decided to dive, for no other reason than to show off.

I had been to camp. I had learned, long before, that you never dive off a boat, a pier, anything, unless you know exactly how deep the water is. Ever. Amazing how showing off for boys shuts off the synapses.

The only thing that saved me from a broken neck, total paralysis, or immediate death was that in the middle of my swan dive, which almost became my swan song, I saw my girlfriend out of the corner of my eye, SITTING in water that barely reached her chest.

In midair, I turned my head hard left so that my right shoulder -- not my head -- could take the brunt of the plunge into the sand just inches beneath the water. 

Thanks to that last minute move, I survived, albeit covered in heavy, wet sand. I rose from the water looking like one of the Clay People from Flash Gordon as I stood up. The guys in the boat took a gander at the monster I'd become and sped away. 

Initially, based on the amount and location of the pain, I thought I had broken my shoulder. Along with my shoulder, the ligaments, muscles, and tendons on the right side of my neck felt wrenched to the breaking point. My head was bent so far left, my ear almost reached my clavicle. Needless to say, it took awhile before I could straighten things out. 

I hurt for a long time afterward. But I never went to the doctor. Or told my parents. As I recall, I just took some aspirin and went to bed early. Years later, nerve pain revealed thinning discs at C6 and C7 on an x-ray. A small price to pay. 

The second time I could have died was one of those home accidents that usually happens when you're drunk. Drunkenness is a helpful catchall for stupid death tricks in one's home. But, like most of my life, I was stone, cold sober. [I may have told this story before. If so, my apologies ahead of time.]

I had come home from work early and, for some reason, decided to change the burnt out lightbulb which usually illuminated the basement stairs. I wanted to do this chore before I changed out of my work clothes, fed the cats, had something to eat, or even checked the mail.

I was still in my power suit, which included black patent leather heels. As I stooped down on one of the steps to remove the cover on the light, my slippery shoe slid out from under me and I was suddenly propelled down the rest of the basement stairs, head first, on my backside. Despite any effort I made, there was nothing to grab onto as my rear end went thump de dump, dump, dump on each stair, leaving me with spectacular black, yellow, purple and green headlight-shaped bruises on each butt cheek for weeks afterward.

As I continued down the stairs, unable to stop myself, I remember thinking, "People die from falls down the stairs. They break their necks." This contemplation of my imminent demise was something I considered as calmly as sipping a refreshing glass of water. Without a sense of panic or the least amount of terror. Like deciding whether to have a mushroom or sausage pizza.

I was still holding the new lightbulb in my hand, when my head made contact with the basement floor. To this day I don't know whether I was knocked out or not. I do know, once I'd come to a stop, I opened my eyes and saw lots of broken lightbulb glass around. 

When I tried to get up, I noticed I was physically impaired to the extent that I had to concentrate very hard to do anything. I reached for the stair railing and held on to it like Dorothy riding the tornado in the Wizard of Oz. I was conscious enough to know I needed to call for help. But the phone was upstairs in the kitchen. To climb the stairs, I had to think very hard and focus on each step, pulling myself up one at a time. Very. Slowly.

When I got to the phone in the kitchen, I remember leaning against the refrigerator to brace myself, while staring intently at the phone's keypad, trying to keep things from spinning, as I attempted to remember what to dial. NOTE: This was before my town had 911, so I had lots of numbers to input. After several tries, I got the police on the phone. That's when I discovered that I couldn't talk very well.  "Hell--loh. [LONG PAUSE] I. . .felllll. . .dowwwwn. . .the. . .stttaairs." Every word was spoken very carefully and extremely slowly, because no matter how I hard I tried, I couldn't talk any faster. 

The paramedics got to my house and found me sitting on my front stoop waiting for them when they arrived. They wrapped my neck in a collar, transported me on a stretcher, and kept asking me questions about two inches from my face. I kept wondering why they had to get so close.

I later learned that people usually fall down the stairs because they are drunk. Apparently the first responders were all trying to get a whiff of my breath. ["I don't know Al, what do you think?"]

At the hospital, they took an CAT scan of my head, gave me a tetanus shot, and tracked down all the places where broken glass was embedded in my skin, obviously a potential for infection. They were ready to release me when a doctor rummaged through my hair and found a large cut in my scalp that needed several stitches. I should have known that not finding this gaping hole in my head did not bode well for other cuts that may have been missed. 

I returned a week or so later to have the stitches removed, only to learn I was running a slight fever. Did I have a cold? No. I pointed out a cut on a pinky finger that was slightly inflamed, but no one panicked. Or did anything about it, for that matter. Me neither. 

Within days I felt like I had a horrible case of flu. I had a three digit fever, my joints ached, and my head hurt. I called my doctor for two reasons. 1] I don't get the flu 2] Jim Henson had just died of a systemic strep infection he thought was just the flu.

After escaping death from my fall down the stairs, the systemic infection I got from some leftover broken glass, festering in my pinky finger, could have killed me. 

Instead, Augmentin killed it, thanks to calling my doctor after reading a story in People Magazine about why Jim Henson died. 

My most recent brush with death was just a few years ago, when a woman ran a red light and nearly broadsided me, only to stop within inches of my driver's side door. I remember thinking as I saw her front end headed straight for me, "Hmm, I could die from this." For some reason I just stared her down as she got closer and closer. 

She was so close to me, when her car finally came to a stop, that I could almost read the keypad on her cellphone, which she was still holding up next to her left ear.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Jobs In Jeopardy Continues

Who knew that JIJ would become such a crowded field so fast with so many big time players. The latest in this growing field of potential firings, besides Bill O'Reilly and too many Republican Senators to list, we must add Chicago's Democratic Mayor, Rahm Emanuel. After last Tuesday's election, he finds himself in an unexpected April run off with a Latino candidate named Jesus "Chuy" [pronounced Chewy] Garcia. The bad news is that certain news outlets have been posting the picture of a beloved Star Wars creature in place of the candidate's photo. Tsk. Tsk. The good news is that Chuy's name recognition shot up into the stratosphere thanks to that little gesture: 

Along with this fortuitous rise in his name recognition, Chuy's successful bid for a run off is a result, no doubt, of Rahm's failure to outspend this challenger by the ineffective ratio of $12 for every $1 Chuy laid down. I'm just sayin'. Forget March, April will be the cruelest month if Rahm isn't careful. And that, dear readers, is our latest [turn up the echo and reverb] JJJOOOOOOBBBBBB INNN JEOOOOPAAARRRDDY!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Jobs In Jeopardy February 2015 Episode II

How exciting is this! Two episodes of Jobs in Jeopardy in the same month!! We can hardly contain ourselves. JIJ returned earlier in February with a daring prediction about Darrell Bevells, the offensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks. Or should we say, the future former offensive coordinator for the Seahawks. Bevells, who made the absolute worst call in NFL history -- failing to score from the one yard line with three downs to do it and Marshawn Lynch to carry the ball -- will no doubt have company in the unemployment line after this next imminent firing occurs. 

And just who would JIJ's next candidate for job loss be? Why it's none other than the Secretary of the Veterans Administration, Robert McDonald, who lied about serving in the Army Special Forces. To a homeless veteran, no less. In front of news cameras. His casual slide down the slippery slope from truth to fabrication was caught on tape and vetted faster than you can say Audie Murphy. 

Of course, that's the risk you run when you hire the former head of Procter & Gamble, the company which promises whiter teeth, whiter clothes, whiter woodwork, and a general whitewash of your entire lifestyle. He's a white guy in a suit. A political appointee hired to wipe clean the problems of a very troubled agency. How ironic that this white knight fell into his own pile of poo. He flat out lied. He didn't make what the spin doctors are calling a "mistake." He was infected with a classic case of hubris, which caused a major brain fart that stinks of stupidity on his part.

The guy graduated from West Point. He actually got through Ranger training -- earned his tab -- but instead, served with the 82nd Airborne Division, a legendary group itself. And he served honorably, we might add. So why does he go and embellish his record with the Special Forces claim on camera? Ours is not to question why. Ours is to post this meme which is making the rounds of the internet.

He will apologize. By all apearances he will be forgiven. But one of these days, he will go his office, make a few calls, write a few emails. And, then, he will leave and never return. 

You can read the exciting story of this latest Job In Jeopardy HERE:  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

We Had Some Good Times

After a long battle with cancer, my friend, Michael V. Metzger, died around 3:00 AM last night with his daughter, Lauren, holding his hand. His very good friend, Jennifer, who spent the last twenty years as a huge part of his professional and personal life, wrote a touching tribute on Facebook about her loss: 

With Lauren holding his hand, telling him stories about visiting New Orleans and the three of us hiking in Telluride, he passed quietly. Our hearts are broken. I already miss his very large presence in my life. Michael was many things to me for just short of 20 years. I will love him and hold him close to my heart forever. We are planning a celebration of his life and I will post on here the information and attend if you loved this incredible person.

Educated as an astrophysicist, Michael became a well-regarded photographer with a wide range of interests. He was easily one of the most interesting, fun-loving people I've ever known. One year, I invited every woman in the area that he'd slept with to join him for a birthday lunch. I think there were over twenty who came for the celebration. We had loads of laughs and a lot of fun. Plus, I don't think any of the ladies realized their shared experience. Even the woman he was seeing at the time. 

Everyone called him Michael. The older we got and the longer I knew him, the more I called him Mike. It probably annoyed him. But then, he absolutely abhorred Obama and that annoyed me. 

Coincidentally, this morning, a high school classmate posted this poem, Sonnet XLIII, by Edna St. Vincent Millay. The sadness and melancholy it evokes resonated with me, remembering the highs and lows of the more than fifty years that I knew him. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Numbers Game

One of my relatives is big into Chinese numerology. He also wears aluminum foil hats to repel the people who are trying to end his life with microwaves. Coincidence? I think not. Apropos of that, I have noticed a strange alignment of numbers in my life.

Today, for instance, would have been my 45th wedding anniversary. After the wedding and reception, my ex and I drove East to visit relatives so I could show him off. On our way we spent the night at the George Washington Motel somewhere in Pennsylvania, on February 22nd, George's birthday. I just threw that in there for entertainment.

Turns out one of my cousins just passed away. And I noticed his birthday was listed as February 21st. Same as my anniversary. Ooo. Cosmic.

Other coincidental numbers -- my dad died on the 8th of August. My sister's birthday is the 8th of August. My daughters were born on the 11th of their respective birth months. One of their grandmas was also born on the 11th of the month. My grandbaby was born on the 3rd of her birth month. Like one of her grandads. But the trifecta occurs on November 24th. My dad and stepma got married that day. One of my half-brothers was born that day. And my uncle died in a plane crash during Army Aircorps training on November 24th in the 1930's. Every seven years, it is also Thanksgiving. So it's a quart taffeta -- LOL, thank you auto correct. Quart taffeta beats quarenta-fecta, which showed up as square festa the first time around.

But wait! There's more! One of my daughters got married on the 14th of the month (not this one) and their baby was born in 2014. And I know four people with same birthdate as mine.

I think I should sleuth around some more. I may discover even more numerical coincidences.