Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Ultimate Change

AUGUST, at least to me, has always been this interim, this hiatus, those three dots on a story-page indicating time is about to pass/ is passing/ has passed. August augurs Change, count on it! screamed my every nerve. Not every Change proved to be to my liking.

AN AUGUST BREAK-UP OF CAMP? Never mind my cabin mates had been the most boring (and/or sociopathic) jerks at camp. I cried for the end of bonfires and ghost stories and 'Smores.

THE RITUAL BACK TO SCHOOL SHOPPING-FOR-CLOTHES WITH MY MOTHER? A shopping trip featured scrumptious department store lunch, then followed by the worst carbohydrate crash in history featuring headache and nasty fights with my ma in dressing rooms smaller than that legendary space in which to swing a cat and washed in the sickening saffron of low-wattage bulbs. My mother in fact, had terrific taste, and I -- a clothes-lover doubtless by virtue of our common DNA -- grew to love most clothes she bought me.

THROUGHOUT THIS AUGUST I have attended a record number of memorial services and wakes and funerals of my near and dear. Plus, this past Saturday, I watched (all of)Teddy Kennedy's memorial service on MSNBC. And, of course my own(old) body/mind is much taken up with its (my) mortality. The Ultimate Change is not that far off, it whispers to itself,i.e., me as I drop off to sleep. But I am long past childish fears of dying. And fears of August, for that matter,

I have not chosen any Bible verse to be said at my memorial service (in my family, we are first cremated), and I have yet to pick out appropriate hymns. I would like my ashes scattered in the gardens of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine -- I can see its spires from the kitchen window and living room windows of my apartment and Charles and I were married there in 1977. Although I am not sure that ash-scattering in the Cathedral Close is all that legal.).

NOTE: I am actually in great health. I cannot promise you a royal sendoff of me any time soon

Friday, June 12, 2009


The occasion was the birthday of my cousin and it was not as if I had not seen her for a long time -- family memorial services unfortunately bringing us together  -- it was celebration of the fact she had become a hale and hearty, a healthy, 90, and even with that Round Trip from Hell, the flight upon which, it being rather short, i.e., NY-Chicago, one goes foodless, drinkless and pee-less, I was delighted we had managed the long weekend.  The very air, the very flatness of the prairies  -- that I loathed and vilified when young --  filled me with euphoric nostalgia, the moment I stepped out of awful O'Hare, that airport where any Gate you get assigned is a three-mile hike (whilst hauling a Wheelie.)  

I had fantasized I would write Harriet a long poem, but that did not happen before I left NY as I was (not) enjoying  a state of foggy un-wellness which turned out to be a stomach virus. That  is another story:  the prompt attention of my New York doctor on the phone and the medicine from a local pharmacy.  But even as I felt off-color (it was sort of like a hangover) I could see that the extravagant Spring  that had visited Manhattan, leaving Central Park the very loveliest I had even seen it, had also dallied on Chicago's North Shore.  I felt soppy with delight upon seeing all that green, sort of like actually believing the overblown message on a Hallmark card.

I guess that is what happens when you are as ancient as I am. And that of course, is the Elephant in the Living Room -- what if this is my Last Trip?  What  if some more of us die and I Never See Them Again?  

Once I had a cup of coffee at the hotel, these all-too-human speculations sort of trundled out of sight -- like overloaded wheelbarrows...

The hotel in Evanston was lovely,rehabilitation of the venerable hostelry that was the site of my Junior Prom.  Those new buildings on the Northwestern campus looked good to me -- it had been, in memory, full of empty spaces where you had to trudge for miles (or at least city blocks) from building to building (as during that summer I was a "Cherub" at the School of Speech.)  Northwestern  students seemed as un-scruffy as ever, with shining cheeks and hair and an air of entitlement.

The very lovely party was in Winnetka, where I grew up.  Family, friends, neighbors, the beautiful great-grandchildren of my cousin Harriet's.  My cousin Paddy  (daughter to Harriet) and my cousin Tom, whose brother, along with my brother and sister, have died in the past few years (  I take these milestones seriously) tirelessly ferried us by automobile from Evanston to Winnetka and back.  I had forgotten one cannot live without  a car in the suburbia of anywhere on the planet.

On Sunday evening, Manhattan looked gorgeous.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I would so rather be in my diner than here at home.  My own coffee is dramatically better (Zabar's House Blend) but I miss the extra-friendly waitperson taking care I get a second cup whether or not I am ready for it.  True, I can eat as many of these awful cookies I must have been in an Altered State to pick out at d'Agistino's.  But where is my little chocolate mouse on that slab of chocolate mousse cake?

I am home because --

I think I had better start at the beginning.  

You remember that collection of symptoms once derided as psychosomatic -- chronic fatigue?  fibromyalgia?  Well, it has been decided that fibromyalgia is indeed a medical condition.  And I have been diagnosed with it.

Which I would never have noticed until my sleeplessness,  my horror of pain! pain! pain! as I struggled out of  bed, my shoulders (which hurt), my hips (which hurt), my knees (which hurt, but which I thought was normal as they are knee replacements), my fingers, even my fingernails, and my chronic symptom of spinal stenosis had gotten worse (fibromyalgia is sneaky) over time, until I could scream. (Well, I did.)

This is all prelude to the reason I am here, at home.  The reason is the medicine for  fibromyalgia, with the seductive name of LYRICA. 

I should never have spent all that time browsing the web for LYRICA.  The manufacturer was ecstatic, of course, although side effects had to be mentioned, which made the cure sound much worse than the disease.  Then, too, there was all that e-correspondence, home to persons with such  fanciful spelling and farcical grammar the bulk of the testaments had to be written by paid hacks in an effort to sabotage Pfizer or whoever, although now there is a generic.  I am addicted to other people's sad stories.

So, here I am at home staring at the little bottle of LYRICA (with the outrageous co-pay of $50) wondering what in the name of  whatever saint oversees medication, it will do to me.  Truth is, I took one last night and slept the night through. And for months and months, maybe years, I have not done that.

But how about the next pill?  And the next? What will they do to me?

How quiet it is, here at home!  How much I would rather be in the diner,  eavesdropping on the next table, waiting for those golden snippets of conversations --that bubble and coalesce with other observations of that beautiful dance of human interaction....

 The stuff of poems.  Of stories.  Of course, my hips would hurt like hell.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Near Rhymes haunt my tote bag, my over-shoulder bag, the table by my bed that holds tissues and hand cream and a small silent clock, not to mention my dreams and my waking (what passes for) a mind.  They exist on torn-off fragments of the Sunday paper, on the back of grocery lists and inside the back covers of my address book and appointment book, and once in a while on legitimate sheets of paper of every size, torn from my notebook (or someone else's).  They are teasing snapshots of my imagination-of-the- moment, meant to be coaxed into limericks or terza rima, say, best served hot, but sometimes OK served cold.  Inspired by overheard conversations (in diners, primarily) or channel-browsing, to name a few sources.  Such as
 messily, Frenchly/ legion, vegan/ flaccid,vapid/ Merlin,whirling, darling/ roughing, touching/ cold comfort be,conformity/ fosssil, wassail/ thrilling, brillig/ well-oiled/styled  ad nauseum/museum.

Friday, January 9, 2009


This last post needed a title.  We sang many choruses of Eric's favorite WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN.  That's what I wanted to add.
My brother-in-law died and the memorial service in Silver Spring, to which we went, happened over the weekend.  My sister died last year (after proclaiming to me she would not know "what to do" if Eric died before she did)   I miss them both terribly.  I am moved to tears in any small silence (as when the tv is turned off or the radio I go to sleep by has parted from the headset.) I almost do not enjoy my leftover Christmas candy or my favorite Greek yoghurt. And I am slower than ever in completing even so small a task as getting my coffee cup from the dining room table to the kitchen.  
My parents assured me that departed loved ones were at peace.  My parents never told me how long  I would not be at peace, missing the departed.

Your newest granddaughter is beautiful, Jill. (I have a picture of Jill holding her -- Bonnie - the day before she died.) And your other grandkids and their parents.  There's a wonderful picture on the front cover of Eric's memorial service program of Eric got up as Santa, featuring his real-life flowing white hair and beard.  There is a picture on the back cover of a younger Eric in his aerospace communications satellites days 

Friday, November 7, 2008


Ah, nostalgia!  Long before Starbucks, there were diners, and long before diners, there were Tea Rooms.  Specifically, I am thinking about department store Tea Rooms.  Not ideal for writing.  Nor for thinking, actually.  Too much to look at -- restaurant-as-theatre, that is  --  too many flower prints, too many bird prints... 

Speaking of birds, the Bird Cage in a long-ago Lord & Taylor comes to mind which besides all that elegance had no space in which to wield a pen, let alone a laptop. And certainly, not room for a cell. Hard to explain if you were not familiar with it, but the arrangement in the Bird Cage depended upon these tiny tables for two with linked arm chairs facing each other, a sort of S.  A room full of these Ss. In the good old days in the Bird Cage, they gave each patron a cigarette, so I have been told,  with a place setting, and in those days that I actualy remember, they brought around a cart full of dessert goodie to die for. You had but to gaze at all that whipped cream and chocolate to gain weight... 

Dismaying, atmospherewise,  that the Bird Cage then became a featureless Cafe American Style, which morphed into a wannabe elegant Larry Forgione, which yesterday I discovered, ta-DA, has become a Sarabeths, which chain, I have been told, is devouring all the department store tea rooms in the known world. Or at least in the U.S. of A.  A bright note -- now costumed in Sarabeth waitperson get-up. is a waitperson I swear I remember from the Bird Cage.  Cross my heart.  She remembers me, too. 

But the best tea rooms -- even better than the Charleston Gardens which used to grace B. Altman when there was a B. Altman -- were the Tea Rooms at Marshall Field's in Chicago.  I grew up in the Walnut Room (was it the Walnut Room or the Fountain Room that had the style show? ) There were at least six Tea Rooms in Marshall Field's. You could actually have tea in a different Room from the one you'd had lunch in, if as I am assuming, your mother had dragged you on an all-day shopping trip..

Since the grown-up part of my life, including middle age and the best-time-of-my-my-life (geriatric, I admit )has taken place in New York, not Chicago, I want to refer back to the Charleston Gardens of yore at Altman's,  where I took my kids and feel it a pity it did not endure into my grandmotherhood.   I don't remember that the food was actually all that good,  nor in the best sense, even Comfort Food, but all that Tea Room kitsch was so comforting...

I really intended to rave on about  the wonderful transformational (I've yet to come up with a better adjective)times in which we discover we are living.  What a fabulous, unbelievably life-affirming Election!  Back to my diner.  No distracting flower prints, no bird prints, -- just plain old terrible tuna melt, to meditate to/by/whatever.