Nature and Your Mental Health

What this is saying, is get off your derrière and get outside. Take a walk, go on a hike, jog someplace, or at the very least sit on your front porch or steps. Spend a moment looking at the trees, plants, flowers, water, clouds, or maybe the ants crawling along the crack in the sidewalk near where you live. 

“I am extremely happy walking on the downs…I like to have space to spread my mind out in.” ― Virginia Woolf

Poster - Nature and Your Mental Health

I Write Like You and You Write Like Someone Else and Some Else Writes Like…

I Write Like, writing analysisWhen all is said and done, what you read here might amount to little more than nonsense. I found an interesting site: I write like https://iwl.me

Enter a sample of your writing and it will pull out the name of a famous writer who writes the way you do, or vice versa.

I decided to give it a try. The first sample of my writing indicated I write like Cory Doctorow. That was interesting, especially since I’d never read anything by Cory Doctorow. I decided to try again, and again, and again. My second sample, a totally different piece of writing than the first gave me an answer I liked, Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite writers. The next three samples gave me the names of two more writers I also like. The third sample said, E. L. Doctorow, the fourth and fifth samples both said, Stephen King. I decided to quit while I was ahead. If I write like Stephen King, that’s good enough for me.

“One grey cloak is much like another, just as all cats are grey in the dark.”  –  Andrew Taylor, The Ashes of London

I was having fun with the site and wondered what would happen if I entered samples of famous writers, would Nabokov write like Nabokov or Updike like Updike?

According to the single samples I entered, David Sedaris writes like Dan Brown, Vladimir Nabokov like Leo Tolstoy, John Updike like H.P. Lovecraft, Isaak Beshevis Singer like Chuck Palahuniuk, Dorothy Parker Like J.D. Salinger, George Saunders like Raymond Chandler, Groucho Marx like Dan Brown (does that also mean he writes like David Sedaris or David Sedaris also write like Groucho Marx?), F. Scott Fitzgerald writes like Ian Fleming, James Thurber like H. P. Lovecraft, John Cheever like Douglas Adams, Earnest Hemingway like H. G. Wells, E. B. White like Gertrud Stein (I’m sure they the both would love knowing that).

I was hoping to see a pattern here, but it was looking like every writer writes like someone else.

I hadn’t checked any of the writers who the website said my writing resembled. So, started with Cory Doctorow. He writes like David Foster Wallace. Kurt Vonnegut’s sample was the first one I entered that led me back to the actual writer, Kurt Vonnegut. Does that mean he was always true to himself? E. L. Doctorow it said, write’s like Nabokov, who you remember writes like Leo Tolstoy. Finally, there was Stephen King, the only writer who appeared more than once for my own writing samples. However, it appears that Mr. King writes like Raymond Chandler. In case you’re wondering, Chandler writes like Dan Brown. And Dan Brown? He writes like Dan Brown.

“Invisible things are the only realities.” – Edgar Allan Poe, Loss of Breath

There was one last thing I wanted to try. I entered some samples of gobbledygook. I know there are some who will agree, but according to the I Write Like site my meaningless sample is apparently somewhat like the writing of…I Write Like Edgar Allan Poe

Homesickness

It’s been more than 15 years since I moved from the Midwest to California. I made my decision to move no-matter-what while on my way to work early on a January morning. I happened to be sitting in my car on a cold snowy day when I made my decision. Did I mention the car was sliding sideways down the highway when I made my decision?

I didn’t walk into the boss’s office to turn in my resignation that day. Instead, I began planning how I would sort it out. After all, I had neither a job nor a place to live in California. I soon learned that landlords in California would not agree to rent a place unless I was there, even if I promised to put a check in the mail that day to pay for the required deposit, any fees, and an entire year’s rent. The real problem might have been that I was going to bring two medium sized dogs along with me. However, if I could have someone who already lived in California stop by and vouch for me, then they would gladly accept my check and rent a unit to me. Since I knew no one there, that meant I would have to live in a hotel room for a week or two.

I planned to pack my car with the things I would need immediately: toiletries, dishes, a pot, a pan, air mattress, sleeping bag, etc. There also had to be room for the dogs. Everything else I needed, clothing, more kitchen stuff, a few books, and so on got packed in boxes to be shipped U.P.S. I figured it wouldn’t take long for a hard worker like me, especially one with a good record and good references less than a couple weeks to find work.

On July 1, 2003, I gave two months notice. The next day my boss offered me a 15% pay raise. When I said, no, he upped it to 20%. Again, I said no. “It’s not going to make any difference what I offer, is it?” he asked.

“Right, it’s not,” I said.

I think some of the people I worked with thought the reason I offered such a long notice was that I was hoping the boss would offer me a raise. They didn’t know he had and I turned it down. I gave a long notice because I valued the place and hoped to give enough time for a replacement to be found, hired and maybe trained before I left. That didn’t happen, though. I’m pretty sure most of my fellow employees, some of my friends, and a couple family members expected to see me back there before the year ended. The biggest reason given was the expense. It costs almost twice as much to live here as it cost me to live in Wisconsin. Nevertheless, I stayed. It helped that a few weeks before I left my brother called to let me know a friend had a place I could rent in Long Beach. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have survived if not for that because, although I found a couple temporary jobs, it was seven months before I found a permanent job. I never thought it would be so difficult to find a job, even though I was 57 years old.

“Even after you’ve kicked the dust off your shoes, one day you’ll realize you never really left.”

Houses in Frank Lloyd Wright neighborhood, Oak ParkNow, about the homesickness. My daughter now lives out here along with her husband and they have a daughter, so I’m a grandfather with family nearby, but about six years ago I started feeling homesick. I started missing my brothers and sisters as well as the city I am most familiar with, Chicago. Last year I visited for a month and had a great time, visiting each of them, seeing some of the things the like to do, some of the places they like to go. I got to see two White Sox and one Cubs games. I wandered around the Frank Lloyd Wright neighborhood in Oak Park, a place I always wanted to see, but never took the time to go even though it’s within a couple miles of a sister’s house.

There are holidays I haven’t spent with them in years. There are many neighborhoods around Chicago that have grown up or changed drastically since I knew them and I’d like to spend a day wandering around them. I’d like to see more White Sox games, as well as watch the Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks… whether they’re any good or not. I’d like to walk through downtown, along Oak Street Beach, through Lincoln Park, around Evanston, Waukegan, Elmhurst, Lagrange, the University of Chicago, Loyola University, Navy Pier and a host of other places I haven’t seen in 20 or 30 years or more. There is so much I’m missing being out here.

“Maybe you had to leave in order to really miss a place; maybe you had to travel to figure out how beloved your starting point was.”  ― Jodi Picoult, Handle with Care

You’re probably thinking, “Why don’t you move back, you dunderhead?”

I’ve thought about that, a lot. It would be much easier to live there now that I’m retired, now that the days of having-to-get-up-to-shovel-snow-so-I-can-go-to-work-and-hope-I-don’t-slide-sideways-down-the-highway don’t exist for me anymore, and I could afford to buy a house, and gas is less expensive, and there aren’t soooo many people, and I still have friends in Chicago and Illinois, and Wisconsin I could visit. There are many reasons for me to go back there.

But…

simian brothers and sistersEvery time I start thinking like this I remember the snow, and the ice, and the cold, and the thunderstorms, and the mosquitoes. Do you know… of course you don’t, but I haven’t gotten more than six mosquito bites here? That’s less than one every two years. Back in the Midwest I often got a dozen in one day. I never spent a summer day not slapping myself somewhere, not to mention all the scratching.

I’m sorry brothers and sisters, as much as I would like to, I just can’t do it. The things I like and the things I miss are just not enough to overcome what I don’t miss… at least not yet. As I grow older the desire to return grows stronger. Even now, as I write this I picture the six of you sitting there saying, “Nooooooo, don’t stay in California, we miss you.”

So, I’m writing this to let you know, I miss you, too.

Sometimes Due to Extenuating Circumstances an Easy Task Becomes Impossible

You know that gag where someone super glues a coin to the sidewalk? I once found a quarter like that. I tried picking it up, but I’m not Mr. Bean and I did not run to get a crowbar or chisel to pry it free. Two tries were all I needed before I realized it was glued. For the rest of the day, though, I wondered if someone nearby was taking pictures of me. Since I’ve never found any pictures of me trying to pick up anything off the sidewalk I guess I was the victim of an abandoned practical joke.

Today I ran into a variation of that trick. I walked out of my bathroom and noticed a strip of cellophane lying on the floor. As I was bending over to pick it up I wondered where it might have fluttered from because it was in a place where I normally don’t open any kind of packages.

As I grabbed at it, I was expecting to pick it up easily, but either didn’t reach far enough or I simply missed it (I wear an eye patch, so my depth perception often causes me to grasp air when reaching for something). I grabbed at it again, dragging my fingers against the carpet this time, but again I came up empty-handed.

“Life is a long lesson in humility.” – James M. Barrie

“Tape,” I thought. “It’s a piece of cellophane tape.” Since I haven’t wrapped or unwrapped any packages in quite a while and wouldn’t have touched any cellophane tape recently, especially just outside the bathroom, it had to have been stuck there for awhile and I should have noticed it before then.

Anyway, I reached for it again, positioning my fingernails so that I can find the edge of the tape and peel it off the carpet. Once, twice I try to lift tape that isn’t there. There’s nothing to lift. It’s not tape. A stain? A tear in the carpet?

Nope. A sliver of sunlight slicing between the edge of the blinds and the window frame. Sunlight. I’m happy no one was there taking a picture of me trying to pry a strip of sunlight off the carpet.

It Sounded Like an Explosion

Boom!

It sounded like an explosion and felt a little like one too and it hurt.

It’s something I’d never done before.

I walked into a sliding screen door once and into a sliding door twice, but never to the point where I hurt myself.

There’s a video currently going viral on the Internet of Philadelphia Eagles fan slamming into a subway support pole. I did something like that once years ago. I was rushing to get out of a bar to catch up with some friends who had already left. I’d stayed behind a moment to talk with another friend. Just as I got to the door a woman and her boyfriend entered. I shifted my shoulder and leaned to my left, deftly avoiding bumping into the woman who, I noticed as I slid past, was quite attractive. Maybe that’s what I did wrong. Maybe I shouldn’t have looked at her. Probably, I should have looked just at the space between us that led to the doorway, because instead of neatly slipping out the entrance my shoulder slammed into the door frame and my knees buckled as I almost fell to the ground. I was athletic enough at that time to easily regain my balance and continue as if nothing had happened.

The next morning there was a large, purplish bruise on my shoulder which was sore enough to make me wish I had bumped into her for two reasons. First, it’s unlikely she would have left as much pain and as much of a bruise as the door frame had, although there probably would have been a problem with her boyfriend who was a bit bigger and maybe a little more muscular than me… maybe a lot more muscular. He could have left me in more pain and more bruised than the door frame had. Second, there was the memory of how pretty she was, and you never know where these things like that could lead.

I was happy no one had their cell phone pointed at me because I think I was hurt a bit more than the Eagles fan. He slammed into the pole with his shoulder. I slammed into the one I hit with my face.
I was returning from a walk to the grocery store. After crossing the street, I pulled out my iPhone, planning to call someone.

I’ve often seen people walking down the street, heads bent, eyes staring at their cell phone screen, oblivious to the world around them. I’ve thought how stupid they looked and how dangerous their activity was. After all, they could bump into someone or walk out into the street into the path of a car, or into the side of a building, or into a street sign or light pole.

Usually, when I take out my cell phone I first look around, checking my surroundings, or I stop and step away from whatever traffic might be moving along my path. That’s not what I did, though. I continued walking as I pushed the button to get Siri’s attention. The line of light appeared at the bottom of the screen. The words, “What can I help you with rose to the top of the screen. I started to say, “Siri call…” and looked up as I spoke, just in time to see this….

After the explosion, after stepping away from the pole, I continued on my way. Anyone passing by would have heard me saying, “Dumbass! What a stupid dumbass!” Gingerly I touched my nose. scratched glasses and swollen noseIt was bloody. My phone was still in my hand. I should have used it to see how my face looked or to take a picture. Instead, I made my phone call.

When I got home I checked myself out in the mirror. There was a line of blood down my nose to my mustache. I washed it away, dried it, and applied a band-aid. I didn’t notice the scratches on my glasses or that the tip of my nose was a bit swollen. This is what I looked like… not great, but certainly not at all like someone who’d stepped into an explosion.  Also, it hurts more than my shoulder did those many years ago.

Ezra Pound’s Birthday

Poet. essayist, and radio broadcaster, Ezra Loomis Pound was born in Hailey, Idaho on this day in 1885.

In 1907, Pound became a professor of Romance languages at Wabash Presbyterian College, Crawfordsville, Indiana. However a few months later, in February 1908 he packed his bags and went to Europe where he lived the majority of the rest of his life.

In England, he published his first book of poems, Personae in 1909. A few years later in 1912 Pound was hired by Poetry, a small literary magazine at the time, to be its London correspondent. He enhanced the magazine’s stature and quickly became a major force in Anglo-American verse. He not only wrote his own poetry, but he also discovered, mentored, edited, reviewed or first published many of the early 20th century’s best known English language writers. Among those whose careers he influenced:

  • D.H. Lawrence
  • William Carlos Williams
  • Robert Frost
  • Hilda Doolittle
  • James Joyce
  • T.S. Eliott
    Ezra Pound said, “The real trouble with war (modern war) is that it gives no one a chance to kill the right people.”

In 1939 he returned to the United States, hoping to keep the peace between the U.S. and Italy. Disappointed he returned to Italy and beginning in 1941 he made several hundred broadcasts over Rome radio on a variety of topics. However, a number of his broadcasts condemned the U.S. war effort. Because of this he was arrested by U.S. forces in 1945 and imprisoned. He was sent back to the United States to face trial for treason but was pronounced “insane and mentally unfit for trial” by a panel of doctors Pound spent the next 12 years (1946–58) in Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital for the criminally insane in Washington, D.C. He remained productive during that time, writing numerous poems, translating ancient Chinese poetry, and Sophocles Trachiniai (Women of Trachis). However, two years after he was released Pound went silent, never to write again. He died in 1972 in Venice.

During his 60 years of writing and publishing activity, he wrote 70 books of his own, contributed to about 70 others, and wrote more than 1500 articles.

 

A Girl – Poem by Ezra Pound

The tree has entered my hands,
The sap has ascended my arms,
The tree has grown in my breast –
Downward,
The branches grow out of me, like arms.

Tree you are,
Moss you are,
You are violets with wind above them.
A child – so high – you are,
And all this is folly to the world.

 

Falling Asleep Again, Always Wanted To, What Am I to Do, Can’t Do It

Falling asleep is sometimes difficult. I’m always looking for solutions to the problem.
When I was younger I’d have trouble sleeping if something important was supposed to happen the next day. Now that I’m older about the only thing that’s every “important the next day” is an early morning doctor’s appointment. Otherwise, any problem falling asleep seems to go in cycles for me. I’ll have many days, a week sometimes where I’ll be asleep minutes after my head hits the pillow. Then I’ll have a series of day where I’ll fall asleep but wake in the middle of the night and not be able to fall back asleep. There are also the times when for a few days, maybe a week, falling asleep will be difficult. I’ll toss and turn. The bed will feel uncomfortable. Any position I lie in will feel wrong. But the worst will be having a moment when I’m about to fall asleep, doze for a moment, but suddenly wake up. When that happens I know I’m not going to be sleeping for awhile.
Usually, when I can’t sleep I’ll lie there trying for about 20 minutes. Then I’ll get up. Sometimes I’ll exercise jumping jacks, sit-ups, and so on. Sometimes that does the trick. Sometimes it doesn’t. Often I’ll read until I feel drowsy. Sometimes that works, but more often I’ll be awake reading again about 20 minutes later. What works best is giving up. Almost always, after I’ve been awake, tossing turning, exercising, reading and the clock says something like, 3:30, I’ll say to myself something like, “Guess that’s it, I’m not sleeping tonight so I might as well give up trying.” Sometimes I start planning my now revised day that will start at 4 a.m., other times I’ll decide to plan to turn the computer on but lie there thinking about what I’m going to look at such as a TV show, a short story, or the sports news.
The funny thing is if I try that first at 2:30 a.m. after I woke up and couldn’t sleep or at 10 p.m. on the nights when I can’t sleep at all – it doesn’t work, probably because I haven’t really given up. When I try using it early, it becomes just another trying to sleep technique.
Today I found this list of “sure-fire” sleep aids from early modern Europe (the 15th and 16th centuries. Here are three you’ll want to try:
  1. Put some blood-sucking leeches behind your ears. When they bore holes in the skin, pull them out and place a grain of opium in each hole. (From 16th-century French physician André du Laurens.)
  2. Kill a sheep, and then press its steaming lungs on either side of the head. Keep the lungs in place as long as they remain warm. (From 16th-century French surgeon Ambroise Paré.)
  3. After the evening meal, eat lettuce, drink wine, and rub an ointment made of the oil of violets or camphor on the temples. Dissolve a mixture of poppy seeds, lettuce seeds, balsam, saffron, and sugar and cook it in poppy juice. Then listen to pleasant music and lie down on a bed covered with the leaves of fresh, cool plants. (From 15th-century philosopher Marsilio Ficino.)” — Benjamin Reiss, author of Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World

This is where I found those as well as a list of more serious, more likely, contemporary solutions: Busy Brain Not Letting You Sleep? 8 Experts Offer tips

Where Do You Get Your Ideas, etc…

Cormac McCarthy Has a Unique (and Tasty) Writing Process

This sounds a bit like the story Theodore Geisel, Dr. Seuss, told when someone asked him where he got his ideas: “I get all my ideas in Switzerland near the Furka Pass. There is a little town called Gletsch, and two thousand feet up above Gletsch there is a smaller hamlet called Über  Gletsch. I go there on the fourth of August every summer to get my cuckoo clock fixed. While the cuckoo is in the hospital, I wander around and talk to the people in the streets. They are very strange people, and I get my ideas from them.Cormac McCarthy

McCarthy doesn’t claim to travel to Switzerland for his inspiration, but perhaps he should consider such a trip.

Among Cormac McCarthy’s books are Blood Meridian (1985), For All the Pretty Horses, The Road, and No Country for Old Men. The famously reclusive McCarthy doesn’t talk much about his writing habits, but what he has said is fascinating. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, McCarthy remarked: “I do most of my writing at breakfast. I name the eggs and pieces of toast and bacon after my characters, then I have them dance around on the plate while I do funny voices for each of them. Whatever character I eat last becomes the protagonist of the novel.” *

Did McCarthy really say that? I don’t know. I watched clips of his interview with Oprah and never heard that, but maybe it was in a clip I didn’t see. Then again, this is April 1st.

* Found in this article: 9 Mind-Blowing Facts about Your Favorite Books

 

How Much Would You Pay for This?

Here’s my question for today: How much would you pay for this? It’s a Cheeto. Just one, not the whole bag. It does have an unusual shape.Harambe Cheeto

Would you give someone $1 for it? Maybe $5 if someone else was going to buy it for a buck? Would you spend $100 for it? Can you imagine any scenario where someone would spend $500 for one Cheeto? It’s a Flaming Hot Cheeto, does that make a difference? 

“This item is one of a kind! It measures about 1 1/2 inches in length (it looks sooo much bigger in the picture),”

Well, would you believe me if I told you someone has offered $100,000 for this Cheeto?

Here’s the story: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/harambe-cheeto-ebay-flamin-hot-cincinnati-zoo-dead-slain-gorilla-ape-tree-a7567241.html

 

Full Text of “I Am a Nasty Woman” Speech by Ashley Judd

Below is the full text of Ashley Judd’s version of Nina Donavan’ spoken poem, “I Am a Nasty Woman.”

“I am a nasty woman.

I’m not as nasty as a man who looks like he bathes in Cheeto dust. A man whose words are a distract to America; Electoral College-sanctioned hate speech contaminating this national anthem.

I am not as nasty as Confederate flags being tattooed across my city. Maybe the South actually is gonna rise again; maybe for some it never really fell. Blacks are still in shackles and graves just for being Black. Slavery has been reinterpreted as the prison system in front of people who see melanin as animal skin.

I am not as nasty as a swastika painted on a pride flag. And I didn’t know devils could be resurrected, but I feel Hitler in these streets—a moustache traded for a toupee; Nazis renamed the cabinet; electro-conversion therapy the new gas chambers, shaming the gay out of America turning rainbows into suicide notes.

I am not as nasty as racism, fraud, conflict of interest, homophobia, sexual assault, transphobia, white supremacy, misogyny, ignorance, white privilege.

I’m not as nasty as using little girls like Pokémon before their bodies have even developed.

I am not as nasty as your own daughter being your favourite sex symbol—like your wet dreams infused with your own genes.

But yah, I am a nasty woman?!

A loud vulgar, proud woman.

I’m not nasty like the combo of Trump and Pence being served up to me in my voting booth.

I’m nasty like the battles my grandmothers fought to get me into that voting booth.

I’m nasty like the fight for wage equality. Scarlett Johansson: Why were the famous actors paid less than half of what the male actors earned last year?

See, even when we do go into higher paying jobs our wages are still cut with blades, sharpened by testosterone. Why is the work of a Black woman and a Hispanic woman worth only 63 and 54 cents of a white man’s privileged daughter?

This is not a feminist myth. This is inequality.

So we are not here to be debunked. We are here to be respected. We are here to be nasty.

I am nasty like the blood stains on my bed sheets. We don’t actually choose if and when to have our periods. Believe me, if we could, some of us would. We don’t like throwing away our favourite pairs of underpants. Tell me, why are tampons and pads still taxed when Viagra and Rogaine are not? Is your erection really more than protecting the sacred messy part of my womanhood? Is the blood stain on my jeans more embarrassing than the thinning of your hair?

I know it is hard to look at your own entitlement and privilege. You may be afraid of the truth. I am unafraid to be honest. It may sound petty bringing up a few extra cents. It adds up to the pile of change I have yet to see in my country.

I can’t see. My eyes are too busy praying to my feet hoping you don’t mistake eye contact for wanting physical contact. Half my life I have been zipping up my smile hoping you don’t think I wanna unzip your jeans.

I am unafraid to be nasty because I am nasty like Susan, Elizabeth, Eleanor, Amelia, Rosa, Gloria, Condoleezza, Sonia, Malala, Michelle, Hillary.

And our pussies ain’t for grabbin’. Therefore, reminding you that are balls are stronger than America’s ever will be. Our pussies are for our pleasure. They are for birthing new generations of filthy, vulgar, nasty, proud, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Sheikh—you name it—for new generations of nasty women. So if you [are] a nasty woman or love one who is, let me hear you say, hell yeah!”

Related Story: http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/news-life/nina-donovan-is-the-19yearold-poet-who-wrote-ashley-judds-viral-i-am-a-nasty-woman-speech/news-story/d40dc60b10853ef21423b247e598ebd0

The 20 Best Desserts in Chicago

From humble to haute, these sweets deliver pure pleasure.

chocolate-profiteroleI’ve been missing Chicago for a long time now. Southern California is great for the weather, the beaches, and the mountains. That’s been enough to keep me here, but I miss Chicago’s sports scene, its neighborhoods, its architecture, and especially its food. Now, Chicago Magazine has to do this to me. The 20 best desserts in Chicago. This isn’t enough to tip the scale, yet; but with things like this to think about I might not be able to hold out much longer.

Right now I’m drooling, thinking about Chocolate Profiteroles, Chocolate Beignet, Basque Cake, and Coffee Custard.

On the other hand, it’s probably good I’m not in Chicago because right now, I’m trying especially hard to lose weight. A month ago I set a goal to lose 25 pounds in 50 days. I was told that was unrealistic and apparently it was. So I’m revising it to 25 pounds by the end of the year. If I was in Chicago right now, I know that goal wouldn’t have a chance.

coffee-custardIf I was in Chicago right now, I know that goal wouldn’t have a chance. First of all my family, typical Italians, would be inviting me to various family gatherings and I would use that as an excuse to fatten myself up; second, having read this article I would be taking the first opportunity to stop in one of these 20-best-deserts places, just to look around. It wouldn’t be long before I’d find a second opportunity, and then a third, fourth, fifth, and so on.

Now, you might be thinking, LA is a big city, bigger than Chicago, surely there have to be 20 places as with desserts as good, if not better, than the 20 in Chicago.

Funny you should think that because it so happens that the current issue of LA Magazine also has an article about LA’s best desserts. While none of them look good enough to keep me here if I decided to return to Chicago, there are a few that might be good enough to compete.

The thing is… I am in Southern CA, within driving distance of LA and as long as I’m here a slice of Chioccolato or a few Durango cookies or maybe a Halo-Halo could be worth a trip… just to look around.

Source: The 20 Best Desserts in Chicago | Chicago magazine | November 2016

Radio and Other Bloopers

This blooper video brought back memories of terror, embarrassment, and laughter. Having worked off and on for more than 20 years in broadcasting, mostly as a radio announcer and newsperson, I’m well aware of how embarrassingly funny a blooper can be, especially when an audience gets to enjoy them.

Watching this video you might wonder how these people could possibly mess up a simple six-word phrase not once, but about a dozen times. What, are these people idiots? Nope… but this sort of thing even happens to professionals, that’s why we enjoy blooper outtakes so much. It happens because when a person is not talking in a way they would normally be talking or because they are concerned about something other than the words they are saying, such as the way they look, the way they are pronouncing the word, or the way they are saying a word or phrase. 

I lost my first radio announcing job (at WBYS in Canton, IL) because of a blooper, not mine, even though I did make a few that could have gotten me fired had they either been recorded or heard by anyone in management. I mispronounced names or people, places, and things. I stumbled over various words and phrases. Once I thought I’d turned off my mike, but hadn’t and treated the audience to my side of a phone conversation while a record was playing. A couple times I said s**t on the air. Another time, knowing my microphone was off, but not realizing the phone line was not, I called a listener an a**h**e on the air. Perhaps the worst was when I misread the word duck. 

tape-cartridges-radio

magnetic tape cartridges (Carts)

At that time commercials were recorded on tape cartridges similar plastic 8-track tape cartridges that in radio jargon were called, Carts. We put a Cart into a recorder, read or produced our commercial, and put a label on the Cart to identify it. If we made a mistake we removed the Cart from the recorder, put in a new one and started over. We continued this process until we had a broadcast worthy commercial.

One of my jobs was to erase the Carts. In the production room, the small studio where commercials, promos, and other pre-recorded announcements were made, there were three cardboard boxes where all the mistakes were dumped. I had to run each cart over a magnetic eraser and put the Carts back in the rack according to size ( 30, 60, or 90 second or 2, 3, 5, 10, or 30 minutes long). It was a boring, tedious job.

One day, after I’d been doing it for a few months I noticed that one of the newsmen had ‘dirtied’ more than 50 Carts. I thought it would be funny if I acknowledged his accomplishment, so I printed a small banner announcing the winner of the “Who Dirtied the Most Carts Contest.” Everyone thought it was funny, including the newsman so I decided to continue it, even giving myself the award a couple times. Giving the award made the task of cleaning the Carts even more tedious

bulk eraser for radio magnetic tape

magnetic tape bulk eraser

because it added a couple steps to the process. Instead of just removing the label, erasing the cart, and putting the cleaned cart back into one of the racks I now had to first listen to the Cart, then put a tick mark next to the culprit’s name before I erased it.

When I was fired a couple months after starting the “Who Dirtied the Most Carts” contest, I was told I had not been getting the job done. Two for instances were given: I rarely wrote more than three news stories and usually, only two every night, whereas the person who’d been doing the job previously always turned in at least three. Second, I spent about twice as much time as my predecessor cleaning the Carts. Both accusations were true. In my defense, I was a one-finger typist, and I was too young to know that my joke was funny once or twice, but not every day.

The truth is the real reason I was fired was not because I didn’t write enough news or because I spent too much time completing a monotonous task, but because three days before I was fired I gave the award to the radio station owner. Maybe that was a mistake. Apparently, he didn’t have as much of a sense of humor as I thought he did. 

 

Writing Is Not Easy

When I was in 7th grade I won (it wasn’t exactly a victory) the award for worst handwriting. My teacher predicted I would be a doctor. At the time, that seemed like as good an idea as any. Although I also wanted to be a dancer, lawyer, baseball player, and writer.Writing is difficult. Writing is hard. Sometimes I don’t feel like writing. I know I have to do it.

P writing blue

Life took me in a variety of directions. I was mostly a radio announcer, but I was also a teacher, a sportswriter, an insurance underwriter, a carpet salesman, a car salesman, a factory worker, a stock boy, and now I’m retired so I’m trying to do something I’ve always wanted to do: write (as in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry).

Writing is difficult. Writing is hard. Sometimes I don’t feel like writing. I know I have to do it. It  needs to be done in the same sense that dishes need washing, housework needs working, the dog needs to be fed, walked, etc (there is an awful lot to that etc.), a letter (email) has to be read, a letter (email) has to be written, a bill needs to be paid, etc., etc., and etc. So, I have plenty of excuses to feed my writer’s block.

This is one of those days. In fact, every day is one of those days. It’s never easy dragging my heart and soul out and showing them to the world. I know there’s a good chance when I’m finished I will be thinking, that was stupid, or they’re not going to like that, or I’m sure that’s the last thing of mine they’re over going to read, or etc., etc., and etc.

Still, I know if I don’t do it, I might never do it. Those bills can wait, the dog can wait, the housework isn’t going anywhere; but the words I am going to put on paper, the ideas I am going to dredge up out of my heart and soul might never be there again if I don’t sit down and force myself to uncover them.

I thought if I made a schedule that would make it easier. In a sense it does. I have a direction of sorts when I start. I know that after I finish this blog post I will be rolling, I will be in the mood and it will be easier to work on one of the many, many stories waiting to be finished. This blog starts my day, but even with a schedule there is still the pain, agony, and potential for heartbreak that faces me every time I say, ‘Time to write something.’

The thing is I rarely feel inspired when it’s time to start. While inspiration often hits me at unusual moments: when I’m making a left turn, when I’m trying to decide which yogurt flavor to buy, when I’m sitting in the doctor’s office, when I’m eating dinner, and so on – real inspiration occurs when I’m writing. That little boy I’ve got rolling down a hill after Jill threw a bucket of water at him, what if he rolls into a hole and disappears, what if he keeps rolling and rolling and rolling up and over another hill, what if it’s winter and that water freezes solid, what if… what if… and how about that? That’s crazy, that might just work, that is a great idea. I’m glad I thought of it.

None of that will happen if I don’t ignore the feeling that I’m not inspired, that I have nothing worth writing about, that I’m wasting my time and get started. It’s always the first word that’s the hardest, but once that’s done it’s sometimes amazing how many line up and follow it. That’s when writing becomes fun, after that first word. So, that’s what I did today. I started with that one word: Writing…

Awareness

“Life is a process, not a substance, and it is necessarily temporary. We are not the reason for the existence of the universe, but our ability for self-awareness and reflection makes us special within it.” ~ Sean Carroll, physicist

When I Started

cartoon, man at-computerwriting this blog I thought I would write about Chicago, mostly about Chicago sports, because I grew up in the Chicago area and even though I haven’t lived there for more than 30 years I still closely follow all sports Chicago (with the exception perhaps of the Wisconsin Badgers, having lived in Wisconsin for 20 years, and the USC Trojans, having lived in California for the last ten).

I also thought I’d write about times spent in the city – wandering Michigan Ave., State St., Rush, Wabash, etc.; watching fireworks from the top of the Hancock, riding the trains into the city and the subway, eating Chicago Style, watching Second City, jogging along the lake front, going to school at Loyola and Northeastern Illinois, living in the suburbs, living on the North Side, etc., etc.

That hasn’t exactly worked out. There are too many other things that interest me from day to day and I write a lot of stuff other stuff: poetry, short stories, memoir. I tried creating other blogs for those other things: Trails Across White for my poetry, Suddenly Words for my fiction and memoirs, Theretofor for my non-fiction and Caledon Pritz, a site that no longer exists for silly quotes and one-liners I make up. At the time it seemed like a good idea to have a different blog for each thing, but some of those blogs never got off the ground and if they did they were sometimes neglected for a week or more. For instance I’ve posted a lot of poetry on Trails Across White, but it’s been a few months since I’ve added a poem.

A friend who’s into guns once told me that he bought an old Springfield rifle and took it hunting. He told me, maybe the things were good when defending against an infantry charge, because one shot might stop or slow down a handful of chargers, but it was terrible for hunting. First he was lucky if he hit what he was shooting at. Second, if he hit it he was lucky if the shot brought the animal down. Third if the animal was down, preparing it was twice as much work because a handful of buckshot had to be picked out of the meat.

That’s what it’s like trying to maintain four blogs. It’s scatter-shot and it’s at times overwhelming and discouraging. I often spend a day working on one thing which does not get published because I’m not satisfied with it. Some things stay in draft status for as much as a week before I publish it or leave it to move on to something else. That would be okay if I was writing just one blog, but when four are involved it meant weeks might go by before something got published.

If you’ve been following this the past few weeks you’ve seen more than just Chicago related stories here. The other blogs are now permanently dormant (with the exception perhaps of Trails Across White – a final decision has not yet been made), but everything I write will be here, now.

And that’s what I’m thinking about today.

Hope you like it.

A Matter of Perspective

John Hancock Bldg., ChicagoSometimes I see something that almost makes sense, but my mind simply does not compute. This is a picture of the John Hancock Center in Chicago. I love this building. If you ever get the chance go to the sky deck on a night when there are fireworks at Navy Pier, go. Fireworks offer a different experience when you look down on them. It’s what I imagine ants might look like if they were ever able to light up some ant-sized sparklers.

The first time I ever saw the Hancock like this, with its top hidden in the clouds I wondered what kind of view there was from the sky deck. I never found out, but I imagine it’s sort of like being on a plane flying through the clouds.

When I saw the picture on the right, I wondered how the photographer (Alberto Tretti) managed to take it.John Hancock Building, Chicago

Just looking at it makes me dizzy. I thought, he must have stood with his back to the building and held the camera over his head.

Actually, the process is more simple than that. It doesn’t involve any special physical gymnastics. You just have to turn any picture upside down when you post it (or hang it on your wall) to change the perspective and make somebody like me a bit dizzy!

You probably figured that out long before you read this, but it took me about 10 minutes to realize the photographer didn’t really do anything special.

As I said, sometimes my brain does not compute.

St Patrick's Day in Chicago

St Patrick's Cathedral and John Hancock BuildingMost people are aware that Chicagoans go crazy on St. Patrick’s Day. Everybody wears green, has green frosted donuts for breakfast, green frosted cookies and cup-cakes for snacks, corned beef and cabbage for dinner. They watch the St. Patrick’s Day parade, walk past the green-dyed Chicago River, then spend the night reveling, singing Irish songs and drinking green beer.

I never thought much of it when I was a kid. As far as I was concerned, St. Joseph’s Day was my day because I was Italian. Still I tried to remember to wear something green, and I enjoyed the green-frosted treats.

When I started working in Chicago I sometimes went to mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Of course, on St. Patrick’s Day the cathedral was crowded like as if it was a Sunday.

Then I married an Irish lass, who happened to have a brother named Patrick, and things began to change. I started finding reasons to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but the kicker came along when I discovered a great, great, something grandmother of mine was Irish. Sure and begorrah, I was a bit Irish after all.

St Patrick's Blue shamrockNow, I’ve discovered that all those years when I preferred to wear blue rather than green, I may have been doing the right thing, because St. Patrick’s color was actually blue. Green came about when the Irish fighting for independence choose that as their color. So, if you see me wearing blue on March 17th you can be sure it’s because there is a little Irish in me.

Wheat Free Crepes

Did you know Crepes are not pronounced like Crayps. Rather the correct French pronounciation is Creps. I know, back in second or maybe third grade you were taught to change the sound of that first ‘e’ if there was another ‘e’ in the last sylable (or near the end) of the word. As far as I’m concerned you can keep saying Crepes anyway you want.

I’ve made these with Garbanzo Bean Flour, Almond Meal, and Cashew Meal. The garbanzo been flour gives it a nice texture, but an unusual flavor. The almond meal gives a little rougher texture and the mixture has to be stirred often, otherwise the almond meal tends to sink to the bottom. The cashew flour is easily the best. Doesn’t compromise the flavor, gives a nice texture and doesn’t have to be restirred.Crepe

For filling a good fruit-only jam will work, but I like to cook some fruit, carmelize it a little (especially bananas) and use that. Sometimes I stir the cooked fruit into some cream cheese or riccotta.

My favorite way to eat these is right out of the pan, without any filling. Then, instead of water I usually stir in a comparable amount of Amaretto.

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Oven-Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Onions

This so good and so easy. I tried adding some sweet Italian onions to this (you know, the purple oven roasted sweet potatoes and onionsones) to give it some color, but once they were cooked the color either turned to a light or dark gray. Still, this has become one of my favorite ways to eat sweet potatoes or yams. I hate any version that uses brown sugar or marshmallow. Sweet potatoes and yams are usually sweet enough with just a little butter on them. Sometimes I add a quarter cup or so of raisins, especially if I happened to get one of those sweet potatoes that has lost its sweetness along the way. One thing I like about this is that there are only five ingredients (six if you add the raisins) and, other than cutting the onions, is especially easy. Try to use a variety of  sweet onions, but the heavy tear-jerkers will work, too. (more…)

Chocolate Coconut Cookies

Chocolate Coconut Cookies 1These have become my go-to cookies. Although they are not especially sweet (you could increase the stevia if they are not sweet enough for you), they have a nice chocolatey flavor to them.

Add the Chocolate chips and these become Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookies. Skip them and the cookies are still very good Chocolate Coconut Cookies. They’re easy and quick to make. (more…)

Blueberry Custard #1

I make two versions of this. The difference is that this one requires more ingredients, one of Blueberry Custardwhich is cashew meal (or almond meal) which gives it a little more body. This one also serves well as a dessert, and I sometimes double this recipe for the same reasons I double a lot of recipes (I’m lazy and this stores well in the fridge for a couple days. Will it store longer than that? Don’t know, it’s never lasted more than three days before I’ve eaten it all.). These puffed nicely, but the moment I set them down, the middle’s sagged They were still delicious.
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