That Cubs Disease

There is a disease that is mostly unique to Chicago North Siders although I understand some people have experienced similar symptoms in other cities and countries. I’m speaking, of course, of blind spiritual devotion to the Chicago Cubs baseball team. Once the fever is caught, it is known to last a lifetime. Efforts are made by those with affiliation to other baseball clubs to try to detoxify those of us who indulge in Cubbie Blues but most adherents are resigned to die hard.
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Penny Foolish

Does anyone still pick up a penny when they see it on the floor? C’mon- anybody? That’s what I thought. For baby boomers, there was a lot we could do with a penny or two.

Back in the early 1960’s, there was lots of candy that still cost a penny. In September 1964, I spent seventh grade in a private school in the Chicago Lakeview neighborhood. The school was in the middle of the first block in from Lake Michigan and Sheridan Road on Melrose Street. At the northwestern corner by Broadway there stood a small candy shop. It was a gold mine for the elderly couple that owned it. Not only did they have our school as a locked-in customer, but directly across the street was a public grammar school.

Our nickname for the old man behind the counter was Mr. Miser because he distrusted all regardless of age. In his mind, everyone was out to try to steal his merchandise. Well, not exactly everyone. Most girls were given the benefit of the doubt. But, if you walked in wearing a pair of pants- look out. It was like strolling in a prison yard during the designated time break with cops wearing sun glasses and pounding billy clubs against their open hands watching your every move. And heaven help you if you took too long to decide what you wanted or changed your mind after Miser put the goods in a paper bag. Anything to ruffle his feathers guaranteed an unleashing of verbal abuse and a demand to leave the premises immediately.
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Swimming In Lies

Everyone hates being lied to, right? As a kid all those years watching entertaining biographical films – I took it for granted that what I saw actually happened that way. George M. Cohan, played by James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy, yankee doodle dandywas a swell dancer who gracefully slid into retirement. The Von Trapp family in The Sound of Music adroitly outmaneuvered the Nazis and climbed the Alps mountain to safety. General George Custer, plated by the gallant Errol Flynn in They Died With Their Boots On, was tricked by Sitting Bull and his cutthroats and died a heroic death. The list goes on and on.
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Ice Cream, Ice Cream, We Don’t All Scream For Ice Cream

Things ain’t what they used to be- especially for baby boomers. There used to be special places to visit in Chicago back in the 1900’s- that sounds so quaint- that are no longer around.
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Running From Presidency

My fellow Americans, I come to you today to announce that I am throwing my hat into the ring and running for President. I am the candidate of the Enough Already Party. This is our platform: Don’t vote for me if you fall into any of the following categories-

You smoke. You are not only killing yourself, but also stinking up the place. Do you really think that when you walk outside to puff that the stench that clings to your clothes magically dissipates when you go back inside the building and come in contact with more intelligent people?

You have a tattoo. Does that make you a man- or I guess nowadays, too- a woman? Audie Murphy got more medals for killing the enemy and taking slugs than any other soldier during World War Two and he didn’t have his skin etched. Nor did George Washington. Toughness is an inner strength, not bragging about your permanently artistic statement.

You talk on the phone or text while driving. Yesterday I was five cars back in the right-most lane on the expressway. It was moving at a clip at least 20 miles per hour slower that the other two lanes. Why? Well, when I was able to finally switch to the middle lane and close the gap, I saw that the lead car contained a female driver who was holding her precious I-Phone in one hand yapping on it oblivious to everyone else while proceeding at forty-five miles and hour. The car in front of her was 15 lengths in front. I wanted to run her off the road onto the shoulder or worse. If you use a hands-free device- never mind.

You switch lanes without signaling. Your lack of consideration causes the driver behind to slam on the brakes because you decided to dart in front to be king of the lane.

You go into a self-service checkout lane or walk up to an ATM device with no freaking clue how to use said equipment. So, you just stare hoping that the machine will figure it out for you and couldn’t care less how long everyone standing behind you has to wait. Oh, I forget- at the checkout line, you have 18 items in your basket and the fellow doing the dance behind you has only two.

You work for a telemarketer. Enough said.

You think beer commercials are just grand.

You own oil stock.

You think “you know” is a conjunction and”okay” is a preposition that leads into all questions.

You think the baseball season should start before May and sitting in an open-air football stadium with the temperature below 25 degrees is proof of your virility.

You believe that when someone apologizes they truly mean it.

As for the rest of you, I expect all twenty-five remaining registered voters will give full support to my candidacy.

Thank you.

Double Whammy

A little after 12 noon this past Thursday, while working with the chief financial officer and in-house computer network specialist at a client site, I got a phone call from my sister. She started off with, “I got bad news and worse news.”

Earlier that morning I got into the car to drive out to a Western suburb of Chicago that was at least a twenty mile destination requiring two tollway fares. All the way there I fretted about temporarily running out of stories to add to this blog. To my dismay, that didn’t last long.

“I’m listening.” I said in a hushed tone. She said,“ma fell down in the house and broke her hip. She is in the emergency room at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston.” That was the bad news. Now came the worse news. “Mrs. So-and-So (my sister’s mother-in-law) had suffered a massive stroke resulting in heavy hemorrhaging and was at death’s door. She was lying in wait, so to say, in ICU, also at St. Francis Hospital.”

My sister’s mother-in-law had come home from playing cards after 10pm Wednesday night. She lives in the condo down the block from mine, the one fancy enough to be able to afford a doorman. The uniformed fellow let her in and she proceeded in the hallway to the elevator but never made it to her apartment. She was found lying on the floor in an unconscious state.

On late Thursday afternoon I finished visiting with Ma on the fifth floor of the hospital listening to her mentally prepare to have surgery on the right hip where a surgeon would place a rod and bolts underneath the skin. This gave her a sort of symmetrical artificial reconstruction of her torso. Five years earlier, she broke both her left hip and shoulder.
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That Three Letter Phone Company

There is a three letter phone company that is out to get me to enter an insane asylum. Mind you, I have no complaints about their service. It’s their persistent marketing that is driving me crazy.

This is no exaggeration- over the past year, I must have received more than a dozen letters from that three letter phone company encouraging me to switch from cable television reception to their product. Their product has some definite improvements that I won’t go into but what they fail to recognize- and I’ve told them this several times over the phone connected to their freaking service- that I live in a condominium. Every unit owner in our building has cable tv through a special group bundle package.

I cannot give up cable television because I still would be obligated to pay for it. The monthly condo fee assessment has the cost built into it. So, why switch to a different service if I am still paying for the other one?

Dear reader- you are intelligent and understand this, correct? If I told you the above you would make a note not to bother me again or you would contact the condo association and ask them about considering a group switch, right? So why cannot the geniuses who figured out the awesome phone grid system also come to the same conclusion?

The latest letter I received is apparently a repeat of a letter they must have sent me two weeks earlier, I’m guessing. It states:

In reviewing your account on 4/14/11, we have found that you qualify for a bundle that may save you money. For only $54 a month for 6 months*, you get:

And then it lists some nice features. It is signed:

That Three Letter Phone Company Customer Service

On the reverse side is where they put the * codicil. It explains in small print what happens after six months. It gets ugly so I will not repeat it here.

Stuck onto this letter, is a yellow post-it note that reads in a fake handwriting:
haven’t heard from you- hope you got this.
Your Three Letter Phone Company Service Rep.

I mentioned this to my friend Stanley who said that he also gets the same harassment and the funny thing is that the service they are offering is not available in his area. I then looked down at the bottom of the letter I received and there it was in bold letters:

Geographic and service restrictions apply. Call or go to our website to see if you qualify.

My question is why bother to send out a marketing letter if the offer is not valid. Doesn’t postage still cost money? And the paper and ink that was used along with the electricity to run the printer as well as the wear and tear on the equipment?

Like that last Beatles song- can’t we just “Let It Be”? Or am I forever to be cajoled into switching television connection service?

By the way, did I mention that once a week I get a letter from the bank that I can write checks from the enclosed forms and that the amount will be tacked onto a line of credit at an interest rate more than ten times the amount I earn at the place?

Greed Vs. Need

There is nothing like good old American Greed. I guess that’s why all those people who live elsewhere and curse us still want to come join us.

The biggest perpetrator of greed in this country is the Federal Government. They want to levy additional taxes when people are making less money and/or getting less value for their hard-earned dollars. They tell you- don’t worry, we want to soak only from the very rich. The only problem with that is the very rich are the only ones who can afford to spend what it takes to help this trickle-down economy. So, if you take, let’s say, one thousand dollars more in taxes per very rich person, that’s one thousand less they would spend in going to restaurants, movies, plays, ball games- whatever. There are a lot of people who work peripheral service jobs in those industries who will end up getting less hours at work and less tips.

There are those who will say that I’m being too negative-that one thousand smackers in cold cash is not going to hurt the well-off and that they will continue to spend their pocket change on frivolous matters without thinking twice. There are also those who say, “so what!”- take it from the rich and give to the poor by funding the government agencies that are being pinched. That last part makes sense if you can trust the government agents to play fair with the tax money they collect.

Ma is on medicare and anxiously awaits the first few days of each month when she uses her bank’s automated menu system to confirm her checkbook balance. She hears about changing Medicare and is very concerned that she will end up paying higher insurance premiums. I keep telling her that both political parties in America agree not to screw anyone over a certain age, which I think I am included. Yes, that means than anyone under fifty can expect to see a change in how the Federal Government will pay for their medical needs when they retire.
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No Thanks- Just Browsing

There was a time when browsing meant walking past a whole bunch of store fronts in a shopping mall. Or going into a brick and mortar and walking through the various departments and aisles trying to see if anything was interesting and cheap enough to warrant purchase. A sales attendant would approach and more often politely ask, “may I help you?” And you’d more often than not reply, “no thank you- just browsing”. And then the commission-earning sales person would quickly turn away defeated or dejected or maybe even ticked off that you somehow just wasted their precious time.

Browsing, of course, today takes on an entirely different meaning. You don’t have to put on a coat, or rubbers (don’t go there) or scarf or hat in lousy weather. Or give up watching a precious ball game. You sit at your computer and click on the Internet Connection icon and presto- you scan through just about any website in the world. I’ve noticed that there are sites that now detect that you are visiting and within seconds pounce with a pop-up message encouraging you to strike up a conversation with their sales or support staff. I click on the little X at the right top and the pop-up goes away.

Of course, there are times when I don’t just want to browse at a store. I want and expect a salesperson to help me spend money. In these instances, I’ve already mentally made up my mind to buy the item from that place on that day. It is up to the salesperson to be the one to ruin the completion of the sale- not me.
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My Mama Done Told Me

I got my masters in the discipline of causing trouble by spending several years observing two seasoned pros- my parents. Dad would be sitting down at the table as Ma brought him a bowl of soup. He’d take one slurp, pound his fist on the table and shout to no one in particular, “hot, hot, bitch, bitch, bitch.” And he’d finish it off with, “why did you have to make it so hot?” to Ma who would thrust his parry and reply with, “aw, go to hell.” And then Dad would counter with, “show me the way.”

Of course, if any innocent bystanders would smirk, Ma would quickly look at us and say, “what’s your problem?” and we would try to hold off falling on the floor from laughing so hard or it would have turned into the other extreme.

Then there would be the time my kid brother would visit from out of the country, he in his thirties by then and me in my- never you mind. Gary would stay at Ma during his visit so I would come over and we would be having a glorious dinner and the two of us would start in needling each other until it rose to a crescendo. At that point Ma would shout, “stop it you two, or I’m going upstairs!” After we waited the necessary five minutes to keep our collective mouths shut, we’d start up again and Ma would say, “can’t you two ever get along?” Of course, what she didn’t want to acknowledge was that it was our way of getting along- she just found it annoying.

I’ve been told by Ma’s younger brother that when they were kids, she organized a gang of two- them. They would go around beating up other kids who refused to play ball with them. Literally- I mean, she would beat them up if they wouldn’t let her play in the ball game already going on.

In the late 1950’s, when it was just my older sister, a younger one and myself hanging around the house, if one of us got on Ma’s bad side, she would vent her anger. If one of us stood behind her laughing at the sibling taking the brunt of her wrath, she would quickly turn around and say, “you want a piece of this, too?” And this from a lady who tells me when I chauffeur her around now that I need to to take anger management.

A couple of years ago, I invited to her house a family who lives near me to expand on her friendships – the father, mother, son and daughter. At the time, the daughter was twelve. We were eating a fancy meal in Ma’s dining room and I was goofing off as usual, so Ma threw me a wicked slider and said for all to clearly hear, “stop acting like a baby. Can’t you grow up already?” Naturally, since then that twerpy teenage girl throws that line in my face as often as she can. But again, when we used to play one-on-one basketball in her driveway, I never showed mercy and beat her off the dribble too many times. She won’t play ball with me anymore, so who’s the baby now, huh?