Doodad Kind of Town


I Love a Parade
June 30, 2007, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

A neighboring suburb held its Fourth of July parade this morning. A little early for that you say? Well, yes, but that’s the kind of confusion that results when the Fourth falls smack in the middle of a work week. My friend, who lives along the parade route, throws an annual potluck brunch party on the morning of the parade. We load our red-white-and-blue plates with egg casserole, fruit, bagels and Krispy Kremes, fill our patriotic cups with mimosas or coffee-and-Baileys and settle into lawn chairs in front of her house to watch the passing show.

This morning was splendid, neither too hot nor too humid. As we munched our breakfasts, an amazing panoply of people marched by. War veterans. Baton twirlers. Bagpipe players. Little boys performing karate moves. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, proudly wearing vests full of merit badges. Young gymnasts in spangly red-white-and-blue costumes turning cartwheels and walking on their hands. Paunchy middle-aged Shriners driving tiny electric cars. Members of PFLAG dressed in pirate costumes and carrying signs with slogans like “Show us your booty!”. Church musicians belting out contemporary Christian anthems. Smiling, hand-shaking politicians. Amateur actors handing out flyers for their upcoming production of “Les Miserables.”

When else do you ever see these wildly disparate groups assembled in one place for a common purpose? (Namely to walk, wave, and pelt people with candy. Oh, and, at least nominally, to celebrate American freedom and independence. But the candy-pelting is key.) There is something about a Fourth of July parade that restores my faith in America. And that faith is sorely in need of restoration these days.

It doesn’t take much to stoke the fires of my liberal outrage lately. About all I have to do is pick up a newspaper or log on to Salon.com. All week, I’ve been reading about the Washington Post’s series on Dick Cheney – who apparently runs the country without the nuisance of having to be accountable to anyone for anything. What branch of the government does he work for? Executive? Legislative? Amazingly, no one seems to know – and if we don’t know, then how can we enforce the branch-specific limits of his authority as specified in the constitution? Why aren’t more people scared about this? Here’s a clue: because there’s nothing about this on any major news channel, and most Americans get their news from TV. It certainly wasn’t covered on CNN – they were too busy getting ready for their groundbreaking interview with Paris Hilton.

(Shameful confession: – I actually did watch some of Ms. Hilton’s big interview; however, I fell asleep after about 10 minutes. I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss anything that would change the course of modern history. Recapping the interview the next morning, another CNN reporter said to Larry King “She’s not a very robust personality, is she?” That’s a masterpiece of understatement!)

And nothing gets me going like a good, rabble-rousing Michael Moore documentary, so I headed out with friends to catch the opening night of “Sicko” on Friday. I didn’t come away outraged, however, so much as saddened. The state of health care in this country is truly deplorable, with lawmakers apparently working for insurance and pharmaceutical companies rather than the good of their constituents. All the more shameful when you compare our health care to that available in other countries – such as Britain, France, and Canada, all of whom Moore visits while debunking common misconceptions about the evils of socialized medicine along the way. He’s a master propagandist – entertaining, but occasionally painting his agitprop picture in questionably broad strokes or leaving out inconvenient facts that might complicate his argument. (Cuba is portrayed as a benign, misunderstood – almost saintly – nation, at least with regard to its health care system. I have no doubt that the health care workers there are every bit as nice and competent as they’re portrayed. but let’s not go all dewy-eyed and stupid about this; Castro’s Cuba has a pretty long history of human rights abuses. See the movie “Before Night Falls,” for just one example.) But, maddening as he can sometimes be, I always end up celebrating Michael Moore’s work. I love his audacity and firmly believe that the underlying motivation is a deep love of American and its people. I really do. The fact he is still out there, raking the muck and rousing the rabble, is yet another reason that I still have faith in America. (And I’ll bet he loves a Fourth of July parade as much as I do.)



Vacation’s Comin!!! And not a minute too soon…
June 7, 2007, 11:45 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized
Whew! Why is it that when you’re getting ready to go away on vacation – to, you know, RELAX – your life goes berserk-busy??????

I have a “To Do Before Vacation” list about as long as my arm (and I have pretty loooong arms, let me tell ya). In order to take tomorrow afternoon off – under the auspices of my company’s “Summer Hours” plan -I’ve had to work an extra hour every other day this week. Those nine-to-ten hour work days are starting to wear me out. All day, while I’m working, the weather is beautiful. Then when I finally get off work, and I’m ready to run some errands (important stuff – buying sunscreen, getting my brows waxed, picking up cat food and litter), the thunderstorms roll in. And that’s no kind of weather to shop in. Grumble, moan, bitch, complain….

Ok, enough of that. On the bright side, tomorrow is supposed to be a beautiful day, all day. I’m off work at noon and I’ll have time to shop for vacation essentials before my mani/pedi appointment. Tomorrow night, I’ll have a leisurely night of laying out my vacation wardrobe, maybe having a glass of wine, and finally watching the DVD of “Volver” that I rented from Blockbuster last Friday night! On Sunday it’s off to Vegas, baby, Vegas! Four days and nights at the fabulous Bellagio, probably my favorite hotel in all the world. (See the picture above, with the fabled Bellagio fountains in full gush.)Long afternoons by the pool, with a good book or fashion magazine in one hand, and a cool, frosty Mojito in the other. Late afternoons browsing the Forum Shops. Evenings at Cirque de Soleil or “Spamalot” (starring they very yummy John O’Hurley – I’ve had a crush on him since he was J. Peterman.) Late night dinners. Mornings spent sleeping in. Aaaah…. I need this! I’ve needed it for two months.

The only downside is – I have stupidly booked our flight on Sunday so that we will be in the air while the very last episode of “The Sopranos” is being broadcast in the eastern half of the U.S. Our plane lands at 7:11 pm Vegas time, so if we’re lucky, we’ll make it our room in time to catch most of the show when it airs there. I can’t bear to miss it!!! Despite all my good intentions, I have not given up TV for the summer, not when “The Sopranos” are still on. And I’ve gotten hooked on 2 or 3 “What’s gonna happen on ‘The Sopranos’?” blogs. Reading everyone’s predictions for the final episode is my new little addiction. Personally, I don’t have a clue, as evidenced by my last prediction that Christopher would turn state’s witness and rat out the family. Well, as we all now know, the very next thing that happened was that Tony finished off Christopher himself. So much for my prognostication ability. My favorite theory so far is that Silvio went to the Feds (why couldn’t they find out anything about his condition from the hospital? Should we believe his brother’s report that he’ll never regain conciousness?) All I know is that I’m OVER AJ and his whiny ass. I don’t know what role he’ll play in the finale, but if he does anything, I’m sure it’ll be stupid.
And I might as well admit that HBO’s favorite New Jersey crime family isn’t the ONLY thing I’ve been watching this summer. For one thing, Kathy Griffin is back on Bravo, and I can’t stop watching her “Life on the D-List” show. Also, my girl, Samantha Brown, is all over the Travel Channel this month, debuting her new Latin America series, along with copious reruns of “Girl Meets Hawaii” and “Passport to Europe.” I love Samantha Brown – she is so clean-scrubbed and wholesome-looking (somehow reminding me of both Gwyneth Paltrow and a churchgoing soccer mom), but she is so, absolutely down for exotic adventure! She’s so game about learning to pilot a Venetian gondola or making a solo, late-night visit to an Argentine tango club, and she’s always enthusiastically ready to try the local liquor specialty or the oddest regional foods. I totally want to be her in my next life – or maybe the next half of my current one! (photo of Samantha Brown, below, from tv.msn.com; Above, photos of Bellagio Hotel from bellagio.com, of Carmela and Tony Soprano, from hbo.com)



On Suburban Saturdays and Healing a Broken Heart
June 2, 2007, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’m sometimes surprised to find, these days, that I am still not over my recently ended relationship. I would like to believe that I am at peace. I would like to believe that I have bestowed forgiveness and kind understanding upon my ex-boyfriend, that I have released him and the future to God, and that I’m ready to move confidently on to the next adventure in my life. But, in truth, there are a couple of hours in every day when I feel either angry or sad about the turn of events in my love life. All the pain comes back, and then I have to feel it all again, and then let it all go again.

Let me attempt a potentially awkward metaphor here. It’s like I’m on a ship moving away from a familiar shore that I’m desperate to leave behind. I want more than anything to reach the middle of the ocean, where only the sea and sky are visible and I can be at peace. But every day, I get up and go out on deck, and – damn it! – I can still see that shore. I can still make out, clearly, the places where I suffered the most pain or knew the deepest heartache. The ship keeps moving and taking me with it, but our daily progress is mere inches, when I want to move miles. What does a girl have to do to reach the Sea of Forgetting?

Well, she gets up each day, gets dressed, has her coffee and tries to stay busy. She can vent to friends, and accompany them to forgettable movies, which is what I did this afternoon. (“Mr. Brooks” – Kevin Costner as upright citizen/secret serial killer. My advice: avoid this one, like the plague. ) After, the movie, she can wander around the neighborhood art fair, sipping a lemon shake-up and feeling grateful that the thunderstorms which were threatened for the afternoon never actually materialized.

Or. . . she can embrace her inner nerd (if she has one – and I sure do), and sign up for a six-week Saturday morning seminar on European History. As you may have guessed, this is what I did this week. Classes start on June 9. Every Saturday, I’ll be on a Metra train to Chicago with a big notebook and a cup of steaming Starbucks in hand. I’ll spend two hours learning about the rivalries and tensions that lead Europe into the first World War. I am secretly quite thrilled about this. I say “secretly” because there aren’t many people to whom I can say “Every Saturday morning this summer, while the sun is shining and you’re out jogging or buying sweet corn at the Farmer’s Market, I’ll be in a classroom learning about “The Origins of the Great War: European Rivalries 1871-1914,” and I’m REALLY PUMPED!” (Not without getting a reaction along the lines of “Oh, uh-huh…. er, um, yeah, you know, I really have to run, gotta get home and vacuum the cat… Bye!”) But for me this will be a treat. It’s something to do just for me that no one else has to like or approve of. And isn’t that really the best medicine for a broken heart?