Monday, March 31, 2008

Dream: Cabin fever

Alone in a cabin in the woods at night, I had a sixth sense that I was in danger. I checked out the cabin's layout. It had a wraparound deck, which made it easier to break into, but even worse—there were no real locks, simply tabs that could be opened from the outside with a little effort. They were so rudimentary that I realized that anyone could get in.

As if to prove my point, a man opened the door as easily as if it had not been locked and came in with his family. They were not the danger, but it occurred to me that they could have brought it with them. As I was mulling what to do and the family was chattering away, one of the children said to me, "Why aren't you wearing your hearing aid?" while pointing to it. I did not know that I had one, and I started to feel like a stranger to myself. I looked out into the darkness, apprehensively.

When I sat down again, I saw a snake enter, and I warned the family. I didn't know if it were venomous, so I tried to describe its markings; the brown, green, and red colors were patchy and without a pattern. The snake seemed preternaturally intelligent, coming straight for me with purpose. Then I saw that it could not be a snake, because now it had fur, four legs, and ears; now it looked more like a long, thin fox. I was becoming frightened because I had expected the danger to be human. When I looked again, the snake-fox was indeed human and was claiming to be checking up on me.

I didn't believe him.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Friday night at the emergency room

Sometimes by Friday, especially if I have PMS, I'm tired, achy, and depressed, and my only aspiration is to spend a long evening in bed. On one of these evenings when I was young, I fell asleep at 7:00 p.m. and woke up at 10:00 a.m., with perhaps a dimly remembered bathroom break in the wee hours. I never sleep like that any more.

One some of these Fridays, life has thrown a curve or two. One Friday I left work and immediately felt light-headed and nauseated; by the time I got on the bus it took an enormous effort not to vomit. I held out for a block after I'd gotten off the bus, then threw up violently on the sidewalk in front of a small business's doorway. The rest of the weekend was spent in similar activities, although I did make it to a member event at the Shedd Aquarium, where I told my guest, "Don't take it personally if I run off abruptly several times.

On another Friday, Dracula with Bela Lugosi was scheduled on AMC. I had never seen it and spent the day in delightful anticipation. (I was able to get excited about such things then.) I was going to relax with coffee or tea and be swept up into the world of Dracula and 1930s horror films. I couldn't wait.

But when I walked in the door of my studio, something seemed amiss. It's easy to laugh now, but when I saw the pile of underclothes on the floor, I thought only that the cable people had had to move the chest of drawers for some inexplicable reason (the cable ran through the closet in another area). It was only when I looked for the television, which for once was to be the star attraction, that what had happened sank in—I'd been burglarized. No Dracula, only the police and a long, lonely, frightening weekend of cleaning up, documenting the loss, and experiencing the horrible sensation of violation that people have when uninvited strangers have been in their home and through their things.

Yesterday I was exhausted, discouraged, and in pain. I should have known that I was due for an adventure.

After polishing off a cuppa PG Tips (thanks for the tip, Stephen!), I noticed Hodge in the litterbox—it's hard to miss the ginger stripey tail sticking out.

And I also noticed he squatted for at least 10 to 15 minutes without doing anything.

Then he started to yowl, which he does sometimes for no reason, but the combination of straining and yowling did not bode well. Unlike humans, cats don't sit on their toilets reading Sports Illustrated, so I began to worry that his urinary problems had come to a head, or, more accurately, to a plug.

It was about 9:00 p.m., and I wanted nothing more than to rest my aching body, but when the veterinarian didn't answer the emergency number I had to face the idea of going to the emergency clinic, which is northwest to my southwest—across town.

I left a message for the veterinarian, then debated with my conscience for a while. On the one hand, he's probably strained before and I wasn't here to witness it. On the other, I didn't want to wake up Saturday morning to a cat dead from kidney damage. The emergency clinic agreed; the woman on the phone said to bring him in.

Then began a series of events typical of what happens to me when I'm tired, in pain, and distracted—my mind goes. I got to the fifth floor in the elevator when I realized I was wearing shoes from two different pairs. I may not dress well, but this was weird and uncomfortable, so I had to go back and change, all the while thinking irrationally that the delay was going to result in Hodge's death.

As I walked to the corner, I saw two cabs pass; of course, when I arrived, there were no more for what seemed like a long time. When one came (going on the wrong direction), I crossed the intersection, nearly tripping myself with the strap from the Sherpa bag that had wrapped itself around my ankle. As I untangled it mid-intersection, I realized that I had crossed against the light both westbound and northbound. Traffic was light.

The taxi driver told me that he resents how much money his grown daughter spent on her cat's surgery and medical care. "Hmmm," was all I could say. Aside from the cab fare (significant), I was wondering what the damage was going to be.

At the emergency clinic, a technician tried to feel Hodge's bladder, but quickly decided he wasn't the cooperative type, noting especially his sharp back claws that he was using on her. "We'll take him to the back and have one of the veterinarians take a look," she said.

By now, it was 10:30 p.m., and I called J. to let him know that my life isn't entirely dull, even if it's rarely exciting in a positive way. He kept repeating, "Poor Hodge," although that's a better adjective for me, especially after I paid for the cab and this little adventure in emergency medicine. I saw Hodge through a window, being grasped firmly away from the victim's body. Later I saw that in the clinical notes his neurological system was described as "fractious."

According to the veterinarian, Hodge has a bladder full of crystals and a case of feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), but he wasn't blocked and didn't have an infection. The crystals showed up as bright spots on the x-ray, although as a nearsighted novice I couldn't tell. The veterinarian recommended a prescription diet and monitoring because he may become blocked. In short, I could have waited and saved myself $295 in emergency clinic services and $62 in cab fare, but then there was that question of my conscience.

While I was waiting for him to be discharged, an assistant came out with a ginger stripey cat in a crate and handed him to the woman next to to me, who seemed stressed and upset; apparently something had happened to her cat earlier in the day, and he was very ill.

I was confused at first but of course there millions of ginger stripeys in the world. Still, there was something about that face, that look, and that attitude . . . the other woman, too, looked more closely, and just as she said, "This is not my Jeffrey" with a slight accent, I said, "Excuse me, I think that may be my cat." After we confirmed our suspicions (she noted that her cat doesn't have a white demarcation between head and saddle), she asked me worriedly (because Hodge was in Jeffrey's crate, on Jeffrey's blanket), "What is he here for?" I assured here that his problem is chemical, not contagious. Next, she got the idea that Jeffrey and Hodge may have gotten each other's treatments, so we (the assistants and I) told her that they had simply put Hodge into the wrong carrier. She worried that Jeffrey had been through so much already, and I told her that it appeared Jeffrey had not been disturbed in the least, that he was still in the cat ward.

In the meantime, Hodge had returned, this time in my Sherpa bag. I asked the woman about Jeffrey's temperament ("He's so sweet") and to prove to her that I was taking the correct cat I opened the top flap enough for Hodge to notice, at which point he hissed, swatted, and snapped. She agreed that was definitely not Jeffrey.

She does not know how lucky she is that not only did I recognize that face, but I was willing to admit it.

So, with Hodge full of subcutaneous fluids, my wallet emptied, and my credit card bursting with debt, we took a cab home, where we arrived a little after midnight. I could sleep only until 6:30 a.m., and, really, who needs more than five and one-half hours sleep after a week of faked happiness?

No more male cats.

And, if I were smart, which I vow I will be, I would make that simply: No more males.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Does March snow bring April showers?

By March 27, even those who dreamed of a white Christmas seem to have had enough, so it wasn't too surprising that a full afternoon of wet flakes was greeted with "Not again!" and worse. It didn't help that the previous couple of days had reached 50 degrees F—warm enough for people to start under dressing optimistically.

Typically you don't see umbrellas here during snow, except perhaps in the hands of women protecting expensive hairstyles (I almost said "hairdos"). Yesterday, however, perhaps because the snow was wet, or because it was a spring snow, or both, the umbrellas came out in force. I let myself get bedewed—the snow, which came down in quantity but didn't stick, lasted longest on my hair, which it made soft, full, and wavy—my favorite 'do.

People forget how to drive during a spring snow; it took longer for the bus I was on to navigate a few blocks downtown than to get to Hyde Park.

I am tired, discouraged, and working far too hard to stay positive, so my idea was to do a couple of chores and read in bed until I could sleep, to sleep as long as I could, and to hope to dream. But J. called and stopped by on his way home for work, so this was delayed for a brief visit, during which he was plied with tea.

I'm halfway through The Other Boleyn Girl. The movie tie-in edition I got from the library shows what I assume to be the three principal actors. Certainly the women were not chosen for any physical resemblance to the portraits of Anne or Mary Boleyn, but (acting ability aside) for their twenty-first century sex appeal. In the novel, Mary Boleyn comments on the portraits' tiny bow mouths as a signature characteristic of the Boleyns. The actress who portrays her, however, has a mouth that looks like it didn't survive an attack by a swarm of killer bees. It's Hollywood and meant to entertain and make money, but there's something amusing about the need to cater to our contemporary sensibilities. The cover photo looks less like the court of Henry VIII and more like a scene from a nighttime soap opera.

I dreamed, but it was not worth remembering.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Dream: Batgirl

I was in a room full of silent, hostile men, but I never found out what was wrong. Like them, I had to wear a costume, so I found myself dressed as a giant velvet bat.

Despairing at the futility and stupidity of it all, I put my head down on the edge of a sofa or bed and wept uncontrollably. I could not stop myself, but none of them was moved.

They would refer to each other and to me only by last name, even the man who came in for a drink. I had never felt so dehumanized and so hopeless.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dream: Sensitive plants, broken glasses, and nurses

It was night, and I turned a corner in a room like the café at work and ran hard into a man who was at a counter.

Instead of saying anything, I lightly touched one of the fruiting stalks arranged in a nearby vase, and several of them wilted. Then I noticed that my glasses looked odd; there were plastic flaps that made no sense and extra temples. I went back to the counter area and found the frames, which confused me because what had the flaps and temples been attached to? I noticed then that the glass (not plastic) lenses had broken into impossibly thick pieces. More and more confused, I didn't know how to explain myself to the man who was still at the counter. I could assume only that I had broken the glasses and somehow torn off the frames when I ran into him.

Curious about its reaction, I touched the stalks again, and more of them wilted. I had a sense that they might recover but couldn't understand why a touch bothered them so. Observing me, the man said to the stalks, "It began on your wedding night, when Opal wouldn't leave you alone."

I saw nurses preparing a lavish room or rooms for a patient. One of them, perhaps me, was taking photos and video of the preparations. Some of the nurses were unclothed, and while the film and video never captured this directly it would show in mirrors when the nurse passed in front of them. I was at a loss as to what to do to prevent this, but had to keep taking the photos and video.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A visit to the Harold Washington Library Center

After buying a couple of books, and contemplating the growing pile of recent purchases, earlier this month I decided it might be prudent to obtain a new Chicago Public Library card so I could borrow those books that interest me but that I don't intend to keep—which is most of them. Off I went to the Harold Washington Library Center, boarding a northbound Brown Line train headed south and east (it loops).

The Harold Washington Library Center (HWLC) is one of those unpleasant reminders of how long I've been in Chicago. It opened in 1991, but I recall seeing a display of perhaps five scale models submitted by the architect-finalists. One, a Helmut Jahn design, took me back to my church days, when our sponsored missionaries would include in their slide shows photos of rickety Philippine houses teetering on stilts over flood waters. In the scale model, the stilts appeared to be represented by toothpicks. It did not seem to fit in architecturally with downtown Chicago, and it did not look sturdy enough to house a world-class library.

It didn't win.

I don't love the winning design, by Hammond, Beeby, and Babka. The general style complements the Rookery, Auditorium, and Monadnock buildings, according to Wikipedia. It is not quite right, however. The building itself is too massive. Its solid square takes up an entire block, with no columns to air it out. The large chunks of granite that serve as the base and the huge arched windows add to the bulky effect, while the red brick exterior and verdigris roof and ornamentations make the building garish. Enormous owls perch on the State Street corners, looming ominously and implying, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." Their Gothic presence evokes thoughts of a drawing in the Edward Gorey style, perhaps captioned, "Mistress Greatbottom was not aware of Lord Snapethicket's unrequited affection or great physical strength." It looks like something that Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu might have designed in one of his nightmares.

At 756,640 square feet, the HWLC seems to have earned its status as largest public library building in the world (Guinness World Records).

By the time I arrived at the HWLC, it was too dark to pay much attention to the architecture.

But it wasn't too dark to be overwhelmed by the size. While there are many doors, apparently only one set opens, and a commuter passing by saw my confusion and pointed me in its direction.

Finally, I was in.

And then I remembered what I hadn't liked about the inside those many years ago.

If I were to design a library, the visitor to my first floor would experience the pleasant hum of activity, with an information desk at the center of the approach from the main entrance, and circulation and reference desks nearby. This would be your arrival, departure, and destination point, the place where your library adventure begins and ends.

I didn't design the HWLC, so I found myself in a hallway that seemed to go nowhere. After wandering a bit, I found an escalator down and discovered myself outside the Cindy Pritzker auditorium. I turned around.

Back on the first floor, which houses the "popular library," I finally spotted the narrow escalator to the second floor (Thomas Hughes Children's Library). In the center of the floor I stumbled upon an information desk and interrupted a woman who was reading a compelling magazine article. She glanced at me briefly when I asked where I would go to get a library card. "Third floor," she answered, by the second syllable already immersed again in the magazine.

I took the discreetly placed escalator (not too visible to the public) past a tiled pool of water cluttered with coins as well as some juvenile (I hope) artwork to the third floor.

At last, in the institutional lighting that was starting to bother my eyes (something I remembered from my previous visits), I came upon the circulation desk, completed an application, handed over my state ID, and was soon equipped with a brand-new Chicago Public Library card, complete with bar code and access to "MY CPL" online. On the fourth floor, I found the book I was looking for, returned to 3, and checked out. Interestingly, although the HWLC has electronic anti-theft similar to those at Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago, they still engage security guards to peruse the contents of your bags.

I'm not a librarian, so I don't know if there is a Dewey Decimal System logic to the arrangement of the floors, which is:

4: Business, science, and technology
5: Government publications/talking book center (visually impaired)
6: Social science and history
7: Literature and language
8: Visual and performing arts
9: Special collection

The less practical and more esoteric subjects are the most distance away. Business is, of course, first. This is the United States of America, after all.

I haven't seen it yet, but I made a mental note to visit the tenth-floor winter garden some day. In keeping with Chicago tradition, this public space can be made a private one for a hefty fee affordable only to wealthy individuals and families and to corporate entities, so at least I know not to count on being able to see it on any given day.

Now I have a library card, three books checked out that I will not be able to finish even after renewing them, and a refreshed knowledge of the quirky layout of HWLC. With luck and concentration, I may be able to find the working main entrance next visit. We'll see.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The omnipresent evil hand performs a demonstration

Here, we demonstrate (we think) how to tell if there is urine in a cat's bladder. No harm came to the cat. Do not try this at home.

Review: A Year in Provence

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. New York: Vintage Books, 1991. 224 pages.

A Year in Provence begins with New Year's lunch and ends with Christmas lunch. Between the two meals is a memorable year full of characters (from eccentric neighbors and affable builders to aged chefs), forays into the countryside, unwelcome visitors, the Mistral, and, of course, gastronomic delights.

Without explanation, such as how they can afford it, Peter Mayle describes how he and his nameless wife buy an old farmhouse in the Lubéron, insulated from the greater world and from change by the public lands that surround them. With dry English detachment, Mayle settles into a life ruled not by the minutes of commerce ("time is money") but by the seasons and the opportunities each brings, whether it's goat races, boules, or fresh olive oil. Although puzzled at first by what the people do when the bitter winter Mistral blows, Mayle soon figures out that even this depressing and confining season has its products—babies.

To their credit, the Mayles seem willing to accept and adapt to the Provence pace of life rather than expecting to find the urban English experience to which they are accustomed. They accept that the builders will return tomorrow "normalement" and don't fuss when "tomorrow" is weeks later. Rather than becoming demanding and ugly, which would achieve nothing, they come up with a plan that motivates the builders to complete the house by Christmas. They choose to live in Provence on its terms, not theirs.

Mayle expertly portrays the foibles of each person he meets. As a farmer, his neighbor Faustin is ever the pessimist, seeing future clouds on sunny days. "As if his life were not already filled with grief, Nature had put a further difficulty in his way" (that is, the table and wine grapes have to be picked at separate times, giving both crops the opportunity to go bad).

Another neighbor, Massot, could be the stereotype of the American mountain man, mistrustful and fiercely independent. Of his fierce Alsatians he says, "They wouldn't be happy in a town. I'd have to shoot them." Mayle adds, "He turned off the path to go into the forest and terrorize some birds, a brutal, greedy, and mendacious old scoundrel. I was becoming quite fond of him." Mayle doesn't pass up an opportunity for irony. Massot says, "Every summer they [Germans] come here and put up tents and make merde all over the forest" as he tosses an empty cigarette packet into the bushes. Later Mayle talks about, "The Belgians . . . to blame for the majority of accidents . . . forcing the famously prudent French driver into ditches."

The author does not spare himself. Hearing shots and hoping that the local grocer had missed killing a sanglier, Mayle says of the French countryman, "Let him worship his stomach; I would maintain a civilized detachment from the blood lust that surrounded me . . . This noble smugness lasted until dinner [a wild rabbit] . . . The gravy, thickened with blood, was wonderful."

When Mayle isn't chatting with the neighbors, being advised by the local plumber-musician, despairing over how to move his heavy stone table, entertaining friends of friends and obnoxious advertising executives, or watching goat races, he is, of course, eating. He and his wife find culinary wonders in the "good, simple food" served inexpensively in the restaurants they visit. ". . . artichoke hearts, tiny sardines fried in batter, perfumed tabouleh, creamed salt cod, marinated mushrooms, baby calamari, tapenade, small onions in fresh tomato sauce, celery and chick peas, radishes and cherry tomatoes, cold mussels"—and those are just the hors d'oeuvres, served with "thick slices of pâté and gherkins, saucers of olives and cold peppers."

When it comes to food, Mayle's favorite adjective is "fresh," which captures difference between life as most of us know it and the charm of Mayle's life in the Lubéron. Pressed for the time by the pressures of suburban living, commuting, work in the city, and our consumerist culture, and detached from the land, we eat food that is packaged, preserved, and transported, and then sold to us at a time and distance from when and where it was produced. Most of us live and eat well, we believe, but at the price of stress and at the cost of the pure enjoyment Mayle finds every time he dines in Provence, where bread is launched "into a sea of fish soup" and "it was as if the sliced, wrapped, machine-made loaf had never been invented."

I began A Year in Provence out of curiosity about its popularity and soon found myself living vicariously through Mayle, savoring not only the food and the beauty and rhythms of the countryside that produces it, but the companionship and consideration of each person they meet. As Maurice, the chef who finds a way to provide the powerless, desperate, and grateful Mayles with their Christmas meal "at a tiny table between the kitchen door and the open fire, next to a large and festive family," says, "It's not the day to be without an oven." A Year in Provence shows how richly rewarding even a simple life can be when accepted on its own terms, without ego, assumptions, or demands.

Sunday, 23 March 2008.
© 2008 by Diane L. Schirf.

Dream: The spiral staircase

I was at an event or party and was trying to get to a particular part of it, but the only way down was by an impossibly narrow spiral staircase, not even wide enough for two feet at a time. The man stationed next to it told me, "You could do it, but it will be difficult and even dangerous."

I went home to find the mailbox knocked over, which shocked me, and papers scattered all over the grass. Some were mine, while some were related to my mother's health care. I returned to tell her what I had found and that I had collected everything and put it into its proper place.

When I came home again, I found my Bible opened, pages down, in the yard. This frightened me because it meant someone had been inside this time. It bothered me that they had singled out the Bible my mother had given me.

As I retrieved it, I looked around, expecting to see woods but then remembering (from a dream long ago) that everything had been replaced by houses. There were one or two large trees remaining, and I tried to recognize one of them as the one directly behind the yard, in the middle of a thicket that had always seemed mysterious to me. This tree, though, was too far over to have been the one.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The omnipresent hand of evil

Happy birthday

If wishes were horses, I'd be a cowboy, and my dad would be alive, in good health, and poking gentle fun at me. Today would have been his 95th birthday. I wrote about him here, still unfinished.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Dream: Undercurrents underground

This morning's dream goes into the private dream journal.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

18 March 2008: Miscellany

This morning I dreamed, but I don't remember the interesting bits. As usual, as it progressed I needed to find a bathroom, and the only ones available were dirty, wet, or door-less.

What was extraordinary is that I slept through the night for the first time in months, perhaps years, and the light flashing from my Moonbeam alarm clock didn't wake me. Five minutes later, the backup bell alarm did, but just enough for me to turn it off and make a quick bathroom trip (there's a reason this theme recurs in my morning dreams).

I fell asleep again until 7:00 a.m., when I was struck by two things: I felt well rested, and I felt good—I didn't feel any pain in my muscles, joints, or nerves. I have had a constant level of mild pain (with spikes of a more severe kind) for so long that I'd forgotten what it's like not to ache.

Of course, the pain came back, but for a while it was lovely to feel young again.

On the morning bus I saw a young man playing with a mobile phone or PDA. I couldn't help noticing how slack-jawed his face went while he was working with it; I wonder if he had any idea how silly he looked with his mouth set to catch enormous flies.

In the evening, there's a couple, perhaps in their late 50s, who catch the same bus I do when I'm not headed toward State Street for Argo Tea, Puppet Bike, or HWLC. If there are seats left, they are usually singles, so the couple rarely gets to sit together. The man reads The Wall Street Journal, while the woman, in a different part of the bus, looks straight ahead (which is not something I could do, day after day).

Today when I looked up from reading, I saw the man in the first row of forward-facing seats—next to an empty seat. His wife was sitting two rows behind him, next to a woman she apparently didn't know; they didn't speak, so it wasn't as though she had chosen to sit and chat with a friend.

When they got off the bus, another observer would have thought they were strangers for all the attention they gave one another. They didn't even walk together; he went ahead.

To me, as a single woman, their behavior seemed odd. I know being married doesn't mean being joined at the hip 24/7, but on a bus full of strangers why wouldn't you sit with the one person you know? I wondered if they had had an argument. If so, I would marvel that, at this stage of life, not speaking would be the behavior of choice. It seems juvenile to me, like something we did at 15, not 55.

I don't think this is how they act normally, because I have seen them talking at the bus stop.

Somewhere there's a story, although it may not be as interesting as I would like to believe.

As the song says, "People are strange." Someday that will finally sink in.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Overheard: Sexual fantasies

Two college boys on the bus discussing an instructor:

Boy 1: I heard that he was, like, dating an English Ph.D. for a long time.

Boy 2: A woman?

Boy 1: Yeah.

Boy 2: No! He's gotta be, like, bi.

Boy 1: Yeah. I'd do him.

Boy 2: Yeah. Really? But he's got a little bald spot . . .

Boy 1: Yeah. He's such a dork. It'd be so much fun.

Review: The Portable Dorothy Parker

The Portable Dorothy Parker with an introduction by Marion Meade. New York: The Penguin Group, 2006. 656 pages.

As I read The Portable Dorothy Parker, I thought of the short stories of John Cheever. Although many of their stories are set in about the same boozy time period, Cheever's focus is often the suburban family man who has everything the successful American male should—and who still finds that life is elusive, even wanting and empty. Parker's tales are primarily of the urban woman, some rich, some poor, rarely satisfied, never happy. In some ways, Cheever's man and Parker's woman live in the same void, although not at the same comfort level.

In Parker's world, as in Cheever's, the sexes seem to be at cross purposes, unable to communicate openly and hoping to hint their way to understanding. When the girl in "The Sexes" says, "There isn't a thing on earth the matter. I don't know what you mean," the young man, along with the reader, must be able to guess at the nature of the conversation that is about to follow and its inevitable outcome—including the final, "I was not sore! What on earth made you think I was?" Parker's keen ear and sense of timing make even the dated dialogue and references relevant today.

"Lady with a Lamp" requires only monologue to reveal the actions, sufferings, and feelings of the silent Mona, whose garrulous friend observes her every move and expression and yet is oblivious to the depth of Mona's pain.

In many stories, Parker relies on monologue and dialogue to reveal the truth underneath the words, which mean nothing. In "Arrangement in Black and White," the more the "woman with pink velvet poppies" asserts her colorblindness, the deeper her racism is revealed to be. She can say sincerely both, "You know, so many colored people, you give them an inch, and they walk all over you," followed by, "I haven't any feelings at all because he's a colored man" without seeing any hypocrisy.

For "Big Blonde," perhaps Parker's best-known story, she uses a narrative approach. Like Hazel Morse, the reader becomes lost in an ill-defined haze of men and alcohol. "She was always pleased to have him come and never sorry to see him go" sums up Hazel's meaningless relationships and life. Parker captures the American obsession with the show of happiness and the burying of genuine emotions in the constant exhortations to "slip us a little smile"—an effort that requires alcohol to sustain. Even the maid responds to Hazel's suicide attempt with, "You cheer up, now."

In some ways, the title character of "Mr. Durant" evokes Cheever. An insignificant and complaisant business- and family man leads a double life for which he pays no consequences. Women are to be used until they threaten the security and comfort of his position, yet his actions toward the stray dog his children find reveal that he sees himself as the victim. His "peace with the world" is more important than anything, including people.

Parker is a literal writer who seems to avoid the type of symbolism that makes Cheever's "The Swimmer" so powerful. This lack of literary and psychological stretching may have kept her from achieving her dream—writing a novel, which she believed was necessary for a writer to be taken seriously by both the literary establishment and the reading public. Her failure did not prevent her from being a harsh critic, and The Portable Dorothy Parker includes rather flippant dismissals of novels by Theodore Dreiser, Booth Tarkington, and others.

Parker despises whimsy and fantasy, including the works of J. M. ("Never-Grow-Up") Barrie and A. A. Milne ("And it is that word, 'hummy,' my darlings, that marks the first place in The House at Pooh Corner at which Tonstant Weader Fwowed up"). One wonders what she thought of the more adult efforts of her British contemporary, J. R. R. Tolkien.

If Parker cannot say anything positive about another writer's work, however, she sarcastically praises the book itself. ". . . it is brought out by the Grove Press in a most pleasing form—a small book with excellent print and paper, and hard covers, though not of cloth."

Parker's poetry reflects her no-nonsense, stark view of love and life (and death); there's little romanticism here. "Unfortunate Coincidence" ("Lady, make a note of this:/One of you is lying") is compact blend of eroticism and cynicism; "Faute de Mieux" reveals a rare wistfulness ("I never said they feed my heart"); and "Fighting Words" ("But say my verses do not scan,/And I get me another man!") shows what she believes her priorities to be, although Enough Rope's many suicidal and death-wish poems lead the reader to another conclusion. While Parker often stretches a rhyme, rhythm, or literary device to the breaking point, her verse is often painfully personal and evocative.

Already hefty, Dorothy Parker is made less portable by the addition of "A Dorothy Parker Sampler," random ephemera that includes letters. Most of these are not highlights of the Parker canon and could have been left out. The one exception is a long letter to Robert Benchley, written from Switzerland. Parker reveals heartfelt compassion for her friends and their sick children as well as her own anguish over a dead love affair ("I honestly don't know where John leaves off and I begin."). It's a rare glimpse into Parker's heart that isn't obscured by sarcasm and wit.

Parker's straightforward, surface style can detract from the darkness of her subject matter. As Marion Meade notes, Parker had a "capacity for listening and watching with amazing clarity." If only Parker had been willing to dig a little deeper, she might be remembered as a successful novelist rather than as a wit—a label she despised.

Sunday, 16 March 2008.
© 2008 by Diane L. Schirf.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Dream: The virgin spy

It's best not to go into details, but this morning's dream was about spies, mountain passes, and shape shifting. At one point, I was both a young virgin and the older man who was fighting his desire for her (me).

To save myself, I had to play the accordion, which I was sure was one of my talents. I could not make it work, perhaps because I was holding it with the keys top and bottom rather than side to side. I could not right it, either.

In the middle of all this, I had a moment that was both intensely sexual and intensely terrifying, and although I was panting and struggling to breathe I could not wake up.


Consciously and unconsciously, most of us are concerned with ethics every day. It could be a personal question ("What should I do with the $20 I found on the ground?") or it could be an opinion about current events ("Should assisted suicide be legal, and in what cases?") The more complicated the world, our technology, and our relationships, the more complicated ethics becomes.

I spoke briefly once with a man whose academic background is in ethics. If I remember correctly, we discussed a case of conjoined twins, one of whom would live if they were separated and both of whom would die if they were not. The issue, at least as presented by the media, was that the parents would not consent to the separation for reasons of religion.

Again, if I recall correctly, my acquaintance said ethics often boils down to what results in the least harm. In a complex world, every choice may lead to harm, which is why even the most ethical leader must make decisions that will cause harm to someone. In the case of the conjoined twins, my acquaintance seemed to think it was less harmful to save the one child's life than to respect the parents' beliefs and condemn both children. With all of our medical technology and knowledge, this seems to have become an increasing dilemma: the immediate issue of a human life versus the broader philosophical issue of individual rights and the potential implications of the decision made, were it to be taken further. "The least harm" is relative, subjective, and open to interpretation, that is, assuming I understood my acquaintance correctly. Persuasive arguments can be made for both sides.

Almost instinctively, we want to provide care, including surgery, because we can. We also do not want government to interfere with the raising of our children or our family decisions. In either case, something is important is lost. Ethics is, I think, in part determination of which compromise we as a heterogeneous society find most acceptable. The child's life is tangible; the parents' religious beliefs are not.

This case, and others like it, is more complicated of course; the surgery could be interpreted as the intentional killing of one child, while no attempt at a reasonable treatment could be considered intentional neglect resulting in two deaths.

Natural law, human law, religious beliefs, medical ethics, precedent, and other agencies are to be taken into account. In cases like this, the public does not know the complete story because the media distorts, misrepresents, or simplifies it. It's also easier for a reporter to pit rational science against irrational religion. According to the parents, they were not against medical intervention per se, but against the intentional killing of their child.

The parents also knew that making the other decision would condemn both children to death, which points out the problem that occurs when humans take on the responsibility of determining "God's will."

I have never faced such a large, personally difficult decision, but my conscience is always on the alert, consciously or not. I realized this one day last summer when I was outdoors at Bonjour Bakery Café and heard and saw fire trucks headed east on 55th Street. I thought without thinking, "I hope they're not going to The Flamingo," a worry I've had since the fire next door at Promontory Apartments, and continued to sip coffee comfortably.

At some point later, it occurred to me that when I hoped that it wasn't my building or apartment on fire, I was tacitly hoping that it was someone else's. I found this very disturbing. Months later, the thought still bothers me because I would not wish a fire or similar catastrophe on anyone—yet I am doing it every time that I hope the fire department isn't headed my way.

I know this isn't an ethics question because I am only hoping, not deciding. The emergency is where it is, and I have no influence over it. The question does hint at why ethics is especially difficult for me. While I am not convinced of the science behind Myers-Briggs, I do fit much of the INFP (healer-idealist) profile, even if I don't want to. My idealism makes it difficult and emotionally painful to make necessary choices that will result in harm. Even the abstract hope that the firefighters are going somewhere else upsets me because of what it implies.

Perhaps this makes me unfit for leadership, because I would have to fight my natural impulse to regret my choices given that many if not most would have a negative impact on someone. The idealist in me wants to find perhaps nonexistent solutions that allow both children to survive and that prevent any place from catching fire.

Leaders are necessary; someone must be pragmatic and choose between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Any of us can do it, if we must, but most prefer to leave decisions to their leaders. I would be overwhelmed by the conflicting complexities and guilt-ridden over any negative results. I would always believe that there must be a better solution, if only we had the wisdom to see or to invent it. I dislike that I don't have that wisdom, and I mistrust that our leaders see the need for it. Pragmatism should be guided by idealism; neither is good or effective without the other. The two should work together to find the least harm that is the most good for all.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dream: Headed nowhere, with threats and warnings

It seems that I had rented a car, and co-worker, someone I knew in the dream but not in life, got in and offered to drive. I had mixed feelings about this.

Another man appeared, although not literally. That is, I sensed his presence and could hear him but could not see him. He had figured out my secret and was teasing me, threatening to make it visible on the screen of a notebook computer. I could see the lid moving back incrementally the more he got into it. He was tormenting me, but he was intrigued as well. I was bemused, annoyed, and only mildly interested in him.

The driver turned a corner on what I thought was the University of Chicago campus, although nothing was familiar, and there was little to see. His turn was far too wide, and the car leaped half onto nowhere's sidewalk. This appeared to be a problem because we were approaching the end of the sidewalk and the beginning of a raised edge. A policeman gave the driver a ticket, I thought, but it proved to be only a warning. I wondered how a ticket would work since the rental car was in my name.

We turned down a country road with many strange obstacles. I worried about the driver, the warning, and the invisible man and his continued threat to expose me.

Never did I wonder where we were going or why.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Presidential candidates implicit association test

This presidential candidates version of the implicit association test is discussed at The Edge. I recall completing a similar test about racism (I came out pretty well, that is, I didn't associate race with the negative, if I correctly remember the way it worked).

This IAT is interesting because I made more "mistakes" this time. I am not negative toward Clinton as much as toward the idea of a person with a familiar name in the office of U.S. president; it smacks too much of exclusivity.

As for where McCain and Huckabee fall, I can't explain that.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Review: St. Mawr and The Man Who Died

St. Mawr and The Man Who Died. By D. H. Lawrence. New York: Random House/Vintage Books, 1959. 212 pages.

Not truly novels, St. Mawr and The Man Who Died seem to be experimental works in which D. H. Lawrence continues to explore the themes found throughout his longer fiction—the emasculation and dehumanization of men, the power and inscrutability of nature, the cynicism of post-war England, the difficulties in relationships and sex, and the potential of reinvention and resurrection.

Young Lou Witt, married, dispirited, weary, and bored, finds in the stallion St. Mawr the vitality the men around her lack. Although "some inscrutable bond held them together . . . a strange vibration of the nerves rather than of the blood," Lou's marriage to Rico enervates her. The relationship soon becomes Platonic, "a marriage, but without sex." The vital animal element of marriage "was shattering and exhausting, they shrank from it."

When Lou touches St. Mawr, she finds him "[s]o slippery with vivid, hot life!" His "alive, alert intensity" fires her emotions, which she realizes had died in the post-war era of facile friendships and fun. St. Mawr "seemed to look at her out of another world."

With her purchase of the stallion, Lou's perspective alters; "she could not believe the world she lived in." Although unreachable and unknowable, St. Mawr is more real to her than her husband, his friends, and even his apparent new love interest. For Lou, "all the people she knew, seemed so entirely contained within their cardboard, let's-be-happy world." Rico becomes almost a caricature of a man, imitating his father's officiousness and righteous indignation without feeling them. Lawrence describes Rico's meticulous attention to his appearance in detail: ". . . he dressed himself most carefully in white riding-breeches and a shirt of purple silk crepe, with a flowing black tie spotted red like a ladybird, and black riding-boots." While Rico is decorative and transparent, St. Mawr is vital and mysterious.

Lawrence uses long swathes of St. Mawr to philosophize, often directly or through the Welsh groom, Lewis, who says, "But a man's mind is always full of things." St. Mawr has no plot, and the stallion himself disappears from the narrative before Lou decides to "escape achievement" in the desert of New Mexico.

In New Mexico, Lawrence finds the "wild tussle" of life, which is missing from the long-civilized England, where everything is fenced in and where "the labourers could no longer afford even a glass of beer in the evenings, since the Glorious War." The displaced New England housewife who precedes Lou, seeing beauty in the desert first, then struggle, may represent Lawrence's own perspective and evolution during his stay there.

The Man Who Died begins with a peasant's acquisition of a cock—perhaps the one that crows three times before Peter realizes his three denials of Christ. Like the cock, the man who died (or, more accurately, didn't die and therefore didn't rise again) is tied "body, soul, and spirit" by "that string," his commitment to mankind to die and to be resurrected. "The doom of death was a shadow compared to the raging destiny of life, the determined surge of life."

Having survived his promised destiny, the man who died again renounces his godhood to become a man, this time permanently and with no agenda. His near death drives him to seek life, but not the "greed of giving" or the "little, greedy life of the body . . . he knew that virginity is a form of greed . . . he had risen for the woman, or women, who knew the greater life of the body, not greedy to give, not greedy to take . . ."

In his new situation, "the presence of people made him lonely." He believes he has fulfilled his mission and is beyond it: "My way is my own alone . . . I am alone within my own skin, which is the walls of all my domain."

Also alone is the virgin priestess of the temple of Isis, patiently awaiting the return of Osiris. Like Lou and many other female characters in Lawrence, she senses the superficial sexual appeal of men, but even to the great Anthony, "the very flower of her womb was cool, was almost cold, like a bud in the shadow of frost, for all the flooding of his sunshine." An old philosopher tells her, "Rare women wait for the re-born man" and that the lotus responds to "one of these rare, invisible suns that have been killed and shine no more," dismissing Anthony as one of the "golden brief day-suns of show."

The consummation of the relationship between the virgin god and the virgin priestess, in a temple surrounded outside by suspicious, vindictive slaves, is beautiful and moving. "It was the deep, interfolded warmth, warmth living and penetrable, the woman, the heart of the rose!" Instead of being a mere part of the "little life of the body," sex (and procreation) becomes a deeply spiritual experience, "the marvellous piercing transcendence of desire."

In both St. Mawr and The Man Who Died, Lawrence is rarely subtle or restrained, covering pages with repetitious expositions of his favorite themes, sometimes reveling too much in the variety of expression. In spite of their flaws, both works are inventive, imaginative, and stirring. For anyone who is familiar with Lawrence primarily though his more well-known novels and stories, these two works are worth a read.

Sunday, 9 March 2008.
© 2008 by Diane L. Schirf.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A week to forget

After the near car accident Thursday evening, I've been forced to conclude that, in its way, this really has been a bad week. And all too well do I know that the worst may be yet to come.

First, my PMS symptoms seem to be worsening again. For the past 10 days:

* My muscles have ached constantly, more than usual.

* I have been so exhausted that I've fallen asleep over lunch, missed my bus stop on the way home, and fallen asleep at 8:00 with the light on.

* I've woken up as early as 4:00 a.m.

* My nether regions feel bloated and weighted down by a cannonball. Walking is difficult.

* My lower back feels like it might have starred as a punching bag in Rocky.

* I've been hungry. which makes me eat too much.

* I've been depressed enough to cry not only before and after sleep, but even while asleep.

The bright spot? The symptoms are receding, giving way to pain that is at least predictable.

On Sunday, there was a brief power outage. Normally, power is restored, and everything returns to normal. This time, however, I lost my DSL connection, and, after several days, chats, and phone calls, I am doubtful that it can be fixed (optimism is not one of my strengths). I'm back to dial-up for now. As a friend says, with his dry English wit, "You want to get cable or DSL or something. It's faster.:)"

That cheered me up a bit. It really did. I insist.

Unfortunately, the headache, sneezing, coughing, and other precursors to a cold that began in earnest on Tuesday did not. With the cold and the approaching onset of my cycle, I can be miserable from top to bottom—and am.

Monday I came home to a new mini-blind—an elegant cream, unlike the rest, which are cold white.

I can live with it. Just don't look too closely should you visit.

On Wednesday, I found myself reading something I shouldn't have been, not at a time when even the slightest thing will set me off, and echoed Deanna Troi's alien son, Ian: "My face is wet." Sometimes it happens. Suddenly.

Thursday began harmlessly enough. J. who had driven to work, called to ask if I wanted him to take me grocery shopping. I rarely turn down an opportunity to pick up heirloom tomatoes (hit and miss at Whole Foods), so I said, "Sure," little knowing . . .

At about 6:40 p.m. we were traveling southbound in the middle lane on Clinton or Canal or one of those streets on the west side of the river when a van in the right-hand lane made an abrupt turn left in front of us. Right in front. At speed. J. reacted amazingly quickly, slamming on the brakes, while the image of the broad side of the van, no more than an inch or two from J.'s front bumper—with the point of potential impact on my side—seared itself into my brain. There wasn't even time to use the horn in warning. How could anyone drive so recklessly?

The driver of the van, oblivious to the close call, continued eastbound on his merry way while J. pulled over, ostensibly to see if there had been any impact or damage. I suspect he needed a few minutes to calm down. A pair of pedestrians hurried over to make sure he was okay; they couldn't believe what they'd seen. They hadn't been able to get the license number, they said indignantly.

Strangely, I didn't feel anything. I didn't feel a surge of adrenaline when I saw the van turn so abruptly or when I felt the car stop suddenly. I wasn't panting like I sometimes do when I'm startled or have had a fright. Although it had been a very close call and I saw it coming, I felt nothing. I've had moments of calm like that even in tough situations, but it seemed abnormal even to me.

Shaken, but recovered, J. drove off—only to have a UPS truck barrel up behind him fast enough to make him cry out and switch lanes for fear of being run down.

By the time we got to Whole Foods (after missing the turn), we ready to take an hour off from the road.

Later, on I-94, a vintage roadster roared up behind us, too close for comfort. J. said he was reminded of an airplane pilot suddenly spotting a missile bearing down on his craft from behind.

On Friday, he missed the 8:05 train again but decided to wait for the next one rather than to drive.

Given my fortunes, and his, it was a wise move.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Dream: The asylum

I was a young inmate in an asylum, trying to get out. My escape depended on two creatures: a felt-covered bird and a felt-covered frog of the type that was sold as decorations or ornaments in the 1960s. I did not know how to use them, and when I found the frog on a desk I let it kiss the bird, which it devoured.

Somehow I was given another chance, this time with a frog, bird, and insect. My gut feeling was that the three animals were parts of a key, but my experience had shown that when they kissed (which I thought necessary), one would eat the other. I figured out that the frog would eat either the bird or the insect, the bird would eat the insect, the insect would eat neither, and in the back of my mind I wondered why the bird couldn't eat the frog.

In the dream, the object seemed to be to keep all the animals "alive" or whole while getting them to interact, but when I woke up I realized that perhaps the devouring was part of the plan.

Before I awoke, the dream changed perspective. There was no longer a "me," but there were three girls: one older, one younger, and one perhaps in between in age who had just arrived at the asylum.

Despite the massive size of the building, the individual cells were tiny for no clear reason. The young girl was lying in bed reading, the oldest one may have been standing and eating, and the new arrival was speaking of her disdain for their comforts, books, food, and chocolate. The two girls hastened to assure her that these things, small comforts for people under normal circumstances, would assume new importance to her in her new life after she had settled in. She was adamant that they would not.

The young girl, who was looking at a magazine, suddenly felt a doubt about her position. She could not remember what she had just read; when she re-read it, she realized that it was not worth remembering. The older girl seemed to experience a similar doubt about her own stand. Perhaps they were wrong after all.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Rebel without a cause

Hodge's urinary tract health didn't last long, little more than a week. By Wednesday or Thursday—the days are blurring—he was alternating his time among visiting the litter box, squatting on the carpet, and yowling aimlessly. Even L.'s story of another cat's threatened penis amputation failed to impress him.

Back to the clinic we went, where he was greeted by two veterinarians—one to hold, one to palpate. Palpate they did, taking turns, but he wasn't going to give up a drop of urine if he could help it.

"Come on, Hodge, it would help if you'd get excited and pee all over the table," one of the veterinarians said, aiming his urination tool in my direction. Wisely, he stayed too tense to piddle.

Of course, he didn't take this treatment lying down or quietly. He flailed strategically with his formidable back claws, and both women danced around them while struggling to retain their grips. From the back of his throat a deep growl emanated that needed only more volume to impress. One veterinarian chided him brusquely. "You have no cause to take that attitude and to talk like that," she admonished. I thought, "You're not the one whose tender bladder is being squeezed mercilessly."

They mentioned the possibility of an x-ray for bladder stones if the crystal test proved negative. He gets better medical care than I do.

When I called on Saturday and mentioned my name, the girl at the front desk blurted, "Hodge is ready to be picked up!" which of course means, "I'm ready for that Hodge to go home!" She talked to one of the veterinarians, and we agreed he could have an extended stay until Monday night. During his stay he had presented them with no symptoms—not one. It is for me only that he leaves countless mini-puddles everywhere.

Despite temptation, Monday night I picked Hodge up. Dr. W. advised me to feed him canned food only and suggested that his urinary woes might be due to the frequent dramatic shifts in barometric pressure; apparently veterinarians see clusters of this type of case during iffy weather. It's just another way in which this winter has been unkind to me. Dr. W. said something about the "life of an indoor cat," and I replied Hodge may someday be an outdoor cat.

It looks like there is not much I can do except invest in paper towels, Cat Odor-Off, and some other kind of canned food.

Dr. W. related that Hodge was stowed near a kitten in for neutering. When the doctor went back to check on the kitten, Hodge snarled at him. The kitten, obviously a weak-minded, easily influenced type, also began to snarl at the doctor. I'm told it is probably now conditioned to snarl at the sight of Dr. W. for the rest of its life.

That's my cat—leading the next generation of juvenile delinquents.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Party with the puppets

It's been more than a week since J. and I attended the first of three dates with Puppet Bike. It's been a busy week, with health problems (Hodge's), angst (mine), and exhaustion (mine). But I need to give the puppets their due—after all, it is the five-year anniversary of Puppet Bike, a Chicago phenomenon that I've only recently discovered.

First, I should mention that, in adulthood, especially middle adulthood, I've become reclusive. It's not something I strive for, and my best guess is that it's an attempt to avoid the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. You can't be wounded if no one knows where you are—or that you exist.

The puppets make me smile, so I agreed to go to the Friday night party.

This is stranger than it sounds. While J. has met a couple of the puppeteers, and I've met one—the one who told us about the party—we would be going to a celebration where we would not really know anyone and where most of the attendees would be their friends. And I suspected many would be significantly younger. For an introvert like me, who felt lost at volunteer picnics where she knew most of the guests, this would seem to be at the least an exhausting thought.

I managed.

J. and I caught a 6:35 p.m. Metra train to the Ravenswood stop, then walked about a mile south. On the way, we passed a Napoli-style pizza restaurant. He said, "I wonder if the pizza there is any good?" and a voice responded, "It's awesome!" A young woman smiled back at us as she passed.

Just when I wondered if J. could lug his heavy bag another step over the icy sidewalks, we found the Peter Jones Gallery. A young man on crutches and sporting a Morrissey T-shirt came over to greet us, calling us "super fans." He is Brian Jones, the puppeteer we had tipped the week before. He had been able to see us, but we couldn't see him. He said he'd broken some bones in his foot when he fell on ice. (And I've survived my numerous slips and falls—so far—intact.)

Later in the evening he showed us his portraits on the gallery walls and his portfolio of original comics characters. I found that refreshing because so many people draw the popular characters from the Marvel and DC universes and don't try to come up with their own.

Of course, with so many puppeteers on hand, the puppets gave several performances (and took on many personalities). A few guests even tried their hand; some were actually very good. Not all!

With the theatrical (Black Forest Theater), musical, and karaoke entertainment, plus all the gallery artwork for perusal, we had a lot to do, and J. wanted to extend our stay until the last possible moment for him to catch his last train at 12:30 a.m. We dragged ourselves away at 11:20 or so. Reluctantly. I fell asleep on the el. J. tried to keep me awake.

Despite the lack of sleep, we drove back for the Saturday night party.

Upon arrival, I lost J. for a very long time. He was in the theater with his digital camera, enthralled by Environmental Encroachment. I had some beer, which I had not indulged in the night before, four altogether. I learned that three to four are enough to make me pleasantly tipsy.

But not tipsy enough to try karaoke. Despite the technician's assertion that I should and that enough beer would put me in the mood ("It always does"), sober or drunk I know enough about my singing not to inflict it upon anyone. (Just in case, however, I had my song selected—"Riders on the Storm.")

Although I watched many of the karaoke performances, including a particularly spirited rendition of the Steve Miller Band's "Space Cowboy," I escaped with my non-reputation intact—that is, safe in the knowledge that no one woke up the next morning wondering if they had been so drunk as to have imagined an off-key, hauntingly awful version of "Riders on the Storm" that would have killed Jim Morrison had he not already taken care of it.

In our wanderings, we learned that the bartender, an Eastern European whose name I've forgotten, alas, was the artist behind several of the brightly clad nudes in the front gallery. I liked them, and the plaid Packard-type car, and hope that she is able to sell them.

We were even more reluctant to leave than we were the night before; by Fridays, I am drained, physically and emotionally, but both of us felt much better after the day away from work.

On Sunday, conceptual sculptor Alan Emerson Hicks gave us a tour of his studio, explained his time machine in the front gallery, and told us more about Puppet Bike.

We left around 6:00 p.m. and decided to try the "awesome" pizza at Spacca Napoli. The wait was predicted to be 30 minutes or more, but we were greeted at the door with a sample slice each of pizza, which made it bearable. We ordered two different pizzas, one for dinner and one for later (in my case, lunch the next day). Both were good.

As we were in the general area, we couldn't resist a stop at Julius Meinl, where we ordered coffee and crepes, Nutella for J. and strawberry jam for me. If Julius Meinl were in Hyde Park, I would live there. It was a satisfying end to a one-of-a-kind weekend.

But, as the last episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, reminds us: "All Good Things" (must come to an end). And so today Jason Trusty announced the end of Puppet Bike. I am saddened. In the broadest sense, it is a wonderful thing for Chicago, a city that needs more truly wonderful things. Closer to home, the puppets have helped me to stay sane during a very difficult time personally and professionally.

I will miss Puppet Bike, too.

See some photos.

Edit: J. T. relented. For now. Support your local PuppetBike!