Friday, September 30, 2005

Last Respects ...

I went to Marshall Field's on State Street yesterday, my first visit since Macy's announced it will be changing the name of the great store.

Of course, the names of all the Marshall Field's are changing, but somehow the others don't matter. Macy's can stick its ugly, modern signage on all of them. I don't care.

But Marshall Field's on State Street is living history. Despite the existence of J.Lo merchandise inside its hallowed halls, it is still the same Marshall Field's generations remember, restored in recent years to its former glory and polished anew for the millennium. It has existed through three centuries, not that it's 300 years old. But it was built in 1881.

Yesterday, I walked in an entrance near Wabash on Randolph. The Christmas displays are up. In September. At least that hasn't changed.

But as I made my way to the central escalators, I wondered if I would still be able to shop there once Macy's digs in its claws. L.A. Dave predicts that the name will change on all the Marshall Field's properties except the State Street store. He – and I – would like to believe that no executive is really stupid enough to tamper with history in such a radical way. Terry Lundgren, the chairman, president, and CEO of Federated Department Stores says he might leave the famous brass nameplates on the building. What a guy!

I'd already decided that my Marshall Field's card will be cut up into small pieces and mailed to Mr. Lundgren's office pending his final decision. But as I wandered through the men's department yesterday, I paid attention to the attentiveness of the staff. No one asked if they could help me. No one even said hello. And I wasn't staring at T-shirts. I was browsing in Kenneth Cole, Perry Ellis, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren. You'd think someone would have wanted to help me, in case I was about to spend several hundred dollars on something that probably cost $3 to make.

After 20 minutes, I went downstairs to jewelry. I lost my favorite everyday earrings on the walk, so I thought I'd look for a new pair. I actually stood at a counter, directly across from two saleswomen, one of whom looked right at me and said nothing.

I left. I think my Marshall Field's days are over, no matter what happens to the name.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Gullible much? ...

I shudder to think of the IQs of the women who will reply to this post on Craigslist (note the apostrophe deficiency):

hi..

im writing a book about men...and I need to talk to women for research.. this is not a lie.its real..its platonic.. whatever. I will not be interested at making a pass at you because im dating a woman..and she is fine.. we've been dating for like 2 months..

I have an advance on this book..so I have spent the last 2 months talking to a ton of women on the east and west coast. I need to interview women in chicago..im from chicago..

here is the criteria..

you must be beautiful....please dont email me saying i dont know if youre beautiful..i just need the truth..please..inner beauty..this book is not about

must be intelligent..

must be educated..college preferred.

must be mentally sound..

must be able to talk for an hour...

I will provide coffee or lunch..or whatever..

i spent the last 3 months looking at fake boobs in LA..so please dont reply if you have fake boobs.

thanks


As the friend who sent me the link said, "If this guy's a writer, I'm Matt Damon."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Comfort ...

Brian is brilliant, one of the smartest people I know.

We met in college. He lived in a room down the hall. Adam's roommate, as a matter of fact. Adam and Brian and John shared the biggest room in the dorms.

Brian majored in architecture and philosophy. Like I said, he's brilliant.

He recently quit his well-paying corporate gig, relying on his real-estate investments to fund the next phase of his life.

Thing is, he's not sure what that phase will be.

He's been reading "What Should I Do With My Life?" by Po Bronson. (Yes, Po.)

The other day, I queried my library online, thinking, "They won't have it. They never have what I want."

But there it was.

So I slipped my library card into my back pocket, grabbed the key to the house and my phone, and walked to the library to check it out.

I've been reading it, the past few days. It's good. Po, a writer before this book, has interviewed people from all walks of life, all of whom have answered or are answering the title question.

I wrote to Brian, to let him know that I'd started reading the book. We can have a bookclub of two and discuss it. He e-mailed back to let me know he had it with him in Europe. He's in Venice right now, the midway point of a many-city tour with his partner, Steven.

I've never been to Venice, always wanted to go. Someday I will. It seems like a fine place to reflect on your life, all that water, all that architecture and time gone by, all those lives lived.

Some might say, "But Beth, you're a writer. You know that. We all know that. What's to figure out?" I'm a writer, true. But that's not all I am. And even if it were all I am, what to write about? I'm not yet one of those bloggers to land a book deal from her daily musings. And the screenplay? Well, it might be done someday.

In the meantime, I'm reading.

It's comforting to read the stories of people who would understand me if they were here. As Anthony Hopkins as C.S. Lewis says in "Shadowlands," "We read to know we are not alone."

Hail! ...

Comcast really wants me to be a customer.

In its latest mailing, it invites us to "Conquer Your Home Entertainment."

Yeah, whatever. Into the garbage it's about to go, this glossy ad, until I turn it over and see my friend Ciaran staring back at me in a still from "Rome" on HBO.

He's Caesar on the show.

So this particular piece will be spared (how Caesaresque of me). I'll send it to him instead. I predict he'll declare it absurd.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Blog Thoughts ...

I've been at this blogging thing for about six months now.

I like it. It makes me write. I have friends who check in every day and I don't want to disappoint them; there should be something new for them to read.

But being a citizen of the blog universe has made me aware of a whole new set of pet peeves, blogging pet peeves.

1. A lack of updates
If you decide to create a blog, update it. If you've decided that blogs are a) stupid or b) boring or c) not the creative outlet you were looking for, delete your blog. Don't make me waste my time checking to see if you've bothered to step up and post something.

2. A refusal to spell
I'm not talking about bad spellers. I'm talking about people who won't type entire words, and instead use cutesy shorthand. Blogs aren't instant messages or text messages. Brevity is not the point. For the love of God, is it so much harder to type "and" instead of "n"?

3. Cats
From time to time, I click the "Next Blog" button to see what I can find, and I can't tell you how many sites are devoted to pictures of cats. What the hell is up with that? Are the lives of these people so utterly devoid of any other meaning that all they can post about are their cats? If your cat could speak, you know what it would say about your cat blog? "Jesus, I sleep most of the day and crap in a dishpan and my life is more interesting than what passes for a blog in your world." You know who cares about your cat? You. Spare the rest of us. If we cared about cats, we'd own one and create our own cat blog, and servers everywhere would be overrun with images of cats and there would be no bandwidth left for anything important, like all that fake Rolex watch spam I get every day.

I'm sure there are more. They'll come to me.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Monogamy? Monotony? ...

In a terribly interesting and frank discussion with a boy today, he suggested that the problem of infidelity lies (no pun intended) with men much more so than with women, that men are more conquest-minded and when their married lives get boring, they search for the spark elsewhere.

I was stunned by his honesty and culpability on behalf of his sex. Aren't men supposed to be shirkers?

But in fairness, I said that infidelity certainly isn't solely the province of men. I know married women who have had affairs.

Still, I wondered, to him and here, if women are more monogamous by nature, if a decent man is so hard-won that we're less inclined to look elsewhere.

Of course, I'm single. I have no idea which -- if any -- of these theories hold any water.

Weigh in, my readers. Elucidate me. Is infidelity as widespread as it seems? Why? Divorce is always an option, no? Or is it too much work? Too financially draining?

I'm all ears.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

People Are Stupid Update ...

The winning bidder for Britney's half-drunk bottle of water is ... The Golden Palace Casino with a top bid of $495.

So I guess the truly stupid people are the ones the Golden Palace thinks will come to its casino to see the half-drunk bottle of water.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

People Are Stupid ...

It's a long story, how I came to know about this, but here's the take-home part:

Someone on eBay is selling a half-drunk bottle of water. The missing half of the water was allegedly consumed by Britney Spears while she was in this hospital, about to have lil' Preston yanked out of her womb.

The eBay headline is thus: "BRITNEY SPEARS. IT'S A BOY! "A must see auction" Own Britney's disgarded water bottle. 50% to RED CROSS."

Yes, Britney's "disgarded" water bottle can by yours, if you hurry.

The auction has 1 day and 3 hours left.

The bidding began at $1.00. It is up to $455.

FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY-FIVE DOLLARS.

WHAT?!

Hey, I love Bruce Springsteen, but I wouldn't buy the Snack Pack Pudding lid he licked (I have no way of knowing if Bruce ever eats pre-fab pudding; I'm guessing not. He seems pretty healthy, but I like the image.). I love Sting, but I wouldn't buy his half-munched carrot.

Gullible much, people? Hey, I just discovered a bottle of mustard in my fridge that was once used by Marilyn Monroe. I wonder how much someone would pay for THAT?!

Friday, September 23, 2005

U2 ...

Wow, the show.

Bono. The Edge. Adam. Larry. Amazing.

The most amazing seats. Though once the show started, we didn't sit.

The guy who sat down in front of me looked really familiar. I mustered up the courage to put my hand on his back so he'd turn toward me so I could ask, "Are you Richard Marx?" He nodded. "I'm a big fan," I said (and I am -- I think he's a really good songwriter). He extended his hand. "Thanks," he said. Nice guy. Very well-behaved kids with him.

Cell phones have replaced lighters at concerts. At one point during the show, Bono asked us to get them out and the United Center looked like a dark sky full of cell-phone stars.

I was struck by the number of them, and by extension, how much we all have. I had paid $165 for the seat I was standing in front of inside a building that cost I don't know how many millions to construct, listening to a man who is paid millions of dollars every year to do what he loves, but who, thankfully, understands that with his fame comes responsibility, and uses his notoriety to help the billions of people in the world who are so much less fortunate than the 20,000 who were there that night.

Yesterday, Doreen asked me how the show compared to Bruce, and I started to say, really, it was better. She put up her hand to stop me. "Okay," I said, "then equal, but different." I love Bruce to pieces, and I admire his social conscience, too, but maybe U2, being Irish, understand strife differently. There's something anguished about Bono during certain songs. And when he sings, about his dad, "You're the reason why the opera's in me," I almost cry.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Sowing The Seeds ...

From the Associated Press:

U.S. Presses Case for Action Against Iran

By ANDREA DUDIKOVA, Associated Press Writer

VIENNA, Austria - The United States on Wednesday pressed its case to have Iran hauled before the U.N. Security Council for its nuclear activities, urging fellow members of the International Atomic Energy Agency board to vote for such action in the next few days.


Hmm. I wonder: Does the Bush administration have an agenda here? Laying the groundwork to justify an invasion of Iran next?

As I Was Saying ...

This is taken from this morning's Washington Post:

The FBI is joining the Bush administration's War on Porn. And it's looking for a few good agents.

Early last month, the bureau's Washington Field Office began recruiting for a new anti-obscenity squad. Attached to the job posting was a July 29 Electronic Communication from FBI headquarters to all 56 field offices, describing the initiative as "one of the top priorities" of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and, by extension, of "the Director." That would be FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III.

Mischievous commentary began propagating around the water coolers at 601 Fourth St. NW and its satellites, where the FBI's second-largest field office concentrates on national security, high-technology crimes and public corruption.

The new squad will divert eight agents, a supervisor and assorted support staff to gather evidence against "manufacturers and purveyors" of pornography -- not the kind exploiting children, but the kind that depicts, and is marketed to, consenting adults.

"I guess this means we've won the war on terror," said one exasperated FBI agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity because poking fun at headquarters is not regarded as career-enhancing. "We must not need any more resources for espionage."


You may not like porn. You may not watch porn. But aren't you a bit concerned that your government is trying to eradicate it? First Amendment rights, they're slowly slipping away ...

What are we going to do about it?

Keep On Rockin' In The Free World ...

One never knows, in this country these days, just when a bunch of religious kooks in Washington might decide, a la "Footloose," that music and dancing are bad, so I'm gonna get while the gettin's good.

On a whim yesterday, I searched for some U2 tickets. They're back in Chicago for two nights. The main Ticketmaster page said the show I wanted was sold out. I searched anyway.

I found a single ticket at the back of the floor, in the first tier of seats. Cool. But I wanted a pair.

So I searched. For about an hour, searching and releasing and searching again. Most seats were behind the stage. Why would anyone go to a show and sit behind the stage? Some seats were *way* far away, in the third tier corner.

My general take on concerts is that it doesn't matter where you sit; you're in the same room with the people on the stage.

But I didn't buy the crummy seats.

Last night, after seeing a segment on the news with incredibly bad audio, I came back to my computer to search, on a lark.

Whatever, right?

And then I screamed.

Section 112, Row 8. I pulled up the seating chart. Based on what Dave told me about the show he went to, and the configuration of the stage, these might be some of the most amazing seats in the house.

Bought the pair, didn't care that they cost too much money. I've never seen U2. I'll probably never see them again.

And when mom finds out she's going to see Bono tonight, she's gonna plotz.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Chicago 2005 3-Day ...

Those who donated to the walk will be receiving this in the mail in the next few days.

If you'd like to read it now, get a beverage and settle in. We'll be here a while.

And for the rest of my blog visitors, if what you read moves you and you'd like to help, you can contribute to the cause by clicking the link for my 3-Day page, to the right under "Links."


Family and friends:

The walk, it was amazing.

Doreen, the dear, provided accommodations Thursday night and, in a demonstration of true friendship, set her alarm for 3:30 Friday morning to make sure I didn’t oversleep.

I didn’t. I never sleep well when I know I have to be up early the next morning. My brain can’t stop thinking that I’ll oversleep and throw off all the events of the day, so I wake up every hour to check the clock. At 3 a.m. Friday, I threw in the towel and got ready.

Doreen emerged from her room at 3:30 a.m., squinting in the light of the bathroom. Hugged me, told me she loved me, went back to bed.

I arrived at Union Station about 4:20 a.m. to catch the shuttle to St. Charles. While it is hard to get a cab at that hour in Chicago, once in one, it is very easy to quickly get where you’re going.

The chitchat with my shuttle seatmate quickly dwindled as we made our way out to the Kane County fairgrounds. I was tired, but also focused on the next three days and what I hoped to accomplish.

We arrived in darkness and rain. I schlepped my gear to the gear truck and donned a disposable rain poncho as I made my way to the stage area for opening ceremonies. A crew member squeegeed water off the stage. The sky was solid grey. Somewhere beyond the clouds, dawn had arrived. It was lighter, but the sun was nowhere to be seen.

Nancy, the woman who gave the main opening address, informed us that Chicago’s 2,410 walkers had raised, to date, $6.5 million. We’re able to continue fundraising for four more weeks, so hopefully, that total will substantially climb.

We took our first steps.

Day 1: 22 miles, St. Charles to Glen Ellyn

Before I’d even left the fairgrounds, I was walking and talking with Linda. She was doing the event by herself, too, her second walk of the year. She does both the Avon event and this one, bless her heart.

We walked and chatted and she started to slow. I asked if she was OK. Her arthritis was starting to flare up. She had been hoping it wouldn’t notice that she was walking, but it had gotten wise.

At a pit stop, in line waiting to use a “restroom,” I found myself standing in front of Uma, the wife of a coworker I’d met at Doreen’s parties several times. I knew she was doing the walk but we never hooked up beforehand. I thought I’d never find her in a sea of nearly 2,500 people. But there she was. I don’t believe in coincidence. I took our meeting as a good sign.

Linda and I walked on. By the time we made it to the second pit stop, she knew she had to sweep. Sweep vans circle the route, looking for walkers who need a ride to lunch or camp. Linda was upset – disappointed – that she needed to sweep so early on Day 1, but did the smart thing and headed to a van. She hadn’t fully checked in yet, so she didn’t have a tent assignment. I hoped I’d find her again.

Uma and her friend and I made our way along the route, but as we neared the third pit stop, they opted to keep walking while I decided to stop. A few minutes later, I rejoined the stream of walkers along a wooded path. As walkers pass each other, most turn to whomever they’re passing and greet them, usually with some variation on “How you doing?” I walked up alongside a woman and made the usual small talk, but we kept chatting. Her name was Catherine. She was from Dallas, walking in Chicago to see someplace new. We walked together for the rest of the weekend.

All along the route, people cheer. Some hand out candy or water or pink ribbons. As Catherine and I made our way later in the afternoon, a group of small children greeted us on the path, offering Dixie cups of something blue. Some held the cups far out from themselves, as if we were runners who needed to grab them and go. I stopped in front of a little boy.

“Is it Kool-Aid?” I asked.

“It’s Gatorade!” he said, beaming as if he was offering me a cup full of magic.

“Blue Gatorade is my favorite!” I said. “Thank you so much!”

Blue Gatorade is hardly my favorite, but it tasted great compared to the sports drink at the pit stops. I understand the need for it, but it was yucky. Slightly salty weak lemonade. Ick.

Catherine and I made it to camp about 3:30 p.m. A good day. We met for dinner and spent a couple hours chatting with two women who came in from Michigan to do the event. It’s amazing how quickly everyone feels like your best friend on a 3-Day.

Nancy, the woman who gave the rousing opening speech that morning, took the stage with updates about the day, media coverage, recognition for donors who had raised extraordinary sums. She also introduced three walkers who told their stories. One woman told her tale and announced that after years of surgery and treatment, she was one year cancer-free. The entire tent – and it was a big tent – stood to applaud her. Another walker is a father who lost his wife last year. He spoke of his son, and his hope that someday, no son will need to stand at his mother’s bedside with his hand on her shoulder and say, “It’s OK, mom. You can go.” He walked to honor her, wearing her survivor hat from the event the year before.

We stood to applaud him. Long, heartfelt applause. Tears were streaming down my face.

As if that weren’t enough emotion for one night, the announcer, the guy who was running the lights and sound for the event in addition to his other crew duties, interrupted Nancy at one point to say he had a phone call we needed to take.

A team of walkers had been unable to make it to Chicago for the event. They live in Baton Rouge. I’ve said in the past that nothing stops the spirit of a 3-Day. Apparently, not even a hurricane. These women plotted their own 60-mile course in Louisiana and walked with us. They were calling to report on their day’s progress. The sound guy put his cell phone on speaker, and held it to the microphone. Each woman spoke, everyone with something funny to say. But we were all too aware that what they were doing was truly monumental, most of all when they told us that at the end of their walk, they would be collecting shoes to donate to the victims of Katrina.

The sheer goodness of people is overwhelming in the 3-Day universe.

Spent, I returned to my tent to meet my tentmate, only to find no one there, not even gear. I had a tent to myself. It felt luxurious.

Lights out was at 9 p.m., but I couldn’t sleep. The ground was hard. I was cold. No, I was freezing. I set my alarm for 5 a.m., but I hardly needed it. I was up every 15 minutes. So much for sleep.

Day 2: 21.6 miles, Glen Ellyn to Hanson Park, Chicago

Catherine and I met for breakfast. I was once again amazed at the event organizer’s ability to provide surprisingly good food for nearly 3,000 people.

(A quick word about food on the 3-Day. Everyone jokingly refers to it as the 60-mile buffet. You eat constantly. You’re encouraged to eat at every pit stop, and the snacks are plentiful: Potato chips, pretzels, peanuts [you need salt], Pria bars [the mint chocolate bar tastes exactly like Girl Scout Thin Mints], orange quarters, banana halves, bagel halves, peanut butter, Smuckers crustless PB&Js, animal crackers, raisins, baby carrots. Crew members meet you at the entrance with Jelly Belly jellybeans. You literally eat all day. Guilt-free eating.)

Walkers leave camp at their own pace. We left camp toward the top of the order, somewhere in the 600s. (There were 2,410 walkers, and crew members kept count along the route and told you – if you wanted to know – what number you were, arriving at a pit stop. Catherine and I were as low as the 900s at one point, but as high as the 500s at our best.)

The crew is amazing. At pit stops, driving sweep vans, helping cross walkers at major intersections. Two guys, a father and son, were dressed as Thing 1 and Thing 2 from The Cat in the Hat. Two other guys – I never did get their names – would pop up at various points along the route to clap for us. I dubbed them “The Guys Who Clap” and wrote a little thank-you sticker to them and put it on the big banner of thank-you stickers in camp. It’s amazing how a little bit of encouragement goes a long, long way.

Speaking of which, Day 2’s route took us through many towns, including Oak Park and River Forest. My very good friend Dave (you may know him as Dave, Music Dave, Composer Dave, or Kurtis Dave) lives in River Forest, and met Catherine and me along the route with his dog, Eddie, and walked with us for a few blocks.

Day 2 is hard. Excitement helps carry you on Day 1. But by Day 2, your body gets hip to the fact that you’re trying to walk 22 miles – again. There were several moments that afternoon when I thought about sweeping, but Dave and Eddie provided a much-much-needed boost.

At the last pit stop, a very smart man parked his ice cream truck nearby. He received many visitors. When you’ve hit mile 18.6 of a 21.6-mile day, you feel entirely justified in eating an ice cream cone.

Back at camp, Catherine and I ate dinner and retired to our tents early. The Afrodisiacs were the night’s entertainment though, so I hauled myself out of my tent and made the trek to the stage area to check them out. They were fabulous. Disco tunes. One guy on stage said, “I don’t care how far you walked today, you have to dance!”

That night, I actually slept long enough to have a dream and remember it. It has faded now, but I know it was about Bill Kurtis.

Day 3: 14.3 miles, Hanson Park to Montrose Harbor

My right knee hurt.

Bad.

Catherine and I had breakfast. Bless the food crew: We had cheese blintzes (along with another surprising array of offerings). In my world, cheese blintzes are excellent encouragement.

Still, the blintzes weren’t distraction enough from the pain. I took what drugs I had on me and decided I would walk as though there was nothing wrong. It seemed to work.

Our route took us through areas of Chicago I know rather well. I was dismayed that we kept heading south, as we ultimately needed to head north. On Day 3, you don’t want to walk more than you have to. But the last leg of the walk was along the lakefront. The color of Lake Michigan changes. Yesterday, it was a beautiful turquoise.

One guy on the path, not one of us, said to Catherine and me, “Thanks for walking. My wife is a survivor. I should be doing this.”

“Next year,” I said.

The Guys Who Clapped appeared toward the very end of the route, clapping still. I hugged them both. They’d kept me going for three days.

As Catherine and I passed through a tunnel in Montrose Harbor, we emerged to a crowd of spectators and walkers alike, clapping and cheering for us as we took our final steps. The crew of Pit Stop 5 from the past two days greeted us at the end, dressed in their Elvis glasses and sideburns, and hugged us. Catherine and I hugged each other, crying; we’d just walked 57.9 miles.

With our water replenished, we walked back to the tunnel area to cheer for other walkers. Kids hopped around on either side of the tunnel, waiting for their moms to emerge. Walkers hobbled in with ice bags Saran Wrapped to their knees. We clapped for them. They clapped for themselves.

Catherine met up with her sister, who had flown in from Dallas. My mom and dad and Doreen appeared out of nowhere. It’s good to have people there at the end.

Everyone lined up for the last leg of the walk to closing ceremonies. The walkers wore blue shirts and walked the route lined by the crew, who applauded us one last time. And we applauded them, our pit stop crews, the medical crews, the safety crews, Thing 1 and Thing 2. The Guys Who Clapped received enormous cheers. When the walkers had filed in, the crew joined us, and we all turned to welcome the survivors.

The survivors wear pink shirts. A sea of pink-shirted women streamed into the center of our ceremony, followed by a circle of five women, holding hands. At opening ceremonies, their circle represented all those who have been lost to breast cancer. At closing ceremonies, their circle held hope. Walkers held one shoe aloft in salute, one shoe in one hand, Kleenex in the other.

I’ve decided that in addition to walking, I need to make it my business to get more people involved in the walk, a 3-Day evangelist of sorts. A woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every three minutes. Globally, 410,000 women will succumb to breast cancer this year. And, in this country, 1,500 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and 500 of them will lose the fight.

I encourage all of you to consider participating next year. Yes, it’s hard. But it is hard in the most rewarding way. You will marvel that your body will carry you 60 miles and you will change your relationship with your health. You will see yourself in a new way. And the accomplishment you’ll feel will fuel other parts of your life. Give it a thought. You can get more information at www.the3day.org.

The last time I walked was October 2001, three weeks after September 11th. This time, I walked three weeks after Hurricane Katrina. I have seen the goodness in people in the face of those tragedies and during the past three days. And as I walked, I wondered why desperate times or special circumstances rouse us so. Why can’t we always support each other in such remarkable ways?

My friend Gemma’s sister says, “I want to live in the 3-Day universe.” It is my sincere hope that one day, we all will, not as walkers in a weekend event, but every day.

My love and thanks to you all, as ever,

Beth

I'm Back ...

It was amazing.

I walked every mile.

I'll write the recounting today and post when I'm through ...

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

'Surrender To The Schmaltz' ...

Four years ago, as Gemma dropped me off at O'Hare for my flight to Atlanta for the 3-Day, she hugged me and offered two pieces of advice: "Lots of Kleenex" and "Surrender to the schmaltz."

Final preparations are in place for the walk. I checked in online a couple weeks ago -- a new development. Last time, we all went to Day 0, where you got tent assignments and watched the safety video and all the other logistic-y stuff that needed to be done before the walk the next day.

Now, everything is done online, mailed to you in advance, even more finely tuned.

Today, I'm gathering all my gear -- shoes, Band-Aids, flashlight, hand wipes, socks (lots of socks), sleeping bag -- more gear than ever seems like it will fit in a single piece of luggage.

And sitting down at my desk, to add to my list of last-minute things to pick up, I noticed an e-mail from the 3-Day. It's a link to a movie -- more like rolling credits -- which I've linked to the title of this post if you'd like to see it.

I don't know how much it will mean to anyone who isn't involved in the 3-Day, anyone who hasn't been immersed in the emotion, but I invite you to view it.

Pallotta Teamworks, the organizer of the 2001 event, had several schmaltzy sayings, my favorite of which was "Humankind. Be both."

That is the simple spirit of the 3-Day.

That is why I walk.

Raising money and awareness for breast cancer research is a noble cause, to be sure, but selfishly, I walk because for three days, I get to surround myself with more love and kindness than you can imagine. Gemma's sister Deveraux has said, "I want to live in the 3-Day universe."

I invite you to share in it. Closing ceremonies are at Montrose Harbor, Sunday afternoon at 4:30, though if you'd like to come, you should show up an hour early.

This will likely be my last post until the walk is over.

I'll tell you all about it when I'm through.

My love and thanks to all who have supported and encouraged me over the past six months. My heart is full, and you are the reason why.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

What Passes For Advice These Days ...

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I worked at the Chicago Sun-Times. I was in college. I had become friends with Jeff Zaslow -- Zazz, as he was known to the readers of his advice column, "All That Zazz" -- and he needed someone to help him one summer. I've been through this drill with you before in another post.

Jeff did great things with his column: He collected Santa letters from the post office and farmed them out to readers willing to buy gifts for needy kids; he held school-supply drives for needy kids; he hosted an annual singles party to help his readers meet (and marry, as many eventually did); and he dispensed great advice, using his many and impressive journalism skills to access experts when called for and everyday folks (The Regular Joes Advisory Board) when good old common sense was in order.

I loved Jeff. Still do. These days, we go to Springsteen concerts together. (Jeff is a rabid fan.) But I didn't stay at the Sun-Times in those days. I had college to finish.

After college, I ended up at the Chicago Tribune. I left there in 1997.

A guy named Chuck Ulie eventually took over the job I vacated.

The Sun-Times pulled the plug on Jeff's column a few years later, and he returned to the Wall Street Journal, which was his employer when he wrote about the Sun-Times' search to replace Ann Landers, entered the contest to get an interesting angle on the story, and then ended up winning.

Chuck, in the game of musical chairs that is journalism, ended up leaving the Tribune to go to the Sun-Times.

Today, he has an advice column of his own. Click on the title of this post to go there.

Ladies, there are a lot of people in this world to whom I would not turn for advice about men, and Chuck is one of them.

I'll be interested to see how long this social experiment lasts.

They got rid of Jeff for this?

It's Not A Profession, It's A Sickness ...

For some reason, I had a dream last night in which I was giving someone local directions, and in my dream, I said to myself something like, "That's ridiculous. No one would believe that," as though the directions were some kind of fiction, and I'd decided that the directions I'd given weren't plausible.

I was editing my dream. Editing in my sleep.

Do other people do this? Do doctors diagose people in their dreams? Do engineers engineer things in their dreams? Even so, isn't it extra weird to EDIT a DREAM? What kind of screwed-up perfectionism is that, to edit a dream? It's a dream, for God's sake. There's no right and wrong. There's no plausible and implausible. In a dream, I could be a unicorn in a football helmet, traveling to another galaxy where gnomes only eat Peking duck. Dream dictionaries might be at a loss to explain it, and a therapist might have a field day with it, but it wouldn't be wrong.

It would be weird, but it wouldn't be wrong.

Editing dreams. Yikes.

Monday, September 12, 2005

First Dance ...

I never went to the dances in high school. I don't take dates to weddings. I once danced with Stuart Garner, the then-CEO of Thomson Newspapers, but only after he'd repeatedly mentioned my *not* dancing. I made a request of the DJ -- "something swanky" -- and approached Stuart's table, hand extended, palm up, and asked him. Stuart -- shorter than me, British -- was game. I think my colleagues were a bit surprised to see us on the dance floor, swaying to Sinatra's "Summer Wind."

The next song was something swingy, and he took my hands and started swinging them from side to side.

"No, no," I said. And pointed off the floor. We walked to where it was quiet, and I thanked him for springing for the event we were at, which was a thank you to his Chicago staffers for our continued hard work even though the company was up for sale. I shook his hand and told him, in case no one else had mentioned it, how much I respected him and what he'd done for TN.

He held my hand, post-shake, then kissed it.

That was five years ago.

Saturday, my cousin Mike was married.

His brother Dave was married three years ago. I'm at that age where younger members of the family are getting married, and I'm going to their weddings, wondering if I'll ever have one of my own.

I'm not saying that to elicit sympathy. I've gotten to a place where I've accepted that I might never get married. And I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'll stay single before I'll settle.

But there I was, at the reception, seeing people I hadn't seen since Dave's wedding. Our table was in the front row, near the head table, good reception real estate based on the seating-chart hierarchy; we're one tier below immediate family.

Our table comprised me, my mom, my dad, Dave's in-laws John, Joan and their daughter and her boyfriend, and my "aunt" Marlene and her daughter MaryBeth. ("Aunt" as in friend, not as in relation.) I sat next to John. He reminds me of John O'Hurley, he of "Seinfeld" fame and "Dancing With The Stars." Tall (taller than me), white/gray hair, handsome.

We made small talk. He asked one of the usual wedding-day questions: "Are you single, Beth?"

"Yes," I said. "I am."

He shook his head, bless his heart. "I don't understand what's wrong with men. I mean, look at you! You, Beth, are drop-dead gorgeous."

I blushed. "Well, thank you, John. That's very kind."

We moved into more substantive conversation territory. I told him about my fresh thoughts about getting into politics. John told me he leans toward conservative. He asked me what I thought of the war in Iraq.

I paused. "Oh, John, we've gotten along so well tonight ...," I said.

But he assured me that he was most interested in having a real, candid conversation, that he respects my opinions, whatever they may be. I told him about my exchange earlier in the week with Gretchen, about how glad I was that she and I could have a rational discussion about such important issues.

Turns out, John is more middle-of-the road politically than I first thought. We had a lovely conversation, even if we did have to shout half of it over the sound system. Our chat spared me from being dragged onto the dance floor for the bouquet toss.

Later, I was talking with MaryBeth, the "aunt's" daughter. John appeared next to my chair.

"Would you like to dance?" he asked.

"Why, I would love to," I said, taking his hand, excusing myself from MaryBeth.

The song was something vaguely twangy. Slow.

He put his arm around me, held my hand against his chest.

I thanked him for the earlier compliments, which he had continued to insert into our conversation after his exclamatory opening salvo. "You're good for my ego," I said.

With his hand holding mine, he pointed at me. "You should be the best person for your ego," he said.

I smiled.

Just as no one can make you feel bad about yourself unless you let them, no one can make you feel good about yourself unless you believe what they're saying. Otherwise, it won't ring true.

You know I don't believe in coincidence, and everything is a message from the universe, whether we heed them or not. They come over frequencies not everyone can hear.

Saturday night, I was listening.

I've been listening, intently, for the past couple weeks. The messages come. Sometimes, I'm ready. Usually, I'm not. Sometimes they are a big karmic kick in the head and the blow leaves me somewhat dazed. But the messages, always, they move me forward.

John is one of my messengers.

As we danced, not so much dancing, really, as that slow shifting from side to side, turning in a circle, he asked me if he could have my phone number.

"Sure," I said, knowing, as should you, that his request was entirely on the up-and-up. "It sounds a bit serious, John. Should I be worried?"

"No," he said. "I just want to talk to you about something."

Later, L.A. Dave called it. "He's going to set you up."

We'll see.

But I realized, in the car on the way home Saturday night, that John is the first man to ever ask me to dance.

I Clapped And I Cheered ...

Mike Brown stepped down.

Good.

People died because of this man's lack of experience.

Yes, people died for other reasons, too. But what the hell was this administration thinking, putting a man in charge of our federal emergency system who had no emergency experience? Did everyone think that there was never going to be an emergency, that Brown would never be tested?

Seems to me that if you're going to appoint your cronies to federal gigs, you appoint your cronies to positions that shouldn't result in a loss of life if they screw up.

As L.A. Dave says, there's always the ambassadorship to Luxembourg.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Son Of A Bitch ...

It's already starting.

Click on the headline of this post to be taken to the story in question.

But here's the quick version:

Bush's pals are already being awarded contracts to deal with the Katrina crisis, including a subsidiary of Halliburton.

I'm not surprised, but I'm pissed off.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

And This ...

From the Houston Chronicle's DomeBlog:

"DeLay to evacuees: 'Is this kind of fun?'

U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's visit to Reliant Park this morning offered him a glimpse of what it's like to be living in shelter.

While on the tour with top administration officials from Washington, including U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao and U.S. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, DeLay stopped to chat with three young boys resting on cots.

The congressman likened their stay to being at camp and asked, 'Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?'

They nodded yes, but looked perplexed.

--Purva Patel"

Defend This, Too ...

Let me be clear: I don't hate all Republicans on principal. I hate stupid Republicans.

To wit, another shining moment for the elephants, this taken from Maureen Dowd's column today in the New York Times:

"The Wall Street Journal reported that Representative Richard Baker of Baton Rouge was overheard telling lobbyists: 'We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did.' "

Friday, September 09, 2005

All That Matters ...

I live in a broadcast world.

I don't have satellite TV.

I don't have cable.

Right now, every station I can access (with the exception of WCIU-Ch. 26, which, inexplicably, is airing a Sox game) is broadcasting "Shelter From The Storm: A Concert for The Gulf Coast."

I am completely overwhelmed.

Every station, saying, "Right now, nothing else matters."

For the next hour, all of America is sharing the same experience.

We have all been dialed in for the past week, watching, wrestling with what we're seeing, as Dave said, "crushed by the sadness of it all." The least we can do is be informed, to question and to try to understand.

But tonight, the unity is overwhelming.

Let it last.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

I Owe You An Explanation ...

My friend Gretchen is fabulous. Beautiful, smart, worldly. We met in our Thomson days and something clicked and we've been friends ever since.

She reads my blog regularly (bless her heart). This morning, she sent me the longest e-mail I've ever received from her. It challenged me and what I've been writing, but what she wrote was thoughtful and kind. She said she hoped she didn't offend me, but she was very clear in her positions.

And I respect her greatly for that.

I won't publish all of what she wrote, but the crux of her note was this: "To sit in your lovely house ... surrounded by people that love you and not being active in politics for you to sit and write and judge the people in charge seems, well, hypocritical."

Fair enough.

I wrote back to her at equal length, ending my note saying, "I really appreciate you taking the time to write to me and question me on what I've been writing. Perhaps I owe my blog audience a fuller explanation of what drives me. I'm a journalist. I should tell the story better."

So I started thinking about what I should say in this space, and realized that I should just say here what I said to her. So here's the story:

"Yep, I hate Bush. I think he's a dangerous idiot. I can't believe that 59 million people voted him back into office. He is the most polarizing force I've ever witnessed in politics. I think he's divided this country to a brink that may be irreparable. He lied to this country to take us to war in Iraq. He lied. The Downing Street memo says it: Statements were arranged to support a decision that had already been made. Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11. The fact that Bush continues to assert that, to justify the bloodshed and the billions, sickens me.

We are much less safe now than we were 2 1/2 years ago. We have pissed of legions of people who may have previously hated us quietly, but who now will fight back. We invaded a country that posed no immediate threat to us without an adequate strategy for success or even adequate troops. We're in a quagmire, and no one in the government seems to know how to get out of it. Worse, some of them don't seem to understand how we got there. Or they're not owning up to it. Which is worse still.

Katrina has brought out a lot of good in this country again, a la post 9/11. I hope this time that we can sustain the feelings of humanity toward one another, but then someone like Barbara Bush says that since those people were poor anyway, this is working out quite well for them, and I just about fall off my chair.

As for me sitting in my house judging people in charge? Well, yikes, Gretchen, aren't we supposed to question what's going on? There are debates on the floors of the House and Senate. There are lots of people in the government who question Bush, and that's as it should be. We can't all be in Congress, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't all speak out when we see something that seems gravely amiss.

Incidentally, many people, with increasing volume over the years, have encouraged me to go into politics. It's something I'm always mulling over. On the one hand, I think politics in this country has gotten so filthy that I wouldn't want to descend into that world. I think the idealists of the world are swallowed up whole in Washington. Then again, I also see that the ONLY way that the political system in this country will change is people like me, people who care and who haven't become corrupted by the system yet, get in there and try to make a difference.

I struggle with it, really. It feels like a calling, a huge calling, and I'm terrified to answer.

My friend Linda referred to me once, after I had met with a group of her students, as the 'elder stateswoman,' and said, 'Oh, come on, Beth. We all know you're going to lead a march on Washington someday.' Prescient? Maybe.

As for who I believe is a great politician? Well, there's certainly no perfect candidate, right? I fully backed Kerry in the last election. I contributed to his campaign, I wrote letters to editors. I didn't get as involved as I could have, and I regret that now. Sadly, too often, elections become contests between the lesser of two evils, but I believed Kerry would be a good president. Still do. And not just a better president than Bush. I think almost anyone could be a better president than Bush. But I think Kerry would have actually cared about the majority of people in this country and not catered to his rich friends and the religious right, since we don't live in a theocracy. Religion shouldn't shape government, not if we espouse to welcome everyone.

You didn't offend me at all, honey. And I hope I didn't offend you, either. That's part of the problem these days: Dissent is viewed with such hostility. Like with Cindy Sheehan. I don't agree that we have to pull out of Iraq now. We made a mess and we have to clean it up. But in my mind, it's entirely possible to support the troops and not support the war. The troops are doing what they've been told to do. It just that what they were told to do was, in my opinion, wrong.

I wish everyone could be level-headed and intelligent enough to be able to have these kinds of discussions, to dig down deeper and understand what drives people and the way they think."

Help Me To Understand ...

I would truly appreciate it if someone who is not gay and who is against gay marriage could explain to me how allowing gay people to get married weakens the institution of marriage.

That seems to be the prevailing argument against granting gays the right to marry.

And I don't get it.

If churches want to ban gay marriage on Biblical grounds, that's up to the churches. But civil marriage is a legal union. It has no religious roots.

So why is it that my gay friends, who have been in loving, committed relationships for years, aren't allowed to get married because it will "weaken the institution of marriage," but Britney Spears can get married in Vegas, get it annulled 55 hours later, and basically say, "It was just a joke, y'all."

*That* doesn't weaken the institution of marriage?

The fact that "starter marriage" has entered our lexicon, that couples get married with a mutual shrug, saying, "Eh, if it doesn't work out, we'll just get a divorce," *that* doesn't weaken the institution of marriage?

Honestly, I don't get it.

I hope to get married some day. But if my friends Dick and John want to get married (they've been together longer than most straight married couples I know), how does that in any way alter what marriage will mean to me?

It doesn't. It won't.

Marriage: Two people who love each other and want to spend their lives together, right?

What am I missing?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Defend This ...

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this -- this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."
-- Barbara Bush on the victims of Hurricane Katrina at the AstroDome

Go ahead, Rabid Red Staters, tell we Democrats (and sane Republicans) how evil we are for daring to look down on Bush and his circle in the wake of this disaster.

"She was taken out of context!", you'll cry. "She was saying that everyone loves the hospitality in Texas and they want to stay."

Yeah, she was taken out of context, like Pat Robertson was taken out of context when he said we should "take out" Chavez.

Even if Barbara didn't mean anything malicious, she should still be ridden out of town on a rail for sheer insensitivity and stupidity.

Because, hey, what poor person in their right mind wouldn't trade their spouse getting swept away to her death in exchange for a debit card loaded with two grand?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Other Things ...

It feels frivolous to write about anything that's not related to the hurricane.

Everything else pales in comparison.

And then part of me thinks that it's OK to write something funny or observational, that blogs can be oases in the online desert of disaster coverage.

My friend Tracy and I share a rather warped sense of humor, and she IMed last week to ask if I'd seen "Team America: World Police." As I hadn't, I put it at the top of my Netflix queue.

It arrived today. I started watching it tonight.

And I had a thought that alarmed me: You know you haven't had sex in a *really* long time when you think to yourself, "Hey, that's a pretty attractive puppet."

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Pain Turns To Anger ...

The numbness seems to be wearing off.

The national shock over the devastation in New Orleans and Mississippi seems to be subsiding and the tide is turning to anger.

A group of friends was gathered outside a local watering hole this afternoon, and the conversation became consumed with the crisis. One new friend, disgusted with the Bush administration's response, said, "Things will change in 2008."

I said, "I think things will change in 2006."

There is no way to spin the government's lackluster response to this disaster. Bush, finally, in the face of withering news reports, admitted that the response has not been acceptable.

Really? Well, gosh, George, the American people have known that for days. You know how? We watch TV. We read newspapers.

It took a Category 4 hurricane and the destruction of an entire city to rally the media, but the independent press is back. Judith Miller may still be in jail, but her colleagues behind the keyboards and in front of the cameras aren't letting the government off the hook this time.

Ted Koppel gave FEMA's Michael Brown hell on "Nightline," and Brown could do nothing but take it. Perhaps he's used to facing more docile creatures. After all, he spent almost all of the '90s as the Commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association, a position which is not mentioned in his biography on FEMA's Web site.

Could that be because that decade of his life did NOTHING to prepare him to lead this country during a disaster? But here's a gem: "In 2004, Mr. Brown led FEMA's thousands of dedicated disaster workers during the most active hurricane season in over 100 years, as FEMA delivered aid more quickly and more efficiently than ever before."

I guess practice doesn't make perfect after all.

As I've said before, history will write W's legacy, and what a legacy it will be: Two indecisive elections, implementing massive tax cuts for his rich friends, lying about the cost of the Medicare prescription program, lying to the country to take us into a war for which no one thought to plan an exit strategy, overriding the wishes of Congress to appoint Bolton as ambassador to the U.N. (even though Bolton has openly shown his disdain for the world body), taking a budget surplus and spending his way into the biggest deficit ever recorded, refusing to take time out of his vacation to meet with the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq (so he can ride his bike and read a book about the history of salt, instead; by the way, he's taken nearly a year's worth of vacation since he first took office. That's about 20 percent of his time as president spent vacationing. Do you get 10 weeks of vacation a year from your job?), the swelling of gas prices to well over $3 a gallon ($4 if you live in California, $5 and $6 if you live in Georgia), and then, bless his little heart, actually cutting that vacation short by two whole days to pretend to address the worst natural disaster in the nation's history.

There's just one thing I want to know, George: The history of salt: How does it end? Are pouring and wounds involved?

Friday, September 02, 2005

'Crushed By The Sadness Of It All' ...

That's the way Dave ended an e-mail to me today.

Dave, the most mild-mannered man on the planet, who only sees the good in people, who is incapable of being unkind, wrote a rant about how our government has completely botched the Katrina crisis.

"I'm certainly not a good political ranter," he wrote, "but I'm crushed by the sadness of it all."

He's an excellent political ranter, by the way, and we're all crushed by the sadness of it all.

Some blogs are nothing but political rants. I reserve my political posts for the most part, making them the exception, not the rule.

But this entire catastrophe has illustrated some of the worst of our government's inability to lead.

I wrote back to Dave:

"I know you're crushed by the sadness of it all. We all are. I just can't fathom that it's even happening. I was watching footage on the news the other night of those homes with flood waters up to the roofs, and I looked at the ceiling of the room I was in and tried to imagine water that high outside my window (and inside my house, for that matter). My brain just shuts down.

And it is unforgivable and inexcusable that this crisis hasn't been handled. I was going to say 'hasn't been handled better,' but it just hasn't been handled, period. It's pathetic.

L.A. Dave wants W to resign.

And then, and then, I almost spit nails at my computer this morning reading that Condi didn't return from her New York vacation until Thursday night. She's one of the highest-ranking officials in the government (and don't even get me started on that), eighty percent of New Orleans is under water, Biloxi, Miss., no longer exists, and she's going to see Spamalot?!

So, no, you're not missing the full story. The full story doesn't exist.

Everyone knew this was going to happen some day, the flooding of a city that sits below sea level. Did *anyone* ever think to develop a contingency plan in the event that the levees gave way? Apparently not.

But hey, gas is $3.19 a gallon, and George and Dick and Daddy George are all in the oil business. So life is good. For them.

The rest of us, well, we don't matter.

I really, really want to go up to one of the 59 million people who voted for this moron in the last election and ask them what they think of their leader now.

Ooh, I just hate him. And I try not to hate anybody. But he's earned our ire."

There is a bright spot, however: The reason I first wrote to Dave today was to tell him how proud I am of him that his band, The New Invaders (link to the right), is part of a hurricane relief concert on September 23 in Woodstock, Ill. Go to the calendar on the site for more information. All proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross. He's thrilled that he and the boys were asked to participate.

His band will be performing with American English, the best Beatles' cover band ever, and others. It promises to be a great show. One more way you can lend a hand to the recovery effort.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Secret Lovers ...

Click on the above title to go to MSNBC's story about the woman who has created a line of adultery greeting cards.

Right. Because when you're cheating on your spouse, the smartest thing you can do is commit things to paper for that spouse to someday find.