Thursday, November 30, 2006

Hall Speaks ...

Deborah Douglas, a former colleague of mine from my Thomson days, talked with Tamron Hall yesterday, following Feder's item about her breast implants. Here's the story:

Why Hall wanted a boost

November 30, 2006

"Outed" in Robert Feder's media column Wednesday, Tamron Hall reluctantly found herself on the hot seat. Even I had to wonder how she felt about her breast boost being a news topic and why a woman as drop-dead gorgeous as she is would want a breast lift. (I've met her and haven't been able to find a flaw yet.)

Her answer: She wanted her clothes to fit better. And they do.

"It was not born of a breakup or feeling inadequate," Hall said. "I work hard every day; it was my 36th birthday. I don't want to give a description of my body, but any woman in her 30s knows what I'm talking about. I don't need to connect the dots." (For the record, more than 300,000 other women get the same procedure every year, says the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.)

"I want to know why every man on TV who has hair plugs or a toupee or a fake tan, or who has gotten a nip and tuck here and there, why that's not discussed," said Hall, who had the surgery this past summer. [Feder also has written about Chuck Goudie's hair color and the late Tim Weigel's toupee.]

"I'm not overly sensitive. This is just a non-news event where there are things I have done that can help other people [which go unmentioned]."

What things? Try helping to build a Sunday school classroom for the kids at New Orleans' Carrollton Avenue Church of Christ who hadn't been to services since Katrina hit; Hall did that in September.

"It makes me sick to my stomach that [beauty] is always brought up when myself and other women in the news media are in the grind every day to be the first on stories, to be the best on stories," Hall said.

As for her head-turning good looks, thank her parents: Tamron says she had nothing to do with that.

OK. We can stop talking about this now.

Deborah Douglas, deputy features editor

Feder Frenzy ...

Well, apparently I wasn't the only one to drop Bob a note about his Tamron Hall tidbit.

Of course, such a volume of mail makes for an easy work day for Bob. He doesn't have to report and write a real column. He just gets to compile e-mail snippets. But he does this regularly, and I applaud him for including both sides, so to speak.

Here, then, is Feder's column, reprinted without permission.

Fox anchor's new look draws lots of attention
(http://www.suntimes.com/business/feder/154345,CST-FIN-feder30.article)

November 30, 2006

BY ROBERT FEDER
Sun-Times Columnist

Hit the pause button, drop the remote and turn your radio down. It's time for another installment of cards and letters across the television/radio desk:

Ben Simmons: Did Fox News get you to print that item about Tamron Hall's breast implants as some sort of sweeps stunt? It's just the kind of thing they're known for.

Jason Lawhorn: Wondering how long it took for the first hate mail to roll in concerning your comment about Tamron Hall's implants?

Beth Kujawski: I've never read an item in your column and actually exclaimed, "Oh my God!" And not because it was a scoop or otherwise fascinating, but simply because it's entirely inappropriate to have included it. If I was your editor, I would have questioned the newsworthiness of Ms. Hall's newly enhanced breasts. After all, newspapers don't participate in sweeps.

Yvette Johnson: Hope you caught Tamron's interview with Eileen Byrne on WLS. She accused you of ignoring her work as a "news journalist" and reducing her to being "a pair of boobs." My favorite part was when she said: "I stand strong. I stand firm." I swear that's what she said!

Teri Risch: I have never cared for Tamron Hall, but how tacky was it for you to tell your readers that she got new breast implants? Get some class!

Kevin Harris: Robert, Robert, Robert. Don't you realize you're playing straight into Tamron Hall's hands? If you ever watch her show, you know she has an insatiable need for attention. Now you've really gone and done it!

John Hortillo: I heard Tamron Hall on two radio shows today go on and on about how "honest and open" she is with her viewers. Then why did it take you to reveal her cosmetic surgery?

Ellen Bannon: I love the hypocrisy of self-righteous media personalities who think nothing of invading everyone else's privacy but cry foul whenever their own actions are scrutinized.

Martin Jacobs: Oh, gee, thanks for the added absolutely necessary information about Tamron Hall's new, um, look. Do "they" make her a better broadcaster? Why should this personal information be anybody's business?

Mark Cosenza: Thanks for the breast implant alert.

Scott Janusek: Although you may have lost a reader in "Fox News in the Morning's" Tamron Hall, they've certainly gained a viewer in me. Thanks for the info, albeit maybe a tad too much.

Chris Parker: Perfect. Now Tamron Hall has breasts that are as fake as she is.

Dana Gleeson: Tamron has new breast implants? What does that have to do with the business of media? Reporting that tidbit just feels . . . tacky!

John Marks: Hilarious!

Mary Walker: Are you serious? Then she should upsize her tops 'cause there's a gap!

Tom Keller: Fine investigative work on the Tamron Hall item. You have found your true calling. I may check out Tamron's new investments tomorrow.

Denise Marsala: Come on, Bob. Would I need to know if you got a penile implant?

Will Santiago: Now I have two new reasons to wake up every morning.

Doug Cummings: When you say Tamron Hall is "sporting new breast implants" does that mean she replaced "old" ones?

Bob O'Neil: So Tamron Hall is "sporting" implants? That makes it sound like they're ear flaps on her new porkpie hat.

Shawn Finnicum: What's next? Bozo the Clown had a nose job?

Dave Heller: Breast implants are the last thing she needs. How about brain implants first?

John Fitch: Well, hey, at least you didn't compare her to Halle Berry.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Point, Counterpoint ...

So I sat right down and wrote a letter to Mr. Feder (Read "Too Much Information," below, for background on this post) in which I said:

"Mr. Feder:

Could you kindly explain why 'No, it's not your imagination: Tamron Hall, anchor of Channel 32's "Fox News in the Morning," is sporting new breast implants' qualifies for inclusion in your column?

I used to work at the Chicago Tribune, in the days, even, when Steve Nidetz was tapped to write a column similar to yours. I've read your column on and off for years.

But I've never read an item in your column and actually exclaimed, 'Oh my God!' And not because it was a scoop or otherwise fascinating, but simply because it's entirely inappropriate to have included it.

Granted, I haven't read everything you've ever written, but do you routinely comment on male anchors and any cosmetic work they might have had? If not, making a crack about a female anchor's breast implants seems off-color.

If I was your editor, I would have questioned the newsworthiness of Ms. Hall's newly enhanced breasts.

After all, newspapers don't participate in sweeps.

Sincerely,

Beth Kujawski"

And to which he replied, moments later:

"Thanks, Beth. Yes, I have written in the past when men and women on TV alter their appearance.

Robert Feder"

All righty.

In my mind, it still doesn't make it right.

Too Much Information ...

What the hell?

Robert Feder writes a media column for the Chicago Sun-Times. It's filled with the goings-on of the Chicago media scene: What reporter has jumped to what station, what radio personality is doing what to promote his or her show. Industry talk. It might seem like a niche that doesn't matter to a lot of people, but he's been around forever, and I'm sure he's well read.

So what's with this item at the end of today's column?:

"No, it's not your imagination: Tamron Hall, anchor of Channel 32's 'Fox News in the Morning,' is sporting new breast implants."

Did Feder get an official comment from Tamron? Did someone at the station confirm her surgery? Is this just his own expert opinion? But let's ask the biggest question of all: Why is this an item in his column?!

I actually exclaimed "Oh!" when I read it. How unbelieveably inappropriate of him. How did his editor not flag that and say, "Uh, Robert, this isn't really news"?

If Tamron wants to do a sweeps segment about her decision to augment her breasts and it serves some greater good, discussing what women go through to make the decison and undergo the surgery, we can call it "news."

But otherwise, I just find it offensive.

I haven't read every column Feder's ever written, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't point out when a male anchor gets a toupee or has a little cosmetic tweak to his telegenic visage.

I'm no prude, but without any context, "No, it's not your imagination: Tamron Hall, anchor of Channel 32's 'Fox News in the Morning,' is sporting new breast implants" is just inappropriate.

If you'll excuse me, I have a letter to write.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It's Called Full Disclosure ...

Or maybe that's not called for when everyone knows that one company owns a television station and a newspaper.

Still, I'm completely skeeved out by the Cover Story I just saw on WGN's 9 O'Clock News about what it takes to write a clever headline.

WGN, of course, is owned by Tribune, which also owns the Chicago Tribune. And I don't have to tell you that the only newspaper featured in the segment was the Trib.

Eww.

What I just saw wasn't news. It wasn't a feature. It was one business unit patting another business unit on the back.

I used to work at the Trib. I wrote some great headlines. I love writing headlines. It really is an art. Being informative or clever in very few words is hard.

I was an inaugural member of a copy-editing class and one of our tasks was to write a kicker caption for a photo. A kicker is a phrase that introduces a caption. In class, we were given a photo of a bride and groom standing alongside their limo, hood up, steam pouring out from the engine. We were given a few minutes to write our kickers, then we went around the room, sharing what we'd written.

My kicker was: "The Lack of Luxury." You know, like "The lap of luxury," but not.

Clever captions are plays on words. My classsmates were suitably impressed. I was pleased.

So I don't disagree with the idea of a story about writing headlines. But I'm completely skeeved out that the producers of the segment only talked to Trib personnel. Any story worth its salt necessitates various points of view. You can't write a story about, oh, the health benefits of cheese, and only talk to a cheesemaker who's solely interested in selling more cheese. For balance, you have to talk to a nutritionist or someone who might have another take on the health benefits of cheese.

Granted, talking to editors at the Sun-Times or the Daily Herald or any other regional paper wouldn't have yielded a different take on writing headlines. Writing headlines is a one-note story.

But including other publications would have made it more of a news story, and less of an infomercial about Tribune.

I wonder if Nancy and Jane and some of the other editors in the piece knew that it was going to focus solely on the Trib. I wonder if they would have agreed to be interviewed otherwise. I wonder if they were simply told to comply.

When I worked at the Trib and helped produce the TV book every week, we were told by the powers on high one week that our cover would feature the Festival of Lights Parade. Not because it was the most worthy television moment of the week and therefore deserved to be featured. No, we were told to feature it because it was a Tribune event.

Karen, my editor, bristled, and rightfully so. Objectivity is the hook on which newspapers hang their hats. If that's called into question, the public has no reason to trust what's committed to newsprint. Newspapers exist to serve the public, not corporate interests.

At least, that's how it used to be.

But when one company owns a newspaper and a television station - or in the case of Tribune, for now, anyway, many newspapers and many television stations - and they cover each other, it's called "synergy."

I think I need a shower.

Home For The Holidays ...

I just ironed pillowcases.

Today is one of those days when I just can't stop, because my nest is best.

I really love my house. And I love little touches like a well-made bed. And I love decorating.

And I love decorating for the holidays. I'm rather restrained when it comes to decking my halls, but that's mostly a function of not owning a lot of decorations. But this year, I rummaged through all the boxes and even hauled out my cute lil' fake tree, the tree that I set up in my apartments, the tree that my parents used to display in their basements. I set it up in my dining area. Terribly cute. I love the glow of a Christmas tree, and I love soft lighting while dining, so I look forward to dining in the glow of a tree.

The tree in my living room is fake, too. In years past, I cut down trees, but last year, finding time to travel to my favorite tree farm with my mom was pretty much impossible. So one night, frazzled by the fact that Christmas was looming and we were treeless, mom and I went on a artificial-tree trek. And we found very cute trees. I love a real tree, but I have to say, it was pretty nifty to decide that it was time to put up the tree, and have a tree in my living room 20 minutes later.

But what to do with the Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer figures my brother and sister-in-law gave to me a few years ago? And what to do with my grandmother's ceramic Christmas tree? In a moment that can only be described as pure genius, I decided to combine the two, because, of course, the Abominable Snowman puts the star on Santa's Christmas tree.

A couple of my snowpeople are getting cozy in the corner of my TV room. My stuffed snowpeople are getting more action than I am. Nice.

I have metal luminarias for the front of the house, and a serious stash of votive candles to light them.

But I've been bitten by the decorating bug this year. There are many surfaces in my house just crying out for adornment. Tomorrow, I shall procure more festivity.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Celebrity Sadness ...

Break out the armbands and the black crepe bunting: Pamela Anderson has filed for divorce from Kid Rock.

Apparently, enormous breasts and even bigger fake-fur hats aren't enough to make a marriage work.

UPDATE: Oh, Kid filed first, and Pam filed moments later. "I'm divorcing you!" "No, I'm divorcing YOU!"

International Intrigue ...

My *word*, I'm fascinating!

I must be, musn't I? How else to explain that so far today, two - TWO! - brilliant men, one from Europe, one from Asia, have posted comments on my blog?

Of course, I know they're brilliant because they wrote such funny and nice things. Stupid people do not write such funny and nice things. Stupid people govern. Badump bump! Goodnight, everybody! I'm here all week! Try the veal!

First, there was Mike from across the pond. Mike charmed the pants off me from the get-go with this lil' missive about K-Fed's "album": "I heard three of his tracks recently. I really enjoyed them. I should clarify: absolutely dreadful, utterly cringingly hopeless attempts at music....but entertainingly bad, like a Japanese Godzilla movie." Mike's my kinda guy. Mike has a MySpace page and a blog (Fevered Mutterings; never in the oh-so-extensive history of blogging has there been a better title for a blog).

Here's an excerpt from his blog's bio: "In a battered, run-down hospital in Wegburg (Germany), on a dark and stormy night on the first of October, 1971, a baby boy was born to the world. Nobody knew that one day that baby would grow up to be handsome, rich, charismatic, successful and well-loved. That baby....wasn't me. I was in the next bed down the hall. Someday I'll find that handsome, rich etc. guy, and I'll shoot him. I hate life's winners."

Mike is funny. I like Mike. I wrote to Mike to thank him for his comment and to say, "*I* think you're handsome. Screw that baby in the next bed down the hall in 1971. Today, he's probably married to a frigid wife and has three ungrateful children."

And Mike replied. I think I might have a new e-mail pal in the offing.

And then there was Colin Fawell, writing from Thailand: "Hi Beth. I recently discovered your blog, and am just dropping by to tell you that your tomes are a breath of fresh air for me amid the chaos of Bangkok where I presently live. It sounds like you live a perfectly regular life in the mid-west ('Thankfully' is a wonderful write), and I never thought I'd find that so appealing until I discovered you describing it. Be great :) "

Be great. Indeed. I try. I think I usually fall far, far short of "great," but that might just be my humility talking.

Or not. But, yeah, probably.

Then again, how others see us rarely matches how we see ourselves.

Last night, English Teacher Dave wrote, in part and in his best sloppy English:

"And speaking of impressing . . . I'm drinking and eating steak at Krapil's on 111th St. when one guy at the table sez: 'Do you still talk to Beth Kujawski?'

So I sez, 'Yeah.'

And he goes, 'That was the only student who intimidated me, intellectually. She was so far ahead of the other kids in that class.'

And I go, 'Uh.'

And Beth is like . . . well who?

And I'm like . . . I forget, I think.

And you're like, you didn't forget! Who?

John Mikenas, that's who. He's retired now and the social studies teachers get together after parent-teacher night every semester and Mikenas comes to taunt them with his retiredness. He asked about you and went on at length about your intellectual gifts. How about that? Makes you feel pretty good I bet. And it should for sure."

How nice is that?! John Mikenas was one of my history teachers. (And I dig Dave's word "retiredness.")

I replied to English Teacher Dave:

"I'm, like, so, like, amused at your little anecdote about John Mikenas. How funny that he'd ask about me all these years later. My 20th reunion is coming up. I mean, if anyone gets off their butt to make it happen. It won't be me, that's for sure. But 20 years. YIKES.

So thanks for passing along John's kind comments. Funny thing is, I don't FEEL very smart. I mean, yeah, I'm smart, but I don't feel as smart as some people seem to think I am. The whole Mensa thing is a fluke. I was sure I didn't do well enough to get in. Ooh, maybe I'm too smart to realize I'm smart.

No, that doesn't make sense. Anyway, I can thank my parents for giving me the raw materials, and I can thank teachers like you for making me use said raw materials.

Hey, if I'm so smart, why the hell can't I figure out what to do with my life?!"

Yeah, I'm a writer, sure. But I'm sure there's more to my spin around this mortal coil. I'm also a baker. And I'm a singer. And I made an early New Year's resolution to learn guitar, so I'll be a guitar player (to some degree). I can write and bake better than I can sing, but the singing, I must say, is coming along.

I recognize that not everything we do is what we do for money. But I want to wake up every day excited about what I get to do that day.

I guess it all comes back to what Randy, one of my bosses at the Tribune, once said: "You want to be Martha Stewart."

Yeah, I think I do. I like expressing myself in various artistic ways and making the world prettier in the process. (And I, too, have a thing for chickens. Though I don't carry them around. Yet.)

Right. OK then, that's a pretty short to-do list:

1. Become the next Martha Stewart. (I think Oprah is grooming Rachael Ray for that post, but unless I miss my guess, Rach ain't gonna be on the radar for the long haul.)

But before I become the next female billionaire, I need to clean up my office. My desk is a sty. I bet Martha's desk isn't a sty.

Then again, Martha probably has someone on staff whose only task is to keep her desk tidy.

Friday, November 24, 2006

It's A Wrap ...

Maybe I should just wrap presents for a living. I love wrapping presents. All the pretty papers. Miles of ribbon options. Though I confess that I have a substance abuse problem when it comes to curling ribbon. I own it in almost every color imaginable. I use yards and yards of it on even the tiniest package. If I wrap a CD, you can barely see it under all the curling ribbon.

Tonight, I have a baby shower to go to. Yes, a baby shower at night. Gemma and Dave have adopted a little girl from Korea. Her name is Rita. And if you're thinking, "Well, that's an unusual Korean name," you're right. They named her Rita after Gemma's mom who passed away years ago, a way to instantly make Rita part of the family. But Rita is living in Korea until she's awarded a passport. So no pregnancy + no baby in tow just yet = cocktail party baby shower! And it suits Gemma and Dave. They aren't a conventional couple. They were married in Vegas. By an Elvis impersonator. In a gold lamé suit.

Still, just because the shower is unconventional doesn't mean we can't go ga-ga over all the cute wrapping papers for little baby people. I used stripey and polka-dotty tissue inside the big box, so I was very pleased to find the dotty paper today at Hallmark. And the Pooh paper was too cute to pass up. In selected frames, it says, "Baby hugs are the happiest and the hummiest." I love the word "hummiest."

Of course, Christmastime is wrapping nirvana. I have two boxes of wrapping paper in my closet: one is my all-purpose box - birthdays, showers, plain papers, kids' papers. The other box is all Christmas and holiday paper. I think I have about 20 rolls. I bought my first Christmas present in New York in October. And a couple weeks ago, feeling the holiday vibe, I wrapped it. This one, I think, will have its ribbon swapped out for something wide and satin-y. Curling ribbon doesn't suit it after all.

My mom taught me how to wrap presents. It suits the perfectionist in me: cutting the paper to just the right size, all those tight folds and corners, centering the design on the box just so. I've resisted being entirely anal about wrapping, but I think it's time to take wrapping to the next level: double-sided adhesive, so no tape shows. Maybe a dedicated wrapping area, with the ribbon spools on dowels for easy access. Ooh, and decorative-edge scissors!

But I promise I won't chew bark to make my own paper.

The World According To K-Fed: Get Over Yourself Edition ...

A blurb I ran across today:

"Kevin Federline is 'America's most hated man' following his split from pop princess Britney Spears, the wannabe rapper claims. Federline made the statement during a performance at Hollywood's House Of Blues Wednesday night. Since the pair separated earlier this month, the 28-year-old has been vilified in the press as a gold-digging freeloader, capitalizing on his wife's success and wealth. But a packed house turned out to see a resilient Federline perform tracks from his debut album Playing With Fire. After lashing out at his detractors - shouting from the stage, 'F**k the haters, f**k the media, f**k the paparazzi' - Federline adapted lyrics to one of his songs; when a member of his entourage asked onstage, 'Why does America hate you?' he replied, 'Maybe because I took their Queen. I am America's most hated.' "

OK, nice that a member of his entourage had to ask the question, so that he could give his stupid answer.

Britney? Our QUEEN? Of what?!

But I do dig that he's referred to as a wanna-be rapper, despite having released a rap album!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

It's Everyone Else Who Sounds Funny ...

I have a stellar Midwestern accent, by which we Midwesterners mean, "We don't have accents." It's the people in the rest of the country who talk funny, not us. News anchors strive to sound Midwestern. But not like "Superfans" Midwestern. (I refer to Chicago's football team as "the Bears," not "da Bears." Chicago, for that matter, is not "Shuh-kah-goh." And I live here, not "dere.")

But this quiz was quirky and fun. And accurate based on very few questions. And yes, I refer to sweetened carbonated beverages as "pop." And at the store, my groceries go into a bag, not a sack.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North
 

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Midland
 
The Northeast
 
Philadelphia
 
The South
 
The West
 
North Central
 
Boston
 
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Thankfully ...

Tomorrow is almost here.

I read a story today about the pilgrims and indians and a suggestion that maybe the two camps didn't dig each other as much as we've been lead to believe. Maybe Thanksgiving, in its historical context, is a sham.

But even if it is, I still like the idea of a day to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for. Of course, I try to be mindful of such things every day, but it's easy to get caught up in life's petty dramas and lose perspective.

I have an abundance - an embarrassment, really - of things for which to be thankful. I have my health. My familly is healthy. My parents are amazing people. My brother and sister-in-law and my nephews and niece make me happy. I have a lovely home. I have a job that pays most of the bills. I have friends who enrich my life and fill my heart. I have many gifts, most of which I do not honor fully, but I am nonetheless grateful for each one, and know that some day, they will serve me well as I serve them.

Tomorrow morning, I will wake up and begin making bread. Bread is my annual contribution to Thanksgiving dinner, which I find amusing, as the last thing anyone needs on a Thanksgiving plate brimming with mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes and stuffing and other starches is bread. But it's a tradition. And I'm happy to have leftovers for toast the next morning. My bread makes exceptional toast.

And while the bread rises and bakes, I will begin addressing holiday cards. Christmas, after all, is just over a month away. How does it creep up on me every year?

I have to get on the shopping stick. Not that I go shopping the day after Thanksgiving. I think people who do that are insane. And I think the stores that are opening this year at midnight are certifiable. No one should be shopping at 2 a.m. We should all be in tryptophan comas.

But I'm thankful that I have friends and family for which to buy gifts. And I'm thankful that I have a job that will allow me to pay for them.

There is drama in every family, to be sure, but that's to be expected. We're all different. We all have opinions and views and past experiences that color our present. But my family navigates those circumstances as well as can be expected. Tomorrow, I'm confident, will be relatively free of strife. There will be an underlying current of unrest, which is to be expected when part of the family is voluntarily absent. But we'll carry on.

Because there's so much to focus on, so much to be thankful for.

And I'm also thankful for all of you. I'm touched that so many people stop by every day to see what I have to say. I write this blog for myself, really. It's like my version of Doogie Howser's computer diary. Last night, I looked at my archives and realized there are 21 months. I picked January 2006, the 11th month, smack dab in the center of it all, and read that month's entries. I wrote about G. I wrote about interesting dreams. I wrote about many things. And they all came back to me, the memories of that month. It's been a memorable year. I hope to be thankful for many more.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Be Loved ...

In my mail, just now, I received an envelope, about 12 inches square.

"James & Sons," says the return address. "Where Forever Begins."

Huh?

It's a catalog, a really lovely catalog: "Beloved: Contemporary Bridal Design."

How the hell did I get on this mailing list?

Once upon a time, I was poking around Tiffany's web site and found what I thought was "The Ring," just in case anyone ever wanted to know. But I don't remember having to register anywhere on that site. And I can't think of any sites I've been to lately that would have captured my information and sold it to a jeweler hawking wedding and engagement rings.

Still, it's a lovey piece of marketing. Very well photographed, very well laid out, very well written, chock full of useful information for, you know, someone, someday.

Me, I don't think I'll be getting married in this lifetime. No, really. I really don't. Something shifted as my birthday approached this year and I'm OK with the idea.

This topic came up at the birthday lunch and Doreen refused to believe me. "I read you blog," she said. "There's still hope in there." Well, maybe. You can hope for something and not really expect it, right?

Of course, hope is passive. Hoping doesn't indicate any real action to manifest whatever's hoped for. Hoping is like wishing. On the wall of my office is a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: "It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan."

So I could be planning my wedding, I suppose. Actually, most women do, if not actively, then in their minds, for their own fulfillment. I may never get married, but I've picked out the music to which I'd walk down the aisle. And I know what the first dance would be. I know about how many people I'd like to invite, and the month in which I'd like to be married. I found a dress once, long ago, that I fell in love with, but if I saw it again today, I'm not sure I'd still love it. Maybe. It was rather simple.

The groom, though. He's elusive. It's hard to plan for him. Some people have asked me why I'm not married, and I laugh and say, "Well, it has to be mutual, doesn't it? I can't just see a man on the street and snap my fingers and say, 'You there! You're the one!' " No, he has to choose me, too.

So far, no luck. So all the wedding plans are just daydreams. But it would be a really great wedding.

Maybe I'll throw a party someday with all the components, with one notable exception. All my friends could wear gorgeous clothes and we could eat gorgeous food and drink gorgeous champagne and, hell, I can buy my own diamond.

Monday, November 20, 2006

15 Minutes of Shame? ...

OK, this is weird.

This morning, on my daily blog check (Bloglines.com, if you don't already know about it), I saw a posting from Henry, whom I've mentioned before. He links to my blog from time to time. We went to school together a *long* time ago. Confirmation classes, too. I am a lapsed Lutheran. Henry seemed more inclined to be devout, but we don't talk about religion.

His blog entry in question is short: "I never figured I would end up the lead in a New York Times story (sub required)."

I'm a registered nytimes.com user, so I clicked, and yup, sure enough, the lede is thus: "Henry Treftz gets excited each time Barack Obama seems to inch closer to a run for president in 2008. Not, mind you, that Mr. Treftz is a fan of Mr. Obama, the Democratic senator from Illinois. He says he would not vote for him if he did run.

But Mr. Treftz, who lives in Aurora, Ill., owns the domain name obama2008.org, and he thinks he will make a tidy profit if Mr. Obama’s campaign gets around to wanting it."

Later in the story, we're given a different point of view: "But a better investment could be in names used perennially for campaigns on ballot measures. Joel Slatis, 36, of San Jose, Calif., owns yeson52.com and about 150 other names. Mr. Slatis made $8,000 this year renting 16 of them at $500 each to campaigns across the nation.

'They don’t need to own them, they just want them for the campaign season,' said Mr. Slatis, who expects the names to become a regular source of income.

'This is like owning beachfront property in Hawaii and renting it out to whoever wants to stay there for a season,' he said. 'But if you own giuliani2008.com and you’re not Giuliani, you’re just a jerk.' "

And it's that final sentence that hit home with me: " ... if you own giuliani2008.com and you're not Giuliani, you're just a jerk."

I don't want to call Henry a jerk, because he's a nice guy. But I do take umbrage with people who buy the domains of well-known names in the hopes of selling them back to the named persons.

Barack Obama's camp shouldn't have to pay anyone for the right to use him own name in a URL. Bruce Springsteen should have the right to BruceSpringsteen.com, but he doesn't. BruceSpringsteen.com is an unauthorized site. Bruce's official site is brucespringsteen.net.

A lot of sites are owned by the artists in question, but I wonder if that was always so, or if they had to buy - or sue for - the rights to the URLs.

I can understand registering a domain if you have a common name and you're sure you're going to want a web site someday. (Interestingly, www.johnsmith.com is just a blank page.)

But henrytreftz.com is available, if anyone would like to buy it.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Come On-A My House ...

Not only is that the title of a tune that I'm workin' on (and tried recording a couple weeks ago, until my adult-onset ADD took over and I got sick of singing it the second time through), it's also my new plan to keep my house clean:

Weekly house guests!

Sure, I can just clean my house every week. But I can tell you that that plan's a dog that just won't hunt. Clean? For myself? For the pleasure of not living amid little dust tumbleweeds? Why would anyone do that when they could watch "Napoleon Dynamite" again? Or catch up on TV shows? Or make Netflix sorry yet again for having me as a customer?

Ah, but Kelley was coming over for our first-ever salon weekend, and the house needed to be spic and span. By "salon," I don't mean hair and makeup. I mean sitting around and talking about a book. You might call it "book club," but on Planet Kelley, "book" and "club" are dirty words. No, worse than dirty: mundane.

So I cleaned. And cleaned. And cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. Hey! It's nice to have a clean house! I even bought ivory roses for her bedside table. I like to think that an overnight at Rancho Kujawski is like a stay at a lovely hotel. My beds are smooshy with down comforters and white cotton sheets and plenty of pillows. A carafe of water is set on the bedside table alongside the roses. The towels are plentiful. Breakfast is made to order.

And where else are you gonna have a pomegranate mimosa with your sausage, pancakes, and eggs?

Kelley is back at home now, but the cleanliness remains. I told my mom she should spend the night once a week.

"You wouldn't clean for me," she said.

But I would. Really. And for her, I'd buy her favorite: daisies.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Gentlemen, Start Your Ovens ...

Yesterday, I bought 10 pounds of Land O' Lakes butter.

Cookie season is here.

Over the weekend, I composed the 2006 Cookie List. Some cookies are perennial cookies, and some are annual. The annual cookies vie for slots on the perennial cookie list. Adding new ones every year keeps the stash from being predictable, and it's fun for me to find new recipes to bake. And, I'm suspecting, it's fun for the recipients to find a new bundle to eat.

I stopped making chocolate chip cookies a couple years ago. Now, don't get me wrong: I love a good chocolate chip cookie. But they're rather pedestrian and ubiquitous. They lack a necessary holiday oomph.

So this year's list is thus:

1. Oatmeal Raisin
Talk about pedestrian, you say! But they're a favorite of almost everyone and their earthiness suits the winter season. Hearty cookies, these. And I use golden raisins, which makes them different. I don't want to brag (too loudly) but Bill Kurtis is in love with my oatmeal raisin cookies. They're literally tender with him. When I taught a class at Columbia, he was a guest speaker and as I walked him to the elevator after his chat, I told him I could get him $50 for his trouble (from the school) or make him oatmeal raisin cookies. "Cookies!" he said, in his sonorous voice. And so cookies it was. A ridiculous volume of cookies. The box had to weigh 10 pounds. Bill just gets these at Christmas now. He would riffle through the assortment to find these every year, so I've just cut out the cookie middlemen.

2. Russian Teacakes
You may know these as Mexican Wedding Cakes or Snowballs. I like Russian Teacakes. The name sounds so refined. These are dangerously tasty cookies, easy to make, bite-sized. Far too easy to pop 'em in your mouth, one after another. Dangerous, too, though, because if you inhale as you're taking a bite of a powdered-sugared cookie, the sugar catches in your throat and you start coughing. Very un-tealike behavior.

3. Chocolate Crinkles
Some people call them Brownie Drops, but Chocolate Crinkles is a much better name. They're indeed a brownie-like consistency, but you roll them in powdered sugar before baking, so as the cookies spread, the powdered sugar cracks, revealing the cookie inside. Very dramatic contrast. Dave digs these. I always go heavy on these for the assortment for his family.

4. Snickerdoodles
I love food with funny names. And I love simple flavors. And I love sugar and cinnamon. So these are a no-brainer.

5. Toffee Squares
A cookie that looks like a candy! Insanely rich, and when the pan of cookie comes out of the oven, you put Hershey bars on top and let them soften, then spread them into an even layer, top with chopped toasted walnuts and cut them into pieces. In my cookie world, neatness counts, so I always cut away the edges first, so all the pieces are perfectly even, and then I get to eat all the edges.

6. Peanut Butter Cookies
Yup, the kind with the criss-cross pattern made by smooshing the cookie balls with the back of a fork. These are my father's favorite, so they get made every year. Sadly, these are made with a part of shortening, evil hydrogenated vegetable oil. So I must find a new recipe. Next year.

7. Chocolate Raspberry Thumbprints
I do not use my thumb. I use a tomato shark to make the imprint and I pipe the raspberry preserves into the center using a Ziploc bag as a makeshift piping device. Works like a dream. These chocolate cookies have mini chocolate chips mixed into the batter to boost the chocolate experience. These are mom's new favorite. We got the recipe from a cashier at Jewel. You never know where a great recipe will come from.

8. Mint Surprises
Not such a surprise, given the name. But the cookie is formed around a chocolate mint wafer (like the kind you melt down for candy making) and it's topped with a walnut half. Very pretty. A guy I once dated liked to down these with a cup of espresso.

9. Shortbread
You gotta love a cookie that's only three ingredients. I bake them in a circle with a pretty fluted edge and cut them into wedges. Very traditional. Gemma once asked why we don't just eat a stick of butter dipped in sugar. This year, a chocolate shortbread recipe has caught my eye. I might have to give that a whirl, but I believe tradition will win in the end.

10. Coconut Biscotti
I am a sucker for coconut. These are fab because the flavor is light, so that people who can't eat a lot of sugar have an option. Or you can doctor them up with drizzled chocolate, and I'm just thinking that I should add chopped toasted almonds and make the Almond Joy equivalent of a biscotti. Damn, I'm a genius!

11. Rosemary Cookies
Yup, rosemary. This will be one of the new cookie entries, and I'm diggin' the idea. Rosemary and lemon in a cookie. More like a biscuit, as the English would call them. A humble-yet-fancy friend for the Russian Teacakes. I bought a special cookie cutter just for these.

12. Gingerbread Drops
I like gingerbread men but I'm not big into decorating cookies. These seem like a good alternative and addition. Homespun holiday flavor with a sugar coating. Another new cookie which must prove its worth.

13. Peanut Butter Munchies
Another nod to my dad. These are chocolate cookies wrapped around a peanut butter center, kind of the cookie equivalent of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. I'm thinking that there is no way that these cookies can miss, but we'll see if they make an encore appearance next year.

I haven't completely locked this list. There's room for substitution if anyone has a recipe that they believe deserves a shot at the glory. You know where to find me.

Mouse Report, Day 2 ...

Well, I think the need for the Mouse Report has come to an end (knock wood).

I'll leave the traps set for another day, just for kicks. And hey, I'll just leave the one in the basement set indefinitely. But the one in the kitchen has gotta go, cuz it's icky to even think about catching a mouse in the kitchen.

Blech.

Last night, I took everything off the counters and sprayed them down with bleach water and cleaned the stove and the Kitchen-Aid and the coffee pot and everything that could have possibly been touched by those tiny paws. I gotta say, it's nice to have such a sparkly kitchen. Inspires me to cook, even.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Mouse Report, Day 1 ...

Welp, both traps are empty this morning. And I don't think the mice evolved to be smarter since yesterday afternoon when their mouse mate met his mouse maker.

As mom pointed out, she and my father once had a mouse, and once they caught it, they experienced no more mouse moments.

I feel like a Sesame Street cartoon: M! M, M, M, M, M! Martha!

And hey!, with a very quick Google search, here she is, on YouTube.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

This Ain't No Mickey Mouse ...

There exists, in my house, a mouse.

I know this because I've been finding half-eaten grape tomatoes on my stove. Always in the same place. Like a little calling card. Yeah, I was here, it says. I was on your kitchen counter. I was in your little green bowl of grape tomatoes. And I ate my fill. And now you can toss my trash. Bitch. (I think my mouse has an attitude.)

This isn't the first time a mouse has felt compelled to crash my scene. No, a couple years ago, I discovered a mouse in my basement. I set traps. I caught mice. Yes, more than one. The rule about mice seems to be if there's one, there're more.

ICK.

There are stray cats in the 'hood. A couple of kittens were cavorting on my deck earlier today. Um, hello, cats. Earn your cat keep. Kill the mice, wouldja?

But somehow, a mouse got into the house. I set the trap downstairs. I checked this morning, peering around the door to that part of the basement.

I have a good mousetrap, a black box that hides the carnage. All you really see of your mouse quarry is the mouse butt and tail. That's enough.

But when I peered around the basement door this morning, the trap was empty. I came into the kitchen and looked at the stove. There was no tomato.

Oh, except there was. Still in the same general area, but down by the burner. Mouse bastard.

So mom came by with another mousetrap, which she picked up for me on a run to Target.

I set it before I ran out to lunch.

Now, the thing is, based on the tomato calling card, I know that the mouse has been on my counter. ICK. So I set the trap (baited with peanut butter - Skippy Natural; hey, at least the mouse won't ingest any nasty trans fats before its neck gets snapped) and set it on a paper towel. It just seemed better that way, if I was going to catch a mouse, that it wouldn't be lying dead in a trap directly on my counter.

I returned home. I rounded the corner into my kitchen, and Houston? We have a mouse. ICK.

What to do with a mouse corpse? I couldn't just leave it sitting there on my counter. I could make my father come over after work and get rid of it for me. I could ask my neighbor to come over and get rid of it for me. He's a guy's guy. He'd do it. And he's so sweet, he probably wouldn't even make fun of me.

But I vowed to deal with it myself. My cousin Patty, who has experience with mouse disposal, assured me that it's not really a big deal. So I grabbed a couple paper towels with which to pick up the trap, held it over my garbage, depressed the lever to raise the Bar of Death, and PLUNK. I covered the mouse in the garbage bag with the paper towels, reset the trap with another dab of peanut butter using a plastic knife, which also went into the trash, and took the whole nasty business out to the garage. Too bad trash pickup was this morning. Then again, it's cold outside. My garage will make a suitable mouse morgue until next week. ICK.

I've checked the trap throughout the day. Nothing. With any luck, there was only one offender. But I won't be surprised if there are more.

When I first encountered the mouse issue, I asked my cousin Barry about no-kill traps. He assured me that I wanted them dead, that if I released the mouse outside, it would simply find its way back in.

It feels weird, to kill a fellow mammal. But it's not like I'm wailing on its little mouse ass with a frying pan. I let D-Con do my dirty work.

But really, how stupid is a mouse? "Oh, here's a big black box that I haven't seen before. Lemme look inside. Hey, what's that? Peanut butter!" SLAM.

EOM. End of mouse.

ICK.

Um, What The Hell Is This? ...

"O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened"

"O.J. Simpson, in his own words, tells for the first time how he would have committed the murders if he were the one responsible for the crimes," the network said in a statement. "In the two-part event, Simpson describes how he would have carried out the murders he has vehemently denied committing for over a decade."

Huh? The man professes his innocence and vows to find "the real killers" (who continue to elude him on golf courses around the country), then he goes on TV to talk about how he would have killed them if he'd done it?

What the fuck?

First of all, who doesn't believe that he did in fact get away with murder? And second of all, if he truly didn't do it, what sick fuck goes on national television to plug a book he's written about how he would have killed his wife and her friend?

My brain won't grasp this one. I've never sat around contemplating how I'd commit a horrific crime, let alone would I write about it and then do a television "special" to boost my book sales.

This is too low, even for Fox.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Day After ...

Yesterday was totally yang. Today, yin city.

I am a great procrastinator. I couldn't compete in the Procrastination Olympics because I've already turned pro. But the stupid thing about procrastination is that whatever it is you're putting off very rarely solves itself or disappears. It just sits there, arms folded, sitting on its metaphorical couch, as if to say, "Go ahead. Put me off. I'm not goin' anywhere. But, um, it's just going to get harder to deal with me when the time comes. So you really might want to get this off your plate sooner rather than later."

And still, I walk by it, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. And I think to myself, "Yeah, I gotta deal with that." And then, later, I think to myself, "Wow, yeah, I *really* gotta deal with that." And then it's a bazillion days later, and you know what? Yeah, it's still not dealt with.

And in the meantime, I've expended so much energy fretting and contemplating and running every conceivable scenario in my head, which is utterly insane, because I'm concocting scenarios with only half of the information. I think Newton was onto something with that whole "For every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction" business. And I have no idea what the equal and opposite reaction will be.

It's all just silly. Silly, I say.

So I've been in a funk today. But a sure-fire cure for a funk is singing. It's like exercise for me. There might not be actual endorphins involved, but I focus on what I'm singing and the rest of the world melts away. Of course, it helps to sing something really plaintive, like "Who's Minding the Store?" So that's what I started with. Yeah. Jazz. Slow, smoky jazz sung just above a whisper. The low moan of a saxophone. Lazy brushes on drums.

Ooh. "One For My Baby" just came up. Wow. Talk about a plaintive song. "I'm feelin' so bad, I wish you'd make the music dreamy and sad." But I'm not feelin' so bad. Not anymore.

I wonder where the emotion goes. If I'm sad when I start singing, and singing seems to expel the sadness, where does it go? Into the ether? Does it transfer to someone else? Or does it simply morph inside? If matter is neither created nor destroyed, does the same hold true for feelings? Does sadness change to happiness? Are all feelings chemical? Are they self-contained? If I'm upset and I tell a friend about it and bring them down, did I transfer negative energy to them or does their brain produce a sensation of sadness? And it is sadness or is it sympathy?

All righty, then. Something for me to mull over. And it's time to put in a new CD.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Birthday Weekend: Day 4 of 4 ...

I am happy. Truly happy.

I honestly can't remember a better birthday.

This portends good, good things for the coming year, I'm sure.

I awoke this morning with a smile on my face. "Happy birthday to me!" I said, lying in bed. The phone rang. It was mom.

"Can I ask a favor?" she said.

"Of course," I said. Mom has done so much for me over the past few days, I can hardly repay her.

"Could you come over here to open your present? It won't fit in my car."

"What the hell did you buy me?!" I asked, as if she was going to tell me.

And then I thought I might know: A couple months ago, we were shopping and I spied a painting I really liked. But no, I thought. It couldn't be that. That would be too much.

I told her to put on a pot of coffee and that I'd be by in a half hour.

I brushed my teeth, pulled on some slouchy clothes, decided against putting in my contacts, grabbed my coffee goo out of the fridge, and headed to my parents' house.

When I arrived at their house, I poured myself a cup of coffee and then sat in the living room before the most festively wrapped patchwork tissue-papered box, about 2 1/2-feet square, with a giant tissue-paper flower on the top. The envelope of the card tucked on top looked aged.

"I bought that card for you two years ago and hid it so well, I just found it," she said. Mom buys the best cards. This one is particularly sniffle-inducing: "The beauty within you ... brings joy to those around you. Have a wonderful birthday." Oh!

I tore into the box. Inside the box was another tissue-paper wrapped packaged, somewhat shaped like a pillow. Only it wasn't a pillow. It was a new down comforter. I'd been looking for one for my bed, and finally hijacked the one off the guest bed. But my new comforter is a king size for my queen-sized bed and super fluffy. I'm very pleased!

I drank more coffee in the kitchen as she and dad noshed on veggies and blue-cheese dip leftover from Saturday night's dinner. I was still too full from yesterday. Honestly, I'm eating twigs for the rest of the week.

We spent most of the day shopping (I changed and put in contacts; I didn't go out into the world looking like a total schlub). I spent my Best Buy gift card on Shawn Colvin and Brandi Carlile CDs (Brandi is on right now - very loud and very amazing; I love her) and jotted down a couple CD titles that I'll ask for for Christmas. We had lunch at Chili's (mom and I are addicted to the mashed potatoes there, and now dad is, too) because I was finally hungry. I found the sought-after fourth box of cards at the Hallmark at the mall. I bought fluted oval cookie cutters at a nearby kitchen store, in preparation for the holiday baking which will commence soon. (I made this year's cookie list on Saturday. I need to make a couple test batches of some new recipies, but I think this year's roster will end up being 13 or 14 varieties.) By the time we got to Walter E. Smithe and were looking at the rack of rugs, dad grabbed some couch and just waited.

Men - most men - do not like to shop.

Mom took dad home so he could rest while we continued our shopping day. We powered up at Starbucks. We checked out a new antique mall where I bought a copy of Larousse Gastronomique. Mom asked what I planned to do with it, and I said that I just thought that any self-respecting cook should have a copy for reference. And it was six bucks. It's 1,101 pages. Such a deal. And then mom decided that we needed to visit the local candy shop for some dark chocolate-covered raisins. Hell yeah!

I had decided this morning that I wanted take-out Chinese for dinner. So we headed to a place she'd never tried before. It was closed. So we headed to a Thai place. It was closed. So we headed to another Chinese place. It was closed. Clearly, any Asian cuisine is off the table on a Monday.

We ended up going to her house to collect my dad and went to a restaurant they used to frequent where mom likes the broiled lake perch they make for her special and dad opted for a porterhouse steak. It's one of those time-warp restaurants where you get little dishes of salads and a bread basket and soup and salad and your entree with your choice of potato. Who can eat all that food? My father, apparently.

I came home to birthday greetings in many forms: e-mails, voicemails, IMs, cards in my mailbox. One e-mail was from a guy who wrote to me the last time I was on Match. I'd let our communications lapse in my haste to get away from that site once and for all. But I liked Barry. I'd kept his e-mails, and it's fun that he got in touch again. Another e-mail was from Dave, who's putting in a late night on a show that's screening tomorrow, but was writing with birthday wishes as my day winds down. He included the most adorable picture of his new toddler dog, Randolph (I have to include it here; it's too priceless) with the message, "This little guy says 'Hey.' " I totally melted. Can you *stand* that face? And the jagged little tufts of hair sticking up from his head? And the perspective of the shot, big, sweet face with a little body tucked underneath?

So I called Dave to chat briefly. If he's working late, he needs to be working, but I felt the need to talk to him for a moment on this, my best birthday ever. Eventually, he sighed and said, "Well, I should work, Beth, cuz I could go on with you all night." Don't you love friends like that? The kind you can talk to for hours? One of my favorite things about Dave is that no matter how long we're together, when it comes time to say goodbye, we always find 10 other things we just have to talk about right that minute. Goodbyes with him take half an hour.

I was born at night. As we were driving to dinner, mom was reminding me of my birth "stats": 8 pounds, 2 1/2 ounces, 20 1/2 inches long. "You did not want to come out," she said.

"No?"

"No, he broke my water and you still weren't coming out. So he induced me, and an hour later, out you came."

"Huh," I said. "I was lazy even then."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Birthday Weekend: Day 3 of 4 ...

Well, this extended birthday weekend thing is a hoot!

Day 3. On the heels of finding holiday cards yesterday, I spent this morning drafting my holiday letter. I am suspiciously ahead of the game here. I bought my first Christmas present when I was in New York in October, and yesterday, I wrapped it. I'm kind of itching to put up the tree.

Mom came over for her usual Sunday morning bagel and coffee, along with the shrimp from last night's appetizer array. Bagels and shrimp. Ah, breakfast.

Today's birthday-related festivity, though, was lunch with my friends Sue and Gary. Sue was unable to attend Friday's fete, and had asked if I was free for lunch this weekend. So kind of them. They arrived here at 1 and we went to the restaurant together, my favorite local Italian place.

Sue is a voiceover talent. I love her voice. You've probably heard her on radio or TV. Every so often, I'll be watching TV and hear Sue coming at me. I don't see Gary very often, but he's so delightful, completely affable and chatty. Sometimes, when two female friends get together and a husband in included, the conversation can leave the guy cold. But today's chatfest was always well-rounded. Though I was very aware of the fact that I was talking a lot. Usually, in groups, I'm the person who sits back and takes it all in. But then again, did I expect Sue and Gary to talk to each other while I listened? They can talk to each other when I'm not around.

Gary had veal medallions that looked beautiful. Sue had some kind of pork. I had lamb. Some days, I just need meat. Since we had all skipped appetizers, we felt justified in ordering dessert. Gary ordered the mixed berry custard tart. Sue, behaving more or less, ordered biscotti to go with her cappuccino. Gary had been flirting with the idea of the flourless chocolate cake, so I ordered that so he could share. I also ordered a decaf single espresso. What arrived looked like a cup of black coffee. It was espresso. It was just the most enormous espresso I'd ever seen.

Our server informed us that the biscotti had gotten burned this morning, so Sue opted for the mixed berry custard tart, as well. I tried a bite. Holy mother of God. It was sensational. My flourless chocolate cake came as a jelly-rolled affair, chocolate cake and chocolate mousse, rolled together in a pretty spiral on a plate napped with raspberry sauce. Rather outstanding.

They dropped me off at home just about 4 p.m. Now that's a lovely way to while away a Sunday afternoon! Sue snuck a card onto the table by my front door, and my neighbors tucked a card in my mailbox sometime between last night and this afternoon. My card collection is growing.

Tomorrow is my actual birthday and it doesn't seem real at this point. I've had such a great birthday run so far, it seems impossible that the day hasn't even arrived yet. Tomorrow, I can have leftover birthday cake for breakfast!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Birthday Weekend: Day 2 of 4 ...

This morning, Jay and I talked for nearly two hours.

We saw each other Tuesday night, and again on Friday afternoon, which is much more than we usually see each other. So how we also managed to spend nearly two hours on the phone this morning is a bit beyond me. But we did spend a fair amount of time talking about music, and we could both go on forever about music. So there you go.

While we talked, Jay mastered the art of sending pictures from his camera phone. Camera phones don't capture the greatest quality, but considering that their primary function is to transmit voice data packets, not images, they do a pretty good job of capturing a moment.

The food at Allen's is unquestionably sensational. But for photography purposes, the lighting is not. Doreen sent the pictures she took with her phone and the best word to describe the illusion of the bags under my eyes in them is "grotesque." Jay managed to capture a couple shots that are a bit more viewable, though I'm not happy with them all together. And no, I'm not one of those people who always carps about their photos. If I take a good photo, I'm happy to admit it. I don't scour it for a flaw, but Friday was not my hair's best day. And the lighting in the room didn't help. Some days, you just have it goin' on, and some days you don't. Friday was a don't. Dave, though, is one of those insanely photogenic people. I believe he's incapable of taking a bad photograph.

The weather today was rainy and cold. Blech. But I had written out a couple thank-you notes and had some other things to mail, so I thought I'd best get to the post office before it closed.

Right. You're ahead of me, aren't you? Yeah, it's Veterans' Day. The post office, however, is open all the time for self-service, so I served myself.

I was feeling a good Christmas card vibe, so I headed to Maria's Hallmark next. Finding Christmas cards is the annual bane of my existence, but today, the third box I picked up was the winner. Ah, but there were only three boxes. I needed four. A very helpful woman retreated to the back room to see if she could find more. She was gone at least 15 minutes, bless her heart. No luck. But there are almost as many Hallmark stores as Starbucks, so I was sure I'd find another box.

I went to Fran's Hallmark. No dice. I drove to Louise's Hallmark. Nada. I drove rather out of my way to another Hallmark, the proper name of which I do not know. Bupkus. For the love of God. I headed toward the mall and became ensnarled in traffic that felt like it was the day before Christmas. As soon as I could turn off the main road, I headed for home. It's November 11. I don't have to have the fourth box just yet.

But as I was driving toward the mall, speeding along the highway in the wind and rain, I saw a rainbow in the northern clouds. The left arc of a rainbow. And, in quick, furtive glances east, I found the right arc. And, because I am a complete sap, I started to cry. It was just so hopeful. And then, as if on cue, the clouds to the west parted and the late-afternoon sunlight exploded onto everything around me. It looked like a painting. And then, within seconds, I found myself driving in the gray mist again.

Tonight was dinner at my parents' house with my brother and sister-in-law and nephews and niece. Mom puts forth a ridiculous amount of effort for our birthdays, cooking eveything we want. She's exceptional. Dinner was sensational.

She bought beautiful, fragrant flowers for the table. I commented on them. "You're taking them home," she said. "You have to take something home the night of your party, since you don't want your gift until Monday." Mom thinks of everything.

So the flowers came home with me. They're sitting on my dining-room sideboard. I snapped a shot of them. I like the way it came out. I think it looks like a Renaissance painting.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Birthday Weekend: Day 1 of 4 ...

I am poised on the brink of my "late 30s." On Monday, I will be 37. You cannot call 37 "mid"; 37 is "late."

Not that I mind. I'm not one of those people who freaks out over their age for the simple fact that the alternative to having another birthday is to have no birthdays at all. I rather like living. I hope to do it for a long time to come. Birthdays, bring 'em on.

Every year, I take a group of friends out for lunch for my birthday. I want to celebrate my birthday with them, but I'm not the kind of person who can say, "OK, take me out to lunch!" So I pick up the tab. Every year, we go to a different place. Well, technically, today's location was a repeat, but the last time I was there with friends for a birthday lunch was the year I created this tradition, and there were only three of us. So I wanted to return with a larger group.

Where?, you ask. Allen's: The New American Cafe.

I love Allen's. I love it. I love, love, love it. If you've never been, and you live within a 100-mile radius of 217 W. Huron, you need to go. Make a special trip. You won't be disappointed. The lunch menu knocks my socks off.

Brian, who had to leave early to go to a closing, had the mushroom starter before he left. We were mushroom twins.

Kelley surely started with a salad, though I can't see it in front of her right now, and had duck for lunch. The server forgot to put her order in, so hers came up late, but he covered nicely by bringing her another glass of wine on the house.

Doreen must have had a salad, too, and the burger, sans bun, and the "trifecta" of condiments. Doreen likes the word "trifecta." Her fries looked fabulous.

Jay had a salad to start, I'm sure of that, and short rib-filled ravioli. Yep, short-rib filled ravioli. He insisted I try the last one. I thought the pasta was too tough, but the sauce was outstanding.

Dave had the arugula salad (which I encouraged him to get, so I could have a bite, but I never did reach over and stab any) and the fish duo, swordfish and something else. Dave always orders fish.

I started with the foraged wild mushrooms sauteed with brandy and finished with herb butter and then continued the mushroom theme with seared diver scallops with butter-poached oyster mushrooms and hand-rolled gnocchi.

Dave fairly devoured his lunch. "How is it?" I asked. He looked at his plate.

"You mean because I'm almost finished?" And then Dave, being Dave, apologized for not offering some to me.

"That's OK," I said. "I'm really not a big fan of fish. Shellfish, yes. Fish, not so much." Dave looked at my scallops.

"And I'm not really a fan of shellfish," he said.

"So if we always dined together ("dine" is a Dave word; you don't "eat" with Dave, you "dine"), we'd never run the risk of overfishing the ocean," I said.

"Yes," he said, laughing. "We'd balance each other out."

We finished with coffees and cappuccinos and desserts. Kelley and I each ordered the lemon-scented panna cotta. Kelley and I have a lot in common. I didn't realize we also shared the panna cotta wavelength. Doreen ordered the creme brulee. Jay was behaving and Dave had stepped out to take a call. I knew he'd have some of mine. Dave is the kind of guy who doesn't tend to order dessert, but he's happy to share, which is perfect, because I usually don't want more than a couple bites. I also ordered a decaf cap for him, like me, and when he returned, he reached for the Splenda. Kelley, Doreen, and I all made him stop. "Use the sugar instead," we urged. Allen's serves rustic lumps of sugar. Dave, I kid you not, excavated at least five out of the sugar holder with his spoon. He must have noticed our astonished expressions. "That's why I always use Equal," he said. I've known Dave for nearly 12 years, and today was the first time I've seen the actual volume of sugar he uses. He's a sugar addict, at least when it comes to coffee. I always thought his two packets of Equal was too much for a grande latte, but then, I don't use the stuff. I'm a "one packet of Sugar in the Raw" kind of gal. My dessert arrived with a pink candle in it on a rectangular plate (platter?) with "Happy Birthday, Beth!" written in chocolate on the rims. I don't normally do the restaurant birthday singing thing, but everyone sang, which was sweet.

Allen's is all about the food (and the service, if you don't count the Duck Mishap) and the space (we had the private dining space at the back of the restaurant, and I was thrilled that the table for 8 was set so spaciously; too many restaurants set a six-top and stick a chair at each end which is too crowded; this table easily could have seated 10), but the best part, of course, was having my friends with me.

There are some fixtures (Dave has been to every one; Jay and Doreen have been to most) but I try to add new people to the roster every year. Of course, I run the risk of having a crazy-big party if everyone accepts (this year's party could have been 14), but invariably, there are those who send their regrets. Today's group was planned for seven (I had the restaurant set for 8 because I had a couple people from whom I hadn't heard, and if either of them showed up, I wanted a place waiting for them), but ended up being six, and once Brian left for his closing, five, which is such a good number for lunch. Not that I don't love having more people around, but five is a perfect number for conversation. Everyone can be engaged at the same time, instead of conducting smaller side conversations.

This year, Kelley and Brian were brilliant additions. Kelley is very pretty and poised and says interesting things, but can also insert quirky, illuminating details into a story or say something completely hysterical. Brian is brilliant, a philosopher and architect by training, living off his investments presently. He was in top form today, telling his stories of volunteering at Children's Memorial (he plays games with the kids) and inserting some rather blue comments into one conversation that nearly had me spitting out my food I was laughing so hard. When he left, Dave immediately commented on how great Brian is, and Dave is an exceedingly good judge of character.

I tell everyone in the lunch invite that they should bring nothing but themselves, but some show up with gifts in tow anyway.

Jay, with whom I went to see Shawn Colvin on Tuesday, brought me Shawn's "Cover Girl" album, one I've been lacking for years, and the eponymous "Clap Your Hands Say Yeah." I popped it in earlier tonight, but I think I need to score some LSD and try to give it another listen.

Doreen brought me "Going for the Bronze: Still Bitter, More Baggage," the sequel to "Bitter with Baggage Seeks Same: The Life and Times of Some Chickens." If you haven't seen these books, you must find them. She also brought me a beautiful pewter-colored frame containing a photo of George Clooney. When I wrote this post about George, I told her that I wanted a date with him for my birthday. She told me to start visualizing. And then she ensured that I'd have my "date" with George by framing a lovely photo from his recent Vanity Fair spread. George was part of my placesetting today, sitting just above my bread plate.

It was a lovely lunch. It started off a bit harried. I got stuck in some traffic and was running late. I called the restaurant to ask them to take care of my guests and let them know I'd be there as soon as possible. And then I struck on a fabulous time-saving idea: I parked in a no-parking zone, threw on my flashers, ran into the restaurant, said hello to the people waiting for me by the bar, and thrust my keys at Dave and said, "Would you do me a favor? There's a $20 in the console. Would you go park my car?" And off he went so I could receive the rest of my guests. Who cares if the restaurant doesn't have valet parking at lunch when you have a friend who will be your personal valet? Turns out, Dave paid for the parking himself. He's that kind of guy.

But it was lovely, a long and leisurely lunch. I love that I have friends who can steal away for more than two hours on a Friday afternoon. And hey, how often do I have an Absolut Mandarin on the rocks at 12:30? Whew! I got a little tipsy. I'm sure everything today was as funny as it was, but I'm sure the Absolut made it even funnier for me.

My birthday is Monday, yes, but I didn't like the feel of a Monday birthday lunch. Friday seemed much more apropos. And so after stopping at KP to drop off CDs for those who couldn't break away for lunch (every year, starting last year, I make a compilation CD for my birthday lunch; on the cover is a message to my friends and their name in big type; it's a favor, but it's also a placecard; brilliant, no?!), I headed to the lot where Dave had put my car. The attendant had the keys. I walked up to his booth and pointed out my car. He looked at me and said, "A guy parked it, though, right?"

Oh, right! I forgot to mention that. Nothing like walking into a parking lot and saying, "Hi, I think I'll take that black Impala!"

But he was good about it once I described Dave, pulled my car out for me, held the door and closed it when I was settled in.

And to top off a fabulous day, I arrived home to a package tucked between my front doors. L.A. Dave sent me the 2007 George W. Bush The Out of Office Countdown calendar. "Two years and counting!" is says on the cover, with Bushisms for every month, such as this gem for February:

"I like my buddies from West Texas. I liked them when I was young, I liked them when I was middle-aged, I like them before I was president, and I like them during president, and I like them after president." (Apparently, in the reality in which George lives, time is defined as B.P. and A.P.)

Tomorrow night is dinner with the family, since my brother has to travel for work next week. Sunday, lunch with friends who weren't able to make it to today's fete, and Monday, the actual day, who knows!

Of Me I Sing ...

Well, no, I'm not singing about me. The only "Beth" song I know of is by Kiss. Not exactly my sound.

But last night I had a session at KP with my all-time favorite sound guy Brian. He's so sweet, and sticks around after hours so I can come in and play. Studio time don't come cheap, so I'm fabulously lucky to be able to record on state-of-the-art equipment for the grand sum of nothing. Well, I mean, I'll think of something to do to thank Brian for all of this, but I'm not dolin' out cash by the hour.

Making my way to the building, I was driving north on Franklin past Gene & Georgetti's when I spied a man in a golf shirt and chinos exiting the restaurant. He was wearing two fanny packs. And he got behind the wheel of the Rolls Royce at the curb. Huh? OK, boys, here's the thing: Fanny packs are a bad idea unless you're engaged in some sort of long-distance sporting event. If you're a man and you need to carry so much stuff that it won't fit in your pockets, for the love of God get a messenger bag or a briefcase, depending on which suits your scene.

But I digress. I got to KP and found a spot right in front of the building. Except that there are parking restrictions in that area now. After 6 p.m., the meters are off limits unless you have a residential parking sticker. Oh, that's just annoying. I'm sure Scoozi! is thrilled about that. People can't park near the restaurant? Does that mean they have to valet? Or park several blocks away? Or pay for an over-priced lot? Sheesh. A couple high-rises go up in River North and suddenly we can't park where we've always parked? I could see a parking restriction after 9 p.m., maybe, but 6 p.m.?

Oh, but I digress again. We pulled some new songs into the computer and Brian asked which one I'd like to try first. Nervous, I picked the most up-tempo of the bunch, thinking that it would be too hard to sing something slow and smoky while nervous. But it's a rather bold song, and the last thing I am when I step behind a microphone after a long spell is bold. So that song wasn't working. We set it aside. I told Brian that my first take of any song is like the first crepe: It's meant to be scrapped. It's purely preparatory. Still, I wasn't feelin' it. Maybe next time.

Reviewing the list of songs, I realized that most everything I've picked is slow. Well, there are a couple of potential duets, but I need to recruit Dave into doing them with me. But I picked a song and we tried it and Brian played it back. I turn off the lights in the booth, singing in the dark, the only light coming through the studio window from Brian's room. (I like it that way, especially for the slow, smoky stuff. It doesn't feel right to sing those songs under track lights.) I liked what I heard. So we tried another, then another, then another. Brian thought it would be good, since I was antsy last night, to get bases down for as many songs as we could, and then refine them during another session.

When I sing, I'm listening to the track I'm singing to in the headphones, but also listening to my own voice, to replicate how I sing at home or in the car. I sing along with tracks. During playback, I hear both tracks, too.

I have an ability to mimic singers very closely, so that when I'm singing a Sting tune, I sing like Sting. When I'm singing a Diane Reeves tune, I sing like Dianne Reeves. When I sing an Iva Davies tune, I sing like Iva Davies. (I once recorded me singing with Iva on my home computer and sent it to John, who replied that he couldn't hear me. My voice was actually more pronounced than Iva's, I just sounded exactly like him.) So last night, listening, there were moments in which I couldn't detect my voice from the original vocal.

On the one hand, I think this is cool, that I can make my voice do whatever the song is doing. On the other hand, it leaves me wondering what *my* voice truly is.

Time flies by in the booth, and before I knew it, it was 8 p.m. Two hours is plenty. Not that I was singing for two solid hours, but we covered a lot of ground, and I wanted Brian to be able to go home to his wife. So I stepped out of the booth and Brian played my vocal from the last time I was there, my cut of "Gotta Be This or That."

I paced back and forth a bit behind his chair. Hearing my voice on its own is a bit unnerving for me at first, but then I stopped behind him and stared at my voiceprint on the screen while I listened.

"Did you do anything to this track?" I asked.

"Nope, it's just you," he said. "It sounds really good!"

"You know, my mom raised me to be humble, but yeah it does!"

That was probably the time I should have gone right back in the studio and laid down the first track we tried last night, with that boost of confidence. But we called it a night.

And Brian and I walked to my car (the very least I can do is drive him home), and wouldn't you know it, I had a ticket. Never saw the No Parking sign. I'm gonna fight it with the city (the sign faces east, the cars, parked, face northwest), but even if I have to pay it, $50 is pretty cheap for two hours in a studio.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Let's Get (Meta)physical ...

Earlier, on the phone, I was talking to Dave.

Dave tells great stories, even when he's just relaying news. There's always a build. And so he got to a point in the story and said, "Coincidentally ..." and I interrupted, which was rude of me, but I had to say, "There's no such thing as coincidence."

"No?" he asked.

"Well, I don't believe there is, anyway."

He laughed. "Well, all right, John Locke!"

Dave and I are suckers for "Lost." Locke, if you don't watch the show, is the one some might describe as "woo woo," the one who believes that destiny has brought them to the island, that the island is alive.

And he's right. It is alive. Not just on the show, but for real.

At its core, everything is energy. Well, if you want to get really technical, everything is nothing. But that's too hard for people to wrap their brains around. Most people, though, can grasp that everything is made up of protons and electrons and neutrons, all spinnin' 'round.

So if everything is energy, some people can be more tuned into frequencies than others. Like a radio. Some can only perceive the static, others get the messages loud and clear. Most are somewhere in between on that continuum.

I have rather keen intuition. Doreen calls it my Spidey Sense. Barbara calls it witchipooness.

Sometimes, it's unsettling, the knowing. Sometimes, you just don't want to know. Everything happens anyway.

But those of us who are tuned into their energy can't turn it off. We could try to ignore it, I suppose, but what good would that do? Ignoring something you know doesn't make it go away.

And so I don't believe in coincidence. Everything happens the way it's supposed to happen. It's not a random chance that Dave's friend happened to call with a request that was directly related to something Dave was experiencing at the time. It's just one more step of the journey he's on, a path to a new place, perhaps. Time will tell.

For those of you who argue that what I'm suggesting precludes free will, it doesn't. Not at all. You can make all the choices you want. But you start at A and you're gonna end up at Z. The variable is how long you take to get there. Whether you make a direct connection or make detours to every letter in between is really up to you.

Four Perfect Words ...

"This is politically orgasmic."
- Doreen

Need I explain?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Girls With Guitars ...

Streisand may be in town for two dates, but last night, while my sister-in-law was in the cavernous United Center, having the time of her life, I'm sure, I was cozied up to the stage at the intimate Park West to see Shawn Colvin.

Jay introduced me to Shawn's music all the way back in 1995. Somehow, I never made it to a Shawn show before last night. Luckily, Shawn was coming to town and Jay had a birthday last month, so I bought tickets for us.

I listened to Shawn in the car, concert preparation, heightening my anticipation. I found a meter right on Clark, and called Jay to tell him that I was running early (that never happens!) and that there was parking aplenty. We met at Stanley's Kitchen for an early dinner. Jay was coming from a haircut. He hates when his hair is blown dry. He thinks it's too big. But I thought it looked great. Jay has amazing hair, the kind of hair women would kill for.

We got to the Park West just about 6:30. The tix were general admission, but unlike for past shows where the area in front of the stage is open, last night there were tables, long tables, radiating out from the stage, and chairs on each side of each table. With no reserved signs. Since Jay is the bigger fan, I suggested he decide where we sit. He chose well. He was in the second chair from the stage. I was behind him, in the third. I've never been so close to a stage for a show.

Mike was there with his 16-year-old daughter, Nicole. Some other fans made their way to the seats across from Jay and me. We didn't catch their names. The woman wasn't as much of a fan as her boyfriend/husband, but she came with him, as girlfriends/wives do. He, though, put the "fan" in fanatic. But I guess it's a good thing to be that committed to something ... or someone.

Brandi Carlile was the opening act, but she wasn't just another girl with a guitar. Oh no. Brandi, whom I'd never heard of before last night but who has a deal with Columbia, rocks. She reminds me a bit of Melissa Etheridge with an occasional Springsteen rasp. But her range is amazing, and her voice is gorgeous. She's written a song for "Grey's Anatomy," which she performed, and told the crowd that we needed to get rowdy, at which point she launched into "Folsom Prison Blues." It takes some stones to cover Johnny Cash, but she rocked it.

Shawn Colvin took the stage with Buddy Miller and her drummer, whose name, sadly, I forget, a raven-haired Laraine Newman. Shawn was amazing. I was thrilled for Jay to be so close to someone he loves so much. Buddy Miller knocked me on my ass. He's an astonishing guitar player. Simply astonishing. He plays a guitar like no one I've ever seen. If you ever have the chance to see him, you must go. And he has a great voice, too. Amazing man.

Even though we were so close to the stage, there's something about fixing my gaze that makes that which I'm gazing at start to look unreal. Maybe it's the lighting. I focused my eyes elsewhere and returned them to Shawn. She put on an amazing set.

On our feet at the end of the show, Shawn returned to the stage with Brandi. Brandi played guitar and sang. Shawn added her voice. When Brandi left the stage, Shawn shook her head and said, "If that girl learns to sing, she's really gonna go places."

Brandi, I've no doubt, has some Grammys in her future.

There was only time for one more song. The set, great though it was, was over too soon.

I asked Nicole if she enjoyed the show. "Oh, yeah!" she beamed. A new generation of Shawn fans. Well-deserved.

And I listened to Shawn in the car on the way home, cementing the experience. And I sang along, singing atypical songs (for my voice) and they felt good.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The World According To K-Fed: Kickin' Him When He's Down Edition ...

L.A. Dave just called to report, on this, an election day, an election day in which much is at stake, that CNN Breaking News is reporting that Britney Spears has filed for divorce.

The World According To K-Fed: Vindication Edition ...

In an exquisite moment of proof that money can't buy appreciation (or talent, for that matter), you'll be glad to learn, I'm sure, that the House of Blues in Chicago is offering complimentary tix for Kevin Federline's (all-ages, inexplicably) show for tomorrow night, Wednesday, November 8.

You can score some by going here.

Cleveland and Atlantic City have already been cancelled. You might want to get while the gettin's ... uh ... gettable.

Bushism du Election Day ...

Hey, friends, I think there's an election today. That, or advertising has gotten really avant garde.

Anyhoo, our dear friend George, president, iPod listener, bike rider, brush clearer, soon to be an even lamer duck, was kind enough to say something timely for this historic day:

"The great thing about America is, everybody should vote."
-- Austin, Texas; December 8, 2000

In my book, that's about the smartest thing he's ever said.

Vote, dear readers. Whatever your politics, add your voice. Not sure where to go? Click here to find your polling place.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The World According to K-Fed: Review Edition ...

L.A. Dave and I nearly wet ourselves last week while reading the iTunes reviews for K-Fed's album. I believe our mutual favorite was (and I may be paraphrasing a bit here, but there are currently 490 reviews of the album - average rating: two stars out of five - and I can't put my finger on the exact quote at the moment) "This isn't music, it's poop in sound-wave form." I'm sure about the "it's poop in sound-wave form" part. I'm just not sure if the reviewer refered to what they heard as "music."

And after Entertainment Weekly's fab interview with the Fedster last week, this week, the mag offers up its review of the album. The grade?

An F.

We now return to our regularly scheduled lives.

Meat ...

Sheesh, people.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I wrote this post about "Skinny Bitch."

Vitriol ensued. I wrote this as a follow-up.

But in past days, a couple people have found my original blog post and left comments. One commenter left a very level-headed note and recommended some books I might want to read. That was nice.

Today's commenter wrote this:

"actorken t said...
Why do we have these meat eating TEETH?

Anyone? Anyone?
HELLO there arent my imgination. I can see 'em. I can feel 'em. I can TEAR flesh with em.

Vegans are in DENIAL. I dont CARE ABOUT MEDICAL 'proof' cause man... 10 years ago you werent supposed to eat any eggs neither.

THe proof is in the bite.

Atkins works for me. Bread doesnt. why the hell can't you liberals agree that people are NOT all the fcking SAME... you talk about diversity but you want us all to eat the same WAY.

hypocrites.

have a nice fcking day.
and stay away from my beef. cause baby.. beef is good soup."

All righty, then. "Have a nice fcking day"? What's that about? And I love the way he manages to insert "liberals" into the discussion. There are no conservative vegetarians in the world? I mean, maybe there aren't. I haven't conducted a poll. But it seems a rather broad assumption. Then again, we are talking about *red* meat, aren't we? Never thought of it that way before.

As I said in my second post on the topic, "... I offer an olive branch (vegan) or an Olive Garden branch (where you can eat meat). You live your Atkins life, I'll live my vegan life, and we'll both die someday anyway."

Veganism is a radical shift in thinking, to be sure. And change is made slowly. After a lifetime of omnivorousness, downshifting to veganism is a jolt. Dietary whiplash. Excluding everything that is in any way animal-based is enormous to contemplate. And learning about "new" foods, how to cook with them, how to incorporate them, is a journey, one I'll be on for a long time.

Being vegan felt too radical, so I shifted to being vegetarian, cutting out animal flesh, but allowing myself eggs and cheese. I still try to steer clear of milk. (Yes, I know, cheese is made with milk, but many cheeses aren't made with cow's milk, and that's what we drink in this country.)

So there I was, going along on my vegetarian way, and something unexpected happened: I craved meat. Like Phoebe on "Friends" when she was pregnant with the triplets. Maybe it was a biological craving. Maybe it was a psychological craving. Maybe it was simply habit.

So I eat meat occasionally, when my body seems to need it, but I've cut back on it greatly. And it's in rather unidentifiable forms. I know that hamburger is ground-up cow, but it doesn't "look" like meat, not the way a T-bone steak looks like meat (not that I ever ate T-bone steaks before). I can't face a chicken leg with the bone and tendons and cartilage, but I can eat diced chicken on a salad because it doesn't "look" like chicken.

When I was in New York, my cousin Patty was telling me about a friend of hers who had grown up vegan but who was told by her doctor to start eating animal protein. So perhaps veganism isn't for everyone, though I'll continue to believe that we, in general, eat too much saturated fat (which comes from animal products) and all of us would benefit from more vegetables and grains in our diets. There's an interesting story in the news today about the rise of obesity in China. As the country becomes more wealthy, the population is turning to more meat and junk food and cutting back on vegetables and grains.

I'm still finding my dietary way. I have no doubt some of my meat-eating readers will serve up big, steaming comments full of "I told you so!" Maybe someday I'll be vegan. That day isn't today.

But "have a nice fcking day"? Wow. Can we save that sentiment for something that matters? Like politics?!

: o )

Liberal or conservative or somewhere in between, don't forget to vote tomorrow.