Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Year In Review: 2009 ...

A few years ago, exactly how many years ago I'm not sure, I started the tradition of sitting down on New Year's Eve and writing out my goals for the coming year.

Not resolutions, mind you. Resolutions never stick. But goals seemed to make sense.

So I'd write them out, longhand, in pencil (I prefer writing in pencil rather than pen; it has nothing to do with some subconscious desire to stay young, I just like the way graphite glides across paper), on a lined pad – white, not yellow – and then put them in an envelope and tuck it away in a drawer to be opened and read the following New Year's Eve. A little time capsule of sorts.

This year, impatient, I opened the envelope yesterday. And I read what I wrote. And I decided that I wouldn't write out any goals today for the coming year. I'll just see what manifests in my life, without any expectations committed to paper.

Let's review what I wrote a year ago, a few of the goals I had for 2009, reproduced here just as I wrote them:

[Insert gales of laughter here. Next ...]

2. Make as much money as possible
Here's a handy wealth-building insight for you: Unemployment insurance does not pave the road to riches.

3. Learn an instrument
Nope. But I have hopes for me and my guitar.

4. Sing more
Well, finally. I did something in 2009. I always want to spend more time in the studio, but I appreciated the time Brian was able to carve out for us. This was the year of George Michael's jazz arrangement of "Roxanne", and Melody Gardot's "Our Love Is Easy" and "Your Heart Is As Black As Night". (As ever, the evolving collection of works in progress can be found here.) I did not, however, make good on the "go to open-mic nights, for sure," portion of the goal. Ah well. I had good intentions. Brian and I were going to plan our studio time around the open-mic night at Davenport's, so I could record in the studio and warm up my voice, and then go perform in front of a wee audience. Next year, perhaps.

5. Read more
Not so much. I don't know why my desire to read comes and goes in fits and starts. Some weeks, I devour book after book, and other weeks, I don't read anything that doesn't appear online or in a magazine. But I do receive a lot of magazines. At the moment, though, the stack of books next to my bed is just silly. Glancing into my room, I'd say I have about 15 waiting for me to want to read them. I should pare back to just the one top of my night stand and move the others to my bookshelves to await their turns.

There were other goals on the list. I won't bore you with the rest of them. Suffice it to say: The report would not be good.

So 2009 is best left to history. The death of L.A. Dave in early February started an emotional avalanche that just recently has come to an end. So much happened this year, even as I felt as though I was doing nothing at all.

But I have arrived at this last day of the year with a lot of clutter cleared, many issues resolved, sense made out of the morass of emotions and moments that made up these months.

As I wrote in this post: "There have been moments of goodness, of course. Everyone in my family celebrated another birthday. I finished the 3-Day for the sixth time. Seeing Springsteen perform 'Born to Run' from the floor of the United Center was one for the record books."

And I made many new friends.

Picture an intricate wheel. L.A. Dave, who was greatly loved, was the hub, and we, each of us, had a place in his life at the end of each spoke. Though he is no longer at the physical center, we have all joined hands and kept the circle together. And we hold him in our collective heart.

And while there has been other great loss in these months, there has also been great gain. Friends have become parents and there is no more happiness in the world than can be found in those bundles of joy.

And other friends have wed and I wish them all the best.

With this year, though, I am done.

Farewell, 2009. Kindly step aside, for 2010 awaits. And I am eager to meet it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Up To Me ...

It happened in the bathroom.

I was putting on what passes for my face – I don't wear much makeup – thinking about an issue that's been exacting quite the mental toll of late, when it hit me.

"Ohmygod!" I yelled.

I don't have epiphanies often. But when I do, wow, they're the epiphaniest!

Years ago, I had a dream about my friend Dave. We were on a train (no, it wasn't that kind of dream; we just happened to be in the dining car on a train), sitting face to face at a small table and his hands were outstretched toward me, palms up, and he was handing to me a small figure of Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz."

"Is this to remind me that I always have everything I need, inside me?" I asked.

And he smiled at me.

And that was the end of the dream. My subconscious headed off in another direction, distracted, no doubt, by something shiny.

Yesterday, in the bathroom, I remembered that dream.

Do you know what it meant?

It meant that I always have everything I need, inside me.

Yeah, I know. I already knew that.

But I hadn't applied it to the situation at hand.

I had been mired in unease because I was operating on the assumption that the other party held all the power.

But that's not the case.

I hold half of it. My half. And I can use it in whatever way I choose.

And so I choose to respond to the situation in the way that best serves me, and damn if my day didn't get a whole lot better after that realization.

The morning was full of laughter. An interview I'd been pursuing for a story gelled. (I'll tell you who I'm talking to, next week, once we've spoken.) I went out with my mom to our favorite little Italian place and had a lovely lunch. Mom even wanted to split a dessert! And then we ran errands, and even they were delightful.

At Target, I scored two seasons of "House" on DVD and shimmery, berry-flavored ChapStik. (If I couldn't buy my favorite brand, shimmery and berry-flavored seemed like the way to go.)

At Bed Bath & Beyond, I scored a new cutting board and a meat thermometer! I know!

At Office Depot, I scored a new desk-blotter calendar and both medium and large binder clips! I have an unnatural affinity for binder clips. I love binder clips.

At the grocery store, I bought milk, eggs, and heavy cream. My mom looked at me strangely when I picked up the heavy cream. "I want to make scones for us," I said. So, scones I shall make.

And last night, I watched "The Kennedy Center Honors" and my face was wet with tears for most of the two hours. It was outstanding. And it culminated with a tribute to Bruce.


I was aware through the day, though, that sometimes mental shifts are fleeting, so I was curious to see how I'd feel when I woke up in the morning.


I feel great. I brewed a pot of coffee and fired up the computer and dialed up "Born to Run," the album, not just the song, which is the soundtrack to this part of my morning.

My ex getting hitched is a good thing, all around. I wish he and his wife every happiness, really, I do. It would have been nice to learn about the nuptials in some sort of personal way, not read about them on Facebook, but c'est la vie.

And the slamming of that door has helped me to close others.

And the timing couldn't be better, what with the new year right around the corner.

Here's to wiping the slate clean.

Monday, December 28, 2009

To The Sea ...

This is my metaphor:

I am a ship that has been tethered to its moorings too long in the port of the present and the past.

But I have been drifting out toward the open sea, toward vast waters that I have yet to sail.

And the lines that have held me to the dock have been being strained, but at last, the pull on them has gotten too great and – ping! – there they all go, snapping suddenly and setting me free.

Such is the story of the men in my life and 2009.

Tonight's realization that a college boyfriend was recently wed has left me slightly speechless. Not entirely speechless, mind you. Clearly, I'm finding words to write.

It's not the fact that he got married that's stunned me slightly. It's that I found out when I stopped by his Facebook page and read comments posted by others.

Given that he had taken to calling on a regular basis in recent months, you'd think he'd have mentioned that he had a wedding in the offing.

But then again, no.

And I've mentioned the man I was dating earlier this year, though I don't believe I mentioned that he announced, smack dab in the middle of a very romantic dinner at the conclusion of a week in which we saw each other every day, that he didn't want to be in a day-to-day relationship.

That was an evening-ender. Not to mention a relationship-ender. Though, apparently, we weren't in a relationship all along. We were dating. Casually. Which I didn't know.

In my world, casual dating entails dating, fun things like dinner and drinks, maybe a visit to a comedy club or taking in a movie. In my world, casual dating does not involve stopping at the dry cleaners and picking up a new city sticker, getting the car washed and running to the laundromat. I understand that all those things are necessary, and if I'm in a relationship with someone, I'm happy to participate in life's banalities. But if we're just supposed to be having fun, then we should be having fun. He can save the trip to Office Depot for another time.

And then there was the man whose behavior I've referred to in a past post as "exquisitely asinine." There was a lesson to be learned from him, of course. That lesson? Ignoring intuition only works for so long. Eventually, those thoughts and suspicions that dawn on you but which you try to discount will manifest themselves in spades.

And there were others in my life this year, each of them taking their respective place along the continuum, but I won't delve into details. You get the idea.

In the moments that these instances have come to pass over the past year, I have felt as though I've been dealt a series of blows, some harder than others.

But among all the not-torrid tales exists a silver lining. Two silver linings, actually. One is called "awareness." The other, "fodder."

Like Diane Keaton's character in "Something's Gotta Give," I can translate my liaisons into lucre.

I can, that is. Whether or not I will remains to be seen.

Perhaps examination of these pieces of my past are part of what awaits my exploration on the open sea. Or perhaps they are people and places best left behind.

Amorous trinkets of treasure or flotsam and jetsam?

Time will tell.

For now, I welcome the comprehensive clarity about the collective situation. Everything changes, whether or not that change is sought.

So it's best to look ahead.

It's Good To Have A Goal ...

OK, I OFFICIALLY do not understand men.

I'd join a convent. If I were Catholic.

I'd date women. If I were gay.

I'd get a cat. If I liked cats.

Clearly, I need to go buy some high-collared blouses and long skirts. And a rocking chair. And make my face very pinched. And learn to crochet. And learn to like tea. And keep my house dark. And never go out.

Spinsterhood, here I come!

Update! I was just on the phone with my mom, detailing what accoutrement I'll need to complete my spinster transformation, and without missing a beat, she chimed in with, "You need a cameo." And then we both cracked up. Damn, that's perfect. Yes, that's exactly what I need. I need a cameo. She also informed me that I'll need hair nets to keep my hair in place while I sleep, because, of course, from here on, I will be wearing it in a bun. And she also suggested that I need dark-rimmed glasses.

I have much to learn.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Best. Poem. Ever. ...

I am finally reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I buy books and I intend to read them. And then they languish on my bookshelf. Or on the floor next to my bed. And then I pick one up, finally, and read a page or two, and then set it down, and there it sits, for days or weeks or months, until a little voice in my head tells me to pick it up again.

This morning, the little voice told me to pick up Anne's book again. So I did.

And I just read this poem, by Phillip Lopate. I read it out loud. And I laughed. Which either means that I'm a heartless bitch or that I understand, in some small way, the absurdity of self-imposed angst.

We Who Are Your Closest Friends

We who are

your closest friends

feel the time

has come to tell you

that every Thursday

we have been meeting,

as a group,

to devise ways

to keep you

in perpetual uncertainty


discontent and


by neither loving you

as much as you want

nor cutting you adrift.

Your analyst is

in on it,

plus your boyfriend

and your ex-husband;

and we have pledged

to disappoint you

as long as you need us.

In announcing our


we realize we have

placed in your hands

a possible antidote

against uncertainty

indeed against ourselves.

But since our Thursday nights

have brought us

to a community

of purpose

rare in itself

with you as

the natural center,

we feel hopeful you

will continue to make unreasonable

demands for affection

if not as a consequence

of your disastrous personality

then for the good of the collective.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

After Christmas ...

I am sitting.

I could be doing a few dishes, but I am sitting. I've puttered around the house this morning, putting things back in their places. Pearl Jam (a k a Eddie Vedder and band) and The Fireman (a k a Paul McCartney and band) are keeping me company. My fabulous bulky scarf from my cousins Patty and Barry is keeping me toasty warm. (He bought the yarn, she knit.)

Today, "getting dressed" entailed pulling on socks and wrapping the scarf around my neck, the accessories to my pajama ensemble. And like this I shall remain. I have nowhere I need to go today. It is snowing. I am happy to stay tucked inside my house and watch a movie or read a book. Or nap. Or all three.

Though I may muster up enough ambition to make bread, only so that I may have more toast. If English Teacher Dave were here, he would say, in a stage whisper and mock-conspiratorial tone, "You know, stores sell bread."

Ah, but they do not sell this bread and this bread makes the most wondrous toast.

That's right: I wrote "wondrous" as a description of toast.

Bake some of the bread. Toast some of the results. And you'll see.

But the bread is merely a possibility in a day of nothing that needs to be done.

I spoke with my mom this morning and she mentioned how nice it is to have a conversation that doesn't center on what needs to be done that day in order to prepare for Christmas.

We love cooking and baking for everyone, but we also love knowing that we're done. For the moment, anyway. It's nice to hit Pause after days of Play.

Momentum, though, is a funny thing. Even as I sit here and revel in the stillness and relative quiet, my brain can't help but spin out thoughts of things I should do. Later, though.

So another Christmas has come and gone. All the hubbub has subsided. Underneath my tree is bare. Gifts given, gifts opened, new things.

On Christmas Eve, my brother and sister-in-law and their kids gave me a Mrs. Beasley doll, which made me misty. I love sentimental presents. I had a Mrs. Beasley when I was young. I still have her, actually. She's in a bin in the basement. But she is missing her glasses. Because when I was young, I really wanted to wear glasses. I don't know why. I guess because I didn't wear glasses, and when you're young, whatever you don't have is what you want. But Mrs. Beasley's glasses wouldn't fit me. So I cut them in half, at the bridge, so I could arrange them in a sort-of fashion on my face.

Mom was not pleased.

So my brother or my sister-in-law found Mrs. Beasley online and bought her and Brian restored her "voicebox" and as I pulled the string on Christmas Eve and listened to Mrs. Beasley, I realized that she and I aren't so different these days. Because she says things that I will soon say, such as, "Speak a little louder, dear, so Mrs. Beasley can hear you."

But this morning, I had an epiphany. As I massaged the stuffing in her arms to restore some body to her shoulders, I pulled the string a few times and one of the things that Mrs. Beasley says is, "Would you like to try on my glasses? You may if you like."


There it is! No wonder I cut Mrs. Beasley's glasses in half! Yes, Mrs. Beasley, I did want to try on your glasses, but they didn't fit me, because I was not the same size as a doll. I'm not blaming Mrs. Beasley. I'm not suggesting that her little polka-dotted, bespectacled self is responsible for my snip of destruction. But it all makes much more sense now, doesn't it?

Anyhoo, Mrs. Beasley is sitting in a chair in the corner of my guest room at the moment. I'm not quite sure where she should make her place in my home just yet. So whilst I ruminate, she'll hang out in there.

I slept at home that night. The crazy weather – Ice-crusted snow! Rain! More rain! Ark-inspiring rain! – left me wondering how my basement would fare, so instead of staying at my folks' house and lying awake all night, thinking, "I hope my basement isn't flooding," I decided to sleep in my own bed.

For the first time in 40 years, I woke up alone on Christmas. In the days leading up to the big dance, I had written to a couple of friends that I would be staying at my parents' house because I couldn't bear the thought of waking up alone on Christmas morning.

Turns out, I can bear it just fine.

The only Christmas decoration in my room is the little ceramic tree that my grandmother used to have in her home. It sits on a base that contains a light bulb and has plastic "lights," almost like Lite-Brite pegs, stuck in some of the holes, while other holes are punched in a garland-like fashion to let the light shine through.

I love colored Christmas lights, though both of my trees are lit with only white. So I slept with my grandmother's tree glowing, which was very cheery.

Mind you, I didn't sleep for long. I went to bed sometime after 1 a.m. and would awake every so often to the sound of the sump pump pumping. And then I'd lie there and listen for it again, to check the interval.

The pump performed. The basement stayed dry. But I got out of bed just after 4 a.m. anyway.

Mom called about 7 a.m. and I headed over there to open presents.

In recent years, I've asked for folks to contribute to charities instead of buying gifts for me. I have so much, more than I need, and I'd prefer to pare back on things, not accumulate more.

But tradition reigns on Christmas. And so me and my mom and dad sat in the living room and exchanged gifts. Mom handed me a big, heavy box. I asked for "nothing" and instead was handed something big and heavy.

As I started to tear off the paper, mom explained that it wasn't a Christmas gift, per se. That it was just "a gift." Her reasoning, I would come to understand, was that what I was opening wasn't something I had asked for nor did it fit into the category of things one might expect to receive for Christmas.

I cleared the paper away. And laughed. On my lap, in its box, was a paper shredder.

But I really have been meaning to get one. Whenever I need to shred anything, I head over to their house. So now I have a shredder of my own.

I also received a really beautiful pashmina scarf, ruby-red with an intricate pattern woven in in black thread. It's very pretty, bordering on fancy, but I will wear it while doing everyday errands, out and about, a festive pop of color near my face in the bleak midwinter.

And I received CDs, including Brandi Carlile and Sting. And the china Christmas mug from which I remember mom drinking her coffee when I was younger. She made sure that that was the last thing I opened. It's very sweet and sentimental. I used it this morning.

We had an incremental breakfast of toast and cookies and little breakfast sausages and cantaloupe and veggies and dip. And we lazed about for a good part of the day, Dad took a nap in the living room. Mom and I set up on the couch in the TV room, chatting while "A Christmas Story" happened on the TV.

After a return home for a few hours to phone my pal Rick and with the intention of taking a nap that never happened, I returned to my folks' house for dinner with my other brother, who was coming from work.

We ate a carboriffic dinner and then retired to the living room for more gift-giving. Paul gave me the Pearl Jam and The Fireman CDs as well as two seasons of "House" on DVD. I hugged them to my chest. Hours and hours of Hugh Laurie!

I was home just after 10 p.m., happy to be home on a snowy night. Happy to head off to bed and sleep at last.

Which I did. Uninterrupted. For many hours. Heaven.

It is still snowing. A neighbor from across the street popped by for a bit with a little Christmas treat, some muffins and a box of Turtles. We sat by the tree and chatted. And now she's off to make another delivery and I have returned to my keyboard and wrapped up this post just as my laptop battery is beginning to wind down.

I wonder what I'll do next.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

All I Want For Christmas ...

It's not too late, is it, to put in a request?

Dear Santa:

This year, I would like the back of a 16-year-old. Or any back that does not require me to use my hands to help myself straighten up while I make old-man sounds.

I would also like a tall, handsome, smart, funny, emotionally stable, pro-commitment, heterosexual man.


I wonder how you wrap a back. That is clearly the more likely of the two gifts I would receive.

But what if it's the wrong size?

Good morning, boys and girls! It's Christmas Eve!

The holidays have arrived, once again. Right on schedule.

There's a bit of Christmas in the air. It's still white outside, though yesterday's freezing rain has left the snow looking shellacked.

After yesterday's marathon day of cooking and baking and errand-running, I am nearly ready for Christmas. Today, I will make bread for tonight. And for toast in the morning. And I will wrap stocking stuffers. And when I go to my parents' house later, I will help my mom with whatever needs to be done for dinner.

But other than that, I'm done.

All that's left is the social aspect of the holiday, popping by neighbors' homes with a few treats, handing out presents after dinner, sitting around the kitchen table noshing on sweets after the presents have been opened and the paper-strewn floor once again reveals the rug beneath it all.

And the morning will be low-key, just a few gifts to open, because none of us want for anything, but it's nice to have that Christmas-morning experience.

And there may be mimosas involved.

From there, the day will feel like any other day, but also different. There's that space on Christmas Day when the morning hubbub has subsided but dinner is far away. So you putter around a bit. Do what needs to be done around the house. Have some coffee. Have some toast. Have some cookies. But then stop for a moment and wonder what you should do next.

It helps if it's cloudy outside. For some reason, sun on Christmas feels strange to me, feels like I should be doing something productive, whereas a cloudy day brings with it permission to lie on the couch and watch a movie. Or take a nap. Or both.

But I've already gotten all I want for Christmas. I've had quiet moments in my house, with my tree and handfuls of cards that have arrived in the mail. I know that I'll be seeing people I love over the next two days. There is snow on the ground. I'm listening to Christmas music and inhaling the wintry scent of fir, from the most amazing candle sold at my friend Lenore's store. I popped in there yesterday to hand off a little holiday treat, and she gave one to me in return. And then gave another for me to give to my mom. My dad had asked if there was something we could spray in the house to make it smell like a Christmas tree. These candles fill the bill.

Tonight, there will be a fire in the fireplace and far too much food. And laughter. And hugs. And the glow of the tree.

I wish you and yours much love, for the holidays and every day.

It truly is all that matters.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Present(s) ...

I am wearing an enormous yellow sweatshirt. I look like The Sun in the commercials for Jimmy Dean.

It is not, by any stretch, a Christmassy color. A copywriter for Lands End would call this color "maize." Though this particular sweatshirt hails from Eddie Bauer.

But I love this sweatshirt. It is soft and warm and something about its enormity cheers me.

It is perhaps about a week too soon to be writing a post about what I've learned this year, but that's the beauty of blog posts. I can always write another.

Simple as it may sound, a big part of my experiences this year have taught me to be truly present. For both the good and the bad. We spend too much time focusing on the future, fretting about things that may never be, and revisiting the past, consuming ourselves with events we cannot change.

And in the meantime, there here and now gets short shrift.

Until this year, I had taken far too much for granted. I lived my life under the assumption that I had not an infinite amount of time – not in this particular body, anyway – but that life stretched out far in front of me.

And perhaps it does. I certainly hope so. But perhaps it doesn't. No one knows. We assume, based on statistics. Most people live longish lives. But many people don't. And there's no way of knowing when your number's up.

But this isn't a post about dying. This is a post about living. And it's beyond trite to say that we should live every day as if it were our last, because who really does that? Who even knows what that looks like? If I knew that this was my last day on earth, I don't even know what I'd be doing. I'd like to think that I'd be sitting here right now, writing. The blog post to end all blog posts. The epilogue of my life. But beyond that?

I think I'd have a really big breakfast. And if I could wave a magic wand and conjure whatever I would like, I would summon all my family and friends to Grand Central Station (because I love that space; no matter how many times I walk through it, I have to pause to look around), as well as every celebrity I've ever wanted to meet. I'd sing with Springsteen. (I wonder what the acoustics are like in that grand hall?) I'd chat with Hugh Laurie. We'd talk about L.A. Dave. (L.A. Dave interviewed him many times.) Clooney would be there, of course, in a tux from the night before. And Hugh Jackman would be wearing the tank and jeans he wore on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. Hello.

And everyone would know, of course, how much I love them, but I'd tell them all again.

In this moment, though, I'm where I am every morning these days, sipping coffee, clacking away, Christmas Eve on the horizon, and I have much to do.

All the presents that I have to give are wrapped and under the tree. Today I will procure all the stocking stuffers and wrap those, too.

I woke up thinking about what I wanted to bake today. And then, once my brain engaged fully, I remembered all the other stuff I want to prepare. My kitchen will see a lot of action.

I will hope, as I do every day this time of year, for a few Christmas cards to arrive in my mailbox and I will sit in my comfy chair and read them, next to the tree. I will visit a friend with a little holiday treat. I will listen to Christmas music.

Because all the holiday hubbub will be over in a flash. The feeling today and tomorrow and the next is not the same the day after. There's something a little wistful about a Christmas tree on December 26th.

And so, I immerse myself in it now, the hum of the holidays, grateful for another year.

And my enormous yellow sweatshirt.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cookie Elf Lite ...

Most years, I bake a ridiculous number of cookies. Single batches of some, but double and even triple batches of others. And a wide variety, twelve, sometimes fourteen, kinds of cookies. I pack them in my freezer like blocks in Tetris. And then, a few days before Christmas, I package them up in cellophane bundles and tie them with ribbons and pile everyone's stashes in the packaging of the year and make my rounds, spreading cookie cheer far and wide.

But I am a firm believer that your emotions go into your food. Not to the extreme, like in Laura Esquivel's "Water for Chocolate," but if you've ever tried to cook while you're upset, you know what I'm talking about. Things just don't turn out right.

Spending time in the kitchen can be therapeutic for me on a mildly bad day. But I have to be in the right frame of mind to mount my annual cookie production. And this year, that frame of mind was nowhere to be found.

But I knew I wanted to make oatmeal raisin cookies for my friend Bill. Bill Kurtis. Which I mention not to name drop but because he's part of the picture I'm painting here with words. Bill's had a year of loss, too. I like to think that cookies help, in some small way.

Those of a certain age (like, say, mine) who grew up in Chicago probably know Bill from his days anchoring the Channel 2 news with Walter Jacobson. Everyone watched Bill and Walter. Frankly, I don't know why the other stations even bothered to produce newscasts.

Those who didn't grow up in Chicago may know Bill as from his many series on PBS and cable, such as "The New Explorers" or "American Justice" or "Cold Case Files" and others. Bill is a busy, busy man.

He also provides the voiceover for Will Ferrell's "Anchorman."

But lately, you probably know Bill from his AT&T spots. Though I suspect he's grown rather weary of folks offering him a cherry lime rickey and a hard-boiled egg.

My point is, that's who I'm talking about: the patriarchal, handsome man with the sonorous voice who's decidedly playful, especially when it comes to sending up his own image.

I try to bake for Bill on at least an annual basis. I used to take an assortment of cookies to the office, but he'd always riffle through all the packages until he came to the oatmeal raisin cookies and hoard those for himself.

So, over time, I just started making a whole recipe of oatmeal raisin cookies for him and giving treats to other staffers separately.

This year, I used a box with a lift-off lid to house his cookies. It was covered in some antique-looking, maritime-y, navigationally, cartographer-y paper. I can't explain it. (Obviously.)

And around it was tied a wide, navy-blue ribbon (which was really bias tape) into a floofy bow.

I bought that box for him because it reminded me of the emblem of one of his shows.

I handed it to him and he said, "It's like a 'New Explorers' box!"

I knew he'd get it!

Donna, his better half, as they say, was in the office with him. The three of us chatted while Bill pulled the ribbon to open his box.

He moved the tissue paper aside to reveal the cellophane and then pulled on the ribbon that I used to tie it closed.

Donna peered into the box. "That's a lot of cookies," she said.

"There's a false bottom," I replied. "There's tissue paper underneath."

"I see that," she said. "But that's still a lot of cookies."

Bill took one and took a bite, then handed it to Donna. They passed it back and forth, taking bites, talking about it, asking what what in it, until it was gone, all the while while asking me if I'm going to go into business.

"If I ever do," I said, "I'm hitting up both of you for testimonials."

How fun would it be to shoot a cookie commercial with Bill?

Donna had work to do and left Bill and I alone. He offered a cookie to me. I declined. And we sat in two of his comfy chairs and chatted. I adore Bill. He's just delightful.

And I love how excited he gets over cookies. That's why I bake. Because it's such a simple thing but it makes people inordinately happy.

I took a little bag of treats for Rebecca, a member of his staff. She's always so adorably appreciative. One year, she told me that she bought a cake stand that she was using to display my cookies, a cookie stage. I love that, that she has such reverence for what I bake that she bought a specific serving piece. It made me feel very honored.

And Brian received a little stash, too, to take home for he and his wife to enjoy. Brian is my recording god, and he and his wife are new parents, so the baby received a baby gift, and mom and dad received treats.

Done with my cookie elf duties there, I headed to Doreen's complex. She lives in a very nice part of town and I park there often. I always share with her because she's helpful and accommodating throughout the year but also because she is my biggest cheerleader. In cookies as well as life. If I ever open a bakery, she'll be a big part of the reason why.

And I also trotted off to the Tribune to hand off a stash to my pal Joe. We had been trading e-mails on Facebook the night before about his varied taste in music. I asked if he made mix CDs. He said he'd hook me up. I asked if I could bake for him in return. He replied that he would never turn down homemade baked goods. So, we exchanged tunes and treats. I popped in one of the CDs on my way home. Good stuff!

So it hasn't been a typical cookie year. Many of those who normally receive them will not this time around.

But hopefully, my baking batteries will be fully recharged next year after this hiatus, and the cookie factory will return to its optimum output.

It is snowing outside now. Perfect, beautiful snow. Which puts me, of course, in the mood to bake.

Perhaps, this year, the cookie elf in me will head out for a second run, perhaps on New Year's Eve.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mornings ...

This is what I do now.

Once I've completed my seasonal first-upon-waking routine (turn on the tree, turn up the thermostat, boot up the computer, open the curtains, plug in the other tree, put on the coffee, log into e-mail), once the coffee machine makes its gurgly sighs, I pour a cup, grab my afghan off the couch in the TV room, fold it in quarters to make a tidy lap blanket, grab my laptop, and set up on the loveseat in the living room, laptop and afghan on my lap, coffee on the coffee table (which is not a coffee table, per se, but rather an old steamer trunk) and I write, here.

Which is good, as I haven't been much of a blogger of late. I used to publish daily. Sometimes several times a day. Sometimes, I even wrote posts worth reading.

This is not one of them. But it's good just to get some words down on paper. Or 1s and 0s down on a screen, as the case may be.

This summer, my friend Steve challenged me to write 10 pages a day. Just 10 pages. Of whatever I felt like writing. But I had to do it every day. And I did. For a while. I wrote a lot of crap. But I tried to think of it not so much as writing crap as excavating my way to the writing that would be worthwhile.

I figured that I had piled up a whole lot of expectation over the years, and I had to dig down deep, through all of the word rubble, to get to the ones that mattered.

Of course, every word matters, in some way. There are no good words or bad words. I just have yet to strike upon the right combination of words, the right theme.

And there were a few nuggets in those challenge pages, seeds, if you will, that could conceivably grow into stories worth telling. But my brain has never done well with subtlety. Ideas come to me in flashes. And then I can do nothing else.

When the idea for my birthday party invitation struck earlier this year, I stopped what I was doing and worked on that for a few hours, writing and editing and printing and proofing. (Lest anyone think that there's not much writing and editing and printing and proofing involved in the text of an invitation, I'll point out that I wrote my invite as a news story and formatted it to look like it came from my clip file.)

Which is how it is for many writers, or so I've heard. That they feel an idea coming at them and they do whatever they can to capture it and get it down on paper.

For writers, this writer, anyway, life is a Quidditch match and the idea is the Golden Snitch. It is small and elusive and flits about. And I zip around after it – though "zip" may be overstating things a tad; I do not consider myself a zipper – all the while dodging the bludgers of writers block and idea dead-ends.

I did not intend to make a J.K. Rowling reference today, but there it is, and it fits rather nicely as a writing analogy.

Last night, my friend Martha, who is an amazing artist – damn, I have talented friends! – wrote "... sometimes we need fallow periods to have the juices flow at the right time."

Indeed. Some days are more creative than others. Some days are more prolific than others. And some days are just days.

But I like my new morning routine, sitting down with coffee in the glow of the tree and clacking away on my keyboard.

Perhaps I should leave my tree up year-'round.

If you stop by in July and my tree is still sitting in the living room, you'll know why.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wow ...

I started writing a post earlier.

I just reread what I wrote.

Holy rambling nonsense, Batman!

I shall regroup my thoughts and try again.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Found: A Little Bit Of Christmas Spirit ...

For reasons that should be clear to anyone who read my last post, I haven't been in much of a Christmas mood this year.

But then, neither have others I know.

The economy is part of the malaise, I'm sure. We've been such a consumption-oriented society for so long that this year, cutting back feels like a bit of whiplash.

I really do believe we're in the midst of a paradigm shift. The past year-plus have forced a lot of people to examine just how much they were buying simply for the sake of buying it. And how little satisfaction can be found in "stuff."

A friend mentioned the other day that she doesn't have a lot of extra cash this year "and Christmas is all about giving ...," so she was feeling a bit down.

But Christmas isn't all about giving, I pointed out. We've made it all about giving. Yes, the three Wise Men brought gifts. I know the story of Christmas. But our modern-day spending sprees have nothing to do with frankincense and myrrh.

Christmas, I suggested to her, is about being with the people you love. I know that children expect presents. And I well remember the excitement of running into the living room on Christmas morning and seeing all that had been left by Santa. And his parental helpers.

But I also see, these days especially, just how much kids have. I know kids who struggle to come up with Christmas lists. They already have everything they want. And then some.

And we've been brainwashed into believing that our holidays should be picture-perfect moments of mirth, all taking place with a perfectly decorated Christmas tree in the background. And a buffet that never appears as though anyone's had anything to eat.

No one ever portrays the run-up to those moments, the traffic snarls and the lines in the grocery store and the cooking and the cleaning and the buying and the wrapping.

I do not mean this as a slam against men, but I don't think most men understand what it takes to pull off any kind of occasion, let alone Christmas. There's an enormous amount of work to be done for those few hours that the fire burns in the fireplace and the house fills with holiday din.

Anyway. The point is, I haven't been feeling very Christmassy this year. And then I was feeling sad because I was feeling blasé.

But last night, I wrapped a few presents and put them under the tree. And I figured out what I'm buying for the remaining people on my list. And I ate an apple because I wanted something but I didn't know what. And then my pal Angelo mentioned on Twitter that he was having friends over for dinner and he ran down the menu, which was capped off with wine.

And I realized that wine was what I wanted. But I also wanted cheese. Which was at the store. So that's where I headed.

There aren't a lot of folks shopping at 8:30 on a Friday evening a week before Christmas. So I had many aisles all to myself. And as I wandered around, deciding what else to buy, I found myself singing along with the Christmas song filling the air from somewhere overhead. And that made me smile. Which made me sing more.

I did have a bit of wine, less than a glass. And I did have a bit of cheese, but it wasn't really what I wanted. But the rest of it will do nicely in a couple of omelets over the next few days.

I watched "Badder Santa," which might be the most offensive-yet-Christmas-themed movie ever made, but I love it. I'm laughing again now, just thinking of Willie's restoration of the advent calendar.

And then, as I am wont to do, I fell asleep on the couch. When I woke up to go to bed, I looked outside and there was just a dusting of snow. I went to bed hoping that I'd wake up to more.

When I woke up, though, I could hear the cars on the street outside, the hissing sound made by water under the wheels. And I thought that the snow must have turned to rain. I love the silence of snow. It muffles.

I looked out the front door and saw that it had snowed a little, but that the street was mostly wet. In the light across the street, I could see powdered sugar falling.

But now, looking out the window, I see respectable flakes, falling at a slight angle, so I guess there's a little bit of a breeze.

I am on the loveseat in my living room now, an afghan laid across my lap, my coffee within reach. The tree is lit and an instrumental version of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" is emanating from my office. I can hear the ticking of the clock on the wall. This moment is very serene.

This weekend, I will do a bit of baking. And wrap a few more presents.

I do have to run a few errands, including a trip to the post office, which is akin to the DMV on most days, anyway, but will be even more crazed today. But that's OK. I can face it.

I found a bit of Christmas spirit last night. In the nearly empty aisles of a grocery store.

Maybe I'll go for a walk in the snow.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Un-Holiday Letter ...

Most years, I write a letter to include with the holiday cards I send out to family and friends.

This year, I didn't.

Most years, letters pour themselves onto the page, with nary a nudge from me.

This year, I sat down to write out the cards and thought, "Oh. I haven't written a letter."

So I pulled out the past pages from my desktop calendar, put them in order, flipped through the months, and thought, "I can't spin a holiday letter out of this."

Which is to say, this has not been a good year.

There have been moments of goodness, of course. Everyone in my family celebrated another birthday. I finished the 3-Day for the sixth time. Seeing Springsteen perform "Born to Run" from the floor of the United Center was one for the record books.

But, generally speaking, this year was not kind.

Some have inquired as to the dearth of a letter. I've explained that this was simply not a year to commemorate in a holiday card.

If I were to write one and be honest about the year's events, it would read something like this post:

I arrived in January jobless. But not too concerned. (I have a really good resume.)

And then, as regular readers well know, at the beginning of February, I lost my dear friend Dave.

We all lost him, of course, his mother and father and brother and grandmother and aunts and uncles and cousins and nieces and nephews and his legion of friends. I certainly don't mean to intone that my experience was more substantial than theirs.

But L.A. Dave, as he was known by me, was part of my everyday. If we weren't on the phone together, hashing out headlines or plotting our next steps, we were trading e-mails. Or comments on Facebook. Or Twittering tweets.

We were each other's partner in procrastination. Whenever one of us faced something that needed to be done but we didn't quite have the get-up-and-go to get it going, we'd call the other and while away some time.

He was always an entertaining companion who kept me company whilst I puttered around the house. If I was standing at the stove or doing dishes or pulling weeds, odds are that Dave was with me on the phone.

There are still moments when I think about how much I'd like to give him a call. For just an instant, I forget that he's gone, because dialing his number was almost an involuntary extension of so many things I do.

If only.

In March, the man I was dating briefly – named David; again, regular readers will know about the preponderance of Davids and Daves in my life – decided that he didn't want to be in a day-to-day relationship. Perhaps he knew that all along and just forgot to let me in on that fact. Or perhaps he didn't know until he knew.

So that ended. Which was sad in its way, but I came to understand that he was meant to be in my life to help me through the immediate loss of Dave. When it came to dealing with the delayed emotions, I was to be on my own. But in the short term, he provided comfort.

College Boyfriend David, whom I met when I was 19 and who has been a distant fixture in my life ever since, returned in a more-regular way as the year wore on, but I do believe, now, that our relationship has run its course and that I won't be hearing from him again. Which is both bittersweet and for the best. There is a sense of safety in those you've known and loved, and yet often, they are, more than anything, tethers to another time. The love remains, of course, forever a part of you, but those who walk with you on life's path in the future are not always those who have walked with you in the past.

And there is yet another man named Dave who was once a part of my life, as well. He had a true talent for making me laugh even in the darkest of days.

And so it was the last time we spoke. Though the conversation started with my revealing the shocking news of L.A. Dave's death, by the time we hung up, he had me laughing so hard I was nearly unable to breathe.

They're interesting, aren't they, those broad emotional swings in the midst of grief? Profound sadness one moment, near-elation the next. Until the pendulum swings back again. As it always does.

I did not reach out to anyone in those weeks following L.A. Dave's death. I was not only grieving but also working on a book for his family, a collection of remembrances from his vast pack of friends. What I thought would be a brief booklet of eight or ten pages turned into a 63-page tome, four times over.

I found it odd that in that time, especially, when I needed my friends around me more than ever, that Dave did not call.

And he has not called since. Nor texted. Nor written. Nor appeared. And so I decided that I should follow his lead. If he was not in touch with me, I thought it best that I not be in touch with him.

Another Dave, then, done.

As with College Boyfriend David, our friendship had run its course, too, apparently. I just wasn't aware of that at the time.

And so my David/Dave roster is down by four this year. A lot of loss.

And another man, not named David or Dave, left me rather stunned this summer with his exquisitely asinine behavior.

And too many friends dealt with too much sadness themselves. My heart goes out to all of them, what I have of it to give.

The job picture has yet to come into focus. But I persevere and trust that the right opportunity will arrive.

I never wish to hasten the passage of time. Every day is too precious.

But I will be grateful to bid farewell to 2009. For me and for too many of those I love, it has been a year of almost too much to bear.

Surely, more happiness awaits in the new year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wherefore Art Thou, Good Old Days? ...

It happened insidiously, as I suppose these things do.

There was no marked moment of passage, no physical cues.

But in the month-plus since turning 40, I've transformed into An Old Person.

I grew up in the '70s and '80s, decades marked, respectively, by bad clothes and bad hair. When I was a kid, my father made noise about installing a lit disco floor in the basement.

Thankfully, his ambition stalled out on that project. And anyway, my father doesn't dance.

And I was in no way sad to bid farewell to excesses of the '80s, since the excesses included neon-hued everything and Aqua-Net. I was no friend of the ozone layer. I know that.

But these days, I find myself yearning for an era I never knew, an era I know only from movies and television. An era that surely had its share of strife.

Even having not lived it myself, though, I can see that it's gone. And I want it to come back.

A renaissance of civility, if you will.

The other day, I tweeted, "Dear Hollywood: Remember when you made movies like 'The Philadelphia Story'? Does the world really need to see 'Ninja Assassin'? Love, Beth".

We live in an all-too-violent world. Isn't that enough to sadden and sate us? Why would someone want to slap down $11 to watch two hours of violence? Really? That's what passes for entertainment these days?

I wasn't in love with "Up in the Air," but I understand why people are responding to it so favorably. It's about us. It's about relationships. It's about humanity. It's about how much joy you can hold in your heart one moment and how much pain can replace it in the next. It's a movie that reminds us that, at the end of the day, all that really matters are the connections we have with each other.

And all of that is conveyed with nary a ninja nor an assassin in sight.

Granted, for eons there have been gruesome amusements. Plenty of Romans spent rousing afternoons at the Coliseum watching men get torn apart by lions.

But I'm choosing to focus on the past 100 years.

Mind you, I don't necessarily want to return to an era when men wore hats and suits everywhere they went. Because that would require me to wear dresses and heels everywhere I went. And hats. And pearls. And I really don't look good in hats.

And I know that life wasn't entirely "Leave It To Beaver" and "Father Knows Best." I've seen "Pleasantville."

Still. It feels like there used to be more respect in the world, more connection. Neighbors stopping by their neighbors' homes for a cup of coffee and a piece of pie. Evening strolls. Exchanges of pleasantries.

These days, I'm surprised if someone holds the door for me after they walk through it.

It's sad that we even need laws to ban texting while driving. Seriously, people? Can't it wait?

I rarely even use my phone in my car anymore. Granted, that can be attributed to the facts that a) I rarely go anywhere anymore, and b) I have few people in my life with whom I spend any time on the phone. But I'm really trying to live in the moment. Remember when being in your car meant that you were unreachable? When the most technology strapped to your person was a pager, and you couldn't return a call until you got to a phone?

The other day, my mom and I were at the mall – and that's a whole other post, the insanity that passes for "Christmas" in this day and age – when I spied an outfit in a store window.

It was wee, the outfit I was seeing. Intended for a little girl of 2, maybe 3, years old.

The skirt was pink. And short. And slightly shiny. And quilted. With rhinestone accents.

And over the little long-sleeve T-shirt atop the skirt? A faux-fur vest. In a leopard print. (Or was it cheetah?) Done in beige and white and pink. With a pink ribbon to tie it closed.

Excuse me?

I had to stop and comment on it. My mom stopped alongside me. I pointed to it and said, "What is that? What mother puts her toddler in that? It would be fine if we lived in the time of 'The Flintstones.' "

But we don't. Animal skins, even fake animal skins, especially when paired with a mini skirt, don't strike me as appropriate clothing choices for tiny tots.

See what I mean? I am An Old Person. I long for the good old days. Which were in many ways not good, I expect. I'm sure I'm romanticizing.

But I just want to turn it all off. I told my mom, the day we went to the mall, "I want to move to Walden Pond." Being out, among the crowds and the traffic and the lines and the bright lights and the too-much-money-for-things-we-don't-even-need left me exhausted.

All I want for Christmas is quiet and warmth and love. I love getting cards in the mail this time of year. I stop what I'm doing and sit in the comfy chair next to the tree and open my cards. It's the best part of every day. And for Christmas, I just want to spend time with people I love and eat some comforting food and spend the day in our PJs and watch movies and nap.

Every Christmas Eve, my niece makes it a point to curl up next to me on the couch in my mother's living room, in front of the fireplace. Sometimes we talk. Often we don't. But it's one of the highlights of my holidays. Of my entire year.

And there's not a handheld electronic in sight. Just the glow of the tree and the strains of Christmas music from the speakers nearby and the warmth of the fire and us.

Who could ask for anything more?

Update – Further proof of my agedness: I just bought a song by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

'Up in the Air' ...

The short review: I went to see "Up In The Air." I do not understand all the hype. It's surely not a bad movie, but it was far from the transcendent experience I was set up to expect from all the raves I've been hearing.

Roger Ebert gave it four stars.

Four. Stars. From Roger Ebert. Who does not hand out four-star ratings often.

So, hype puts butts in the seats – the theater was all but sold out - but I don't foresee word of mouth helping this picture.

I'm shrugging. You could totally wait for the DVD.

Although, I will tell you that viewers are treated to a very nice, um, dorsal (hey, look at me remembering something from anatomy!) view of Vera Farmiga wearing only a necktie tied 'round her waist.

I covet Vera Farmiga's body.

And I love that Natalie character says (I may be paraphrasing slightly) that she always thought she'd end up with a guy with a single-syllable name, "... like Dave, who ideally would drive a 4Runner."

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Decorations): Peace ...

Christmas, of course, is not yet here, not that I ever intended this little series to end on Christmas Day.

But once I took this photo, I knew that it would be the final image.

I don't send out Christmas cards, per se, because I have friends of other faiths and friends who do not identify themselves with a religion. And so, every year, the message of my cards is peace.

Sadly, it is a way of life that is not universal. But one day, I hope it will be.

As my dear friend Rob closes every post on his site: Peace to you and to those you love.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Decorations): Bowling Pin Soldier ...

I don't do a lot of decorating for Christmas. Some people transform their homes. I do not. I sprinkle a few decorations here and there and call it a day. I have two Christmas trees. Those are the most obvious signs of Christmas in my house. But most of the other things, really, could be left out all winter. Lots of snowmen, don'tcha know?

I bought Bowling Pin Soldier at a craft fair many years ago. I was taken with his cleverness. I'd never seen anyone transform a bowling pin into, well, anything before, but a soldier seemed especially clever.

He is heavy, made of wood, a bowling pin of yore, I like to think. Though it'd be kind of fun to paint all the bowling pins in use today with holiday themes.

(And for non-holiday bowling, the pins could be painted out in the images of ex-boyfriends [or ex-girlfriends, depending]. Think how satisfying it would be to set your exes up at the end of an alley and hurl a bowling ball at your bad break-ups.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Decorations): Christmas Angel ...

I don't have angels on the top of my Christmas trees. I have wreaths.

But when I saw this little angel – literally – I was taken with the craftiness of the person who made her. She has a little spindle for a body and a decorative wood piece for her wings and a little wooden ball for her head and a little wire halo with a tiny bit of Christmas greenery. Just eyes, no mouth. She's just the kind of angel who watches over people, I guess, not the kind who speaks.

And every year, she joins the other two angels on my bedside table. I don't own many angels, but my mom gave one to me because her name is Joy, and my long-ago friend Charles gave the other one to me (her name is Angelina) so that someone would always be watching over me. Charles was my voiceover coach. We hit it off instantly. He was older and charming and impish and had the most amazing 1940s-esque radio announcer-style voice.

Anyhoo, my little Christmas angel joins the other two every year, for a few weeks. But maybe I should keep all of them together, all year long.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Decorations): Woodland Santa ...

I hope that Woodland Santa's beard keeps him warm. He's going to need that today. As the current temperature outside my office window (and outside all my other windows) is 3 degrees. Fahrenheit. And winter doesn't arrive until December 21st.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Decorations): Spotted Christmas Chicken ...

I bought Spotted Christmas Chicken to hang on my first Christmas tree in my first apartment. It was a spectacular tree, blatantly fake, and adorned with garish gold garland and colored lights and an assortment of ornaments from my childhood on up through the ones I bought that year.

These days, Spotted Christmas Chicken makes his annual appearance on what is a slightly more "adult" tree. He likes that he adds a bit of whimsy.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Decorations): The Snowman ...

Yes, I have a lot of snowmen. (And only one snowwoman, in case you were wondering.) I love snowmen. They're secular. And any man I can conjure in my front yard after a good snow is a good man. If only he'd shovel.

This, you'll note, though, is The Snowman, capital "The," capital "Snowman," from the animated film of the same name, although The Snowman in the film is even cuter than The Snowman who resides on the chair in my TV room. But this guy will suffice. He's very squishy, like a fresh marshmallow.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Decorations): Mr. Winter ...

I didn't name this snowman Mr. Winter. The artist who created him named him. My mom bought him for me several years ago. But she might as well have made him for me. He looks exactly like the kind of snowman my mom would make, especially his expression.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Decorations): Jingle Elf ...

I don't know a lot about Jingle Elf (as I've named him). But he's one of the Christmas decorations I remember from my childhood home. You can tell he's old because his glitter-bell body has seen sparklier days. But I love him. He hangs on my computer monitor, the lone Christmas decoration in my office.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Decorations): Buttons! ...

Buttons is thusly named because he has buttons for eyes, not that you can see that clearly in this photo. But he's almost painfully cute! I fell in love with my mom's Buttons, so she bought me a Buttons of my own.

P.S. I really like the word "buttons"!

Friday, December 04, 2009

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Decorations): Christmas Chicken ...

Well, Christmas rooster, really, but that's not alliterative, so allow me to be generic. And he's not Christmassy, per se, but he is sporting some fake wintertime greenery, and I only put him out at Christmas, ergo: Christmas Chicken.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Decorations): Snowman On A Stick ...

I spied this little guy at a craft fair years ago. I couldn't pass up a snowman on a stick. He's perched on a framed print in my bathroom, because every room needs a little bit of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Decorations), Bonus Edition: Rudolph and Co. ...

In honor of tonight's broadcast.

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Decorations): Lumpy Snowman ...

I love Lumpy Snowman. (I named him.) He looks like he's been around since the '40s, but I think he was born in 2000.