Friday, April 27, 2018

Life Without Facebook ...

It exists!

I scheduled my account for deletion on April 10. Facebook informed me that I had 14 days in which to log back in and cancel my request.

Well, it's April 27. Facebook account has gone bye-bye.

Bye bye, Facebook account!

I'm still plenty engaged with Twitter – I'm a news junkie; I need my fix – but I don't miss Facebook. There are people with whom I hope to keep in touch but that's what email's for. Or – GASP! – mail! Like ... letters. Cards. Envelopes. Stamps. Something in mailboxes other than bills and direct-mail crap.

I've started reading a book that I've had checked out from the library since March.

I've been helping Mom with little chores here and there, some of which I would be doing anyway and some of which are part of the chapter that begins when someone passes away.

Aside: Even stashes of stuff that appear to be small are much bigger than expected. If you have any inclination to sort through your stuff and streamline your life, hoo boy, get crackin'. It makes life simpler and it feels good. Yesterday I learned that folks can donate old furs to animal shelters where they're used to make beds. It's called Coats for Cubs. The Humane Society used to run the program and it's since been taken over by Buffalo Exchange.

Now that the weather's becoming slightly more sane, I'm doing little chores outside. Yesterday evening, I sat on my front stoop and read the aforementioned book. Today, I might even take a walk! I've caught up on some podcasts. I want to make plans with friends to meet up for coffee or lunch or have them come by for coffee or lunch – we can linger here and not feel like we should turn over the table; also, I like to cook for folks – all Face, no -book!

I'm writing again. I may even take a class. Painting could be fun. I have an easel.

So many possibilities ... .

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Really, Really Ready ...

On Sunday, I put my shovel away.

During the wintry months – not just the winter months because those have lost their meaning – it leans up against the house, next to the railing, so when it snows, I can step out my front door, compact as little of the snow as possible with my not-small shoes, grab the shovel, and start clearing the snow.

We had a dusting last week, no shoveling necessary. But on April 22, I put the shovel away. If we get any more snow, even an amount that requires clearing, folks will just have to trudge through it. I'm not shoveling in the last week of April. Nuh uh.

Likewise, I put my snow brush / scraper back in my trunk. It lives in my back seat during the wintry months. (I needed to free my car from an ice cocoon on St. Patrick's Day.) In theory, I shouldn't need it again for six months. At least. I hope.

The silver lining in all of this is that I have not yet cut my grass for the first time this year. The longer I can put off the first mow, the happier I am. I cut it for the last time each year in mid- to late November. Not mowing until it's almost May is okayfine with me.

Flowers are blooming. The grass is greening. The trees are budding. I miss leaves. The other day, Snow was lounging near my neighbors' shed, one of the few spots of shade in our yards. Until the trees leaf, it's rather bright out there.

I'm no fan of summer, mind you. I'm sure you've read that here before. On Sunday, I was sitting on Mom's front stoop, taking a break from raking up twigs, and mentioned that summer could be just like that, thankyouverymuch, mid- to upper 60s, sunny with a breeze.

Maybe a smidgen warmer during the height of summer. I could agree to, oh, 78. But that's my upper limit.

And, of course, no humidity. That feeling of walking out of air conditioning and into a damp rag is my least-favorite part of summer.

This time of year, though, I'm game. It feels to get outside and move and do a bit of yard work. Until the trees are ready, though, I prefer to do that work under clouds.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Whither Retail? ...

My pal Laura – Hi, Laura! – who owns a store tweeted a link this morning to a story in the the Tribune with this headline:

"Even on Broadway, retail is dying before our eyes. Or is it? What does it all mean for Tribune Tower?"

The editor in me, as well as the consumer in me, is irked.

Chicago has a Broadway. I used to live near it. As in New York, it runs north- and south-ish. Not as in New York, it is not known as the theater district but it is home to plenty of stores.

But the piece is written by the Trib's theater critic, so, yup, the Broadway reference is about New York. But Tribune Tower is on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. And while Michigan Avenue is known as Chicago's shopping destination and is home to some very chichi brands, I presume that the rents on the Mag Mile do not equal those of the Great White Way. So, apples to oranges right off the bat.

Also, it's not really such a puzzler that folks who have just dropped many hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars for tickets to a Broadway show (most folks don't go to the theater alone, eh?) and may also be paying for accommodations in New York don't have a lot of extra cash to drop on shopping.

I looked into prices for "Springsteen on Broadway." The top price on TicketBastard is more than $800 but tickets are sold out so I moseyed on over to SeatGeek and sure enough, tickets can be had, the top price for which seems to be around $2,500. $5,000+ for three hours? I know there are people in the world who can afford that but those people are not me.

In Chicago, a top ticket to "Hamilton" is more than $600. One of my brothers treated me to tickets for my birthday last year. We went a couple weeks ago. A matinee. The face value? $187. Each. And I don't want to think about TicketBastard's fees. It was a great show and I'd love to see it again but seats on the main floor don't offer much legroom as it is. And I've sat in the front row of the mezzanine with my knees pressed up against whatever the word is for the iron "wall" that contains people from falling onto the main floor. I shudder to think of what my knees would endure in the cheap seats.

Randolph Street is home to a number of theaters in Chicago but The Loop is the theater district more generally in terms of "Broadway in Chicago." The Goodman is on Dearborn. The Steppenwolf is on Halsted in Lincoln Park.

Folks may have slightly more cash to spend after seeing a show in Chicago but the world of retail has been changing. Carson's has been a Chicagoland staple for more than 100 years but the flagship location on State Street became a Target years ago. A Target. I haven't stepped foot in Macy's on State since it took over Marshall Field's. And that was many years ago.

But some recent policies strike me as really dumb. At Crate & Barrel not too long ago, the clerk asked me if I'd like a bag. Um, yes? I'm happy to reuse bags when I go grocery shopping but it hadn't occurred to me to take a bag with me into C&B. She told me she'd have to add the fee for the bag onto my total. I skipped the bag and walked out of the store with my purchase and the receipt. I appreciate that we all need to do our part to care for the planet but there was a time when it was fun to amass C&B bags to reuse them. C&B got its free advertising and folks like me, who love a good handle bag, had a stash for everyday toting.

I don't shop at C&B much anymore but combine Chicago's insane sales tax with having to pay for bags to carry purchases out of the store and gee, maybe I'll just order online next time and enjoy the convenience of having everything shipped to my door (even as I do think about the carbon footprint that involves).

See the problem?

It's not all Amazon's fault. Yes, I wish bookstores were still more prevalent. For many years, when I wanted a book, I wanted it. Right then. As soon as I could get to the store and find it on the shelf.

But I also bought a lot of books that way, many of which I never read – and have since donated – so for financial reasons, I started using my local libraries. A lot. Now I "date" books first and then decide whether to buy them. Some I buy online. Some I find in thrift stores. Some I buy directly from the authors. (It's fun having writers who are friends!) But if Borders were still nearby, I'd still shop there sometimes.

It breaks my heart that Trib Tower is going condo. (Though if I could afford a unit, I'd move in.) I wish that the Apple store had stuck to its location further north on Michigan Avenue instead of taking over Pioneer Court, just south of the Trib and what was once a lovely bit of open space in an increasingly crowded city.

But I don't think the ground floor of Trib Tower will have any problem attracting and maintaining tenants, though, as with Marshall Field's, I can't imagine ever setting foot inside there again.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Well, That Was Weird ...

If you read this blog via RSS feed and saw the title of a post without any content and thought, "Huh, that seems unfinished," it was. I'm not sure how I managed to publish it. I converted it back to a draft and I know next to nothing about the workings of RSS feeds so you may not have even seen it, so I may now be discussing something that does not exist in your awareness but the upshot is: that wasn't all I planned to say. I may revisit it and publish it. Or not.

Friday, April 13, 2018

I Quit Facebook ...

Monday morning, just like that.

I wrote a post on Facebook announcing that I was quitting that "shitty-ass Popsicle stand" – shitty for all of Zuckerberg's bullshit, not because of the faces I'd come to know; they're lovely – and then realized that I couldn't post and then quit immediately because folks wouldn't see the post. So I left it up for a day and then deleted my account on Tuesday morning.

Facebook informed me that I had a 14-day window, during which I could log back in and cancel my deletion request. I presume there are folks out there who quit in a fit of pique and then think, "OH SHIT," and log back in.

I do not intend to be one of them.

I did indeed meet some very nice people on Facebook whom I would otherwise not know but I decided to stop volunteering to be a rat in Zuckerberg's maze as well as a commodity whose information was (likely) harvested in the name of some really dark shit. (I didn't stick around to receive – or not – a notification that I was one of the 87 million people whose data was co-opted. But given that there are 330 million people in this country and many of those people are children and many of those people are older and that most of that combined population does not use Facebook, well, odds are good that the rest of us were affected, eh?)

Folks can follow me on Twitter. I retweeted content then cross-posted to Facebook, so those who followed me on Facebook for the news-iness of my feed can still get the same experience on the Twitter machine.

But I'm glad to be away from The Book of Face, as Doreen calls it. Life existed before it. Life goes on. I had stopped blogging in large part because I was devoting so much time to social media every day. I do believe I'll be clickety-clacking in this space more often again. And I've had some writing projects that have stalled for a variety of reasons that I want to revisit and either pick up again or cram far in the back of a virtual drawer, as it were. The idea of "wasting" words and ideas used to pain me greatly. But not so much anymore. It's excavation, really. Getting the "bad" words out of the way in order to get to a vein of something valuable, worthwhile. I used to picture the excavation as sorting through rubble. Which implies that something has already been destroyed. But as I use the word "vein" now, as in "ore," I realize that it's more about blasting through something formidable – comfort, complacency – and descending into the depths. Exploring isn't really exploring if it's happening in the familiar territory of plain sight. Been there. Done that. If I'm bored of it, I'd repel readers from the first page.

This week has been a good shift, not radical change but a new perspective. On Wednesday, one of my brothers took me and Mom to see "Hamilton," my birthday gift from last year. As I tweeted on the way home (no, I wasn't driving):



And I had a dream last night that fascinated me in its resolve, a subconscious reminder that I have moved well beyond a particular period in my life and consigned those feelings to the past.

So, writing. More writing. Here. In the screenplay. In the manuscript of my memoir. Wherever. Letters. Words. Sentences. Paragraphs. Chapters. Scenes. Acts. Entities, fully formed.

And, moreover, the determination to share them, to sell them, frankly. And the courage to take those steps. Because time is finite, as Bruce Springsteen once said: "Whatever your abilities and your talents are, your time is finite." Indeed.

Walking away from the theater on Wednesday, in that aura of awe of what I'd just seen, my brother asked, "So, when are you going to write one of those?"

I laughed. "Just as soon as I learn how to write a song?"

Notes. Measures. Lyrics. Verses.

We shall see.