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DSCN5211“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”
― Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad

Oddly enough, or maybe just so, as I was mating Margaret Atwood’s words to my photo, the news came to me that Elaine Stritch had passed way. I gasped. It was as if the water, the words, and the woman were one.

I took this photo at day’s end, about a week ago, while walking the path at the pond in the Dean Nature Sanctuary. I was at the water’s edge, in those ethereal moments of light so bright that they make even color evaporate.

What a remarkable talent Elaine Stritch was – and how brilliantly she flowed through life.

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With childish, glee, I stopped the car and called Tom. He answered with “the mallards are back”, remembering seeing them earlier in the day and sensing just how long it took me to go down the drive and up the road, where I first saw them.

Actually, they were in the street. The pond, a messy bit of swamp and cattails and grasses, had melted its frozen self upon the road, where the mister and missus were happily courting, oblivious to the me and my auto machine as I braked, grateful that I saw them cavorting about in a fowlish way on the Cutoff.

We missed the Mallard family last year. There simply wasn’t enough water to paddle in. This year; well, this year the snow melt has provided a waterfowl haven. As I slowly drove away, muttering quack, quack, quack, I remembered a little ditty for McDonald’s that aired on television here in the 1980′s. It was a catchy little jingle about Nippersinkers and rain and waddling.

We eventually discovered there really was a Lake Nippersink, just over the Illinois/Wisconsin border. A golf resort/family vacation spot with little cabins, a big lodge for eating, and all manner of activities for young and not-so-young alike. Jennifer took arts and crafts lessons and was in a talent show; something with wishy washy washing machines. Katy, about three at the time, opted to take water aerobics with me. Tom took them canoeing, I went antiquing and we all ate and ate and ate . . .

. . . and we all sang the Nippersink song. Do any of you remember it? Did you ever go to summer camp?

We are Nippersinkers. We’re in luck. If it rains all week, just pretend you’re a duck.  Quack, quack, waddle, waddle!

 

 

 

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MailAttachmentIn honor of my long suffering black wool winter coat with a crone’s hood, and in deference to the brittle cold still with us, here’s a little fun from the Cutoff. “Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear”, which at least one of my children thought I made up. Could it have have been my unique singing voice, or embarrassingly silly antics?

Written by Randy Newman, it has been performed by many, including the Muppets. I give you three versions. Take your pick of renditions, turn up the volume, ignore the commercials, and smile.

Do you have a favorite old coat or sweater or hat? How about a dancing bear?

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WLS_Silver_Beatle_SurveyIt was a wintry Saturday afternoon; sunny and just warm enough to walk the six or seven blocks to  the bustling business district in Broadview. My friend, Nancy, walked the two blocks to our house on Harrison Street in Maywood and we started out, eastward,  past the corner store, Fred & Ed’s, over the low bridge spanning the Eisenhower Expressway, past Zanoni’s, another corner store, down blocks of mid-century brick bungalows to the shops on Roosevelt Road. We swirled on stools at the the soda fountain in Woolworth’s and ordered cokes and fries, went into the Ben Franklin, where anything and everything could be found, checked out what was “cool” at the clothing store, then crossed over Roosevelt to look in the window of the local record store.

“Those are the Beatles” said Nancy, pointing to a poster.

“Who?”  I queried.

“The Beatles. They’re the new singing group from England.” I stared at the poster of the four cute boys from across the pond, wondering. We went inside and picked up a copy of the WLS Silver Dollar Survey, browsed, giggling, then headed home, chatting away in the silly, companionable way of eighth grade girls with nothing else to do on a Saturday afternoon.

Sunday night, February 9, 1964, my family sat in front of our black and white Zenith television set, just months before it exploded into hundreds of tiny pieces, Daddy and Yia Yia sat on the plastic covered chairs (the plastic covered the slip covers which covered the French Provincial furniture, whose actual being I would not actual witness for several more years).  Ma flitted back and forth from the kitchen. My dad’s cousin, George, and his wife, Athena, were visiting. They were sitting on the couch (also enshrined in plastic). My sister and I sat on hassocks. It’s funny sometimes what we remember, isn’t it?

We were all waiting for Ed Sullivan and yet another “really big show” to begin - and it did, with what became known as the British invasion. Paul and John, George and Ringo;  the boys on the poster in the record store window in Broadview. There they were,  singing  “All My Loving” with all that hair, and all those girls screaming, and grownups wondering aloud what was happening that memorable night, 50 years ago.

I sure wish I had kept that Silver Dollar Survey, and I sure am grateful I still have this picture of the 5th Beatle, also known as Pete, whose story can be found here.

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His name defines American folk music. His songs and words are as easily recollected as our own family reminisces. “If I Had a Hammer”, “Where Have all the Flowers Gone”, “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore” . . .  they roll off the tongue of so many of us. We know the lyrics well, for we sang along with him, and the many artists who recorded his songs, for as long as we can remember. I thought about Pete Seeger, his music and his legacy as I wandered the internet, looking for something to post in honor of him at his passing this week. There are so many songs, but, the one song, a simple tune that Pete Seeger put to music from the book of Ecclesiastes, that I think embodies him and his music in the final season of his life.

Thank you, Pete Seeger, for making the world a little bit of better place through your music. Rest in peace.

(Source of this version for YouTube here. Thank you.)

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Sir Thomas of the Cutoff wandered out in the sweltering heat mid-afternoon to claim our territory on the village green. A fortress of folding chairs and packing cloth covered a coveted spot for the evening’s free concert, the last of the season. St. Penelope of the Prairie met him with a few more chairs, held in abeyance in my world-famous mocha VW with the latte interior.  Satisfied that our musical homestead was secure, we headed home to change, make sandwiches, fill coolers, and motor back over, all-the-while ignoring the darkening skies, threatening clouds, and dire warnings from the weather service.

It might pass over.

Look. Over there. A banquet table set up for 20. To the left, picnic baskets, like lovely maids awaiting. Up front. Children playing in the splash fountain. This is, after all, the midwest, where weather can change faster than a New York minute. Shelter was but a few yards away. We would wait it out. We decided,  just in case, to go ahead and eat our sandwiches,. It’s easier to scurry on a full stomach, is it not?

The oppressive temperatures, hovering perilously close to three digits in the  hour we just passed, dropped about 15 degrees.  The clouds were grey and black and rusty, clinging to the tallest spires. Then, a raindrop. No problem. What is a raindrop when you are poised to hear a band perform all things ABBA? A raindrop is nothing, but, the wind picked up and tossed about Sir Thomas’ sandwich, half of it landing on the carpet of grass (which, no doubt, had been fertilized to the legal extent of the law) and the array of fresh vegetables Saint Penelope had masterfully assembled in bubble gum pink Tupperware blew off the cooler, scattering carrots and snap peas, cherry tomatoes and homemade bread and butter pickles all about. There we were, our Waterloo, securing provisions and scurrying for shelter.

We hobbled between huge raindrops to the lobby of the parking garage, where we walked smack dab into friends who were meeting us. Their first time at this free outdoor concert series was not the best introduction, for sure, but, we greeted one another and were then greeted by three ladies. “Hey. You’re our ‘friends’ from the Neil Diamond concert.” How they remembered us is beyond me, but, remember us they did. We chatted like long lost relatives, still certain the weather would pass,.  Sir Thomas , forever in blue jeans. magnanimously  passed out our bag of cookies to the gaggle of new-found friends.

Tom, Bonnie and Larry climbed up the inert escalator to see if they could claim a spot to weather the storm, while our three newfound friends and I exchanged names we knew no one would remember the next day. Most Midwesterners are friendly. These three women were prime examples.

I decided to climb up the non-moving stairs to find my party. I was about halfway to heaven when an employee of the shopping center said “‘ ‘scuse me, miss, but, my boss says I hafta turn the escalators back on. Can you come back down?” . So, down I stepped while he executed his job, wondering why I couldn’t have merely gone the rest of the way up.  Suddenly, the steps were animated. “Can I step on?”. I could. “Can I wave like Mary Tyler Moore in the Twin Cities at the beginning of her show?”.  I could (though I’m sure he had no idea what I was talking about).  So, I did, feeling that this old gal, with ten sheets of  wadded paper towels from the ladies’ room in hand, armed and ready to wipe down chairs, might actually,make it, after all.  All thirty of so concert goers below waved right back . . . and I wonder why people always seem to remember me?

As I tripped off the moving staircase and rounded the corner, where Sir Thomas and friends were stationed, two acquaintances emerged from the parking garage. Surprised looks of recognition abounded and they joined us in our impromptu gathered. We sat and talked and nibbled and watched the electric display of lightning from our aerie. Security came by, smiling, as did management. Folks came in and out of the doors. As the night wore on, we became the unofficial Abba-dabba-doers, greeting Friday night shoppers and bearing news, in the end, that the concert was cancelled.

Mama mia!

Well, these things happen, don’t they? What is one to do but to make the most of it.

I was one of the seemingly few not impressed by the movie Mama Mia!  Fun, maybe, but the actors, especially the men, were more off key than I usually am. Maybe that was what it was all about. Bad singing but having fun.  I am one of those movie goers who stays for the credits. However else does one discover the Nate Berkus was a producer of The Help, or that it was Rob Reiner’s mother, Estelle, who uttered the memorable line in When Harry Met Sally “I’ll have what she’s having”.  So, I watched the credits to Mama Mia!, and I had a good smile. These otherwise stellar actors really seemed to be having fun in the end, and that, like our rained out concert, is what makes life sweeter, in spite of the rain that may fall.

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nowhere-near-here-coverWe have had several opportunities to hear some wonderful music this summer. Most have been at outdoor venues; the music of summer in community parks. One, ah, one was in a popular restaurant/coffeehouse on Chicago’s north side with a dedicated room for open mike nights – and for up-and-coming musicians who are invited to perform on designated nights.

We went to Uncommon Ground a few weeks ago to see a talented, spirited musician who recently cut his first full album. We were treated to an amazing set of songs from the heart and soul of Jason Moody.

Jason has performed for quite a few years now. While I don’t often get the opportunity to see him play, a recent venue and time were perfect for Tom and I to take a jaunt into Chicago to hear him perform. I’m so glad we did. We were rewarded with a generous range of the most heartfelt songs heard in a long, long time.

Nowhere Near Here is a compilation of songs, some lively, some soulful, some sad, all  rich in spirit and talent; music that grew out of Jason’s Lenten commitment in 2012 to  write one song on each of the forty days of Lent.

I wish I could do that. Not write songs, of course, but to commit to writing something for each of forty consecutive days. To consciously honor such a commitment and bring it to fruition. I’m impressed that Jason would endeavor to do this – and that such a rich body of music and verse would emerge. That such a talented musician is my son-in-law is sweet icing on the cake of life.

Well done, Jason. I’m proud of you and of all you have accomplished.

Nowhere Near Here can be found, well, it cannot be found nowhere near here, but it can be found here , where you can click to hear his inspiring music. The image is from Jason’s website.

(This post was to be published while I was away. Unfortunately, that did not happen as planned. Now that I’m back, I wanted it to be the first thing you read from me upon my return.)

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When I was young, I wore eye liner and light pink lipstick; the trend of the times. As I grew older, I added foundation and moisturizer, eye shadow for a special event. These days, I rarely put anything near my eyes and I slather on more moisturizer than I used to. What little I use lasts me for a very long time, so, I don’t buy make-up very often at all. I buy my foundation and moisturizer at the same store, Nordstrom’s.

Lipstick; ah, lipstick. I never buy lipstick at the same store or in the same shade – and I always buy it on a cloudy day.

You see, I have a tainted past. I take great precautions to cover my lips, change my shade. Serpentine shopping is my operative mode, and identify modification. Don’t tell anyone, okay?

It all started about fourteen years ago on a breathtakingly beautiful fall day. A clear, colorful, feel good sort of day. I was adjusting to an empty nest, having just delivered our younger fledgling to college for the first time and our older fledging to her first apartment. I needed to be out-and-about, and I needed a gift, so, off I went to my favorite shopping center, Oakbrook. My first stop was the Museum Store of the Art Institute of Chicago. I wish it was still there, for all its gift buying treasures. I fear I may have driven them out of business that day.

I milled about, made a selection that would be perfect for a perfect friend. I completed my purchase and proceeded jauntily toward the door.

Bam! I felt like I was hit by a brick. I saw, really saw, stars. My eyes watered. Blood gushed from my nose. The clerks and another shopper gaped as I bounced backwards. From within, where I still stood, the sound of the thud still echoed.  From without,  passers-by stared amazed – or tried not to laugh. I understood. I painfully understood how it must have looked from their perspective.

I had walked smack dab into the plate-glass door. They do a good job of window washing at Oakbrook Center.

No one offered to help me. I finally, urgently, asked a clerk if I could please have some paper towels to staunch the blood. Mount St. Penelope was erupting. Reluctantly, she gave me some. I tidied myself up as best I could, shook off my humiliation, and walked, once again, to the door.

As I walked, a little slowly, my head pounding my heart’s beat, I was certain I would have a black eye by the time I arrived home.

Slowly I walked, and my humiliation grew, for on that once pristine glass door was the oily smudge of my forehead. The smear of blood from my nose, and then, spot on, the rest of my portrait , in luscious cherry blossom red – the perfect imprint of my lips.

Was that the worst? Oh no. I’m a veteran tried-and-true shopper. I kept on shopping. It was when I walked back, past the store,  that I saw my face , still on the door. That kiss of lipstick. I knew I was a marked woman with that  one last kiss. . .

. . . I wonder if that was why I was fingerprinted so many years later. Sigh. Our past always follows us, doesn’t it, or looks right at us!

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. . . so we called friends Rick and Patty, arranged to meet them on the green at the Burr Ridge Shopping Center, stowed some cold  drinks in a cooler (and I hid some chocolate cake in honor of you-know-who’s birthday). We loaded up some lawn chairs, and off we went to a free concert, under the stars, about as far as the crow flies from our house.

We are fortunate to have quite a few free music venues in the good old summertime, mere minutes from our life here on the Cutoff. All summer, we’ve been meaning to take advantage of them. Finally, yesterday, our chance arrived – and we grabbed it.

DSCN2421Burr Ridge Center is a new, smallish center with mixed usage. Restaurants dot the few blocks with trendy stores, a Starbucks, Barbara’s Bookstore and condos nestled in on top. In the center’s planning, an expanse of lawn was laid. A modern, airy and lighted band shell emerges in June. This same lawn hosts a farmers market on Thursdays.

The concert was set to start at 7:30. We arrived an hour early and staked out a good spot amongst other early birds. It was like a mini-Ravinia, which is the crown jewel in outdoor concerts in summer. Groups had rounds of chairs, blankets and tables, wine coolers and sushi, all a-ready for a night of big band sounds, which arrived, right on time, compliments of The Steve Cooper Orchestra, whose musical renditions and vocal accompaniments stirred the crowd, a mixture of ages and backgrounds. They all seemed to be in the mood. We certainly were.


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