Saturday, October 2, 2010


I collect postcards. I have since I was young. What I love about them is seeing a place, near or far, through the eyes of another. What did they find fascinating and worthy of mention?

I also enjoy the idea of the postcard itself having been on a journey. The first things I notice upon receipt are the postage and the postmark. Where is it from? How long did it take to reach me? Some come posted from the point of origin, others from the next stop along the way, and yet others are hand delivered by a stranger who happened to be in the Galapagos and was returning home to a place near enough to me to drop it off. (Their own special form of postal delivery, it seems.)

A lot of times, my friends will leave on their trips armed with the best of intentions to send me a postcard. They have my address either on a small piece of paper in their wallet (precarious) or in a text message in their phone. In both cases they find themselves on vacation, postcard in hand, but no address to be found.

These are the ones that come to me hand delivered. Some have writing. Some do not. Some even have a stamp. I accept them all graciously, omitting the comments about the idea being that the card, too, has been on a journey. And I guess, in a way it has, it has struggled to get to me, and maybe it's journey was taken tucked away in a suitcase instead of in a third world postal system. I wouldn't dream of leaving them out of the collection. When it comes to postcards, in my mind, it truly is the thought that counts.

There are a few in particular that are my favorites. One postcard, the one that I am sure started it all, traveled to me from across Africa. Jude, my sixth grade teacher's aide, announced one day in class that she would be leaving us for a few months to travel in Africa. Ah, the remembrance of the first time I uttered those now so familiar words, "Will you send me a postcard?" Those words, I do believe, were the first out of my mouth! I have no idea what prompted the request. Perhaps the thought of having something come to me from such a far away place was exciting. Whatever the reason, my enthusiasm for the postcard has not waned. It would turn out to be the first "pleading for postcards" on a substantial list!

The postcard was a photo of beautiful bare breasted and beaded tribal women at work. I will never forget the colorful cloths they wrapped about themselves. And the long, multi-layered strands of painted beads and gold rings. I can still picture her handwriting, skinny and upright, black ink, proclaiming that, "The women here are so beautiful!" I remember a lot going on around a colorful but very foreign looking postage stamp, covered in cancel dates and ink. Alas, all I have of the card is my memory. At present, it has gone missing. On another journey. I kept it close at hand for years, but now, no matter where I look, it alludes me. I haven't given up. I am convinced it will turn up, sooner or later, in a forgotten box in the attic or storage. And I know it will return to me. It found me from across Africa, the Atlantic and America on its first journey. It will certainly find me again from the close range of a closet.

Another treasure that comes to mind are the two identical Parisiennes postcards that were mailed by two different travelers 10 years apart. What are the chances?! Another favorite, the postcard from Alaska sent by my co-worker who also had his father take a picture of him with the postcard in front of the Post Office in Alaska where the card was mailed. I love rifling through the postcards from time to time and remembering these tid bits. I can recall some story or circumstance surrounding just about every card I have. Most of the stories have nothing to do with the card itself, and everything to do with its sender.

One of the things I like most about my postcard experiment is the enthusiasm of the sender. Most of them approach it as a chore, but, in the end, are as excited as I am not just about sending the card, but about sharing their trip. I had one sender who acted a tad put out that I wanted a postcard from each stop on her European journey. The first cards were short and to the point. but as she started seeing and experiencing more, the postcards got bigger and the writing smaller to accommodate all of her travel adventures. The postcards enabled her to share her excitement of the things she was enjoying on her trip. Funny, after her last postcard from her last port of call, I didn't hear from her again. Until three years later, when out of the blue, I started receiving postcards. This time from her journeys around Hawaii. What a great surprise!

I have a group of postcards I call The Kindness of Strangers. These cars come from people I don't know at all. People I meet by happenstance on the subway or in a doctor's office who may mention and upcoming trip in passing. These same poor people are almost immediately shoved a piece of paper with my name and address on it and asked, "Would you mind terribly sending me a postcard? I have a collection you see. And it doesn't need any correspondence, just the postage and postmarks. Thank you so much." I am sure they find me insane. But boy do my eyes light up when weeks later, I open my mailbox to find that precious postcard from some far away land and a kind stranger who took pity on "the crazy lady at the..."

The most beautiful and perplexing postcard of this kind is from Iraq. It is a photograph of a wall with the ornate writing carved on it. It is kind of a sand color. Very simple. The sender has left a very simple message on the back. And the postmark confirms it was mailed through an APO. So, someone named Mandy, who was somehow connected to the US military, took the time to send a stranger a postcard from Iraq. How wonderful is that? And what a surprise too. I so wish I could remember who I asked to send me the card. I would love to send Mandy a note of thanks.

So to Mandy, and all all the others known and unknown, Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tid Bits

It has come to my attention that I have not posted in a number of months. I have my reasons. (One being carpal tunnel surgery on my left hand. Another being a very full visit from my niece. Another being I have been just plain lazy.) For all of those reasons, I apologize profusely. That said, until I have the time for a proper offering - read: until I get off my duff and write something - I offer you some previously expressed tid bits. Please enjoy.


So last night when I was walking to my apartment from the carport, I passed a neighbor going out who was wearing earphones - obviously listening to her ipod - except she was carrying not an ipod but a ipad. It was so large that she was carrying it in her arm as if it were a binder. It struck me as amusing that in this day of smaller being better, electronically speaking, Apple has effectively reversed that ethic. Her new 'ipod' took me back to the giant mobile phones of the 80s! What's next? Some sort of arm or hip rig so you can jog with the huge ipad strapped to you?

My friend Alicia pointed out that I may be speaking rashly, reminding me that, "Steve Jobs can do no wrong." But even Alicia concedes that you always have to hold an ipad, especially when you want to type. "Thus, the device will either have to be on your lap, on a table or held at an awkward angle. Until, inevitably they develop a separate keyboard which you will plug into the ipad, making it operate more like a LAPTOP or a DESKTOP. Yep. He's a genius, that one."

Quite a route for Apple to take to eventually develop their own version of my Dell Mini.

To which my sister Jenny added, "But it's revolutionary! Revolutionary for people to go backwards!"

That said, enjoy your ipads everyone. Until, of course, the idesk renders it obsolete.

Abercrombie Boy and Girl

So I am sitting at the grove - don't ask - enjoying my turkey sandwich from the Nordstrom deli when I glance to the left and into the Abercrombie entrance where there stand two of the most uninterested employees I have ever seen.

The shirtless boy - who must train with that wolf kid - is chewing the inside of his cheek, thus contorting his purely average face. (Obviously, he was hired for his pecs alone). He assumes a stance which serves to keep his pants at a modest--and I use that term loosely--waistline. His pants are so low, I expect to see him at Burke Williams for a bikini wax next weekend.

The girl next to him is comparatively dressed for the nunnery. Although her bright and big flounced floral print skirt barely covers her crotch, she wears a full coverage black tee with a cropped denim jacket over. The only thing missing is the large scarf tied in a bow in her hair--off to the side of course--and she could be right out of that 80s movie "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."

They both stand, propped up against the wall with the bleakest of looks on their faces. As if to say, "You don't want to come in here. Really. It's boring. I'm bored. Aren't you bored just looking at me? My pecs aren't even enticing right now, that's how boring we are."

But I guess that is what the kids are looking for these days, because the shop definitely isn't empty. Go figure. I must be old.

On Angels & Demons

The movie was good, but wish I hadn't read the book. It is a story that needs to be propelled by surprise and suspense and if you already know what is going to happen, all that is left is fast driving through tiny roman streets and the sights of Vatican City - when it isn't a set.

One final thought...

When the end of the world comes, if I am still around, I want John Cuzak to pick me up in that Winnebago! Honestly, have you ever seen a vehicle handle better in an apocalyptic situation?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Granny's Recipe Box

The recipe cards smell like Granny’s house. I had almost forgotten that smell. The last time I smelled it was last July when we went back and packed up her house.

How do you describe a smell. A person’s smell. It smells like the combination of her perfume (Estee), her hand lotion (Jergens classic), her face cream (also Jergens), and her powder (she used talc with a powder puff every day!). There is probably a smoke residue in there from her years of smoking. Funny thing though, I don’t ever remember smelling smoke on her, her clothes, or her furniture. I don’t know how she did it! Especially since she smoked at least two packs a day. She didn’t quit until she turned 81. Cold turkey when she did. The Doctor said she would get sick like all of her friends if she didn’t. Scared her to death. So she quit. But still, I don’t ever remember smelling smoke. And the cards don’t have a trace of it. They smell so good.

In the front of the preprinted cards is a stack of magazine clippings and hand written notes. Some in Granny’s handwriting, some in Mother’s. And after perusing all of the clippings, it’s a wonder anybody lived as long as they did!!! Most of the recipes start with, “Add some shortening to the pan, then a pound of ground beef, “ and end with, “mix in a cup of shredded cheese and serve.”

And the plethora of chili cheese dip clippings! Oh my gosh! There must be at least a dozen. Some duplicates. All basically the same. Dump a can of chili in some melted cheese and add more hot sauce. A half a dozen recipes for beef brisket. And almost all of these old tattered pages call for smoke liquid in the ingredients. I think I have heard of smoke liquid. Maybe. Can you still get it? And not a fresh herb in sight. Onion flakes galore! Half of the recipes are one skillet meals. And the most amusing part? They all sound delicious!

I found a great stuffed pepper recipe that I’m sure I can trim down with ground turkey and rice cheese. I also ran across the old recipe card with Maida Naden’s stuffed mushrooms. I remember those! Mother made them in batches at every party. I loved them. They were soooo good. But best of all, I found a copy of Mother’s sour cream coffee cake recipe! She always had it on hand during the holidays. Such a nice and sweet treat. I keep meaning to ask her for it, but keep forgetting. There is nothing diet about this recipe, but it is great comfort food when I am yearning for home.

Those cards smell so good. Mother said to go ahead and throw out the preprinted ones, and hers, and just keep Granny’s. But I think I will leave them all just the way I found them. The box is tin, so the smell will stay for a long time.

I am sure that Mother is under the impression that she is getting the box back when I finish copying the recipes. She should probably rethink that!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Guest Posting: La Petite Soeur

The following is an essay my sister wrote about her approach to Black Sunday. Since the piece is timely, and she has no blogspot of her own, I offered to post it for her. I hope you enjoy.


I don't have a blog, but there are some times in life I wish I did. Today on the bus, as this lovely holiday approaches, I was thinking about Valentine's Day. So, here it goes. Hopefully it will make you chuckle....if you go for the slightly cynical…

Let's be honest, whether you're in a loving relationship or not, this holiday blows. You can pretend "Oh, let's love each other and just spread love." But we know this holiday was created for some commercial crap and those stupid in love couples. Now, I've had good boyfriends on V-day and my expectations became so ridiculously high about how they will surprise me, what gift they might get, only to find one year that my boyfriend was working and forgot and another year I ended up with a crappy box of chocolate from the freakin grocery store.

So this year I've decided to pretend it doesn't exist. This might seem weird since I'm writing something about it, but I would like to share with you what that looks like. For example, if I'm watching TV and see a commercial for something to do with hearts and jewelry for V-day, I change the channel and move onto another show. That network just lost me as a viewer (for that time.) Sad for them. This has resulted in me watching a lot of Discovery Channel shows like Man vs. Wild, Dirtiest Job, and Deadliest Catch because the Discovery Channel doesn't give a rat's ass about them! I could watch Bear Grylls (the host of Man vs. Wild) almost get killed by a bear any day. It never disappoints because he always manages to make it out alive! Shocking!

Another example - I was walking to the train today with my normal routine of grabbing a copy of the Red Eye, the free Chicago daily newspaper, and there was a big fat stupid looking cupid on the front and I went to grab for it and decided not to. This holiday does not exist and I am not familiar with that character. Done and done.

Third, people everywhere are talking about their V-day plans. I'm in Chicago and they like to say they're "relationship people" so EVERYONE is taken, mostly young and don't-know-any-better-cuz-it's-so-cold people. I immediately change the conversation to see who watched the most recent Man vs. Wild or how much I still love Jersey Shore. You'll be surprised how easy it is to distract people from talking about their weekend plans if you bring up Jersey Shore...who DOESN'T love/hate Snookie?

Now, TV won't always save you from the nagging reminder you are single, a detrimental state of mind that only V-day can magnify to the tenth degree. In which case, look to the power that thinking about horrible relationships holds. If I start to feel sorry for myself, I think about those horrible douches I dated in the past or the couples for which I thank God every day I am not one of them in that schmoopy vs. schmoopy relationship. This sets my mind at ease and reminds me how awesome I am for not being with that long gone asshole or in a relationship that sounds like too much work for it's own good.

Last, I would like to point out how damaging this holiday is for people who JUST started dating. It's a curse and not fun at all. You have to ask yourself, “Do I wish him/her a happy V-day?” “Do I have to hangout with him/her on V-day?” “Are they going to expect me to buy flowers,” etc, etc. Having to watch those painful V-day commercials with your new dude is awkward and you both shift in your seat. (I recently had this happen and asked if he could turn to the Discovery Channel instead.) Any dude who calls me around this holiday is not only the bravest man on earth but also welcoming me to go to Crazytown (my friend Bridget's word that I love) with my sudden urge to expect something from him. What a brave freakin soul! I don't even think Bear Grylls could get out that one alive. (I write this because, yes, a boy did call me last night and so close to V-day when I thought he dropped me like it's hot a week ago - what a brave freakin a-hole!)

I know none of this is new for most of us and may just be another single person venting about how much they hate V-day, but I encourage you to just ignore it. It's another day...another stupid day...and hopefully this landmine can be avoided and we can get back to the months of March thru June, where nothing happens....nothing at all except St. Patrick's Day where everyone gets drunk and the most romantic you'll get is making out with a total stranger who you won't even remember the next day. (Then there's my birthday in June and that's a WHOLE other sob story that I won't get into to.)

Bear Grylls future wife

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Welcome to the 21st Century, Andrea. Nice to have you with us.

So, it happened again.

First, I should explain about my televisions. They are old. Both of them. Yep, I still live in the world of analog when it comes to my television sets. They are both more square than rectangular. They both have a curved surface screen. Without Directv, neither would pick up a signal of any kind, let alone a digital one. And as much as I love television, watching television, watching movies, my DVR, and the look of the Planet Earth series on a 60" plasma screen, I flat out (no pun intended) refuse to pay more than $200 for a television. So, my TVs are old.

And they are small. I have high hopes for bigger screens, but I have to wait until Heinz gets a new TV. You see, how it works is Heinz gets a new TV. The old one moves into Mother’s living room. The TV in the living room moves up to the den. The TV in the den then moves into the back of my truck and on to my living room. The one in my living room moves into my bedroom. And the one in my bedroom goes to the highest bidder. Okay, so the only way to even get charities to take it is to leave it at their back door, knock and run before they make me take it back! So, until Heinz gets a new TV, I’m stuck with analog.

“What does that mean to the average viewer?” you ask. Here is where my story gets its meat.

Now days, television shows are shot in an HD format, or what you might call a wide screen. They are shot to fit within the space of the new televisions. The digital receiving, HD ready, flat screens. Most times the action of the shot occurs in what we call “TV”, the smaller screen, and those who have the wider will get more background or more of the shoulder of an actor in the corner of the screen. Every now and then, much to my chagrin, the action will take place in “HD” - a.k.a. the space that is outside the scope of my TV screen.

The first time this phenomena happened, I was watching my favorite show, Glee. It’s a fantastic show. I encourage everyone to watch. Anyway, coming out of a commercial, the screen fills with what I think is an establishing shot, that first shot of the scene that introduces the setting before the actors appear and start talking. But the establishing shot is going on for a long time. It’s just a shot of a football field. Nobody is there yet. But I can hear them talking. Sometimes they do this. You see an empty set and hear the actors talk right before they appear in the scene. But the actors never appear. They keep talking. Then a football flies across the screen. Then it flies back. This goes on for the better part of the scene. I am dumfounded. What’s going on?! What is wrong with the picture?

That is when it hit me. There is nothing wrong with the picture. It’s my old TV. If only I had a wider screen I would see clearly the actors, throwing the football back and forth to each other from opposite sides, in “HD”. Once I realize what is going on, I just laugh. I work in television production. I watch the monitors, so I see what goes on in “HD” verses “TV”. I also know that for the most part, directors try to keep the action in “TV”. It is a bold director who puts both actors in “HD”, successfully hiding them from the analog watching viewer. We don’t all have the new TVs yet. I guess if that scene was any indication of what is to come, I will have to either break down and buy a new tv, or get really good at recognizing voices!

It has been a while since that scene. I have watched a lot of television since, but haven’t had a recurrence. Until tonight. Supernatural. Another great show I highly recommend. End of the show. Poignant and touching scene. Dean sits to address his long time friend in a wheelchair and tell him how much he means to him. Except, all I see is Dean talking to the wall. The friend completely gone, hidden from my sight line, in “HD”.

In closing, I leave you with this thought:

Heinz! I think there is a big TV sale going on down at the Best Buy this weekend! You should definitely check it out.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

An Open Appology - The Lady and the Dog

I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for the lack of actual blogging going on on this page. Remember, I am new at this whole form of communication. I cannot decide what is the best story to start with. And then there is the whole task of editing said story, etc. So I leave you with this short tale. Apologies again for lack of any excitement therein. And there really wasn't much editing or rewriting. I mean it. The following story is in no way representative of essays to come. Okay. Well, maybe it is. I really don't know what I'm doing. And this story will serve to prove that point beyond a doubt. But wanted you to have at least something to read. Enjoy. But, please, don't judge.

The Lady and the Dog.

A couple of days ago*, while driving in my car (Sorry. Redundant. Really, where else would I be driving?), I saw the funniest thing. A lady all in white (white shirt, white tank, white capris, and a white handbag) was being attacked by some sort of tiny yappy Yorkie dog. From what I could tell, the dog had a hold of a corner of her handbag and would not let go. She was running and carrying on as if the dog was Cujo, complete with blood dripping from his canines! The owner was chasing after the little dog, trying to catch him, but the lady kept running away. She ran out into the street (Vermont) and all the way across four lanes, dog in tow, before either the dog let go or the owner got him. Hard to tell. I was watching most of it from my rear view mirror. Lucky for her, and the dog, it was early morning and there was no traffic. She did not even look before backing into the street. She was flailing as if she was in mortal danger. As if some great white shark had a hold of her and was about to swallow her whole. ( I will take this opportunity to admit to too much Shark Week.) It was just a tiny yappy dog. And the poor owner, trying to grab the dog. If only the lady had stood her ground, I’m sure the owner would have pried the dog loose much sooner. It was the craziest thing. Unreal. Like out of a movie except if you ever saw it in a movie you would say, “That’s preposterous! Nothing like that would ever happen. No one would ever react so violently to a Yorkie!”

I take that back. I know several people who live in close proximity to a Yorkie, and their reactions and thoughts are always of a violent nature. I guess the Yorkie just brings out the evil in mankind. Hmmm. Maybe the hound of hell is not a Rottweiler at all, but a Yorkie!

* Bold face lie. I wrote this sometime last August.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Are You Happy Now?!

At the constant badgering of my entire family and coterie of friends, I am finally starting a blog. I imagine they all assume that if I have an outlet for my observations (read: rants), I will stop calling and bothering them.

How wrong they are. Now, they will be tormented with draft after draft of my postings pre-posting. (I am much too insecure to post before feedback and spell check!)

Good Luck to us all!

(Get used to it. I sign everything this way. A habit I cannot, and will not break.)

P.S. Is "coterie of friends" redundant?