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He sat contentedly, slumped easily in a folding chair at the county fair, listening serenely to a bluegrass band. He was tall and once lanky, though the advancing years had added enough pounds to his frame to make him appear somewhat bulky. His arms rested limply at his sides, accentuating the roundish belly which protruded upward from his beltline. Youth had long since passed, and style was something that hadn't concerned him in years, the black socks he wore with his denim shorts being only the most obvious example of this fact.

Youth's advantages had left him, but so had its petty trifles and momentary urgencies. He had moved on in life, much further than he ever could have anticipated, and now found himself in a quiet little spot, one of peace and gentle comfort. At rest, and yet still very much alive.

August 20, 2003 in Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Slipping Away

She stood patiently in line, but her strained posture clearly showed her fatigue. She was sharply dressed in a starched, long-sleeve white blouse, black skirt and heels, all of which were out of place in both the coffeehouse and the 95-degree weather outside. She was on her way home from church, and in her regular routine was picking up a coffee, a latte and two bagels. Mom was pretty sophisticated on the subject of coffee, knowing about espresso long before anyone else she knew, and now their weekly coffees were about all they had left.

Mom's first few sips of her weekly latte would bring about one of her increasingly rare moments of lucidity. The ravages of Alzheimer's would momentarily ebb, and once again aware of things, she would look at her dressed-up Elizabeth with a look of chagrin, recognizing that her daughter still clung to the faith that she herself had abandoned long ago.

"That's fine, as long as it works for you," Mom would say.

"There's still time, Mom," Elizabeth would reply. "It's not too late for you."

"Everything's too late for me now," was her pensive reply. "But I'm okay with that, really." A pause, and then the gentlest of sighs. "It's time."

August 18, 2003 in Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Quote of the Month

"If there's a god, it's W. C. Fields. Only he could have conceived of this -- Bush as president and Schwarzenegger running for governor." --Studs Terkel

(The viaduct of this fine quote from the incomparable Studs is Tom Engelhardt, writer and editor of the esteemed TomDispatch.)

August 14, 2003 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Elevator Man

The Otis elevator man was already having a hard morning, and it was only 8:15. He stood in the corner of the elevator, vivid in his green uniform shirt and matching pants, his hair and bristly moustache having long before gone completely white. Ignoring the office workers nearby, he leaned his forehead heavily into his forearm which rested high against the doorframe, and closed his eyes as the elevator rose. It always rose, except for those rare moments when it balked and he suddenly became indispensible. He didn't know if this would be one of his indispensible days. A copy of the Sun-Times was rolled up and stuck out of his back pocket, just in case it wasn't one of them.

August 13, 2003 in Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ben Hecht's Erik Dorn

I just came across this remarkable passage in Ben Hecht's Erik Dorn:

It had been easy during the war. Democracy-Autocracy; a tableau to look at. Thought had been unnecessary. In fact, the popular intelligence had legislated against it. The tableau was enough--a sublimated symbol of the little papier-mache rigmarole of their daily lives, the immemorial spectacle of Good and Evil at death grips, limelighted for a moment by the cannon in France. The unreason and imbecility of the mob crowned themselves...

Dorn returned to find the tableau had suffered an explosion. It had for some mysterious reason glibly identified as reaction burst into fragments and vanished in a skyrocket chaos...The distracted mob become privy for the moment to the vast biological disorder eternally existent under its nose, snorted, yelped, and shook indignant sawdust out of its ears.

"In the temporary collapse of the banalities that conceal the world from their eyes," thought Dorn, "they're trying to figure out what's really around them--and making a rather humorous mess about it...People want things straight again. They want black and white so's they can all mass on the white side and make faces at the evil-doers who prefer the black. They don't want facts, diagnosis, theories, interpretations, reports. They want somebody to stand up and announce in a loud, clear voice, 'Tweedledum is wrong. Tweedledee is right, everything else to the contrary is Poppycock.' Thus they'd be able to put an end to their own thinking and bury themselves in their own little alleys and be happy again."

This book was published in 1921, but its truths still hold true. One could easily insert the phrases "war on terrorism," "weapons of mass destruction," and "Fox News" into that passage, and it would still be accurate.

August 11, 2003 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2)


Her head appeared at the top of the narrow staircase, and she beamed at the sight of him at the other end of the car. She finished climbing up and made her way along the narrow walkway, and she glowed while never taking her gaze off of him as she drew nearer. Her affectionate warmth was obvious, in spite of her even more obvious physical discomfort. She was seven months pregnant.

She sank down in the seat beside him, weary but pleased, and he said an even-voiced "Hello" in reply to her bright-eyed greeting. Without any more formalities she leaned against him, lowering her head onto his shoulder and closing her eyes.

"It will be over soon," she said quietly, her eyes remaining shut.


"Mmmm," she murmured in assent. "Talked to a lawyer. It's already started."

She snuggled closer, in languid ease. He sat uncomfortably, staring straight ahead. He wasn't sure exactly what he was getting himself into.

August 8, 2003 in Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ordered Chaos

As I walk through downtown Chicago, I rarely see either pavement or sidewalk. My chin is slightly raised as I try to fully absorb my physical surroundings. My gaze is drawn upward, following the sheer height of the towers which thrust out of the earth and, on foggy days, dissolve into the heavens. Masonry next to marble next to steel and glass, Art Deco melding into Bauhaus. The vertical riot of styles and materials only faintly echoes the swarm of human activity at street level: men, women and indeterminate; suits, business casual, service uniforms, rough construction clothes; those with a sunny, warm aura and those grimly anticipating the upcoming day. Streaming through the downtown streets, with thousands upon thousands of varying destinations, all of them unique and ever-changing.

August 5, 2003 in Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Angry Kittens Play The Vines

Goodness, I never get tired of this. Distracted today; new writings tomorrow or Wednesday.

August 4, 2003 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)