IMG_2375Faced with an opportunity to see your idol, you should a) scream, b) cry, c) faint. The fans at the Ed Sullivan Theatre did those things when the Beatles appeared, and so it was hard not to get caught up even if I was only watching them on TV. This week I got to see Paul McCartney in concert and felt that same excitement. A chance to see my favorite Beatle and hear the songs I love.

For about an hour before the show, two big video screens in the venue displayed a pictorial timeline of Paul’s life. The images appeared to be two cylinders, rotating to the left, unspooling a scroll of still and moving pictures. The Fab Four; the Queen; US presidents going back to Eisenhower; bits of footage of press conferences, movie shoots, family photos; all easily covering 60 years. As if he had to remind the crowd who he was and where he came from. My brother once overheard kids in a record store who came across Revolver or Let It Be and exclaimed, “Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?!”  – so, yeah, perhaps some people needed reminding.

When the Beatles broke up, I grieved, then studiously followed their solo careers and came to love those songs almost as much as the Beatles canon. Then it happened. He was touring with Wings and was coming to Cincinnati. I wasn’t surprised that he wasn’t coming to Louisville, but it was still too amazing to be true that he’s come as close as a mere 100 miles away. I had to go.

The venue was huge. When the lights went down and the band rushed out, everyone jumped to their feet cheering. I remember wanting to hear every syllable, every note, and memorize every movement. I held my breath. I was astonished that some people talked through the concert (what?!) and I tried to take pictures with my Instamatic. The pictures ended up being mostly the backs of heads and small colored dots representing the stage in the background. But it did’t matter. I had been in the same building as Paul, I had seen him with my own eyes. It was amazing.

So this week we headed off to the southwest suburbs of Chicagoland – an appropriate distance for a pilgrimage. Paul was still only an inch tall as viewed from my seat – thank heavens for the jumbo screens. When he played and sang, instead of holding my breath in a stunned reverence, I sang along – as did most of the crowd – knowing every word of the lyrics. Floating up around all of those songs were strong memories. The stack of albums and 45s next to the turntable in my room. Playing and replaying songs until I learned every word. The thrill of catching a favorite song on the radio. Running across a picture of Paul, with Linda and the kids dashing through an airport. Going to see Live and Let Die just so I could hear the soundtrack.

That visual timeline at the concert was not only a subtle reminder of the span of Paul’s life and career, it caused me to reflect about everything that has happened to me over most of that same time. And through it all, Beatles’ music, in its group and solo-artist forms, was a part of it. A soundtrack for many events, imbedded into experiences. Hearing Yesterday takes me right back to our living room when I was seven. I hear Maybe I’m Amazed and I’m standing in the kitchen at night adjusting the radio. So, thank you Sir Paul, for taking me back across the universe, if you will, to all those places I love.


Shopping Everywhere

102363696-skymall.1910x1000The train platforms and cars are filled with advertising – vacation spots, medical trials, fancy alcohol, and food delivery services. Even the LED displays with news about track repairs and reroutes alternate with ads for TV shows, and festivals. But there is something missing. Something that would complete the commercial experience: a phone app to buy whatever you see.

I’ve heard of devices you can point at your TV to buy the clothes your favorite stars are wearing. Sure, these are curated wardrobes, assembled by teams of savvy folk. But what about the clothes people are wearing during their commute to work? A lady is wearing a blue and white sleeveless seersucker dress that looks so cool and comfortable. I want to ask her where in the world she found the perfect summer dress, but she gets off at the next stop and disappears into the crowd. Someone else has a tote that is so much more professional looking than the bag I sling my lunch box and shoes into. Squinting, I can see a designer label and wonder if it’s real or a knock off.

Those polka dotted flats with a rounded toe look comfy, practical and cute. Plus they might be in my size. Searches on Zappos come up empty, yet here they next to me on the train. I’ve also seen an assortment of colorful insulated lunch bags that would be so much more fun than my black one. I assess the storage size of different backpacks, and the combinations of fabrics and hues available from Timbuktu.

I see young professional men wearing wild colored socks with their conservative suits, sports jackets of gorgeously subtle patterns, phone cases, cool earrings, and hats. Things I can never find when I’m shopping for family birthday gifts.

The CTA sells merchandise showing the rail system map, your favorite stop, and old fare tokens. I say they’re missing a big opportunity to use the Sky Mall model to turn idle travelers into cash cows. They could help us find the best commuting shoes, bags with comfortable handles, and lightweight clothing for steamy rush hour packed cars. We just need that app to tell us where the other riders found those things.

In my imagination, the app reveals that the people in this train car shop at Macy’s,Target, and Barney’s. Other items I can see around me came from the Salvation Army, a boyfriend’s closet, or were made by hand. Alas. One-of-a-kind and unique. But that’s makes the ride interesting too.

Crowning Glory

fourEach morning I point a hairdryer at my head to dry and style my hair. That’s a generous description since I doubt it ever looks as good as when my hairdresser does it. After a few minutes of brushing and lifting I have to stop because I’m now so overheated it’s canceling out the shower I just took. When everything looks in place – though I can’t really see the back of my head – I add a spritz of hairspray and I’m ready to face the outdoors.

I leave the building, braced for the gauntlet I have to run to get to my office. It can be humid summer air, wrapping around me like a steamy blanket, or cold wet wind undoing my careful coiffure. My hair is relatively straight, but a wonky wave emerges with humidity. After a few blocks walking to the train, I probably look just like I did rolling out of bed, or possibly even wilder.

As a toddler, I sported a cute pixie haircut. I suspect my mom favored this because I’d be easier to groom. After wrestling with my own daughter’s long thick hair, I completely understand that motivation. Somewhere around 4th grade, I grew my hair out. Long straight hair gave me options: braids, pony tails, buns, or loose and flowing. Occasionally I experimented with curling my hair, but no method could overcome the length – curls would just fall out in no time.

I got a dramatic Dorothy Hamill cut in college, but eventually grew that out as well and succumbed to a popular 80’s perm. Yes, I was finally going to have curly hair! I kept up the smelly, harsh treatments for years, and finally went back to a shorter cut. Shorter is supposed to mean easier, but it never seems that way. I’m still adding “product” to try to give my limp hair some body, and propping it up to withstand a breeze.

Maybe it’s just not short enough. Some women who have a really short cut say they only have to run their fingers through their hair after a shower, and they’re done. A spiky ‘do that tells the world that you’re cool and won’t be caught dead in a salon. Right now, I think that childhood pixie is looking mighty good.


IMG_2357I’m strolling on the shady side of the street when I hear something like a baby’s wail. No strollers, toddlers or ailing dogs are in sight but the sound persists. It’s odd and familiar at the same time. I stop beside an elementary school to find a hen house and six or seven chickens clucking and crowing. You’d think I’d never seen a live animal before – I’m momentarily transfixed. What are these birds doing in Chicago?

There are animals around town: pigeons, dogs on leashes, bunnies, squirrels, rats, and a big gray parrot the man down the block brings out occasionally. Farm animals, other than at the annex of the Lincoln Park Zoo, not so much. There was the 1999 Cow Parade when fiberglass cows were decorated and displayed all around town. But they weren’t mooing, or eating, or leaving cow pies in the street. I’ve read about folks in the area who have chickens in their yard. At best, the owner is collecting eggs every day, at worst, they spark tensions with their neighbors when they are awakened at dawn.

A yard full of chickens is a picture from an idyllic past. Self-sufficiency and living off of the land. Doubtless, generations back on all our family trees, there were some farmers; for me, that memory is filled in by movies. Dorothy Gale before Oz, simpler times, wholesome hardworking people. A quieter life evoked in this poem by William Carlos Williams:

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

This henhouse is apparently a teaching tool for the elementary school, nestled next to a greenhouse. It’s important for kids to see where food comes from – tomatoes, green beans, and eggs – though I doubt seriously that they learn how to make chicken nuggets out of their feathered friends.

I hope these birds have a warmer home in winter, but till then, it’ll be fun to walk by and imagine I’m far from the hot concrete, cars, and city noise.






Version 2I want to create an image by using the perfect adjective. I see the word, but can’t quite grasp it. I shuffle through alternative words to find a synonym, but it’s not precisely what I want. Maybe the word will float up from my subconscious later, but for now it has disappeared like a puff of smoke.

One of the bags of groceries doesn’t make it out of the cart into my car. I go into another room and forget why I went there. I drive on autopilot and end up somewhere else. Is it ditzy, distraction, or am I beginning to really lose my mind?

My kids sometimes view me as a slower, less hip person than they are, and I’m sure that’s normal, but they also look to me for real world advice: filling out a W-4, polishing a resume, buying a car. I’m the planner of the family, the bill payer. A lot depends on me, so it’s unsettling to think of me blanking out or becoming unreliable.

Is there something wrong with the language center of my brain? A hidden tumor that needs attention? Mini strokes that have gone undetected because everyone looks for the symptoms that only men have? Will I develop dementia? Now I’m making too much of a small lapse. I’m articulate, with a good mind for process, and I navigate successfully through life. Though I do wonder whether the odd hiccup moments are the first indications of a decline. I expect to live a very long life, and it’s an unappealing prospect if the body and / or mind fails.

I could try to combat these gaps with homeopathic potions for memory improvement, cross-word puzzles to keep me sharp, and For now, I’ll try to slow down, focus, limit the multi-tasking, and capture interesting new words in a notebook. I think it’ll pass. Now, if I could only remember where I left the notebook.