Another Mother for Peace

FeaturedAnother Mother for Peace
Another Mother for Peace poster

In 1968, Jim Kelly and I moved to Lansing, Michigan with our toddler son. While Kelly studied for his Masters of Social Work at Michigan State, one-year-old Joe and I marched with the national anti-war organization “Another Mother for Peace” to protest cereal companies that advertised during violent cartoons on Saturday morning TV.


We returned to Belmar, New Jersey, at the end of the school year and moved into an old Victorian beach house where Kelly painted the exterior in lieu of rent. At the end of the summer, we moved in with Kelly’s parents while he sought employment. Built-in babysitters allowed us to frequent our favorite saloon, McCann’s Tavern. In autumn, 1969, I got word that the Vietnam Moratorium Committee was planning what would be the largest antiwar protest in United States history. il_570xn-259808473

I set about convincing our drinking group at McCann’s to drive the four hours to the March on Washington. Ramparts Magazine had taught me everything I needed to know about the War. This publication gave birth to my congenital anti-war condition with stories such as an expose about a Michigan State University group that worked in Vietnam as a front for the CIA.

In McCann’s we debated off and on about driving to the nation’s capital in the dead of night. Even though everyone just wanted to drink and have a few laughs, I kept it up. “Forty-five thousand American troops have died in the past two years. If we don’t end the war your military deferments will be rescinded and you’ll all get drafted into the Army.”

That did it.

Two carloads of us drove off at McCann’s last call. Since I had lived in Washington as a teenager for a few months with my father, I drove the lead car, pretending I knew the directions.

When we arrived, yellow school buses were parking bumper to bumper around the White House so President Nixon wouldn’t see the protesters. We headed to a Jersey Shore friend’s place near DuPont Circle to sober up and eat. Reeking of coffee and cigarettes, our speed-freak friend had been up all night working in a restaurant but he hitched on to our party and created an all-out breakfast banquet. They all fell asleep. I dropped a diet pill and took off for the Lincoln Memorial.pisasso

Peter, Paul and Mary and Arlo Guthrie belted out tunes between speeches from anti-war Senators Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern. Peace hero Dr. Benjamin Spock, whose book on baby care taught me how to be an engaged mother, told us half million idealists that we were all noble. Pete Seeger led the crowd in the singing of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.” I have loved sing-alongs ever since.

Back at the crash pad I hustled my friends outside to join the protesters marching toward DuPont Circle. We all got tear-gassed, screamed for mercy, helped each other to our cars and tore out of town.

The war ended six years later.

No one got drafted.


Agnes’ Drunken Stew

thAfter she left my father, my mother made valiant efforts to sit her four daughters down to dinner every night. We never ate before eight o’clock unless we were at someone else’s house. Agnes Donnelly Ryan Burke was very continental and thought it ignoble to eat before the evening news was over. Most of her recipes, clipped from the New York Times, required long simmering or baking times to suit her cocktail hour, which often lasted until nine o’clock. I didn’t mind eating late because I rode my bike around town with the neighborhood boys after their dinners and before mine. I did my homework while watching the late news and The Tonight Show with Agnes.

       Agnes’ beef stew was extravagant. She would not permit anyone to call it Irish stew because, “Everyone knows the Irish have lousy taste and can’t cook.” Neither would she admit that it was really her version of the Times’ Boeuf Bourguignon. Her process would begin with a cast iron frying pan for searing the two-inch cubed sirloin pieces in hot bacon fat. She’d remove the meat and clean the frying pan to sauté the sliced onions, mushrooms and carrots in butter. The two most important ingredients, the hard-to-find dried bay laurel leaves and the bottle of red wine, were added to the meat and vegetables along with salt, pepper, thyme, allspice and garlic cloves. All of this simmered in the Revere Ware stock pot while Agnes sat in her favorite spot on the couch with her Scotch Old Fashioned to watch the news. 

       When the saucy aroma started permeating the house around seven o’clock she’d stir the pot, turn off the stove and return to the living room to visit with her boyfriend, Harry, and various teenage boys who’d stop in with their illegal six-packs of beer to impress us all with their funny stories. About half-past eight she’d skim the fat off the ragout, heat it up, add thickener and a few more ounces of wine, and we’d all sit down to dinner.

       I can’t remember how old I was when Agnes started cooking with wine. It became fashionable in the 1950s long before Julia Child’s TV show–probably after the war. I overheard Agnes extolling the virtues of cooking with wine “rather than cheap cooking sherry” on long-distance telephone conversations with her sisters as they swapped recipes. She added wine to chile con carne, shrimp newburg, gravy, beef stroganoff and spaghetti sauce. As we got older, she added more and more wine. No one complained except the occasional guest who had not been as inculcated in fine dining as my sisters and I.

      After I moved from Agnes’ home I used her recipes but had to resort to the economical “cheap cooking sherry” for my own family. The more I used, the better the food tasted. I gave up cooking with sherry when I joined Alcoholics Anonymous at age 29. Soon thereafter I gave up cooking altogether. I’ve been chasing after my mother’s cooking ever since. Few restaurant dishes are as satisfying. So I eat more. And keep looking.

Vampire Portrait

FeaturedVampire Portrait

The portrait represented my not-surprisingly-sad six-year-old self. People told me as far back as I can remember that I looked sad. Some would even ask why I looked so sad. How does a small child answer such a question?

The oil painting, a three-by-four foot gothic with a gilded oil-rubbed frame looked like an antique. I have a vague recollection of my mother taking my two sisters and I to the artist’s home in Washington, DC, where we had moved for a few years after World War II. We all sat for separate portraits. Mine was the only one the artist completed before my father ran out of money. The artist gave them all to my mother nonetheless and it was one more reason for me to feel superior to my two sisters – my portrait was the best.

I was painted from the waist up seated in a mahogany armchair. Dressed in black velvet with a rounded white lace collar, I held a doll similar to the one my father gave me when I had to stay home from school with the mumps. He bought her in the gift shop of the hotel where we lived when we were evicted from our home. The painting’s forest green background mimicked the dark green velvet of the doll’s coat.

Our family moved around the Midwest for many years before my mother left my father in 1960 – Terre Haute and Indianapolis, St. Louis and Clayton, Chicago and Lake Forest. Those childhood portraits made it through all the evictions, storages and moving vans until I finally got married and my mother gave me my portrait. I hauled it through my own two marriages, divorces and geography. Wherever I hung it, someone inevitably asked who was that sad little girl. I once wanted to rid myself of it when a friend said, “It’s your heirloom.” And so I brought it to a new home in Chicago, where I returned after a stint in Washington, DC during the Bill Clinton years.

My home of 15 years is the first condominium where I’ve had a storage locker. I don’t have a lot of storage items. I figure if you can’t wear it, sit on it, or hang it on the wall, there’s no point in keeping it. For a few years my sad childhood likeness laid in darkness in the basement next to some pictures of my grandchildren and a large suitcase.

Then one day, I needed the suitcase for a two-week trip to San Sebastian, Spain with my California friend Cappi Quigley. I thought I’d bring the portrait upstairs while retrieving the luggage. I couldn’t find the keys to the locker’s padlock so I asked Marcel the building engineer to meet me in the lobby with a bolt cutter. We descended to the basement where Marcel unlocked the steel door to Locker Room B. We located the locker assigned to my condo unit.

The padlock was gone and so were all the contents of the locker.

Sweet Paradise by Regan Burke

FeaturedSweet Paradise by Regan Burke

The slow slide and bump after our plane landed at the North Eleuthera International Airport told me we’d slid off the runway. I froze in my window seat seeing the tropical brush below. The full plane exploded in happy applause. We were safe.

“Don’t worry”, yelled the pilot, “this happens all the time. The sand blows onto the runway.” He backed up onto the tarmac, and the door of the plane opened to a rush of fragrance. Roses? Coconut? Ginger?

“That’s frangipani,“ said the flight attendant, “you’ll smell it everywhere.”
The low wide-leaf vegetation we drove through on the 50-mile-an-hour, ten-minute taxi ride sounded like we were driving through a cornfield. At the dock the aroma of wet gaseous pulp permeated the air from the surrounding mangrove trees. Gasoline and oil from the idling water taxis stirred up into the tropical air. Fellow passengers and I boarded the small canopied motorboat with our suitcases full of clothes we’d never use.

We sped off toward Dunmore Town, the only tgovt_dockown on Harbour Island. Saltwater sprayed our welcoming faces and dried out our pollution-soaked nostrils. The sun heated, then soothed the top of my head, melting my restlessness.

Flowery shirts on happy-faced Bahamians greeted us on the crowded oversized cement dock. I announced to the gathering on the dock that I was going to Sunsets and was directed to Otis, the driver for all visitors to Sunsets. The 2-mile drive from town on a low sandy road through high vegetation evoked adventure. Otis talked all the way in an accent I had never before heard.

I had just run out on a job as the campaign manager for a dying cause. I’d been at a loss as to how to keep the campaign afloat with only one other paid staffer. Feeling depressed, disappointed in myself and physically weak, I complained to my cousin Therese who told me to join her, her husband and two children in their vacation house in the Bahamas.

Sunsets, a 3-bedroom cottage with windows all around looked westward onto the bay between Harbour Island and Eleuthera. I claimed my room, unpacked, and waited the few days for the family to arrive. I  read James Michener’s Caribbean while lounging in a hammock between two rubber trees. Snorkeling in the undulating salty turquoise water under a cloudless sky, I kept a slow pace with the barracuda, sea turtles, starfish, octopus – hyper-aware of every movement, every flutter, every

The day Therese and her family arrived I went for a long walk on the pink sandy beach, ate fresh avocados, papayas and mangoes and fell asleep with my book on the terrace overlooking the bay.  An unearthly, ominous pounding from the driveway of the cottage woke me up.  I rushed around back and found three-year-old Melissa jumping up and down on the roof of their car. She screamed, “There’s my cousin Regan!”. Sweet paradise, I was a happy camper.

The Secret Years

FeaturedThe Secret Years

The Secret Years by Regan Burke

It’s been 40 years since I left the marriage. I had been sober for almost a year, he for three. We met in Alcoholics Anonymous. I was a hippie and he had been in the Army during the Korean War. We told ourselves we’d bridge our generational, cultural and intellectual divide with love. I brought my delightful six-year-old son, Joe, into the marriage.

A small group of spiritual seekers in AA brought us to a cozy bible study that recruited
prospective believers to a Sunday service replete with emotional, old-fashioned hymns. I made deep friendships there. Kind and accepting fellowship was new to me. I’d grown up thinking sarcastic banter and raging all-night arguments with ever-present booze qualified as chit-chat. My addiction got off to an early start as the legal drinking age was not adhered to in my family.

When I got sober, I hungered for a new family with a clear consistent recipe for living. I easily succumbed to the succor of an evangelical Christian cult. This authoritarian, bible-thumping church required women to submit to their husbands – even when the husbands battered the wives. I returned every time to a husband who tried to smack me into the kind of wife he saw in his neighborhood growing up. I craved God’s love through the approval of the church elders but I had a wild, willful, rule-breaking past that was hard to tame, no matter how hard my husband tried. To this day, the congenial backslapping that people use to emphasize the punchline of their stories, can trigger in me a subconscious fight-or-flight response.

th-1The day of the fight, I raged around the house rattling anything in my path when I discovered the husband had walked out with our joint checkbook. He was going to drain the account. I climbed into my 1963 Volkswagen bus and headed to the bank. There he was in the strip mall parking lot slinking into his 1970 Ford Mustang. I floored my van and slammed right into the back of his Mustang. He tore out down the two-lane highway. I pursued him, crashing into him every time he slowed down.

Eventually I was able to get up enough steam to bulldoze him off the road and cram him into a tree. The impact forced all the doors in the van to fly open, but otherwise there wasth-2 no damage to me or my vehicle. I turned around and drove the speed limit home, parked my van, went inside and fell into bed, believing I had killed him. I slipped into a deep sleep relieved from the cares of all the world.

I was awakened by two elders from the church. The husband escaped unharmed.They had spoken to the police, vouched for my good character and vowed to admit me to a mental institution immediately. No charges were filed. I spent three months in the Christian Health Care Center in Wyckoff, NJ. My son Joe stayed with a church family. The marriage lasted another two years.

Ancestral Tree Worship

FeaturedAncestral Tree Worship

Ancestral Tree Worship  by Regan Burke

A crow caws in the gingko tree on the corner. The rising sun shines through the outdoor tree branches. Their shadows dapple my bedroom walls.

I wake early to catch the glory of each day’s wall art, to meditate with the trees in their seasons. Outside, Ozzy the dog and I stop long enough under the gingko tree to allow its fanning leaves to breathe a fresh day into our early morning walk.

th-1My favorite place is anywhere there are trees.

I love them for all the usual reasons: pretty, green, shade. The deciding factor on my condo purchase 15 years ago was the swaying branches outside the wall-to-wall windows. My home is on the 3rd floor of a 20-story high-rise overlooking Lake Michigan. When I first saw the place, the three ash trees in the parkway had reached a height equal to the 4th floor.

It was like living in a

Last year the City of Chicago’s Forestry crews euthanized my treehouse. The ashes were slowly killing themselves by feeding Emerald Ash Borers, those exotic hungry beetles from Asia. I mourn my ash trees. I thought they were immortal.

My mother, Agnes, taught me the pragmatism of trees. Stacy was born 11 years after me, and Agnes insisted I walk my baby sister around on sunny days. Her constant reminder stays with me, “Be sure you stop under the trees so the baby can see the shadows swaying.”

“Women should always have babies in the beginning of summer,” Agnes often said, “in case they are colicky, they will be soothed by leaves swaying in the trees.” She muttered “idiot” under her breath anytime another mother announced the birth of a baby in any month other than early summer.

And indeed, three of her four babies were born in May, June and July. She pretended she planned it that way.

My one and only baby, Joe, was born in May. His 1st summer was spent on his back under the trees outside in a baby carriage. Inside, he spent his time in a crib under a window of trees, syncopating his first gurgles with the sound of leaves rubbing together in the breeze.

Agnes was right about nature’s tranquilizer for infants, but she never claimed it worked for adults. She wouldn’t have been caught dead contributing such unsophisticated, sappy remedies to adult conversations. Her tranquilizers were beer and scotch and later, valium. She spent some of the last years of her life demented from these potions and gazing at the trees in verdant Vermont.604909-44011-10

Trees soothe me anywhere, in any season. Joe absorbs tree balm while minding his wooded property. Carl Jung tells us Agnes simply passed on the inheritance – the collective unconscious of Irish tree worship that supposes tree fairies live in high branches watching over us. My mother’s life was rooted in addiction that mimicked a life-sucking aphid. Yet, she uttered words that gave me and my son our love for trees, a priceless, ancient, tranquilizing inheritance.



They call it Viagra Triangle because old men gather on benches lining the sidewalks to ogle young women. It’s Mariano Park, at the confluence of State and Rush Streets in Chicago. The shaded, pie-shape park is surrounded by a hotel, a 57-story condominium and successful late-night restaurants.

I sit near the 100-year-old fountain with my Scottish Terrier, Ozzy. A young couple at a table next to me punch away on their cell phones. He’s dread-locked wearing jeans and a factory-faded t-shirt. She’s sandaled in a dated, longer-in-the-back orange dress; over-dyed black hair, sunglasses.

“Look! stock market’s up,” she says. “Dude, I should’ve bought that when you told me. 1237041_439591126154325_771983775_nWhat’s this? We never ordered a CT scan.”

She opens her laptop. “Look at this. It’s right there. How did they miss that in radiology?” Returning to her phone, she reads, “Dan says, ‘I remember now. I saw that on the X-ray and asked for a CT.’ That radiologist is a dumbass. He’s gonna be in big trouble.”

He nods. “Remember? We asked the patient about this?”

I wonder if they work at nearby Northwestern Hospital and if I know the poor patient.

An oversized white truck turns the corner at Rush and Bellevue. Big black letters on the side say, “We Buy Houses. Cash. Call 847… “. Do they mean they buy the contents of the houses and haul them away in that truck?

14903_701500873252390_6713285813608226359_nHere comes a German Shepherd tethered to a small athletic woman. Great. I’ll have to hold Ozzy tight. I wish he’d stop trying to defend me from big dogs.

“Is your dog friendly?” she asks with her gentle giant sniffing around.

“Sometimes,” I say. Ozzy growls and tries to wriggle to the ground. “Yours?”

“Oh yes. We got him for protection but he doesn’t even bark.”

“Protection from what?”

“Oh you know, intruders.”

Intruders? I don’t ask. I wonder if it’s experience or paranoia that motivates her. Ozzy springs off my lap and gets a sniff of the German before shifting his attention to an encroaching pigeon. I slacken the leash. Ozzy lunges. The pigeon flutters up and the German Shepherd crouches in fear. Jeez. They must have moved in from the suburbs.

Two young women in high heels and sleeveless, skin-tight dresses approach carrying Starbucks cups. They sit; the blonde crosses her long, bare legs sideways and leans back in the chair. They light up. An old man chomping on a cigar shouts from a nearby bench. “YOU CAN’T SMOKE HERE.”

“Oh yeah?” says the blonde, “What about you?”

“Mine’s not lit,” he says.

“Mind your own business,” she says.

“It is my business. YOU CAN’T SMOKE HERE.”

“Where’s the sign?” she says.

The brunette changes the subject. “When’s the new coffee shop opening?”

“Oh that,” he says. “Who knows? Fourth of July maybe. It’s pathetic. They’re turning the park into a yuppy Gold Coast hang-out.”

“I’m glad they’re cleaning the place up,” she says.

“Don’t leave your butts on the ground,” he says.


The news isn’t so bad – just a little emphysema. Not bad for 75 years of hard living. “Okay, okay,” I told the doc. “I’ll stop smoking cigars.” Two hours and I’m finally outta there. It’s still nice out. I think I’ll walk over to the park and rest in the shade for a while.

Oh now look what’s happened. Why didn’t they start fixing up the coffee stand sooner. Now everyone is sitting outside with a mound of old green tarp spoiling the view. They never do anything right around here.

At least the benches are out. It looks like they got new tables and chairs. Humph. Not enough of them. What are those things over by the fountain, Adirondack chairs? In the middle of the city? Man, are they out of place. These people don’t know what the hell they’re doing.

I’m glad Ruth didn’t live to see this. She’d hate her favorite little park getting all gentrified. We used to sit right over there on Friday nights with the Bellevue neighbors. We laughed at everyone’s stories from their week at work and mulled over who was going where over the weekend. Everyone relied on Ruth to bring the newspaper’s list of events. And she was the one who spotted famous people walking by. God, I remember the night she eyed Reggie Jackson strolling around Rush Street with a big white girl on his arm. That must have been the summer of 1980 when the Yankees were here playing the White Sox. Ruth really loved the Sox.

This bench is new. Comfortable though. I’m going to chew on my cigar for a while. No, doc, I’m not going to light it. I just like the feel of it in the corner of my mouth. Yeah, it gets a little soggy and the juice from the tobacco seeps between my teeth back to my throat. But this can’t hurt anything. It’s the smoking, right? The damage to the lungs. Emphysema. I wonder if that’s as bad as lung cancer. Naw. The doc never said I’d die from emphysema. Anyway, I’m not lighting up.

Look at these two babes. What’s with those shoes? How can they walk on this old brick sidewalk in high heels? Ruth used to wear high heels. She gave them to the Salvation Army
when her arthritis got bad. I wonder if anyone ever bought them? She had great legs.

Oh shit, they’re sitting right in front of me and lighting up. I can’t stand it. I’m dying to light my cigar. Their smoke is too much. “Hey, you can’t smoke here!”

1005890_10151648151400606_1631618218_n“Oh yeah?” says the blonde, “What about you?”

“Mine’s not lit.”

“Mind your own business,” she says.

“It is my business. YOU CAN’T SMOKE HERE.”

“Where’s the sign?” she says.

The brunette wants to know when the new coffee shop is opening.

“That yuppie joint? Who knows? Fourth of July maybe. It’s pathetic. They should’ve done it before it got nice out.”

“I’m glad they’re cleaning the place up,” she says.

“Yeah. Hey, can I have a light?”


Gastronomical Paradise, Almost

FeaturedGastronomical Paradise, Almost

by Regan Burke

As we reached for the Iberian cured ham and tomato bread, we jerked back in our seats when someone shouted “call an ambulance!” Our boss had an asthma attack and we followed him to the Figueres hospital. The restaurant, El Motel, 90 miles north of Barcelona and 40 miles south of the French border inspired the most famous chef in the world, Ferran Adrià to create his restaurant, El Bulli in nearby Cadaques on the Mediterranean Sea.

In the weeks before, my three colleagues and I traveled from our office at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. on official business to Barcelona, we vowed to eat at the celebrated El Motel restaurant. I arrived a week before Secretary Richard Riley and his staff to arrange the logistics for the conference events and to find a typical Catalan school for the Secretary to tour. Serendipitously, a principal formally invited the U.S. Secretary of Education to visit her school in the dusty country between Barcelona and Figueres. The children celebrated him with an American musical performance that added hours to our day. With official business out of the way, we headed for the Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres. My colleagues, John Funderburk, Jay Blanchard and David Frank stewed in anticipation of lunch at the table of chef Jaume Subiros.

Dali said of his museum, “The people who come to see it will leave with the sensation of having had a theatrical dream.” At first glance his entrance looks like a quaint three-story red th-4clay castle. Looking atop the turret one sees huge cement eggs. The exterior walls are peppered with what foreigners think are baked dinner rolls, but Catalonians know the scatological Dali created the organic sculptures to resemble excrement pies. The aphrodisiacs inside include Dali’s surrealistic art, holograms, a vintage interthactive Cadillac and his crypt. We frittered away longer than planned and in the end found Secretary Riley and his wife, “Tunky”, resting in the Mae West living room.

Drenched in Dali elixir and blanched by a long day in Catalonia without sustenance we made our way north on the Avenida de Salvador Dali away from the “theatrical dream” and toward the gastronomical paradise of El Motel. The U.S. consulate in Barcelona booked our table and we were greeted with all the ruffles and flourishes of royalty. Low blood sugar and parched228566_1 thirst dragged us to a round table full of tea roses and peonies overlooking the dry Spanish countryside. Yes, yes! We agreed to start with plates of Iberian ham. The shared plates would dish up seafood croquettes; rice with sea cucumbers, rabbit and sausage; clams with candied tomato & lemon grass. The chef had prepared fresh Catalan custard for dessert.

As the Iberian ham was placed before me I looked up in horror to see Secretary Riley turning beet red, struggling to breathe. He recovered overnight in the Figueres hospital. In our Barcelona hotel the following day we were comforted with simple ham and cheese sandwiches before leaving for the airport.



It is the last of the family owned restaurants on Taylor, the street that runs through the center of the neighborhood where immigrants congregated in such numbers in the early decades of the 20th Century that it earned its designation as Little Italy. Salvatore would go to the Fulton Street markets most every morning to select his meat and produce for the day. Roseanne would stay behind in the kitchen, making fresh pasta and starting sauces from the recipes that her mother and grandmother perfected. The laughter and toasts of the diners feasting at the nine tables on the first floor bounce off the marred wood floor, pounded tin ceiling, and white-washed walls cluttered with dozens of family photos. Its name is their names: Roseanne and Salvatore… RoSal’s.

Our first time there was a test. I had a client coming in from the East Coast and when I asked about dinner, she was delighted. “How ‘bout Italian – authentic Italian,” she emphasized, with a New Jersey delivery that elongates vowels and drops “r’s.” She grew up in a household where Mom made pasta and Dad made sauce so she was picky, she said. No pressure.

My husband Larry and I had our favorites but I spent a couple days asking others about theirs. Rosebud, Tuscany, Carmine’s, Gene and Georgetti’s – all came up, but they have “touristy” stamped all over them, not authentic. An acquaintance described RoSal’s using adjectives that reeked of authentic: nothing fancy or forced, old-country friendly, grandma’s recipes, last of its kind, treat you like family. It sounded worthy of a test.

Linda, the short, round, smiling hostess/manager/server for the night, greeted us warmly and I explained about my client coming in without saying my husband and I were there to rate the food and experience. Eight of the nine tables in the main floor dining room were full and we took the last one, right next to the open kitchen, noting the two by the window overlooking Taylor Street would be a better spot. We ordered house specialties and were struck by Linda’s invitation to change ingredients at will. “If you want spinach in that rather than broccoli, no problem. Change the pasta if you’d like, or the sauce. You can throw shrimp in that vegetarian dish. Whatever you’d like, the kitchen is glad to substitute.”

Dinner was superb, delicious, reminiscent of dinners we had in small towns in central Italy. Not only were we treated like family but we seemed to be their absolutely favorite relatives.

Three days later I returned with my client in tow. She looked around approvingly at the family-owned-restaurant décor and at Linda, who smiled her way to the front of the room. “You must be Melissa,” Linda beamed at my client after giving me a long-lost-friend hug. “Welcome to RoSal’s. Dorothy’s told me so much about you! I’m so glad to meet you.” and she turned to put us at her best table, in the corner by the window.

We could have been served hot dogs and I’m convinced Melissa would have loved the place. But instead the $6 a glass house chianti, fried ravioli, antipasto salad, chicken RoSal’s and Italian ice served in a frozen lemon exceeded her expectations. Pleasantly full. Feeling warm and cozy. The evening ended with a hug from a client who is apt to be business as usual.

RoSal’s never disappoints, even when Linda isn’t there for Joe, who now runs the place since Roseanne and Sal unofficially retired, takes over and gets to know his regulars in the same, embracing way. He’ll pull a chair up to your table and talk about anything – his kids, yours, vacations, what’s new, how’s business, how the White Sox are doing for they play not far from RoSals and fans congregate there before or after games. He forgives Larry for being a Cubs fan and they both envision the day when their teams are on opposite sides of the World Series and cream the other side of town. A born-and-bred Sox fan with the glory of having a World Series win a few years back, and a husband who I love desperate to see his guys “win one before I croak,” as he’s fond of saying, I dread the specter of a north side vs. south side series and find myself silently relieved when my Sox go into a slump.

I used to order shells with broccoli every time we were there, adding shrimp usually, or chicken when I was up for a change. But chicken Florentine beckoned when it was served at the table next to us and it threatened to become my regular except that the specials on the last page of the menu continually tempt explorations and never disappoint. Larry always orders meat lasagna even when he vows he is going to try something new. He doesn’t even ask for a bite of mine, and Linda reassures him that ordering the one thing you love  most is smart, because it’s not like you come every night or even once a week or month.

Larry had a yen for that lasagna while recovering from surgery at nearby Rush Medical Center so I called and asked if they did carry-outs. Nuts, I said when the person on the other end of the line said sorry, no. He so loves your lasagna.

“Dorothy, is that you?” It was Linda who put Larry and lasagna together.

“Yeah. Larry’s over here at Rush and I thought I’d get him a big treat.”

“Be here in a half hour and we’ll have it ready for you,” she said without missing a beat.

The package I took back to the hospital had lasagna to last four meals, a loaf of their crisp-crust bread, the antipasto salad and half a pan of tiramisu – all for the price of a lasagna entrée. What can I say?

RoSal’s is our hands-down favorite restaurant here or anywhere. We long for a return trip when we haven’t been there for a while. And Linda, who gives us both long-lost-friend hugs when we walk through the door, still asks about Melissa as though she saw her last week. I smile at her Linda-ness. It was eight years ago.

The Ubiquitous Iron

FeaturedThe Ubiquitous Iron


Regan Burke, May 2016

When Joe was born, my mother arrived with an iron and ironing board so I could iron the baby’s clothes. My mother, Agnes, went to church at the ironing board. It relieved her hangovers, and calmed her nerves. In every house we moved into she found a sanctuary for ironing – a laundry room, spare bedroom, basement.

No, Agnes did not iron for a household of four children, did not present us with ironed sheets and pillowcases or freshly pressed school uniforms. Her ironing was reserved for her alone. She laid out her oxford cloth shirts or linen dresses on the ironing board, placed a dampened dish towel over the garment and pressed down with a hot iron until steam th-3rose up, then moved to another spot, re-dampening the towel when it dried out. Her eyes winced at the uprising of clean hot steam. The acrid smell of damp cotton or wool down below flared her nostrils. As she conquered the wrinkles at hand her furrowed malcontented brow smoothed out. Agnes’ younger sister, Joanne, after a few bourbons always eulogized her with, “Your mother loved to iron.”

Forty-nine years later I still have the iron Agnes gave me. It has a hole in the top for water which is converted to steam in the hot iron and whooshes out of the 39 holes on the sole. The sole is stained from undistilled water and from those years when I fell for the convenience of spray starch. Numerous falls off the ironing board onto a hard floor have blunted the tip. The faded red, white and blue settings sit atop a dulled black heavy plastic handle which is wrapped with a discolored turquoise electric cord. I can still see myself in the mirror-like shine of the chrome sides. And it still works.

I should have discarded it long ago. I’ve packed it up and moved it from every place I’ve lived since 1967 always keeping it in the corner of the closet shelf over my clothes. I’ve tried to replace it with new irons, but they last only a few years and I go right back to the trustworthy General Electric 39-holer.

Wrinkle-free fabrics have made Ironing unnecessary now. Lower-end baby boomers and their offspring don’t even know how to iron. When it became fashionable or rather acceptable to wear wrinkled linen in the 1990’s I chucked the old ironing board. Something stopped me from discarding my vintage iron, however. I still use it to press scarves on a folded towel laid out on the dining room table.

At craft fairs I see old irons decorated with decoupage and sequins transforming them into doorstops and  bookends. Maybe I’ll spray paint my iron anniversary gold and give it to my son on his birthday next year. I’ll paint words on the bottom: Happy 50th Birthday To Us. Will he wonder why I kept the iron my mother gave me all these years? I certainly do.

The Big Lie

FeaturedThe Big Lie

In every one of the thirteen grade schools I attended in the 1950’s, Catholic nuns taught me about Heaven and Hell, including the nugget that Heaven was only for Catholics, but there was no guarantee I’d go there. From the age of six I knew if I, as a Catholic, died with a “mortal” sin on my soul, I’d go to Hell, or perhaps Purgatory, the halfway house to Heaven.

This teaching dwelled in the official Catholic textbook for American children used from 1885 to the late 1960s, the Baltimore Catechism. Theth-2 Catholic Church denied that physical Heaven, Hell and Purgatory are part of Church doctrine, long before the Pope declared in 1999 that heaven and hell were “primarily eternal states of consciousness more than geographical places of later reward and punishment”. But that turnaround came after these medieval lies were grafted onto sapling children like me.

The only non-Catholics I knew as a child were our babysitters. I always felt sorry for them because they were headed straight to Hell when they died. In 1957 when I saw a TV ad for Old Orchard Shopping Center, I asked my mother, “where’s Skokie?” “That’s where all the Jews live,” she answered. At 11 years old, I didn’t know there were Jews alive in the world. I thought they were all burning in Hell.

I’ve come to believe that my own personal heaven and hell do exist. I visit hell whenever I relive the last time I got sober forty years ago, or when I regret insensitive words I spoke five minutes ago. And heaven appears when my 10-year-old grandson texts me photos of his lizard.

At the suggestion of my fellow seeker Terry, I crammed into the O’Hare Hilton with 1,000 other souls one weekend in 2012 for a retreat, “Transforming the World through Meditation” with Franciscan Richard Rohr and Benedictine Laurence Freeman, two men I’d never heard of. I had started meditating a few months prior in a Buddhist group and asked Terry if she knew any Christian meditation groups.

In addressing heaven and hell, Rohr said the ego prefers winners and losers. He offhandedly mused that if Jesus descended into hell, as it says in Church doctrine, than there is no more hell because, ”Hell cannot exist in the light of God.” I lost my breath, sprung out of my seat and staggered to the door for air.  A volunteer brought me a chair and water. “Raised Catholic?” I nodded yes. “Yeah, this happens a lot.”

If my subterranean soul had known all my life that I wouldn’t go to Hell for attempting suicide or stealing pens from the office, if I had known all non-Catholics were not doomed to go to Hell; I would have been a better friend to Jesus. I didn’t know my nature was adolescent, fertilized with dead ideas about Hell, sprouting false judgements on myself and everyone I knew.

Uncovering the lie is heaven indeed.



As I heal from recent hip replacement surgery, it strikes me that I’ve inconvenienced many. I think you’re all happy I’m doing well, and I really was a docile patient. Yet, some apologies are in order.

First, to my family. Kath, Megan and Kevin, I’m sorry I put you through the challenges of my recent hip surgery. I thought that if I could take it in stride, it was probably no big deal. It seems the three of you were more keyed up about the surgery than I was. I suppose it’s emotionally taxing to go through how we pay our bills, where the life insurance policies are, and which mattress has all of the money hidden in it, just in case I didn’t wake up from the anesthetic.

And by the way, hip, you should be sorry for shedding all of that nice cartilage. Most of the rest of my body is doing just fine with cartilage keeping bones apart. And while I’ve met many persons with new titanium hips and knees, most of humanity seems to do fine with their original equipment.

I’m sorry to the hospital admissions office that got the surly Dave when I arrived for check-in at 6am. I’m guessing I was a brilliant conversationalist in the pre-op staging area as well, but truthfully I don’t remember what we talked about.

Nurse’s aide and housekeeper, I’m sorry the doctor didn’t put enough stitches in my hip and therefore I bled like a stuck pig all over the floor and bedding. I remember wondering whether I should be scared since I don’t usually bleed all over things. I guess the good news is that I still had enough blood left in me to stay alive. The medical resident sure put enough bandages on my hip to keep me from decorating any more floors and linens.

Dr Lyon, I’m sorry I couldn’t stay awake till 10:45 pm when you made rounds. I remember your saying that I wouldn’t have to wax that part of my leg for a while after you pulled 8 bandages and a half roll of surgical tape from my bleeder.

Kitchen staff- you were very nice letting me call down for my meal like I was in a restaurant, then I had the gall to fall asleep mid hamburger bite and didn’t finish my lunch and dinner. What I remember of it was delicious.

And home-health nurse, Renata, I’m sorry I gave you a little jolt when trying to get a smile on your face. There are three no-no’s with hip replacements: don’t bend over more than 90 degrees, don’t cross your legs, and don’t stand pigeon-toed. After being asked to repeat these precautions at least a dozen times, I couldn’t resist having a little fun. I’m sorry I created a look of shock on your face by telling you I practiced touching the floor 20 times per day and crossing my right leg 10 times.

And finally, I’m sorry, fellow CTA bus rider, for whacking you in the leg with my cane. I’m afraid I’m not used to carrying around such dangerous contraptions. I used to walk up and down Michigan Av and the halls of work and school without incident. Thanks to my hip, I now am given wide berth in many venues. But unlike Donald Trump, I’m not afraid to say ‘I’m sorry.’

“Get Off the Bus” by Annette Bacon

Featured“Get Off the Bus”  by Annette Bacon

Get Off the Bus

th-1I made the 146 bus after a quick run and put my Ventra card on the reader. It did not beep so I tried it several times. The driver said that I had an 85 cents negative balance. I apologized and said that I only had a ten and a twenty. She said I needed to get off the bus. I started to leave and this guy shouted, “Don’t, you do not have to get off the bus. I am calling the CTA.” “She can’t throw an elderly person off the bus due to lack of funds.” People were staring at us and I decided to get off. I ran across the street to my garage and took some quarters out of my car. I ran back to the bus stop as the other 146 bus had arrived. I put the quarters in the money holder. I looked up and saw the people from the first bus getting on. The bus driver said, “What’s happening?” “Thth-3e bus behind me is empty.”

The same guy that was yelling on the other bus said, “I’ll tell you what happened, the other bus driver threw this elderly woman off the bus and that is against the law, so I called the CTA. And there she is!” He was pointing right at me. I cringed again and tried to pretend I was reading. The same guy called a friend and said the whole story again so loud I could hardly stand it. He ended the phone call with,“And I told the CTA I want this bus driver relieved of her duties. She did not have her badge on either!” I panicked. Someone was getting fired due to me? The woman was probably a single mom with four kids. When we arrived at my stop on Michigan Avenue, I jumped off and ran into the Fourth Presbyterian Church sanctuary. I said a prayer for this woman and asked God not to let her get fired.

As I went up the stairs of the church, I could feel my blood pressure was up and I felt like I was flying. On the second floor I walked into Buchanan Chapel and tried to calm myself. I couldn’t decide if I should call the CTA and identify myself as the “elderly woman”. Then I could ask them not to fire her. The system was so huge I knew this would not make sense. They would think I was deranged. Meditation was the answer. Afterwards I took my “elderly woman” body up the elevator to my memoir writing class at the church’s Center for Life and Learning.

In the Attics of My Life

FeaturedIn the Attics of My Life

I worked in politics my whole life, always hoping for the perfect politician. The world view I dreamed up included good people who ultimately acted in the best interest of the whole.  Bill Clinton could have been my hero. I loved his rallying cry in the 1992 campaign, “personal responsibility.”

But I had doubts. Could I work for a candidate who was pro capital punishment and unsure of his view on abortion? Those were two issues I thought every Democrat knew to be against and for.

The “personal responsibility” message won me over. In th-11991 I abruptly left Chicago for Arkansas to work as Clinton’s campaign scheduler, a grueling job that required 24/7 attention. One cold January night Clinton and his entourage, George Stephanopoulos and Bruce Lindsey, returned to Little Rock in a small private jet from all-important New Hampshire. I met the plane on the dark, deserted tarmac to give Clinton his next day’s schedule. He descended the jet’s stairs with a big smile, came directly at me, grabbed my coat and ran his hands up and down my long furry lapels. “Nice coat, Regan,” he whispered.

This encounter may be the reason I love Bill Clinton.

When he won, I relocated to Washington to work in his administration. I moved into the first floor condo of an 1880 townhouse on Church Street in DuPont Circle. In 1994 he passed a crime bill I thought went too far. Next he signed NAFTA, an agreement opposed by every Democrat I respected. Both policy shifts were spearheaded by White House insider, Rahm Emmanuel, who decidedly did not have the public good at the forefront of his self-serving mind. But Clinton loved him. Dissatisfaction settled in the space between my bones and muscled me awake at 3 o’clock in the morning for the next seven years.

In the still of an August morning in 1995 NPR told me Jerry Garcia died. I collapsed on the bathroom floor weeping over the death of something I couldn’t put words to. At 49-years-old my idealism had come to an end: my false world of everlasting good died with Jerry Garcia. Reality glared back at me in the mirror as I brushed my hair, seeing for the first time a wrinkled face and rubbery neck. I dressed in a soft yellow, flowery cotton frock and pinned a silk flower in my hair, ready for the grieving day.

My dog Voter squirmed away from my extra long hug and I went out the door to my old friend, Keith Lesnick waiting to drive us to work. As soon as I got in the car tears spilled out. He asked about the sadness, and I slobbered out a few words, “Jerry Garcia signed into rehab last night,” I said. “He died in his sleep.” Keith waited a few respectful minutes, and then, with one simple sentence, he opened a new, naked reality that included the unspoken caveat of don’t take yourself too seriously.

He said, “well, it’s not as if it’s Aretha Franklin.”


Immortality, Interrupted

220px-Barat-PereMy lawyering father would make a barrel of flimflam cash, move our family to a gilt-edged neighborhood and drink it all up within a year. He would sneak away on a business trip and a few weeks later my mother would wake my two sisters and I in the middle of the night, pack us into the car and drive to another state, another town, another gilt-edged neighborhood.

In seventh grade I entered my 11th school since I started first grade in 1952, the Academy of  Sacred Heart in Lake Forest, Illinois. I intended to shine in all subjects, especially my nemesis arithmetic, no matter what was happening at home. Experience warned me I didn’t have much time until the next midnight move so I crammed my head with Latin conjugations, algorithms, periodic tables, Romeo and Juliet, diagrammed sentences, the French revolution and the Gospel of Mark. At the end of the year the Mater Admirabilis Award (Mother Most Admired, another name for Mary), an Oscar-like trophy would be bestowed on an eighth-grader for her excellence in academics, sports, religious and civic activities. Her name would be engraved on a bronze plate and permanently fixed next to the previous winners. I prayed everyday for God to keep me in that school through the eighth grade so I could win that prize.

Sacred Heart nuns had been in Chicago since the 1860’s. Bishop Anthony O’Regan brought them from France to open a school at Rush and Illinois Streets, a mile from where I live now. They taught women leadership in society rather than social graces and homemaking. O’Regan moved the school to pastoral Lake Forest when hotels, saloons and brothels flooded the Rush Street neighborhood.

A hundred years later, French still permeated our activities. “Congé” (holiday) was a surprise day when schoolwork was suddenly replaced by a day of fun such as playing Cache Cache, a version of hide-and-seek. Congé ended with “Goûter” (to taste), a roomful of refreshments celebrating the winners of the day’s games. This joie de vivre coupled with the nuns’ love of God appealed to my awakening soul.

My teachers gradually increased my extra credit assignments to include tutoring, public speaking and sports. By the end of the 8th grade everyone knew my name would be forever on display in the trophy cabinet.

In the school bus on the way home from an ordinary day in early May, I thanked God for Sacred Heart and my soon-to-be immortality. The bus driver pulled into our driveway and slammed on the brakes. Furniture, clothes, pots and pans, bicycles – everything we owned clogged the pavement.

I told my sisters to stay on the bus, as if something dangerous was happening, until I saw my mother sitting on the couch with my 3-year-old sister Stacy. I needed to save her from a reality I didn’t understand. A sheriff blocked the front door. We were not allowed to enter. A family friend arrived to drive us to a downtown Rush Street hotel. A week later I was in another school, another town, another state.




Tyrone bragged that his friend brought a gun to school. In the six months I’d known him he’d told me a few tales, like he and his little brother went to Winter Wonderland at Navy Pier. He didn’t have a little brother, but I often held my confrontational tongue with him in an effort to give him space to be himself.

He was my 7-year-old charge in the weekly volunteer tutoring program at church. During our first getting-to-know-you session in October we followed a Q & A script developed by the program administrators. We both had dogs. He had a baby sister. I had grandchildren. He went to a school on Chicago’s west side. I was not sure who mothered him, an aunt or grandmother. He proudly mentioned his father. He wasn’t explicit, and looked away in silence when I pressed for details. I eased off to save him from having to make something up. And really, I didn’t want to know.

The tutoring session consists of helping kids with their homework, creating art projects and playing board games. Tyrone didn’t need help with homework. I guided him while he wrote down answers to math problems and filled in words in sentences. He never got anything wrong, and I praised him for being so smart. I helped him put his homework neatly in his backpack. I wanted to help him straighten other things in his backpack, but he balked at that intrusion. He often hid a football or basketball in there and feared others would see. I surmised he was prohibited from bringing balls to school, and he thought they may be forbidden at tutoring as well. Maybe he was afraid for other reasons.

When I quizzed him about the details of the gun, he said he saw it in his friend’s backpack, that his friend found it in ththe backyard and that it had bullets in it. I asked if he told his teacher. “No! He’s my best friend!”

Research finds youth from risk-filled backgrounds who successfully transition to the adult world of employment and good citizenship have had the consistent presence of a caring adult. Tutoring programs give kids this opportunity. As a first-time tutor, I attended orientation where consistency and trust were emphasized. I committed myself to years-long care and support of Tyrone, with whom I’d connected in the church’s summer program. I thought if I earned his trust, eventually he’d stop trying to beguile me with fanciful stories.

I doubted Tyrone’s tale about the gun, but guns-in-schools is an issue that I can’t bear alone. I told a supervisor. She knew Tyrone’s caregiver and contacted her. The next week he came to tutoring with his sidestep story: his friend brought gum to school. A few days after that Tyrone dropped out of tutoring.

Benign doubt can slip seamlessly into fearful caution and consequential actions. Did I do the right thing in reporting Tyrone’s confidence? I doubt it.

Film School with Vivienne

FeaturedFilm School with Vivienne


The elevator opened to a lit-up scene of human statues in the closed-for-business City Hall lobby.

“Cut! Close that elevator door!”

I slinked back into the elevator, up to the 4th floor Elections Department and flew to the telephone in my office where, in the Saturday morning quiet, I had just finished the 1993 voter registration plan.

I called my high-rise neighbor, Vivienne de Courcy. “You have to come down here right now!”

“Ach. Can’t possibly. Bogged down. Writing,” said Vivienne, a frustrated 9-5 insurance lawyer who spent Saturdays grinding out movie scripts.

“You must — they’re shooting a movie in the lobby. We can get access with my I.D.”  Vivienne and I loved sifting through the credits at the end of movies trying to figure out what everyone did, but we’d never been on a movie set.

Chicago’s City Hall squats on one city block with doors at Randolph, LaSalle, Washington, and Clark Streets. I hurried to the Washington Street side of the building down the stairs to the lobby. Flyers were posted in the stairwell: Lobby Closed Saturday Noon for Filming of The Fugitive. When did they put those up?

I ran down the hallway, shoved open the polished brass doors and caught my uninhibited, garrulous sidekick swinging her long legs out of a taxi on Washington Street.

Vivienne’s knockout looks never suffered from uncombed hair and no make-up. Flinging her camel-hair cape over her shoulder she shivered in the March wind, grabbed my arm and skipped inside. I muttered quick instructions: don’t embarrass me, don’t say a word, don’t make me laugh, do not get me in trouble.

Crew Only signs sat on food tables along the corridor. Perched at the table near the rotunda we hawk-eyed bowls of popcorn. Vivienne whispered her intuitive movie-credits knowledge. That’s the Director. Production Assistant. There’s the Script Supervisor. Which one is the Grip? Dunno.

A crew member gestured to the popcorn, assuming we were extras. Vivienne helped herself. What? Don’t do that!

And then, Action! Harrison Ford came running down the circa-1911 polished marble staircase across the wide rotunda zig-zagging through the crowd of extras I had witnessed by the elevators. Cut! He walked back upstairs. Action! He came running down again chased by Tommy Lee Jones.

Oh my god, he’s coming this way. “Vivienne! Say something!” Harrison Ford sauntered over to munch popcorn. I shoved Vivienne toward him. He said hello and she asked him how he liked Chicago.

“Is that an Irish accent?”


“How do YOU like Chicago?”

“I love it.”

“Well, I love popcorn.”  He smiled and strolled away.

My starstruck legs wobbled. Back at my side with a handful of popcorn, Vivienne shimmered. Turning toward the exit we faced crew and extras gathered for the catered lunch behind us.

“Are you two extras? What’s that I.D. around your neck?”

We skedaddled down the hallway, fluttered out the doors and whooped it up all the way home.


Vivienne de Courcy’s first feature length movie. “Dare to be Wild” is premiering at the Palm Beach Film Festival in April, 2016. She currently resides in Ireland and London.


You read that out loud in class?

Safe & Sound blog

Regan-Burke That’s Regan, today’s guest blogger, peaking out of her hood at a Chicago bus stop.

It was a lucky day for me when Regan Burke turned up for one of my memoir-writing classes. A civil rights activist, Regan was a White House staffer during the Clinton presidency and has colorful – and moving – stories to tell. She files away unusual words she hears and cleverly shoehorns one or two of them into each essay – you’ll find one here in her guest post about the value of honesty in memoir-writing.

There’s a Lacuna in My Story

by Regan Burke

Sometimes I email the essays I write for my memoir classes to a good friend.

She tends to find my work imprudent and irresponsible.

”You read that aloud in class?” she’ll ask. “Yep,” I answer. “I did.”

I have a strong motivation for writing the truth. A book by Dr…

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La Dolce Vita by Regan Burke

It took six months in 1998 to organize our jitter-filled lives around a two-week vacation in Vernazza, a thousand-year-old fishing village in Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera.

Vernazza RoccoRooco, Kristina, Mark and I left the 19th century train station and rolled our overstuffed suitcases 20 minutes up a cobblestone switchback twined in purple morning glories. Our home abroad sat 1300 feet above the Mediterranean Sea and overlooked a village of 1000 happy Italians. We arrived at LaTorre midday, when the sea is dark turquoise and the sun swells the nose-tickling lemon and olive trees.

LaTorre is a 13th century pirate lookout with a galley kitchen, a modern bathroom, a luminous living-dining area and an alcove captain’s bedroom. Three other beds were lofted into stacked platforms in a stone tower, and the only way to get to them was by rope ladders. We staked out our sleeping arrangements and headed back down the path to the village.

Like bloodhounds we followed the scent of ground basil and garlic around the village into a ristorante on the piazza at the harbor. Our first meal was homemade bread dipped in fresh pesto,Vernazza’s culinary legacy to the world.

Some days we hiked the village-to-village trail along the sea, returning to Vernazza by water taxi. Other days the train took us to Le Spezia, Portofino, Pisa Vernazzaand Lucca. At night we lounged on LaTorre’s heirloom terrace in front of the twinkling lights of passing boats on the navy blue horizon.

And then the phone rang.

John Funderburk  was on the line frantic to let me know that a journalist was about to call me wanting information about Monica Lewinsky. John was a fellow political appointee in the Clinton Administration and he recommended I consult with a lawyer before taking the call. Perfect vacation bliss was now teetering at the cliff of a darkened sea.

My D.C. job occasionally had me organizing publicity and logistics at events for the President’s appearance. In the Spring of 1997 I’d been advancing a small fundraiser in a Washington hotel when an old friend from Indianapolis came into the room through the metal detectors right after Monica Lewinsky. Lewinsky was known among advance people as a Clinton stalker, so I asked my Hoosier friend to shield the President from her potential clutch as he passed by.

A half a year later news broke about a Grand Jury investigation into Clinton’s relationship with former White House intern Lewinsky. Back in Indianapolis my friend panicked that he would be hauled before the Grand Jury. So he held a press conference about his brief encounter with Lewinsky – and mentioned my name.

The sudden jolt of reality stirred our Dolce Vita quartet in Italy to hatch hilarious mad scenarios to confound the intruding journalist. When the call came, Rocco answered. “Prrrronto! Si? Si? Sorry. No Inglese! Ciao!”

Che finito, we returned to our intermezzo between the acts of the crazy world.


Diehard fans

A blessedly short article in today’s Chicago Tribune reported on the crosstown hatred Sox fans have for Cub fans and their disdain for the playoff series. All I could do was groan.

I’m a diehard Sox fan and I come from original diehards. My father’s first game was with his father at the 1917 Sox-Giants World Series and the seven-year old thrilled to see the South Siders beat the hated New York team four games to two. I was raised in a household where I thought the other New York team was named the G.D. Yankees (Dad didn’t swear in front of his little girls) and when I later dated and married this Cubs fan, he was grudgingly happy for me.

For more than 20 years, the firm I worked with represented various professional Chicago sports teams, which gave me a view of fans from the inside. The true over-the-top diehards were scary. The stereotype would be a 20-something male who doesn’t have much of a life and thus identifies so closely with his team that he hates anything that might take away some of its prestige or limelight. Truth is, all but the “20-something male” is pretty on target. These diehards come in all genders, ages and backgrounds and were well known to team staff, often nicknamed (e.g. The Addams Family) and concern about what they might say or do was everpresent.

Now I can’t say that those quoted in the Tribune story fall into this category but I can tell you with certainty that all of the Sox fans I know – and there are many, many, many – are rooting for the Cubs. Maybe not as enthusiastically as they would if the Sox were in the post-season but we got our series in 2005, and if we can’t be in play this year having another Chicago team win a World Series will be something to cheer.

Check in again if there is ever a Sox-Cubs World Series. But then we survive cross-town games every year and there are more camera shots of cross-town couples holding hands than anything else.

For today’s game, my Cubs fan husband and our Cubs fan son won the lottery and scored tickets from the Cubs eight rows behind the Cardinal’s dugout – and at a price comparable to a regular season game. And this Sox fan will be looking for them on TV and root, root, rooting for the Cubbie.