Category Archives: Animals

A Lifestyle Change and Bits and Bobs

I’m going to have to get up earlier. Thing is, I’ve been a night owl since I learned how to read and find my father’s flashlight. I whiled away my first-grade late nights hiding under the blankets reading Madame Bovary. (Kidding: it was What Katie Did.) The pattern hasn’t changed. It doesn’t matter if I’ve read all day, I still can’t go to sleep unless I’ve turned over the pages of a bedside table book for at least an hour. I have friends who tell me they can’t sleep unless they’re lulled to sleep by the television in the bedroom and that’s just a modern version of my affliction. I can count on the fingers of two hands the number of lifetime nights I’ve gone to sleep without a book drooping from my hand.

That’s never going to change, but I think I’m going to have to impose a time limit. Not being able to punch in at a job has destroyed my sleep patterns; I’m more than ever likely to stay awake until 2 am reading. Reading, I may add, nothing I haven’t read at least twice — if I dreed my weird to bed with a new Carl Hiassen or Tess Gerritsen, I’d lower my lamp,( or flashlight) when I’d finished it, even with dawn’s pearly fingers splashed on the ceiling.

Through seventeen readings I know how Madame Maigret’s Case turns out. My days are getting busier: I should set the clock for eight hours after I turn out my light and drag myself out of bed, no snooze, when the alarm goes off. Geez, I did better than just get by in my professional life with much less sleep.

Heavens, Roger Clemens admitted to vitamin B12 injections! (Keep it under your hats — I feel better after I’ve had one.) To think that Satchell Paige’s miracle drug was hooch.

August has long been known as The Silly Season in politics. This year is no exception: vide the Islamic Center flap.

I received an advance reading copy of Niki Segnit’s “The Flavor Thesaurus.” I think it’s genuinely interesting, the recipes are terrific, and I suggest you check it out when it’s published.

Because every blog post needs a picture to break up the type,  I offer this snap: Ajax’s ears peeping from behind the love seat as he checks out his hood for dogs, safe inside.


Filed under Animals, Body, History, Home, Library Card, On the Street Where I Live, The 'Ville

Hangin’ With Lloyd I: Animal Style

The last time we hung out with Lloyd in Chicago — or anywhere — was in 1976. You do the math. Trust me, it’s been way too long.

The way we were in the seventies:

Lloyd at UMass Amherst

Me as a Crate and Barrel catalog cover girl.

Although I think both of us still look fabulous, we sure look wiser!  But it’s an old comfy shoe friendship, and apart from catching  up on a hundred and two years of our collective lives, it was soon back to our mutual interests now that we’re all grown up. They would be: food, politics, music, architecture, travel, the crossword puzzle , books and book selling  — the profession Lloyd gave most of his life to, and man, does he have great author stories —  and animals.

That’s why this post is called Animal Style, although In and Out Burger doesn’t do business in Illinois. To blog the last packed four and a half days sequentially could be  a medium length novel. I’ve decided to take on the visit thematically, and begin with our animal friends.

Lloyd’s a cat person and our cats assumed their usual roles. Willow resembles the late Princess Margaret — ready for company, society and lavish compliments, but nolo mi tangere. Ajax did his usual informant in the Federal Witness Protection Program and disappeared for three days. Feline business as usual chez nous.

But the overarching animal narrative was that of Tiny the missing chihuahua: When I sent off my food column to The Village Chronicles, Lou suggested I pitch the Tiny story. Because the theme of the post was more slanted to the Zen of the “Ville than just another sad lost pet article I did, and the editors loved it. It hit the mailboxes of everyone in Warrenville on Friday.  We hit the Frank Lloyd House and Studio in Oak Park,and  lunched at Mickey’s, a quintessential Chicago-style hot dog/gyros/Italian Beef/burger/rib/steak sandwich joint on Harlem Avenue. When we got home I walked the few houses down to Tiny’s house and knocked on the door. A stranger answered and the news wasn’t good — no sign of Tiny.

On Saturday we lurked in DuPage County, with heavy emphasis on Naperville because Lloyd, the fount of all things book selling, wanted to visit our star local independent, Anderson’s. I think it was corned beef and cabbage for dinner.

Now it gets blurry fast. Lloyd and I hit Chicago on Sunday  — more later — and we returned home to find this on the coffee table:

Lou explained that Tiny’s diminutive owners had brought the candle as a thank you gift for the lady who’d put Tiny’s story in the paper. Lloyd was starting to get the ‘Ville vibe now and there weren’t too many dry eyes in da house.

On Sunday we were up betimes because we had a date for choral Evensong at St. James Cathedral — and the whole Millennium Park, Michigan Ave. experience — more tk. I checked my email and clasped my bosom. Tom from Village Chronicles had emailed me on Friday with the news that he’d received a call from a man a town away, in Batavia, who had Tiny on his sofa. What kind of journalist am I, not to faithfully check her emails? Two Tiny days had elapsed! I printed out the email with Tiny’s savior’s phone number, ran down the street and knocked on the door. The boy who had spotted my printer in the window rubbed his eyes and checked out the printout. Lloyd and I were finishing coffee on a lovely May morning when a handsome man who looked about fifteen, appeared on the doorstep with the three kids. Um, I’m no journalist — I assumed Abel was the Dad. I should have done some fact-checking, because this absurdly youthful man, Renato, was in fact the father and Abel is his cousin. Renato told Lloyd and me that they’d set up a time to recover Tiny. I gave Lloyd my ever more polished Loop architectural tour and we were sitting with a drink  at home yesterday night when a joyous explosion erupted on my front porch. Nine beautiful kids and Tiny, on a very short leash.

Lloyd has the good pictures of the event, but he’s on the Empire Builder right now  and I can’t post them until Thursday. But when the kids ran home, his hand fluttered over his heart in the international symbol for Overcome. In the ‘Ville. Thank you newspapers and the Village Chronicles. This story emerged on the internet but it’s a free local paper that made it happen.

This morning I was loading Lloyd’s luggage into the trunk of my 2001 Focus and looked down the street. Beautiful children and Tiny ran to us and acclaimed me. Lloyd said: “You’ve got new friends for life.”

Tonight I walked down the four houses and asked the little girls if I could snap one photo for my blog until Lloyd gets home and emails better ones. Here it is:

So that’s the Tiny saga. Lloyd and Chicago will be the stars of upcoming posts.


Filed under Animals, Born in Chicago, Food, Free, How Cool is That?, On the Street Where I Live, Travel

On The Street Where I Live: Tiny

A couple of nights ago we stood the kitchen in the rear of the house when I heard the noise that announces that a child is at the front door. I wondered what little kid would be calling when it was so late and so dark, and Lou asked how I knew it was a child.


Door knockers are a dying hardware item here in the ‘Ville. Children always choose to announce their presence via rat-a-tat-tat, and adults always push the doorbell. This pattern has never blurred, not once in twenty-five years.

I opened the door to three children and their father Abel, who live four houses down. This was unexpected because I don’t know this family except for a smile and a wave in passing — Abel’s English isn’t great and my Spanish is, regrettably,nonexistent.

But what really caught my attention is that the two gorgeous little girls were shaking with sobs and, literally, tear stained. Their big brother, maybe nine, was stoic but not the grinning hollering boy I swerve to avoid when he and his buddies are practicing on their homemade skateboard ramp just where my street bends.

I invited them in and asked what was wrong, because something clearly terrible was afoot. The boy stepped up and explained —  in colloquial American English with the wide Midwestern vowels — that their new puppy had run away. I asked the middle sister with the face of a sorrowing angel what the dog’s name was and she stopped weeping just long enough to wail “Tiny!”

The boy said “We want to make posters to put up. Would it be OK to use your printer?” He knows exactly where to find the printer — he’s seen it every day, twice a day, as he walks to and from school. It’s easy to spot because it sits on my living room windowsill, otherwise known as my office. Yeah it’s a custom made double-wide windowsill Lou whipped up one day, but it’s just a windowsill.

Then he pulled out an iPhone and his thumb flashed like a windshield wiper in a hurricane until he found this picture.

I asked the kid if he had a cable that would link the phone to my laptop, and he hustled out the door and returned in less then ten seconds. We huddled by the windowsill, an urgent ocean of quiet in a small room still echoing with uncontrollable grief. I downloaded the Apple software, we held our collective breath as the pictures downloaded into Picassa, and we cropped and edited and printed.  I stroked the littlest girl’s cheek and told her about how we’d lost Calliope  cat for three whole days but we found her under some shrubs three blocks away. She was unconvinced. Abel thanked me and led his tragic trio down the block.

You see, this is why I love the undistinguished street where I live. We’re not exactly snoopy, but we pay attention. Even if we’re not practically life-long friends, as we are with Char and Dale, our Next-Doors and cat sitters, we know who’s who. We aren’t afraid to ask for help or to give it. And the street’s swamped with kids who actually play outside for hours.

This just in: I walked down to Abel’s and Tiny’s still missing. He said:”My little girl, she still cry and cry.” So, fellow ‘Villians, grab that tiny chihuahua, and give me a call. That’s what we do on our street.


Filed under Animals, Free, History, Home, On the Street Where I Live, Worth it anyway