Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson

"There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries." (Julius Caesar; Act 4, Scene 3).

Category: Humor and Weird Wilson-isms (Page 1 of 7)

Trump Bombs Syria; I Leave for Mexico

The Lagoon in Cancun, Mexico, at sunset.

Tomorrow is Friday, April 7th, and I will soon be departing for Cancun, Mexico.

Quite frankly, with the news that Donald J. Trump has just gone and done yet another dumb thing (i.e., bombed Syria), I’m seriously thinking of claiming to be Canadian while in the sunny land down under.

It sounds like our departure from Austin (TX) will come just before the rain moves in, and the weather in Cancun is projected to be sunny and beautiful, with highs in the eighties. I spent an hour or so packing tonight, and tomorrow I will pack the cosmetic(s) bag, which carries our shampoo, toiletries, et. al.

I’m debating about whether or not to post a review of “Wilson,” the movie that starred Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern, which I recently saw. We went because, after all, when your name IS “Wilson”…..(finish that thought)
If I have time, I may post about it tomorrow. It’s a slight film and unlikely to get wide distribution.

Meanwhile, an interesting anecdote. Because we will need cash while in our neighbor to the South, and they always enjoy the use of U.S. dollars, as opposed to credit cards—and, also, because my credit card numbers were stolen in Mexico one year, which caused someone to run up a $25,000 bill on my card, we went to the Bank of America on Slaughter Lane. I had written my spouse a check for $200 to pay him back for cash he had loaned me when I was in Chicago for a week and forgot to take any cash. (My bad).

He presented the check, written on the Triumph Bank of East Moline, and, of course, they wouldn’t cash it at all.

I was present, doing battle with a machine that was going to give me cash, I hoped, using my debit card from BOA, but I couldn’t figure out how to get more than $80. My husband suggested that I write my check for $400 (rather than the $200 I owed him) and he’d give me half of it for my cash. I would write this check on my Bank of America checkbook.

That seemed a good idea, so, in full view of the 2 cashiers, I wrote this check and he stepped up to cash it.
The cashier demanded that he be fingerprinted before she would cash the relatively small check. They had just watched me (the account holder) write the check in the first place, and we explained why we were writing it (need cash for vacation). Still, some flunky raced out with an inky thing and he had to put his fingerprint on the bottom of this Bank of America check before they would cash it.

Now, what occurs to me is this: what good is my husband’s fingerprint on this check? It isn’t like he has done major time in a correctional institute or anything! He isn’t in any “data banks” of fingerprints. And that is all assuming that the Powers-that-Be thought this 72-year-old man looked like a really guilty character.

Has this ever happened to anyone else, because it seemed very dumb to me.

Adventures from the New Computer Age

Well, because of the idea that installing a Windows 10 would be an “improvement,” I’ve been without ANY Internet service in Chicago since October 28th. A technician came out on a Saturday, but he needed access to a closet that is kept locked and can only be accessed by the building manager. (We have a building manager, but only Monday through Friday).

I was able to get a board member of the building to let us in, but more bad news awaited us in that he needed to “put a ticket in” to AT&T to do some sort of “upgrade” and, long story longer, he is coming back on November 14th to (hopefully) put an end to my computer woes at the condo and exponentially increase the speed of my new computer while reducing my bill by half. (I’ll believe THAT when it happens.) When he left, he didn’t make it clear that he had left me high and dry with no Internet AT ALL, so I was pretty much up a creek without a paddle unless I wanted to find a Starbucks. Since I was waiting on Deborah Riley Draper (director of “Olympic Pride, American Prejudice”) to respond to my questions, I decided to wait until returning to East Moline, 3 and 1/2 hours away, to continue with movie reviews.

We were hanging around in Chicago during the World Series hysteria. (In fact, my son drove all the way to Cleveland from Pittsburgh and was present at the 7th game last night; ticket price $998; and my husband and son bought rooftop seats at Wrigley for Game #4 for $1008 apiece.) The priorities quickly shifted from movies to baseball and I’m not sure if we are driving back to Chicago now for the homecoming or what. (Keep in mind, Chicago has waited for over 100 years for this!)

I am now using my desktop (Windows 7) in the basement, since it is not involved in the upgrade (yet) or the slow speed I had always blamed on my Vista computer when it seems it may have been the fault of the building’s Internet provider not being as fast as possible. While I have a laptop, it was affected by the same issues in Chicago and it is a Windows 10, which I am still learning how to fully operate.

No, I do not currently like it, but that’s par for the course for me and new technology, which is ironic when you consider that I owned and operated a Prometric Testing Center (computers) from 1995 to 2003 (along with Sylvan Learning Center #3301 in Bettendorf, Iowa).

I just got home and working on “Olympic Pride, American Prejudice,” which is now up. It opens in December on HBO. I asked Deborah Riley Draper (its director) if it was “okay” to run with a review now and she was more than positive on that idea, but she also has not sent back her responses to my 10 questions and my last words to her were: “I’ll wait to hear from you to write up the film.”

I’ve now given up on “waiting” for her, so I can get on the review, and I’ll do “Heartstone: from the film festival, as well, and I may write something on “Hacksaw Ridge.”

So, it’s been All Baseball, All the Time here. The son and heir got roughly 3 hours of sleep after deciding on the spur of the moment to drive from Pittsburgh to Cleveland for the game, with no ticket to get in. He then flew back home to Austin today and just called us from St. Louis.

Meanwhile, we will be flying to Austin on Nov. 15 to close on a house there that started being built for us in July. (No, we’re not selling the other 2).

“The Last Laugh” at the Chicago Film Festival Examines Humor

Can the Holocaust be funny? Is “Springtime for Hitler” jn bad taste, and, if it is, should we not have laughed at it in the context of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers”?

It’s a great concept. At times, the documentary is funny and witty. It discusses decades of humor on the most taboo of topics, interviewing well-known comics like Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Gilbert Gottfried, Rob Reiner, Carl Reiner, Robert Clary, Susie Essman, Harry Shearer, Jeffrey Ross, Allan Zweibel, Judy Gold, David Cross, Larry Charles, David Steinberg, Abraham Foxman, Lisa Lampanelli, and others. The comics interviewed discuss why and how they joke about subjects like the genocide of the Jews. Probably fewer comics would have been a good idea, in the cliched wisdom of “too many cooks spoil the broth.”

Meanwhile, Holocaust survivors and Jewish community leaders are shown trying to decide whether it is okay to laugh or whether they should draw some sort of line against tasteless humor.

The pacing made the 85 minutes seem like 185 minutes. It also seemed as though there were actually two stories here wanting to be told: one was the story of Auschwitz survivor Renee Firestone, whose young sister Klara was experimented upon by Josef Mengele before being killed. This one story could easily have been the sole focus of the documentary, but, instead of focusing on Renee’s remarkable story and her resilience and optimism in the face of extreme adversity, the film also takes on humor and the Holocaust.

Renee didn’t seem to be any sort of authority the audience should really look to for guidance on the film’s central issue of “What is funny?” She was a survivor of the camps and explained her own POV about looking for the good and the optimistic (not shared by another woman featured in the docudrama). Does that make Renee an expert on humor? To paraphrase a better writer: “To laugh or not to laugh? That is the question.” When you also factor in all the different ways people respond to humor, it seems as though the documentary needed more focus and fewer talking heads.

Some jokes are told (one line by one comic; one by another) but they failed to save this documentary, for me. A great idea gone awry, perhaps because it attempted too much in one 85 minute span.

Director Ferne Pearlstein.

Director Ferne Pearlstein.

Director Fisher Stevens Helms “Bright Lights: Starring Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher”

Director Fisher Stevens of "Bright Lights: Starring Debbie Reynolds & Carrie Fisher"

Director Fisher Stevens of “Bright Lights: Starring Debbie Reynolds & Carrie Fisher”

“Bright Lights,” a documentary from Fisher Stevens (Oscar-winning “The Cove”) and his wife Alexis Bloom played the Chicago Film Festival and was absolutely one of my favorite films of the entire festival. It is the story of screen icons Debbie Reynolds (“Singin’ in the Rain”) and Carrie Fisher (“Star Wars”) showing 2 generations of show business life in a fantastically entertaining warts-and-all portrait as they battle aging, celebrity and each other.

Fisher Stevens told us on the Red Carpet, “Carrie called me to film her and her mother and she thought it might be kind of interesting to sort of document it. I was blown away by what a consummate pro Debbie Reynolds is—always preparing, always perfecting.” This is ably demonstrated in scenes where the now 84-year-old Reynolds decides to perform despite not being in perfect health.

Since many readers will not remember Debbie Reynolds in her prime, nor, perhaps Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia in the original “Star Wars”), the Oprah Winfrey interview here will give much background on the family.

As Debbie prepares for an engagement at the Mohegan Sun Resort in Connecticut, daughter Carrie (Fisher) worries and says, “Inside my mom is the same person and she does not want to retire. Performing gives her a life in a way that family can’t.” Fisher added, ‘Everything in me demands that my mother be as she always was. It’s terrible for all of us, because she’s fallen from a greater height.”

So, wearing a 50-lb. beaded dress, the frail Mary Frances (aka, Debbie) Reynolds is helped up stairs to appear before an adoring throng of older fans who remember her from such hits as “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Tammy and the Bachelor” and “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” (1964) for which Debbie received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

Bright Lights: Starring Debbie Reynolds & Carrie Fisher

Bright Lights: Starring Debbie Reynolds & Carrie Fisher

The film also covers the infamous scandal of 1959-1960 when Debbie’s husband, singer Eddie Fisher, ran off with Debbie’s former best friend Elizabeth Taylor, leaving Debbie with 2 small children, Carrie and Todd. Both Carrie and Todd appear onscreen and, during 150 to 200 hours of shooting in Fisher Stevens’ cinema verite fashion, a new audience may begin to have an appreciation of this star of yesteryear. As Director Fisher Stevens himself said, “I didn’t know much about her when we started.”

Asked about whether they were “celebrities” to him, Fisher Stevens said, “Only when they kept me waiting to shoot.” He described being more respectful of Debbie’s frail health and said, “We really did love them. As you can see, they were nuts.”

The “nuts” reference was made with genuine affection and is in deference to the compound where both Debbie and Carrie live in separate houses (A compound built by Robert Armstrong of “King Kong” fame). Carrie Fisher’s sense of humor is famous and in a touching scene from the HBO archives (Carrie’s “Wishful Drinking”), Carrie is shown with her terminally ill father (Eddie Fisher) telling him that she always tried to be funny so he would want to be around her. (Fisher died of complications 10 days after hip surgery in Berkeley on Sept. 22, 2010.)

Said Fisher of the scene, “Carrie did not want that scene in the film. She ran out of the theater crying when it came on.” The scene is genuinely touching, as Fisher—whom Carrie says became addicted to amphetamines during his singing career, along with many other famous folk of the day—is obviously close to death, but lucid. [*An examination of the 5-times married Eddie Fisher’s life, shows that he rarely was in a marriage that lasted longer than 4 years. He fathered 2 children with Debbie (4 years married) and 2 children with Connie Stevens (2 years married). He was not married at the time of his death in 2010 and had not been married since the death of Wife #5 nine years earlier.]

Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia in the original “Star Wars,” was diagnosed as manic depressive and has had well-reported ups-and-downs in her relationship with her famous mother, penning the Meryl Streep/Shirley MacLaine film “Postcards from the Edge” based loosely on their mother/daughter battles. It is clear that now, at age 60, Fisher wanted to document her mother’s remarkable achievements and life and, perhaps, her own.

Carrie Fisher has had an interesting personal life. After dating singer/songwriter Paul Simon for 6 years, they married but only remained married for 11 months (August of 1983 to July of 1984), after which they dated for a while. Her subsequent marriage to talent agent Bryan Lourd produced one daughter, Billie Catherine (age 24), who does not appear in the documentary.

Fisher’s struggles with drugs and bi-polarity are well documented. (“I went too fast. I went too much.”) With a mother whose own father told her that show business was “a crazy way to make a living” and reminded Debbie Reynolds that she originally wanted to be a gym teacher, we hear this life advice from Debbie: “The only way you make it through life is to fight. If you feel sorry for yourself, you will drown.” Debbie describes her own life as “1/3 talent and 2/3 luck.”

Despite years of grooming Carrie for show business, having her sing in her act since the age of 13, Debbie ultimately realized: “She doesn’t want to be Eddie and she doesn’t want to be Debbie. She wants to be Carrie, so she’ll do it her way.” Carrie felt, “She wants me to be an extension of her and her wishes.” Carrie sings “I’ll Never Say No to You” in the documentary at Debbie’s request and describes the song choice (made by her mother) as “perfect.”

It is clear that, while Carrie loves her mother very much, she rejected most of her mother’s advice when young. However, Carrie Fisher became a noted “script doctor” working on many films to fix dialogue, bringing her razor-sharp wit to bear. This is even more remarkable when you learn that Carrie never finished high school.

Carrie, for her part, describes her family relationships, including that with brother Todd, as “a shared history of weirdness.”
The documentary reminds us that Carrie’s father Eddie Fisher had more consecutive hits as a singer than the Beatles and Elvis combined, with 65,000 fan clubs clamoring for him at the height of his fame (which ended abruptly in 1960). Carrie obviously has a great deal of affection for her famous mother, saying, “My mom is Christmas. She’s something special.” But she seems equally loving towards her dying father in the scenes from “Wishful Drinking.”

One of the saddest sagas, which I saw documented in a SXSW documentary “The Slippers” by Morgan White, detailed the selling off of movie memorabilia that Reynolds tried, for years, to make into a museum. Son Todd says, “We struggled for years to make this museum. The truth is, we had borrowed money to buy this stuff. We had debt and no museum. We were done.”

Three auctions were held. The second auction brought in $27 million. $6.2 million was paid for Marilyn Monroe’s iconic white subway dress from “The Seven Year Itch.” When I asked Director Fisher Stevens if it was his impression that the auction was held because the family needed the money, he agreed that that was the case. He also said that when he approached Debbie about making this documentary about her life, she asked, “What are my lines? Do you have a script?”

Fisher Stevens onstage with Cinema Chicago founder Michael Kutza in Chicago.

Fisher Stevens onstage with Cinema Chicago founder Michael Kutza in Chicago.

Fisher commented that there is “a lot of down time in documentaries” and that “these things take a long time and they don’t make a lot” so he keeps several projects going at once. One upcoming project that he mentioned prominently is a Leonardo DeCaprio film about climate change entitled “Before the Flood” being shot for National Geographic.

The Debbie Reynolds/Carrie Fisher documentary, which is a poignant bittersweet look at an iconic movie star, her family, her life, and her equally famous daughter is scheduled to be released by HBO in March. It is very funny in a bitter-sweet fashion. It must have been a massive undertaking, as Stevens described sifting through 10,000 hours of archival footage to make the film. He gave much credit to his wife and partner, Alexis Bloom (who was at home caring for their sick three-year-old this night.)

Debbie, he said, “really, really liked the film” but Carrie was not as enthused about an earlier version when it was screened for her and some changes were made.

The ending is built around Debbie’s appearance in 2014 to receive a SAG (Screen Actors’ Guild) award, following which Debbie said, “I can’t be funny about tonight, because it’s too special. You don’t get a chance to have a moment like this very often.” Reynolds was also awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 2015 Academy Awards.

One parting thought from the woman who called Debbie Reynolds Mom: “What would be so cool would be to get to the end of my personality and just lay in the sun.”

A must-see documentary for anyone who remember either of these two unique and remarkable women.

Hitler Just Found Out Trump Has Caved on Immigration

I have to admit I laughed throughout this put-down of The Donald’s new position on building “the wall” and deporting 11 million illegal Mexicans.

The fact that it happened the very same day that Anne Coulter (the thin, blonde, ultra-Conservative mouthpiece most often seen guesting on Bill Maehr’s show, where she is always off her rocker) was just too much.

Obama, Bernie Talk “Obama’s Odyssey”

Obama’s Odyssey: Vol. I-FREE E-book for Amazon Review

Michael Moore’s New Film “Where to Invade Next” Steals Good Ideas of Other Nations

One of just three showings in the country of Michael Moore’s new documentary, “Where to Invade Next?” took place in Chicago during the 41st Annual Chicago International Film Festival on Friday, October 23, 2015.

What has lured Michael Moore, the documentary genre’s most entertaining rabble-rouser, back to feature films after a six-year hiatus? Only the future of his country, naturally. Where To Invade Next is a light-hearted, informative, and subversive comedy in which Moore, playing the role of “invader,” visits a host of nations (Tunisia, Iceland, Germany, France, Italy, Slovenia, et. al.) to learn how the U.S. could  improve in coping with similar problems. The director of Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine is back with this hilarious, eye-opening call to arms. Where To Invade Next demonstrates that the solutions to America’s problems already exist in the world; those solutions are just waiting to be co-opted by the U.S..

The newest documentary offering from Moore—whose films have been among the most profitable documentaries ever produced—won the Founders’ Prize at this year’s Chicago Film Festival. Moore was present to accept it in person on October 23rd.Michael Moore in Chicago.

Attired in his usual rumpled just-fell-out-of-bed baseball cap, tennis shoes and casual gear, Moore looked over the group assembled at the AMC Theater on Friday, October 23rd at 7:00 p.m. and, noting the balcony, said, “It’s like aerobics to get up there.” He proceeded to say this was the first time a Midwestern audience had seen the film, as it had previously shown in the Hamptons and at the Toronto Film Festival, where it was widely praised (only 3 showings, to date).

As the film has not yet opened wide, the capsule above will suffice as a sneak peek, while the Q&A he offered to filmgoers on Friday, October 23rd, gives a look at Moore’s mindset now, 26 years after his film “Roger and Me” about the crash of the Detroit auto industry was filmed with the $58,000 Moore won in a settlement from “Mother Jones” magazine following his termination as its editor (for putting a fired auto-worker on the cover, rebelling against orders not to do so).MichaelMoore2015 004

Q1: How can we in the United States get back our greatness?
A1: Sometimes it’s as simple as voting for a guy from Chicago whose middle name is Hussein. Seventy-eight % of this country is composed of women and minorities. You can turn off the angry white guy vote and concentrate on what this country is becoming.

Q2: (from Chaz Ebert, widow of Roger Ebert, functioning as moderator) Your film seems very patriotic…
A2: Will they say that on Fox News? (Laughs) I get death threats all the time. I get death threats and I’m happy to get them, because that means I can prepare. An AK47 went off in Rockford from some guy who wanted to assassinate me. His assassination list included Hillary Clinton, Janet Reno, and Rosie O’Donnell: a list of lesbians and me! I’m proud, but I’m puzzled.

Q3: You seem to be a one-man band. How much autonomy do you have in making your films and releasing your films?
A3: “Bowling for Columbine” was a Canadian release. “Sicko” was the first film  made with American money out of the gate. Before then, from 1989 to 2007, money didn’t come to me. Then, the Weinsteins and Paramount got into distributing my films. Now, these are entities that I don’t believe in. Money is the most important thing to them. I’ve done nothing but make them money—half a billion dollars worldwide. What is that old saying: “A capitalist will sell you the rope to hang yourself if it makes them a buck.” For this film, my agent broke the Number One Rule for agents, which is not to invest in your clients’ films and his company loaned me the money to make the film.

Q4: You and Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) started showing the industry that a documentary could be entertaining. Do you have any advice today for documentary filmmakers?
A4: I hate the term documentarian. It’s just a film. We need to honor that. We need to tell a story, as with “An Inconvenient Truth” or Errol James’ work. I’m always making this for the audience. This isn’t finished without them. I’m just their stand-in. It’s just really not what I wanted to do with this body (laughs), making myself 50 feet high. I didn’t make my first documentary until the age of 35. Because of Roger (Ebert0 going to the mat for us, the world of making documentaries changed. Both Gene and Roger teamed up in 1989 and supported me and Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing.” I was discovered by Roger at Telluride. He was supposed to be going to the Opening Night film, “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.” They put up opposite the opening night movie in a tiny theater at 1:00 p.m. (the Nugget). But Roger and I found each other at the food in the middle of the street. I begged him to come see my film and he seemed to be offended that I’d pushed so hard, as this was its world premiere, but when he came, he looked at me and said, “Don’t say a word. I’m only here because there was a crazy look in your eyes. Ebert took this picture of me (my first fan picture) with his little camera. The next day, in the Chicago paper, he wrote that “Roger & Me” was “One of the best films I’ve seen in the last 10 years.” So, I really owe a debt of gratitude to Roger Ebert, your late husband.

Q5: Why did you choose to make this movie?
A5: People would say to me, “You point out all the problems we have, but you never point out the solutions.” A documentary is to give information. I wanted to show what’s wrong in the U.S. but none of the film is shot in the United States, except for the archival footage. And I wanted to pick the flowers, not the weeds. It’s been really well received. People say, “It’s a happier film. Mike’s in a better mood…” I think it’s going to reach a lot of people. Obviously, there are 20% on the far right who will never like anything I do. I think I didn’t make this film for a long time because it’s so unbelievable when you go out and find out how other countries deal with the same problems we face. Check my website for factual accuracy.

Michael Moore and producers on the Red Carpet on Oct. 23 in Chicago.

Michael Moore and producers on the Red Carpet on Oct. 23 in Chicago.

Q6: What will your next film be?
A6: I’ve written 2 screenplays and my next film may be a fiction film.

Q7: You visit Germany in the film. What did you think about Germany’s austerity, vis-a-vis Greece?
A7: There’s no Paradise among these countries. My personal opinion is that Germany has been a little bit harsh on Greece, but it’s amazing what the Germans are doing to take in refugees. They are doing some of the most amazing things, including teaching their young people about the Holocaust. They actually have little plaques embedded in the sidewalks outside the homes that were confiscated by Nazis in World War II giving the names of the original Jewish owners. They are not trying to keep their past secret, they are trying to change. If they can change their way of thinking around, certainly we can; we’re not Nazis. I don’t want that to be our new national motto: “We’re not Nazis! We can do better!” (laughs)

Q8: You support the union and there are union logos at the bottom of the screen at the end of the film. Are your films all staffed by union members?
A8: All my films have been made with union workers. During the film on “Capitalism”, I was finally able to convince the camera and sound people to join their unions. I’m a big supporter of people joining unions. There is a tip of the hat in the film to May Day and Chicago, because  Chicago in 1886  was the birthplace of the union movement.

Michael Moore, recipient of the Founders' Award, at the 51st Annual Chicago International Film Festival.

Michael Moore, recipient of the Founders’ Award, at the 51st Annual Chicago International Film Festival.

Happy 92nd Birthday, Nelson G. Peterson!

I am posting this on the eve of one of my very best friend’s birthdays: Nelson G. (for Gene) Peterson of Moline, Illinois.  Nelson was born Aug. 20, 1923. He is 92 today. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NELSON!

I first met Nelson when I began teaching at Silvis Junior High School in the 1969-1970 school year.I taught Language Arts to 7th and 8th graders. He taught History in the room across the hall from me. In fact, we taught across the hall from one another throughout our years on-staff (my years there ended in 1985; Nelson retired earlier).

But teaching was not Nelson’s only job. He is a World War II veteran (the Battle of the Bulge, I think) just as his own father before him served in World War I. He also worked at the Arsenal and came to teaching later in life. Nelson used to say his initials (N.G.P.) stood for “No Good Prick” but that’s not true.  He is one of the sweetest, kindest, nicest people I know. He has always been my friend and has never waivered or let me down or tried to hurt my feelings, intentionally or unintentionally. Nelson has never come to a funeral home and gone out of his way to snub me, as a different old friend has done on two  occasions. If the funeral is that of someone who was a mother to you for close to a half-century (my mother-in-law) it is particularly distressing and upsetting to be on the receiving end of mean-spiritedness at an already trying time. (Better not to come at all than to come just to be mean.)  But that’s the way some people roll— although not Nelson. He even came to one of my book signings at the (now-defunct) Book Rack in Moline and another one at the Hy-Vee Grocery store in Silvis— in the middle of winter— for a children’s book, despite having no children or anyone who needed books. He has truly gone out of his way to be the great friend he remains today. (Thanks, Nelson! I appreciate it!)

Nelson G. Peterson

Nelson G. Peterson

Since Nelson, at 92, is the Renaissance man who literally has everything, I stole the idea of 3 of his other friends  who took him out to dinner on his 91st birthday. That was a GREAT idea. Kudos! My husband and I decided it would be the best way to salute Nelson on (or near) his special day.

I purposely did not plan dinner for the REAL day, because Nelson, who speaks fluent Swedish, has many cousins in the area and many other friends from his Baptist Church who probably also want to fete him on his birthday today (the REAL day). For example, 3 friends who taught with him for a long time, (as did I), took him out to dinner last year. Perhaps they plan another such outing for this year on August 20th, or perhaps the cousins in town will be “on the case.” [Best not to muck that up and ruin 2 dinners out for the Birthday Boy—although Nelson did say, as we dropped him off at home, that he hadn’t been out after 8:00 p.m. in a long time !]  One of Nelson’s cousins, Rose Fuller of East Moline, has shuffled off this mortal coil, but also taught with us at George O. Barr Elementary School for years, so, sadly, she won’t be among the relatives there for him. (R.I.P., Rose). Nelson never married.

I love Nelson and appreciate his sense of humor and his loyalty as a friend, which mirrors my own. I try very hard to be the Best Friend Anyone Could Be, remembering special days, offering help if needed, and just generally trying to be a friend, for the right reasons, not the wrong ones.  I don’t need (or want) thousands of superficial friends. I only want the really good ones, like Nelson. I won’t befriend you simply because I think you are going to do some good for my social status or because you have a lot of money or any of those other bad reasons that can come into play. I have only ever befriended people I truly like, who (seemed to ) truly liked me.

On this night, I gave him a card that said, “Everyone is young once…(and, on the inside) Your time is up.” He laughed and seemed to enjoy that and the catfish dinner he selected from the menu at Short Hills Country Club. We were (literally) the only people dining on Tuesday night and out-numbered the staff. I asked the waitress if she could turn down the air conditioning, as it was  frigid. The waitress said, “Well, you’re the only people here, so why not?” The A/C was promptly reduced to something that did not threaten to turn me into a popsicle during dinner, for which I am grateful. (Thanks!)

I am also grateful for true-blue friends like Nelson. It is possibly my aversion to early mornings that makes me an unsuitable friend for invitations to join others as they take  (took) trips to Chicago or Wisconsin or Las Vegas or wherever over a 40-year span. (Anything before 10 A.M. is verboten.) I admit that early, early mornings are not my thing; I write late into the night (30 books, so far). I didn’t know that being a Night Owl made me a bad person, but apparently it is a fatal flaw. Speaking your mind is not appreciated, either, but I have always spoken out and been honest about things, both for myself and for others, and if that is a flaw, I plead guilty with a certain measure of pride. It is not always easy suffering the backlash of being outspoken, but, for instance, during 4 terms as President (or Co-Chairman) of the Silvis Education Association, it was necessary in order to unionize our district’s teachers. And there are many occasions in a classroom setting where a teacher has to intervene to insure fairness. When I have spoken my mind, it has sometimes been applauded and other times, [because the truth hurts if it is unflattering], I have been reviled and, later, treated very poorly. One should, instead, play their cards very close to the vest and pretend they like people that they (may) actually despise—maybe even send them an oh-so-proper little note of some kind to suck up to them. I never aspired to such dishonesty.

Craig, me and Nelson as the evening ended.

Craig, me and Nelson as the evening ended.

I try to be loyal, honest, and true-blue— not a phony or superficial or sometimes friend . But I don’t play golf, don’t like early mornings, and I never was a teacher at our local high school (UTHS), United Township High School. I’d say that was a criteria for inclusion in dining out with Nelson in a group, although one guest last year  [Judy LeMaster Patchin] was not a teacher at UTHS, either, but taught with him in Silvis, as did I.   Judy made the guest list; I did not. (She is better with early mornings, for sure, but I don’t think that is the entire story.)

I was judged and found wanting, probably because I tell the truth instead of currying favor with one and all by any means possible.  I am positive I am just as good a friend of Nelson’s from our mutual teaching days as any of the other attendees with whom I also taught, and the Amish “shunning” thing is both childish, hurtful and unnecessary. Is 10 years of that not enough for having noted that the invitations to the “fun” things went to others, but the invitations to help out or pitch in came in pretty regularly and routinely, and I did my best to comply.

Then, too,  I’m usually off on an adventure of one sort or another that others don’t find interesting or noteworthy (*Nicest compliment of the week from someone I did not know in a store I frequent: “Your life is an adventure.”)

Yes, my life IS an adventure. It is true, as Shakespeare wrote (roughly paraphrased), “If you cut me, do I not bleed?” It is hurtful to be shunned when you have done nothing to deserve it. If you must be punished for feeling left out (when you were left out) and saying so, is that a life sentence? It is also sad to realize that people you thought were your good friends don’t stand up for you in the face of  meanness directed at you for over a decade without good cause, don’t remember your special day (even if  you always remembered theirs), and disappear without a trace. But, c’est la vie—right gang?

I’m lucky, though. I have a wonderful husband, wonderful kids (my daughter drove me all the way to Indianapolis to see the Rolling Stones for my birthday in July!) and at least one truly wonderful, loyal, long-time Quad Cities friend: Nelson G. Peterson. (I’d name a couple of others, but I’m a believer in quality over quantity and I don’t want to jinx my good fortune or cause them to be ostracized.)  I’m pretty sure Nelson won’t leave town and move to a remote location without so much as a phone call to me, nor, intentionally or unintentionally, forget my birthday, (which he remembered this year, as he has every other year.) I’d recite a list of other loyal friends, beginning with my college roommate (who does not live in this area), but this post is for Nelson on his special day. [If you see him, wish him a “Happy Birthday!”]

Nelson G. Peterson, my good and special friend, long may he live and be my friend and here’s to many, many more birthdays! (We’re aiming to have Nelson replace the lady who was the Oldest Living Veteran at age 110.)

Razzleberries Christmas Cats Appearance on Dec. 6, 2014

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