The Many Faces of NYC – Ever So Fleeting

It’s a great place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. That is what one of the many intriguing characters I met in NYC during my 10-day trip said about Chicago. I guess I feel the same way about NYC, but I have to say, it is easier to engage in discussion with people in the Big Apple. Everybody wants to tell you his or her story. This makes for great conversation and good memories, but is ever so fleeting. You could be talking to somebody really interesting on the subway … and a few seconds later, poof – they are gone without even a goodbye. John and Alfred How delighted I was upon returning from a day uptown on the first Monday of my stay, when my daughter said, “There’s John Lithgow with some other guy walking down the street in our direction.” Of course she always sees celebrities, including Hugh Jackman, who goes to her health club, but for me this was a treat. Turns out they were shooting scenes for Love is Strange starring Lithgow, Alfred Molina, and Marisa Tomei, who unfortunately was not in these scenes. This shoot literally took place half a block away from my daughter’s apartment. After we went back to her apartment, I dropped off my stuff and went back out to shoot pictures with the other gawkers gathered on Seventh Avenue. The actors seemed bemused by all of this and I got some good shots.

Continue reading

Goodwill Hunting Uncovers Bad Will Greed

Back in March, when I ventured into my local Goodwill store, I was astonished to see a crappy, framed reproduction of some lesser Impressionist painter on very cheap, warped cardboard for $199.99. What made this even more egregious is that the back of this monstrosity still bore the $4.00 garage sale price tag – and even at that price, nobody wanted this piece of junk. This prompted the following letter sent to Goodwill Corporate. The name of the store manager has been removed to protect the innocent – but not sure if that is her or me! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  3/22/13 Letter My mouth is still agape from my visit today to this retail store: Goodwill Store & Donation Center 900 W. Algonquin Road Arlington Heights, IL 60005 (847) 870-7897 I have been frequenting this store since it opened and have noticed that the prices are going up constantly. The prices now are higher than at any antique store for pieces that aren’t worth more than a few dollars. I saw a cheap reproduction of a painting on crappy cardboard (framed) for $199.99. When I brought this to the attention of the floor manager, I mentioned that I have expertise in antiques and collectibles and they could sure use somebody with my expertise to price things more accurately. She said we don’t hire people with expertise to price items and my manager thought this was real. I replied, ” Well I understand you don’t hire people specifically to do that, but wouldn’t it be helpful to have somebody on board with that knowledge?” The fake painting was SO obviously cheaply printed on inexpensive paper and the garage sale price of $4.00 was still marked in very large letters on the back – $199.99 – good grief!!!!! Yes, I agree that Goodwill is…

Continue reading

Insidious – Pervasive – Ever-Present

Insidious, pervasive, ever-present – what am I talking about – dust! Dust creates an eternal, never-ending cycle of cleaning. It is one of the most certain, universal entities in a very uncertain life, yet it shares a randomness with the universe and is never quite the same. I just dusted my tall bedroom dresser, but two days later it needed dusting again. Dust bunnies seem to form in the kitchen minutes after sweeping the floor. And the kitchen is the worst place for dust because a film of invisible grease from cooking coats surfaces and the dust is attracted to this like a fly to honey. Yes, we have a longhaired cat and I am sure this contributes to the entropy. And we collect stuff – inevitably, the more stuff you have, the more you have to dust. But how can dust accumulate so quickly, what the hell is dust anyway, and are cobwebs dust? According to Wikipedia, “Dust in homes, offices, and other human environments contains small amounts of plant pollen, human and animal hairs, textile fibers, paper fibers, minerals from outdoor soil, human skin cells, burnt meteorite particles and many other materials which may be found in the local environment.” So in other words, dust is life shedding unwanted particles … whether inert or human. Shedding fur and hair, breadcrumbs, paper fragments, human tissue … and history … in the form of old books, antiques, etc. sloughing off matter.

Continue reading

Celebrity Injuries – from the Tragic to Obscure to – Just Plain Odd

In the course of my PR career in the health and medical field, among the many things I did was research diseases, conditions, and injuries of celebrities and/or their close relatives. This research fell into two primary clinical areas based on the associations I worked for at the time – vision and neurosurgical, respectively. When I worked at Prevent Blindness America, I actually had the privilege of interviewing quite a few celebrities. These were typically done via the celebrity’s agent and submitted as written interview questions that I scripted. The completed interviews were published in the organization’s magazine. The power of celebrity goes a long way to increasing disease/injury prevention and awareness. Case in point – Angelina Jolie’s recent admission that she underwent a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction to avoid the same tragic fate that befell her mother and maternal aunt. Jolie revealed this in a brave New York Times Op/Ed article titled My Medical Choice, published on May 14, 2013. She carries the BRCA1 gene and her doctors advised her that this fact, along with her family history of breast cancer gave her an 87 percent risk of developing the disease. Jolie has always been considered one of the most beautiful and sexy actresses in America, but it is her charitable, philanthropic work and intelligent frankness that set her apart.

Continue reading

Sports, Sports, Sports – A Bit of Prevention Goes a Long Way to Beating Sports-Related Injuries

   The last month has been jam-packed with a lot of exciting play for sports fans. The Miami Heat clinched its second straight NBA title by beating the San Antonio Spurs on June 20 in Game 7, 95-88. The Chicago Blackhawks snagged its second Stanley Cup in three years in Game 6 of the NHL finals in Boston on June 24 in a rousing finish with back-to-back goals. There were injuries, naturally – such as a collision in Game 6 of the NBA Finals that caused Dwyane Wade’s left knee to swell very badly when he was already suffering with an injured right knee. Chicago Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews got hit in the head and sat out part of Game 5, while Andrew Shaw took a puck to the face in the first period of Game 6, but returned in the second period after receiving stitches. For those that enjoy their spectator sports with a bit more starch and less blood, how about Wimbledon, which officially started on June 24 with fifth-ranked Rafael Nadal getting knocked out for the very first time in the first round of a Grand Slam! On June 20, Abby Wambach broke Mia Hamm’s record for international career goals by a soccer player, scoring four times in the first half against South Korea to increase her total to 160. While I was watching her the next day on Good Morning America with a recap of one of the goals she scored by heading the ball, I thought about the number of sports- and recreation-related injuries and concussions suffered every year by professional and amateur athletes alike.

Continue reading

Firing of Chicago Sun-Times Photographers Evokes a Torrent of Responses … Including Mine

The announcement on Thursday, May 30 from the Chicago Sun-Times that they fired/laid off all full-time photographers immediately evoked a torrent of responses from media outlets all over the country. I cannot help but wonder what the late Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert would say about this – I think I hear him grumbling from movie heaven. Among those fired was John H. White, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who blazed a trail for black photographers in the 1970s. I had the honor of meeting him at a Prevent Blindness America charity luncheon at Neiman Marcus in 2002, where he shot a few photos for the Sun-Times. For me, this announcement evoked a torrent of personal memories that started with an appreciation of documentary photography at the tender age of 11 – nurtured by a passionate interest in history and appreciation of visually powerful moments in time. When I was 12, my dad taught me how to develop black and white photos in a makeshift darkroom in our basement. I was immediately taken with the magic of pictures developing before my eyes in the chemical trays lined up on the rickety plywood shelving my dad had rigged up.

Continue reading

LexisNexis Sure Does Perplex Us … Me

My last blog was about the egregious customer service received from USAA after being a loyal customer for 25 years. When I changed auto insurance from USAA to Geico, along with my new policy was a cover letter about the Fair Credit Reporting Act, indicating I had received a higher price based on the claims loss history or driving record. A consumer has the right to receive a copy of this report by calling the LexisNexis Consumer Center, and after doing so, has the right to dispute the findings. I was a little perplexed by this since I had no claims for 10 years and a perfect driving record – in fact, the last ticket I received was in 1991 and it was thrown out when I appeared in traffic court (Knock on wood that this continues)! So about 10 days later I received the report from LexisNexis. The driving record was totally clear but the claims history included something very odd. It stated that there was a possible claim on December 28, 2012 at my daughter’s old apartment building near South Michigan Avenue and Roosevelt. The claim involved one Larry and Wanda Mitchell on the 26th floor and a Lexus RX 300. I thought this was truly odd for several reasons:

Continue reading

Bye Bye USAA – Why I am Now Cruising with the Gecko at Geico

This is a saga that began 25 years ago when my dad told me that USAA was the absolute best auto insurer around and very exclusive. We were living in Chicago at the time and had just acquired our first car – a very old Honda Accord from my dad. Because my dad served in the US Navy, all family members were able to qualify for this insurance. I was happy with USAA for years until they continuously raised my rates without any reason. I had no claims for years, except for two very minor damages caused when my daughter was a teenage driver about 10 years ago. It is my general philosophy towards customer service that three strikes and you’re out.

Continue reading

Antique Estate Auction Offers Intriguing Glimpse into The Mind of The Collector

Jeff and I really got our fill of auctions a month ago when we attended a Pace Auction in Des Plaines – arriving at 10:30 and staying the entire day until every last lot was sold around 4:00 pm. I have been going to Pace Auctions since 1987 when I attended an auction they were conducting for an antique store going out of business on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. I still have the pine dresser I purchased at that auction – it was a bit of a fixer upper but has served me well. Once upon a time, Pace held auctions every Monday night, but haven’t done so for years and now periodically have auctions on Saturdays. Jeff’s best Pace Auction tale goes back to 1999 when I took him to an auction and he purchased a huge lot of Star Trek Mego figures for just $45.00 and sold them for nearly $900.00 on eBay! When you are bidding, you have to factor in the 15 percent buyer’s premium and sales tax on top of the winning bid. An odd thing about auctions is that you have to be careful with gestures or the auctioneer will think you are bidding. Inevitably, my allergies kicked in around all that musty stuff and I started to itch. If I lifted my hand to scratch my head, it might be considered a bid, and I nearly did this a few times. This phenomenon has been parodied on a number of TV sitcoms over the years.

Continue reading

New York, New York, A Helluva Town – The Bronx Is Up But The Battery’s Down

I love NYC, but I wouldn’t want to live there. This sentiment was further cemented into stone when I stayed with my daughter for eight days this past December. The saga begins with my trip via shuttle from Laguardia Airport to Manhattan on a rainy Monday night. NYC Airporter purports to go to Penn Station, but in fact it drops you off at Grand Central where you wait endlessly for another shuttle to Penn Station which stops at countless hotels in between. After waiting 25 minutes in a misty rain outside Grand Central and rudely being told to move by an abrasive shuttle driver, I decided to take the subway downtown. Unfortunately, there was no escalator at the station and I had to drag my suitcase down 30 or so stairs. I took a train that was nowhere near my target location and had to walk eight or so blocks West on Houston Street. My daughter came running down the street to meet me about four blocks from her temporary digs. We had not seen each other since August 1, so it was a warm reunion, to put it mildly.

Continue reading