I know right.

Saturday, cold wind. Sunday, cold rain.

“Fuck this weather anyway,” I said on my way out of the gym Sunday. “I know right,” said the guy at the front desk, which I gather is an expression of affirmation, with no obvious punctuation. I KNOW RIGHT. Kids these days.

It wasn’t a bad weekend, but the weather was atrocious. There was a little chilly sunshine on Saturday, and that was a big ol’ compensation for the breeze coming straight out of the north, but meh. So I spent much of the weekend reading. Softhearted me, I undertook Jim Harrison’s final collection of novellas, “The Ancient Minstrel.” I finally had to put it down on Saturday and go make lamb chops, because I had my fill of goatish old satyrs assaulting 15-year-old girls. The final piece in the collection features such a pairing, which would be defensible, to my mind, if this fictional 15-year-old did anything remotely resembling what a real 15-year-old would do when a senior citizen is pawing her body. Cry, maybe, or go limp, or ask for money. But no — she welcomes the sexual attention of a 66-year-old man, enthusiastically. She rolls her hips around, teases him with peeks up her shorts, pouts when they’re interrupted.

I have fucking had it, I thought, and went downstairs to throw some fingerling potatoes in the oven.

A 15-year-old isn’t exactly a child, but this particular theme, old guys with young girls, has been a regular in the Harrison canon for at least the last 20 years. And it has become, for me, increasingly cringeworthy. It’s odd to feel embarrassed for someone you admire so much. He wrote some outstanding fiction in his life, books I’ve treasured, read and reread to figure out how he did it, how he made these meandering, plotless stories so interesting. He had a voice that made me want to spend time in his head and look at the world through his eyes. His characters were always wildly flawed and often sexually reckless, but they were funny, and they weren’t felons, at least not the ones we might be expected to identify with. (I recall a vile, moneyed patriarch who raped a child in one, but that’s it.)

But age takes its toll on everyone, and a few years back, I noticed the same stories repeating themselves, and evidence of little or no editing, self- or otherwise. The last book I bought was “The River Swimmer,” which asks us to believe a young man might swim from somewhere on the west Michigan coast at roughly the Grand Rapids latitude to Chicago. In Lake Michigan. Is this magical realism? Kinda. But I found the impossibility of the act – and the fact this 17-year-old character has all the attitudes and wisdom of his 70-something creator – hard to get past. (Even in these half-baked stories, though, there were flashes of brilliance, the old better-on-a-bad-day-than-almost-everyone-else-on-their-best thing. Which is why I kept reading.)

This April-December sex thing is a bridge too far for me, though, but I guess it doesn’t matter anymore, now that he’s dead. I finished the story the next day. Spoiler alert: The character commits suicide on the final page. Good, I thought, and regretted ever knowing about him in the first place.

Do I have some bloggage? I think so…

A columnist in Indiana apologizes for not saying something sooner.

I find Vice wildly uneven, but this was funny: I played “The Boys Are Back in Town” on a bar jukebox until I got kicked out. It was sent to me by a friend who said his evening had been ruined by some douche coming into the bar where he was playing pool and fucking up his sick jukebox set with some Kiss shit. Been there! Feel your pain!

Zika is coming. Congress is not hustling to find the money to fight it. Quelle surprise.

Premature death rates for middle-aged white women are climbing; the WashPost looked at one. A sad, familiar story.

OK, then, Monday awaits. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, J.C. BURNS!!! Enjoy yours.

Posted at 12:11 am in Popculch |

50 responses to “I know right.”

  1. MichaelG said on April 11, 2016 at 1:10 am

    Happy Birthday, J.C.!

    Deaths. Sure don’t need the WaPo to remind those of us who live in the ‘hood that life tends to end. The number of people with whom I’ve been acquainted, however briefly, however obliquely, most but not all black who have died since I’ve lived here is mind blowing. Male, female, young, middle aged. Not so many old. Cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, GSW, diabetes, liver problems. Can’t afford doctors, drugs, dialysis, a means to ward off bullets, throw in poverty and social indifference. . We don’t need sob stories in the Washington Post to remind us that life is hard and that people die. Sorry, Nance. This isn’t on you. It’s just been tough around here.

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  2. Suzanne said on April 11, 2016 at 6:29 am

    I was going through stuff in my house recently and cams across some magazines I had saved. I decided not to pitch but revisit them. I read this article yesterday: https://theamericanscholar.org/the-dispossessed/#.Vwt7Y9T3arU. From 2006. I don’t recall reading it then, but how prophetic a connection to the WaPo piece.

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  3. Lance Mannion said on April 11, 2016 at 7:14 am

    Nance, have you read Harrison’s two “faux mysteries”, The Great Leader and The Big Seven. If you haven’t, DON’T. The sexually irresistible old man theme is beyond creepy. I’ve always admired Harrison’s poetry more than his fiction and I’ve tended to force my way through much of his prose waiting for flashes of poetry to break out. But after he died I picked up a couple of his poetry collections again and was shocked by how in how many poems flashes of softcore old/young pornography broke out. As you say, it’s weird to be embarrassed for someone you admire. I wonder what his editors were thinking.

    Harrison, though, was notoriously difficult to edit. Did you see this piece in the New Yorker?


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    • nancy said on April 11, 2016 at 9:16 am

      I hadn’t read that piece, and will now. The character in the story that made me throw down my iPad was indeed Sunderson, the retired Michigan State Police detective from “The Great Leader” and “The Big Seven.” It really was disgusting and cringeworthy at the same time.

      Agreed, his poetry is far better.

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  4. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 11, 2016 at 7:15 am

    Happy birthday, o techmeister supreme!

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  5. adrianne said on April 11, 2016 at 7:15 am

    Jim’s obsession with young girls/old guys having sex got really creepy in the last years of his life. His later stuff is practically unreadable.

    The best payback for Pence and his latest atrocity of a law is the “Periods for Pence” campaign, where women are sharing every detail of their monthly cycle with the Indiana governor. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/08/us/periods-for-pence-campaign-targets-indiana-governor-over-abortion-law.html?_r=0

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  6. Jolene said on April 11, 2016 at 7:27 am

    As with Deborah and David Bowie, Harrison is somebody whose work never made it into my queue. Which of his books do you recommend?

    And, yes, happy birthday, JC. Thanks for your labors on behalf of nn.com. Long may they continue.

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  7. Deborah said on April 11, 2016 at 7:29 am

    Well I guess now there’s a reason I haven’t read Harrison for awhile. Maybe the old geezer being seduced by a child is a metaphor for old age in general? It is weird when you think that there are some things in life you’ll never be able to do again. I have strange dreams about it.

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  8. Deborah said on April 11, 2016 at 7:30 am

    Happy birthday JC and thanks for what you do here.

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  9. alex said on April 11, 2016 at 7:41 am

    Pence’s new abortion law — just in time to welcome the Zika virus.

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  10. brian stouder said on April 11, 2016 at 9:09 am

    So in addition to Periods for Pence, there should be an enthusiastic Morticians for Mike – as he mandates that those guys get a piece of the action (so to speak)

    And – happy birthday, JC!

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  11. Danny said on April 11, 2016 at 9:12 am

    The 17-year-old character having all of the attitudes and wisdom of his 70-something creator is sometimes critqued as wish-fulfillment. In Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre, they also refer to this type of writing, where a character (usually young and inexexperieced) displays wisdom or skills that strain credibility, as “The Adventures of Molly Jane.”

    My brother once recommended this fantasy novel to me that was written entirely in first-person narrative. After twenty or so pages I skimmed through to the end to see confirm nothing other than, “I did this and then I did that….” Geesh! I would have thrown the book across the room if it wasn’t on my iPhone.

    I remember him asking me how I liked it. I think I told him it was about the worst book I ever set eyes upon. I mean, how are you going to develop a character with the only point of view being,”I’m really cool and great. Just ask me.”

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  12. alex said on April 11, 2016 at 9:14 am

    Hey, Mike, is the state gonna pick up the tab for the newspaper obituary for the clot I passed this morning? Oh, and what should I name him/her? You’re invited to the celebration of life ceremony, by the way. It’s open casket.

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  13. brian stouder said on April 11, 2016 at 10:04 am

    Speaking of creepy books (in this case, “creepy” in the best sense!) –

    if you happen upon a book called The Witches; Salem 1692 you could do worse than to pick it up and let it cast a spell upon you!

    I’m approaching 150 pages in (it runs about 500) and the thing is enthralling. Indeed, it is timeless – with the visceral actions and reactions, and the score-settling, and the conflation of mindless prejudice with heroic resolve…actually, it fits the 21st century presidential campaign now unfolding before our eyes, quite well!

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  14. Deborah said on April 11, 2016 at 10:29 am

    I’m mailing a package to myself for Santa Fe, some conditioner that I can’t get there. I usually go to the PO in the lower level of the Hancock building, arrived about 5 mins to 9 and found out that it opens at 10 now. No problem, I can always have coffee and a pastry at L’Appetito, also in the lower level of the Hancock building. It has all the signs of closing, the shelves are mostly empty and I’m eating a very dry croissant. I’ll be sorry to see this place go, it was a nice respite from Starbucks. The Jamba Juice in the space next door is closed, so there must be something going on. For a long time urban planning folks have wanted to close the lower plaza area at the base of the Hancock, to make it on street level to have a better presence in the city. I wonder if that is actually going to happen?

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  15. brian stouder said on April 11, 2016 at 11:21 am

    If I recall correctly, this story is what Nance & the journalists around here would refer to as a “talker”:


    the lead:

    WOODSTOCK, Ga. (AP) — Authorities say a naked man was arrested after breaking into a north Georgia home through a pet door. Cherokee County Deputy Joshua Watkins tells local news media that 28-year-old Jarred Lemming on Wednesday entered the home nude to shower, wash his laundry and to use the owner’s Wi-Fi.

    So why would a naked guy in the night need to use the Wi-Fi?

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    • nancy said on April 11, 2016 at 11:25 am

      To comment here, of course.

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  16. Suzanne said on April 11, 2016 at 11:24 am

    L’Appetito closing! Noooo! I have not been to Chicago in a year or more, but when I visited, I always loved that place! So fun to grab a coffee (& maybe something fattening) and sit out on the plaza in the summer. Sad.

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  17. brian stouder said on April 11, 2016 at 11:37 am

    …(chuckling with glee!)

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  18. Sue said on April 11, 2016 at 11:39 am

    Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility has always been problematic for me, not least because of the creepiness of Colonel Brandon’s fixation (yes it is) on Marianne. Yes, I know, Colonel B isn’t 66 (although by 18th century standards he’s getting up there), and female childbearing mortality and social restrictions made these December/May relationships acceptable and economically necessary, and also Alan Rickman – I digress – but to the comments on authors’ not understanding the mindset of teenage females, it always struck me that you can take a certain kind of Austen character (Marianne, Lydia), plunk them down in an American high school or its British equivalent in 2016, and they would fit in like 200+ years hadn’t passed.
    That’s someone who knows how to write a character.

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    • nancy said on April 11, 2016 at 12:34 pm

      Hence, “Clueless,” et al. But while we’re on the subject… I notice there was a line in at least one Harrison obit that mentioned his skill in writing female characters. He wrote them, all right, but most of his women are pretty much exactly like his men, interested in food and sex, mostly. And a final peeve: I notice how many novelists, when they want to be free to move their paper dolls all over the place, give them a trust fund or a rich grandma or whatever. It frees them from having to write about how most people spend one-third of their time — earning a living. Harrison was a prime example.

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  19. Joe K said on April 11, 2016 at 11:47 am

    Naked with wifi maybe to stream video so he can take matters into his own hands so to speak.
    Pilot Joe

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  20. brian stouder said on April 11, 2016 at 11:50 am

    Joe – how did someone around here phrase that a few weeks ago? Something like ‘Shaking hands with the bald-headed bishop’?

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  21. Deggjr said on April 11, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    To comment here, of course.

    I view the commentariat here as from a different profile but maybe I just lack self-awareness.

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  22. brian stouder said on April 11, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    Here’s a WaPo story (part of a package) that is pertinent to our ongoing presidential election process…and which – in a fun-house mirror sort of way – touches on the Donald Trump wave, I believe


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  23. alex said on April 11, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    Thanks Brian. Now I have just two free WaPo articles left this month after clicking twice today on something I read last week.

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  24. Bob (not Greene) said on April 11, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    I worked in the Hancock Building from 1999 to 2003 and went to Il Appetito almost every morning to grab something for breakfast and many times for lunch for a panini or some soup. It was always hopping back then. Used the post office many a times as well. Seems like a million years ago.

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  25. Jeff Borden said on April 11, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    There is a L’Appetito location in Lakeview on Broadway just north of School Street, left hand side of the street on a corner. But agreed on the closing of the downtown store. I ate there every deadline Thursday for a decade when Crain’s had offices at Rush and Superior.

    I’ll second Brian’s recommendation on “Witches,” which was written by Stacy Schiff, who previously won a Pulitzer for her biography of Cleopatra. I also cannot recommend highly enough a spooky little movie called “The Witch,” which is not related to the book. Dark, gloomy, dense.

    The states are insane these days. If it’s not Indiana punishing women, it’s North Carolina and Mississippi targeting gays and Tennessee making the bible its official state book. Illinois may be broke and watching its bond rating descend to junk level as our asshole Democratic leaders and our asshole Republican governor play the waiting game with each other, but at least our legislators aren’t sniffing around vaginas or checking peckers before allowing admission to the bathroom.

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  26. Joe K said on April 11, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    Polishing the bishop, sanding the old main mast, punching the clown.
    Pilot Joe

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  27. Scout said on April 11, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Anna Marrie Jones’ story is heartbreaking. It’s a harsh look at how bleak life is for so many in the current era of the declining middle class, and the photos were graphic in their illustration of how awful and depressing such an existence is. Very sad.

    The recent spate of regressive laws in NC, Mississippi and Indiana are crazy. What is going on? Why all of this now? I cannot fathom that this is how the majority of Americans really feel, so why are we as a nation being subjected to this onslaught of idiocy? UGH.

    I definitely got dragged down by the sadness of all this today.

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  28. brian stouder said on April 11, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    I was (and remain) struck by the exceptionally strong women in the story, finally succumbing

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  29. Brandon said on April 11, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    To comment here, of course.

    Speak for yourselves.

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  30. Jakash said on April 11, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    alex, @ #23, if you clear your browser after the 5 WP articles, you can have 5 more articles whenever you want. I usually use up my monthly allotment every couple days just keeping up with Toles. Don’t know why the NYT and WP allow for that loophole, while the WSJ and others have a “hard” paywall, but they do. And I appreciate it!

    There’s an L’Appetito at Huron and Wabash, too, isn’t there Deborah? Can’t recall if you’ve mentioned that one before, or not. It’s not that far from the Hancock, but maybe you don’t like it as well.

    As far as I can tell, this is the last thing the Trib’s architecture guy has written about the Hancock plaza, and it’s from October, when proposed changes were still being mulled over and he noted that “the process could take months, if not longer.”:


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  31. Lou Gravity said on April 11, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    For Washington Post (and NYT, for that matter)just right click on article, select “open link in new private window.” and read as many as you want.

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  32. robd said on April 11, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    I have fucking had it, I thought, and went downstairs to throw some fingerling potatoes in the oven.

    What the 66-year-old man said to himself.

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  33. Julie Robinson said on April 11, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    You can also like their pages on Facebook and the links seem to be free. I’ve done this for both NYT and WaPo; in fact I didn’t even know the Post had a limit.

    Happy Birthday JC. I know you’ve cleaned up my mess more than once; thank you.

    MichaelG, are you okay? Your comment concerned me. Bad news from the doc? Let us know.

    I hear the sun will come out tomorrow. So I’m gonna hang on ’til tomorrow.

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  34. jcburns said on April 11, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    Wow, thanks for all the kind words. Does a geezer web guy’s heart proud. Best wishes to youall from an Airbnb in the UK that has internet at least as fast as we have in Atlanta (so I could work on websites if I wanted to, but we are on holiday.) So many thanks to Nancy for creating such an interesting place out of raw words (I just tweak the angle brackets occasionally.)

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  35. Scout said on April 11, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    Happy Birthday jcburns, and enjoy that holiday!

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  36. Deborah said on April 11, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    Hey folks, maybe I jumped to conclusions about L’Appetito in the Hancock building. I was only speculating, there wasn’t any signage about closing, it just had the telltale signs from my perspective. Maybe they’re just going to renovate and they needed to clear things out for that. We can only hope, anyway.

    Little Bird called me a few minutes ago to tell me that the furniture we shipped from Chicago is supposed to arrive in Santa Fe within the hour. They were supposed to call her a day ahead so she could make arrangements to get help moving it in the apartment, because they said they’d only drop it off at curbside. Weird, but that’s what they said. So she’s scrambling around to figure out how to get it in the front door. There are really only a couple of pieces that she’ll need help with but it bugs me that this is happening, but I guess it’s what we have to expect nowadays. They said it would take 2 to 3 weeks but today it’s exactly 1 month from pick up. Hopefully it will come unbroken, that’s still a concern.

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  37. Deborah said on April 11, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    Scout, I think we’re seeing these new laws because it’s election season. Right wingers are up for election and they’re trying to prove that they are racist and discriminatory to their base that they hope will vote for them. They know the laws won’t fly with the general population, and will in fact hurt them economically in the long term, but they figure they can fool some of the people some of the time, in the meantime. We’ll see.

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  38. BigHank53 said on April 11, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    Oh, I can see why novelists give in and drop money on their character’s heads. It make so many things easier. Some people–not many–would like to read about a character’s struggle to save up three hundred bucks for a round-trip bus ticket back to the family homestead. But I can guarantee you that most novelists would rather get a job at Taco Bell and earn that $300 in real life instead of grinding out 6,000 words about scrimping for weeks.

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  39. Sherri said on April 11, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    Data visualization is tricky to do well: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/04/11/the-dirty-little-secret-that-data-journalists-arent-telling-you/

    I’ve noticed, and my dataviz friends agree, that the NYTimes does a very good job with data visualization.

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  40. Judybusy said on April 11, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    Happy Birthday, JC! Another thanks for all you do for the site to keep it humming! Enjoy jolly old England. Scones and clotted cream have been on my mind; I’ve never had clotted cream, but will someday, I swear!

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  41. Deborah said on April 11, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    Sherri, great link, and so true. The graphic display of information is tricky and takes training, skill and practice. Edward Tufte has been preaching that for decades. I agree that the NYT does a very good job.

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  42. MichaelG said on April 11, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    Julie, I have a stage four carcinoma problem. It’s in my right thigh and in my left lung. It’s been over two years now and I’m still here. I’ve had surgery both places and radiation on my lung. And fucking chemo. That shit’s awful. I had a scan on Wednesday last and had an appointment with my Oncologist this morning. There is stuff in my lung but it has been pretty stable for the last few months. There is stuff on my thigh and it’s growing. We agreed to let things ride for a month and revisit in early May. Thank you very much for your concern.

    When I said “tough around here”, I was referring to the neighborhood and its inhabitants. As noted in comment one. I bought this place just as the bubble popped. One of the reasons was that gentrification was well under way at the time. I was looking to have an increasing property value. Then the crunch. Well, now values are rising again and gentrification is well under way again. It’s very evident and it’s good for me but not so much for some of the less prosperous folks around here. I’m ambivalent.

    In the meanwhile, I’m going on vacation again. Tomorrow. I’m flying to Lisbon where I’ll spend a few days, then taking a cruise from Lisbon to Barcelona, spending a few days there and coming home. I never thought I’d take a cruise but here I go. I can’t walk as well as I used to (I used to be like Deborah, miles and miles) so here I am with the geriatrics on a cruise. It’s a small ship, only 148 passengers. You will be able to find me at the bar.

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  43. Kaye said on April 11, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    Love hearing about your travels MichaelG, glad you are going, even though an adaptation to your preferred style was required. Itinerary sounds wonderful! Small-ship cruising is the way to go – you can make a point to visit with the best people on board and stay away from the others.

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  44. Deborah said on April 11, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    MichaelG, I hope you have a good time, that kind of cruise on a small boat sounds like fun. I went for a long walk today but I haven’t walked much in Chicago because the weather has been so shitty. It was sunny today but still windy and cold only not quite as bad as it has been.

    On Wed I go back to Santa Fe for a week. The furniture arrived there unbroken, even the large mirror and the TV so that was good news. Little Bird was having a panic attack about the short notice they gave her, but she managed to get ahold of a guy to come and help her so it all turned out ok in the end. I complained royally to the shipping company about it and they are giving me a bit of a refund so that made me feel better.

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  45. Jill said on April 11, 2016 at 9:53 pm

    Add mine to the birthday wishes, JC.
    And MichaelG, I hope your trip is magnificent. I haven’t been to Portugal or Spain and would like to visit both. I hope you find the geezer cruise to your liking. It may be an ideal way to see some new spots.
    I’m going to my first citizenship ceremony tomorrow when my brother-in-law takes the oath in Chicago. Should be interesting.

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  46. Deborah said on April 11, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    I forgot to mention that on my walk today I saw Joan Cusack. I went to her store, Judy Maxwell’s on Wells in Old Town. She was working behind the counter, not as the cashier, she appeared to be doing some paper work. She looked great, didn’t seem to have any make-up on, or very little.

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  47. Sherri said on April 12, 2016 at 12:41 am

    I’m looking forward to hearing about Lisbon, MichaelG!

    Happy Birthday, JC, and enjoy your vacation!

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