11.21.2021

Getting the booster

I would've written this earlier, but I wrote other blog posts that I haven't posted yet because they might be too personal. I showed one to a friend, and she said it was fine, but I still am not sure. But I want to describe my experience with the Moderna Booster shot because it wiped me out, as the second shot did.

I got the booster on Halloween, when availability was still limited to people over 65 and those with immunity issues, because I teach a few classes in-person, and education workers were amended to those earlier lists. I also live and work in one of the most populated areas of Chicago, and have been an Essential Worker throughout the entire pandemic, so I was pretty worried about the virus and wanted the booster for extra protection. 

I was incredibly happy to qualify, and figured I wouldn't experience many side-effects because it's less potent than the regular vaccine. But a couple hours after I got it, I started to feel lightheaded. I thought that would be it; I was lightheaded and spacey for a few days after my first shot, so I thought it would be similar. But then I started slowly feeling really horrible. I had a pounding headache, nausea, and I felt like I had the flu, without the fever, because my body felt heavy and I could barely move. I was horizontal for several hours and I felt like I had the stomach flu. I couldn't eat and felt so nauseated, I couldn't sleep. But I was exhausted and I felt like I couldn't think straight because I was trying not to get sick and my head was pounding. 

I lay down all day and night, and I was going to skip work on Monday because I was so wiped out. I'd already learned my lesson after the second shot: it's very hard to work when you're not eating, feel very nauseated, and feel like the earth is trying to pull you down to get you horizontal again. But I had a few things to get done at work, so I lay down as late as a I could, scraped myself off the floor (or couch; I don't remember because I was moving between my bed, couch, and floor), and got to the office. I got the work done, immediately went home, and lay down again. Thanks to the flu shot, I haven't had the flu in several years, but this felt like it; my body felt very heavy and I felt very tired, and I really thought I wouldn't make it.

After several hours of off-and-on sleeping, I finally emerged feeling relatively normal, though I hadn't eaten for a couple of days. I know that some people think not eating is great because we can lose weight, but I appreciate having an appetite because it is a sign of health, and I appreciate food. Now I am fully vaccinated and not worried about living and working in an area with tens-of-thousands of people. I'm still being careful about where I go, and I wear my mask. These limitations aren't fun and can be frustrating and depressing, but I'd rather deal with all that than get COVID, even a mild case, or pass it on to someone who could really suffer from it!

p.s. Amazon Kindle book and print book at the Eckhartz Press site, www.wickerparkwishes.com

10.24.2021

It's easy for people to say they don't care about money, etc. when they already have it

One time I was in a person's house that was so large, I forgot the way back to the room where I was staying, and that was one of their two homes; they had another one in another state. The person also drove a luxury car, wore fine jewelry, went to upscale grocery stores, took amazing vacations, and could enroll their kids in whatever activities they wanted. They also didn't have to work, so they went to the gym, tried different diets, maintained their fit figure, and was in charge of managing their family's life. They told me that they didn't really need all that (the houses, money, cars, jewelry), didn't care about it all, and could live without it, which made me wonder: why did they purchase it? Why didn't they protest against it? And if they lost it all, how would they feel? What if they had to work to support the family, could not send their kids to tutors or good schools, and had to shop at discount stores and Goodwill? Would that really be okay with them? 

I doubt it. One famous speaker said that her husband had "made up his mind" that if he couldn't play golf anymore, he'd be fine with it. But he is still golfing and hasn't lost the ability to play. So what they're talking about is just a theory; the reality could be a lot more depressing. Why not make some kind of pronouncement once the golf goes away? Then that would be more believable. But until then, it's a nice message to deliver to people who would love to be able to play golf, or be able to have the time and money to do any hobby. There's nothing noble in saying you don't need something when you clearly have it.

There are many people in history who had a lot and through political upheaval, war, or just a bad economy, lost what they had and had to start over. Then they really found out what they need or want. We can be inspired by such people. But I don't really believe people who say things that are hypothetical. If you really don't need that wealth, give some to me. I know what I would do with more money, even though I technically don't need it.

I think that sometimes people say things to distract us from what we don't have. So if someone is being interviewed and they downplay what they have, or talk about how they love what they're doing so much, they can't believe they're getting paid for it, then fire the agent that got you that huge contract, and give some of that money away. Losing a job, prestige, support, friends, respect, money is not fun. It's much better to be able to afford things, shop for food without budgeting, live in a safer neighborhood, and not starve. It is much better. 

When I see people talking about not needing something, that their earlier struggling days were better, they're saying that because many people are struggling, and they're trying to connect with people. But I seriously doubt that they want to go back to the struggle, when they weren't sure if they could pay their rent or eat three meals or go out for dinner or drinks with friends. Even going on vacation seems like a luxury to a lot of people. The posers are nostalgic for "simpler" times while their bellies are now full and they can shop wherever they want. But if they lose it, they'll want the richer times much more.

p.s. Amazon Kindle book and print book at the Eckhartz Press site, www.wickerparkwishes.com

10.04.2021

Fictionalizing what people aren't sharing

I recently read an article in the Chicago Tribune about a lawsuit "alleging radio star coerced sexual favors," which made me wonder why the Me Too movement hasn't touched the Chicago TV and radio scene. A lot of people in national media and movies have come forward with allegations, but not even a handful of people here in Chicago have spoken publicly about any kind of incidents. And not much seems to have been shared in other cities, even though I know it has happened at various radio and TV stations throughout the country.

Even though the "Me Too" phrase started in 2006, the movement didn't really blow up online until more than ten years later. But because I'd seen and heard various things in the media biz, I wrote a fictional piece about a Me Too-type of situation in 2009. It was in an anthology that my business published called Down the Block, which includes more than 15 authors' and bloggers' pieces (read the book below). One reader seemed to be impressed that I'd written something way before the Me Too movement. Another reader thought that I'd experienced this story, but honestly, I never have. But there are people out there who have had a similar experience, and have stayed silent. Why? 

Mister P

Mr. P lived in a penthouse near the Swissotel, right on the Chicago river. That’s where he prepped for his radio show, which was number one in Chicago. I had to go there because I was his producer, and he always had an open bottle of wine, which he knocked off during our meetings. He never offered me any, which was fine with me, because I was afraid of what I might say if I got even a bit tipsy. We’d meet there in the early afternoon, after he took his long nap and after I returned calls from desperate PR reps who wanted access to his near-million listeners.

He always liked calling me “babe” and it never stopped annoying me, but there was nothing I could do, because there were only a few shows in Chicago, and I didn’t want to leave radio. In a normal company, I’d be able to go to HR to complain about him, or at least would be able to talk to our supervisor, and there would be an understanding that such treatment wasn’t right, but the Program Director at the station was a good friend of his from junior high, and since his hobby was collecting candid photos of barely dressed teens off of MySpace to post on his office wall, there was no way I could talk to him about it. So I just ignored the “babe” and “sweetie” names, and I’d focus on the next day’s run-down, which Mr. P wouldn’t look at until right before he went on the air. Which made me wonder why I had to go to his place to prep, because he could care less about what was going on, as long as he kept getting his million-plus paycheck and could keep paying his ex-wife alimony, while I did all the work to put the show together.

“You know doll, you never told me if you have a boyfriend,” he said and leaned over until his belly spilled over his pants.

“I do,” I lied. There was no way I was going to let him know anything about my personal life. Or anything else, because I just wanted to put in my time with his show, pack my resume with experience, and move on to something better – and more normal.

“I remember when I dated this girl, I met her at my last station in Milwaukee,” he said, and continued telling me stories of how and where he bagged her, then chuckled when he told me she cried when he blew her off to move to Chicago.

“Lovely,” I said, staring at my laptop to find a good story for the 7:00 hour. I really wanted to tell him off, but I couldn’t because I needed this job to get ahead, and that’s what I kept telling myself as he continued to talk about himself, as he always did, no matter what the topic was.

“You ever do anyone at the station?” he asked, pouring more wine into his goblet, which had his face on it and the name of one of the show’s biggest sponsors.

“No,” I said, and tried to divert his attention away with a juicy story of Mayor Daley once again denying corruption in the city, but he ignored it, of course.

“I did – every station I’ve worked – keeps you on edge. You never know if someone will walk in, ha ha.” His double chin jiggled while he let out a snort.

There was no way I could sit there any longer.

“Yeah, well, I’ll see you tomorrow,” I said, and packed up my things. I started to make my way towards his private elevator, and thought I was free until I felt a tug of my sleeve.

“Where you going?” he asked. He had a cigar in one hand and an almost-empty wine bottle in the other. “You want a glass?”

“No – I’ve gotta go,” I said, and was almost on the elevator when he suddenly pulled me back.

“Come on, we’ve been working together a long time.” He was so close, I could smell his cigar-wine breath, and could tell he doused a bunch of cologne on his lard to drown the body odor.

“I really have to go,” I said, and pushed the elevator button again since the door closed.

Then he pulled me back more violently, which made me fall to the floor. “Stop!” I yelled, and he pinned me down with his thick arms until I couldn’t move. “Help!” I screamed, but he stopped my speech with his slobbery smelly mouth.

I managed to free my legs enough to kick his flabby stomach, which was hanging over me. He slightly moved to the side, then tried to return on top of me, which just made me kick him harder. I kept kicking and kicking until he rolled to the side, and I ran out to the emergency exit, setting off an alarm. I flew down several flights of stairs and down to the street, where the sidewalks were filled with suited workers watching the tourist boats on the river. Everything looked normal, and it was even sunny outside, but I felt awful enough to take the next week off, because I was so broken inside, and could barely get out of bed.

So I was fired, and Mr. P even managed to get a smear piece written about me in the Times’ media column because the writer was a good friend of his, and he’d never believe my side of the story. Or care. Nobody cared, actually, because other people just saw it as a chance to try to get my job. So I took a break from radio.

Until now. I’m currently the Program Director of another talk station on the northwest side of Chicago, which I partly own thanks to some investors and my generous grandparents’ will. So I can hire who I want. And right now, Mr. P and his agent are sitting in my office, right in front of me, trying to convince me to hire him because his morning show was replaced with a syndicated one out of New York, and the new owners didn’t want to pay his high salary anymore. And now, Mr. P wants to work with me. At my station. So what do you think my answer is going to be?


p.s. Order and get info about my novel Wicker Park Wishes at the Eckhartz Press site, www.wickerparkwishes.com

9.06.2021

Let's Meet at Printers Row Lit Fest! Saturday 4:30-6, September 11th

If you are going to the Printers Row Lit Fest this Saturday, stop by to say hello! I will be there from 4:30-6 with Vicki Quade, author of Close Encounters of a Chicago Kind, in Tent K, which is the Chicago Writers Association Booth. You can buy a book right there, or you can also order the digital version at Amazon right now, if you want :)

Wicker Park Wishes

8.13.2021

Reading easier text helps my Japanese

I am still trying to maintain my Japanese, even though I have no opportunities to speak it or even hear people speaking it, unless I go to Mitsuwa, which is far from my house. Before the pandemic, I went there once or twice a month, but I've only been there once since the pandemic began. When I go there, I shamelessly eavesdrop, even if I have to linger around a food fridge for a while, because live-speaking native Japanese speakers are rare in my area (I'd probably have better luck in California). A couple of years ago, I wanted to buy a croquette ("korokke" コロッケ) and asked the guy who was in the food booth a question. He said he didn't understand English, and started to get someone else to help, but I told him I could understand it. We said a few words, and it was wonderful! Another time I tried to speak Japanese, and it was a bust. I was visiting a radio show and was speaking with a Japanese guy in English. His friend didn't understand English, so I spoke some Japanese. The English speaker kept interpreting what I was saying, which made me feel like my Japanese was awful. I think it was because I didn't remember all the words I wanted to use, and my accent and probably syntax weren't great. I kept thinking that if I were speaking Spanish (which I can read but can't speak) at the level I know Japanese, they would probably get what I was trying to say.

I've been following Japanese accounts on Twitter, and I often have to look up words. Because Japanese can maximize the character count there, the tweets are longer than English ones. Sometimes I start reading them and want to give up because they seem so complex, even within that small space. And the kanji is brutal. There are thousands of kanjis to memorize, and just when I think I have a handle on them, many more pop up.

That's why I really like NHK's News Web Easy. First of all, the news stories are simplified, so I am able to comprehend the meaning via the sentence structure. And if I don't know the kanji readings, I can click 漢字の読み方をつける and the page will show all the kanji readings, and then I can click 漢字の読み方を消けす to turn them off. I can also listen to audio of the story as I read it. The only downside is that there aren't many stories to choose from, but it's better than nothing!

NHK News Web Easy



There is always the option of finding an article and pasting it into Google Translate, then playing the audio button. I don't know what happened to my favorite translating/deciphering website, Popjisyo. Is it gone? Before Google Translate became more robust, it was the go-to site for understanding Japanese and eventually other Asian languages (though I only used the Japanese part). I loved that site! But I noticed that Rikai is still around. Maybe I should try that. 
Update: I just went to Popjisyo and it's back! Please don't go away, Popjisyo!

p.s. Order and get info about my novel Wicker Park Wishes at the Eckhartz Press site, www.wickerparkwishes.com

8.05.2021

I like making money

If I were paid well per hour, I would have made a lot more money than I have over the past couple of years, because I have racked up so many hours at my main part-time job and have stayed employed at my other gigs, that it would add up to a lot of dough. I have been working at different jobs simultaneously, and autumn looks like it's going to be super-busy as well, but I'm not getting rich. And that's okay, but I really wouldn't mind making a lot of money. I never have, and never cared if I did, but I've seen what it can do. Not only does it allow you to do more and decrease worry about being able to pay for things, but it really helps the economy and helps people live better lives.

This was clear when the pandemic hit last year. I live in an area with stores and restaurants, and they had to be closed, so people couldn't work. I ended up doing what I usually didn't do before: ordering out at least a few times a week to give the restaurants business. I saw the effect that few or no customers had on places, and even though I wasn't paid well, I was over-employed and didn't lose any work, so I used the money I made to spend elsewhere. I also sublet an office space when I could have easily worked at home, and I kept getting a monthly massage and eventually returned to the gym, and kept going to a trainer. I was really lucky that I could do all those things, and my employment still hasn't decreased. Now I'm thinking what else I could do if I had more money to spend.

There is a lot of consumerism, even conspicuous consumption, going on in my area. I don't know if the people who are buying luxury items or going to restaurants are thinking about the positive effect they're having on the economy, but they really are helping. Now I realize that if I were wealthy, I would gladly spend money at businesses and get various services. I wouldn't be irresponsible, because I've always lived within my means, but I'd do more. For instance, if I had tens of thousands of dollars to spare (and of course I don't make that much), I would get rid of my car and hire a driver every time I had to go somewhere. Many drivers could not work during the lockdown, and now they're catching up. I would gladly leave the driving to someone else, and it would give someone else money to pay their bills and improve their life. 

It's important to save for a rainy day; I've experienced underemployment and was laid off at one point, and couldn't find work and felt horrible. There have been times when my checking account didn't have much in it, so I could basically pay my bills and not do much else. Not having money is a real drag, and there are, of course, many people who are struggling throughout the world. Before the pandemic, I would look at busy places and think that I didn't have to spend anything there because people already were giving them business. But during the pandemic, there weren't many people around to patronize the businesses, so I realized my spending helps; it helps the people working there and helps those throughout the supply chain. Spending has become a way to help society, so now I'm seeing having money as more than just a buffer; when circulated, it goes in other people's pockets so that they can give their families more than just the basics.

I managed to travel a bit, spending a couple of days in Milwaukee and in Central Illinois. I was really glad to spend money on the hotels, restaurants, theater swag, and a museum membership. I wish I could do more, but I plan on doing what I can as I keep working and earning enough so that I have disposable income that can be shared in productive and enjoyable ways.

7.14.2021

The fake blog is older than I thought

I've been doing some radio/podcast interviews lately for my debut novel called Wicker Park Wishes (this is not blatant self-promotion, merely a fact for the purpose of this blog post), and people have asked me how I developed the main character because she definitely isn't based on moi, and the entire story is made up, actually. I mentioned the fake blog, and thought I had been writing it for a couple years, but I actually started it four years ago! I haven't written in it every day, but I've been in touch with it since then, and would have posted more if the pandemic's lockdown hadn't happened, because what can you post about when you [your character] can't go out?

I thought I wouldn't want to keep fake blogging because the novel is printed, and I've already reached the 50k mark of the second draft of the follow-up novel (which no one has requested, but I'm doing it anyway). But I've realized that if I keep working and getting tasks done and meeting deadlines and being busy with lots of non-creative work, I really need to break away to have fiction fun. Weirdly and luckily, I've been over-employed during the pandemic to the point where I'm sometimes working four gigs in one day. And while I like being busy and don't plan on retiring, I don't do work where I'm in my own world, in control of what I'm doing. I have to get stuff done for other people and make sure I am productive so that my uber-employment will continue. But sometimes I just feel very constrained and drained, so even if I don't have time or the head space for working on the second novel, I can still get satisfaction from expressing myself in the fake blog. 

And this goes back to what I've said before, in a post that I can't find right now, that doing something creative allows you to step outside of the mundane and trivial to do something that you shape yourself, that you have control over. For instance, if someone doesn't treat you well or if you feel like you can't express yourself in your job, you can channel your frustrations into what you want, and no one can get to it. There's a freedom and release when we create something, like we're taking a trip without physically leaving our space. Even just doing this blog post is energizing, so that I can resume my technical tasks in a timely manner so that I don't get in trouble.

When I started this post, I was planning on writing in the fake blog because I've been feeling like I'm approaching burnout, and haven't used my spare time to create anything. I keep telling myself that even if I spend 15 minutes writing something that has nothing to do with work, I'll feel better, but I haven't done that. I think it's because I'm tired and am trying to make sure I sleep and exercise enough. But now that I've finished this post, I have a bit of time before I have to work, so I'm going to some fake blogging now :D 

p.s. Order and get info about my novel Wicker Park Wishes at the Eckhartz Press site, www.wickerparkwishes.com