Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The olivia Update

Just about every day, somebody asks me how Olivia is doing. (In fact, as I was typing that sentence, a coworker stopped at my desk and asked, "So, how's the cat?")

It's touching that so many people care about this little kitty (and, by extension, her person). Most of these people have never met Olivia. Most never will. But they all have (or have had) pets of their own. They all know what it's like to deal with a major illness in that pet. And most, if not all, have faced that moment when there's nothing left to do but stop fighting, let go and say goodbye.

Fortunately, we're not at that point yet. Each visit to the vet yields its share of good news and bad--progress on some fronts, challenges on others. Her blood test shows she's less anemic? Yay! It also shows her phosphorus is up? Boo! She gained a tenth of a pound last week? Cool! She lost that same tenth of a pound by the next visit? Not as cool. Her phosphorus level is going down? About damn time! Her creatinine (toxin) level is going up? Crap.

(That last one was serious enough to merit a rush visit to the hospital to check Olivia's blood pressure--which, as it turns out, is "terrific," to use the vet's own word for it--and, consequently, up her IV fluids to help the kidneys better flush the toxins out.)

Every challenge has been met by adjustments in treatment--more fluids or meds here, different or fewer meds there. I have to give herthe aforementioned fluids every day, along with an appetite stimulant now every other day), an antacid (by injection once a day) and a phosphorus binder in the form of a liquid squirted into her mouth (12cc per day, delivered in as many smaller doses as my schedule will allow).

To say she despises this process would be a vast understatement. Every time I have to give her the phosphorus binder, she tries to spit it back out at me or drool it out. Much of my apartment (and my clothing) is covered in white speckles. I always apologize after every treatment.

And, clearly, she forgives me. The photo above was taken right after such a session. She ran out of the bathroom, licked her "wounds" for a few minutes, then jumped up beside me on the couch, curled up and took a nap.

And that's how it goes these days. Olivia has her good days and bad. Sometimes she absolutely loves her kibble, sometimes she looks at me like I've just put a bowl of shit in front of her when I have, in fact, given her something she'd eaten and thoroughly enjoyed just a couple of days before. And, unfortunately, she figured out Ms. Christopher's old trick of hiding under the super-heavy Memory Foam bed to avoid medication/a trip to the vet. I finally had to disassemble the bed and let the mattress and box spring sit inside the frame rather than on it, leaving it flush with the floor. Olivia was not please.

Overall. though, the little girl's appetite and energy are definitely better than when I took her to the hospital six weeks ago. I'm feeding her a wide variety of foods, all lower in phosphorus than her beloved Friskies, and many times she kills the new stuff. She's responded well to the medication, and the hope is that she will keep responding well.

Even if I have to be realistic and accept that my vet and I are only postponing the inevitable, I can still enjoy the little triumphs and small bits of fun, like last night, when I did a load of laundry (still trying to get out those phosphorus binder stains) and accidentally picked up one of Olivia's favorite toys: a white pom-pon given to her by Dee at the last HMB. When I found it in the drier later, I tucked it into my pocket and, when I got back upstairs with the "clean" clothing (the binder stains still more or less in place), I tossed the pom-pon down the hall. Olivia immediately tore after it, swatted it around the hall and trotted back to me, pom-pon in mouth. I threw it down the hall again, and she brought it back again. We repeated this at least a dozen times. She even brought it to bed with her.

She's still here, still with me, still eating and pooping and calling to me from the living room window when I get home. We may have less time together than either one of us had hoped for, but we have the here-and-now. And that will have to do.

This Week's Travel Reading

Will Eisner is best remembered for being one of the founders of the comic book industry and for his long-running superhero, The Spirit. However, Eisner was also a pioneer in the evolution of the comic book into a less disposable and more respected literary form: the graphic novel.

The book pictured above collects three related graphic novels, the first of which (A Contract with God) was published in 1978, before the term "graphic novel" had become common; the other two novels in the collection, A Life Force and Dropsie Avenue, were published after both the term and the form had become more common.

The stories within were fueled by personal experience, if not a direct retelling of said experience. Some of his material stems from growing up in the tenements of the various boroughs of New York. Some cut far closer to the bone--the title story of A Contract with God stems from the death of Eisner's 16-year-old daughter from leukemia.

The intensity of the emotions Eisner calls upon give his stories here an edge that had rarely been seen in comics before. Some are sad, some angry, some hopeful in the face of despair. And they're all worth anyone's time to read.

On the Way Home Last Night...

A thunderhead rumbles across the South Side and out over Lake Michigan.

Every Picture Tells a Story 5/29/12

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday is Bring Your Super Hero with the Super Familiar Name (if not face) to Work Day

This is Captain Marvel. No, not the guy who says "Shazam!" and changes from a teenage boy into a superhero. This is the other guy at that other comic book company who touches his bracelets together and changes from a teenage boy into a superhero.

Comic books are confusing sometimes.

Every Picture Tells a Story 5/25/12

Thursday, May 24, 2012

At Lunch Today...

The Daley Center Plaza Farmers Market opened for the first time this year today, and I bought fresh basil plants. Yay! Pesto for everyone!

On the Way to Work This Morning...

Every Picture Tells a Story 5/24/12

The Chicago Theatre makes it clear that taking pictures with cameras or cell phones during performances is decidedly frowned upon, even though there were at least a dozen people around me snapping away--some even shooting video--without a peep from security except for the guy in front of me, who was told to knock it off. (The five guys in front of him who were doing the same or worse? Not a word to them.)

However, during intermission, I did take some pictures of faces around the theatre--and you all know how I love faces on buildings.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Where I'll Be Tonight

If you had asked me a year ago if I thought a Beach Boys reunion tour could ever happen, I'd have said not just "no," but "HELL NO!"

The reasons are many. Though the group never technically ceased to exist--lead singer and original member Mike Love has toured with numerous configurations of the band, often including Al Jardine (also an original member who's been in and out of the band over the years) and Bruce Johnston (who first joined in the mid-'60s) and various backing players (at one point, John Stamos was the drummer--no, really)--it hasn't been the same since Brian Wilson departed the group decades ago. The parting was not harmonious, with enough bad blood to send lawsuits and countersuits flying every which way.

Adding fuel to that fire was Wilson's subsequent solo career, which took a while to get going, but has been highly successful for more than 10 years. (I saw him a decade ago at House of Blues Chicago, and that concert remains one of the best shows I've ever seen.) Wilson's greatest solo success, in fact, was a revisit to the Beach Boys' most infamous projects: The never-completed album Smile, which Wilson re-recorded with his current backing band and finished writing with Van Dyke Parks. The results yielded not only adulation from his many fans, but critical success and robust sales as well.

Then there's the matter of mortality: Two of the band's founding members--Brian Wilson's younger brothers, Dennis and Carl--are both dead. (Dennis died in a drowning accident in 1983; Carl was taken by brain and lung cancer 15 years later.) So any possible reunion would be incomplete.

And yet, here we are, in 2012--50 years after the Beach Boys released their first single--and a reunion tour has been snaking its way across the country, arriving at the Chicago Theatre tonight.

The roster is as original as it can be without Dennis and Carl. Brian is on board, as are Love, Jardine, Johnston and David Marks (who briefly replaced Jardine in the early '60s, rejoined the group in the late '90s and had a pretty successful solo career in between). All reports indicate that the shows thus far have been amazing.

Tonight, I get to experience that for myself--well, as much as one can experience any performance from the high end of the balcony at the Chicago Theatre. (How people ever watched movies in this joint, I'll never know.) And I hope the protests of the NATO Summit (which wraps up today) don't interfere with the concert beyond making transportation more tricky than usual.

More anon.

Every Picture Tells a Story 5/21/12

Friday, May 18, 2012

NATO Protests, Such as They Are

This is about all I can see of the noon rally in Daley Center Plaza. From here, it really doesn't look that much different than an average Friday.

On the Way Home Last Night...

My path was strewn with roses.

If You Don't Hear from Me Monday...

Don't panic. I haven't been swept by a mob protesting the NATO Summit being held in Chicago from May 19-21. I'll be working at an alternate location well away from downtown (where all the protesting will be going down) and I won't have access to a computer for the day.

I likely won't be at this undisclosed location all day. I better not be--I have big plans for that evening. More on that anon.

Friday is Bring Your Extraterrestrial Crustacean to Work Day


Every Picture Tells a Story 5/18/12

Just in case this week seemed way too long and you were wondering where the hell the finish line's right here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Power of Proofreading

Since I work in downtown Chicago, I often take the opportunity on my lunch breaks to walk around and take pictures of the world-famous architecture around me. One of my most frequent subjects is the Chicago Theatre, long one of the greatest movie palaces in the world, now a live-performance venue that often hosts big-name music and comedy acts.

Yesterday, I wandered over there to take a picture of the marquee featuring the Beach Boys, who will be playing there Monday the 21st and Tuesday the 22nd. Something wasn't quite right, though: I checked online to be sure the show hadn't move due to the NATO Summit (which will clog streets here over the weekend and into Monday). Nope: According to both the theater's website and the email blast they sent out later Wednesday afternoon, the first Beach Boys show is indeed still on for Monday the 21st.

This is an important thing for me to know--I have a ticket for that Monday show.

When I passed the Chicago Theatre this morning, the marquee was still wrong, so I posted a comment on their Facebook page: "The marquee says the Beach Boys are playing the Chicago on May 20 & 22--it should be May 21 & 22. Anybody got a spare '1' for the marquee?" Shortly thereafter, they commented back "We found '1'!"

At lunchtime today, I wandered over to the Chicago marquee again. This is what I saw.

Every Picture Tells a Story 5/17/12

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday is Bring Your Gothic Soap Opera Vampire to Work Day

With the opening today of the big-screen adaptation of Dark Shadows--about which I've already expressed my concerns/doubts--I thought it would be a good time to revive, at least momentarily, Bring Your Action Figure to Work Day with this, um, lovely fellow. He's gotten reactions on both extremes: One coworker had no idea who he was, while another remembered running home after school to catch the latest installment of the gothic soap opera.

Every Picture Tells a Story 5/11/12

When I heard that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp were dragging Dark Shadows out of the development hell it had lingered in for years (ever since the short-lived prime-time revival back in the 1990s, really), I winced. Burton has become the retread king of Hollywood, helming remakes like Planet of the Apes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland and Sweeney Todd (technically not a remake, but an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's stage musical, which had two highly successful TV versions, both starring George Hearn as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street), all but one of which starred Depp.

Now we have this big-screen adaptation of the 1966-1971 gothic soap opera, and the trailer starts off like a straight adaptation, with Depp as Barnabas Collins, who loves Josette (Bella Heathcoate) and spurns the advances of Angelique (the lovely Eva Green). Unfortunately for Barnabas, Angelique is a witch, and she curses him to be a vampire. He is then buried for 200 years before being dug up and turned loose on modern-day New England. (The role was originally played by Jonathan Frid, who made a small cameo in this film before passing away a few weeks ago at the age of 87.)

This early part of the trailer looks wonderful (as, I must admit, all Tim Burton movies do) and, more importantly, serious. Depp's cry to Green of "What have you done?" as blood trails from his fingers and eyes is genuinely chilling, and the whole thing looks like an epic monster movie worth lining up for.

Once Barnabas wakes up, though, the trailer quickly shifts from gothic to gag, with the action focusing on slapstick, labored "This modern world is really weird" comedy and done-to-death '70s jokes (lava lamps! disco balls!), shoving the horror elements way to the margins or playing them strictly for (presumed) laughs.

I'll read the reviews, of course, but it'll take a lot to convince me to buy even a matinee ticket to this.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

On the Way Home Last Night...

Every Picture Tells a Story 5/8/12

I wasn't at work on Friday to post this shot of the hail that pummeled La Casa del Terror Thursday night, so here it is now. The hail fell for more than 15 minutes, and while Olivia didn't go into hiding, she couldn't effectively mask her concern under her usual guise of cool-kitty disdain.

Monday, May 7, 2012

This Week's Travel Reading

Everyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy horror films, especially the classics from the '30s and '40s (and the not-so-classics from those decades as well). JB knows this all to well; he is the only other person besides myself to attend every single HMB (and even hosted the event a few times). So when he picked birthday presents for me from my Amazon Wishlist, he chose carefully--and, as it happens, well.

Within the elegantly wrapped package pictured above were two presents: The box set of third season of Rod Serling's Night Gallery and the book pictured below. I am lucky enough to live in a city with a popular horror host--Svengoolie, who started out in 1979 and is now in his 17th(!) consecutive year on WCIU and now ME-TV (meaning he's now seen all over the country). This book covers him and dozens of others from all over America, from the famous (Vampira, Ghoulardi, Zacherly) to the obscure. So far, it's a very fun read--and very much the kind of book for me.

Throw in my two best, friends, JB and Dee, a fine meat loaf dinner (pictured below), several Bloody Marys and a lovely ginger waitress with the appropriate name of Colleen, and my day-later birthday celebration was quite a blast indeed!

Every Picture Tells a Story 5/7/12