POST 35 Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes….

bowie1…turn and face the strange.

David Bowie  — 1971

We all have to change, whether we want to or not. Tomorrow won’t be the same as yesterday. So right now, before I lose my courage, I will admit to the world, I have changed. I have become (at least a little bit) a fan of the Chicago National League Baseball Club, also know as “The Chicago Cubs.” Now I know, some of you will hate me for this, call me names, a traitor, a bandwagon jumper. But it really  has been fun, watching these guys play the last few days.  I have struggled so much with this spiritual transformation that I  watched Monday’s Game 3 wearing a White Sox Tee shirt, and Tuesday’s clincher wearing a Blackhawks one. So far I don’t own any Cubs paraphernalia but by World Series time I may feel the urge to go and buy a Kris Bryant bobble head doll.

Of course this is not the only time I have changed my mind. I don’t like to think of myself as a flip-flopper, but as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” (For those of you keeping score, this is my first and probably last RWE quotation.) Other times I have done a full 180, remote or recent, include:

  • “I love living in the city.” I love my wife, suburbs here we come.
  • “I will never have a dog.” First 12 years of Murphy, now about the same with Max.  At least we still have cat #5, even if I can’t remember her name.
  • “WDRV is the best radio station around.” I was a big fan of this classic rocker until the “AC/DC,Van Halen, Aerosmith” sound took over the playlist. Too much macho. Now I settle in with ‘XRT.  They even play some new music!
  • “Golf is a great way to spend a summer day.” The worst day of my golf career? The day the heads snapped off of two of my clubs on the driving range. The best day of my golf career? The day after I broke those clubs and gave up the game forever. One day later my passion for tennis was born. Not even a broken racket has stopped that one… yet.
  • Game of Thrones? I don’t like fantasy shows.” Can’t wait for next season to begin.
  • Walking Dead? I don’t like zombie shows.” OK, I was wrong about this one too. Same for Breaking Bad.
  • “Woody Allen makes great movies.” Irrational Man. End of subject.
  • And finally,  “Moving now and building a new house is the most insane thing we could possibly do.”  Oops.

May all your changes be for the best.


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POST 34 and Rhythm and Rhyme and Harmony…..

dobie…you’ve helped me along, makin’ me strong.

“Drift Away”, Dobie Gray, 1973

If you ask me, it is all about the rhythm. That doesn’t mean that I have a lot of it or that it comes naturally. A few years ago Barb and I took months of dance lessons from a very good dance instructor. I learned the mechanics well enough, right foot here, left foot there, give a little twirl. But when it came to Barb and I dancing the night away at Mike and Becca’s wedding, it took a drink or two before I felt the rhythm, making those steps feel natural.

Got to get the rhythm in sports too. I watched a few football games this weekend. Northwestern, trounced by Michigan, never had any rhythm at all. Every player seemed a step slow. In contrast,  the Bears played in sync on Sunday, even when trailing. They made some mistakes and had to fight hard to win the game, but they had a rhythmic flow about them, and even commented about it in post-game interviews.

In tennis, got to get that beat going. When I don’t have it, I  miss shot after shot, I am in the wrong place every time, I watch every  ground stroke whiz past me. But then, if it is one of the good days, the rhythm starts to flow. It starts with a song bouncing around in my head.  It might be a new song that I have just heard on the radio. Or maybe it is an old favorite from Bruce, or from Bono and the boys.  I start to hum along, and my game starts humming too. The play slows down for me. I feel like every incoming shot is guided to my racket, every lob I hit just kisses the edge of the base line. I gain  confidence at the net. My partner and I sync up, just like Torvill & Dean winning the gold. The feeling doesn’t last for long, and it doesn’t make up for my lack of skill, but it does remind me why I keep playing tennis.

Surprisingly, rhythm is part of writing too. Barb says she always recognizes anything that I have written, and I think that is because everyone writes with a rhythm as individual as a fingerprint.  It’s more than the word choices or the subject matter.  It’s the way the puzzle pieces fit together, different from how anyone else would have placed them. It is why a dialogue written by Aaron Sorkin or a song by Neil Diamond is so recognizable. When I write, I always try to be true to that rhythm in my head. Just as in tennis or dancing,  I don’t always hear or feel it easily. I have learned that it can take a lot of rewrites to say what I want to say in the way that I want to say it. Back in the pre-computer age when I was typing term papers on my manual typewriter, I would really grumble about those rewrites. Good thing I wasn’t trying to write blogs then too!

On the house front (didn’t think I would get to that, did you) we have gotten the go ahead from the Homeowners Association! A few changes required, some costly, some not, but nothing that will slow us down. Now it is the hands of the Village to get us permits before the first frost hits. Pick up the rhythm; pick up the pace.

A good week to all of you.

Oh give me the beat boy and free my soul..gotta get lost in your rock’n’roll

And drift away

POST 33 You Must Remember This….

bogie…A Kiss is Still a Kiss

As Time Goes By — Herman Hupfeld, 1931

Immortalized by Dooley Wilson, Casablanca, 1942

Barb and I love going to the movies, and “Still Alice” is the best one we have seen this year. Julianne Moore’s portrayal of a university professor suffering as her memory fades away, a consequence of early onset Alzheimer’s Disease, is haunting. A terrific award winning performance.

Memory is such a tricky thing. Who understands what we remember and what we forget. Barb and I are constantly saying to each other “Don’t forget to remind me to buy toilet paper next time we are at shopping.” And sure enough, there we are wondering down the supermarket aisle, and both of us will totally forget about buying the toilet paper, or peanut butter,  or walnuts, or seltzer water. It is amazing how much money we can spend at the grocery store considering we can barely remember why we went there in the first place. And then there was the time we couldn’t remember how to get out of a Walmart; we just couldn’t find the door! I still have nightmares about that one. Barb also tells me we had a knock down drag out fight with the builder of our current house 25 years ago. I have conveniently blocked that memory out for good, or I don’t know if I would be so eager to be building now.

On the plus side, my ability to remember music is pretty uncanny. I can name that tune in one note, and I don’t need any clues. A wailing sax note  (Baker Street, Gerry Rafferty) or a suspended in the ether guitar chord (A Hard Day’s Night, The Beatles) is enough to set all my synapses flickering and before you even know there is a song on the radio my brain can dump out a Wikipedia’s worth of information.

Remembering names and faces, now that is my real downfall. Vendors pass through my office almost daily . I have pleasant conversations, learn something new, and send them on their way. I could meet the same rep on the street the next day and not know who they are. Sadly, the same is true for people I meet at parties, weddings, funerals and bat-mitzvahs. So no, I am not being rude, stuck up or intentionally ignoring you, I just can’t place the face. Want me to remember you? Sing me a song, Mr. Piano Man!

I know there are all sorts of memory tips out there. Say the name of a person when you meet them and again at the end of the conversation. Associate the name with an obvious physical trait. Maybe that works for some of you, it doesn’t work for me. But here is my list of things that do help me remember.

  1. Write myself a note. Useful if I can find paper and a pen with ink or a sharpened pencil before I forget what I wanted to write down. The usefulness is also inversely proportional to how tiny my handwriting is on any given day.
  2. Write myself a note on my hand. I don’t actually do this, but someone in my lab does. I just can’t remember who it is.
  3. Stick a Post-It Note on my computer. Helpful, but I wind up ripping them off when they block everything on the screen.
  4. Put a Sticky Note in my computer. This is one I really like.  A program called “Stickies” puts images of sticky notes in my monitor that can be made to disappear and then reappear at a later time. The problem is that when the notes reappear I can never remember what they are referring to.
  5. In tennis matches, I say the score loudly before every point. This also has the added benefit of annoying your opponent, but aren’t mind games worth a point or two?
  6. Tattoo the important information onto my body. Not something I have ever done, but “Prison Break”, “Memento” and “Blindspot” all use this as plot devices, and see how well I remembered those. Ok, I will admit it. I did a Google search to remember that last one.
  7. And that leads to the last helpful tip: Google.  ‘Nuff said.

Barb is out of town for a few days. Hope she remembers me when she gets back. That kiss is still I kiss.

POST 32 Teach…

csny…Your Children Well

Graham Nash/Crosby Stills Nash and Young

Deja Vu, 1970

The first email in my inbox this morning was from a former employee, telling me about her new career in environmental science. I got out my scalpel and cut another notch on the doorpost.

We hire a lot of young people here as laboratory assistants. Since we require a Bachelor’s Degree in a science field, but don’t pay a “scientist’s” salary most of our recruits have just earned their college diploma, are planning on grad school, and just guessing what their future careers will be. We know coming in that they won’t be long-timers here. I guess it can be considered a paid internship. While here, they transition from a college life style to the discipline of being at a job at 5:15 every morning.  They handle a wide and constantly growing set of duties. They learn to troubleshoot. And the best of them teach us a few things too.

I help these “kids” with grad school applications and am always pleased when down the road they ask me to be a reference for their first professional job application. The roster of careers our alumni have moved to is quite impressive. Our first lab hire is now a Masters trained Pathologist Assistant. Since then we have nurtured future physicians, nurses, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, research scientists,  and as of today, two environmentalists! Of course Barb and I are proud of our own kids, but I am also very proud of these young men and women. I hope to keep chopping notches in the door for a long time to come.

On to the music. A CSNY concert in the early ’70s is the first “real” concert I ever attended. I remember sitting in the very furthest reaches of the old Chicago Stadium. The marijuana smoke was so thick I could barely see the stage. The band sounded pretty good that night, but I don’t think they have aged very well.  David Crosby may be thriving since  his liver transplant, but can someone please create a voice transplant for Stephen Stills?

“What about the house?”, you ask. The pictures in the right column of the blog now include a rendering of the exterior, along with a comment from the architect. And Barb meets today with our interior designer. The house will only look as good as the things we put into it, but with Barb’s eye and taste, I think style and class are a given. I hope the designer can keep up with her!

As for tonight, even this unrepentant Sox fan can cheer on the Cubs. Any readers remember the “Go Go Cubs” buttons with Hebrew style lettering we sold back in the 60’s as a temple fundraiser? Wonder what one of those is worth today!

POST 31 Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind…

…you pick up on spoonfulone and leave the other behind.

The Lovin’ Spoonful — 1965

No looking back now. We crossed our Rubicon last week when we signed the “build” contract. Now all efforts are on moving forward. It really is a life changing decision. Just having made it is a relief, which is not to say there won’t be any doubts along the way! But it made me thinking about decisions that I have made, either with or without Barb, through the years. And since lists are always fun, and since I don’t have to compete with David Letterman any more, here we go.

Top Ten Decisions

10. Pushing the button: This blog is fun to write and hopefully fun to read too. But there is a button at the bottom of the WordPress app that reads “Publish.” The decision to press that button is never made lightly. Every word is read and reread. Does this say what I mean? Is there a better way to get a point a cross? Is it “who” or “whom”?

9. Go Go White Sox:  I remember when I was 5  years old being asked by my dad if I was a Cubs or White Sox fan. I have absolutely no idea how I made the decision, but for some reason I squeaked out “White Sox.”  More than fifty years later I have been able to celebrate one more World Championship than I would have if I had decided the other way. Of course, the next few years may easily change the balance of those scales. Despite my loyalty to the Pale Hose, I was not able to convince Michael to follow in my footsteps, as Sammy Sosa enticed him into becoming a Cub fan. At least we share a love of the 5-0, 13th ranked  NU ‘Cats!

8. Evanston vs. Champaign: Speaking of Northwestern, my college choice is still something I wonder about. For financial reasons, I could either go to University of Illinois in Champaign, or go to Northwestern and live at home. Northwestern won out, and I value the education I got there, but I do have regrets that I did not experience campus life. Who knows, I might even have met Barb a few years earlier and we could be closing in on our 40th anniversary! (More on that choice coming up.)

7. What do you want to do with your life?: Lots of science courses, and a few role models here and there, made the decision to go into medicine pretty straight forward. Journalism lost out, as did computer science. I still wonder what Silicon Valley might have held for me.

6. Really? Really?: My turning to Pathology caught a lot of people by surprise. Weren’t pathologists nerdy people who couldn’t talk to people and were most happy cutting things up in the hospital basement? Well, um yeah! Sign me up! Actually, it has been a great decision, allowing me to practice medicine and have a wonderful family life. I have always had time to be with Barb, to enjoy time with the kids, and to treasure being a grandpa.  No regrets on this one.

5.  Can I start a lab?:  Hard to believe that it is more than 10 years since my career changed dramatically as I left hospital pathology to create a laboratory for UroPartners. Many factors influenced that decision, and a lot of sleepless nights (actually sleepless months) followed, but I am very proud of what we have here. Each step, from layout, to hiring, to getting up and running brought new challenges, but I have to say that we are looking good!

4. The Sandwich Generation: While we parent our children, we reach the point where we parent our parents as well. The decision to insist that my mother and her sister relocate to a senior living home was a distressful one for them, but it was necessary and provided each of them with several years in the appropriate environment. This was a big one, and one that I could never have accomplished without Barb’s help. She really dug in and got it done.

3. The middle school is losing its lease, something has to be done!: This one probably had more unforeseen consequences than any other. Twenty six years ago the grammar school district was creating an advisory committee — community members needed to help make a decision about building a new school. Volunteering for that committee led to a cascade of events culminating in 16 years on the Stevenson High School Board of Education, 6 years as Board President, the proud moments of winning numerous awards, and the even prouder moments of presenting both Laury and Michael with their diplomas. And wonderful connections with people who inspire me still, connections that developed well before the time of  LinkedIn.

2. Riveredance!!!  (oops, I mean Riverwoods!!!): Yes, this new home is a big decision. But I know it is a good one.

And the number one big decision: Ok, this is obvious. Asking Barb to marry me has been the best decision I ever made. Except,,,,I didn’t ask her, she asked me!  But I was the one who asked Barb out for our first date (polo and pizza) and got the ball rolling, so I will consider this my decision. For all our years, thanks, Babe.


Since we started with a Lovin’ Spoonful song I will end with my favorite.

Can you guess what it will be?  Click and find out.

POST 30 Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha! You Can’t Fool Me ….

marx….. There ain’t no Sanity Clause!

Fiorello (Chico Marx)–A Night at the Opera, 1935

Pop the cork and pour the champagne, Wednesday night it finally happened. Picture the moment. Barb and I stare down the builder and architect, eye to eye and face to face. We pull out our pens, they pull out their pens. A last moment of hesitation. Finally, we all sign on the dotted lines. Shazam! We have a contract to build our semi-jumbo-downsizer.

Of note, unlike the iconic bargaining scene between producer Groucho and agent Chico, our negotiations did not consist of cutting and cutting and cutting (on either the house OR the contract.) The original document presented by the builder ran 17 pages. Then we added 2 pages of specifications and 6 pages of drawings that all needed to be referenced. Finally our attorney protected us with 43 numbered clarifications and additional points. I am surprised there ISN’T a reference to Santa Clause, or the Easter Bunny for that matter.

So are we pleased with the product of all our work? I think so. We managed to keep all the spaces we wanted, though some are a bit tighter than we had hoped. We tend to live in the kitchen, and the new one will be designed for  both our daily needs and  for all the guests who like to hang out with Barb when  she prepares for a dinner party. There are enough bedrooms and playrooms, AND space for a first floor litter box for Princess, Kitten, Phoebe.

Now the plans are off to the Homeowners Association Architectural Board for their review and approval. No one seems to know quite how long this will take, and if any revisions will be necessary. So far, all the Board has asked is that we keep the “lawn” mowed. I like easy requirements! After the Homeowners agree that we are in compliance with their dreaded monotony code (yawn) it will be the Village’s turn to sift through the plans and give the final go ahead. At least we don’t need state approval. I suspect Illinois hasn’t been paying many of its inspectors lately!

Who has a favorite “home” song? Now that things are moving along I am working on a mix tape to play at next years move in open house celebration,  to which you are of course all invited. I’ll start with Crosby Stills and Nash’s “Our House.” What comes next? Leave your suggestions in the Comment box.

Have a great weekend everyone.

“……there is always a schmuck with a pen.”—A. Simon, circa 1988

POST 29 Truckin, I’m a Goin’ Home….

truckin…whoa oh baby, back where I belong.

Grateful Dead-1970

A pharmaceutical company provided the laboratory and business office with breakfast via a  food truck this morning. Lots of great looking pancake combos on the menu, but I opted for the overly sweet “healthy” choice of the yogurt- granola-  fruit parfait. Healthy–right, who am I kidding! At least it gave me enough energy to write a blog post, and led to an obvious opening line to boot.

As far as “goin’ home,” is concerned, yesterday we took a break from the design process. Barb and I spent part of the evening at a joyous celebration,  a “brit milah” or ritual circumcision. Mazel Tov to the baby’s family, particularly the  grandma,  a fellow pathologist and theater lover. She and I have plans to co-write a musical set in a morgue. If you don’t subscribe to Variety, just read future installments of this blog to know when the show makes its off-off Broadway debut. I will have free tickets for all our readers.

This morning the house project got back on track. AT 7 a.m. we received a revised set of exterior drawings from the architect,  and a meeting with the him and the builder is scheduled for this evening. One thing that I have had difficulties with is taking the two dimensional drawings and translating them in my head into a full widescreen 3D rendition.  It is hard for me to look at the outside elevations and recognize what will be in the foreground and what will recede and how the various roof lines will interact. Fortunately, Barb has a good grasp of the spatial arrangements, and has even lent the architect a guiding hand. So  with enough Keurig K-Cups and a fresh cinnamon coffee cake to keep everyone comfortably buzzed, I think might finally get to the starting line tonight, and maybe, maybe, catch a glimmer of the finish line in the distant haze.  Barb and I will have to be The Marathon Men. Better that than being The Mad Men, a designation I believe I have heard from some of you!

Time to wrap this up, as I just noticed that the leftover pancakes were delivered to our break room. Got to get some while they are still warm. No gluten issues here. Dine on!

gdSometimes the lights all shinin’ on me

Other times I can barely see

Lately it occurs to me

What a long, strange trip its been!