Saturday, October 22, 2022

Northshore Notes: Ending on a Koan

"Freedom of Speech" by Norman Rockwell.

     Myself, I have no trouble sleeping. It's staying awake that's the challenge. Still, listening to the rolling syllables of the good-night voice that our Northshore bureau chief Caren Jeskey links to today, I almost wished I had difficulty, just so I would have a reason to try drifting off listening to his rich brogue. 
 One of the joys of Caren's work is that she cracks open a door on a heretofore unconsidered realm of life, and I'm a little embarrassed to admit, in 40 years of column-writing, I don't think I've for one moment ever considered people's voices.

By Caren Jeskey

   “He lived at a little distance from his body, regarding his own acts with doubtful side-glances. He had an odd autobiographical habit which led him to compose in his mind from time to time a short sentence about himself…”
                                                              — James Joyce, Dubliners
     “There are only two cities in Ireland. Cork and Dublin. Corkonians dislike Dubliners, and vice versa. Cork is better, of course. It’s like Texas and Florida in the States.” 
     A benefit of internet life has been finding friends from across the pond (also the name of a music show I discovered on Sun Radio in Austin). This week it was hours with Irelanders and others with enchanting accents, one of whom made the declaration above. Give me the Scottish brogue of this kind person, who puts me to sleep each night, an accent that also still exists in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
     Could be dangerous, falling in love with a voice— (I know that from experience). I can sit back and just listen to their anecdotes and have had the best laugh of the year in one of these gatherings. A self-conscious verbose member ended his musings with utter confusion, so declared that he'd end on a koan and muted himself.
    A friend in Reykjavik (who was excited that "Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga" is one of my favorite recent movies) has a voice in the íslensku máli. I'd listen to her read a phone book (a compliment I borrowed from an audience member after the compelling conversation between Neil and Dilla recently. No surprise that others find “listening to Icelandic is a form of time travel," and I'm looking forward to my friend speaking to me in her native tongue so I can sit back and feel the brain changes that come with soothing, novel sounds.
     This group and I have a good craic a few times a week, swapping our recovering Catholic stories and such. A retired gentleman flashed back to his laddie days in a small UK town. “There was food on the table when the nun came that was not there when she wasn’t coming. She’d only come every four years.” There was tension in the house before and during her visit, as his mother flew into a cleaning frenzy to make it presentable enough. He felt relieved that the nun only made it (as a missionary) quadrennially and no more. He recalls the towering figure in a crisp white habit casting a shadow over his sinful self. 
     During her last visit he hid between his bed and the wall to avoid her, since he had not been keeping up with his confessional obligations. She died three days later. His eyes teared up as he shared this. “She was trying to say goodbye to me.” Attachment to others— even those we fear— is a funny thing, often with subconscious roots.
     I am out of practice with real people. I saw my first client in two and half years in person, and now I'm scared to do it again (with record flu numbers predicted this season, compounded by the expected COVID winter surge coming up). That's why I was excited to get all dressed up for a benefit on Saturday for the Firehouse Art Center. Safe outings before it’s time to hibernate. When my brother offered to buy me two tickets my first reaction was panic. I have nothing to wear to a gala. Luckily, my Godmother (from my childhood Catholic days) Vilma and her kind daughter Linette became my fairies. They lent me the bedazzled evening dress Vilma wore to her 80th birthday celebration in her country of origin, before the pandemic stole our freedom. Back then, we all flew to Panama City, Panama, and celebrated with her for days. It was a privilege and honor to wear the dress I remember from a special time. I felt she was with me. She also lent me a white-hooded fur jacket. I hoped PETA would not spot me, and lavished in the warmth of this regal frock during the chilly Chicago gala night.
     As if to say "it's time," I had another occasion to mingle with a crowd at an exciting event this past Monday.Hair still blown out (professionally) from Saturday's party, (a style I cannot duplicate on my own), I adorned a pair of leggings and a sweater with Vilma's white jacket, happily getting a little more wear out of it before returning it. Who knew getting dressed up, after years in comfy clothes, could be such fun? I parked on Lincoln Park West and Fullerton, and made the windy walk to none other than RJ Grunts for Neil Steinberg's book party. (You can catch him in Evanston coming up in November). The scene was as much Park Avenue as you can imagine- with the down home vibe of Sweet Home Chicago.
     “When the short days of winter came, dusk fell before we had well eaten our dinners. When we met in the street the houses had grown sombre. The space of sky above us was the colour of ever-changing violet and towards it the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns. The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed. Our shouts echoed in the silent street.”
               ― James Joyce, Dubliners


  1. I know it sure is a bummer to get sick and like nobody wants to die that's for sure. Well maybe some people but I went to a dinner party last week. There were six people there. Five of them have COVID right now I don't. I got it twice so far. I guess I'll probably get it again sometime because I'm taking absolutely no precautions and never really hardly think about it even though there's nearly 400 people a day dying from it.
    I prefer not to pick and choose who I want to be around and who I'm comfortable being around or what circumstance. I'm comfortable being in with them based on COVID or the flu for that matter. I got my vaccinations and I'm just living my life.
    Last year my 82-year-old mom got the COVID. Fairly certain I didn't give it to her. She made her 83rd birthday on September 9th and then died on September 19th. No COVID involved. I know it's a big deal. COVID is a problem but yeah I just got to live my life. I'm at a wedding today in Kansas City. 200 people are here?

    1. I get it! Glad you did not get COVID again at the party. I'm very sorry to hear you lost your mother. Sending good wishes.

  2. For my wife and me, getting it once was enough for a lifetime. We want our February and March of 2021 back. Even now, neither of us has the stamina we had before the Plague. Until the winter of '21, I didn't feel like the seventy-something that I am. I do now.


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