The Position, by Meg Wolitzer

In this excerpt from The Position, 34-year-old Claudia has gone back to her old elementary school to visit her kindergarten teacher, Ms. Pernak:
But Doreen Pernak wore a cat pin with green eyes shining out from the matte finish of a 14-karat gold circle, and it seemed like the kind of gift that an entire class of parents would chip in to buy a teacher. And this would dictate the teacher's personal aesthetic. It could have been worse; she could have been forced to wear rigatoni earrings.

Mr. Charity

Yesterday when the temperature was 102, I looked out the window and saw a skinny grey squirrel across the courtyard. He was on a window ledge, sprawled out on his stomach and resting his head on the concrete, with arms stretched out in front and legs stretched out behind. He looked dehydrated.

I took a shallow bowl of water out to him, and placed it on the ground directly under his ledge. He jumped up and climbed up the building's brick wall, looking down at me from a safer distance. I went back inside and although I checked periodically, I never saw him approach the water.

This morning, I was happy to see the water bowl was dry. Sure enough, there was a stain on the wall where the squirrel had stood and peed against the brick. OK, I made that last sentence up. But I hope he got some water, because we really have had a drought in this part of Illinois.

The iPod that never was

"Ballad of the Green Berets" sung by Truman Capote

"Lay Lady Lay" sung by Porky Pig

and "We're All Alone" sung by Ethel Merman:

Close the windowwwwww
Calm the lights!
And it will be alRIGHT!
No need to bother nowwwwww
Let it out!
Let it ALLLL begin!
All's forgotten nowwwwww!
We're all alone

Apropos of nothing

Once there was a scandal involving a Republican president, and somebody recorded a novelty song (in waltz time) about the event as it became more public in 1973.

We're Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean
The way we've been treated is really obscene
To think that a bug worth hardly a shrug
Could end up by getting us tossed in the jug
We all got the gate for no reason or rhyme
You'd think we'd committed some horrible crime
Our minds may be dirty but our hands are clean
We're Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean

We're Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean
Our job was to see that the White House stayed green
We might have had flaws like bending the laws
But God only knows it was for a good cause
There's no power shortage where we were concerned
And what little profit resulted we earned
Four lovelier fellows you never have seen
Than Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean

We're Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean
Our past has been fat but the future looks lean
With backs to the wall we're taking the fall
But damnit we only robbed Pete to pay Paul
Just when we were getting to be well-to-do
The Watergate turned into our Waterloo
And now everybody is out to demean
Poor Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean

Yes we're Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean
We're perfectly willing to spill every bean
We've nothing to hide with God on our side
He knows we were only along for the ride
And so it won't come as a terrible blow
There's one little thing that we think you should know
Whatever we say isn't quite what we mean
We're Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean

Oh yes we're Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean
Things won't be the same when we're gone from the scene
But people will still recall with a thrill
Our sell-out performance on Capitol Hill
It just isn't fair to take all of the blame
When all we were doing was playing the game
Now all of Washington's caught in-between
Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean

The musical act was called the CREEP (Committee to Rip-off Each and Every Politician), and this information is courtesy of At the time the song was on AM radio, my little brother thought the song was about "Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Pickles and Beans."

Time in prison: H. R. "Bob" Haldeman: Nixon's Chief of Staff, served 18 months
John Ehrlichman: White House Counsel, served 18 months
John Mitchell: Attorney General, served 19 months
John Dean: White House Counsel, served four months
Convictions to the four included conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury.

Favorite reply

"Oh, he does that all the time."
-- The response of a Borders Books employee in Lincoln Park upon hearing a customer describe a man peeping into the stalls in the women's bathroom. From the Chicago Reader.

The new estate

This new condo takes a little getting used to. It's an older building and I've never had floors this uneven before. The good thing is that my chairs all have legs of unequal lengths, so by careful placement, none of them will wobble. The kitchen appliances are finished in black and aluminum, so when I had to buy a new toaster oven I picked out a black and aluminum one. It looks like Darth Vader's toaster oven. "These blueberry Pop-Tarts shall satisfy my hunger."

I descend the back stairs in the morning on my way to work and my hair collects the freshest cobwebs hanging from the low stairs overhead. When I get out to the sidewalk, you can recognize me as the guy brushing at invisible strands around his head.

Because I care

I've been skeptical whenever there's a news story about how saintly some recently diseased person was. Whether the cause of death was war, cancer, a traffic accident, or all three, it seems as if the dead person was always full of good works, giving all their time to charity, with never a bad day or moody temperament.

However. I now know a married couple who are just like that; they really do donate their free time to helping people with food or housing needs. They're also fun to be with, they're good conversationalists, and have good senses of humor (i.e., they laugh at my jokes).

So I worry. I'm afraid they're bound to die horribly unless I can get them to stop with all the volunteering. I'm just not sure how to break the news to them.


Before I moved to this neighborhood, I knew it was relatively safe. Still, I was curious about what the local police blotter report would say, so I looked it up online last week. It listed the addresses of recent police calls and arrests all over my part of town. A month's worth of reports showed an unusual amount of arrests happening at one building just a few blocks from my condo: battery, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, etc.

I had to check this out; I'd been walking all over the place running errands but didn't remember any really troublesome-looking building so close to home. Maybe this place looked well-kept on the outside, disguising whatever mayhem occurred at all hours of the day and night. It was a sunny day so I headed out to see the place for myself. As I approached the address, I realized that maybe I did remember what this building looked like. Ah yes, it's the police station.

Needs a second look

The front page of yesterday's Sun-Times looked a little odd. It had a big headline, but the photo under it was about another story. The big color photo showed two people crying and embracing, probably grieving over a death. The headline above the photo implied that there might be a smoking ban in Chicago restaurants soon. So the effect was a little misleading, on first impression.