Monday, October 31, 2011

Dear Sirs:

Back in 1994 when I was a first-year monk in a monastery, one of the elderly monks, Fr. Placid, asked for my assistance in getting his little computer to print a letter he had written. We went to his room, and there it was -- an original MacIntosh, circa 1984.

Fr. Placid, being 82 years old and having very little experience at word processing, had painstakingly written a letter to a book publisher, inquiring about the availability of a book on theology he wished to purchase. I can still remember the letter in great detail. It was something one would see in a bygone era:

Dear Sirs:

I would like to purchase one copy of “XXX” by xxx, published in New York, May, 1984. If you have copies available, would you kindly consider this a purchase order and mail a copy to me at the above address with invoice enclosed? I shall gladly remit payment by money order upon receipt.

If you have any questions, I can be reached by telephone at 214-xxx-xxxx during business hours except on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. during which time I am teaching at the university.

Very truly yours . . .

I had to smile when I saw that letter he had spent so much time writing. He would type one letter, look at the screen to see if it was there, type another letter, and so on.

I discovered the problem with getting it to print. He was using Word 1.0 – one point O – and the printer just wouldn’t recognize it anymore.

We finally managed to print his letter. But rather than mail it to the “dear sirs” at the publisher, I kindly called the local Borders, ordered it, and charged it to my credit card.

But I had to hand it to the old guy.

Here he was, 82 years old and bangin' it on a computer. Good for him. His letter was expertly written even though English wasn’t even his native tongue. I doubt that his letter would have been acknowledged at all, though it would have been the means by which one would procure a book by mail back in 1935.

Nowadays, the publication would simply be ordered online from Amazon or downloaded to a Kindle. Calling a Borders these days, if you could find one, would be as archaic as him writing a “dear sirs” letter to the publisher.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Some Things DO Change

It’s been thirty years since I was an undergraduate in a college music department, but after all these years, I’m back. I’ve been taking private voice lessons from an instructor at a school for the performing arts in Chicago and really enjoying it. (I’m now singing countertenor in the church choir at the Episcopal cathedral.)

Anyway, the other night, my voice teacher said that he had to attend a student’s recital in order to proctor it. After culling my distant memory, I was able to recall what “proctoring a recital” meant.

Students majoring in music are required to attend at least ten performances every semester as part of their music education. I remembered having to do this: You attend a performance or recital and afterward, you look for the teacher who’s proctoring the recital. You rush up to him immediately afterward and he initials and dates your recital card, documenting that you were there. At the end of each semester, you have to turn in your card showing that you attended at least ten performances.

It’s a means of ensuring that every music student is exposed to -- – music. (And also ensuring that every student’s recital has at least a spattering of people in attendance.)

So, my voice teacher had to proctor a recital last night. It brought back memories of frantically searching for the proctor who would document my attendance. Some things never change.

However, he said that things have changed considerably since then. He said that students nowadays will sit through an entire performance and . . . are you ready for this. . . .
text the whole time.


I was incredulous. I just couldn’t believe the audacity of these kids – music students – who lack the self-control to keep from texting during a recital.

These are aspiring artists for crying out loud; yet they feel it’s acceptable to do something inane as texting during the very thing they’re aspiring to do!

My voice teacher said that if he sees a student texting during a recital, he refuses to initial their card.


If some kid was texting during my performance, I’d stop, walk down and confront the little bastard right there.

And all his friends would suddenly be texting OMG and WTF.

Sigh. . .

Monday, October 10, 2011

I've Grown Up

I think I’m in danger of finally growing up. I’m doing something I never thought I’d ever do.
I’m buying a condo. 

That’s right. My own place to live; my own pad; actual real estate. 

Sure, it’s only a 550 sq. ft. studio, but I really like the idea of having something that I can pay off in ten years. Honestly, the real estate market here in Chicago became quite the buyers’ market. When I ran the numbers and realized I could actually buy something so easily, I couldn’t pass it up. 

So, yes, I’m growing up. I met with my realtor to go over the contract and I heard myself saying grown-up words like “association fees” and “discount points” and “sewer”. It all seemed pretty surreal. 

I’ve retained a real estate attorney all by myself just like a big boy. I’ve a lender who’s approved me to pay them money for the next fifteen years. Most importantly, I’ve enlisted the help of professional movers who have promised to disassemble and reassemble my computer desk – a horrible, foreboding task that I was dreading. 

My mortgage, condo fees, and taxes result in a monthly payment that’s considerably less than I’m paying in rent right now. Sure, I’ll miss living in my wonderful, goofy Marina Towers, but I just can’t pass up a deal like this. It’s a prudent move to make and one that employed mature foresight. . . . I’m growing up.

Compared to Marina Towers downtown, this place is pretty nondescript:

But that's okay.  With all those trees, I now refer to this place as "the country." Compared to downtown, it sort of feels that way.

This condo has lots of other pluses. It’s in the nice Edgewater neighborhood, it’s two blocks from the EL station, three blocks from a large grocery store and . . . are you ready for this . . . it comes with a washer and dryer. Holy-Mother-of-God -- no more traipsing down to the laundry room and fighting over washing machines. I can now wash my underpants with complete insouciance; with careless ease. 

Oh, and it gets even better. It’s one block from the beach on the lake. Not that I would ever actually go outside and walk on the beach (a repellant activity if there ever was one) but it’s there if I’m so inclined. 

Here is the nearby Repellant Beach: 

Here’s the biggest perk. Do you remember the apartment building that Bob and Emily lived in on The Bob Newhart Show? (I blogged about it a few years ago and someone posted a link to my blog on Wikipedia.) 

Here is their apartment building that was featured on the series:

Well, Bob and Emily will be my neighbors, just one block away. Isn’t that the coolest thing ever?

I remember growing up in my Little Bitty Home Town in Texas and watching Bob Newhart ride the EL from downtown, walk to his apartment building, and wishing I could live in such a cos-mo-politan environment. I didn’t think I’d ever get to.

Now, whenever I disembark from the train like Bob did, I can look up at his apartment building, think of that thirteen year old boy who never thought he'd get to live in a big city, and realize that he finally got to grow up.


Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Norma Jean

Here's a clever use for the giant statue of Marilyn Monroe in Chicago.

For some reason, Noah's family on the ark leaps to mind. . .  

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