Friday, November 28, 2008


When our daughter Lillian was about five years old, she started thinking about the natural end of all the things she knew. She started thinking about dying and death.

I don't know why she did, but she did, and it made her sad and worried. She didn't want to lose her mother and me and her grandparents to death, and she was frightened that she would.

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Because she was a bright kid and a problem solver, she tried to think of a solution, some way around death, and the solution she thought out was her own personal vision of heaven.

Heaven, she figured, would be a place where she and her parents and all the people she loved would live in some perfect place, interacting with all her favorite characters from all her favorite books.

It sounded great, and I used to love to hear her talk about it. She and Linda and I would be in the same perfect place as the characters in Laura Ingalls Wilder and C. S. Lewis. We would have lunch in a park with Laura and Lucy and Edmund and Susie and Peter and Aslan, the compassionate, kind, loving God of this Heaven.

I loved to hear about Lillian's vision because her vision of heaven would have been more pleasant than mine.

My favorite books were Crime and Punishment, Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz, Grapes of Wrath, Sound and the Fury, and Toni Morrison's Beloved. Gloomy books, every single one of them.

And I knew that my heaven wouldn't be the golden place Lillian's heaven was. My heaven would be a sad place, a heaven-noir where every day would be filled with rain and snow, misery and grief. In the dark gray shadows of that heaven, we would all huddle around in the cold talking the language of loss.

God would be a penniless peddler with an empty push cart.

Lillian is now 29 years old, and sometimes when I'm thinking too much about Dostoevsky and Morrison and Faulkner, I call her up and say, "Hey, Lillian, remember the time you imagined that heaven was a place where you and Laura and your mom and me would play tag?"

And Lillian says, "Yes, I sure do, I remember when Aslan would ...."

(The photo above is of Lillian and my dad and my mom's brother Uncle Walter.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Kitchen Remodeling

Linda has been asking me (I won't say nagging) to get these pictures of the remodeling up. Here are the pictures and some words Linda wrote about the project:

Hi, everyone. You suffered with me during the remodeling. Here are photos of the finished project (well, not quite finished, we're still waiting for a shelf, but I am not going to ask again unless I get another bill. Billing stopped a month ago, so I figure I'm somewhat ahead right now on all of this).

John's posting before and after pictues. We did wind up losing my lovely built-in spice cabinet, a project I did myself this summer, but I was willing to lose it to get the rest of the job completed.

Wood floors, granite countertop, built-in microwave, under-the-counter sink, gas range -- we're hoping this will all come back to us when we sell the house. In any case, this is part one of the project. John will do a blog with photos of the remodeled bathrooms after we get this first blog on the kitchen up.

Here are the before pictures:


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And these are the after pictures:




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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Joe Biden Rally

I haven't been as active this election year as in the past. Probably it's because of the remodeling we've been doing and the fact that Linda recently retired and we've been travelling a lot. It's been hard to find time to canvas and answer phones and walk around trying to get the vote out.

But I did do one significant thing this time around that may -- in fact -- guarantee the election of Barack Obama.

I went to a political rally at the community market in Danville, Virginia.

Here's a picture a police officer at the rally took for my neighbor Kelly Brande:

Now, I got to explain what I meant when I said that my being at this rally may guarantee the election for my fellow Chicagoan, Barack Obama.

In my life I have seen three Democratic politicians who were running for president. I attended rallies for John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Bill Clinton. Each one of them became president. I never saw Mondale or Dukakis or Kerry, and -- not surprisingly -- none of those fellows became president.

How can I explain this? Well, really I can't -- it's like so many of the great truths, a mystery from top to bottom, port to starboard.

Truth be told, I did see one Democrat who didn't become president. That was Al Gore, but his not getting to be president doesn't really deny the power of my gift. He did win the election but was robbed.

I hope that doesn't happen again