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I just completed the ethics and workplace harassment training courses that corporate mandated for us earlier today. I’m pretty sure I’m the first one at the office to complete mine (even though we have, like, a month or so to finish them), which should earn me some kind of bonus, right? — but I’m pretty sure it won’t.

Nevertheless, I’m feeling all ethical and, like, trained, y’know?

Actually, I’m feeling kinda tired, thanks to waking up at 3 a.m. and then being completely UNable to get back to sleep until sometime after 5 a.m., and even then, only for a few minutes. Yet, I want to stay up for the 11 p.m. showing of The Shield — which, now that Eli Stone has returned, I’ve been forced to miss at 9 p.m.

But my eyelids, they are a-droopin’ …

I’m sick of election coverage, and the thought of “four more years” of Republican “leadership” scares me. As does the current economic situation. How bad is it all? I’ve had close friends who have lost their jobs because of corporate downsizing and/or financial mismanagement and/or plain and simple “slow sales” — as far back as 2002 and as recently as within the last couple of weeks.

My gas tank is presently just below the one-fourth mark, and over the past week or so, I’ve seen the prices drop from up near the $4 mark to approximately $2.83 at the station just down the street from me. I keep playing my own little game of “Chicken,” daring the prices to go down even further before I pull in for a fill-up.

The disgusting part: Don’t you just know that in a few weeks (days, maybe), the prices will be going right back up again? And this time, they will jump to well over $4 and will not come down again. Ever.

Do prices ever go back down again, on anything? Or is our financial system, our entire economy, based on the fact that prices must always go up, up, up (“in a puff of smoke, and it ain’t no joke, the way he broke my heart”), never to decrease? And, if so: Why?

I took a semester of economics my senior year of high school. Of course, I got an “A” in the class, but I truly have never had a clear understanding of even the most basic principles of economics. (I did enjoy our little project of having to “invest” money in different stocks and then track their gains and losses over the course of the semester.)

Every day, after I descended the stairs and rounded the corner on my way to the locker Tee-Hee and I shared (as seniors, we didn’t HAVE to share a locker; we just wanted to!), I would see Tee-Hee, watching me and smiling as I displayed what she called “The Econ Look.” Which I can only imagine was a look of utter confusion and cluelessness.

And I am not, by nature, a clueless person.

Go figure.

Sometime between approximately 2:30 and 5:30 this morning …

Diane and I are in Chicago, where we have found a “bargain” hotel room for something like $200 a night. (You can actually do better, price-wise, and find some decent to pretty nice rooms.) We go to the second floor to find our room, 2703. Along the corridor, all the “rooms” have the number written in black Magic Marker, or perhaps Sharpie, on duct tape — only, obviously, not all the things that are numbered are actually rooms:

Turns out our “room” is actually a medicine cabinet, which I open and ask, “How are we supposed to sleep in there?” A search to find us an actual room ensues; at one point, we are directed to a corner bed in some huge hospital room, in which everything is blue scrubs-blue. Eventually, Diane and I are pooling our resources and decide we can afford a room for $300 a night, at a decidedly different hotel.

Analysis:

I blame this dream on a couple of my co-workers, Mona and Sandy.

Mona is having some work done on her house, and a few weeks ago, a construction worker was removing some insulation from her bathroom wall, and, as he reached in, he cut his arm in several places because there were all these razor blades stuck in her wall! Well, as it turns out — according to another co-worker of mine, Alice (actually, her brother George was the one who told her about it) — back in “the old days,” some medicine cabinets had a slot where a person could dispose of his razor blade, which fell “harmlessly” into the wall. (I say “his” because that seems like such a guy thing to do, and guys are the ones who shave in front of a mirror … right? I mean, I shave in the shower, and if I had a bathtub, I’d shave while taking a bath … although I did shave that inadvertent stripe into my right temple late last year, but that was while using the electric clippers, not while actually shaving.)

Meanwhile, over the weekend, Sandy was planning to go to Indiana to take part in some of the Covered Bridge Festival events (read: shopping!), and she was talking about how she and a bunch of her girlfriends have gone and stayed seven or eight to a room — which, to me, sounds like the true definition of “hell” — and also how, one year, she and her husband found themselves a bargain price at a Days Inn or some other chain (she couldn’t remember which one, for sure) over there, and once they arrived, they quickly realized the hotel was in a very, very bad part of town.

Just found out that Polly Ann Weathers died this morning.

Polly was best pals with my buddy and longtime co-worker, Joe Anne Malkovich. She’d had a tough life, Polly Ann, but as my friend Becky said, “She handled it, and you never heard her complain.”

I always liked talking to Polly Ann. She like me, too; I’m pretty sure it was because I’d written good stuff about her grandsons over the years. (That was easy to do: They are good kids.)

Polly used to send me a birthday card each year, and at Christmastime, she’d bring me a bag full of Chex party mix. I’d send her a card, too, whenever I remembered (I’ll admit it: I’m a bit lax, sometimes), but I really had no excuse for not remembering: Her birthday was the same day as my dad’s.

It’s a dreary day here, but I hope the sun is shining for Polly Ann in paradise. She deserves it.

1. Life isn’t fair.

2. People are idiots.

3. Rules 1 and 2 are pretty much interchangeable.

OK, I’m not as cranky as I might seem. In fact, I have been meaning to give a few shout-outs (even though I’m pretty sure I’m not crazy about the term “shout-outs”) to some people who have been especially good about listening to me rant/vent about current events over the last week-and-a-half or so — just as they’ve been pretty much great about listening to me rant/vent over pretty much whatever, lo these many years.

So, to Patti, Tee-Hee and, above all, Mom: Thank you.

It’s so easy, sometimes, to get caught up in My Little Life. I make a big deal out of trying to hold my head up, keep my eyes open and see the world around me, but often it gets entirely too convenient to view everything, instead, with tunnel vision.

Sometimes I do it out of self-preservation. I mean, if you pay close attention, you realize that, at almost any point, someone’s life is falling apart, to some degree. Do I want to get caught up in the drama? (Usually not.) Is it possible to stay involved yet keep myself separate from it all? (Usually not entirely … but I try my best.)

Occasionally, I wish I had all the answers. Of course, that, too, would be a nightmare because then, everyone would be coming to me for the answers.

So, last night — actually, very early this morning — I was delivered my annual dose of disappointment in the form of the Chicago Cubs’ final loss of the season.

It always happens: The Cubs always lose their last game of the postseason because, as we all know, the Cubs never win the World Series (100 years and counting, now) … and only the team that manages to do that ever wins its last game. When it comes to the postseason, anyway.

Bah, humbug!

And the day started out so promisingly (is that even a word?) …

Tennis at 10 a.m., and though I didn’t play particularly well — I had getting-it-over-the-net and keeping-it-on-the-court issues, combined with my usual not-moving-my-feet issues (my serve was coming in pretty good, though!) — playing tennis with this particular foursome (Diane, Amy, Sarah and me) is always fun. And the weather was PERFECT: I told myself (and maybe the others? I cannot recall) that it was the kind of day that made you feel like you wanted to go outside and do everything.

(Looks like today might be another one of those days. Durn those Cubs for keeping me up so late and leaving me bleary-eyed this a.m.!)

After tennis, a swing by the ATM and Taco Hell for some crunchy tacos and a Pepsi, then home to get cleaned up. I had a couple of hours before Diane, Cindy and I would be heading out for dinner and a movie (not necessarily in that order), so I thought, how about a drive to the lake to check out the fall colors? (They’re not quite there just yet, but in a few days, they just might be spectacular!)

We went to see Beverly Hills Chihuahua, which I must give an enthusiastic two thumbs — er, perhaps two paws! — up.

I knew I’d get roped into seeing this movie as soon as I saw the first preview, in no small part because of the fact that the dearly departed Chico was, indeed, a Chihuahua. I had about the same level of excitement regarding this movie as I’d had about Live Free or Die Hard, whenever that was (last summer? this summer? I’m having total brain fog at the moment; I think it was last summer), and, wouldn’t you know it, once again I was very pleasantly surprised. And entertained: No deep thinking involved, just a simple plot, cute doggies and lots of laughs — and I’ll even admit, I got a little teary-eyed in a couple of places.

Dinner at 17th Street Bar & Grill was not the greatest, primarily because I deviated from my usual pork BBQ sandwich and opted for the pulled chicken. BIG mistake: The chicken was dry, and not even extra sauce or spice rub could render it edible. Fortunately, the baked beans (almost every kind of bean you can think of, with a sweet, sassy sauce!) and the potato salad (I swear there’s some form of ranch dressing in there!) were tasty, as usual, so I managed to fill up on those.

Back in town, I went out to the high school to see the Best of the Beatles: The Pete Best Band performing. Starring — you know — Pete Best: The Beatles’ original drummer. The guy who got fired and was replaced by Ringo Starr. The guy House mentioned on last week’s episode of House, M.D. when he and his assistants were doing differential diagnonsense (that’s a Girl, Interrupted reference for those of you who aren’t paying close attention!).

Can you imagine being young and in a band with all your “mates” (isn’t that what they’re called in England?) and being told you’re not good enough — and then having the band become the phenomenon known as the Beatles? Arguably the best, most popular band ever? (I’m torn on whether they were or not; perhaps this will stir some lively debate for the “Comments” section of my bloggie?)

Anyhoo, apparently, Pete Best is actually the second Beatle ever to visit Benton. George Harrison visited his sister, Louise, who resided here, during the 1960s. Unbelievable!

To be quite honest, the show was pretty good. The Pete Best Band did a nice job with its own music and, of course, some Beatles tunes, including my favorite, “P.S. I Love You” — which surprised me so much that they were halfway through it before I realized, hey, they’re playing my favorite Beatles song, and started singing along:

As I write this letter (o-oh)
Send my love to you (you know I want you to)
Remember that I’ll always (yeah-ah)
Be in love with you …

I didn’t stay for the whole show, so I’m not sure if they got around to playing my close-second-favorite Beatles song, “Here Comes the Sun” … but I did get to hear a guy playing that song on an acoustic guitar a couple of weeks ago when a busload of senior citizens came to town for the day, so I’m actually quite good on live Beatles covers, thank you.

I left the concert just in time to hit the couch early in the Cubs-Dodgers game.

Sadly, I probably shouldn’t have bothered because, much like their first two games against LA, the Cubs just didn’t have it. In no small part because the Dodgers played so well, but mostly because the Cubs really weren’t in the game.

Heck, let’s be honest: They really weren’t in the entire series.

Still, they had a great “regular” season, winning 97 games, including both the games I got to see in person. A bitter ending, true, as their postseason losing streak reached nine games (counting last season’s sweep by Arizona and dating back to the NLCS debacle in 2003 … but even that postseason wasn’t a total loss because I got to watch two of those National League Championship Series games on a big-screen TV alongside some of my favorite pals from college in the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas), but I still say having a competitive team to watch throughout the summer is worth going through the inevitable heartache when the Cubs actually do make it into the playoffs.

On that note, how about a couple of photos from the concert?

Not sure who that guy in the dark suit is, but he caught my eye from across the gymnasium because he was doing this sort of slide-step dance to every song performed by the Pete Best Band.

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