The Suitcase Lady


November 12, 2019, 8:11 pm


The phrase “getting high” has taken on a new meaning. In the true American spirit of pushing everything to extremes, the tallest residential building in the world just was completed in New York City.

The building sits on “Billionaire’s Row” on West 57th Street and is called Central Park Tower. At 131 floors and 1550 feet, it’s the latest in an epidemic of tall, skinny residential towers that now pierce the midtown Manhattan skyline like giant pencils.

No ordinary mortal could ever take up residence in these exclamation points. Prices in this latest and tallest edition range from a low of 6.9 million to 63 million for a 5 bedroom full-floor unit. The total sales value of Central Park Tower will be 4.4 billion dollars, making it the most expensive residential building in the city.

The Guardian newspaper describes these buildings as “a symptom of a city irrigated with too much money. The world’s population of ultra-high-net-worth individuals….has mushroomed to 250,000 people, all in need of somewhere to store their wealth. More than a third of them are from North America, while those from riskier economic climes favour New York real estate as one of the safest places to park their cash.”

Many of the units in these beanpole buildings will seldom or never see their owners. For those buyers who actually choose to move in, amenities will abound. Central Park Tower has a 7 story Nordstrom store at its base, outdoor and indoor swimming pools, a grand ballroom, private dining room and a cigar bar.

While this flurry of towers is going up, the number of affordable housing units in the city is going drastically down. Ordinary New Yorkers struggle to find a place to live which doesn’t consume their entire paycheck. Perhaps there is a fix for this situation.

Hotels in town charge an occupancy tax for rooms. New York could charge an unoccupancy tax for all nights the owners of these luxury units do not spend in their own beds. Those tax dollars could be tagged for rent subsidies and building affordable housing. It’s high time to find some creative solutions to the housing shortage in all our major American cities.

Here are some views of the high life.

Here are some more “super skinnies” photographed by Peter Little.

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November 5, 2019, 8:04 pm


In America, I’m identified as a Badger Cheesehead from a flyover state. And if you want to throw in an ethnic slur as well, I’m a Bohunk because my grandfather was an immigrant from Bohemia. Even the word “Bohemian” implies some sort of kooky, counter-culture, artsy person.

The world is rife with insults, stereotypes and name-calling. And the best tactic for combating all of this nastiness is to just turn it around, make it a badge of honor.

For example, the term “Badger” for Wisconsin’s residents is a brilliant example of flipping an insult. In pioneer days, miners rushed into our state to get rich by mining Galena lead ore. That first winter they didn’t even waste time building shelters, but slept in tunnels they dug into the hillsides like badgers. The more genteel folk who slept in real houses dissed them with the epitaph “Badgers”. That insult eventually turned into our beloved little Badger mascot of the state university’s sports teams. Merchandise sporting that tough little guy brings in millions of dollars.

The derogatory term, Cheesehead, was coined by Illinois sports fans to insult our Wisconsin fans, especially the Green Bay Packers backers. The word now has morphed to mean anyone from Wisconsin. Since I think cheese is one of the most glorious foods in the world, I’m delighted to be a Cheesehead. I do, however, draw the line at wearing a giant foam rubber wedge of cheese on my head. I prefer to earn my status as a Cheesehead by eating or cooking with cheese almost every day.

And last, being from a flyover State seems unredeemable. However, recent news has given us flyovers the last laugh. An index has just been released on the best places to live to survive global warming. Scientists site states in the Great Lakes region as “probably the safest from a climate perspective”.

In summary, I can eat quality cheese, not burn up, drown or overheat and wear sweatshirts with that cute Bucky Badger on them. Not bad for a flyover girl.


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October 29, 2019, 10:15 pm


“Would you like someone to tell horrible lies about you?” I ask the children at my program about creepy crawlers.

This question always elicits cries of “no way” from the kids. Then I proceed to be what amounts to a defense attorney for spiders.

Arachnophobia is rampant and totally unjustified. Spiders do not run around chasing people, they aren’t bloodsuckers and we are not their lunch. Chris Buddle, an arachnologist at McGill University, says “I’ve been handling spiders for over 20 years, and I’ve never been bitten. You have to work really hard to be bitten by a spider because they don’t want to bite you.”

Another spider researcher, Rick Vetter, says “I’ve had 100 recluse spiders running up my arm, and I have never been bitten by one.”

All spiders do produce venom which is delivered via their fangs. The venom is designed to paralyze or kill and then turn the insides of their prey to mush. In most cases, the prey is small insects and invertebrates. Since we are not in those categories, we aren’t on the spiders’ menus.

The number of spider species worldwide is approximately 40,000. But only 12 species can cause serious harm to adult humans. In North America, that gets narrowed down to only 2 harmful groups, the recluses and the widows.

Statistically, this is still not cause for panic. Since antivenoms have been invented, death by spider bite in America is almost nonexistent. If you want to worry with statistics on your side, fear dog bites, bees or wasps.

Despite overwhelming evidence that the vast majority of spiders don’t harm people, in fact, ignore or avoid us, we humans tend to blame them for many red marks and painful bites that suddenly appear on our skin. One study in California showed that of 182 patients seeking treatment for spider bites, only 3.8 percent had actual spider bites. A quick computer search will find many similar studies across America. People frequently tell doctors they have recluse bites in states where recluse spiders don’t live. We tend to blame what we fear and loathe the most for all our problems.

When a spider bite does occur, it is an accident. We forget to shake out the sleeping bag or shoes when camping. We clean out the dark corners of the garage or attic without wearing gloves or walk barefoot in the grass. Spiders do defend themselves when squeezed.

Spiders are much more helpful to people than harmful. They dine on mosquitoes, fleas, flies and other insects that cause us monumentally more harm than any of their tribe inflict on us. So the next time you see a spider say “hi” and then go about your business. Guaranteed: the spider will go about its business as well.

One of our resident spider friends.

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October 22, 2019, 8:53 pm


I recently found a hilarious news item in the Iceland Review. Why, you might wonder, am I reading the Iceland Review? That answer is easy…I have no idea. It just popped up on my Facebook feed one day. Since American news is so dismal these days, I decided to keep reading the happier news from this extremely sane and civilized country.

Nurse Gudrun Kristinsdóttir made news with a little mistake. She accidentally invited 100,000 people, one-third of Iceland’s population, to her sewing club meeting. Instead of hitting her sewing circle’s Facebook site, she hit the huge Iceland FB group “Gefins alt gefins” which translates to “Free, Everything for Free”.

She quickly realized her massive error, but as we all know, sent means sent. She then put out this post: “OK, so I messaged the wrong group, but how about we go through with it anyway? How does Arnarholl (a large public gathering place in Reykjavik) next Friday sound? My kids are saying this is the most motherly thing I have ever done.”

Kristinsdóttir‘s sewing circle, which has been in existence for 30 years and is all made up of nurses,  loved her idea. The nurses all studied together and are, apparently, a tight knit group.

The members of “Free, Everything Free” loved her suggestion as well. Some have volunteered to cater the giant event and others have offered to book musicians. 2,000 people have liked her post and 1,000 have commented.

The date has been set for November 2 between 14 and 17 ( 2:00 to 5:00 PM). So, if you love to sew, there is still time to buy a ticket to Reykjavík and crash the party. Iceland is a country that is very easy to love.

Meet on the Hill

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October 15, 2019, 8:30 pm


I’m keeping a close eye on the 10 day weather forecasts lately. My concern is not for anything that’s about to fall out of the skies: I’m solely focused on the nighttime temperatures. Thirty-two degrees equals death. My wish is that the chirping insects and late blooming flowers get the longest pardon possible.

For good or not so good, luck is a huge factor in all our lives. If a September frost occurs, it reduces a yard to a shriveled, wilted mass of vegetation. Many warm Fall days might follow, but the damage is done…irreversibly.

Frostless Fall nights are a special present from nature. Winter in our part of the globe is not for the non-stoical. Any delay in the onslaught of subzero temperatures, icy roads and endless gray skies is welcome.

I consulted the Wisconsin Average First Frost Date Map to see the scientific data. According to weather history, my little town is in the danger zone now, October 11 to October 20. However, I have reason to hope for a small reprieve. Our front yard is Lake Michigan which has been heating up all summer. Now the opposite of “cooler by the lake” is happening. Our temperatures will be warmer from those even a half-mile inland thanks to the lake effect.

But this will only delay the inevitable. One of these mornings we’ll wake up to a world without flowers.

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