Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 31, 1945

While going through one of my mother's old jewelry pouches recently, I came across a folded up dollar bill that has been tucked in there since I collected her things after she died some years ago. For whatever reason, I had not looked at it closely until now. This time it caught my eye.

It is a series 1935 A, and clearly printed "IN SILVER PAYABLE TO THE BEARER ON DEMAND" under Mr. Washington's portrait. But more interesting is what was added by hand on the back in what I think was my grandmother's flowery handwriting. Underneath the large centered ONE in black ink, it says: 
 San Juan, Porto Rico
October 31, 1945
Perhaps because that writing is slightly obscured by the crease in the bill, on the right hand border she writes, in blue in, Oct 31, 1945.

Above the ONE, by someone else's hand and pen, is something illegible. On the front, to the left and parallel with Washington's oval portrait, is more unreadable scrawl, in very faded green ink. 
At the very bottom are two centered, tiny, perfectly round holes. 

My grandfather had been a banker in Puerto Rico since 1908, although by wartime he was working as a U.S. postal censor, so I would probably not connect this keepsake with anything having to do with the financial industry in Puerto Rico. I also have not been able to link this particular date with any larger history in Puerto Rico, the U.S., or the rest of the world, that might have affected my family. I imagine my mother knew what it commemorated, and whatever it was, it was important to her too, as she held on to the bill for the rest of her life. I think I'll keep it, too.

And here, for comparison, is a 2009 series (the most recent in my wallet) U.S. one dollar bill. You might also note, it doesn't appear to be backed by silver, gold, or any kind of metal (not sure if that's a good thing):

Saturday, October 27, 2012

What if my early vote is just a little too late?

In The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the character Muriel Donnelly (the inimitable Maggie Smith), an elderly woman embittered by a narrow world view and the pain and disability of a rotten hip, is compelled to move to India for her care by the English medical system that would require her to wait half a year for replacement surgery.  We listen in when the English doctor (who himself appears to hail from the South Asian continent) matter-of-factly tells her how long she must wait for relief, her comeback is, “At my age, I can’t plan that far ahead. I don’t even buy green bananas!” This, of course, is among the many lines that made KLK and me snort with laughter.

Today, because we will be away on election day, I tried for the first time ever to participate in early voting, which opened in Illinois on the 22nd.  I thought if I arrived at the nearest early voting location a few minutes after its 9:00 AM opening I wouldn’t have much of a wait. The multi-block search for a parking space near the park recreation building, which is mostly parkland and therefore wouldn’t normally be parked up by residents or errand-runners, should have been an omen. I finally tucked my car into a reasonable spot and headed to the rec center along with at least a dozen other people striding my way. Once inside, I was just as taken aback by the scene as Muriel Donnelly was by the doctor’s bad news (though I had no great comeback at the ready). The line snaked in triple-fashion around the lobby and down the hall leading to the voting booths. My wait would have been at least an hour. While I was more than thrilled to see this wonderful evidence of voter participation, I bailed, because on an errand-ful Saturday an hour is too long.  Fortunately, I will have other opportunities to try before we leave.

At least I think I will. Because Muriel’s curmudgeonly comment inspired a question:  What if I cast my vote and die before the election? If, God forbid, that happens, it turns out that in Illinois, my vote is to be rejected. Never mind the practicalities of the election authority discovering my particular expiration, and the fact that it would be impossible to trace my vote (assuming our votes are indeed anonymous as require by law), isn’t that ridiculous?

But in case you don’t believe me, here’s the 1943 code:
    (10 ILCS 5/19-11) (from Ch. 46, par. 19-11)
    Sec. 19-11. Whenever it shall be made to appear by due proof to the judges of election that any elector who has marked and forwarded his ballot as provided in this article has died prior to the opening of the polls on the date of the election, then the ballot of such deceased voter shall be returned by the judges of election in the same manner as provided for rejected ballots…

If you live in Illinois, best not vote too far ahead of time, just in case your bananas never have a chance to ripen.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Endorsement: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I'm not up for a full review but before I forget, I want to add my endorsement to that of thousands of others, especially those others who are over, say, about age 60. Last night we watched the most enjoyable human nature flick I've seen in a long time: John Madden's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Reviews on Netflix point out its strengths (which are many, including impeccable acting and delivery of brilliantly written lines, and filming on-site in India - with minimal sound editing to allow an enchanting backdrop of birdsong for instance) and flaws (there are a few, like stereotyping, however successful, of all of the personalities). The essence of the story is that a failing hotel in Jaipur restyles itself as a destination for British retirees, and a motley cast of seniors responds to its overblown, exaggerated, oh-so-appealing advertising only to find a badly-managed, rundown accommodation awaiting them. The hotelier, Sonny Kapoor, (Dev Patel) cheerily assures them, "It will all work out in the end. If it hasn't worked out, it isn't the end." Marigold follows on another of my favorite movies, Outsourced, in its efforts to humanize citizens of India for the West, and to illustrate for the characters, on behalf of the viewers, that our humanity is not so very far apart after all. The movie is truly funny, very colorful, sweet and charming, and (spoiler alert) it has a very happy ending. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois: The Navajo Connection?

I'm not terribly crazy about Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Illinois. For one thing, they apply their own rules inconsistently. For another, their EOBs (explanations of benefits) are mostly incoherent. I do like to know how much of my (outsized) medical bills were covered by them, how much my provider wrote off based on their contractual arrangement with BC-BS, and how, more or less, they arrived at my surprisingly large co-pay amounts (sometimes so mysteriously I am moved to call them up and ask for an explanation). In spite of these regular annoyances (and I've had quite a few this summer with various ailments and mishaps) I've never thought of contesting a decision or asking for review. But tonight I happened to look at the last page of my latest EOB, and saw, to my surprise, that should I decide to appeal their coverage, I might be eligible to receive my determination not in Russian, French, Urdu, or Zulu, but if I'd like it in English, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog (the language of the Philipines), or Navajo (Dine) [Dineh], I have only to ask. I recommend enlarging the image just to see what written Navajo looks like.
Boy, I'd sure love to know how it is they came up with those particular offerings!

If you'd like to hear spoken Navajo here is a lovely reading of Proverbs 31: The Virtuous Woman. For myself, I'm proud to say there is one (but alas, only one), Navajo word I can pronounce, and it is: To'Hajiilee, the name of a small section of the Navajo Nation along I-40 in New Mexico.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Division Street Farmers Market

Here are a few visual and aural yummies from a visit to Chicago's Division Street Farmers Market a couple of Saturdays ago:




And of course, no market would be complete without a classy street musician, in this case, Reginald Graig Conyers on the horn (turn on your sound):