The Sun Sets On The East End (Pool, That Is)


(My summer retreat, East End Pool in Elmhurst)

Another summer of swimming at the Elmhurst Park District pools has come to a close. For the past two seasons I’ve enjoyed the late morning adult swim at East End Pool daily. This year, I got to better know more of the ‘regulars’ and became one of them myself. Despite variances in our ages, there’s a special camaraderie that bonds all of us together as we enjoy the refreshing water and warmth of the summer sun.

I’ve been inspired by Barb, a retired nurse who eagerly took time out of her swimming to assist a fellow swimmer in helping her elderly mother walk in the shallow end which has done wonders for that mother’s physical health.   Then there’s Miriam, who in her mid-nineties still drives to the pool and is open to discuss anything which includes interesting stories from her life.  Many of us talked about our goings on, music, sports and where to find good places to eat. These folks are my summer family and they’re a  pleasure to swim and socialize with.

There were also semi-regulars who came to East End. One woman tried to fix me up with a girlfriend of hers who wasn’t at the pool but I was shown photos on a phone.  A kind gesture but not having the best of luck on blind date fix-ups, I took a pass.  There was a young woman or two who swam at the pool a couple of times that I was interested in. However, I didn’t want to even attempt to turn my chlorine oasis into some sort of a half-assed pick-up joint.   The pool has become kind of sacred ground and water to me.

(The view from my usual deck chair)

A special thanks to the East End Pool staff for keeping the facility clean and safely monitored. Many out of town and first time visitors to East End have told me what a fantastic pool we have and how they envy us.  No argument there. Years from now when I retire, I want to become a lifeguard there.  (Instead of “Baywatch” they can call me “Gray-watch.”)

So we now bid a fond but reluctant farewell to the summer season at East End.   The beach towels, flip flops and pool I.D passes are packed away and all of our tans will start to fade.  The summer fun is over.  Those of us who like me, teach, are back in the classroom for a new school year and the other swimmers will return to different routines.  I want to wish my fellow ‘regulars’ and all pool attendees the best of health during the coming fall and winter months. We won’t see each other for awhile but take heart, a new swim season is only eight months away. We’ll see you back in the water for the summer of 2019.

The beach towels, flip flops and pool I.D. passes are packed away for the year.

Turning Off The Radio

(Taking a break from the radio)

While it will be a major blow to the literary world, I have put my autobiographical memoir “Raised on the Radio” on indefinite hiatus. 80,188 words have been written and edited several times, yet I’m still not “feeling it.” There is a mood or tone in the book that doesn’t accurately reflect the experiences I had in the radio business. Something is missing and I don’t want to issue a piece of work I don’t believe in.

So rather than self-publish something I’m 100% behind, it’s better just to shelve the damn book until I figure out what’s needed to complete it to my satisfaction. Looking back, I spent too much time focusing on the ins and outs of what happens AFTER the book is completed. That’s like trying to serve a cake while it’s still baking.  One of my worst personal habits is getting my head way over my skis and then crashing hard.  This certainly happened with penning “Raised on the Radio.”

To be honest, I have no idea when my radio memoir will see the light of day. You can’t force something like this and expect it to come out properly.  Putting it in a musical perspective, in the late 70’s the Eagles were pressured by their record label to get a follow-up to their massive selling “Hotel California” album in stores ASAP.  They struggled and fought and eventually succumbed to their record company’s wishes but the result was a lesser effort with “The Long Run” album.  It was O.K. but certainly not one of their best records.

(Forcing a rush job left this album as just “O.K..”)

Then again, Guns N Roses took over 10 years to finish the “Chinese Democracy” album and that was a mediocre record at best.

My favorite quote on creative efforts comes from the late Eagle Glenn Frey who said, “Perfection is not an accident.” With any book I write I want it to be perfect in my eyes and this one isn’t there.  Still, I’m not mad or bummed out about the status of “Raised on the Radio.”  There are great stories to be read in there but to make the book right in my eyes, it needs more of something.  Until that ‘something’ is found, walking away from it at this time is what’s best.

Meanwhile, I still enjoy writing blogs and mini-essays and will use to do just that.   I’ve got a couple of things to post up shortly and more sets of writings will soon follow.   So for now the radio’s writing is over, but other words on other subjects will be turned up full blast!

(I’ll still be writing on this blog, but the book is on hiatus)

My Niece Turns 30! When The Heck Did That Happen?

On August 6th, 2018 my niece Doreen turns 30.  Where did the last 3 decades go? It seems like just yesterday she was born. A couple months later Doreen was baptized at St. Luke’s Church in Elmhurst.  On the program issued to guests that day we printed the lyrics to Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young” which was a popular song at the time and remains one of my favorites of his.  That December, Doreen played baby Jesus in the St. Luke’s Christmas play.

Baby D and one of her music toys

My mother and I often welcomed who we called “Baby D” to our house for overnight stays.  In the early morning I’d come into Baby D’s room and she’d already be standing up in her crib, hair all mussed up, big smile on her face and ready to take on the day.  My parents, known as Grandma Dorie and Grandpa Ken, adored their first grandchild and embraced all the joys that go with being a grandparent.  Day trips to parks, lakes, going out to eat and anything else that could be imagined.  Doreen was WAY into the animated movie “Beauty and the Beast” and I remember taking her to see it (at her insistence) four Saturdays in a row!

Baby D and her adoring dad Jack

My niece Doreen later became known as Dei. She went through all the requisite stages of growing up;  Grade school, high school, part time jobs, (one as a master shoe seller) first car, college and beyond.  Dei inherited her mother Maryanne’s pragmatic ways of saving money for a specific goal and her adoring father Jack’s ability to handle any hurdles or difficulties that got in her way in a calm and smart manner.

Kindergarten aged Doreen held and hugged by her mom Maryanne

My niece married Nick, the love of her life in 2012. Now she’s known as Dei Forslund, who works as a procurement specialist for the University of Wisconsin and a cycling instructor at a local gym near her home in Madison Wisconsin.  Dei and Nick have already enjoyed travels to foreign lands that I’ll probably never see and her love for movies and fine food and drink keeps her on the move with friends and family.

I remember how brokenhearted Dei was when her mother passed away in 2014. Dei learned losing your mom when you’re only twenty-six years old sucks out loud.  She paid tribute to my sister by getting a really cool tattoo of a Boston Terrier in homage to her mom who loved and raised several of those sweet dogs.  Dei has other tattoos and seeing her express passions in those ink works is always fun.

Dei is all grown up and we could not be more proud of her

For years my sister Maryanne battled a difficult and ultimately fatal auto-immune disease and she wanted to live long enough to see Dei and her brother Mike grow up and get out on their own. Thankfully, she made it to that goal.  I know how proud she was and still is of both her kids.

So on this milestone birthday, let me take you back to Saturday August 6th,  1988. My brother in law Jack drove Maryanne to Good Samaritan Hospital in preparation for her labor to be induced.  My mother was on hand too and all day I waited at home for a call to see how things were going.  We didn’t even know if Mary was having a boy or girl.

That night I was going to Poplar Creek Music Theatre to see the band Chicago with my radio colleague John Howell. I finally had to leave the house at 7 p.m. with no word yet on the pending baby delivery.  John and I hosted some WCKG listeners in a luxury box at the concert. Now this was before the advent of everyone owning cell phones so throughout the first set I kept wondering how my sister was doing.

Finally, during the concert’s intermission I slipped out to a pay phone in the plaza and called home. My mom had just come back from the hospital and I learned Doreen Opal Nagy finally came into the world, healthy and happy and her mom was doing great too.  Whew! What a thrill that night was and I proudly told our luxury box guests about my newborn niece. We toasted Doreen with cold cans of Miller Genuine Draft beer.

My sister named her baby Doreen in honor of our mom Dorie and her middle name Opal was for my mom’s sister Opal who had passed away 7 years earlier.  Maryanne was always good for thoughtful gestures and tributes such as this.  Still, the most important thing was a precious new life to love was now in the world.

My favorite photo of Dei. She was about 3 here. My mother (her Grandma Dorie) took my new ‘First Church of Elvis’ T-shirt and sewed it into a nightgown for her beloved granddaughter. 

Happy Birthday Dei!  She’s 30, yet no matter how old she gets, I’ll always think of ‘Baby D’ being what she is to me: “Forever Young.”

Click below for Rod Stewart’s song “Forever Young.”