Thursday, February 25, 2010

Our Neighborhood, On Foot

I know I’ve mentioned before how much we walk around our neighborhood – allowing the car to stay in its parking space for weeks at a time. Today, I’ll give you a little walking tour around our frequent haunts.

We have 2 grocery stores we frequent most often. There’s a Jewel/Osco .6 miles away, where N. Broadway and N. Sheridan meet, and a great Whole Foods just .5 miles south on Halsted. We use a backpack, canvas bags, and/or a rolling cart to get the groceries home.

This afternoon, we both have an appointment to get hair cuts at Barberella. Jane’s quirky small salon is .3 miles away on N. Broadway. Just around the corner, ad additional .1 miles from home, is Elite Dental, where we’ve been fortunate to find a good dentist who takes our insurance.

The Uptown branch of the Chicago Public Library is .4 miles away. Today I need to pick up a book I had transferred from the main library downtown. That may be a good excuse to stop at the Bar On Buena – a neighborhood tavern on the same block that grills up a superb burger served with sweet potato fries.

Wrigley Field is an easy .7 miles away. It’s so nice not to have to worry about transportation or parking. When the Cubs game is over, we slip out of the crowd and stroll home. On the way home, we often stop at our favorite neighborhood restaurant, Fornello Trattoria, after which we toddle the remaining .4 miles. Or, if we feel like Mexican food, El Mariachi has a lovely outdoor courtyard, and is just .2 miles south on Broadway.

From our front door onto Montrose Beach on Lake Michigan is almost exactly a mile. It’s a little less to the first tee at Waveland Golf Course in Lincoln Park. On a nice day, the 1.4 miles to the Diversey Driving Range is a breeze.

In even the very worst weather, we can bundle up and make it the .2 miles to Dollop Coffee Co. for a morning brew. This eclectic coffee shop is housed in an old pharmacy with exposed brick walls, tiny black and white tiles on the floor, and broken down overstuffed chairs and sofas. We prefer it to Starbucks.

For a reasonably-priced and filling breakfast, we head to Arnolds diner (.1 miles). SOS Cleaners is on the same block; and even though we are infrequent customers, the ever-gracious Korean owner knows us by name.

We got our H1N1 shots at the Howard Brown Health Center (.4 miles). For prescriptions, we walk .6 miles down Broadway to Walgreens. We take a bus downtown when we need to visit our doctor.

There are multiple bus stops within a block of our home that take us just about anywhere we need to go. The closest el station (the Sheridan stop on the Red Line) is an easy .5 mile trip. (It’s the 42 stairs up to the platform that get your heart pumping!)

We love our little neighborhood around Bittersweet Place. Looking forward to spring, when we can enjoy it even more.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

New Name - Same Blog

Last week I wrote about the need to rationalize my dual identities. I’m retired (from corporate life) and now also a part-time consultant. Friends gave me some great ideas for new names for this blog, so I could minimize the focus on being retired and still talk about my post-corporate freedom. I ran a bunch through Blogger to check availability. The suggestion that resonated with me the most (and was also available for use) came from my creative husband, Ron. Thus “Runaway Boomer” came to be.

I was born in 1955, smack in the middle of the Baby Boomer period, and bear many of the standard characteristics of my generation. And I finally discarded the life I for so long felt I SHOULD lead – important job, good salary, big house in the suburbs, nice clothes, self-propelled lawnmower, two cars, blah, blah, blah. To be honest, all that was great and served us well. But it also burned us out badly. Fortunately, we had planned and saved, and Ron and I found that our dream was the same – to change our lives to be simpler and less stressful. So we ran away. We still have everything that is really important to us.

It all seemed meant to be. We already owned the condo in Chicago. Blackstone bought Hilton and our stock cashed out. Hilton “eliminated” our jobs (wink, wink) and paid us severance. Our house in Memphis sold in three days. Most of our furniture was purchased out from under us. The moving sale was a smash success. Ron’s brother bought one of our cars for his 16 year-old. Before we knew it, the moving van was on its way to Chicago. We felt lighter than air!

It’s been one year, eight months, and eighteen days since we arrived in our new urban home. So much has changed. We are relaxed, healthier, happier, and so thankful for it all. I wouldn’t have done anything differently.

Part-time consulting is appealing to us. Through Haropulos Bailey Consulting, we will use our combined experience and skill to take on the occasional project assignment. We’ll hook up with people we like and admire, on challenges were we know we can add value. There is no desire for fame and fortune – just the gratification that will come from using our minds and helping someone who needs our expertise. Opportunities may be somewhat sparse, because we don’t plan to hunt them very hard. So far, they are finding us.

So, Runaway Boomer is a better expression of how I feel – emancipated! I hope you continue to enjoy my postings, about how life has changed since we changed the rules.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Rationalizing Dual Identities

I’m retired from the corporate rat race, and yet I have established a consulting practice, Haropulos Bailey Consulting. Occasionally, this dual identity profile I have espoused becomes a little awkward to maintain. The issue is really my online presence.

I have a single Google profile and two Blogs. This blog allows me to ramble about my transition to retired life. The other is a professional blog (, in which I expound upon business and career-related subjects. So, am I retired or am I a consultant? The answer is either “Neither” or “Both”.

Assuming that my plans pan out, I don’t ever again have to be a corporate minion. (No offense – that worked out pretty well for me for almost 30 years.) But it doesn’t mean I will never work again. I truly am excited with the idea of applying my experience and brain to short-term assignments on behalf of others. I want to consult on hospitality, customer service, and marketing/communications challenges. My yet-to-be-incorporated company, Haropulos Bailey Consulting, is intended to provide an identity around the services I have to offer.

I’ve done just a little consulting to date, with a former colleague I've known a long time, who is an exec with a company here in Chicago. I hope to do a little more, with other smart people who I respect and like. It’s time to create a web site and reach out to possible clients with a little marketing. A few hours or days here and there of man-behind-the-curtain action would be perfect. My ego no longer has need of the spotlight.

So I’d better think about how to reconcile my retired identity and my consultant identity online. If you Google Laurel Haropulos Bailey, you see evidence of both. Being “retired” could easily adversely affect people’s perception of the seriousness of my interest in consulting. I think the answer is to tweak my online identity as a retired person, and rationalize it with my consulting identity. But how?

Suggestions, anyone?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Searching for Musical Relevance

Payday in the early to mid-1980’s always meant a trip to Sound Warehouse in Dallas, to buy 2 or 3 new music CD’s. We gobbled up new releases, as well as replacing some of our favorite record albums in the “new” format. It was during this time period that Ron and I really built up our music libraries, merging them when we combined households in 1988. Some of our favorite artists back then, like George Strait, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, are still cranking out great music. We also have old favorites like Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, B.B. King, Ella Fitzgerald, and more. But some artists have disappeared or gone very stale. Remember Sheena Easton? I won’t go on – it’s just too embarrassing.

The point is that we have fallen out of the habit of buying a lot of new music. I’m terrified of slipping into old fart-dom in my musical entertainment choices. I don’t want to be stuck in the 80’s and 90’s. Why does this so often happen to people as they get older?

I have a theory about how we lost our way. Where do you hear new music? On the radio – which we don’t listen to anymore, because we are hardly ever in the car. In clubs – and, yeah, we don’t go clubbing anymore. On MTV or VH1 – which we do not watch. So… What are the alternatives? We watched the Grammy’s on Sunday and picked up a few new leads. We cruise iTunes for what’s new. Amazon provides some recommendations. You see my dilemma.

We are not close-minded about musical choices (OK, except about rap and most hip-hop). Our iTunes Library includes newer artists such as Jason Mraz, Colbie Caillat, John Mayer, Feist, Pink, Paulo Nutini, Adele, Pink Martini, India Aire, East Village Opera Company, and a few more. But we need to continue to expand our horizons.

So…please send your recommendations for current artists or CD’s that you enjoy or think we might embrace. Help us in our desperate attempt to stay musically relevant as we age. God bless you.

P.S. BTW, we are at least iPod-enabled.