Saturday, March 03, 2007

Celebrity Snippets: Joseph Cardinal Bernardin

Once a week long-time radio producer and author Rick Kaempfer shares his favorite brushes with greatness in a feature he calls “Celebrity Snippets.”

By Rick Kaempfer

Joseph Cardinal Bernardin may seem like an odd choice for Celebrity Snippets, but I think it’s appropriate for three reasons.

1. It’s Lent and I’m Catholic.
2. The Cardinal really was a celebrity in Chicago.
3. I have a story that proves it.

In the 1980s and 90s, Bernardin served as the Arch Bishop of Chicago. I met him three times during those years, and each time made an impact on me.

The first time was at a church dinner at St. Constance church on the northwest side of Chicago. My grandmother went to that church and when she heard that Cardinal Bernardin was going to be coming, she was beside herself with excitement.

When she “invited” us to come, we knew it wasn’t one of those “come if you can make it” moments. It was more like an order. I was 20 years old at the time, and let’s just say I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be there.

Cardinal Bernardin made his way around the hall, making a special point of talking to every table. When he came to ours, he stood behind me and put his hand on my shoulder as he spoke in his calm and gentle voice to my grandmother.

I have never seen her more excited in her entire life.

I know this is going to sound strange, but that moment in time is forever frozen in my memory banks. I can conjure it up at will (and I often do) whenever I want to see that expression on my grandmother’s face. But that isn’t the strange part. The strange part is how I conjure up the memory.

I look at my shoulder. When I look at my shoulder, I can see Cardinal Bernardin’s hand there, and I can remember the warmth I felt from his presence. When I feel the warmth again, the image of my grandmother’s smiling face immediately comes to me.

I know it’s odd. But I swear it’s true.

Ten years after that first meeting, I became Cardinal Bernardin’s neighbor. My wife and I lived almost exactly equidistant from the holiness of the Cardinal’s mansion and the debauchery of Rush & Division streets.

One morning I was returning from an overnight shift at the radio station, and he was out for an early morning walk. Instead of waving as I did the first few times I saw him in the neighborhood, I walked up and shook his hand. My grandmother had recently passed away, and I told him how much it meant to her to meet him that day. He smiled and thanked me. I know this is going to sound strange, but I felt that same warmth when we shook hands that morning.

Which brings me to the moment I realized that he actually was a celebrity.

It happened the third and final time I saw him--- at O’Hare airport, a year or so before he died. He was waiting to check his baggage, and my wife and I were rushing toward our gate. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted him as we walked by.

“There’s Cardinal Bernardin,” I said to my wife, who had never met him.

“WHERE?” she asked, turning around.

When I pointed him out to her, she was barely able to contain her exuberance.

“Cardinal Bernardin!”

He turned around and smiled. “Yes, hello.”

She smiled back at him and stared for a moment, not knowing exactly what to say, before she shook his hand and said: “I’m your biggest fan!”*

Doesn’t that sound like something a celebrity might hear? I thought so too, and that’s why I’m including him in Celebrity Snippets today.

That, and I figure it can’t hurt to spread some good will during Lent. I can use all the help I can get.

*Just because someone is a fan of the Cardinal doesn’t make her a Cardinals fan. That’s an important distinction.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Half Empty: Middle Aged Vanity Plates

They say that when you hit your 40s, your life is half over. We prefer to think of it as HALF EMPTY. Our age has finally caught up with our outlook on life. Remember, it is possible to turn that frown upside down...but you might pull a muscle.

By Rick Kaempfer & Dave Stern

"Yah. Say, Lou, ya hear the one about the guy who couldn't afford personalized plates, so he went and changed his name to J2L 4685?"
-Marge (In Fargo)

When you drive about a million miles a week hauling your kids to swimming, soccer, day care, school, ballet, play dates, karate and more like we do, you end up seeing quite a few vanity plates.

We’ve noticed one disturbing trend, however. Not nearly enough of "our kind" (middle aged people) are indulging in the vanity plates fad. It may be because of a lack of vanity, or it may be because we're too busy to come up with creative plates appropriate for our age bracket.

With that in mind, we've done the heavy lifting for you. Feel free to steal any of the following...

If you suffer from an NLG-PRS8 you probably will URN8-3XPM. So you should probably PB4U-ZZZ. If you’re still PSNG-OF10 you should CA-PDR. In either case you will probably get a PROS8-XAM which WL-SUK.

If people call you 4-IZ you’ll probably 12-CBTR. So go to an optometrist where he might say you have BAD-IBALZ. He might prescribe BI-4COLS for you. Please be aware that any of these plates might get you stopped by the police.

It’s more than likely that you have -CSH-FLW and O-LOTS if you have 3XX-3XYS. Let’s face it 6KDS-ENUF. Thankfully, you have NO-NRG, NO-6-DRYV and NO-6UL-RGS to make any more. Hang in there, because when the KIDZRGONE you can once again NJOY-LF and T IT UP.

You’ll say TIH2 HO (mirror image) when you get DWNSZD and LOSE401K after 30YR-WK4MAN. Sure it was a 5HITJOB but it beats being NDR-MPLYD.

For those of you who take vanity to extremes and want to advertise it, tell everyone about your PNS-NPLT, or getting your TNADONE. Sy Sperling and his friends might prefer pointing our their 2PAY.

For those of you who are already at the grouchy curmudgeon stage, and want to spare any subtleties, SCRAM, UP-URS, URN-ZWAY and FUH QUE work nicely.

And finally, if you’re a Cub fan try W8-2NXYR.

We hope we were able to provide you with a few ideas. As always, no charge. Your vanity is our reward.

If you missed any previous Half Empty columns, click here: