Friday, April 28, 2017

The Friday 56

The Friday 56

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.

From Sisters, page 56  It's 1935. Olivia DeHavilland is filming the big-budget costume drama, Anthony Adverse.
A scene from the movie

She had several rows with [producer] Hal Wallis over her costumes. She insisted they be very low cut to be historically correct, and to show off her beautiful breasts. But Wallis knew the Breen Office, which controlled movie censorship, would make a fuss. He overruled Olivia, and she fretted and fumed.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


WWW.WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here.

1. What are you currently reading? Sisters: The Story of Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine by Charles Higham. I loved FX's Feud: Bette and Joan, and I'm not ready for it to be over. Catherine Zeta-Jones was featured in a supporting role in the mini-series as Olivia de Havilland, an actress I know little about.

I mean, she's Melly from Gone with the Wind. Of course. But she was also a major star in Hollywood in the Golden Age, winning two Oscars. She was an early feminist, too. (The de Havilland Law revolutionized California labor practices in the 1930s and is still observed today.) She recently turned 100 years old. But there. That's what I know about her. 

So while this Higham book is considered a superficial study of the lady, her career and her life, I'm good with that. I'm just looking for a primer. Besides, the Bobby book (below) was a little heavy. Superficial is right up my alley.

2. What did you recently finish reading? In Love with Night by Ronald Steel. This book takes what Bobby Kennedy now stands for -- an end to poverty and a voice for the dispossessed -- and puts it in real-time context. The coalition he built in 1968 fascinates me because I believe it would have carried the day in 2016. Bobby was a hero to the young, minorities and blue collar whites. He was not the darling of "the elites," the  smear on Bernie Sanders, and he wasn't considered the "party establishment," the way Hillary Clinton is. In 1968, those roles were played by Eugene McCarthy and Hubert Humphrey, respectively. Bobby was in his own lane. The nearest thing to him we have today is Joe Biden.

But Joe Biden wasn't our martyred president's brother. As much affection as the Vice President has garnered, it's not the unbridled passion Bobby inspired. The way Kennedy's personal grief fused with the traumatized nation's was powerful ... and not entirely his doing. To quote the book's last line, "The Bobby Myth is our creation, not his."

An examination of how/why Bobby Kennedy remains an icon of liberal politics, In Love with Night is less a biography than a 240-page editorial. I'm glad it concentrates on Bobby's policies and behind-the-scenes maneuvers, not whether or not he shtupped Marilyn. It's on solid ground when it explores the tougher and often ugly side to RFK's emphasis on action and victory. I appreciate how it compares and contrasts emotional, angry RFK and cool, ironic JFK. But for all the attention it pays to Bobby's relationships with his mother, his father and the Catholic Church and how they shaped him, it makes scant mention of his marriage of his 11 children (Ethel was pregnant when he died). I assume his own brood had some impact on him, especially since the family of his genesis influenced him so massively.

3.  What will you read next? I don't know.

A gem

The Pirates' Gerrit Cole was very good last night. Kyle Hendricks was better. Both bullpens were stellar. I love games like this. (I think the tension created three new pimples on my chin, but that's OK.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Gee, Gal, how was your Monday?

I took the day off so I could be home when the hole in my wall was repaired. It's not a good day when an 18" x 4" hole is the highlight.

I started the day moving furniture so Martin -- the contractor -- would have a 3 foot clear area to work. As I dragged my stereo across the room, I noticed one of the speakers had been disconnected. Perhaps the wire was severed. I dunno, I didn't care enough to examine it. Because it occurs to me I literally cannot recall the last time I had it on. I don't really listen to music at home much anymore. So why do I still have this massive dust collector?

Martin arrives late, but he's really nice and very quiet and thorough. So far, so good.

I go into the den and start cleaning out my closet. I collected a bag of pants and tops that no longer fit. (Let's give up the fantasy that I have "fat" pants and "skinny" pants; I'll save myself time in the morning if I admit I can't fit in my "skinny" pants.) Again, it's all going good.

Then I hear from my boss. Some muckety-muck wants me to change the opening of the letter that's part of the 1:00 presentation. We're talking one sentence, maybe two, of a presentation deck. You really need me for this? No one else is qualified to do this? It is, after all, my day off.

So I toss something off while we're talking. I tell myself my boss included me because he respects all the work I put into this project. In retrospect, I think that's about 20% of his motive. (80% was laziness.) But I chose to concentrate on that 20% because I was trying to stay positive.

I try to communicate to Martin -- who speaks little English -- that I need quiet between 1:00 and 2:00 for the client call I agreed to participate in on my day off. He understands! He'll let the paint dry between coats. Isn't it nice when things go well?

If only they really did. For, just as the meeting began, my neighbors began pruning their bushes. With the loudest bush pruner in North America. So I took the call in my bathroom, huddled up against the door to minimize the telltale bathroom echo.

But the call went well. Yea! The client liked the work. Yea!

My hole is fixed. Yea! The wall is painted. Yea! Martin even replaced the rod for me after I washed my drapes. Yea!

Then, at about 3:30, I got a message from one of my coworkers. My boss was copied. She wanted to know where this other project was. Which she knew I hadn't started.

"It needs to go out tomorrow at the latest."


I'm at home! I don't have all my files with me! It's my day off!

And even if I wasn't at home on my day off, it's 3:30!

Here it is, 6:02 as I write this, and it's finally out the door. A project done in little more than 24 hours.

In response to all the thank you's I won't get ...


Signing off now. Thank you for listening.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday Stealing

Cheers to all of us thieves!

Sunday Stealing: The Money Time Questions

1. What are five passions that you have? (If you have less than five, tell us what you do have interests.)

•  The WORLD CHAMPION Chicago Cubs
•  The Beatles
•  Animal welfare, beginning in my community
•  Ending hunger in my community
•  Protecting a woman's right to choose

2. List up to ten random facts about yourself.

•  With each trip to the grocery store, I forget to pick up one thing I went for. (Saturday, it was butter.)
•  I sleep curled in a fetal position.
•  When I fly, I like the aisle seat.
•  I can't wear ear buds. I prefer around-the-neck headphones.
•  First baseman Anthony Rizzo is my current favorite Cub.
•  I am embarrassed to admit that I voted for Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich ... twice.
•  When I go to the movies, I have to stop at the concession stand.
•  I am a terrible housekeeper.
•  I go through periods where absolutely every person on the planet annoys me.
•  I am allergic to bee sting, morphine, and the antibiotic erythromycin.
3. List five people (personal, historic, living or dead) who have had a major impact on your life or the way you think.

•  John F. Kennedy
•  Abraham Lincoln
•  Elizabeth Edwards
•  Jesus
•  My uncle Ted

4. List 5 things you'd tell your 15 year-old self, if you could.

•  Apply sunscreen religiously!
•  These are, by far, the worst years of your life. Things will get better.
•  Cultivate that "fast mouth" of yours. In the not-so-distant future, people will pay you for your way with words.
•  You never will need math. In the future, everyone will have a personal computer with a calculator built right in.
•  The Cubs will win the World Series. Hang in there.

5. What is a major strength that you have? (You can list more than one. Staying with our no rules approach.) I think fast on my feet.

6. What is a major weakness that you have? (You can list more than one. STILL staying with our no rules approach.) I'm messy.

7. Describe the family dynamic of your childhood versus your family dynamic now. No, thank you. Questions like this make me sad.

8. What popular notion do you feel that the world has most wrong? That whole "small government/pull yourself up by the bootstraps" approach. It's devoid of compassion, and it assumes that the person you're speaking of has boots.

9. Name three things that always cheer you up when you are down.

•  The Beatles
•  The Cubs
•  My cats

10. Name three things would you like to be remembered for?

•  A good friend
•  A good writer
•  A good aunt

Saturday, April 22, 2017

It's apt to confuse me

Something went right today. The way things have been going lately, I found this confusing.

Getting online with my ancient little MacBook Pro has been hit or miss. After 3 (count 'em THREE) hours on the phone with Comcast -- a painful experience -- and another 30 minutes with Apple, the problem is diagnosed as not my modem, not my ethernet chord, but the ethernet port. The Apple troubleshooter warned me that this could require replacing the motherboard. Expensive. Very expensive. So I'd have to decide whether to invest more than $500 (probably closer to $800) on this old Mac or spend $2,000 on a new one.

The shop up the street is an authorized Apple seller/service provider. I took it in there to try to get definitive answers and hard numbers so I could mull my online future.

I left with a $30 USB ethernet adapter and my little laptop will live to surf another day.

What I found especially heartening is that the repair tech knew I was open to buying a new Mac. Not thrilled by the idea, obviously, but open to it. He didn't even try to steer me that way. He seemed pleased to have found an efficient and economic fix.

On the way home, this wonderful song kept running through my head. Written by Paul Simon, performed by Babs.

"I swear I can't get used to something so right."

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Don't Sleep in the Subway (1967)
Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) Subways can be bright and noisy. Do you need it dark and quiet before you can fall asleep? I have often dozed off on trains.

2) In this song, Petula encourages her lover to talk it out instead of walking out. Do you usually remain reasonable during a disagreement? No. I get emotional easily. I once had a lover who would say, before disagreements could turn into arguments, "I'm not telling you you're wrong, I'm asking you to be clear." I wish everyone I clashed with took that approach. It really helped stop things from escalating.

3) Petula was a child star in England during WWII. Her BBC broadcasts
were very popular with the British troops, who nicknamed her The Singing Sweetheart. Soldiers pasted her photo onto their tanks for luck as they went into battle. Do you have any little rituals or good luck charms that calm/comfort you when you're afraid? A friend gave me a Guatemalan Worry Doll. I try to transfer my terror to her when I fly.

4) Now 84, she recently told London's Daily Mail that she's surprised and thrilled to have found love again with a new man. Do you believe you'll ever be too old for romance? I suspect I am. I'd be delighted to be proven wrong.
5) Her family is far flung. She lives in London, her middle daughter is in Paris, her son is in Los Angeles and her oldest daughter lives in New York with Petula's two grandchildren. Who is your nearest friend or relative? Which one is farthest away? My closest close friend is John, who never more than a 20-minute cab ride away. The one who's farthest away is in Southern California, 2000 miles away.

6) In 1967, when this song was popular, Rolling Stone published its first issue. John Lennon was on the cover. Publisher Jann Wenner reports that, either individually or as a group, the members of The Beatles have appeared on the most Rolling Stone covers. What's the first Beatle song that comes to mind? "Who knows how long I've loved you? I know I love you still. Shall I wait a lonely lifetime? If you want me to, I will." Judging by the audience participation, I guess I'm not the only one who holds this song dear.

7) In 1967, Star Trek was in its second season on NBC. Who is your favorite Star Trek character? I'm not a big Star Trek fan, but I do get such a kick out of William Shatner. Everything I've seen him in, he's been delightfully over the top.
8) RANDOM QUESTION: When you slip into jeans or slacks, which foot do you put in first? Right.

9) As you considered #8, did you mime pulling on your pants? Yes.

One of those days ...

Broadcast News from Anton Tokman on Vimeo.

I had to have everything in the world done by 5:00 Friday.

I am proud of myself. There are times that I know I'm really good at this job, and today was one of those days.

I'm also filled with anxiety. While I am confident I did the best I could with what I was given, I also know I wasn't provided the proper timing, staff or upfront information I need to do all I'm capable of.

The presentation is Monday. I'll be on the phone from my den -- I told everyone when we began (last Monday at 4:00 PM) that contractors will be working in my home and so I'm taking a long-scheduled day off. My boss is going to present in my stead but he wants me on the phone, just in case someone has a question that he can't answer.

I'm alternately flattered and annoyed. Flattered because, in this industry and our unsure environment, it's good to know I'm important to the process. Annoyed because my regular art director is on a two-week vacation and everything possible was done to accommodate her. I take one day -- ONE. DAY. -- and I have to be by the phone, just in case.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

I Got Your Horse Right Here

I love that old joke: A kid finds a pile of manure and begins happily digging because, "there must be a pony in here somewhere."

And so, while myriad things are disturbing me right now, I'm going to catalog pretty little ponies instead.

1) I don't have to travel downstate next week. I enjoy presenting to the client, and I don't really mind riding the rails to go down there to see them. But the weather is really changeable this time of year, and all my nice slacks (aka not denim) are heavier weight. I'd either have to bet on a cool day or wear my crappy gray polyester-elastic-waistband-I've-given-up-on-my-appearance pants. Or buy a new pair of slacks, launder them, and hem them in time. All of which distracts me from the work, which is what I should be thinking about. So I'm glad that Monday's presentation is a conference call. (I haven't refunded my Tuesday train ticket, just in case.)

2) I'm paying cash. I'll be presenting from home, from my den, because I'm off that day -- finally having work done on my condo. Back in (gulp!) 2013, Cute Handyman uncovered a hole in my living room wall. I have a through-the-wall air conditioner and for decades, the sleeve that supported the unit on the outside was at an unfortunate angle. That allowed rain and snow to slide from the air conditioner into wall. I got the sleeve fixed promptly, but not the hole. I was afraid it would be expensive and complicated and really, I just wished it would fix itself.

Well, I finally decided that I can't stand living with a towel stuck in wall and behaved like a grown up. I got three estimates, hired a contractor, and on Monday they're going to come in, patch the hole with drywall and paint the wall. And I'm paying the contractor not out of my household emergency fund -- because let's face it, it's been more than three years so I can hardly call it an "emergency," not even to myself -- but with money I've been socking away. Any funds left over will go to a new mattress and box spring.

I would have preferred to use this money for a trip. And it's tempting to use it for a trip. But this is smart. I like being smart. And I'm proud of myself and my focus and restraint.

3) The Cubs won two in a row. What a skid my guys have been on! Right now we're barely a .500 ball club (8-7). Oh well, it's still April. And we did win two in a row. And Jason Heyward seems to have found his groove, so I'm happy.

I wish I wasn't still enveloped in this feeling of dread. But I'm trying to remain upbeat by accentuating the positive, and patting each of these three ponies on the nose.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sunday Stealing

Sunday Stealing: The Place for Pumpkin Questions

1. If "happiness" was the global currency, what kind of work would make you a gazillionaire? I'd work with shelter animals. Adopt, don't shop!

2. Would you break the law to save someone you loved?  And, if so, how far would you be willing to take it? I don't know. I remember having this conversation with my mom and grandmother -- both of whom are gone now -- during the OJ trial. His mother took the stand for him, and at the time it seemed so exploitative it made my skin crawl. So I asked Mom and Grandma what they'd do in Eunice Simpson's position. 

Their answers surprised me. My mother said "yes," she'd show up in court and lie under oath if she had to in order to save her child -- no matter how old that child was or what that child had done. Mom said the maternal instinct to protect was too strong. Grandma said "no." She thought it would be important for her son's soul to pay for what he'd done. (Though it must be said Grandma went to her grave believing OJ was innocent. She simply couldn't believe any man would throw away his wealth and freedom over a woman he'd already divorced.)

3. Is it possible to really know the truth without questioning it first? Wow. I think it depends on the situation, and the truth we're considering.

4. Do you remember that one time . . . oh, about 5 years ago or so . . . when you were really, really upset? Does it really matter now? If not now, then when? Yes. It mattered then and it matters now. It doesn't gnaw at me now like it did then, but thinking about it can still upset me. (Gee, thanks for bringing it back up again!)

5. Is it possible to know, without a doubt, what is good and what is evil? No. Of course not. Because for an act to be truly good or truly evil, intent and motive must be considered. Only God can see what's in another's heart. I'm not arrogant enough to think I have that ability.

6. What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you? I'd do karaoke.

7. Would you rather have less work to do, or more work you actually enjoy doing? More work I enjoy.

8. Would you rather be an anxious genius, or a tranquil fool? I've thought about this often. Tranquil fool, definitely!

9. Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things? Yes. (I put a lot of pressure on myself sometimes.)

10. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? 45.



I had kind of a grumpy day Saturday. I devoted three -- count 'em, THREE! -- hours on the phone, first to Comcast, then to Apple, trying to solve the Mystery of the Intermittent Internet. NOT how I wanted to spend my sunny Saturday!

So let's not concentrate on that. Instead, let's consider sights seen around town.

In honor of Easter, I dropped a bag of food off at the food pantry. Boxes of mac-and-cheese and Rice-a-Roni, tuna and jars of baby food. None of that would be on the menu for a festive holiday meal, but it's all stuff the average household can use. Besides, the volunteers wouldn't get it onto the shelves in time for Saturday's 9 till noon distribution.

On the way, I passed two individuals who had just picked up monthly allotment. They were both seniors. One was pushing his wire shopping cart in front of him, the other was pulling hers behind. I surreptitiously glanced into their bags. He had eggs on top, she had lettuce. It made me happy that the food pantry was able to distribute fresh foods in addition to canned and dry. But it made me sad that this is where they are at this stage in their lives. I saw my own mom in them. I wish that they had someone to send them a little money each month so that they wouldn't have to wait in line to "shop the pantry."

Later in the day, in front of my building, I ran into a girl and an older man. (Daughter and dad?) I believe she said her name was Katie. She was taking photo after photo of the building, which I must admit is really not very attractive. You wouldn't know it by her enthusiasm. The restored Grand Central Station wasn't photographed this extensively for Architecture Digest.

They just placed a bid on #307. It's a newly-renovated unit downstairs, laid out like mine but in much better shape. I don't know who paid for it, exactly. (Was he there as an advisor, as a roommate, or because he laid out the downpayment?) But she's definitely going to be living here.

I loved how different their questions were! She wanted to know if I thought it would be worth it to have a washer/dryer installed in her unit. (No, I'd prefer not to sacrifice the closet or counter space when we have a laundry room in the building.) He wanted to know if I heard the train all day and all night. (Yes, but as a woman who lives and alone and commutes, I find it comforting to have such a short, safe walk from train station to front door. This made him happy.) They both wanted to know about parking, which amused me. Whenever two or more people from this community get together, they complain about parking. So these two will fit right in.

I liked her spirit and her energy. And I'm jealous. There's so much I'd like to do to improve my home and she's moving into a freshly painted and redecorated place. Well, good for you, Katie. I hope you're happy here.

All that he's seen

Last week, Cubs Hall of Famer Billy Williams came out onto the field and received a World Series ring. He hadn't played for the Cubs since 1974, but he's part of the team. Not only in the hearts of the fans but as part of the Cubs organization, acting first as batting coach and now as "senior advisor."

To old-time fans like me, he's "Sweet Swinging Billy." I grew up on him. He was a perennial
All Star. A fixture in the outfield. He was handsome. He was reliable. #26 was so much more mature than the other eight Cubs in the line up.

In 2008, I finally found out why when I read his autobiography. Born in June 1938, he grew up in the segregated south. His extravagant natural gifts led him to professional baseball, and his first exposure to overt racism.

The year was 1959. He was a talented 21-year-old black man who filled the stands and thrilled the fans by day. But once he left the field, he no longer felt like an adult in the white man's world. He couldn't eat with his white teammates. He couldn't stay in the same hotels. The discrimination was so hard for him to bear that he left the team and went home to Whistler, Alabama.

Buck O'Neill, a member of the Cubs organization, visited Billy at home and spent two days trying to convince him to rejoin baseball. Billy did, but now he had an emotional distance, a cool persona that would always make him seem more businesslike than flamboyant, like an adult determined to excel at a boy's game.

Last week, at age 78, he finally got a World Series ring. He strode onto Wrigley Field and was hugged by the current Cubs coaches and management. That includes Laura Ricketts, Cubs co-owner and board member, and Brooke Skinner, Laura's wife.

That's right. He was hugged by a white woman, and by that white woman's lesbian partner, in full view of 41,000 people.

I bet if you told 1959's Billy Williams that would happen to him, he would call you crazy.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: This Is the Way the Bunny Hops
Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) Why do you suppose there are so many songs about Santa Claus, yet very few about the Easter Bunny? I think it's because the Easter Bunny is just dopey. This little Scottish girl adorably sums up my point for me.

2) This song was written by The Kiboomers, two early education teachers who are passionate about the power of music to help kids learn. Tell us about a teacher who had an impact on your life. An English teacher, Mrs. Rath. I wish I could remember her first name, because I'd like to look her up and thank her. Anyway, when I was in junior high, I became aware that I had a better vocabulary than my friends. I got teased for being geeky and decided to hide my light under a barrel. My mom came back from the parent-teacher conference and reported Mrs. Rath was worried about me. Why had I suddenly stopped participating in class? I was touched and heartened that she noticed -- not only me, but the absence of me.
3) Legend has it that the Easter Bunny was introduced to America in the 1700s by German immigrants. These children waited for a magic creature who left colored eggs. Today's kids dye Easter eggs themselves. When did you most recently color eggs? Maybe 20 years.

4) The Easter Bunny is usually shown carrying a wicker basket filled with eggs, toys and candy. Is there any wicker in the room you're in right now? I've got a wicker basket by the front door where I dump my keys.

5) While marshmallow Peeps are manufactured all year around, they are most popular at Easter. Do you prefer the chicks or the bunnies? The chicks. But my preference is based purely on aesthetics, not flavor. I hate the taste of all of them equally.
6) A little time in the microwave can do ugly things to a Peep. Have you ever nuked a Peep? No. I have a hard enough time keeping my microwave clean as it is.
7) Would you prefer a hollow or a solid chocolate bunny? Hollow. The thinner chocolate melts faster on my tongue.

8) A traditional American Easter dinner usually includes glazed ham or roast lamb. Which would you rather have as your main course? Of those choices, I'd prefer ham, but I've been saving a steak for the occasion.

9) Easter is considered the season of rebirth. What makes you feel refreshed or rejuvenated? I always feel better after I shower and wash my hair.


Friday, April 14, 2017

In Love with Night

The Friday 56

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.

From In Love with Night, page 56. Senator John F. Kennedy is running for President. His kid brother Bobby is running his campaign. In the process, Bobby earns a reputation for ruthlessness.

"He has all the patience of a vulture without any of the dripping sentimentality," said one of the reporters assigned to cover JFK's race. Bobby took it as a compliment. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Tasty Grande

Here is the Cubs World Series ring. There are 108 diamonds, rubies and sapphires to signify the 108 years that it took the team to get here. It's the biggest, most expensive ring in MLB history.

Manager Joe Maddon says that while it's beautiful ("tasty grande" in Maddon speak), he'll never wear his, claiming he couldn't even steer his car while wearing such a big piece of hardware.

EVERYONE who worked for the Cubs organization in 2016 -- including the guys who brought out the tarp during the rain delays and tended the ivy -- will get one of these. That's 1,908 rings. And the last time the Cubs won was 1908. Coincidence?


To participate, and to see how others responded, click here

1. What are you currently reading? In Love with Night by Ronald Steel. Subtitled "The American Romance with Robert Kennedy." Steel promises to take Bobby's life and legacy and put it in some real world perspective. How much of his legend is performance and how much is promise? How to separate the complex and contradictory man from the myth?

The contradictions are mighty. As the author notes, Bobby "was an ardent prosecutor who abused the law, a champion of Black pride who allowed the FBI to torment Martin Luther King, a fearless rebel who would not take on an unpopular president until another man cleared the way." 

I'm looking forward to this book being serious. When reading about the Kennedys, it's easy to slide into either sludge or hagiography. I hope this book rises above both gossip and idolatry.

2. What did you recently finish reading?  A Hole in Juan, by Gillian Roberts. Another in the Amanda Pepper mystery series. It's easy to dismiss these books as cozy mysteries, in the Murder, She Wrote vein. But they're always more than that. 

In this one, Gillian Roberts channels her inner Hitchcock and builds a real sense of tension in an otherwise benign spot: a dance in the high school auditorium. Teacher Amanda Pepper notices her senior English class acting differently. Their teenage dramas are suddenly a bit more dangerous and their pranks take on a darker hue. Are the kids simply swept up in excitement over Halloween, and the annual Mischief Night dance? Or is it something more sinister?

This book also reminded me of how hard it is to be an adolescent. How important everything feels when you're on the precipice, about to leap (or fall) from childhood into your adult life. Ms. Pepper's class is reading A Separate Peace, which is a nice touch. 
3.  What will you read next? I don't know. Maybe I'll reread A Separate Peace.