Wednesday, December 06, 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? A Christmas Return by Anne Perry. Set in the 1890s, this is the story of Mariah Ellis. A wealthy, crusty and rather lonely grandmother takes a Christmas trip to mend a broken friendship and maybe solve a twenty-year-old mystery. I've just cracked it open and hope that it delivers the Victorian-era atmosphere and yuletide spirit the cover promises.

2. What did you recently finish reading? The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. What a frustrating book! I wanted to love it so much, and I did ... until I didn't.

This is the autobiography of Enzo, a dog at the end of his life looking back on his "dogness." It's a captivating book -- charming, imaginative and filled with provocative insights. It's filled with charming and inspirational little moments that will stay with me for a long time.

But the plot reminds me of the Elvis song, "You Gave Me a Mountain." In that song, a guy's life begins in the desert heat, which causes his mother to die in childbirth. As a result, his father hates him. Then he ends up in prison for a crime he didn't commit. That's just the first verse. 

The Art of Racing in the Rain becomes like a corny, over-the-top country song. When the story centers on Enzo and his nuclear (human) family -- Denny, wife Eve and daughter Zoe -- it's a touching, delightful tale. It's about the stuff of life, touching on compromise and love and sacrifice and success and overcoming challenges. Then the story introduces villains -- "The Twins," as Enzo calls them, and Annika -- and suddenly the saga of Enzo's master, Denny, began to resemble the trials of Job. The bad guys are too bad, too one-dimensional, and there's a soupcon of misogyny tossed in, too.

I'm not sorry I read it. I was quite touched by Enzo. I just wish the story had retained a tighter focus on him and his conventional, day-to-day doggy life. That's what made it special.
3.  What will you read next? Maybe another mystery? Or a biography

Hemorrhaging Money

Monday night, my phone died. It was never a very good phone. (OK, it was a piece of shit.) And it was 2 1/2 years old, so it wasn't a surprise. It just didn't make me happy because I'm very short of funds this month.

I replaced it with an LG Aristo, the cheapest one they had. $50 down and $6/month for the next two years. It's fine. It has a better camera than my old phone did, and if this phone lasts 2 1/2 years, I'll consider it a god value. I just didn't feel like buying a new phone now. But I need to be able to text and access my Uber/Lyft accounts, and since I'll be traveling again at Christmas, I need a phone that's up and running. It is what it is.

Then tonight my Ventra card crapped out. I need it to board the el every day, twice a day. It had more than $30 on it. The CTA will send me a new card with my funds loaded on it -- minus a $5 processing fee -- but that will take a week. So on the way home, I had to buy and fund another card. Sigh.

I'm so fucking sick of worrying about money.

It's not Eugene O'Neill, but then it doesn't have to be

Last week I went to see Escape to Margaritaville with my friend Barb. Chicago was the last stop before Broadway. It's a silly show -- about boat drinks and flip flops and vacation romance. I like Jimmy Buffett's music and suspect it could have been more. The songs have a wistful, subversive quality that could have taken the show in a more substantial direction.

But I'm glad that the writers went the sitcom route. This was the first time I've seen Barb since the memorial service for her late husband in September. Since then, she's tried hard to not be home, spending time vacationing in Manhattan and at her new house in Hilton Head. But she can't run away forever. She's back in Chicago for the holidays, and to make some tough decisions about her future. She's going to sell the house here, where she and her husband were living during his year-long battle with cancer.

She's not doing well. She gets teary very easily and admits how much time she spends talking to her new therapist. I suppose I shouldn't have expected her to be doing any better than this. She has been through a tremendous amount these past two years -- her own mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, debilitating arthritis, her retirement, and most of all, her husband's illness and death. She's doing the best she can. I'm confident she will come through this on the other side. But she's on a sad and lonely journey.

So a silly show about booze with a sing-along to "Why Don't We Get Drunk (And Screw)?" might just have been what the doctor ordered.