Wednesday, February 14, 2018


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? Vulgar Favors by Maureen Orth. I read this book decades ago, when the Miglin/Versace story was still top of mind. (And make no mistake about it: here in Chicago, Lee and Marilyn Miglin were better known and more influential than Versace.) With American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, I found it on my bookshelf and decided to give it a reread.

2. What did you recently finish reading? The Lonely Lady of San Clemente: The Pat Nixon Story by Lester David. This is not a very good book, which is a shame because I learned while reading it that Mrs. Nixon lived many lives. She was a teenaged rebel who regularly "stole" cars from her neighbors and older brothers so she and her friends could go to dances and other social events, and went out of her way to dress in a way that raised eyebrows. She was a poor kid in a poor town, who lost both her parents before she was old enough to be on her own. 

Then she became a most serious young woman, 100% dedicated to absolutely everything she did. She was a teller who had to testify in court against a bank robber, a cleaning lady, and finally a teacher beloved by her students. Then the quintessential political wife, even though she hated politics and public attention. There's source material here for a riveting book ... but this ain't it.

For example, there's her courtship with Dick Nixon. Here she is, past 25, longing for a family. She was dating several men, almost to the day she accepted his proposal, but Nixon was the most ardent suitor. David supposes she was attracted to how much he loved her, and the security he offered. OK, I get that. Then, a scant chapter or two later, he talks about how unhappy she was when Nixon was attacked in the press because she was a woman who "deeply loved" her husband. Really? When did that happen? Was it their separation during World War II that made her heart grow fonder? The birth of their first daughter? When did she fall "deeply in love?"
It reads like one of those women's magazines my mom used to devour -- McCall's or Ladies Home Journal. It's breathless, simple and superficial. I hope I find a better book about her someday.

3.  What will you read next? Maybe another biography? Or a mystery. My TBR pile is stacked dauntingly high with both. 

Catching Up with the Whole Family

It's been more than a week since I saw Napoleon and his parents, Caleb and Randi. And Monday I saw all three of them, walking up Michigan Avenue. They were pushing their belongings --  two big roller bags and a cat carrier -- in a tall cart. Napoleon was in the carrier, looking every ounce the irritated teenager that he now is. At 9 months old, he's all attitude and energy and he clearly resented being in the carrier.

The snow has made it hard for them to panhandle. The areas where they usually park themselves are now either wet or covered in dirty snow. The damp has made it hard for them to sleep in their tent, so wherever they're sleeping -- I wasn't clear where -- is costing them money. But while it's not ideal, it's not as bad as it would have been a few months ago because ...

They're both working! Caleb drives a forklift four hours/night, four nights/week at a grocery warehouse. Randi "helps out" (answers phones, sweeps up, makes appointments) at a salon during the day. (They can't work at the same time because someone has to stay with Napoleon.) She says the women she works with at the salon aren't as welcoming and supportive as she hoped they would be, but at least she's warm and dry at work.

Hopefully, in two weeks, they will have the cash they need to pay two months' rent in advance on a room in a big house in Boystown. They will have a furnished bedroom and access to the kitchen and bathroom anytime they want. I worry about how Napoleon will make the transition. While being homeless is rough on humans, it's really a pretty spectacular life for a cat. He's literally never alone, one or both of his parents is always with him, lavishing attention on him. He's outdoors almost all the time -- though they report he likes sleeping in beds, burrowing under the covers by Caleb's feet -- and enjoys watching birds and shoelaces and leaves and paper that float by. I'm afraid that the boredom and confusion that will come from being left alone all day will result in destructive behavior on his part.

But won't that be a nice problem to have, after a year of not having a bed to call their own?