Wednesday, June 27, 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?  
Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn. Our narrator is Chet, a dog who flunked out of police school. Chet lives and works with his human companion, Bernie, a down-on-his-luck private investigator. The mystery at hand involves threats against a show dog named Princess.

I just cracked this one open, so I don't have much to say about it. It was gifted to me by someone I gave The Art of Racing in the Rain to. He figured if I enjoyed a dog narrator then, I'll enjoy one now, though I can see already this book doesn't have Racing's artistic aspirations.

And that's OK. Just as I enjoy a popcorn movie at the theater every now and again, I can have fun reading lighter fare.

2. What did you recently finish reading?  
Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit by Chris Matthews. This book was a difficult read. Not because of the writing -- Chris Matthews is far more graceful in his prose than his TV persona suggests. No, it was hard because of Bobby is such a challenging topic.

This is, after all, the kid JFK used to call "Black Robert." He could be a prig. He could be without nuance. He had an unfortunate penchant for seeing the world (in his wife Ethel's words) "as black and white hats." His puritanical outlook made it hard for him to fit in -- at college, in the service, in the workplace.

Then he fell into politics and he hit his stride. He was successful in running John Kennedy's campaigns, he was effective as an activist Attorney General. He believed he was making a difference. He was happy. But that happiness ended in the worst way possible after only 1000 days.
President Kennedy's death transformed his brother. He became more sensitive and almost achingly empathic. He yearned to close the gap between generations, between races, between classes. Bobby was driven to run for President himself because he believed he could do real and lasting good. Then the unthinkable becomes inevitable, and Bobby himself is murdered. At just 42. 

The parallels between 1968 and 2018 are inescapable. Reading this book is like walking around with a pebble in your shoe. Bobby annoys and reminds and cajoles you into doing what you can to help your country now, when your country really needs you.

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

That was fun!

I spent 90 minutes on the phone to my oldest friend! We just blabbed and blabbed. We just laughed and laughed. It felt so good to reconnect. I have been so worried about her health and well being that I'd forgotten how much I depend on her, how much our connection means to me. I've known her since Kindergarten. I can literally think of only three people on earth who have known me longer. I feel rejuvenated after our talk.

I didn't tell her that a finance company contacted me, looking for her. She knows she's not making her car payment. She knows they are trying to reach her. Why embarrass her? Especially when we were getting along so well.

I am not fooled by what happened here. Just because I feel better doesn't mean she feels better. She is still unemployed and beyond broke. She is still trying to get her welfare straightened out so that she can get the meds she needs. She is still battling heart trouble, arthritis, bad teeth and most of all, depression.

But I think of that phone call as a little bud, a little shoot on a venerable old plant. I'm going to nurture and make sure our connection stays strong.

All good

Napoleon update. Before I went to Springfield, Caleb asked me to bring him something from my trip, so I'd been carrying a postcard from Lincoln's Home. When I gave it to him, he told me that his grandfather told him about touring the house when he was a little boy, and that his grandfather was "a Lincoln fanatic." It was the first I'd heard about Caleb's grandfather, and was glad the card brought back happy memories (though I'm still not reading Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, even if it is one of Caleb's favorite books).

While he and I were talking, a woman walked up with a 24-can case of Friskies cat food. Napoleon's favorite! Napoleon acted as though he knew what it was. He hopped into the plastic bag and started pawing at the cardboard. Now he could not possibly smell the gravy through the cardboard box and the metal can ... could he? At any rate, the woman knew her act of kindness was enthusiastically received by both human and feline.

Caleb has a lead on another place for the little family to live. His wife still needs a wheelchair off and on throughout the day -- with her weakened heart, when she feels tired she must stay off her feet -- so sleeping in their tent by the river is an impossibility. The furnished room where they are makes both Randi and Napoleon uncomfortable because they neither trust nor like their landlord. Plus, it's an illegal rental, which means they have no lease and no rights. This worries me.

Anyway, a woman who works for IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) walks by Caleb and Napoleon every day and has taken an interest in them. She is investigating a state-sponsored home where Caleb and Randi would have their own furnished room, a shared bathroom and access to a kitchen. He seemed excited about having a lock on his door and extra privacy. I hope it works out. It would be nice if Randi could relax and recuperate in a room where she feels safe and comfortable.