Tuesday, February 14, 2023


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

PS I can no longer participate in WWW.WEDNESDAY via that link because her blog won't accept Blogger comments. I mention this only to save you the frustration I experienced trying to link up.

1. What are you currently reading? Who Is Maud Dixon by Alexandra Andrews. Florence is a low-level publishing employee who believes she's destined for great things. She's let go by her employer but she's not worried. The universe is looking out for her, she just knows it. So when the reclusive and insanely popular author Maud Dixon offers Florence a personal assistant job, she snaps at it. A new world opens up to her. And then dark and mysterious things begin to happen. How will Florence handle herself in these tricky, tempting and very consequential situations? So far, for me, the crux is: how well do we really know anyone, including ourselves?

PS Thanks to Kwizgiver for turning me onto this book.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Reclaiming History by Vincent Bugliosi. First of all, this isn't a book, it's a doorjamb. More than 1500 pages! But it's important.
Vincent Bugliosi, successful as both a prosecutor (Charles Manson and his "family") and defense attorney, examines the JFK assassination as a crime and follows the evidence wherever it takes him. It takes him to Lee Harvey Oswald, no one else. He explains in clear, easy-to-understand prose why this is the only conclusion he could reach.

The book is in roughly three parts. First, what happened before, on, and after 11/22/63. Second, investigating the investigators (Dallas police, FBI, and The Warren Commission). Third, why the three biggest conspiracies (the Mob did it, the FBI and/or CIA did it, a foreign power did it) are simply paranoid fever dreams.

Because of the way the book is constructed, there's necessarily redundancy here. The reasons why the Mob wouldn't/didn't/could never have hired Oswald and/or Ruby are the same reasons why no one else would. But it's apparently necessary because conspiracy theorists are a notoriously tenacious lot.

For me, these are the most obvious reasons why Oswald was a lone wolf:
1. He escaped Dealey Plaza by bus. Who would trust the Dallas transit system to spirit away their hitman? Why would anyone hire a hitman who didn't know how to drive in the first place?
2. Why would Oswald commit this risky crime for free? He lived like a pauper before the assassination and his widow and daughters received no windfall after. We know this because Marina Oswald was under FBI surveillance for quite some time after 11/22. (When this surveillance began, Robert Kennedy was Attorney General. Does anyone really believe Bobby was "in on it?") For years to come, she was approached by news outlets and often gave interviews. She's never hidden from the spotlight and, to this day, leads a distinctly middle class life. Where's the money?
3. While Robert and Ted Kennedy had quibbles with investigatory techniques, neither of the President's brothers questioned the Warren Commission's final conclusion. Ever. This is impressive when you consider Ted Kennedy lived more than 45 years longer than JFK and, as a high-ranking Senator, had access to classified information. Do you really believe he never looked at it?
There are many more reasons -- dozens upon dozens. If this topic interests you, this book is the gold standard.

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

Better than I thought

That applies to Sunday. All of it was better than I thought it would be.

Elaine got tickets to play ... months ago. When I was still working. Elaine is very into taking advantage of everything Chicago has to offer, which is wise and wonderful of her. So when tickets to the rather controversial production of Wuthering Heights at the Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier became available, she grabbed them. She invited me to go along and I said "yes." Things I didn't know then:

1) She had three tickets, not two, so someone else would be accompanying us

2) I'd be unemployed, and a $100+ Sunday spent watching a play I wasn't passionate about would be unwise

So I didn't want to go. I didn't know how to get out of it, but I knew I'd rather stay home. 

But Elaine has been very kind to me, working hard at nurturing our new-ish friendship, and so I committed to going. Also, I haven't seen live theater in, oh, I don't know how long. And Navy Pier is always fun, but I haven't been since before covid.

It was with more than a little anxiety I got on the train Sunday. Though it was the first time that I got to ride at a reduced fare, just for flashing my spanking new "Hi! I'm old!" card.

I hung around the train station for a while then I took a Lyft to Navy Pier. My driver seemed surprised that I was going to the theater entrance, not a sports bar entrance, since it was, after all, Super Bowl Sunday. It was kinda nice to tell a stranger what it's like to have been in advertising for decades (43 years, to be exact) and not feel pressured to watch The Game and scrutinize the commercials. I only saw one in advance (Anna Faris for avocados) and it was so high concept I didn't think it would resonate with a wide audience. But you know what? It doesn't matter a damn what I thought of the ad. I'm not in advertising anymore.

Elaine was there, right on time, at the entrance to the theater. She kept checking her phone because her other friend, Rosie, was nowhere in sight. She was in the lobby already. I admit I was very nervous about meeting her. I know very little about Rosie -- just that she is mom to an adult daughter and still working, teaching dance and music to little kids at a rather prestigious Chicago private school. This made me self conscious. Here I am, a roly poly retiree!

She could not have kinder or friendlier. Phew! I appreciated that enormously. At one point she turned to Elaine and said, "You're right. She's smart and funny!" I loved that because it means she asked Elaine about me before we met, and maybe she was as nervous beforehand as I was.

The play was interesting, too. A very imaginative, minimalist set. Unexpectedly funny in an absurdist English way. I mean, Heathcliff and Cathy weren't exactly a laugh-a-minute couple, but this production did wrest a few giggles from us.

Afterward we had a lovely dinner at Reunion and Elaine drove me home. 

So let's re-examine what I'd been freaking out about:

1) Rosie was completely charming and welcoming

2) The play didn't suck and the tickets were Elaine's treat because she got them from a neighbor who couldn't use them and ... I admit I got lost in the story, but no matter. Plus Reunion offered a discount for theatergoers, so I got to try a favorite dining spot of both the Obamas and Oprah at 20% off!

So I'd twisted myself up in knots over nothing.

I'm glad a fine time was had by all, but I really have to work at trying not to be an ass.