Chicago at midweek

Sunday 11 December 2016 REVIVE US AGAIN I’m not a dog person. However, the novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein (Harper Perennial, 2008), makes me want to scratch any dog’s ears.

Enzo, the dog who tells the story, reveals what it’s like living with a human family, Denny and Eve Swift and their young daughter Zoe.  Denny is an up and coming race car driver. Eve heartbreakingly falls ill. Zoe is adorable, a picture of her parents pluck. You need not be a dog lover or a race car fan to enjoy this book. the story grabs you by the heartstrings.

Enzo communicates via gestures, “sometimes they must be grand in nature,” he noted since while he can understand human language he can’t speak–or so it appears through most of the book. He has learned language by watching television and watching humans. Who would have thought that the eyes, ears and nose of a dog would not just hold a story together, but make it zing?

It’s a fable about life, ambition, misfortune, death, persistence, surprise, loss, achievement, more death, more surprise, resolution.

I have my brother-in-law, Murray Meadows, to thank for alerting me to the book, and nephew Grant Meadows for lending me his family’s copy. Just think, a philosophical dog proves in surprising twists and turns to be an engrossing, memorable, winning read.

Other uses for books

Books roil with good stories. They carry treasured stories from one generation to the next, including physical copies handed down. In addition to their function as either entertainment, instruction or inspiration, books also serve to spruce up your home décor.

That’s according to Cathy Hobbs in the Chicago Tribune HOMES section (Thursday 8 December). “The beauty of books is they come in all different shapes, sizes and colors at an affordable price and can help glam up your home,” she said. So, books make a statement around your home as well as serve as testaments of time. We know that, even as we work to whittle down the number of books gracing our shelves.

If a dog can tell an engaging tale, so what about a bookcase? Surely someone’s written a book from the bookcase’s point of view. How the history shelf regards the mystery shelves. How some biographies would lord it over the self-help shelf. How commentaries unlock varied views of biblical study. How some books are wantonly stacked horizontally on top of vertical ones. How there are those orphan books waiting to be returned to their owners.  Bookshelves as the ears, eyes and big shoulders of both ideas and décor? Why not?

More from Chicago Tribune

In the same HOMES section I read that one still has time to plant garlic. The writer said It’s best to plant garlic and spring-flowering bulbs in the fall after the first hard frost before the ground freezes. “There is still time during this unusually warm fall.” Well, the Polar Vortex will keep me from planting either garlic or daffodils. Actually, I planted daffodils more than a month ago.

I liked a news story on the “Healing power of medicine and magic” in the Arts+Entertainment section. Dr. Ricardo Rosenkranz, a pediatrician who teaches at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, is doing a show at Royal George Cabaret through December 23.

The doctor/magician said, reported Chris Jones, “Medicine is not a transaction. It is the unraveling of a really beautiful story.”

Jones: “‘Healing,” he says, blinking out at his audience, his de-facto medical students, over his spectacles,’actually occurs as our patients’ story becomes our own.'”

That’s it, who doesn’t want their doctor to have empathy, to practice the twin disciplines of science and art. The show probes the connection between magic and medicine,  Jones said. “It’s all clearly based on Rosenkranz’s work in the classroom, and thus it offers a chance to take at least part of a medical school class, one that doesn’t make your head hurt but makes your spirit yearn to heal yourself.” Makes me wish for another trip to Chicago.

The engaging power of music

Whatever your taste in music, it’s a medium that touches one. We’ve attended a few of the Myra Hess Memorial Concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center. The center is just steps from the Millennium Train Station. On Wednesday noon we heard excerpts for cello and piano from works by Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Shostakovich.

Our host, Oscar Crawford, heard Hess play on one of her last visits to the U.S. A piano student, he was smitten. To this day he reveres the memory of hearing her play live. Marty met Oscar through mutual friends when she taught school in Ohio. Oscar taught English at Cleveland State College, was a classical scholar with special interest in St Gall, was a small-acreage farmer, and in retirement moved to Chicago for the more vibrant urban life. At least once a year he visits us in Indiana, including sister and brother-in-law, Doris and Bill Mast where he spent a week learning about farming.

Oscar lives in Hyde Park, within walking distance to the University of Chicago, The Museum of Science and Industry, and the Chicago home of the Obama family.

A boss once told a group of us that if you can’t say something nice about people, don’t say anything. O.K., I’ve got something nice to say about the Obamas–fine first family, gifted, envy of our friends in the UK, made-in-America pride and passion.

Last winter in Cornwall UK we saw a three-part series, Inside the Obama White House, I think it was called, that the BBC had filmed. I wish it were more widely available. It showed President Obama working against great odds at home and abroad–and achieving positive results nonetheless. Obama dealt with issues of substance. Historians will delve into that legacy. The Obamas linked us in friendship with others, with diverse peoples at home and abroad that enrich our communities with even the simple gift of knowing each other better. Thank you!


It’s two weeks to Christmas. I’m grateful for the season’s main course events that include music, Advent rolling into the glory of the Lord being revealed,  festivals, lighting displays, family  gatherings, and our annual trip to Chicago for Christkindl Market, the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert, a bit of shopping and a walk around Millennium Park. I’m grateful for the appetizer seasonal doings, too.

More photos from Chicago

Anybody available to shovel snow? Blessings,



2 thoughts on “Chicago at midweek

  1. How delightfully you write about such ordinary things. You transport me in time and space whether into a book or your travels. Thank you.


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