Mystery of The Matching Shoes

Mystery of The Matching Shoes

Chicago’s annual Printers Row Lit Fest is a red-meat feast of books. For two days bibliomaniacs don their Walgreen’s readers and shuffle from table to table in the two-block long chow-down of book delights. Lone readers never look up, never reply to vendors, never talk to authors. They’re intent on finding the books they need to satisfy an obsession that never ends—to be alone with their books.

Then there are the book lovers who hold vendors hostage yakking about their favorite books and authors. And others with their dogs and friends, happy to be outside talking to neighbors, catching glimpses of book titles they may wander back to.

In 2021, my publisher asked me to stand behind the Tortoise Books display to promote my book, In That Number

“Oh, you’re the author? What’s it about?” strangers asked.

“It’s a memoir about politics.” I answered.

The publisher interjected, “She was a hippie who worked for Bill Clinton. She met Putin.”

I had no idea how to initiate conversations about my book, never mind promote myself. I signed a few copies, but not many words passed between me and the buyers.

At the 2022 Lit Fest, memoir writing teacher, Beth Finke, organized a program, “Unlocking Memories and Uncovering Stories” with two of her students who had published children’s books. Beth moderated the discussion.

I sat in the front row, soaking up the ethereal juice of a room of twenty-five or so people attracted to children’s literature.

The two presenters, Sharon Rosenblatt Kramer, and Bindy Bitterman, sat on either side of Beth Finke at a table covered by a floor-length black cloth. Beth, a published author herself, introduced her student-authors in her usual lighthearted manner, exuding pride in their accomplishments. She asked questions about how they got started and their publishing processes.

Sharon Kramer’s book, A Time for Bubbe, published by Golden Alley Press, blossomed from one of Beth’s memoir writing prompts, “all the time in the world”. It’s the story of her six-year-old grandson visiting his great-grandmother in her high-rise. He punches all the elevator buttons and she responds, “Don’t worry boychik, we have all the time in the world.”

Bindy Bitterman’s  Skiddly Diddly Skat is a self-published cat and mouse story written in limericks, accompanied by a QR audio code.

Sharon Rosenblatt Kramer, Beth Finke, Bindy Bitterman and the Matching Shoes

Halfway through the presentation, I noticed two sets of matching shoes sticking out from the tablecloth, under Sharon and Beth. Did Sharon and Beth coordinate their shoes? They looked like soft-souled, black canvas with round grey tips. The feet moved slightly every few minutes, always in unison. For a second I thought they might be mice. I couldn’t take my eyes off them.

Then all at once the tablecloth ruffled and a black Labrador stuck her nose out from under the table, flopped her head down and resumed her subservient posture at Beth’s feet. I’d forgotten that Luna, the seeing eye dog, uses those four black feet with grey pads to lead Beth around town.

Luna solves the mystery of the matching shoes

Hmm. Would the mystery of the matching shoes make a good children’s story?

__________

  • Click here to buy A Time for Bubbe by Sharon Kramer on Amazon.
  • Purchase Skiddly Diddly Skat by Bindy Bitterman here
  • To purchase Beth Finke’s latest book, Writing Out Loud, click here

Celebration Time: Beatles Sing Along July 25 Rain or Shine

Celebration Time: Beatles Sing Along July 25 Rain or Shine

Coming out of the Covid pandemic shutdown has spawned all manner of articles on “social re-entry”.  Lunch with one or two friends is my recipe for social re-entry. More than that and I’ll need a lesson in the art of conversation.  

The neighborhood social network, NextDoor provides a stepping stone to establishing rapport through small talk. Yes, it’s still online, but I feel connected to my neighbors when they seek suggestions for a handyman or ask which restaurants are serving outside. It’s good practice in case I’m ever in a large gathering again like a party or a church function. I could tell the neighborhood started opening up when NextDoor’s online regulars moved from grumbling about gunshots in the middle of the night to complaining about bad grocery stores:

“I’ve had multiple bad experiences purchasing groceries from this store. Most recently, I purchased sour cream that already had mold in it right when I opened it.”

One post sought a “Depression Buddies” walk-and-talk group for those just starting to venture out. Though I love the idea, I didn’t join because well, I’m hoping my lingering pandemic depression will dissipate as I continue to move past the whispers guarding my door.

For years, a hundred neighbors have gathered at the end of July for a free Beatles Sing Along at a park in Chicago. We all think of it as the best event of the summer. Last year we voluntarily shut ourselves down since no one was gathering indoors or out, least of all singers spewing viral loads in speaking words of wisdom, let it be. 

Knowing there are many still hesitant to group and sing together, I asked my neighbors on NextDoor:  “We’re considering holding our yearly Beatles Sing Along on the steps of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sunday, July 25 at 5:00. Do you see any problems with this? Would anything keep you from attending?” Within a week, ninety yet-to-be-mets responded yes with heart emojis and fifty commented with exclamations like, ‘I’ve lived here for 30 years, how come I’ve never heard about this?”

The best comment: “What would keep me away? A hurricane maybe. Maybe.”

Meanwhile, Amada Senior Care Chicago offered to bring water, handheld fans and visors. Some have asked if they can bring extra folding chairs for those who can’t manage the steps. Yes neighbors! The MCA is jumpin’ to have such a fun midsummer event.

And so are we.

Join us if you’re in Chicago. We’ll give you a songbook of twenty-two Beatles tunes and one exhilarating hour to practice social re-entering, with no expectation of small talk. Bring your good voice, bad voice, in-between voice, marimbas, tambourines, kazoos, guitars, fiddles, horns, castanets, howling dogs — any instrument or noisemaker that suits you. Can’t sing? We’ll sing to you. Come for fun. Take photos. Dosey-Do. Give Peace a Chance. Let it be.

Hats off to the father and son duo of Curt and Chris Powell, our talented choir leaders, who will entertain us with their own set, as we wind down from our Beatles Sing Along.

Start Practicing!