Book Launch Party

FeaturedBook Launch Party

“In That Number” Book Launch hosted by Skyline Village Chicago via zoom, Oct 21, 2020, 4:00 pm Chicago time with NPR/WBEZ reporter Monica Eng. Register here

Cousin Barb Violi, Omaha Nebraska

In another world and time uncertain, we’d be having a rip-roaring party at Half Sour in Chicago’s South Loop hosted by Beth Finke and Mike Knezovich. Iliana Genkova would pass around campaign-like buttons and cookies with the name of my book tattooed on top. We’d all be happy, joyous and free for a few brief hours away from the worries of the world.

Sigh. We’ll have to settle for a Zoom Book Launch. Please pull up your own refreshments and join us. Monica Eng has graciously agreed to lead the discussion for my book. You’ve heard her reporting on Curious City (most recently about rats!), Thursdays on WBEZ’s “All Things Considered”.

I’ve always wanted to be a published author but I never dreamed my writing would be so well received outside of a small circle of friends and fellow writers. I’m truly humbled. Thank you for reading my book and paying such generous compliments to me in person, on email and text, Face Book and Twitter and Zoom, and even a card in the mail!

A particular thank you to those who’ve encouraged me to compile years worth of 500-word essays from memoir writing classes into a book. It was a harder task and a longer trip than I imagined but well worth the effort. If you’re a writer, keep laying down those words. There’s power in the story. If you’re not a writer, thank you for supporting us; allowing us to make mistakes, grow weary, and to brag when we find that one perfect word for that one perfect sentence in that one perfect paragraph. 

Allow me to share my joy with you through a smattering of quotes. In order not to embarrass anyone, I’ve kept most anonymous. 

See you October 21!

  • I passed two days immersed in your life story. I identified with so many places and events. I am 100% with you on the last paragraph on page 246.
  • The beauty and skill of every page, and the achievement of presenting your life story of engaging encounters is thrilling. That’s what made me want to read it all.
  • Helloooooo, It’s incredible. Who knew our white-haired “older” friend had such an XXX-rated past? I await the movie!!
  • It’s a great book about a great woman!
  • My dog wants to know why I get so absorbed in Regan Burke’s terrific book “In That Number.” But it’s easy to get caught up in this fascinating memoir of life, love, addiction and local and national politics.
  • …a work as sui generis as Regan Burke herself. I have a feeling that we’ll look back on this event as more than a book launch – more like an opus launch, with much more to come after this one!
  •  It’s a fantastic memoir about alcoholism and politics, family and recovery, from a woman who’s met everyone from Bill Clinton to Vladimir Putin. (And Rick Perlstein says it’s great.)
  • My husband read your introduction out loud to me last night. So well written –you had to get a lot into that  short intro. “Want me to read the whole book to you?” He offered, “you know I could.” He hasn’t offered to read a book out loud to me in decades. Can’t say that I blame him: when he used to read to me, I’d fall asleep, often without him knowing. There he’d be, diligently working to read out loud, take a brief look up and…zzzzzz. He must feel confident I won’t sleep through this one. He’s right..  
  • Pot brownies at her sister’s wedding. 🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂. I’m enjoying this book. It’s so well written.
  • This story is appealing to many different groups.  It’s a redemption story, a woman’s empowerment story, an AA story, a friendship story, a political struggle story,  a “how I did it,” story,  a slice of baby boomer history and Rock-in-roll , and  a special Chicago/Illinois-political tales story all wrapped up in one book.
  • This is a beautiful wonderful story about a smart strong woman who faced all kinds of adversity and succeeded and built deep friendships.  Also the context of a couple of decades (yikes, we’re talking decades) is fun.  There are so many parallels between the 60s/70s and now.  It’s a story that has all sorts of resonating themes.
  • Am so delighted with this book – she is a brilliant writer and its a brilliant story of a life so well lived despite all the huge odds – the whole world should know. 
  • Who will like this book: 1. Anyone who likes Allan Sorkin shows, and Primary Colors. 2. Aging boomers who like the music, and a brief recount of early early political activists. 3.  AA members 4. Democrats 5. Every Democratic political junky in or formerly from Chicago/Illinois  6. Gary Hart and Bill/Hilary Clinton supporters 7.  Dead Heads and vintage rock-n-rollers 8. Every person who likes heros who survived struggles and find purpose (half of the best sellers list is this theme). 9. Anyone who’s been to Bahamas, Barcelona, Chicago, Dupont Circle, the Capital, the White House! 
  • I am on the second chapter and have many superlatives to expend— she is a wonderful writer, sharp, fun, exacting, goes to the heart of the matter.
  • I’m so enjoying this book.  I have to use a magnifying glass to read it.  I really laughed at the lima bean story. My kids didn’t like them either. But I told them I had spent hours stuffing peas with mashed potatoes.
  • Masterfully written, this memoir takes you on a true adventure – it starts with an eventful childhood, through the ups and downs of youth, the dealings with alcohol, drugs and religion, to making it to the highest echelons of politics. In That Number is inspirational and moving. Loved it! This is a book you must read, and you will read it in one go!
  • What a life’s story! I smiled, gasped, whimpered, and rejoiced as I traveled with Regan though her extraordinary life.
  • I love her writing style. She writes with intimate detail, intelligence, wit, and profound insight. Plus, it is a book for our present moment. I highly recommend “IN THAT NUMBER”.
  • “I could not put down this memoir. It is a tale of redemption and rebirth. Regan Burke writes of all the pain of growing up the daughter of two alcoholics and well-dressed grifters ‘who didn’t pay their bills, lied, and cheated, but still had cocktails and hors d’oeuvres every night before dinner.’ Her story is that of the Baby Boomer generation: from sex, drugs, and rock and roll, to various political campaigns in Illinois, and finally to the Clinton White House and beyond. In That Number is a touching narrative of survival, loyalty, and compassion from a woman who has seen it all.” – Dominic A. Pacyga, author of Chicago: A Biography
  • “I highly recommend this wise and wonderful memoir about politics, about families, and the politics of families. Reagan writes like an angel-and sometimes, even better, like the devil.” – Rick Perlstein, best-selling author of Nixonland and Before the Storm
  • “Regan’s unmitigated honesty in In that Number serves as inspiration and challenges each of us, even in the face of adversity, to live, see the birds, and reach higher for ourselves and our communities every day, and in every way we can.” – Laura Schwartz, White House Director of Events for President Clinton, and author of Eat, Drink and Succeed
  • “Tales of early life with a flim-flam father, Woodstock years of drugs and alcohol, and working in Bill Clinton’s administration…Regan Burke weaves her life story in a refreshing, artful, and oftentimes witty style that endears readers to the author and leaves us wanting more. What will she do next?” – Beth Finke, author of Writing Out Loud: What a Blind Teacher Learned from Leading a Memoir Class for Seniors
  • I was so happy to receive your book. I read it within a week, maybe too quickly, excited to follow your narrative and really enjoying the flashes of recognition as I came across pieces I remember from classes at CLL. So much great writing in these pages. I also love the way your writing journey bookends the story and serves as inspiration for readers—the Epilogue leaves us on such an uplifting note. I’ll be thinking of you and hoping your book-debut experience is as joyful and satisfying as it can be. Congratulations again on the results of all your hard work. I think you did an amazing job! – Linda Miller, Teacher, Memoir & Creative Writing, Center for Life & Learning, The Clare and Newberry Library

Book Launch Party

Book Launch Party

“In That Number” Book Launch hosted by Skyline Village Chicago via zoom, Oct 21, 2020, 4:00 pm Chicago time with NPR/WBEZ reporter Monica Eng. Register here

Cousin Barb Violi, Omaha Nebraska

In another world and time uncertain, we’d be having a rip-roaring party at Half Sour in Chicago’s South Loop hosted by Beth Finke and Mike Knezovich. Iliana Genkova would pass around campaign-like buttons and cookies with the name of my book tattooed on top. We’d all be happy, joyous and free for a few brief hours away from the worries of the world.

Sigh. We’ll have to settle for a Zoom Book Launch. Please pull up your own refreshments and join us. Monica Eng has graciously agreed to lead the discussion for my book. You’ve heard her reporting on Curious City (most recently about rats!), Thursdays on WBEZ’s “All Things Considered”.

I’ve always wanted to be a published author but I never dreamed my writing would be so well received outside of a small circle of friends and fellow writers. I’m truly humbled. Thank you for reading my book and paying such generous compliments to me in person, on email and text, Face Book and Twitter and Zoom, and even a card in the mail!

A particular thank you to those who’ve encouraged me to compile years worth of 500-word essays from memoir writing classes into a book. It was a harder task and a longer trip than I imagined but well worth the effort. If you’re a writer, keep laying down those words. There’s power in the story. If you’re not a writer, thank you for supporting us; allowing us to make mistakes, grow weary, and to brag when we find that one perfect word for that one perfect sentence in that one perfect paragraph. 

Allow me to share my joy with you through a smattering of quotes. In order not to embarrass anyone, I’ve kept most anonymous. 

See you October 21!

  • I passed two days immersed in your life story. I identified with so many places and events. I am 100% with you on the last paragraph on page 246.
  • The beauty and skill of every page, and the achievement of presenting your life story of engaging encounters is thrilling. That’s what made me want to read it all.
  • Helloooooo, It’s incredible. Who knew our white-haired “older” friend had such an XXX-rated past? I await the movie!!
  • It’s a great book about a great woman!
  • My dog wants to know why I get so absorbed in Regan Burke’s terrific book “In That Number.” But it’s easy to get caught up in this fascinating memoir of life, love, addiction and local and national politics.
  • …a work as sui generis as Regan Burke herself. I have a feeling that we’ll look back on this event as more than a book launch – more like an opus launch, with much more to come after this one!
  •  It’s a fantastic memoir about alcoholism and politics, family and recovery, from a woman who’s met everyone from Bill Clinton to Vladimir Putin. (And Rick Perlstein says it’s great.)
  • My husband read your introduction out loud to me last night. So well written –you had to get a lot into that  short intro. “Want me to read the whole book to you?” He offered, “you know I could.” He hasn’t offered to read a book out loud to me in decades. Can’t say that I blame him: when he used to read to me, I’d fall asleep, often without him knowing. There he’d be, diligently working to read out loud, take a brief look up and…zzzzzz. He must feel confident I won’t sleep through this one. He’s right..  
  • Pot brownies at her sister’s wedding. 🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂. I’m enjoying this book. It’s so well written.
  • This story is appealing to many different groups.  It’s a redemption story, a woman’s empowerment story, an AA story, a friendship story, a political struggle story,  a “how I did it,” story,  a slice of baby boomer history and Rock-in-roll , and  a special Chicago/Illinois-political tales story all wrapped up in one book.
  • This is a beautiful wonderful story about a smart strong woman who faced all kinds of adversity and succeeded and built deep friendships.  Also the context of a couple of decades (yikes, we’re talking decades) is fun.  There are so many parallels between the 60s/70s and now.  It’s a story that has all sorts of resonating themes.
  • Am so delighted with this book – she is a brilliant writer and its a brilliant story of a life so well lived despite all the huge odds – the whole world should know. 
  • Who will like this book: 1. Anyone who likes Allan Sorkin shows, and Primary Colors. 2. Aging boomers who like the music, and a brief recount of early early political activists. 3.  AA members 4. Democrats 5. Every Democratic political junky in or formerly from Chicago/Illinois  6. Gary Hart and Bill/Hilary Clinton supporters 7.  Dead Heads and vintage rock-n-rollers 8. Every person who likes heros who survived struggles and find purpose (half of the best sellers list is this theme). 9. Anyone who’s been to Bahamas, Barcelona, Chicago, Dupont Circle, the Capital, the White House! 
  • I am on the second chapter and have many superlatives to expend— she is a wonderful writer, sharp, fun, exacting, goes to the heart of the matter.
  • I’m so enjoying this book.  I have to use a magnifying glass to read it.  I really laughed at the lima bean story. My kids didn’t like them either. But I told them I had spent hours stuffing peas with mashed potatoes.
  • Masterfully written, this memoir takes you on a true adventure – it starts with an eventful childhood, through the ups and downs of youth, the dealings with alcohol, drugs and religion, to making it to the highest echelons of politics. In That Number is inspirational and moving. Loved it! This is a book you must read, and you will read it in one go!
  • What a life’s story! I smiled, gasped, whimpered, and rejoiced as I traveled with Regan though her extraordinary life.
  • I love her writing style. She writes with intimate detail, intelligence, wit, and profound insight. Plus, it is a book for our present moment. I highly recommend “IN THAT NUMBER”.
  • “I could not put down this memoir. It is a tale of redemption and rebirth. Regan Burke writes of all the pain of growing up the daughter of two alcoholics and well-dressed grifters ‘who didn’t pay their bills, lied, and cheated, but still had cocktails and hors d’oeuvres every night before dinner.’ Her story is that of the Baby Boomer generation: from sex, drugs, and rock and roll, to various political campaigns in Illinois, and finally to the Clinton White House and beyond. In That Number is a touching narrative of survival, loyalty, and compassion from a woman who has seen it all.” – Dominic A. Pacyga, author of Chicago: A Biography
  • “I highly recommend this wise and wonderful memoir about politics, about families, and the politics of families. Reagan writes like an angel-and sometimes, even better, like the devil.” – Rick Perlstein, best-selling author of Nixonland and Before the Storm
  • “Regan’s unmitigated honesty in In that Number serves as inspiration and challenges each of us, even in the face of adversity, to live, see the birds, and reach higher for ourselves and our communities every day, and in every way we can.” – Laura Schwartz, White House Director of Events for President Clinton, and author of Eat, Drink and Succeed
  • “Tales of early life with a flim-flam father, Woodstock years of drugs and alcohol, and working in Bill Clinton’s administration…Regan Burke weaves her life story in a refreshing, artful, and oftentimes witty style that endears readers to the author and leaves us wanting more. What will she do next?” – Beth Finke, author of Writing Out Loud: What a Blind Teacher Learned from Leading a Memoir Class for Seniors
  • I was so happy to receive your book. I read it within a week, maybe too quickly, excited to follow your narrative and really enjoying the flashes of recognition as I came across pieces I remember from classes at CLL. So much great writing in these pages. I also love the way your writing journey bookends the story and serves as inspiration for readers—the Epilogue leaves us on such an uplifting note. I’ll be thinking of you and hoping your book-debut experience is as joyful and satisfying as it can be. Congratulations again on the results of all your hard work. I think you did an amazing job! – Linda Miller, Teacher, Memoir & Creative Writing, Center for Life & Learning, The Clare and Newberry Library

City Creatures Blog: Break Out the Border Collies

City Creatures Blog: Break Out the Border Collies

CITY CREATURES BLOG is a storytelling community, sharing reflections on how cities can offer opportunities for transformation, intimacy, and connection with other species and one another. Follow @City_Creatures  and its parent https://www.humansandnature.org/blog for more stories on humans intersecting with nature.

Gavin Van Horn, editor of City Creatures and author of “Way of Coyote ” published my essay on fecal matter in Lake Michigan on August 27, 2019. I’m honored to be among his chosen writers. You may have read this story already but if you swim or wade in Lake Michigan, its good to be reminded of what you’re getting into.

Break Out The Border Collies

Nature immersion was about to be my off-ramp from a years-long highway of depression.

Before light bulbs, blinds, or a new shower curtain, I bought clay pots and flowering plants for the balcony of my newly purchased, third-story condo. I had the screen door removed so I’d have no obstruction to the outdoors from the living room. I imagined young, lime-green sweet potato vines and purple morning glories growing up hugging each other, curling around the railings, stretching toward the sun, competing for space on the top rail, then spilling over, and finally hanging down in a cascade of tangled color. I filled the pots with soil and placed them on the balcony to cure overnight before planting, leaving the door open—inviting night breezes to induce a soft sleep. 

In the morning, I shuffled into the living room to find dirt tracked all over the white carpet. 

Usher, a one-year old Scottish Terrier lay with his legs splayed on the balcony floor. He held his head high, eyes half-closed, basking in the light wind, proudly displaying his muddy nose and dirty paws. What do you suppose dogs think? Was he grateful I gave him the opportunity to dig up our new backyard?

Off to Home Depot, I went for another bag of soil and over-the-railing brackets to hold the pots up and away from those ancient digger instincts. I planted and watered. 

My north-facing building juts out on just enough of a curve of Chicago’s North Lake Shore Drive to have a tree-filled view of Lake Michigan. Only those trees along Lake Shore Drive stand between my balcony and the North Pole—no buildings, no mountain ranges, not much to break the full force of the north winds barreling down the Great Lakes, slamming into my balcony and battering the sweet potato vines and morning glories. They didn’t last the week.

For three years, I potted a cornucopia of perennials and annuals, praying for wind resistance. The master gardeners at Gethsemane Garden Center finally told me I was in a losing battle. 

Abandoning the outdoor garden, I’ve settled for the delight of a tree-filled, panoramic view full of sparrows, chickadees, and starlings. Occasionally I spot a cardinal, an oriole, or a woodpecker hopping through the leaves. One year a crow built a nest in the crook of two high limbs. A lone squirrel used to sit on a branch parallel to my balcony, squeaking and shaking his tail, tormenting young Usher. Across Lake Shore Drive, gulls mind their territory, gathering on the wing above Lake Michigan.

On cloudless summer Saturdays in the early aughts, I sloughed off my dead weekend chores—grocery shopping, haircut, the laundry. I chose the beach. I filled my backpack-chair with a bottle of water, mosquito spray, dog treats, a beach umbrella, Vanity Fair, cell phone, and a small purse.

Walking intrepid Usher at the lakefront

I strapped the chair to my back, gripped Usher’s leash, and walked across Lake Shore Drive through the bee-buzzing garden leading to the Oak Street Beach underpass. I hurried past the watery underground restrooms, holding Usher tight to keep his nose off the ground. We climbed the cracked cement stairs, landing on the maniacal paved bike path that grips the edge of the beach.

During mid-week Junes, Chicago Park District beach workers spend early morning hours bulldozing clean sand over the previous winter detritus. Gulls argue over the gleanings, anticipating the arrival of their human garbage dumpers.  

“Smile, you are on Camera” by bboylanky (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Usher and I would dodge the slipstream cyclists and jump down into the sand that swallowed up the sound and stench of cars on the Drive. We’d set up shop at the shoreline. I faced my chair away from the sun to protect my ultra-violated skin, screwed the umbrella to the armchair, and settled in with my magazine. Usher dug into the cool sand under my seat and rested. As the beach turned to follow the sun, I’d stretch, take Usher for a swim, and reposition the chair. 

Nearly every week, I’d have lunch with a friend on the shady deck of the Beachstro Cafe. The hamburgers were lousy. But we sat with our backs to the skyscraping neighborhood, at the water’s edge, hearing nothing but the lake licking the sand and gulls singing over the water. We might as well have been on a Bahamian island.

One day the lifeguard rushed over to me on the beach. “Get your dog out of the water! Didn’t you see the yellow flag? No swimming. E. coli. It’ll make your dog sick.” 

Escherichia coli, E. coli, a nasty bacteria that causes stomach disorders, indicates a high fecal presence in the water. The last thing a dog owner wants for their little housemate is to have intestinal distress. I packed up immediately, ran home, and gave the poor guy a thorough bath.

Chicago beaches are tested for E. coli every day in the summer. In the early 2000s, high concentrations showed up regularly, indicating a saturation of fecal matter. DNA studies showed the E. coli landed on the beaches from gulls and washed into the lake.  

Huh? It was in the sand, too?

The press reported there was a twenty-four-hour delay in test results, so at that time, when a beach closed due to water contamination, it meant we had been exposed the day before. The Chicago Park District tamped down outcries from the public by piloting an EPA grant to use Border Collies to chase gulls off the beach. 

Photo credit: “Jock, the Smiling Collie” by jammach_uk (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Oh, the Border Collie! The smartest worker in dogdom. She doesn’t just chase the gulls. She crouches down and makes eye contact as she creeps toward her charge. This terrifies the gulls and they fly off. When the birds try returning to the sand they face the same evil eye because from dawn to dusk, the collies never tire of their rigorous jobs. By instinct, these dogs won’t catch the birds, an important point since gulls are still protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty, even from the collies.

My beach days with Usher were over however. I welcomed the collies but was too creeped out by the constant reminder of bacteriological threats. People were reporting getting sick just from breathing in sand dust while laying out.          

Usher is long gone but I recently acquired Henry, another lovely old terrier. I thought I’d introduce the former farm boy to the delights of the beach since I hadn’t heard about beach closings for years. I wondered if the Border Collies were still shooing gulls from the sand. I couldn’t get an answer from the Chicago Park District so I sent a query to “Curious City,” a program on Chicago’s local National Public Radio affiliate WBEZ. Does the city still use Border Collies to chase gulls off the beaches? Are the beaches safe from E. coli?

Beach water getting tested at the lab

When WBEZ reporter Monica Eng called to say she’d been investigating my query, she invited me to join her at the University of Illinois at Chicago lab where the beach water is tested. We watched delivery of the water samples and observed the scientists take them through the paces. The daily results are released to the lifeguards by 1:30 pm. If there’s a high concentration of fecal matter, the lifeguards are supposed to raise a yellow flag which signals to the beachgoers the water quality might make them sick. The Chicago Park District stopped alerting the media about high levels of fecal contaminants and stopped closing the beaches in 2011, opting for the Swim-at-Your-Own-Risk flag system. 

And the Border Collies? The UIC scientists pointed to studies that show gulls are the main culprit of contaminated water (and sand) and the most effective way to manage them is to use Border Collies. At a Chicago Park District Board meeting in July, I asked, 1) why don’t they use dogs now? and 2) why don’t they close beaches that test for high levels of fecal matter?

The Park District CEO answered that they don’t use dogs anymore because they were rejected for the EPA grants that funded them. And they don’t ban swimming for super high feces anymore because people like to swim, and the health department hasn’t heard about any E. coli infections from beaches recently. These answers didn’t restore my confidence in the Park District’s understanding of public health policy. But they did cement my resolve to never take Henry to the beach. We’ve settled for the view from the maniacal bike path. 

And contaminated or not, the blue serenity of Lake Michigan is its own anti-depressant. No medication can substitute for the mood-altering calm of her reflected beauty. I’m grateful to have her.

*     *     *    * 

Read more about poop data in Curious City’s “Scoop on Poop on Chicago’s Beaches.” The nine-minute audio story has even more information. Listen here.