Picture perfect

Both of the memoir-writing classes I teach are taking time off in June, and one of the last topics I assigned before the break was this: choose a photograph, any photograph, and describe it to me in 500 words or less. “But please don’t say, well, this is a woman in a yellow skirt with a blue blouse standing in front of a doorway,” I said, asking them to consider telling their readers what happened right before the photo was taken, or the reason someone thought to take the photo in the first place. If they decided on a landscape, I suggested they could write about the significance of that building or mountain or whatever.

I don’t usually do the assignments I give my seniors, but when Ellen Sandmeyer emailed this photo from the Sandmeyer’s Bookstore 30th anniversary party last week, I decided to give it a try. While I may be unable to see the photo, I can guess what it might look like. After all, I was there when it was taken! Here’s the photograph:

Whit’s down there, you just can’t see her.

This is me on stage at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago. A gorgeous two-year-old copper-colored Golden Retriever/Labrador cross named Whitney is at my feet, and Charlie Parker has my back.

I’m looking just as stunning as I wanna be, adorned in my belted black Lana Turner shirtwaist dress. The sleeves are turned up to three-quarter length, and the top feels like a man’s classic button down shirt. After that, it’s all woman. The waist is cinched under a fabric belt, and pleats end up draping the skirt right at my knees. From what I’ve been told, this dress picks up light and shines any time I move – oo la la!

If I look happy in this photo, well, that’s because I have a lot to smile about. Earlier that afternoon I’d been surrounded by a dozen-plus of Chicago’s most talented writers, and after that senior-citizen memoir-writing class was over I’d rushed home, gobbled down lunch, grabbed a cab to the Chicago Public Radio studio on Navy Pier, recorded an interview (more on that in a future post), rushed home again, fed Whitney, changed clothes, and after following my clever and courageous dog’s lead down the street to Jazz Showcase, we arrived just in time to be escorted onto the stage to do my thing.

Brent Sandmeyer took this photo from across the bar – he and his brother Rolf had flown in from opposite sides of the country to celebrate their parents and the sensational bookstore they opened here in Printer’s Row 30 years ago. It was an honor and a thrill to be one of the handful of writers and publishers Ulrich and Ellen Sandmeyer chose to speak at their celebration, and while I could have gone on and on about Sandmeyer’s Bookstore, I kept my talk uncharacteristically short: I’d promised myself I wouldn’t have a glass of wine until my talk was over. Cheers!

10 Responses to “Picture perfect”

  1. 1 Mary McHugh May 26, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Love this blog, Beth. And all the blogs you do. Could you email me please — I need to talk to you and I don’t have the right email address. Mary McHugh

  2. 3 Barbara Timberlake May 26, 2012 at 5:19 pm


    You are something else. Your blogs always leave me with a broad smile on my face. I love your spirit!

  3. 5 Carl May 27, 2012 at 7:48 am

    Hard to tell from so far away, but I’ll trust that you do look stunning. Congratulations on your debut at Jazz Showcase.

  4. 6 Judy Spock May 28, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    I like the way Charlie Parker is appreciating you! Way to go! Judy Spock

  5. 7 bethfinke May 29, 2012 at 5:29 am

    Ah, yes. Quite a thrill to count myself among the women who have been appreciated by Charlie Parker…!

  6. 8 Mark May 29, 2012 at 5:36 am

    You get a C plus on your assignment, we can’t see your dog in the photo. I will trust your description, though, and assume she looked just as stunning as you did.

  7. 9 italianhandful May 29, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    You lead by example. I’d give you an A+. Adagio

  8. 10 bethfinke May 30, 2012 at 7:08 am

    Uh-oh. You’re not angling to become teacher’s pet, are you, Adagio?! Eager to hear what you come up with for this assignment tomorrow…

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