Reading while driving to work– it’s easier than you think–Updated

‘Cause we’re rolling in heavy traffic
Judy’s in the jump seat and Jody’s in the bucket
Billy likes to drive and Jackie’s just high
And Cindy thinks we’re all gonna commit suicide
‘Cause we’re rolling in heavy traffic
Yeah we’re rolling in heavy traffic
Heavy Traffic, lyric by Bernie Taupin
(c) 1988 Big Pig Music Limited

Do you know about Audible?  It’s great.  If you like to listen to books on tape in the car, you will love Audible.  It’s so much better than fiddling with discs, which inevitably fall in that crack between the driver’s seat and the middle console.  You know the crack I’m talking about?  The one that’s wide enough to swallow things that drop, but not wide enough for your hand to you can retrieve them.   When you are holding a coffee cup in your left hand and your right hand is stuck in that crack, it makes it rather awkward to drive.  Not that I would ever do that.   I’m too busy putting on makeup with my left hand to drink coffee. 
And then there’s that ridiculous set up that some fool devised where the discs are kept in the trunk!   It’s difficult to change them when you are driving.  It helps to have someone else hold the wheel while you crawl over the front seat, hang out of the back window and try to pop the trunk open.   And don’t forget to keep your foot on the gas so you can keep going. 

Audible saves you from all that.  Instead of discs, you simply download the book to your phone.  Just make sure you start the book before you start driving so people won’t think you’re texting while driving.

It’s important to pick the right kind of book to listen to while driving.  If you are on a long drive with lots of highway time, it’s ok to pick a book that is intense and requires concentration to follow. 

But don’t listen to this kind of book in heavy traffic, or when you are trying to follow directions to get to someplace you’ve never been before.  I’ve learned that the hard way.  The GPS woman kept competing with Jeremy Irons while he narrated “Brideshead Revisited.”  I kept looking for an English manor house in Yorkshire instead of an office building in Innsbrook.  It was very confusing. 

It’s better to listen to something light and fluffy when you are driving to work.   That way, you don’t miss much while you are yelling at the bozo in front of you to inch forward so you can make it to the left turn lane before the light changes.  I hate that. Or have you ever noticed when there are two lanes but both cars in front of you are driving 10 miles under the speed limit?  During rush hour?  You switch back and forth between lanes, hoping that one of the cars will turn at the next light.  You don’t do that?  I guess it’s just me.  You are probably in the car behind me saying, “what is that fool doing?”  Am I right?

Back to the books.  My choice for commuting is memoirs of famous people.  But not famous people who did something to save the world, like Winston Churchill.   No, I’m talking mostly about entertainers.  They usually narrate their own books (if they are still alive that is), so the narration is often as humorous as the book itself. 

Take My mother was Nuts by Penny Marshall, for example.  It is hysterical.  She has that New York drawl that seems to make any story funnier.   She starts with the story about a couple of guys who break into her house while she was inside.  She had a conversation with them.  They were bumbling idiots, to put it mildly.  
I also learned some things about Penny Marshall that I did not know, and probably didn’t care to know, but it was fun to learn nevertheless.   Like the fact that she went to the University of Arizona.  Arizona?  Or that she has a huge collection of sports memorabillia.  Or that she let her ex-husband raise their daughter so she could focus on her career.  It’s good that she knew her strengths.  Too bad taking birth control pills wasn’t one of them. 

Lacking motherhood skills seems to be a theme with some of these actresses.    Carrie Fisher is an exception.  But she had other problems to deal with (like electroshock therapy.)  Listen to Shockaholic.  Carrie is very forthright about her mental health issues.   She and Penny Marshall are good friends, by the way.  Laughter is the best medicine, after all.


Loretta Young

Another great book to listen to is Kate Remembered by A. Scott Berg.  If you love old Hollywood, you will love this one.  I’ve listened to it twice.  Once for the story and once for the narrator, Tony Goldwyn.  He does a great job imitating her voice!  You’ll recognize Tony Goldwyn because he is now playing the President on Scandal.  He also played the bad guy in the movie “Ghost.”  

Katherine Hepburn

Kate knew better than to have children.   Scott tells a great story in which Kate explains why she never had children — other than the fact that she lived with a married man, Spencer Tracy, for many years, and in those days, actresses did not have children out of wedlock.  Instead they adopted them.  Sometimes for real, and sometimes, as in the case of Loretta Young, they had the baby out of sight and then adopted the baby.   It seems like such a convoluted way to do things today, but back then, that’s what you did if you wanted to keep your career going.  Or, as in the case of Joan Crawford, sometimes actresses adopted children to revive their flagging careers. (At least according to some sources.)  Does that still happen today?  I wonder.  By the way, the father of Loretta Young’s daughter was none other than Clark Gable, who was married to someone else at the time.

Anyway, Kate (I can call her Kate now that I’ve listened to the book twice), says “This is why I never had children.  Let’s say young Johnny has a fever, but I have to act in a show on Broadway.  I would have no choice but to smother little Johnny with a pillow.”  It’s funnier when Tony tells the story.

Speaking of old Hollywood, I listened to Shirley Jones’ autobiography, called, appropriately, Shirley Jones.  Many people don’t realize that Shirley did broadway shows and movies (like Oklahoma) before she became David Cassidy’s on-screen mother in that ground-breaking tv show, The Partridge Family.   Who can forget that multi-colored bus?  I’m kidding about the ground-breaking part.  That  was All in the Family.

Anyway, talk about TMI.  She discusses how well-endowed her late husband, Jack Cassidy was, and how he passed that trait on to her own sons and stepson David Cassidy.  Ewwww.    Then there’s the chapter on her love of, uh, pleasuring herself?  Yeah, TMI.

Tina Fey’s Bossypants, is another good memoir, if only for the comment she makes about her impression of UVA, where she went to school—“the girls there all rode horses, or looked like them.”   In case you are wondering, she refuses to explain how she got the scar on her face.   It must have been something traumatic.

Right now I’m listening to Ellen DeGeneres’ latest book, Seriously . . . I’m Kidding.  As with many other celebrity memoirs, she narrates this one herself.  I love Ellen and I think she’s very funny, but I can’t believe this is her third book.  Poor John Steinbeck must be rolling over in his grave.  Not that I would listen to Steinbeck while I’m driving, for the reasons explained above.

Quote from Ellen’s new book

The book is ok, but not in the same league with the others I’ve mentioned.  At least not so far.  In my 9.8 mile commute this morning, which takes about 20 minutes, she read 7 chapters.  I did laugh, but that says more about my sense of humor, not her rapier wit.  I can’t even remember what she talked about in that 20 minutes.  Love Ellen, though, love her.  I don’t want to hurt her feelings because she seems like such a nice person who might get her feelings hurt easily.  Plus Portia looks like she could kick my ass.

But at least the book kept me from yelling at the driver in front of me or hopping lanes like a hummingbird switching between two bird feeders outside a window.

P.S.– Ellen’s book is, sadly, terrible.  The last chapter I listened to was entitled “Meditation” and consisted of a blank page.  This did not translate well in an audio book.  Blank page = silence.  Not funny, I’m afraid.  She must have used up all her funny stuff on her first two books.

Now I am listening to Neil Patrick Harris’ memoir, Choose Your own Autobiography.  It is, like him, very funny. 


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