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From pizza to poetry, a few things I like

Some recommendations from Mary Schmich

Mary Schmich

3:11 PM CDT, September 15, 2012

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Every now and then I make a list of things I've liked lately. Here's a back-to-school edition.

1. "Boss"

According to the ratings, you're not likely to have watched this great show starring Kelsey Grammer as Chicago's brilliantly diabolical mayor. I hadn't either until I downloaded the first season, a bargain at only $14.99. I was riveted, though watching it during last week's teachers strike was unnerving. In "Boss" everyone with any power is corrupt or corruptible, except, maybe, and only maybe, the newspaper guy.

2. HomeMade Pizza Co.

Why waste your money on frozen pizza when, for just a little more, you can get something that tastes like food? You choose the ingredients. They knead the dough and put your pie together. Take it home and bake. The stores are scattered around the city and suburbs. Good salads too.

3. "This Is How You Lose Her" by Junot Diaz

I had the good luck of interviewing Diaz onstage in the packed Chase Auditorium last week as part of the Tribune's Printers Row authors series. I'd never before seen an audience give a writer a standing ovation. Like his new story collection, Diaz, a Dominican-American who won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is funny, exuberant and intense. He writes about immigrants, but his stories transcend ethnicity. They're about sex, love, family, books, infidelity, loneliness and the workings of a man's mind in its unfettered profanity.

4. A new copybook

Do you find yourself strangely drawn to fresh school supplies, years after you finished school? I walked past a stack of copybooks at Best Buy the other day — the black-and-white speckled kind we all had in fifth grade — and had to have one. The smooth, blank, lined pages whispered: hope, possibility, order.

5. The Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo

When it opened two summers ago, I hated the boardwalk for intruding on the lagoon near the zoo. Now it's one of my favorite retreats. Strolling along it, with the skyline vivid in the distance, you can really see the water, the plants, the birds, the bugs, the fish and how life changes with the seasons.

6. Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Masters Collection, Volume 2

A friend, a university professor, swears this music helped save his life when he was close to death. He sent it to me recently as a gift for someone I love who is struggling with cancer. I liked it enough to get my own copy. I can't testify to its healing properties, but it makes cleaning the kitchen feel like a trip to Maui.

7. Southwest Airlines

I'd never flown Southwest until I took a recent flight from Midway to Denver. The fare was half of a competitor's. The staff was friendly, the seats not bad. $5 Wi-Fi on board. Sold.

8. The new e-book of my columns

Forgive this self-promotion. It's unseemly. But the Tribune has just issued "The Best of Mary Schmich," a collection of my columns from the past 20 years. It includes pieces on Chicago, my mother, the holidays, survival, the seasons, "Wear Sunscreen" and more. Available at chicagotribuneebooks.com or wherever e-books are sold.

9. Diana Der-Hovanessian's "Shifting the Sun"

The death of a friend's father reminded me of this poem. I like it from start to finish, but here are its first and last stanzas:

When your father dies, say the Irish,

you lose your umbrella against bad weather.

May his sun be your light, say the Armenians ...

When your father dies, say the Armenians,

your sun shifts forever.

And you walk in his light.

mschmich@tribune.com