Traffic is bad when you keep pace with an ambulance while walking to work. Sirens blaring and everything. Every time I thought it had gone past, I'd catch up and see it stuck behind another jumble of cars. Sirens still blaring. I had to pause my audio book until I turned the corner: am listening to The Shoes of the Fisherman, by Morris West. Published 50 years ago, the story might as well have been ripped from today's headlines. A new pope is elected and faces daunting challenges in the church. Like Francis, he comes from afar: Ukraine (though in the story they constantly refer to him as "the Russian," because under the Soviets, all of the republics were lumped into one). And while the issues of the day may be different -- the rise of communism and nuclear threat instead of globalization and sexual scandal -- all eyes turn to the pontiff for reform (but not too much!). It's a fascinating story, and I'm eager to watch the Anthony Quinn movie version when I'm done. From what I can tell, it's only available on video cassette, which is fine because, although I lost the clicker many apartments ago, my VCR's tape-playing function is perfectly intact.