reading and writing

In years past I used to keep a list of books I read—a habit I wish I hadn’t let lapse. Books are ways of marking time, much like relationships and seasons, and the memory of reading them is usually strongly associated with whatever was going on at the time. For instance, I began an autumn revisit of Walden while traveling in Iceland, and fondly recall reading about the New England woods while on a bus through the weird volcanic landscape heading to the Blue Lagoon.  Neither the book nor the experience would have been as rich had they not been intertwined.

Since my time is very regimented, reading is one of the only things I do that isn’t necessary to maintaining the basic life/shelter/offspring stuff.  Not having the book list (which was kept in chronological order, naturally) deprives me of a lot of context.  For 2015, I sort of remember reading The Goldfinch and Nabokov’s Strong Opinions while it was warm out, and As I Lay Dying when it was rainy a bunch?

Last year was also notable for being the first time I started a book without finishing it. That is NOT neurotic house style, and because I’m a jerk I consider it something that only lazy, unfocused people do. For various reasons, I was extremely unfocused when I picked up D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow, which was a random used bookstore purchase sometime in the summer. It had a lot of promise but was the most all-tell and no-show slog imaginable. After a hundred-plus pages of nearly dialogue-less third-person descriptions of the way various characters’ personalities changed over time, I admitted defeat and started reading The Iliad instead.

Overall I did not devote as much time reading this past year as I would have liked, due to a combination of too much stress and too little time. I definitely feel that as a failure and a loss, and aim to improve matters immediately.

On a separate but somewhat related note, another loss I’ve felt lately (where “lately” means “for years”) is that of writing as a leisure activity and way of communicating with my friends. Personal blogs died long ago, but the social media platforms that replaced them are almost entirely unfulfilling in the ways that matter to me. As such, I’m going to try to use this domain again for something—even though it can no longer be part of a network of sites that stimulate and entertain me; even though I don’t expect to get any feedback. At this point in my life, I am pretty happy to piss into the wind. It’s better than doing nothing (I think)!

sounds like *someone’s* got a terminal case of the mondays!

Today I was in the office (a place I rarely go, since as a hospice nurse I work out of my car) to pick up some supplies. In the bathroom, I ran into a co-worker who remarked “You’re not usually here around this time—you’re confusing me!” To which I responded, “I’d love to not be here,” in accordance with office banter rules.

Then, my boss stealthily emerged from a stall and said, “Every day you’re not on the census of a hospice agency, you’re lucky.  Remember that we get to put on regular clothes and leave the house and come here.  I had a patient who always used to remind me of that—oh, I loved her.”

I think it’s safe to say that this was one of the most thorough bustings by a boss that happened in our nation today.

talking about reading


One of the greatest luxuries in my life right now is having time to read.  This most often takes place on my couch, lying on top of a torso-sized heating pad to forcibly relax the tension in my perpetually jacked-up neck and back.  Sometimes I get to leave the house and read in coffeeshops, which always seems like a glorious prospect but is invariably louder and colder and less productive than I dream it will be.  I read the same passage three times in a row because I’m distracted by the ponces at the next table over and their conversation about whatever the fuck they’re blathering about.

Expecting the outside world to be as comfortable as a personalized, heated couch cocoon may be somewhat unrealistic.   There is one interesting benefit to reading out in the wild, though due to my Ron Swanson-esque desire to be left alone, I don’t always consider it a benefit–but when you read in public people want to talk to you about what you’re reading.  I think this is probably a social phenomenon that some people purposefully contrive, like “Oh, my coffee costs four dollars for some reason?  While I fetch my debit card from my male purse, let me conspicuously set my volume of Infinite Jest down on the counter so that you will see it and be impressed that I’m reading it.”

I tend to go the other way, if anything making an effort to conceal my book the way I conceal my tattoos when I’m not in the mood to be acknowledged.  But people will comment on shit when they want to comment on shit.  They will comment on your socks; that’s just the way it is.  And they will comment on your books.

I’ve been reading Remembrance of Things Past by Proust, which is a three-volume, 3200+ page commitment.  Every time I take a volume of this thing out in public, someone excitedly remarks, “I just bought that exact edition!  It’s my summer project!”  I was involved in just such an exchange last weekend only to have it interrupted by a third party who asked if I was a philosophy student (proposed responses included “No, I’m way too old for that”, “No, I’m just a reader of books”, and “No,” which is what I ultimately went with).

Sometimes it’s good:  When I was 17,  my now-buddy Rob noticed me reading a tome of Lou Reed lyrics in a long-dead cafe in Harvard Square, and subsequently showed me his collection of All Of The Vinyl Ever and introduced me to Tom Waits.  Major score!  When I was reading Blood Meridian in the winter of 2012, a young guy approached me in Inman Square and asked, “What’s The Kid up to now?”  and bade me a pleasant farewell, expressing genuine joy on my behalf because I still had half the book left to read.

Sometimes it’s annoying:  Once I was reading a Buddhist text and some professor of something or other told me I should read Nietzsche instead but warned that I “might not be ready for it”.  He proved to be incorrect on both counts.   A pretentious acquaintance, seeing that I was reading Nausea, approached me in a bar and inexplicably quoth, “You’re reading Jean-Paul Sartre?  How’s that working out for you?”   It seems too evident to bother pointing out, but reading Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! in public is roughly equivalent to stripping yourself naked and donning a sandwich board that exclaims HEY NERDS, COME TALK TO ME.

There are a few books that I’ve simply decided not to take outdoors, like Freedom from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and The Nazi Doctors, because I’m just too shifty-eyed and I don’t want to make people uncomfortable.

But I digress.  Has this happened to you?

“god, i love that kid”, vol. infinity

This morning my son and I discovered a spider dangling about halfway between the floor and the ceiling.  I’m a pretty tough, liquor-swilling, own-car-digging-out modern gal, but truth be told I don’t like dealing with bugs.  I also figure it’s best not to instill values like “kill things you don’t like” into my son at his early tender age, so when we noticed the spider, I quelled my instinct to squish it in a paper towel and was all, “Oh, what’s he doing?  Let’s just leave him alone and look at him.”

But my son, hale and hearty Viking that he is, watched the spider for a minute and then yelled, “Hey, bug!  How about I crash you?  And then when you fall on the ground I’ll pick up a big thing and crash you again.”

The spider promptly retreated up its thread and hid in the ceiling panels.  I’d say the boy’s development is coming along nicely.

so far this year

-We harnessed the power of microwave technology

-My son made a new friend (who is, incidentally, a middle-aged Russian man with whom I once had a heated argument about whether Annie Hall is a good movie, with him stating “It’s not even a movie, it’s just people talking”)

-I announced that I refused to participate in any time-limited activities without the use of a chronograph, and my request was complied with

-I lunched on an exemplary homemade grilled cheese made with big slices of cheddar and an unreasonable amount of dijon mustard

-Free cake from a psych patient

We’re off to a good start.

in which i go native

My job keeps me on the road all day, and once or twice a day I break for coffee, which is usually Starbucks because 1) it’s everywhere and 2) its product tastes better than the other coffeeshops that are everywhere.  I haven’t really come to terms with how often I go to Starbucks.  As a defense mechanism, whenever I go there I promptly start hating everyone around me, for no other reason than that they’re ordering coffee at the same establishment as I am.

So the other day I was in line for coffee in not just any Starbucks, but one that I frequent during the workweek, on the border between One Rich Douchey Town and Another Even Richer Douchier Town.  People struggle to park their luxury SUVs in the compact parking spots.  There are usually women in there wearing jodhpurs (going to the stables!) or expensive pajamas (going to the tanning salon! Or wherever the fuck grown women go in expensive pajamas!)  Once the “daily quote” on the whiteboard near the bathroom was from Ayn Rand.  Overall, it’s a hell of a scene.

So I was there.  And I was failing in my efforts to practice Right Mindfulness and not seethe with ill will.  The man ahead of me in line placed his coffee order, which I overheard—“A redeye with sugar”.  A scan of the menu revealed that there was nothing called a “redeye”; this schmuck was going off-menu!  My wrath flared at the foolishness of ordering a cool secret drink at Earth’s most ubiquitous and generic cafe.

But I had to take a break from my annoyance when it was my turn to order.  I was particularly drowsy that day so I decided to get something extra-caffeinated:  “An iced coffee with a shot of espresso, please,” I said.  To my horror the cashier responded to this reasonable request by calling over to the barista, “Iced redeye!”

Some stinks, you just can’t wash them off.

back in the wordpress groove

I am going to start blogging here again, so mark your calendars, or whatever it is we’re all supposed to do now that Google Reader is going away, thus further unraveling the gossamer threads that keep our society and infrastructure from spiraling ever deeper into the abyss.

In other words, get excited!

baby, i had a stew goin’

I was standing in line for the ATM at the farmer’s market.  A guy came up to me and said, “This is the line for the ATM?”  I affirmed, and he said gravely, “I’ve made a huge mistake.”

Now it is 99% obvious that he was making an Arrested Development reference, and this fact hung heavily in the air while I contemplated various possible reactions:  Fist bump?  A hearty “Right on”?  Tell him “The mere fact that you call making love ‘pop pop’ tells me you’re not ready”?  Just go straight into the chicken dance?  But of course these scenarios cannot be played out by persons as aloof and awkward as myself, and thus I just said “Heh” and we continued to wait in line.

An opportunity squandered.