Tuesday, October 31, 2006

From ghoulies and ghosties And long-leggedy beasties And things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!

Hey there, all y'all, happy Halloween and all that.

My holiday was way more trick than treat, but I am so tired as to be verging on incoherent. I was working on my Great Halloween Retrospective - perhaps I will post anyway, when I've finished it. Also, the update on the past thirty-six hours - we are NOT - repeat, are NOT - going through another one of these runs. You all hear me? I am stopping it RIGHT HERE. (We actually - everyone exhale - did not even make it to the hospital, it is NOT meningitis (or strep, or flu), and Terzo is JUST FINE. Tired, but truly just fine, and dosed up, and sleeping. Details to follow.)
Blackbird, Badge, Joke, the whole dang lot of you, and *especially* all of you who, um, participated last time, are you listening? Got it? Good.

Tomorrow - actually, a scant two hours from now - begins NaNoWriMo. Whether tomorrow *I* begin NaNoWriMo remains to be seen, but November is a long month, my friends.

So, for now - sleep.
It is to be hoped that I'll hit REM sleep and have a dream or two.
Or a nightmare befitting the holiday, or one worthy of THESE freaks (my feelings about which I shall cover later in my "How-organized-religion-fucked-up-BB" post, now in the works. (Everyone relax - I WAS a Baptist - through no fault of my own - but now, I consider myself Episcopalian if anything.))

Watch out for the mummies. (And the daddies, but that is yet another post.)

Happy Halloween.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

“Wherever you looked, hectic excitement. People reading books, even women.” - p 68, Perfume, Patrick Suskind

I have just been informed by mail that MY STUDENT LOANS ARE PAID OFF.
Note that I graduated college almost fifteen years ago.
I have in the intervening almost-fifteen-years switched careers twice, earned a (funded) graduate degree, and bought three cars (not all at once.) None of these momentous monetary events elated me in quite the way that the letter from the American Educational Services people did. Now if only I had the foggiest idea what I’d done with my diploma, I might even frame it and hang it up somewhere.


I need to stop writing and start reading. The pile of books stacked on the nightstand and spilling over onto the floor and then the other side of the bed is becoming daunting. Not to mention I had a close call with a mug of Irish Breakfast tea and a few library books that were not-so-steadily stacked up.
On the floor beneath the night stand, I have several back issues each of Runner’s World, House & Garden, Newsweek (because back issues of that are good reading?), and Brain, Child piled up.
On top of the night stand are the currently-reading books: Patrick Suskind’s Perfume (reminding me somewhat of Tom Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume in that it is beautifully if painstakingly written; I wonder how much of this carefulness is a result of translation? Also, it makes me ashamed that my perfume choices tend to be wildly unsophisticated – if it’s citrus, I wear it. (The stuff I favor at the moment, Les Senteurs Orange-Cannelle, is likely the French equivalent of Charlie - I found it in beautiful little blue-glass bottles in a French pharmacy, its price about 8 US dollars a bottle)); Peter Carey’s Theft (which I am about to give up on), Raffaella Barker’s Hens Dancing, and The Plague which I have been about twenty pages away from finishing for nigh onto six weeks now. Also, on the far side of the table, a review copy of a book about reference librarianship, the blank book containing my notes for NaNoWriMo, and a loaned copy of The Memory Keeper's Daughter. (Also, the remote control for the ceiling fan and my retainer, revoltingly not in its blue plastic case.)
On the second shelf are books I own and am reading, sort of, occasionally, as the mood strikes: Bailey White’s Mama Makes Up Her Mind: and other tales of Southern living, some book about emergency room medicine, Nick Hornby’s newest, Housekeeping vs. the Dirt, Mary Roach's Spook, and Penny Vincenzi’s Something Dangerous.
On the floor, under the bed, migrating towards the dresser are the library books and next-ups:

The Mermaid Chair - which is going back unread because I just at the moment have NO patience with middle-aged women’s existential crises – I mean, I will be having my own soon enough, I suppose, and I have deeper experience than I ever cared to with men’s mid-life crises, so you know, I just don’t need to read about them too.

Markus Zuzak’s The Book Thief - The same person who recommended Broken For You recommended this, and hey, the narrator is Death. I love that. Especially in my current mood, which is foul, exacerbated by an ear infection (mine); not enough sleep; having spent most of the day Friday in the company of fifty kindergarteners, on a farm whose facilities consisted of ONE Port-a-John, in the snow and rain; and the annoying, non-affiliated caller at work who continues to think we are fucking Directory Assistance.

Laurie Halse Anderson’s Catalyst, which I am planning to read simply because I liked Anderson’s plague book Fever (have I ever not liked a plague book? Hmmm…no.) and thought a YA book might be nice in-between reading. I haven't the faintest idea what it's about.

Herbert N. Foerstel 's Refuge of a Scoundrel: The Patriot Act in Libraries, which is (she says quietly) research for NaNoWriMo. Which is scaring me more and more as it creeps closer and closer.

I have five books awaiting pick-up at the library – Monday afternoon will be the trip to the library and then the nearby church’s pumpkin sale. When we get home, I will lie on the couch, a cup of hot tea balanced precariously on my stomach, and read while I suppose I will let the boys play with sharp cutting implements and slippery pumpkin insides. (Oh, all right, don’t call CYS, I’ll help them.)

I intend to begin with Diane Setterfield’s Thirteenth Tale mostly because it’s due back first, but also because Lazy Cow just bought it and I trust LC.
The Neil Gaimans - first volume of Sandman and his novel Neverwhere - are long overdue for my reading – but when anyone, let alone Gina, compares his writing to AS Byatt? It becomes imperative to read him sooner rather than later.
David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green. Speaking of Byatt. Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas is the closest thing to my adored Posession that I have ever encountered. Even though rumor has it that BSG is nothing like CA, I lurve Mitchell and have to read it. Besides, a sure thing is always pleasant.
I will borrow the Persepolis books from Gina, since the library is telling me something like they were lost in the renovation? Oh-kay.
I think this last book popped up as one of the Powell’s Review-of-the-Day books a year or two ago, and for some reason recently I was overwhelmed with desire to read it. I suppose because I could do with “a view of adult life-in all its ridiculousness.” (I think I am hoping it might cast some light on the ridiculousness of my life at the moment.) Glyph, by Percival Everett.

That should wipe out the stash at the public library, the only one still on the hold list is Karen Russell’s alluringly-named St Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. Now that I have read a review or two, I am looking forward to this book, but the truth is that I requested it simply because the title was wonderful.


This link won’t help any of you who are not local, but oh my goodness, I may have just found directions to Nirvana!

Wake me when we get there.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Girls that like a story, so I told one... - "By the Way," Red Hot Chili Peppers UPDATED!!!

Stolen meme (from Joke, from Badger, from Karla – yeah, I seem to’ve ripped off most of the blogosphere. Hey! Just like Bitacle.)

1. You can press a button that will make any one person explode. Who would you blow up? Guess.
Much messier than a bus, though.

2. You can flip a switch that will wipe any band or musical artist out of existence. Which one will it be? James Blunt

3. Who would you really like to just punch in the face? John Ashcroft

4. What is your favorite cheese? Point Reyes Farmstead blue. At the moment. I have never met a cheese I didn’t like.

5. You can only have one kind of sandwich. Every sandwich ingredient known to humankind is at your immediate disposal. What kind will you make?
Bacon, tomato, avocado, with Hellman’s, on toasted Brownberry oatnut bread

6. You have the opportunity to sleep with the movie celebrity of your choice. We are talking no-strings-attached sex and it can only happen once. Who is the lucky celebrity of your choice? Haven't you been paying attention? Sam Elliott

7. You have the opportunity to sleep with the music-celebrity of your choice. Who do you pick?
Anthony Kiedis.

8. Now that you've slept with two different people in a row, you seem to be having an excellent day because you just came across a hundred-dollar bill on the sidewalk. Holy crap, a hundred bucks! How are you gonna spend it?
Where’s the nearest bookstore?

9. You just got a free plane ticket to anywhere. You have to depart right now. Where are you gonna go?
(Why do I feel this overwhelming compulsion to say, “Ghost Busters!” That doesn’t even make any SENSE.) London. No! Not London. AUSTRALIA. I am dumb. NO IDEA why that was not the original answer. Too much time spent with five-year-olds....

10. Upon arrival to the aforementioned location, you get off the plane and discover another hundred-dollar bill. Now that you are in the new location, what are you gonna do?
Find a pub and have a Scrumpy Jack, and some real fish-and-chips.
Hold the mushy peas.

11. A demon rises out of Hell and offers you a lifetime supply of the alcoholic beverage of your choice. It is...?
Bacardi rum.

12. Rufus appears out of nowhere with a time-traveling phone booth. You can go anytime in the PAST. What time are you traveling to and what are you going to do when you get there?
Renaissance England/early 1600s. I want to see the original production of The Tempest.

13. You discover a beautiful island upon which you may build your own society. You make the rules. What is the first rule you put into place?
Leave me alone.

14. You have been given the opportunity to create the half-hour TV show of your own design. What is it called and what's the premise?
It’d be called, "We Live to Serve," and it'd be a phone-in reference librarian show.
I think it’d be cool.

15. What is your favorite curse word?
Any will do.

16. One night you wake up because you heard a noise. You turn on the light to find that you are surrounded by MUMMIES. The mummies aren't really doing anything, they're just standing around your bed. What do you do?
Send them to H’s room and go back to sleep.

17. Your house is on fire! You have just enough time to run in there and grab ONE inanimate object. Don't worry, your loved ones and pets have already made it out safely. So what's the item?

18. The Angel of Death has descended upon you. Fortunately, the Angel of Death is pretty cool and in a good mood, and it offers you a half-hour to do whatever you want before you bite it. Whatcha gonna do in that half-hour?
How many hazelnut Five Star bars could I eat in half an hour, do you suppose?

19. You accidentally eat some radioactive vegetables. They were good, and what's even cooler is that they endow you with the super-power of your choice! What's it gonna be?
Book osmosis. I could sleep with a book under my pillow, and in the morning I’d read it. In one night. While sleeping.

20. You can re-live any point of time in your life. The time-span can only be a half-hour, though. What half-hour of your past would you like to experience again?
Never you mind.

21. You can erase any horrible experience from your past. What will it be?
Junior high.

22. You got kicked out of the country for being a time-traveling heathen who sleeps with celebrities and has super-powers. But check out this cool stuff... you can move to anywhere else in the world! Bitchin'! What country are you going to live in now?

23. This question still counts, even for those of you who are under age. You have been eternally banned from every single bar in the world except for ONE. Which one is it gonna be?
The one closest to my house. (The one in England AUSTRALIA.)

24. Hopefully you didn't mention this in the super-powers question.... If you did, then we'll just expand on that. Check it out... Suddenly, you have gained the ability to FLOAT!!! Whose house are you going to float to first, and be like "Dude, check it out... I can FLOAT!"?
Gina, you have read Salem's Lot, haven't you? I'd come to your house.

25. The constant absorption of magical moonbeams mixed with the radioactive vegetables you consumed earlier has given you the ability to resurrect the dead famous-person of your choice. So which celebrity will you bring back to life?
Jane Austen. Or Joe Strummer. Jane Austen, Joe Strummer. Hmmm.

26. The Gates of Hell have opened, and Death appears. As it turns out, Death is actually a pretty cool entity, and happens to be in a fantastic mood. Death offers to return the friend/family-member/person, etc. of your choice to the living world. Who will you bring back?
Haven't you ever read "The Monkey's Paw"? What is WRONG with you?

No, seriously? My dad.

27. What's your theme song?
“Happier Blue,” Chris Smither

"Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria."

Thoughts while shopping (doesn’t that sound like one of those old Jack Handy things?):

Why is it I go to the store for the basics – milk, bread, eggs, bananas – and come home with over a hundred bucks worth of groceries? How does this happen? And since I have stopped buying my beloved Green & Black’s chocolate bars – because when you can’t fit into your running clothes, you must do something drastic - it is not that.

Half a blueberry bagel on the floor? Looks very like some weird sort of slug, if you are not quite awake yet and you chose to go to the grocery store without the Starbucks in it, so you are forced to do the grocery shopping without that vital cup of Colombian blood. (Don’t ask.)

Apparently the shopping carts at the new fancy-schmancy grocery store have homing devices or something – they all bear giant signs informing you that they CANNOT be taken past the perimeter of Giant Eagle property. Or else. Or else what? They implode? Chew their cyanide caplets? What?

The new Giant Eagle doughnut section has French crullers. Despite the not-fitting-into-my-running-clothes issue, I bought and ate two. I haven’t laid eyes on a Dunkin’ Donuts – the only doughnut place I know of that makes crullers - since moving to this Midwestern doughnut desert. And yes, I know we are overrun with Krispy Kreme now, but I only like the plain Krispy Kremes, and those really only when I am drunk and it is three o’clock in the morning. In fact, the last time I ate a Krispy Kreme – and under those exact circumstances – was with the Rogue Librarian and some other folks, lo, these many eons ago, before he moved halfway across the world. I wager they do not have Krispy Kreme in Thailand, RL? So you could argue it would be worse? But still, here? – no Dunkin’ Donuts, no diners-on-every-corner, people putting lettuce and tomatoes on cheesesteaks. It’s as wrong as Pepsi Slurpees.

I would argue that you could conceivably put the Hebrew National hot dogs in both the kosher section AND the hot dog section and NO ONE WOULD MIND.

I also don’t think it’s too much to ask for people to get dressed before grocery shopping. This wearing-your-jammies-in-public trend is most disturbing. I know that brands me as an old crank, but come on, how hard is it to throw on jeans and sneakers? I personally don’t care to know that you sleep in pajamas printed with giant cows-jumping-over-the-moon. I will say this for her - she had taken out her retainer.

Why do I buy bacon every. single. shopping. trip? Admittedly, last week I ate the last of the season’s bacon-tomato-avocado sandwiches (bliss on bread). This weekend I made a vat of Badger’s Baked Potato Soup. And now while brussel sprouts are in season, I eat them roasted with bacon every chance I get. But really, I buy a pound of bacon every time I go to the grocery store. I can only imagine what the insides of my arteries look like.

I don’t mind shopping. I don’t mind planning meals. I don’t particularly mind cooking. But I would gladly pay someone money to unload the groceries from my car, carry them into the house, and put them away in the proper places. I hate doing that even more than I hate vacuuming. And I LOATHE vacuuming. I once lived in the same apartment, with the same roommate, for four years, and I honestly don’t recall vacuuming even once. I am not even sure we owned a vacuum. Maybe he vacuumed surreptitiously, while I was at work or asleep. I honestly don’t know, and I honestly did not care. The apartment was not a pigsty, either; it was a really nice one, as a matter of fact, with built-in bookcases and leaded glass and a porch and ten-foot ceilings; and we kept it fairly clean and it was homey. But were the carpets clean? Couldn’t tell you...

And last but certainly not least, says the woman who ate her way thru France in an apparent attempt to consume her bodyweight in pate, Giant Eagle now carries D'Artagnan pate. I don’t quite know how I feel about this.
And for S – pate is generally “a finely ground or chunky mixture of meats [often from the less desirable parts ] such as liver, and often additional fat, vegetables, herbs, spices, wine and other ingredients.” (Yes, I used Wikipedia for the definition, so sue me.)
Foie gras is specifically goose liver, but you can also make pate from chicken livers (a little Calvados, and bacon – again with the bacon! – yum), or minced pork, or minced veal…or combos of.

And really, truly last, a happy thought: Trader Joe’s opens tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

All the Leaves Are Brown . . .

Okay, no, they aren’t all brown yet. But the sky is gray. The clouds are layered in an odd, thick way that—at least from my office window—makes it appear that if you could reach up above the clouds, you could peel back their solid mass, like a lid. I wish I could do that, because the clouds seem to be filtering out the bits of the light spectrum that allow the trees’ colored leaves to look at all vibrant. I know, for example, that the trees I’m looking at are orange, but I only know it intellectually—there’s nothing visceral in my observation of the colors. There’s no flaming, golden, honeyed beauty, and that makes me feel ripped off.

I’m reading Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children, which is popping up all over the place lately. I’m about a third of the way into it, and I think I like it, but I don’t love it. Messud writes beautiful, descriptive, true prose. Her characters are well drawn and I can see lots of potential for change and growth. I know, though, that there is something (or some things) terrible waiting for one or more of these people, and the sense of impending doom is really getting me down. I want to keep reading because I want to see who gets to end up relatively happy, and what that happiness will look like. On the other hand, though, I’d like to chuck it and read something funny. Reader’s Angst. Is there a treatment for that, like for housewife’s knee?

Speaking of housewife’s knee, I’ve been listening to the David Sedaris box set, which is something like fourteen CDs filled with Sedaris reading each of his books through Me Talk Pretty One Day. Sedaris is great to read, but I think he’s even better to listen to. I heart him.

Little else is going on around with me. I’ve had it up to HERE with school, and can’t believe I’m forced to endure class each week. Thank God I’m only taking one, because I’m having a terrible time making myself go each week. The teacher is a nice enough woman, but she seems to have missed her calling as a kindergarten teacher, and it drives me CRAZY (because, you seem I’ve already BEEN to kindergarten). The week we read westerns, for instance, (it’s a class on resources in genre fiction), she brought her guitar and played and sang a few western ditties for our . . . enjoyment. I have no patience for shenanigans like this—especially at around $3K per class.

Also, I am convinced that this woman—however good a library director (for that’s what her day job is) she might be—isn’t terribly smart, and that’s hard for me. Two classes ago, we were both running and participating in a sort of mock book group, discussing The Kite Runner. She asked someone to ask a question they would present if running a group, and the called upon woman asked what readers made of the symbolism of the kites. No one raised a hand (no one ever does), so I did, and offered that I thought the kites had something to do with the author’s ideas of freedom and Afghanistan, because a soaring kite is nearly free, and then when a string is cut and a kits gets free, it’s chased down by the masses who have to capture it . . . blah, blah , blah. It was a totally tossed off answer that I just spouted to have something to say so we could stop sitting in silence. You’d have thought the teacher woman was having an orgasm—I swear! She sort of oohhh-ed and gasped and made funny noises, and then PUT HER HEAD DOWN ON HER DESK and then looked around at everyone, and said, “Oh! I’m going to have to think about that one!”

Um, shut up, lady. Everyone looked at me like I’m some kind of teacher’s pet; I couldn’t look up from my desk from that point on, and indeed spent the rest of the class furtively sending text messages to my friend S, who wishes she could hang out and watch this crazy lady’s antics.

So that’s about it for me: even further disenchanted with school, longing for it to be Friday because I have the day off AND our Trader Joe’s is opening. S is coming in from Cleveland on Saturday, to watch the boy’s final soccer game of the season (they’re playing for last place--woo!) and then hang out with me and maybe see a movie or shop for girly things or something. I’ll spend the whole day Sunday snoozing and maybe watching movies. Hooray!

For now, though, it’s only Wednesday. I still have another work day to soldier through. Sigh.

"You had one eye in the mirror..." - Carly Simon, "You're So Vain"

Amble on over to Blackbird’s blog post from yesterday and check out her link to The New York Times’ Love Among the Ruins and its accompanying slideshow of “The Beautiful and the Damned.”

The ugly first - we'll get to the good and the bad. Eventually. Maybe.

Nick Nolte looks like a science experiment gone awry – or perhaps the end of the other father in Coraline.

Billy Bob Thornton just squicks me out. Even though I think he's a decent actor. (Which reminds me, I scored a copy of A Simple Plan from the book exchange at work today…)

Does anyone else think Sam Shephard could be Colin Machrie’s older brother? Which is really a shame, as he was very cute when he was younger – although after reading Buried Child, you have to wonder if you would want to be alone with him…spooky….

Keith Richards – well, I can’t look at Keith Richards without thinking about the story that he once had all his blood replaced to detox, a la the druggie baby in that episode of ‘ER’ (now THERE’s a delicious man – George Clooney. Oh my God. The Cary Grant of our generation. I thought he was gorgeous when he was Doug Ross, but he’s only improved with age.)

Ed Harris? Never crossed my radar until I saw him in “Stepmom” with Susan Sarandon and I couldn’t figure out which one I thought was sexier. Oh, was Julia Roberts IN that movie? Didn’t notice.

Richard Burton looks like Russell Crowe is going to look in twenty years – but I don’t like Russell Crowe. Also, that widow’s peak is distracting.

Kris Kristofferson is just cute, and after a certain age, a man should just not be cute.

Jeremy Irons doesn’t do much for me. Besides, he IS Humbert Humbert, so after that, I found it difficult to even consider him as an object of desire. But in the early eighties, he was in “Brideshead Revisited,” with Anthony Andrews. Now, I don’t generally care for blonde men, but for Anthony – and perhaps Kenneth Brannagh – no definitely Kenneth, as Henry V – I would make an exception. (Oh, and also Paul Newman: younger – eh. Older – ooooh.)

We start moving in the right direction with Robert Downey, Jr, although you run the risk of falling into the “I love you so much I’ll fix you” trap. (I once had a man tell me that he thought he could fix me. Um. Didn’t realize I was broken. Stupid, yes – I was with him. But broken?) This predilection for rescue is called the Florence Nightingale Trap in the article. The psychological complexities are beyond my discussion right now. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves, though.

As for Blackbird’s beloved Hugh Laurie – in this photo at least, I keep expecting him to say, “Hump? What hump?” But really, in the show, it’s the limp that does me in. What exactly is it about a man with a limp? WHY is a limp SEXY? But it IS. I’ll bet Mr Rochester had a limp (among other things – let’s hope his wrecked face looked like the Jeremy Irons/Hugh Laurie ruined and not, please God, for Jane’s sake, the Nick Nolte face.)

You know who else had a limp? Archibald Craven. Right? He had some sort of limp in the stunning Agnieszka Holland film version of The Secret Garden. And didn’t you just LOVE him? I know his nose is big, but those eyes. Those eyes, you could drown in those eyes. Although, I do admit, put any man in a collar, and cravat, and frock coat, and his looks will improve. (Some, like the delectable Colin Firth, just get better and better, until really, most women just can’t stand one second more – and that’s when he whips off his cravat and dives into the pond….what? were you saying something? Was I saying something? Huh? Wha?)

And don’t forget Roger Rees and his “ruined” face. You may remember him as Kirstie Alley’s husband on Cheers, but he will forever live in my memory as the brave if naïve Nicholas Nickleby in the RSC’s miniseries version. Nickleby was my very first literary crush, and I fell hard. Hard enough to read all 900 pages. Spurred on by the image in my mind's eye of Nicholas righteously pounding on Squeers for beating Smike.

By the way, where’s Harry Dean Stanton?
Al Pacino? John Spencer?

Richard Gere? John Mahoney?
Sam Waterston (swoon)?

Robert Mitchum (double swoon)?

Alan Rickman (swoon, swoon, swoon)?

Although now I am veering into merely older, not ruined.

(Now, only Mahoney has a limp – or at least he did in “Frasier,” didn’t he? I don’t think it was real.)

Jeremy Northam as Mr Knightley did NOT have a limp. But he should have. How could Emma marry a hale and hearty man? Wasn’t it required that fresh young women in a certain age had to marry much older men, preferably ones who were not completely healthy? (Emma, Jane, Dorothea Brooke…there must be more…) Just think how bereft the world of great lit would be if Mr Casuabon was not a fussy old invalid type or Mr Rochester not hideously scarred…)

I digress...back to Blackbird’s ruined men. For my point.
Yes, I wrote this entire post to get to this point: Sam Elliott.
Oh my. I can’t even speak when I look at that photo.
I have loved Sam Elliott since I first saw him as Cher’s biker boyfriend in “Mask,” and I love him still.

I think he might very well be the sexiest man alive.
Brad Pitt, Ryan Philippe, Owen Wilson, Tom Cruise, Jude Law, Matthew McConaughey, Jake Gyllenhal, Heath Ledger - the whole lot of you young whippersnappers - hang your pretty little heads in shame.

I don’t CARE if he’s old enough to be my father.

You cannot TOUCH Sam.
As Blackbird said, Oooof.

Monday, October 23, 2006

If alcohol is queen, then tobacco is her consort...

It's a fond companion for all occasions, a loyal friend through fair weather and foul. People smoke to celebrate a happy moment, or to hide a bitter regret. Whether you're alone or with friends, it's a joy for all the senses. What lovelier sight is there than that double row of white cigarettes, lined up like soldiers on parade and wrapped in silver paper? I love to touch the pack in my pocket, open it, savor the feel of the cigarette between my fingers, the paper on my lips, the taste of tobacco on my tongue. I love to watch the flame spurt up, love to watch it come closer and closer, filling me with its warmth. - Luis Buñuel

I am about to write the world’s most politically incorrect post. So if you are going to harp on me, please just stop reading now and come back tomorrow.

I miss the taste, and yes, the smell, and the satisfaction of a deep pull, and that lovely click of my Zippo flipping open to light up, and the excuse it gives you to relax for - what is it, seven minutes on average? I miss having something to do with my hands. I miss having a prop when I am drinking, something in my hands with which to punctuate my words.

I know, it’s horrible for you, and you stink, and “Who wants to kiss an ashtray?” (I actually kind of enjoy that taste when kissing someone, but it’s been so long since it’s happened that perhaps I am delusional), blah blah blah. But I have been working pretty hard on some stuff for a friend, doing some scripting/conversion work on text files, and let me tell you how delicious and welcome a cigarette would be right about now. I would love to just step outside, with a fresh, hot cup of coffee, and light up one of my beloved Camel Lights.

I started smoking in college – I was a theatre major, it is WHAT YOU DID. Also, how the hell else were you going to get through those perpetual all-nighters in the drafting studio we had to pull, without nicotine? (Not to mention Crits, but that is a story for another day.) That’s like asking me to get through my days now without chocolate, or email. Not gonna happen…

It kept me from gaining the dreaded Freshman Fifteen – I have never been thinner in my life than I was in college. Ok, so I was also notorious for passing out suddenly, on a regular basis, but that’s neither here nor there. At least I hit the floor gracefully. Now it’d be like beaching a whale.

It gave me the perfect excuse to talk to a guy – asking for a light or bumming a smoke was always a good way to strike up conversation, even if the guy didn’t smoke. It didn’t matter, the ice was broken, even if he replied, “Sorry, I don’t smoke.”

And again, very VERY sorry, but there are very few things in this world sexier than an attractive man in the physical act of smoking. If he’s got nice, long, strong fingers holding the cigarette, all the better. I swear to God, there were two guys (at least two I can think of) in college who could drive me mad just by lighting up.

I smoked the whole way driving back from Maryland after having my heart broken by my first college boyfriend, smoking and sobbing and listening to James Taylor ad nauseum the entire four hours.

I smoked every night, driving home late in the evening, the summers I worked at the community theatre in NJ, the one where I met Mike, who has infamously appeared previously in this blog.

I smoked on breaks on crew, I smoked outside at fraternity parties, I sat on the floor in the hallway freshman year with Angela at 3 in the morning and smoked like a chimney.

I swore I was going to quit when packs went higher than two dollars (!!!).
I didn’t.
I quit – the first time – after I got bronchitis my senior year.
I started again. I quit again.
I started again after my second child was born. Gina and I delighted in hanging out on her porch, shooting the shit about books and life, and smoking.
I quit when I got pregnant again.
Every once in a great while, when I have been drinking, I want a smoke, and I’ll bum one and enjoy it and be wistful for the days when I thought I was immortal, as we all do at the ages of 19 or 20, and thought nothing of smoking a pack a day.

Ok, my sweet Internet buddies, please don’t worry, I will not start smoking again.
My mother died of cancer; it seems like I know more and more people every day who have cancer. I don’t want my kids to start smoking. And my teeth are already stained enough from my sad caffeine habit. Also, last time I checked, they were up to almost $4.50 a pack.

But God, how I miss it.

There’s very little more PERFECT in this world than a drink in one hand, a cigarette in the other.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

"Everyone knows that a soul is the same size as a beach ball." - Coraline Jones, Coraline

Lately, for whatever reason, I have been reading creepy children’s books.

And they have been wonderful.

I mean, between Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, is it possible – dare we hope – that the age of smarmy children’s literature is fading, and the gloriously terrible age of the Brothers Grimm and Struwwelpeter is returning?

Seriously – just how many I’ll Love You Forevers and Rainbow Fishes and The Giving Trees can one person stomach? (Although they are all frightfully creepy as well, in their own ways...don’t even get me started on the incestuous overtones in just about the only Robert Munsch story I do not like, or my little brother on the Communist underpinnings of that silly, colorful fish.)

Yes, I suppose there are the middle-of-the-road kids' books, the ones with brave heroines who learn something (Because of Winn-Dixie); or intrepid brother-and-sister teams who have great adventures and learn something (Magic Treehouse series); or even cheery animals who teach us all a little moral lesson (Berenstain Bears, whom I loathe to the very core of my being, those sanctimonious, pontificating ursines). There are certainly non-smarmy and realistic children’s books out there – Cynthia Voight, Laurie Halse Anderson, heck even E.L. Konigsburg.

But what I really mean is kids' books with that sense of magic, that sense that anything – really absolutely anything, good or bad - is possible, that you have with the REAL Grimm’s fairy tales, or Gaiman’s fantastical novel, or Terry Pratchett’s edgy silliness, or Julian Thompson’s real-but-not-quite teen novels.

I present for your consideration a rogue's gallery of gritty, intense, pull-no-punches but wonderful children's books (take a memo, feel-good Frindle!):

Roald Dahl's The Story of Henry Sugar can still make me nauseated, and James and the Giant Peach intensely claustrophobic.

Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time gave me nightmares for weeks!

John Bellairs’s books (whose Gorey illustrations alone make them a creepy delight) are tight and suspenseful and by no means all-tied-up-neatly.

You can't ignore the true classics, like the Narnia books, or even better in my opinion, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. Could you possibly nonchalantly read about Lyra's lonely journey to the land of the dead, or not feel in the pit of your stomach the terror of the little boy who is separated from his daemon?

In my oh-so-humble opinion, though, Maurice Sendak is THE classic example of exactly what children - even very little children - can appreciate, and what adults like to think kids can’t handle. Sendak’s classic Where the Wild Things Are has been described as “dark and disturbing,” and “far too frightening for young children.”

(Is this when I should confess that I want Max to grow up fast so I can marry him – well, right after I marry Calvin – or Hobbes, whichever one will have me. Hmm, talk about disturbing, eh?)

John Cech wrote…”These fantasies essentially broke through the relatively unperturbed surfaces of postwar American children's literature, sending his [Sendak’s] children…on journeys into regions of the psyche that children's books had not dared visit before."…As author Ann Hulbert writes, "His pictures, and also his texts, bring to life what Bruno Bettelheim called the 'id pressure' — the nightmarish fears, grandiose desires, anger — that buffet children. [From “NOW with Bill Moyers,” The Controversy Over Children’s Literature.]

When did editors and publishers decide that kids cannot handle anything scary?

Do they really think that if only kids are protected from ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night, they will not imagine the ghost in the hallway, the monster in the closet, the beast under the bed? (Or the bully on the playground, the nasty middle-schoolers on the bus, the casual cruelty of the average junior-high-schooler?)

When Primo was about two, I thought it’d be a good idea to take him with me on a peace march. You know, show him his mom is politically aware and active, and tries to stand up for what she believes in. What I didn’t count on was the girl who marched the route wearing a gas mask. Primo was terrified, even though I explained carefully that there was a real person under the mask, that it was just a mask like a Halloween mask. He talked about that gas mask for weeks after, at all sorts of weird times.
And I will never ever forget the chill that went up my spine when one day, sitting in his room, he looked out in the hall and said matter-of-factly, “Oh, there’s the lady with the gas mask.” I didn’t want to turn around, I didn’t want to look, even though my ADULT brain knew there was no one or nothing there in the hallway.

Kids take what they see and what they experience and turn it and twist it and examine it from all angles in their weird and strangely practical little kid brains. And let me tell you, now that I know at least one five-year-old very well? Those brains are no more normal and sunshine-y than any adults; in fact, I would argue that kids see what’s there, and what could be there. They see the possibilities as well as the reality. They are willing to accept that the possibilities can be gruesome or frightening as soon as be cheery or optimistic. We adults are the ones who want kids to be happy and innocent.

Lord of the Flies, anyone?

I suppose I’ll go back to reading adult novels now – Peter Carey’s Theft: A Love Story is up next, although Coraline did prompt me to request Gaiman’s Preludes and Nocturnes (the first Sandman volume) from the library - so you can be spared my psycho-babbling. (Incidentally, Coraline and this Bookslut interview also prompted me to fall madly in lust with Neil Gaiman. Who is *extremely* cute. See? And he also rocks that maddening-hair-in-his-eyes look.)

But I think I am going to put my old childhood Raggedy Ann doll away in the blanket trunk before I go to bed tonight. Those black button eyes of hers are freaking me out a bit.

Friday, October 20, 2006

"My boyfriend thinks I lost my true calling to be a librarian." - Paulina Porizkova

Microcosmic view of BabelBabe's life as a reference librarian:

Where is the bathroom/copier/elevator?
Can I get a room [study carrel]?
What time do you close?
I need this New York Times article from September 16, 2006.
Do you have the book Birth Right?
How do I print?
My Microsoft Word document is all messed up, can you help me?
[Ten minutes later, after I reload the doc template, save in plain text, and show him how to turn on and off the editing marks] I don’t have all night! How do I print this?
Is flexcash the same as Virtual Cash?
What time does the commuter lab close?
I gotta hit the john but when I get back can you help me think of a synonym for ‘businesslike’?
Do you have the movie “Bowling for Columbine”?
I pay thousands of dollars in tuition, what do you mean we don’t subscribe to that journal?
Are there any good Chinese restaurants around here?
I am looking for information and statistics about minority groups in graduate school.
How do I print?
My computer won’t log me off.
[From an irate alum] I paid thousands of dollars in tuition, what do you mean I can't access the electronic databses from home anymore?
What time do you close?
Is the coffee from the vending machine any good?
Can I request this book from another library?
My computer is not recognizing my thumb drive.
What is my ILL/WebAdvisor/Blackboard/Yahoo/Hotmail/DNet/login password?
Do you have a book about neuroscience?
I pay thousands of dollars for tuition, why do I have to pay for printing?
Where are the film directories?
My disk is stuck in the computer. [When the IT guys finally got it out, there was GUM all over it.]
Do you have full-color anatomy atlases?
How do I print?
Can you give me directions to the South Side?
I need to know the chemical properties of ammonium bicarbonate.
How do I print?
Do you know what Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s religious affiliation is?
Where are the magazines?
What do you mean, they’re shelved alphabetically?
Wow, I’m a senior and this is the first time I have been in the library.
Can you give me the phone number for Milano Pizza?
Can you tell me what the Italian word ‘stonato’ means?
My teacher put a book on reserve, can I have it?
What does non-circulating mean?
I need primary sources on World War I aviation. But I don’t know what a primary source is.
I’ve been here for two years and have never been in the library before, can you believe it?
I need this article from this German journal, but I need it in English.
What time do you close?
What time does Starbucks close?
What time do the cops stop ticketing?
I’m writing an annotated bibliography on John Donne and need more books.
How do I print?
Can you give me the phone number for the Papal Nuncio?
Is there a color copier here?
Can you show me how to get back to page one of my document? [This guy was writing a disgustingly graphic paper, ostensibly on sexual identity for a psych class, and was clearly enjoying asking all the female librarians to proofread/save to disk/change margins, etc.]
I need information on Starbucks’ advertising campaigns.
Can I pay someone to make these copies for me?
What time does the bookstore close?
What do you know about APA style?
I need articles about jurisprudential inquiry in social studies.
How do I print?
Do any of these computers have PowerPoint on them?
I need literary criticism on Sylvia Plath’s poem “Mirror.”
What time do you close?
My computer won’t log me off.
This is my first time in the library.
How do I print?
What do you mean, I have to pay for printing? Do you know how much I pay for tuition?
Can you tell me something about the judges for "Dancing with the Stars"?
[See if you can guess which questions come from our resident crank caller...] I need the Italian word for 'judge.' Oh? That's not what my Italian dictionary says it is!
I can't get the link to this journal to work.
I am looking for newspaper articles about the Titanic.
I need to write a paper about Jewish culture. NOT Jewish religion, Jewish culture.
How do I print?


And you all thought it was so glamorous...

My all-time favorite question was this, whispered to a coworker by a sweatshirt-hooded boy looking for his class:

"Why am I here?"

And S is such the consummate librarian that she had an answer for him!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

"But that was in another country, and besides, the wench is dead." - The Jew of Malta, Christopher Marlowe

Act 4, scene 1, Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta.

Barabas the Jew is trying to excuse and explain away his sins, to two friars.
They accuse him, "Thou hast committed..."
And he replies, "Fornication? But that was in another country, and besides, the wench is dead."

I have always liked Christopher (no, I don’t call him Kit) Marlowe – he was dashing and risk-taking and fun. Oh, and a kick-ass writer. (Never mind that he was killed in a bar brawl in a dispute over the tab.) I do not think he wrote Shakespeare’s stuff; I personally hold the opinion that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare’s stuff, but what do I know? A few post-bacc classes in Renaissance lit with a brilliant and encouraging professor, and suddenly, everyone’s an expert.

Last night, after an interminable parent-teacher meeting - and the sinking realization that my mother-in-law is just too old to handle watching the baby anymore - I went out with my friend whom I would like to henceforth refer to as Dr L, since she successfully defended her dissertation. (See, L, you can be Dr Initial-of-Your-Choosing, too...) But I’ll probably forget…

We went to the little neighborhood bar that I like because of their yummy buffalo bites. We ate, we drank (I drank too much), she threw some darts. And we, lo and behold, began chatting with some of the regulars. Because, you know, who doesn’t want to talk to L? She’s tall and thin and has long blonde hair and is adorable.

The George Hamilton lookalike was very serious about his darts; the dude in the San Fran shirt looked like L’s long-time love only twenty years younger; the guy whose hair was maddeningly in his eyes ALL NIGHT LONG sounded like he was from France, but actually hails from Maine; and we were both fairly certain that the robotics engineer who first started speaking to us was gay.

I was chatting with Hair-In-His-Eyes Guy and he used a quote I have heard before, but couldn't place. I asked him where it was from, but he didn't know, said he'd tried to find out for ages. He had first run across it in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, but we both knew it was from another source. We spent a few minutes trying to figure it out, along the way trying to decide who Shakespeare was, or more accurately, if Christopher Marlowe was Shakespeare.
And this is where I turn into a total dork - I came home at midnight and LOOKED IT UP. And then I emailed the source to him.

Moral of the story: You can take the librarian out of the library - but don't take her to a bar.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

There can never be enough said of the virtues, dangers, the power of a shared laugh. ~Françoise Sagan

One in an occasional series. [4/23.]

I finished Marian Keyes Anybody Out There? over the weekend. I stayed up till almost two to finish it Sunday night – at first I thought it wasn’t going to hold me the whole way through, but it did. And it was FUNNY. I was howling reading it while I sat in Starbucks Saturday and ate my lunch. And by the end? Still crying with laughter, alternated with sobbing with sympathy and sadness. I enjoy all of Keyes’ stuff, but this was one of her best. It has its faults but overall, a great, fun read.

Now I am reading Lorna Landvik’s Angry Housewives Eating BonBons which is ok so far – the writing is a bit stilted in places, and I am not sure it can hold me the whole way through, but my God, there are also some funny scenes in this book. There’s a scene in a tree house that I thought was going to make me pee my pants. I have to say, I do not laugh easily – not that sort of laugh-till-you-cry, breathless laughter; maybe my sense of humor is warped or something - but these two books – wow. The funniest book I have EVER read is Caryl Rivers' Virgins (and it also made me sob at the end). The Keyes will go on that Funny Book list, right next to the Rivers. I’ll have to finish Housewives before I decide if it also deserves that distinction.


Hard to believe, but I didn’t exactly mesh in my junior high class. I was friends with sort of everyone – the jocks, the girly-girls, the rebels - but not best buddies with anyone. Until Kristin came along.

Because our high school was so small, Kristin and I were in practically every class together except homeroom – our surnames were on opposite ends of the alphabet – and band – she played flute and I played nothing. But she slogged alongside me running laps in gym class, and thrashing out problems in calculus, and dissecting frogs in bio. We were on student council together. We both were involved in drama – I on the tech side of things and she on stage. She dated another student – a tall, skinny boy with bad skin named Peter, who was hilariously funny and insanely smart and very sarcastic, and wanted to be a lawyer. And they were part of the group that organically formed around the drama productions and finally found me my high school niche – Kris and Peter, who are married now and have at least one little boy; Kevin and his girlfriend, the annoyingly perky but smart Nancy; Joe, a short little Egyptian guy who grew tall and gorgeous AND became a doctor to boot (he and I still exchange Christmas cards); the “other” Val, who had a predilection for dating boys much stupider than she.

Kris, a transplant from somewhere in Texas, showed up in seventh grade, and I felt like she’d been around forever. She was so smart – scary smart. She was alarmingly down-to-earth and very practical but she was funny, too. In fact, what I remember most about my friendship with Kris is laughter – breathless, helpless, hiccupping laughter, routinely, every day, pretty much all day. I can’t for the life of me remember what it was that we laughed at, but God, how we laughed. And laughing out loud like I did in the Starbucks on Saturday made me think of Kristin, who for Christmas one year gave me this box, filled with potpourri.

I have no idea if she stenciled the box herself, or made the potpourri; I just remember this box. I am sure she wrote a funny note with it, something witty that made me snort with laughter.

God, when was the last time any of us laughed like that? Occasionally Gina and I do; Blackbird and I did, in Bethlehem; but never as routinely as Kristin and I did, all through high school, pretty much all day, pretty much everyday (much to the chagrin of many of our teachers, especially Mr Schwartz our chem teacher. I am sure we two were the very bane of that man’s existence. As if his malformed ear and stutter and deplorable taste in clothes weren’t enough to make his life hard…)

It’s a tonic just thinking about it. (The laughing, NOT Mr Schwartz!)

(In fact, I feel an eensy weensy bit *ashamed* when I think of Mr. Schwartz, so that's gotta mean I am not wholly irredeemable, right?)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I do not mean to pry, but you don't by any chance happen to have six fingers on your right hand?

Last night, I was typing away madly on an email when I heard Seg crying in his bed. Now that we finally have The Baby sleeping thru the night, of course we have to tackle getting Seg through the night dry. Sigh.
I went to see what was up, and once he stopped sobbing, and could tell me what was wrong, he choked out: “I am afraid you are going to die while we are still little kids.”
It is moments like this that make me wonder if I should never have had children; I thought my heart was going to break right there, on the spot. I was fairly certain I was going to explode with love. I gathered him up into my arms, and kissed his sweet little face, and stroked his blond hair and held him tight and promised him like I had control over it: “I will never die while you are still a little kid. I will live and live until you are all grown-up and have kids of your own and you will be sick of me.”


Dudes, thank you all for the well wishes and support. NaNoWriMo doesn’t start till November 1, but I am busily outlining and researching and plotting away. And it was lovely that *someone* supported me because my GEM of a husband said to me, when I shyly disclosed my plans, “Why do you get to do exactly what you want? How are you going to find time to do that? I mean, you’ll need at least four hours a day and you have to take care of the kids and cook and…” (I am paraphrasing) at which point I tuned him out and heartily regretted even mentioning it. He better not kill my mojo! (Meanwhile Primo is fascinated by the whole endeavor and keeps asking me about my fictional characters as if they are real people that I work with or something.)

I suppose I could find all sorts of extra time to write if I could just STOP. PLAYING. JEWELQUEST. A few years ago I went through an intense Tetris phase – I mean, I was dreaming those little colored blocks falling, falling, falling. That is what this JewelQuest thing – keep in mind that I started playing because it was RELAXING – is turning into.

I really think you need to know that my high score on Jewel Quest last night, before I accidentally shut the computer down (don’t ask) was a whopping 207,176.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Jive Turkeys

Is it uncommon for wild turkeys to live in the city? I can’t find any pictures, but the turkeys are back in Pittsburgh. I’ve been passing them on the way to work in the morning, after I drop the boy at school. They hang out and eat, and I’d love to stop and take a picture, but birds make me nervous. Very big birds make me even more nervous.

Speaking of turkeys, we just finished our October pledge drive. What does that have to do with turkeys? Well, remember that episode of WKRP where they dropped the turkeys from the airplane at Thanksgiving? It seems that was based on the true story of a guy (called “Mr. Showbiz” for the stunts he liked to stage) who used to work in radio in my fair city. He was working in Colorado at the time, and no one realized that turkeys that had been raised for the table couldn’t fly. The poor birds splattered on sidewalks and smashed through car windows in a horrible display of Thanksgiving carnage. It’s funny in abstract, but I imagine that might have turned more than one person into a vegetarian.

In less frightening turkey-related pledge stuff, I found myself wanting to punch several of my volunteers in the head. (Generally I love most of the volunteers, who are wonderful people who give their free time to help out because they love the station . . . and it’s a whole love-fest kind of vibe that gets wrapped in donuts and bad coffee and liberal politics.) Certain people, though, are . . . turkeys. Like H, the quiet, unwashed guy who makes the two-hour bus trip to come in, and then somehow sucks all of the life out of the pledge room. Seriously! The guy is like a black hole! He wants to talk, but he’s all awkward, and everyone feels bad for him . . . and no one ever wants to work the shifts he’s scheduled for. Eyes meet when he walks into the room, and then it feels like no one looks up from their pledge cards until he leaves.

Other turkeys include D, who has a terribly pubic-looking moustache and informed me on Saturday that he was going to “take a whiz”. Another D is 63 and just returned from a climb up Mt. Everest, sporting sandals to keep his frost-bitten toes more comfortable. Um, sir? GROSS! Cover those things up, or come back when your feet won’t scare small children. R told me all about his knee-replacement surgery in INCREDIBLE detail. He even showed me his leg and scar, because it’s COOL to watch a 74-year-old man pull up his pant legs and show off his knees! Ugh!

So I’m glad THAT’s over.


Other stuff:

*The boy and I are headed back to Disney World, this time in June. We’re going with my parents again, and my sister, BIL, and nephew (who will be six) are coming too. We’re going to stay in the Old Key West place, I think, which should be nice. I’m looking forward to it, because I haven’t been on a vacation with my sister since my nephew was a baby and she was a big ball of stress. It should be fun.

*The boy got a packet in the mail from Habitat for Humanity, and is giving $35 of his own money to help buy a family a kitchen sink. You know how charity things have the boxes to check off for how much you're giving? Well, the lowest priced one on the list was $25 for a case of nails . . . but he specifically asked how much the kitchen sink was, and wanted to do that. I got teary when he and I talked about it last night, and I'm tearing up again. I feel like this is hard evidence that I’m doing something right in the parenting department. My kid is on his way to growing up to bee a good adult/citizen! Hooray!

*I’ve been reading a fair bit lately. I just finished A Dirty Job, which I got from the library and really don’t want to give back. I have to own all of Christopher Moore’s books, I think. This one was just as funny as the others, but had a more emotional feel to it. Wonderful characters, as always. Moore has a way of making people goofy and unique, but not ridiculous. Love.

Before that I read American Gods. Neil Gaiman is a genius on the order of AS Byatt, I think. I feel a little weird saying that, but the depth and beauty of this novel—and the creativity—put me in mind of Byatt, but in different ways. Has anyone else read both of these and would care to weigh in?

I read The Westing Game because the boy is reading it for school and I wanted to make sure I remembered everything in case he wanted to talk about it. It’s such a wonderful book! The mystery is fun, and the characters are great . . . if you haven’t ever read it, you should. If you haven’t read it since you were a kid, you’ll be surprised at how much you still like it. And if you know a kid who hasn’t read it yet, get thee to a bookstore!

I think before that I read Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Minds. I wish I was friends with CK, and that we could hang out and eat pizza once a week. He’s kind of a know-it-all, but about things that I know little about but interest me, so it’s okay. The essays in this book are all reprints from SPIN and Esquire and what-not, and were all new to me. I laughed throughout, especially during the essay that detailed his experience watching 24 hours of VH-1 Classic.

Finally, I read Adverbs, the only Daniel Handler I’ve read besides Lemony Snicket’s first book. Handler is weird, for sure, but he loves words and writing and people, and that is apparent in every line of prose. This book is a novel but feels more like a collection of related short stories, all exploring different kinds of love. Sometimes it’s confusing, and sometimes it’s very wise. I laughed aloud at some things and got choked up about others. I’m looking forward to reading more of his stuff.

And that’s it. I’ll do my best to hold down the fort while BB hunkers down to write her 1,700 words per day. (I was an English Writing major in college, in the Fiction track, but haven’t written a word of fiction in about . . . five years. I don’t think I have it in me anymore. Can those things go away? Maybe my fiction talent is hibernating, get fat and healthy in my subconscious, and I’ll become the next Atwood or Byatt when I turn . . . 45. I won’t hold my breath.)

Okay . . . back to work.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

"They told me, 'Be sensible with your new love...'"

All righty then. Here’s the deal: I signed myself up to participate in National Novel Writing Month. Yes, I am crazy; no, I have no freaking clue where I am going to find time to write approximately seventeen-hundred words A DAY in the month of November – or in any month, for that matter. And yet – I feel compelled to try. I have never before in my life felt the need to write fiction; I have always considered myself a craftsman rather than an artist. YOU write it, I’LL fix it. I am not kidding myself that I am attempting to write the Great American Masterpiece; after all, we are meant to write about what we know, and my life, while mostly satisfying and entertaining to me, is not the stuff of which masterpieces are created. However – HOWEVER – I may get a tolerably interesting first draft of some sort of chick-lit-y/mommy-lit novel out of this whole endeavor, so we shall see.
I no sooner considered this craziness, because a co-worker is also signed up and I was intrigued, than a plot and several characters and an outline began unfolding slowly in my brain, mostly at the most inconvenient of times. It’s hard to stop sautéing brussel sprouts to write down the name of your protagonist’s dog, and what kind of car she drives, but hey, we all have to make sacrifices. Nobody here likes brussel sprouts other than me anyway. I am only hurting myself.
I always pooh-poohed authors who said their characters took on their own life and were beyond their control; I pooh-pooh no longer. My protagonist is plunging headlong through my everyday life, informing me of the facts and nuances of her life and relationships in a most dictatorial manner and refusing to allow me my own way.

So, as I said, where oh where to find the time to write seventeen-hundred words a day this next month?
This, my schweet little ‘netties, is where you come in. I must neglect you. So sad, I know. But true, nonetheless.
The plan, as of the moment, is this:
Gina, my intrepid partner in blogging, will still be blogging. And pledge is over, so she will have some time to write, and for this we all are grateful.
And you know I can’t just leave you all for an entire month, especially one in which the event of Thanksgiving with my in-laws provides meaty grist for my blogmill.
But I will be frantically pounding out this feeble attempt at a novel.
Whose main character, while very unlike me in most respects, BLOGS.
(Remember, write what you know.)

So, perhaps the solution will be to send you on over to HER blog.

Or maybe I will just make myself scarce, or pull many posts from my drafts folder.

I don’t know. I have no idea how this whole effort will pan out.
I may very well come crawling back to the real blogosphere, crying and bleeding and dragging my tail behind me. In which case, forgive my absence, welcome me with open arms, and send chocolate.

I am counting on you.
Because I? Am TERRIFIED.

Hold me!

Friday, October 13, 2006

"...talkin' in rhymes, Twistin' round to make me think..." - "Talk Talk", by Talk Talk

Sometimes I think I talk too much. I will just keep going and going, until I finally hit on the right thing to say. The funniest thing to say. The thing that gets me noticed.
Sometimes I say things that are deliberately over-the-top, and I have convinced myself that I am just being open, or flippant, or sarcastic, that people know that about me.
But then sometimes I have to tell myself, “For God’s sake, BB, SHUT UP!”
Sometimes I think I explain too much, expect too much, feel too much. And then when I talk about this too much-ness, I feel foolish and young and hopelessly immature.
Sometimes I make myself cringe.
Sometimes - if I am feeling benevolent about myself - I know that I am intelligent, and curious and opinionated. I have things to say, interesting things to say, I think - I think a lot. I think too much, sometimes.
Many times.
Most of the time.
You know, they have medication for that sort of obsessiveness...
I read a lot. I think I do some cool stuff.
I? Can be a very interesting individual.
Sometimes I think the quiet people around me, the ones who don’t say much, who perhaps just smile, are – not dull, exactly, but just not QUICK.
But then I think, *they* are the ones who are calm and adult and self-confident enough to not have to be running their mouths continually. Who don’t have to try to be funny, to be the life of any gathering.
Other times I think, if I don’t talk, for God’s sake, who will? We can’t all just stand here and STARE at each other. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of the opportunity to converse with other smart and interesting people? Of course, not everyone else is stuck at home all day with baseball-obsessed five- and three-year-olds, and a nonverbal-as-yet toddler. Not everyone else is as desperate for adult conversation, meaningful dialogue, as I appear to be.
For someone who likes to be alone as much as I do, I certainly do seem to, if not require, at least greatly enjoy an appreciative audience.

Hey, you’re the one who’s still reading.

Thank God.

Someday I will grow up, I suppose.
At 36, I start to wonder when.
When I am grown-up, I will be confident and calm and sure of myself in many ways.
How very pleasant that will be.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

In pitch dark I go walking in your landscape...Just cos you feel it doesn't mean it's there... - "There There," Radiohead

I finally – FINALLY – mailed the dear Suse’s package today, the goodies packed carefully into a sturdy Jockey For Her box and securely wrapped in strappy packing tape. I felt so urbane and international, knowing which customs form to fill out and writing the funky address on the box. (And hey, I only ate and then had to replace her Five Star bars once. Ok, twice. But only the hazelnut one.)
A woman in line next to me was fascinated by the fact that I was mailing something to Australia – how exotic! She peppered me with questions: “Is she your sister?” [No. Don’t I wish.] “Wow, you must love her a lot.” [Actually, I do.] “When is she coming back?” [She’s Australian, she lives there, kind of permanently.] “Has it been long since you’ve seen her?” [Forever. Literally. I just couldn’t get into the whole we-met-on-the-Internet thing. People look at you like you are a FREAK. And perhaps I am but gosh, I love Suse, so I don’t care. I love you, Suse!]
I mailed it surface again, but hopefully it won’t get hung up in customs this time. The post office estimated 4 weeks for delivery – God and the customs officers willing.

It’s been a crazy morning. It didn’t help that last night at ten I decided that I needed to get the hell out of my house, because I’d been cooped up with my children all day, them whining because it was raining and they could not go outside (it was a cold, hard rain) and me just being nutso (must look into upping my Zoloft dose now that winter is coming. Or today is Thursday. Or the sky is blue. Whatever.) So I wandered up to a neighborhood bar and had two Yuenglings and an order of buffalo bites, and read When Madeline Was Young, which is a bit scattered as far as where the story is going, but again, I am loving the characters Hamilton has created and develops throughout the book. So I had an hour or so to get my head together again, but then I got home and Terzo started crying and we are finally – I am finally- succumbing to the whole crying-it-out process because if he doesn’t start sleeping thru the night soon I am going to DIE of exhaustion. (Don’t hate me. Don‘t flame me. I am truly sorry. But he must learn to sleep. Now. Because, have I mentioned, I am going to DIE?)
And this morning it was cold and grey and I felt as if I had not slept at all.
Also this morning – I have been busier than - a three-legged horse in a glue factory? A tail-less horse during fly season? A rat in a junkyard? What the hell is that expression? (All Google came up with was ‘A one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest’ and that is NOT right.) Anyway, I have been crazed this morning.

After dropping Primo at school, I worked out a plan with another mom to help out my next-door neighbor who has still not given birth to her sixth child (she’s a week overdue, and clearly insane anyway). Also, I was scheduled to help out in the school library at Paxson this morning. I showed up a wee bit early, helped label new books, and shelved a cart. I was feeling all competent and together and whatnot. And then I saw Mrs P, Primo’s kindy teacher, in the hall on the way out of school, and she said to me, “Did Simon bring in his snack today?” and I remembered – despite the giant red letters on the calendar, and the Post-It note reminder on the desk, I had forgotten – that it was MY day to bring in the kindy kids’ afternoon snack.
So much for competent and together.
Fortunately I had to go to the grocery store anyway – to replace Suse’s chocolate bars – shut up! - and I got pretzels and raisins, and other stuff we needed at home (Milk. My children drink So. Much. Milk. I may just buy a cow. It might be cheaper.) and after steering around every single old lady in this city who all decided to go grocery shopping at the same exact time and obstruct my headlong progress through the aisles, I made it back to the school and dropped off the snack (and a bag of Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies for the teacher, because the woman looked like she could use some chocolate and it was only ten in the morning) and repacked Suse’s package – SHUT. UP. - and went to the post office and then went home and finished constructing the giant vat o’ veg soup I am leaving for my boys to eat for dinner tonight. And now I am sitting in the coffee shop, drinking copious amounts of tea and writing drivel and kibbitzing with W about when it will be acceptable to our offspring to just drop them at morning assembly and not have to hang out to wave to them as they walk to their classroom after.
And now I have to go pick up Primo and drop him home and go to work till ten tonight.

Precisely when, do you suppose, could I fit an extra hour in there somewhere to start running again? Because the weather is perfect running weather, and I appreciate nothing quite like I appreciate running in the snow, and you know, snow season is fast approaching.

And now the dear sweet coffee shop dude is playing Radiohead for me.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

At Sacred Heart, I was taught how to be a better citizen because of their focus on discipline and moral values. - Mark Foley

From the extremely entertaining and insightful Gary Kamiya, of Salon.com: Kids are an extremely irritating miracle. So parents are constantly tacking back and forth between the far shore, a place of sublime light and Turneresque shadow, and the near, a plastic wasteland adorned with broken Happy Meal toys. Hence the peculiar expression, simultaneously blissed out and pissed off, to be observed on the faces of so many parents.


What I am reading, or planning to read (Or, "What Books Are Sitting on my Nightstand"):

When Madeline Was Young - Jane Hamilton. The premise of this book is that the mentally handicapped sibling of the narrator is actually his father’s first wife, irreversibly injured in a bicycle accident. Beautifully written, great character studies.
The Guy Not Taken - Jennifer Weiner. The dependable Weiner does it again. Some of these stories are best viewed as preliminary studies for her later books, but that doesn’t diminish their enjoyment.
Anybody Out There? - Marian Keyes. I am hoping the same may be said of the usually dependable Keyes; we’ll see, when I have time to get to this book.
The Mermaid Chair - Sue Monk Kidd. I may have been the last person on the planet to have read Kidd’s Secret life of Bees which I did like but found very similar to Ann Patchett’s Patron Saint of Liars, as I have discussed before. So I thought perhaps I would not be the last person on the planet to read her second novel, although I have not heard much compelling about it.
Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons - Lorna Landvik. Is this book the basis for the TV series “Desperate Housewives”? It certainly sounds like it, from the flap copy. It also sounds very entertaining – dark but humorous.
Faster! I'm Starving - Kevin Mills and Nancy Mills. How many times have you been suckered in by those books claiming to have recipes for “thirty-minute meals” only to find that it takes thirty minutes IF you happen to have homemade duck confit or from-scratch beef stock on hand? Countless times, for me. This doesn’t look to be one of those books. Some of the recipes look downright yummy, and I thought I’d give it a shot because frankly I am sick of everything I cook right now.
Theft: A Love Story - Peter Carey. This is next up, even if my friend The Rogue Librarian DECEIVED ME. Ahem. He has NOT read this, but he damn well better now, so he can discuss it with me.
Myrtle of Willendorf - Rebecca O’Connell. I actually finished this Sunday night. The plotting is a bit superficial, as many YA books tend to be, but I enjoyed how real the characters are, and how unhomogenized and unwhitewashed their typical late-adolescent behavior is. Rebecca, I hope you’re working on another book!


I went into the boys’ room this morning to put clean sheets on their beds, and what did I walk into but this…THIS…disgusting display of immorality, under the Bob the Builder comforter.!!!

Really, thank God neither was SMOKING A CIGARETTE! Although I was pruriently interested to learn that the decidedly revolting-looking Mimi has enough prowess to make at least ONE of Ghostie’s eyes pop out of his head.

What’s even more disturbing than this flagrant display of vulgarity is that Thomas the Tank Engine and the beaver seem to be LOOKING ON.

At least Pooh Bear has some shame – he can’t even LOOK.
That’s right, Pooh Bear, you’d better hang your head!

Former Rep. Mark Foley would feel right at home. Gah! Although I am not sure how Ghostie would text-message, without fingers or opposable thumbs….

Monday, October 09, 2006

Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon this your servant...

The sky was blue, the sun was shining, the air was positively balmy. It was a lovely Sunday morning, made even lovelier by the presence of loving relatives, friends, and church family.
The older kids got to help – Primo held the baptismal candle, Segundo, in a manner reminiscent of the Great Milk Catastrophe of Last Thursday Morning, splashed the water out of the pitcher and all over the baptismal font; the cousins got to help pour as well, except little Uno, my brother’s child, who was intent upon grinding Cheerios into the church pew cushions and had no attention to spare for church ritual.
Terzo hung in there pretty well, wailed once, quickly, when water was poured upon his head, and mostly just wanted to GET! DOWN! after a bit. So for the remainder of the usual service, he and I wandered in the churchyard, he trying to stuff sweetgum balls in his mouth and me trying to prevent and then extract sweetgum balls from his mouth.
After the service, he was whisked away in his dad’s arms for a whirlwind tour of the parish hall, for admiration by all the little old ladies, and then the family adjourned to the Babe homestead for waffles, sausage, champagne, coffee, fruit, and chocolate cake.
Hosting a soiree for the second Sunday in a row may not have been the smartest idea, but it turned out ok, and the house was mostly clean from last week. I did get around to taking down the Cars Happy Birthday sign, but the black and white streamers were still looped festively about the dining room ceiling. I suppose they should have been blue and white, but you can’t have everything.
Preparations that morning pre-baptism had been going as smoothly could be expected - the two older boys busy upstairs, the two younger boys playing in the living room, Terzo giving Uno a preliminary taste of what it’s like to NOT be the only child anymore. I was premixing waffle batter when I heard Seggie wailing upstairs. As he tends towards unwarranted hysteria these days, I ignored him for a few moments, but finally curiosity – and irritation - got the better of me – and thank God it did. I went upstairs to find him dancing about in the bathroom, splashing in inches of water, crying, “There’s water all over the floor, Mama, there’s water all over the floor!” a fact that was more than readily apparent. I sent him into his room to sit on his bed, while I threw bathmats and towels into the pond in the corner of my bathroom. Then I heard H shout, “What the – there’s water dripping thru the dining room ceiling!”
We have lovely old coved plaster ceilings, and the sheer horror of contemplating the ceiling first falling onto the carefully prepared food sitting on the dining room table, and then the sickening expense of finding and paying someone who could replace and replicate the plaster just about made me puke on the spot.
However, clever H poked several small holes in the ceiling, letting the excess water drain into a bucket – as he pointed out, three little screwdriver holes are much easier to patch than square feet of plaster. And then while I contemplated opening the champagne early and dosing myself up good, H went upstairs to explain to Seg that one does not use an entire roll of toilet paper and then half a box of tissues to wipe one’s bum; one can always call a parent to assist if necessary, and in the future, calling a parent before flushing would be a requirement, at least until Seg was sure about the toilet paper usage rules.
But, all’s well that ends well, and a lovely time was had. I had leftover waffles, but not much else, and the chocolate cake was a nice treat in the late afternoon with coffee for those who lingered, digesting their waffles. I do like to feed people well. The party broke up around five, and then my brother and sister-in-law got moving to get on the road. I was so very sad to see them go; I hadn’t seen Uno since he was a lump of baby, and I so wish – as I often do – that we all lived closer to one another.

So here’s to Terzo the Episcopalian (as he will henceforth be referred to by all and sundry, or at least by H’s family). Thanks for all your best wishes, and just so you know, the two older boys will be baptized sooner rather than later, as especially Primo has expressed a wish to become Episcopalian himself. (My Baptist forebearers are spinning in their graves but the Catholic grandparents handled the denominational discrepancy with equanimity.)


Brabham Family Chocolate Sheet Cake
- from Michael Lee West’s Consuming Passions: A Food-Obsessed life
[which, incidentally, is a fantastic little book and from which I have gotten several wonderful recipes – bb]

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
2 sticks unsalted butter
4 TBSP cocoa
½ cup buttermilk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
½ tsp salt
1 scant tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a big bowl, mix the flour with the sugar.
Boil the 1 cup of water in a large saucepan. Add the butter and cocoa. Mix until the butter melts and the sauce is thick-ish.
Pour over the flour/sugar mixture. Using a large spoon, blend well.
Add the buttermilk, eggs, salt, cinnamon, soda, and vanilla.
Pour into a buttered 9x13 pan.
Bake 35 minutes.
Cool 5 minutes and ice the cake in the pan.

Chocolate Icing
1 stick unsalted butter
4 TBSP cocoa
6 TBSP milk
3-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 TBSP vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans, if desired

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the cocoa and blend. Slowly add the milk, whisking. Remove from heat. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat. The icing will be grainy, almost lumpy. Beat in the vanilla, and the chopped pecans, if using. Spread over the cake. Work fast – the icing dries quickly.

The plain cake looked a little dull to me – I mean, as dull as a chocolate cake iced with chocolate frosting CAN look - so I sprinkled the whole thing with half a bottle of multicolored nonpareils I happened to have lying around (bought in a batch of cake pretties after the Cupcake Debacle of 2006).
And then the cake looked very festive indeed.

H swears that the Two Hands Angel’s Share shiraz he was drinking with it was an even better complement to it than my giant glass of cold milk.

I leave it to you to be the judge.

"Since Don Alfonso refused to die of his wounds, he was strangled in his bed." - Burchard, Diarium

BB: I made you a lunch for tomorrow. Salami and capicolla on Italian.
H: (suspiciously) Really? Why? Are you going to poison me?
BB: (scornfully) No, poisoning is way too subtle for me.
H: You’re right. Not your style.
BB: No, although I fully admit that I could clobber you over the head with a cast-iron frying pan in the heat of anger. But you’re safe from premeditated malice.
H: Well, that’s a comfort at least.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

“Opposition may become sweet to a man when he has christened it persecution” - George Elliott UPDATED

Apropos of absolutely nothing, I think those fluorescent paisley Vera Bradley bags everyone is carrying these days are hideous. They remind me of the stupid Bermuda bags everyone – well, everyone but ME because I was a dork - carried in high school, with the wooden handles and button-off cloth bag part. Similar just in their inexplicable popularity, not in looks or usefulness or anything.


Yesterday morning I finally told H that I had bought a laptop. No, he would not have found it on the credit card statement as I used my own personal money. It had been almost two weeks since the tablet died and he’d taken it to work to have it “looked at.” Yesterday afternoon he brought home the tablet, complete with new motherboard. Hmmm. Coincidence? I think not.

I am still keeping the laptop.


Much hooha lately over the arts integration – or distressing lack thereof – in the curriculum of my son’s arts-magnet grade school. Posts to the parental listserv, newsletters sent home from school, meetings with the principal. The spectre of moving to the suburbs for the schools once again looms large over my head. And I hate it. I hate the idea of moving to the suburbs. But I will do it if I have to.

Fucking sword of Damocles. (“I do not think this means what I think you think it means.” See note.)
Note: The Sword of Damocles is a frequently used allusion to this tale, epitomizing the imminent and ever-present peril faced by those in positions of power. But wait, there’s more, and slightly more relevant: More generally, it is used to denote a precarious situation and sense of foreboding thereof, especially one in which the onset of tragedy is restrained only by a delicate trigger or chance. Moreover, it can be seen as a lesson in the importance of understanding someone's experience.
(And yes, I used Wikipedia. So sue me. What are you gonna do, make me turn in my librarian license?)


But if we move to the suburbs, then I really am not returning the laptop.


I was happily reading Raffaella Barker’s Summertime when I started having this disconcerting sense of déjà vu. (Is it still déjà vu if you feel like you’ve *read* something before?) But the characters are the same as in the first book, so I thought it was just me being hyper-whatever – but then little bits started leaping out at me: Venetia’s foray into weird fashion design; the ruddy-faced, bluff neighbor who is romantically interested in her; the weirdo hippies setting up the brother’s wedding; mostly, the bit about the rabbits and the dogs at the end. I have either read this book before, and I have to say I am fairly certain I have not, that I have only read Hens Dancing and is it possible that the two books are the same? OR – there is another book out there very similar to this or Hens - there’s a Katie Fforde that could be the one, Wild Designs. I have to go get Hens out of the library again, and see whether it’s the one that’s so similar to Summertime or whether it’s another book/author,. And if it’s the Fforde or some other author, I am so going to call the plagiarism police. Um yeah. That’s EXACTLY what I am going to do. It could be bigger than James Frey and Kaavya Viswanathan rolled into one and topped with some Jayson Blair. Ok, not really, but still, it’s driving me MAD. I will keep you posted.

[UPDATE: Ok, the ONLY explanation for this is that I HAVE read both books, and simply do not remember reading the sequel right after I read Hens. That HAS to be what happened. Someone correct me if I am wrong, or if you also have read something that sounds like this but is not the Hens book. In the meantime, I will just sit here at my computer, quietly going mad. MAD, I tell you!-bb]


So rather than continue reading a book that was driving me bonkers, I picked up Myrtle of Willendorf. I admit I had a moment of abject terror, that the book was awful, and then what would I say to Rebecca at after-school pick-up? Since I had to open my big mouth and tell her I was reading it, before I’d started it? But it’s fine – so far, it’s really well-written, and the main character is fun and quirky, and I have laughed out loud at least twice. (And I’m not just saying that because I know you’re reading this blog now, Rebecca!) (Yes, I outed myself with a school mom. But it will be ok. Deep breath.)


And in other news, remember how I had that ginormous party LAST Sunday for The Baby? Well, THIS Sunday, what was going to be a minimal fuss over Terzo’s being baptized is turning into another ginormous gathering. But my little brother and his wife and their lovely son whom I have not seen in a year and am DYING to see will be here, so I’d be cooking up a storm anyway.

Which leads me to discuss with you, my sweet little Internetties, the trepidation with which I am approaching this whole baptism/christening thing.

Please keep in mind that I was raised as a fundamentalist Baptist, and we do not get baptized (full dunk, thanks so much) until we have reached the age of consent - at least around age 14 or so. So because when I was 14 my church was busy being rent in twain by infighting, I was never baptized. Well, that and the fact that I was not entirely sure I was SAVED. Consequently, I have NEVER – not once, not ever – taken Holy Communion. Although I have admired those little personal cups the Protestants use. I always wanted to steal one to use as a flower vase for my Barbies’ house. But man – stealing a Communion cup! The very thought! No wonder I thought I might not be saved.
Anyhoo – my husband is a baptized, confirmed, non-practicing Catholic-raised boy. I don’t think this Terzo-christening is nearly as big a deal for H as it is for me, that I am having one of my children baptized – not against his (the child's) will, per se, but clearly, CLEARLY, without his adult consent, since he’s only, oh, a year and change.

Am I selling out? Why am I so hesitant to be baptized myself, even though I like the church we attend, and I help out at Sunday school, and find my beliefs mostly in line with their theology? Why is the thought of baptizing my son making me nervous and feeling like I am using my child to achieve something I never have, and maybe never will? Would someone please tell me to chill? The rector explained that Episcopal baptism is like an initiation, a welcoming into the church, followed by an admonishment to learn and grow in the church. Well, yeah, the only initiations I know anything about are Greek, and plus, I have never been much of a joiner.

I am caught upon the horns of a dilemma.
Except I am not, because 1) he’s getting baptized at this point, come hell or high water. Haha. Because my little bro and his wife are the godparents and we don’t see them very often, so we have to do it this weekend. And 2) I have always wanted to use that phrase and now I have, regardless of how germane it is to this discussion.


Oy vey.


On the more serious side of things – how do you discuss with your five-year-old what to do if some crazy person comes into their school and starts shooting or taking hostages? How do you bring that up? Do I even need to? I feel like, in this day and age, and in the shadow of the school shootings in Colorado and Pennsylvania, that I should. I don’t want him to be wholly unprepared. As one of the readers of this Salon article on school security said, I don’t want something to happen and him think, “Why didn’t anyone tell me what I should do?”

And on THAT happy note, I leave you tonight.
And again I say, Oy vey.


I am hoping to post my show-and-tell photos tomorrow, but as I told Blackbird, just the thought of photographing all the gazillion musical instruments in my house exhausts me.
So maybe I’ll show you one.
One eensy weensy one.
A small one, like a maraca or something.
We’ll see.
I’ll see.


Have I said Oy vey! too many times yet?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

When I get through tearing a lobster apart...I feel like I had a drink from the fountain of youth. - Joseph Mitchell

I picked up Nick Hornby’s new book, Housekeeping vs. the Dirt at lunch today. I’d walked downtown to pick up several books at that branch of the library. I know you want to know: Theft: A Love Story; Myrtle of Willendorf, by Rebecca O’Connell; Summertime, by Rafaela Barker.
I got the Carey because my friend The Rogue Librarian read it and was bemoaning the lack of people with whom to discuss it, and I do aim to please, or at least try to make my friends happy. Plus he just survived a coup d’etat (of the government of the country where he lives, not of him, how odd that would be, although you know, who doesn’t want to depose a mild-mannered librarian?) so I feel he deserves a bone thrown his way.
I got the O’Connell because Rebecca is the mom of one of Primo’s kindy classmates, and I made the embarrassing faux pas upon first meeting of being waaaay more excited that she is a fellow librarian than that she is a published author. Since her other book is a baby’s picture book of very few words - of which I am sure each and every one is clever and well-thought-out - the YA novel seemed more up my alley.
I got the Barker because someone. some blogger, actually - recently reminded me that I had read her funny and delightful novel Hens Dancing and then promptly forgotten her name, the book’s name, and anything remotely helpful in discerning which book it was I’d read other than that “hens” was in the title somewhere.
So after checking these out, and after the helpful man at the desk had renewed my unrenewable books (In the Company of the Courtesan and The Truth about Celia, neither of which, frankly, I have any hope of reading even with the renewal period) I crossed the street to Barnes & Noble.
This B&N holds an important place in my cold dead heart, because it is this very B&N where I spent close to an hour the morning of my wedding (post-haircut, pre-gowning) picking out something to read on the airplane to Italy. I distinctly remember buying a Penguin dictionary of saints, because by golly, if I was going to look at paintings of souls with their own flayed skins gripped in one hand, I was damn well going to know that the poor soul was Saint Jerome. I could not tell you what novel I picked up to read on my honeymoon. Surprising lack of attention to bookish detail, for me, but you have to remember that at that time I had not yet begun this blogging thing, and also had not yet met Gina, so there was really no one with whom to share this scintillating information anyway. Now of course it niggles at me, because I think knowing what I was reading at the time of my marriage could open a window in my psyche that could be very useful for, say, my therapist, and at least amusing to you.
The only other detail of my wedding I remember anywhere near as vividly as buying the dictionary of the saints is that my bridesmaid, while a dear dear friend and a lovely woman, was perfectly and utterly useless as a bridesmaid. I passed out prior to the service (I weighed 110 pounds and hadn’t eaten in several days) and the best man brought me a nice cold bottle of juice, complete with straw thru which to sip so I wouldn’t mess up my lipstick (!!); C drank my juice while I was in the bathroom. And also, she hogged the mirror. Even had I been wearing lipstick, I couldn’t have told you how it looked. Despite this fact of dreadful bridal neglect, she remains to this day one of my dearest friends whom I absolutely adore. Some of said adoration stems from the fact that she is the only other person I know who would, upon eating an entirely disappointing dinner at one restaurant, thinks nothing of proceeding to another, hopefully more exciting restaurant and consuming another complete meal.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, I walked across to the B&N on my lunch hour today and bought Housekeeping vs. the Dirt. I love reading about what other people are reading – and I love even more discovering that I am not the only loony who buys books that might sit unread for months or even years or possibly even forever, on my bookshelf just because – oh, someone recommended it, or the subject matter is something that interested me for about five minutes once, ten years ago, or it only cost ten cents so who cares what the book is about, it was ten cents! (In the interest of full disclosure, Gina is also that type of loony which is why we are such good friends and why we write an ostensibly-about-books blog together, but so far not many more of that sort have I met. Wise I am, yes. Yoda I am channeling, hmmm.)
And once in the B&N it suddenly became crystal clear what book I had gone in there for and desperately needed to buy RIGHT. THEN. I ran into a friend from church who is a full-time salesclerk there, and whom it is always a pleasure to see, if only because he likes me and seems happy to see me, probably since the last time I was at his house for dinner, I left him with all the leftover burnt almond torte for breakfast the next day. So he delved into the book bins in the back of the store - because it really is very new, and not even out on display in the store yet - and found the Hornby book for me, and we discussed what we were reading, briefly (he, The Grapes of Wrath; me, the Carey) before he had to go clerk and I had to go reference librarian.
And so tonight, I picked up the Hornby. Just to read one chapter, dabble a wee little in the delights to come. And I lost my head and read all the Lists of Books Bought, and the Lists of Books Read, with which Hornby begins every chapter, and cannot wait to read what he has to say about the books he has read which I also have read, among them: Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson, and Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson, and In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote – although in all honesty, I borrowed Gina’s copy of In Cold Blood and only got a third of the way in, and it still is sitting on my shelf, and she is such a kind soul and good friend that she has never mentioned that she might like to have it back so she can read it, in all of the nine months which I have had it in my possession.

Greater love hath no man, than that he loaneth one of his unread books to a friend.