Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Little City Story

The tide is turning toward the end of the week. I can feel it today, finally. This is one of those weeks when I've been imagining that every day is further along in the week than it really is.
I took a walk downtown in the early evening light, still a little warm, but it was noisy and disconcerting downtown. Just some negativity in the air that I can't quite explain. Trash, noise, and air pollution, I guess. I stepped over what looked like a discarded piece of cherry pie, not to mention lots of other trash scattered and pressed into the sidewalks. The brilliant sunlight that had filled the day with cheeriness was disappearing behind the hills, so the light was gray and dull by the time we got downtown. A homeless guy was wandering around under the bridge and drinking from a bottle and spitting loudly, watching us. Those are all signs one is living in a city, but it's not always that way here. Sometimes the little city is happy and cheerful. The brewery is still closed, and the old, large plants are withering and wilting in its front windows. The sign still says, after months of being closed, that it will reopen soon. I hadn't seen Black Leather Jacket Guy in quite some time, but there he was, standing around as usual. I thought about him yesterday, noting I hadn't seen him walk past my office window in awhile, and wondered if something happened to him.
I've been listening to my new Weedhawks CD all week. It's very funny and good. One of the best songs is the first one on the CD, "All The Old Hippies Are Dropping Like Flies," with continuous and rhyming references to pony-tailed Boone's-Farm-Drinking Beatles- and Grateful Dead-listening retiring folks.
At the end of the week I will go to the auction for which I donated my "kitchen mandala" painting. I am anxious to see if anyone will bid on it. It will be competing with more naturific scenes than my stilted mandala, and there will be quilts, clothing, floral arrangements, bed and breakfast coupons, wooden figurines, random drawings and paintings, and a plethora of other unnecessary items to buy. Some people say it's too stuffy of an event, with people dressing up and eating their fancy cheesecake and drinking their complimentary wine and hobnobbing with the upper crust. It doesn't have to be that way if you don't think of it that way. You make it what you want it to be.
I love my blog. I don't get any weird stares for saying exactly what's on my mind, or awkward silences after I say something that no one knows how to, or wants to, respond to.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I started a new book last night. I started out feeling uneasy because the book starts from the thoughts of an elderly woman looking back on her life. Suddenly I didn't want to feel that way. I tried to tell myself that it's just normal, and maybe by the time I'm elderly I won't mind having only distant memories left to occupy my mind. There's still so much more stuff I want to do! I'm not ready to jump into the mind of an elderly woman who no one wants to talk to or visit and who smells funny. I will read on with the hope that the book makes me feel better about that feeling.
Yesterday and today I thought about someone who gave me a hard time without justification, or so I thought. I kept trying to shake off a bad feeling, and it wasn't going away. The only comfort was the thought that after a few days I wouldn't feel bad about it at all anymore.
Maybe with the sun shining, or just eating healthy food, or a combination of good things to think about, I felt happy. The kind of happy one feels when a really good song is on and there is a happy atmosphere and friends are all around and everything is relaxed. None of that was happening, but the image in my mind made me happy for some reason.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Screen Stories

This weekend I spent some more time on movies -- Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, and Duane Hopwood. I caught a little of Simon Schama's The Power of Art, but documentaries can be a bit of a chore to watch, especially when they are very very very very long.
Duane Hopwood was as flat as its name. It should have been called "Duane Hollowood." The actors in the movie are what interested me -- John Krasinski, David Schwimmer and Janeane Garofalo, who are all comedians, or so I thought. Not in this movie. Nothing was funny, even though it's labeled as a comedy/drama. It was all hollow and down, down, down, down down. Family life. Duane Hopwood's went down. Two cute little girls. A drinking problem. That's it. That's all you need to know. All three actors usually seem not only funny, but intelligent, and intelligently funny. That's probably why the characters they play in Duane Hopwood aren't very believable. They're not funny and interesting, at all. Janeane Garofalo's character has no character, no personality. David Schwimmer plays the same guy he plays on Friends, except that he is slightly violent and not funny whatsoever. I can't tell if the viewer is supposed to feel sorry for Duane Hopwood, but I can't feel sorry for him. I can't tell if it's supposed to inspire divorced people to be better people, but if that's all there is to the movie, then it's just sad. I won't be sending it back soon enough.
Milk was good, but my movie date must have been feeling pretty insecure about being there, because he spent most of the entire movie paying attention to me, and not the movie. He didn't even mind going to pay for the parking after about 20 minutes into the movie when we realized we had forgotten to add money to the meter. I've never had much luck watching, with a straight man, a movie in which the storyline had a lot to do with gay men. The first time it happened I was watching The Crying Game. My movie date got up because he "got sick" -- at THE part, the part where SHE, the glamorous, beautiful, slender vixen, reveals that she's a HE. I didn't think for a minute that my Milk movie date would be uncomfortable -- and I'm sure he'd insist that he wasn't -- but I know better. I tried to put myself in his shoes, and I couldn't. I couldn't imagine it being a problem. Maybe it's just me. Maybe it's just him.
Slumdog Millionaire was watched exactly 15 minutes after Milk was over. This movie goes into the rare category of movies in my head that I would actually watch more than once. Not too many movies go into this category: Strange Brew, Office Space, The Science of Sleep, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ... I can't think of any more right now. But about Slumdog Millionaire! It had great everything! Great sound effects! Great music! Romance! Comedy! Thought-provoking concepts! Tragedy! Happiness that makes one feel giddy! Fast-paced adventure! Chases! Beautiful scenery! Beautiful actors! Totally transporting me to India! Intelligence! Dancing! No time to feel restless in my seat. My movie date left me alone the whole time, as he was apparently engrossed in it even though he had already seen it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

It's Just Him

I finished The Reader the other night. I got something much more out of the book than I did the movie, and I had to wait til the end of it to catch it. It's not any revelation about the horror of the holocaust; it's not the perplexity of the subjectiveness of one kind of shame versus a worse kind of shame; and it's not the overarching theme of the book -- at least I don't think it is supposed to be. It's the distance one can feel from a partner in a dating or pseudo-romantic relationship. I've felt that distance before and wondered where it came from. Why didn't the person get attached to me? Why didn't the person give himself a chance to get to know me? There wasn't enough time to notice any particular deficiencies in me; I'm not talking about not measuring up. I'm just talking about distance, crafted meticulously so that the other person doesn't get emotionally involved. I've wondered where that can come from, the history in the person's life that would cause a person to purposefully distance himself when I know that it's not my fault (some might argue it is my fault, but I beg to differ). In The Reader, the protagonist has his first affair when he is 15, with a woman who is 36. He falls hopelessly in love with her; she disappears one day without warning. He never has a significant relationship with another woman in his life, which spans the book until he is about 50. A woman he talks to at the end of the book says to him, without knowing much about him at all except that he had this affair when he was 15, that he was a victim too, of the woman he had an affair with. Since his first experience with being in love was with someone he could never have, he would spend his life trying to find her qualities in someone else and was not successful, could not be successful. This woman at the end of the book surmised that he had married, had children, and it had not worked because he was emotionally distant. Someone once told me that people who are emotionally distant in relationships are that way because they have lost something very important to them when they were young and impressionable. She told me that this tends to cause people to have hollow consciences and to be unable to form emotional attachments. I tried to believe it was true, in one particular case (I didn't know him well enough to come up with any significant loss he might have had in his youth, other than losing a very important appendage in his mid to late 20s). He very quickly got into a new relationship, right after parting ways with me, and married her very soon after, and soon after that they became parents together. I just wonder if they have a happy-ever-after. Sometimes it's so hard to believe "it's just him; it's not me," but when I read a story like The Reader, it helps me believe that it is just him.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Even though there is lightning and thunder outside right now, I feel the dregs of winter's grayness and dullness dragging everyone down. It looks like more rain and snow for a while longer. Wouldn't a little new green help everyone a lot? Even though there are only about 29 days until the first day of spring, new life, warmth, and the reawakening of the earth still feel like they are a long way away.

Is Today the 13th?

Today was one of those fast-paced, mouse-running-on-a-wheel kind of days. All motion, no progress. I started the morning by being awakened from a bad dream, the same recurring nightmare I have. Don't we all have one? Mine is of a creepy, crazed, part-supernatural man, coming after me to kill me or for some other unknown evil purpose. It's not ever the exact same man, and it's never a man I already know. He changes in looks, but the evil chasing part is always there. Half my co-workers had some sort of bad luck on the way to work: one being locked out of the house; another one thinking he had locked himself out of the house but finding out his back door had been unlocked for weeks; another's car stalling on a bridge. Friday the 13th, delayed reactions, five days later. I've been OK, so far, except for the visceral belief I had this morning that the scary man was chasing me, popping up anywhere I was (I think he could read my mind) to kill me. Just like in the Friday the 13th movies. Just like it. I was traumatized, caught a temporary case of post-traumatic stress disorder, as a result of watching my first Friday the 13th movie, my first full-length horror movie, at the theater when I was 11. That might sound kind of old to have not seen a horror movie, but I was sheltered in the movie department in the 1980s (or just sheltered, in general; I didn't have cable TV in my house until I was 10). I was brave, in the sense that I was excited about seeing a horror movie, and always excited to do new and different things, like ride roller coasters and jump into the deep end without testing the water first. In the weeks after watching the Friday the 13th movie, in 1984, I couldn't sit with my back to a window darkened by the night, paranoid Jason was going to come crashing through it with a giant knife. People just got stabbed, over and over and over again, through the entire movie. When Jason wasn't stabbing innocent people, he was crashing through windows to get to them. I would try to comfort myself with the thought that Jason wasn't real, but that didn't help. I thought someone might have been inspired and affected by the character. It did give me ideas that I'd never had before; why wouldn't it do the same to some evil-inclined person ... ? I wonder how I can conquer my fear. I wonder if watching the same Friday the 13th movie from 1984 would help. I have a feeling my children would laugh all the way through it, like they did this past summer, when they watched "The Shining," released in 1980.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Today I dragged myself, kicking and screaming, to the grocery store. Half that time was spent with children following me around with a gigantic, fat, stuffed lamb, and a gigantic, fat, stuffed puppy, the lamb about as big as a real-life sheep and the puppy about as big as a Great Dane. I put an end to it when the stuffed animals became weapons. I took a walk around the office neighborhood at lunchtime with coworkers, and we saw a new apartment that one of them is moving in to, just a few blocks away from the office. Living two blocks away, can one really feel like she is getting away from it all, at the end of the day? Isn't that a lot like working out of your home? Very much so, yes, it is. The co-worker-soon-to-be office-neighbor brought in a huge bag fulla bagels, and carried some cream cheese spread in along with them. I brought in banana bread, homemade, I must add, by my own two hands at home, and no one finished it, and an entire week has gone by. It's a small loaf and there was still half of it left this morning, before I took pity on it and ate a few more pieces of the homemade goodness. It was a delicate combination of whole wheat flour and white flour, with perfectly ripened bananas folded in by my able cooking arms. Still edible after a week, not really all that dry, really. People are afraid of banana bread.
I read some more of The Reader last night, and am almost finished. It is called a novel but reads very much like someone's account of two intersecting lives that really happened.
All day I was shaking off the mild annoyances that occurred throughout my three-day weekend. One of them is the frustration that occurred when the 10-year-old of the home left her $60 somewhere this weekend and doesn't know where it is. It was money that I gave her, that I owed her, that I kind of miss now that it's gone, even if she would have spent it on a bunch of frivolous, in-the-moment type of stuff. Hopefully I'll be back to Original Self by tomorrow. Need some time alone. Someone asked me if I'd go see Breakfast at Tiffany's at the movie theater this evening. I told her the main character reminds me of someone I dislike, someone who I am certain has a histrionic personality disorder. After I explained this to my friend, before I even said "no" to going to the movie, she said she was uninviting me, because she likes Audrey Hepburn and the character she plays in that movie very much. What's to like? Her character is just like a bunch of real-life people I know: flirtatious predators who play men like puppets (nice, unsuspecting men, lured in by seemingly irresistible charms), and discard them with psychotic contempt when they, soon after their conquest, lose interest because the men have suddenly lost whatever worth they had. Maybe I'm putting too much of my own biases into the character, I don't know.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A spectrum of emotions washes over the American collective, as we are pushed to simultaneously celebrate love and presidents, almost all at once. As if that were not enough to handle, we are also asked to honor or at least think about Darwin's and Lincoln's 200th birthdays, almost too much that they were born on the exact same day. Why isn't Darwin's birthday a holiday? Why can't there be a holiday called "Science Day" or "Evolution Day?" We could send cards to each other and exchange presents like the ones from the Discovery Store. I long for, but can't find, the frog clock the store used to sell that croaked a different frog song at the top of each hour.
After catching "Confessions of a Shopaholic" on Friday, I watched "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" Saturday, and three movies on Sunday, all of which were a pretty good use of my time, including, in order, "Coraline" in 3-D (1:40 p.m.), "He's Just Not That Into You" (7:10 p.m.), and "Idiocracy" at around 10 p.m. That last movie gave me a nightmare about people trying to come after me for some unknown reason, trying to shoot at me and also warning me to go hide. I was one of a group of people on the run, and to hide, we went from homeless shelter to homeless shelter, taking hand-me-downs and dodging bullets. At any rate, "Idiocracy" was somehow frightening, even though it was meant to be a comedy. Oh, to be stuck in a world of idiots who want to imprison me and shoot me and slap a UPC tattoo on me. The horror, the horror.
I'm excited about being halfway through February. Today, it is snowing outside and the sun is shining. I will go for a walk.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Never-Ending Quest for Right

All day yesterday was spent taking a great, giant journey to a faraway place and back, almost certainly a colossal waste of time. Again. I keep going terribly far out of my way to make a change for the better in my world, and as soon as I embark on the trek back home I feel empty inside, as the feeling of me wasting almost an entire day on travel washes over me like a dark storm cloud, as I realize the whole experience was completely pointless. It was beautiful and sunny, however, and the late winter sunniness was a constant bright spot to illuminate an otherwise self-defeating experience.
Last night we all watched "Confessions of a Shopaholic," which I begrudgingly attended with teenagers and one pre-teen. It made me realize that I might have a slight problem. I do like to shop, but it never becomes too much of a problem because I don't have endless amounts of resources to take advantage of the joy of buying new, shiny, beautiful things. I just do it in moderation, and, most of the time, it works out OK. As bad as the movie might sound, it was funny, the fashion displays were interesting, and the bit of romance it had is always nice in a movie. The romances that work in movies and books help me feel like true love is always possible. The stories always end before the actual tedium, the normalcy, and the annoying and insidious personality quirks corrode the relationship, bit by bit. Ah, but I have digressed. The way that lead guy's blue eyes sparkled ... and of course with a charming European accent ... I so want to believe.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Psychological Fiction

This weekend I finished "The Girl With No Shadow," the sequel to Chocolat, both written by Joanne Harris. I was involved and committed as I got to the end. A good book by my standards contains the kind of story I don't want to let go, am not content putting down the book until I finish it, and desperately want to know how it ends, even if I'm pretty sure how things will go. A dramatic and histrionic personality disorder theme dominates the book and I wonder what goes on in peoples' heads who habitually manipulate people to get the attention they want, and what they want. The character in the book met my suspicion of people who are like this in real life, which is that they have led their entire lives concocting one manipulation after another, and possibly several at once. One line I like is how the manipulative female character in the book states that certain types of charms and cheap, seductive manipulation always work to win men over to them quickly, which the histrionic-personality-disorder type knows how to do very well, but that it typically doesn't work when the histrionic type tries to manipulate women. It's flattery, wearing dresses, and overtly manipulative comments like "Don't you know how to treat a woman?" "Aren't you going to say hello?" and "Does this skirt look too 1970s to you?" (These are examples I just made up. As might be obvious, I'm not very good at it.) Chocolate gets a lot of page cover, as does practicing witchcraft and the ability to find the joy in life. I like one of the Library of Congress classifications as noted at the beginning of the book: "psychological fiction." I must find more of it.

My last living grandparent, age 96, plus 49 weeks and two days, died last Thursday morning. My mom waited until evening to tell me so it wouldn't ruin my work day. It was a little more difficult to function at work the following day, but I was OK. I didn't have any meltdowns. My first thought about her death was that, even though I didn't get a chance to see her in the months or years before her death (she wasn't remembering much of anyone, anyway), I keep parts of her with me all the time: an appreciation for her sense of humor and patient, peaceful nature; her blue-checkered tablecloth and placemats, embroidered with men and women on Victorian bicycles, that she made; her gigantic Art Deco vanity with giant round mirror; a wooden lyre-backed chair that reminds me of the dining chairs she had in her house; her love of all things blue; her appreciation for her mother's handmade hooked wool rugs, which decorated her house, upstairs and downstairs, in almost every room; her blue cornflower Corelle dishes that I always used when I visited her; a few recipes like brown sugar ham and grasshopper pie; the way we used to go shopping at her local mall and sit and watch people, and giggle and find amusement in noting ones who weighed more than her; the way her green eyes sparkled when she took her time telling a funny story about the past; her appreciation for drop-leaf tables; the way everything smelled good there (fresh and clean, with traces of musky floral antique); and an appreciation for her style and good taste in clothes, food, colors, blankets, Colonial bedspreads and beautiful furniture.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Why Not Misunderstand?

Someone I know said she tries very hard not to make up the meanings of others' actions, and wishes other people would extend her the same courtesy. It made me think a lot about how we act, think, communicate and respond. It's a subtle thing we do, and so easy to do when one is a sensitive person such as myself. I could immediately think of several things that have happened to me, just yesterday, and as long as 20 years ago, when I have experienced it. Such as the front door slamming (previously wide open until my friend and I got there) when we walked up to the front porch at a party in high school (I think it had to do with high school girls' competitiveness over the interests of the boys they liked). Someone I know fails to say hi or otherwise acknowledge my existence when we cross paths in a restaurant. Receiving a Christmas card from a person who I least expected it from, and wondering if there was some negative mojo inside it, sent with a curse of illness or bad luck for infinity. It is human nature, an essential part of the thought-framing process, to try to decipher other peoples' actions, trying to dissect the intent behind those actions. I think that the best I can do is to follow my own intuition, not to second-guess that gut feeling, and to not look back or return to the scene for more punishment if what I perceive is that it would be better to move on, whether I have a tangible reason or not.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The weather was remarkable today. The sun was out, buildings were beautiful, the sky was deep blue, the clouds were peaceful, and the breeze was cool and uplifting. There are 40 days left until the first day of spring comes. Today I've been giving thought to the way weight can weigh in on bias. Someone called my cat fat today. Last night, while walking down the street on the way to a restaurant, I passed a couple holding hands. Not the typical couple in our college town that walks hand in hand down the street after dark, but a couple who looked like they were in their mid to late 30s. The woman had fishnet stockings on, a tiara, and a very short fluffy skirt. Not too unusual, as people habitually seem to be dressed in costume late at night around here, and mostly, on women, it's the type of costume that includes five-inch heels and a skirt that barely covers the top of the legs. At any rate, my passing thought was that the woman wasn't as thin as most people might have been in an outfit so skimpy and pseudo-sexy, but it made me feel good about her that she wasn't shy about dressing up and looking the part of a French maid or Mardis gras attendee ... and in the next moment, after she passed by, a young, lazy, female voice called out from a passing Nissan Pathfinder, "Hey, you're too big to wear that dress." This woman in the costume was not overweight, but she wasn't slim and trim and stick-thin. After immediately looking down to see if what I was wearing could be mistaken as a dress (I do not think it could), I turned around and said "Awwww ... " out loud. The woman didn't seem to be phased or was paying attention, but the girl's voice from the car was unmistakably clear and loud. I spent dinner pondering about what would possess someone, especially a fellow female, supposedly a fellow nurturing, peacemaking female, to call out to someone and reduce themselves to one with a superiority complex who thinks it's funny to hurt people by being critical of someone's weight. Shallow, cruel, and arrogant. Was she young? I wondered. Was she from a small, rural area where everyone looks the same and dresses the same? Was she from a circle of people who habitually look down on people? About 10 minutes later, the couple came in to the same restaurant where I was eating. On my way out, I told her I thought she looked fabulous. I wondered if I could say the word "fabulous" and say it like I meant it. I could. She responded by thanking me. She had tattoos all the way down one arm. She had a beautiful face and looked tan and bronzy. She had an expression that showed that she didn't care about what the car caller said to her. She seemed above and beyond letting a cruel and cutting comment get to her. She told me she was going to an '80s party later that night. I was trying to convey to her that I spent time wondering what kind of person would say that to someone. In my haste to articulate it, I thought of some rural county, the first one that came to mind, and said to her, "I was thinking, where was she from? ____ County?" I immediately felt bad. I was just trying to get across, without overexplaining myself to a total stranger, that I just wondered if the insultress came from a rural area. Then, I suddenly realized with shame that I passed judgment on a certain group of people just because of where they happened to live or where they were from, and that my comment came out, possibly, almost as bad, or just as bad, as the comment that the girl made in the passing car. I really have nothing against people from rural counties. I just know that people who do live in rural counties, surrounded by hills, can be sheltered, not that they are. I spent a good bit of my childhood growing up on a farm in a rural part of my home county. I was sheltered. The first time I saw a woman in my small town, who looked flashy and like she wasn't from there, I made comments to my friend that the woman had a lot of makeup on and very large earrings. She was completely unlike anyone I'd ever seen in my town. That lady saw me talking about her and yelled at me when she got up to me. There was no way for her to know that I was even talking about her. I was about six or seven at the time. She called me a dog from Atlantic City. I had no idea what she meant. I had never heard anyone being called a dog before. I had never heard of Atlantic City. Someone told me later that the woman thought I was black (I had a dark tan at the time) and she was trying to insult my would-be race.
As for the French maid/Mardis gras/80s party lady last night, I thought, this is a night when two women showed their biases to her. Mine was made in an effort to comfort, though, and the other from the Nissan Pathfinder was made in an effort to condemn. I hoped that my intent to comfort counted for something. And I really, really, really hoped that neither of them had ties to _____ County. I walked away before I realized I would spend about a half hour feeling guilty that I might have accidentally made someone believe that I looked down on someone just because of where they are from. Is there any way she might have appreciated that?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Old Book List

Here is a list of the names of books my dad sent to me in a big box, when I was about 17. He considered these books some of the best books ever written, classics, he said, and that I would be really smart after I read them all, or something like that. I'm still working on it, almost 20 years later, and all the pages are yellowed with age and most of them are paperbacks with well-worn, if not torn, covers. I'm not sure how he got them, whether he spent vast quantities of time at used book sales and happened to find them, or if he was shopping for certain titles, or if he sent me books that he already had, and was just getting rid of them because he didn't need them anymore. A few of these I may have purchased for myself, but, for the most part, these are the ones I remember that came from him in a big box in the mail, that still sit on my bookshelf:

Watership Down by Richard Adams (I read part of it)
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler
The Stranger by Albert Camus (I read it because it was required reading in high school)
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (I read part of it)
The Children Are Gone by Arthur Cavanaugh
King Rat by James Clavell
Huckleberry Finn by Samuel L. Clemens
Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (I read part of it a long time ago but I wasn't interested in it at the time)
Reviewing Plane Geometry by Isidore Dressler
Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang by Ian Fleming
A Primer of Freudian Psychology by Sigmund Freud
The Tsaddik of the Seven Wonders by Isidore Haiblum
The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
Twice-Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Methuselah's Children by Robert Heinlein
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (I read this one)
The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway (I've read bits and pieces of it)
The Cat From Outer Space by Ted Key (really? this will make me smarter?)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey (I read this because it was required reading in high school)
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (I read this one.)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (I read this one, but might have purchased it for myself)
The Sea Wolf by Jack London
Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham (I read part of it)
Pierre and Jean and Selected Short Stories by Guy de Maupassant
Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (I read part of it in high school, but it was dry and sad)
Hawaii by James A. Michener
The Source by James A. Michener
Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat
The Peter Principle (Why Things Go Wrong) by Dr. Laurence Peter and Ramond Hull
The Romantic Manifesto by Ayn Rand (I read part of it but lost interest)
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (I finished reading this one in early 1995)
No Exit and Three Other Plays by Jean-Paul Sartre (I read No Exit)
Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber (I started reading it, but I just didn't like it; saw the movie when I was in high school and it frightened me)
Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare, with West Side Story by Arthur Laurents
Saint Joan (a play) by Bernard Shaw
Of Mice & Men by John Steinbeck
The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
How to Calculate Quickly by Henry Sticker
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (I read this one)
The Double Helix by James Watson
The Hills Beyond by Thomas Wolfe
Worlds to Come, edited by Damon Knight (Nine Science Fiction Adventures by Arthur C. Clarke, H.B. Fyfe, Ray Bradberry, Algis Budrys, Isaac Asimov, John D. MacDonald, Robert A. Heinlein, C.M. Kornbluth, and James Blish)
Eight Great Tragedies, Complete Texts, including Premetheus Bound by Aeschulus, Oedipus the King by Sophocles, Hippolytus by Euripides, King Lear by Shakespeare, Ghosts by Ibsen, Miss Julie by Strinberg, On Baile's Strand by Yeats, and Desire Under the Elms by O'Neill

Of the few on this list of 46 books that I have read, I really enjoyed them. Was I little smarter after reading them? I don't know. Maybe. I have every intention of reading most of them on this list, but it may take a lifetime. I fear that by the time I have time to read them all, I won't need the knowledge anymore. If I had committed to reading about three per year, I could have had finished reading them all a few years ago. I think back to the "read 100 books" a year challenge by a local library not too far from here. Apparently, it's not impossible, but I notice it's not called "Read 100 Books a Year and Still Have an Occupation."

Thursday, February 5, 2009


I wonder if I have what it takes to have a histrionic personality. Usually I'm fairly objective, but sometimes I like to give my stories some color.

Me, usually: I fell on my knee in the kitchen on a tiny piece of glass. It kind of hurt.

Histrionic version: I was giving the cat a bunch of food because she was starving, driving me insane with her haunting looks at me and her constant meowing. I knelt down on the kitchen floor to fill up her little empty kitty food bowl, and when my knee hit the floor I felt this stabbing pain in my knee. I got goosebumps all over, wondering if this was going to be the end. Then blood started gushing out of my cut and I tried to look for the piece of glass. The more I looked for the glass, the more there was blood everywhere. I couldn't get up off the floor. It took me about 15 minutes to find the piece of glass and when I finally found it, it was kind of small but jagged all over, like a small rock. I thought I was going to have to go to the emergency room because it wouldn't stop bleeding. I thought about putting a tourniquet on my knee but I couldn't find anything to tie around my leg. I looked around to make sure the doors were locked so vampires couldn't get in. I wondered if I might become anemic, because I couldn't stop shaking and thought I lost too much blood.

Conclusion: It takes a lot of work and practice and forethought to have a dramatic personality. How do people do it? I'm exhausted. By the way, I didn't cut my knee or feed the cat or do any of the above. But I watched it happen with someone else in the house. Her reaction was more like my objective version. I'm glad I don't live with a lot of self-created drama.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Nuances and Layers

Today I framed a couple photos and pictures. For my birthday I received one of the best gifts of all, the gift of art that a friend made. It is an eerie image of Martin Luther King Jr., stenciled with spray paint on funky green and brown wallpaper. Shades of purple and black, which make up his face, seem to lock in the spirit of the holiday, and, along with it, the feel of graffiti and streetscape and sadness, like an abandoned stretch of decorated concrete under a bridge in a gloomy area of town. It is the face that people will recognize, the famous photo of him that seems to be used most often. The spray paint gives it an ethereal, misty look, and a star kind of pattern is spray-painted over the wallpaper, which has a subtle raised and shiny texture of fans or feathers.