Thursday, May 31, 2012

Essay: Summer Reading recommendations.

Someone just asked me for summer reading recommendations and I’m happy to oblige! Her parameters?  Kind of light, or really good.  I read a lot of books like that.  Pick up any of these books and settle in for a good read.  Note.  If you take me up on my recommendation and read one (or many) of these books, please arrange for a date to chat about your feelings about the book.  We can have tea.

My top three:
(Curses!  All by men and mostly about men. See below if you are looking for books by women about women)

The Art of Fielding
Chad Harback
It is new.  It is about college baseball, but you should read it anyway, even if you find baseball the most boring thing in the world.  The reason you should read it is that Harback is amazing at creating characters you instantly care about after only three pages and his syntax is delightful. I copied 12 separate passages from the book into my “quotes” feature on Goodreads.  Mike Schwartz will forever live in my heart.

One Day
David Nichols
A very good premise in the book realm that was (sadly) made into a so-so movie.  Check in with the two main characters on the same day in July for twenty years, from their early twenties to their early forties.  Funny, and packed with astute observations about life’s passages during those twenty years.

Freddy & Fredericka
Mark Halprin
This will be a book I recommend to many people and no one will read it because it is very thick and the author is very wordy and spends five pages setting up a joke.  Why do I think you should read it?  Because the jokes are very funny and so you are happy at the massive set up.  Because it is fun to see the USA through the eyes of an exiled English Crown Prince and his wife.  Because it is about the honor you find in labor.  Because I still choke up thinking about different parts of the novel. It is summer. You have time to read a long novel. Invest in this one.

You’ve been meaning to check out this “YA” thing?
YA Series Recommendations
The Hunger Games (Hunger Games/Catching Fire/Mockingjay)
Suzanne Collins
It is a big hit movie, before that it was a big hit book series.  The hero is a heroine and she’s flawed and confused and muddling her way through a fabulous plot.  There are tons of parallels to our modern lives. It is good reading and there are two more movies coming, so you might as well read the books now.

YA Series that is not the Hunger Games
Graceling, Fire, Bitterblue
Kristen Cashore
This is another series with strong heroines. I recommend this with the caveat that it took about 150 pages of Graceling for everything to click, but then I was all-in, in that “avoid chores” way.  Also, just for fun, it is interesting to read reviews of these books on Goodreads because a lot of people are offended by the (very mild and uncontroversial, in my opinion) sex.  Should people be that scandalized?  You will have to read the series to give an opinion.

Have you not read anything by John Green?
An Abundance of Katherines
The Fault in Our Stars
John Green
John Green, as you might know, is one-half of the Vlogbrothers who make being smart incredibly cool.  John Green also happens to be quite talented at writing YA novels.  Abundance has Math!  And footnotes! And is funny!  TFIOS is the funniest cancer book I’ve ever read.

Feeling Sorry for Celia
Jaclyn Moriarty
Are you looking for a loosely connected series about girls who attend a girls’ high school in Australia? Do you like books made up of letters?  This here is the series for you. Cecila  is the first book, but if you are going to just read one of the four, my favorite was the third one:  The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie

Book that you need not actually read:
The Disciples
James Mollison
Pictures!  So fascinating!  The photographer took pictures of fans at different concerts and then knit 10 representative samples into one big photo.  It’s incredibly fun to page through this book.  In the back he has a short paragraph about each concert which makes the photos even more interesting.  And you can open the book to random pages and ask someone what concert they think the fans are attending.  It's a book and  a game!

General Fiction:
Just read this. Don’t question me:
The Elegence of the Hedgehog
Muriel Barbery
When I talk about this book people become uninterested so I’m not going to tell you what it’s about.  I can tell you it’s translated from the French, has two women—really one girl and one woman—that I loved and that everyone in book group related to this book, even the men.  It was a big hit at book group and you should just read it.  Note that I did not like the last chapter AT ALL, but until then I loved it.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Aimee Bender
This was one of my top favorites last year.  I loved the magical realism of this novel and I still think about the main character now and then.  What if you could taste what people were feeling when they made you the food you were eating?

Downtown Owl
Chuck Klosterman
There are a lot of Chuck Klosterman haters out there and let me say that I’m not one of them.  I love his nonfiction and I found a lot to like in this novel about a small town in North Dakota.  I was not prepared for the ending, which left my face twisted a bit into a skeptical look, but until then I was delighted because Chuck Klosterman is a funny man with a unique way of looking at the world.

Three Girls and their Brother
Theresa Rebeck
This was such a delight and is a perfect summer read.  Three sisters become “it” girls and this book follows each one of them—and their brother—in turn.  This book features great commentary about our tabloid society and wonderful voices and characters.

Historical Fiction
I read a lot of historical fiction because it feeds my history major “needs” without making me work through informative nonfiction tomes.  Ps. I'm a nerd!  I put them in order chronologically for you.

Don Berry
Early Oregon history with former mountain man turned restless settler setting out from too-crowded Astoria with two Native Americans in tow to explore the Killamook country.  This is slow to start, but then whips into an action-packed frenzy.  It’s also beautifully written.

(Note that in one overly complex sentence up there I used “too” “two” and “to.”  Get me to an editor, STAT!)

Becky:  The Lives and Loves of Becky Thatcher
Leonre Hart
Have you wondered what Becky Thatcher has to say about the whole Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn thing?  She’s quite a spunky narrator and I greatly enjoyed this book.

Margert Walker
So you’re a slave and then suddenly you are not.  What exactly do you do next? It’s not like you’re getting any 40 acres and mule.  This was some very interesting historical fiction about the Reconstruction era, based on Walker’s research about her own family.  It gets a bit wordy near the end, and some people in book group had trouble with the dialect (though I was not one of them) but it is worth the read.

The Given Day:
Dennis Lehane
A sweeping tale set in Boston just after World War I it includes Babe Ruth as a minor character, a lot of reasons to support your local union and also the great Molasses Flood.  And there’s some NAACP stuff in there too. There is a lot going on in this novel and it is very interesting.  Also, no author living does star-crossed love better than Dennis Lahane.  No one.

Suite Franciase
Irene Nemirovsky
Maybe, like me, you are kind of done with World War II novels.  Maybe, like me, you should make an exception and read this one about the occupation of France.  The novel itself is amazing.  While you are still reeling from how amazing it is, you read the author’s own story and everything just takes on a whole level of wow.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows.
Okay, so maybe also you should read this World War II novel because 1)You learn all about the occupied island of Guernsey which you probably didn’t know was interesting or perhaps even where it is.  Also 2)It is in “correspondence” format and that is always fun.

Science Fiction
Soon I will be Invincible
Austin Grossman
Do you want to read about Super Heroes and Super Villains and you don’t want to read a graphic novel, but instead a novel? This is your book!  Do you not want to read about either of those things? It might be worth checking this book out anyway, as it is quite fun.

Manhood for Amateurs
Michael Chabon
Unlike his very wordy and lengthy novels (which I also recommend) these are short essays that are amazing.  I wanted to read them out loud to whoever happened to be passing by at the moment. Usually that was Matt. I think I managed to restrain myself and read him only two, although his life would have been enriched if I had read them all to him.  Just go read this.  Chabon is a fabulous writer and funny.

Detective Series I always recommend:
Kenzie/Gennaro Series
Dennis Lehane
So, in general, I’m not a fan of the mystery as a genre.  It tends to have dead people and isn’t known for carefully crafted prose and I’m also quite lame at solving them on my own so I always feel a sense of inferiority when I finish.  But if you are looking for a fun way to spend your summer, spend it with Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro.  The novels are mostly set in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester and begin in the late 1980s.  Patrick Kenzie is a smart-mouthed detective.  Angie Gennaro is his tough-as-nails partner.  At some point in the series I realized I wanted to marry both of them, I loved them that much.  Lehane has a good bead on characters and the books are very engrossing.  Also, this is the same guy who wrote the The Given Day and see above about what I said about star-crossed love.  The series is done now, so you can read straight through.  If you are like me, you will read straight through and then start again at the very beginning.
A Drink Before the War
Darkness Take my Hand
Gone, Baby, Gone
Prayers for Rain
Moonlight Mile

Good books I just tend to recommend:

American Wife
Curtis Sittenfeld
Another book I absolutely adored and can’t get anyone to read.  Won’t you please read it so we can discuss it?  This is a novel about a woman whose life follows a path that will be very familiar to anyone who knows the basics of Laura Bush’s biography.  Why should you read a novel about the wife of a president of which you perhaps were not a fan?  Because Sittenfeld is a good writer and she writes a very good story.  I read this book a few years ago and still think about it.

High Fidelity
Nick Hornby
For anyone who loves music and relationships.  I’ve been recommending this since the 90s.  A lot of people have read this, and they aren’t sad they have read it.  I can also recommend the movie adapted from the book, which is a big rarity.

Prodigal Summer
Barbara Kingsolver
This is my favorite “thick” Kingsolver book (Animal Dreams is my favorite “thin” one.)  I fell in love with the characters and the landscape is lush.  It’s also a nicely woven tale, though it doesn’t seem so at first.

The Brothers K
David James Duncan
It’s about baseball, but it’s about so much more.  It’s big and dense and sweeping and funny and sad and tragic and moving and chock-full of amazing words.  Every person who has read this book speaks of it fondly after they have finished it, even people who don't like baseball.  It’s also set in Camas, so has a local flavor for people familiar with Portland.

Books read in May 2012

It's another big YA month.  Clearly, I should have stayed in library school and clearly, I should be a youth librarian.

The Art of Fielding
Chad Harbach
Two people I know (one virtually, one in person) heartily endorsed this book and their hearty endorsements were spot-on.  This is a fabulous novel, chock full of wonderful characters.  It's about baseball, yes, but don't let that scare you off.  It's about so much more:  friendship and love and loyalty and pressure and that transition from college to adult life.  I feel in love with the characters (Mike Haurbach will live in my heart forever) and when I finished the book, I immediately returned to the first page and read the first fifty pages again just so I could be introduced to the characters one more time.

We the Animals
Justin Torres
A friend gave this to me as a book she loved.  It is a very short book, but was very hard for me to read because I don't do well with childhood neglect and abuse and this book contains a lot of both.  It's very well written, for what it's worth.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
C.S. Lewis
I can't say the second book in the series thrilled me.  The plus of this series so far seems to be that the books are only 15 chapters long, and thus can be read quickly.

Kristen Cashore
All the haters of the "pro-casual sex" message of the first two books can add "pro-homosexual relationships" to the things they will hate about this book.  I however, liked it.  First of all, unlike the first two books, this one has fabulous woodcut illustrations scattered throughout.  I also liked Bitterblue's conundrum of trying to govern a state while not being able to leave the castle. There is a lot of good teenager identity and tough choices within this novel and the reappearance of characters from the other books is fun too.

Scott Westerfeld
I grabbed this book one day to read at lunch, as I had left my newspaper behind. I expected to start it, find it incredibly silly and cast it off as soon as Bitterblue arrived. Instead, I found the story quite interesting and was reluctant to put down either book.  This book has a lot of elements that make up a classic story:  something that seems really great on the surface (everyone gets surgery to look like a supermodel when they turn 16!); the main character feeling isolated and lonely (Tally's birthday is later than her friends);  questioning (not everyone is so hip to have the surgery); a quest (which I won't tell you about, due to spoilers); and tough choices.

In most of the fiction written for adults, the main character of this novel would be a boy.  But, thanks to the success of the Hunger Games, a lot of YA fiction features girls setting out on the heroic journey.  I'm waiting for this to trickle up to adult fiction and movies.

Please Don't Kill the Freshman
Zoe Trope
This book could go on a Goodreads shelf titled: books written by authors I take Pilates with.  However, since Zoe Trope hasn't yet written a second novel and there are no other authors in my Pilates class, it would be a very thin shelf.  I've been interested in this book since its release several years ago (Portland setting! Written by actual high school teenager!) but have just now gotten around to reading it.  It was tough going the first 50 pages.  I almost stopped reading, overwhelmed by the voice that was clearly very smart and clearly very, very disdainful of school.  However, I kept going and was rewarded by that disdain fading and leaving some incredibly delightful prose.  It's rough and could have used more editing--something that was rejected by the author--but the roughness has its charms and the charms are many.  It's also nice to see the difference in acceptance of gay teenagers at the high school level ten years after I graduated from high school.

Started and did not finish
Spontaneous Happiness
Andrew Weil
I really liked this book from the very beginning when Andrew Weil discusses the fact that he thinks the title is misleading and that what we are looking for is a general contentment, rather than full-on happiness.  He then discusses various things we could all be doing to feel more content with our lives (eating right, exercising, meditating, supplements, etc.) and discusses his own journey with depression.  There is an 8-week plan for creating more happiness in your life and I've made a note in my planner to revisit the book in November, when it becomes more difficult for me to stay in a general state of contentment.

What I talk about when I talk about  running
Hariki Murakami
Still high off of 1Q84, I checked the library for any copy of anything Murakami had written that was actually available (as opposed to something I would have to put on hold and wait for) and came up with this book.  In some ways, it was interesting, giving insight into how Murakami writes and his journey to be a writer, in other ways it was kind of boring.  I'm interested in reading about people's sports practices, but not that interested.  I kept bypassing it for other books and eventually sent it back to the library.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

More block.

Perhaps I ought to take time to actually take a good picture of the block as I trundle by on the Max.  But here, you can see some concrete forms going up, on the right-hand side of the picture.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hopscotch for the persitant. Or perhaps for the OCD.

In case you are wondering, after I took the picture, I did hop the scotch.

Three sentence movie reviews: Two Family House

I searched out this film because it was the same director who did City Island, a film I greatly enjoyed.  This was pretty uneven,  though I found it somewhat engrossing.  It's got some nice 50s period details, if you are interested, otherwise, I wouldn't bother watching it.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dead Relatives Tour 2012

Dead Relatives Tour 2012 was good.  We were constantly threatened with rain, but were not rained on. The relatives are still resting in peace.  The view is still good.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ah! Here's what's coming.

Back in February, I wondered what was happening with this lot.  Today I walked by and saw that this is the plan:

Good to know.  I love how optimistic these signs are.  Summer 2012 is very, very soon.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Three sentence movie reviews: The Artist

A repeat showing for me, but Matt's first.  It was still good the second time around.  I'm still recommending you see it, even if it is a "silent" film.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Three sentence movie reviews: Jeff, who lives at home.

I was quite taken with the hum-drum reality of the Duplass Brothers' earlier movie The Puffy Chair.  This one was a bit less quiet and more Hollywood, but nevertheless delightful.  Plus, Judy Greer gets to play something besides the best friend.*

*She plays the wife.  Which isn't that great of an improvement but she got some good screen time. I'll take whatever I can get of perpetually underrated Judy Greer.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Update Block in N. PDX.

This picture shows not much as it was hastily composed.  What I thought was a crane has disappeared, so I'm not sure what that's all about.  There are also signs saying who is building it, but no picture yet.

Three sentence movie reviews: Star Trek (J.J. Abrams)

I admit that I got this movie from the library and watched the whole thing (for the third time) just so I could evaluate the acting skills of Chris Hemsworth (a.k.a. Thor) which are on display only for about five minutes.  But it's a really good film, and it was a happy way to spend the evening.  I can report with confidence that Chris Hemsworth's five minutes of acting were done quite well and that I may have a sudden and confusing "thing" for him.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

5/17/12 Essay

No essay this week and next.  May is a brutal time to try to stick to schedules.  There's too much going on at school.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Three sentence movie reviews: Death at a funeral

I took a chance* that this movie would not have poop in it and brought it over to watch with my mom on Mother's Day.  Alas, there was a poop scene, but there was enough funny in this movie to overlook it, at least for me.  I've never heard an actor with such excellent comic timing while reading a eulogy.

*possible web site to be developed:  movies reviewed for poop content.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sam Adams Political Cartoon

Just as the election of Bill Clinton my Senior year of high school (he was the first president I voted for!) and the eight years of politics that followed shaped me, so did the election of Sam Adams.  Before Sam Adams was elected I described him as "a politician for the right reasons."  Not long after he was sworn in I, along with the rest of Portland, found out that I was wrong and that Sam Adams was a politician to feed his ego more than anything else.  Four years of a mayor with no political clout followed, which was a great disappointment, not to mention a complete waste of time.  This political cartoon by Jack Ohman will probably not be funny to anyone not familiar with Adam's political career, but it manages to sum up the last four years in a nutshell.  I laughed reading it, but it was a laugh full of dark humor.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I was a history major in college, which is a great major if you want to be interested in your subject and do well in trivia games for the rest of your life.  It's not a good major for actually working in your field.  After graduating, I went off in the world and was astounded at the amount of Americans I encountered who don’t know basic US History, let alone European History, let alone World History.  I’ll never forget the time some coworkers and I were listening to the song “All That Jazz” from the musical Chicago.  There’s a line in the song where the singer says, “I bet you Lucky Lindy never flew so high.”  This flummoxed my coworkers.

“Who the heck is Lucky Lindy?” one of them asked the other.  She shrugged.

“Charles Lindbergh.” I called over.

“Who?” they both said in chorus.

“Charles Lindbergh.” I repeated, to confused stares.  “You know, the guy who was the first man to fly a plane solo across the Atlantic?”  Nothing.  I switched to tabloid media history.  “The guy whose son was kidnapped from his bedroom, was missing for a while and eventually found dead?”  Nothing.  I could have gone on about his support for fascism during WWII, or his wife the poet, but clearly they had never heard of the man.

Encounters like this are not rare in our country.  In fact, about every five years, someone publishes a newspaper article and or book about the massive gaps, or complete illiteracy in the historical realm.  I find American’s disinterest in history odd as I see history as made up of interesting stories and stories are the things that we consume in the form of TV shows and movies, but that’s a topic for another day.

Because lately, I’ve been getting the creeping sensation that I too, am illiterate. 

It started with the Vlogbrothers Crash Course.  The Vlogbrothers make weekly videos about whatever interests them.  Last fall, they started a new series of ten-minute videos with John taking Western Civ and Hank teaching Biology.  I was ready to watch, glad to review Western Civ—a course I took in high school and college—and shore up my biology, a class I avoided both for the dissection of frog and for the finger prick blood type lesson.

It was interesting to note my differing reactions to each subject.  With the history course I nodded along. "Yep.  Yep. Oh, interesting, I had no idea. Yep."  If the history course was a review, the biology course was wandering far into the unknown.  "Huh?  What?  Wait, what was that word? " Aside from the “historic scientist” segments, I didn’t follow much. I’d like to say that I buckled down,  watched the videos again, memorized the vocabulary and finally learned all that biology I’d missed.  But I didn’t.  I just stopped watching.  Without the base of knowledge, I couldn’t find the topic interesting.  And since there was no grade attached to the outcome, I didn’t bother to acquire the basic knowledge to know if I enjoyed the subject.

My realization about illiteracy continued with a letter to the editor about composting.  Portland had recently adopted a residential composting system which delighted me and made a lot of people very angry.  One of the reasons cited by the city for the adoption of the food composting system is that food waste thrown away with other trash makes methane.  A letter writer pointed out that the food waste either made methane with the regular garbage or while being composted, so why do we have to go through trouble of composting?  I think that he’s wrong, that food waste composted makes something other than methane, but I don’t have any idea of going about finding the answer.  Except perhaps the handy google search:  “Does food composting make methane?” [post first draft note:  I googled that phrase and found this article.  It did not answer my question. Ask Ashley had a better answer.]

So I’m a bit dumb in science.  I see this as a bad thing, because it has closed off careers to me. For instance, there was a brief period of interest in becoming a civil engineer, but a quick look at the coursework squelched that.  There is a lot of soil science involved with being a civil engineer.  But this lack of knowledge means I walk through the world not understanding things.  I’ve arranged my life so science is not a part of it, but am I missing something?  Do smart science people pity me the way I do people who don’t know the great stories of history?

I feel like I was exposed to science as a child.  There was a period of intense interest in Chemistry, mostly fueled by the coveting of a chemistry set I was too young to have.  When I came of age, (10) I did perform experiments with the set, but my enthusiasm waned in proportion to how dirty the test tubes became (there was no test tube brush included with the set*) and I wandered off. I also checked out books from the library of the “kids explore science” variety and I did some exploring.  But it didn’t seem to translate into interest in science as a subject.  I preferred reading about young scientists in my biography series about great young Americans.

The other thing that has happened to me is that science seems a bit made up.  Because I don’t understand it, I survived my five science classes in Junior High and High School by memorizing things, nodding along as teachers explained things the same way I do when crazy people are talking to me.  Then they were promptly forgotten.  So when I encounter science today it seems rather magical.  I can see why some people who did understand science back in the day used their knowledge to perform “magic” for the masses.  I would be nearly as amazed.

I will say that the subject of Geology seems very real to me, as I can see it around me. But the science subject that does seem real to me is also the topic I find the most incredibly boring topic in the universe.  I would rather look at actuary tables than discuss Geology.  Except for a brief visit to Yellowstone with someone who had taken a course in the Geology of Yellowstone, any time someone brings up Geology I get a trapped, panicked feeling and pray for them to stop talking quickly.

So what will happen with my science illiteracy?  I’m guessing not much will change.  I’m an adult and adults are good at paying bills and saving for the future and having a better idea of who they are then when they were 15, but learning new things from scratch is not a big thing about being an adult.  Plus, most grown up desire to learn about new things comes from interest, like say, learning to play the stand-up bass at 50 when you’ve been thinking about it since you were 13, or taking riding lessons so you can finally have that pony.  Because science doesn’t interest me, I doubt the status quo will change for me.  I find this troubling, but not enough to do anything about it.

*The lack of a test tube brush frustrated me.  The instructions referred to one, but I was supposed to procure one for myself.  Where the heck is a ten-year-old supposed to find a test tube brush?  And how is she to afford one once she finds them?  The lack of access to a test tube brush made the object grow in my mind to something rather fantastic. When I took chemistry in high school** and encountered my first test tube brush I felt a great letdown.  This little thing was all it was?  And why did I never have one?

**Admittedly, the whole of high school science may have gotten off on the wrong foot simply because I refused to take Biology as a sophomore as all sophomores did at my school and vaulted myself straight into Junior-level Chemistry.  As a sophomore, I was still developing high school study skills, which most of my classmates had already probably mastered.  So when we had to memorize the entire periodic table early on, I flailed and faltered and it was downhill from there.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Update Satyricon space

So back in July 2011, I posted about the demolition of the building which was the home to Satyricon.  I've been watching the progress of the new building and today  it struck me as a very building-like, embryonic building, so I took a picture.  There were two guys in the top floor window, second from left, but one had wandered off by the time I got out my camera.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Best NW Examiner headline.

Kettleman Bakery is being bought out by Einstein Bros.  Einstein doesn't boil, Kettleman did.  Should I ever take my bagel making skills on the road, people will be happy to buy from me.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Three sentence movie reviews: Glee season 2 disk 2

Season two is pretty uneven, which was the word on the street before we even started watching this.  Matt even stopped watching for an episode or two before being sucked in again. This DVD will always have a warm spot in my heart for having the episode where Rachel writes a song about her hairband.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Three sentence movie reviews: The Avengers

I was a bit worried that there were too many characters for the plot, but it all came together nicely.  This was a funny and engrossing film, so much so that I was caught up and actually said, "God DAMN you Joss Whedon" rather loudly at a critical juncture.  And people like me, who always stay to the bitter end of the credits, do appreciate a reward at the end.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The past and my own future.

Saturday night, looking for something to do while watching a four-hour version of Hamlet, I set to combing through my boxes of memorabilia, shuffling through old bus passes and identification cards, sorting through pictures, stacking letters, and dipping into and quickly flipping past the pages of the journals and planners of my twenties.  I got a lot done.  The photos were shifted to a drawer, the journals and planners tucked away in a different part of the house and the letters relocated to one box.  Hamlet was good too.  I found it engrossing in places, though nowhere near as engrossing as I found my own past.

Saturday night I was astounded—though really shouldn’t have been—to discover that the same two problems that come up repeatedly for me today were front and center in the journals of my previous decade.  I also thought about a great many people that wander through my synapses only in passing, and only now and then.  After sorting my past, I retreated to the computer, where I teased out information about those same people. The information I found astounded and excited me: a previous coworker runs a successful business overseas, a sister of a former friend is a florist, a not-surprising, (but-still-incredible-to-me) number of my former classmates are ecstatic about their children, and a person I always assumed to be gay is apparently not.

On Sunday, I thought about all these people, imagining myself in some of their places.  I worked hard to stay in my own present, a skill I’ve been building for some time now, with still no mastery in sight.  But my mind zoomed around to various points in the past, to what I imagine other’s futures are, and refused to settle anywhere near my own present.

On Monday, I hit a high.  I was in a fabulous mood because I was not in my twenties any longer.  Though I still have far to go to be the person I strive to be, I had seen a massive amount of evidence of how far I had come.  The two recurring problems?  They are clearly a part of me and something to be happily integrated and not a point of weakness.  I felt ecstatic and light and liberated and happier than I had been in a long time.  Some part of my conscious nudged me that this wasn’t a good place either and I had better pull back, but I was unable and unwilling to leave that feeling.

Monday night I awoke and stayed awake for hours, thinking about connections between people, the present, the departed and the long gone and mostly forgotten.  I wanted to sleep, to be rested for my day, but sleep eluded me as people from my past wandered through my brain.

Tuesday I crashed.  Groggy from lack of sleep, I woke up to my own, ordinary life.  A life that seemed less shimmering and satisfying than the one I lived only the day before.  Thoughts of my past began to fade and my present loomed before me, the same as it ever was.  I was exhausted.  I stumbled home from work and into bed, desperate for rest and oblivion.  I didn’t sleep very long, but I awoke feeling better and unsure what to do with this episode.  Essay writing time called and so I sat down and wrote.

Over the past few months I have experienced this cycle to lesser degrees again and again.  I fixate on something for a day or two and it becomes a way to ignore my present.  I think I have engaged in this pattern for years, with the object generally being a book I can’t stop reading.  I seem to struggle with the monotony of day-to-day life.  The daily shower, the finding of food, the keeping house, the daily grind of the job.  I want to make these things rituals, but I push them away, again and again.  I chide the boyfriend for constantly living in the future or the past, but I am guilty of escaping from my own present.

I’ve come a long way from the rampant poor choices of my early adulthood.  I’ve managed to build a solid relationship, a community of people, a steady income and a home I love.  But I probably need to pay attention to the times I still seek to escape all of these things.  This is what I learned this weekend.