rambling thoughts about books

When I have spent too many days staring at laptop and phone screens, I get a dull headache and my eyes feel sunburned from the brightness of electronics. If I still have work to do, I take two Aleve and put on a pair of sunglasses. The rest of the time, I try to take breaks from tech and busy myself washing dishes or folding laundry. There’s only so many dishes that need washing or clothes that need folding. Last week, I decided that I needed a new book to read. A real, paper book that would allow me to take a break from electronics on something that wasn’t another chore. Something to read that didn’t weigh heavy on me like the news articles and op-eds that I read online all day long. I wanted a light, summer read.

I went in the older boys’ room to scour their wall of books and video games. I couldn’t find any books that didn’t fall under the umbrella of dystopian literature. The only thing close to a light read was their old MAD magazines and that wasn’t what I was craving. I wasn’t just craving a book. I really NEEDED to get lost in a good book. So, I tweeted a complaint.

Another Tweeter pondered about the connection between the abundance of dystopian literature and his theory that current teens have less optimistic hopes for the future than our generation. We both pondered that chicken-egg concept and concluded that the books WE read as young people weren’t any lighter than what our children read. He’ll have to use something else as evidence for his imaginary thesis on hope and optimism. I still needed something to read.

I bought a book. It appealed to me. It was also dystopian. I guess I was wrong about not needing dystopian literature. I know I was right about needing a book. I started reading it last night. I finished it this afternoon. Now I need a new book and clicking a link to download a new one won’t satisfy my need.

I’ve tried reading books online. It takes me forever. Technology makes me feel ADD. I feel compelled to be doing a dozen different tasks simultaneously when I’m using tech. I’m editing and uploading pictures, while I’m following a breaking news story, while I’m chatting with someone, while I’m waiting for updated code to work, while I’m reading three different articles, while I’m not fully focused on ANYTHING. I don’t know if it’s something that has gotten worse over time or something that I only now recognize about myself.

Since I’m not going to take Ritalin just to read an e-book and I can’t go to the library or bookstore every day, I need to learn how to focus on a tablet reader… or hack into the database of a publisher and add my name to their list of book reviewers… for lightly dystopian fiction.

I did a bad, bad thing

When the National Mall fireworks ended, we marched with hordes of people down dark and unfamiliar streets, past waterfront restaurants that smelled like fishing piers and across a street that required walking down a flight of stairs and up a flight of stairs. At the end of the walking maze, we entered a Metro Station that was a mob of people so closely packed, I feared Evan being trampled. We stood in the hot and cramped room of people with crying babies and drunks saying “Moo” for what seemed like forever.

Me: “This is what it’s like to live in New York.”
Evan: “I changed my mind. I don’t want to move to New York any more.”

Evan’s DC Adventure – Day Three

While day one’s theme was walk until everyone drops and day two’s theme was fireworks, day three’s theme was family. Evan and his cousin played with their food together at breakfast where I heard, “It’s chicken o’clock” TWICE in the same restaurant. That saying sounded so southern that I’m disappointed I haven’t heard it all my life. The cousins tolerated my need to photograph the National Cathedral before they played on one of the best school playgrounds I have ever visited at Beauvoir Elementary. We snacked at Dolcezza, where someone non-ironically asked the server, “Tell me more about the salted caramel.” The cousins filled their pockets with trash they found on sidewalks. Evan had his first REAL babysitter while the adults went out for drinks and drinks and dessert and drinks. It was a very good day.

“My only babysitters are Tommy who never gets up from his computer to fix me food, Noah who walks in and stares at me every so often and Amy who watches tv and listens to terrible music. So, I guess Noah is the best babysitter.”

We speak “married”

She: “We should go to that place near the lamp store where you didn’t buy shades.”
He: “The Professor from War Games moved to that spot. The place you’re thinking of is by the yoga bakery that you like.”
She: “Oh, good. I’m ready to leave now.”
He: “Lemme get my pocket stuff.”

window into their souls

This is probably my favorite picture from the entire DC adventure. As I took it, I implored the two of them to stop leaning over the edge. My requests transformed them into Dickinson and Poe. They had a detailed, matter-of-fact conversation about falling and death that seemed perfectly appropriate in the gothic setting. It continued until they remembered that they were thirsty. While the twenty minute “dying of thirst” whines were less poetic than the gazebo chat, they were infinitely funnier.

restless mind

You twist and flip on your left
And then your flop on your right
One hand’s under pillows
You pull your blanket tight
But it’s the kicking legs
You really fear going insane
You can’t stay asleep again
You can’t stay asleep again

*Apologies to Rocky Horror

Evan’s DC Adventure – Day Two

Evan’s first day in DC was humid and exhausting. For day two, we slowed things down and focused on settling in somewhere to wait for fireworks. The only fault in our plan was the absence of a cooler full of drinks and a post-fireworks exit plan.

Before settling in for the fireworks, we visited the MLK Memorial. It was my first visit there and it is the perfect neighbor for the FDR Memorial. How the naysayers can’t see the in-your-face symbolism of moving mountains is odd. This memorial does seem less complete than the FDR Memorial and that may be by design to symbolize the unfinished work of Dr. King. I think the thing that is unsettling about this Memorial is its’ placement it in the shadow of the Jefferson Memorial. I hope that any future progress on the MLK Memorial addresses this. Until then, the Jefferson Memorial remains tomb-like, while the MLK Memorial quietly speaks volumes.


The older he gets, the more familiar my father becomes with death. Last breaths at hospital bedsides, holding the hand of a neighbor internally hemorrhaging on the curb, waiting with a friend for professionals to remove their spouse from the home and endlessly facing his own mortality is my father’s life.

Every time death happens, my father enters several weeks of death rehearsal. Everything he says is carefully spoken in case it becomes his last words. He moves slowly and deliberately, like a slow motion scene in a movie. The longer the rehearsal, the harder it is for him to cease practicing death and resume living.

Grandaddy: “Remember that I won’t be gone. I will be…”
Me: “In Cades Cove.”
Grandaddy: < -grinning -> “You’re just like your mother.”

As long as I can remember, my Mother has had 95% of her requests to picnic in Cades Cove, or any other wildlife filled park, refused by my father. He prefers eating at a table in a climate controlled room to sitting outside with bugs and perspiration. He would rather eat a deer than take pictures of it. A decade ago, my mother announced that if my father died first, she would be sprinkling my father’s ashes in Cades Cove so that she could finally enjoy the park with him. I promised to help her.

Death is a tragedy. Life is a comedy.

Evan’s DC Adventure – Day One

The highlight of this day for Evan was the Lincoln Memorial. His constant complaint was our excessive walking when there were so many bicycles and Segways everywhere. The highlight of the day for Doug was getting to try Uber. What was the highlight of the day for me? Teaching Evan to Ferris Bueller a museum.