always hoping it’s the last one

The time has come to tell some news. I am moving away from Austin on June 22.

I’ve lived here since late November, 2012 primarily because I just needed to be near my daughter and her family. They had just lost Gracie, and I had just lost everything, and I was afraid for my daughter and wanted to help her however I could — and for myself, I needed to be around family. But of course at first she had to help me. I told myself a happy little lie, then: I think it’s good for her, in the immediacy of her grief, to have to shop with me to set up a whole new life. I kind of believed it, until I would look at her shattered face and I knew what it was costing her, the life and energy she simply did not have but was mustering, for me. I made myself a solemn promise, then, that I would never again willingly put myself in a position to have to start over from scorched earth. Never again. I would not just walk away from the things of a life, sell them, throw them away, give them away, leave myself with a suitcase of clothes and nothing else, like Timid Frieda (there she goes / with her valises / held so tightly in her hand).

A few months later, Marc and I started trying to find a way to keep a version of our marriage going. We gradually found our way to the life I’ve been living ever since, the one where I live in two places, here in Austin for 18 days, there in NYC with him for 12. Big travels together three times a year. In most ways it was the best of all worlds: I still had my lovely little home (with time and space just for ME), my beloved daughter and her growing family just right there, my wonderful poetry group and various book clubs, and a host of dear friends, most especially including Nancy, who lives right next door and who has been one of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life. I got to be here through Katie’s pregnancy with Oliver, and then the start of his life; through her pregnancy with Lucy, and now her new life. I got to help them, hang out with them, be easy. I got to be with her and them as they found their way back to life, and as I did, too.

But it’s hard, it’s been hard. Constantly uprooting my life has taken a toll. An every-two-week reboot, for 4.5 solid years, exhausting. Neither Marc nor I seemed to want me to return to our very small apartment in New York, and I’d made that promise to myself.

My work has been so negligible and my income so unsteady, I was exploring all the possibilities since I didn’t feel like I could keep affording the place I’d rented all these years. Could I move in with Marnie and Tom? We had very sincere conversations about it, and I’ll never forget Tom’s quick, moist-eyed invitation, and the delight in Marnie’s eyes at the thought of a tiny house for me in their front yard. The beauty of getting to be Ilan’s everyday Pete, of being real help to my daughter, of making my own small contribution to her doing her work. Or could I just find a tiny little studio apartment here in Austin somewhere? Whatever happened, my life had to change, I had to move again. It would be move number 82. (I hope I don’t hit 100 before I die.)

Finally Marc proposed the most perfect idea, and it was like a clap of thunder in its clarity and obvious solution: we would buy a cabin in the Catskills and I would live there. He can come up on weekends — lots of people in the city do that — and I can go into NYC whenever I want, for however long, but my place of residence will be that house.

like paradise — I remember the chill in the summer air from the cold stream

When I was a little girl, and then a young woman reading the Foxfire books, I’d read about making baskets, for instance, using materials collected from nature. Only they were never materials that grew in Texas: they were cattails, and reeds, and grasses…..of a kind that grow in Appalachia. And the Catskills. So the place has lived in my imagination most of my life. When I moved to NYC in 2005, Marc and I made very regular pilgrimages upstate to a wonderful little town named Phoenicia, to see the autumn foliage, to see spring starting to emerge. The first time I went to Woodstock I saw that little cabin hanging out on a rock over a stream that I mentioned a short while ago, and oh how I wanted that little cabin. I wanted it into my bone marrow. In the years since, that has been my imaginary home. I’ve never wanted a mansion, never understood that desire: my imaginary home was a cabin, a bungalow, a small place of my very own.

And so I move into the option that feels just about as perfect as can be, my own home in the Catskills, just down the highway from Phoenicia. I can fly to see my Austin family and my Chicago family as regularly as I like and still not be as disrupted as I’ve been. I can make regular pilgrimages to them, stay with them a week at a time, each, and soak up those people I love so dearly…..without disrupting their lives so profoundly. Without having to lean on them when they are at this burgeoning and financially tight stage of their lives. I can drive into NYC, or take a bus or the train, at a moment’s notice. Finally, I won’t always be in the wrong place at the wrong time! I won’t miss the PEN Festival, the New Yorker Festival, performances I want to see. I can see Marc every single week — but as he said, we will each still have our own time and space. He needs that as much as I’ve learned that I do. And we will have an investment, instead of simply setting fire to money, as we’ve done on my rent ($75K while I’ve been here!).

I walk this road every single autumn. Every one, for the last 12 years. It looks like the street my new house is on.

Nearby Woodstock has a very vibrant arts community, and a glance at the Meetup groups suggests that I’ll find people pretty easily. Poets, writers, artists, performers, my tribe lives there too. Cold, snowy winters. Red-orange autumns. Chilly, wet springs. Green firefly-lit summers.

My life, how many different lives I’ve had. I never dreamed I would actually get to live in the Catskills, but here it comes. I never dreamed I could live there and in New York City — not individually, and certainly not both. My life has taught me so many things, including the fact that nothing at all is permanent (except, I think, my love for my kids). Who knows where else my life will take me before it’s all said and done, but while I am having the life I’m about to have, I look forward to eating it up. To watching closely as it changes day by day. To taking pictures, to hiking in the woods, to cozying up on snowy days or cross-country skiing off my deck and onto the trails crisscrossing the forest around our house. To Marc’s garden, that idea makes me giggle with happiness. To learning the names of birds, trees, plants, wildlife. To seeing black bears (lots of black bears apparently), bobcats, weasels, porcupines, coyotes, gray wolves, eastern coyotes, gray and red foxes, river otters, whitetail deer, ravens, crows, wild turkeys, great horned owls, screech owls, bald eagles, lots of songbirds. To the contrast between a real city and the most beautiful country, and to continuing to be dazzled in my beloved NYC. My daily life will be a great many things, including some icky aspects I don’t know about yet but I’m sure I’ll discover, and I look forward to all of them. I look forward to sharing it all here.

one of the two creeks in our back yard
The other of our two creeks
This shot from one corner of the deck shows the woods around the house, and the shape of the surrounding mountains.
The downstairs is a big, bright, open space — deck off the house to the right, the length of the house, a bright living room with lots of windows, a half bath, and a fabulous kitchen — wood burning stove in between. Upstairs, two bedrooms and one full bath. Full unfinished basement. Full attic too, for that matter.
Standing at the closest creek, that’s the back of the house
back corner
the front of the house (on a very overcast day!) — I want to plant flowers around the house, and maybe forsythia
Marc, standing on ground between the two creeks out back

Though I will be 100% thrilled to leave the most hateful state of Texas, I’ll be sorry to leave my friends in Austin, and hope to see people when I come back to visit Katie and family. I’ll be sorry to leave a great many aspects of Austin, and I’m so glad I moved here in 2012. In addition to all the reasons I’ve loved being here that relate to Katie, I learned so much here. I really learned how to make a life for myself, just for me. I learned that I love living alone. I learned how to do that, even. You have a standing invitation to come visit. There are three ski mountains VERY nearby (Hunter, Belleayre, and Windham), it’s gorgeous in the fall, and I have a spare bedroom.

Move #82. It’s gonna be OK.

Our home is in Big Indian, at the margin between Big Indian Wilderness and Catskills State Park (Big Indian is part of the park, just a distinct spot of its own….and how thrilling, “wilderness”!).
There it is in relation to the city — Catskills State Park is the large green area at the top of the picture, a 2.5-hour drive to NYC.

And very nearby our house is the trailhead for one of the best hikes in the Catskills, to Giant Ledge — five ledges, actually:

the view from Giant Ledge Trail

Wow. Bring it on, black bears and all.

(*This got real long, but I append a funny story about black bears, in case you’ve stuck it out to the bitter end. So there are a LOT of black bears in the Catskills. A lot. They’re not really a threat except during baby season, and then only if you get to close to babies and a mama gets scared. I was told I’d need to bring my bird feeders in every night, because the bears love them. [really???] And the realtor said that they’ll come right up on the deck; her husband opened the door one night and came face-to-face with a big black bear, and they both freaked out and ran. He said he’ll always remember two things: 1) how AWFUL it smelled, and 2) that its breathing was so loud and sounded like Darth Vader. He could still hear it breathing from a long way away. One woman frequently finds streaks of bear snot on her kitchen window, since she hangs a bird feeder there during the day. (?) So I guess if I’m ever sitting in my living room and see a pair of eyes on the deck and hear Darth Vader, I don’t need to be [too] afraid. 🙂 )

three things: 1/22/17

FEED: I’ll be feeding for a week off the energy from the Women’s March. The organizers in Austin were expecting 22,000 people but there were between 50,000 and 60,000. I marched with my dear friend Deb and my wonderful daughter Katie, who was able to come after all thanks to her husband’s work schedule. We were near the front of the [alleged] starting point, but there were so many people already on Congress Avenue, in front of the capitol, that it was almost an hour before we started moving.

That’s the Texas state capitol (it’s a replica of the US capitol, but in pink granite). Deb and Katie and I were at the bottom of that paired row of trees on the front lawn, waiting to march down…..
Congress Avenue, the broad street that is the center of downtown, going from the capitol, over the river, into south Austin. It was extraordinary, no kidding.

People like to say that Austin is a big city, but it isn’t, really. Chicago, LA, NY, Boston, those are big cities. Austin is a large town with a WHOLE LOT of people in it. So this was amazing. People came in buses from all around the state, they drove in this morning, just to march here, in front of our regressive state government. It was peaceful. Beautiful. I wanted to hug every single person I saw.

Katie and I, waiting for the march to get started, about an hour before it was to begin. Marnie marched in Chicago, and Marc marched in NYC. Our family represented!

SEED: I’ll tell you this: trolls have zero sense of irony. Yesterday a nasty little troll who lives near Roswell, Georgia left an anonymous comment on my blog that said this:

why don’t you and your radical friends move to Russia!!!!! (subject line: “sick of your bs”)

HAHAHAHAHA! Gosh. Where even to begin. I think it’s a safe bet that this troll is a Trumpeter. Right? That she (for I have figured out who she is) voted for Putin’s puppet. What is it about people like this that always makes them tell us to move to Russia, anyway? Also: trolls love exclamation points. !!!!!

And these extra “patriotic” trolls have their little feelings hurt so badly when an American exercises her First Amendment rights. Choose-your-own-patriotism, I guess.

Also, if you are “sick of [my] bs” I have a simple little fix for you: don’t read it! No one is forcing you. Please, feel free to never read my blog again, I’m serious! Do me and yourself a favor, please. Because I’m not going to be silent so you can be comfortable (and especially not on my own damn blog! Sheesh!).

This is something I really do not understand. I know a couple of people who voted for Trump, and I never bring up politics with them. Never. (Similarly, I never comment on (or read) their political FB posts, ever, but they will slap a comment on mine, what??) Because there is no point, the abyss is too deep. I never bring up politics, and if a conversation by others starts drifting in that direction, I do my best to shift it into a safer zone. But they inevitably bring up politics with me, and you can tell that I have opinions, dammit. (And not only that, I’m super angry about this, which they also know from previous times they’ve brought up politics. What is that about?) So if they do, I don’t hold back. I say exactly what I think, and I’m not delicate about it. They brought up the conversation, and they know my position. I get very upset and shaky inside, because one friend especially I care about so much, I love her dearly, and I don’t want to unleash my anger at her, but I am angry. So it’s completely unpleasant for me, I don’t like it, I don’t wish to talk about it, but THEY BRING IT UP. Again and again. One has said things to me like, “Don’t you agree, liberals don’t think for themselves?” WITH FOX NEWS BLARING IN THE BACKGROUND.

Oh, I’m angry. I’m so angry. It’s not pleasant to have these intense feelings, and I am trying to figure out why my fury is this huge. I really hate unfairness, especially when people who have power wield it over those who don’t — that’s something that always makes me see red. So maybe it’s that, I don’t know, but I’d like to get a handle on it so I don’t stroke out, because I have a lot of political work to do.

Trolls? If you don’t like what I write here, on my own tiny little corner of the Internet, just leave me alone. Please.

READ: So I finished reading A Man Called Ove, which took me so long because I’ve been on a great run of sleeping. Here’s my GoodReads review, in case you’re interested in reading the book:

A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I was deciding whether to read this book, I noticed that the most common word in all the Amazon and GoodReads reviews was “charming.” And honestly, I couldn’t write a review without that word either! It’s not just that the man called Ove was curmudgeonly charming, it’s that the approach of the book was charming, too. From the funny chapter titles to the way the story is fed out, to the glorious characters, to Ove’s endless stumbling blocks to joining Sonja, every last bit was charming. The general plot was a bit predictable — exuberant new neighbor saves sad old curmudgeon who finds no use for life until she explodes into his life — but honestly? That didn’t matter. I didn’t care. I didn’t care that I spotted the plot arc the moment they met. I didn’t care that the various subplots were predictable. In large part that’s because of the good storytelling, the lovely writing, and the moments of big truth, and in the remaining part it’s because I really cared about Ove, a lot. Really good book, I enjoyed reading it a lot, and always regretted that my time to read is too brief. [View all my reviews]

Now I’m reading another Scandinavian book (Ove was Swedish, this one’s Norwegian) one called Land of Hidden Fires, which I am reading for NetGalley. More on that later. New book club in the house tonight, to discuss Underground Railroad oh heck yeah.

out of control

So here’s what happens. I see something interesting, open it in a new tab and think, I’ll read it later. Then before I know it, there are dozens of tabs open and I feel overwhelmed. How can I possibly stop and read them all — but I want to! So I put them here, thinking I’ll come back to the “Links” category and read them all one of these days. R-i-g-h-t. 🙂 But maybe one will be interesting to you, so there’s a second reason to collect them here:

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Happy Friday y’all. I hope you are happy and well. I’m trying to be both.

belonging

where do I belong?
where do I belong?

Belonging is a tough subject for me, one of my quintessential variables. Definitional, even, my old feeling of not belonging. One very good thing that’s happened for me over the last several months is a settling-in to belonging to myself, to having a home within myself. And that’s so very good. I’ve been kind of clinging to that knowledge the last 24 hours.

I love New York City. I love it so much. I love Texas, by which I primarily mean Austin. Love it so much too. I’ve semi-belonged to both places. I’ve lived in a lot of places — CT, VA, AL, AR, NJ — but the only places I have ‘belonged’ have been Austin and New York City. But age and experience have put me in a funny place with both of them. When I went to Katie’s last October for the horrible agony of Gracie’s death and funeral, I realized with a shock that I could never live in Texas again. It felt too far away from my sensibility, too small (oy, don’t tell a Texan that Texas is too small!), I needed a place like New York City. And then, of course, immediately upon my return to NYC there was the ending of my marriage and all I could do was return to Austin. The place I’d just realized I could never live again. (Lesson: Never say you can never do something, for that’s the next thing you’ll be called on to do.)

So there I’ve been, in Austin, and struggling with adjusting my eyes. Struggling to get a different focus so I could simply see and relish the joys and charms of that place instead of only seeing it as not-NYC. And it has been hard, I must say. I have my home, which feels safe and beautiful and I love it, and I have Katie and Trey and their home, and so many beautiful friends, but oh how I have just longed for NYC. Last weekend in Chicago I felt drunk on the giddy pleasures of being back in a big city.

And now here I am, in my other-beloved. New York City. And it is beautiful, and it is busy, and it is everything. And I do not belong here so easily, now. People are rude, they crash into you and elbow you and don’t really give a shit. New York City: the city of the honey badger. They’re not really being rude, it’s just what it is to be here. It’s my city, but it’s not my home any more. I don’t really belong. But I don’t really belong in Texas, either. I am in the limbo zone, wanting and not wanting both places, and realizing that some theoretical in-between doesn’t exist.

pinballI’ve spent much of the day wandering around, shopping, getting stuff done, readjusting to the noise (so noisy!), trying to avoid being crashed into by everyone, feeling like a ball in a pinball machine. Reminding myself to breathe deeply, slowly, reminding myself of my center in my home, my place within myself, reminding myself that wherever I am, I am home. That I belong to myself and that’s important belonging. And, of course, I am just a few months into this transition, and so patience is required. Patience and experience, and then some more patience. That helps, has been helping me.

Tonight, off to eat at Awash, my favorite Ethiopian restaurant, for some special raw kitfo, some charcoal tibs, some whole bunch of vegetables and lentils, some spongy injera, the pleasure of excellent and familiar food, a familiar walk in my old neighborhood.

And that reminds me of my favorite Adrienne Rich poem, “Shooting Script:”

Whatever it was, the image that stopped you, the one on which you
came to grief, projecting it over & over on empty walls.

Now to give up the temptations of the projector; to see instead the
web of cracks filtering across the plaster.

To read there the map of the future, the roads radiating from the
initial split, the filaments thrown out from that impasse.

To reread the instructions on your palm; to find there how the
lifeline, broken, keeps its direction.

To read the etched rays of the bullet-hole left years ago in the
glass; to know in every distortion of the light what fracture is.

To put the prism in your pocket, the thin glass lens, the map
of the inner city, the little book with gridded pages.

To pull yourself up by your own roots; to eat the last meal in
your old neighborhood.

eatin and talkin

I’ll tell you what: there are some odd and cool places to eat in Austin. Remember, this is a place that cherishes its motto “Keep Austin Weird.” People wear the slogan on shirts, you see it on bumperstickers, small signs. Austin’s kind of funny; it’s got the old hippy contingent (which includes some young hippies), it’s got the heavily tattooed/pierced contingent, it’s got a hipster demographic, and it’s got high tech people. And the music people, can’t forget them. Like New York, it’s pretty hard to be so odd that people give you a second glance.

Last night I met three women my age at a place called Whip In, which started, I think, as a convenience store. If you go in the front door, it is a convenience store! If you go in the side door, through the patio (and past the red picnic tables under a nice cover) you’re in a great bar with lots of craft beer, and Indian food. I KNOW, RIGHT?! And—like everywhere else in Austin—there’s a stage in the corner for live music.whip inI had a craft IPA that was delicious and a bowl of chana dal, but the highlight was the three women I was with. Two I’d met before (including the one who so kindly invited me, Cyndi), and Sue was new to me. The moment Sue arrived, I knew she was from Chicago, and I was right. There’s just a Chicago thing. The conversation was very intense, very real, about life and the various joys, and the ways it has beaten us up. One woman described a friend of hers, a woman who was married to a man for reasons of convenience, shared resources, insurance, things like that. They don’t live together. We all said that if we’d heard that when we were young and newly married — oh so long ago — we’d have been aghast, we’d have thought that was just horrible. Now, though, we all said, eh, good for her. We’ve all been bashed by life; it’s pretty hard to be a 50-something woman without having had at least a little bashing. We have all been married and divorced, we’ve all raised kids who are now grown-ass people, adults with their own lives. The funny thing about my years in New York was that most of my girlfriends had never been married, and none had kids. I finally found a friend who was married and had kids, a rarity — at least in my crowd. So it was so so nice to have conversation with people who knew what it was like to do the things I’ve done.

the kitchen
the kitchen

We decided to get together in a month at a place called G’raj Mahal Cafe — more Indian food, and the kitchen is in a trailer. Oh so Austin. You should see pictures of the food; the naan will surely make you want to slap yo’ mama.

It was a very long drive home, from the far opposite side of town, and by the time I got home I was so deeply weary I collapsed in my chair. I wasn’t sure I had the energy to crawl back to my bed. This is entirely exhausting, being social with people I don’t know, even though they are nice and welcoming, even though they make it easy. Because I’m shy, I’m introverted. I look forward to Friday night, no plans, just staying in and regaining my energy. Saturday night, no plans. Sunday with Katie.

But tonight I’m going to a group that meets to discuss articles from The New Yorker. We read three specific articles from the most recent issue and then talk about them over dinner. Now if I could only find some people who read the New York Review of Books…..

good thing of the day: a comfortable, comfortable bed, just the right soft/hardness, with wonderful plump pillows, soft white sheets, and a quilt to pull up to your ears. especially when it’s a bed of your own.

 

baby steps, training wheels, pick your metaphor

It’s amazing what a difference 10 years makes in a city; I left in March of 2003, and Austin has changed so much since then. So have I. Of course. I’ve enlarged and shrunk, nearly in equal measure . . . but that doesn’t leave me the same size. It’s funny the way that works.

Since I lived here last, I’ve lived and flourished in the giant metropolis of Manhattan. I’ve learned how to live cheek and jowl among the world, which is how Manhattan can feel at times. I’ve learned how to navigate those crowds, make my way through the subways and gridlock. I’ve also traveled around the world and made my way in places that are strange in every possible way, with alphabets I could not recognize and money I recognized even less. I’ve learned how to talk to people who speak languages that made absolutely no sense to my ear.

And also since I lived here last, I was part of a couple, in a marriage—difficult much of the time, lonely in its particular ways—but a tight little world of two. Someone there every day, someone who didn’t leave, someone who cooked for me every day and planned wonderful trips to exotic locations, someone who rubbed my back every single night as I drifted off to sleep, and rubbed my feet while we watched tv.

And so here I am, back in now-tiny Austin, my familiar that’s now unfamiliar, all alone in my all-new home. It’s so small and I’m so much more cosmopolitan, and at the same time it’s quite different than the city I left. And I am hurt and small and alone, scared, needing to push myself out in the world and scared to do so. But I have to, I really do. 

Last night I went to an art gallery opening for a watercolor artist. I’d RSVPed and planned to go, and then get something to eat somewhere nearby. I’d have done it, I’d have gone alone; the weather turned nice, after days of rain and gray skies, so even though I got a cold yesterday, I’d have gone anyway. I’d have walked around the gallery, sipped the wine, ogled the paintings and wondered how she made them. I’d have done that.

But beforehand I emailed a friend of Katie’s, a young man I always liked so very much, and asked if he’d like to go, if he didn’t already have plans. It felt somehow more doable to be there in the crowd with a friend, someone to talk with, someone to compare opinions (you like that, really? why?). And then someone to eat sushi with afterwards, to talk about the books we’re reading and movies we’ve seen. He’s in his early 30s, Katie’s friend, an easy companion (though I felt like he kept wondering what I really wanted…). Although it’s just fun to talk with him, he was also my training wheels. Next Saturday I’ve got crazy wild plans — brunch, then a knitting group, and then out dancing — so a bit of practice with a young friend helped.

I keep feeling like I can’t quite see — like the road is hard to see over there, like it’s dark and I’m not sure where to turn, like none of the landmarks make sense. Where is this, it’s not here any longer, now it’s that. Of course it might help if I got out during the day and poked around, instead of only trying to find my way at night, in the rain. But I suspect this feeling of confusion, of being unable to see, is deeper than the dark and the weather. I take steps forward and steps backward, because that’s what life is, and slowly I get somewhere. Baby steps, Lorraine. It’s OK.

good thing of the day: Nyquil, the nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, aching, coughing, stuffy-head, fever, so you can rest medicine. And a humidifier.

Friday books, links, and stuff

I thought about titling this post ‘goulash’ but decided that was too misleading. Still, it’s going to be some of this and that and the other thing, so goulash does fit. Let’s go:

  • A couple of Austin notes. First, since what we do as Texans is have friendly conversation with each other even if we’re complete strangers, I frequently mention that I have just moved back to Austin after living in New York City. Nearly without exception, the immediate response is “Welcome home!” They say that first, and then they ask other questions. I love that, that there is this generous sense of homecoming. And second, the guy who delivered and set up the bed in my guestroom yesterday finished work and then dashed out to his truck for a second. He came back with a brochure advertising his first gig at an East Austin coffeehouse. He said “you look like the kind of person who’d like my music.” I’m not sure why, exactly, but that’s so Austin. Who isn’t playing a gig in this town, I wonder?

LINKS!

  • Here are a bunch of links you may enjoy:
  1. 9 foreign words the English language desperately needs
  2. 2 Chicago inmates escape prison by climbing out the window
  3. Portraits of unrelated doppelgangers (I have doppelgangers everywhere)
  4. Best picture of Barack Obama
  5. 44 more great Obama pictures
  6. Great dog GIFs (I’m not that big a dog person, but some of these made me laugh really hard.  Especially #17.)
  7. Brainpickings lists the 10 best psych and philosophy books of 2012 — always a great list.
  8. Speaking of lists, here are the hundred best lists of all time! Fun!

BOOKS!

  • I’ve been able to read again! Yay! I’ve read some brain candy, and one book that really touched me, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Barbery is a French philosophy professor and now and then the book takes a hard left turn into philosophy in a way that’s a little bit distracting, but I wasn’t troubled by it at all. It’s the intertwining story of two people in a Parisian apartment building, both of whom are in retreat from the world, for very different reasons. Renee is the 54-year-old concierge (hey! whaddya know, I’m 54 years old too) who is quite deep and thoughtful, but who hides from the world by disappearing into her stereotyped role — and most of the residents of the building buy into that vision and don’t even see her beyond that stereotype. But she’s thoughtful, and extraordinarily intelligent, and sees and appreciates the subtleties of things and people. The other main character is a gifted 12-year-old girl named Paloma who decides to kill herself on her 13th birthday out of boredom, partly, because of the morons in her family, and in the building. They’re brought together by a mysterious new resident of the building, who sees them both for who they are. I just loved it for its message of beauty in the small moments, and for its recognition of the hidden depths of people we pass every day. The ending startled me and I haven’t stopped thinking about it ever since I finished it on the flight home from New York a few weeks ago. It’s a complete world, rich with detail and real people. I’ll definitely read it again, a few times, probably. This book is like a rich, complex meal that stays in your memory in the best kind of way.
  • And the other books I’ve been able to read are high-brow mysteries by Gillian Flynn. Flynn can twist a plot, man. Seriously. Just when you think you see what’s coming, where she’s taking the story, twist! And you never see it coming, it’s always startling and shocking. She writes about the darkest kind of people, people who are soulless in a way, and who have no qualms about destroying people for little to no damn reason. A few months ago I read Gone Girl (her newest book), and the problem with Gillian Flynn’s books is in trying to tell what they’re about, because you don’t want to give anything away. Of the three of her books I’ve read, I think Gone Girl was the strongest. It delivered in every way, hit every note, and the ending was thoroughly satisfying. Basically, it’s about a young married couple and what happens when the wife disappears and the husband is accused of murdering her. Black and shocking! Then I read Sharp Objects (her earliest book), about a reporter who returns to her hometown to investigate some strange murders of little girls. She has a mother and sister still living there, and I can’t give anything away except to say that the ending is creepy. The one I read this week was Dark Places (the 2nd of her 3 books) and it was fantastic, though I was less satisfied by the very ending. But there’s a real “Gillian Flynn” kind of book developing here, characterized by strong female characters, extraordinary plot twists, and really dark stuff. I’ve never been a fan of mystery books (though I read a lot of Agatha Christie as a young girl), but I couldn’t put these down. They’re really good candy—homemade fudge with pecans—so if you’re in the mood, these will be wonderful for you.
  • Although I’d read two other Gillian Flynn books, the reason I read Dark Places was that I’m going to a book club meeting next week, and that’s the book. Luckily, it was a quick read. There’ll be a second meeting of the group later in January, so for that meeting I’m reading How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, which is often so funny. I hope the book club has interesting women — we’ll see!

It’s so good to be able to read again, and to want to read, which I haven’t wanted to do since I was on vacation in Myanmar. It’s so good to have my place mostly finished. It’s so good to have plenty of work. It’s so good the holidays are nearly over. 🙂 I think this weekend I’ll go out a time or two. See Lorraine. See Lorraine feel better. Feel better, Lorraine, feel better. Get back to living. Yeah. Here’s a song that always makes me feel full of life — from the Eurythmics ‘Forever’ album, which came out when I was in graduate school and feeling on top of the world. Happy Friday, y’all — read something good, see some people, eat something yummy, take time for yourself, breathe some fresh air, and be grateful for your life whatever it is.

“Some people never take the time to try / The way you live’s the way you die / The stuff of life’s in short supply / And if it sometimes hits you strong / Remembering that things go wrong / The song of life is just a song / And everything goes on and on”