QOTD: "G-d fights on the side with the heaviest artillery." - Robert A. Heinlein
Reading: David Brancaccio, Squandering Aimlessly
Listening to: Yat Kha, Dalai Beldiri
Decluttering accomplishments: caught up on financial paperwork (including balancing my checkbook and paying bills), went through a bunch of other assorted papers
Yesterday, I drove over to South Pasadena for a Volksmarch. I hate the Pasadena Freeway but I really needed to get out and walk and, well, to do something normal. At least it was early enough in the morning that there wasn't any traffic going there. There was still a delay at one point because a car had taken the curvy part too fast and gone off the road. Which is, of course, why I hate that road. It was built for much slower speeds than prevail nowadays and has such features as people coming in to merge from a dead stop and curves that are banked the wrong way and so on.
Anyway, the walk was a trial run of what will become a new year round event next year and is part of the Route 66 series. There's a special book for you to stamp with walks in each state that Route 66 ran through and there are recommended walks that include parts of the "mother road." You get a special patch for completing walks in all ten states. In this case, the walk qualified because a section of it was along Mission Blvd.. (There are two other California walks that qualify - one in Santa Monica that will become a year round next year and one in Claremont that is already a year round.) These special programs appeal to my compulsive side, of course. The Route 66 part of the walk was actually the least interesting part, since it's very commercialized. There were long stretches along Arroyo and Orange Grove Boulevards that were far more pleasant, though the turn onto Orange Grove was a little south of the most important architectural landmark there - namely, the Gamble House. It was weird walking along the arroyo, because you can hear but not see a lot of sounds from the park deep in the canyon. Still, it was good to get out and move and, as I said, to feel things were a bit more normal.
I spent the rest of the weekend doing errands and housework, napping and reading. I've been on a real reading binge lately. Which brings me to an observation about my reading habits. Namely, while there are certain categories of books I have strong preferences for, I make a real point of alternating books so that I don't, for instance, read two mysteries in a row. I seem to read less and less fiction, though I think that has mostly to do with the difficulty of selecting fiction I'll enjoy. With nonfiction, I can pick things out largely by the subject, but I tend to go mostly by authors when it comes to fiction and I need more of a recommendation to try a new author. (Well, unless I find something dirt cheap at a used book store or library sale. Hence, my tendency to stock up on mysteries at library sales.) My nonfiction reading does include books selected for the author, but those are largely confined to travel related reading. I'll read anything by Tim Severin or Dervla Murphy, for example, even if the subject is not one I'm all that keen on. As often as not, I'll get more interested in the subject that way. For example, Tim Severin's The Brendan Voyage is the major reason I want to go to the Faroe Islands.
A lot of my reading is travel related, in the sense that it has to do with places I've either been to or would like to go to. Some of those books have really surprising aspects. I just read Diane Souhami's book on Alexander Selkirk, for example, and ran across the following interesting passage about one of Selkirk's chief pastimes while marooned on Juan Fernandez Island:
Fucking goats was perhaps less satisfying than the buggery and prostitution of shipboard life, the black misses of heathen ports. It lacked fraternal exchange. But Selkirk was an abandoned man. On The Island, at the day's end, he would have liked a woman to cook for him and provide. He might have preferred it had the goats been girls.For those of you who don't know, Selkirk's experiences on Juan Fernandez were the basis for Daniel Defoe's novel, Robinson Crusoe. I've read that novel twice and I'm reasonably sure Defoe had his hero engaged in bible reading, not bestiality.
And then there's another category of books that Robert refers to as "books that started out as articles in The Atlantic." He refers to them that way because he thinks most of them should have stayed as magazine articles. I think books by NPR personalities fit into the same category and, you might note, I'm reading one of those right now. Maybe they can say everything that needs to be said in a magazine article or in a series of radio pieces, but these books still tend to be provocative social commentary and make good fodder for conversations.
I can only conclude that the ideal book would be a mystery, written by an NPR reporter and set in an obscure country that only geography buffs like me have heard of.
Copyright 2001 Miriam H. Nadel