Everybody Into The Pool

Thirteen short glimpses into Lisick’s Northern California life, from her parents taking a hippie babysitter in, to wandering around the Mission district lugging her stuff from the sewage infiltrated loft in a shopping cart and pretending to be a narc so the annoying druggie left her alone. She lays her life out with an “oh I’m not really abnormal” attitude which ultimately means her stories are not abnormal either, just on the edge of tired. I wasn’t particularly enthralled by any of the writing or stories.
On meeting her husband Eli after his band played, he described one song as “It’s about how the meter maids let people park in the median on Sunday because they’re going to church, but if you park in the median and you’re not going to church, they give you a ticket.” This struck a timely chord with me, since I was just explaining this phenomenon a few days ago. Valencia street’s middle lane turns into legal parking on Sunday, but only if you’re church-bound.
Update: this morning thinking about another of her stories– how she secretly wished that when she was covering the nightlife for a local publication that she could condense all the events into one evening because going out every night sucks when you’re old. Her comment about wanting to arrive at a club midway through the band she wanted to hear definitely resonated. Missed out on Pere Ubu last night because Bottom of the Hill shows start too late for my old bones.
***
Recommended by various folks over the years, but it was Andrea Siegel’s reminder that put it on my list finally. My girl-crush is waning slightly.

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Exuberance

“The exuberant person, far from simply responding to the environment in which he finds himself, acts vigorously upon it or seeks out new ones. Whether through play, through exploration, or through engagements of the imagination, those who are exuberant act.” (p 99)
The section on the exuberance of love is equally quotable:
“Exuberant love is addictive; it excites and infects, and it sends those who experience it out on a quest for more of the same. It not only lures and binds, it teaches… awakens and refreshens. ‘The simple act of falling in love,’ said Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘is as beneficial as it is astonishing. It arrests the petrifying influence of years, disproves cold-blooded and cynical conclusions, and awakens dormant sensibilities.’ Love also vouchsafes a time of discovery– of play and expansiveness, of incrementally deepening intimacy– before a more permanent commitment to a partner has to be made…. Romantic love usually settles into a less passionate but more stable relationship.” (p 149)
Jamison points the spotlight on the neglected aspect of psychology, that of joy and exuberance, pointing out the passion of historical figures such as Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir, Richard Feynman. She covers the joy of music, discovery, instruction, creativity; she demonstrates the infectiousness of exuberance and its importance as a survival mechanism.

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To Feel Stuff

Still reading this, but I have much appreciation for Seigel’s writing style and character development. She’s another of those hot young writers that are so marketable, but she’s got the goods to back up the hype. Bravo, so far!
Favorite passage to date:
“I was shooting my heart at you like it was a spring-loaded snake from a fake peanut can.”
***
Still in the shock of finishing this within the last few minutes; so beautifully crafted that it was almost hard to breathe during the last pages trying to wrap it all up and comprehend. I am a huge fan and will be reading Seigel’s future and past work.
Elodie is a senior at Brown but has lived most of her college life in the infirmary contracting one disease after another (tuberculosis, fibromyalgia, Raynaud’s). Her story is told through 3 POVs– hers, Chess (the boy she falls in love with after his knees are cracked in a freak violent attack during an acapella concert) and Mark (her doctor, who spends a year diagnosing her before venturing into the paranormal). Elodie begins seeing apparitions in the infirmary she suspects are of past visitors, but that end up being future visions. Chess & Elodie have an incredibly close bond that falls apart as soon as Chess gets better and can venture outside again. Chess’ friend David makes a few appearances, one notably to proclaim his love for Chess. Elodie’s story comes via a Valentine’s letter to Chess, and then her POV drops out of the mix while Chess & Mark finish the story.

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Special Topics in Calamity Physics

Sigh. I got swept up in the hype surrounding this book and at the end of the 500+ page journey have to admit lukewarm feelings for Pessl’s first book (which created a sudden burst of media around how attractive authors’ first books merit large advances).
Each chapter is titled after a famous work of literature, something calculated to lure me in to the work. After having read it, it seems more like an editorial ploy; the titles had little bearing on the actual chapters. The writing is definitely good, readable, mind-stretching at times. But it dragged on, a bit wordy.
Story outline: Blue Van Meer is a precocious smartie who travels the US with her professor father as he bops from lecture gig to lecture gig. She reads, a lot. Her senior year is spent in Stockton, NC, where she becomes involved with a clique called the Bluebloods (Jade, Milton, Nigel, Charles, Leulah) and their teacher/mentor/friend Hannah. Things start unravelling when a man named Smokey dies at Hannah’s costume party (drowned, ruled accidental). Hannah takes the kids camping, lures Blue into the woods, blurts some preposterous things then disappears and is found hung. Blue is found hours later, miles from the campsite, by a father/son out fishing for the weekend. The others are found a few days later, and blame Blue for Hannah’s death. Then begins Blue’s investigation, which leads her to the conclusion that Hannah, the man they stayed in Paris with, and her dad are all part of the Nightwatchmen, a radical group from the 70s. Her dad ends up abandoning her, but conveniently has a trust fund set up which she receives the account number to a few days after he leaves. Blue finally believes that her mother commited suicide when she discovered her husband was having an affair with Hannah, when Blue was in kindergarden.
Last chapter is incredibly hokey– a Final Exam with multiple choice questions about the characters within the story.

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Video Night in Kathmandu

Delicious travel writing by a traveler after my own style– bushwhacking his way through Asia, Pico Iyer relaxes with locals, tries to penetrate the walls of China and Japan which cordon “foreign” from the real experience, spends an inordinate amount of time quietly sitting and contemplating atop misty temples. He shuns the packaged tours that show visitors a sanitized, pre-approved version of the country, and haunts alleys, street vendors, train and bus stations looking for the real people and stories. A constant theme through the 10 countries he visits is the encroachment of the West on East, the everpresent American music, frenzied burst of fast food joints, common language of Hollywood cinema and bluejeans. Each country takes the West and intertwines it with its own culture, making baseball in Japan more orderly and militarized, making all external influences inherently Indian by accepting them without question, taking the bustle of New York into Hong Kong where life is work and nothing exists outside of work whereas in NY people work to live and have other cultural stimuli.
Great short travel essays on a list of countries that mirrors my own list of desired destinations: Bali, Tibet, Nepal, China, Phillipines, Burma, Hong Kong, India, Thailand and Japan.
****
Recommended by Mama R

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Litquake: Between the Bridges Gala

Ponied up $25 to attend this ho-hum event, which was more interesting in concept than execution. An evening of musicians inspired by literature, with readings and performances. I was excited to see Jay Farrar and Dan the Automator, but ended up enjoying Mark Eitzel the most. Lars Ulrich was an entertaining footnote, taking himself way too seriously, reading his dad’s Danish poetry and bragging that there were only 300 copies printed so if anyone in the audience wanted one, they’d have to check Ebay. Then he laughed, at us. Awesome. The second most annoying thing was Dave Eggers refusal to read anything (this is Litquake, c’mon!), but ceding his time and the stage to End of Suffering, the musician he met at the Oakland library a few weeks ago.
* Dan Hicks: read from Catcher in the Rye, sang the laughing song
* Samantha Stollenwerck: read from Randy Taguchi’s Outlet
* Chuck Prophet: Sang “Who put the bomp?”
* Jill Tracy: read from Lowlife, sang dark songs on the piano
* Mark Eitzel ready from Long Day’s Journey into Night
* Ray Manzarek (member of The Doors) rambled on for a bit, then played Riders on the Storm.
* Dan the Automator: Rainbow by DH Lawrence; “The rainbow is bowlegged, it cannot put its legs together.”
* Lars Ulrich: talked about how he was originally from Copenhagen, when came to US he just wanted to play tennis; pretended he was going to read from Kierkegaard’s Either/Or Part 2; instead he read poetry from his dad, Torben Ulrich, called Dice Inflections. Dice thru your nostrils. Improv on words for the remaining pages.
* Penelope Houston- Vita Sackville West (The Garden: Summer)
* Jay Farrar was a sad sight, slumping on stage and lacking confidence. I don’t remember what he read.

Legends

The best spy novel I’ve read in ages! Martin Odum, forced out of the CIA, hangs his detective shingle in Brooklyn and takes the case of Stella, searching for her brother-in-law Samat, in order to free her sister of the marriage (by obtaining the get, or divorce). Skillfully deploying several plotlines at once, Littell wraps the story into a tight package amidst tales of torture, assassination, burial alive, nuclear waste & bioterrorist experiments, a cameo by Osama Bin Laden, and the psychiatric treatment of Odum in order to find out which of his “legends” or aliases is the real him. Odum switches seamlessly (though with migraine) between Lincoln Dittmann (civil war expert, was present at the battle of Fredricksburg, met Walter Whitman the poet, had a rare gun: Whitworth with paper cartridges), Dante Pippen (Irish explosives expert with white bandana & quick temper), and Martin Odum.
Recommended by Tom Peters, who is a constant source of inspiration and solid book recs.

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Best bartender ever: me

The Max is near-furious because a patron proclaimed me the best bartender he’d ever had. This, while slinging bottled beer and fountain cokes, to those gathered at the Presidio Yacht Club. Admittedly, I know nearly nothing about tending bar. What I learned this weekend:
* Count to four when pouring shots
* If someone asks for a rum & coke, “easy on the coke”, after last call, it’s better to go heavy on the coke, easy on the rum. (Case in point: the 250 lb. requestor falls off barstool shortly after: BOOM!)
* People over 80 tend not to tip
* People under 30 tend to tip well
* People between 30-80 are a crapshoot
* Bloody maries are bloody difficult to make. Tip your bartender well for the effort
* Men who refer to their wives as “my girlfriend, ehm, my kinda wife” are creepy
* If you’re going to rent out a club to sing cabaret to your family and friends for over an hour in honor of your 46th birthday, dammit you’re gonna do an encore even if people really aren’t asking for it.
In honor of my first stint behind the bar, some bar books:
The Tender Bar
Women
Bartender’s Best Friend