Posts Tagged ‘modern life’

My father was a distinctly midcentury man.

He was a man of tract homes and manual transmissions, cigarettes and pipe tobacco, straw hats and huaraches, sand dunes and surf fishing, Frank Sinatra and Mel Tormé, pancakes with his kids on Saturday morning and roasted meats with his dad at the table on Sunday nights.  He was a dry martini/red wine with ice kind of guy: uncomplicated, elemental, rustic, reserved.

And yet, in his final decade, I found him nearly indecipherable. (more…)

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For most of my life, if I was awake, I had a book in my hand.

Riding the bus, walking to school, in the quad between classes, lounging at home, I’d have a book open, thumb in the crease, my nose buried in its leaves. Novels, anthologies, treatises, memoirs, history, science, poetry.



I read it.

Then, about a dozen years ago, life went off the rails. Book deals dried up. Friends and family began to die (at least ten during this period). We fostered a young woman, giving her a place to live for a year. Work became a stress factory. The economy tanked, causing the Great Recession. Then along came Trump. And then this pandemic.

In response, my reading habits changed, radically. They became constrained, limited to news articles, political analyses, and works of non-fiction. Instead of a dog-eared book, I carried my tablet with its instant-on, 24×7 access to current events and a front-row seat to our increasingly divided society.

Even so, every now and again, I would return to my fiction books, the stacks of TBR novels that inhabit every room in this house. I tried, repeatedly, to read one of them, hungry for that immersive experience, that miraculous wash of words that would sweep away reality and bathe me in the light of a different sun.

But the miracle never came. I didn’t have the patience, lacked the power to focus., and was unable to drive away the here-and-now with worlds of what-if. Book after book I picked up, opened, began, and abandoned within a few days, the only evidence of my attempt, a bookmark left somewhere in the first thirty pages.

With all this as preamble, one might wonder why, during my recent time off, I decided yet again to pick up a novel and give it a try. I mean, there I was in the last month of the most turbulent election cycle of my sixty-plus years, with a pandemic raging beyond my door, a daily gush of political scandals and turmoil filling the airwaves, and everywhere people shouting and crying and grieving and protesting. Was it hope? Obstinacy? Desperation? Whatever compelled me, it was in this moment, amid this maelstrom of chaos, that I chose to try again, and opened up a 150-year-old book.

And I read it. Cover to cover, in record time.

And then . . . I picked up another book, and read it, too.

And now, here I am, wondering what to read next.

. . .

Do yourself a favor.

Turn off the television. Put down the phone. Leave the tablet in the other room.

Pick up a book. A real book. The one you’ve been meaning to read for so long.

Take a seat near the window, where the natural light will be over your shoulder. Settle in, book in hand.

Open it up. Stick your nose in it. Smell it. Feel the pebbled surface of the printed page, the tension of the spine.

Chapter One.


I tell you, it’s like coming home.


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Some weeks are so disjointed, so fractious, that I find it difficult to settle on a topic for my regular post.

This has been one of those weeks.

So far today I’ve written about 6,000 words and deleted about 5,950. I’ve pinballed between topics—the debacle of our political system, my 27th anniversary working in the same shop, the evolution of a short story that’s been simmering in my head, the upcoming birthday milestone that I’ll hit in December, the character of this year’s autumn display, a recipe for acorn squash soup that’s really good (and easy)—without being able to settle on one of them.

At such times, my mind can’t hold onto anything, not long enough, anyway. My attention, buffeted by gale-force winds, gets blown off course, lost at sea. Between radical changes at work, drama in the political sphere, and the very real possibility of life- and lifestyle-altering projects currently in the offing here at home, I simply cannot concentrate.

However, I’ve decided that this is okay.

Not every week is a winner.

Sometimes just making it through to the end is the best we can do.

Here’s hoping for better.



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Simple LivingMy world has become meaner, of late, and I’m guessing yours has, too.

Mean, in the sense of “harsh, spiteful, and cruel,” but also in the sense of “crude, lowly, or ignoble.”

Work, politics, society, and even some relationships have taken on a more callous, retributive aspect. People don’t want to listen — They don’t even want to care. — and it feels like the whole social contract has begun to unravel.

My world has indeed become more mean.

In response, I find that I have becoming meaner, as well. Patience has vanished. Reactions have intensified. Empathy has hit rock bottom.

And I hate it.

So I’m doing something about it.

I’m changing the only thing I can.

Me. (more…)

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SFC's Little Men by Warren GoodrichI’ve always taken pride in being a generalist. Robert Heinlein, in one of the few quotes of his that I like, said “Specialization is for insects,” and for myself, this feels like truth. For me, it fits.

While I am thoroughly capable of obsessing about…well, about pretty much anything…I am not capable of concentrating on one topic, to the exclusion of all others, for the years it would take to become an expert. My freewheeling curiosity is impossible to constrain lest it becomes bored, not through having learned all there is on a topic (far from it), but because my mind tends to wander as I wonder, leading me astray from the path on which I began.

As a result, my history is littered with cobwebbed interests and skills, all of which were at one time a grand passion but which now have been shunted to the side by the necessities of surviving in our rapid-fire and increasingly frenetic world. So, while I can play a concerto, compose a sonnet, cure a pork belly, repair a pocket watch, restore a fountain pen, landscape a garden, tune a car (or a piano, for that matter), cook a goose, shoot an arrow, renovate a kitchen, arrange flowers, write a novel, and make beer, I am at best (by my standards) a journeyman in these subjects, and far from expert.

Unfortunately, generalization is not a valuable commodity in today’s world. Where once being a “Renaissance man” was a thing to be admired, now it is an anomaly, a throwback to an earlier time, anachronistic and useless outside of dinner parties and a guest spot on QI.

Normally, none of this bothers me, but this past year has been a tough go, fraught with missteps and failures, chock-a-block with mediocre results born of my mediocre talents. In many cases, were I to do as my grammar school teachers instructed and simply “apply myself,” I might be able to acquire the expertise needed to achieve my desired goals, be they in the kitchen, in the garden, or in the writing studio.

This isn’t a pity party, though. Nope. Check your sympathy at the door. I don’t need it. Thanks, but no thanks.

I don’t need sympathy because, when I begin to doubt myself like this, it’s because I’m judging myself by yardsticks of others instead of by my own, and that’s a sure sign I need to step back and reevaluate.

I’m a generalist, and I prefer it that way. I just need to come to terms with the ramifications, and remind myself of the advantages that decision brings.

This above all: to thine own self be true…



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Gossamer WheelTake coffee with cream in a glass mug:
When the dollop of white plunges into the dark liquid depths, I see the beauty of swirling nebulae and brief-candle galaxies, fluid artwork made just for me.

Learn to cook at least one thing really well:
It not only provides my dearest ones with the anticipation and enjoyment of a favorite meal, but it also comes with a big side of love.

Enjoy five-minute vacations:
Be it windswept mountainside, lonely seashore, or busy coffee shop, having a personal oasis where I can relax enough to untie the knots of modern life makes getting through modern life a little bit easier, even if I only have time to imagine myself there for five minutes.

Observe the world’s cycles:
Whether it’s the Apache dance of dandelions across my lawn or the fact that my cat is most finicky during the dark of the moon, an appreciation of the long-phase patterns of life slows down the whizzing whirl of time and gives me time to catch my breath.


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Dragons AheadThe team’s PO, PO P. O’Pio, was really PO’d when he found the PO at the PO.

I work in a perfect storm of acronym-happy industries: IT, health care, and insurance. They all just love their acronyms and initialisms, and while I’ve never seen a sentence as bad as my admittedly over-the-top example above, I’ve seen some that are close.

Yesterday, a chat window popped up with the question:

Did you RP to the OPL INC with the PBI?

The only thing that would have made it worse (to my language-loving senses) is if it had also incorporated text-speak:

did u rp 2 th opl inc w/th pbi?


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