Where everyone knows your name.

“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.

Taking a break from your worries, sure would help alot

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name

And they’re always glad you came

You wanna be where you can see our troubles are all the same, you wanna go..”

I may have a bit of Cliff Claven in me as I am known to spew out random factoids,  and I have a bit of Norms love of quips and his singlemindedness, but lucky for me, my happy place is not a bar and my solace is not a beer.  It was a sunny, muggy Sunday that needed a breath of cool fresh air, and I had some presents for July birthdays and an anniversary waiting at the special order counter,  so of course I made my way with my roommate to my own version of Cheers yesterday, a local bookstore.

Now my metaphorical barstool is parked at “Changing Hands” in Tempe, AZ (http://www.changinghands.com/) where I am afraid I spend as much money though less time than Cliff or Norm did. Changing Hands has everything a Sunday afternoon could want old books, new books, red books, blue books; the gift section has quippy bumper stickers and smell-tastic scents of candles, incense and wholesome body products, eclectic magazines of every ilk and racks of cards and all this bounty shares space with Wildflower Breads bistro where I and my newest conquest can get to know each other one chapter at a time over tea and crumpets or soup and salad, and the people there know my name. My “Cheers” is Changing Hands, so I sing it highest praises, but any small bookstore worth its salt can become everything promised in that famous 80’s theme song. Bonus points if they also buy back used book buddies and give credit to meet new print potentials like Changing Hands.

Now there is a science to buying back books that I am not privy to, its mysteries are as complicated as dating. So let it be said here and now, that I cannot predict which and what will leave a bag or box to garner credit and which will return again home to try their luck somewhere else or perhaps be left when one is taken at some coffee shop somewhere. Still some books once read just won’t be read again, and deserve to try their luck with other readers, not hoarded and neglected on the shelf just to prove someones literary prowess, and well used books and used book prices mean I can try authors I am just wondering or pick up missed backstock titles on my personal favorites.

Usually I leave Changing Hands with one or more books I had not even heard about before, maybe one I had heard about but was undecided on its purchase until one of the knowledgeable and friendly associates waxed poetic on its charms and I was compelled to make it mine, and one or two books they have ordered for me. Yesterday I (as always) had a budget and presents to purchase, and one book whose author I had heard on NPR but I could not remember the title or the guys name. That’s what else the associates at Changing Hands excel at, getting me exactly what I want, when all I remember is that it’s this big (insert appropriate hand motions), blue and recently reviewed on _______(fill in with radio or TV show). O.K.,  yesterday I actually said to the gentleman helping me (who is Changing Hands version of Woody), “Just came out in paperback,  Zone something I think, zombies?” and he took me right to the shelf.

“Unfortunately too soon for a used copy,” he said with a smile, “and you really should go to NPR and check out his interview.” I like that, they do know me there, know I am a book glutton so every book I buy used is a few more dollars to get my fries-with-that backstock paperback of a classic or a new favorite author, and they know that I love to listen to authors talk.

I have sat at Changing hands and listened to numerous authors I already loved and knew like Christopher Moore and James Owen, and met new authors I now follow rabidly like Kevin Hearne.  If you live in the East Valley or you will be visiting our area, their calendar is always chock full of delicious little goodies for all flavors and ages of readers.

All this being said, it is truly the talent at my bookstore, yes I do think of it as mine, I buy from them first if possible in all instances for print and e-books, that make my visits feel as warm and complete as an Emmy winning Cheers episode.  I started to list their names and the books   and authors with whom I now had real relationships with because of Changing Hand friends; you know the kind that’s not just a one book deal, but you keep coming back each time they publish, wanting more than they can give, the kind that keep you up late night with characters that populate your sleeping dreams and monopolize your waking hours, and five hundred words later and not nearly finished I realized I was forgetting two very important names,  because I am not the best at names, better at faces, so I deleted the specifics, but many of the books and authors have appeared or will appear in the coming weeks on this blog. But you know who you are, and I do indeed thank you. You make lives better one book at a time!

Now its time for the closing credits and another commercial or two http://changinghands.com/  and not because its related, commercials do not have to be related, but because it is the most awesome blog,  especially today 7/22/2012  http://whatever.scalzi.com/ and because two of the books I bought yesterday were his books. “Rough Guide to the Universe” is a5th anniversary present to my son and DIL who always shoot for the stars and manage to help others along the way see the stars within themselves (and who happen to own a really nice telescope) and I also left with yet another copy of “Old Man’s War,” I always give mine away it seems, because I,  like the staff at Changing Hands, share the joy found in a perfect first sentence followed by an even better story line and always want to share it.

If you don’t live local, they ship and sell e-books, but better yet find the local place you can make yours at http://www.indiebound.org/indie-store-finder.

 

What I am reading this week…and a couple things I can’t wait to read…

First I apologize for posting this a day late. No excuse, just an apology. As usual I am reading more than one book.

I am reading aloud a lifetime favorite, “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle. Certain authors are my “go to” authors for reading aloud to patients depending on the patient’s age and taste; L’Engle, E. B. White, Dumas, Alcott, Frost, Twain, Dickens, Whitman. The authors language and chapter structure must lend themselves to “voices” and serialized presentation, and be music when spoken. The list has been fairly stable although a few new authors have joined the list this decade like James Owen with “Here There Be Dragons”  whose reveal at the end of this book rivals some of Vonnegut’s (who, however much I love him and his place on so many other of my literary lists, is not on the read aloud list.)

I am also reading “Homesteading” edited by Abigail Gehring. This is both research for my post-apocalyptic novel in process and research for my own desire to walk more softly and compassionately through this world. So far enjoyable. And my vote for best lines ever in a “you too can get green” introduction, “Before  buying chicks or any other animal to raise, be honest with yourself about the time you have for caring for them….. Homesteading is different for every individual or family. Sometimes being genuine means letting go – at least temporarily – of grandiose schemes for acres of land, a home completely off the grid, and a barn full of animals…….” And I know animal rescuers everwhere are equally impressed with the sentiment. I personally am starting (yet again) with plants and planting.

Reading “The Teachings of Buddha”, a free book put out by the Society for Buddhist Understanding. Don’t recommend it or “un”recommend it.  My problems with this translation and compilation is that it is to other compilations of Buddha’s life and teachings what “The Living Bible” is to the “King James Version”. All the reasons I don’t thoroughly like it are the very reasons others might just recommend it.  The language is very prosaic and couched in terms people familiar with western theism will embrace and understand. Words like “sin” and “omniscience” are not words I associate with Buddhism. However I understand why the translators/compilers went there, so to speak, and as the core Dhammapada is there for me I will finish it, but then probably just pass it on via coffee shop shelf. If you are an avid theist unfamiliar with any of Buddhist teachings who is interested in learning more, I would actually recommend Karen Armstrong’s biography of Buddha over this text as introduction.

Finally, I am about to start re-reading a “potato chip” book (just finished re-reading “March” which although more a nutritious meal was every bit as devour-able, addictive-ly tasty and enjoyable to read) called “Fuzzy Nation” by John Scalzi. The paperback comes out next month. Buy it, or be real supportive and buy a hardback this month. The author is worth it, his books are very much like my favorite organic, olive oil fried potato chips. They are delicious bits of questionable nutrition, but heart healthier than the usual science fiction, and you can’t just read one.

Which leads me to my very “un” peaceful NEED, CRAVING and desire for Scalzi’s next book “Red Shirts” due to come out in June

and on that same note is my attachment to reading the next book in James Owen’s dragon series due out in August.

I want……*sigh*

 

Acceptance is the key to the closed doors in life

I start with the premise that life is a journey, or a meal, or a really good book because these are the things in life I love most and therefore understand best. I love to travel; short distances, long distances, foot, bike, car, plane the mode is moot and the distance relative because I love the going, the looking about on the way, the arriving, and the familiar comfort of coming home.  I love to cook and feed people even more than I love to eat, and I LOOOOOVE to eat. I also love devouring written words, especially well written words. These three activities have much more in common than just me.

A trip requires a destination, a route or map, the method of achieving the distance in the time allotted and actual movement. A meal requires a menu, recipes, ingredients, a method of heating and combining the ingredients to create the desired outcome, and the effort and time to transform the raw materials into the delicious dishes craved. A book may be an internal feast or journey but its birth begins with a story line and requires an understandable  language, word, sentence and plot structure to carry the reader from the dark and stormy night to the ultimate triumph of love*. Life like journeys, meals and books must first have a goal, a destination, menu, plot.

My goals are true compassion and peace. Living this ethic is the journey I want to be on in all my moments awake and asleep, the meal I want to prepare for others and to feast my soul upon when I am alone, the book I want to write.  This is comparable to saying I want to go live a month in Antartica, make a vegan party feast for all my friends and family to enjoy, or read all the works of  Alexandre Dumas (or maybe better yet, write as many, LOL).  The goal is large, intimidating and easy to dismiss as impossible.

That door is closed. Antartica is only for scientists and I cannot walk or drive there on my own; my son and many of my friends are dedicated carnivores and would never enjoy the foods I love to eat and make; Dumas has 277 books according to Library-Trivia.com many more than 1000 pages and others never translated to English.  The world is too hard, selfish and chaotic and I am a product of this world and am therefore to full of needs and neurosis to be able to live peace and compassion. I am just an degree-less LPN; even my roommate avoids my healthier foods, everybody I know likes salty, sweet and animal fat too much to be happy with a vegan feast; most of Dumas’ works are probably out of print; sure people like the Dalai Lama or Pema Chodron can manifest peace and compassion in all their actions but they live a monastery life, I don’t have the luxury of leaving life behind, I have to work in the real world. My son and DIL call this portion of thinking “spinning the excuse wheel,” I must say I have a talent for it, maybe you do too.

Except I truly believe every door, even the locked and sticky ones, can be opened. I also believe that acceptance of exactly where I am, how life is, and what I have to work with is the key to opening any door.

The first step in getting or giving directions is to know where one is.

The first step in cooking is to assess the available ingredients and equipment and the tastes of the desired consumer.

The first step in reading an authors collected works is knowing how well one actually reads the languages in which the works are available.

The first step in developing compassion and peace as a way of life is knowing and accepting the clutter, lack of discipline, attachment and greed that currently pervade my life.

Without knowing where I am, the best directions are useless.

A shopping list of ingredients made without assessing what I have will inevitably (as all cooks know) lead to a missing key ingredient 30 minutes before the guests arrive.

A thick book of only words without the skill to understand them is just a boring, jumble of marks in a very large doorstop. (My book club’s assessment I think of my attempt to bring my love of another French authors romanticism to our reading list.)

Accepting that suffering, attachment and selfishness (mine and others) are a part of life, and then blessing and embracing them for the lessons are how I begin to be grateful, compassionate and acceptance, in and of  itself, grants me inner peace.

But Acceptance is the key that opened the closed doors.

I must first accept where I am and exactly what I have, but then once the key is in the door I must push it open…

To get to Antartica will require me to improve my physical condition, achieve financial independence, acquire the skills needed to be part of an expedition…make a plan and stick to it.

The feast begins today with assessing what I have in my home, finding a recipe and practicing my cooking.

To read all of Dumas, I must begin with a book with the books on my shelf in English, keep a list and notes as I read them, and practice my reading of french on smaller things like children’s books, pick up a few french movies again, start watching the movies I know and love with the french subtitles on, so that when I get to the tomes that are untranslated I will have developed the comprehension skills to hear his words meaning.

To live compassion and peace, I must meditate and read works that inspire this behavior, but mostly what I must do is one dirty dish at a time, one aggressive speeding vehicle endangering me, one angry bitter thought by me, one harsh word by  another, one chance to consume what I don’t need, cling to something as “Mine!”, or run away from responsibility or pain; one choice at a time I must place the ethic of compassion first and embrace with gratitude what is, even when “what is” is not my mess, or worse yet is my mess.  Accepting that this messy, sometimes selfish, sometimes lazy and incredibly imperfect person is who I am, and that this harsh, materialistic and power hungry culture is my home environment but not neither of these realities are necessarily where I live or who I have to be.

*refers to the book “A Wrinkle in Time* which I am currently reading to my patients and personally think everyone  will love and should read aloud to someone or someone’s at least once in their life.

 

 

 

Why read blogs….

 I haven’t ever really needed a reason to read since I first realized letters formed together in order were a tool of communication. I have always read whatever I could get my hands on, from milk cartons to newspapers to road signs to mountains of books. As a child I actually got so bored with seeing the same street signs I began phonetically reading them backwards. So my initial reason to read a blog is because it exists and has words on it.

As I have aged and the block of time expended has amassed a size exceeding the block of time stretching before, I have become more selective. There are actual books I have started that I have left unfinished, words I have skimmed over or ignored as unnecessary. Words now need to inform, entertain or inspire to warrant my investment of time. Blogs make all three available to me: second reason to read a blog is the information contained therein and the entertainment value of how it is presented.

Finally, I am hungry for real human connection. Overscheduled, rarely alone, and gifted with an abundance of people I call friends, my life is still empty of much intimacy. I itch for the touch of one mind or soul sharing energy.  Reading Blogs simulates that intimacy, sometimes even stimulates it.  Blog reading is to intimacy in cyberspace what sexual attraction is to real time interaction.  In the right amounts and chosen wisely, blog reading (and writing) can instigate real relationships with the author’s ideas, but reading blogs can also just be a way to scratch the itchy edges of loneliness without  ever filling or healing the wounds. 

So to sum it all up, sometimes I read blogs for the pleasurable experience of reading, sometimes for cheap entertainment, sometimes to make and find connections with others, to find new ideas and understand the real stories of other lives; and sometimes, sometimes I read blogs just as an addictive escape from having to re-organize my life into a shape that accommodates real time friendship development.

Why do you read Blogs?