Friday, December 31, 2004

in the little town where my parents live, the business district is really only a handful of streets. one narrow thoroughfare is less than a mile long and lined with old two-story buildings, the kind with shops on the first floor and residences on the second. whenever i visit, we amble down this road, poking our heads into each quaint shop.

at thanksgiving, we visited the jeweler. my mom needed a necklace repaired. we discovered that the owners, who had run this shop for years and years, were retiring soon. while my mom talked to the counterperson, my dad and i stayed in the man section, hovering over that one glass case that every jeweler has filled with watches and mannish rings (if there is such a thing).

standing there, peering into the case, i mentioned in passing a watch i liked. my generous parents encouraged me to try it on. it was a heavy silver thing and weighed down my wrist, a grown-up watch with links to be taken out and adjusted, a far cry from the timex ironman with stinky, plastic wristband that i'm used to.

it was a swell watch, but it seemed kind of fancy to me and i said this. my father balked and said that i was getting older. he reminded me that i wasn't a kid anymore and i needed a nice watch for christsakes. [editor's note: for christsakes added for emphasis.]

last saturday, santa brought me the watch. it was a thoughtful gift but i have to be honest, i can't stop thinking, great, now when i get mugged, they'll steal my wallet and my watch.

next, since i'm not a kid anymore, i may have to follow my dad's example and start wearing shirts that require cuff links. if i do, i'm buying these.

last seen: hideous kinky
last heard: belle and sebastian 'women's realm'
last read: George begs Clarence to let him live again, because it was okay when his brother was dead and his entire town had been taken over by Mr. Potter and turned into seedy strip joints and the pharmacist had accidentally killed that kid, but Mary's being a librarian was the one thing George just couldn't allow to happen.
bonus: dear everyone, please go to my friend jenn's weblog and post the name of five albums you love. she's looking for musical things to explore and fill her new ipod with.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


on the few occasions that i could come up with something to be resolute about, i whispered the thing quietly to myself or, at most, whispered it to only a few close friends. you might guess the reason-- when the time came, usually in the early spring, when i stopped paying attention to whatever it was i was being resolute about, i would have less explaining to do.

this year, inspired by all of the comments left on one of andrea's recent posts, i decided to make a much longer list. i posted it on my refrigerator and decided to post it here, in public, as a way to keep myself honest.

true, my resolutions aren't as brave as the ones people left on andrea's weblog, but if i can put a red line through even a handful of the things on this list, i will count 2005 as one of my more productive years.

I will read something gigantic like Don Quixote, The Bible, Remembrance of Things Past, or Shelby Foote's Civil War.
I will lose 15 pounds.
I will ride a train to Portland.
I will start a savings account.
I will save $1,000.
I will create a budget.
I will pay off my credit cards.
I will cut back on Starbucks.
I will finish watching the AFI 100.
I will be more assertive.
I will learn about the history of my town.
I will find love.
I will visit Derrick and Kendra in Alexandria.
I will start writing a novel.
I will volunteer more.
I will learn to say no.
I will consider becoming a vegetarian again.
I will learn to delegate without feeling guilty.
I will visit the spot where Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico touch and lay down there.
I will get a passport.
I will worry less.
I will learn to waltz with someone.
I will see the Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore.
I will take deep breaths.
I will grow a beard.
I will weed my photographs and clothing.
I will sleep past 8am on Sundays.
I will go camping.
I will teach someone something.
I will learn to play guitar or ukulele.
I will make five contacts in the community where I work.
I will be a good uncle.
I will eat smaller portions.
I will learn to tie five different kinds of knots.
I will ride my bike more often.
I will meet new people.
I will visit Savannah.
I will go fishing at least once.
I will find a reliable turntable.
I will make an appointment at the dentist.
I will get a physical.
I will find a wine I like.
I will cook more often.
I will listen better, listen well, and, generally, pay attention.
I will slow down.
I will be compassionate.
I will run a 10K race.
I will be mindful of what I have and appreciate it.
I will learn to tie a bow tie.

last seen: dodgeball, king arthur, the life aquatic, beautiful dreamer: brian wilson and the story of smile
last heard: the beatles 'i'm only sleeping'
last read: She skipped three grades and graduated from high school at 15; the principal told her she was wasting her time there. Her mother, meanwhile, warned if she did not stop reading she would never marry.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

warm cookies, No Teabagging!, and 3 helpful lists

i trust that you are all enjoying the season. i am. why just this evening there came a soft knock at the screen door and, when i went to answer, a grinning older neighbor presented two small packages of cookies, still warm and wrapped in wax paper. i know i've mentioned before how all food tastes better if you have to unwrap it from wax paper. this rule counts for cookies and ham sandwiches and various and sundry. all of these things taste better and it counts double if someone has written on the wax paper in grease pencil letting you know the contents of the package, because, really, no one likes surprises.

tomorrow, i travel to the homestead. six hours, starting early. the last present has been wrapped and i checked an audio book out from the library for the drive. i will be listening to palahniuk's diary as read by martha plimpton, one of my secret crushes. don't ask.

well, it started when i was a young boy and watched goonies at the theatre and it blossomed with i shot andy warhol and beautiful girls, but when she yelled out 'No Teabagging!' in pecker that kind of sealed the deal. a girl for the YES pile. but i digress.

before i leave for a few days, i thought i'd follow everyone's lead and create a few end-of-year lists. books and music and movies are the only things that matter, as anyone with good sense will tell you, so those are the lists that i made. the items below weren't necessarily released in 2004, i just consumed them during that calendar year.

6 books i enjoyed
middlesex- jeffrey eugenides
last report on the miracles at little no horse- louise erdrich
blindness- jose saramago
enemies, a love story- isaac bashevis singer
white noise- don delillo
we wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families- philip gourevitch [editor's note: you might like to read this last one, if you plan to see hotel rwanda soon.]

8 records i played quite a lot
camera obscura- underachievers please try harder
the owls- our hopes and dreams
iron and wine- the creek drank the cradle
the clientele- suburban light
simon and garfunkel- bookends
monade- socialisme ou barbarie
sufjan stevens- greetings from michigan
the kinks- village green preservation society

10 films that are not sideways
night of the hunter
my life without me
the taking of pelham one two three
the man who shot liberty valence
city of god
eternal sunshine of the spotless mind
the odd couple
being there
fog of war

last seen: auntie mame, howard and melvin, bad santa
last heard: swingle singers 'flight of the bumblebee'
last read: Are the days of the library as a social organism over? Almost certainly not, for reasons practical, psychological and, ultimately, spiritual.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

there was a short time, maybe a year and a half, when my sister and i lived in the same town as grown-ups. we finished school in separate cities and, by chance, we ended up moving to the same town.

each of us had an apartment and a full-time job and, even though she's younger, she was kind of more grown-up than me because she owned a washer and dryer and i did not. we saw each other on weekends, met for dinner sometimes. i really enjoyed having her here just to call or visit.

a short time later, she and my brother-in-law moved to virginia; now, we see each other just a few times per year, mostly around holidays. this week, she was in town visiting her in-laws and we spent friday afternoon together.

when you live far away from your family, you forget how nice it is to spend time with someone so familiar, someone who knows you that well. it's comforting in a way that few things are. we saw a movie and did some christmas shopping and ate korean food.

now that we live in separate towns again, one of the things i miss most is the constant laughter. my sister and i inherited great timing and quick delivery from our parents, both of whom are quite funny.

for example, once my sister called to see what i was up to. i told her that michael and i were sitting in a starbucks. she then asked, are you guys celebrating the moments of your lives?

see she's funny.

so when, on friday afternoon, from the passenger seat of my car, my sister phoned her husband, i laughed, but was not at all surprised to hear her ask him the following:

did you and your brother like blade:trinity?...was it everything you hoped it would be?...did you spoon afterwards?

like i said, funny.

last seen: bang the drum slowly, spanglish, the man who would be king, monster, kinsey
last heard: tommy james and the shondells 'crimson and clover'
last read: One leftover airline peanut: Cuts the taste of the urine.
reading: ann patchett bel canto

Monday, December 13, 2004

this was the first weekend in a few that did not require traversing great distances by car, then sleeping in beds that were not my own. i needed a weekend like this, a weekend spent close to home.

friday was christine's thirtieth birthday party. she was completely surprised by the surprise party. we had food and cake and played games and didn't go home until after midnight. christine's family was there, as were many, many library people.

her sister hosted the party. at one point, the hostess and i conspired to shuffle the large metal letters on her mantel. we rearranged N-O-E-L to read L-E-O-N. while i'm sure we aren't the first americans to do such a thing, it certainly felt like i invented it. it took two full hours for any other partygoers to notice our juvenile prank. in that time, whenever my eyes fell upon the name LEON, i would giggle to myself.

last seen: the firm/elephant, ocean's twelve, closer, the life and death of peter sellers, the inn of the sixth happiness
last heard: the 19th (and final) disc of jonathan franzen's the corrections
last read: I think we need here a fundamental distinction between the God of Aristotle or Spinoza and the Gods of the Christian and the Islamic Revelations.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

three things i learned about the future
while watching THX 1138 this morning

-in the future, dinner equals these little freeze-dried blocks of food and maybe 4 or 5 pills on the side. also, you don't get pie.

-in the future, almost all men and women wear crisp, white, tunic-y looking clothes (NOT sweaters with holes in them, as reported elsewhere).

-in the future, everyone is bald...except for that one midget you meet in jail.

last seen: the saddest music in the world, THX 1138
last heard: the fiery furnaces 'mason city'
last read: It may be that the degeneration of liberal democracy to populism will be the fundamental problem of the future.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

sam and i were back in town by two this afternoon. i stood in his driveway and watched him take his baby from his wife's arms and, gently, kiss her on the forehead as though he had been gone for weeks. really, we were just gone for one day.

we spent yesterday in durham, there to see the magnetic fields. we met pinky and mr. p for the show and even spotted christa, just before the music began.

it was my first road trip with sam. most of our time in the car, we talked about movies. he is teaching a class this semester on american film of the 1970s, so we brainstormed titles that he could possibly use for the last screening/final exam next week. the goal was to pick something not-so-obvious.

we talked about a lot of films, but i think the winner was the last detail. if you haven't seen it, you really should. also, if you're looking for something to rent, other titles that came up were a woman under the influence, scarecrow, the conversation, and the last picture show. i'll come watch them with you, if you cook.

last seen: high plains drifter, gloria
last heard: sufjan stevens 'vito's ordination song'
last read: philip roth the plot against america
reading: charles m. schulz the complete peanuts 1950-1952