All the cool kids are doing it

“It” being responding in kind to this gorgeous piece by Elizabeth Eslami which asked this question: “If you could talk to your 16-year-old self, what would you say?  What advice, warnings, or encouragement would you give your younger self?”

Dale Favier responded in kind.  And then Jessamyn Smyth chimed in.  These are especially poignant to me now because I just signed up for my 25th reunion and I’m remembering that girl.  So here’s mine:

Oh.  Hello, you.  Mom must have just told you that letting your hair fall in your eyes makes you look like your IQ is plummeting.  I can tell because you dipped your head to encourage that shaggy blonde veil further downward.

You think you want to be more bohemian, but your native timidity and small budget means you’re wearing that sparkly, fringed Indian scarf with an inherited bespoke white men’s dress shirt of considerable antiquity, jeans, and boots I would covet even today.  You don’t really understand yet that these half measures of prep and boho actually add up to an individual style.  Or they will.  Eventually.

You probably wouldn’t recognize your dreams in my life.  Your head is full of theatre and art and music.  You’re looking forward to a life on the stage and you can’t imagine any other way to be.  It’s okay: the skills you take for granted today will be seen as unusual assets in the life you forge later.  But go ahead and continue violently rejecting the idea of a life that you would probably see as not for you.  That change will come with surprising swiftness and a sudden load of self-knowledge I am still sorting through to this day.

You’re not as angry as you think you should be.  Stop pretending.  Happiness isn’t weakness and cynicism isn’t intelligence.

I’m sorry you’re feeling that piercing pain of first love lost.  It will take a while to heal.  Let it.  Because decades later that healing will allow you to feel so much joy when he contacts you and asks for forgiveness.  You may find it hard to believe that the forgiveness will flow so easily and make you so happy, but it will.

Listen more.  Speak less.  You will start to like yourself a lot more when you can exist on the periphery of a group as easily as you claim its center.  As an added bonus, other people will like you better too.

Those people who terrify you with their confidence?  They will later tell you that they think you’re the one who has it all figured out.  But here’s the big secret: nobody has it figured out.  Anyone who tells you they do is either kidding or lying.  Avoid those people.

Stop looking around for the love of your life.  You haven’t met him yet, and you’re in for a lot of learning about love and relationships.  That’s okay too.  All that learning means he’s easier to spot when he does show up.

You know what?

Keep doing exactly what you’re doing.  It turns out pretty great in the end.

He’s a magic man…

I got a Wii console for my 40th birthday – because though I may be 40, inside I am 12.  I generally use it to work out (EA Sports Fitness – though occasionally glitchy – is surprisingly intense), though I did get sucked into “World of Goo” on a friend’s recommendation.  Other than that, we only have the sports game that came with the console.  We had a party recently for my school colleagues, and the Wii was the hit of the party.  There is something about the game that seems to bring out the positive, encouraging side of people.  Miss a hit in baseball?  Nobody jeers.  Instead, cries of “You wuz ROBBED!” ring out, even from the opposing side.

As someone who really hates what my mother calls the “nyah nyahs,” I have been surprised to witness this sort of behavior.  Life has taught me more often that games where there are winners and losers are just… well, nasty.

Even John, who doesn’t really like video games, likes to play Wii.  Well, he likes to play Wii Bowling.  Since we are both New England kids, I usually respond to his, “Wanna bowl?” with, “Yeah – ya gonna take me bowlin’ an’ buy me a beah?”  We’re pretty well matched and the usual score is close.  But I found out today that John, well… he’s a magical Wii bowler.  He ran upstairs to do something when I was playing my turn, and his turn came before he had returned.  Suddenly, his figure went live, and I watched his Mii bowl a perfect strike.  Moments later, he ran downstairs and said, “How’d I do?”  He had brought his controller upstairs with him and heard it “ding.”  So he played his turn blind.  From upstairs.

Magic, I tell you.

(He smoked me that game by over 30 points.)

Taking my readers to school

This probably won’t ever become a library blog, but I know a bunch of my readers share my gung-ho-osity* for institutions of literacy.  Therefore, I’m passing along this article from The Economist about libraries in cowboy country that one of my classmates found. Aside from what it says about the reading habits of my own local area in comparison to other areas, it’s very heartening.

* It is so a word.  Okay, so it isn’t.  But loopy neologisms are my thing.

Remedial Reading

Ever have one of those moments where you realize that you’ve heard about something for a really long time, and yet you have no notion of what that thing really is?  And that the thing you had heard of is something that, given your background, age, or proclivities (or all of the above) is probably something you should have known more about?

For me, recently at least, this thing is The Dark is Rising Sequence.  I had never read it.  I would hear occasionally about it – mentioned in the same canonical category as the Narnia books, or Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain.  I was a kid who, for some considerable period of time in the fourth and fifth grades, never left the house without at least two of the Narnia books with me (it wouldn’t do to be caught out in case I re-finished one and had to start another – I have no idea how many times I re-read all of them).  I engaged in some very earnest conversations with a friend, another girl with similar interests, about the proper way to keep them on the shelf (in order of their writing or chronologically).  I also loved the Lloyd Alexander series and re-read it many times, though I didn’t own it until adulthood.

Other authors did, of course, pass my way.  I read the T.H. White Camelot books once, but those books didn’t engage me for the multiple re-reads of the others (had his wonderful Mistress Masham’s Repose not been out of print when my family read it, we probably would have owned it instead of borrowing, and I probably would have torn through it a few times more, but it wasn’t, so we didn’t, and I couldn’t).

I had lots and lots of well-meaning adults recommend books to me, based on my love of fantasy and escape.  But I don’t think anyone ever recommended The Dark is Rising to me.  Which is really odd.  I was the right age (the books were published in the 60’s and 70’s), had the right sort of tastes (see above), and I had seemingly endless afternoons of New Hampshire summers to curl up on the sofa and read.

I wonder how this oversight happened.  At any rate, it’s being rectified now.

Mama Gallup

My mother has a hilarious (and dead-on) take on the aftermath of the NH primary. 

If statisticians had any idea about the NH psyche, they would have thrown in or invented a perversity factor.

You tell ’em, Mom.

Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall

I have been accused of being difficult.

Control your shock, please.  I’m speaking of something specific.  Both my husband and mother have told me that purchasing gifts for me is fraught, since I tend to buy the things I want for myself, with some alacrity.

So it was with great forbearance that I put James Taylor’s “One Man Band” into my Amazon wishlist some time before Christmas, and waited.

And waited.

No dice.

So, what’s a girl who has been accused of a behavior to do, but repeat it?  I ordered it earlier this week, and it arrived.  We’ve listened to the CD, and now I’m watching the DVD portion of our show.  And I can’t help but be reminded of my first concert.   Which is a bit of a story in and of itself.

I was about 12, and my aunt, my dad’s sister Judith, informed me that it was time I saw some live music.  She told me that she was going to take me to a concert as a gift.   She also made it clear that this was a rite of passage – one that was not to be avoided or delayed.  She handed me a Boston Globe advertisement for “Concerts on the [Boston] Common” and told me to choose a concert.  No pressure.


The rite of passage, the solemnity with which she intoned that It Was Time I Did This: frankly, this scared the ever-living crap out of me.  My incredibly sheltered, small-town, 12-year-old mind was possibly imagining opium dens – if she had a single clue about what opium dens might consist of (hint: not a single iota of an idea).

But James Taylor was on that list.  The idea that James Taylor might exist outside our family’s stereo’s speakers (I speak broadly here – I’m not aware of a member of my dad’s side of the family who is not a fan) was a little alarming, but the opium dens receded a bit (not entirely – I was aware that “A Junkie’s Lament” was not exactly about monkeys and snickers bars, but I had no more idea about the mechanics of heroin addiction than I did about the circuitry of an ENIAC).  I told Jude that JT it was.

It was five of us who went that clear summer night – Judith, her husband Chris, my uncle Bob, and his wife Kate.  Four people who were then  younger I am now, ostensibly escorting a 12-year-old to her first concert (Jude is 11 years older than I am, more of an age to be a cousin than an aunt.  Bob is closer in age to my dad.  God love ’em for putting up with me).

I was still terrified.  Excited, but terrified.

As we went through the entry, Chris noted the whiff of pot smoke – did I mention I was scared?  Yeah.  We found our seats as the opening act (Karla Bonoff) finished her current hit (the forgettable “Personally,” which Judith excoriated).

I sat, nervous as a cat.  I was uncertain, tense, thrilled.  And then JT came on.  And I began to have some clue about why concerts are such compelling things.  Seeing someone live has an energy that is impossible to replicate, but with JT there are those “How did he do that?” moments – tricks of timing and skill that are akin to stage magic.  I’ve seen him several times since, and he always seems to have some variety of that trick in his shows: something that shows off his skill with timing, but in a low-key, seemingly casual manner.

In the case of this show back in the early 80’s, it was him singing “You’re Just In Love (I Wonder Why)” as a duet with a reel-to-reel tape deck, with the deck providing pithy, spoken psychoanalysis to the psychosis provided by the song (e.g. “I smell blossoms and the trees are bare…”  “Ah.  Olfactory hallucination…”).  The trick doesn’t seem too wonderful, unless you’ve had to try to time something live to match something recorded.  Not so easy.

As evidenced by this latest DVD, he’s still at it, but with massively geared drum mechanisms and a video containing a subset of the Tanglewood Festival Choir.  I’m no longer afraid of opium dens, but a JT concert still has the ability to give me that uncertain, nervous, thrilled feeling.

Thanks, James.

“No joy greater”

Oh, I’m so proud.*  My hometown made the big-city newspaper. 

This is why Northern Exposure, in all its loony, small-town glory made perfect sense to me.

*You do see the correct use of sarcastic font, don’t you?

Small-Town Drama at its Finest

Well, here’s a screamer of a headline: “Hollis Tightens up Rules at Transfer Station.”

Shorter Nashua Telegraph: don’t hang out at the dump.

Smug big-city folk can stop snickering.  Yes, we hicks really do consider the town dump to be a social center.  It’s also a great place to get a cat.