Book Rec Because I Look Fun or Like a Cowgirl

I don’t go out a whole lot. But three friends in one of my writers’ groups all have birthdays in the first half of November. So we decided to have a non-writing brunch yesterday at a locally owned restaurant.

Here’s a fun thing (for book lovers anyway) that will happen if you eat at Cafe Berlin in Columbia, Missouri. Instead of bringing your bill in one of those vinyl folder things, the waiter will tuck it into a used book. I must look like a fun person or a cowgirl, because this was the title presented to me.

Of course, the danger to the restaurant staff in presenting books to avid readers is that we spend time reading before paying our bills. The six women at my table had a few hoots from this before we left.

It’s a quick read, full of wise, pithy bits of advice.
“Avoid becoming emotional over a jackass.”
“Convincing yourself that a bad idea is a good idea is a bad idea.”
You get the idea.

On a final note, how great is the name Gladiola Montana?

p.s. The food was also excellent.

On Today’s Walk: Surreal Edition

No original photos with this post. I was in a slight hurry walking back to work from my dinner break, which is 4:00-5:00 on Mondays. And taking photos just didn’t seem appropriate to the weirdness I encountered.

Two incidents:

First, I passed a middle aged couple, man and woman I’m pretty sure, standing on a corner, both of them looking at a piece of paper the woman held, and speaking quietly to each other. The man was carrying two smallish portable file boxes, the kind with handles on top that you might use at home to store letter-sized documents. In addition to the paper they were studying, the woman held a similar file box and…a gas can?

I’ve seen too many crime shows. My first thought was that they were going somewhere to destroy evidence. Burn the files, you know. Evidence of what, I’m not sure. Or maybe they were giving away some items to a neighbor. But that’s a boring explanation.

On down the block and around the corner from that mystery was a dead squirrel in the middle of the street, obvious road kill. I’d seen it on my way home already and successfully wiped it from my mind. It was a little harder to forget on the way back however, due to the man who was just coming out of his house and struck up a conversation with me about it.

He was late middle aged and badly in need of a hair cut or a hair clip or something, as his bangs fell down over his eyes. He walked right up to me, waving his hand to get my attention. His verbal greeting was, “See that squirrel there? It’s dead.”

I tried not to be too obvious as I shifted my gaze around scouting out the best escape routes should I need to run. I just nodded at him. “Yeah, that’s too bad.”

“Someone killed it. I don’t know why.”

“Looks like it just got hit by a car,” I told him.

He shook his head. “No. Someone killed it deliberately and put it there. I don’t know why someone would do that. Do you?”

“I sure don’t,” I said. “But I’m running late.” I almost added, have a good evening, as I walked on, but stopped myself from saying it. It wouldn’t have been the right thing for the moment.

So that was my 15-minute jaunt through Weirdsville. I’m a little amused and a little shook. And it’s still three days until Halloween.

On Today’s Walk: Sidewalk’s End Edition

Shel Silverstein warned me this would happen:

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I’m spending a few days with my firstborn while he recovers from surgery. (He’s fine, thanks.) His apartment is located within a mile of just about anything you could want. There are several restaurants nearby, a grocery store four blocks away, two bookstores within a half mile, at least two department stores you can walk to in fifteen minutes, a skating rink! A large and amazing consignment store sits two blocks down the street. All of that just a quick walk from his home.

The rub is that nothing is engineered for pedestrians or bicycles. It’s all designed to encourage driving. I was walking to the convenience store up the street to get us coffee and the sidewalk simply stopped, requiring me to soldier on through a grassy field the rest of the way to the parking lot.

My son told me he walks to the grocery store sometimes, but getting across the major street where it’s located is tricky. “My strategy is sprint and pray,” he says.

For the planet to survive, we need to move away from car culture, but we can’t get individuals to do so on a large scale if we design everything to discourage walking and biking. I’m now even more grateful to live in a city that has invested in trails and seriously promotes active transportation.

You Have the Right to Request a Channel Change

Yesterday I was sitting in a waiting room while my son had some medical scans done. I always have a book handy for such occasions, but it was a little hard to enjoy it while the wall-mounted television blared at loud volume with some police drama involving the search for a child rapist/murderer.

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Photo by Huỳnh Đạt on Pexels.com

Several other people were in the waiting room as well, including a couple of families with young children. I saw one pregnant mom and her partner trying to keep their kids distracted, as they moved to the far side of the room from the TV. Unfortunately, the show was audible from all corners. I could tell the program was disturbing them at least as much as it was me. I remember those pregnancy hormones and the instant overwhelming grief I would feel upon hearing of any harm to a child.  Then, too, who wants their kids to hear discussions of children being horrifically murdered?

After the fourth mention or so from the TV characters about raped and murdered children, I went to the reception desk and asked if there was a way to change the channel. I think the woman working there had been focused on her work and managed to tune out the show. She looked up at the screen after I asked and seemed to realize then what was playing. She handed me a remote, saying, “Of course. Put it on whatever station you want.”

As I turned around with the remote in my hand, the pregnant mom looked me in the eye and offered the most sincere “thank you” I’ve ever heard. I’ve never had cable television, so I don’t even know about channels. “Is there a channel your family likes?” I asked her.

She shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. Anything but that.”

I flipped through a few, trying to find something non-controversial and non-traumatic. I settled on college baseball. After I returned the remote and sat back down, an older man near me thanked me as well.

Here’s the thing. I’m shy. I carry a lot of social anxiety around with me. But of everyone who wanted the channel changed, I was the only one who felt empowered to do something about it. I guess?

If you like police procedurals and want to watch whatever that show was at home, I’m not judging. I, too, sometimes enjoy shows where I feel like an evil doer is brought to justice. But it was so obviously inappropriate for the situation and so obviously distressing a number of people.

Let me give a little pep talk here. It’s not overstepping to say that something is distressing and politely request a remedy. You don’t have to sit there thinking it’s terrible but you just have to live with it. Folks, you have the right to request a channel change.

On Today’s Walk, Finally Spring Edition

We had a long, long, long, hard, hard, hard winter here. What walks I took were utilitarian and accomplished as quickly as possible, with no taking off of gloves to snap photos.

But spring has arrived at long last. I see color popping here and there, new blossoms, life re-emerging.

 

We hunkered down, endured through the gray and cold. Then one day, there were flowers.

Shakespeare’s Henry IV, a Tale for Modern Times

photo of black ceramic male profile statue under grey sky during daytime

Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

A few weeks ago the universe gifted me something I’ve wanted for a long time — the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, in two volumes. I’m pretty sure I’ve read all of his freestanding poems over the years. But I must admit to familiarity with only a small handful of his plays. I decided to make a project of reading and then watching all of the plays, which I can do thanks to my public library’s DVD collection.

So, let’s talk about Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, and how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Though the story follows conflicts between royalty rather than elected officials, many elements seemed all too familiar to me, with parallels to current events. I suppose this is why Shakespeare’s works endure. He captures the universals of the human experience.

King Henry IV, in his efforts to have things 100% his way, ends up stoking rebellion instead. He is free with insults for those who incur his displeasure. Transactional behaviors and relationships abound — characters all trying to use each other. See what I mean? Sound familiar? Throughout the two plays, alliances shift among several factions, and nobody knows whom to trust. Covert help is sought from foreign sources. Each side has its mix of hot-heads (one even nicknamed Hotspur), schemers, sincere believers, and rascals.

This even holds true within the King’s own immediate family. Prince Hal spends his time getting into trouble with a group of wastrels, deliberately keeping expectations for himself low so he can easily exceed them. Meanwhile his younger brother, John (a character who might strike a chord if you’ve ever known an adult child of an alcoholic) just wants to make all of his kin happy through his hard work and rule following.

The Earl of Worcester foreshadows Fox News as a source of disinformation to gin up the case for war for his own purposes. The spirit of Falstaff lives on today in profiteers who seek their own fortunes and comfort above duties to others. Treachery and double dealing are rampant throughout the course of the two plays.

At the very end of part 2, Prince Hal ascends the throne as King Henry V. And suddenly his scandalous former associates are disavowed as no more than coffee boys he only met a time or two. He doesn’t really even know them. (Sorry if that was a spoiler for anyone.)

I guess there are patterns to human affairs.

Notable quote:
Pride defeats its own end, by bringing the man who seeks esteem and reverence into contempt.

On Today’s Walk 12-9-18

On today’s walk, it was sunny but brrr c-c-c-old. On the one-mile lap around my immediate neighborhood, I engaged in not a single spoken conversation. Yet a fair amount of communication happened.

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I ignored the caution sign and went close to peek under the rock, because I’m a rebel without a clue. All I saw was a hole in the ground.