Archive for the ‘Books and Reading’ Category

Good! Better! Best!

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

Day 33 — The day started out like gangbusters (for a hospital day).  The Occupational Therapist came in before Nyel had even begun his breakfast.  “What do you want to do today?” she asked.   “”I like to try standing up,” he said.

Not a new goal, to be sure, but given his weakened condition and loss of muscle mass — to say nothing of being able to reach the ground with only one leg — a most worthy desire.  His body seemed to say, “Your wish is my command!” and, with a great deal of physical effort and will power, he did it.  He stood up!  For more than a minute!!  He even was able to bend his right knee enough so that he could put his left foot flat on the floor for a few seconds.  OMG!  When I said to him, “You’ll be able to walk with the walker before you know it!” he responded:  “What do you mean?  I’ll be walking with a cane before you know it!”   (I tried not to let him see my tears… but then: “Cut it out or you’ll make me cry, too.)

The Shoe Fitting

Not very long later, here came the orthotics team to measure him for a built up shoe.  We showed them Nyel’s new pair from Freddie’s as well as his old (preferred) loafers and since they said the loafers would work just as well… guess who gets to return a pair of shoes on her next trip to the beach?  But Nyel is very pleased and, truthfully, so am I.  New Balance shoes just aren’t Nyel…

It looks like they will be adding about three inches to that left shoe — not quite enough to compensate for the loss of length as they want to leave enough room so he can swing the foot forward with each step and not have it catch on the ground and trip him up.  They expect to have the shoe ready this afternoon so that he can try it on and they can make further adjustments, if necessary, before he is discharged.

Nyel’s “new” shoes arrived at 4:30 — just five hours after his fitting!

Those discharge plans are still in a bit of flux.  It’s looking more like Saturday rather than Friday right now IF Seaside’s swing bed facility takes people in on the weekend.  (If not, it could be Monday.)  The only thing we know definitely is that he will not be going to the Ocean Beach swing bed facility.  Although they were approached again, Nyel is still “too complicated” for our little hospital in Ilwaco.  Dang!  We were told last week that Seaside has accepted him facility-wise; they are just waiting to see if his discharge coordinates with a free bed in a private room (which apparently is a requirement set by the team here.)

A Gift From Elizabeth

And, as if all that were not enough excitement for one day, here came one of the aides with a package addressed to Nyel, c/o St. Vincent’s Hospital via USPS Media Mail from The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona.  “Who do we know in Scottsdale?” we both asked in unison.  The package contained C.J. Box’s latest book, “The Wolf Pack” and the only clue to the sender’s identity is a bookmark with a two bright red words in felt tipped marker:  “From Elizabeth.”    That narrows it down some…

Oh.  And one other thing.  As of today, Nyel is now back on all the oral meds he was on BTF (Before The Fall.)   Yay!!!  Home gets closer and closer.


When Past, Present, and Future Collide

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

Notre Dame Burns

What happened to me today could probably be called an epiphany of sorts.  But I think it was something much less grand.  Something like getting a dose of reality.  Or putting things in proper perspective.  Or just plain being bummed out.

It actually began yesterday afternoon with a picture of Notre Dame on fire.  Eight hundred years of art and culture going up in flames!  I might well have been in the path of the smoke right here in Oysterville.  My eyes burned and the tears coursed down my cheeks.  But it wasn’t just the objects, themselves – it was that tangible grasp of history that the cathedral had provided to all of us – all thirteen million of us – who paid homage to our past each year by visiting Our Lady of Paris.

I first went in 1958 and then many, many more times.  I’ve taken guided tours, climbed the 422 steps or, sometimes, have gone to simply sit and look.  I’ve been there with loved ones who are no longer with us; I’ve been there on my own on a snowy winter night long ago.  Notre Dame is part of my history, too.

Published 4/16/2019

Today, I listened to environmentalist Bill McKibben talk on the radio about his new (just out today) book, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?  He pulls no punches when he talks about where we are here and now in the matter of climate change.  The book begins: “I think we’re uniquely ill prepared to cope with the emerging challenges. So far, we’re not coping with them. Still, there is one sense in which I am less grim than in my younger days. This book ends with the conviction that resistance to these dangers is at least possible.”

And I began to think – to seriously think – about living at sea level as the polar ice caps melt at ever increasing rates.  If, as I heard a “reliable source” say not long ago, the seas rise 30 feet in the next 80 years, that’s fewer years than I am old.  It is happening now!  In the present!

So… what of the future?  Perhaps my dream of making this place of ours into a small house museum so that future visitors might get a glimpse into our past… perhaps that is an unrealistic notion.  Perhaps we should sell while we still can and take the money for a whirlwind trip to see all the world’s historic landmarks while there is yet time?  But… to what end?  Change is inevitable and even memories fade…

Say what? Oysterville, Connecticut?

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

First Cousin Craig Little

My cousin Craig called last night from his home in upstate New York. Craig Little, PhD; recently retired sociology/anthropology professor from SUNY (State University of New York) Cortland; the eldest of my father’s two nephews and, in one of those genetic anomalies, dad’s (almost) spitting image! I hadn’t heard his voice for ten or more years and haven’t seen him since our 2004 Oysterville Sesquicentennial.

He and his wife Elaine have been spending time in Hartford, Connecticut, settling the estate of Elaine’s mother.  It’s a long process, apparently, and has given them a chance to get to know the town.  Among other discoveries are a number of recently restored murals done under the auspices of FDR’s WPA projects.  But, the real reason Craig called is that, somewhere along the way, they ran across a small book called Oysterville: Poems edited by Laurel Peterson.

Oysterville: Poems

“Really?  Oysterville not Osterville?” I asked.  Osterville on New York’s Long Island has been known to be confused with ours.  But, no.  This was Oysterville: Poems and Craig was pretty sure there had never been an Oysterville, Connecticut.  (There is an Oysterville Vodka, however, distilled in Florida and distributed throughout the eastern U.S. Who knew?)    Craig had searched “Oysterville” on his computer and what came up was “Oysterville Daybook” by me.  And my most recent entry (yesterday’s!) had included mention of the WPA.  Wow!  That might be only one or two degrees of separation…

I’m eager to communicate with Laurel Peterson, an English Professor at Norwalk Community College.  I have a few questions for her.  But first I want to read the poems.  The book should be here tomorrow.

Another Missing Bit of Childhood

Friday, February 15th, 2019

On this very date, February 15th, in 1903, the first Teddy bear went on sale.  Little did toy store owner and inventor Morris Michtom realize that he was creating a childhood institution.  He had asked and received permission from President Theodore Roosevelt to use his nickname, Teddy, and had then sewn up a couple of stuffed bears and placed them in his store window.  The rest, as they say, is history.

I don’t believe I ever had a toy bear and I’m not at all sure that my son Charlie did, either.  Certainly, there was never a bear that had a place in our lives like Christopher Robin’s Pooh Bear.  I think that “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” was about the extent of my early bear connection.

I do remember shopping for a little Steiff bear for Charlie when we were in Germany in 1958.  He was two and, somehow, I thought he needed a stuffed bear.  But, even then, they were way too expensive for our meager budget.  The stuffed animal that became his favorite was a dog that we got in Italy.

We had gone into a big department store in Rome, specifically to look for a cuddly stuffed animal.  The salesclerk showed us a big, floppy dog, larger than Charlie.  I kept saying (and motioning with my hands) “smaller” and by inches we were shown smaller and smaller versions of the same stuffed dog.  Each dog was accompanied by the word “piccolo” and by gestures which we soon understood to mean “small.”  And, so it was that Charlie acquired Piccolo Doggie who was, as Goldilocks would have said, “just right” size-wise, and was Charlie’s boon companion for years.

During those years, Charlie and I were also introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh in a book given to Charlie by his Great-Grandmother Little, as I recall.  Later, I enjoyed my own second childhood over and over again by reading those Milne books to my first graders.  Wise old Pooh helped many-a-child of my acquaintance over a rough spot – but he wasn’t technically a Teddy bear and he didn’t come along in time for me to enjoy him during my own childhood.

If I were to examine my character critically, I’d probably come up with a flaw or two that I could credit to the lack of childhood Teddy Bear bonding.  Right up there with that electric train I never got!  Oh well…

Books, Bookstores, and Travel Dreams

Friday, February 8th, 2019

Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores

Last week as Sue and Bill left our Friday Night Gathering, Sue said, “Don’t forget to open the box.  You’ll love it!   It might be the next trip you take!”  I couldn’t imagine what she was talking about and as soon as the last guest had left…

Inside the box was a book.  A most unusual book, indeed.  Its cover opened the wrong way ’round, it was at once a book of paintings and of the written word, and all about a subject near and dear to our hearts – bookstores!  The title: Footnotes*from the World’s Greatest Bookstores by Bob Eckstein, Foreword by Garrison Keillor, *True Tales and Last Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers and Book Lovers.

You may ‘know’ Bob Eckstein as a New Yorker cartoonist or as author of The Illustrated History of the Snowman. You may even know this book which was published by Clarkson Potter in 2016 and landed immediately on the NYT best seller list.  Garrison Keillor needs no introduction.

Unusual Cover Arrangement

Nyel and I spent the next few afternoons sitting side-by-side on the couch, taking turns reading aloud each double-page spread on the 75 bookstores included in this delightful book.  We had not been to all that many – Powell’s in Portland and Elliott Bay in Seattle, of course.  Shakespeare and Company in Paris, Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, and (maybe) the Brattle Book Shop in Boston.

Moe’s in Berkeley and City Lights in San Francisco were old stomping grounds for me and since Nyel has never been to either, that might be our first trip.  How right Sue was!  Each page just calls out. “Come visit!  Come browse!”  And, too, it made me think of favorite bookstores not included – places I hadn’t thought of in years like Foyles in London and Blackwell’s in Oxford.  Time to re-visit those, too.

Plus, the “footnotes” were such fun.  For the Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans (weren’t we there?):  “Anne Rice once arrived at a book signing at the shop by means of a jazz funeral procession in an antique hearse pulled by mules.  She emerged in the bookstore from inside the closed coffin.”

Powell’s – A familiar Favorite

Or in the footnotes about Richard Booth’s Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye, Wales. “Throughout Hay-on-Wye, there are honesty boxes to leave payment for books available on the al fresco bookcases.”  And Anthony Tao of The Bookworm in China:  “During his campaign, President Obama phoned in and fielded question over the speakers from a packed Bookworm bookstore.”

When we owned The Bookvendor in Long Beach we used to say that giving a book is giving a present that can be opened again and again.  This particular book, however, gives you the pleasure of planning journey after journey with entire bookstores to visit along the way there and back again!  What could be more pleasurable? Great idea, Sue!

Just in Case

Saturday, December 22nd, 2018

Adelaide’s at the Taylor Hotel by Jean Stamper

A note on my calendar for today says, “Adelaide’s 1:00 – 2:30” – a reminder to myself to grab some copies of my latest book and head for Ocean Park this afternoon.  When I was there for a caffè mocha the other day, Proprietor Colleen Kelly mentioned that they were having a little “do” this afternoon and I asked her if she’d like me to stop by to sign books… just in case.

Now, I’m embarrassed to say, I’m not sure what kind of an event she has planned.  I think she said Bette Lu Krause would be there with her tee shirts and maybe there’s going to be live music but I’m not sure what else is going on. My impression is that local vendors who have products at Adelaide’s have been invited to be there to ‘meet and greet’ in honor of the season.  Whatever is happening, I’m taking my signing pen along… just in case.

Colleen Kelly with Hank Doodle

Colleen carries a good many of my books.  She’s all about representing local authors and artisans and, speaking for myself, I find she does a terrific job.  More than once, I’ve been in the shop having a coffee and she or one of her wonderful baristas has come over to me and quietly asked if I’d mind signing a book for someone.  I never get over that little puff of excitement I feel when I am introduced to an unsuspecting customer in really-o, truly-o “meet the author” fashion!  I should probably remember to take my pen with me to Adelaide’s all the time… just in case.

Whatever Colleen has planned for this afternoon, I’m sure it will feel warm and welcoming and all about community.  That’s the way Adelaide’s is.  That’s the way Colleen is.  Between the Full Circle at the Ocean Park approach and Adelaide’s at the Taylor Hotel, I think Colleen has served the community for more than forty years.  She knows everybody, never seems to forget a name, makes sure that folks who ‘need’ to know one another get an introduction, and makes even first-time visitors feel like they belong there.  As I say, I’m not sure what will be happening this afternoon, but you’d better come by… just in case!

The Fun Next Door

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

Published in 1939 by Houghton Mifflin Company

When the equipment rolled into town the other day and stopped at the house next door, I couldn’t help wishing that the Oysterville School was still up and running.  The activity that the huge machinery promised would have been the best recess entertainment ever, and the view from the playground across the street would have been just about perfect.

As it is, there has been no regular school in session here since 1957.  That’s when our School District No. 1 consolidated with Ocean Park, Long Beach, and Ilwaco to become part of the Ocean Beach School District.  Gradually, the student population dwindled until there were no longer school-aged children in the village.  But… if there were, they’d love the activity at the Hampson House next door!

Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne

The hub-bub immediately reminded me of a story I used to read to my son Charlie and, also, to the primary-aged children I taught – Mike Mulligan and his Steam Virginia Lee Burton.  Mike bragged that his steam shovel, his beloved Mary Anne, could dig as much in a day as a hundred men could dig in a week.  They get one last chance to prove it by digging a cellar for the new town hall.

They begin at sunrise, and first to come to watch is a little boy.  Work continues as the sun makes its inexorable way across the sky and the crowd gathers.  Gradually, the whole town is watching as Mary Anne and Mike complete the job just as the sun is setting.  Unhappily, though, Mike has not left a way for Mary Anne to exit the new basement.  It is the little boy who suggests the happily-ever-after solution to the problem.

Well… we don’t have a little boy in town to watch and we don’t have a crowd of villagers, either.  I think there could have been a dozen of us in town yesterday – all busy with our own lives and some of us not even clear about the reason for the activity.  “A new septic system?” one neighbor asked.  “No, I think it’s for the foundation of a new addition,” someone else said.  As for us, we are content to take a “time will tell” attitude.

On a Quest in Oysterville

Saturday, October 27th, 2018

No one could possibly mistake Nyel for a Hobbit.  Although he is shy (as are Hobbits) and is capable of great courage and amazing feats under the proper circumstances (as are hobbits), there the similarities end.  He’s not short and stubby.  He has a very respectable beard (which most Hobbits cannot grow) and his feet are neither covered with brown, curly hair nor do they have leathery soles.   He is not fond of beer, does not smoke a pipe, and I’m not sure if he is adept at throwing stones.

No.  Nyel is not a Hobbit.  Certainly, he is not Frodo Baggins.  But he is on a quest for a ring.  His wedding ring.  All of a sudden yesterday, it went missing.  “I was drying my hands after washing them at the kitchen sink and I noticed that it was gone,” he told me.  I was surprised at how upset he was and, also, suddenly aware of how thin he’s become – thin enough so that his ring could fall right off.

First off, I reached down into the garbage disposal and felt all around.  A few bits and pieces of a lettuce core (I think) but that was all.  We aren’t turning it on until we find the ring.  We retraced his steps (actually, his wheelchair tracks) in the carpet.  I looked under all the furniture.  I stripped the bed.  And Nyel called the Ocean Beach Clinic where he’d had an appointment yesterday morning.  I looked in the car and outside in front of the porch where the EMTs had transferred Nyel from wheelchair to car and back again.  All to no avail.

I woke up this morning wondering if a metal detector would work inside the house.  My almost-cuzzins Judy and Ed were here twice during the summer with Ed’s “retirement toy” but he confined his searches to our yard.  I think I’ll call and ask them what they think the possibilities would be of  coming to Oysterville for a wedding-ring-hunt.

Failing that, I think his Christmas gift will be a no-brainer – but only if Holly McCone can do a curbside fitting.  Meanwhile… we are on the quest.  And, if you happen to find a plain gold band with the well-worn initials NLS-SML-09-13-87 inside it, please give a holler.  As far as we know, it has no special powers, but there’s no use risking the fate of Gollum by hanging onto it.

Considering the Dark Side

Saturday, October 20th, 2018

One of the best parts (or maybe the only best part) of being confined to quarters is the opportunity to catch up on our reading.  Both Nyel and I are mystery readers and, for the most part, we like the same authors.  Over the years, we have built a repertoire of favorites, most of whom write a series rather than stand-alone books.  Typically, each author has a new book out every year or so and when you have eight or ten “favorites” it’s sometimes hard to keep up.

Nyel is in charge of book-ordering from the library and usually gets us on the list for new books as soon as they show up on Timberland’s lending list.  Knowing that others are waiting, we try to read the new titles as soon as we get them — sort of in whoever-is-finished-with-their-current-book- first- has -dibs order.

Sometimes two books by two authors arrive at once and it’s a tossup as to who gets which book.  That happened last week and we are both very much engrossed during our free moments.  “How’s your book?” we ask one another periodically.  Usually, it’s an encouraging but non-definitive answer.  We don’t want to give anything away.  But, yesterday, we actually discussed plots.  Just a little.

“I’m sorry to say that [author’s name] seems to have gone to the dark side in this book,” I replied to Nyel’s question.  I was closing my book for the third or fourth time in only a few minutes.  “A teenage girl.  A cutter.” Was all I told him.  But it was enough to prompt this reply about the book he was reading:  “Probably not as bad as cutting off people’s faces and sewing them to soccer balls.”

SAY WHAT!  Yes, those things really happen. And, I’ll admit that one thing I like about both of these particular authors is that they bring current reality into their fictitious stories.  But, for me, there is a line.  I’m not sure what that line is exactly but I think that both of these authors have crossed it for me.  I think I can manage to finish the book I’m reading but I won’t tackle Nyel’s.  I’m way too sensitive.  (Read: squeamish.)

I’m not advocating isolation from the facts about the dark side of humanity, mind you.  I just don’t want to read about them for pleasure.  And it’s not that I want all my mysteries to harken back to my childhood and Nancy Drew.  Or even to be English cozies in the manner of Agatha Christy.  Not at all.  I don’t remember that Dick Francis or Tony Hillerman or Dorothy Sayers ever resorted to what I can only call “shock-value” tactics in their books.  Yet their plots held my attention, their characters were engaging, and their subject matter often topical.  Or maybe I had a thicker skin back then.  So to speak.

Nuggets of Naked Truth

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018

I find little bits of “truth” in unlikely places.  Actually, maybe they should be categorized as “facts” rather than truths.  Take this small passage for instance:  … and a pair of denim trousers with a dreaded elastic waist.  It was perhaps the worst thing about growing old, the pouch she was forced to lug around all day, like her memories of Kim.

It jumped out at me from the middle of Daniel Silva’s latest book, The Other Woman and I find it a most delightful description of my own elderly figure, though I have not yet succumbed to the dreaded elastic waistbands.  This is Silva’s twenty-first book centering on Israeli spy-master Gabriel Allon.  The books are classified as fiction, of course, but they include (maybe more than) nuggets of truth.

Author Daniel Silva, 2013

In this one, there is an entire chapter devoted to Kim Philby and his double-agent cohorts known after-the-fact as “The Cambridge Five.” I remember Philby’s defection to the USSR in 1963 as one of the big shockers after World War II.  I’ve not finished the book yet and so I’m not quite sure how I feel about this real-life character being so central to Silva’s plot.

Actually, this is not a new ploy by Silva.  He often weaves fiction and fantasy together but, until this book, my own knowledge about the world of espionage is too sketchy to be able to discern the differences.  I just know that I usually come away from his books feeling like things in our part of the world are probably under control… barely.

Kim Philby (1912-1988)

This book is right up to date as is typical of Silva.  As the Kirkus review says:   Although he doesn’t name the current American leader, he does mention “a presidential tryst with an adult film star” as well as that president’s strange fondness for Vladimir Putin. Silva depicts a world in which communist true believers are dying out while far-right populists around the world look to the New Russia as a triumph of hard-line nationalism. The alliances that have sustained Western democracies are fraying, and Europe is preparing for a future in which the United States is no longer a reliable friend, nor a superpower.

I don’t know how I’ll feel 200 pages hence.  (Did I say it’s a long book?  478 pages.)  But I do know that Daniel Silva often cuts to the chase.  I mean, really…  the pouch she was forced to lug around all day!  That man does have a way with words!