Sunday, August 31, 2008

Walking Around With Your Head in the Clouds

I try to walk to the library everyday. The journey is about three miles round trip, which is just enough to qualify as both exercise and a chance to clear my head (which is usually pretty empty, anyhow). The walk follows a busy street, but there are sidewalks and some great architecture along the way--two gorgeous churches, the high school campus, the town hall, and a few blocks worth of old Victorian homes, some of which are well-preserved historical homes, whereas others have fallen into extreme disrepair, making it look as though every fifth house or so is haunted or infested with witches. I also pass a street where one of America's most famous traitors lived, a big cemetery, and a two statues, one honoring civil war dead and the other honoring the Italian community in town. A pretty interesting three miles, all in all.

Today I started the walk with my iPod playing my '50's-early '60's playlist, because music from that era is fuel for a project I'm working on. I stopped at a yard sale about a half-mile into my walk, and I found a book called Populuxe by Thomas Hines, which has a tagline that reads "The look and life of America in the '50's and '60's, from tailfins and TV dinners to Barbie dolls and fallout shelters." I read the book years ago and loved it, so was thrilled to get it (for a whole buck).

Now, I understand that it probably sounds terribly contrived to be taking a stroll, thinking about a project I'm writing concerning the 1950's, listening to 1950's music, and then finding a great reference book which has the exact sensibility about the 1950's (for a whole buck) that I'm incorporating in the project, but that's the way life is. I'm a great believer in synchronicity. The universe provides; one just needs to sharpen one's awareness of that fact.

But finding the book wasn't even the weird part of today's trek.

On the way home I was approaching a home that had a "apartment for rent" sign on the lawn. Many of the Victorians have been converted into multi-family homes. At this particular one where the sign was, the lawn was overgrown and the hedge was reaching out over the sidewalk. A flower garden along the foundation was sprouting onto the porch, and there were a few decorative trees and bushes in the yard that were sorely in need of trimming. The house is still gorgeous, well-shaded and set back from the street. All the house needs is a little yard work and horticultural attention.

I started thinking about a down on his luck character who offers to do the yard work in exchange for a reduced rent, and the owner of the home, a kind but stingy elderly lady who remembers when our town was in it's heyday, reluctantly agrees, but only if the man also agrees to do "some repairs" to the house itself. He agrees, and in re shingling the roof, he finds...

I know, I know. I was supposed to be thinking about the 1950's project. It's a long walk, and I'm not always the most focused of individuals.

Anyway, when I pulled even with the sidewalk-encroaching hedge, I looked down and saw there was a Ouija board laying on the grass. As if that was creepy enough, a leaf floated down from the big maple tree just inside the hedge and landed on the board.

One doesn't normally find Ouija boards taking a walk, I think. I've written before about my nebulous belief in signs and portents; I'm not quite sure what this would auger. The tip of the leaf was pointing at the "H", if that is any help.

I wonder if it will still be there tomorrow? And I wonder just what I will do if, as I approach, "Pledging My Love" by Johnny Ace playing through my headphones, another maple leaf drifts down, alighting on the board to point starkly at the "I"?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

More Fun in the New World

A few appearances for September:

New England Independent Booksellers' Association (NEIBA) Regional Trade Show: Sept. 19 at 2:30, Hyatt Convention Center, Boston, signing.

Barnes and Noble, Canton CT: Sept 25 at 6:00, signing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My Wild Life, Part XVII

I was jogging in the park near my house today. Their are some trails that cut through the woods around the park, which I enjoy because they are not well travelled so no one has to listen to me gasp and wheeze. I don't even have to listen to me gasp and wheeze, because I use my iPod to blot out the my death rattle. Plus, I sweat like Shaquille O'Neal during the playoff and who wants to see/experience that? I'm really quite unpleasant.

I like to listen to the same playlist that I write to when I jog, which currently is five hundred and fifty five loud songs. "So Far" by Buckcherry had just come on (which would be a contender for my personal theme song, if I could have one--that or "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Want to Rock and Roll) by AC/DC) as I started up the steeper of the two hills on the trail when I surprised a family of deer. The buck was pretty big and bounded off to the left, the doe wasn't so big and bounded to the right. Their fawn kind of took two steps to the right and stopped alongside the path.

What beautiful animals! There arrival seemed portentous in a way I wasn't sure of at the time. Here I was, in the third month or so of a serious health kick, and I'd just read a bunch of outdoorsy Hemingway, and I'm still aching from the loss of my own beautiful animal. I'm a big believer in signs and omens, and am very superstitious. For example, my superstitions include wearing my underwear backwards on Thursdays, wearing a tiny effigy of myself on a silver chain around my neck, and saying a quick prayer to the Great Pumpkin, gourd almighty, whenever I eat yams (note: none of the proceeding is true; I'm far too superstitious to tell you any of my actual superstitions).

I slowed my pace and tried to sound a little less like a rapidly deflating Moon Bounce, not wanting to startle the deer any more. The parents had stopped their flight to keep an eye on junior; when I was at the crest of the hill. I turned back and all three were rejoining on the path. Awwww.

It took me awhile to figure out what the appearance of the deer family in my life meant, omen-wise, but I think I've got it:

The bucks and dough will always flee from me, but kids will enjoy watching me suffer.

Or maybe they were just a particularly sparkly point of beauty in an overall great day. Who knows? I hope I'm having yams tonight.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Rest in Peace

Actually, we don't really know when Bonny was born. She'd been an abused dog; my wife got her from the humane society. She had relatives that worked there and said that she might make a good dog for us. They'd taken her from a home where she'd been locked in the closet with a half dozen or so of her puppies. The puppies, thankfully, were all adopted prior to Kim going to meet her. She was our Valentine's Day gift to each other soon after we got married.

They were wrong about her being a good dog for us, though. She was the best.

Quiet, gentle, and friendly, Bonny weathered all manner of changes with us--new homes, new jobs, new babies, life and death. In great health for most of her relatively long life, this year was a bit of a struggle for her, she had developed a number of ailments that meant that she would not be with us much longer.

A month or so ago I took her out for one of our midnight walks, and somehow she slipped the leash. I live next to a very busy street (even at midnight), and in the past her infrequent escapes would be major cause for alarm, and I would typically give chase as soon as I knew that she was "off the hook", usually catching her in an open field about a half mile down the road when she was too tired to run anymore. I was always amazed at how my fury and rage at her unwillingness to stop would give way to thankfulness that she hadn't been squished by a passing semi the moment I scooped her up in my arms.

Anyway, a month or so she got away. You'd think I'd be able to outrun an arthritic, 112 year old dog (human years) with kidney problems, but not so. She was off like a shot, the Bonny of old, and down the hill before I even knew she was gone.

I didn't take after her that time, I just sat down under an apple tree in my yard. About twenty minutes later she came bounding up the hill, a look of pure joy on her face as she slathered me with her tongue. This was a dog who had not been able to get up the stairs for the past few months, leaping and dancing around like she'd discovered the fountain of doggy youth (and not sewer run-off, like usual). She was spry as a puppy when I brought her inside and gave her a treat, although about ten minutes later she zonked out on her bed and slept straight through until morning.

She looked about as happy as I'd ever seen her after she returned that night, about as happy as she when we first brought her home and she realized that my wife and I weren't monsters who were going to lock her in a dark closet.

I didn't realize it at the time, but now I know that I was every bit as happy as she was.

Goodbye, Bonny.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Oprah Loves Zombies

Well, sort of. Generation Dead is on her recommended reading list, along with the spectacular book The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by the very reputable E. Lockhart and a number of other cool books.

Check it out here.