I don’t know why I stopped reading books after being an avid reader all of my life. But I did. It began the year I was in Palm Springs,
The obvious excuse is language had become superfluous in the suburbs. I rarely had a serious conversation with anyone. But that can’t be it. I continued my blog, words were as important as ever. It was just a loss of discipline and desire.
Brian once told me he could tell when I’d been reading because I was more interesting to be around. My apologies to everyone for being such a bore these last couple of years.
I’m fortunate to have three women friends who were all born the last week of November 1949. Each reads voraciously. They keep encouraging me to get back on that pony and ride.
Something got a hold of me last Saturday. I went online to renew my library card then tried to download a book. It failed so I walked to the library and checked one out. I left with James Brown squealing in my head. “I’m back! I’m back! I’m back!”
I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed getting lost in the stacks and the daydreams provoked by unknown titles. It’s one place where I’m never aware of time. I paid homage to Mark & Charley’s mural in the Hormel reading room. Then to the enigmatic B inscribed on the donor board’s long list of names. “Get up offa that thing, and feel the new vibration!”
It’s too soon to proclaim victory but I took home Four Seasons in Rome, read it, then returned it Thursday. “I-like-it! I-like-it! I-like-it!”
The catalyst was a trip to Napa the previous week to see one of the three horsewomen of the bibliotheca, Linda. We hadn’t been together since Noreen’s cranberries. I had given her the Last Riots that day. That’s when you read someone the act one final time.
Actually, never in a million years would I presume to talk to a friend like that. But there’s a subtle subtext here that the world revolves around me. Someday the holy fathers and red hot mamas of the Catholic Church will be using this blog to evaluate me for sainthood, I keep the drumbeat going.
Linda was in dire straights that Thanksgiving and now not so much. She deserves all of the credit.
The morning of this visit I wanted to take her something. I came up with a gift that was a little bit Rose Kennedy (the things children make themselves mean the most) with a dash of Elizabeth II (framed portrait of me anyone?) The photo is me sporting a look that’s just a little bit south of Till Eulenspeigel. It’s from our Budapest trip. The sentiment recalls Linda’s time in Indiana eight years ago.
Her return flight that summer was at 6 a.m. from the Indianapolis airport. 3 hours from my condo. The day before we took a trip to the architectural wonder that is Columbus, IN. That was followed by lunch and a quick tour of the campus in Bloomington. Then we headed to our hotel in the capital city.
We missed our turnoff but could see where we were going. Indianapolis is on a grid. Anyone with a sense of direction can navigate it. That, of course, doesn’t factor in dead ends, portions of the infrastructure untouched since the Taft Administration or hellacious thunderstorms.
Our hotel was in a stand of high-rises looming directly north. We were gaining on them as daylight savings was suddenly occluded by black storm clouds. We zigzagged through the old industrial section near Eli Lilly.
The steady pelt we’d driven through instantly became a gully-washer. The narrow brick-paved street’s clogged drains could not handle the torrents being dumped on it. A huge pool rapidly grew in front of us as we watched an approaching car barely get through. I didn’t chance it.
At that moment I realized even boring mid-west flatlands can have slight inclines. We made a sharp left into a tiny parking lot that was empty. All of its water was draining into the newly formed Lake Naptown.
The answer is always patience but I didn’t have forty days or nights. Linda was unusually quiet as we watched the water rise above the bottoms of car doors in the street.
There was an opening in the opposite corner of the lot away from the standing water. It was between a derelict building and a concrete parking block. If we could squeeze through then go over the sidewalk we could escape via an adjacent street.
One slight miscalculation. We got out of the lot but only after feeling two dramatic thuds on the passenger side. The wheels had traversed the concrete block. On higher ground, it was a straight shot to the hotel’s cocktail lounge. The second round came rather quickly that evening.
As I retell these stories involving friends, I’m hearing that experiences I thought were just another day in the life were, for them, ones of white-knuckled terror.