My Tumultuous Relationship With the Public Library

The relationship between myself and the public library has been a somewhat tumultuous one over the years, with many more negatives than positives, although this has been entirely my fault, and like a bad couple who seem to keep breaking up and getting back together, so it is with me and the library, thinking each new time will be different, but so far that has never been the case. There was the Little Rock Public library, the one I grew up visiting, a relationship that started off great as I spent summers throughout childhood checking out as many books as they would allow and returning back countless times for more, but as I got older things changed. I would check out books that seemed interesting at the time and then more often than not I would get distracted with something else and end up not reading them, which wouldn’t have been a problem at all had I remembered to return the books. By the time I left Arkansas to go to college in Minnesota I had racked up over seventy dollars in fees from the library, but my mom bailed me out, giving me a fresh start when I decided to venture into the world of checking out books again.

I stayed away from the library for a few years until I moved to Florida, but the allure of unlimited books drew me back in and I fell into my old habits once again. I didn’t accrue as many fines for not returning books, the total being less than five dollars, and I really did intend on doing the right and responsible thing of paying for my transgressions, but as it turned out, the Fort Pierce library didn’t accept debit cards, they were cash only, which posed a problem for me as I have never been one in adulthood to carry cash on me. A kind stranger overheard the dilemma as I stood at the counter explaining to the librarian that I would have to return to pay my fines after visiting an ATM, and the stranger intervened saying she would pay the fine for me. I had hit rock bottom. I tried to dissuade the generous woman from freeing me from my debt, but she wouldn’t hear of it, no matter how much I pleaded, and eventually, against my will, paid my fine. It was at that moment that I decided I was done with the public library system, preferring instead to purchase books so that I could read what I wanted on my own time, building a personal library that would allow me to choose whatever book interested me as soon as I was ready to read something new. Then I moved to Memphis and the library bug bit me again.

Within the first month of living here I got a library card, you know, just to have one, but I stuck to my guns and for more than a year I didn’t check out a single book. I had all but forgotten about my library card, that is until today. The bank I work at can be pretty slow in the middle of the week with the higher traffic days being Monday and Friday, so to pass the time I will often read until a customer enters the branch, which is what I was doing today, but unfortunately I finished my current book with more than five hours left in my shift, and the temptation to check out a book became to much to resist, so on my lunch break I walked across the parking lot to the library and began browsing the infinite selection of books. I did check out a book, but at least it was only one, telling myself that I would read it, then immediately return it before checking out another. Hopefully this time around I’ll be more responsible and my relationship with the public library will be better than ever before. Only time will tell.

What I’ve Been Reading: Late July/Early August

IMG_4066While the past week has been a little bit cooler than the unbearably hot temperatures that seem to be intent on ruining my life this summer, it has still been too miserable to spend any significant amount of time outside, so I’ve focused a lot of my time lately on doing one of my favorite indoor activities, cross-stitching. I hate to burst your bubble if you read that last sentence and were instantly excited by the prospect of me cross-stitching you something cool and unique to you for Christmas this year, but I was just joking about that, and reading is what was meant to end the last sentence, but at the last second I called an audible thinking that perhaps cross-stitching might provide a few laughs, but now that it’s written, I realize that it’s less funny than it was intended to be, and for that I am truly sorry. Anyway, what I’m trying to talk about is reading, and more specifically what I’ve been reading lately, so without further ado (distractions), I present to you the three books I’ve read over the past couple of weeks.

The first one, “A Visit From the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan, is a book that has traveled with me from Memphis to Florida and then back to Memphis again, always occupying a place on my bookshelf but never really catching and holding on to my interest until recently, and I think it has everything to do with the title, or more specifically the last two words, goon squad. When I hear the word goon my mind takes me back to a Batman television show that I have absolutely no recollection of aside from the fact that the villains were called goons, so in my mind I jumped to the conclusion that this book would be about unsavory characters who lived in a super hero universe, which didn’t seem all that appealing to me, but I finally gave it a chance and I’m very glad that I did because it turned out to be a pretty good read. It’s a story that centers around music and the music industry, jumping around in different time periods in the characters lives, focusing on different characters and then showing how they are all somehow connected. My only problem with the book was that it felt a little clunky to me, all of the jumping around and trying to figure out whether whatever is currently being talked about happened before or after something you’d read, chronologically speaking, but there wasn’t a second of the book that I found at all uninteresting, so if you’re looking for something that will keep your attention, this one is a good one to check out.

Next on the list is “The Other Side of Mulholland” by Stephen Randall, a book I picked up at a used bookstore last year and had no knowledge of what the novel was actually about. There wasn’t a plot summary on the back, but I like a goldfish I was intrigued by all of the pretty colors that decorated the cover, so I bough it anyway. It’s the story of two brothers trying to make it as writers in Los Angeles while their parents constantly worry about them through all of their ups and downs. It’s a decent enough book, but there was really nothing that kept me wanting to keep reading, nothing that insisted I turn the page to find out what happened next, which is the reason out of all three of these books, although the shortest in length it took me the longest to get through, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

Lastly I read “Dry”, another memoir by one of my new favorite authors, Augusten Burroughs, which I can’t seem to get enough of. Dry is the story of Augusten’s journey from alcoholism to sobriety, full of ups and downs, written by one of the funniest voices I’ve ever read. It’s like every book I read by Burroughs is another piece of the puzzle, revealing a completely different side of one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever read about. Seriously, it’s actually pretty amazing that after all he’s been through that he is still alive, so if you haven’t jumped on the Augusten Burroughs bandwagon yet, you are really missing out, because now I’ve read three of his memoirs, and all of them have been very funny, and have easily been the books that I’ve read the most quickly over the last year because of how smoothly they flow combined with the fact that you’re dying to find out what happens next. “Dry” is probably my least favorite book I’ve read by Augusten, but that’s not a condemnation about how bad it is, but rather praise at how good his other two books are, and while it has been my least favorite that I’ve read by him, it was my favorite out of the three books I’m writing about today and I would definitely recommend you checking it out.

Last Two Books I’ve Read

IMG_4027Since I have nothing else to talk about, and don’t feel like exerting the energy or effort in to coming up with something, conjuring a funny memory from my past, or an experience I can use to motivate others, who like me, aren’t motivated to do anything, I am going to talk about the books I’ve been reading lately, and you’re going to like it. Or you’re going to absolutely hate it. I have no idea, because as much as I’d like to, I have no idea what you are thinking at any given moment, especially as your read my words from afar. Okay so now that I’ve wasted enough of your time, let’s dive in, shall we? If you answered with a hearty and resounding “yes!” I just want you to know that my question was a rhetorical one and I’m embarrassed for you at your outburst. About a week and a half ago I began reading a book called “Dear American Airlines”, a work of fiction wherein the main character is stranded at the Chicago O’Hare airport and is writing an angry letter to American Airlines. At times it’s funny, but for the most part it drones on and on in a tiresome way, without very long paragraphs and rambling sentences, kind of like this blog. The only reason I read it is because somehow it ended up on my Amazon wish list, and ordered it about a month ago. Perhaps someone recommended it to me, and if that’s the case, whoever you are, you’re recommendations are no longer welcome. The only possible reason you should ever read this book is if you are traveling via American Airlines and become stranded and angry, then perhaps reading the book will bring you some comfort in knowing that you are not alone, but other than that, you would be wise to stay away.

After that atrocity I read “Home is Burning” by Dan Marshall, again a product of somehow ending up on my Amazon list. I knew going in that it was a memoir written by someone whom’s parents both had terminal illnesses, so I thought it might be bleak or inspiring, but I had no idea that it would be so funny. I’m not sure if Marshall has written anything else, but believe me, I am going to find that out because this book by him was very, very funny and well written. It’s the true story Dan, who’s beginning his career in Los Angeles but is summoned home to Salt Lake City to help out around the house when his dad is diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. Throughout the course of this disease and the mother’s battle with cancer, the five Marshall children are blindsided by all of the bad luck and have to come to grips with the imminent deaths of both parents, and some family members handle it better than others, although nobody does so with any grace. I would definitely recommend checking this one out if you’re in the mood for a story that is both inspiring and funny, because in “Home is Burning” you will get both, and as a bonus, it’s a pretty quick read.

My Takeaways From the Grizzlies Summer League Game

I have to work this Saturday, which meant that today I had a short, three hour shift at the bank, so when I got off at two, and contemplated what to do with the rest of my day, the unbearable heat outside made the decision for me, and I retired to the comfort of my cool apartment. I read for a while, finishing the book “Dear American Airlines” by Jonathan Miles, a book that at times was funny, but over the course of the last eighty or so pages I was just ready to be done with it, so I’m pretty happy about being able to rid my free time of that book now. At 3:30 I turned on ESPN U, to do something I’ve never before in my life done, and watched and NBA Summer League game. I’m just so sick of the monotonous baseball season right now, that I’ve resorted to going back and watching re-airs of last year’s football games, and since the Grizzlies were playing live on TV today, I eagerly welcomed the chance to watch some of our young players who might eventually become impact players on the team, and after watching, here are my big takeaways.

Our young guards show promise, but have a lot of work to do. There were times this afternoon when Wade Baldwin and Kobi Simmons made some incredible plays on the offensive end, breezing past defenders and tossing up what looked like nearly impossible trick shots that somehow fell in, but unfortunately, it almost seemed more common that they were throwing bad passes, carelessly turning the ball over, both in transition and when a play was unfolding. I love the intensity that Baldwin brings on the defensive side of the ball, but what good is an acrobatic steal if your going to immediately throw the ball away trying to push it quickly downcourt? They’re both young and both seem to have a ton of potential, so it’s obviously not time to panic, but hopefully they continue to develop and tweak the weaker aspects of their game so they can be real contributors on the Grizzlies roster sometime in the future.

Signing Wayne Selden to a multiyear deal this offseason was a great decision. From what I’ve witnessed today, and from what I’ve heard from the previous two summer league games, Selden hasn’t missed a beat since ending the season as a starter on the Grizzlies playoff team. He and Dillon Brooks, the rookie out of Oregon were the only two players on the Memphis side of the court that gave me consistent confidence on the offensive side of the court. I think his well rounded playing ability, both offensive and defensively, Selden will be fun to watch in Memphis this year, and he’ll hopefully be able to impact the game with meaningful minutes on most nights.

Finally, my last takeaway from watching the NBA Summer League today is not to put too much stock into what you see in Las Vegas. The reality is that most of the players in the Summer League aren’t going to be the most impactful players in the NBA this year, let alone on their own teams, so while watching the games might give you a glimpse of hope for the future, it’s best to wait and see what happens when the regular season rolls around. It’s all of the young guys playing against each other, so it’s really hard to tell how impactful they can be for their respective teams until they reach the regular season and are matched up against the league’s best players.

What I’ve Been Reading for the Past Week

IMG_3987I was sick today which means I don’t have anything to write about my day, unless of course you want to hear about my endless trips to the bathroom, which I think it’s safe to assume you do not, so I’ll talk about what I’ve been reading lately. In a blog post I wrote last week I mentioned having just finished Bear Town by Frederik Backman, and while I would recommend either of the the other two books he’s written over this one, it still might interest you if you enjoy fictionalized sports stories, which I am not, probably from a childhood spending way too much time reading Matt Christopher books that were given to me en masse on every holiday and or birthday that I can remember. Bear Town is the story of a little league hockey team, who through their winning season brings their town together and takes their mind off of their current problems. There are a few twists and suspenseful moments, but I didn’t find it all the great, but given that Bachman’s books are originally written in Swedish, I’m more than willing to blame the translator.

The second book I just got done reading is Camino Island, by John Grisham. Is it just me or does it seem like he’s putting out books with even more frequency now than his standard once a year in the fall? I don’t necessarily consider it a bad thing, given that I’ve been a huge Grisham fan for as long as I can remember, reading everything he writes, but I just hope that this doesn’t mean I don’t have a new one to look forward to reading over the Christmas holiday, because that would be a bummer. Camino Island is about the original manuscripts of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s five novels being stolen from high security vault in the Princeton library, and a struggling writer who’s been paid to get close to the prime suspect. The majority of the story takes place on an island in Florida, the perfect setting for a summer read, and one I would definitely recommend checking out as it is my favorite Grisham book in recent years.

In the span of about twelve hours I read Me, and Earl, and the Dying Girl, the debut novel written by Pittsburgh native Jesse Andrews. It’s the story of a boy who’s mom forces him to befriend a girl diagnosed with leukemia, and his eccentric friend Earl that tags along. It may not seem like a story about cancer is funny, especially when it pertains to a child in high school, but this is one of the funniest books I’ve read in recent memory, the narrator, high school senior Greg Gaines says what’s on his mind, but what he doesn’t say, his inner voice, is absolutely hilarious. I literally was laughing out loud as I read, pestering my wife to stop what she was doing, demanding her full attention so I could read a paragraph or two to her, which she too found irresistibly funny. It’s a very quick read and I would highly recommend it. Whether you are looking for a good laugh, a story of friendship, or a little bit of both, this novel has it all for you.

I’m always looking for a good book recommendation, so feel free to comment below what you’ve been reading so I can check it out. Thanks!

Vacation Day 6: Reading, Shopping, Dancing, and Eating

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Today was a lazy day, and is there anything better on vacation than having absolutely nothing to do? I woke up and it was raining, so I drank some coffee and finished my book, Beartown, by Fredrik Backman, which I’d begun reading on Saturday upon arriving at the beach. I was introduced to Backman last year, and the two books I’ve read by him, “A Man Called Ove” and “My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You She’s Sorry” were both really good, so I was very excited to read his latest novel. Despite hearing good things about it, I was not all that impressed and it didn’t really wrap me up in the story the way his other books have, but even so, I will continue to read what he writes in the future, because his first books were just that good. The rain continued, so my brother thought it was the ideal day to go to the outlet mall and do some shopping, so my wife and I drove to Foley to meet them there. It took us too long to get there, confirming my suspicion that it’s not just the state of Tennessee that has criminally slow drivers, and when we arrived it was raining.

We called my brother to meet up and while we waited for him we walked into a shoe store to look around. Unfortunately, being on vacation doesn’t just magically give us an unlimited boost to our income and we quickly realized that we’re not rich enough yet to just shop without giving any thought to price tags, which makes shopping much less fun when you have to actually think about your purchases before making them, so because of this and since we didn’t want to walk from store to store in the pouring rain, we decided to call it quits on the outlet mall and head back to the house. When we arrived back at the beach house, my wife and I were both exhausted for some reason, and since we had nothing that needed to be done, we decided to take a nap, which is always a good idea.

Tonight we went to dinner at The Hangout, a place I’d seen for years but had never visited. There was about an hour wait, which wasn’t a problem since there was a stage for live music with beach chairs gathered around it, a fooseball and ping-pong table, and various things to take pictures in front of, all for the sole purpose of being entertained while waiting for a table. I got the shaka wrap, which had grilled shrimp and cheese, with a “secret sauce” that had a little bit of spice to it, all rolled up inside a flour tortilla, with french fries. The wrap was really good, the shrimp juicy and flavorful and the fries were cooked to perfection, crispy and perfectly seasoned. Given that these french fries are the best kind in the world, it’s crazy to me that more restaurants are stuck in mediocrity, serving steak fries with no flavor whatsoever. While to food was good, the atmosphere was a little more party-like than I care for when out for dinner, although their name kind of gives that fact away. It was so loud between the live music and the DJ that I had to yell my order to the waiter and couldn’t really hold a conversation with anyone else at the table. Halfway through the meal, somebody with a microphone encouraged everyone who was on vacation to get up and do the cupid shuffle while the music blared around the restaurant. It was at this point that I realized that perhaps this restaurant might not be the place for me, especially given my pessimistic outlook on life, but even so, the food was good and no amount of embarrassing dancing around me, can change that.
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My Regrettable Decision

I’m not above admitting when I’ve made a mistake, which is exactly what I did, earlier this week, on a Tuesday. Since I had to work on Saturday, I only had to work from eleven to two on Tuesday, so I spent the morning writing and drinking coffee, and then perusing my bookshelf for the next book I would read, since I just finished Lust and Wonder, by Augusten Burroughs the day before. When browsing a bookstore, I wait for the spine of one of the books to interest me, then I pull it out to read the back to see if I’m interested, and only then do I make the purchase, and that is the same way I choose what to read at home, looking at my bookshelves until something jumps out at me. I’m not sure why, perhaps I liked the style of the font on the spine of the book, or something about the author’s last name, Navarro, spoke to me, but for whatever reason, I decided to start reading Story of a Sociopath, and now I regret it immensely.

Don’t get me wrong, the book so far has been fantastic, but my timing couldn’t have been worse. A week from today, my wife and I leave for a weeklong vacation on the Gulf of Mexico, along with my brothers, my mom, and grandmother, and I’m not at all confident that I will finish this book before that time comes. It may seem insignificant that I finish the book before vacation, and perhaps I’m a total nut job in the way that I think, but I absolutely don’t want to take Story of a Sociopath on this trip, and it has nothing to do with what the book is about. I grew up going to the beach every summer, and one of my favorite things was picking out the books I would take, interesting books that I had restrained myself from reading, reserving them especially for week where I had nothing to do, and could lose the day, sitting in the sun and reading them.

For me there is something special about the books I read on vacation, picking them up years later and being transported back in time to those wonderful days of summer spent at the beach, and for some reason, taking a book that I’ve already started before vacation just doesn’t have the same effect for me. I have 708 pages left in this monstrous book I’m reading, so now it’s a race against the clock, to see if I can finish it in the next six days, which given that I have to work forty hours, write six more blog posts and ten thousand words in my book, and somehow find time to get the sleep necessary to have the energy to perform all of these tasks, it’s seeming more unlikely by the minute. I’ve consulted my wife, the resident expert on all of my personal problems, and she suggested putting it aside, and resuming it when I return home from vacation, but that too doesn’t appeal to me. I’m too invested in the story now to put it aside, while reading something else, my mind will likely wander back to Thomas Spencer and what is happening in his world, so it seems that I have no choice but to read on, trying my best to finish the book before we leave next Saturday. Wish me luck.