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Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

Books, the bodies of reading, were fascinating for me early in life, and I’m fortunate enough to have had parents who, after I left for college, saved many that I had as a kid. The oversized Dinosaur picture book, the scholastic book service biographies I ordered in school, the heroic war stories, the Vonnegut novels. The whole collection fit neatly on shelves built in over my bed.

The book shelves of my first apartments were also easily ordered. After a decade and a half in San Francisco, I moved, following a job across the bay that kept me busy for months. But one Saturday morning I woke with the usual to-do-list, which was interrupted by the realization I’d never properly sorted my books. Many simply came out of the boxes, which I’d filled by size and shape, not subject.

It was a nice weekend—my recollection is it was blustery outside, but inside I stacked piles of books, moving between bookcases in my living room, kitchen, and bedroom. American fiction, travel guides, a stack for Anne Tyler, movie references, et cetera.

I respect the decimal system of Dewey, but my categories are more organic. A History of Eating in America next to a Chinese cookbook; the collected Grantas shared space next to Graham Greene because they fit well.

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You, small male child: build things!

I got these Tinker toys as a Christmas gift, perhaps in the hope of encouraging my engineering skills. And there I was, with my nose stuck in a book.

Looking to pare down possessions, I look at this stuff now and wonder if anyone might want it, before I toss it out.

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I took a year off from college once and traveled around the country. For a while, I stayed out on the farm where my grandmother had been born, living with my great-aunt.

I was helping my grandfather paint houses. I came home one day to find that my great-aunt had darned a couple pairs of my socks.

Really: she took needle and thread and created these deft cross-hatchings that patched holes. I remember I was touched.

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I just sent this email to my coworker, who wants to go get coffee this morning: (more…)

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On our last day in Minneapolis, we checked out of the Normandie Inn (which we had enjoyed), and decided to go for a walk before I drove the missus to the airport. During prior visits I’d wonder at how quiet the sidewalks downtown are. In San Francisco’s Financial District, the sidewalks are always busy. Okay, perhaps there aren’t as many people in downtown Minneapolis; I don’t know how many white-collar workers per square yard each city has. I just know the sidewalks midday had seemed eerily deserted, even during my visits between May and September. It took me a while to realize they are all using the skyways.  (more…)

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I’ve stopped using BART regularly for my morning commute. Whether or not our so-called economic recovery has been jobless, my anecdotal experience is that the BART trains are now regularly packed with commuters headed somewhere, so much so that when I went in early one morning last week, on the train at 6:15 a.m., it was already standing room only into the City. SRO? At 6:15?

My feet, knees, and ankles are no longer what they were when I ran cross country all those years ago,  and years of standing on buses and trains have taken their toll. I need to sit. So I’ve been doing the casual carpool thing. Most often it’s quiet and uneventful, but every so often there’s a livewire.

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Too many years ago, I moved to California with six friends. We had met working in restaurants and a German class at the University of Minnesota; some of us had other friends out here already, and as all our circles of acquaintances rippled outward and overlapped, we enjoyed getting to know our new home. The whole world may not have been our oyster, but San Francisco was quite enough.

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