Monday, August 3, 2009

Grazing in a New Field

The idea of owning a second home or, horrors, a time-share (a big trend for a lot of people until 2008) fills me with fear and loathing (thanks, Hunter S.), and going to a completely new place has its anxieties too (because you learn how to visit a place by doing it badly the first time and well when you return, educated). Returning to the familiar new is like the last bowl of porridge or Little Bear's bed. It's the nuances you explore, the big things having been figured out. I get an unnaturally large charge out of finding those hidden free parking spaces in a big city or tourist trap -- let the first timers walk 3 miles across the steaming hot parking lot at Disney World!
A lot of quality reading material streams into Ron and Claire's home here in California, and since I don't have, for a month, the usual responsibilities eating up time that could be more pleasantly wasted, I roll around in the luxury of having the Sunday NY Times like a feline in catnip.
The Magazine and Book Review by themselves would be enough to take to a desert isle (along with some cold white wine, mojitos, or microbrews, of course).
As Ms. Cortez mentioned on Rus' FB page, you can get any adult libation anywhere anytime around here (liquor in the drug store? sure!). And despite recent business closings, with a little under 500 restaurants to choose from, and dozens of music performances every day, there's a lot of 'splorin to do. But just knowing it's all there (like the opera in NYC) is enough most days, because the easy feeling of freedom -- not being constricted and constrained and deprived for no good reason -- is the best thing about visiting any sunny vacation area near lake or ocean.
Back to the Times, though: just in the Sunday edition there so many bits that catch the eye like a jewel in the sand. Such a contrast to the whiny conservative local paper, or the T-D, or our local fishwrapper which tries hard, but is all emphemera with no pretension towards writing at all.
Well worth spending 20 minutes reading: an article about a photographer who documented people who have opted out of conventional American life, all over the South --- hermits, hobos, wanderers: Alec Soth entitled his work "Black Line of the Woods," taken from Georgia writer Flannery O'Connor who noted the significance of the treeline behind any house and yard, where the rules of civilization start to disappear, of which he says, "She's talking about where culture ends. I wanted this work to be about the longing to escape." The reviewer has captured the meaning of a book you never heard of, and made you want to find it.
Another arresting insight -- a character in another new book reviewed says: "...but everything in New York is built upon another thing, nothing is entirely by itself, each thing as strange as the last, and connected." The theme of life and history distilled in one sentence. Did any teacher or textbook ever give you a laser beam of illumination like that?
In Travel, you learn that 20% of the modern Irish are non-drinkers, and that a good pub has craic, which in Gaelic means the whole concept of friends, fun and banter (like the Taproom on Robinson St.). The English "fellowship" pales by comparison; the French "bonhomie" being a little better, but this one is a keeper.
On another page, you learn that if you lick the underside of a banana slug, your tongue will go numb. Back before kids "numbed their senses by staying cooped up inside," it seems most people in coastal Oregon knew that...
Feeling pretty ignorant after all this new and precise knowledge, I eagerly dove into an op/ed piece on a topic I'd been thinking about: the business model of keeping your customers by getting them hooked. The insanely profitable worldwide success of advertising and cigarettes will morph into food products engineered for addiction. Products are "spiked" to "drive cravings and create repeat purchasers." "In one study, 40 of 43 rats preferred sugar to cocaine after trying both." High-calorie, fatty and sugary "foods" are proving to be "addictive as well as destructive." I've seen in the checkout at the grocery store back home carts full of nothing but snacks and sodas and paper products...
It's too beautiful outside to keep sitting here or reading more, so since I need one thing from the store today, I'm off on foot to get it. You can't 'splore in a car; you miss too much.

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