Doing better on the book front. Carl Hiaasen’s “Basket Case”: really good. I never expect much of popular writers, and less of popular Florida writers. And I don’t usually read novels about rock ‘n’ roll, which this is, a little, but Jen Sincero’s book “Don’t Sleep with Your Drummer” changed my mind because it was such a hoot. But this was good. Never over the top, delightfully sure of itself, a little bit wacky and yet full of truth. And very sweet. Whipped right through it. And now I’m into Jennifer Belle’s “High Maintenance,” which will be good if the narrator realizes she deserves better than the guy who has attached himself to her. It’s a little flighty but not overly so, New York but not obnoxiously so, and it’s hard not to like the girl telling the story.
When you really listen, especially to the albums, it probably should have been clear that her heart wasn’t in those songs. And even now, though I’m glad she helped to spread the word about Warren Zevon, you’ve gotta wonder what she was doing singing “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” or “Mohammed’s Radio.” But her voice was so incredible, and what she could do with the songs that she got into was so good, that you could forgive the production values (no drum shall go unmuffled!) and the lack of heart in some of the album tracks. She was HUGE in the ’70s. Hard to remember that now, even though she went on to reinvent herself a couple of times and still has a presence. She did a disastrous album of new wavey stuff that had my favorite cover of “Lies” (The Knickerbockers). Then she did the standards, 3 albums worth I believe, which was fun but who really listens to standards? They belong in movie soundtracks, they need pictures in front of them to make them interesting. I reawoke to her voice a couple of years ago on a drive to Boston, listening to “Prairie Home Companion,” and she was singing (Kate McGarrigle’s?) “Talk to Me of Mendocino,” one of her early covers now done with a tenderness and wisdom that she couldn’t have mustered in her twenties. It was lovely. And now Rhino has put out a greatest hits CD, not a thorough survey by any means, and presented in a frustratingly random order (I’d have preferred chronological), but good enough for $14. My albums are very well worn and won’t burn very nicely (I had to take 3 copies of “Back in the USA” back to the store because of a manufacturing defect, they just kept skipping and skipping), so this is a nice supplement. Not sure if remastering would reveal something that was buried in the murky laidback Southern Cal sound of the ’70s (the remastered Ramones discs are INCREDIBLE), but maybe someday somebody will try.
I’ve always been a spectacularly poor judge of distance. Inches, feet, miles . . . I will always guess the distance wrong. I was pretty good with picas, in my typesetting days, but only out of constant application. So in picking my bike route for yesterday, wanting to extend a bit further than I had gone the week before (22 miles), I picked a target of Poestenkill and took off. The winds were fairly ferocious, but I had my obscenely expensive new bike jacket on so I was snug and comfy. (The jacket cost more than the bike I had previously been riding, although those numbers are not adjusted for inflation.) So, off I went, fighting wind but generally taking my time and having a nice ride, thinking I must have been doing about the same miles as last week, maybe a little more. Made a wrong turn on the way home and ended up facing a hill my legs were getting too tired to go up (in heavy traffic), so I went around it, but that only added about 20 minutes to the ride. The whole thing took much longer than I had expected, 2 hours, and even though my quads were DONE when I got up the last hill, I didn’t think I had gone that far. Then I plotted the trip this morning and it turns out I had covered 36.3 miles. No wonder my quads were done.
Great ride though. Brisk, sunny, lots of color in the hills, and once I got out past 150 the traffic fell away. But I am going to HAVE to get better at Rensselaer County backroads. Yes, I had a map with me, but having one and looking at one are not the same thing, and it often seemed easier to just keep rolling along than to figure out where I was rolling to.
I’m just about done with “My Legendary Girlfriend,” which I borrowed on the strength of its cover, an outstanding title typeface mixed with a photograph, nicely photoshopped, of an old rotary phone. A quick skim made it seem like it was along the lines of Nick Hornby, so I gave it a shot. And it’s perfectly readable, but the narrator appeals to me not at all, a twenty-six-year-old layabout just getting his first real job, pining over a girl who dumped him three years before. Pining. A lot. Constantly. (By twenty-six, I was going back to school to embark on my second career, while working 6-2 on the first one). But I had enough invested in it to bother finishing, which puts it right in league with the previous book I read, TC Boyle’s “Riven Rock.” Listen, folks, I need a good book next time, okay?
I just learned that Donna “Where the hell did the wunderkind disappear to?” Tartt has a second novel coming out. Not sure whether to be excited or not. I wanted to hate The Secret History because she was a plucky, photogenic Bennington grad who hit it big right out of school, but then I couldn’t resist reading it and it became one of my all-time favorite novels. No telling whether she can do it again, but I’m hopeful, because I liked her writing. I’ve also got Russo’s new collection, “The Whore’s Child,” but it’s a lot easier for a book of stories to satisfy than a novel, there are always bound to be two or three things that stand out. And I never even finished all the stories in Banks’s “Angel on the Roof.” But I’d like to find something as captivating as my earlier-in-the-year discoveries of Michael Chabon and Richard Ford, and not have to slog through another book just because I may as well find out if anything ever happens. (Answer: In “Girlfriend,” it doesn’t. Ditto “Riven Rock.”)
Some things just brought this to mind today, but I heard it this summer, waiting around the Clayton docks for the kids to finish up in the restroom. A town worker was down there with his truck, getting some gear out of a storage area, and he was talking on his cell phone to someone at the same time. And he said to the other end, “I’m gonna tell you something Larry told me a long time ago. You can be the best boss in the world until you have to tell somebody to do something they don’t want to do. Then you’re an asshole.”
So, this guy working on the town crew pretty much has it figured out.
Survived the 5k. Liked the course much better than last year’s. Official time was something like 25:05, but I would swear the clock was still in the 24s when I crossed the line. No matter. Shaved a minute and a half off last year’s, stuck to my plan, never seriously thought about dropping out or even slacking back. Still, it’s disheartening when a schlub I know runs for no more than an hour once a week can come in right behind me. Sucks to be genetically challenged. But what a great time. I liked the support and chatter with other runners, the whole atmosphere, and it was a great time. Gonna psych myself up to do the Fiddlers in a few weeks. Plus, my family came and cheered me on at the finish, and that was wonderful. Then we had swim lessons, ballet lessons, lunch, a birthday party. During the party, Lee and I went down to Steiner’s and I got my bike.
I said, I GOT MY BIKE! Love it. Just love it. Fits me perfectly. Had to go with a somewhat softer seat than it was equipped with, but it’s still a bit of a hardtail, so my next pair of bike shorts is going to have to be a little higher tech (read: gel under my ass). I took it out yesterday for a great 22 mile ride through the hills of Luther and Best, all the way out to West Sand Lake, then back in on 43 (too much traffic), and down through Rensselaer (not quite intentionally, but I was trying to get away from the cars). Had to walk up Aiken Avenue, I was just about done with hills then no matter how low this thing cranks. And it cranks quite low. I took every other hill with aplomb. It was warmish, the sun was out, the fall colors were starting, and the ride through the country was just wonderful. Best bike ride of my life. No challenge to my lungs at all. And today I’m not even sore.
But I did have to take a nap yesterday afternoon. I was just beat.
Can’t wait to get it out next weekend!
10. It’s Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong. Because it’s not. It’s about riding the bike. Fast. And having a heart 1/3 larger than normal, a resting heart rate around 32, and a VO2 rate that’s off the charts.
9. Having the blood pressure of a teenage girl. And the ankles of a 20-year-old.
8. Ric Burns’ “New York” documentary. So many reasons to love that fascinating city.
7. Driving too fast with the moonroof open, blasting Joe Jackson’s “Look Sharp”.
6. Ben & Jerry’s World’s Best Chocolate Ice Cream.
5. Little girl kisses.
4. My Legendary Girlfriend by Mike Gayle. At least so far. Light, funny, a little bit British but not obnoxiously so.
3. Snapfish.com, which for some reason gave me a mess of 4×6 prints on my photo order absolutely free, and which provided a connection to a real greeting card printer for my Christmas cards, instead of just those one-sided photo prints. Christmas cards MUST fold, dammit!
2. The Ramones: Leave Home and End of the Century, both really amazingly remastered and with massive bonus tracks, live stuff from 1976. I haven’t really heard these songs other than on very worn TDK tape in a long long time. I have been an idiot.
1. The Larry Sanders Show on Bravo. I can’t believe I’ve had to wait this long to see this, but boy was it worth it. While they’re at it, couldn’t they bring back the old Garry Shandling Show? It was also brilliant.
Came off the exit ramp and around the corner yesterday, and what was standing on the corner but a woman in colonial garb and a tri-corner hat speaking to a bunch of kids wearing yarmulkes. Absolutely surreal.
And for once I’m well-situated. I finally found a copy of Marshall Crenshaw’s “Sock it to Me Santa (Santa’s Got a Brand New Bag)” at the end of the last Christmas season — I would swear I had a copy of it somewhere, and I couldn’t find it anywhere. Not on any tape, not on any CD, and yet I knew the song perfectly, so I MUST have owned it. Finally found a copy on a lame compilation disc with some Boyz II Men and Whitney Houston type stuff, but by then I was desperate and I got it used through Amazon, so w.t.f. And, drum roll please . . . I actually ordered my Christmas cards last night. I did NOT have Snapfish mail them for me, though there’s that option, too. Full fold photo cards so that I can write something (I usually do, which is why Christmas cards get out every other year). Should have them in a couple of weeks, maybe even start addressing and writing them this month.
THIS IS THE YEAR! I WILL SEND CHRISTMAS CARDS!
and, the blood pressure of a teenage girl
Mainly, when I’m actually thinking of something worth writing down and putting out into the ether is NOT when I’m sitting at a computer. It’s in the shower, or doing dishes, great thoughts that I fail to put on a post-it and therefore never find their way into any of my various communications with the world and myself. Then I sit down at the blog and have nothing interesting to say.
Well, I turned 42, which surprised me. Well, I guess I’m not surprised anymore, but there certainly was a time when I didn’t expect to get here, figuring health or drinking or something like that would cut it short and sweet. But here I am, dry and happy, lo these many years, and healthier than I have ever been.
But I had a couple of spells of lightheadedness last week. I was absolutely certain it had something to do with some phenomenally hot habanero sauce I was sampling, but as the only reliably healthy person in the household, I had to make sure, so I went to the doc. My blood pressure is low, my resting pulse is low (55 at waking), and he watched my blood pressure fall twenty points as I stood up (that’s down into double digits on the topside), so he thought the extra dilation of the habaneros was indeed probably the cause. He said he mostly sees this in teenage girls, and that I essentially have the blood pressure of a teenage girl. Last year when I was having heel problems, he did an x-ray and told me I had the ankles of a 20-year-old. I wonder if he’s hitting on me?