Monday, December 12, 2016

The United States of Poetry

The United States of Poetry
Joshua Blum Bob Holman Mark Pellington
Weight: 2.4 oz
Method of Disposal: Leaving Somewhere

I bought this book in the 90s and just now read it in 2016, but I am glad I saved it all this time.  I also think it is better it is released now rather than later.  It seems like there is less poetry out there.  I do, however, find it amusing that I am now married to someone who had a total mental collapse when she realized I was reading a book of poetry next to her.  She has some deep-seated disdain for poetry we need to overcome, apparently.

I picked up this book and read it last weekend, after we had to euthanize our beloved Chihuahua-Potato, Bayah.  I thought she would live for at least two decades and never imagined we would lose her in the 8-12 year old range.  She was rescued with her baby, Aires, from a puppy mill and brought to PAWS Atlanta around 4.5 years ago.  Harriet and her then boyfriend, Connor, took Bayah in as a foster.  She was seemingly young and feisty.

She was adopted out and about a year later she came back looking terrible.  She was overweight, had hair loss, and her teeth were completely rotten.  Harriet had moved back to England, and there was no room at the shelter.  Having started falling in love with the now single Harriet, I could not let anything happen to her foster pup and so I took Bayah home as my own foster.  I fell in love with her too.  And hard.  I tried to adopt her out, but when she came back a week later (she wasn't housebroken) I was so relieved to scoop her back up.  I finalized her adoption that day--April 18, 2013.  I was able to be her family for a little over three years.  That's it.

She was my little hot potato and my co-pilot. She was the dog I could take with me everywhere.  She was relaxed and loving and not at all worried about adult strangers.  Children were slightly alarming, but she would not hurt them, and I always made sure they were sweet with her too.  She fit perfectly in my arms.  She would not lay down or rest until she found a comfy bed to rest on but, if you put her in a bed, she would not budge again until you made her or until you took out some food.  She loved to eat more than anything else in the world and on her last night we gave her chocolate and chicken jerky, which she scarfed down as ferociously as ever.

She developed a head tilt and was diagnosed with vestibular disease, but three weeks went by, and she did not get better.  We got a third opinion.  We were told she had a brain tumor and our time with her was short and, even with the warning, there was not enough time spent together.  There never could be.  That's the thing about death.  No matter how much life allows you to prepare for it you cannot prepare for it.  It feels sudden or unexpected even when it is not.  If it doesn't feel that way then you have likely suffered terribly and for awhile.

That last night was the first time she flinched when someone went to hold her or when her canine best friend, Savannah, got near her.  She was in pain.  The tumor was putting pressure on her eye.  She had gone blind in that eye just a few weeks before. The only option was surgery, and she was not a candidate for surgery at her age and in her condition.  She left us before we left her, and our hearts broke into a million Bayah-sized pieces as we drove away from that hospital and home to a house that felt empty even though it was full of dogs.  I funnel my affections into her best friend and my other dogs, but nothing touches that place within me where the memory of her lives.  It is heavy and damp, soaked through with my sadness.  I know that as time goes on it will fill with positive memories and funny anecdotes, but right now I just miss my beloved little Chihuahua and the tongue that always hung out of her mouth as she sauntered along.  The low, sweet bark she let out when she got really excited and the warmth of her small body resting next to me.  I will love you forever, Bayah. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Flame Alphabet

The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus
Weight: 1 lb
Method of Disposal: Throwing Away at the Vet

I am at the vet with a very sick dog on my knee. His name is Winston, and he was just rescued from a rural animal control facility.  We are waiting to find out if he has parvo. On the way over here I lost The Flame Alphabet, everything else in my car, and possibly the ability to transfer puppies for at least another year.  It wasn't pretty, but my dear friend, Winston, seems much worse.

I bought The Flame Alphabet in Lancaster on one of my last days in England. I did almost finish it, but I never did get into it. It was a great idea but poorly executed. I almost always finish a book I start. I think Winston might have just saved me some time :) Keep your fingers crossed for him!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Volume 17, Number 4

Tin House: Summer 2016
Weight: 1 lb
Method of Disposal: Donating

Have you ever experienced night paralysis?  There is this moment of awareness before the visions start.  You feel that your body is heavy and unmovable, and there is this dread that overcomes you.  Will you be able to wake yourself up in time or is it too late?  If you give in completely you will be overcome by horror and completely incapable of escaping it.

That is the gloom I have been living in since November 8th.  Some days I wake up and can almost forget that we are on the verge of collapse--that my whole life could possibly change.  That a lot of lives could change in ways most Americans would struggle to imagine.  I don't think this is dramatic.  My worst nightmare is the collective leadership of Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Ben Carson, Mike Pence, Rudolph Giuliani, and now Steve Bannon.  It is like a really bad SNL skit and my deepest darkest nightmare combined.  It is so impossible I do not know how to wrap my brain around the fact that it IS possible.

What will happen to us?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Diary of a Wimpy Kid and McSweeneys

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School (#10) by Jeff Kinney 2015
McSweeney's Issue 39 Editor Dave Eggers 2011
Weight: 2 lbs
Method of Disposal: One went to a young boy in Liverpool, England and one was left at Wolfhouse in Silverdale, England

Harriet and I are wrapping up our trip to her hometown of Silverdale, and it is incredibly sad.  We have done so much, but we have so much more that we would like to do.  As it comes to an end, we have noticed that we have an exorbitant amount of luggage and, in a small effort to downsize, I am trying to read all of my books I brought with me and let them go. 

I read Diary of a Wimpy Kid on the plane and, of course, loved it.  As always.  Jeff Kinney is a genius.  Once we got to England Harriet's grandmum found it a home with a 10 year old boy who doesn't like to read.  The perfect home.  I bet he loves it.  This is a great book for kids who do not like to read.

McSweeneys Issue 39 was a bit of an emotional roller coaster.  It was kind of awful, then a little dull, then intriguing, then confusing, then good but made you feel oh so bad, then disturbing, then beautiful, then horrifying but lovely.  I am not sure what to make of it.  I wonder what the locals around here will make of it.  I was a little reluctant to leave it as the only book from America.  I felt like I should leave something else to balance it out, but I did not have anything at the time. 

As for the trip, Silverdale is more beautiful than can be imagined.  At night, the smell of chimney smoke fills the air and will come in through the windows if you open them.  We have been lucky to have beautiful weather and so can see every star in the sky at night.  We are surrounded by pastures of sheep and cows, with your occasional ram and horses.  Even a couple alpacas in one plot.  Pheasants frantically try to cross the road as you drive through the winding country streets and, if you are not careful, wild turkeys will chase you out of grassy "car parks." Ok, it was just one time and a gang of three turkeys.  In true tourist form, I was just trying to get a photo if a beautiful chicken (some would say that is a contradiction) when they came at me.  What I want to know is how did the people park in that grassy field turned car park for Lorraine's 40th birthday without being torn apart by vicious birds?  It must be something you learn to deal with as a Silverdalian. Harriet just laughed at me.  No help from that corner.

Dogs are everywhere, and they are welcome in most restaurants, on the bus, in the fields.  They seem so happy and so well loved.  In this part of town, there are more purebred dogs than anything and there is never a stray.  Just some farm dogs that run free and protect the land in the daytime and then go home at night to be pampered by their doting people.  People know each other's dogs and look out for them if they do slip away from their owners.  They are also much more tolerant and understanding of dog behavior.  Dogs are not expected to lose all their natural instincts.  How different my relationship with my crew could be here? Maybe when and if Harriet and I move here we could go adopt a staffy or two from Battersea or Dog Trust and give them the best life imaginable.

The only animals happier than the dogs might be the horses.  They live in beautiful pastures with luscious, green grass and meander so far off that it can take 20 minutes to figure out where in the field they are hiding when you are trying to find them for a ride.  Riding them through town is delightful, though slightly scary if someone from out of town zooms by without a care in the world.  Most people are kind and cautious though, even intrigued or happy to see the horse out for a jaunt.  They move from field to field so the scenery changes.

People live in buildings from the 19th century.  My favorite is just in the middle of a bend in front of the shoreline.  It is the old post office.  There are even older buildings from the 17th and 18th century that are still in use dotted around the villages and cities.  Remains of an old rectory, a castle turned prison, it is all just part of the landscape.  The locals hardly notice until someone comes for a visit.

The village is small and people pay attention to who is out and about, what they are up to.  The concept of privacy is different here, but so is the concept of community.  When Harriet's mom fell sick as a young girl, the doctor made sure to get her to school.  Fair trade or locally produced seems to be the norm.  The food is fresh and simply delicious.  Tea is offered at every house, but the only decent cup of coffee you can get will be found at Wolfhouse.  Once you are done you can go to the gallery at the back and peruse the beautiful and whimsical work of Janice McGloine.  If you are from America, try not to fall in love with the slate rock pieces.  They are heavy, though amazing.

Which brings me to the rocks!  Different areas are known for their different stone, and they build with what they have nearby.  There are miles upon miles of rock walls that must have taken ages to put up and more hard work than could be imagined.  The houses are also made of stone and are absolutely gorgeous.  They look sturdy and strong.  The gardens and plants people keep around them give them a truly striking and unforgettable look.  You cannot come here and not be jealous of them.  Particularly, the ones that have families of hedgehogs living in the garden, like Harriet's mom :)

The sea is just a short walk from Harriet's old house and, if you are patient, you can watch the tide come in rapidly and overtake the shore that was previously just quicksand and puddles for hours.  There is a beautiful cove you can climb into when the tide is out and there is a structure known as the Pepperpot high above Silverdale, overlooking everything.  There are so many beautiful walks, hikes, and climbs here and nearby.  It will take me years of visits to even do half of them.  It is no wonder they keep the Harry Potter train nearby, Beatrix Potter and Mary Gaskill found their inspiration in this beautiful place, and that they filmed the Potter movie here.  It is no wonder that people have developed stories about fairies and mystical creatures.  There is magic in every crack and crevice here. 

It will truly be difficult to get on that plane and leave this place, but I will dream of it each day I am at work and look forward to the next time we can come back.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Autobiography of an Execution

The Autobiography of an Execution by David R. Dow
Weight: 1.2 lbs
Method of Disposal: Gave away to brunch buddy...

I admit that I bought The Autobiography of an Execution at a discount bookstore about a week ago.  I glanced over and thought is might be worth a look, but it had no price tag so I was going to walk away.  My wife asked how much it would cost and was told $6.50.  I decided to buy it and was charged $4.50.  That was an incredibly good use of $4.50.

I was smitten with this book.  I felt like I could strangely empathize with the author, despite the fact that my life and career in no way compares to his, and was completely caught up in his point of view.  I was drawn into the stories of the death row prisoners he described and, while my heart was breaking into a million pieces, I was developing incredible amounts of respect for the death row defense lawyers.  I finished the book around 4:30 am the second night of reading it, and I was absolutely bawling beside my peacefully sleeping partner.  

I highly recommend it.  

And I hope many many more people read it and realize we need to seriously make some changes in our criminal justice system. 

School Days: Cartoons from the New Yorker

School Days: Cartoons From the New Yorker 2010
Weight: 8 oz
Method of Disposal: Gave to a friend at brunch who will later most likely leave it in a lending library...

Despite having learned about Bookcrossing while in college, this is the first released book I ever found.  I found it in a lending library in Decatur, GA after having Sunday brunch with my crew.  It was particularly exciting because it had a little kid's drawing as an extra inside.  I was less than impressed with the actual cartoons in the books though and had no qualms handing it over to a friend after the following Sunday's brunch.  Being a minimalist, I am sure it will find its way back to a lending library.  Being that we often brunch in Decatur, it may find its way back to the very same one.  Who knows?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Joe Jones

Joe Jones by Anne Lamott
Weight: 1 lb
Method of Disposal:Leaving at Oakview Manor in Savannah, Georgia

I have lived in Georgia thirty years and never been to Savannah until now.  I am super excited to check out this city that so many people talk about.  I've heard the claims.  It is beautiful, crime-ridden, scary, gothic, boring, amazing.  I have heard it all, but so far so good.

The house we are staying in has books in the kitchen, the bed rooms, the living rooms.  I plan to leave mine in with theirs in hopes that travelers find it and read it while they are here.  I have always had a soft spot for Anne Lamott ever since my friend Sarah introduced me to her when I was 16.  She will be a little different that the books laying around here, probably more character driven and a little less dark, twisted.  Joe Jones focuses on a group of people who gather around a local cafe in the South.

O.K. I am being rushed out the door!  More later if I am sober enough to type ;) We are celebrating a friends 50th.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Do Not Deny Me

Do Not Deny Me: Stories Jean Thompson
Weight:9.6 oz
Method of Disposal: Left on Bainbridge Island in front of the grocery store

I want to write this whole blog about how amazing Do Not Deny me is, because it is so very amazing.  The first story brings you in strong and the last story ends strong.  You are not flipping any pages trying to see when it will end.  I am in love with the way she presents American dysfunction, and I cannot wait to get my hands on her book, Throw Like a Girl.

Unfortunately, that is all I can say on that right now.  I am far more focused on the fact that two black men were shot dead in the United States in the past two days.  Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.  Two more names to add to an incredibly long list of black people killed in this country unjustly.  Two more human beings with family, friends, loved ones who are most likely mourning, scared, and confused right now.  How do you make sense of a death like that?  Some of us can turn it into a cause or movement, some of us will be debilitated from it for some time, and some people cannot risk doing either of those things.  Some people have lost the people they love and they should not have to fight this fight.   We need to stand behind them, support them, affirm that black lives matter.  Don't be quiet in your discomfort.  This has got to change.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Rescuing Sprite

Rescuing Sprite: A Dog Lover's Story of Joy and Anguish by Mark R. Levin
Weight: 10.4 oz
Method of Disposal: Leaving in a Lending Library in Decatur

The plumber came by to investigate an obnoxious and overwhelming smell that infiltrates our house every time we take a shower, wash dishes, or clean our clothes.  He walked in the basement and saw my mementos and memorial boxes of the many dogs I have loved and asked Harriet if they were for deceased dogs.  She said yes, and proceeded to lead the poor guy down the road of "Laura is actually crazy."  She decided not to admit I was a shelter manager, which only makes me look worse.  I do not intend to keep them forever, but I want to find the best way to memorialize all the dogs that have touched my life and, in almost ten years of work at an animal shelter, there are a lot of them.

I absolutely understand why other people and write and read books about rescued dogs and the families that love them, but I never understand why I do.  I read Rescuing Sprite, inevitably crying a bit, and thinking I hear so many sad animal stories on a daily basis.  Why am I doing this to myself?  This is like answering the phone at work on any given day.

But it is not really.  It is wonderful to hear about a nice, loving, generous family who loves the senior, ill dog that they adopted and does not blame the shelter for the things they could not know.  It is refreshing to hear about that dog's retirement and how good it was and how grateful the family was to know Sprite.

I am going to leave this one in the lending library and hope it opens someone else's eyes to rescue.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Modern Romance and Swallow Me Whole

Modern Romance Aziz Ansari 2015
Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell 2008
Weight: 2.8 lbs
Method of Disposal: Leaving in parking deck for Human Rights Museum

I am back at work and fighting to catch up after a 5 day staycation with my boo.  It was SO nice to disregard all responsibility, hang out 24/7, and treat ourselves.  I am not quite ready to let it go.  I feel like there are so many incomplete things.  I started a painting of our puppy, Whiskey.  Will I ever finish it now?  Harriet and I started a big conversation about some big life things.  When will we get back to it?  I got rid of these two books.  When will I ever have time to blog about it?  Hence, the reason I am up at 3 am instead of resting up for the alarm to go off again.

I picked up Modern Romance without knowing a thing about who Aziz Ansari was.  I have been filled in by several people about how absurd and nonsensical that is.  I think it was better this way though.  I really enjoyed the book and found it interesting, bizarre, a little scary, a little hopeful.  I did not love the jokes, but I just kind of ignored them.  The people I know who love him seem less impressed than me and, as far as most of them go, I think it is because we are looking for different things from him.  And/or I was able to read it without hearing his voice and was able to take it more seriously.

I could not get into Swallow Me Whole despite the gripping cover.  I get the feeling it was more of a me problem than the quality of the book.

I hope someone found them in the parking deck and was excited to take them home!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Best American Comics 2008

Best American Comics 2008 Edited by Lynda Barry, Jessica Abel, and Matt Madden
Weight:2 lbs
Method of Disposal:Leaving somewhere in Decatur

I just finished reading this book that was passed on to me by my grandmother several years ago, and I loved it.  There were all sorts of comics.  Funny ones, disturbing ones, repungent ones, depressing ones, but all ones that make you think.  I am so glad I picked this up.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Selling 7 Books, 6 LBS, $52.00

This has been the most difficult and frustrating part about downsizing my books.  The ones I sell are usually not ones that I actually want to let go, but I do it because otherwise I will never get down to one bookshelf and because I am also trying to make ends meet.  Somehow, no matter how many books I sell, it seems like I will never make more than $50 in a month so I am not really sure how much it helps.  It also makes me late for work periodically since I never factor in going to the post office to my mornings.

Here are some of the books that have recently been rehomed in no particular order:

The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton 1999 Weight: 1.5 lbs $5.00
        Every time I see this book I think of my super smart but snarky college friend proclaiming that           "Anne Sexton is just a poor man's Plath."  I don't agree with that, but she said it with such spite           and assurance that it never left my mind.

Thomas and Beulah Poems By Rita Dove 1986 Weight: 8 oz $5.00
         Another great Dr. Guthrie of Agnes Scott College suggestion

Gay and Lesbian Atlanta by Wesley Chenault and Stacy Braukman 2008 Weight: 12 oz $7.50
         So sad about this one.  I should have kept it forever.  And, though it was worth more than the
         other books, I didn't come close to what I paid for it.  I strongly debated emailing the other
         person on the other side of the interwebs and telling them nevermind!

Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability by Robert McRuer 2006 Weight 1 lb

         But seriously, if I could turn back time I would not even list this for sale.  Desperation led me to
         it.  It wasn't worth it!

Intersex and Identity : The Contested Self by Sharon E. Preves 2003 Weight 14 oz $10.50
         At least I had read the whole thing!  Unlike Crip Theory. Oh, why did I do that?!

Venus by Suzan-Lori Parks 1997Weight: 9 oz $7.00
         Kind of afraid to admit that I am not so into this one.  Not so worried about it going.

Poachers: Stories by Tom Franklin1999 Weight: 13 oz $5.00
         I'm afraid I really do not remember this one...

The Girl in the Well is Me and The Year of the Flood

The Girl In the Well is Me by Karen Rivers
Weight: 8 oz
Method of Disposal: Return it to the city I found it in

I have not written here in a long time.  In fact, I have not written at all.  I am always doing something for PAWS or trying to enjoy every second I get with Harriet.  Sometimes, I am able to see friends in between.  We have started having brunch with one of our dear friends every Sunday morning.  It was after eating in Decatur a couple weeks ago that I stumbled across this advanced reader copy.  I read it all in a night, as is easy to do with young adult novels, but I was not incredibly impressed.  It was hard to keep going instead of breaking it up into smaller reading samples, but I could not help but think it would feel more accurate if I read it all at once.  Like the girl in the well, I would hang in limbo, get tired of it.  That was part of the experience.  I did appreciate how the author slowly unraveled truths about the narrator's family.  I just wish I had felt more for the narrator and believed in her more.  I wish the characters had come to life more.

AND, while I am around so many lending libraries, I will go ahead and pass on The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood.
Weight: 13 oz

If you read my other post about this series, you will know I was not a fan of it either.  I usually love Margaret Atwood, but it was all just taken too far.  I guess I will not be doing anyone any favors at the lending library if you base it off this post, but I think other people of different ages will be able to enjoy either book.  Who am I to decide for others what they will like?