Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bookstore Etiquette

Bookstores require the same quiet reverence as a library or hospital. Alas, today's book-buyers are evidently ignorant of true bookstore etiquette, so let's create a list for them, shall we?

  1. Be quiet. Speak softly. Folks are making big decisions here, decisions that may change their lives in incalculable ways. That's what books do. Show some dignity and respect. Keep the rumpus in the children's section, where the wild things are.

  2. No cellphone conversations. No cellphone ringing. In short, nothing that causes you to speak incredibly and offensively loud, or buzzes, chirps, or plays music you think is cool but the rest of us thinks is just pathetic.

  3. Parents must refrain from loud, blow-by-blow descriptions of their children's antics and silly, show-offy questions with the sole purpose of exhibiting the little darlings' intelligence levels. No one is amused. No one cares if your kid can name the planets or balance three books on his/her head.

  4. Patrons should be aware of other book-browsers on the aisle with them. Don't hog one area, or lounge against a shelf while you wait for your girlfriend to finish cruising the fitness books three rows over.

  5. If you must walk between a patron and a shelf she/he is browsing, say "Excuse me."

  6. If you pull a book off a shelf, please replace it exactly where you got it.

  7. Make sure your hands are clean. Don't leave any schmutz on a book. "You schmutz it, you buy it."

  8. No protests within 100 yards of a bookstore. (There was a noisy protest outside of Barnes & Noble on Lex/86th today. Something about Staples, which is next door to B&N, killing puppies. I can't figure out how an office supply store kills puppies, but the cause lost my support the instant the protesters interrupted my quiet bookstore time.)

  9. Don't put your Starbucks double-latte-Italiano-frothy-wonder-mocha cup on a stack of sale-table books. You shouldn't even have that stuff anywhere near the books. Stick to the cafe area.

  10. Be sweet. (OK, this isn't just about bookstores; this is about life in general.)

  11. If you have gas, please be kind enough to step outside until it passes.

  12. Turn down your iPod. Nobody wants to hear that tinny earphone noise when they're browsing.
  13. Do NOT proffer unwanted criticism of each and every book other patrons are holding to browse through.
  14. Do NOT hold books upside down while loudly proclaiming "I'm Australian". Yes, this has actually happened to me.
  15. Do not smoke in the bookstore.

Anything to add? (Thanks Anon and Jo and Stu for the additions - in red.)

Getting There Early to FutureThink

Seems all I've been doing lately is exploring future trends and what that means for the Episcopal Church specifically and my life generally.

During that ill-fated, luggage-losing trip to St. Louis in February, I sat through a two-part workshop presented by the Palo Alto think-tank, Institute For The Future. (Sounds kinda scary, doesn't it?) IFTF had been called in to study the Church and how we might address stuff now by knowing what's on the horizon. The group developed a road map for the future kind-of-thing based on Bob Johansen's book, Get There Early. Most of the trends, called "dilemmas" in the book, aren't surprising (personal technology, health care, young vs. old) but how those trends might play out - lots of very interesting scenarios - are surprising, or at least, surprising enough to make me think, "Hmmmm." It's all about change and being aware of these dilemmas, even if we're not sure of how to address them.

I spent most of Thursday in a seminar presented by Edie Weiner, co-author of a book called FutureThink. Again, we looked at trends for the future in different ways. One of my favorite Weiner concepts is that of "educated incapacity," which I run up against (and am guilty of) all the time. Sometimes you know so much about something, have so much experience, that you can't get outside of that to see what's on the horizon and how things are changing. It's about looking at things through the eyes of an alien from Mars. (Gin would help, I think!)

The new life-span metric is a major theme in both books. One lesson I came away with was, hey, it's no biggie if your kid doesn't graduate college at 22. Said kid will live to 90-100+. Plenty of time to pick up that sheepskin later on. Shoot, as long as the kid moves out of the house by the time they're 22, he/she can spend a decade (or two) being a ski instructor or tramping through Europe. (Again, as long as I'm not paying for it . . . )

And it is true - we are not the same 50-year-olds our grandparents were. We are healthier. We have our own teeth. (Thanks, Crest.) We aren't thinking of retirement as a rocking chair and a porch, though that sounds mighty nice, some days. Either we can't retire for financial reasons, or we use retirement to launch yet another career. Since we're all in the middle of it, it's hard to see all the ways this extended life-span thing impacts the old ways of doing things.

Anyway, as thought-provoking as all this future-change-prepare stuff is, it doesn't go anywhere if we aren't given a forum to discuss, research, dream about what's happening and how we creatively address our dilemmas on a regular basis. We need to flesh it out constantly to stay on top of things. It doesn't sound very churchy, does it? (Only because I'm not couching it in churchy terms - but I can if you want me to.) So, we'll see if our powers-that-be institute a way of fleshing this out, or if we just move on and continue down the road stuck in our old routines.

As for me, I see lunch in my immediate future. Beyond that, well, I do not know.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Book Desert

OK, it's that time again. I've finished every ripping yarn in the house - er, teeny-tiny apartment - and am looking to you, dear bloggers, to suggest new reading material.

I thought I had a couple of good 'uns tucked away, but, alas, no. I've looked through every shelf - even at the back of the double-shelved ones. Sigh. Nada. I read the ones Virginia sent a few weeks ago (thanks!) and finished up The Meaning of Night on Sunday. My apartment is a desert as far as unread fabulous books are concerned.

There is one non-fiction, work-assigned book that I'm plowing through in the evenings (we have a workshop with the author on Thursday), but it's not good for bedtime reading. So, what'd'ya suggest? I think I read all of your suggestions last time. (Again, thanks.)

The Book Suggestion List is now open. Book and author, please. I trust you.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Birthday Pox

Not many people remember the exact date they got chicken pox as a kid, but I do. It was April 21, 1957, my 6th birthday.

In my little-girl birthday excitement, I didn't even notice that I was covered with spots or that I was unusually itchy that morning as I got ready for kindergarten. In fact, I was in rather high spirits when I got to the breakfast table and Brother David said, "Hey! What happened to you?" Not understanding what he was talking about, I shrugged and said, "I fell down." He wasn't buying it, since being covered in red spots has never been much of a result of falling down.

All that fuss caught the attention of Mother, who made the diagnosis (and it wasn't "falling down"): chicken pox! Off to bed!

I whined. I begged. I felt fine, said I. After all, everyone at kindergarten made a big fuss over you on your birthday and I didn't want to miss it. I was ready to be Queen for a Day! And what about the big birthday party planned for later that afternoon? No! I was fine! Chicken pox, scmicken pox.

Well, despite my well-reasoned excuses, I was marched off to bed. No "Kindergarten Queen for a Day" for this 6-year-old. I was not a happy camper. My mother, however, had an idea about the afternoon birthday party. She got on the phone and called all the party attendees' moms with the message that little Mary has chicken pox but feels fine. The party will go on, so send your child if you like.

Well, most all the moms "liked." Either their children had had chicken pox or they wanted them to get the pox before heading off to "Big School." I think every child invited came to the party that afternoon. Fancy dresses, cake and ice cream, presents, games - all went off per the pre-chicken pox plans. I had as much fun as everyone else; I was just covered in red spots. Very festive. No telling how many instances of childhood disease I spawned on April 21, 1957.

But every birthday morning I check in the mirror to check for red spots before going forth. This morning? Well, no spots, but not the face of a 6-year-old, either.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The smell of daffodils

Memory and smell are twisted together in funny ways, don't you think?

We lived in the small Georgia town of Perry when I was four years old. I think we lived there less than a year, though to my 4-year-old mind it seemed longer. Funny, but I have many distinct(though possibly faulty - I was only four, after all) memories of our time in Perry, Georgia. For example, my infamous tricycle ride to town and my subsequent run-in with the law over that little escapade.

The smell of daffodils recalls another Perry memory. It was early spring. The family piled into the old green Chevy station wagon and headed out to Mr. Cotton's place. Mr. Cotton, Daddy's boss, had a big old house and some land outside of Perry proper. When we arrived at Cotton's on that spring day, we were treated to a wondrous site: a big field of bright yellow daffodils. Daffodils, daffodils, daffodils - all spread out before us.

Ah, but things got even better. The grown-ups let us loose on that wide yellow carpet to pick as many daffodils as we wanted. Can you imagine anything better than that? Human beings are never given permission to pick flowers; maybe one or two here and there, but never as many as we want. Usually just the opposite, in fact: "Do Not Pick The Flowers!" But that one time, that one spring day, we were told to go forth and pick to our hearts' content.

Well, it was a big field, and even four active children picking everything in sight didn't make much of a dent in the daffodil-carpet. Armloads of flowers, the musky scent of the yellow blossoms, the joy of getting to do the usually-forbidden - well, it was a memorable experience.

Now, I might have the story wrong. Maybe it wasn't Mr. Cotton's place. Maybe the field wasn't that big. Maybe we were told we could pick no more than 5 or 10 flowers. I'm sure Big Bro - who is much, much older than I - will correct me.

But I know it was daffodils, because every time I get a whiff as I pass a flower stand or sit next to a big bowl of them, I'm four years old and picking all the daffodils I want.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I'm not lost. I'm just in Seattle.

At a conference. I was whisked away amidst the big fruit-basket-turnover office move in New York, so I guess I'm missing all the "fun" there. Haven't seen much of Seattle, though I can see the Space Needle from my hotel window. How cool is that? And we had a reception/dinner at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture last night. The exhibits on various Pacific cultures was particularly interesting - all those Maori markings and island masks.

With the exception of the pleasant NYC break with Lil Sis last week (Was is just last week? Seems like a month ago.), it's been all work, work, work. My plate is overflowing, but I'm slowly consuming or tossing whatever's there.

Liz! I dreamed about you last night. How weird is that? You were singing Welsh songs, and we were on a train. Hmm.

The news of the world is passing me by, which I suspect is not a bad thing. I'm pretty much fed up with things economically, politically, and socially. Anyone else tired of hearing the blah-blah-blah of newscasters and politicians? I'm in deep news-fatigue, I suppose. The only remedy is a good book or Turner Classic Movies 24/7. Wake me when it's over.

Another observation - it's hard to stay on my WeightWatchers regime when I travel. I watch my food portions, but airports and conferences just don't cater to the anti-junkfood crowd. Sigh.

My mantra for the day: "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." (Groucho Marx)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

What we've done so far . . .

Lil Sis is here in New York, so I'm on full-blown tour-guide duty. Here's what's happened so far:

A fine dinner at Cornelia Street Cafe in the Village, followed by an evening's walk to the #6 subway via Washington Square.

Lower Manhattan and the Wall Street bull.

A visit to the US Customs House and St. Paul's Chapel, with a view toward the World Trade Center site.

A ride on the Staten Island Ferry, a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, and a real live New York Pizza at Patsy's (at the original at 117th and 1st).

Today: the Met, Central Park, and wherever our feet and the subway take us. Tonight: "A Catered Affair," a new Broadway musical.