dawnswann

Book Fetish

In books on June 15, 2011 at 3:50 pm

*editors note: this post was originally written a few weeks ago on the way to the race at Whip City. Before you ask for the make and model of my car, I was in the passenger seat. But for the record, it’s a lime green 1970 hemi ‘cuda.** in the post to follow I allude to my book hoarding issue as being my only real compulsion. That’s a lie. I also get an assignment with a two month timeframe and wait until the week before the deadline to even call a source. (ok. AND I’m a hyper vigilant hypochondriac. And sometimes I lie. But this isn’t Dr. Phil, people.)the point is, I haven’t posted this post because I’ve been busy un-bleeping the ripples of all of last week’s almost missed deadlines. But it’s a good thing i didn’t because I had a really good idea…

I am lucky enough to be alive in a time when every action, whether noble or perverse, can be ascribed to a psychological condition. If you do something bizarre that you would rather not take credit for, all you have to do is blame your condition. I’m not trivializing these issues either. I’m just pointing out the convenience of being fluent in them. And it’s nice to all be in the same boat. The other day I was out to lunch with two of my dearest friends, Sandi and Alterna-mommy. (AM) Sandi was updating us on the progress of someone else’s OCD.

“Shit,” I said. “show me someone who doesn’t have OCD.”

My friends looked wounded.

“I don’t,” they each said.

“Sandi, you clean and paint your house all day long. AM, you frame all your jewelry and hang it on the wall. OCD, my friends. You’ve got it. And I hoard books. So there. We’re all crazy.”

Then we did some eating in silence. I envisioned my books. When I say I have at least a thousand, probably more, I am not even dipping my toes into the river of hyperbole. Our house is roughly 2,000 square feet, counting the garage. That means at least one book for every other square foot. My family lives in a used book store. We laugh at the library and the Internet when we need to research a paper.

Since Scott does not like to read unless it’s something that’s been posted on Craig’s List, sometimes he makes little sighing noises when a stack of books restricts his movement in some way. I tolerate the sighing, but when he escalates into suggestions that I donate a portion of my collection to the trash can, I kindly draw his attention back to the 25 bicycles that occupy the garage. We are all crazy.

Who cares about rooting around for the source of my crazy? I love to read and I will never quit. If I go blind, I’ll learn Braille. I loved to smoke and I quit doing that for all the loudmouths in the world like my doctor. A little complaining wont make me get rid of my books.

I’m certain, though, that I inherited book hoarding from my parents. When my father died, I also inherited his lifetime collection. He was an engineer and a computer geek. I donated most of the books, like the ones with titles I couldn’t even sound out, to the book box at the elementary school. Most of the espionage books went to Paul at Annies Bookstop in return for a lifetime worth of credit. But I kept the library books he forgot to return in 1957. I kept the books he read out loud to me like The Neverending Story, The Once and Future King and Pet Semetary. And I kept the ones that looked well loved. The ones he must have read between weekend visitations or during all the years we didn’t talk.

One day, Sandi was over marveling at the quantity of books. “Dawn, if you drop dead tomorrow, no one is going to know which you really loved because there are so many,” she said. That’s true. What if someone throws away my copy of The Phantom Tollbooth without thinking about how it kept me company when I changed schools in the 3rd grade? Of course, another psychological condition, narcissism, leads us to believe that anyone would even care. But I would have loved to know which my dad liked better: the dog eared Asminov or the dog eared copy of 2001.

Which leads me to my good idea! I’m starting a quest to weed my books down to the ones I love. That means cookbooks, self help books, and outdated how to build your own farm/robot/computer books as well as paperback novels. I’m going to read them all. If I don’t love them after 34 pages (I know, harsh.) I’m going to give them away or leave them somewhere for somebody else to love. It will be like a treasure hunt! And then, I will be left with the treasures.

So, let the games begin. I began with Frankenstein. Not the one by Shelley. The one by Koontz. I love Dean Koontz because once I sent him fan mail and his dog wrote me a letter back. She even signed it with her paw. And now I get a monthly newsletter from him. My dad loved Koontz too. There are a billion paperbacks in my collection. But Frankenstein will leave me later on today or tomorrow when I am finished with it. I will leave it somewhere secret and mysterious so that somebody can stumble upon it and say, “oh look, a book! The universe must want me to read it.” so, it’s not like I’m trying to cure my hoarding issue or anything. But I’m happy to share. Oh, and Scott? You’re welcome.

**a complete lie. It’s actually a rust colored Bentley convertible.

The Badass Biker Gets Taken Down a Notch

In Life Lessons, Monday Review on May 27, 2011 at 4:51 pm

The idyllic scenery of these roads almost negates it's treachery. Almost

So…I will preface this blog from a remote location by saying that Scott was right. I should not have ridden to the bakery. It’s only an eight mile ride– four there and four back. After my ten mile crucible earlier this week, I thought to myself eight miles? pshaw. But I forgot that the four mile stretch in question was made out of volcanos. I had to stop four times up one hill in order to not die of cardiac arrest. Then, on the next hill, I had to get off and walk. This is not badass behavior! My spirit is crippled. But, on the plus side, I’m eating a delicious almond croissant.

The other day I came to this bakery, called the Madrid Bakery, because it was my stepdad’s birthday and I needed a cake.

Wait– let me ask you something. Have you ever read the book “Chocolat?” Its one of my favorites and its about this woman and her daughter who move to a little French town and open a chocolate shop. The woman can tell what kind of chocolate will fix what ails you as soon as you walk into her shop and her chocolate is magical. I read this book years ago while in Cancun so some of the details escape me….but I think she added something Mexican to her recipe, or maybe it was tears. Anyway, I have always wished for a chocolate shop like that to come to magical Framingham. Why not? So the other day after i purchased the chocolate and vanilla ganache cake at this little Spanish patisserie, the woman said that I needed to come back on Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday and try her fresh croissants because they were the best in the world. Naturally I made the connection. A magical shop in which people can cure me with delicious food has arrived! Being pragmatic, I realized that I should ride my bike to negate the calories in the croissant.
“Not a good idea,” said Scott. “it’s all uphill and full of treacherous and windy roads.”
“Oh dear,” said my mother. “I will pray for your safety.”
“you have certainly earned your croissant,” said the little Spanish lady behind the counter when at last I arrived.
She could tell because my face was the color of a bad rash, my hair was sweaty and plastered to my cheeks and I huffed into the shop like I was going to either eat something or blow the house down. So she prescribed an almond croissant for me.
“Next time,” she said, while I handed her my cash, ” you try this.” she pointed to a mysterious, angel sprinkled cake with a name I couldn’t pronounce that looked like the name of a saint. “Its my personal favorite. And every morning before I work, I have a slice.”
I will take her up on that offer. But next time, I will drive.
Now for the ride home.

I’m a Badass. Just Saying.

In Life Lessons on May 23, 2011 at 4:21 pm

SO, this morning I decided to ride my bike to the
market. I only had to get a few things. On the way, I saw my friend Shannon.

“Just riding around?” she asked.

“No.  I’m in
training,” I answered. “I got picked up by a bike team this morning.”

Then Shannon laughed and laughed. I don’t think she
was laughing at me. It’s just that she knows that I have never been on a team
in my life and it must have struck her as delightful. Also, I’m not exactly
what one would refer to as “athletic.”Shannon belongs to a soccer team AND a
hockey team and God knows what else.

“That’s fantastic,” she laughed, tears spilling over
the rims of her eyes.

Then I went on to the market, parked the bike and
headed in. I carried my helmet instead of leaving it with the bike just in case
anyone else wanted to ask me about how badass I am.

Over by the meat department, I bumped into another
friend who neglected to notice the helmet slung over my forearm. He is a small
business owner and wanted to talk about how taxes are killing him. Lots of my
friends own businesses, however, so this isn’t news to me. It’s not that I’m
not compassionate or anything, it’s just that I really wanted to get my $1.99
per pound chicken before the sale price changed. (This guy’s a talker.) As
Chris neatly segued from taxes into an oral dissertation on the meaning of “axis
of evil,” I realized I had to make a move. I dropped some of my groceries and
when he leaned over to pick them up for me, I offered my helmet, as if to say,
throw them in there.

“Did you ride your bike here?” he asked. “Like, as in your bicycle?

Then I told him how I’ve raced at the BMX track
twice now and how this morning I got picked to be on the first team I’ve ever
been on EVER and how my heart was beating out of my chest and my vision was
woozy and I thought I would die standing on top of that giant starting hill
waiting for the gate to go down. And then how, all of a sudden, I felt this
crazy calm come over me and it was like nothing existed anymore but the moment.

“You were in the zone,” he said. His eyes narrowed. “So,
you know about the monk and the strawberry then?” he asked, as if that made
sense. I shook my head.

“This monk,” he began, “Was running from some
hyenas. He ran and ran and came to this tree. He climbed up and saw that at the
top of the tree was a hungry lion. So he jumped off the tree and ran some more.
Meanwhile, the hyenas and the lion are chasing him. He comes to this cliff
overlooking a ravine. At the bottom of the ravine is a river full of
alligators. So he has the lion and the hyenas coming up behind him and down
below are the alligators snapping their teeth. The monk backs to the edge of the
cliff and he slips. He’s falling down into the ravine and all of a sudden, his
robe catches on a branch that’s sticking out. He looks up at the branch and
sees that his robe is ripping. He shuts his eyes and starts to meditate and
when he opens them again, he sees this perfect, juicy strawberry growing out of
the side of the ravine. It’s perfectly red, perfectly round. Time stops. All that
exists is this strawberry. So he reaches out to grab it and pops it into his
mouth. It’s the most delicious strawberry that ever existed. The monk achieves
enlightenment. Nirvana.”

“And then what?” I asked.

“And then he fell to his death, of course. The point
is the strawberry. He was in the zone. That’s what it’s all about. The zone.”

I thought about zones on the ride home, backpack heavy
with chicken and bananas and oranges. There’s lots of “zones.” There’s the
combat zone, The Zone diet and Auto Zone for starters. I’ve also heard my
athletic friends make references to this mythical “place” in which they enter
from time to time but I’d assumed it could only be reached with the aid of gross
motor skills (which I lack) and endorphins.

I thought about how I felt on the starting hill. How
that supernatural calm overtook me. How, even though I lost both races, I
glowed for the rest of the day. I thought about the monk and the strawberry. Like
the monk, time stopped for me on that hill, alligators besides. For me and the
monk, there was a little eye of calm in the middle of a terror storm. Was that
nirvana? Probably more like an adrenaline rush. But whatever. I’ll buy it.