Thursday, December 27, 2012

It was the best of times...

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
--Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

This pretty well sums up the "year in review" for me. And while I'm at it, I freely admit to never having read this book (despite my status as a voracious reader, there are huge gaps in my literary history of reading 'the great books'. Last time Mike's parents visited, we reviewed 'great books' and I shamefully had to admit how few of them I'd gotten around to reading, while tooling about with such wise tomes as written by Marian Keyes and Freya North. Mike's mom advised me to get working on this). Don't get me wrong--I've got the brain-books on the shelves, I've got the Truman Capote 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' (loved it); I have the Hemingway (I do really like his writing style, even if the subject matter sometimes leaves me cold). I have the Tolstoy, I'm struggling through the Dostoyevsky, I've read everything Orwell has ever written (Down and Out in Paris and London, go, read it, you'll thank me. Only don't get it out of the library. Bedbugs. My God. I echo the sentiment in the newspaper article by a woman who was interviewed after cracking a library book in bed and having several of the critters skittle by....."How am I going to get the reading in that I need to now? Books are like a drug to me! I can't even afford the number of books I need to read!".  I hear that sista. I'm pondering my own reader-junkie-future as I type this).
Raymond Carver.  Carl Jung. Joan Didion.  Aldous Huxley. Ayn Rand. Yes, I've gone there. And I go back for more. But I digress. This is a year in review.  I did, however, read a tonne of great books this year, which I will recap for you, and there were some insane news stories, one of which I've just mentioned--Bedbugs in library books. Lawd help us. 

Blogs all over the world do 'year in review'.  To me, this quote from A Tale of Two Cities crystallizes how little changes in our world fundamentally, in those very concrete ways.  It's an age of wisdom, for sure. It's an age of overwhelming foolishness.  There are most certainly Seasons of Light, and there will always be Seasons of Darkness.  Hope springs eternal, and winter can bring us to our knees.  In our own age of wisdom, we continue to blunder through with medical problems (this being the year of my first real health crisis I can definitely say we know nothing), we struggle with mental health and our own idiosyncrasies, which, while sometimes charming, often drive us to do things we dismiss as 'beyond our control' as if the mind resides in it's own little pocket, doing whatever the hell it wants and we subscribe to the belief it will let us know what it needs when the time comes (ie, when we finally hit that wall of depression, when we're on the rack with anxiety, when our demons of addiction, of violence, of anger finally spew out.  Age of foolishness for sure. 

Another point of 'year in review' that some blog sites give advice about is to talk about or highlight posts that were the most popular on your blog for the year. Mine were a strange mixed bag about a series of critiques I wrote about a fairly popular blog called "Reagan's Blob" and I had recently taken down the posts that related to these critiques as I felt stupid going down a level and engaging a narcissist. I also stopped commenting on any blog entry she wrote, despite some of the most maddening writing and misleading tripe I've ever read. It's like a bad song, you know? It earworms itself into your head and you can't unhear it. Well, I can't unread this blog. Quick example:
This was one of the last upbeat posts right before her and her husband of five-something years just split up, with no real warning, just posts like this, lie upon lie, to project the highlight reel onto the world.  Her other blog Hairdresser on Fire, recently spouted this little drivel: .
The entry itself is not that obnoxious (except for the long laundry list of how much money she spends on vanity). It was the comments that got to me. One singularly intelligent reader (there is one), said in her comment that she lost 2 family members in an airline crash. That is TRUE lost luggage.
Then, someone else, further down, commented on the stolen luggage, to the HDonF author 'Sorry about your loss'.  EXCUSE ME? She got her luggage ransacked. Yes. It SUCKS. Sorry about your loss? GIVE YOUR HEAD A SHAKE. I encourage you to read this self-absorbed entry (there really is no other kind with this chick) and scroll through the comments. It's an age of foolishness alright.

Another werido blog I stumbled upon (that my sister wrote an essay about for school, about how isolating social media can actually be--people living their lives through a computer screen, propping up their poor self-images behind great photographs and daydreamy-prose.  This one: .
In a good way, it can remind me of being a blind 20-something but it also reminds me that as much of a trainwreck that I was (and I was, I assure you), I never once felt the need to HIDE IT. I didn't write letters to a future husband who would (this phrase makes me vomit) "Make an honest woman out of me".  Mike reasons that this transplanted NYC'er is originally from Texas and that explains it all.
I guess. It's still freaky and scary. But like the Reagan thing, I return. Like a carcrash you can't look away from.  Like an old 80's song you won't ever admit you like.  Like too much sugar.

So yea, top blog posts. I had taken alot of them down but after reading this by the Bitchy Waiter, I decided to own my own bitchy side and re-post them. I too often have trouble getting along with others. But fuck it, I'm a monster, as the song goes. 
This Bitchy Waiter qualifies as my personal number one favourite find of the year.
Named a Blog of Note by the blog people (what about meeeee!?) I instantly fell in love with this blog.

1) he's a genius.
2) he is beyond funny
3) as you know I waited tables from the time that Tale of Two Cities was written, into the stone age and back again. So I know waiting. And I LOVE hearing his sarcastic take on it all.
Add to that, he's also a great humour writer, his posts are razor-sharp, he's witty, and he GETS IT.
Amen to the Bitchy Waiter. This is one of my personal faves here:
and this one:
I've had to stop reading them at work because I laugh too loudly.

Another great comedy discovery:  Key and Peele (thank you sister).  Check out Youtube for such skits by the name of "Deal or No Deal", "Baby Forest", and "Soul Food". 

You're welcome.  And yea, I get it. Not everyone will find these that funny (some people have no sense of humour and should really get one) but it makes me happy. Really happy. And lately, that is no small feat.

I guess I've ranted enough about bedbug-ridden library books, I've bitched about 20-something blogs that are pointless and more importantly, VOID of meaning, and I've named my Most Favourite Blog evah, and I've talked about how Key and Peele saw me through some dark times.
We won't go over how depressing the News of the Year was. I talked about CT in this post, 
and that's all I'm going to say about it. I don't have an answer to an event like this, and I haven't been able to wrap my head around it at all, except to say, in a most meaningless, empty way, that it's times like these I am glad I do not have children. I wouldn't be able to let them out of my sight at any time after this. Parents: I salute you.

We move on to favourite expressions, most coined by my sister and my friend L. after watching certain shows, skits, or by over-using the same phrases over and over again. 
"There. Now you know everything" is one that you can use as a sign-off to an email where you've made some shocking confession (ie, putting Cool Whip in your coffee as all your other dairy products have expired, I'm just saying).
"I'm Just Saying" also the title of my friend L.'s lovely blog 
is also an expression to denote a 'no judgement' kind of attitude, a 'what the hell' kind of response.
"Broke that hex".  Watch the Key and Peele. Watch alot of it. Then you'll understand this. 
Books. I will talk about these now. There were some great reads, and I'm already planning my next few (after the non-apocalypse, I am finally going to crack Cormac McCarthy's The Road, book not the movie version, after reading this amazing New Yorker article late at night a couple of days ago--
It was the perfect read while lazing under Christmas lights, thinking about what this year has given and taken away, and what next year will bring. 
Apocalyptic and dystopian darkness are two themes that, along with time travel, have long attracted me. I plan to devote more reading time to said theme in the coming year. 
Another read I'm planning on is this book, which appeared on a fave blog of mine recently:
I continue my love of memoirs.

I'll give you a quick top ten of book picks this year so you can say yea or nay, not a problem.

1) Blue Nights, Joan Didion. By far the best book I've read this year. I've re-read it about twenty times now. I'm moving into memorization territory. I could (and I might) devote an entire post to quotes from this book that brought me to my knees.  Read it. Feel it. Know it.

2)  Blood, Bones, and Butter, Gabrielle Hamilton.  A memoir of her slow rise to chef-celeb status with many many bumps on the road.  The ending leaves me crazing a second book to see how this trainwreck of an arranged marriage turns out. All I can do is hope.

3) The Soul of a Chef, Michael Ruhlman.  Three book-ettes in one. The final chapters on Thomas Keller are worth the read. 

4)  The Summer of the Great-Grandmother and a Circle of Quiet, Madeleine L'Engle, two of the four "Crosswicks" journals published in the seventies. A key perspective on knowing how much changed in the last century about life, how it continues to change. 

5)  Wild, by Cheryl Strayed.  Yes, an obvious choice. But I couldn't put it down. The first half was marginally better, to me, than the second half. But I loved the book, the premise. The lost parent, the subsequently lost child....

6) Le Freak, Nile Rodgers. I've read musical memoirs before. And after (John Taylor from Duran Duran being the most recent, eye-rollingly narcissistic tome).  But this book by Rodgers is brilliant. A storied life. That said, I may have read that at the end of 2011. But it remains front and centre this year.

7) Love is a Mix Tape, Rob Sheffield. I find myself combing the internet searching for other writings by this sensitive, music-loving author. I've re-read this one alot too, trying to figure out "how it works".

8)  Forgotten Affairs of Youth, Alexander McCall Smith.  His Isabel Dalhousie series. I also just checked his website and "The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds" is next in the line up. How will I get this book? I can't take anything out of the library!!!

9) Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Jean-Dominique Bauby. I've written about this one, too.

That's ten books (number 4 has two). So there you go. I'll post more as I remember them. But these are the ones that jumped up first, and ones that I still carry around lines from in my head.

I'm supposed to round out with a list of things I've learned. Hmm. I suck at this.

1) Sometimes the player you've written off outplays you. You know what I mean. But karma has it's far-reaching tentacles spread around this revolving-door planet. I've exited the door for now.
2) Being married is fun, and it's hard, but it's great. Being in a long-distance marriage is even more of a challenge, I know what you'r'e thinking, How is that possible? Well it is. The missing magnifies everything. Everything.
3) I can face adversity better than I used to now. (so much practice).
4) I can't always control my health but I have to forgive my body. It needs my patience.
5)  How can I love the people I love more? That's what Louise Hay asks. It's something I muse about. A cup of coffee warmed up and brought to my husband in bed. Taking care of my sister's kids on a Saturday when she's at her wit's end.  Driving my mom somewhere. It seems like such a dull laundry list. But it's those small things, right?
6) I do alot better sometimes when I keep my damn mouth shut.

7) I have a propensity for indulging my natural night owl tendencies when my husband is here and I know I have to get up the next morning.  This wreaks havoc on my system. I must remember this.
8)  I still love to run, and I'm still going to run. I'm on a break. I'm over it.
9)  I don't do well with people who are Geminis. I know that some of you are okay. But for the most part, I will steer clear.
10)  I have alot to learn, and I'm looking forward to a new decade in 2013. My new decade.
Forty awaits. Welcome home forty. Get comfortable.

I'll continue this in a part two of some sort over the coming days. For now, I have to go and support a friend who has lost a loved one. I have to finish my coffee. I have to say hello to email friends.
I have to get up off this couch and get dressed.  I have to rejoin the living.
I have to tie up loose ends before I go on vacation. 

I have to pack. 
I have to usher in the New Year on Monday night with good friends and food at a local bistro.

I have to make those dreaded "resolutions"....lawd help me.

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