Armchair Peregrinations

October 28, 2005

I found this interesting book at the used books place recently, Live and Learn and Pass It On: People ages 5-93 share what they've discovered about life, love, and other good stuff.

I want to list a few of the kernals of wisdom contained therein, and then list a few of my own.

I've learned that:

* Homemade toll house cookies should be eaten while still warm. Age 29

* The great challenge of life is to learn what is important and to disregard everything else. Age 51

* Almost no quality product sells for a cheap price. Age 52

* A person is only as good as his or her word. Age 90

* Lying in the green grass of an empty field makes you feel so good. Age 14

* You should always take time to answer young children when they ask "why?" Age 38

* Mom wouldn't like my boyfriend even if he were captain of the football team and sang in the church choir. Age 17

* You can keep going long after you think you can't. Age 69

* I have never been bored in the presence of a cheerful person. Age 63

* Untold treasures are found in the imagination of a child. Age 30

* If you depend on others to make you happy, you'll be endlessly disappointed. Age 60

* My mother sometimes laughs so hard she snorts. Age 7

* The most creative ideas come from beginners, not the experts. Age 62

* How people treat me is more a reflection of how they see themselves than how they see me. Age 49

* Middle age is the best time of my life -- so far. Age 50

* You can always find time to do the things you really want to. Age 64

* Cokes taste better in the small bottles. Age 54


My list: (Age 54)

I've learned that:

* The best things in life are free.

* A homemade apple pie with a flaky crust made with Crisco is better than anything you can buy at a store or restaurant.

* A weather prediction of 50 percent chance of rain usually ends up being 100 percent.

* It's exceedingly hard, if not impossible, to maintain the best friendships of your life from long distances away.

* Time does fly by much faster the older you get.

* The sustained reading of a good book outweighs most of what you can read on the Internet.

* Your family is there for you when no one else is.

* A spectacular sunset, yellow gold and orange trees in autumn, and waterfalls all help assure me that God is at work in the creation of the universe and its myriad wonders.

* You can't deny that you gossip.

* There is no better smell than sheets and pillow cases dried on the clothesline in warm summer air.

* You never forget how refreshing a grape snowcone (we called them snowballs) or an ice-cold Nehi orange drink is on a hot summer day, decades after you last had one.

* Flowers are sublime.

* A good writer is highly intelligent.

* I can't avoid the news.

* A ceiling fan and a swing on a porch can beat staying indoors in an air-conditioned house all day.

* Sad movies really do make you cry.

Parting quote: Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of 80 and gradually approach eighteen.

Mark Twain

October 20, 2005

I have always loved books and read them all my life. When I was 12 years old, I joined the Doubleday $1 Book Club, or maybe it was the Bargain Book Club, I can't remember for sure. I was so excited when my first shipment of books came (those five books for $1 introductory offers are very enticing). I had a nice book shelf in my bedroom and placed my new tomes on the shelves and added to them as I got new books. Not that I read many of them. How many 13-year-olds can get into Bruce Catton's three volume history of the Civil War? But I got it for a dollar i believe.

It was around this time that my love of buying books really took off. Later when the malls first opened in the 60s, I would head over to Waldenbooks with some frequency, amazed at the selection.

In the years to come I would read a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughts science fiction ( John Carter of Mars, Thuvia, Maid of Mars, and the like.. eeek). How can I even remember the titles? I went through them very quickly.. In junior high and high school I faithfully read all the assigned plays and novels.

In my senior year of college, I discovered a special sancutary of an independent bookstore, located in five rooms of an old house in the Garden District of New Orleans. The owner and founder was a remakrable woman who presided over her eclectic little book emporium with the all-wise air of a very well-read and knowledgeable person. She was like a seer or sage to me. I marveled just to think of all the books she had read and all the noted authors she had met and spoken to. I spent many happy hours browsing the shelves in one room after another, walking across creaky old wood floors and cooled on hot summer days by a couple of noisy window air-conditioning units.

A few years later, and for much fo the 70s, I frequented a marvelous independent bookstore in Columbia, S.C., where I lived for much of that decade. It was called "The Happy Bookseller" and was evidently the cherished dream of a successful carpet dealer in that city who loved books with a passion I still recall with astonishment. Everyone he hired had that same passion for books and knowledge of them.

Years ago, I dreamed of having a book store myself, and there was a litle shop on Magazine Street in New Orleans that served as a model of what a good book store would be like. This was in the 1980s when I briefly lived in New Orleans, the city where I grew up. Now, I go to Barnes and Noble and Books a Million, which are very nice, but not the same as the quirky independent bookstores I loved to visit, just for the experience if not to buy something.

And, I must confess...Now that so much of my reading is one on the Internet, a virtual cornucopia of magazine articles, journal articles, Web sites, diaries, instant messaging and the like, my reading of books has suffered as a result. My goal is to achieve some balance, spending equal amounts of time with books and the many magazines I subscribe to, and online reading. It's a daunting task, but I have so many hundreds of books waiting on me, I cannot fail in my quest.

The survey:

How many books do you own?

At least 1,000. They fill all my shelves in three rooms of my apartment and are stacked on the floor in each room, also. Boxes of books line some of my walls, and they fill my walk-in closets.

What is the last book you bought?

I picked it up tonight at Barnes and Noble. It's titled "Fried Chicken: An American Story", by John T. Edge. It is full of choice stories and the history of my all time favorite food, plus recipes. Not that I cook my own fried chicken. I have so many pleasant memories of savoring really good fried chicken, whether the kind my mother made when I was a child or my aunt's cook prepared for us when we went to Sumter on vacation. I love it at barbecue buffets, at chicken restaurants such as Popeyes, and, really anywhere it is sold.

Five books I have bought in the past few weeks (I buy many used books):

The Education of an American by Mark Sullivan ("A famous journalist, author of Our Times, reviews the forces which shaped his life."

The World's Great Letters

The Beauty of America: Our Heritage and Destiny in Great Words and Photographs

Vermont People (photographs by Peter Miller)

American Ruins, Ghosts on the Landscape (photographs by Maxwell MacKenzie)

Montana: Photography by John Lambing and Wayne Mumford

Books I am currently reading:

Living on Wilderness Time by Melissa Walker

Attack Poodles and Other Media Mutants: The Looting of the News in a Time of Terror by James Wolcott

Lost Time: On Remembering and Forgetting in Late Modern Culture by David Gross

The Middle Mind: Why Americans Don't Think for Themselves by Curtis White

Watching the Tree: A Chinese Daughter Reflects on Happiness, Tradition, and Spiritual Wisdom

Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal -- The Art of Transforming a Life into Stories by Alexandra Johnson

Going to Ground: Simple Life on a Georgia Pond by Amy Blackmarr

Connecting: How We Form Social Bonds and Communites in the Internet Age by Mary Chayko

Five books I have long remembered:

Cousin Pons by Honore Balzac -- One of the most moving and astonishing novels by the great French novelist. I will never forget it. I read it right after I graduated from college in 1973.

The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton and The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton -- these books profoundly influenced me during a period of spiritual awakening in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole -- Probably the funniest novel ever written. A sprawling saga about the life of one Ignatius Riley as he confronts the absurdities of life. Set in New Orleans, where I grew up. (the only novel I have read three times).

Green Mansions by W.H. Hudson -- I remember this book from ninth grade and how mysterious and exotic it was.

(Written June 18, 2005)

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