Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

Peabodys vs. Football

I only knew it was superbowl Sunday because the grocery stores were madhouses and I inquired of the checkout lady what was up. "Oh, it's always like this on the Superbowl." Ohhh yeahhhhhhh, the Superbowl. The guy bagging up my groceries smiled very sadly at me after her comment. Did he want to be home? getting ready for the superbowl? Or did he rue the day of the Superbowl and felt downtrodden by it all? I don't really know but I left wondering how American I really was (I've never watched a football game ever. Though Homecoming in recent years has seemed intriguing. I've never been one. never went to high school). And then I laughed at myself for wondering if I was American Enough. Since when did that ever go through my head? Lordy.

Grocery store #2 was also beleaguered though the peoples behind the meat and cheese counters seemed happy enough and asked customers who they wanted to win.

So inspite of all this (or in a carefully measured reaction), I have decided to mention the fact that I finished the lovely 400 pg. biography of the Peabody Sisters. Peabody who? Elizabeth, Mary and Sophia Peabody. Elizabeth got a hold of the transcending idea before trandescendalism and Emerson knew what was what. The reclusive Sophia married the reclusive Hawthorne and Mary married…Horace…Horace…it escapes me. Basically, these woman played transcendalist ball with the best of them. Poor Elizabeth with her awesome teaching ideas got involved with the "man of genius but of little talents," Mr. Bronson Alcott. His school she worked at ended poorly because it involved Alcott but Elizabeth went on to work with the goverment in establishing nation-wide required kindergartens. Kindergartens! I have always wondered why we use the german word, kindergarten. Now I know. Elizabeth, like most high-brow intellectuals living circa 1830's, was huge on german ideas, german everything. Kindergarten! So anyways, it was a great biography, very well written, very fascinating. When one sister's life would get not so interesting, it was off to another sister who was getting interesting. I'd like to read more on Sophia and Hawthorne, I think. They were odd ducks and I'm an odd duck observer.

But in the meanwhile, on to more Tony Hillerman novels! I'll be sad when I've read them all and I almost have. The boon of these books is all the Navajo insights that get picked up. New insights about how the world works and how we work in it allow me to walk into each day far more serene, far more ready. And they're nice plot driven books besides!

So now for all those Superbowl fans…I hope some team wins? Thank you.

 

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How to Get Through a Big Book

How to get through a Big Book and have a little fun too.

  1. Make and eat food mentioned in the book (big books always include food, usually in meticulous detail).
  2. Read a little bit each day.
  3. Make a soundtrack.
  4. Dress like a character from the book for a day. Or a week. Or a month if it really grabs you.
  5. Ten minutes to kill? Daydream about the landscape or what the characters are seeing as they move through their day.
  6. Read passages you enjoy out loud. If you’re in the right mood, record yourself reading passages and share it (Instagram is great for this). Include illustrations if you like (thank you, Shirin).
  7. Whip out a highlighter or some sticky tabs for those great parts.
  8. Pace yourself and remember, reading gigantic books isn’t a race. It’s about the journey. Might as well bring along snacks, good drinks, great lighting, and enjoy the ride.

How to Search for Story Settings

A big city not far from mine has a casino. I’ve heard a few stories from friends that have worked there. Most center on being treated badly by a customer and revenging themselves by throwing the customer’s car keys into the Fox River. Karma is enacted on a regular basis at the casino.

There’s something about that river, flowing by, murky green during the day and black at night, a bottomless pit for car keys.

The river divides the city in half, east to west. The Fox flows along the old warehouses, limestone and brick, built back when the city had manufacturing plants and industry. Now the warehouses sit sturdy and silent, crumbling ever so slowly. Their roofs are flat and give the illusion of brick walls running straight into the sky. Some were built like prosaic wedding cakes, higher and higher, until the final topping is small square with tiny windows. Industry has never been about aesthetic needs and wants.  And yet by some miracle, these old turn of the century warehouses have achieved it just the same.

I observed the warehouses from the back deck of the riverside café, clutching my cup of earl grey and wishing I had put sunscreen on. It was the first time I had ever been to this café and I came because I needed a new setting for a fiction story I was working on. None of the cafes I remembered from the past were working for me. I needed this kind of café, one that hung out in an old manufacturing city where there wasn’t much industry left. There was, at least, a casino and many local businesses and this café hung on, here at the water’s edge.

A little further up was the casino where my friends had thrown those keys into the water. From my point on the deck, I could see the grimy metallic white heel of the building jutting out. Another friend told me that he goes there regularly to play black jack. It relieves stress and earns a little extra cash for his family.

The wind picks up a little and despite the sun, it’s chilly. Spring plays these tricks on us.

There is no sign of life in the warehouses all around me. We’re all boxed in together and the light plays off their empty windows, open and blank to the sun. I sip some tea and play “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Led Zeppelin just to see if this café will work for my story. It only takes a few bars of listening to the song and I know that this place is perfect. This spot on the river is perfect for many stories. It’s  been perfect for all the stories I know nothing about and the ones that I’ve caught the smallest glimpses of.

A mallard suns himself in the weeds that line the water’s edge. The river moves fast and sure and I turn off the music. No need to for further noise. The song is already there.