Thank you to everyone who read last week’s post. It’s nice to be back after not publishing for far too long. I was so excited last week I posted EIGHT things. Seems that’s the start of a new tradition. Here are a few things that made this last week special.
One of my most treasured newsletters is Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings. She excerpts wonderful pieces from modern and classic texts, adding her own context and commentary. In an era that has seemingly forgotten poetry and the wisdom of the past, she is a master curator unearthing words, poems, art and illustrations that still resonate today. Each week I discover at least one book I must read and much more to think about. As an added bonus she has turned me on to some of the best kids books over the last several years.
A couple of weeks back we embarked on a family journey amidst a torrential downpour only to discover that the rain decimated the strawberry fields. We made a u-turn and navigated toward the farm’s other u-pick area down the road. There were no strawberries, but the place was bursting with raspberries, peaches, cherries, currants and more. Armed with three buckets we headed straight for the blueberries. After a half hour of picking the plump fruit we dumped the tubs together and had a solid five pounds. The next stop was black raspberries which proved both smaller and thornier. Our little helpers soon went on strike. With a good two pounds picked we called it quits to avoid a toddler insurrection. Our week was filled with fresh berries and as supplies dwindled we decided to jump back in the car and return to Phillips Farms to supply our new fresh fruit addiction. Once again we began with blueberries and filled a whole bucket of delicious fruit in no time. Then, we loaded a bucket with peaches in less than two minutes. I spied a fellow picker’s bucket loaded with gargantuan blackberries and followed the signs. Fifteen minutes later I had scratched hands and a few more pounds of fruit. Some day we’ll get our strawberries.
After decades of spending my days cratedigging in record stores and dropping a few hundred bucks a month on vinyl, tapes and CDs, I all but stopped buying music in 2013. I jumped onto Spotify and didn’t look back. Yet somehow Bandcamp has dragged me back into the store, albeit online. When i can’t find something streaming I turn to Bandcamp. Now with Bandcamp Fridays and the site waiving fees to benefit the artists I find myself once again stockingpiling great music.
Some recent favorites include Ekoplekz, the many alteregos of Leyland Kirby (The Caretaker, The Stranger), the great archive of Sonic Youth live shows and the Touch: Isolation compilation.
THE QUIETUS’ BAKERS DOZEN
Every week The Quietus has an artist reveal the 13 albums that shaped them and their music. They also share why a particular records meant so much. Often I am surprised by what some musicians love. With every column I find hidden treasures, new music and am frequently compelled to revisit a recording with new ears. It’s very easy to listen to music, but it’s a challenge to unlisten and hear it anew without judgment.
HOBOKEN PUBLIC LIBRARY
As a kid I was enamored with libraries. The stacks of books promised so much. I loved the smell, the quiet, the solitude and the stacks of books. Somehow as an adult I forgot about them. Thank you to my kids I rediscovered the pure joy of so many books at my fingertips. It was a homecoming after 20 years away. So much has changed, yet they are so very much the same. If I request a book I can usually get it delivered from any regional library. The Libby app allows me to check out books and audiobooks wherever and whenever.. As my local library slowly reopens I am excited for their return and their noble efforts to keep programs going during lockdown.
ALL THE BOOKS AT ONCE
I’ve got at least one book going on every device and in every room of my house just in case I need a book right now. Here’s a quick house tour of what I’ve been reading.
Living Room Earth Abides by George Stewart, My son has to read this for summer reading so I am tagging along. This couldn’t be more timely as the world in this book has just been wiped out by a mysterious pandemic.
Bedroom Batman & Robin, Volume 1: Batman Reborn You might as well call it the Batroom as there is always a Batman graphic novel in rotation. Grant Morrison is behind this one.
Kitchen Grunge is Dead by Greg Prato. I’ve been reading this engaging oral hitory of Seattle’s 80s and 90s music scene 4 pages at a time. It’s all so familiar and so long ago.
Office Post Office by Charles Bukowski. I really want to love Bukowski, but this semi-autobiographical novel makes me depressed. Someday I will finish.
Libby App The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates. This is his fiction debut and it tells a magical tale of a slave with super powers who becomes involved with the Underground Railroad.
Kindle Alan Sillitoe’s Travels in Nihilon. This one is a slog. It’s a high concept travelogue through a country that has embraced Nihilism. There are echoes of 1984, Brave New World and other dystopian classics, but for every step forward it takes two absurd steps back. Someday this treip will end.
Audible Rachel Kushner’s second novel, The Flame Throwers, follows a motorcyle riding female artist from seedy 1970s New York City to the Bonneville Salt Flats and around the world.
Sally Rooney’s Normal People. A deep dive into the complex and evolving relationship between two kids from high school into college. I saw the trailer for the Hulu show and knew the book was all I needed. ★★★★
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. A look at the racial dynamics between a white mom and a black nanny. It’s light, poignant and funny at times and moves quickly. There are a few nice twists at the end, but the characters are poorly developed and the breezy tone serves to undercut the primary themes in the book. ★★★
FRIENDS WHO STILL SHARE MUSIC
Many of my college and post-collegiate friendships were forged through working together in public radio. Over the years I did time at KUGR, KZUU, KCMU and WFMU, We bonded over music, spending our time hunting for records and going to shows. In pre-ditigtal days great music was scarce. Today I can find almost whatever I want whenever I want it, but I love the friends who email a few mp3s or send some links to something special. There will never be a shortage of songs, but those shared by friends are guaranteed my special listening attention. Here’s a great mix from my longtime friend @DJ_DamonCreed.
HOBOKEN THEN & NOW
My running buddy @petermarney tipped me to this Instagram account curated by the Hoboken Historical Museum. Two pictures. One then. One now. Hoboken is an old town with a storied past and seeing history side-by-side with today is eye opening. All too often the past looks a whole lot better than the present.
See you next week with whatever gets me through the next seven days.