Some of My Favorite Things (Recently)
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All through our gliding journey, on this day as on so many others, a little song runs in through my mind. I say a song because it passes musically, but it is really just words, a thought that is neither strange nor complex. In fact, how strange it would be not to think it – not to have such music inside one’s head and body, on such an afternoon. What does it mean, say the words, that the earth is so beautiful? And what shall I do about it? What is the gift that I should bring the world? What is the life that I should live?
I did a little dog-ear on the ninth page of Long Life, the one that gave me this paragraph, and I have to say: I love the little song she writes about. It's one I know happily and well. In a way, it reminds me of some of my favorite lines of Rumi:
At the end of my life, with just one breath left,
if you come, I’ll sit up and sing.
And then, in a different essay a few pages later, she did this:
And it is exceedingly short, his galloping life.
Which was quite a beautiful way to describe so many things about her dog and quite a beautiful way to tell me something I already know and feel but have never known and felt in that particular way. Something so lovely about galloping.
There's a wall running along a street in Dumbo that has some of the BEST owls painted on it, and I love owls. Snowy owls, screech owls. Owl from Winnie the Pooh. Hedwig then Errol then Pig, that's the one-to-three order I'd rank my favorite ones in Harry Potter. I have a new theory about Hedwig that I don't want to share, but that's not entirely true because I desperately do but this doesn't feel like the best place for it.
A man at a bar the other night, a man with a tremendously white beard -- sang me a song. It was built around this hook: that "beer is the most important meal of the day." He stroked his beard when he wasn't singing and there was something a little sad about it all.
Gin and gunpowder. One stored next to the other on British Royal Navy ships. If the gin spilled on to the gunpowder, the liquid was lost and the powder spoiled. And so, a discovery: if the gin was 57% alcohol (114 proof), it could spill AND REGARDLESS, gunpowder could still ignite. This is the story behind "naval strength" gin.
I had a dream the other night about my old friend named Henry. He was the beagle I grew up with. If you pushed me on it I'd have to say that his best BEST friend was either Tess or my Dad, though I really loved the way my Mom would stop what she was doing and give him an ear rub and talk to him a bit. Now that I think about it, Dad was probably Henry's real best friend. They sort of spoke the same language, and they certainly loved watching bike races together and when Henry died there was a pretty big part of Dad that lost a friend the likes of which he probably won't have again. I was in Dallas when that happened and at a barbecue but I cried when I learned that the long-and-softly-brown-eared dog who gave me the best doubtful side-glances when he sensed I might be after his food was gone for good. He used to inch over when I would move and take the warm spot in my bed.
Frankly my dear...whatever. MHCE.
I was trying to create a mnemonic that would help you remember the animals that are my favorite favorite who I've met in all the books I've read. The "f" in frankly stands for the fox in The Little Prince. The "m" that follows is for the mole in The Wind in the Willows. The "d" is for Dobby, and I KNOW he's not an animal but he's not a human either and I sort of want him in this list because my GOODNESS he's Dobby and I am so happy to know him and he seems to become more special to me all the time (in fact, I had to turn off a podcast the other day because someone kept pronouncing his name like DOE-bee and that is really just absurd). The "w" is for Winnie the Pooh and I love him for him but also because it probably means that Piglet in all his bounciness is not that far behind.
Here are the others: Max (not an animal, but he's surrounded by wild things and Maurice Sendak is so very important to me); HEDWIG!!! -- "Hedwig hooted happily at Harry..." is one of the loveliest beginnings to a sentence; the "c" is for Charlotte, and there is no kinder spider; Errol -- come ON, he's so spectacular and SUCH a Weasley owl.
I referenced Captain Frederick Wentworth the other day. Chapter 23 of Persuasion. I think his letter is beautiful and I think his love for Anne is beautiful and I think that Anne is beautiful as well. My parents are driving around the English countryside right now and sent across a photo of Jane Austen's tiny desk. I think that's beautiful too.
I celebrated Bruce Springsteen this morning with a very good listening to a 1975 concert. "Backstreets" is the star, and it's special to me because of the piano and the way it takes quite a few minutes to build. Then there's "Jungleland" which will always remind me of my Dad. It's a long song, too, and sometimes when it comes through my headphones when I'm in the middle of a race I call those miles my Jungleland Miles which isn't particularly brilliant, honestly, but it is one of those things that makes a bit of sense when you're doing it because the song takes about a mile-and-a-half to get through. I drove from Texas to Brooklyn last year with all my books and I listened to Bruce a great amount. Austin. Montgomery. Knoxville. Lexington. Charleston. Prospect Park West.
My friend started a little library the other week and he's doing a thing where he's asking people to come in with a question in mind and then pick five books from the shelves that might help answer it. And so I did, and these were my books: Dubliners, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Letters to a Young Poet, Emma, and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. If it was there, I would have included The Power Broker.
I made a joke on stage the other night that involved something I overheard on the L train, and it sort of worked but was one of those jokes that is clearly missing something and so you have to decide whether you want to try finding that something it needs, or just let it go.
Yesterday morning -- when the windows were down and when I woke up and the autumn wind did the best thing it does and sort of filled my room with that gorgeous reminder that the sun can be out ("the first pink suggestion of sunrise") and the sky can be very, very blue and yet it's that time of year where a top-sheet doesn't seem so unhelpful and your blanket really shows what it's made of -- I sort of rolled over and smiled a bit and I must have fallen back asleep because the sun was coming through a different window when I woke back up again.
I made a fairly adamant point yesterday that seems a little overblown now. ANYBODY can be a fan of Abraham Lincoln. Show me the person who's a Martin van Buren expert and then we can have a presidential conversation I'd be a touch more interested in. Those obscure, little, fiery passions are always worth a listen.
Sometimes at night I use an app on my phone to look at the stars. I spot the moon when I can and usually don't offer much more in observation than things like, it LOOKS full but I don't think it really is or, that's a waning crescent. I learned about "Fomalhaut" last week, the brightest star in the Southern Fish constellation that is also called "The Loneliest Star" because it is in a part of the sky that only has very faint stars and so it appears quite solitary.
There's always a bit of a heaviness on baseball's last day. Spring has become summer and now it's fall -- baseball walks us through this more beautifully than anything else.
I think that this is maybe my favorite joke of all time?
If you'd like to know something about me, I'd have to tell the recent story about finishing Charlotte's Web because it sounds like I had just as much of a hard time as E.B. White did. He made a recording of the book and it supposedly took him 19 tries to finish reading the final pages without crying. Come ON. That book. So so immeasurably special. Templeton the rat, the encouraging goose, and Fern, too, of course. May we all, at some moment, have a Charlotte. Be a Charlotte.
It's virtually impossible for me to walk past a building that has a window that's been bricked over or a wall that's been patched up and not think of Edgar Allan Poe and all the people and animals he'd bury alive in places like that in his stories. I don't point that out too often, though, because it can change the tenor of a conversation.
I use a number of things as bookmarks, but I prefer tickets to baseball games and boarding passes. Anything that can tell me where I was when I was reading it, really. I like connecting to my books like this and just said something like oh of COURSE when a train ticket fell out of my copy of a book I'm reading about Civil Rights.
"This lovely world, these precious days..."