Friday, January 4, 2019

If It Hadn't Been for Books

"Running for home" stitches, that's what I've been doing. But that's about to change.

Whenever my Mom saw really long stitches on a hem, she'd tsk-tsk and say that her mother always called those "running for home" stitches because it was clear that the seamstress was just trying to finish.

I've been trying to finish up countless things since before the holidays blazed through, giving up nights out to write and squeezing in interviews any day or time. Finally this afternoon, my hired mouth and I (with the able and willing assistance of Lady G) made our final visit to the restaurant for a review lunch so I could finish writing it up.

It's hard for me to believe but I have only to push "send" and my work to-do list is history. For the time being anyway.

Now comes the fun part: deciding what books and clothes need to be packed for the adventure ahead. I've been making lists and piles intermittently for a week now, but without much of an inclination to edit myself. That's all well and good during the pre-packing phase, but once you're down to the final countdown, decisions have to be made.

I was pretty much committed to the books I'd selected from my pile, all ferreted out at the main library's big book sale a couple months ago. In making my  selections for the trip, I'd tried to keep it to a reasonable number.

I mean, if I have a reason to read it, it should come, right?

After having reread Marilyn French's iconic feminist treatise "The Women's Room" a couple years ago, I'm eager to dive into her 1996 novel, "My Summer with George." Knowing how different I was in 1996 from my 1977 self, I expect we'll have some life discoveries in common.

What sucked me into choosing "Kafka was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir" by Anatole Broyard was the back cover blurb saying it was about life in the late 1940s, a time when "if it hadn't been for books, we would have been completely at the mercy of sex." Lack of birth control aside, you can't tell me that's not a vacation read.

But I'm not completely shallow, so when I need obscure cultural history (as I am inclined to when I have days to read), I'll pick up "A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books" and learn something. Surely no one's really surprised I'm a fan of publishing sagas.

Once I knock off a novel, a memoir and a history, I just might allow myself to simply wallow in more self-penned tomes, like "The Tender Bar: A Memoir," not because it was a New York Times bestseller but because it piqued my interest when it came out 13 years ago. Then, just in case, I'm bringing along Sting's "Broken Music" from 2003, because, let's be honest, Sting was the thinking woman's crumpet long before Benedict Cumberbatch was a gleam in his Daddy's eye.

Adding to the book's charm is that it's inscribed to Michael from Shirley & Don: "No matter how far away you are, our best thoughts and wishes are for you. Merry Christmas."

I know, I know, it's a lot of books. But how to decide how much is plenty without being unrealistic and toting heavy non-necessities in my suitcase? Mind you, the half-read, worn book with the full Playboy interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono from 1980 is already in my laptop bag, but that could be polished off on the plane, like a bag of those tiny pretzels they give you.

On top of all that, only this afternoon Lady G had handed me Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" a novelization of the Henry VIII/Thomas Cromwell tug-of-war, but also winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize. Dare I bring anything else to read?

Choosing clothes requires less agonizing because I take the stance that it's better to bring too much than want for something I left at home. Dresses, shorts and t-shirts get rolled up and squirreled away into any available space. My hat, some wraps, cute shoes and walking shoes. It's tedious, but progress is obvious as piles disappear and the suitcase sits nearly full.

As for why I'm packing in the first place, well, that goes back to an innocuous conversation at a NOLA-themed evening at Metzger's bar last July. Don't talk to me about wanting to get away to some place warm when it's cold in Richmond if you don't want to get my complete and utter support of the idea.

And, no, that wasn't the absinthe frappe talking. Fact is, I have enthusiasm to spare when it comes to brilliant travel ideas. So, lucky me, I'm off.

But never fear, Richmond, because no matter how far away you are, my best thoughts and wishes are for you.

P.S. I'll be sure to send a postcard.

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