Thursday, October 27, 2005

Books as status symbols

I’ve recently come to understand something about myself that ought to have been obvious much earlier in my evolution. I view books as status symbols. Moving back into our smallish 2 BR apartment in Sharon from over 1200 square feet in Manhattan has been an adjustment in many ways. But one of the most painful losses has been the loss of two glorious floor-to-ceiling book shelves that were and remain part of the furnishings on 52nd St.

A couple of weeks ago, I finally had to face facts and unpack books to fill up our only remaining 3-shelf bookcase. As the space was limited, I was very cognizant of what gained space on such hallowed shelf. The top one, lined with Bibles and other spiritually themed literature to prove to visitors that we are Christians (and they’ll know we are Christians by our books). The second shelf was home to the greatest hits of two different college educations—some education stuff, primary and secondary; the poets, or at least what we have for poets: E. B. Browning and Lord Byron (never was much into Keats or Shelley); almost the entire syllabus from the one literature course I took in college: The Jungle Books; and other assorted titles I thought would impress a visitor, including two from Chinua Achebe for good measure. The bottom shelf, being the tallest is home to the cozy stuff visitors like to look at when they visit your home: some very embarrassing high school yearbooks from central Massachusetts and north Jersey, some slightly less embarrassing college yearbooks, my sketchbook from the drawing class I took for non-art majors. Short of laying every book we own out and embarking on a strenuous selection process, I felt pretty good about what I had chosen, though the selection was painfully small and painted an admittedly incomplete picture of our lives.

This weekend, I had to move the rest of the boxes that went silently but proudly like dignified refugees to the basement. Beyond the simple fact that our handsome bookshelf is filled to capacity and we have no other on which to place books, there also isn’t any space for a companion to share the load.

I realized that this was such a difficult fact for me to face up to because I associate books with status. This should come as no surprise to the son of a man who, in legendary fashion, has carted no less than 25 boxes of books around the country, nay the world during his 30+ year career as a Salvation Army officer (pastor) moving on average, once every 3.5 years. As an educated person, I spent much of my college career lugging around book guilt, concerned that I hadn’t read enough of the aforementioned Achebe and often confused T.S. Elliot and e.e. cummings, simply because they both went by their initials (yes I know the difference now). It seemed like everyone around me had read more, was reading more and forever would read more than I did.

Some people, when visiting friends’ or strangers’ houses make decisions about them and their lifestyle based on the usual markers: what’s parked in their driveway, what’s served at the table and what it is served on. I go right to the bookshelf at first opportunity. I had always suspected that my friends John and Anne were better people than I am, particularly Anne. This was confirmed when I arrived at their Philadelphia home and found, you guessed it, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, two of them, crammed with books. Not just standing as sentinels, side by side, but crowding on top of each other in crazy horizontals and diagonals, elbowing each other for space on the shelf. And the collection would make any English professor beam or any black-wearing latte-sipping Lit major show the slightest intention toward a grin. It had everything, of course: Shelley and Keats, poetry, history, biographies, Bibles, humor. You name it—they have it.

Now here’s the kicker. I don’t read. I have books on my shelf I have never read. I have books on the shelf I read once and don’t ever want to read again. I have books I’d love to read, but I’m waiting for the time to be just right. At present, though I have two or three books on my desk and some in my sidebar as current reading, I am reading one book (2 if you count the Word). It’s Barbara Kingsolver’s Pigs in Heaven. I haven’t read more than a chapter of it this month. I’m like the guy who owns exotic cars like Ferraris and Lambos, but drives a Chevy Cobalt to work and leaves the exotics in a glass garage at his villa.

It’s a really handsome bookshelf, and it’s hinged. It folds almost flat when you move it. Enough blogging. Gotta go read.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Awesome Big 80s Rewind -- Walking in the Rain

On the way to work this morning, my friend Rick mentioned a classic 80s song called The Rain, by Oran "Juice" Jones. It contains one of the single greatest talking sections in a song ever. If you don't know the song, it's from a guy's perspective who caught his girlfriend cheating. The chorus is:

I saw you (and him)
Walking in the rain
You were holding hands and I’ll
Never be the same

Anyway, we googled the lyrics and the talking part is even better than I remember. If you know the song, take a trip down memory lane and buy it on iTunes. If you don't know the song, you'll never spend 99 cents more wisely. It's too good. With genius like this, what ever happened to Oran Jones?

Hey, hey, baby, how you doin’, come on in here
Got some hot chocolate on the stove waitin’ for ya
Listen, first things first, let me hang up that coat
Yeah, ‘n’ how’s your day today, did ya miss me?
Oh, you did, yeah, I missed you, too
I missed you so much I followed you today
That’s right. Now close your mouth ‘cause you cold busted
That’s right, now sit down here
Sit down here. So upset with you I don’t know what to do
‘N’ my first impulse was to run up on you
And do a Rambo. Whip out the jammy and flat-blast both of you
But I ain’t wanna mess up this thirty-seven hundred dollar lynx coat

So instead… I chilled (yeah) That’s right, chilled, then I went to the bank
Took out every dime. And then I went and cancelled all those credit cards
Yeah. All your charge accounts. Yeah.
I stuck you up for every piece of jewelry I ever bought you
Yeah. That’s right, everything. Everything
Didn't fky with me. Naw, don’t go, you ever go, don’t go looking in that closet
‘Cause you ain’t got nothing in there
Everything you came here with
Is packed up and waiting for you in the guest room
That’s right, what was you thinking about, huh?
What were you tryin’ to prove, huh? You’s with the Juice
‘N’ I gave you silk suits, Gucci handbags, blue diamonds
I gave you things you couldn’t even pronounce

Now I can’t give you nothin’ but advice ‘cause you’re still young
That’s right, you’re still young. I hope you learn a valuable lesson from all this, you know?Gonna find someone like me one of these days
Until then, know what you gotta do? You gotta get on outta here with that
Alley-cat-coat-wearin’ Hush-Puppy-shoe-wearin’ crumb cake I saw you with
‘Cause you dismissed. That’s right, silly rabbit. Tricks are made for kids, don’t you know that?
You without me: like cornflake without the milk.
It’s my world, you just a squirrel, tryin’ to get a nut
Now get on outta here. Ah! Don’t touch that coat!