Saturday, May 2, 2015

5 Reasons Indie Bookstores Rock My World More Than a Dancing Paul Rudd Gif

Hi, guys! Today, I read the following essay live at Brooklyn's BookCourt in celebration of Independent Bookstore Day, and thought I'd publish it here, too. YAY BOOKS!

Yeah, I know--that's not technically a book. But it IS a purple corduroy jumpsuit, so act impressed.

I came a little... late to reading. When the subject comes up, I usually blame this on my early education, which mostly took place in a Hobbit hole of a Waldorf classroom outside of Austin, Texas. Day after day we sang songs and leapt off of tree stumps and wove rough cornhusks into the sort of dolls the Blair Witch might have hung on her Christmas tree. But we didn’t learn to read.

My parents, who both then and now took pride in their impressive and eclectic home library, read to me often, but I much preferred it when they made stuff up. For a number of years in the early 1980s for example, I forced my father into an episodic tale of a princess trapped in a castle cellar with a family of trolls—a sort of proto-Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I begged any adult I could find to tell me “boo-boo stories”—which were detailed accounts of every time they had ever been badly injured, and one memorable babysitter made Ronald and Nancy Reagan the protagonists of his improvised tales, sending them to fantastical places like outer space, or the vaguely R. Crumb-inspired “Big Butt Island.” But I still did not learn to read.

The turning point came when I left the rustic embrace of Rudolph Steiner and transferred to a local public school for first grade. I was placed into the slowest reading group, but showed such promise that my teacher decided to move me into a different class. Unfortunately I didn’t understand at the time that this was a compliment, and so when she attempted to bodily remove me from my desk I responded with my first—and, so far, only—attempt at fisticuffs. As penance, I was forced, finally, to learn to read.

It’s become cliché to describe a relationship with books as “a love affair,” but in my case I think it’s distressingly accurate, as almost every romantic flush or fallout I had with a partner, I had with a book first. As a child I would lie in bed with them, figuring things out, slowly burying us both in a pile of cracker crumbs—which still my signature move. As an adolescent I experienced alternating, hormone-fueled bouts of euphoria and crushing betrayal. To this day I cannot forgive Louisa May Alcott for letting that little bitch Amy March end up with my Laurie, and I let her know it with some extremely emphatic graffiti on the spine of my dog-eared paperback. As an adult I tend to treat my books not unlike Jeff, my husband of 8 years: they’ve all been read and re-read, over and over, their contents known but no less precious. Their dust jackets don’t fit like they used to, but I don’t make them feel bad about it, just like they don’t make me feel bad about the fact that I sometimes fall asleep while reading them.

But I suppose the end of the similarities between my books and my men is that I prefer to buy the former whenever possible. I love and value libraries, but I have trouble following their rules. I’m not great with due dates, as evidenced by the book on the Emperor Tiberius that I took out in fifth grade and returned on the way to a friend’s Sweet Sixteen. I fold down the corners of pages to mark my place. I bring books to the beach, staining their covers with smears of sunblock and filling their spines with deposits of sand that will later sift out into my sheets, comingling with the cracker detritus. And I still occasionally feel the need to express my feelings in the margins. So with all due respect to Dewey and his decimals, bookstores are clearly where I belong. And at the risk of seeming like a total suck-up, I’ve taken it upon myself to list for you the five reasons that I think independent bookstores should be considered national treasures.

1. They’re romantic

It’s a scientific fact that there are only a handful of jobs you’re allowed to have if you’re one of the leads in a romantic comedy: dog walker, architect, kindergarten teacher, cupcake chef, florist, special needs veterinarian, suspiciously well-paid magazine writer, and independent bookstore owner. So it stands to reason that the likelihood of meeting your soul mate in one is high.

It is here that I will confess to not having any bookstore memories interesting enough to spin into a single story today, and that is because all of my bookstore memories involve me, standing alone, waiting for someone who looks like Idris Elba or Ethan Hawke to make meaningful eye contact with me from across the room.  This has never happened, unfortunately. It could be my palpable anxiety, it could be my wedding ring, or it could be the fact that the book I’m conspicuously reading is never Anna Karenina or even Lolita, but inevitably one of the salacious autobiographies by erstwhile supermodel-cum-reality star Janice Dickinson.

2. They’re beautiful

Carefully curated and lovingly decorated, most indie bookstores I've visited make big box stores look like one of those shipping containers where Dexter killed his victims. Truth.

3. They support the community

Shopping at an indie bookstore is basically like joining a CSA, only you learn new words and don’t have to pretend you know what to do with three pounds of kohlrabi.

4. You can meet authors and observe them in their semi-natural habitat

[Imagine me doing an offensively bad David Attenborough impression] The American novelist stands nervously at the front of the room. While this species feels quite at home behind a keyboard in its unmade bed, interrupting its writing approximately every ten seconds to tweet about how hard it is working, in public it can appear standoffish and even vaguely nauseated at the prospect of reading its work aloud to mammals other than its house pets.

5.  They’re REAL

I’m no saint; I don’t buy everything in a physical store, despite my fantasies of being the kind of person who could bike around the city with a baguette under one arm without being instantly killed. I have, I’ll admit, fallen into Amazon k-holes on occasion, emerging confused and temporarily blinded.

There’s a disassociation inherent in online shopping—you click a few buttons and enter some numbers, but you have no memory of seeing or touching what you’ve bought, and so when the box—seventeen times the size necessary for its contents and filled with enough bubble wrap to clothe Lady Gaga for the coming winter—finally arrives, you have no idea what it is.

There’s something wonderful about holding a book in your hands, feeling the weight of it. You don’t have to judge it by its cover, or by its misspelled, all caps one-star reviews. You can judge it by more intimate factors, like the font choice, whether you might slip a disc carrying it in a shoulder bag, or what kind of Zoolander face the author is making in his or her photo.

There’s also something lovely about buying it from a real person, a person who’s working there either because they’re very passionate about books or because they’re hoping for a meet-cute with a quirky but unbelievably attractive dog-walker played by Paul Rudd.


Both of which, I might add, show incredible character.

***

Some of my favorite local(ish) indie bookstores, in no particular order, are: BookCourt,  Oblong Books & Music,  McNally Jackson Books, Greenlight Bookstore, Community Bookstore, and R.J. Julia Booksellers. Rhapsodize about yours in the comments, or just share more gifs. I can never have enough gifs; they truly are the gifs that keep on gifing.



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Monday, March 30, 2015

Continuing Ed For the Post-College Decades


17th Grade (Ages 22-23) 

Electives:
  • 4 Tax Exemptions: Trying Not To Screw Yourself
  • Dividing Utilities Between Seven Roommates, One of Whom Is Unemployed And Runs The A/C All Day: Math For The Post-College Years
  • I Don’t Care What You Say Anymore, This Is My Life: Billy Joel Lyrics For Everyday Use
  • Philosophical Rationalizations For Living With Your Parents
  • Chutes & Ladders, Hold The Ladders: Navigating The Entry-Level Job 
Supplies needed:
  1. Unchecked narcissism and feeling of entitlement
  2. Crate of Cup O’ Noodles and the cheapest hooch you can find
  3. Empty savings account
  4. At least two forms of government-issued ID 
22nd Grade (ages 27-28) 

Electives:
  • Student Loans And Credit Cards: How To Pay Them Off Without Selling Drugs, Or Your Eggs
  • But Where Will My Amps Go? Spatial Geometry For Cohabitation
  • Who’s The Boss? How To Survive a Management Job You Are In No Way Qualified For
  • Unreal Estate: Someone, Somewhere Will Probably Let You Buy Property
  • Out Of The Shot Glass, Into The Wine Box: Late Twenties Drinking Made Simple 
Supplies needed:
  1. Gnawing sense of unease
  2. Lease co-signed by no more than one other person
  3. At least one piece of framed wall art
  4. A 401K you don’t understand 
27th Grade (ages 32-33) 

Electives:
  • 50 Shades of Gray: Understanding Your Changing Scalp
  • Literally Anyone Can Create Another Human Being With Frighteningly Little Effort: Parenting For The Emotionally Unprepared
  • Yes, You Need A Will, Even If Your Net Worth Is Negative
  • People Who Became Wildly Successful At The Age You Are Right Now And How To Discredit Them
  • Metabolic Betrayal: Physiology of The Early Thirties 
Supplies needed:
  1. Chilling realization that your mother had already had three kids by this age
  2. A checkbook you rarely use but balance anyway, because if you don’t you fear that Suze Orman will somehow know, come to your house, and beat you unconscious with a stack of savings bonds
  3. A pet, plant, spouse or small child you are responsible for keeping alive
  4. Preventative wrinkle cream 
35th Grade (ages 40-41) 

Electives: 
  • It Is In Fact Mathematically Possible For You To Have A Child Who Is In High School: Beating Denial With Simple Algebra
  • There Is No “I” In Comb-Over: Embracing The Hair You Have Left Without Shame
  • Identifying The Celebrities On The Cover Of Us Weekly, Especially If They Were Born After You Turned 25
  • Grape Expectations: Oenophilia For The Over-40
  • Menopause or Meningitis? Fun With WebMD 
Supplies needed: 
  1. Suspicion that you have Benjamin Button disease and are in fact aging in reverse
  2. A gimlet eye
  3. Coupons for “family-size” sundries
  4. At least three sets of keys that open who the hell knows what
To be continued...

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

9am-5pm, Stuck at Home With Your Sick Child





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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

National Lampoon's Puerto Rican Vacation

So I'm going on vacation tomorrow. We all are, but it's really Jeff's vacation--because fall is his busiest season, by the time Christmas rolls around he's like 68% dead inside and at least 89% dead outside, so for the past two years he's combatted Seasonal Affective Disorder by throwing his Amex at the tropics--but he's been kind enough to invite me and Sam along. What a sucker.

See, it's a proven fact (by Jeff) that I ruin all vacations by picking fights on the first night. This was true when we went to Paris in 2005, for reasons that I have since repressed, as well as on our honeymoon in 2007, when I became so irrationally angry at not being able to speak any sort of semi-coherent Italian to our waiter that Jeff had an actual panic attack.

I also attempted to make tomato sauce from scratch, which ended so horribly Jeff continues to mock me about it to this day, but he has yet to seek an annulment so you tell me.

It is also a proven fact that our child, while undisputedly the light of our lives and mostly sweet and charming (note: mostly could mean anywhere from 10% to 90%, as he is currently three years old, which as it turns out is way more terrible than two, but I guess whatever genius came up with that phrase [sub-note: genius in this context means "asshole"] must have been too ashamed to modify it once she realized her mistake), ruins vacations by preventing us from relaxing during every moment that he remains conscious.

I swear I'm not trying to complain about going to the beach in January (except for the obvious re-shuffling of Bikini Season to follow directly after the Eggnog Equinox, which seems patently unfair), but it must be said that a vacation with a child or children no longer conforms to the definition of the word as you previously understood it. Kind of like "sleep" or "abdominals."

So.

While I'm going into this next week with expectations and low as my tolerance for rum-based cocktails and direct sun exposure, I'm eternally grateful to the brave man who is taking his Terrible Three and Temperamental Thirty-Four--a.k.a his permanent carry-on baggage--on a holiday.

THANK YOU, HONEY. I promise not to attempt any Spanish or so much as *touch* a vegetable. Maybe ever.
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Friday, January 16, 2015

An Ode to Funny Women (or, My Fey-kspearean Sonnet)

Shall I compare thee to a Tina Fey?
Thou art quite funny, though not as talented.
Or perhaps you’d rather I say Mindy K.?
Whose one-liners reflect your lowbrow taste...
Miss Dunham’s brilliance seems unfair,
And makes you hit the wine a little hard;
Amy P.'s the queen of guts and flair
That Emmy voters cannot disregard!
But thy eternal Tina shall not Fey-d,
(That pun’s a stretch, but cut a girl some slack.)
Nor shall your tweets make people throw you shade,
Even when of your book deals thou dost yak.
So long as peeps can read, or T can V,
So long live women who write great comedy.
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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Stop Trying to Make New Year's Happen! It's Not Going to Happen!

Ah, New Year's. So full of hype designed to make us ring in midnight feeling strangely empty despite the gallon of cheap champagne we have literally just consumed through a spangled funnel.

I've always felt that in using New Year's Eve as an excuse to stay up late binge-drinking, we as a species are setting ourselves up for feeling bloated and cranky on every single January first, which is kind of like spelling your name wrong on the first page of the SATs. It just... doesn't bode well.

I tried to get Decembuary 0 to happen for awhile, but now I think I'm just going to start the new year on January 2nd, after I've digested the fifteen brunch bagels I used as my inaugural 2015 meal. And I urge all of you to do the same.

New year starts tomorrow. Fuck this noise.

Love,
Una



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