During drive time I’m usually listening to NPR podcasts that include Selected Shorts. I’ve been a fan for years and often tuned in on late Sunday afternoons to listen. Later I did some time shifting by recording the program onto DVDs and then taking them with me on client drive-bys. I discovered great writers and writing including Grace Paley, Rick Moody, Sherman Alexie, Billy Collins, and many others who I would not ordinarily have read or heard.

This other morning I caught an unusual story, Exchange, by Ray Bradbury. It’s about a twilight visit by a young soldier returning to the town where he grew up and approaches the local librarian who lets him in after closing hours:

   “Forgive, I hope you won’t be upset, but when I was a boy I used to look up and  see  you behind your desk, so near but far away, and, how can I say this, I used  to  think  that you were Mrs. God, and that the library was a whole world, and  that  no  matter what part of the world or what people or thing I wanted to see and read, you’d find and give it to me.” He stopped, his face coloring. “You did, too. You had the world ready for me every time I asked. There was always a  place I hadn’t seen, a country I hadn’t visited where you took me. I’ve never forgotten.”

She  looked  around,  slowly, at the thousands of books. She felt her heart move quietly.

“Did you really call me what you just said?”

“Mrs. God? Oh, yes. Often. Always.”

Take some time and listen – read by Rochelle Oliver…

the_lesson_sisley The Lesson
Alfred Sisley, 1874

The problem with anxiety is that it acts as a key to open a treasure chest filled with past wrong decisions and mistakes – usually at about 3 AM.  Economic and professional stress offers some fertile ground for those thoughts. And the response to that is usually to get up in the middle of the night, snack on some cereal, open a screen, and settle in for some distraction. Or, putting it in another context, determine to get up in the morning and “hit the ground running”.

Which maybe isn’t what we should be doing.

Kate Murphy, in the essay No Time To Think, offers some daylight:

“…you can’t solve or let go of problems if you don’t allow yourself time to think about them. It’s an imperative ignored by our culture, which values doing more than thinking and believes answers are in the palm of your hand rather than in your own head.”

The ramped up speed of anxious thinking can also lead to any number of physical issues such as “obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression and panic attacks, not to mention a range of addictions. It is also associated with various somatic problems like eczema, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, inflammation, impaired immunity and headaches.”

How’s that for increasing your anxiety?

The more I resist thinking about my issues, the more I increase my distractions and the less time I have to daydream or just wander. Which isn’t that difficult to accomplish. I agree that it isn’t easy to force yourself to relax – there’s something a bit oxymoronic about that. We can’t avoid issues and problems – but we can get up from the table now and then and return to them later.

Putting down my thoughts on paper is a great salve for me – when I don’t write, I start to wring my proverbial hands. Even a letter to a friend or just simple paragraphs and prose sketching.

Or, after a few hours at the screen – either in the office or at home – I’ll pick up a camera and wander outside. I’ll walk towards something that catches my eye since that’s where your imagination exists. Capture some images, some shape, some color. Wonder about other things.

Changing your physical landscape often changes your emotional one as well.

Some years ago I read a story about a housing contractor who had to deal with the daily frustrations of getting the work done and clients who constantly changed direction in the midst of a project. But when he went home at night, he paused in front of the tree near his front door and reached up to touch one of the branches. When asked why he did that he explained that it was his “trouble tree” – where he would hang all his troubles at the end the day so he could go inside and enjoy time with his family. In the morning he would come back out and pick them up again.

Maybe that’s not the entire answer. But it’s certainly a start…

bee2bee there
photo © Janet Kopito

[Note - I originally labeled the above photo as one of my own in error. Turned out to be The Brunette's. My apologies to the artist...]

A trip north up into the Hudson Valley is our economic getaway since our pockets are thin these days and family more than willing to host us for an overnight stay. A quick breakfast and we headed back south a bit to Hudson NY, a town we had visited only last year for the first time.

Hudson is going thru a revival although most of the storefronts along Warren Street have kept their original facades giving it an early 20th century small town feel. But, in an ironic twist, most have been turned into antique stores or galleries with offerings following a more urban taste and wallet. Even a medium iced coffee will set you back a Starbuck-and-a-half although it somewhat pays for the curbside spot to sit and aimlessly wander in image and thought.

The antique stores have their own collection of books to pick thru with one offering titles ranging from art and illustration to architecture and design. There are some dedicated bookstores and we had promised ourselves to return to the Stoddard Corner Bookshop since it had a great antiquarian selection as well as one wall dedicated to lithography and letterpress. We had met the owner on the previous trip and he and I spent time sitting and reminiscing about the old letterpress plants and publishing industry in New York City that we had both enjoyed and grown up in.

But as happens in any gentrification, the restoration pushes the margins out, and those left behind are in shadow and stark contrast to the new arrivals. Walking to the Farmers Market on Columbia and S. 6th Street we saw an impressive 19th century church with a spire that reached to the heavens it sought. The plaque was still on the wall and the exterior the same rich red brick it was originally built in. Yet, this morning, I found out it had been sold, converted, and offered as “extensively upgraded, especially for acoustic and insulation purposes and is now a first-class recording studio.” Don’t rush to buy – it’s apparently been taken off the market

One less (sacred) bell to answer I suppose…

hudson crossing Spire of former St. John’s Lutheran Church
Corner of South 6th Street and Columbia
Hudson, NY
photo © Jeff Kopito

Distorte reflects on his encounter with the Kindle:

quote5I don’t understand why the reader’s screensaver is not the cover of the book currently being read. Instead we get a selection of bland stock imagery in an era when bland stock imagery is almost mainstream in its unpopularity. And the device, whenever it is sitting on your coffee table or drawn from your bag, is displaying these meaningless, artless images. They are not incidental or occasional, but the primary visual identity of the object at rest. A real book is a visual placeholder in your life as you read it, a cover and content that become entwined as you go. For all its unread hours of the day it announces itself from your bedside table, from your couch. Its presence is a mental bookmark, its individuality a mental trigger. The Kindle is a ten minute coding job away from replicating this relationship, but it simply doesn’t want to. I’m not sure why. Are we meant to love the device, rather than the books it contains? Is that too obvious a suspicion?

Imagine that…or maybe not…

Guy Rose, 1918

[h/t to Austin Kleon for the lead in...]


– excerpted from an interview with Dustin Hoffman
in Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire

I had to put down one pen and pick up another. I’m obsessive like that – I can only focus on one project at a time. Juggling is a myth.

And so the quote from Mr. Hoffman. I’m in a completely different landscape.

As needed, I always return to the old tools and connections, spiral notebooks, hand drawn lists, and one phone call at a time. Hearing those old voices are comfort indeed. There’s a reason I’m here.

The New Yorker has taken down its paywalls and opened its archives for the summer – time to dig into some prose, poesy, and short fiction. I’ve got Roberto Bolaño’s Clara and The Insufferable Gaucho ready to read. I’m also in the midst of his book, Last Evenings on Earth, which brought up his name first in the search box.

Last night I started 1966 by Denis Johnson which brought me back to the time when questions were being asked.

Still more to find.

Meanwhile will stuff it all into a suitcase and head up into the Hudson Valley this weekend. A change of venue may not change circumstance but certainly change perspective. Keeping my pen and notebook handy…

anker Der Gemeindeschreiber (The Parish Clerk)
Albert Anker, 1874

More by Albert Anker here

[h/t to Younger Niece for the book...came at the right time...]

…and the first rule of How to Quit Amazon and Shop in an Actual Bookstore:

In every bookstore, there is a book that is perfect for you, right now, at this exact moment of your life. That book will change you. Your job is to find it. It probably won’t happen right away. When you go to a bookstore, schedule a good half-hour there. You spend half an hour at the barber don’t you? You can spend at least the same amount of time looking over the life’s work of strangers who only want to make something you’ll love.

Quiet weekend with friends and family – might hit up the Westport Fine Arts Festival on Sunday. Don’t have the money to buy but have the time to look and admire good work. Lightening the heart is sometimes often more satisfying than lightening the pocketbook.

Time to get away from the left click and wander…

tomineMissed Connection
by Adrian Tomine
Originally published in the August 24, 2009 issue of The New Yorker

[h/t to Biblioklept for the lead in to the artwork...]

Ten rules of type by designer James Victore – apply willingly:

10 rules

I’m partial to #9 – doesn’t always work but amazing who you meet along the way…

[h/t to this isn't happiness for the lead in...]

…time to hit the (key)boards…

My old IBM Selectric II with interchangeable type balls and correcting features has been calling my name from the basement. I often wonder what it would be like to get back to a real keyboard…that mechanical sound of work being done was never replaceable…no matter how hard they tried…

[Dennis the Menace created by Hank Ketcham...]


 – From the opening to the book Hana, a collection of duotone still lifes
by Yasuhiro Ishimoto

Yasuhiro_Ishimoto_011photo by Yasuhiro Ishimoto

artists obsessed

[New Yorker panel by illustrator Edward Sorel, published April 24, 1995, from the Conde Nast collection]

© Bill Israel

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