Lifetime National Park Senior Passes – get them while they’re $10

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Look no further for evidence that our government looks out for its people. Seniors suffering under piles of money will soon get to unburden themselves of this plight. Instead of paying an insultingly meager $10 for a lifetime national park pass, soon they get to pay $80.  Makes sense. Legislation allowing this not-shameful-at-all price hike passed in 2016 so I’m late to the party. Hope I haven’t missed the part where congress pulls chewed food out of seniors’ mouths. Oh, and yanks their worn slippers right off their feet just because they can.

Read about the changes to senior passes.

The price goes up August 28th.

You can buy the pass through YourPassNow. It takes 2 minutes. The holder must be 62 or older. There’s a backlog, but the parks will accept receipts until passes arrive by mail.

These passes are good for the holder’s lifetime. I got one for my Dad. Now he’ll have to dump his cash-stuffed mattress on other things that existed and flourished for millions of years before humans arrived to claim mine. 

Price spike aside, I’m so excited for my Dad to have this pass. He’s never been to a national park. After he received the email confirmation he called to talk about all of the places he wants to go see. My dad is not a phone person. Sometimes I’m mid-sentence when suddenly I hear Okay, bye. CLICK. The phone call alone was worth the $20 ($10 for processing).

Last year, I paid $25 to access Acadia Park for one week. That didn’t include camping or anything other than being there. The $20 pays for itself if the holder visits one park, plus there are other benefits like discounts on camp sites and entry to other public lands.

The pass covers the holder plus passengers.

The Senior Pass is a lifetime pass available to United States citizens or permanent residents 62 years of age or older. The Pass can be used at over 2000 Federal recreation sites across the nation, including National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, and many National Forest lands. The Senior Pass admits the Pass owner and any passengers traveling with him/her in a single non-commercial vehicle at per-vehicle fee areas or the Pass owner and three additional adults where per-person fees are charged. The Senior Pass may also offer a discount on some expanded amenity fees, such as camping. Discounts offered by the Pass vary widely across the many different types of recreation sites. Pass owners are encouraged to check with sites they plan to visit before obtaining a pass to verify that their Pass will be accepted. Anytime a Pass is used, photo identification will be requested to verify Pass ownership.

The receipt you receive after purchase of the Senior Pass may be used as your admittance Pass until your actual Pass arrives in the mail.

I wish these lifetime passes were affordable for everyone, but then how would the National Park Service … um … I have no idea why they need so much more money.

In Pale Blue Dot, Carl Sagan writes that Voyager 1 and 2 were built at a cost of less than one penny per citizen. I’m reading this book right now so NASA’s inventiveness is top of mind. These spacecrafts were launched in 1977. In 1994, Sagan wrote they were expected to run until 2017 should all go well. They’re still going. Voyager 1 is more than 12 billion miles away in interstellar space while 2 is more than 10 billion miles away. Today, they’re still sending back data and exploring far beyond where anything from Earth has ever flown. Greatness can be accomplished without cutting holes in the public’s pockets.

Maybe NASA could teach the National Park Service how to cut the fat. Or congress could pass more cool legislation. Children do get all that tooth fairy money.

The Suicide Motor Club by Christopher Buehlman

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The Lost Boys turned 30 this week. I don’t remember the first time I saw this movie, just that I always loved it and that had little to do with the sexy mullets. Kids fight monsters by the grace of comic books and squirt guns. The story’s not quite what you expect it to be. It’s messier than good guys versus bad guys. The POV camera work draws you in decades before GoPro cams existed. When the vampires ride we ride. When they fall we fall. When they fly we fly. They want to take us with them. Maybe that’s why we root for them. And they can’t be taken down because we don’t watch to the very end. Nope.

The Lost Boys is a fun 80’s movie with rich, beautiful people playing wild outsiders on the other side of death. What’s not to love?

Vampire novels are another story. I’ve put many down with a huff – a huff is the ultimate insult in the mean aisles of a library. I still can’t resist looking for meaty ones where the stakes are greater than life and death. Make them want you as more than food and live forever. Better still, save yourself from ever losing those you love. It’s a nice fantasy drawn in blood and violence.

Vampire rhymes with campfire. Therefore not all vampire stories must take themselves so seriously. Full of fast cars and mean monsters, Christopher Buehlman’s The Suicide Motor Club is good fun.

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Buehlman opens this tale like a 70’s horror movie. Late at night on an open moonlit road. Judith rides home from vacation with her husband driving and young son in the back. A red car pulls up beside them. People-not-people with sharp teeth and glowing eyes pull her son from the car window. Like that he’s gone.

They travel at night and take pleasure in killing. Their method of choice is forcing other cars off the road, sending passengers to their deaths or worse. After losing her son and husband, Judith retreats to her faith. She questions the will of god and whether anything possible can really be an abomination.

In The Lost Boys, David and his fellows thirsted for more than blood and offered more than immortality. They were compelling. Here vampires are vicious killers and that’s it. I had trouble telling the vampire characters apart then gave up trying to keep track because it didn’t really matter. Yet it held my attention throughout.

The Suicide Motor Club checks all the boxes for a fun horror novel. I enjoyed its pace and shifting of narratives between the living and undead. It’s a quick, tight, cinematic read that reminds me of the pulp novels I used to be a sucker for, only it’s way better. Buehlman’s writing is clear and energetic. No matter how messy things get or fast the crashes, I always saw what was going on and felt in it, along for the ride.  If there were drive-ins for reading books The Suicide Motor Club could double feature with Lost Souls or Fevre Dream. We could split a funnel cake.

Carnival of Souls (1962), a Lynchy treat

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One of these days I’ll read Dune. Read it and then watch it because that’s what you do when David Lynch and Dale Cooper are your pretend best friends. New Twin Peaks is magical, like following a trail of monster stories up the stars.

Did you see the images of the surface of Betelgeuse? It’s right there, between, oh, 430-650 light years away. That’s a very helpful estimate. I live between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, so now you know where to find me. Betelgeuse is the red star in Orion 1,400 times bigger than our sun. A supergiant living large and dying young. The explosion will be stunning, they say, but probably won’t happen in our lifetime, they say, but maybe it will, they say. Thanks.

betelgeuse

ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/E. O’Gorman/P. Kervella

We may not get to see the death of Betelgeuse in a supernova, but at least we have David Lynch and Cooper back together again. You can’t love Twin Peaks too much, especially not if you’re up with the news. Read the bozo’s and bozo’s family’s and bozo’s cabinet’s and some of the republican party’s daily offenses then watch an episode of Twin Peaks. It’s like spinning in reverse to undo existential dizziness. Effects last a few hours.

Other good times to have, when you need a break from trying to figure out how to help someone you love afford the medications keeping them alive once/if/when/? repubs take away our healthcare, include watching horror masterpieces.

Carnival of Souls (1962)

A friend’s show was rained out so we picked up pupusas with curtido, one of my favorite meals, and watched Carnival of Souls as lightning flashed in what shaped up to be a hazy red sky night. I read that this movie is not copyrighted in the United States. Perhaps that’s why it’s currently available to stream on YouTube.

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Carnival of Souls is about a church organist named Mary who is the only one to walk away from a car crash. After the crash we skip ahead. We don’t know how she survived and maybe she doesn’t either. Right away Mary takes an organist job and moves to a boarding house in Utah. Who knows what she was like before the accident, other than that she seemed to enjoy riding in the drag race. Now she’s detached. The only thing that really interests her is that abandoned resort in the middle of nowhere.

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Somethings off, but it’s subtle until a pale, intent man with dead eyes shows up (played by the Director, Herk Harvey).

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The film’s director Herk Harvey

That’s all I’ll say about the plot. Maybe it’s a ghost story. Maybe it’s about a woman running from her demons. Maybe death will not be cheated. The ambiguity is done with a steady hand. The dream-like quality to the creeping horror is grounded in Mary’s very real terror.

 

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Wes Craven coined the term “rubber reality” to describe introducing the supernatural to the slasher world in A Nightmare on Elm Street. The term aptly describes the unsteady feel of this movie, too. You’re no more sure of what’s real than Mary is. It’s unique and riddled with angst. We’re neither racing to keep up nor two steps ahead. It’s really well done, the kind of movie you feel like clapping for at the end. The only thing I didn’t love was the score. The organ music is fitting, but it’s also grating and unfortunately plentiful.

Fans of David Lynch and the Twilight Zone will get a kick out of this movie. Expect chills not jump scares. And watch it in the dark. I’d love to see it as part of a drive-in double feature. Perhaps paired with Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).

Hiking Slide Mountain in the Catskills

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We were on the road and bound for the Catskills before 4 am Saturday. And still we hit stand-till traffic on a BQE detour. Nothing to do but put on my jams and guzzle coffee. We started this trip with Spoon because they’re boppy. Smooth sailing and a very scenic foggy drive on the NY Thruway to reach the Slide Mountain trailhead around 7 am. The parking lot was mostly empty, which was surprising for a summer Saturday.

Rising to 4,180′, Slide Mountain is the highest peak in the Catskills and one of dozens that top out above 3,500′. Several trails will take you to the summit. The trail up the east side is steeper and looks like a lot of fun, but the trailhead is on a campground we’re staying at in August, so that trail is in a pocket for later. For this trip we traversed the more heavily trafficked western side starting with the Curtis-Ormsbee (yellow) trail. This trail is named after two NY hikers who perished in an ice storm on New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington. There’s a stone monument just before, or maybe at, the blue trail junction.

We took the 6.7 mile loop – yellow trail, left on blue trail, right on red then red to yellow back. It’s a mile longer than just going yellow to red and back, but that mile is worth it. The blue trail is gorgeous and varied. It’s very well marked and fun to find your way up the steep stone parts. The second half reaches the magical elevation where every breath is piney fresh. Even the dirt changes to the more sandy texture you find in woods near beaches.

Here’s the DEC’s Slide Mountain trail description:

Curtis-Ormsbee Trail
(1.6 miles, blue markers, moderate 900 feet elevation gain.)

Often referred to as the scenic route up Slide Mountain, the Curtis-Ormsbee trail provides the hiker with three panoramic vistas to the south and west and a moderate “terraced” ridge hike through stunted northern hardwoods. It is named in memory of William Curtis and Allen Ormsbee who originally blazed this route and later lost their lives during a mountaineering expedition in the White Mountains in 1900.

Most of the trail offered full shade. The rain from hours prior trickled down rocky streams. We saw salamanders and cooled off by placing our wrists in cold flowing water. Everything was so green and gorgeous. I know it’s summer and these are woodsy mountains and green is a natural part of that picture, but I was full of wows. High-fives to my boyfriend for not rolling his eyes around the hundredth time I said, look how green it is. Green green green. GREEEEN.

Curtis-Ormsbee trail

That up there is the only bridge we encountered. Of course, it reminded me of the dancing on a log scene in Dirty Dancing, shot in the Catskills. I beckoned Raj from the center, but he refused to dance out to me like Baby did. Dream killed.

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A little ways down from the bridge comes the blue trail junction, and it’s impossible to miss unless you’re hiking with eyes closed. Don’t do that. We were very happy to finally begin the ascent – the yellow trail is mostly flat after an initial gradual climb.

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This mountain is deceptive. Every time we thought we were at the top, the trail just kept going. I’m glad we took a few breaks to fully take in the quiet and savor the pure air and bird songs. The switch from blue to red trail is not well marked if it’s marked at all. We only noticed it because some trail runners happened to be passing on the red. All eyes or you might miss it.

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We stopped here for a bite. This is by far the most beautiful place I’ve ever eaten a peanut butter jelly sandwich. Once you hit the red trail, it’s not far from the very unceremonious summit. It’s just a block of concrete, a former base of a fire tower. There are higher points, but this is what I read marks the summit. Don’t turn back yet though. Continue for just a few more minutes and you’ll come to a big rock. Make your way down and around to see the plaque for naturalist and writer John Burroughs, who often wrote about Slide Mountain. Not a bad writing spot.

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We took the red trail to the yellow trail back to the parking lot. We planned to hike the Giant Ledge after since the trailhead is only 2 miles up the road, but were tired, tired, tired and went to our campground instead. We’ll do it next time when we can enjoy it more.

We stayed at the Kenneth Wilson campground. This was a last minute trip and others were all booked. It worked out though. The woodsy grounds are completely surrounded by mountains. The facilities were clean and showers surprisingly warm. After setting up our tent on a soft bed of pine needles, we visited the pond and nature trails. I was a little anxious about staying here because many of the reviews mentioned bear sightings. The staff said they’ve only had one sighting this summer and it was a cub. The camp is very strict about bear prevention – no food/cosmetics/drinks left unattended, no food scraps in the sink, etc. As a result, the place is pristine. I didn’t want to leave. My only complaint was the cloudy sky keeping the stars all to itself.

Let’s talk walking sticks.

Wonderful hikers left perfect walking sticks at the trailhead. As one of the first ones in the lot, we had our pick. I grabbed one, expecting to drop it and forget it after a few minutes, but no. We bonded.

This was my first time hiking with a walking stick. How have I gone so long without one? Right away I was amazed at the handiness. These sturdy sticks lent stability on muddy ground and took stress off my knees on the ascent and descent. They boosted endurance, speed and balance. I used mine to prod for loose rocks and help my posture since my shoulders like to hunch when there’s a backpack on them. Also, I can’t help being scared of bears. It was comforting to have something solid I could use to protect myself juuuust in case the rare one tried to eat me.

Walking sticks are MVPs. They’re my new adventure mascot. I love walking sticks. When this is all over, walking stick and I shall build a creepy cabin together.

Appalachian Trail hike at the Delaware Water Gap

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Back from house sitting in the Poconos. Made the mistake of opening an Atlantic article on the Senate’s healthcare proposals. No. No. And No. Not good for my rage. Does rage count as a preexisting condition? Life seemed okay a few hours ago, driving back listening first to Weezer’s Pinkerton then Sabbath’s Master of Reality. Felt like putting my skin back on. My boyfriend shared the sentiment, though de-creepified it by liking these albums to a favorite pair of pants instead. Who wants to put on pants when it feels like 90 degrees out? Choose wisely. I’m sticking to my skin.

My preferred route from the city to Poconos is via I-80, provided I get up early enough to zip through Manhattan and the Holland Tunnel. I-80 has an exit for the Appalachian Trail at the Delaware Water Gap. It puts you right in the trailhead parking lot. We’ve driven by it many times, always tempted to stop but quick with an excuse not to – too hot, too late, too hungry. This time I planned ahead. Rain began to fall as soon as we parked but quit after a few minutes so the very rocky trail didn’t get too slippery.

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The first part of this trail follows a rushing creek with small waterfalls. Then there’s a split. The AT ascends and the Dunnfield Creek Trail continues along the creek. Both trails will eventually take you up to Sunfish Pond (on the AT it’s 3.75 miles). The mosquitoes and heat were too much this time, but the pond loop is on my to-hike list for next time. There were so many hikers on the trail that I didn’t even think about bears.

House sitting coincided with a heat wave, which inspired a lot of swimming and very early morning runs. I read, reluctantly worked and baked some brownie sludge. Mostly, I swam by day and at night watched Twin Peaks and horror movies before laying out under the stars. It was great. I kept thinking, Why can’t this be all I do? 

It wasn’t until driving back and impossibly torn on which route to take – Manhattan VS. Staten Island, always a gamble – that I realized I was just a few chlorine-soaked swims short of turning into a shriveled pool zombie. After a week of mental checkout, it’s hard to check back in. I went on the pop tart diet of lifestyles and then complained of malnutrition.

We’re back in steamy Brooklyn and our neighborhood smells like burnt pickles. The neighbor’s fence-that-will-never-be has morphed. Now there are partial brick walls, deep ditches and wood planks slapped up to give the place a certain this-is-where-bad-things-happen feel. It wants my skull and not in a boppy Misfits way.

My sister got a promotion at work and my bf passed a certification. I injured my wrist dong something stupid and can’t really move it or use it, but did get the monstrous air conditioner in the window one-handed. So yup. We’re all winners this week.

My wrist is getting better, which is good because I only own so many dresses. The most ordinary tasks are tricky one-handed, like squeezing toothpaste on the toothbrush or putting on shorts. Washing a glass. Working. Eating SO Delicious mint chip ice cream is doable, possibly the cure.

 

Reclusion all I ever wanted

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They’re into week five of Project Slo-Mo Fence Build next door. These are the same neighbors who allowed scaffolding to remain on their building for three years, which was quite fun to walk under late at night. We call them The Fancies because there are children around. It is becoming a wonder, the construction of this fence. The fence itself is more of a notion. Workers do spend hard hours laboring. I know because I work from home and breathe their smoke. Their smoke comes in our window. No matter how many times a day I ask them not to smoke right below our window they smoke right below our window. So I put a fan there. It’s something.

My dad smoked heavily for more than twenty years. He’s a meat and potatoes, black coffee and beets’ll kill ya very grounded man. But he also buys warts off of people. When he couldn’t quit smoking on his own he went to a hypnotist. He said they had a casual conversation and when he left he noticed he didn’t feel like a cigarette. After a few days of not wanting one, he threw his last pack away. That was over ten years ago and he’s never smoked again.

Suggest hypnosis to people trying to quit smoking and most will look at you very differently. Never again will they believe your wand is just a pointer because you suffer from short arms. Plain ordinary Lipton’s tea goes cold unless you take a sip first. All for trying to help.

Apparently you can’t hypnotize people against their will and you really can’t hypnotize them into doing something they don’t want to do. The fence builders don’t seem to want to stop smoking anymore than they seem to want to finish this fence.

I need to go away forever, and if not forever than for a little while. My bf just started a new project so our travel plans are pushed back. Spending a weekend in NJ helping my sister move doesn’t count, but house sitting for my other sister does. It’s like a mini vacation. There are trails, a pool and all their animals! Counter space in the kitchen and quiet everywhere. I’ll be able to see more than three stars at night. No sirens, construction or NYC! Maybe I was a little too excited when they asked me to house sit. At first they thought I’d misunderstood and took it has an invitation to go on their vacation with them. Um, no.

I’m packing the essentials – bathing suit, hiking boots, running shoes, stack of books. Reclusive days ahead!

Haunted haunted haunted

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The Super Sister, Help Me Move signal was sounded again. My little sister has two oak credenzas. Do you know how heavy oak credenzas are? I do. Down a flight of stairs then up a flight of stairs. Always the second floor. This time she moved into a converted creamery near our hometown. A real creamery. To keep milk cold the metal buckets were kept in a creek that used to run through the dirt floor. Then it housed horses. Now it houses my little sister.

Massive wood beams in unexpected places and wild flowers out the window. A makeshift bridge over the shifted creek takes you to an abandoned shack of unknown origin. At night there are noises, paranormal noises.

Her last place was too new for ghosts so paranormal speculation focused on the surrounding woods. The one before had a jagged hole in a closet ceiling leading to a windowless attic full of strange footsteps too heavy and steady to belong to a squirrel or raccoon. Every time we talked on the phone I heard voices in the background even though she swore she was alone. That place was surrounded by empty vacation mansions but we convinced ourselves someone was living in the walls of her cold, tiny hut.

Fun fact: In his memoir Iron Man Tony Iommi wrote about hearing voices in his home. Turned out squatters were actually living in his walls.

After one of my sister’s first moves, we discovered the basement crawl space beside the washer/dryer smelled like one of those rainbow swirl lollipops she always begged for as a kid and never ate. That was an easy case to solve. She was clearly being haunted by the restless remains of unfinished snacks.

Now that I’m no longer losing my grip on her hefty-bottomed couch, I appreciate her new home’s slightly uneven staircase and odd angles. The porch is a nice place to doze off while counting bruises. A woman walked by chatting on her phone, trailing a very tired little boy behind her. We tired people can spot our kind with one eye open. Also he said, I’m tired. The woman told him to sing his song. He said, No. I’m tired… tired… tired.

That kid is onto something. Tripling a point is magical. Degree of intensity is hard to express when you’re consumed by a single sensation. Today I ate a cookie for lunch because it was within arm’s reach and I was hungry… hungry… hungry but still too sore to do much else about it. This was the sixth move I helped a sister with in the last two years. That may not sound like much, but they’re all readers who like heavy wood furniture and steps.

My boyfriend thinks our imagined hauntings are the cause of these constant moves. He doesn’t share my family’s affinity for ghost stories. I’m not even allowed to hide when he gets home or takes a shower and I love…love…love jumping out and scaring people.

Convincing my younger sister that every place she moves to is haunted probably negates any good I do my karma by helping her move. I accept that. And it’s not mean because this way she never feels alone. She loves it. And anyway she started it.

Reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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I started reading The Handmaid’s Tale the other night. Finished the introduction and reached page 8 when the headline of Montana’s special election, a House candidate body-slamming and punching a Guardian reporter, uh, distracted me. Then he got elected and raised over $100,000 post assault. So much for all those anti-bullying campaigns. America! It’s survival of the most bloated out here. The Bloatest. Th well-bloated class. That’s a fun word. Bloated. It reminds me of jelly donuts.

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We know. We’re all reading the same headlines. We’re rooting for the same sinkhole. Maybe we all have the same growing urge, but we’re patient. We’re not alone.

I’m reading Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot very very slowly. Take comfort in knowing we’re all no-see-ums on a beautiful blue speck. Early in the book Sagan writes:

On the scale of the worlds – to say nothing of stars or galaxies – humans are inconsequential, a thin film of life on an obscure and solitary lump of rock and metal.

Back on Earth, it’s super author Margaret Atwood to the rescue. For years, since reading and loving The MaddAddam Trilogy, I checked out The Handmaid’s Tale from the library only to return it unopened. –

Oryx and Crake

The Year of the Flood

MaddAddam

-The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel and in my view those are no-funs. As Atwood says in her new introduction, written in February 2017, most are implausible. But now it’s been adapted into a show I’d like to see. Considering the headlines and bloateds, The Handmaid’s Tale seems like a sweet vacation. It’s fiction, right? Couldn’t happen for real.

In the intro, Atwood tells of writing the first draft while living in West Germany in 1984. The fear, paranoia and oppression of the time inevitably influenced her writing. When she realized she was writing speculative fiction she set some interesting rules for herself. Every element is taken from history. She invented no technology or laws or practices.

We readers have no buffer. We cannot assure or comfort ourselves with Oh this would never happen in real life. It can. It has. At some point in history everything in this book has happened. The approach is brilliant. Dark and sobering, but brilliant. When it gets too dark, I’ll read more Sagan. That’s my plan.

Again, I’m only on page 8. My boyfriend commandeered my copy for his commute. On his way home he was so engrossed he hurried to the wrong train and wound up in Williamsburg. This morning he was late to work because he missed his stop reading. The book is really good, I hear.

Have you read it? Am I the last one to the party?

Normally I let Raj steal a book if he wants because I have a stack of others, but I’m in the mood for this one. Our compromise is to share. He gets it for his commute and every other night. We haven’t switched off this way since reading the Harry Potter series.

I know The Handmaid’s Tale is going to be great. I don’t expect it to ease any anxieties and anger, but the appeal is similar to that of historical fiction focused on resistance. Perspective. We’re inside it and sometimes when you’re too close you lose perspective on the good things individuals are capable of. We stand in their way with actions of hope.

Remember to remember our fallen heroes this weekend.

 

The Likeness by Tana French

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The beautiful day of my birth came and went last week. All I wanted to do was take my Tana French book beneath a shady tree and read. Think this doesn’t sound exciting? Read Tana French. Spend a few weeks sick first then read Tana French and you’ll absolutely understand.

Nobody believed I wanted to disappear in a book on my birthday, so we went places instead. Now that I’ve finished The Likeness, I still want to disappear in it, specifically its midsection. I liked this book so much. One glance at the cover elicits longing if-only’s, and this cover doesn’t come close to doing the story and writing justice. Nobody writes like Tana French. She’s one of the greats. The first two books I read by her, In The Woods and The Secret Place, set the bar high. This one blew me away. It sealed the deal. Cemented our forever friendship however one-sided. I’m renaming our neighbor’s cat Tana French.

This is part of The Dublin Murder Squad series. I’m reading them out of order and so far it hasn’t mattered. They stand alone.

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I plan to read everything Tana French ever writes simply because her writing is intoxicating. Reading her is effortless. The action and physicality of characters and settings are accessible and lingering, but also nuanced. A paragraph about a home’s former grandeur reveals a layered glimpse into Ireland’s past and the social conflicts still imbuing how people relate. I take my time with these books. They could be quick page-turners, but speed comes at a cost. I prefer re-reading as we go just for the pleasure of enjoying her words again and again.

Besides being written like a drug, the story is fascinating. I’m not giving any spoilers here. Not telling you anything beyond the gist of the premise.

Detective Cassie Maddox is surprised when her boyfriend Sam calls her into a crime scene. He’s on the Murder Squad but she transferred to Domestic Violence months ago. She’s even more surprised when she arrives to find her former boss in undercover on the case. Once she sees the body, her life changes forever. The victim is her exact doppelganger. Weirdness gets weirder when she learns the woman went by the name Lexie Madison, an identity the detective invented a few years back for an undercover assignment.

It was like going blind; my eyes couldn’t take her in. She was impossible: a high-fever hallucination, a screaming crack straight across all the laws of nature.

The temptation to take her former boss up on his proposal to go undercover as Lexie in the massive Georgian home she was living in with her five close friends is irresistible. Whitehorn House is near a small village outside of Dublin. Inside Whitehorn House, it’s another world.

That house shimmered in my mind like some fairy fort that appeared for one day in a lifetime, tantalizing and charged, with those four cool figures for guardians and inside secrets too hazy to be named.

French digs deep into the psychology of Lexie/Cassie and her four mercurial housemates. You can almost see each scene from every angle and moments open up that you don’t want to ever end. The suspense chimes in from a low hum to a piercing turn around! at the end of every night. We have no idea who the killer is or what happens once Stabby McStabStab thinks Lexie’s alive. We don’t even know the victim’s true identity.

That’s the gist.

Then there’s all the waves of earnest wanting that come rushing at you throughout. The lives of “unfettered thought” that Lexie and her friends dream of when they’re secure in the bubble of academia is a stark contrast to the “real world” awaiting. To them, the lives they want is just as real and valid, if not more, however unconventional.

Every choice has a price. They talk about paying that price for the things you want. So you have to really want them because then the price is worth it. Choose things you don’t really want just because they’re on the path of least resistance and imagine the bitterness of realizing you paid a higher price.

What struck me is how simple and luxurious life in Whitehorn House seems. Possibilities are so bright inside and on the sprawling grounds, where it’s right to patch pealing wallpaper with lovely fabric and spend a whole day sanding and painting and caring for your home. They don’t have to ask permission or rush off to make a few pennies working crummy jobby jobs. They work constantly – physically and studiously – but they do it without fear and struggle, content living within their modest means because their means are just enough. You don’t want Cassie to ever leave because then we have to go, too.

The Likeness is labeled a Mystery, but it doesn’t read like a whodunnit. It’s the Why and ideas that drive this story. Why is where the story breathes and morphs and inevitably breaks your heart because you know it can’t go on. I didn’t want it to be over. Very disappointed in French for ending this book.

Soaked my brain in coffee and didn’t build a fence

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Having my first cold coffee of the year. Why so long since? Because we were out of chicory and cold coffee without chicory would be like Twin Peaks without Dale Cooper. Most stores around here sell a brand of chicory in an orange box, which is really good. We get ours at Puerto Rico coffee company because the place smells like what the whole world should smell like. Plus I pass this store weekly. It just wasn’t top of mind. It took the dread of 90 degree temperatures to finally remind me what’s been missing from my life: Chicory!

Our cold coffee is very strong. We use the coffee sock cold brew jar and fabric filter. Fill it up then stick it in the fridge for 12ish hours. It brews for 12 hours. Perhaps we’ve figured out why it’s so strong, Watson.

I am not picky about coffee as long as it tastes good. Even bodega coffee is forgivable after a taste of something sweet to curb the burnt bitter bites. With cold brew we find the best results come from finely ground grinds and a heaping scoop of chicory. Raj and I had a cup this morning then he left me alone here, defenseless with another 4 cups of the good stuff begging for ice and just screaming my name.

I drank it all.

It does feel strange to turn the AC on in May, but it had to be done. The men outside are very loud. For weeks our fancy neighbors have been making a racket here and there. We were warned there’d be some noise as they were having a fence put in. A fence. There are currently three massive luxury buildings going up around us.

We are no strangers to noise. A fence is nothing. One summer, I helped my dad put up fences around backyard pools. We dug a lot of holes. I remember splinters, lots of Neil Young, blisters, and eating WaWa hoagies with raspberry iced tea on our breaks. I do not remember … jackhammers. They are using jackhammers to break ground. I’m sure they have good reason but help me. For the last few weeks, they show and make a lot of noise for an hour or two then leave. Why they chose this 90+ degree day to work all day is a mystery. Our AC drowns out the noise, but I can’t stop watching them place cinder blocks, measure, dig, smoke.

I’ve been at the window most of the day when I should be working but at first it helped me concentrate. Now it’s like we’re in it together. Yeah, I’m in my air conditioned apartment sipping very strong ice cold coffee rather than breaking a sweat doing stuff, but I almost feel like my watching while bouncing and lifting weights has contributed in some meaningful, essential, what-would-they-do-without-me way. Don’t mention it.

Thinking of wonderful things in the world, I found a Misfits Famous Monsters CD. It was cracked but the moral of the story is this is a glorious album and it’s streamable on Spotify. High energy music is equalizing some of the unexpected coffee effects. Hopefully next time the fence builders look up I won’t be there waving back like a weirdo.