Guess who doesn’t have a little toe anymore

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A phrase came to mind as I completed this year’s taxes. It’s one of very few Bangla phrases I know and usually save for bad restaurants. It translates to “They slapped us in the face and took our money.

This was a frustrating year to pay taxes. I just didn’t want to do it. Who does, knowing the money could actually go toward a wall ordered by a born millionaire who didn’t have to pay his own taxes for 18 years? Wouldn’t it be nice for those of us who do pay taxes if we could indicate where we want at least a percentage of our dollars to go? Filing would be more engaging than stressful, more fulfilling maybe.

But it’s done. I’ll have my reward now.

Does anyone else reward themselves for doing their taxes? This year someone special (ME!) is getting hiking boots. I’m tired of slipping on boulders in old running shoes. Lyme disease-spreading ticks are supposed to be at an all time high this year in the Northeast, which they say every year, but I’m treating myself to more insecticide, too. Chemicals!

Since filing was especially annoying this year thanks to the electoral college’s president, I’m also baking me a pumpkin chocolate chip loaf. They say pumpkin isn’t in season right now. I’m going to share a deep dark secret. Our pumpkin that we got back in October is still on our mantle. It’s fine. I keep waiting for it to liquefy or reveal itself for the alien pod it is. I check it for rot every day and every day it’s fine, a little lighter like it’s hollow inside. I’m not baking the actual pumpkin. We kept it up over the holidays by our leg lamp and hung streamers around it for New Years. We put a hat over the curled stem for St. Paddy’s and now there’s a bunny on top. Maybe the fountain of pumpkin immortality is the corner spot on our mantle? We’ve come so far together, been through so much. The pumpkin is a part of the family. It’s like the lazy aloof cat we can’t have because of allergies.

With all the distraction of taxes and rewarding myself, I completely forgot about April Fools’. So when my little sister I called I answered with the first thing that came to mind.

“I cut off my little toe.”

She screamed, “What?” Then there was a glorious stunned silence, followed by “How?” And more horrified questions. My answers were just vague enough and I said I’d send her a picture because if I did cut my toe off I would take a picture for my Dead Stuff newsletter.

The picture was a drawn toe with “April fooled you” written, but I guess it took her a while to open because she thought it was a picture of my real severed toe. She called my dad before I got to him so for a little while both of them thought I’d cut off my own little toe and was sending around the picture. For good measure I included my other two sisters in the horror.

I got them. It’s funny how effortless it was to make my family to believe I cut my toe off. Good times.

 

Here is New York by E.B. White

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Elwyn Brooks White, better known as E.B. White, gave us Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. Journalism students may recall his work from a slim writing bible he co-authored, The Elements of Style. All three have a place of honor on what I introduce to guests as Grandpa’s Shelf. My paternal grandpa built this modest oak shelf in the early 1930s. It’s sturdy with a dark wood stain and three slightly upturned shelves. When my dad gave it to me I finally had proof that I’m his favorite child. This is the thing I grab if ever there’s a fire. Its very heavy so a brave, fireproof volunteer will be needed to grab the other end and make sure none of my books fall off while we haul it down the steep, narrow stairs.

I’ve lived in the city so long I’ve stopped counting the years. Yet White’s apparently famous 7500-word essay, since printed into a book, is new to me. ‘Here is New York‘ was first published in a 1949 issue of the lavish travel magazine Holiday. For his contribution, White left his home in Brooklin, Maine and returned to the city where he made his name.

I don’t usually seek out NY-centric reading, feels redundant, but spring is the hardest season for me to live here. Reading this essay is part of my on-going effort to enjoy the city again. May as well while we’re here. While not exactly the upper I was hoping for, it’s a quick (30-minute) read well worth checking out of the library.

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I expected to follow White on a long, nostalgic walk through Manhattan’s various neighborhoods. I don’t know why I had such a specific assumption of this essay, there’s at least as much analysis of the city’s essence and people as there are physical observations. White writes gorgeous descriptions though. He details walking past a free evening concert in Central Park. Brass horns fill the evening and, as if in response, The Queen Mary blares it’s own off-key horn. You feel like you’re walking beside him, pleasantly aware there’s no other place you’d rather be.

I’ve seen this essay described as a love letter to the city. While his fondness is evident, his tone seemed like one of someone glad to be gone. New York is much easier to love from a distance.

The city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines.

White stays in the city during an August heatwave. For this he has my sympathy. Summers are abusive here. Even reading about summer in the city makes me itch. If you’ve never had the pleasure of walking through New York on a sweltering day, imagine every drop of will and hope oozing from your eye sockets while the grit and fumes off millions of well-dressed sweaty flesh bags seeps into your pores and solidifies until there’s very little of you left in your own body. Why not come in October instead?

So New York in August, 1948. White arrives to experience and reflect on the New York he used to know. Alas, visiting his old city is impossible; it’s already gone. Any longtime or former New Yorker can probably relate. The city you first meet is fleeting. Before you know it, walking down a block is consumed by remember whens. Looking at new buildings and businesses and people only reminds you of the ones no longer here.

White circles back to change being the only constant in a place always reinventing itself and never quite catching up. There’s nothing in this essay that doesn’t ring true. He captures it all in this thorough, timeless representation of the city as a living machine. It still feeds on yesterday’s dirty dogs. Today it spits out sleek predictability and $5 “punk rock” Popsicles, but has no clue what to do about the cracks, and there are so many cracks. Cracks and ghosts.

The normal frustrations of modern life are here multiplied and amplified-

The people who come here do so for a reason. Many find their tribe or relish the city’s “gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy” that White refers to in his opening line. Others tap into a bottomless source of inspiration and drive. With some chutzpah you can still get your foot on a stage or in a fancy office or wherever it is you want to be.

-but New Yorkers temperamentally do not crave comfort and convenience – if they did they would live elsewhere.

One section refers to the people who live or work here as composing three different New Yorks: that of commuters, of natives and of transplant dreamers. In considering post-war atomic fears, his thoughts on the city’s vulnerability to airplanes is an eerie prophesy of 9/11. A part that stood out addresses the city’s growing diversity. Imagine if we had a president today capable of believing and articulating this same sentiment:

The city has to be tolerant, otherwise it would explode in a radioactive cloud of hate and rancor and bigotry.

It was fun to learn that E. B. White and I have something small in common. We both worked as ushers in theaters – he at the Metropolitan Opera and me on Broadway. I loved ushering in college. Through it I met all sorts of people, had time to read and got to swap shifts to see tons of different shows. Highly recommended for students.

This little book gives its audience much to chew on. Readers who love the city will find more reason to love it. Those of us who no longer feel at home here will find camaraderie and validation. Still, like White and countless others, I’ll always remember the city as I knew it when I knew it.

 

Sunday morning and I won, I won

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On a blue sky Sunday morning I ran out to brush the snow off our car while Raj made banana pancakes and ground two of our favorite coffee beans into one smooth weekend blend. I waited five days to deal with the snow on our car because I could – alternate side parking was suspended. Also I had high hopes for a second shot at a real blizzard. Leaving the snow was like keeping the welcome mat rolled out. Then I remembered what the windshield guy said this past December.

On Christmas morning at my sister’s in Jersey, I stepped outside to find the back windshield of our car smashed. The shattered glass was still in place until a slight vibration, from some innocent angel closing one of the doors, triggered a festive shower of broken green glass into our back seat. Ours was one of several windows smashed on Christmas Eve. It took days to get it replaced and when the man finally came he gave us this big lecture on clearing snow from the glass otherwise risk the wrath of opposing temperatures when the sun hits it like a laser. His point didn’t apply to our situation (temperatures were nowhere near freezing and there was no snow). He didn’t have much to say about the guys who hang out at night in the woods behind her complex. Pretty sure they’re not roasting marshmallows. Anyway, I’ve been better about clearing our car when it snows just in case.

Okay, I’m not that much better. And the snow I intended to quickly shoo from our glass was actually sealed by a thick crust of ice. Our little scraper was no match. The funnest part was cracking the crust up like crème brûlée. Only instead of tapping deliciousness with dainty silver I punched through, feeling like one of the toughs who order their chocolate peanut butter recovery drinks with vanilla soy milk.

After pancakes we roamed. Weekend mornings are my favorite time for roaming. Sometimes there’s a fellow carrying two cups of coffee and a paper bag full of somethings you know are going to be good. He’s bringing those treats and coffee back to someone he loves or likes enough. Parents look less harried pushing strollers or watching a little one on a wooden bike with no pedals ride off on scurrying feet Flintstone style.

We roam in bright synthetics because it doesn’t feel like Sunday without going for a run. Sidewalks are my least favorite running surface, in case you’re wondering. Soon we reach the park and opt to run on the slushy trails. I’m happy for the breathing room and no piles of trash to hurdle over. Races are aplenty in the park starting around yesterday and continuing through November. They flood the park with Woo-ers and plastic cups. The best part is when runners stand around blocking the paths after they’re done.

Runners are my peeps and races are a huge source of encouragement for many. That’s great. I’m just not a fan of the ones in the local park every single weekend because they’re all so loud and messy. Oh, well. I recently discovered a new-to-me running route for most weekends. It’s much longer, race-free and spans a number of waterfront stretches.

On this final day of winter, Raj and I race each other on the home stretch. We’re nearly to the end when I hear the first bagpipes. They might be for the St. Paddy’s Day parade in our neighborhood. They might be Woo-ing me to the finish line seconds ahead. He says it’s hard to say who won. I say it’s easy: I won. I WON.

 

 

Summer of Night by Dan Simmons

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First published in 1991, Summer of Night by Dan Simmons is a horror classic. Stephen King and I like it a lot. “Stephen King and I” is a fun way to begin a book review. Fun for me and that’s what matters.

Reading Simmons reminds me of Shel Silverstein’s “Boa Constrictor” song. Remember?

I’m being eaten by a Boa Constrictor
A Boa Constrictor
A Boa Constrictor
I’m being eaten by a Boa Constrictor
And I don’t like it one bit

His stories swallow you and you do like it. You’re fully aware that they’re swallowing you and yet there’s nothing to be done about it. I discovered this just last year with The Terror, a  historical fiction/ monster/ adventure epic that blew me away. I shoved the tome into my SO’s arms confident he would love it as I did. It took him 3 weeks to make it through 50 pages before giving up. He’s drunk on depressing nonfiction lately.

I guess, like all authors, Simmons isn’t for everyone. Hey, neither is Crack. Open Summer of Night and you’ll know in the first 50 pages whether you’re on board with Stephen King and I. We have room for more and I’ll even share my bubble chocolate.

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This book is made of everything I love. Set in an idyllic, small Midwestern town in the 1960s, it follows a group of boys through one terrifying summer. When we meet them in their final moments of class it’s impossible not to share and envy the boy’s enthusiasm for that endless freedom that seemed to lie ahead. The opening is steeped in nostalgia, not just for childhood summers, but the simple glory of disappearing on a bike with friends until dinner time. (In his new intro, Simmons broods over this loss of unsupervised childhood adventures. I usually skip intros, but this one is masterful.)

Simmons writes in expansive layers with such nuance it makes my brain giddy. His descriptions of a spontaneous game of King of the Hill are as vivid and lingering as the moment you learn there really is something in the closet. Things under the bed can get you. There was a face at your window.

After a classmate disappears, the boys gather to investigate. They divvy up the town’s creepiest characters and agree to secretly follow their assigned and report back. Teachers aren’t your usual suspects, but the boys’ school is no ordinary school. The town is finally closing down Old Central with plans to bus the students come fall. Meanwhile, the massive structure casts a heavy shadow over the town due to its dark history and revolting physicality, “a hulking fortress tinged with the mahogany scent of coffins.”

As evil overtakes the town, the boys have their bikes and each other to rely on. Maybe they’re in over their heads, but it’s also clear that they’re the only ones who may be able to stop whatever is happening. Unlike adults in town, the kids don’t dismiss gut instinct.  The friends seem to be the only ones who recognize that bad things are happening. They don’t cower. They step into dark basements, reach into strange holes. They fumble and can’t peddle fast enough. It’s not a fair fight and Simmons offers no safety. As terrifying creatures are set loose on the town we’ve come to know, the story grows a coming-of-age appendage, highlighting how vulnerable innocence is. Once lost, it’s gone forever.

This book reads like a movie with a lot of variation and steady pacing. Some scenes are disturbing. It’s not a quickie. I finished feeling exhausted but intensely satisfied, kind of like how you feel coming back from a camping trip. I had to take a break from horror after because others just weren’t measuring up.

I read this shortly after watching the Netflix hit “Stranger Things”. While the show is a drama with supernatural elements, it hits many of the same us-against-them notes. It seems like an obvious influence on the show’s creators. Whether it is or not, Summer of Night is a meaty snack to tide fans over until the second season.

Did I mention how good Dan Simmons is with words and horror? Did you know and not tell me?

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

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Newbery Medal winners and honorees are always so good. We seek them out often enough to abbreviate them as Newbs. When I checked Clare Vanderpool’s Moon Over Manifest out, the librarian talked about her kids’ favorite books. I thought we were talking books, but we weren’t. She was struck with a bad case of presuming-I’m-a-parent-itus. Nope. For a second I felt like a weirdo fraud for being in the kids’ section without a kid. I read kids’ books for pleasure. Take that, friendly librarian.

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Moon Over Manifest, 2011 Newb winner, was worth the moment of mild awkwardness at the library. This is the kind of book that pokes your heart. The story is about 12-year-old Abilene Tucker and the summer she spends in her dad’s hometown of Manifest, Kansas, a town of many Eastern and Western European immigrants. Set in 1936 and 1918, in that order, the story follows lonely Abilene as she tries to reconnect with her dad by learning about Manifest as it was in 1918, when he lived there.

Abilene enjoyed nomadic life with her dad, Gideon. She’s still not sure why she couldn’t accompany him to his railroad job like usual. He wanted her to go to Manifest and live with Pastor Shady for the summer so she did. The town’s not what she expected based on her daddy’s stories, but he’ll be back for her at the end of summer, sure thing.

Memories were like sunshine. They warmed you up and left a pleasant glow, but you couldn’t hold them.

In Shady’s former Baptist church-turned-speakeasy/home, she finds a cigar box of trinkets, letters from 1918, and a hand-drawn map of the town.The letters are between Ned, a soldier fighting in France, and Jinx, the friend he left behind. In addition to reading the letters, Abilene learns about the town’s rich history through local newspaper columns published during 1918 and by listening to the stories of a Hungarian “diviner” named Miss Sadie.

From losing young men to the war and growing tensions between immigrant communities, to the Spanish Flu, Ku Klux Klan and something about a spy, Abilene and her two friends get to know Manifest in a way many of the older residents seem to have forgotten. And how can they resist trying to find out who the spy was? The girls get themselves into some genuine mischief, looking for clues to the past and finding them everywhere.

I adore the warm woven texture of Vanderpool’s writing. Her storytelling style is perfect for children’s historical fiction.

And if someone pays you such a kindness as to make up a tale so you’ll enjoy a gingersnap, you go along with that story and enjoy every last bite.

Reading this got me thinking of my dad and older relatives, none of whom ever talk about their past. Ever. Letters were never saved. Photo albums disappeared in moves. And they don’t understand the curiosity. As if wanting to know more about the people who gave you life and attempted to shape that warm, needy lump of flesh into a good person is a bad thing. Parents. Today my sisters photograph and document every breath of their kids’ lives. When our present becomes the past there will be few mysteries.

My dad is a closed book until one of his grandchildren or some friend is in the room. Then out comes a story my sisters and I never heard before. Where do these stories come from? We call it the far side of the Dad. Similar to the far side of the moon, any glimpse is a rare gift.

I love the side I get to see, but can’t help wondering if there are really alien bases over there. At least with Moon we have satellites to photograph the mysterious dark side. How beautiful.

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Parting words are kind of my forte

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Curses to my lousy afternoon Internet. The only thing reliable about it is it’s flakiness from 2 pm to 4 pm every weekday, a.k.a. the danger zone. As a freelancer working mostly from home I try to schedule what few meetings I have well before the danger zone but sometimes it can’t be helped.

Google hangout meetings with cameras and mics are rough enough, even when the world outside cooperates – no sirens, no screaming children on the stairwell, no locked out neighbor buzzing and buzzing my bell. The word “meeting” sounds so formal when really these are casual-ish check-ins, but not THAT casual. Still, nothing to stress about.

Today’s was something special. I should’ve expected as much when the meeting popped on my calendar for 2:30. All was fine for the first five minutes. Then the big red X blinked over my connection. I reconnected, hadn’t missed anything. Nothing to miss until I noticed the big red X flashing again. I reconnected for long enough to catch my client say “Where’d she go?” Then another big red X.

My mistake was trying to type something in a panic before my connection cut out. I meant to write “I keep getting BOOTED”. I wrote:

I keep getting booty

My fingers type like jerks when I’m frustrated. It took me years to reconnect. Only to add:

*booty

You know, in case they didn’t understand me the first time.

 

 

billionaire DeVos gets her ROI

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Mocking billionaire’s so-called “president” is amusing and sad because it’s simply a matter of repeating his own words. Republicons just pawned children’s education for profit and there’s nothing amusing about it. Any more than a few minutes of political news at a time and I start getting this-is-happening headaches. People voted for this. No wait, we didn’t, the electoral college voted for this. Donald lost the popular vote. The Senators that oppose Devos represent 36 million more people than her supporters. A government of the people, by the people, for the people this is not.

Before trying to find a bright side, a reason to not be angry, consider this quote from DeVos, published in The New Yorker

“My family is the biggest contributor of soft money to the Republican National Committee,” she wrote in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. “I have decided to stop taking offense,” she wrote, “at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment.”

Disconnecting from the Internet for hours at a time is working miracles for my peace of mind and concentration. Trying not to feel nostalgic for that magical time when kids in public schools learned how to read. Back before Republicons permitted the dumping of coal mining debris and waste in drinking water and in the same breathe moved to rollback a bill preventing mentally ill people from owning guns.

Thanks? I feel so protected.

Had a very New York moment this weekend. After a long chilly run in the park, we stopped at our bagel place for tofu cream cheese and an everything egg for Raj. This is my favorite deli in the neighborhood. It smells and feels just like the bagel places we went to growing up in NJ. So much so that paying the sister tax on family visits means bringing a dozen bagels along.

So we go to our deli. We buy extra bagels to do a tiny little something to help offset their loss of income from closing last Thursday in order to protest the Muslim ban. While we’re waiting, Raj points out that this is a Muslim-owned business staffed by Mexicans, making a Jewish food. And the result is perfection. I never really thought about how much cultural overlap there is in this city and how much goodness comes out of it. I never thought about public school education as something we’d have to fight for.

The Department of Justice posted this on an alternative Twitter account.

The Senators who voted for DeVos whose terms are up in 2018

Flake AZ

Wicker MS

Fischer NE

Heller NV

Corker TN

Cruz TX

Hatch UT

Barrasso WY

Kids deserve a champion

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My little buddy turned 6 years old and received the royal treatment complete with a hot tray of cowboy cookies. We discovered these cookies after reading Kate DiCamillo’s Leroy Ninker Saddles Up last summer. It’s about a man who wants to be a cowboy and falls in love with a horse. The first question from the girls – what do cowboys eat? The only thing that came to my mind at the time – cowboy cookies. Their next question – can we make them? Am I glad I checked to see if cowboy cookies were a real thing before just making something up. As it turns out, cowboy cookies are a thing and they’re delicious even when veganized and gluten free-ized. They’re also a gateway concoction cookie. With a chewy foundation of the right butter, sugar, oats and flour ratio, the gals go nuts on the add-ins.

After two weeks of cringing at the news and an anxious return to NYC via JFK airport, spending a few hours with happy children was like basking in a pocket of light.

They love learning. They love reading and math. They’re always building something or making messes in the name of scientific curiosity. They adore their public school and the teachers who work so hard to help them grow.

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Cowboy cookies. What better way to celebrate Republicans backing off from selling 3.3 million acres of public land?

Calls make a difference.

Kids in public schools deserve a champion on their side and Betsy DeVos doesn’t have the ability or the will to hold that honor. If you haven’t called your representative to oppose Betsy DeVos, now’s the time. This morning, with a vote of 52 to 48, the Senate voted to advance her to a final confirmation vote, possibly on Monday. Pence breaks a tie so there’s an additional seat to flip. 202-225-3121

If you’re in Maine or Alaska, your Republican Senators need a bigger push. Both Collins and Murkowski have said they intended to vote against Devos, but this morning they voted to advance the confirmation.

Call your Representative.

Call your Senator.

Yoga at home year 3! Woohoo!

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The city is an amusing place to be this time of year when everyone’s a bundle waddling through grey slush on these weirdly warm days following a snow. A few days ago, I was just being a perfect angel looking out for shady patches of ice and corner puddles of winter surprise. Little did I know that while I’m looking down, ladies are checking out my fellow.

A food truck gal shouted “Woohoo! Nice hat!” in his direction. That’s what I heard. He heard “Veggie patty?” Maybe he got catcalled, maybe not. I’m glad she liked his hat so much though. Her delight reintroduced Woohoo! into our world when it’s needed most.

Why? What happened?

It’s not easy to talk about. Okay. The Psyche Me Up CD that my sister burned for me ages ago cracked. It’s hard to muster up enthusiasm on sore days without this magical, ancient CD. Woohoo! is helping because you can’t say Woohoo! without smiling. Unless you use it ironically but don’t do that.

Adriene’s 30-Day Yoga Challenge is helping with the soreness. This is my third January with Adriene, which means my almost daily home yoga practice is entering it’s third year, which calls for pie. This year’s challenge is just what all my many ever-bulging muscles needed. Plus it’s nice to stick with one instructor for a month. Usually I alternate my daily practice between Adriene’s videos and those on DoYogaWithMe.

These classes run about 30-35 minutes. A few are so gentle it’s like nap time, but most of them leave me feeling lighter, limber, and no longer sore. Right now they’re a nice boost when winter loveliness slops up the running paths.

Give a home yoga practice a try if public classes aren’t your thing. I love everything about yoga and yet have no desire to ever do it in a room full of people ever again. In classes, I always felt trapped and hyper aware of so many bodies around me. Rather than sinking into breath and movement, I was looking from the clock to the door to the clock door with moving limbs always tottering on the periphery. It took me way too long to realize I could build my practice at home thanks to the many many super teachers posting classes on the Internets.

In February I’m going back to Fiji McAlpine’s 14 Days of Yoga Challenge. This one is intensive, perfect if you’re cooped up and craving an invigorating workout. My hand was busted the first time I did these classes so I wound up modifying most of the movements to keep weight off of it. I’m looking forward to trying them at 100%. Woohoo! Never interacting with other humans ever again! Woohoo!

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

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I checked out A Room with a View by E.M. Forster because the title is all I want. Well, a view and to not have to worry about health insurance but A Room with a View and Health Insurance doesn’t have quite the same ring.

Apparently, dodgy construction companies all over the city are saving money on storage by simply leaving scaffolding up long after it’s in use. After a neighbor told me about an upcoming bill proposing reducing scaffolding permits from years to 5 months, we started calling and writing local officials about the scaffolding next door that was put up three years ago and hasn’t been active in 18 months. Its a few weeks later and the scaffolding was taken down this week. We can actually see out our window to… a luxury building. The opposite of inspiring, but if I hang half my body out the window I can see the Statue of Liberty and she’s a looker. I’m counting this as our first victory of the year. Score!

A Room with a View is more than just an evocative title. The novel is smart and amusing with the kind of knowing tone you want to wrap up in. Why can’t every book be this good?

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This was my first time reading A Room with a View. I know. Naughty, naughty. It’s a character driven story with a straightforward plot and grogeous prose. So many sentences to stop and admire as if they’re paintings on a museum wall to be discussed in the cafe over tea with a hard clump of sugar.

Lucy Honeychurch is a young woman on holiday with her cousin/chaperon Charlotte. They’re staying at an inn in Florence called the Pension Bertolini and Charlotte is not happy that their rooms overlook the courtyard. Hearing this complaint, an older man named Mr. Emmerson, traveling with his son George, offers up their rooms with lovely views. He says men don’t care for views as women do. After much feigned reluctance and protests of impropriety, Charlotte accepts the rooms.

Side note: Perhaps Mr. Emmerson’s view on views isn’t shared by all men, but it does apply to my boyfriend and dad. I’ve dragged them up steep endless staircases for rooftop views, up rocky seaside cliffs, on long hikes to clearings surrounded by mountains – places I could enjoy being for hours and hours. Both of them react to views in the same way. They take one look and maybe nod before saying something like Okay. Seen it. Now what? If I’d only read this book sooner, I would’ve learned to appreciate views alone.

The hemming and hawing over the rooms tells you everything you need to know about the stuffy bubble Charlotte and most of their fellow travelers choose to inhabit no matter where they are. Lucy begins to sense the narrowness of these ways once they’re held in contrast to the Emmersons, who are too intelligent to bother with verbose Victorianisms and stuffy rules of civility.

Lucy’s inner world expands when she’s with the Emmersons and contracts when she retreats. She has the possibility to change, but struggles to reconcile the gap between her family’s expectations and what she wants. Then George Emmerson steals a kiss in a field of violets and Lucy makes a run for it. She’s a fuzzy character because she wants to change and grow but she’s a people-pleaser surrounded by people with dated views.

There is much that is immortal in this medieval lady. The dragons have gone, and so have the nights, but still she lingers in our midst, … But alas! The creature grows degenerate. In her heart also there are springing up strange desires. She too is enamored of heavy winds, and vast panoramas, and green expanses of the sea.

The second part of the book takes us to Lucy’s home in Surrey as she accepts the marriage proposal of a man she doesn’t love. The life ahead of her is bleak. Her submissiveness is that much harder to read because now she’s aware of it. In Rome, her future fiance saw her as a mystery.

A rebel she was – but not of the kind he understood – a rebel who desired, not a wider dwelling-room, but equality beside the man she loved. For Italy was offering the most priceless of all possessions – her own soul.

Once engaged, she’s a country girl he must cultivate so she may properly entertain the grandchildren of fancy people. Then the Emmerson’s move to the town and stir Lucy’s heart and mind once more. It’s a typical love story in that Forster keeps the lovers apart until … SPOILER ALERT … the very end.

The experience of reading this book reminded me of Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle. It’s full of yearning and the stakes are high if Lucy continues to deny what she wants. Every character is fully developed and the vast physical spaces offer necessary breathing room whenever Lucy’s oppressive upbringing starts closing in.

She disliked confidences, for they might lead to self-knowledge and to that king of terrors – Light.

I’m so glad I finally read this book.