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Living the dream

If I posted my dreams as if they were blog entries, this place would be so much more interesting. For example, from last night:

You guys! So much to tell you – I don’t even know where to start. So for some reason, I decided to get a job working retail at [chain of music venues where I used to work] again. Who knows why – it’s not a lot of extra cash, but somehow, the place was always really compelling. Anyway! I was heading to one of my first few shifts, and I was kind of running late. (There was a backstory to that which involved dropping my dad off at school, but that’s not really all that interesting, anyway…) I was supposed to be there at 1, and it was like 1:05 and I was just a couple of blocks away. No big, it’s a low-pressure retail job! I don’t know why I didn’t care about being on time – that’s the exact opposite of everything that happens in my daily life. But then my phone rang, and it was a manager I hadn’t met before, and she was kiiiiiiiind of losing it because she was expecting me at noon, not one.

“No way,” I said. “I saw the schedule. I’m supposed to be there at one!”

“Maybe it changed, but it’s your responsibility to know that. Get here, now.”

So I did. I got my bank, and headed to the store to set up, but it seems that there may have been a reason the schedule was change. Madonna was giving an afternoon concert for, like, 50 people. Maybe they were contest winners? Anyway, instead of working in the store, I was going to be doing coat check for those special few invited to the concert.

I made way down to the club, where production was in the middle of sound check. It was a rather perfunctory sound check, and since the Great Lady couldn’t be there herself, the head of production was hum-singing “Material Girl” into one of the microphones. 

And that was when I noticed that about 10 of the audience members were seated on stools, holding signs. They were women, mostly in their mid-30s, and they were dressed up as Madonna crossed with a My Little Pony of their choice. On the sign was written their cultivar – “Madonna x. My Little Pony” (Unfortunately, my brain didn’t know any My Little Pony names, so these were all entirely made up. Madonna x. Slutollata. Madonna x. Flygirl.)

“What rare flowers,” I thought as I breezed past them. “What beautiful birds.”

They all checked coats. They were all terrible tippers.

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Van Slyke Castle

One of the things I’ve really come to love about living on the East Coast (yes, there might actually be more than one, although I’m not sure of that) is the presence of history, thick history, everywhere. The buildings are old, the roads are old – and best of all, there are ruins to be found, all over the place. I love it. I love it when we’re out hiking and come across surprise ruins – but there’s a lot to be said for the ones we go seeking, as well.

There happened to be a day recently when we rented a car to take care of some errands. And since those errands were only going to take a couple of hours, we decided to drive somewhere we would never normally be able to go. After a little research, and based mostly on this link, we decided to go to Ramapo Park where we could explore Van Slyke Castle.

It was so worth it.

The first part of the trail we took to the ruins. the Indian Head Trail, was built by a (possibly very crazy) man named Joseph “Ace” Tachine. Which I wouldn’t have known, except for the fact that his name was all over the place.

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And why was the trail so named?

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Tons of those. All over.

The trail got less crazy, though, and after an easy meander along a long, narrow, glacially-formed lake, we headed up a tiny mountain for the ruins. And up. And up.

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It was excellent.

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And while there is no part of me that is actually capable of imagining what life in this house must have been like, I’m glad that someone one hundred years ago decided to be a crazy rich person and built the house of their dreams.

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When you are happy

los dos

And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” – Kurt Vonnegut, here and in Timequake, which was otherwise not my favorite Vonnegut book ever, and other places as well.

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A note on non-anonymity

Since I’ve attached my name to the blog, I went back and made a couple of posts password protected, and I will do that in the future if I post things that I don’t want to be google-able. If you want to read, just email me for the password.

 

XO

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What is Kelsi reading?

And now it’s time for an episode of “What is Kelsi Reading?” (And just like that, I decided to give up total anonymity. I may have made better decisions at other points in my life but OH WELL.)

At the moment I am reading:

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham – Because it is true, I have turned into your dad. I’ve been molto into U.S. presidential history for the last year or so (ok, well, molto is relative, since I have what you might call a LOT of interests.) But I have made it a long term goal to read biographies of all the presidents; thus, it is a little weird that this is the second Jefferson biography I’ve read in the last year. I have a lot of ground to cover, so why spend so much time on one dude?

Well. WELL. The first Jefferson biography I read was American Sphinx, and I came away from that with the thoughtful, well-reasoned opinion that “Thomas Jefferson was kind of a douche.” Although clearly brilliant, determined, thoughtful, literally revolutionary, popular, history-making, absolutely genius, American Sphinx also revealed him with all of his character flaws in a way that made them nearly inexcusable.

But then a very good friend gave me The Art of Power for my birthday, and I am weak in the face of tomes of history. And it turns out that The Art of Power is (prepare to be shocked) worthy of its accolades. Not only is it well researched, well written and absolutely compelling, but I think Jon Meacham actually likes Thomas Jefferson – something that, in retrospect, I don’t believe Joseph Ellis (who wrote American Sphinx) particularly does.

It was rare, in my formal education, for history to be drawn together in tight little bows, and for the sketches of icons on dollar bills to turn into real men with real relational issues. It’s fantastic when it does happen – when I can picture Jefferson being torn between his responsibilities to his daughter Patsy and his passionate love of France, or when I understand that Jefferson and Adams were buddies the way I am with some of my friends I don’t agree with but still love to drink beer with  – and books like this are the only way I’ve ever gotten there.

Assholes: A Theory by Aaron James – This is a fantastic, please read it and then we can talk about how everyone is an asshole. I thought it might be a frivolous read, but it’s actually a scholarly, philosophical little book with strong ties to a variety of schools of thought. I read The Psychopath Test last summer, and I will say that there seems to be an overlap in the way James describes assholes and the way Ronson describes psychopaths – but either way, it’s fascinating to read about what makes people tick. Even horrible people.

How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton – This was given to me as a gift, along with Cloud Atlas. I was crazy excited to get Cloud Atlas and didn’t realize that this was the book that was going to get all up in my heart.

I have a feeling that it is fodder for several posts, since Botton and Proust cover all sorts of topics, from happiness to sensitivity to overly-attached families to socializing, many of which are things that I’ve spent hours and hours paying someone to help me figure out.

But I was immediately and completely drawn in by the first anecdote. A 1920s Paris newspaper, L’Intransigeant, posed questions for celebrities to answer. One of the questions they asked was this:

An American scientist announces that the world will end, or at least that such a huge part of the continent will be destroyed, and in such a sudden way, that death will be the certain fate of hundreds of millions of people. If this prediction were confirmed, what do you think would e its effects on people between the time when they acquired the aforementioned certainty and the moment of cataclysm? Finally, as far as you’re concerned, what would you do in this last hour?

Many of the celebrity responses were exactly as you might expect. They suggested that people would go to church, go to the bedroom, do those things a person might do if there are no long-term consequences. Proust’s response, though, was a perfect example of modern stoicism:

I think that life would suddenly seem wonderful to us if we were threatened to die as you say. Just think of how many projects, travels, love affairs, studies it – our life – hides from us, made invisible by our laziness which, certain of a future, delays them incessantly.

But let all this threaten to become impossible for ever, how beautiful it would become again! Ah! if only the cataclysm doesn’t happen this time, we won’t miss visiting the new galleries of the Louvre, throwing ourselves at the feet of Miss X., making a trip to India.

The cataclysm doesn’t happen, we don’t do any of it, because we find ourselves back in the heart of normal life, where negligence deadens desire. And yet we shouldn’t have needed the cataclysm to love life today. It would have been enough to think that we are humans, and that death may come this evening.

This is exactly a thing that I’ve been trying to work into my life, to believe on a fundamental level, and every reminder that comes from the outside is precious and useful.

So those three books are my current companions. What should I read next? Suggestions welcome every second of every day.

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The best of it (Food + Science)

After three years in my current position, I don’t think my work will ever be any better than this, one of my most inspired efforts:

Food and science

And I’m not even allowed to use it as training material. The unfairness, she is ridiculous.

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Too tired to be talking

Me: …did you know there was a genetic component to lupus?

Him: No.

Me: Yes! I read about this in one of those articles about all of the armadillos in the Southwest that are giving people lupus.

Him: . . .

Me: Here, let me… wait, have I been saying lupus? I mean leprosy.

Him: Oh! You have been saying lupus. I did know about leprosy.

Me: How was I getting those two words mixed up? I must be tired.

Him: Well, they both start with R.

Me: Um…

Him: Wait! No. But they do in Japanese!

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