Tag Archives: good times

A Want to Read


To write, I must read.

This has long been the understanding between myself and the words that are both my profession and my pastime. I’m not sure precisely the ratio (1:2? some inane fraction?), but I believe with certainty that there is one of words consumed to words excreted onto the page by my hand. (Lovely visual, no?) Consonants are my calories.


It'd take me a lifetime to get through these. Or longer.

Burnout tends to occur when I have exhausted my reservoir of words. An evening immersed in literature will almost organically lead to a morning rife with wordplay, the turns of phrase spinning like a top across my desk and the prose pouring perfectly from the points of my, ummm, you know, fingers.

Ah, but here I am, exhausted for want of words.

Writing well and writing quickly have been the foundation of my professional life for more than a decade. It is the reason I’m employable at all. It is one of only a very small handful of things that I would profess to do well. (Driving and fettuccini alfredo also are on that list.)

On many occasions, the prospect of curling up in some quiet corner with a book would strike me as it would most people: incredibly boring. But then, this is not one of those times. There is a couch calling my name – one with no video game controllers, no television or DVD remotes. To everything there is a season, and this season was made for books.

Part of my problem, unfortunately, is that it takes me an incredibly long time to read anything. I read very slowly. I write far faster than I read. I watch my wife tear through books (albeit trashy ones) at an alarming rate while I ponder over my (far more dense) matters. I can settle in for hours with a book and make very little progress in advancing the bookmark through the pages. This leads to frustration, and leads me to leave a tome obscuring the digital display on my alarm clock by the bed while I try to ignore it.

Another aspect to reading is the paradox of choice. My wife and I both are bibliophiles. Our friends hate to help us move because they are aware of the great many extremely heavy boxes of books that must be shuttled from one residence to another. Since I read so slowly, choosing a title is selecting a partner that will be inseparable from me for months at a stretch. So I’ve a backlog of books that I’ve just been meaning to get around to.

The weekend approaches when I’ll have little more to do than lay around a hotel room and read. The hotel is the Crown Plaza, so I’m hoping it’s at least tastefully appointed. My wife has a review course that she will be taking there before she takes her nurse practitioner boards, and will be occupied most of the weekend with that, leaving me to my own devices in the room.

I’m a little beyond midway in Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America.” I doubt I’ll finish it this weekend. Especially since I plan to revisit the shelf and select another book to take with me. Nothing against Mr. Roth, of course – his book has earned all the accolades that it’s received.

But, distance makes the heart grow fonder.


Dispatches from the Road: Kissing Cousins. Almost

El Paso at Night

El Paso at night. The dark parts are Mexico.

Cameron, Scott, Tony and I had made the 20-hour non-stop drive from Douglasville, Ga., to El Paso, Texas, without stopping for anything but gas. One of those stops was at a truck stop, which, in a matter of minutes, became Cameron’s 20th (or some other ridiculously high number) building that he’d “conquered.”  (I’ll leave Cameron to share this shame with you at a later time.)

But that’s another story for another day when we all have health insurance and can afford to see a psychologist, especially Cameron.  No, make that especially Scott.  Although Tony’s pretty crazy, so he’s probably the one that needs to see a shrink most desperately. Well, we all four should seek out a mental health professional at some point, but since that’s not a financial option right now, I think putting our thoughts out on the Internet for everyone to read is probably the best option.

Anyway, we arrived in El Paso around 5 or 6 in the afternoon and navigated through the maze of 7/11 convenience stores to our destination, Cameron’s uncle’s house, whom we shall call Uncle Rick. Uncle Rick was married to Aunt Nancy and they had a 12-year-old daughter — Cameron’s cousin — Trixie. (The names here have been changed to avoid allegations of libel. If you’d been there, you’d know what we were talking about, but you weren’t — but you should’ve been. Either way, no one was innocent, but everyone had fun.) Cameron’s grandfather, “Opa,” which we were told was Hungarian for Grandfather but might have been some sort of ethnic slur, also lived there. They were all really great people and their hospitality was unmatched.

We went to dinner and then out to the top of a small mountain to check out some of the beautiful scenery that El Paso had to offer. As we walked and talked we noticed that Trixie was very smitten with Cameron. Nothing too unusual, though; little girls will often have a crush on an older boy, especially one as adorable as Cameron. And it wasn’t as though the two had grown up together, as Cameron’s time in El Paso as a boy was fleeting compared to the criminal record he’s racked up in Douglasville. So, naturally we made fun of Cameron at every chance we got. When we returned to the house we sat in the garage and talked for hours and drank Uncle Rick’s beer until one of the drunk neighbors came over and told Cameron that it was “impossible to almost die,” after overhearing one of our stories in which Cameron almost died. Tony explained later that he’d refrained from beating the man because, after all, it was our first day on the trip and if he got his clothes all bloody then that’d throw off his wardrobe for the whole journey and he’d run out of clothes a day early.  Something no one wanted to happen.

Uncle Rick summoned Tony into a different part of the garage, presumably to show him some of the cool collectibles he had acquired over the years.  Tony was quite excited about this because, like Uncle Rick, he too was old and he and Uncle Rick had really hit it off, having a good bit in common.

Kissing Cousins

The happy couple taking a friendly family stroll.

“You know, Trixie really likes her cousin Cameron,” Uncle Rick said, his fifth or sixth or … twelfth … beer in his hand.

“Well yes I can see that she’s very fond of him. Cameron’s a nice kid. We all like Cameron,” Tony replied.

“No.  I mean she really likes her cousin,” he replied.

“Yeah,” Tony said. “Ummm, we’d noticed. I think she’s just glad to see him again. It’s been a while.”

Uncle Rick smiled. “It’s OK by me,” he said. Tony looked around for something else unusual that he could ask about to change the conversation. Anything would do. Hey, he’d ask, is that a door knob?

I was not aware of this conversation because I had just returned from the bathroom I had flooded. We’re very poor houseguests.

“There was already toilet paper in the bowl.  All I did was flush it down,” I said.  But, as is usually the case when I flood a bathroom, nobody believed me.

With a load of toilet water soaked towels in the washer and most everyone intoxicated past the legal limit we retired for the night. Scott commandeered a couch in the living room, and Tony had a military surplus cot from an old M.A.S.H. unit that he swore someone had died on, while Cameron and I stretched out on two other cots placed cozily next to each other in the middle of the room.  Tony and Scott would later be repaid for taking the good beds in El Paso by being forced to share tiny, soiled hotel beds with each other for the rest of the trip — something Tony still hasn’t quite gotten over.

As Cameron and I lay next to each other with our shirts off (it’s really hot in El Paso — like surface of the sun hot, which is not Burt Reynolds’ hot, but close), Trixie came into the living room. She saw a shirtless Cameron with probably a hint of a sunburn said “Cameron! I’m going to put lotion on your back!”

Scott laughed so hard I thought his giant head was going to explode and create a small mushroom cloud over El Paso. Cameron laughed a “what have I gotten myself into?” laugh. Naturally, I high-fived Cameron, because that’s what you do if you think your buddy is going to score. I mean, it was only Day One, and Tony had considered beating a man to death, Scott’s head was about to burst and Cameron was about to get a rub-down from his prepubescent cousin! This was destined to be the best. Trip. Ever.

Trixie returned and hopped up on the cot alongside Cameron. “Are you ready?” she giggled, squirting the bottle on his back. Cameron smiled — and shuddered.

“Oops!” she said, “I put too much.” She giggled some more. “But that’s OK; I did it on purpose!”

Tony immediately fell asleep as a defense mechanism, similar to how people in horrific accidents go into shock and can’t recall anything about what happened. He swears that’s the last thing he remembers from the night. As far as he remembers, we arrived in El Paso, ate at a Bavarian restaurant and drove immediately to Los Angeles. Nothing else.

Trixie ran into the kitchen to get some paper towels and Cameron just laughed into his pillow. Or maybe he was crying. I couldn’t tell. But I was having a great time. Surprisingly (or maybe not so much), it was the most action any of us got from any women during the whole two weeks.

I stand corrected: it was the most action any of us got for free during the whole two weeks. Cameron had a real good time in Vegas — and all it cost him was a couple of Jeep payments. But, again, we’ll let him share that shame at a later time.

Maybe when we’re in group together. Probably on the mandate of a court order. Either way, it’s going to be great!

Odds are, Trixie’s flirtations were nothing of the sort; she was just happy to be with her hero cousin again. And, naturally, we can think of nothing funnier than the idea of Cameron getting pinned down by his young kin — even if Tony, as his attorney, steadfastly advised against it. Either way, nothing happened.

But then, we did go to sleep sometime…