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24 February 2010

Quadrennial Love Affair

On evening, in 1992, during the Albertville Olympics, I discovered my then 4-year old son attempting to recreate his own Olympic endeavor.   Having stacked his Playskol table and two chairs atop a sofa, then placing a cardboard box over the stack, covering it with a a white blanket and climbing to the top of his makeshift mountain, he yelled "Look, Mommy!" just before he attempted his first -- and last -- indoor luge run.  While his ingenuity and swiftness in engineering his sliding track amazed me, I should not have been surprised that he would have thought of it.  After all, my television had been set to non-stop Olympic broadcasts for the duration of the Games, as it has been for every Winter Olympics since I first fell in love with Jean-Claude Kielly in the 1968 Grenoble Games. 

I'm not much of a sports fan, by every four years, I learn the names of the sliders, the skiers, and the skaters.   I brush up on the subtle differences between a triple lutz and and triple toe loop, learn the number of medals in each discipline, follow the made-for-TV rivalries,  listen intently to the melodramatic stories of Olympian lives.  During the day, I can now feed my addiction with the internet -- pictures, videos, commentary -- and when I'm near a TV, NBC, MSNBC, CNBC are on heavy clicker rotation.  

Why do I like the Winter Games so much?  Perhaps because I watch athletes do feats that I know I could never attempt.  For example: 

Skiing - My sharpest memory of my one attempt at skiing is that I went the weekend after Michigan changed its drinking age from 19 to 21. My friends abandoned me on the beginners' slope, and I abandoned the slope after two attempts and bruises that didn't fade for a few weeks.  How anyone can remain standing on long strands of fiberglass confounds me. 

Skating - I can skate forward.  I can skate backwards.  But, having honed my best technical skills on the neighborhood Overbee's Pond when I was eight, I'm best at the triple ass spin, a technique frowned upon by the Skating Federation. 

Sliding - I mostly do this in my car in the winter.  At speeds far slower than 90 miles an hour.  Without cowbells.  Sometimes I think I deserve style points, though. 

Freestyle & Snowboarding - I have never been that hip. 

Curling - Until last weekend, when my husband had the curling matches on for most of the day, I would have said that brooms on ice scare me.  But, having realized that CNBC stands for Curling.  Nothing But Curling, I realize that this may have been a sport that I could have aspired to.  The strategy of the game intrigues me.  Still, trying to sweep stones over "pebbles" into the "house" seems a bit odd.  I do like the tradition of the winners buying the losers a drink.   Quite sporting. 

I never had any dreams about being an Olympian, though for years I would tell people that the 'J' in my surname was pronounced as in "Jean-Claude", and I had my hair cut in a Dorothy Hamel Wedge.  Two weeks of races on fast sleds, jumping over obstacles of snow, jumping into the air, flipping head over heels on purpose, or racing downhill in roller-derby fashion:  watching people trying to go fast and defy gravity while on slick surfaces will always grab my attention. Good thing that the Winter Olympics are only held once every four years; it would be too much excitement for me if it were more frequent.    

02 February 2010

What they are saying about me?

Who is revealing something about me?   My bookshelves, of course.   Although I didn't realize it until I saw this at Dorothy's site.  Originally from Ella at Box of Books.  My shelves are screaming the following things:

1.  "We want more room!"  The top shelve of one is bowed, due to the double- and triple-stacked books placed on top of it.  Subtext:  I hate to shop and continue to put off buying another bookcase. And really, do I need that stack of New Yorker guilt staring at me every day?   I really should pitch some of those old magazines.   I can get it on line! 

2.  "Lots of new books here!"  There are lots of new acquisitions in my library, although not all are recently published.    Untold story:  I had to send most of my library to the dump about seven years ago due to a flood.  Although I think my buying has slowed a bit, I think there for awhile I was trying to build, in quantity at least, the same sized library I had previously.  While I could buy new copies of the books, I couldn't replace the well-worn, cracked bindings of my favorite books, or replicate the notes I wrote in some of them.   Some of the books I miss most frequently are the anthologies that I used in school -- often I think of a passage of an essay, or poem and I can visualize exactly where it was in the book.  How I would love to walk into the other room, search for a few minutes, until I found the book I was thinking of, then flip to some dog-earred, fingerprinted page to read the passage.  While I may be able to find a copy of most of those works, I can't go back and revisit the notes I might have written when I first encountered it, the words I might have highlighted, the definitions I wrote in the margins.   I miss visiting that old reader and her thoughts.

3.  "Disorganized!"   There is little reason as to where my books sit on the shelves.  Generally, of the two bookcases in living room, one is works that I have read, and the other is works that I haven't read yet.  Both need to be weeded and organized and many of the books should go to Book Mooch.  Why?  So I can get more books, of course! 

4. "Someone in this house likes...."

...."Art!"   I have several art exhibit catalogs.   When I travel, I like to visit art museums and I have acquired several books on art as a result.  The oldest exhibit catalog I have is from the first special art exhibit I remember seeing -- an exhibit at the Royal Academy in London on Post-Impressionism in 1979.  The most recent is the book of photos and critical essays that accompanied the exhibit  "The Americans" by Robert Franks, at the Metropolitan Museum last fall.   I've looked through this book numerous times in the last three months; I am in awe of these photographs.   Franks said of his photographs:  "When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice." Robert Frank, LIFE (26 November 1951), p. 21.  He was right about the quality of his photos, but it isn't just reading a line twice - it is reading the poem over and over again. 

..."Poltical History!"   I have a special table top shelf that features several presidential biographies.  My husband started on a project to read a biography of each American president.  I keep thinking that maybe I'll start reading them too, but somehow that reading project never gets off the ground. 

..."Theology".  I used to belong to a monthly book club that met at a church and usually read something related to faith and spirituality.   If this says anything about me it is that a) I'll read anything, and b) I'm a seeker.  

..."Reads 2 -3 crappy novels a year".   Most of the junk stuff was acquired due to my other monthly book club.  Two or three times a year someone picks a real dog, again proving that I'll read anything -- at least for a few pages.   I could say that I keep these to protect against me becoming a complete literary snob.   So far, it isn't working.  I often wonder why I even bothered to buy them.  Most embarrassing:  Dan Brown's Angels and Demons.  A close second:  anything by Jodi Piccoult or Barbara Delinski.  I refused on principle to buy or bring into my house Glen Beck's The Christmas Sweater.  

... "Likes to cook".   I do like to cook, but I like to eat more.   I have a huge bookcase in my kitchen with over 100 cookbooks, and lots of miscellaneous recipe cards, notebooks, magazine pages.   Besides art-related books, the other souvenir I would ever consider buying when I travel is a cookbook.   Most are in English; some aren't, which has lead to some interesting culinary recreations in my kitchen.   

6.  "Needs more bookcases!".    I have piles of books in nearly every room.  The Shelves cry out for more; the books cry out:  "Shelve us!"    My spouse and I once had a discussion if 52 books on the nightstand, beside the bed, under the quilt rack, etc. was too many.  Can you guess my answer? 

What are my bookshelves saying about me?  That I am a reader!