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Reader

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I’m not a reader.

Now let me explain.

I’m a damn good reader.  No disorders that I know of, comprehension through the roof, the ability to cold read, out loud, in public, strong as it gets.  I’ve been reading since I was a little over a year old, or so they said when I was growing up.

No, I’m just not a reader.

I grew up reading every day.  Prose, mostly, and that, contained in the sports section of the LA Times.  I never read comics, except for the papers on Sunday, and I was never encouraged to pick up a book during my childhood, except by command of teachers, and then, not until high school.  Along the way, I read some things, mostly by accident.  Some Peter Benchley… sharks fascinated me… and some pulp journalism style stuff you could find on the book rack at the grocery store while my mom stood in line to pay.  Besides that, the only two things I read like they meant something were Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, the World Book Encyclopedia, and the 1973 Baseball Encyclopedia.

But none of that is reading.

In the years that I should have been indulging my creative consciousness on everything from Swift to Burroughs and Dickens to Baum, I was memorizing batting averages, the etymology of 19th century English words, and the names the crew gave the mechanical shark in the movie Jaws.  I wasn’t reading, I was collecting… nonsense, mostly.  I read quickly.  I read to absorb, to obtain, and to satisfy curiosity, not for the love of the words themselves.

At least that’s the way reading was explained to me.  That it was a love affair with words, and with the stories that the words would unfold for me, if I would only let it be so.  As you might imagine, school was a nightmare for me.  I got by, barely.  Not by reading, but by listening.  I listened to every word the teachers said, and made copious notes.  Page after page of classroom notes, writing down every meaningless detail of these frustrated storytellers, never once looking inside the textbooks they ordered us to read.  Because of this, obviously, math was a killer.  English was hard because all the questions on tests were neatly tucked away inside the books I didn’t read.  History worked for me, because teachers of history fancy themselves “historians”, and would rather act out the full contents of the books themselves, than leave the interpretation of history to the transcribers of history.  I took notes, and answered the questions from them. 

That didn’t work out so well, in high school, or in college, after.

I gave reading one more shot in my 20s.

The girl I was seeing was a reader of book club selections, and I would read books over her shoulder, at night.  For a while, I became a reader like she was a reader.  Picking novels that sounded interesting based on my already-cultivated curiosities.  Bad sports stories, the occasional adventure, and spooky stuff.  Spooky stuff that would have caused childhood me to keep both hands and both feet inside the covers at night.  Blatty’s Exorcist.  King’s Stand.  A bunch of other crap I barely remember.

In this time, I realized that I read the way a cow eats, deliberately, and not in any hurry.  Not the way a predator hurriedly consumes its prey, but slowly, chewing on words and phrases, taking them all in, and then barfing them back up in the form of re-reading without actually finishing the book first.  It took me forever to read a book this way, but when I was done, I maybe knew the stories better than the authors.  

Then the girl became wife.  The wife stopped reading.  I stopped reading.

Because I’m not a reader.

At this point in this story, I’ll save you the exposition of the next 30-something years.  I’ll just tell you that, while I am not a reader, I am reading again.  I have to.  Something I discovered about the silence that only reading brings.  The silence that, I didn’t know until now, brings healing to a soul that fed on only noise, and a mind that, for most of a lifetime, knew only confusion and pain.  Words and stories that should bring healing, and a minimum of confusion and pain.  From Murakami to Bradbury, Goldman to Gibran.  I will read these, soon.

I’m not a reader, yet.

But I’m going to be.      

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

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Spanish Ladies

nano poblano photo 17 png

“Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish Ladies.  Farewell and adieu you Ladies of Spain…”

Don’t be alarmed. 

This could be a good thing.

I might not be finishing Nano Poblano this year.

Today is Day 17.  I don’t know what that means to anyone else participating in NaBloPoMo and/or its happier-go-luckier sister with all the smiling Peppers, but for me, today, it means re-evaluation.  Not because of a date on the calendar, but because today I woke up before the sunrise and, in the dark, realized that writing to be read every day for one month out of the year just wasn’t on my top 10 list of things I need to do to get through Day 17.

It’s nothing personal.

I’ve noticed in the course of the last week or so, about the time my second granddaughter was being born, that a few… and then a few more… Peppers were missing from the daily call to post on Facebook.  Then a couple of days later, even more stopped showing up in my WordPress reader.  And then came this morning, and the realization that I might soon be among their number.

Today, in my newsfeed, reading media posts that my non-blogging friends shared, I read more than one thing on ‘self-care’ and ‘gratitude’.  And those got me thinking even more about what I woke up with on my mind, in the dark, before the larger-than-usual coffee and the 6 a.m. showing of Jaws on Showtime Extreme®.  Got me thinking that maybe this was my day to join the fallen.  I mean, nobody wants to go down like Quint.  We all want to be Brody, blowing up the shark and kicking into shore, still alive as the credits roll.

But this month has me feeling a lot like Quint, black smoke pouring out of an engine running on salt water and stripped gears, and the sound of “Spanish Ladies” playing in my head, telling me that I may be done. 

Then again, if this day ends with me blowing up the shark, I might spend the rest of the month kicking into shore on the last two yellow barrels, looking for a sequel to the story of what got us here in the first place.  Till then, 

“Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish Ladies.  Farewell and adieu you Ladies of Spain.  For we’ve received orders for to sail back to Boston, and so, nevermore, will we see you again.”

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

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