Along with writing regularly, I’ve decided I need to get back to reading like a fiend as well. I mean…DEVOUR books. I read plenty of fiction but lately I’ve felt as if I needed some more nonfiction in my diet. My first foray into this was Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up.
It had been sitting on my shelf for quite some time, begging to be read. When I first cracked open the pages, I expected to come across a behind the scenes scandal of his life. There was none of that.
Ever a private person, martin stuck to his time on stage as a stand up comic. It isn’t even a how-to blended with his experience (unlike Stephen King’s On Writing). It’s a simple yet funny look back at the period of his life where he was the most famous, and the little jobs that got him there.
My favorite moments are when he’s talking about his father, just barely letting the audience in. Early on, he writes: “I have heard it said that a complicated childhood can lead to a life in the arts. I tell you this story of my father and me to let you know I am qualified to be a comedian.” His issues with his father don’t haunt him but they definitely have an impact on his life: “At last he said, ‘Yu did everything I wanted to do.’ ‘I did it for you,’ I said. Then we wept for the lost years. I was glad I didn’t say the more complicated truth: ‘I did it because of you.’”
Overall, it’s a short, chuckle-worthy, entertaining memoir. It won’t direct you how to break into comedy or how to mend broken relationships but it will give you an inside look into one of America’s most famous comics.
Like for many, my college experience was filled with endless reading. My first two years were spent reading things I didn’t particularly care about…thanks General Ed (aka breadth requirements). However, my last year and a half was filled with countless novels and short stories. I literally read, at least three novels a week (I guess they aren’t so countless). In college, I read with a purpose: themes, characters, literary devices…endless highlighting, endless chicken scratch in the margins. I didn’t read a single book of my choosing during my last year and a half of school. I told myself once graduation came I was going to overdose on books that had been collecting dust on my bookshelves.
Well, graduation came and went and the first book I picked up was The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. After fifty pages, I threw in the towel. People told me to stick with it because it would get good but I had to walk away. The thing was putting me to sleep every time I tried to read it. I even have a super cool version with glossy pages and pictures. (Side note: pictures in books are NOT just for kids.) It’s not easy for me to walk away from a book I’ve started. The act induces feelings of failure and guilt. I take books that seriously.
My next pick was Saturday by Ian McEwan. I felt confident in my decision because it’s from the same author who wrote Atonement and that book totally gave me the feels and still haunts me. Truly gifted writers pen those types of books. It took two months to get through 100 pages. That was ridiculous. I can normally get through that amount of pages in a matter of hours. The book is basically about a doctor and the way he spends one particular day: Saturday. Titillating, I know. It’s not a bad book. It’s beautiful but very slow. I didn’t find myself dying to reach for it. It was a time filler when I had nothing else to do. That is NOT how I read. I began to worry because I bought a ton of McEwan books based on the fact that I was obsessed with how amazing Atonement was. To be honest, I’m still worried about my McEwan collection.
I finally put the book away when a friend of mine let me borrow Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. I had seen the book in stores, thought it had a cute cover (YES I judge books by their covers), and made a mental note to read it at some point.
Now let me just say, it was hard to put away yet another unfinished book. When I was younger I used to feel sad for all the unread books. I thought I could hurt their feelings by not finishing them or that they’d come to life and go against me à la Sid’s toys in Toy Story. Then I grew up and realized life is too short not to be madly in love with what you’re reading.
Before I opened Eleanor & Park I felt broken, as if I had lost the ability to read for fun. I was reading these books looking for themes and motifs and waiting to tear them apart both literally and literarily. Would I never again be able to read for pleasure? Would my yearly reading of the Harry Potter series die with my ability to enjoy books?
So, I put Saturday away (on a Monday) and cracked open this new book. I finished it in three days. I felt like me again. The book made me laugh, cry, hope, cheer, it made me feel things I hadn’t felt at the hands of a book in such a long time. It resuscitated my reading life. It saved me from an ocean of mediocre texts.
I no longer feel broken or dead inside. Through my crisis of reader-identity, I learned that it’s ok to not finish reading a book. It’s ok to embrace YA fiction. It’s ok to read just for the feels and not for the footnotes. I feel like someone who has discovered the magic of books for the first time. I feel bright, and colorful and new…just like that cover.
Visiting the Renegade Craft Fair this weekend, I expected to walk away with my Bici Couture Leather Tote Bag a little heavier and my matching wallet a little emptier. While both those thing did happen, something else happened that I hadn’t quite expected: perspective. What’s cool about Fairs like the one that Renegade puts on is that you get to speak to the Makers one-on-one. You get to ask what inspired them and why they do what they do. Most of them had the same response: they were pursuing their passion. It got me thinking…am I? Are you?
Think back to a time when you were little and your dreams were big. What was your dream? What did your young heart long for? Space travel? Presidential authority? Superpowers?
Fast forward ten years or so. You’re in high school, graduation is around the corner. What was your dream then? Was it different from the dreams of childhood? Did your dreams look more practical? Doctor, lawyer, teacher?
Bring yourself back to the present. Look around. You are in the here and now. Do you still have dreams?
For many of us, we give up on the dreams that kept us hungry for something more “realistic” or practical. Why? Why are we content with throwing in the towel even before entering the ring?
My dreams changed as I got older. They went from actress to writer and stopped there. I missed the day at school where they told me I should choose the wide path, the path more traveled.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved writing fiction. As I sit here, writing this post, I have a novel waiting to be edited. I know, I am certain that I am meant to write and I should obey this calling.
Although my path has been confirmed, there are still days of doubt: What are you doing with your life? Why are you writing? You should do something more practical. When my mind drowns in doubt, I’m unsteady, unsure, unable to breathe. I ruffle through my desk for a letter housed in an envelope that reads: In Case of Emergency.
I fumble as I pull out the sheet of paper. My eyes linger on each and every word written by my hand months earlier. The letter is an encouragement, it is a command, it is a lifesaver in the tumultuous sea of doubt.
My chest fills with air as I begin to breath again. I am meant to write. I will write. I am sure. I am steady. I breathe this reminder in.
When did it become taboo to dream? When did it become ridiculous to not only dream but to pursue that dream with everything? This dream you have, whether it’s “practical” or not, go after it. Give it your all because that is what you were made to do. Build a foundation. Educate yourself. Practice like there’s no tomorrow. Be pure in heart in your pursuit. If you’re pursuing this dream to please others, you won’t go very far. Do it for you. Do it because a life spent not doing it is absurd.
I will write until my hand cramps and it’s too swollen to go on…and then I’ll write a little more. I write for me. I write because the stories yearn to be released from the confines of my mind. If no one ever reads my books, if the only person’s shelf they sit on is mine, I’ll be ok because at the end of the day I’m being obedient to my calling.
So whether you want to be a doctor, writer, teacher, mechanic, carpenter, lawyer, or secretary, go and do it. Give it your all. Give it your best. Make the younger version of yourself proud. Take a page out of the book of the Makers who braved the blistering sun at Renegade this weekend: Dare to dream. Dare to do.
In my pursuit to comfortably refer to myself as a foodie (and not feel pretentious about it), I often ride on the coattails of my bona fide foodie friends who are fearless and adventurous in their pursuit of the perfect bite. That’s how I ended up at Slater’s 50/50 in Pasadena on a warm Saturday afternoon. We had all heard great things about the place (and since giving up meat during the week, I was all about a big, juicy burger).
It’s Pasadena, so naturally parking is obnoxious but I figured I could overlook the parking situation if the burger was as good as I had heard.
Sitting on the corner of Raymond and Union, Slater’s 50/50 looks upscale from the outside, blending in with neighboring buildings. The waiting area was essentially nonexistent but luckily we were seated right away at a corner half booth right next to the front door. Our waiter was quick to ask for our drink orders. We decided to forgo the Bacon Bloody Mary and ordered waters all around.
Right off the bat we ordered the Vampire Dip (“three cheese blend, roasted garlic, artichoke, fried pita, sourdough bowl”). It was delicious. It was warm, creamy, and had enough garlic to be yummy without scaring away anyone you planned on being close to the rest of the day.
When the time came to order a burger, my eyes were set on the 50 Alarm (carne asada beef, ghost pepper jack cheese, habanero spread, fresh jalapeños, beer battered habanero poppers, on a brioche bun). I’m down for HOT but I’m not down for signing a waiver in order to enjoy a dish (which is what I would have had to do as well as wear a pair of gloves they provide). Instead, I opted to build my own burger: a 50/50 patty (half bacon, half beef – what they’re famous for), ghost pepper jack cheese, grilled onions, jalapeños, roasted green chilies, chipotle aioli, on a brioche bun. I figured that ought to fulfill my spicy burger desire.
Spoiler alert: it didn’t. When presented with the burger, I was excited. It looked delicious. The level of scrumptious nosedived once I took a bite. The bread seemed as if it was about to enter stale town. There was too much bland sauce on the thing; so much so that the onions and chilies kept trying to jump ship and save themselves from mediocrity. The jalapeños were pickled and the cheese was as bland as everything else. After a couple more bites, I ditched the bun and opted or a fork and knife. Bad idea. The unimpressive bun and gallon of sauce were hiding the too-tough patty, the same patty that shares the name of the restaurant. In its defense, I should have known better than to order a patty that was half bacon and half beef. My friend said it best: It’s like a meatball. A dry meatball. Not exactly what I had my heart set on.
Luckily I didn’t end the meal with a bad taste in my mouth. We ordered fries and beer battered jalapeños for the table. The jalapeños were also pickled and unimpressive. The fries were generic. However, the bacon/ketchup…well now, that was tasty. I ended up abandoning the second half of my burger in order to wash away its memory with the bacon/ketchup combo.
Alas, the sauce wasn’t enough to save the sinking ship. If you’re looking for a good burger in Pasadena, I’d suggest hitting up Umami (a couple of streets over) because Slater’s 50/50 is a gamble…a gamble I won’t be making again.
The food wasn’t special but their customer service was memorable. At lunch, my friend, having just returned from a European adventure, slid my souvenir across the table: Harry Potter bookmarks, a large bar of Cookies and Cream Cadbury chocolate, both were in a butter beer glass from Harry Potter World.
It wasn’t until a couple of hours later, walking around Pasadena, that I realized I left the souvenirs on the table. I quickly went back and asked the hostess about it. After a little bit of run around she went to ask the bussers. She returned with the cup holding the bookmark but the chocolate in its royal purple wrapping was gone. I asked about the chocolate to which she responded: “Maybe they threw it away on accident.” A valid possibility if the chocolate bar hadn’t been monstrous and sitting IN the cup…nice try. I explained to her that it was the size of a VHS tape (What’s that? Google it). Her next response was my favorite, “Are you sure there was a chocolate bar?” Having started in restaurants and other customer service jobs, I know better than to say such a thing to a customer. My friend didn’t miss a beat and retorted, “You know they ate it” and we were gone, unimpressed with the food and offended by Choco-Gate 2015.