So what was it like?
On the last day of June, I wrote a 2500 word essay that I'm pretty pleased with. It took six and a half hours of very intense work -- I've never done that in just one day. It'll show up as my editorial in the October issue of the Journal of the Medical Library Association. I sent it off to Susan and drove to Jake's bookshop to split a bottle of wine, and talk about books and writing and bookselling and reading and the great grandeur of the simple and amazing lives we lead. He showed me the memory book he'd been given for his 70th birthday party, the handwritten notes from Kathryn Tucker Windham and John T. Edge; the elegantly engraved note from Rick Bragg; the slightly pornographic email from Pat Conroy and the mash note from Fanny Flagg; dozens of Southern writers paying homage to the maniac bookman. I told him that I was in awe of his ability to pull the wool over the eyes of so many fine writers. He agreed that it was baffling.
On the first of July, I finished an issue of Foreign Affairs, and read several chapters of Russell's History. Marian & Josephine came over; I grilled hamburgers and we watched Sideways, which disappointed all of us. Fine acting, some interesting and well done scenes, a few well-written lines, but a minor effort at best. Is this really the best that Hollywood can do with a serious movie? Depressing, if that's the case.
On Saturday, there's more reading. More of Russell, and then into Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, which I was quickly persuaded is a must read for a yankee living in the Southern Court. It was Live8 day and I was very impressed with the quality of streaming video that I got on my laptop, so intermittent with reading I see quite a few performances -- R.E.M. and Pink Floyd being the most memorable. The movie that evening is The Aviator. Better. Lynn can't quite get past the fact that DiCaprio just looks too young for the role (although he acts marvelously). But Cate is a fabulous Kate, and overall the movie is a good time.
Sunday continues in the same fashion. I'm alternating across RJYH, the New York Review and Russell. I run some errands, play some guitar. Marian & Josie are back and The Wizard of Oz is on, uninterrupted. After that, we watch Three Men and a Baby which L & M are very eager for me to see, for obvious reasons. I'll admit to being charmed, and seeing bits of myself in each of the principals.
By Monday, I'm deep in the vacation groove. I play with Josephine while LMF smokes ribs for dinner. Finish up RJYH (and more essays and Russell chapters) and go straight on to Dylan's Chronicles.
On Tuesday, Lynn goes back to work, so I've got the place to myself, absorbed in reading. Chronicles is even better than I'd been led to believe from the reviews. I'm amazed that a guy who has spent his whole life shapeshifting and hiding, seems to have decided to tell straight stories as true as he can. And I'm astonished at his command of narrative -- the way he can move from a crisply decribed scene, full of significant detail, to an impressionistic tale and back again... I want to go back and diagram these chapters, just so I can follow the movement... (I won't, of course)...
Late afternoon, I pack the guitar in the trunk and head to the Bare Hands Gallery where there is a fine jazz quartet playing nothing but Monk and Mingus tunes. Maybe thirty people come through over the course of the two sets. They seem to feel it's a success. I'm pretty impressed, particularly with their rendition of Mingus's "Pithecanthropus" and the Latin-rhythmed version of Monk's "Green Chimneys".
After dinner at Los Angeles, I make my way to Marty's for the open mike. Lots of friends and acquaintances. Good music, mostly. I go on at midnite and, as always, my set is too short, but I'm pleased with the way I play -- the response is good. When the open mike closes down, I take my usual position with guitar on a bar stool, and play until 3:30 in the morning while the crowd flows through.
I wake up earlier than I'd've thought on Wednesday -- 8:00, and get out for a walk in the steaming heat. I fix a big breakfast of eggs and fried potatos and settle back in to read. Continue with Chronicles (and I'm up to the Aquinas chapter in Russell's History). There's a Louis Armstrong bio on American Masters, so we watch that before I finish the evening with some U2 on DVD.
By Thursday, I'm acutely aware that I'm more than halfway through the reading vacation. Finish Chronicles and it's one of those books you want to immediately go back to the beginning of -- read it again to pick up all those bits you missed. But I don't. I go for On Bullshit and after that, Kinky Friedman's latest, Texas Hold 'Em, seems just right. Kinky makes me feel good about the world I'm living in -- something to be ornery about, and enjoy it. The movie that night is Ray and we agree that Jamie Foxx won that Oscar fair and square.
Friday is my last day home alone, so I take the opportunity to watch Kill Bill 1 -- one of those movies that I'm curious about but that LMF would never, ever want to see. I finish Kinky's book and move on to Occidentalism. The horrors in London yesterday make it an obvious choice. Would that my President would see some reason to try to understand where the hatred comes from. But his mind is not clouded by any such questions. I guess that's why we keep electing him.
And so it seems quite appropriate that we watch Fog of War that evening. And agree that, finally, we've seen something that has more than earned its Oscars. A wonder of a movie -- it ought to be required in every high school -- and certainly in every one of our military academies.
Then it's Saturday and I start to remember that I have a day job. I clean up my study and spend some time catching up with email. Nothing too major to deal with, but I'm going to have to hit the ground running on Monday. While Lynn is out gardening, I watch Kill Bill 2. Now I get it! I'd been mildly amused and perplexed at 1. But it comes together so wonderfully in 2. The violence is not to my taste, but I can deal with it in context. And of course, given my current circumstance, I love that fact that it all turns on the dramatic change that happens when a woman becomes a mother.
I finish Occidentalism. I'm running out of reading time. What do I choose next? Lynanne went to the trouble of getting John J. Nance to autograph that copy of Fire Flight. If I don't read it now, when will I? By the third page, I know what I'm in for -- fast paced, rugged action, stereotyped characters, but a big heart and a clear message. I can dig this. I'm just not expecting any fine sentences.
Sunday is hurricane day, and Marian brings Josie over to ride it out. I decide to grill steaks. M&L think it is very amusing that I'm going to grill in the middle of a hurricane. I'm offended by their amusement. A) We're not in a hurricane -- we're in a mild tropical storm. B) Our little front stoop is protected from the winds and I can cook there just as well as I can on my stove top.
I finish Fire Flight by the middle of the afternoon, by which time we know that Dennis has been far less severe than feared. So we're all in a pretty fine mood by the time the steaks come off the grill. We call Bispo, who is staying with his son Jonathon in Atlanta. The relief in his voice bouys us all up further. They'll head down to the Gulf tomorrow or the next day to assess damage, but they're not expecting much. They'll be ready for us when we head down in two weeks.
I haven't finished Russell's history. The books on my shelves that I didn't choose are howling at me in their disappointment. But the good stuff outweighs... I've spent a week in the company of brilliant and powerful human beings -- musicians, philosophers, poets, artists of all stripes and kinds... Finishing up with a hurricane seems just about right...