10 down, 26 to go. Yesterday, Abby and I took a tour of the Massachusetts Historical Society. We learned about the history of the society, and saw a lot of portraits of important men and women. And a lot of gorgeous old leather books. I had an urge to sit down in the reading room and research some obscure historical topic.
I’ve always been fascinated by history. And Boston has a lot of history! I’ve never excelled at remembering historical facts and events, but I sure do enjoy hearing and reading about them. I am planning to return to the MHS in a few weeks, to see its new exhibit of early photographs. We saw the beginnings of the exhibit and it looks really interesting. Props to the MHS for making lectures and other events free and open to the public!
I admittedly don’t read much fiction. I’m more drawn to nonfiction…not sure why. But when I read a novel like Under the Volcano, I admonish myself and say, “Self, you should really read more fiction.”
Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry definitely deserves its #11 spot in the Modern Library’s top 100 novels list. It is beautifully written in spots, raw, heartbreaking, confusing as hell in spots…as a reader, I was totally immersed in a world I know nothing about: the world of a raging alcoholic Englishman living in Mexico in the 1930s.
Unfortunately for Malcolm Lowry, the book is a bit autobiographical. He too was an alcoholic, and died at the age of 47. The coroner noted that his was a “death by misadventure.” Wow, what a phrase. Not “accidental.” Death by misadventure. And it’s true. He apparently died of an overdose. I don’t see that as an accident, per se. Getting hit by a car is an accident. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time is an accident. Fighting with your demons and obsessions, fighting against your own self-destruction…and losing—that, to me, is a misadventure.
I first happened upon it when I was searching for the definition of “ride or die chick.” It came up again when I was researching whether asininity was a real word or one that I had made up. And I referenced it just now to look up its definition of one of my favorite terms to describe bad situations:
…Which leads me to sharing the bright spot of my day today. I went on a cat food mission, and popped into Urban Outfitters next door, drawn in by the “extra 30% off sale items” sign. I went to the housewares section, to see if there was anything cute there. And there they were! The hot mess plates. I saw the hot mess plates awhile ago, but I wasn’t going to buy them for $8 each. But I sure as hell would buy them for $2 each!
I checked off two list items today. I went to the Boston Athenaeum with Linda, Melissa, and Stephanie. We checked out a cool Edward Gorey exhibit. The exhibit rooms were crowded; I’d like to go back again when it is quiet so I can really study his drawings. I found it fascinating to notice all of the different textures he could create with a thin, black pen. And his writing makes me laugh out loud. It is so charming and quirky and dark.
Afterward, Linda and I strolled around Beacon Hill a bit, and then went to dinner at a Greek place. This year, I wanted to eat a dish that came to the table on fire. I learned about saganaki recently, which is a Greek appetizer. Cheese is lit on fire with brandy, and then the flames are extinguished with lemon juice.
I was thrilled when I saw Saganaki on the menu at Steve’s on Newbury Street. It was as tasty as it sounded. How can fried cheese not be tasty? Mm, crystallized brandy and warm cheese. We also tried an eggplant-based dip, which was good. I enjoyed my chicken kebab wrap (lots of dill in the sauce, which I love). Linda had grape leaves stuffed with ground meat and covered with melted cheese…we both rolled out of the restaurant with full stomachs and doggie bags in our hands.
It is SO windy and cold right now. I am looking forward to turning on my space heater and listening to the wind howl for the rest of the night.
I have been following the cringe-worthy demise of Borders over the past year or so. I have always preferred Borders over Barnes & Noble. The preference stems from the fact that the local Borders was one of my high school hangouts. Who knows how many times I went to Borders to browse and sit in the café with Daisy and Marge. Countless times! It was probably my third home. Well, tied for third. (Second = Wegmans. Third = a tie between Borders and the mall.)
Fast forward to 2006. When I saw that a new Borders was opening across the street from my office, I was psyched. Since I was working in publishing, I naturally needed a part-time job to supplement my income. Bookselling seemed perfect.
I think my whole Borders experience was so unique because I happened to work at a brand-new store. My coworkers and I (the majority of which were exuberant college kids, with a sprinkling of professionals such as myself [hi, Melissa!]) literally put the books on the shelves before the store opened. It felt like “our” store.
I spent approximately two years’ worth of Tuesday and Thursday nights at the Borders on Boylston Street. Some nights of boredom (being stranded in Paperchase)…some nights of excitement (thieves stealing DVDs, homeless people doing weird things in the bathrooms)…most nights, I enjoyed helping people find books and enjoyed talking about books and being silly with my coworkers.
Things gradually started to change. The college-age kids graduated, or found other jobs. My fellow professionals got burned out and quit. The original dream team was no more. I eventually quit because the pay wasn’t worth the late nights anymore.
Fast forward to yesterday. In the morning, I read that Borders had filed for bankruptcy. Within a few hours, it was announced that 200 stores would be closing, 6 in Massachusetts. I looked at the list. There was Borders on Boylston.
I always feel sad when a bookstore closes. I don’t really care if it’s part of a big corporate chain, or the neighborhood bookstore. It’s still one fewer place for people to browse for and buy books. The higher-ups at Borders have screwed the pooch and the store closings must happen. Borders owes millions of dollars to publishers. I do hope that the company can rescue itself and get back on track someday.