“The 2nd Annual Road Trip of Epicness”

Friday night, my best friends Harvin and Ticcoa and I held a planning session to finalize the details of our upcoming vacation. Last year, we spent 10 days on the road and around New England, and it was so wonderful! This year, on our “2nd annual road trip of epicness” (so dubbed by Ticcoa on her blog), we’ll be road-tripping again, though not quite as far: nine days on the road to Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

The potential itinerary:

Saturday, July 31: Leave SC; drive to Annapolis, MD, to stay with our awesome friend Karen.

Aug. 1-3: Washington, D.C., where we’ll tour the Library of Congress, several of the Smithsonian museums (specifically, the Mus. of American Art, American History, Air & Space, and perhaps the Postal Museum), and as many of the monuments that we can fit in. We’ll also have dinner on Melville’s birthday at Moby Dick House of Kebab (I’m dead serious!) and sometime get a meal at Eatonville’s (themed after Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God). Also, used  book stores galore.

Aug. 4: leave Annapolis and head to Gettysburg, PA, for the day.

Aug. 5: Hershey & Lancaster, PA

Aug. 6-7: Philadelphia, including the Edgar Allan Poe National Historical Site, Independence National Historical Site (the Liberty Bell is there!), Elfreth’s Alley, maybe Valley Forge, and maybe this awesome museum called The Museum of Mourning Art. That last afternoon, we’ll leave Philly for Baltimore, where we’ll once again stop at the Annabel Lee Tavern, before heading back to Annapolis and then home on Aug. 8.

This trip is less literary and more historical, but it’s still going to be awesome. I can’t even believe that two weeks from now, I’ll be touring D.C.! Yay!

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Life As We Knew It

This is the first book in a trilogy called the Moon Crash Trilogy by Susan Beth Pfeffer. I had heard nothing of it until I picked up the third book in B&N one day, intrigued by the cover (all 3 books have a large moon prominently featured). After I discovered that it was a trilogy, I was excited to find that B&N had the first book for $1.99 in a large online sale a few weeks ago.

The story begins in Spring–school is ending for Miranda and her classmates, and their teachers keep assigning homework related to astronomy because the news has been reporting that an asteroid is on collision course with the moon. No one is worried about the crash, just intrigued, until the night of the collision. The asteroid is denser than astronomers realize, knocking the moon closer to Earth and resetting the gravitational field. Of course, tsunamis wipe out the coastlines of America, earthquakes rumble all over the world, and long-dormant volcanoes begin erupting.

The story is told by 16-year-old Miranda through her diary as she, her mother, and her brothers struggle to survive the aftermath. Pfeffer does a great job of lending a sense of isolation to the setting–isolation that frustrates them, but eventually saves their lives. Miranda is also a good protagonist, I think–sometimes, she’s a selfish teenager, but other times, she’s a fighter, just as she needs to be.

I only had a few issues with the books, and those were mostly with writing style. First, I don’t think Pfeffer wrote urgently enough for the initial crash. It was a very quick scene–block party atmosphere with neighbors watching the sky, crash, oh-know-the-moon-is-closer, panic, sing national anthem, go inside to listen to the news. Maybe I was reading too fast, but the catastrophic event needed a few more pages of description.

Other times, specific details would have been nice. For example, Miranda burns pages of her textbook at one point, and she goes through the thought process of whether she should burn them or not before deciding to. But she never writes down which textbooks she chose. All the thought process involved, and she should have at least said something like. “I hate science. That will be the first to burn.” There’s beauty in the details.

All in all, though, I found this to be quite enjoyable. I started reading yesterday afternoon and finished this morning, so it’s a quick read, as well as being engrossing. The second book, The Dead and the Gone, is actually a companion novel, with characters in New York City who experience the aftereffects of the moon crash. Then, the final book, which was released in April brings those characters to Pennsylvania to meet Miranda. I’m very much looking forward to the final two books (and I’ll probably leave soon to go buy the second one!).

Functional vs. Beautiful – An Observation

My roommates and I spent the 4th of July weekend moving our stuff from our apartment in Greer to a beautiful new house that we’re renting in Greenville. This move was/is (we’re almost finished) a bigger chore than the times Harvin and I have moved before. When Michele moved in with us in August, most of her stuff went into storage, so with this move, we essentially had two households full of furniture, kitchen gadgets, and everything else. Fortunately, we have a spacious basement.

Most of my dishes and kitchen supplies are being relegated to the basement in favor of Michele’s elegant china and flatware and orange gadgets. As we moved boxes on Saturday, Michele explained to one of our friends that she was excited to be able to use her pretty plates again.

I made an offhand comment about how my stuff would go into storage because while what I own is functional, Michele’s is beautiful…which says a lot about our personalities. It was one of those moments where we laughed and moved on with the conversation, but I haven’t been able to let that comment go. It’s the truth in so many ways.

Until that conversation, I’d never actually realized that a lot of what I own isn’t beautiful; it just does the job it was intended for. I love the plates that I bought on sale years ago: they’re teal and green and orange. But that’s it. They’re plate-shaped, with no design or pattern. They hold my food. I bought them because they were simple and colorful, and that works for me. Likewise, much of my furniture is purely functional. The TV stand that held Michele’s TV (until Harvin bought a flat-screen recently) is actually ugly. I think it belonged to my grandmother, and I ended up owning it because I needed something to put a TV on. My bookshelves don’t match–one used to be my brother’s, one was my grandmother’s, another I acquired when Harvin decided she didn’t want it, and many of my books are in plastic crates. They hold books. I’ve always thought the books on the shelves were more important than the shelves themselves.

I like shopping. I find pretty things. I rarely buy them. Why buy a flower-shaped spatula when the black plastic one my mom gave me flips my grilled cheese sandwiches fine already?

Even my clothes are mostly functional. My work wardrobe includes gray, brown, and black pants, solid colored shirts and sweaters. Basic. Functional. Attractive perhaps, but not necessarily super-fashionable or striking. Maybe the one exception is the t-shirts I own–band shirts or Threadless. But those are comfortable and sometimes quirky.

I sat in my new bedroom thinking about this over the weekend. My new bedroom has yellow walls, and it’s the first time in my whole life that I’ve lived in a painted room. I’ve considered painting before, but why bother when white works just fine, and I can cover the white with posters and pictures? Functional.

The one exception seems to be the awesome radio from the 1940s that I found at an antique store years ago. It doesn’t work–not functional at all. It is, however, beautiful: old knobs and buttons, beautiful dark wood.

The more I write about the things I own, the more I realize how reflective they are of my personality. I work. I go to school so that I can work some more. Much of my time is dedicated to these two pursuits, as it probably should be. But in my relationships with people–I often feel like I have to be needed, like I have to serve some purpose in others’ lives in order to be friends. Many of my relationships evolve from a point in time when someone needed me–as a tutor, as a study partner, etc. When acquaintances call or email me, I wonder what they need from me. I’ve long seen myself as mostly functional, less merely enjoyable. I often structure my identity on what people want from me. I know how to be useful; I don’t always know how to just be and let others enjoy me without wondering what they want from me. I do that sometimes even with my closest friends. Not always, just occasionally.

It doesn’t always have to be that way. I don’t really know what this realization means for me. Maybe it’s okay that I’m functional and not stylish; maybe that’s what works for me. It certainly seems to be my natural tendency. It’s an interesting observation.

June Books

I’m halfway through the year, and over halfway through my goal: only 44 more previously unread books to read by December 31!

53. Cane, Jean Toomer. Fortunately, this book is short. Otherwise, I might not have finished it. It definitely belongs in the modernist era of American lit. The book is composed of vignettes, poems, and a drama. Also, curved lines that mean…something. I’m not really sure. I actually enjoyed parts 1 & 2, but part 3 made my head hurt so badly and also sort of ruined the whole thing for me.

54. Beloved, Toni Morrison. The hardest book I’ve ever had to read in my life.

55. Two-Way Street, Lauren Barnholdt. Young adult lit. My brain needed a break.

56. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz. An exceptional piece of literature. The more I think about it, the more I love it.

Only 4 previously unread books this month (actually, I think only 4 total…odd). Summer school took up a lot of time. But…that’s finished and once I get this move out of the way, I’ll spend the next few weeks reading voraciously!