Thursday, January 11, 2018

Thoughts from the Ass End of the Night, Chapter 313, Verse 4

Insomnia night.  The first in at least 6 days.

Two people died this week.  Well, more than two.  It's a big old world with a lot of people.

But two people important to me.

My Aunt Annette passed this past weekend.  Here's her obituary.  I hadn't made all the efforts I probably should have to have gone and seen her the past few years.  Her health had been in decline for a while.  She was a smart, sarcastic woman.  She loved to read.  It was her who introduced me to Harlan Ellison, I do believe.  She read my writing, and encouraged it.  She was a fan of this blog, such as it is, anymore.  I won't get the chance to go visit with her, anymore.  Make the time, folks, because people disappear.

My friend Marty passed a few days later.  His obituary hasn't been posted yet, beyond a blurb from the funeral home.  There might not be much more.  He didn't want a service, beyond being cremated and taken up to the bar one last time.  Marty and I worked together for about five years.  He was a funny guy.  He'd been fighting cancer for a while.  He'd been out from work since September.  He'd been back and forth among the hospital, an assisted living facility and home several times since he took leave.  I still have a book for him on the Cubs that I'd picked up for him for Christmas, and hoped to give to him when he or his son stopped in.

Aunt Annette's funeral is later today.  I can't sleep.  I suppose I'll try here in a bit to lie back down, but will go over to Mom's so we can head up to Bristol at 8.

Marty's makeshift service, a trip to the bar one last time, will be Saturday.  Don't know if I'll make that one.  I'm going to try, but it would take somebody covering for me at work, and don't know if that's going to be able to happen.  Marty, a career retail guy, would probably appreciate the irony.

Work's been tough.  We've been covering for Marty since September.  Since before September, really, with his getting treatment for his cancer.  With his being out, though, most of my shifts have gotten moved to closing.  I'll go in at 1 or 2, and I'll usually get out around 11:30. 

It's made life a little more difficult, lately.  Some days, I feel like I get to see Shyam for a half hour, in the fifteen minutes before she goes to work in the morning, and in the fifteen minutes when I get home...midnight's past her bedtime, most nights.

It's made going to see Mom, or go down to see April or Thomas, or trying to get together with friends difficult.  Almost impossible, some weeks.

Add to that, we're short on help.  I've hired two new folks in the past couple of weeks.  One never showed up for his first day.  The other has called out for his two shifts after the first day. 

I've got more interviews scheduled for later in the week.  We need a couple or three dependable bodies.

The lack of help leads to my next problem at work:  I can't get weekends off here lately.  We don't have enough bodies to stock the deliveries we get, so we have to schedule the grocery manager there during the week.  He's hourly, so he can only work 40.  He'll use up the largest part of his hours working truck, which doesn't leave much time for weekends.

I dunno.  I'm tired.  I'm frustrated.

And it's all that much more aggravating on nights like tonight, when I can't sleep.

Monday, January 08, 2018

The Short Reads project, week 1

The project I gave myself for 2018, at the turn of the year, was to read a short story a day for every day of the year.  This was amended on the sixth day of the year to include short nonfiction, essays and whatnot.  The intent of this was to spend less time scrolling through Twitter and Facebook on my lunch breaks.  I've been working mostly nights, lately, and my lunch break is generally spent in the office, since the rule seems to be the further I get from the store's front end, the more likely it will be that I'm called back to the front.  So, instead of scrolling endlessly through Facespace, I'll just find something to read.

So far, I'm pretty thankful for the Kindle app, as well as Americanliterature.com which has a lot of public domain stuff.....

The loose rules: 
  • No reading the same author two times in a row, or three times in the same rolling week.
  • No reading from the same anthology two times in a row, or three times in the same rolling week
  • Short stories may come from any source, published, unpublished, online or not.
  • Nonfiction must come from a published source.  (A dubious rule, but in my head, it means vetted by another person, and not something simply that pops up on a blog somewhere....)
Here's what I read in the first week:

January 1      "Night Surf"       Stephen King
January 2      "A Rose for Emily"        William Faulkner
January 3      "Ching Witch!"      Ross Rocklynne
January 4      "I am the Doorway"      Stephen King
January 5      "Bivouac of the Dead"     Ambrose Bierce
January 6     "Twins and Twinning in Stephen King's Dark Tower Novels"   Robin Furth
January 7      "A Lost Masterpiece"         A.A. Milne

Monday, January 01, 2018

Disjointed Thoughts, and the Reads of 2017

Disjointed thoughts on the closing of the year, including what I've read.

2017 finished itself up last night.  We rounded it out playing Cards Against Humanity with friends, and wandering home to watch the ball drop (a statement possibly true on multiple levels, considering it's been wandering down toward single digits at night).  It was actually the first New Year I stayed up to watch in a few years--it's also the first New Years Day I haven't had to open the store in many years. 

2017 was a tough one, and it impacted reading in odd ways.  Dad passing in the Spring, multiple illnesses among co-workers at work, and a handful of other deaths in families led to perhaps the least amount of continuous spare time I've had in a year.  Still, it led to a lot of escape reading.  

Dad's passing also led to a project that'll take a few years, as I started reading through Stephen King's work.  He was a writer we both enjoyed, and talked about.  We didn't talk about books often, but King often came up.  I'm a few books in on that project.

2017 was a lot of work.  In short, I've been working like a Botard for years, but the Botardism was rampant in 2017.  The Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons were rough.  Most of my reading was left to the audiobooks I listen to on the way to and from work in the last quarter of the year....

Still, there was a lot of reading overall in 2017. More than any of the past few years.  I finished a move in with Shyam during the late spring and summer, and we spent a decent amount of time without decent internet or TeeVee.  So, I spent a lot more of that spare time reading.  

This list doesn't include a crazy amount of comics I've been reading.  I think there will be a separate post on that....

Anyway, here's a listing of the books and audiobooks I wandered through in 2017:

January

Shardik          Richard Adams
Post Office           Charles Bukowski
TV: the Book        Alan Sepinwall & Matt Zoller Seitz

February

TheYard            Alex Grecian
The Lost Sun          Tessa Gratton
The Immortal Irishman       Timothy Egan
Norse Mythology            Neil Gaiman
Gather Her Round          Alex Bledsoe

March

The Yiddish Policemen's Union            Michael Chabon
Fever Dream              Samanta Schweblin
The Dragon Factory           Jonathan Maberry
Carrie                   Stephen King
Masters of Atlantis             Charles Portis

April

Rusty Puppy              Joe R. Lansdale
The Cubs Way             Tom Verducci
The BFG                      Roald Dahl
Moby Dick                 Herman Melville

May

The Dreams of Cardinal Vittorini             Reggie Oliver
Station Eleven                 Emily St. John Mandel
Stay Crazy                    Erika Satifka
Anansi Boys                Neil Gaiman

June

Bird Box            Josh Malerman
Ghost Road Blues                Jonathan Maberry
Brimstone                Cherie Priest
All Quiet on the Western Front              Erich Maria Remarque
Hillbilly Elegy                  J.D. Vance
Gwendy's Button Box            Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
Double Wonderful             John Swartzwelder
Bunker Hill                Nathaniel Philbrick

July

Salem's Lot               Stephen King
Dark Cities                 Christopher Golden, editor
The Great Terror: a Reassessment        Robert Conquest
Touch                         Courtney Mamm
Inherent Vice               Thomas Pynchon
Opening Wednesday at a Theater or Drive-In Near Year: The Shadow Cinema of the American
'70's                                 Charles Taylor

August

The Time Machine Did It             John Swartzwelder
Silence                              Shusaku Endo
Redshirts                          John Scalzi
Meddling Kids                  Edgar Cantero
The Shining                       Stephen King
Rage                                 Stephen King  (writing as Richard Bachman)

September

Ty Cobb:  A Terrible Beauty              Charles Leerhsen
An Unattractive Vampire                   Jim McDoniel
The Vine that Ate the South                J.D. Wilkes
King's Mountain                                 Hank Messick
The Fifty Foot Detective                     John Swartzwelder
The 13 1/2 Lives of Capt. Bluebear          Walter Moers

October

Busting 'em                                  Ty Cobb
Sleeping Beauties                     Stephen King & Owen King
Jurassic Park                                Michael Crichton
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid              Bill Bryson

November

The End of the World Running Club                Adrian J. Walker
Slobberknocker: My Life in Wrestling              Jim Ross, with Paul O'Brien
The Trespasser                                                 Tana French
The Forensic Records Society                          Magnus Mills

December

The Stand                                         Stephen King
Absurdistan                                     Gery Shteyngart
Star Wars: the Last Command                 Timothy Zahn

A few notes:


  • John Swartzwelder's little self-published novellas were my favorite find of the year.  I've ended up buying a whole set, and sent a few around to a few folks I figured could use a laugh.  They're just silly, and just the right length to read in a sitting or two.
  • I reread the Stand in the late part of the year, on my Kindle.  I've probably re-read it more than any other book. 
  • Meddling Kids was a pleasant surprise.  I didn't want to like it as much as I did.  It's goofy, but has an odd heart.
  • Forensic Records Society was interesting fun.  I'll be looking for more Mills.
  • Leerhsen's biography of Ty Cobb was amazingly good.  Also, Cobb didn't get to go spray fire on the Germans, and it was probably the most laugh-out-loud line from anything I read this year.
  • Other Favorites:  Alex Bledsoe's Gather Her Round, Joe Lansdale's Rusty Puppy, Cherie Priest's Brimstone, Timothy Egan's The Immortal Irishman, Jim McDoniel's the Unattractive Vampire.
  • The two that provoked the most thought:  Endo's Silence, which I end up thinking about once a day or so.  And The Vine that Ate the South, by J.D. Wilkes, is this beautifully grotesque oddity.  It's probably my favorite single thing I read this year....