Doing laps in the LA Fishbowl

On Hold, but Reading Substantially

At the Canary Hotel in Santa Barbara, typing away while my boys sleep. We’re in a bit of a holding pattern here, awaiting word as to whether we can proceed with our scheduled plan to journey north to Big Sur. Right now, due to the recent rains, the roads north and south out of Big Sur are closed. The southern road has mud slides; the northern road has swept itself out to sea. Doesn’t sound promising, does it. The woman at the lodge in Big Sur sounds increasingly depressed each time I call. The road south is partially opened, but infrequently and only for locals to escape in and out of the area. If we do get in and they close up again, the reception lady told me glumly, you may have to be airlifted out. Hmmm… perhaps not the kind of exciting vacation we were planning.

Meanwhile, time in Santa Barbara is fine— relaxing, low-key, and nostalgic; it’s the site of our wedding a few years ago. The hotel is lovely and centrally located, the kids have enjoyed the Aquarium at the end of the pier. But it’s hardly the rustic, outdoorsy (but not camping!) experience we were hoping for. It’s more like vacationing in Pasadena, but with a coast. Yes, we could take day trips out and about, but we haven’t really committed to being here so haven’t made the most of it. Today is do or die: we go to Big Sur, or pull up stakes and find somewhere else. We’re traveling with another family with 2 other boys, excellent companions, so we’ve got a little caravan going.

At times like these the desire to fling Angry Birds, or other games of that ilk, is itchingly palpable, but I’ve abstained. If Benj is having an electronic game-free vacation, so should I. Though I do have 2 Scrabble requests— is it rude of me to ignore? Surely common etiquette dictates that I play… no, no, it’s the poison talking.

Current events, via Angry Birds!

Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and AnecdotesI have gotten scads more reading done, however, and not just on the internets. I just finished “Finishing the Hat,” a lyric memoir by Stephen Sondheim. Anyone interested in musical theater, or song-writing in general, should pick up this weighty tome. It’s like having a master class in lyric-writing, with Sondheim offering critiques not only on his musicals (from the beginning all the way through to “Merrily We Roll Along” ) but other composers as well. Fascinating.

Currently reading “The Little Giant of Aberdeen County” on the iPad, and a cool graphic novel called “Cages” in… person? (What’s the opposite of digitally? Naturally? Yes, I’m reading that book naturally. Or perhaps substantially. I’m reading substantially. I like that. It implies weight, heft. Perhaps not the most practical thing to bring on vacation, a substantial book, but I couldn’t help it. It’s that good.) “Cages” is written and illustrated by Dave McKean, who did all the covers for the Sandman series. It’s a substantial book, indeed.

CagesThe Little Giant of Aberdeen County

March 28th, 2011 - Still Life Las Vegas


One response to “On Hold, but Reading Substantially”

  1. Hi James – Blocked from Big Sur and abstaining from video games. Ouch. Although our 50 degree spring has it's own drawbacks there is no temptation to hit the beach. I don't suppose you remember me from Northwestern a few years back. Followed Denis' Facebook link here and was delighted to see you living it up out west.

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