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Tuesday December 28, 2004, 01:19

I don't read as much as I used to. I don't write as much as I used to either.

On the point of the former, I was reminded about this the other day when I was looking for a present for my father. Turns out that he did not actually want any more books for the holidays, so it's just as well that I didn't find him anything appropriate (though there were some really nice old books that I thought he might like, but at this point I don't remember what they were, other than they were by a former US president and they were being sold for more than I thought they would be worth to him, so I left them on the shelf). At the time, however, I thought that a nice book would be appropriate, so I went wandering through the neighborhood used bookstores (or, that was the plan, at least, until we ran out of time and only ended up in one of them that afternoon, before hitting a chocolate shop for mmm, chocolate) and found myself in my favorite one, just next door to the apartment where I first lives when I moved back here after the out-of-town attempt at a startup at the end of the tech bubble.

Ah books! Spine after spine after spine. This bookstore is really no more than a hallway packed tight with books organized in categories such as "Literature" and "Anti-this-establishment" and I love it for the manageability of it all. There is no way that this store will have everything that you want, and it probably won't even have most of what you want, and, in fact, you might not find anything that you were looking for, but it's likely that you'll find something that you want, high up on a shelf that you have to reach for. And inevitably, you'll find something that you're looking for right next to something that you found, and you'll walk to the counter and pay for them in cash because, though they accept credit cards for some of their larger purchases, they really like cash. Oh, and they'll hold a book there for seven days for you, and I remember this because I was looking through some of my old books recently and found a slip in there that read "hold for Jesse," and the date, which is going on some four years ago, because that's when I first discovered this shop, there on the street where I ended up living for a couple of months.

That's when I was reading a lot more. That's when I would wander into a bookstore (most likely the aforementioned one) and pick up a book and then wander to the cafe around the corner where the little punks would be smoking and I would buy my coffee and I'd settle into the couch and I would sit and read the afternoon away, peeking over the top of my book to watch the kids talking and smoking at the tables in the middle of the room, or tapping away at the computers next to the creatively shaded lamps. They don't allow smoking anywhere in this city any more, and while I hated walking home smelling like smoke, the cafe doesn't really have the same feeling now that everything isn't wrapped in a haze any more. Not that I've been there in the past couple of years. I just don't ever seem to find the time. When I was working for myself, I was locked in my apartment all day long tap tap tapping away at my computer, and now that I'm working full-time, I rarely have a moment to myself any more, my days instead spent at the office and my nights spent either working for non-day job clients or otherwise occupied with my photography or my friends or just trying to catch up on the clutter that seems to accumulate around me.

Reading was not on that list, yeah? Oh, except for the Times. I try to read the Times, but that newspaper is so big that it takes almost the whole week for me to get through the damn thing, which is why I'm thinking about stopping my weekend subscription. It just doesn't make any sense for me to spend the money on something that is going to cause me this much stress every week. The paper just keeps piling up, week after week, and it's this endless struggle for me to try to purge the newsprint from my apartment. Which probably means that I should just learn to read faster. But in the end, that's about all the paper that I pick up every week and cram into my head. There are some magazines here and there, and there is all the paper for work, but there is nothing in the form of a solid, tangible, beginning to middle to end book that is happening in there.

I remember when I was thinking about writing a book. Thinking that I must have one inside of me, somewhere, that was just struggling to get out. Now I think that there must be some way for me to get words on my website more than once a month, and the thought of a novel is really just a fantasy. I think now I need to read more just to remind myself what writing - creative writing - is supposed to sound like.

[...]

I left the bookstore with a used copy of the newest McSweeney's. There was a time when I was on this huge post modern kick and I would read until my head was an endless stream of consciousness and footnotes. I don't really do that any more, what with the no more reading and all. But I'm thinking that I would like to start again, and see where it can take me.

Just as soon as I finish last week's Times.

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