Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Who uses it: New Orleans shopkeepers and restaurateurs
What it means: A little bit extra, in thanks for your business
How you can use it: When going the extra mile.

We're halfway through my month of hiatus, so I thought it was time to check in and see how everyone was doing. What's a little puzzling -- and kind of depressing -- is that this blog gets almost as many daily visitors without new posts as when I'm posting daily.

Anyway, I've been reading a lot and not liking much of what I've read, which makes me cranky. I'd name some names and point some fingers, but even Dizzy knows better than to paw at bees.

Two books I'll recommend without reservation are Adverbs: A Novel, by Daniel Handler, and Timothy Leary: A Biography, by Robert Greenfield.

Daniel Handler is best known by his pen name, Lemony Snicket, but Adverbs is a book for adults. It's not a novel, really; it's a collection of short stories that may or may not be connected, like a fictional Moebius strip. Some of it slides into preciousness, but some of it is just dazzling. Each chapter or story bears a different adverb as a title, and all the adverbs modify the verb "to love."

Robert Greenfield spoke at Longfellow Books in Portland last week, and Anna and I went down to hear him. Among other things, he talked about the challenges of writing a comprehensive, fair biography of someone who did terrible things and was probably a dreadful human being. Timothy Leary is the product of ten years' work, and should stand as the definitive work on a man whose influence far exceeded his intellect or virtue. Like all good biographies, it's also a cultural history, and reading it felt like time travel. I'm grateful to my parents for not being Baby Boomers.

And just for good measure, here are the first five songs off the iPod Shuffle this morning:

"Uncle John's Band," The Grateful Dead. On my list of Best Songs of All Time, and it does cheer me up. My old pal Scott Peeples believes that the line, "Their walls are filled with cannon balls, their motto is 'Don't Tread on Me,'" refers to Fort Moultrie, outside of Charleston. That would be cool, if true.

"Subterranean Homesick Blues," Bob Dylan. Hey, who told my iPod I'd just read that Timothy Leary book?

"Caroline," Big Head Todd & the Monsters. BHTM has a real talent for sounding like other bands, sometimes. This could be a Pearl Jam song.

"Super Trouper," ABBA. Ack, make it stop! I like some ABBA, but this song is wasting valuable space in my iTunes file. Delete.

"Nothing New," Evan Frankfort. This song is off a Trampoline Records collection my sister Susan gave me, which introduced me to some excellent musicians. Thanks, Susan!