Libraries, needing fall, and missing an icon.
I wanted to start writing more but I didn’t want to limit myself to writing about one topic. So I decided to just write three things. Anything from culture & food to sports & long thoughts. It’s open ended and that’s on purpose.
1. I know I’m late to the library party
I always set 10 new years resolutions. 10 is easy to keep track of. It has a nice halfway point. One of my new years resolutions is to read 10 books. It doesn’t seem like a lot — and really it isn’t especially since I really like to read — but 10 isn’t setting the bar too high that if I get caught up in my excessive television watching I can’t achieve it.
The high that follows finishing a really good book usually crashes with buying another book. But at the point that I had finished Girls Like Us by Christina Alger, I was in no position to spend $10–20 on a new book. I have the quintessential TBR pile but none of them were speaking to me — too serious, too long, too classic. Do you see my dilemma, dear reader??
And that’s when I remembered the simplest of solutions: the library.
Growing up, I only went to the library occasionally. I have some distinct after-school memories of doing homework in elementary school and specifically remember checking out the entire Alice in Wonderland series from there one summer. But as state money got tighter and libraries suffered, the hours of the Glendale Public Libraries became more inconsistent. My time at the library eventually dwindled to an end.
Signing up again was super easy, just had to show my ID, and instantly I knew I’d made the right decision. I put my name down for 2 books that I’d been wanting to read and picked up Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi.
I love things and surrounding myself with things and collecting and sharing books I’ve read before. I have a real book-buying problem. But even though I’m EXTREMELY late to the idea, libraries free me from spending money on books I might not like, or giving Amazon more money (though I do love my Kindle), as well as keep me from the moral crossroad from loving physical books and also wanting to minimize deforestation.
Point being — go get a library card and help your community. And read a book.
2. I’m ready for fall. Now.
It doesn’t need to be said, but I’m going to say it anyway — Arizona in the summer is freaking miserable. I love the sun, and I love the warmth of the sun, but I do not like 110+ degrees every day, the exhaustion that summer brings, and constantly feeling uncomfortable. We usually get a reprieve with monsoons, when the creosote is wafting in the air, it drops 10 degrees and you can feel the wrath of a summer storm on its way, a sensation that is so beautifully Arizona.
But we’re in the part of summer where it’s been hot for 2 months and it hasn’t rained yet. The part that currently is making me crave the cozy feeling of big sweaters, roasted fall veggies, Halloween decorations, and a cool breeze.
I’m ready. I want crisp apples and hot coffee. I want pumpkin patches. I want to wear jeans without contemplating death. And yes, I could probably manifest all of these things myself — put on Hocus Pocus, search far and wide for apple cider, and crank my AC to wear homey wool socks. But it’s illogical, and I’ll just have to wait through the heat and know how rewarding it’ll be come October.
Watching Gilmore Girls — the essential fall show in my opinion — probably isn’t helping.
3. Anthony Bourdain — a forever icon
I’m not a big audio book fan in general but if there’s a great book narrated by a great voice, I’m into it. When I found out that Bourdain was the one that voiced his own book, Kitchen Confidential, I knew I had to download it.
Like most people my age that are interested in long form journalism or exploring cultures, I grew up with Bourdain. I actually tried to read this book in middle school and my mother wouldn’t let me (now I understand why — lots of “motherfucker”s and talks of shooting up heroine — thanks mom). In a way, I think he’s why I wanted to become a journalist and a life long traveler.
I was very fortunate to travel a lot as a kid. My dad still has family in Italy and I traveled internationally for the first time at 9 years old. In third grade, I was irritated because I watched my cousin get married in her Italian village and missed picture day. Clearly, I had 9-year-old priorities like not being the weird one who missed picture day. But after that trip, I think I came back with at least a surface level of wanting to understand culture the way most children don’t get the opportunity to.
The book was written before his No Reservations fame, back when Bourdain was just a chef. It starts with him summering in France as a child and the experience of trying an oyster for the first time — the thing he says made him fall in love with food. It journeys through his time as a guy trying to make it in grimy coastal kitchens over the summers on Cape Cod to bringing kitchen crews with him when he’s asked to open a new restaurant for someone. He even teaches you chef terms, utensils you’d need to be a great at-home chef, and why you never order fish on a Monday.
The way he tells stories is just moving. This has always been true. Whether he’s telling the story of a small town in a suffering country or if he’s telling the story of the time he worked one night in a place that sounds like what Planet Hollywood became.
Listening to him tell his early memoir is bittersweet though. A few times, he talks about when he decides to get clean but it’s quickly followed by mentioning how much coke it takes to keep up in the kitchen for 12 hours and the weed it took to calm that adrenaline and get any sleep. There’s even an anecdote where a friend’s employee hangs himself after being fired. Tony’s response? You can’t hold yourself responsible because some guy in your kitchen “wanted to off himself.”
At times, it’s hard to listen to knowing what happened.
The morning of Bourdain’s death, I had woken up from a text from my best friend about it. He knows how much he meant to me. It was the first celebrity death I cried over. I remember sitting in my bed in disbelief — like a someone who watches their friend lose their battle to the demons in their head. This was my first hero that had died since I was old enough to comprehend death.
Even for the average fan, they know that Bourdain listens. His shows stood out because people told him things about how things really were: he wasn’t afraid to go to the tough spots, have the hard conversations and then at the end, cheers with the same person to life over a great plate a food.
That’s a pretty great way to live.