Reading: Many, many things.

Listening: To Radioio. Ah, internet radio, yet another thing I can use now that I have broadband. (Although I was mildly disappointed to discover that it is pronounced "ray-dee-oh-EYE-OH" and not "ray-dee-OH-eeh-oh," which made me giggle.)

Renting: Finding Forrester. What an exquisite movie.

Watching: Tennis, tennis, and more tennis. Watching the Williams sisters play each other makes me cry. How can you fully enjoy winning when the fact that you've won necessarily means that your sister lost? I can't imagine what it's like for their mother, being so thrilled for one daughter while her heart breaks for the other.

Sharing: A pizza, a bottle of wine, eight cigarettes, and all kinds of brain dumping with Michelle last night. We're both working through some very confusing shit at the moment, and talking to her always relieves the fears I have that I am a lunatic or otherwise freakish in some way.

Needing: A job. Not for the professional satisfaction or to be a productive member of society, but so I can buy this and this and this and one of these and one of these. (Links open in a new window.)

Anticipating: The birth of Athena's baby. Honestly, you'd think I was having this kid myself, the way I hold my breath when I check my e-mail, waiting for news!

Fractious Times

My parents left yesterday. They were here for six days. Six days, people. The only time I wasn't around them was for about four hours on Friday night when I went out with a friend from law school who was in town for the Fourth, and an hour and a half yesterday when I met Michelle for coffee. Otherwise, my parents and I were around each other every waking moment. And we're all still alive.

And really, 90% of the time, we enjoy each other's company. We are seriously goofy and the stupidest things send us all into hysterics. (My father looked up the prize amounts for Wimbledon champions, and reported that Serena Williams won "486,000 pounds of money." We laughed ourselves sick.) My parents do turn into the Bickersons occasionally, but it's over as soon as it starts.

There was one incident the night before last, after my father started asking about my job search, and the conversation deteriorated into snarky remarks on his part and tears on mine, but I got out everything I wanted to say regarding this incident which had been weighing on my heart for the last 18 months, and I was proud of myself, and it ended well.

Those of you on my notify list know that I have been having a difficult time of things lately. And I'm still unemployed, but feeling better about it, if that's possible. I realized that most of the depression I've been experiencing has to do with worry, not about finding a job (which is going to happen sooner or later), but about guilt. I feel incredibly guilty about having my parents support me, and I feel like there are a limited number of ways for me to express my appreciation and gratitude, and I'm always feeling like they think I am ungrateful. But they don't, and they reassured me that they want to help me, and reminded me that it's temporary and that three or four months out of my life is really not that much, and as long as I'm doing everything I can to find a job and not sitting around watching Ricki Lake, they are fine.

So, on Saturday, my parents and I visited The Book Thing.

Oh. My. God.

The Book Thing is a free bookstore in Baltimore. Free. Bookstore. Are there two more beautiful words in the English language? I think not.

It's located in an urban but residential section of the city. There is a sign on the sidewalk to help you find your way: "Free Books!" it says, with an arrow. At the entrance, there are dozens of boxes of books piled up outside, donations dropped off that have yet to be sorted. A volunteer approaches us, asks if we have been here before, and when we say no, he waves his hand at the door and says: "Here are the books. They're free. We encourage people to be greedy. We have boxes if you need them."

The bookstore itself is small, dark, dank, filled with people, and filled with books, some loosely organized and some piled up haphazardly, thousands upon thousands of books, which are all free.

Free.

You go in, look around. You have to wait your turn to get a look at some of the books, because there is barely enough room to maneuver between the sections, much less room for more than one person to stand in front of them. An interesting title catches your eye, or you spy an author you've heard of and always wanted to read, and the idea that you can pick it up and carry it out of the store without paying for it seems odd and unnatural.

But I discovered it doesn't take long to get over it:

Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen
Winter's Tales, by Isak Denisen
The Mayor of Casterbridge, by Thomas Hardy
The Devils of Lournud, by Aldous Huxley
Almost Paradise, by Susan Isaacs
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce
The Wizard of Loneliness, by John Nichols
Death at Rottingdean and Death at Devil's Bridge, by Robin Paige
After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie, by Jean Rhys
The Wonder Book of the Air, by Cynthia Shearer
The Accidental Tourist, by Anne Tyler
Marjorie Morningstar, by Herman Wouk
and the kicker: Son et Sens, my very first French textbook from eighth grade. (Elise! Oh my God. This book is giving me such flashbacks, you would not believe. "Oh, c'est chouette, le Guignol!")

You pile them in your arms and finally head for the door. All that happens is that someome stamps "Not for Resale" inside the cover. They hand you a box, thank you for coming, and send you on your way.

A free bookstore. It's miraculous.


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