Friday, March 30, 2012

The Bug's big night out

Last night was a milestone of sorts: the Bug had a sleepover (by herself!) at Aunt Jessie's house!  The highlight for the Bug might very well have been the big-girl outing to see Disney on Ice, where princesses galore twirled around in their princess gowns, doing various and sundry princess things.  (Since I wasn't there myself, I'm more or less paraphrasing the detail my daughter provided.)

Anyway, after the show they went back to Aunt Jessie's, ate ice cream, watched a movie (presumably also about princesses) and had a good night sleep.  The Bug had been a wee bit torn: desperately wanting to see the Disney show and to go to Aunt Jessie's house, but not quite sure she was ready to spend a night away from the Bunny and her parents.  Princesses persevered, and the Bug had a blast!  Thanks - and major kudos - to Aunt Jessie for conceptualizing, and flawlessly executing, this memorable event!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Road

Cormac McCarthy's The Road, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for literature, tells the story of a man and his son struggling to survive in the post-apocalyptic world after an unnamed cataclysm has destroyed all civilization on earth.  The setting is bleak: ash fills the air, blocking the sun.  It's always cold.  Living animals and vegetation are nonexistent.  And the people who are remaining are largely "bad guys": thugs, thieves, cannibals.

The man's wife gave up hope and committed suicide before the events of the novel, unable to face the thought of raising their newborn son in this new world order.  The story begins some years later, the man and the boy traveling on a road in the a southerly direction, hoping to find the sea.  They travel with blankets loaded into a shopping cart, a pistol that has only two rounds left, and a vague sense that the sea will provide them with a less unforgiving climate in which to survive.  Against all odds, they find unraided bunkers for the canned goods, water receptacles and the other provisions that are keeping them alive.  Their path is beset by all sorts of obstacles: long-abandoned trucks blocking a bridge, rain and snow that soak through their pathetic clothing and extinguish their fires, gangs of men carrying crude weapons and dragging slaves behind.

The prose is fantastic, and there are some glimmers of good among all the ruin.  Chief among them is the filial love between the man and his son.  They talk of "carrying the fire" and of someday meeting "the good guys."  They are truly living for one another, the man exercising unbelievable strength and will if a threat to his son, whether external or an illness, is perceived.  The boy has known no other world, and from his bleak vantage point there is not much to live for.  But he loves his father and believes that they are doing the right thing by surviving alone, together.

As wonderfully as this is written, the picture painted of this post-apocalypse is so completely hopeless it's hard for me to call it a great book.  It's depressing, but, yes, a remarkable book and worth reading.

Next up: The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A visit from Pop-pop

This weekend, we had a very special visitor in town: Pop-pop (Joker's dad) came to see us for the first time since we moved!  The girls were super excited to show him some of their favorite things to do around town.  And the weather could not have cooperated better: we had a series of 60-plus degree days.  Delightful.
We started the weekend off easy, with the girls playing hookey from school to take Pop-pop to a couple of our favorite local parks.  We rode bikes in Kittredge, and after lunch went to Dinosaur Park (a.k.a. Stagecoach Park to the rest of the world) where we played on the playground and flew a kite.

On Friday, another day off from school.  We did the 1.25-mile hike around Evergreen Lake, which was still covered with its last remnants of ice.  Just two days later and it's wide open water again - but here's a last view of the winter's hockey rinks in front of the Lake House.

We spent Saturday up at the farm, where the Bunny rode on a tractor for the very first time!  Other highlights included mudding in Mima and Boppie's pond, though we are disappointed to report that we didn't spot a single mermaid this visit. 

And on Sunday we went to Red Rocks, had a nice hike around the park and the Bug and the Bunny got to fool around on the rocks backstage! 

A really fun weekend - lots of the great Colorado outdoors - and we can't wait to show Pop-pop more on his next visit!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Magicians

Lev Grossman is Time magazine's book critic, and one of the people responsible for their "Top 100 Novels of all Time" list.  He is also the author of The Magicians, which is a fantastic read and right up there with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell for anyone looking for magic in the post-Potter world.

Quentin Coldwater is our protagonist, a lonely and somewhat depressed high school senior in Brooklyn.  He's extremely bright and something of a nerd, with a penchant for card tricks and wandering nickels and the like.  One of his run-of-the-mill ivy league college entrance exams is derailed by the unexpected death of the interviewer.  And through a series of completely unexpected events, Quentin finds himself instead accepting admittance to the super-secret magical college of Brakebills.

Quentin is obsessed with the magical land of Fillory - the setting of a series of fantasy novels that all his classmates at Brakebills have clearly also read.  Even while pursuing his magical education in the real world, he has the nagging feeling that Fillory is also real, and that he is meant to go there.  To be clear, Brakebills is not just Hogwarts for college kids.  Or, well, maybe it is.  The tragedies are bigger, the magic is darker, and here the students drink, smoke and screw.  Quentin is coming of age with a whole bunch of other young magicians, being tempted by drugs, discovering the opposite sex and trying to understand magic's true role in the larger world. 

The Magicians borrows a great deal from fantasy masterpieces from Harry Potter's world to Narnia and Middle Earth to Dungeons & Dragons (which I never played, but the references are obvious).  Grossman sometimes parodies these predecessors, but it is clear he has his own story to tell.  Quentin and the other leading characters are all complex and believable, with families and backstories and struggles.  The last two sections speed up almost too quickly - it's impossible to put down and the ending blew my expectations out of the water.  It's fantastic.  I love the writing.  Do yourself a favor and read it.

Next up: Cormac McCarthy's The Road, a post-apocalyptic Pulitzer Prize winner known for being, well, rather depressing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Is 20 years long enough?

Some time this spring or summer, I will be presented with the opportunity to reunite with my high school classmates.  Should I choose to accept this challenge, it will be the first time I have seen virtually any of them since our graduation day. 

First, a reminder to any of my readers - you're my friends, we respect each other and I look forward to catching up now that I live state-side.  But you knew the rest of them, and you remember what assholes they were.

When I was a senior in high school, my guidance counselor told me not to apply to an Ivy League school because "no one from Highland could ever get in."  That is not an exaggeration.  What a useless woman.  (N.B., to which I replied, "Fuck you, Mrs. Johnson, I'm going to Harvard."  Which I didn't, but I did go to Yale.  Also, I didn't know at the time that your guidance counselor is supposed to fill out parts of your applications.  I had to ask my principal to do it instead, and explain to her why Mrs. J refused to do it.  Not my proudest memory.)

When I got accepted to MIT - the first elite school that I got into - only my friends and a couple of my classmates congratulated me.  Most of my peers teased me and heckled me and tried to make me feel guilty about my aspirations.  Even bitchy old Quinn Fabray got more support from her classmates, and she'd actually been mean to them!

So when I left for Yale and later for New York, I thought I was done with that bunch of small-minded losers.  Sure, I still had a few friends from high school, but most of the kids I could take or leave.

Now I wonder... why go back?  What will be different?  Does anyone give a crap that I can still fit into my junior prom dress, that I have a great education, that I got married before having children?  Maybe.  Maybe it'd be different - they'd enjoy catching up and sharing stories of our hometown, listening to my stories in return.  Maybe they've matured and are now perfectly human adults.  But maybe not.  So... to attend, or not to attend?  Why go back?  Has it been long enough?