Monday, September 25, 2023

Hooked By the First Line

Last week I stopped by the library to pick up a couple of books they were holding for me, and while I waited to check out, I eavesdropped on a conversation that the patron ahead of me and the library clerk were having. The patron was excited to get home and read the book she was checking out because it had a great first line: "The story so far: in the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move." 

I thought this might be from Douglas Adams, but I wasn't sure which one of his books it was from. It turns out it was The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

This got me started thinking about great first lines. Here are some that I liked. I tried to choose from books that I thought might be more easily recognized, and I hope that at least one or two of them are giveaways. Do you recognize any of them? Feel free to leave your guesses and your own favorite first lines in the comments. I'll provide a list of the answers tomorrow. 

1.  "The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation."

2.  "124 was spiteful. Full of Baby's venomThe women in the house knew it and so did the children."

3.  "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink."

4.  “When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.”

5.  "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."

6.  "This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it."

7.  “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”  

8.  “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” 

9.  "In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing."

10. "Where's Papa going with that axe?' said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast."

11. "I'm pretty much f*cked."

12. “You wake up with the answer to the question that everyone asks. The answer is Yes, and the answer is Just Like Here But Worse."

13. “I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.”

14. “Captain Ahab was neither my first husband, nor my last.”

15. “I spent much of my childhood listening to the sound of striving”.

16. "When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake --- not a very big one."

Friday, September 22, 2023

Museum of Me: September 2023

Hello and welcome to the slightly-delayed September opening of the Museum of Me. It's actually the third Friday of the month and the new installment has been delayed for a week because I completely forgot about it. But the doors are open now and the September installment considers the important question: What did your day look like when you got home from school?

From the picture above you might guess that my after-school activities first included a snack, and you would be right. My mother might have made brownies from the Duncan Hines mix that she always used and my sister and I would each have one. Oftentimes, my mother would join us except she cut her brownie into four tiny pieces and ate them each slowly. We used to tease her and ask if she was hoping that some of the calories would leak out that way, but I guess it's just how she liked eating her brownies. But this is where I also learned that life might be unfair. My sister, who was tall and thin throughout our childhood, would eat four or five brownies, but my mother would say, "I think you've had enough, Bonny" after I had just one. (I was not tall and thin.) If we were having Oreos for an after-school snack, I would eat two while my sister would have a whole row of Oreos, sometimes followed by a big bowl of ice cream. The snack was the highlight of my day when I got home from school, up until my mother went back to work.

I don't remember when this happened but she worked part-time at this tiny little post office near our home. Mom was at work when my sister and I got home, so sometimes I ate two brownies, but then the real work started. I was expected to make dinner! That often meant I had to simply put a casserole in the oven that my mother had prepared ahead of time, but sometimes it meant that I had to actually slave away and make dinner. All I can recall is making meatloaf (but surely we didn't have meatloaf every night), with my hands in the bowl kneading together meat, eggs, breadcrumbs, and ketchup. I probably asked myself why I was working my fingers to the bone while my sister ate whatever she wanted and watched Scooby Doo and After School Specials, but this seemed to be expected since I was the oldest. I'll have to ask my sister about this the next time we chat, but her remembrances may differ slightly from mine. :-) 

So what I remember about my day when I got home from school was brownies, making meatloaf, and life isn't fair. Those aren't bad memories. 

So how about you? I'd love to hear about your after-school activities, and if they included snacks and life lessons. We'll be back on the second Friday of October (or when I remember) with a brand-new installation. Thank you for visiting The Museum of Me!

Thursday, September 21, 2023

A Gathering of Poetry: September 2023

It's the third Thursday of the month so I'd like to welcome you to A Gathering of Poetry.

I love fried clams but don't have them very often. Quite coincidentally, I ate a plate full of fried fried clams and came upon this new-to-me Mary Oliver poem on the same day. After reading it, I'm not sure I'll be able to enjoy fried clams without guilt, but I do like the poem  (almost as much as I like fried clams). 

by Mary Oliver

Each one is a small life, but sometimes long, if its
place in the universe is not found out. Like us, they
have a heart and a stomach; they know hunger, and
probably a little satisfaction too. Do not mock them
for their gentleness, they have a muscle that loves
being alive. They pull away from the light. They pull
down. They hold themselves together. They refuse to

But sometimes they lose their place and are tumbled
shoreward in a storm. Then they pant, they fill
with sand, they have no choice but must open the
smallest crack. Then the fire of the world touches
them. Perhaps, on such days, they too begin the
terrible effort of thinking, of wondering who, and
what, and why. If they can bury themselves again in
the sand they will. If not, they are sure to perish,
though not quickly. They also have resources beyond
the flesh; they also try very hard not to die.


Oliver, Mary, “Clam”, What Do We Know: Poems and Prose Poems. Da Capo Press, 2002.

You can read more about the poet here


Thanks for reading and joining us for our monthly Gathering of Poetry. Be sure to visit Kym and Kat so you can gather more poetry and you can add your link below if you would like to share one of your favorite poems. The more the merrier!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Unraveled Wednesday: 9/20/23

I'm joining Kat and fellow Unravelers today with my second Hitch on the Move. I felt compelled to work on it this week and was able to knit more than last week since my vertigo is slowly waning.

I'm knitting it with a slightly larger needle than last time and I do have plenty of yarn (I think), so I hope I can make this one a lot larger than the first. 

As for reading, I finished two books last week. Pearl is a brief, sad story about grief and great loss. Siân Hughes tells a tale that begins in childhood, progresses through troubled adolescence, and continues to troubled motherhood. This novel felt more like a series of connected vignettes, and I had trouble with the cheerful voice of narrator Laura Brydon recounting all the pain. For me, this served as a reminder that just because a book has been nominated for the Booker Prize doesn't mean that it will be an enriching or enlightening read. Two and a half stars rounded up.

I also read a pre-publication copy of After AnnieI read several of Anna Quindlen's books ten years ago or so, including Miller's Valley, One True Thing, and Every Last One. They were enjoyable, but Still Life With Bread Crumbs aggravated me so much that I quit reading her novels. I'm happy to say that After Annie was a wonderful read for me, free of any aggravation. I read it in two sittings which rarely happens anymore.

Quindlen tells the compelling story of Annie, her husband, four young children, and her best friend, and what happens to them after Annie literally drops dead on the kitchen floor. They all grieve in their own ways, some of them cope in better ways than others, and some of them grow in good ways. It's heartwarming and honest, but not maudlin. The author has written one of the best stories about death, loss, grief, change, and hope that I've read recently. This book will be published on March 12, 2024.

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Read With Us: Time to Discuss!

Today is the discussion day for our Read With Us Summer selection, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan KarunatilakaKymCarole, and I are each posting discussion questions on our blogs today, and you are welcome to respond in the comments. I would also encourage you to reply to others' comments if you choose. This is a book discussion, after all, so there are no correct answers or right opinions. I've been looking forward to discussing this book ever since I finished it, and I don't know of a better bunch of people for a book discussion than all of you.

Here's my question: Maali’s character is complex. At the beginning of the novel we’re told: If you had a business card, this is what it would say. Maali Almeida. Photographer. Gambler. Slut. (p. 1). Yet despite his flaws, the Booker judges described him as ‘wonderful company’ and ‘cheerfully unapologetic about what others might see as his failings’. What is it about Maali’s character that makes him so likable?
I think it mainly has to do with his authenticity and unapologetic nature. I have more opinions, but want to give you a chance to express your ideas.
So what do you think? I can't wait to hear your thoughts!
And don't forget we will have an in-person Zoom discussion at 7:00 pm Eastern this evening. You can send me an email (the email address is in the upper right) to RSVP and I will make sure you get an invitation with the Zoom link if you haven't already. I hope to see you there!

Monday, September 18, 2023

Right Now: September 2023

Here's what's going on in my world Right Now in the second to last week of September.

Reveling In -  Cooler temperatures (finally!) and the slow approach of fall. It's been delightfully cool at night (in the upper 40s to mid-50s) with 70s and 80s during the day. I have been leaving the windows open and the house smells wonderfully fresh. Of course, this also means allergies, but they make drugs for that.

Patting myself on the back - For cleaning out my pantry cupboard. I threw away some old spices and organized all the things I kept. I know I don't lead a very exciting life, but sometimes I just like to open my pantry and enjoy the view. I'm making a concerted effort to actually use the items on the pantry shelves before I buy more (which happened after I found that I already had 480 PG Tips tea bags and didn't have to order any more). 

Drinking - Now that I can find and see all of it, I'm choosing from my assortment of tea. There is nothing like a nice warm cup of peppermint tea (or any of the other nine types of tea I have) to end the evening. 

Listening To - Bach Trios, delightful arrangements of Bach's works played on cello, mandolin, and bass. After this, it's The Goat Rodeo Sessions from the same musicians with the addition of Stuart Duncan on fiddle, banjo, and mandolin. These guys are good!

Watching - Unforgotten. Kym mentioned this show last week, and I've become slightly obsessed. It's a British police procedural where they investigate historical crimes, with Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar playing the main investigators. I love how the stories are slowly unraveled over a season, with thoughtfulness and sensitivity and without the usual US violence. I have to make myself do laundry, vacuum, and prepare food before I sit down to watch so I don't end up just sitting and watching all day. 

Learning - How to patch a tire, the easy way! I got a roofing nail in my back passenger tire and developed a slow leak. Ordinarily, I would have gone to the auto mechanics, they would have taken the tire off, told me they tried to patch it but were unsuccessful, and then they would try to sell me two new tires. Justin offered to show me how to fix it, in four minutes without taking the tire off. Using this kit, first, you remove the offending nail, then ream out the hole with the reaming tool. Then you take a really sticky plug strip, push it all the way into the tire with the plugging tool, and then pull it out, sealing the tire. It's been three weeks and no leaks! I'll probably regret saying this, but I'm excited to try this myself the next time I get a nail in my tire. 

Getting - The new covid booster later this week. I still haven't had covid (unless it was so mild I didn't even realize it) but I'm anxious to continue that streak since I'm 66 years old with somewhat compromised lung function from a pulmonary embolism. I made the executive decision not to get my flu shot for a few weeks, mostly because I felt poorly for 24 hours after both vaccines on prior occasions. I was afraid the effects would be multiplied if I got both vaccines at the same time.

Grateful - That my vertigo seems to be resolving, albeit slowly. I still have to be careful for a couple of hours when I get up in the morning, but with some meclizine and continuing repetitions of the Epley maneuver and vestibular exercises, it is dissipating. I made an appointment with an ENT but the first appointment I could get isn't until October 13th.

Reminding You - About the Read With Us discussion of The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida on our blogs and Zoom tomorrow. Please RSVP to Kym via the link on the right-hand side of her blog if you would like to receive an invitation to the Zoom discussion at 7:00 pm tomorrow night. I hope that many of you can join us!

What's going on in your world right now?

Thursday, September 14, 2023

The One Where We See Some Elk

Our trip to Benezette, PA last week was really wonderful! We had a good time with John's sister and her husband, and we were lucky and got to see some magnificent elk. 

First, we headed to the Elk Country Visitor's Center where we got maps, brochures, and plenty of useful information from two helpful employees. There are several elk viewing sites set back in the trees where you can set up with your binoculars and wait for elk. They are crepuscular, meaning that they are active at dawn and dusk, feeding on grass and a herbivorous diet. After feeding at dawn, they retreat to the cooler woods to rest and digest their food; elk are ruminants. 

Elk live in male or female herds for much of the year, but in the fall, the female cows come into heat. Male bull elk gather female cows into "harems" and compete with other bull elk to keep their harems intact. This competition consists of posturing, bugling, and sometimes even confronting each other with their antlers. During this time a bull may have up to 20 cows in his harem which he defends fiercely. A bull with a harem rarely feeds and he may lose up to 20 percent of his body weight. (Crazy males and too much testosterone!)

We were lucky to see two mature bulls with massive antlers meet each other in the field in front of us. No actual confrontation took place, but it seemed as if they were each taking stock of the other and sizing up the competition. There were several cows and calves that the larger one tried to keep confined to the wood's edge.

Breeding season is just beginning, so this activity will continue through September and October into early winter. The elk prefer wooded areas and sheltered valleys during the winter, and then the calves are born in the spring, and the cycle repeats. 

I mentioned bugling but I wasn't able to get any good audio clips of this unique elk vocalization. The YouTube video below provides some good examples of this sound. We didn't see any elk close up on Saturday morning but heard lots of bugles in the early morning fog. It's an eerie sound from an inspiring animal. I would definitely go back to see and hear the elk again and hope maybe you get a chance to do it in person someday.