Absinthe Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

I’m not sure how many people are familiar with absinthe. It’s not a very popular or common drink these days, especially since it was illegal to produce for most of the 20th century (the ban was lifted in recent years). For those of you who have never heard of it, I will explain.

Absinthe is a spirit made from the herbs anise, fennel and wormwood. It is usually green in color, altho there are clear versions. It has a bitter, black liquorice flavor due to the anise and fennel. It has a very high alcohol content, usually between 60% and 80%, and is diluted with water before drinking. The water is poured over a sugar cube to help combat the bitterness. It was originally created as a health elixir in Switzerland, but became very popular with the art and literary crowd in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was nicknamed “The Green Fairy” and was considered an inspirational muse of sorts. Absinthe was thought to cause hallucinations and was blamed for many cases of insanity, death and violence.

Being the big fan that I am of 19th and early 20th century literature, I was fairly familiar with it. I’ve read about it in books, seen it in period films, found information about it on the internet. A few years ago we were on vacation in Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod, and I saw it for sale in a liquor store. I very much wanted to try it, but it was expensive and not knowing if I would even like it, I didn’t want to risk spending the money. But, last weekend, we were out there for a weekend getaway, and at one of the restaurants we went to they had absinthe listed on their drink menu. As you can imagine I was thrilled. Not only as a fan of the time period, but as a writer, this is something I’ve waited years, decades even, to get a chance to try.

So the owner of the restaurant, who is an absinthe connoisseur, came over to our table with the glass, the sugar cube, the absinthe spoon (a slotted spoon designed to sit on the rim of the glass) and a small pitcher of ice water. She puts the spoon on the glass and the sugar cube on the spoon and shows me how to dribble the water very slowly over the sugar to dissolve it without using too much water and diluting the absinthe too much. She warned me never to use regular sugar cubes from the grocery store. They’re too hard and take too much water to dissolve. She advised going to a gourmet food store and getting softer sugar cubes imported from Africa. You can also find special “absinthe” sugar cubes at a specialty bar supply or liquor store.

It’s a very aromatic drink. As the water is mixing with it, the scent of the herbs are released and are very pleasant. The flavor is quite unique in comparison to other forms of alcohol. It still does retain some of its bitterness even with the sugar, it’s not sweet at all, but you can definitely taste that black liquorice flavor. Like most spirits with a high alcohol content, you feel the burn as it goes down.

Needless to say, I went to the liquor store and bought the bottle before we went home.

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Death Of The Bookstore?

I just finished reading a book about bookstores and booksellers and their history, called The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee. Near the end he talks about online book buying, thru such websites as Amazon, and whether or not it will bring about the demise of the physical bookstore.

I don’t think bookstores will every completely disappear. I do think that the discounts available thru websites and big bookstore chains, who can order their stock in bulk, will make it more difficult for independent bookstores to open or stay open. And then there are e-books, which small indie bookstores don’t even have the ability to sell at all. But I’ll be the first to admit that I do the majority of my book buying at a big chain bookstore, namely Barnes & Noble. I also order books online thru Barnes & Noble’s website. And I have an iPad with the Nook and iBooks apps.

I like going to bookstores tho. I don’t enjoy shopping online for books. Most of the experience of book shopping isn’t the actual purchase. There are many times when I go to a bookstore that I don’t even buy anything. I just enjoy being there. I like wandering the aisles, seeing what cover image or title or author name catches my eye. I like sitting down with a stack of books in a comfortable chair, or even on the floor, and flipping thru pages, pausing to read a paragraph or two here and there. I like the way the books smell as you rustle the paper. I like bookstores with inviting sitting areas, that make you want to relax and enjoy your coffee or tea or hot chocolate. I like bookstores that offers a place where your writing group or book club can gather.

I know Barnes & Noble is one of the big chain stores, which is considered the enemy to small, independent store owners. But when it comes to the B&N in Holyoke where I shop, I always think of it as my bookstore. I’ve been shopping at that one store for over fifteen years now. I’m just comfortable there. It’s like a second home to me. I also go to the Odyssey, which is an independent store, and Raven Used Books, but not very often because they are farther away. When I lived little farther east of here I used to love this used book store called The Book Bear. I recently got a brochure listing all the used books stores in Massachusetts. When I get a chance I want to check out the ones that are around here. I like used books. They have character to them.

Another thing that I think will change bookselling as we have known it is the changes going on in the publishing world. With the invention self publishing and print on demand, traditional publishing houses and bookstores are no longer the only path to being a published author. Writers can self publish their books and sell them thru their own websites. With e-books there is no physical book to put on a shelf. As far as e-books go, I can definitely say I do not like reading them as much as I like reading a real printed book. That said, I do believe that switching to electronic publications would have a large environmental impact, both in reducing paper waste and reducing the cutting of trees.

But, if every single book, magazine and newspaper were e-formated, there would no longer be a need for bookstores. A world without bookstores would be a sad world indeed.

A Date With Monet

Today I’m going to stray away from my usual topic of books and writing to talk about art. This weekend my boyfriend and I went to the D’Amour Museum of Fine Art in downtown Springfield for their Old Masters to Monet exhibit, a special display of fifty French paintings on loan from the Wadsworth Atheneum. This is the last week before it closes and I’ve been dying to see it so we finally made plans to go.

First I just want to say, the paintings were incredible.

Second, there is no place to good for annoying people to be found.

We’ll start with the first point. The paintings. They dated from the mid 17th to the early 20th century. There were fifty of them but photographing was forbidden, so unfortunately I can’t recall every single one of them, as much as I would love to. Now, I know that to those of you who live in large cities, seeing art of this caliber is probly commonplace, but in my neck of the woods, it is somewhat of a rarity, and this is the first time in my life I have had the pleasure of seeing such a display. Let me also clarify that I am no art expert. I like art, there are certain artists I like more than others, but I don’t claim to know anything about style or technique or biographical information about the artists themselves. I do know that the two forms of art I tend to prefer are called Impressionist and Surrealist.

I was very excited about seeing the Impressionist art that I knew was part of the exhibit. I absolutely love Monet, and one of my favorites, The Beach at Trouville, was part of the exhibit. It was just such an experience, to be able to get right up close, and see each individual brush stroke, and to know that Monet applied the paint to that canvas with his own hand. The way he painted it captures the atmosphere so perfectly, you can practically feel the sea breeze blowing off the canvas. I was completely mesmerized. My boyfriend had to physically drag me away from it when it was time to leave.

The Beach at Trouville by Claude Monet. This is only a photo of the print I bought at the gift shop. My cell phone camera sucks and has no flash so I aplogize for the poor quality.

They had many more beautiful works of art as well. Renoir’s painting of Monet at work in their garden, one of Degas’ ballerinas, one of Monet’s waterlilies, as well as works by Manet, Sisley, Pissarro and Cezanne. And of course no collection of masterpieces would be complete without Van Gogh’s Self Portrait.

There was alot of paintings by earlier artists whose names were vaguely familiar, who I don’t know that much about, but who truly were masters of their art. The workmanship was so exquisite that some of them almost looked like photographs. And the details were insane, every inch of canvas had something to draw the eye, whether it was the texture of a set of drapes in the back ground, or the tassels on the edge of a tablecloth, nothing was too small or unimportant to have anything less than the most minute attention to detail.

Being in the presence of such beauty was an experience I can only describe as spiritual.

So lets move on to my second point. Annoying people.

YOU DONT LET YOUR KIDS RUN WILD IN A ROOM FULL OF PRICELESS ARTWORK!!!!!! Who brings little kids to an art exhibit anyways?? I mean, unless your child is some sort of genius art prodigy, they aren’t going to give a flying rats ass about seeing a bunch of old paintings. Get a babysitter or stay home. That’s the way it works when you’re a parent. One of the kids was sliding along the wall around the room, and his head was actually bumping against the bottoms of the frames. I was waiting for one of the paintings to go crashing to the floor. Not to mention that if you were standing close to the wall, examining a painting up close, he would squeeze in between you and the wall, forcing you to step back to avoid being knocked off balance and possibly fall against the painting. And I wont even go into the loud echoing voices. Their parents were ignoring them so skillfully that I wasnt even sure who, of all the people in the room, they were.

But all in all it was an excellent day.

Midnight In Paris

Was there a golden age for artists and writers? Much like Owen Wilson’s character in Midnight in Paris, I have a highly romanticized idea of 1920’s Paris as a glamorous paradise full of writers and painters and musicians and dancers, gathering in cafes and parlors and clubs, drinking and dancing  and creating from dusk til dawn. I feel like if I could somehow slip back in time and space to that era, I could tap into that same bottomless creative well they all seemed to have access to, and create literary masterpieces.

But I know that in reality it was a time of poor hygiene, little indoor plumbing and electricity, writing by hand with messy ink bottles, where diseases like tuberculosis and syphilis ran rampant thru a population that was promiscuous, addicted to opium and morphine, drank too much, smoked too much, ate poorly, slept little and lived in damp, drafty rooms with little or no heat. Many of them died from illness, substance abuse or suicide far too young.

There was no magic font of creativity that bestowed creative super powers on the people who lived there. There were just alot of already talented people who happened to congregate in a place where they could escape prohibition and censorship.

Even with that logical knowledge, I cant help but sigh nostalgically.

But I would definitely recommend Midnight in Paris if you like Woody Allen movies, or Owen Wilson, or the 1920’s Paris art scene. We watched it last night and it was great. Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway really stole the show. He was like an Old Spice commercial. And Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali was hilarious.

Another movie I like, set in that era in Paris, is Henry and June, about writers Anais Nin and Henry Miller and Henry’s wife June. Taking place during the time that Miller was writing Tropic of Cancer, it centers around his affair with Nin and how it effected their writing, their lives and their marriages. It is rated NC-17 due to its sexuality so be warned if your sensitive to that sort of thing.

And Hemingway’s book, A Moveable Feast! I thought it was endlessly fascinating to read about the way he and his fellow writers and artists lived during that time. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough!

So was it a golden age? To us, looking back from our own time, it may seem so. But an age never seems golden when its the present, only when it becomes the past.

Book Store & Library Etiquette

Yes, bookstores and libraries are comfy cozy places to hang out and lounge around and enjoy your leisure time. That does not mean you are at home. You are not in your living room or your bedroom. Thus certain things are not acceptable.

~My biggest peeve is shoes. PLEASE KEEP YOUR SHOES AND SOCKS ON!!!! If your shoes are so uncomfortable that you can’t stand having them on, then perhaps you should invest in different shoes. Nobody wants your nasty sweaty socks or bare feet all over everything. This weekend I was at B&N and one lady had her sock feet up on a coffee table. Another lady had her bare feet up on the upholstered arm-chair, while she was picking the skin from between her toes and flicking the pieces who knows where. I don’t want to sit in a chair that you just finished rubbing your athlete’s foot all over. And don’t put your feet on a table that other people put their food and drinks on. These are the types of things that make me want to be a recluse.

~Cellphone use. Yes, we all have them, for the most part. And, yes, the point of them is so that people can reach us when we are away from home. But that does not mean that you should go to a place where people typically engage in quiet activities, such as reading, studying and browsing books, and spend long intervals of time TALKING ON YOUR PHONE AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS. Especially about highly personal and inapropriate topics or using vulgar language that may be unsuitable for everyone present to hear. You are not in a sound proof booth. We can all hear you. Also if your phone plays music thru its speaker, realize that not everybody shares your taste in music. Dont walk around with your phone clipped to your belt blasting music like its your own private night club.

~Which brings me to regular conversations with who ever it is that you are with. Please use a conversational tone. No need to scream when the person you’re talking to is two feet away. I understand that I am going to hear the conversations of people sitting or standing near me. If they are speaking quietly I can easily tune them out. I respect people’s privacy and will not intentionally eavesdrop on a conversation that I am not a part of. But if your shouting and squealing and making a spectacle of yourself, its hard to ignore.  And again with the language and subject matter.

~I didnt come to catch the live show…if you know what I mean. If you need to get it on that bad, stay home, get a room, go to the drive-in, whatever. I don’t need you dry humping next to me while I’m trying to read.

~Browsing in the same aisle or sitting in the same chair grouping does not make me your friend. If I wanted a companion I would have brought one. If there are two things that don’t mix, it’s talking and reading. If I have an open book in front of my face, I am doing the latter. Also, I tend to be a very solitary person and being approached by strangers generally makes me very uncomfortable. Unlike my boyfriend who feels the need to talk to every person within hearing range of his voice. Which is why I very rarely ever take him to the book store or library with me.

~People need to respect personal space when possible. Obviously in a crowded area we can’t all stay arm’s length away from each other. But that does not mean you need to be hovering over me like a vulture on a dead carcass. If I’m looking at a shelf of books and you want to see something on that shelf, don’t press up against my back, breathing down my neck like a pervert, trying to read over my shoulder. Either wait til I’m done or say “excuse me” and I’ll step aside. This also annoys me in the checkout line when the person behind me is standing so close that I can’t move without bumping into them. It also makes me paranoid that they are trying to steal my PIN number when I’m typing it into the keypad

~Personal hygiene is everybody’s friend. Please shower before going out. You may adore the smell of ass crack and armpits, but most of us do not. There is nothing worse than curling up in a comfortable chair with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate and settling in for a long, satisfying afternoon of reading, then having someone flop down in the chair next to you, with BO so strong it makes you gag. And if that person is also someone who likes to take their shoes off…well lets not even think about that.

~The other patrons are not there to be your babysitters. If you bring children with you it is your responsibility to watch them.You are not allowed to set them loose in the building and completely ignore them while they run, scream, climb, throw things, spill stuff, jump around and harass everybody else while you sit and read or talk on your phone. Also do not allow your children to bring along toys that are excessively noisy. Like remote control cars, toy fire trucks with sirens, drums, horns, whistles, bells or squeakers. If they bring a hand-held video game, give them ear buds or make them keep the volume down.

~If you bring your laptop with you, remember that what comes out of its speakers is not contained to your ears alone. Everyone around you is forced to hear to it as well. So be mindful that listening to you shoot lasers at androids for an hour in whatever ubergeek video game your trying to level up in is probly not gonna be an enjoyable experience for anybody else but you.

~Throw away your trash when you are done. This is more a problem at books stores than libraries because a lot of bookstores tend to have cafes in them these days. If you eat or drink anything, there are barrels provided to throw away your trash. And if you spill a drink or make a lot of crumbs, clean up your mess. Dont leave a filthy area for someone else to use. The cafe people will wipe down the tables and counters in the cafe area, but not the rest of the store. I always find empty coffee cups and crumpled up napkins and sandwich wrappers all over the place, including on the bookshelves. And I don’t like picking my book up off a table and having half the back cover ripped off cuz it glued to some sticky half-congealed splotch of frappucino that I didn’t notice. Libraries don’t have as much of a problem with food trash since there is usually no eating allowed there, but of course you always have those people who ignore the rules and bring in their McDonald’s or Taco Bell, and those are usually people who also don’t clean up after themselves.

So I guess that about covers it. A lot of people will probly think I’m quite unreasonable with my expectations of how people should act. And maybe I am. But I think a lot of people are quite unreasonable in what they expect people to put up with. But of course I know the people who will be the most offended by this list will be the people who are habitually guilty of committing many of these behaviors. Unfortunately with each passing generation our society becomes more ‘me, myself and I” centered, and people just do whatever they please and think they need never consider how their actions effect others.

A Pointless Drive

In two weeks I am having a baby shower for my daughter.

So yesterday I went shopping for her baby shower gifts. I bought some baby outfits and a little snuggly bunny. And of course, I bought books. Well I bought one, and I have one on hold down at that dreadful Barnes and Noble in CT that I will pick up when I am in Enfield tomorrow.

The book I bought at my regular Barnes and Noble is the complete collection of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne, a beautiful hard cover with a blue satin ribbon marker and the original illustrations. The other, which they didn’t have but which the sales lady was nice enough to call around to area stores to look for, and reserve in Enfield for me, is a complete collection of Beatrix Potter. Judging by the price, I’m assuming it will be of similar quality to the Pooh book.

I chose to get these books because my daughter, like myself, is an avid reader and I know she will enjoy reading these books to my grand-daughter starting at a very early age. It’s never too early to start reading to a child.

But finding these book. Wow. The last place I really wanted to end up yesterday was Barnes and Noble. I like it there, but I go there on a fairly regular basis and I really wanted to shop for books someplace a little more interesting. So first I made the half hour trek north to, what was at one time, my favorite indie shopping haven. Northampton.

Now, once upon a time, I’d say maybe ten or fifteen years ago, Northampton was the place you could go to find anything you might be looking for, or even to find something you didn’t know you were looking for until you saw it. It was just block after block of independently owned bookstores, new age shops, consignment shops with some of the most interesting second-hand stuff imaginable, army surplus stores, handmade crafts and jewelry, music stores, *adult* shops, not to mention the restaurants. It was just an awesome place. You could park your car for the day and shop or sit on a bench and eat ice cream or enjoy a meal or even just walk around and enjoy the sights and sounds of a carefree and creative college town. Back in the 90s my friend and I would go up there several times a month and just have the best time.

But now, everything seems gone. I miss stores like Beyond Words, a bookstore which also sold crystals and oils and incense. It seems most of the stores now are expensive clothing boutiques where, if god forbid you’re not a size 2, you will never fit into anything. Other than that it’s mostly restaurants, pricey organic juice/coffee bars and a few art galleries, spas, fine jewelry stores, shoe and purse stores, and doctors and lawyers offices. It definitely seems to cater more towards the upscale crowd now. It’s lost a lot of the bohemian hippy vibe that I used to love. From what I hear it still has a pretty active club scene at night, but I’m not much into clubbing these days. My boyfriend and I go up there occasionally to eat at Fitzwilly’s or the Teapot and then we’ll walk around a little and maybe buy a couple of things if anything catches our eye. This is the first time I’ve gone up there strictly for shopping in a long time tho, and I think it will most likely be the last. I’ll still go up there to eat and I’ll go up there for Pride day. But I don’t enjoy shopping up there anymore.

Unless it’s at Raven Used Books.

I did stop in at Raven. I love that store. For those who have never been there, it’s a little used bookstore in the basement of a building near Thorne’s Marketplace. It’s just a couple of rooms with floor to ceiling book shelves packed with books, and books piled on top of the shelves, and books stacked on tables and chairs and on the floor, and its dim and narrow and cave-like. It’s just the awesomest place ever to creep around looking for something unusual or obscure. I resisted buying anything tho, cuz I needed to save my money for gift buying.

I also checked out Booklink inside Thorne’s. It’s a small but very nice two-level store with a coffee bar. I’d been in there before, last summer, to buy a book for my two grandchildren who were up from Texas at the time. They sell high quality children’s books and I thought they might have what I was looking for, but didn’t. And of course the children’s store, where a few years back Id originally seen the Beatrix Potter collection I was looking for, was unfortunately long gone. Theres another bookstore further up towards the college, but it was very cold and windy and snowing and I didn’t want to walk that far in the cold when the likelihood that they would have what I was looking for was close to zero.

So, after a fruitless search for non-existent book stores and paying too much money for a thimble sized cup of mint hot chocolate that tasted like toothpaste, I trudged back to my car thru a swirl of wind-blown snowflakes and made my way to my inevitable destination of Barnes and Noble.

All Barnes & Nobles Are Not Created Equal

I had some time to kill in Enfield, CT the other night. Most unfortunate. Anybody who knows me knows that my dislike of Connecticut knows no bounds. So anyways I had about an hour and a half, so I headed to the only place I could think of that I might enjoy myself, Barnes & Noble.

Up until now the only B&N I’ve ever been to is the one in Holyoke, MA, which is the closest one to my house, and the one where my writing group is held. Now that one is huge. It has two floors and a large Starbucks cafe and computers to search for store items and a lot of open spaces with tables and chairs and benches and about a dozen or so big cushioned armed chairs scattered throughout the store. There is even a new Lego play table area for the children. There is a whole separate room just for movies and music and another dedicated just to children’s books. Free wi-fi goes without saying. And with large windows, high ceilings and bookshelves low enough that I can, at 5’6″, see over the tops of most of them, the store is bright, airy and open. It’s a very pleasant, comfortable place to spend time. Except when there is alot of screaming kids throwing Legos.

The Enfield store, on the other hand, blows big ol’ chunks.

First of all its only one floor. And that one floor is only about three-quarters of the size of one floor of the store in Holyoke. It’s like a claustrophobic rat maze. The shelves tower over head and criss cross in all different directions so you can’t see more than a few feet in any direction from the second you walk in the store. The passageways between shelves are so narrow it feels like they are closing in on you, like the trash compactor in Star Wars, slowly crushing the life out of you. There are no computers. There are no chairs other than the half-dozen or so tiny cafe tables at the little Starbucks crammed in the corner. I didn’t even bother checking to see if they had wi-fi. I would assume they did, I think all B&Ns do. But really, whats the point if you can’t sit and relax and enjoy using it. And then to get to the registers, you have to squeeze thru a narrow opening between a shelf and a counter, which is blocked by a sign instructing you to “enter here” for check-out.

So to summarize-Holyoke store: GREAT, Enfield store: SUCKS

I’ve been to quite a few book stores in my life. Some good, some bad. This was definitely not one of the better ones. I also wasnt very fond of the Borders that used to be at the Holyoke Mall, altho it was better than the B&N in Enfield. I have a few favorite places to buy books besides the  B&N in Holyoke. I like The Odyssey in South Hadley and Raven Used Books in Northampton. When I used to live in Ware I went to a used book store called The Book Bear in West Brookfield. And never underestimate what you can find in the book section of your local Thrift Store. I have dozens of books that I bought at the Salvation Army. And the Salvation Army at least has comfortable chairs and couches to sit on while you look over your books. Which is more than I can say for the B&N in Enfield.

Its funny, when I was growing up, I had tons of books, but I don’t remember for the life of me where I shopped for them. I remember spending a lot of time at the library and having a lot of library books. But I don’t remember where I bought the books I owned. I only recall the occasional purchase at discount stores or pharmacies as a teenager. Mostly cheap paperback versions of Stephen King or other horror/suspense novels. But as for the majority of my childhood collection, I have no idea. Obviously my parents bought a lot of them for me, but where? I don’t remember ever seeing or going to an actual bookstore as a child. Hm.

Cabin Fever

I dunno about anybody else, but I’m done with winter. Not that its been a particularly cold or snowy winter here in Massachusetts, but it’s still been too cold to enjoy being outside. I can’t tolerate cold due to some chronic health issues, so I’m not a big fan of winter. And I’m tired of being cooped up in this house. Tired of the stagnant air that’s been re-circulating thru my ventilation system all winter. Tired of breathing animal hair and dry dust. I want to open all the widows and doors and let a spring breeze sweep thru the house and blow all the stale air out. I went out and bought some new house plants this weekend. Just to have something fresh and green around me. I used to have some really nice house plants a couple of years ago, but when I went to Texas to visit my grandchildren, a certain person who shall remain nameless *cough*myboyfriend*cough* forgot to water them and they were all dead when I came back.

I love being outside, especially when it comes to reading. I have two places outside my house where I like to sit and read. My boyfriend and his friend built a big deck on the back of our house a couple of years ago and we have a patio table and chairs where I can sit when its nice out. If its raining out I have my front porch with a couple rocking chairs and a coffee table. I cant wait to grab a book and go outside and read with the warmth of the sun on my back to get rid of the chill in my bones that never seems to leave me these days. Unfortunately I can’t tolerate extreme heat any better than the cold so once we get into July and August I’ll be just as miserable as I am now. I get overheated or chilled very easily. My boyfriend says I’m like a lizard. The only way I can warm up or cool down is by going to a warmer or cooler area. I think I may be the world’s only living cold-blooded mammal.

My favorite outdoor place to read, when I can get there, is on the beach. I love to lay on the warm sand with the seagulls crying overhead, and the sound and scent of the sea all around me (score extra points if a fruity rum drink is involved). The ocean is the one place where I feel truly at peace and spiritually recharged. I love books about the sea or that take place on or near the ocean. My two most recent book purchases relating to the sea are Cape Cod by Henry David Thoreau and The Outermost House by Henry Beston, both about Cape Cod, which is my favorite place on earth.

Of course now I have Sailing by Christopher Cross stuck in my head.

Another beautiful place to read outdoors is at the top of Mount Greylock. It is located in the north-western corner of Massachusetts and is the highest point in the state. You can see for hundreds of miles, all the way into upstate New York. The air up there is the freshest air I’ve ever breathed. It’s really a spectacular place. I would love to pack a lunch and go up there and spread a blanket out on the mountain top and read all day. Herman Melville had a home near the base of Mount Greylock where he wrote Moby Dick. Nathaniel Hawthorne also lived in the area for a short time and it was there that he wrote The House of Seven Gables.

Unfortunately the coast and the mountains are both several hours drive from my house and not someplace I can go on a regular basis. Closer to home there are a few places I like to go to read outdoors. The closest is in downtown Springfield, in the courtyard of the Quadrangle, where the museums and library are. There is a grassy lawn and benches and in the middle is the Dr. Seuss memorial (for those of you who don’t know, Dr. Seuss was born here in Springfield). Stanley Park in Westfield is also a nice place to go. There are fields and a large garden and a duck pond and woods that offer a variety of settings to settle down for a day of outdoor reading. And there is the Village Commons in South Hadley. A collection of shops and restaurants with brick paved walkways and steps and terraces and fountains and plenty of benches and outdoor cafe tables with umbrellas to sit at and enjoy a book and a drink or a meal. There are also some grassy areas perfect for spreading a blanket. And there’s a nice book store and a used book store/coffee and wine bar there as well.

And I think it goes without saying that all the places I’ve talked about are perfect places to write as well. Unless your me. My writer’s block isn’t picky about location. It tags along and prevents me from writing no matter where I go.

A Trip To The Library! Yay!

Yesterday I went to the Springfield Public Library. Its my favorite place to go in the whole city, one of the few places in Springfield worth visiting.

The library is a beautiful building thats usually quiet except for hushed and mysterious whispers that echo off the high ceilings. I love the smell of a library, of all those old books. I like going to the upper level where nobody ever goes, amongst the book that nobody has any interest in reading anymore. The outdated books on psychology and the occult and biology, dusty old literary essays and cookbooks. You can hide yourself in a maze of bookshelves up there where nobody will disturb you. I usually bring a big tote bag with me, filled with things to do while I’m there, usually my iPad, a book, a notepad and pen, iPod, ear buds, sometimes my crocheting project, and the library has wi-fi, so I am quite content to spend several hours there in peace.

The library is 100 years old this year. It was opened to the public in 1912. I took some pictures when I was there yesterday.