Summertime…and the reading is easy. Sort of.

It’s mid-summer and my dilemma du jour is this–which  book to read next?  Before heading off on vacation last week, I spent hours browsing and uploading books (or at least samples of books) onto my Nook.  I didn’t really need to do that since our beach place had internet as well as books,  but it’s part of my packing ritual.  I need to head for the beach with a supply of books that will last me the week.

The ritual used to involve shoving a big bag of books into the trunk of the car, or for lack of space, sometimes under my feet on the passenger side, which meant that I rode to the beach in a fetal position.  The bag of books was then fair game for anyone to read.  There was some reading strategy involved with sharing a bag of books.  Fast readers would not want to finish one book to discover that a slow reader had just grabbed the book they wanted next.  It’s torture to watch a slow reader go through a book two pages at a time, with breaks for yapping or napping or dips in the ocean.  They should read the dang book or hand it over to someone else.

With the Nook,  I no longer pack a bag of books.  I just load up the device.  The advantage is a library in the palm of my hand (and space for my feet in the car).  The disadvantage is that John has nothing to read.  If someone wants to read my Nookbooks, he has to (1) own a Nook and (2) be my “Friend.”  My mother is my “Friend.”  And she owns a Nook.*   My husband John is my friend, but not my “Friend.”  And he has to share my Nook, which I am usually reading.  So John loses out here, except for the fact that the beach place has boxes of real books in every room.

One thing I really, really love about my Nook, is that I can read in bed with the lights out.  In the summer, this means that I stay awake reading into ridiculous hours of the morning and then am dead to the world for the best gardening hours of the day.  I’ve been teaching longer than any of my high school students have been alive, but I confess that I revert to teenage sleep habits in the summer.  All it takes is one captivating book, and my schedule is shot for the summer.  This year it was The Hunger Games trilogy, most of which I  borrowed from my son-in-law, who is my “Friend.”  One night last week I got so caught up in Laura Moriority’s What Alice Forgot that I read chapter after chapter until the battery conked out at 3 a.m.   If I had been at home, that would not have stopped me, since the  charger is right  by my bed, but the outlet was on the other side of the room so I took the lack of juice as a sign to call it a night.  The next day on the beach I finished the book, with happy salty tears dripping down my already salty face.

Some people claim that one cannot read a Nook at the beach.  Kindles are apparently better in sunlight.  Actually, I can read the Nook at the beach.  I set the screen brightness all the way up, sit under the umbrella for shade, and wear a baseball cap to provide more screening for my eyes.  I can’t see the screen with my super-duper prescription sunglasses, just like I can’t read the clock in my car with them on .  I could get some cheapie sunglasses, but the hat and umbrella work.  My “Friend” Mom chose to read real books on the beach and her Nook at  bedtime.  I read whatever I had my hands on at the time, book or Nook. ( My Nookbook What Alice Forgot was followed by Jodi Picoult’s House Rules, which I found in a box at our beach rental.)   Truth be told, a real book is best on the beach.  It’s a tactile thing.  Turning the pages with damp, salty fingers goes with the caress of the breeze on bare skin, sand between the toes, and the sound of the surf and laughing gulls.

I read three books last week and enjoyed each one.  Now I’m addicted to days (and nights) devoted to reading.  I’ll wean myself with internet research. I tasted an amazing cocktail last week.  I must learn how to make it.  Then I’ll have something new to drink with the next book I read.

*(For a detailed description of my mom getting her Nook, check the archives for February “In Which the Hipster and Hanny Go On An Outing.”

Chillin’ out in Boulder, Colorado

Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado

The first week of summer vacation finds me in Boulder, Colorado where hubby John is taking a class for IBM.  Boulder, with its reputation as “the happiest town in America” is a shock to my system.  Boulderites merrily bike along paths that are an integral part of the city layout.  They bike as transportation as well as exercise.  They not only bike into the mountains, they bike to class, they bike to work.  Their bikes have baskets on them.   Women in dresses on bikes with baskets remind me of pictures of World War II women in France.  The French biked because there was no gas.  Bouderites bike to save the environment.  And they look happy.   I, on the other hand, arrive with an East Coast scowl on my face.   An East Coast-just finished the school year-beaten down like a work mule-weary of traffic scowl.

Boulder Creek bike trail

This is Boulder Creek where it flows behind Boulder High School. Click on the picture for evidence of teenage creativity. I can’t help wondering if the creators were skipping class as well as stones.

I feel the scowl every time I am surprised at the smiley-friendliness of the hotel staff and wait staff in restaurants and the equally relaxed attitude of the customers.  I make a mental note: Smile.  You are not dealing with road rage or teenagers in the classroom.  I am reminded not to scowl when I see my reflection in the fully-mirrored elevator.  That is not easy because I am seeing my relection in a fully-mirrored elevator.  From every angle.  I do  not at all look like a woman who rides a bike to work in a dress.   I look like a woman who drives hunched over a steering wheel hoping there will be treats from the parent association when I get to school.

Boulderites look relaxed.  They don’t seem rushed. Boulderites wait patiently for the walking signal before crossing a street.  Really.  And drivers really do give right of way to pedestrians in walkways.   They drive the speed limit, too.  Even during “rush” hour, which is more like 11 a.m. traffic on the Baltimore Beltway.  So Boulderites don’t get quite the “rush” that Baltimoreans do when someone tailgates us on I-83 when we are already going 80 mph.   But then again, they don’t need to rush around at 80 mph because they don’t risk a traffic jam that will net them 30 miles in an hour and a half.   Maybe that’s because so many of them are biking to work.  I even saw a mass transit bus with a bike rack on it.

When they sit with one another in cafes and restaurants, they aren’t obsessed with checking their cell phones.  (My family wishes I were a little more obsessed with checking mine, but…whatever.)  A sign at a check-out register thanks customers for not using their cell phones while checking out.  On the whole, Boulderites seem a little less distracted by constant multi-tasking, a little more present in the moment, a little more connected with people around them.

Rocky Mountain National Park, above Estes Park CO

Maybe it’s all that Celestial Seasoning tea.  I took a tour of the factory.  It’s one of those companies that makes the list of “best companies in America to work for.”  They’re very relaxed.  The plant (get it?  factory? plant? tea?) looks out on the Rocky Mountains where the company’s origins began in the hey-day of hippiness by picking local herbs to make herbal infusions.  Now it imports ingredients from all over the world and exports its blends around the world, but it is still a low-key operation existing right next door to a residential neighborhood.  The neighborhood popped up around the factory, maybe because the air smells so nice.  I bought a box of the Tension Tamer tea.   I think I need it.

No trees at 12000 ft. Just tundra and rocks.

The park ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park  must drink a lot of Tension Tamer.  There we were at 12,000 feet in a tundra area with winds whipping the temperature down into the 40’s (while it was 79 in Boulder).  The ranger very nicely requested that tourists get off the tundra vegetation, which might need years to recover from their footsteps.  I personally might have threatened to drop-kick them off the mountain, but he was very nice about it.  If it wasn’t the Tension Tamer, then it must have been the high altitude.  There wasn’t enough oxygen intake for yelling.

Don’t step on the tundra plants.

Sunset from our room at the Millenium Harvest House Hotel.

Boulder sits at 5460 feet above sea level.  (Compare that to Cape May or Ocean City, altitude 0.)  T-shirts here have sayings like “Dude, I think everyone is high in Boulder.”  Some people look like they have been high since the ’60’s.  Even on the bike trail you can see what Easterners call “bums” riding bikes with silly vacant smiles on their faces and no clear destination, on the trail or in life.  Some are old hippies with long gray pony-tails and scraggly  beards.  Others are, sadly enough, young.   Of course, there are plenty of people getting a natural high from all that exercise.

As much as I long to shed my hyper multi-tasking to-do list driven life-style, I’m not going to move here and locate a unoccupied street corner to sit and play guitar.  For one thing, John is a little afraid that I’d let my hair go au naturel, which out here means long, gray, and stringy.  (And in this dry air, my humidity loving hair would be flat and dead.)  But more importantly, as much as I love to see the majestic Rocky Mountains, I could never bear to be so far away from the beach.  Give me a choice between stately, eternal mountains and the constant yet ever-changing sea, this non-hippy will go with the flow of the ocean.  Nothing gets rid of a scowl like beach week–while pondering lessons on living gleaned in Boulder, Colorado.

Boulder Creek bike trail

Next post:  good eating in Boulder.