A Barnes & Noble recently opened up within walking distance of my house.
Really, it's like assigning an alcoholic security guard to work graveyard
shift at the brewery. Set the pieces in place, and you already know the
rest of the story.
My latest technique for productively killing an otherwise lonely evening
(and if I ever happen upon any other kind of evening, you can be sure I'll
write about it) is to jog down to my new literary mecca, take in a Great
American Novel, and stroll on back. It's free, it's culturally enriching,
and it gives me a chance to be around other people and remind myself what
they look like. What more could you ask for, other than actual human
On my most recent excursion, the livre d'jour was
The Old Man And The Sea, an epic tale of the
indomitability of the human spirit, and fishing. This was an
oddly engaging read, a strangely empathetical experience, as a consequence
of my poor attention to meal planning. Being at home most of the time
means that I can normally eat whenever the thought of eating occurs to me,
rather than at any predefined times. On this day, I had only eaten a
piece of toast or two, and I had called it breakfast. The sun was setting
as I reached the bookstore. I entered the bookstore and I was drawn to
the book and I took it from the shelf and found a place to sit. I saw
that the book was many pages, but I had read many books before and I was
not afraid. I was halfway through the book when the hunger started.
The hunger gnawed gently at my stomach and still I read. Pages passed and
the hunger grew into a wild pain that tore at my insides and I said to my
stomach, "Stomach, you have always been a good stomach and have digested
all I have given you. Why do you betray me now, when I must read this
book?" And I said to the book, "Book, I will read you, or I will die
trying. For a man is born to read books, just as a book is born to be
read, and if I die of hunger while reading you I will feel honored to have
died for such a great book." Through the pain I read the book and after
many pages I reached the last page and when I finished that page I knew
that the book was done and though I had nothing to show for my pain, I had
done what a man is born to do and I knew that tomorrow I would live to do
it again because that is the way of men who read books, and I left the
bookstore, almost destroyed, but not defeated.
Then I bought a sourdough baguette at the grocery store across the street
and ate it as I walked home. In conclusion, my recommendation to you:
enhance your next Hemingway experience by physically suffering through
it. There's no other way to capture the true flavor of the story. It's
like spicy Indian food or something.
The previous visit to Barnes & Noble had resulted in the selection of
Of Mice And Men, an epic tale of the profound
isolation of the human spirit, the Sisyphean futility of ambition,
and crushing small mammals. Nothing particularly unusual about the
reading experience that time, but on the walk home, I discovered a
little dialogue growing in my head. I should stress that the spirit of
the following, if not the exact wording, is taken unembellished from
||Andre, tell me about the company.|
||Bret, I done told you hundreds of times now. You know all of
it. Why'n't you tell it.|
||It ain't the same if I tell it. Go on, tell it, Andre.
An' how I get to write the embedded software.|
||Oh, all right. Engineers like us, they're the loneliest guys in
the world. Some manager assigns them a project and they work like
hell on it, and then the first thing you know, they're assigned
to another project and workin' on something else. They ain't
got nothing to call their own.|
||That's it! Now, tell how it is with us!|
||With us, it ain't like that. What we gonna do, we gonna work
for a few months at Cisco, just to roll up a stake. An' then,
when we got the jack together, we gonna make our own company.
We gonna have our own company, just you an' me an' Genna,
an' we'll have our own office and we'll be makin' a product
that ain't nobody ever thought of before.|
||With embedded software!!|
||An' I'll take care of runnin' the business, an' Genna will
draw us up a really purty website, an' you can have your own
lab with a 'scilloscope an' function generator and you can
design the circuits and write the software.|
||I swear, Bret, you ain't got no business sense in that head of
yours. You're a damn fine engineer, best I've ever seen.
You can put up more code than ten engineers on their best day.
But I'll be damned if you could even raise a million dollars.
You wouldn't even know how to find a VC. Hey, what's that
you're codin' there?|
||I... I ain't codin' nothing, Andre.|
||Yes, you are. You're codin' a Perl script, ain't you? Why you
wastin' your time codin' up a worthless CGI toy?|
||It ain't doin' any harm, Andre! Please, let me keep it!|
And so on. Hmm... if I read any further into this, I'll have to start
watching my back when Andre's around.
Stay tuned for further reports on my experiment in literary immersion, as
it progresses. Assuming it progresses. It wouldn't exactly be
unprecedented behavior for me to lose interest in all this and revert to
reading comic books. I'll try to persevere. Maybe I'll be starting my
next blawg entry with "Call me Bret". (Maybe that's been done
Or perhaps, "It was the best of times, it was the
We'll see. The next adventure is just walking distance away.