READ: Unsaid by Neil Abramson

In this section I will be writing short blurbs about the books I am currently reading. I won’t give out spoilers because I never read the last page of the book first.  If a book is horrible, it won’t be mentioned on the blog. If a book can not be missed, it will be marked as an ESSENTIAL READ. I’ve kept a book journal since 2004 and I’ll also be adding older ESSENTIAL READS to the blog. 

I always hesitate when I pick up a book about animals because I know I will be in tears by the end of it. “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” “Marley and Me,” “The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood” — all of these great books hit me in the gut, but I still loved them. Inevitably, the animals in these stories become characters that I don’t ever forget. When our lab mix, Ruby, stares at birds and watches them in the sky we call her Enzo because of his obsession with the crows in the “The Art of Racing in the Rain.” When we have Ruby at a restaurant (very common in San Diego), we never put her leash around the table because we know she will pull a Marley and drag the restaurant table to wherever she wants to go. And Christopher Hogwood made me want to rescue a pig immediately (I will someday).

In “Unsaid,” the tears start on the first page and do not stop until the final page. My husband picked up the book, read the first few pages, and told me not to read it because it was horribly depressing. The book begins, “Every living thing dies. There is no stopping it.” Abramson continually reinforces the brevity of all life. The book includes many things I feel passionate about: the role of animals in our life, work/life balance, marriage, compassion, and the belief that we can make the world a better place with our actions.  I finished all 353 pages of the book in two sittings.

The narrator of the book is Helena, a young veterinarian who has just died (that sounds like a horrible way to start a book and not like the best kind of a narrator, but it works in this novel). Helena has left behind a workaholic lawyer husband, a grieving partner at her veterinary practice, an ex-colleague nearing the end of a grant that involves chimpanzees, and a slew of animal companions. All of these characters are at a complete loss after her death and are trying to find a way to carry on. Her husband has no idea how to balance his career and take care of their three dogs, six cats, two horses, and pig. Her veterinary practice partner has experienced multiple terrible losses, and may now lose the vet practice. The ex-colleague is trying to rescue a young chimpanzee, who has the communication skills of a four year old human, from animal testing. And her animal companions are adjusting to a new normal; especially, Skippy, the young rescued schipperke with a heart condition who was never supposed to outlive Helena.

All of these lives intersect and come together to form a cohesive story that explores redemption and communication. I am a firm believer that animals and humans can communicate, just not in the “normal” way. I am 100% positive that Ruby understands at least 100 words, and she knows better than most humans when I am happy, sad, scared, flustered, etc. Abramson writes, “There is a difference between unspoken and unsaid…just because chimpanzees can’t speak does not mean they have nothing to say; the ability to vocalize thoughts is not the same as the ability to acquire and use language.” A good story, and a good life, often have an animal in it.  Every single animal has a story.  I look forward to exploring that more on this blog.

Ruby the Ridiculous
Ruby the Ridiculous
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FIRST POST: San Diego Central Library

San Diego Central Library
San Diego Central Library

It is so fitting that my first blog post is about a library. I have loved libraries for as long as I can remember. I remember exact details and locations of books in my elementary school library, the book mobile, every public library I have ever visited and all of the university libraries I have spent time in. As a kid, librarians were my heroes.

When I came to San Diego six years ago I was so disappointed in the Central Downtown library. The book selection was fantastic, but it was not a place that anyone would want to spend any more time in than necessary.  It smelled like mildew and always felt dirty. I’d run in, grab my books from the reserve section, and then clean the books with disinfectant wipes when I got home. I lived in the East Village part of downtown San Diego for over three years and a new library was always a rumor, but it never felt like it was going to actually going happen, especially with the recession of 2009. I moved from East Village about two years ago and I’ve tracked the progress of the new library – it has been exciting to watch the San Diego skyline change with the addition of the unique steel dome that can be viewed on the Coronado bridge, flying into Lindbergh Field, and at the end of my street.

San Diego Public Library Lobby
San Diego Public Library Lobby

People, this building was worth the wait. The new library is a museum, school, park, community center, viewing area,  event space, and reading room. It made me so happy. Around every corner and at every level there are new surprises and architectural features. The building is concrete and steel that have been warmed up with innovative design and beautiful light. It is full of sunny nooks to read in, a Seuss-filled children’s section, a teen reading area, an astounding rare books room, a store, a cafe, and spaces for weddings and other events (!!!). My favorite part of the library is the Helen Price Reading Room. It highlights a San Diego bay-view that people would pay millions for. Unfortunately, I only had my iphone and I couldn’t get a shot of the room because there was so much reflection from the ginormous windows. The views from all areas in the library are spectacular and make San Diego, in particular the continually up-and-coming East Village area, shine.

photo 1

Since this is downtown San Diego, it is inevitable that this space will have quite a few homeless people visiting it…unfortunately, I know some people will care a lot about that and refuse to go. I also know that it cost a lot of money (200 million!) and I am fully aware that a large majority of people think that libraries are going the way of the dinosaurs, but libraries are one of our most important resources. The United States public library system is quite extraordinary. It offers free reading, internet access, and education to millions. It is our tax dollars making a positive difference. I would be broke if I didn’t have library access. I take full advantage of free reading and I always have a reserve list that has about twenty books on it. If you are a reader, I recommend that you do the same.

There were three long lines of people waiting to get library cards when I was walking out. I’ve never seen anything like that at a library.  Hopefully people stay excited and keep visiting.  I plan on coming at least once or twice a month.

We read to know we are not alone

This library seemed to take forever to come to fruition, and I feel like this blog has been the same. I have been talking about starting a blog for the last five years. I am not sure what my problem is and why it took me so long. I’m here now, and as this blog gets rolling, I look forward to sharing information on what I am reading and watching and doing and eating. I have a lot of work to do as I figure out how to do everything that I want to on this site. Thanks for hanging around as I begin this long-delayed project.  I hope that, like the new library, this blog will be worth the wait!