Shut up, I’m Reading

Reading is often regarded as a solitary sport. I have heard it referred to as something antisocial people do because they want to escape into their own head. I admit, sometimes that’s true. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t scary loners who wear all black and growl at the sun (except for maybe you twilight fans), but we do like a little quiet time away from all that hoopla out there once and a while.

The rest of the time, I do find it enjoyable to have a warm body nearby keeping me company when I’m reading. A silent one. One that doesn’t kick me under the table and demand I “put that book down!” like I’m doing something rude. Note to world: I’m not being rude. I’m reading. OK, maybe you don’t like that my first instinct upon receiving a steaming cup of java is to whip out my book like a fresh croissant to accompany it, but that is just a reflex. I probably thought you’d have a book too. We’re friends aren’t we?

This week my friend visited from DC and we spent a lot of time roaming around Austin eating, walking, shopping and drinking a lot (and I mean a LOT) of coffee. We probably visited 4 or 5 different coffee shops in the two days we spent together. On the first day we were making our second (or third?) coffee stop and my friend started to roam around the backseat of my car. Why you ask? Because I always have 10-15 books laying about back there, waiting for some lucky person to read them. After all, my car might break down, work might get cancelled, lunch might be solitary, I may have a sudden doctor’s appointment or need to get my oil changed… so I’m always prepared. She sifted through my books and eventually decided on a Harry Potter (excellent choice) and as we were walking into the coffee shop she said “Thats what I love about spending time with you, there’s always coffee/reading time built in.”

I miss that a lot. Not that people in Texas don’t read, but I used to have at least one day a week where we would go relax at a coffee shop (or the common, oh how I pine for you Boston!) on a book date. I feel a little more uni-bomber here because I tend to spend my dedicated reading afternoons alone. I’d stalk someone at the library or sidle up to someone at the local bookstore, but it is often misconstrued. No, I don’t want to sell you drugs, take your picture through a darkened window at night or date you. I just want a reading buddy. (A quiet one.)

Surviving reading in coffee shops

A cup of coffee – real coffee – home-browned, home ground, home made, that comes to you dark as a hazel-eye, but changes to a golden bronze as you temper it with cream that never cheated, but was real cream from its birth, thick, tenderly yellow, perfectly sweet, neither lumpy nor frothing on the Java: such a cup of coffee is a match for twenty blue devils and will exorcise them all.” – Henry Ward Beecher

What is it about great coffee and great writing? Books and coffee, a brilliant combination, right? Like all the cosmic elements in the universe hurtling towards an unknown point, I hurtle towards coffee shops with my latest book of choice on my days off. Most of the time this works well for me. The baristas are nice, they know how to make a cup and my book is the only company I crave.

Of course, things don’t ever turn out exactly like you pictured in your head when you woke up in the morning. Today I thought I would come enjoy the quiet, the air conditioning, the soothing nondescript music that blends into the background as I am absorbed into my novel with my freshly brewed cup of deliciousness. But inevitably, life happens.

I forget (in my caffeine craving haze) that my coffee shop has other patrons. Patrons that despite the plethora of empty seats in the room, will sit uncomfortably close to me. Like a gazelle whose leg is caught in a hunter’s trap, I am boxed into my previously comfortable corner by a group of people who are most often, less than enjoyable. And by ‘less than enjoyable’, I do mean absolutely maddening.

As I have learned on my weekly treks, there are many types of coffee shop patrons. First and foremost, there are the ones like me. The quiet corner dwellers with books, laptops, homework and office work who just want a haven and a good cup of java. They’ll say hello, ask you how your day is (if you are in a situation to interact politely) and then, bless them, they leave you to your activity.  Secondly, there are the swooshers, who fly in and out of the coffee shop so fast you barely know what color their hair is or if they were even wearing pants. (Don’t scoff, you know you’ve wondered that too.) The swooshers rarely become a part of any coffee shop experience as they are too quick to be anything but a flit of color out of the corner of your eye.

Then there are the chatters. They are one of the trap setters, the ones who come ready to hunt people and strategically confine you in your corner with no escape. The ones who practically sit in your lap as they try to learn your life story. They ask questions for hours, correctly assuming that you are, in fact, too nice to tell them to bugger off. They think the book in your hand was not actually a book you wanted to read but a prop to invite other people to come have long drawn out pointless conversations with you. These people usually annoy the crap out of me, especially when the whole point of my day was not to talk to people, but enjoy some solitude in a story. I actually got a date out of a chatter experience once, but really, I should have known better. Why would a corner dweller want to date a chatter? Horrible decision. But once and a while I’ll meet a nice chatter who I don’t mind saying hello to next time I see them (and then sit on the other side of the coffee shop, carefully avoiding another chatter encounter.) Therefore sometimes, these people are forgivable as long as they are more interesting than the book I was previously sharing my time with.

The worst type of patrons, those who trapped me today in fact, are the tubas. What are the tubas you ask? Well, as aptly named, they are loud, large (often consist of 3-5 people), hard to get around, impossible to miss and absolutely deafening at their full volume. They sit right next to you and they do not talk to you, but so near you that their breath can practically fan your book’s pages like a strange indoor gale. They bump your chair, nudge your purse at your feet and knock into your table repeatedly. They throw back their heads in a laugh that resembles nails on a chalkboard or a sick hyena and you have to leap out of the way to avoid tasting their hair. I have yet to taste the hair of a tuba, as my reflexes as extremely good, but I am sure one day they will take me unawares. I am pretty sure it will taste like feet.

Jonathan Swift said, “The best Maxim I know in this life is, to drink your Coffee when you can,” and so I will continue to try and do so. Unfortunately, I have yet to learn my lesson. I continue to trek to my coffee shop in hopes of that perfect delightful afternoon with a Colombian roast and my author of choice.

I guess it is just one of the many unique challenges in a avid reader’s life. Sometimes we get lucky and sometimes, we get the tubas.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

“Maybe it’s seventy years in the future and you found this book in a stack of junk being used to block the entrance of an abandoned Starbucks that is now a feeding station for the alien militia. If that’s the case, I have some questions for you. Such as: Did we really ruin the environment as much as we thought? and Is Glee still a thing?”

I admit it, I was hooked the minute I read the advance praise on amazon for Fey’s book.

“Absolutely delicious!” (A Guy Who Eats Books )

“I hope that’s not really the cover. That’s really going to hurt sales.” (Don Fey, Father of Tina Fey )

Much like her advance praise, the book itself is delightful and amusing. I finished it in one sitting today and couldn’t wait to proclaim to the world that here was a fun memoir about a famous person’s life that was enjoyable to read.

Fey doesn’t shy away from awkward personal details or embarrassing moments, she embraces them and makes them into a rollicking book that tells the story of her life.

Everything from getting her period for the first time..

I knew from commercials that one’s menstrual period was a blue liquid that you poured like laundry detergent onto maxi pads to test their absorbency. This wasn’t blue, so… I ignored it for a few hours.

to her first experience as a kindergartner..

I was so used to being praised and encouraged that when I finished my drawing I held it up to show Alex, who immediately ripped it in half. I didn’t have the language to express my feelings then, but my thoughts were something like “Oh, its like that, motherfucker? Got it.

As she grows up, we get to witness Fey learning at night improv classes and her interview that made her a writer for SNL. One of the most amusing parts is when we get to hear about the extremely hectic time of getting Oprah to appear on 30 Rock, while planning her kid’s birthday party and rehearsing Palin impressions for the now famous SNL skits.

In addition to the numerous anecdotes that make up the bulk of the book, we get old school pictures of Fey as a child, script writing from the Palin episodes, a hand written chart of her stress levels and a picture of her child’s birthday cake. We get to experience a lot of the most important moments of her life, especially those that are funny, touching and sweet. There are basically no sad moments, so I laughed my way through the whole book and finished it feeling happy and refreshed.

I think my favorite part of the book was the chapter about her father titled That’s Don Fey where she gives various examples of why she looks up too, loves and would never cross her father.

That’s Don Fey. He’s just a badass. He was a code breaker in Korea. he was a fireman in Philadelphia. He’s a skilled watercolorist. He’s written two mystery novels. He taught himself Greek so well that when he went to buy tickets to the Acropolis once, the docent told him “It’s free for Greek citizens.

I was so pleased when I finished reading it that I decided to make it my April giveaway.  Comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win a copy of this great memoir! Extra points for following me on twitter, retweeting giveaway links and following this blog as always.

If you don’t win it, I highly recommend you buy it or get some eager friend of yours that bought it already to lend it to you (yes, yes beth, I’m sending it to you as soon as I’m done with this review.) I have no doubt you’ll enjoy every second of it.