Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bodice Ripping Bounty Hunters And Better Living Through Beer

I didn’t write much this vacation. I had these lofty ideas about writing everyday, cycling every morning, reading…blah blah ginger blah. So what did I do? I watched telenovelas, stared at the ocean, played with my camera and drank beer. It’s amazing I didn’t gain any weight because I was on the “Gain At Least Five Pounds Vacation Diet” in Mexico. The Girl pointed out to me we did do a lot of walking. Yeah, to the Mercado del Cerveza about a half mile away from the casita. And we walked or cycled about a mile for the fabulous deep fried shrimp tacos and beer we had almost everyday for dinner or lunch (or both because they lace those tacos with crack). And when I wasn’t drinking beer I was chugging back Mexican Coca Cola. Good thing a serving has about ten fewer calories. I firmly believe vacation should be about suspending one’s present reality. I mean really, I can’t even imagine going to some sort of spa where you eat toy food and only drink water and exercise all day. That sounds like some sort of Hell to me and I think I would rather spend a week working at the hospital or trying to motivate Wally and The Beav to clean their rooms and their bathroom.

I did read. But I’m a big old book snob and I don’t read. Just. Anything. My usual vacation read is something akin to Byatt, Hoffman or Seth. My snobbishness has resulted in a couple of epic fails as far as lighthearted vacation reading goes. Can you say Atonement? There’s a feel good happy beach read. The other beach read fail was a Russo novel. I can’t even remember which novel but it was about a desperate situation in a dying industrial town in upstate New York. In fact, The Girl almost committed an epic fail when she picked up Hardy’s Jude The Obscure. I handed her a stick for her eye and said, “Dude, one word: “Atonement’.“ I didn’t tell her about the summer I read Tess of the D’Urbervilles and was so insufferably sad and depressed my roommate Jack hid the book from me. But I digress…Because of these two epic fails, coupled with my OCD I spend about six months selecting just the right books for Mexico. They must be uplifting, well written, imaginative and NOT in the top one hundred. It’s a careful process to say the least and one best beaten to death with the google stick. In an effort to live more deliberately I didn’t bother with that this year so I would make use of the lovely bookstore where we call home for two weeks a year. I did take two “emergency” books. I’m a veracious reader and usually burn through ten books in two weeks, so taking two books was akin to taking only three pairs of shoes. (Which I also did much to my chagrin and deprivation) This vacation was no exception, I did read ten books. I started with The Mercy Of Thin Air. A ghost story that required some thought and careful reading. Next up was Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie a delightful mystery that required some thought but not as thinky as the first novel.

And then I lost my mind and my bearings and started reading Amanda Quick. I confess one of my guilty pleasures is fantasy novel meets Steam Punk. The Little Book is one of my all time favorite novels and The Blue Glass Books of the Dream Eaters complete brain candy last year in Mexico. So this Arcane Society thing was close to these. When I was about fourteen I read stacks of Regency romance novels and Barbara Cartland novels. So Quick’s novels and this sort of romance subgenre was new to me. They were surprisingly good and terribly entertaining. Fun like eating cookies and drinking Coca cola too quickly and ending up belching with a flourish is fun and vaguely satisfying. I read three of them and then found myself on menacing brow and quivering breath overload. I knew I had had enough when I predicted which chapter our heroine was going to be kidnapped. But this experimenting thing was fun. What other genre could I test? True Crime? Nah, too depressing. Espionage? Nah too…I dunno…male. Shopping/Dating/Twenty-something? Nah that would just piss me off that I hadn’t written them.

In other words, how much further down was this spiral into pulp fiction taking me? Evanovich that’s where. I followed the exploits of the plucky Stacy Plum for three novels until I was tired of hearing about her spandex shorts and her wisecracking grandma. I must admit each one of the novels had an amusing and imaginative cast of supporting characters that kept me interested. And I openly guffawed many times over a few days. But I must say had we stayed in Mexico much longer I was spiraling towards Cartland romances and Mexican tabloids.

This vacation turned into an exercise of escape. I have become so unbelievably frustrated with myself and how I’m living my life recently that I must have been trying to lose myself in fluffy fiction. Fortunately, I didn‘t try to lose myself in alcohol--I didn‘t drink that much--because I finally learned a few years ago you can‘t escape yourself so I‘ve stopped doing that and just put the old tapes and guilt trips on pause for a week or so. But for a couple of weeks I got to see what being a beautiful young woman just past marriagablilty; living in genteel poverty in Victorian England was like. And when I tired of that I discovered what the life an Italian/Hungarian bounty hunter in Trenton, New Jersey looked like. And isn’t that what reading--on vacation--is about? Escape?