Don’t have it in me today.

It wasn’t a great day — I got some bad news, and our attempts to trap the feral cat (“Hissy”) on our front stoop failed miserably, and now I don’t know if he’ll trust us enough to get him back on our steps and to get him fixed and fixed up.

Truth be told, I’m pretty bummed out.  But then I saw this picture on the internet and felt a little bit better.


Mall Rat


My husband needed new shoes, so today we went to the mall I haunted when I was younger, and where I got my first job when I was seventeen.  I’ve been back to that mall a few times since I’ve been an adult — in fact, we bought our wedding rings in the very spot where I used to stand, bored, behind the counter — but still, it was weird.  it always is.

I loved the mall growing up.  It opened when I was in about fifth grade, when it was shiny and new and echo-ey with empty spaces where the promise of new stores would be.  My mom would take me to The Limited and buy me wide-whale corduroy pants and crew neck sweaters, decidedly uncool when all the other girls seemed to have moms that would buy them tight jeans and satin jackets.

But as I got older, my mom would drop me — and friends — off on our own.  We lived smack in the middle of distance between two of them — Sun Valley was older and a little seedier, but it had an ice rink and a movie theater.  (I wound up working there, too.)  Stoneridge was newer and fancier, and I guess it just depended on what kind of mood we were in as to where we decided to go.  It’s not like we ever really had a purpose — maybe we had enough money to buy some pizza at Sbarro’s and a record at Musicland or a Madness pin at Merry-Go-Round.  Pretty much all we did was walk the length of the mall, back and forth, over and over, hoping to run into people we knew or cute new wave boys.  For hours.

Of course even though we all loved the mall — despite pretending to be cool we were still all wannabe Valley Girls at heart who loved spraying on expensive perfume and window shopping at Contempo — we all said we hated it.  “I’m bored,” one of us would announce.  “Wanna go to the mall?”  We’d sigh.  “Ugh,” we’d answer.  “I guess so.”  And we’d pile in someone’s car and go, so we could walk and walk.  (Had fitbits been invented then, we would have clocked 10,000 steps in one mall trip.)

The summer before my senior year, my dad decreed that he’d had enough of me sleeping ’til noon and then getting up just to go to a cafe where all the other weird kids hung out or walk endlessly around the mall.  No, instead I had to go to the mall not to look for cute new wave boys; I had to go to the mall to look for a job.

So I did.  I went into one store — Upstart Crow and Company, a bookstore that played George Winston music (that was totally classy in the 1980s) attached to the cafe.  I filled out the application, and miracle of miracles, they hired me a week later.

It was a really, really fun job.  The head bookstore manager was an older woman with a glass eye who barely spoke English and drank wine in her office.  The assistant manager was young and pretty much stoned all the time, and was having an affair with the bar manager.  All the east bay mods hung out there and then started working there, and my friend Laura got a job as a waitress, and my friend Bob worked downstairs at Benetton.

But I was surrounded by what I loved — books. No, it wasn’t as cool as working at Musicland or like Stacey and Linda in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” but I loved it.  After school I would get there and the lighting was always so beautiful, golden reflections from the yellow stained glass section headers on the rich, brown wood and stacks upon stacks of books.  If my dad thought that I was going to be making any money at this job he was sadly mistaken — I spent more money on books (and sweaters from Benetton with the employee discount) than I made.  I still have quite a few of those books, including my first very own The Portable Dorothy Parker.


I only worked there for a few months, but it felt like an eternity.  But the SATs were coming up and my dad told me I needed to study, and “corporate” was really buckling down.  The bookstore manager who drank in the office was fired, and on a surprise visit, the head guy told me it looked like a I was wearing a dishrag under my apron and it wasn’t appropriate.  (It wasn’t a dishrag — it was a 1960s gogo dress, and I had on black tights so WHATever.)  I hated authority, man.  (Except my dad, because, well, I had to obey him.)  So I quit.  And not long after, that beautiful store closed and the company went under, and I still think part of it was because they let teenagers do champagne inventory.  (Sunday mornings were fun!)

But I am forever grateful to that job — they hired a surly yet hopeful new wave teenage geek with a dumb haircut to work for them, and it started a lifelong career in books.  I lucked out.  I think of that job all the time, especially working on Sundays in a bookstore again, and how lovely it was.  I worked in about 7 bookstores after that — and two in other malls — but none were as thrilling to me as my first bookstore.  I was spoiled right off the bat.

I really did start to hate malls when I got older, and avoided them as best as I could.  Now I rarely have a reason to go, so when I do, I kind of like it.  Today was like that. It was busy, which I was glad to see after reading those online articles about malls across America being abandoned and torn down.  Malls were our youth — and such a standard in the 1970s and 1980s in suburbia.  But Stoneridge seems to be growing and expanding.  Benetton and Contempo and The Limited are gone, but there are other stores like Forever 21 (which I think is terrible) in their place.  Hot Topic is where Aubergine, a high end cooking store, used to be, and Sbarro’s has been replaced by Panda Express. It’s kind of sad in a nostalgic way, but mostly because I miss The Blue Chip Cookie Company.  And maybe I miss being young.  Now the mall just makes me feel old, like I’ve gone back and am hanging out at my high school, and trying to remember where mine and my friends’ lockers were. Now I think, “What was where Banana Republic is now?”  I feel more sad for my fading memory than anything else.  (And Blue Chip cookies.  They were really good.)

But there were still a bunch of teenagers, just hanging out.  They aren’t buying books and records anymore, or Madness pins — now they’re buying cheap makeup bags at H&M and expensive eyeliner at MAC.  But still, they’re there.  And I was glad to see a girl with pink hair hunkered down and reading a book while eating her lunch, like I did so many times.  So things may change, but some good things stay the same.

I didn’t walk back and forth today — I didn’t even make a whole circle.  And the whole time I was hoping that I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew.

I didn’t.

This is What I Did Today.

Tonight I’m going to my Feminist Book Club meeting, so I spent all day in the kitchen, baking a cake from scratch.  And chocolate icing from scratch, too.  Yeah, it’s kind of lopsided, but I think it’s pretty gorgeous, considering this is only my second cake from scratch I’ve ever baked.

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The Betty Friedan stuff I’m pretty good at; it’s the Betty Crocker part I still need to master.

Record Store Day!

So tomorrow is Record Store Day, where a bunch of people basically cash mob record stores.  There are all sorts of limited editions and fancy stuff that is only available on that day — some people like it, some people hate it.  I don’t care about limited editions, because I don’t really know any modern bands, and I’m not a collector. But I like the whole idea of Record Store Day because I love people coming together and shopping in record stores, places that were once staples and now thanks to the internet and iTunes, are struggling much like bookstores.

Last year I happened to be in Birmingham, Alabama and went to Charlemagne Records, where I always go when I’m there. (I always buy a used George Shearing record.  It’s my souvenir, and they always have a ton. And the songs and covers are so great!) There are usually two other people in the store, max — usually it’s just me, poking in the bins. But on Record Store Day, it was packed! Everyone was having a good time, and it was fabulous.  (I bought a George Shearing record, of course.  And a Keely Smith for good measure.)

So if you’re lucky enough to still have a record store in your town, go show them some love.  And may I suggest one of my all-time favorite records?


I swear, this album makes me feel glad to be alive.  And makes me want to sip a cocktail in a smoky nightclub, circa 1962.  SO good!

Go give your local record store — or any independent local store — some love tomorrow.  I wish we didn’t have to have things like Record Store Day or Bookstore Day to keep these businesses going — as far as I’m concerned, every day should be Record Store Day.  But at least there’s a day to celebrate, right?  Viva la Vinyl!

Day 10: A Book I Like (Number 1)

I’ve really been enjoying this 100 Day Project, and updating my website every day.  I’m proud of myself!  And I find myself thinking of things to write, what I think you might like to read, trying to write short, quick pieces instead of my usual long winded ones, which is actually a challenge.  It’s been fun!

And I keep thinking about structure.  I know it doesn’t matter — it’s my website and I can do whatever I want — but I like the thought.  So I’ll be doing HOT TOPIC call-outs on Wednesdays (I got THEE best suggestion today and I’m thrilled) and posting the finished piece on Saturdays.  I like the whole Throwback Thursday thing, a few free days, and on Wednesdays I want to do a regular “A Book I Like.”

I’m not very good at writing book reviews or copy, but I love recommending books and love it when people enjoy my recommendations. It’s one of my favorite things in the world.  I was a great bookseller! (Well, I still am to a degree on Sunday mornings at The Bookmark, so come on in!) So I’m not going to write lengthy reviews or pithy blurbs — just know if I post it here I think it’s worth going to the bookstore and picking it up.  (And yes, go to a bookstore.  They need your love.)

So tonight I’ll start with the two books I’ve read for the two book clubs I’m in this week, since they are still fresh in my mind. (As I’ve gotten older, I’m starting to forget details and plots of books I’ve read, but can remember storylines and mostly how I felt when I was through. And I do read a lot of books  It’s just that now some of them have fallen out of my head.)

The first one is Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson:


Now, I know some of you will say, “But it’s a kid’s book!”  Stop right there.  So many Young Adult books are better than many adult books these days.  I’m constantly thrilled by this genre, which just keeps getting better and better with talented, lovely writers.  This one is the cream of the crop — it’s absolutely wonderful.  And if you say, “But it’s poetry!” I’ll stop you again.  I normally prefer prose, but good poetry — its use of beautiful language and a story to tell — makes me marvel.  I marveled at this.  Five stars.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan


This one is fun — a quick read, but you think about it afterwards.  I was especially interested because of the tech vs “OK” (“Old Knowledge” = pre-internet = print books ) aspect and I love the bookstore setting.  The beginning is charming, and momentum is quick, and I liked the overall message a lot.  I’ll admit, I wanted it to be quirkier — I guess I was expecting more Tales of the City than a literary DaVinci Code, but I enjoyed that part about it, too.  Perfect airplane reading, which I appreciate the most. And bonus: the cover glows in the dark! Three stars.

Go get them and enjoy!

New Idea: HOT TOPIC!


Okay, I had an idea! So you don’t have to only read about celebrity birthdays or watch Xanadu videos on this here website, I thought I’d spice things up a bit and have a Reader’s Choice Day — where YOU, dear readers, give me a HOT TOPIC (within reason!) and I’ll write something short and sweet about that, or take a photo or video, or write a haiku.  I’ll do it weekly (and pray for takers), and “publish” it on Friday.

Sound good?  Aaaaaaand GO!

Happy Birthday, Loretta Lynn!

A few years ago, my friend and I took one of the most epic road trips you can possibly take — we went to Mecca.  No, not the “Holy City,” but rather the Holy Estate of The King:  Graceland.  Oh, it was fantastic.  We stayed at The Heartbreak Hotel across the street, along with German Elvis impersonators in wheelchairs.  We made many friends in the elevator, because we were all there for a common purpose: our love of Elvis Aron Presley.  (Though no one freaked out as hard as we did when they saw The Jungle Room. Had we not lost our nerve, we would have crawled over the barrier and been arrested.  It would have been our second run-in with the law in Memphis, but that’s another story for another time.)  It was RAPTUROUS.

We started the trip in Nashville (Cooter’s and The Willie Nelson General Store are MUST SEEs, FYI), and made our way to Memphis after having the biscuit sampler at The Loveless Cafe, of course.  And on the way there we made the greatest pit stop of all time — Loretta Lynn’s Hurricane Mills!

I really, really wish we’d spent more time there — we really only got to stop and eat some deliciously decadent chocolate pecan pie, buy my husband some Loretta Lynn Hot Sauce (for some reason we bought him hot sauce as a souvenir everywhere we went, and he was sort of confused by that), and take in the beauty of this portrait of Loretta with her baby sister, Crystal.


There was also a glamorous tapestry:


And crafts made in a holler (Butcher Holler?) somewhere:


We also witnessed two waitresses and the manager get into a terrible fight, and one of them stormed out while everyone else talked about what a skank she was.  I doubt she works there anymore, but you never know.  That was kind of my favorite part of the whole stop. It was ALMOST Fist City!

All in all, it was really great.  Next time (and there WILL be a next time), I’m going to check out The Dude Ranch, too!  And I will make sure I get a cookbook.  I’m really sad I didn’t get a cookbook, so I NEED to go back.  I need one of those hillbilly cell phones, too.  (What was I thinking, not buying one for everyone I know?  We could have had the friends and family plan!)

But I did get a magnet, so every day when I open my refrigerator, I see Loretta smiling at me in her understanding way and I love her.  Happy Birthday, Coal Miner’s Daughter!