Sunday, January 06, 2013

self help

On a diagonal side street in a desolate little pocket between Baltimore's stately, academic Charles Village and the fairly decrepit Greenmount Avenue (which, under the Google heading, "searches related to 'greenmount avenue baltimore'" are "baltimore police beat" and "worst street in baltimore"), lies a warehouse-y building that is home to The Book Thing. The Book Thing is a magical place where there are multiple rooms stuffed full of shelves and piles and bins of books that are organized by category. You know, like a bookstore. Except everything has been donated, there are no checkout counters, and everything is free.

Image borrowed from this random internet person. Thank you, random internet person.

Today, I was feeling particularly sorry for myself for personal reasons I would've blogged about in 2004, so instead of staying in bed all day with the covers over my head like I so desperately wanted to do (although I did spend a good deal of time doing just that), I biked my sorry ass the 3.4 miles (uphill both ways!) in search of more stimulating reading materials for my psych patients. In the approximate words of my all-time favorite advice columnist, Carolyn Hax--when you're feeling blue, you must 1., eat healthily, 2., not abuse substances, 3., get enough sleep, 4., exercise, 5., spend time with loved ones, and 6., try to focus your attentions outward. I'd already had a pile of pancakes with a friend, so this activity would take me to 3 out of 6, and I figured that 3 out of 6 ain't bad (you can take a wild guess as to which 3 I am still, um, working on).

I love shopping for other people, partially because, hello, it's SHOPPING, but there's less guilt because it's not for you and lord knows you don't need any more crap, but mostly because it's fun to think about what people might like to get that they wouldn't necessarily buy for themselves. For example, this Christmas I bought my parents deluxe dog toothbrushes. They were a big hit.

Anyway. So I acquired 23 books, a couple of which--okay, five--were for me. I hope some patients enjoy them, but even if only one book makes one person's day a little better one time, the back strain from carrying 23 books in my backpack on the way home is worth it to me.

I couldn't resist a 1962 copy of "This is the Pekingese," because Pekingese are so captivatingly weird looking and also the author repeatedly uses the term "germ plasm" in the chapter on how dogs (and humans!) perpetuate their genetic material. I also got a collection of Rumpole stories for a smart, sarcastic older man who used to love to read but is so depressed that he hasn't in years (I have no delusions that I will be successful in getting him to start again, but might as well try?). I got Volume 9 in the photography-heavy series "The Ocean World of Jacques Cousteau," because, the most recent day I worked, one of our chronically ill patients perseverated at me for like 30 minutes on how much she loved another volume in the series that we already have on the unit. That one is about dolphins and killer whales, and I figured I'd shake things up a bit and show her some coral reefs.

I also picked up a dictionary--we've had several requests for a dictionary from patients who like to play Scrabble--and I managed to find the same one I grew up with, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition. Then there's some easy fiction--James Patterson in large print and Michael Chrichton; a couple classics--"National Velvet," "2001: A Space Odyssey," an abridged, illustrated version of "Last of the Mohicans"; a book of tres novelas in Spanish that looks somewhat okay from what I am able to translate; picture books on nature and the history of footwear design; some hippie dippie self-help stuff (that I am totally going to read before I bring in); a couple of books on writing techniques and exercises--I have a fantasy of doing little writing groups with the patients, though our unit serves people at such varied levels of functioning and also I have no clue how to go about leading a writing group; two National Geographics from the early 1960s (I am keeping one--it's worth it to me for the rad Mad Men-esque advertising alone). And something super cheesy and Christian-looking that I am also totally going to read before I bring it in called "My Angels Wear Fur."

Don't judge me. 

And last but not least, and not dog-related, is "The Witch of Blackbird Pond." I was thinking the other day about my favorite childhood books after reading about a girl crush of mine who has images from her favorite childhood books tattooed all over her arms (I already have one). And I thought of TWoBP for the first time in literally decades, and I remember when I was reading it, it was the first time I knew I had to go to sleep to get up early for something in the morning, but I simply could not put it down. Also it scared the living crap out of me. As soon as I saw it peeking out of the children's bin, I knew it was going in the backpack, and I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of effect it has on me 20 years later.

Thank you for your donation, Candice Myerson!

[Insomniac Update: I originally ended this blog post with the sentence, "I am going to die alone under a pile of furry animals," but I thought I should be more positive and cut out the pity party so I threw in the paragraph about the witches book. Not that dying alone under a pile of furry animals would be the worst way to go, all things considered.]

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