A Lifespan

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, was first published in 1922.

The Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonBenjamin Button was born in the summer of 1860. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Roger Button, were well off, socially and financially. They defied the custom of the day by having their first child in a hospital, rather that at home.

Benjamin Button’s birth caused the family physician to resign from their service, and nearly ruined the reputation of the hospital.

Benjamin Button was born a 70-year-old man. No one could explain it.

Although Benjamin looked, spoke, and acted like a 70-year-old man, his father insisted on treating him like a newborn baby. Benjamin wasn’t having it. He preferred the Encyclopedia Britannica to his stuffed animals.

Roger Button’s social status was nearly ruined. The only thing people could think of to complement this strange addition to the Button family was to say that he resembled his grandfather.

When he was twelve, Benjamin Button first began to suspect that he was, in fact, aging backward.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button follows the humorous misadventures of a man who becomes younger as his age increases. He’s mistaken for his father’s father, and then for his father’s brother. He causes scandal when he marries a woman his age, when he appears thirty years older than her. He causes further scandal when, decades later, he’s seen as a young man married to an older woman.

When he’s old enough to enter school, he’s too old to attend. When he’s too old to enter school, he’s the right age to attend.

When Benjamin Button becomes a baby, his life fades away.

The copy I borrowed from the library is 52 pages long. That seemed to be the right amount of pages for this story of one man’s life.

One thing I found odd about this story is the absence of Benjamin’s mother. She’s mentioned as Mrs. Roger Button, but we never meet her. We never learn how she feels about being the young mother of a 70-year-old man. We never even learn her name. Maybe it’s a sign of the times.

I liked The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It’s an hilarious, classic tale of social satire.

  • A book that takes place over a character’s life span

Samson Valley Transit Route 7

SV Transit’s route 7, with its bright yellow buses, is a real workhorse. It serves a variety of districts and constantly runs full.

Route 7 starts at the Stadium Square Ferry Terminal, on the shore of Northwest Lake. The district of Stadium Square contains hotels and shopping, an active night life, and Samson Valley FC Stadium.

Route 7 01

As it makes it way south along Foggy Boulevard, route 7 stops at the always popular Samson Valley Aquarium.

Route 7 02

It is popular with the employees of the Disaster Relief Center, who keep the city safe.

Route 7 03

Route 7 crosses over the bridge into the factories of Browne Point, at the south shore of Northwest Lake.

Route 7 04

It serves the workers and industries of Browne Point.

Route 7 05

It crosses several bridges as it makes it way south through Browne Point.

Route 7 06

Route 7 07

Route 7 is a hit with the timber workers of Conifer Corner.

Route 7 08

From Conifer Corner, Route 7 enters the hotels and offices of Poplar Point. It makes its southernmost stop at the Eden Project, and near the Riverfront Square Expo Center. This stop is also close to a monorail station which takes people north to Juventus Stadium or south to the Space Elevator.

Route 7 09

Route 7 once stopped at the entrance to the Cruise Ship Harbor. However, that harbor was replaced with a new harbor on the opposite shore, at the new tourism center which includes the Space Elevator.

Route 7 10

Route 7 loops back north through Poplar Point, Riverfront Square, Conifer Corner, and Browne Point.

Route 7 11

Its northern route brings it though Samson Valley’s oldest neighborhoods, until returning to Stadium Square Ferry Terminal.

Route 7 12

 

 

Ring Road Trip

Rigning í nóvember, by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, was published in Iceland in 2004. It was translated into English by Brian FitzGibbon in 2013 as Butterflies in November.

Butterflies in NovemberThe narrator is a 33-year-old woman, living in Reykjavík. She is self-employed as a proofreader, editor, and translator. (She speaks eleven languages.) She runs her business the old-fashioned way, picking up and delivering projects at the clients’ homes.

One day, in late October, while out driving, she accidentally hits and kills a goose. On the same day, her boyfriend tells her that he doesn’t want to see her anymore.

On the same day, her best friend, Auður, a single mother who is six months pregnant, calls the narrator to tell her that she has an appointment with a fortune-teller that she can’t keep. Auður suggests that the narrator go to her appointment instead.

Still that same day, the narrator visits the fortune-teller who gives her cryptic forecasts – something about things happening in threes, a ring road, a ring on a finger, wetness, and a lottery ticket.

That same day, the narrator’s husband tells her they can’t go on with their marriage. Her behavior is too bizarre, and he can’t take it anymore. That, and his girlfriend is pregnant. The husband does accept the narrator’s offer of a goose dinner. The narrator loves to cook.

The narrator takes the day’s events in stride. She cooks the goose she killed. She and her husband discuss his plans like old friends. She helps him pack his books. She turns down her boyfriend’s request to get back together. (News travels fast in Reykjavík.)

The narrator decides it’s time for her to take a tropical vacation, even though the time for summer vacation is past.

She receives a phone call from the Association of the Deaf. She’d bought a winning lottery ticket from them, and has won first prize: a prefabricated summer bungalow, ready to be assembled wherever she’d like.

Auður slips on some ice and is taken to a hospital. Auður asks the narrator to keep her four year old son, Tumi, over the weekend. Tumi is deaf, with poor eyesight, and a sleepwalker. The narrator has no experience caring for children. She takes Tumi for the weekend, and does her best. She takes him grocery shopping, and watches what parents buy to figure out what to buy for a four-year-old. They stop into a video store to rent a DVD of The Lion King. She buys a lottery ticket and lets Tumi pick out the numbers.

There is only one winning ticket. Together, Tumi and the narrator have won 44 million krónur – the largest prize in the history of the Icelandic lottery.

In the hospital, Auður learns that she is having twins, and that her fall has complicated things. The narrator reluctantly agrees to keep Tumi for the next three months.

Her plan for a vacation in the tropics becomes a November road trip along Iceland’s National Highway No. 1 – the Ring Road – with a four-year-old boy, pet goldfish, and a glove compartment stuffed with thousand-krónur banknotes. Their destination is a small coastal village – a place from her past – where a prefabricated bungalow, assembled by the Association of the Deaf, awaits.

Butterflies in November is, at its heart, a fun, quirky road trip. The narrator and Tumi meet interesting characters along the way. They grow together and learn from each other. Unexpected events happen which seem ordinary, but are also as out of place as butterflies in November.

It’s a story about moving forward with your life while facing your past. It’s about gaining freedom and responsibility simultaneously.

It’s a humorous story, in a dark sort of way. There is a lot of wordplay and symbolism in this book which, I suspect, was even more clever in the original Icelandic. The dual-time-zone watch her husband gave her becomes a “two-timing watch”. A chessboard pattern on a kitchen floor becomes the scene of two people planning their moves toward each other. The spiderweb crack in the windshield becomes a metaphor for the intricate weave of events that brought her to the Ring Road at that very spot – just in time to hit a sheep and crack her windshield. There seems to be no wasted words in this book.

After the story is a section named Forty-Seven Cooking Recipes and One Knitting Recipe. It’s explained that the recipes are connected to the narrative of Butterflies in November. It also comes with a word of caution: The recipes are more or less fictitious.

I didn’t enjoy that last section much, but I loved the rest of Butterflies in November. I thought it was well-written, with believable characters – as quirky as they were. It was an emotionally moving novel. I feel that with all its intricacies, it would get better with repeated readings.

  • A book with a month or day of the week in the title

Another Neighborhood Mystery

Harrison Street Stop

This will be gone soon

One of the enjoyable things I find about riding home on a 47 bus on just an occasional basis is anticipating if that stop at Summit & Harrison will be there or not.

Honesly, I don’t get it. I’ve tried to come up with a logical theory, but I’m stumped.

Back when the 47 route was discontinued, it returned without a stop at Summit & Harrison. The route existed for a long time with just two stops along Summit Avenue, spaced 4 blocks apart.

Then, without any fanfare or announcement, the Harrison Street stop returned. Then it was gone again. (I don’t mean the stop was simply closed. It was completely removed. The sign was removed, and the curb was painted over.)

Then the stop returned. This last time, it existed for exactly one week. (That’s no joke – exactly one week.) Then it was gone – completely removed again.

The automated signage continued to announce a stop at Harrison Street. There was one driver who took pity on confused passengers and would stop in the middle of the intersection for them.

The stop remained gone for several weeks.

I think I noticed the stop’s most recent return sometime last week. It was still there this evening.

I wonder how long the bus stop will exist this time. I wonder how much it costs Metro Transit to install a bus stop sign or to paint a curb.

Hair And Pirates

Right after we both got home from work today, Phillip and I walked up to Broadway, hopped on a 60 to First Hill, and visited with Amy for a while. We’d talked about driving there, but decided against it. Parking on First Hill on a weekday evening is hard to come by.

Phillip brought hair chalk with him, and had fun coloring Amy’s hair. (Amy gave me permission to post a photo on this blog, without me asking.)

Amys hair

After the hair coloring, Amy, Captain Phillip, and I played a quick game of Pirate Fluxx. Then it was time for us to get out of Amy’s hair.

fluxx

As Phillip and I left the building, we discovered that the place has ample off-street parking. Next time, we’ll know. At least this time we got off at the correct bus stop.

We took a 2 bus up to Broadway, just missed a 60, and caught the streetcar home, with a stop off for teriyaki to go along the way.

It was a fun evening.

A Book From Times Past

Phillip and I were clearing out some storage boxes today, when we found a thin book tucked away behind some unrelated things. The book is named Clamshell Boy. It took a while for either of us to realize where this book had come from.

We used to vacation in Ocean Shores, Washington every October. We haven’t been back there in years. One route we followed on our drive out to Long Beach Peninsula took us through the town of Montesano, where we’d always stop into a particular convenience store. We’d stop there on the way to the ocean for fun, but stopped on the way home only if we needed a bathroom.

This little store sold an amazing variety of things. It sold gasoline and food. It sold souvenirs with a wide range of quality and prices. It sold hunting, fishing, geocaching, and camping supplies. It sold maps. It sold clothes. And it sold books. It was there, we agreed, that we bought the book we found today.

Why we bought this book, and why neither one of us got around to reading it until now, remains unknown. My theory is that one of us bought it on impulse and, in the excitement of our vacation, it had been forgotten in the car trunk until we got home and unpacked, where it was put aside, swept up in a cleaning day, and forgotten again.

I was not expecting to complete a Reading Challenge category today.

Clamshell Boy: A Makah Legend, written and adapted by Terri Cohlene, and illustrated by Charles Reasoner, was published in 1990.

Clamshell Boy

Long ago, a young Makah girl named Salmonberry was playing with her friends on the beach. The sun started going down. They had to rush home before Basket Woman caught them.

Basket Woman was a giant who captured children after dark, and cooked them.

Salmonberry didn’t believe this silly legend. Then Basket Woman appeared, and explained that the legend about her was cruel and wrong. To prove that she was a good giant, she offered the children a ride home in her basket. Salmonberry and her friends accepted Basket Woman’s offer.

The legend of Basket Woman turned out to be true.

None of the Makah people knew where Basket Woman lived. No one had ever returned from a capture by Basket Woman. Salmonberry’s mother cried, and her tears landed in a clamshell. Clamshell Boy appeared from the spirit of the clamshell, and swore to the people that he would save Salmonberry and her friends from Basket Woman.

Clamshell Boy set off on a quest to find and kill Basket Woman.

I read Clamshell Boy in one afternoon. It is nicely illustrated in a style reminiscent of the people of the Pacific Northwest. The back of the book contains historic and cultural information about the Makah. I enjoyed it.

  • A book you bought on a trip

Change And Destruction

The southernmost district of Poplar Point, where Samson Valley’s cruise ship harbor is located, expanded northward. I built a shiny new football stadium on the district’s northern border.

stadium

The ferry line which served the cruise ship harbor continued to have low ridership, with tourists preferring the overcrowded blimps to the typically empty ferry boats. Still, I kept the ferry line, and added a stop near the stadium. The harbor ferry terminal continued to have daily usage numbers in the single digits, even though it was next door to the cruise ship harbor. Within days of its completion, the new stadium terminal saw ridership between 150-160 passengers per day, even when there wasn’t a game scheduled.

I saw that it was time to restructure the ferry line. I ended the line at the stadium terminal and removed the harbor terminal.

With the ferry line shortened, there was no longer a need for the channel that had been draining Samson Valley’s lakes. I closed off the channel with terraforming. (A hydroelectric dam could have worked there, but would have produced too little electricity for too great a cost.)

closed channel

The water level of the southeast lake rose, but not enough to cause significant flooding. The meteor-created atoll has nearly disappeared beneath the water.

sinking atoll

The Poplar Point district expanded across what was once the channel leading out to sea. The new district of Woodland Plain formed on the opposite shore. I created a new ferry line between Poplar Point and Woodland Plain. The Woodland Plain ferry terminal is currently serving around 100 passengers per day. The blimp line to the cruise ship harbor continues to prosper beyond its capacity.

expanding district

As Woodland Plain filled with citizens and businesses, a level 3 earthquake struck Samson Point’s oldest shopping district in the middle of the night.

old town quake 1

old town quake 2

Earthquake sensors detected the quake early, and citizens were evacuated. Destruction was massive, but casualties were low. Disaster response teams responded quickly. In a couple of days, the roads and infrastructure were repaired, transit lines were restored, and the area began rebuilding.

old town rebuilding

Then, a few days later, a 6.5 earthquake hit the low-density residential district of Churchtown. Many homes were lost, the intercity train line was severed, but the cathedral survived. Already, repairs are underway.

churchtown quake

 

Library Visits

Phillip called in sick this morning, and went back to bed, so I had a quiet living room to myself. I decided to read some more pages of Afterworlds. Then I shaved, showered, and read some more. I got dressed, put on a tie, and read some more. I put on my boots, and read some more. I brushed my teeth, and read some more.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, with only minutes before I had to walk out the door, I finished the last page of Afterworlds. I walked outside, and realized it was raining slightly. With all that reading, I hadn’t checked the weather forecast. I hadn’t grabbed a hat on my way out. Even though I had plenty of time to go back and get a hat, I decided to keep going. It wasn’t raining that bad – more of a misting. My jacket has a hood, but I don’t like walking with a hood over my head – it obscures my vision too much.

Since I suddenly had a book to return, I headed up the hill, toward the Capitol Hill Library. I dropped Afterworlds into the book return slot, walked to Capitol Hill Station, and rode light rail to work.

I got to my desk and had enough time to put the finishing touches on the draft of my Afterworlds review post and publish it.

Usually, when I’m nearing the end of a book for the Reading Challenge, I’ll have the next book on hold, or, at least, planned for. The unexpected completion of this latest book left me unprepared.

During my morning break, I took a look at my “For Later” shelf. One book had two copies sitting on the shelf at the Central Library, a short walking distance from my office.

At lunch, I walked over to the Central Library and went to the fiction section. After first going to the wrong end of the section, I found the book I was looking for. (There are a couple of hints about the next book in the Challenge: It’s a novel, and the author’s name begins with either “A” or “Z”.)

I walked back to my office. It was raining harder then, and I wish I’d gone back for my hat this morning.

I saw my ex-wife, in passing, as I walked back to my office. We said hello has we passed in opposite directions.

I opted to ride the bus home this evening, since it gave me less walking time in the rain. I saw my ex-wife again as I stepped out of my office building. This time, we were going the same way, so we chatted a bit between the office building and the bus stop.

At the bus stop at 4th and Pike, I saw an old friend from church. (We’re both members, but, it turned out, neither one of us have attended in a long time.) We were waiting for different buses, but we had a nice talk while we waited.

It’s the middle of June, and I have only five books left in Reading Challenge. Then I intend to do the twelve in the Advanced section.