Three Things from Edmonton: recommended reading, Tonka toys, a cup of copy

Happy end of the week. It's been a tough week. I try to keep my heart open to little things that make me
happy or grateful while that same heart is under cardiovascular bombardment from the outrageous things

And then say the little things out loud.

Here's this week's Three Things podcast.

Peggy carrying Saunders on way to vast underground network for goodness.

1. Recommended reading

Here's what the great American short story writer George Saunders writes about books and readers in
his latest book, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing,
Reading, and Life:

Over the last ten years, I've had a chance to give readings and talks all over the world and meet
thousands of dedicated readers. Their passion for literature (evident in their questions from the floor,
our talks at the signing table, the conversations I've had with book clubs) has convinced me that  there's a vast underground network for goodness at work in the world—a web of people who've put  reading at the center of their lives because they know from experience that reading makes them  more expansive, generous people and makes their lives more interesting.

In the podcast, I asked my friend Peggy to read those words. Peggy is in the middle of my reading network.
Last week, I finished Klara and the Sun, a novel she had recommended in an email. Last week, our
youngest son, Michael, texted to say I should read the account of Kevin Durant in the New York Times
Magazine. A day later on Facebook Messenger, my friend David asked if I had read the story about
Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets in the New York Times Magazine. He called it one of the most joyful
pieces of writing ever. While he was at it, he pointed my to a book of essays on Bob Dylan (it arrived
yesterday) and an article on Israel Bashevis Singer. Shelagh sent me to a piece that explains the gaze
in the work of Impressionist painter Berthe Morisot.

There's an icebreaker game where you have to name the one book you'd take with you to a desert
island. Next time, I will pass. I'll get advice from my friends, instead. They might know me better. Besides,
a book from a friend would make a desert island less deserted.

Making the grade.

2. Toys I can't get rid of

I have no trouble getting rid of stuff to make space for more stuff. I once threw out a not-being-
used bicycle to make space in the garage. I will always regret that decision. I draw attention to
it as penance owed to the forgers of Japanese steel bicycle frames. But that's not the item. The
list of things I can't throw out is a short list. On it are my Tonka toys from long ago. As kids, we
played in a sandbox by the side of the garage. We were city builders. We used the diecast
Tonkas to dig holes, excavate sand, haul it five feet over, dump it, make graded roads. I could 
get lost studying the pattern of the tire treads. All of this as an apology for why I was seen lying 
in the parking lot at Fort Edmonton last week, taking pics of those old Tonkas. The actual 
toys. One is a front end loader, the other is a road grader. I had lined them up in the shadow
of their real-life versions in the park to do real-life digging and grading. What are you doing? 
asked a woman walking by. I hauled myself off the pavement. These are my Tonkas, I said.
When I saw these big boys here, I went back to the garage and found my old toys, and, yeah... 
It wasn't much of an explanation. But the woman understood. She laughed. That's priceless, 
she said. 

The real burrito breakfast

3. A cup of copy

Events conspired. I ended up at the McDonald's on 127th Street. I ordered the 
Two Burrito Breakfast meal. Two salsa. One hash brown. Coffee black. No brainer. 
What struck me happened the next day. I cooked up the same breakfast with ingredients
we had at home. To Shelagh I announced:  Look, I made own McDonald's Two Burrito
Breakfast. I had said it before I knew what I was saying. I felt a jolt. Was it the power
of advertising? Of brand?Who behind the glass of what focus group where made my 
brain go topsy-turvy like that? I mean it was the copy, it was the facsimile that I defined 
the real in terms of. Macky d's was in the house! It was a not-so-healthy glimpse into
how someone somewhere was thinking for me. I wasn't particularly happy about it, but 
I was grateful to watch myself hear myself as the inner power struggle unfolded. 
Someone is still alert in there, keeping an ear on things, if only barely.

I hope we all keep it real this week. Take care of yourself. Take care of someone else. 
Send someone a book.


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