odds. ends. self promotion.
UP TOP: some shameless self-promotion: this piece about parenting a transgender kid over at Gloria is … well… I’ve written a lot of pieces that meant a lot to me but this one might mean more than those combined.
And now for a bunch of randomness.1
I read Lauren Groff’s The Monsters of Templeton when it came out in 2008, mostly because the local papers (and gossips) were all abuzz. Not about the book itself, mind, but because “Templeton” is a gloss on Cooperstown. Groff’s a native and a lot of her family2 is still here, even though she has decamped for Florida.
I thought it was interesting enough in 2008. The heart of the story is a young woman who retreats home to escape the emotional wreckage she’s created, which I can totally relate to but just in, like, 1995 rather than 2008. By the time the book came out, I had two kids and barely enough brain leftover to read more than a page at a time. Plus, I didn’t spend all that much time in Coop, so the scandal, etc., was lost on me.
For reasons unknown,3 the book popped into my brain a couple of months ago. “Hey,” I thought, “I should read that again since I know this place a whole lot better.” And so I did.
Templeton is very much a first book. It’s interesting more than it is good or engaging. But all of the Cooperstown stuff hits much different when you know the people and places she’s based Templeton on — and it would be interesting to know where the fiction starts and the history ends.4
All of that was because I wanted to share this quote. It hit a little bit differently in 2023:
“Willie, all I’m saying is that worrying about it isn’t going to fix anything. The only thing we can do is keep on with our own small thing and try hard to be good and to make life better, and know that if it all ends tomorrow that we were at least happy.”
The internets are full of things, like this story about how scents are created for museums and amusement parks.5
‘You wouldn’t expect it, but people were diffusing the smell of the Torture Chamber in their homes and revisiting memories of happy days out,’ Liam said. ‘We also created the fiery, smoky smell for Alton Towers’ Wicker Man rollercoaster, and people were turning down the lights in their living room, diffusing the smell, playing music from the ride, and making their own immersive experiences.’”
Deja News, released under the “Rachel Maddow Presents” imprimatur, is well worth your time. Like you’d expect if you’ve listened to Bag Man or Ultra.6 Deja’s main theme is that all that we are going through now has happened in the past (and a side-theme, which is that we will never fucking learn, will we?). Even if you don’t want to commit to the whole series, be sure to listen to Episode 3, “The Meanest, Dirtiest, Low-Down Stuff.” Not only does it feature LBJ getting a massage, it also includes one of the most true sentences ever spoken: [Trump supporters] “wanted to be free of the requirements of decency.”
Random 4: Number 6 shall henceforth be my excuse.
Bama Rush, Rachel Fleit’s documentary about joining a sorority at the University of Alabama, is both everything you’d expect and still somehow surprising, if only because Fleit inserts herself into the narrative in a … weird? … way. I don’t know that our general understanding of What It All Means to be in the Greek system in a big southern school but we do get a good sense of how hard it is to be female in that culture. My three-word summation: Oh, honey. Don’t.7
I did not know about Jennifer Wright’s Madame Restell: The Life, Death, and Resurrection of Old New York's Most Fabulous, Fearless, and Infamous Abortionist until my husband gave me a copy for my birthday.8 I also knew nothing about Restell (1811-18779) herself — and that’s part of Wright’s point. Abortion is not a new thing, nor is humans having sex for reasons other than procreation. Restell’s story is one that should be known, especially as we fight about who gets agency over a woman’s body.
Wright’s book also introduced me to this quote from Charles Astor Bristed’s 1852 chronicle of (mostly) New York’s high society:
“[The Upper Ten Thousand] was meant to chronicle the behavior of the American upper classes and reassure Europeans that. no matter what they had heard, America was not entirely a land of ‘sanguinary duels, Lynch laws, [Black] babies boiled for breakfast, swamps and yellow fever; in short, a pleasing and promiscuous mess of things horrible and awful.’”
I mean … have you come across a better way to sum up the U.S. other than “a pleasing and promiscuous mess of things horrible and awful?” Let’s see Lee Greenwood work that into a song.
When I said that it looked like the summer would be less busy once I got past mid-May, I was delusional. My new theory on aging is you keep saying “My schedule will be less full next week” and then one day you are dead. As of now, I remain alive but lack the ability to sit still and mush my thoughts into a coherent whole. So: random hits until conditions improve. (unless you prefer random hits over the mush? Leave a comment if you have feelings?)
Sarah True — she represented the U.S. in the Olympic triathlon — is her sister. Every now and again in the 2010s, I’d see her running or biking on local roads. Which contributed nothing to her success, mind.
PROBABLY WHILE DRIVING TO COOPERSTOWN FOR THE MILLIONTH TIME
And highly relevant to me: The Farmers’ Museum (my place of employment) makes more than a few appearances, as does the family drama behind it (sort of).
Thanks to this story, I now want to go to the Jorvik Viking Centre, A Must-See Attraction in York.
If you haven’t, you really, really should. Do it now and come back.
It also made me think about this poem, which remains seared into my brain because whomst amongst us hasn’t been both the woman in the stall crying and the woman in the stall thinking at one point of another?
Get yourself a spouse who knows that a book about a Victorian-era abortionist is very much in your interest. And for “Victorian-era abortionist,” substitute your own area of extreme nerdiness.
Know that her death year deserves a footnote but that I won’t tell you why because I don’t want to spoil it.