Monday, March 27, 2006

Children's Books

Something strange happened a few years ago. All of my friends started having babies. As a result, I've been reading (and writing) a lot of children's books lately.

Harold and the Purple Crayon is one of those books that makes me want to slap my forehead and say, "Why didn't I think of that first!" The book has a neat concept. All of the pictures are drawn by the main character, Harold, who's trying find his bedroom window so he can go to sleep. interesting adventures ensue. He's lost, so he draws a police officer in order to ask directions. To get a better view, he draws a balloon--and rises into the sky. And so forth.

It's the best children's picture book I've seen. It should be at your local library, but you can also see several pages online (and buy it) at the amazon link below:

Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Time Travel

Speaking of resetting time, I want to recommend the book Replay, by Ken Grimwood.

A forty-something man with an unhappy marriage and a job he despises feels a sudden pain in his chest, which he assumes is a heart attack. He collapses. When he wakes up, he's not in a hospital bed—he’s lying on his back in a college dorm room. A vaguely familiar-looking college dorm room. He looks in a mirror and he sees himself—at age 18.

This is a book full of intriguing questions. What if you could relive your life? Would you have the same friends, choose the same career, marry the same person? What if you knew everything that was going to happen for the next twenty years? Yet you can barely remember your college friends’ names, or what courses you’re supposed to be taking, or what happened "yesterday." What do you do? What is it like to interact with parents and teachers when you’re actually older than they are? Could you change history? Could you, say, stop the Kennedy assassination? What would happen if you tried?

Every few years I reread this book and enjoy it every time. It’s amusing when the main character can’t find anything but "oldies" on the radio. In fact, he can’t even find the FM dial.

The culture shock of going suddenly from the 1980s back to the early 1960s is part of what makes the book so interesting. I wish the author, or anyone else, would write a sequel set two decades later. It would be fascinating to watch a character who has seen the end of the Cold War, the explosion of the Internet and the home computer market, the Challenger and Columbia disasters, September 11, etc., suddenly thrust back into 1979.

Replay, by Ken Grimwood

Hiking the Knife Edge

Speaking of hiking, here's a shameless plug for some of my mountain photographs and bumper stickers. I used to hike with a Nikon camera all the time, until I started annoying everyone (including me) by stopping every two minutes to set up the tripod again and take some more pictures.

This and other magnets, mugs, and photos are available here:
And here:

"I used to be invincible."

"I used to be invincible. I don't know what happened."

"It's called turning thirty, Eric," an acquaintance explains. The rest of the group just laughs at me. They're all older. We're hiking up Mount Washington on a windy day. I remark that the mountain is a little steeper than it used to be. Apparently there's been some sort of tectonic uplift in New Hampshire during the past few years.

When my next birthday rolls around, I've decided to be 29. Again. I tried out the thirties, and didn't like them. Maybe in a few years I'll give 40 a shot, but until further notice I'm going to reset my clock to age 29. I'm pretty sure I was still invincible then.

Or maybe it's hopeless. Time is my kryptonite.

Just the other day I was visiting a college campus and overheard a group of kids say, "Who's that? A new student?" At first that made me feel really good. I still looked young enough to be mistaken for a college student! (At least from a distance.) Then I realized--when people thinking you're younger than you are makes you feel really good, that's the one sure sign that you're really old.