Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pets from the Past and a Writer who Remembers

My cat Amber died about a month ago.  I've already blogged about losing a pet (see my petMD.com blog here) and I don't desire belaboring the point longer.  Instead, this loss has jogged my memory a bit and I'd like to share with you some ancient animal-loving, young writer history. 

Growing up, I had pets.  The progression of my pets followed a fairly normal course: first goldfish, then cats, then finally, finally! a dog (dogs were my passion in elementary school).  Then, middle school hit and I became horse crazy (still am).  As a child who loved books and often wrote (although not realizing I actually wanted to do such a thing as a grown-up), I started keeping a pet diary.  Initially starting as a "Fish Diary" given the initial critters I kept, this morphed from a paperback tombstone of fish that I had known and loved, with entries every time a fish died, to a handwritten record (bound with pink yarn!) of the pets that entered my life. 

My Animal Diary (you can see where it originally said "fish") - complete with illustrations!
Starting when I was nine with the too-soon death of my very first goldfish named, embarrassingly, "Goldie", this record quickly takes on the tragic tone of a child's direct observations on loss.

Apparently, my second fish, "Kally" (because she was calico), died soon after "Goldie".  Pesky goldfish. 

The next entry was more upbeat, titled: "Got New Fish!" But you see where this is going... The enthusiastic new fish entry occurred on Saturday, March 16, 1991.  Next entry: Thursday, March 20, 1991, reads as follows:

"On Thursday, March 20, 1991 Chocolate our black fish with bulging eyes died. I knew he was going to die first. But oh well. I'm sorry he did die."

Way to sort of pat yourself on the back for predicting death, Creepy Kid Anna.  And love the resolve here: "But oh well".  Kids grow up so quick.

Apparently, my parents decided by the summer of 1991, I had grown out of the fish phase and was ready for terrestrial pets:

Yes, we gave all our pets middle names. And apparently my artistic skills were limited to fish.
Soon after, more animals: Patches and her kittens, and a stray named Pumpkin.  The last entry in this journal was September 9, 1995 when I finally got my first dog, Sam. 

It's funny to go back and look at things we've written long ago.  In my case, the handwriting seems alien and the blunt phrases and overt turns of emotion surprise me.  I'm glad this flimsy journal, bound with red construction paper, has survived moves overseas and back, college dorms, and the purges that come with each successive move to a new location.  A glimpse into the past can even sometimes help us understand where we are now.  No, I don't specifically keep a pet journal anymore.  But I do journal in general and have been since 2008.  My current pets feature in these pages occasionally.  Amber sure did.  And we keep writing on.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A book lover on vacation

Anyone following my Twitter stream (@annaobriendvm) is aware that I've been away on a two week vacation through the Pacific Northwest.  Driving up and down the western parts of Washington and Oregon, visiting national parks such as Olympic, Crater Lake, Mt. Rainier, and North Cascades, and stopping at all the little espresso huts our bladders could handle, we also briefly spent time in Seattle and Portland.  The top two attractions on our list in those two cities were naturally book-related.  Here's the low-down.

First stop: Powell's Books in Portland, OR

We had heard about Powell's Books prior to coming to Portland.  People who knew us and knew we were going to Portland instantly said: Oh, well you've gotta go to Powell's.  And now I pass along this bit of advice to you, too.  If you are a book lover in ANY sense of the title, you CANNOT pass this up.  This place is amazing.

Taking up the space of one entire city block, this multi-level, multi-room, book universe is reportedly the largest independent bookstore in the world.  The place is so big that the rooms are color-coded and you need a map to roughly navigate the maze of aisles.  There is also a cafe that makes a smoooooooooth latte. 

I judge a book store by two aspects: how good their pet section is (naturally) and how good their space section is (not so naturally).  Powell's excelled in both genres.  The pet section had some oldies, some goodies, some I've only ever seen in ancient catalogs, and some veterinary textbooks I've never seen in the flesh outside of a vet school or clinic.  Now I was impressed.

Just a taste of Powell's section on horse books
Then the space section.  This held books on NASA history that I've never even seen available at the National Air and Space museum, a place I love for many reasons, but they also have a respectable book section in their gift shop. 

We first spent an evening there as mostly a reconnaissance mission.  The next morning, we headed back with more serious intentions.  Another awesome thing about this place is they ship books, a required element for the out-of-towners with limited suitcase realty.  Turns out if you show up at their desk with a handful of books to buy, they can ship them all to your home address for a flat rate fee of $12.95.  So what did we do?  Showed up at their desk as our parking token was about to expire and mailed a bunch back home.  Bliss.

Sci-fi section in Powell's has a wall autographed by various visiting sci-fi writers
Second stop: Seattle Public Library

My brother introduced us to this literary haven.  Apparently a study in modern architecture, the Seattle Public Library (SPL for the cool kids) is an immense geometric structure with large glass windows.  Although unmissable on a city corner, my first thought was not: oh, there's the library.  The uniqueness doesn't end once you go inside.  With ten floors, the SPL has modern creature comforts such as a cafe, small bar, and gift shop, as well as neon yellow escalators to take you to your destination.

Top floor of the Seattle Public Library

This bibliophile's heaven had a floor plan to get you in the general area of your reading goals and they even have a set-up where librarians can help you choose your next five books to read based on your preferences.  With lots of quiet reading spaces, I can easily see how someone might get metaphorically lost in this building, hours flying by as you peruse shelf upon shelf upon shelf.  It's probably a good thing we don't have Seattle library cards. 

Can't end this blog without a photo of one of my favorite espresso huts. This just screams WASHINGTON!