I’ve been missing in action for about a week, with good reason. This weekend, I moved from the beautiful Bay Area, California to Scottsdale, Arizona. I packed up the Volkswagen Beetle with my cats and other necessities, and drove twelve hours in two days to arrive in the desert. As my online English program is with Arizona State University, I’m now a fifteen minute drive from school and able to access opportunities and the library much easier. Also, my whole family lives in this area so in a way, I’m closer to home.
Rents in the Bay Area have climbed steadily upwards, and are now at an all time high, and I couldn’t hang. I’ve lived in the Bay for over ten years, and it was clear there was no chance of settling down there. So goodbye, Bay Area! There was much to love, but much that drove me crazy. I won’t miss Bay Bridge traffic, trying to park at the Lakeshore Ave. Trader Joe’s on a weekend, or the endless stream of crime in Oakland. I will miss non-stop book talks and poetry events, the Treasure Island Music Festival, and living in areas with such epic local histories. Dashiell Hammett wrote The Maltese Falcon in San Francisco, for goodness sakes!
I’m already missing my friends, my furniture (which is on its way), and the familiar terrain of old neighborhoods. But I’m looking forward to new frontiers, including making fiscally responsible decisions like this one.
As I haven’t yet completed the books I’m so excited to write about next (Bred to Kill by Franck Thilliez, Illuminating Disease by Marc Zimmer, The Daughters of Juarez by a bunch of people, White Plague by James Abel), I’ll offer up a mix of what I listened to on the journey:
- Criminal podcast – When going through Serial withdrawals, the best thing to do is listen to Criminal. Any podcast which opens with an off-the-wall alternate theory in the much debated Michael Peterson trial, subject of acclaimed documentary series The Staircase, is a winner in my book. Criminal covers topics from lying to corresponding with a serial killer, from counterfeiting money to being a victim of extortion. These aren’t really stories with a beginning, middle, and an end–they’re just snippets. Strange, sad, sometimes scary snapshots from the much greater world of criminal justice. As the Criminal website explains, Criminal is “Stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.”
- The Laughing Monsters by Denis Johnson – Denis Johnson is so hit or miss with me, as I loved Tree of Smoke but I’ve stopped some of his others without completing them because they felt so meh. The Laughing Monsters, I’m happy to report, was anything but meh. I’m not sure if it was so good because of the writing, or because of Scott Shepard’s masterful narration. He sounded on the brink of mental breakdown, brimming with tears or hysterical laughter all the way through, which was just what the story called for.
- Invisibilia podcast – Although I only listened to one episode of this new podcast, it totally blew me away and will definitely be one to watch. The episode, entitled ‘Dark Thoughts,’ explored thoughts from multiple perspectives. A guy who can’t stop thinking about stabbing his wife, and another who was paralyzed but conscious, although his family members assumed he was in a coma and totally unaware of his surroundings. Through these two stories, co-hosts Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller examine how theories of thought have evolved in therapy. The Invisibilia podcast’s intention is to look at the invisible things that play a huge part in our day-to-day life, like beliefs, attitudes, and thoughts.
- Lock in by John Scalzi – Scalzi brings up huge questions about the future in Lock in, which I’m in the midst of right now, as I started listening to it on the second day of my trip. In the not-too-distant future, a disease causes a large portion of the population to be paralyzed, locked into their bodies but with full awareness. Thanks to a huge research effort, those affected control human-like robotic machines called “threeps,” which move around in the world for them as their paralyzed bodies are stuck at home. This creates all sorts of controversy, like hacking into people’s brains, quality of life issues for people using machines as avatars in our world, and where responsibility lies in murder cases…