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When I was young, I burned through people. And they burned through me. There were so many of us then, all young, all replaceable. Now everyone I care about feels priceless, irreplaceable; I worry about them the way I worry about my daughter. Which makes Valentine’s Day, which once provoked scorn, one more opportunity to affirm precious connections.
There’s another good reason to feel this now, and you know who he is. One of the points Timothy Snyder makes in On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century is that you need to know who your friends are — and get closer to them. This is not social advice. In the crunch, it’s about survival:
Make new friends and march with them…. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.
Or, more simply, know who’s in your “lifeboat,” who your “top 5” are. Hug tighter. Kiss deeper. Make more fervent declarations.
Sure, someone will give someone a Tom Brady Autographed Wilson Official NFL National football. [To buy it from Amazon for $1,049, with free shipping, click here.]
As for the rest of us….
One way to express love is with an act of generosity. If that’s your inclination, here are some obvious suggestions: Planned Parenthood and The Center for Reproductive Rights and the NAACP and the ACLU and The Southern Poverty Law Center, Moms Clean Air Force, Human Rights Watch, The Innocence Project, and Reach Out and Read and a food bank, any food bank.
Then there are gifts that are priceless — because you can’t buy them. A hand-written note. A meal you cook. A favor. A gesture. Something that says gratitude, caring, and the ultimate: recognition and acceptance. A poem, like “i carry your heart with me” by e.e. cummings.
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
And then there are gifts…
BODY AND BRAIN
Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C
This winter has been a perfect season to get sick. Vitamins may help. Vitamin C? Most of the Vitamin C in pills or capsules never reaches the bloodstream. Estimates of its absorption rate are less than 50%. Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C has a 90% absorption rate.
Colostrum deals with the bacteria in our digestive tracks — bacteria that is there in all of us, and in large quantities. Our immune systems send soldiers to fight them, but not before there’s inflammation. And our immune systems pay a price for these battles. In this story, Colostrum comes to the rescue.
Manuka honey comes from New Zealand, where it’s made by bees that feed on the nectar of the manuka tree. Their honey is dark and thick. Its aroma has been described as “damp earth, heather, aromatic. And it’s good for you.
I take it. I feel less of the hysteria and desperation that used to afflict me when I didn’t get my way. And the main thing: The idea factory is working overtime. Does it really work? Even if it’s only a placebo, yes. And when the tablets are gone, the container’s cool.
Kneipp Bath Oils
In 1886, Sebastian Kneipp wrote a bestselling book, “My Water Cure.” Products followed. Pure, of course. Bath oils, of course, used in water at exact temperatures — Kneipp was so German — in baths that lasted no more than 20 minutes. Each has a specific purpose, though we, being Americans, choose whatever colored bottle appeals that day. Eucalyptus bath oil “relieves physical fatigue.” Juniper bath oil “counters stress.” Lavender oil “soothes the skin and restores calm.”
Love in the Time of Cholera
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s story takes the idea of postponed romance to an astonishing extreme. As the novel begins, Dr. Juvenal Urbino, now 81, has been married to Fermina Daza, 72, for more than half a century. He tries to rescue a bird in a tree, falls and dies. His wife feels “an irresistible longing to begin life with him all over again so they could say what they had left unsaid and do everything right that they had done badly.” Among the mourners is Florentino Ariza. He is the last to leave. And he has a shocking announcement — an announcement he has waited half a century to make: “a vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love.”
A Sport and a Pastime
“She cannot be satisfied. She will not let him alone. She removes her clothes and calls to him. Once that night and twice the next morning he complies and in the faint darkness between lies awake, the lights of Dijon faint on the ceiling, the boulevards still. It’s a bitter night. Flats of rain are passing. Heavy drops ring in the gutter outside their window, but they are in a dovecote, they are pigeons between the eaves. The rain is falling all around them. Deep in feathers, breathing softly, they lie.”
Otis Redding was one of those Olympians who are fantastically good at everything. He could shout. He could dance. He had a straightforward, honest, high-testosterone presence — he was, as one of his hits had it, a “love man.” Watching footage of him performing is a revelation. The Rolling Stones drove teenagers into spasms; Otis’s female fans were adult. They’d had sex, known love, experienced heartbreak. Who wrote the book of love? This man.
Inspiration: a line from “Because the Night,” by Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith: “Love is an angel disguised as lust.” The plot: A husband and wife, married for 20 years, have devised a novel way to protect their marriage — if you’re tempted to cheat, bring that person home. Or as the line on the movie poster might say: “It’s not cheating if your wife’s there.” A delicious dirty book? Only on one level.
Georgia: A novel of Georgia O’Keeffe
O’Keeffe was the most famous female American artist of the last century — and the most written about. This is a fresh take: It starts with the importance of a good story and a killer bod. To a degree that may shock purists, this is a book about Branding and Marketing, the first two commandments of success in the art world and our world. And then it’s a book about a talent so fierce it crushed pretty much everything in its path — a rare story of artistic triumph.
Top of the Lake
In 1993, Jane Campion got an Academy Award nomination as Best Director — only one other woman has ever been nominated — for “The Piano.” (She won for Best Original Screenplay.) At Cannes that year, she was the first female filmmaker to receive the Palme D’Or. This series is set around Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island. Some of “The Lord of the Rings” was filmed here; this area’s all about grand, mythic scale. Set against stunning and wild nature, we find the fictional town of Lake Top. Here we find a women’s commune. A female cop. A missing girl. And, of course, men…
Taking nothing away from Tom Brady, but on December 28, 1958, when the Colts played the New York Giants, a national television audience discovered what Baltimore fans already knew. The game was a nailbiter that went into overtime. “John told us, ‘We’re going to go right down the field and score,’” Alan Ameche recalled. “No doubt about it. You could feel the confidence.” And they did. When it was over, an unemotional Unitas turned and walked off the field. That was, it is said, the game that put professional football on the map, the game that made celebrities out of quarterbacks.
In 165 pages, Paul Johnson delivers the big picture and the tiny detail. So masterful is his approach, so sharp is his observation, so exacting his sense of detail that it’s not hard to agree with his assessment — Winston Churchill saved the world as we know it. And yet, for most of his life, Churchill was a colossal failure, who made serious mistakes and paid for them with long years in the wilderness. This only makes even more dramatic his ascendancy; at 65, with German bombers overhead, he finally became prime minister. “I was conscious of a profound sense of relief,” he wrote later. “At last I had authority to give directions over the whole scene. I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial…. I slept soundly and had no need for cheering dreams. Facts are better than dreams.”
Levels of the Game
John McPhee’s account of a single match between Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner in the semifinals at the U.S. Open in Forest Hills may be the best book ever written about tennis. It certainly has drama. Ashe was not just the Jackie Robinson of tennis; when he emerged in the 1960s, he was the only African-American player of note in America. Graebner was a dentist’s son and a ringer for Clark Kent. In 146 pages, you’re inside the game and inside the player’s heads at the same time as you get a revelatory portrait of a sport — and a nation — in transition.
Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver is the most popular — that is, bestselling — poet in America. If you read poetry, that style and message immediately identify the poet for you. Even if you’re only an occasional reader of poetry, you probably know that conversational voice, because it’s almost impossible to be unfamiliar with her most famous line: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”
Esther Perel: The State of Affairs: Rethinking Adultery
This isn’t a book about overcoming the crisis of an affair, it’s an attempt to launch a fresh conversation.
Woman Walk the Line: How the Women in Country Music Changed Our Lives
A Piece of the World
The immediate inspiration is “Christina’s World,” Andrew Wyeth’s 1948 painting. It shows a woman lying in the grass on a hillside. Anna Christina Olson (1893 -1968) is the woman in the painting. She suffered from a degenerative muscular disorder that made walking impossible. But she refused to use a wheelchair. She crawled…
The Tao of Dating: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Being Absolutely Irresistible
From the author: BE THE LIGHT. What does that mean? How can I make the people around me feel like a million bucks? When you appreciate and elevate others, they light up. And because we’re hypersocial, empathic beings equipped with mirror neurons, YOU light up, and everyone notices: Who is that glow-in-the-dark woman? I want to be around that!
Mohsin Hamid: The Most Important Novelist Now Writing
Hamid says he writes love stories. Yes, but not like any you’ve read. All three of his short novels are the best books I read this year.
The Tender Bar
J.R. Moehringer’s father, a noted disc jockey, was out of his mother’s life before J.R. was old enough to remember that he was ever around. His mother, suddenly poor, moves into her family’s house in Manhasset, Long Island. In that house: J.R.’s mother, grandmother, aunt and five female cousins. Also in that house: Uncle Charlie, a bartender at Dickens, a Manhasset establishment beloved by locals who appreciate liquor in quantity— “every third drink free” — and strong opinions, served with a twist. A boy needs a father. If he doesn’t have one, he needs some kind of man in his life. Or men, because it can indeed take a village.
Jason Isbell: “Vampire”
Isbell makes human-scaled art, deep truth captured in the moment when the thoughts and feelings are fresh. And he writes simply — “If We Were Vampires” is the love song of the year. The CD just won a Grammy.
Josh Ritter: “Train Go By”
This release is an examination of the greatest — maybe the only — power available to us in a time when someone is riding roughshod over all norms. That is the power to care for one another, to get close, closer than we’ve ever been before. A gathering of two. And then a collection of gatherings: a community, an Ark.
Janis Joplin said, “What you settle for is who you are.” Her implicit point: Don’t settle. The Diptyque candle, though not cheap, is a good buy. Because it lasts much longer than most other candles — between 50-60 hours. Because once it fills a room with scent, you can blow it out and the room will continue to be gently perfumed for hours. Because when it’s burned out, you’ve got a vase for short-stemmed flowers.
Thymes Frasier Fir Candle
This candle doesn’t quite convince you that there’s a fir tree in the corner, but it proposes the idea.
Anne Taintor Coffee Mugs & More
When the Teen Person buys a t-shirt, it is the quintessential expression of 14-year-old attitude (“National Sarcasm Society: Like we need your support.”) So I wasn’t surprised when she gave her mother an inexpensive coffee mug with art of a l940s mom holding a perfect toddler and the words “Parenting… when messing up your own life isn’t enough.” This 14 oz. ceramic gloss finish coffee mug is the handiwork of Anne Taintor, who combines Retro advertising images with snarky captions. Choose from 17 mugs, including “If It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere Can I Go Home Now,” “Why Yes, I Am Overqualified,” “The Paleo Diet…. Isn’t That What Killed The Dinosaurs,” and “Martinis…they’re not just for breakfast anymore.”Isn’t That What Killed The Dinosaurs,” and “Martinis…they’re not just for breakfast anymore.”
“An escalator can never break — it can only become stairs.”
“I don’t have a girlfriend. I just know a girl who would be really mad if she heard me say that.”
“When someone hands you a flyer, it’s like he’s saying, ‘Here, you throw this away.’”
“I order a club sandwich all the time, but I’m not even a member.”
“When I was a kid, I lay in my twin bed, wondering where my brother was.”
“Do you think that when a guy got the idea for a bong that a black light popped on?”
“Every book is a children’s book if the kid can read.”
“I have no problem not listening to The Temptations.”
“I’m sick of following my dreams. I’m just gonna ask where they’re going and hook up with them later.”
Maybe You Touched Your Genitals Liquid Hand Soap
What do you do in a casino when you don’t gamble and you’re with a gang of kids? You go to the gift shop. At Caesars Palace I found liquid hand soaps and sanitizers — especially “Maybe You Touched Your Genitals” Hand Soap, which features an attractive woman in a crisp white blouse and a neighborly smile shaking hands with a man in a suit.
1,000 piece Jigsaw Puzzle of M.C. Escher’s Self Portrait
Not for the impatient or short-tempered.
Light Up Compact Mirror with Rechargeable Battery Pack for Smartphones
It looks like a standard 3.5” circular compact in a stylish colored shell that comes in a choice of colors (red, gold, purple, rose). But inside the 7-ounce makeup mirror is a battery pack that can charge an iPhone, iPad, Android or any USB-powered devices. Two must-have items in one? Exactly.
When you want something more distinctive than a marbleized composition book. Maybe write something on the first page?
Emily Dickinson Notecards
A dozen 5-1/2″ x 4-1/4″cards, “made with prints from the beloved poet’s pressed-flower albums, where she collected over four hundred specimens.” With matching envelopes, in a matching box.
Proraso Shaving Cream
Proraso was formulated by a venerable company in Florence in 1948. More often than not, the man who used it dispensed a small amount in a bowl and applied it with a brush. That’s no longer common, but don’t let the absence of a shaving ritual stop you. The ingredients remain unchanged. All natural, of course.
Tasting Georgia: A Food and Wine Journey in the Caucasus
The wine world’s cool kids are buzzing about Georgia….the Georgia that is bordered on the North by Russia, to the South by Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan. If you’re interested in a culture that, 8,000 years ago, gave birth to wine-making and still makes some wine by the ancient method… if you’re interested in visiting a country that is far off the tourist path….if you’re a foodie who wants to try dishes you won’t find in a restaurant in America, here are 70 recipes… This is three books in one. Just nominated for a major prize.
Previously published on The Head Butler.
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