Time to spare

September 25th, 2006 | Uncategorized

Things to do at the airport when your flight is delayed:

1. Get your shoes shined. Surprisingly sensual!

2. Take an extra moment and use the tissue paper toilet seat cover.

tissue paper

3. Do some wildlife photography. I spotted this cricket on the concourse, and it reminded me of the mouse I photographed on the floor of the Philadelphia train station in June. As I tried to get a better shot, it climbed onto my shoe and up my leg. I thought of bringing it along to Atlanta, but it jumped off.

4. Have a properly-steeped cup of tea.


5. Catch up on your reading.
tender land
This is the most astonishing book. The Tender Land, by Kathleen Finneran. It’s a family memoir about her brother’s suicide. But the most moving thing about it so far (I’m on page 75) is its description of a loving, intact family. A functional family memoir—what a concept. Yet it’s not remotely sentimental or predictable. It reminds me of something my friend Judith Levine recently said that a friend of hers said: Tolstoy had it wrong, it’s unhappy families that are all alike.

I actually went to college for a brief period with the author, Kathleen Finneran. We bonded around being lonely, socially awkward transfer students. She left school after a few months, though, and I haven’t been in touch with her since 1979. But I’m going to see her when I’m in St. Louis at the end of the week. It’s weird that after our little oasis of friendship in college we both went on to not only have suicides in our family, but to write memoirs about them. Oh, and we have the same publisher.

25 Responses to “Time to spare”

  1. Heidi says:

    May I also suggest, if you haven’t read it yet, a memoir by lesbian writer Alison Smith called Name All the Animals. No suicide, but it’s about how the author and her parents handle the death of her brother when she’s 15. It’s very, very good.

    Enjoyed your reading in Austin!

  2. ES says:

    I concur about Name All the Animals. Also involving a quite different Catholic coming-out story.

  3. ES says:

    p.s. Neat turn on Tolstoy’s aphorism, but do you really believe that? Your family’s unhappiness is quite distinct from Alison Smith’s, and though I daresay I can deeply relate to both of your dysfunctional backgrounds — as I’m sure many readers can — my own upbringing was unhappy in its own special and different way…

    Love the cricket along the composite floor (great counterpart to that mouse, yeah!) and the composition of your bookish self-portrait with the skylight. Mmm that shoeshine does look like lovely exterior massage. And watched pots never boil, but steeping tea with a stopwatch? What a great one-frame.

    However, that angle on the airport toilet is totally disturbing. Hope the delay was not tooooo long. Yay, gels and liquids back onboard. In secured personal packages anyway.

  4. Deb says:

    I love the photo shots of your delays! Wish I had these ideas when I was on a 6 hour layover in Denver two weeks ago! Denver is NOT a really great airport to have that length of time to spare! I just howled when I saw the toilet seat cover! Alison, I love your sense of humor! Everytime I use one of those things, I will laugh!

  5. Barnswallow says:

    Your shoeshiner is wearing nailpolish–was she a woman? I’ve never seen a shoeshine woman at an airport, or anywhere else for that matter. I would definitely do it if I saw one–as it is I feel like the shoeshine stand is a male world that I don’t know the rules and codes of.

  6. Lauren Zito says:

    Hah! I love Alison’s new blog obsession! I have to admit, I check the site DAILY! So who’s more pathetic? Guess I gotta go with me! Keep it coming! Who needs “reality TV” – when you have the real daily grind of a ‘dyke to watch out for’… 🙂

  7. DeLand DeLakes says:

    Wow, I can’t beleive that you are friends with Judith Levine, Allison- she’s one of my other favorite writers! Harmful To Minors is amazing. (Damn, I wish I could italicize the title- it goes against every bone in my proofreader’s body not to!)

  8. tallie says:

    i would just like to point out that one of the most popular booths i saw at the folsom st. fair this year was the bootblacking one.

    that, and you are just too cute sometimes.

  9. Ann says:

    The Tender Land is such an amazing and beautiful book. I can’t believe you knew her in college!! Have fun with her this weekend. It’s nice to know I am a fan of friends.

  10. lea says:

    excuse me, you are wearing my shoes!!

  11. Cindy says:

    Ursula K. Le Guin has a wonderful essay, “All Happy Families,” that shreds Tolstoy’s too-often-quoted aphorism. It’s in _The Wave in the Mind_, her latest nonfiction collection.

  12. Deb says:

    LOLOLOL lea!

  13. Tera says:

    I check Allison’s blog daily too….I think I am a bit in love : )

  14. Deena in OR says:

    OK, Alison. The throne shot reminds me of nothing so much as a train trip I took with my son in Japan when he was four years old, and train-mad. On the commuter express, I spent a total of 45 minutes with him in the lavatory. The toilet had an automatic push button that dispensed a fresh seat cover when you pushed it. Off the old paper spun from the seat and was magically replaced with a new layer. He was so distracted that he never noticed the buttons for the warm water rinse and blow dry…….thank the Fates!!!

    Of course, now that he’s seventeen, he’d die if he knew I’d told this story…..

  15. Lea D. says:

    i just read jonathan franzen’s the discomfort zone. perts of it were very similar to fun home. if you haven’t read it yet, it’s a series of short essays/stories. also very much like sedaris. something else, there is an essay totally devoted to comic strips. specifically “peanuts.” it’s good. highly recommend! also, i think it would be a great choice for oprah’s book club.

  16. Andrew Ogus says:

    There’s a wonderful series of gigantic posters on downtown kiosks here in San Francisco, recording sightings of urban wildlife — a camoflaughed moth, a rat, various birds. I think the cricket would qualify if it had been here.

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