One of the features of London Library membership is an induction, a hurdle sufficiently alarming that I would have cancelled the whole plan to avoid the ordeal. But alas, my charming companion knows my tricks. He called and arranged the appointment before I could weasel out.
When I was small I would beg for a ride to the regional library, far away across the bay. My father, muttering about the inconvenience, would sometimes take me there on the way to his job. This was fine because I didn't need to browse: I was working my way alphabetically through the stacks.
Make-a-Wish and similar charities either did not exist or did not reach my hometown in the year I was diagnosed with two different kinds of cancer and a rare genetic disorder. If they had, I would have asked for something along the lines of a trip to England and a visit to the set of a certain science fiction television program.
But they didn't, so instead, I got a television of my very own. I curled up around the pain and the remote control and watched endless cryptic episodes of Doctor Who, wishing myself away. Anywhere, everywhere, elsewhere.
"Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works." --Newt Gingrich
I was born and raised in poverty. Both of my parents worked full-time, over-time, and extra jobs from my earliest memory until the present. They have never accepted government aid or charity. They just work, and work some more.
The UK Government has announced a new social mobility strategy.
Nick Clegg, David Cameron and pals have made public statements condemning the "who you know" culture that gives preferential access to educational opportunities and jobs based on social connections. They say that under this government everyone should get a "fair chance."
The initiative is fascinating, not least because Clegg, Cameron, Osborne and associates were all privately and expensively educated. They are, one and all, people who obtained internships and career placements through family connections.
When I am not working or seeing friends I walk around London, for hours and miles every day, listening to recordings of Nancy Mitford books.
It is absolutely true that I moved away from the United States because I wanted to live in a place where everyone has equal access to health care. But why England, specifically, when I could have chosen any country in Europe?
Six years of life in Europe has served one main purpose: to convince me that national stereotypes and historical reputations are deserved.
Certainly not all - and generally not the worst of those available - and of course individual people have an array of personal idiosyncrasies. But very general points like England has shoddy housing are more accurate than I could have believed possible.
One day we went out driving to look at all of Byron's youthful haunts. Our own disgruntled teenager quickly tired of the nostalgia tour so we turned the car toward modern entertainments.
The nearest movie theatre was at Westminster Mall but as we entered the parking lot something was most definitely not right.
Geese were nesting not just on traffic medians but straight across lanes. When Byron steered to avoid crushing them we noticed that the parking lot of what we remembered as the largest and busiest mall in the northwest Denver metro area was. . . entirely empty.
Of all the ways that writing as a profession sucks ass, the worst is dealing with the quesition "so what do you do?"
The question is hard to answer because people bring weird mixed up preconceptions to the conversation. Do I earn a living? Huh - would you ask a dental hygienist that question? Anyway: yes. Can you find my books in bookstores? Um. Well. Yes.
Books are often found in bookstores.
Throughout most of the years I lived in the United States military recruitment ads were selling a version of service that looked like a video game: fast action, high adrenaline, cool. They were compelling, visually interesting. They made the military (and war) look like fun.
Later, when recruitment figures went down, the sales pitch became more specific and elaborate: the credentials you could gain, the boost to your career, a free college education - the benefits were the promotional angle.