Thanks, Mom, for the love of reading

This was a response on Quora to the question, “How were you introduced to Tolkien?

Fortunately I was lucky enough to have a mother who read to me and my siblings in the evening when her health permitted.

It all began with the Brothers Grimm fairy tales and an assortment of old English fairy tales. But my fantasy genre awakening really began with The Hobbit, and I was hooked for life. Then came The Lord of the Rings, Isaac Asimov’s superb Foundation trilogy and some Robert Heinlein books. By then I was off and running on my own, and eventually got my hands on a copy of The Silmarillion.

Parents, please read to your children in the evenings. It can be the start of a beautiful friendship.

I honestly do not remember my mother reading to me as a kid. I pretty sure that she must have done so, because I know that she did read to my little brother, who is seven years younger than me, but sadly I have no actual memories of her reading to me.

But I do remember Mom encouraging (and feeding) my love of reading, and I have been hooked for my whole life. My mother always had a book she was reading (when we boys gave her enough peace to actually get in some reading, that is.) One of my earliest clear memories, from when I was 5 or 6, is being with my mother in the library in the Cos Cob Grammar School*, checking out my very first book on my brand new library card. It was Harold and the Purple Crayon.

By Source, Fair use,

My addiction to reading really took off when I was in the third grade. I was an accident prone kid, often tripping over door sills and what-have-you (that was also the year they discovered I am rather nearsighted), and one of the things I had a propensity for was climbing this big pine tree that grew next to the house where we were living – and then falling out of it when climbing back down. Twice I fell out of that stupid tree, catching myself between the legs on a lower branch and giving myself a hernia in the process. I still have matching scars on the left (age 6) and right (age 8) sides of my groin. (Needless to say, I stopped climbing trees after that.)

Anyway, it took me several weeks to recover from that second hernia operation. Mom let me lay on the sofa in the living room during the day, so I wouldn’t have to be isolated in my room (and so it would be easier to keep an eye on me, no doubt.) Mom had a rule against any daytime TV, not that there was all that much of it back then (there were only the three networks and one or two independent channels from NYC,) so all I could do was lay there and read. I quickly finished my school books (something that would develop into a bad(?) habit later on), so my mother would get me piles of books from the school library. One of the books I read during that period was a collection of short stories that included Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” which began my lifelong infatuation with Sherlock Holmes.

We were relatively poor in those days; we had everything we needed, but there wasn’t a lot of money for luxuries – like buying books. The very first book I actually owned was a biography of Knute Rockne, which I had to buy from the school library when our labrador puppy chewed up the corner of the cover. (Yes, I had to pay for it out of my allowance and birthday money, since I had foolishly left it where the puppy could get it after I was warned not to.)

I became so hooked on books that I was willing to risk my life for them. We lived in an old farm house that had been converted into apartments, and we rented the second floor. I was in my bedroom reading my school books one day when a fire broke out in the basement (I have no idea how it got started) and my father came running through yelling at us to get out of the house. When the family assembled outside my mother realized that I had disappeared; I was right behind my father the last time she saw me. My father started to run back up the stairs when he found me struggling with an armload of school and library books. When I had realized we were exiting due to a fire, I had run back to my room to save the precious books! My father was fit to be tied, but my mother thought it was funny, once she saw that I was safe.

I have owned literally thousands of books over the years, and thanks to my nomadic lifestyle as a young man, a number of local libraries benefited from my addiction. Since my usual mode of travel in those days was to throw a backpack over my shoulders and stick out my thumb, I would donate all my books to the local library before I moved on – always taking at least one or two with me as “seeds” for my next collection, of course. I haven’t done a count lately, but my current collection is roughly 1,000 books, although a couple hundred of those are on my Kindle. 😉

By the way, in answer to the question from Quora, I discovered Tolkien in 1968, when some of my friends were reading the Lord of the Rings books in school. I started with those, and then read The Hobbit afterwords. Naturally, I have a copy of all of Tolkien’s works in my current library. lol


* One of the coolest things about that school library, for me, was that it was open all summer, too. If I remember correctly, there was a door right off the main entrance of the school, so they could leave the inside doors into the school itself locked.

Where does the time go?

I just realized how long it’s been since I posted anything here. I knew it had been a while – a several months maybe? – but it’s more like two and a half years!

It’s amazing how fast time can fly by when you aren’t paying attention to it, and I rarely do anymore. Modern-day life has allowed me to basically ignore the clock. I haven’t worn a wristwatch for about a dozen years, since is a clock everywhere I go anyway – hell, I carry a smartphone, just like everyone else. If I do want to know the time of day it’s easy enough to find out. The cable DVR freed me from the slavery of the TV schedule, allowing me to watch my favorite shows when it’s convenient to me, and I never have to worry about missing the new ones. Thanks to the Internet and the type of work I do, I don’t have to worry about punching a time clock or keeping to a set schedule, although ironically I still tend to follow a 9-5 day.

But even more it is the passage of days, weeks and months that slip right by me. There is relatively little difference between my work days and days off; either way I spend most of my days parked in my recliner with the laptop in front of me. I’ve become a hermit, and rarely leave the house anymore.

I’ve kind of withdrawn online to a great extent as well. I haven’t done squat on in ages, outside of having to deal with the occasional asshole hacker. (I really need to get back to work on that.) Most of my online activity has been confined to expressing my contempt for the American police state on Facebook.

I hope to get myself doing more again this year, including getting back to posting here more often. Time will tell if I can stick to that. 😉

Recent pics

Here are a couple of more recent pictures of me, taken in my new home. (Well, taken in the garage, actually.) This first one was taken several days ago, while I was taking a break from unpacking boxes.

Taking a break from unpacking boxes
Taking a break from unpacking boxes

My brother and his girlfriend lived in this house previously, and when I moved in I decided to continue her policy of not smoking in the house itself. The house has a nice, large attached garage, so I have a nice area set up out there for smoking.

Smoke break!
Smoke break!

A New Home (in more ways than one)

I realize that it has been many months since I posted anything here, but I hope to start improving on that. For one thing, I’ve given up posting on Facebook. I’ve been unhappy with FB for a long time, but the final straw was when I discovered the other day that I could not share a YouTube video there, which was apparently due to deliberate censorship on FB’s part. Facebook is a private site, so they can do what they want, but they can do it without me. Screw them.

However, I am going to try to start sharing and commenting on articles that interest me here, instead of on the social sites like Facebook and Google+. If the NSA is going to spy on what I have to say, at least I can make them work at it a little. 😉

Another thing that has kept me distracted has been my home life. I have been getting increasingly frustrated with my situation, and I finally decided to make a clean break with the past and start over again. I had lived in the same place for almost 22 years, and I was stuck in a rut. I just moved to another city (still in Michigan) where I can be closer to my brother and begin life in a nice place that isn’t dreary and depressing. 🙂

I still have a lot to do before I’ve finished furnishing and decorating my new home, but I am thrilled to be living in such a roomy, pleasant place. Here are a few quick pictures that I took the other day as I wandered about the place putting things away:

Looking into the living room from the central hall.
Looking into the living room from the central hall.




Looking into my bedroom from the central hallway:

Looking into my bedroom.  (Naturally there are Three Stooges pictures above my headboard.  lol)
Looking into my bedroom. (Naturally there are Three Stooges pictures above my headboard. lol)

I like the way the bathroom is laid out; the toilet and bathtub are separate from the sink/dressing area:




The kitchen and dining room area is so open and airy compared to what I had before:



And here is the view out my dining room windows:



The house is on a main road, so there is a good amount of traffic during the day, but after two decades of living out in the boondocks I’m find that the road noise doesn’t bother me, especially when I consider that just about every store I would normally go to is within a mile of where I am living.

As I said, I still have quite a lot to do before I’ll be completely satisfied with how everything is arranged, and I need things like new lamps and pictures, etc. But I am well on my way, and I am so much happier living here. Now if the warm weather will finally settle in and stay! lol