1. Promenading along the Promenade. We’ve been having some beautiful fall days, so I recently went down to the Brooklyn Promenade for a stroll. The Promenade is a kind of boardwalk which runs along a the East River almost to the Brooklyn Bridge.
Follow along with me, if you don’t mind my herky jerky camera movement. We start by looking at the Statue of Liberty off in the distance. You can see her in the harbor just across the bay. She looks so small from here! The area to the immediate left with the abundance of trees is Governors Island. Then the skyscrapers of lower Manhattan come into view. Moving north along the East River (don’t go in there), you’ll see the Brooklyn Bridge in the foreground and the spires of the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building just beyond. On the Brooklyn side of the river (in the lower part of the screen) you might notice all of the construction on the old piers. These piers were in use for years to transport people before bridges connected the two islands, then as a port for cargo and then as active shipyards during WWII. They’ve sat in disrepair for decades. Now they’re being remodeled as multi-use areas for recreation similar to what was done at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
2. Strut Your Mutt. Last weekend along the Hudson River Walk was the annual fundraising event called Strut Your Mutt, hosted by Best Friends Animal Society. Local pet rescue groups raised money for their cause by pledging to walk. At the end of the day the NYC walk raised $270,000 for local groups with The Toby Project, a free/low-cost spay/neuter provider, coming in with the top honors of $72,000. The morning was cloudy and drizzly but dogs of all shapes and sizes came out (with their people of course).
After the walk humans and dogs made their way to the pier with food vendors (including a truck selling “pup-cicles”) and other fun giveaways. I spent most of the morning handing out free treats to the pooches. How fun is that?
My favorite part of the day hands down was meeting a very special guy. He’s been through a lot in his life, but he’s come a long way. His name is Cherry and he was one of the dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s dogfighting ring. Despite being used as a bait dog and still bearing some of the physical and emotional scars of the trauma, Cherry now lives happily with another dog and two cats, and his people told me that he loves, loves his new human baby sister. He watches over her. I see how far Cherry has come from a dog who cowered in the corner of his kennel, hoping to disappear, to being part of a loving family, able to come out in public and accept pats from well-meaning strangers, a testament that every dog (and human by the way), regardless of circumstance, is an individual.
3. The Age of Miracles. Now I know why I don’t read dystopian novels often…they freak me out so much that I lose sleep. They pose “what if” questions of an altered world that cause my pulse to race and make me want to dig some kind of fortified shelter in the basement. The Age of Miracles poses a very simple question with very complex (and disastrous) answers: What would happen if the earth’s rotation slowed so much that each day became more than 60 hours long?
At the Brooklyn Book Festival, I had the chance to sit in on a panel discussion with Karen Thomson Walker, the author of The Age of Miracles. She said her story was “enhanced reality” and that it was important for authors of dystopian fiction to make the impossible seem possible by always serving the story. Meaning that the “out there” elements should not be absurd for absurdity’s sake.
The story is narrated in first person by an 11-year-old girl who must make sense of the ever-changing world order while also navigating everyday life: the disintegration of her parent’s marriage, her first crush, boys taunting her at school. I appreciated the spare style and straightforward, un-neurotic storytelling. The author certainly has great control over her prose. I did wonder why this story wasn’t classified as YA. It certainly has all of the necessary elements, and I’ve read racier subject matter in plenty of YA novels. I suppose that was a marketing decision, rather than an authorial decision. While there aren’t any hard and fast solutions to a situation like this, the ending wasn’t quite as satisfying as it could have been. I think my qualms about the ending were a byproduct of the retrospective narrator. Had the narrator been in the present moment, I suspect I would have felt more at ease. Some folks seem to be frustrated by the lack of sophisticated science of it all. This wasn’t an issue for me, maybe because I’m not a rabid dystopian, but if you are, I could see how this could cause you some annoyance. (Walker did have the manuscript vetted by an astrophysicist, she noted at the festival) Again, I think this is an issue caused by the retrospective narrator. If the narrator is looking back on this story, she knows more now than she did then. She could go into more details.
Walker said she’d gotten the kernel of the idea for the story from an article she read following the terrible 2004 tsunami which said that the inciting earthquake was so powerful, it altered the earth’s rotation ever so slightly, by just a millisecond or so. That was enough to get her mind wandering. What if that happened but in a major way? What if the earth slowed so much as to make our very existence uncertain. But then the reader realizes through the well-crafted subplots that life is uncertain. There are no guarantees, and that was the most haunting aspect of all.
Do you read dystopian thrillers? Which ones would you recommend?
4. Choosing passion. I came across this quote by author Susan Orlean and it reminded me about an opinion piece which appeared in The New York Times a couple of weeks ago.
The reason it matters to care passionately about something is that it whittles the world down to a more manageable size. It makes the world seem not huge and empty but full of possibility.—Susan Orlean
5. Stop seeking your passion. That’s what Cal Newport says. In an essay that appeared in The New York Times, he thinks it’s folly to try to figure out your true calling. “Passion is not something you follow. It’s something that will follow you as you put in the hard work to become valuable to the world.” In other words, if you put in the effort and give yourself over to your job, your passion for it will come.
Hmm…I’m not sure I agree with his take at all. There are many people who are good at what they do, yet not passionate about it at all. In fact, I think being good at a job that isn’t your calling may do the exact opposite of what Susan Orlean pointed out in the quote above, making the world feel overwhelming and empty.
What do you think? Can you learn to be passionate about a job simply because you’re good at it?
Have a great weekend, everyone!