When I lived in San Francisco, in my early 20s, I read almost everything Henry Miller wrote. Of course, I read him for the sex. Who doesn't? I was living on the bum... working a part time job and the rent was all of $150 a month... unbelievable, huh? I spent many brilliant afternoons in North Beach reading in the Caffe Trieste and sipping cappuccinos. Last week, I bought two obscure Miller books on Amazon, both from his Book of Friends series.
The price for each of these books was about 4 bucks. Amazon sourced them second hand from a couple of libraries. They are in remarkably good shape and free from marginal notations. The shipping cost more than the books.
I am moving, in retirement, backward to a life similar that how I lived in college and in the years before I had children and a serious job... except that I'm no longer obsessed with chasing after pussy!
Reading a real book, after years of reading almost exclusive on an electronic tablet, is quite a different experience. Better of worse? I haven't decided. The backlighting of a tablet strains my eyes. The paper in old books is a dull yellow.
For the past 25 years, I've been reading technical stuff and the short postings that are common on weblogs and online news sites. 500 words seems to be the optimum length in the electronic medium. I usually aim for that in my weblog posts.
Miller was deliberately verbose. Conversations between his characters run on for pages. He develops thoughts over the length of an entire book. Although both the Book of Friends tomes are short, each is a far more developed intellectual thread than I am now accustomed to reading.
The subject matter of Miller's books is precisely what the titles say... remembrances of his men friends and of riding his bicycle, both important subjects. I've always had one or two close male friends, usually guys with whom I play music or ride bike. (Sometimes both.) In fact, just last night I took a 10 mile bike ride with Big Joe, my longtime lead guitar player friend. We stopped for dinner in the diner afterward.
My life is now quiet and leisurely. I'm hardly ever in a hurry and I have no deadlines to meet. I even drive in a different way... old man driving. If somebody else is pushy and in a hurry, I let him have his way. If you've ever driven in New York City on a daily basis, you know that this is a radical change. Drivers fight like morons for every inch, battle constantly for position and toot the horn in your back at every light and stop sign.
Driving in that atmosphere makes you constantly anxious and pissed off. That's in the past for me.
I play classical and sacred music much more often than popular music now. Classical and sacred music are also more long form and contemplative than popular music. My car radio is always tuned to Sirius XM's classical station and I'm hearing pieces I haven't listened to in 40 years.
This changes the texture of my life very significantly, too.
My babysitting duties will lighten up quite a bit in a couple of months. My daughter is a public school teacher and she'll have the summer off. Life will be very quiet. I'll have two and a half months to read, to contemplate and to garden.
I'm a quiet old guy living a slow and peaceful life.