Glossy Eyed

I went into Barnes & Noble this morning for no particular reason.

Elite athletes engage in pre-visualization before they compete. Me? I engage in pre-rationalization before I go into a bookstore. “You could buy that non-fiction book. The one about China that won the National Book Award last night. It must be good. And no one should feel guilty about buying that book. Understanding China is super important,” I said to myself. “Or maybe that short story collection.” I don’t read short story collections, so buying one couldn’t possibly be self-indulgent.

If you pre-rationalize, you are always ready with an excuse (or excuses) for the book (books) leaving the store with you.

Using my advanced pre-rationalization skills, I was able to walk right past the Build Your Own Darth Vader kit and the book about knot tying that comes with its own length of sturdy white rope—both of which could make for a bitchin’ Saturday afternoon. Or ‘gifts’: pre-rationalization code for things I buy for other people but end up deciding to keep for myself (or read before I give it to them.)

Turns out, I couldn’t remember the name of the China book and I didn’t feel like asking. (It’s Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, & Faith in the New China, by the way.) I couldn’t work up any excitement for the short story collection. So I went to the magazine section.

Have you been to the magazine section of the bookstore lately? I hadn’t. The racks are overflowing with weird and oddly-specific publications. Everywhere I turned I kept hearing Jerry Seinfeld in my head asking “What’s the deal with that?”

Better keep an eye on Robert E. Lee

Better keep an eye on that Robert E. Lee

The Civil War Monitor. What are you monitoring? Seems that one is pretty much done and dusted, even for me, and I’m from the South.

How about the new-agey health/yoga/meditation section? Three magazines had cover stories about 10% Happier, Dan Harris’s excellent book about how meditation has transformed his life. They seem to be about 100% happier that someone in the main stream media—someone who is ON TV—will be in their magazine. Sting and Trudie can only be on the cover so often, I guess.

Experience Life?

Experience Life?

Also, in the health section, behind the Dr. Oz magazine with the headline that read something like Eat Anything You Want – Even Cake! was a particularly ironic rack where the WeightWatchers magazine was placed right next to something called livehappy. Take it from me, those two DO NOT go together. (In the picture, you’ll catch a glimpse of What Doctors Don’t Tell You. I DID NOT open that. My active imagination keeps me up at night without visual aides, thank you very much.)

Hey there, Deter Jeter. Nice list.

Hey there, Deter Jeter. Nice list.

There was actually a magazine called List It! At $9.99 it includes such compelling material as Top Ten Fictional Animals and, as you can see from the cover, 6 Things Taylor Swift Always Has In Her Fridge. (Side note: Does anyone remember The Book of Lists? I remember it being in lots of people’s bathrooms in the 80s.) My best guess is this magazine is for people who would read BuzzFeed all day but don’t have the internet. This is really sad for them. How will they know which Lord of The Rings character they are? (Samwise) Or what city they should actually live in? (London) Is there a magazine called Quiz Yourself!?

There were special issues about Star Wars and The Hunger Games and even a Rolling Stone all about Tom Petty. There were breathtaking design magazines and magazines for songwriters and quilters and knitters and woodworkers. And Dog Fancy and Cat Fancy and People where the “Fancy” is silent.

I drooled over many food magazines, including the amazing Lucky Peach, which had cartoons of lobster rolls. There are snapshots from vacations I will never take in AFAR’s “Not Your Typical Islands” issue and thoughtful articles I will never read in The Economist.

* le sigh *

The magazines blew my mind. So many stories, so many pictures, so many words.

I didn’t buy any. I couldn’t decide. Next time I’ll have to prepare: “It is important to know how to cook chicken five different ways in under twenty minutes. Everyone has to eat.” Or “I read Dan Harris’s book. But if I don’t read this article about his book I might be able to be 11% happier. That one percent could make all the difference.” Or (the best of all) “I have to buy this magazine. My friend Maggie has a piece in it.”




Like that headline? Do you feel like you’re reading Buzzfeed? Would you rather be reading Buzzfeed? Okay, don’t answer that one.


Yeah, I’m gonna need those TPS reports…

Yesterday, the tire pressure warning light came on in my car. (I learned after an hour of internet searching it is abbreviated as the TPWS. Now we know. Now we can sound cool on the auto repair message boards. Of which there are many. Trust me.) “Check Left Front Tire Pressure” is what the dashboard said. So I checked the pressure. It seemed a little low so I put in some air. The light didn’t go off. I checked the pressure again. Still okay. The light still didn’t go off. So, you know, not okay.

Today I went to my local tire store. A pleasant young man greeted me when I walked in. I told him my story and he said he’d take a look. I pulled into the bay and he checked every tire.


“The back left one was kinda low. But I put some air in. They are all evened out now. Should be fine.”

“But the light! The light! It won’t go out.” I said, sounding like Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight.Gaslight-14

“It will now.” He had a Ron Swanson confidence that I thought might be premature.

“But yesterday…It didn’t go out.”

“It will now.”

I cranked the car. No light. Problem solved, at least for now. Turns out when I had my tires rotated a month ago they didn’t reassign the TPWS sensors so when my car said “left front” it actually meant “left rear.” Who knew my car likes subtext?

With that, my own Ron Swanson charged me nothing and sent me on my way with just a friendly smile. (You’re right, we still don’t know WHY the tire was low in the first place, but that’s a problem for another day.)

On the way home I got to thinking about the value of having somewhere to go when I needed help with that tire. That thinking lead to this list, in no particular order, of random everyday things that are invaluable and important.

  1. A trustworthy auto mechanic/tire guy. Hopefully, you don’t need them a lot but when you do, you really need them. And you need to at least feel like you’re not getting ripped off. I remember a gotcha piece John Stossel did once on Dateline about a tire place in Cherry Hill, New Jersey that was charging for work they didn’t do. I thought of that piece EVERY TIME I drove by there. I also might have cursed at them in my head.
  2. A reliable alarm clock. It doesn’t have to be a clock. It can be a phone or an iPad or a rooster outside your window, but when you need to wake up at a certain time, the only way you’re going to get any sleep is if you are confident that your alarm will go off. I had someone who worked for me once whose father called him every morning to make sure he was awake for work. He was a twenty-six year old annoying spoiled brat with a law degree, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t have a system.
  3. Extra batteries. Don’t let the remote control die on your watch. (Probably best to include phone chargers here too.) Power to the people.
  4. Quarters. If you were like me, you spent a large part of your late teens and early
    This is what a pay phone looks like.

    This is what a pay phone looks like.

    twenties hoarding quarters like a doomsday-prepper squirrel. Without quarters there was no clean laundry. For a while, quarters are what it took to call from a pay phone. I no longer have to stock up for the Wash N Dry, but I try to always have quarters on me or in my car. You need them if you want to put air in the tires (see above) or use the vacuums at the car wash. You can buy a diet Coke from a machine if nothing is open and you can use them to pry open your waterproof phone case. You can even flip one to settle a dispute or a bar bet. Quarters? Good.

  5. A good quality jam. A song that you love SO MUCH RIGHT NOW and can listen to on heavy rotation. This song will change. It has to change. Today it might be All About That Bass or Barracuda or No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn. Tomorrow maybe its Wild Side or Jolene or Poker Face. Doesn’t matter. But its your go-to when you need a pick me up or a slow me down or just proof that somebody somewhere some time felt the way you’re feeling right now and wrote a song about it. Or just laid down some wicked beats. Whatever. Rock on, man. No shame in your game.

So…that’s my list. I hope this advice has been helpful. I hope you tuck a quarter or two somewhere in your car.

And me? I’m the one in the car next to you singing along to the radio.