My Journey Into Yoga

Enjoy a post today from Gloria:

I began my journey into yoga a few years ago. I was overweight and due to past injuries (broken leg, repeated ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis and osteoarthritis) I wanted to get some exercise that wouldn’t pound on my joints. I wasn’t sure of the commitment I wanted to give this new fitness, so I took a class with my local school district to see if it would be a success or failure. I discovered that yoga isn’t about success, failure or competition, it is all about the journey.

Listed below are some yoga resources that you might find helpful if you head down the same path as me.

The City of Everett Parks department offers many local yoga classes. The upcoming summer classes are listed in the Everett Parks & Recreation Summer Guide on page 16.

The library has a lot of great books and DVDs for the entire family that cover many subjects relating to yoga.

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Healing Yoga: Proven Postures to Treat Twenty Common Ailments – From Backache to Bone Loss, Shoulder Pain to Bunions and More by Loren Fishman came up in my search as one of Everett Public Libraries most popular yoga books.

Everett has a naval base here in the city, and I thought the book Yoga for Warriors, Basic Training in Strength, Resilience and Peace of Mind: a System for Veterans and Military Service Men and Women by Beryl Bender Birch would be a book our local warriors might want to check out.

Blending Yoga and fiction is a fun and lighthearted way to integrate the practice with a fun story. EPL has the Downward Dog Mystery Series by Tracy Weber.

Here are two Yoga memoirs complete with descriptions from the catalog to give you an idea of what they are about:

Yoga Girl by Rachel Brathen
yogagirlPart self-help and part memoir, Yoga Girl is an inspirational, full-color look at the adventure that took writer and yoga teacher Rachel Brathen from her hometown in Sweden to the jungles of Costa Rica and finally to a paradise island in the Caribbean that she now calls home. In Yoga Girl, she gives readers an in-depth look at her journey from her self-destructive teenage years to the bohemian life she’s built through yoga and meditation in Aruba today. Featuring photos of Brathen practicing yoga in tropical locales, along with step-by-step yoga sequences and simple recipes.

yogaandbodyimageYoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery & Loving Your Body by Melanie Klein & Anna Guest-Jelley
In this remarkable, first-of-its-kind book twenty-five contributors–including musician Alanis Morissette, celebrity yoga instructor Seane Corn, and New York Times bestselling author Dr. Sara Gottfried–discuss how yoga and body image intersect. Through inspiring personal stories you’ll discover how yoga not only affects your physical health, but also how you feel about your body.

There are many great Yoga DVDs available from the library. Here are three standouts:

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Yoga Journal. Your Daily Yoga 

Family Yoga

Yoga Journal. Living Yoga

My journey into yoga continues. I joined a gym and take regular Vinyasa (flow and breath) yoga. I even ventured into a Hot/ Bikram Yoga class where the first, very structured class was like being tortured in a sweaty sauna, and yes I went back for more. I continue to be interested in different classes and broadening my yogic horizons in mind, body and spirit.

Gloria

May New Music – Local Sounds

Local Music CollectionAs Carol announced earlier on our blog, the Everett Public Library recently launched a new local music collection, aptly named “Local.” You can now find Local sections at both library locations, and there’s even a special display right now by the check out desk of the Main Library. In preparation for Local, we reached out to local bands to fill out our collection. We’ve received an enthusiastic response so far (keep ’em coming! libref@everettwa.gov to get in touch with our music selector), so I wanted to highlight some new arrivals. All of these performers were at the Fisherman’s Village Music Festival over the weekend; hopefully you had a chance to check some of them out (place your holds!):

Fauna Shade coverFauna Shade – Baton Rouge (Swoon Records) – Hailing from Everett, these hometown boys have been getting some great press lately on their new release. It’s easy to hear why. Excellently-timed, this album sounds like summer: languid, gravelly-sweet vocals, bright guitar melodies with a hint of reverb. It feels like a spacey beach listen to be enjoyed on Jetty Island.

Mts. & Tunnels coverMts. & Tunnels – For a Day or a Lifetime (Mts. & Tunnels) – Originating in Thrasher’s Corner (an exceptionally cool sounding area of Bothell), Mts. & Tunnels provides the soundtrack for an afternoon spent on the porch with a book, lemonade, or a bucket of beers if that’s your style. Sleepy vocals come together in lovely harmony, punctuated by the occasional colorful burst of a horn section. This album could appeal to a range of listeners from fans of country, folk, or rock.

Preacher's Wife coverPreacher’s Wife – To Learn the Land and Live (Preacher’s Wife) Another band native to Everett, Preacher’s Wife is self-described as Dream Folk – a label I both love and agree with. Listeners are treated to long melodic jams, dreamy harmonies, and a country twang. This is a bright, sunny listen, chock full of heart. For more about the band and their latest release, check out the great write-up they received in the Herald.

Shark the Herald coverShark the Herald – This is That… and That is for You (Soniphone Records) One last Everett act to round things out – they just recently celebrated their latest album’s release at The Cannery. If you’re a fan of epic guitar jams, bluesy vocals, classic rock overtones, and general rocking out, this just might be the album for you. It’s hard to pigeonhole Shark the Herald to any one sound because this album is fun and versatile. I’ll leave it to the listener to decide where this fits into their catalog.

Where Were You? The Eruption of Mount St. Helens

It may be surprising to note that we’ve reached the 35th anniversary of the disastrous eruption of Mount St. Helens. On May 18, 1980, a beautiful Sunday morning was shattered by a 5.1 earthquake near Spirit Lake, starting a chain reaction that resulted in the explosion of the active volcano we have come to fear and respect. As stated on the USDA’s Mount St. Helens website:

The eruption lasted 9 hours, but Mount St. Helens and the surrounding landscape were dramatically changed within moments.

Everything I just told you is fact. And while I’d love to share some facts from my life surrounding this epic event, I was not yet born. Therefore I have pestered my colleagues into sharing their personal stories and memories of this momentous day.

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Mount St. Helens had been active for quite a while when I made a trip past it on the way to visit a friend in Washougal, WA. Near Longview, I dropped off a hitchhiker who said he intended to sneak into the red zone set up around the mountain. Two days later, back home in Bellingham on Sunday morning, a noise loud enough to cause waves in my water bed woke me up. My home was near enough to a railroad switching yard that I assumed it was connecting train cars that had jarred me out of sleep. Because I didn’t have a television, and didn’t listen to the radio that morning, it wasn’t until afternoon that I discovered that the noise that shook me out of bed was Mount St. Helens blowing up! I often wondered if that hitchhiker managed to sneak into the red zone and if so, did he make it out alive? After a hike in the North Cascades later in the year was cut short by ash fall, my hiking buddy gave me a bumper sticker that read, “Don’t come to Washington, Washington will come to you. Mount St. Helens.” I had it on my car for years until someone pointed out that the lettering had faded so that all that remained was “Don’t come to Washington.”
Theresa

When Mount St. Helens erupted, I was in Victoria, B.C. with my high school marching band, getting ready to perform in the Victoria Days parade. I think we didn’t find out about the event until returning home, which was in Des Moines (WA, not IA). There wasn’t much evidence of the explosion in my neighborhood, but the following September I headed to Walla Walla for my first year of college, and ash was still quite prevalent in that area. And to bring things full circle, we put together a very small marching band for our soccer homecoming game, and the other trumpet player (to be silly) wore a surgical mask (which were recommended after the blow up) while marching.
Ron

It was a beautiful sunny spring day. My mother and I were in church at Saint Mary Magdalene’s. Because it was such a warm lovely day, the church doors were propped open. Suddenly there was a loud Ka-Boom! We thought it was probably a sonic boom.  When we returned home we discovered that Mount St. Helens had exploded. I don’t know why we didn’t think it was the volcano right away when we heard the explosion. The bulge in the mountain was on the news every night, as well as the many interviews with Harry Truman at Spirit Lake Lodge.
Fran

st.helensYou might think the explosion of a volcano would leave a large impression on a young man, but sadly the eruption of Mount St. Helens was just a news headline for me in 1980 as I prepared to enter junior high school in the wilds of Wisconsin. Bouncing around in my self-absorbed pre-adolescent mind were songs like “Cars” by Gary Numen or “Refugee” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with little room left for significant geological and national news events. Oddly though, I do remember a rather dreadful direct-to-cable movie that came out a year or two after the event titled, St. Helens. It was your classic, and cheesy, disaster movie starring Art Carney as Harry Randall Truman, the lodge owner who refused to leave despite ample warning that the mountain was going to blow.
Richard

I remember that it was a Sunday and my fiancée (now husband of almost 25 years) and I were headed into an opera at the Seattle Center. It was Wagner, I believe. We saw an ash plume when we emerged. What’s that? It took a while to find out since in those days we didn’t have a mobile phone, of course. We had to go home and wait for the 5 o’clock news to find out that a volcano had erupted.
Leslie

My memory of that day is similar to thousands of others…I was working in the backyard in my north Everett home, and my 5-month-old baby was napping in the house. Suddenly I heard what I thought was the loudest sonic boom I’d ever heard! (I just knew that’s what it was because I’d grown up in Eastern Washington, where we heard these things all the time.) It rattled the windows and really shook me up. I thought those military planes weren’t supposed to fly that low! Boy, was I stunned over the next few days; every time we turned on the TV we saw more our state being choked with ash – ash that eventually made its way around the world. It was so sad, mostly for cities to the northeast of the mountain, and for mountain resident Harry Truman, who’d been interviewed repeatedly since the mountain started rumbling, and who refused to leave his home.
Chris

It was a Sunday, middle of the afternoon and my mother was driving us kids back home to Colfax from Spokane. The sky got really dark, like it was going to storm…and boy did it rain down this silvery white ash like snow. Our car, a little Corvair, choked on all the ash in the air filter and broke down. Luckily, the high school principal was just a few cars back and gave us a ride back to town in his big Suburban. When we got home, we had students from WSU camped out in our living room because they couldn’t get back to school. We ended up with over a foot of ash…we cleared it off the roof and sidewalks with snow shovels. I was in eighth grade at the time and the spring quarter ended then, on that day…Yippee, early summer vacation! The town where I grew up was in the Palouse, famous for our wheat fields and other agricultural products. Everyone was worried what the ash would do to the crops; in the end, it didn’t hurt them, and may have even fertilized them some. I remember we all had to wear these ash masks when we went outside. At first they were afraid that the fallout might hurt us (possible radiation or contamination), but when it didn’t, they let us kids play in the muck just like we played in snow. It was scary at the time but fascinating to watch on television.
Gloria

The weekend Mount St. Helens erupted my best friend had come up from Longview to visit me in Seattle. She got a phone call from her parents telling her the mountain had erupted and she should come right home before the road was cut off.  All predictions were expecting the I-5 Bridge to go once the massive flow of debris on the Toutle River met the Cowlitz River.  I was immediately frightened for my Grandma; she lived in Kelso just five blocks from the Cowlitz River and her neighborhood was right at river level.  The quick action of evacuation efforts got them out of potential harm’s way.  I had a number of other friends and relatives in that area, and in the path of the heaviest ash fallout; thankfully the only harm suffered was to their vehicles. I had been on an outing to Mount St. Helens and Spirit Lake just a few years before. I had a vivid memory of what it looked like before the eruption, making it even more amazing to compare to the devastating images I was seeing on TV.
Anita

We were planning to go on a hike to the ice caves. It was before I was married to my now-husband Rob. We also were planning to go with two friends of ours. Rob called and asked if I had heard that Mount St. Helens had blown up (I didn’t have a TV, but it was on the radio). It didn’t seem real at the time. I know that sounds clichéd but at the time it seemed like the news media was exaggerating everything. That couldn’t be really happening, could it? So we decided that it wasn’t a good idea to go hiking that day, but we still went outside anyway—3 of us ended up over at my apartment. They weren’t saying right away that people should stay inside. Later that evening, it seemed, they were warning people to avoid going out in the ash. Anyway, we still went outside to investigate. You could see it in the sky that afternoon and for days afterward you had to go around wiping ash off of every surface. You could see it everywhere.
Kathy

Almost every summer, my father taught a summer session at UW on volcanoes and we traveled up from Colorado. Part of our summer trip up here was a stay near Mount St. Helens at Spirit Lake. It was a favorite childhood place of mine, and we continued to travel there as a family throughout my college years. I had been following the Mount St. Helens rumblings on TV. We were living in Panama and I was following this on CNN because of my childhood memories of going there. I was fascinated, glued to CNN and very upset whenever the armed forces TV service would cut away to something else. When I found out it blew up I learned it had forever changed Spirit Lake. My mother had said it was the most beautiful, perfect volcano in the world. It was all very, very sad.
Pat B.

I was a young wife and new mother living in the town of Carnation. I had just given birth to our eldest child Carla, born April 20th 1980. The thought that the world was coming to an end crossed my mind fueled by an excess of postpartum hormones. I don’t even think we had TV at the time nor did I need one to see the monumental plume. I was able to step out into our yard and see the ash dust. I would later be given a small vile of the dust that I held onto for years. We hope to visit Mount St. Helens this summer and see how life has returned in the aftermath.
Margo

I was only 3 at the time, but my mom said she went outside. We didn’t get a whole ton of ash on the ground at first, but she said it was really dark out. She said it seemed like the beginning of a snowfall, and that it was so freaky to see the sky that way. It was in the middle of a nice day and then the sky just got dark so very suddenly. She was always on the move so she didn’t spend a lot of time watching TV. So it came as a shock to see it happening in the middle of her day. She wasn’t scared, but was confused and wanted to see what was going on.
Jennifer H.

I honestly don’t remember the Mount St. Helens eruption. I just remember that massive tire fire that started a few years later. I went to North Middle and we couldn’t go to school after the tire fire since the ventilation system at the school sucked in all the fumes.
Kevin

Game Over, Man

I’ve always been a bit of a history geek. Well, okay, pretty much a full-blown history geek. My second major in college was history, not because I planned it that way, but because almost all the elective courses I took for fun were in the History department. Come my senior year, I found that all those credits actually added up to a second degree. Lest you think I was a practical youth, my ‘major’ major netted me an equally bankable English degree. Hey, at least it wasn’t in philosophy or basket weaving…

While I will give almost any history book a try, one of my favorite types features the ‘they’re all doomed’ scenario. These are the stories of expeditions, explorers, military campaigners, or just ordinary citizens who come face to face with imminent destruction. The historical reason for their demise varies, but there are often few, or no, survivors. While gruesome, this sense of doom adds a layer of mystery to the historical tale. The fewer witnesses, the harder it is to piece together just what happened and historians are forced to speculate. Listed below are a few historical events worth revisiting to find historians’ new takes on ill-fated individuals.

Trouble on the Bay of Naples

frompompeiiMy interest in the fate of the ancient city of Pompeii was recently reignited (ha-ha!) by an exhibit at the Pacific Science Center titled Pompeii: The Exhibition. What actually destroyed Pompeii is hardly a mystery; the smoldering nearby Mt. Vesuvius and lots and lots of ash provide the obvious answer. What is intriguing is trying to piece together how the people of Pompeii lived and died by sifting through the ample evidence. There are many great books that try to do just that and the library has a great collection of them. Recently, though, I came across a title that has jumped to the top of my ‘must read’ list: From Pompeii: The Afterlife of a Roman Town.  This book is a history of the archeological site after its discovery and the way it has influenced visitors for centuries. A varied number of interesting people were influenced by the site including Mozart, Dickens, Twain, Renoir, Crown Prince Hirohito of Japan, Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman.

A Bad, or Good Depending on Your Perspective, Day at the Little Bighorn

laststandAs with Pompeii, the defeat of the Seventh Cavalry by a combined force of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho nations in June of 1876 has a long paper trail with many books written about the event.  What exactly happened to Custer and the troops he personally lead on that day (other than the obvious: they died) is a source of endless speculation. Having been influenced early on by Evan Connell’s book Son of the Morning Star and the film Little Big Man I must admit that I have a rather dim view of Custer, but that doesn’t stop my curiosity for trying to find out the particulars of his fate. While not the newest, the last book I read on the topic was The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Nathaniel Philbrick. The work does cover the final battle in gripping detail, but it is far from a simple military history. Instead, Philbrick, fleshes out the characters and careers of all the participants. This gives the events much more significance and breathes new life into a tale that has been told many times.

The Frozen North (or South)

inthekingdomoficeWhile being a fan of all doomed exploratory expeditions (yeah I’m weird) I’ve always been particularly fond of attempts made in frozen conditions. In addition to the bleak landscape and the incredible endurance of the explorers to admire, there is an absurdity to these expeditions that I find irresistible. Risking your life to find an arbitrary concept like a pole or the Northwest Passage is pretty amazing/borderline insane when you think about it. Whether you go north or south there are plenty of books about these ice encrusted missions here at the library. A recent standout for me was In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the U.S.S. Jeannette by Hampton Sides. This book is the story of an 1879 expedition to reach the North Pole led by U.S. naval officer George DeLong. Based on a faulty assumption, the odd notion that there was an open ocean surrounding the North Pole, the expedition quickly got locked into the pack ice. As you can imagine, things didn’t go well from there. The author creates a gripping narrative full of struggle and sacrifice with a predictably dire outcome for many of the participants.

So, if there is a little history geek in you as well, check out a few of these historical stories of the doomed. Now all I need to make my life complete is a film version of The Last Stand staring Bill Paxton.

Your New Prince or Princess

Well, the new British princess has a lovely name: Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. I wonder if the royals consulted a name book before they chose so wisely. Did you know that the library has a parenting section which includes fabulous books on names and everything baby and child related? We use it often, especially when there are questions about children’s discipline, potty training, sleeping and eating issues. There are some really excellent titles in this collection and I’d like to share them with you here.

index (2)index (3)1,107 Baby Names that Stand the Test of Time by Jennifer Griffin will help you decide upon that perfect name for your prince or princess. This is where you’ll find Charlotte, Alice, William and Edward. If you’re looking for funkier names, check out Baby Names 2013 which will give you lists of the currently popular names.

index (1)Baby Day by Day: In-depth, Daily Advice on your Baby’s Growth, Care and Development in the First Year is published by Dorling Kindersley, so you know that it’s chock full of wonderful photographs. This is your guide for taking care of baby during the first year: basic information, day by day milestones, and everything about your baby’s health. You can rest assured, it’s all here!

indexCaring For Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 put out by the American Academy of Pediatrics has all the information you may need to safeguard your child’s health. It includes sections on safety checks, all the common diseases, feeding and nutrition, and emergencies. Parents usually go out and buy a copy of this book once they lay eyes on it, it’s that good! Come check it out from the library before you spend money on your own personal copy.

index (4)Retro Baby: Cut Back on all the Gear and Boost your Baby’s Development with more than 100 Time-tested Activities by Anne Zachry is a great one! The baby product industry would have you believe that you need loads of equipment for a baby, but, do you really? The refreshing concept here is that you are your baby’s favorite play thing and this book is full of fun, money-saving activities that will set children up for lifelong success.

index (2)Having said that, sometimes you just need that crib or high chair and, hey, it all adds up, so check out the book Baby Bargains: Secrets to Saving 20-50% on Baby Furniture, Equipment, Maternity Wear and Much Much More! by Fields. It shows you the best web sites for discounts, name brand reviews, safety tips, and seven general tips on saving money. It costs about $10,000 just to equip a baby, so use this book and pinch your pennies.

index (5)Now here’s a book that’s on my bedside table right now: 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 by Thomas Phelan. It’s also one that provides immediate relief to parents searching for help with discipline. I kid you not, I’ve had moms and dads hug me when I place this book in their hands. This program works like magic and it is quick and effective. It gives you keys to controlling obnoxious behavior, encouraging good behavior, and strengthening your relationships with your children. Magic!

indexindex (1)The most popular books on toilet training are Potty Training Boys the Easy Way and Potty Training Girls the Easy Way by Fertleman. This is fascinating reading for people who have this issue, let me tell you. It’s almost potty training season (summer), so reserve your copy today!

index (6)Recipes for Play: Creative Activities for Small Hands and Big Imaginations by Sumner and Mitchener will help fill your child’s days with inspirational activities. I want to try the jiggly eggs, play dough recipe and marble painting from the indoor play section and the garden soup, fairy housing, and bubble blowing from the outdoor section. There’s also the ribbon leash, the pom-pom pusher and the wallet wonder (for long car trips). This book is pure gold for creative ideas.

index (7)One book that has to be included on this list is How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Faber and Mazlish. This new edition of the bestselling classic includes fresh insights and suggestions as well as the author’s time-tested methods to solve common problems and build foundations for lasting relationships, express your strong feelings without being hurtful, engage your child’s willing cooperation, set firm limits while maintaining goodwill and use alternatives to punishment that promote self-discipline.

Come on in to the library and we’ll set you up with these or other great parenting titles.

Heartwood 5:3 – Adventures in Immediate Irreality

BlecherFor a moment I had the feeling of existing only in the photograph.

To read this book is to put yourself into the hands of a writer of uncommon sensitivity, insight and intelligence.

Structurally, Max Blecher’s Adventures in Immediate Irreality is composed of short, episodic chapters chronicling events in the life of the narrator from his boyhood to his years as a young man. They explore childhood haunts, early experiences of sexuality, his fascination with the cinema, fairs, waxworks, and things to be found in dusty attics. There are weddings and funerals, fever dreams and moments of equilibrium, and through it all an extraordinary perceptiveness.

Blecher’s primary concern is with the subjective mind and body confronting a world of everyday objects and matter amid places so vividly experienced as to seem somehow unsettled or even cursed. Attention to sensory perception abounds as sights and smells and sounds and textures are distilled in the many potent images and scenes. Sex and death commingle, waxwork figures take on a greater reality than living people, and the intricate webs that Blecher carefully spins he just as brilliantly collapses upon themselves. Hypersensitivity and melancholy rule the day and create for the narrator a sense of crisis arising from nothing more than living among things in the sensible world. Dust, mold, muck, blood. Sunlight. An uncanny interchangeability between subject and object; the mere membrane that separates certitude from incertitude. For Blecher, it’s as if Proust’s madeleine moments result not in wonder and fascination, but in vertiginous existential crises of dissociated identity, of being inexorably in the world but also separated from it.

The notion of life as stage and stage-set are everywhere in Blecher. As mentioned earlier, the wax museum especially captivates him, but also the cinema, and fairs, with their side-show spectacles. The artificial blossoms into reality while the real world around him flounders, meaningless as the drift of stars. Most remarkable to me is the concentrated attention Blecher gives his experiences, deftly weaving their sensory fullness into the particular scenes and the fluctuating waves of his agitation.

Blecher has been compared with Kafka and Salvador Dali, but the writer most closely associated with him may be Bruno Schulz, with his similar images of moldering objects, dust and heat, dress-maker’s dummies in stifling fabric shops, and the irreality of particular places.

Maybe it’s best, at this point, to let this most interesting book speak for itself. Here are a couple of passages in which the narrator finds himself immersed in the powerful aura of everyday things:

We could find additional melancholy antiques in another abandoned upstairs room, this one in my grandfather’s house. Its walls were lined with strange paintings in large gilt wooden frames or smaller pink plush ones. There were also frames made of tiny seashells assembled with meticulous care. I could gaze on them for hours. Who had pasted the shells? Who had made the tiny, agile movements that brought them together? Dead works like these gave instant rebirth to whole existences lost in the mist of time like images in parallel mirrors sunken in the greenish depths of dream.

All at once the surfaces of things surrounding me took to shimmering strangely or turning vaguely opaque like curtains, which when lit from behind go from opaque to transparent and give a room a sudden depth. But there was nothing to light these objects from behind, and they remained sealed by their density, which only rarely dissipated enough to let their true meaning shine through.

____________

Max Blecher was born in 1909 and spent most of his life in Roman, Romania.  He was diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis at nineteen and died at the age of twenty-eight. He corresponded with such 20th-century figures as André Breton, André Gide and Martin Heidegger.

Further reading:
Max Blecher’s Adventures – The Paris Review
The Immediate Unreality – Dialogue on the Threshold
Beyond the Visible Plane – 3 a.m. Magazine
Brute Matter: Max Blecher’s “Adventures in Immediate Irreality” – Michigan Quarterly Review

‘What’s the Point of This Story’ Girl Strikes Again

I know what my super power would be. Not invisibility. Not speed. Not flying. I would be called ‘What’s the Point of This Story’ Girl or ‘Could You Wrap This Story Up’ Girl. Sometimes I’ll be talking to a co-worker and I’ll see that glaze come over their eyes. You know what glaze I’m talking about. It’s the one where they appear to be listening to you but what they’re really doing is thinking about what they’re going to have for lunch. That flusters me as much as someone rolling their hand in the air in a “Jesus, will you finish talking already?” So I usually end up tripping over my words or my gum falls out of my mouth and I might blurt “That’s why I’m not allowed to eat oatmeal in Target anymore.” I sometimes panic in the middle of talking. Much like this entire paragraph.

lessthanheroG. Browne’s Less than Hero focuses on a group of men who are professional guinea pigs for pharmaceutical companies. They enroll in drug test trials. Everything from Viagra to blood pressure medicines. You know those pharmaceutical commercials on TV, the ones where they mumble the drug’s possible side effects that sound worse than the ailment? Those are the drugs tested on Less Than Hero’s leading man, Lloyd Prescott and his friends. Need an antidepressant? This pill may cause suicidal thoughts. Bladder control problems? This pill might send you into renal failure. Did your son take an anti-convulsing drug? He might grow boobs. Need to lose weight? This pill will make your IQ drop 20 points.

Lloyd Prescott isn’t a slacker. (On second thought, he is a slacker. I identified with him and didn’t want to call myself a slacker but hey, if the shoe fits…I probably won’t put it on because I’m too lazy to bend down to tie the laces). He’s been to college and has a marketing degree, but he’s nearly disabled by his own inertia. Being a guinea pig is easy money, even with all the horrendous side effects. Lloyd also pan handles in New York City’s well-traveled parks. But it’s clever pan handling. He holds up a sign that says ‘Will Take Verbal Abuse for Money.’

So would I. The junk food in the vending machine at work is getting more expensive.

When Lloyd isn’t being a guinea pig or panhandling he’s hanging out with other guinea pigs. There’s Charlie who is young and naïve, Randy who fancies himself as a ladies man (whether in his own head or for real, I don’t know), Frank who is a sturdily built dude who fights his weight constantly, and Vic who used to be a public school teacher and got fired. Vic doesn’t care for people much. There are a couple other guinea pigs they hang out with once in a while, but for the most part it’s Lloyd, Charlie, Vic, Frank, and Randy.

Life starts getting really weird really fast.

Lloyd is yawning one day, just idly staring at a girl as he opens his mouth wide. Next thing he knows the girl is out cold in the street, taking a hard nap. He asks himself did he do that or was it a bizarre coincidence?

One day while riding the subway with Randy, Lloyd notices a group of punks that have gotten on and are harassing people. And by punks I mean pants hanging halfway down to their ankles, wife beaters, and a meanness that gets people beaten to death. Randy stares at the punks, stares so hard that they begin to itch and claw at their skin which begins to erupt into welts and hives.

Lloyd begins to suspect that he and the other guinea pigs are manifesting the side effects of the drug trials.When they confess to one another that they’ve each been experiencing supernatural side effects they decide they’re going to use their powers for good and not evil. They go out at night and save homeless people from being beaten up and threatened by street kids. They don’t do it for the recognition but soon enough the media starts following their exploits.

Lloyd can make people spontaneously nap. The media nicknames him ‘Dr. Lullaby.’ Randy can give rashes. He’s called ‘the Rash.’ Vic can make people vomit.  He’s ‘Captain Vomit.’ Charlie can cause seizures. He’s dubbed ‘Convulsion Boy.’ Frank causes people to bloat until their clothes pop off. He’s known as ‘Big Fatty.’ Their real identities are safe….for a bit. But are there other guinea pigs out there who aren’t super heroes? News reports pop up about people having amnesia that lasts for a few hours. They come to find their wallets and valuables gone. There is definitely someone out there not fighting for justice.

What seems to give their lives purpose and meaning in the beginning begins to take its toll on the group. There are heavy physical and mental dues to pay. Relationships begin to break down. Panic begins to sweep the city as supervillains rise. Lloyd starts to think being a professional guinea pig and panhandling in parks isn’t the way to spend his life. He doesn’t just want to settle down. He wants to be happy. That’s a lot harder than it sounds.

Less Than Hero is a book for all of us who feel like losers, who feel like we haven’t found our way yet in life while everyone else has their lives together and you’re just sitting there thinking ‘I’ve been at the same job for almost 20 years. Didn’t I have dreams? Didn’t I have plans?’ Oops. Sorry. That got personal. Less Than Hero is about the everyday small things in life and how we treat one another while we’re here.

And it’s about making assholes vomit until someone screams for an exorcist.