Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Captive audience

A little over two weeks ago, when I came back to work, I started a new commuting pattern. No more mixing-and-matching of driving on 66 and riding on the Metro Orange Line, or catching the bus to the Pentagon and a shuttle from there to the office, or taking the VRE as far as Crystal City and then switching over to the Metro Blue Line to Rosslyn. Since the office moved to Crystal City while I was gone, the VRE is really the most sensible way to go, and although there has been a snag or two here and there, it’s probably been the easiest and least stressful couple of weeks (from a commuting perspective) that I’ve had in a long time.

It’s also been pretty loaded on entertainment value, as well, because those 50-minute one-way rides down the rails have given me plenty of time to read and/or watch DVDs. (Or sleep, let’s be perfectly honest, but I’ve seriously surprised myself with how few catnaps I’ve caught on the train so far.) Just since May 9th, my first day back, I’ve consumed the following on the VRE:

- Three novels: Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, Gibson’s Neuromancer, and Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad (for which technically I still have a few pages yet to go, but should polish it off on this evening’s ride home).
- A six-issue collection of recent Batman and Robin comics
- Volume 2 of the landmark Japanese manga series Akira
- Quentin Tarantino’s movie Inglorious Basterds
- The final three episodes of Smallville Season 5

THE FLAMINGO, a villain so awesome on so many levels I don't even know where to start
For me, that pace is pretty exhilarating, and not just in and of itself but for what it seems to indicate going forward. For what feels like years now I’ve been piling up books I want to read and movies and tv shows I want to see, conceptually at any rate, in the form of Amazon wish lists and Netflix queues and things like that. And it has perpetually seemed like the “get around to it later” lists only seem to grow and grow, faster than I can make any headway on them. Of course that’s a fine problem to have when the reasons include being married to someone I adore spending time with and having two small children I more or less swoon over constantly, but the pop-culture omnivore inside me does tend to get a little wistful now and then. Thus, envisioning myself watching two movies and six serialized episodes, plus reading six novels and four comics collections, every single month? That’s got the omnivore salivating something fierce.

It’s also got me looking ahead to the summer, which longtime readers of this here blog may recall is traditionally when I turn my attention to a little project I call Beach Books on a Bus, that being both a sop to my unreasonable love of alliteration and a fair description of the manner in which my commute-based reading list takes a turn for lighter fare in the warmer months. The original iteration came to pass when I was taking a bus every single day, from our old neighborhood to the Metro station, and during a summer when we weren’t going to be able to take a vacation to the seaside at all and gorging myself on pulpy fantasy and potboilers was the closest I was going to get to that kind of mental break. This year, with a six-week-old recently having joined our brood, we are once again making no plans for renting houses with ocean views. But this year I won’t be riding the bus at all during the summer (unless, gods forfend, there’s some kind of VRE engineers strike or something) so the tradition is a bit inaptly named. Still for the sake of tradition if nothing else, the nomenclature will probably stick around.

But what I’m amused by now is the possibility of supplementing BBB with SMOAT: Summer Movies on a Train, because why not? Just as there is no shortage of Western Canon classics and mind-expanding non-fiction tomes I set aside for a quarter of each year to focus on cheap and lurid brain candy, there are lots of documentaries and serious indie flicks and beloved Oscar nominees I intend to getting around to one of these days, but an equal if not greater number of blockbuster popcorn flicks I’ve missed over the years, too. I might as well line a bunch up one after the other for the remainder of the Months With No “R” In Their Names. I’ve never seen Jaws, for instance, so that’s going to have to be remedied pretty soon. I haven’t yet decided what other movies I’ll bump up the queue or what paperbacks I’ll trawl the used bookstore for, but I’ll be certain to post updates here as the summer blazes merrily along.

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