[Travelogue] Puttin’ on my readin’ dress

One of my favorite things about going on vacation is the guarantee of unfettered space in which to read. I have not yet warmed up to the eyepod, and I usually turn to reading instead of digital music as my way of passing that public transit time that comes (for some of us) with the commencement of a journey. Even in commuting, I enjoy a quick twenty-minute read (sometimes longer, depending on the whims of Muni) from whichever book I am carrying around on that particular day. The inevitable literary but noisy BART trip from San Francisco will also involve a brief but reading-accessible “Air-Bart” bus ride from the Oakland Airport BART station to the loading zone of the airport itself. For the sake of brevity, criticisms on why our system does not just connect to the airport itself will be saved for another post! Waiting around in the airport in that pre-holiday madness only serves to give us more time to chill out, and read something. With all the waiting around in the airplane and various trains, one could read a selection of different things, which begs the questions: how many books is it reasonable to bring on vacation?

I always overzealously pack more books than I seem to be able to read. But my eyes are always bigger than my stomach, as one could say. Commonly other books and magazines or newspapers are picked up along the way and supplant the originally packed materials, creating all sorts of overlapping capacities amongst the abundant resources. This holiday season, I head back into the hinterlands of suburban southern California, from where I came and will celebrate American Christmas with my family, before moving on to the greater San Diego area southwards. This will necessitate a delightful train ride with ample reading time involved, as mentioned in a post from earlier this month. The original reading intentions may be interrupted again, as it is quite something to see Los Angeles and the areas south of there from the rails than from the roaring concrete slab lined with advertisements and box stores. I think I have brought up to four or five books for a week’s vacation before, and will often read only one or two of them. It seems to be a bit of compulsion and a need for some variety when it comes down to the moment of reading. I have known friends to take many more, and burn through them in a similar vacation-relaxation-reading zone.

How many books do you take on vacation?

This reading season, I am considering taking just two books of my own to read. It will force me to read the works of one writer in particular, something I have wanted to do but it might be intense. But it might be nice to not lug heavy paper objects up and down the state of California too, and better for my body in a wellness sense. Any of you web wanderers out there, any recommendations on readings for this holiday season? Anything we should try to pick up at our public library or nearby used-bookstore before hopping on the bus to the train to the bus to the airplane to the car to the house?


Riding the bus in an age of transparency

Being an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, I am always trying to engage my students on relative topics in a contextual form, and I have an abundant amount of materials with which to work. Recently we have been discussing the usage of mobile phones based on a chapter of our text book. We discussed in which locations and situations they are either appropriate or not to use. One scenario seems to be a source of mixed opinions not only for international students, but also the citizens of San Francisco: riding the bus. In using MUNI as my main means of transit around this fair city, one will notice that people act in a variety of ways. I personally get off my phone before boarding the bus, or sometimes will chat quietly if the bus is relatively uncrowded. Some people seem to follow a similar, simple method: speak discretely or stick to texting. However, there is also a wide range of people within a spectrum of folks who speak quite loudly and openly on their phones, with some sort of consciousness that the other passengers are then privy to this form of communication, thus engaged on some level. People talking about their family drama, about their favorite TV show, about their day… talking to someone but certainly nobody on the bus. Internationally, we seem to be working with this concept of how much space we are taking up while in each others space. Everyone is privy to details, as long as they are tied to some electronic medium. Some people still keep it wide open without the phone or the blog the social networking page. The other day on the #7 Haight Inbound (soon to be discontinued as of 12/05/09, goodbye busline!) a young woman and her friend were speaking quite animatedly on the bus about a woman, and letting the entire rear end of the bus know intimately how they felt about a third woman, not on the bus but the subject of their loudly spoken conversation. Apparently she had traded down for an apartment on Haight as opposed to Cole Valley, and did not her building look like a tenement—indicated by the purple metal railings and front stairwell design. The rest of the conversation was just as brazenly catty, dotted with lots of self-absorbed consumerist details and inanely odd personal details around cannabis club locations and other subjects maybe not best discussed loudly on public transit, even in San Francisco? That may just be my latent paranoia, but nevertheless, it was a public discourse in that all the other passengers were the unwilling eavesdropping audience to this odious trite. Where is the line when we are riding the bus, or when we are on the train or aeroplane? What boundaries should we strive to create around honoring where we are presently, but respect the desires of those who want to be plugged in to someone else not on the bus with us?