Thursday, January 17, 2013

It Took Me 25 Years To Read The Hobbit

   I finally finished reading Tolkien's The Hobbit this week. It only took me 25 years to do it. Now to be clear, I haven't been carrying around the same copy this whole time. You know, reading a word a day. Could you imagine? No, what I mean is that after several false starts over the past quarter century I finally managed to read the entire story from front to back.
   My first attempt was when I was in fourth or fifth grade, about 25 years ago, though I can't remember clearly as I had the same teacher for both grades so it all kind of meshed into one year. Anyway, my teacher loved to have his classes do book reports and our class prided ourselves on being a well read bunch of ten year olds so we cranked them out. We were always free to choose our own books, but of course there were a lot of books that were assigned to us and The Hobbit was one of them.
   Well, unlike everyone else, I just couldn't get into it at the time. Perhaps I wasn't ready for it yet, or maybe it just didn't interest me, or maybe my ten year old brain was too distracted by other things. Maybe it was all of the above. I don't really know. I do remember that the copy I was given was old and beat up and published in the sixties. To a ten year old in the eighties, that was ancient! Funny how all these years later I love old books, but I've grown up a lot since then, in more ways than one.
   After a while reading the Hobbit started to feel like a chore and I really lost interest. Needless to say I got a failing grade for that part of the class. That would have been okay if my teacher wasn't such a dick about it. "I'm very disapointed. I don't know why you don't like it. It's such a good story. Everyone else was able to do a report on it." And so forth. I didn't know it back then, but perhaps I didn't want to be like everyone else. They all moved on to the the Lord Of The Rings books and I dove into whatever I could find that was as far away from that genre as I could get. I remember reading my first rock and roll biography around that time. It was on Bruce Springsteen!
   Time passed and I eventually ended up forgetting about the Tolkien books until the early 2000s when nerds the world over wet themselves on hearing that the LOTR series was being made into films. Suddenly that was all everyone could talk about. To be fair, the movies were really well done and deserved all the awards they won - and this is coming from someone who hasn't read the books and therefore can't argue about what they changed in the films. I watched them and I enjoyed them as far as anyone who enjoys a good movie with great special effects and brilliant acting would, but I still couldn't get past that mental block put up by my ten year old self. Why the obsession?
   I did eventually start reading fantasy novels by other authors such as Terry Goodkind and Robert Jordan and I actually enjoyed them, especially Goodkind's books. His stories really struck the right chords with me. Seeing this, Megan gave me the Tolkien books on paperback a few years ago as a way of gently encouraging me to give them another try. I did attempt to, but again my inner ten year old made up as many excuses as he could to get me out of it and they've sat unread for a few years now in our bookcase. I didn't want to break Megan's heart, so I made her a promise that I would try again when I was ready.
   Fast forward to present day. There's a new Hobbit movie in theaters that Megan would really like to see and she once again suggested I give the book another try. Add to this that I worked at a major bookstore that was promoting the hell out of The Hobbit with stacks of books and toys everywhere, I reckoned it was time to buckle down and cross it off my list of books to read and be done with it. Whenever I had bits of spare time to read I put my ten year old self in his room and told him he was grounded while my thirty five year old self wandered through Tolkien's world following Bilbo Baggins and the Dwarves through the Misty Mountains and into adventure.
   You know something? It really wasn't half bad. I can see now why the book is as highly regarded as it is - and Led Zeppelin lyrics even make a little more sense now too! I will soon move on to the rest of the series, but a historical mystery/thriller by Brad Meltzer has caught my attention and I want to read it first.
   I learned two things from all of this: First of all, things are more enjoyable when it's your decision to do them and nobody else's. Secondly, in some situations you have to let go of certain memories and not let one bad experience or fear keep you from trying something new. You never know what adventures may await you.
The Wandering Oak

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Short Chapter, Long Wait

    Well, here we are more than two weeks into 2013 and I find myself in the same position I was in this time last year: out of work. I did have a part time job at the Chapters store in downtown Victoria, but it turns out my seasonal contract with them was far shorter than I anticipated. Once the Christmas and Boxing Week rush was over, I was laid off.
    Fortunately we parted ways on good terms and I do have the option of working there again when there's work available, so no bridges were burned. As I said on my Facebook page the day it happened: "It's not like I crapped on the manager's desk, set fire to the place, and ran out yelling 'Later, bitches!'." In fact, it was quite the opposite. There was a lot of friendly handshakes and a "see you again". I even wrote a nice little note telling everyone there how much I enjoyed working with them and pinned it to the bulletin board in the staff lunchroom.
    Since that short chapter of my life has come to a close I haven't had a lot of luck on the job search front. I've applied for a few jobs and am waiting for replies, but a lot of other seasonal workers are in the same boat I'm in so it's a tough market out there. As I've mentioned before, what's important to my wife and me is keeping money in our emergency savings account, so I really just need something that will help us do that. It doesn't even have to be long term since I'm hoping to get back into working in live music once festival season starts up again in the summer. Although all the work involved left me little time for my family and friends, which I felt bad about, there was something about finally being able to work in the music industry that really made me happy. Lucky for me my wife and friends understand that and have actually been very supportive. I love them for it.
    But that was last summer and this is now. Right now I just need something to fill the gap. I know that the connections I made this summer haven't forgotten about me because one of them recently sent me some information about upcoming training sessions for building mobile stages similar to the ones I worked on at various gigs. That is an option. I did enjoy working on the stages and being certified could open some doors for me, but I'm nervous about spending the money on the course. As you know, no amount of training ever guarantees one work. I know someone who spent all kinds of money in university only to end up working at a fast food restaurant.
    Still, having that extra point on my resume might look good. As my former employer told me, "This is a great opportunity to get your name out there, not only in Victoria, but throughout BC. Depending on your future plan it is up to you to determine what's valuable to you." I guess I have some thinking to do.
   One bit of good news is that same former employer has forwarded my information to the appropriate parties that run the various events, so they know I'm out there waiting to help again. I guess I impressed the right people, but it's still going to feel like a long wait.
   Another unrelated, yet still positive, note is that I've had plenty of time to spend on my hobbies. I've read a good book, started another book, and have made a lot of progress on my scale model ships. All of that I will write about another time. Until then, I'll leave you with this bit of live sound humor:
The Wandering Oak
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