Monthly Archives: February 2017

Oh, The Places I’ve Lived…

What does it mean to live somewhere? Last October I stayed in Rome, Italy, where I slept in a hotel for nine nights after seeing the sights each day, but I don’t think anyone would agree with me if I started telling people I had lived in Rome. On the other hand, pretty much everyone would agree that I lived in Ridgewood, New Jersey after learning that I slept in the same house there the majority of nights between March 1962 and September 1979, when I went off to college. Where do we draw the line between a visit or vacation on the one hand and a domicile or residence on the other? Is it length of time? Anything more than a month in the same place? Or does it have to do with where we keep our stuff? When I went to college in Oberlin, Ohio, I brought a trunk full of possessions, including some blankets and sheets, lots of clothes, books, my guitar, a  tape player and lots of tapes, and posters for my wall, but I still had a bedroom in Ridgewood that I returned to during breaks. I feel like I lived in Oberlin for those four years, at least during the school year, with occasional visits “home.” But I’m not 100% sure about that.

And what about the summer of 1983? Two friends and I drove out to Costa Mesa, California and stayed in a trailer where another friend was living with his wife and their child for a couple of weeks until we got a trailer of our own in the same trailer park and stayed there for another couple of weeks. We then left Costa Mesa to go to the San Francisco area, where we stayed in the lounge of a UC Berkeley dorm for a week before finding two rooms in a house in Oakland, where we stayed three weeks (and got short-term jobs) before driving back to Oberlin. Did I live in Costa Mesa? Berkeley? Oakland? Can I say I lived in California that summer, or was I just visiting?

“Why do you care?”, you might reasonably ask. Because I want to make a list – a list of every place I’ve lived. I’m going to use the criterion that being in the same general area for at least a month means I lived there, unless it is clearly a vacation (and I’ve yet to go anywhere on vacation for more than a couple of weeks).

Here’s the list, in chronological order:

4/61-3/62: Palisades Park, NJ
3/62-8/79: Ridgewood, NJ
9/79-5/80: Oberlin, OH
5/79-8/80: Ridgewood, NJ
9/80-5/81: Oberlin, OH
5/81-8/81: Boston, MA (Back Bay)
9/81-5/82: Oberlin, OH
5/82-12/82: Ridgewood, NJ
1/83-5/83: Oberlin, OH
6/83-8/83: California (Costa Mesa, Berkeley, Oakland)
9/83-12/83: Oberlin, OH
12/83-10/84: Ridgewood, NJ
10/84-11/84: Cambridge, MA
11/84-12/85: Boston, MA (Jamaica Plain)
1/86-8/89: Somerville, MA
9/89-8/93: Newton, MA (Newtonville)
9/93-8/01: Watertown, MA
8/01-Present: Waltham, MA

That means I’ve lived in 11 different municipalities in four states, all in the US.  What about you?

Reading Lists

Although I love lists, I don’t like to make my own Top 10, Top 25 or Top 100 lists. I usually have many more than 10, 25 or 100 favorites in any category, and so the supposedly fun process of making the list becomes the intensely painful process of cutting items from the list. I love more than 100 movies, 100 books, 100 musical recordings, etc. – what is the point of putting myself through the unpleasantness of culling the sum total of favorites just to meet some arbitrary cut-off number? My preferred method is to rate items on a scale (1-5 or 1-10 usually) and then list all the top-rated items (those with 5 out of 5 or 10 out of 10 stars) as my “best of” list. Some may find this disconcerting, because there is no easy round number of items – both my best movies and best books lists have somewhere between 200 and 300 listed items – but I find this listing method much less arbitrary and more fulfilling, because it is comprehensive.

I recently updated my list of best/favorite books – you can find every book I’ve rated 5 out of 5 stars HERE. In going over the list, I noticed that I read a number of the books before high school. I rated them as an adult based on how I remembered feeling about the book way back when. This is a risky technique, I suppose, since I don’t know if I would give the book five stars if I read it as an adult. The list I’ve set out below shows the 16 books on my “Five-Star Books” list that I read before entering high school (1st through 8th grade), organized chronologically by date of publication:

  1. The Voyage of the Beagle. Charles Darwin (1839)
  2. On the Origin of Species. Charles Darwin (1859)
  3. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Jules Verne (1869)
  4. Kidnapped. Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)
  5. Dracula. Bram Stoker (1897)
  6. The Bounty Trilogy: Mutiny on the Bounty; Men Against the Sea; Pitcairn’s Island. Charles Nordhoff & James Hall (1932-1934)
  7. Life Long Ago: The Story of Fossils. Carroll Lane Fenton (1937)
  8. The Hobbit. J.R.R. Tolkein (1937)
  9. The Catcher in the Rye. J.D. Salinger (1951)
  10. The Foundation Trilogy: Foundation; Foundation & Empire; Second Foundation. Isaac Asimov (1951-1953)
  11. Nine Stories. J.D. Salinger (1953)
  12. Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters & Seymour: An Introduction. J.D. Salinger (1955)
  13. The Lord of the Rings. J.R.R. Tolkien (1956)
  14. Franny and Zooey. J.D. Salinger (1961)
  15. The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1973)
  16. All the President’s Men. Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (1974)

Books (or movies, or music, or other works of art) come into our lives at different points in our development and we respond to them as the people we are then. What books were right for that moment but would not translate well to this moment we are living in now? What books did we just not appreciate at the time we read them that we would see today totally differently? Feel free to let me know what you think.

FYI, here are links to all my five-star lists:
My Five-Star Books
My Five-Star Films
My Five-Star Albums