Currently reading Primates of Park Avenue and Unseen City

I need to just blog faster. Seriously. There are so many books that I have finished that I want to comment on – “what it meant to me” – but it takes me forever as I mull over what I want to say and if I’ve said everything I want to say. “Currently reading” is often a complete misnomer in most cases but not this time.

I am currently listening to Wednesday Martin’s Primates of Park Avenue (2016) and reading Nathanael Johnson’s Unseen City (). I found both titles while browsing VPL’s digital collection that was Available Now.

I started Unseen City earlier and it’s a bit of a slog – which is almost everything to me these days unless it’s a totally captivating thriller – but I feel committed, that I’m reading it for the good of the kid. Why? Johnson realized the value of enriching the outdoor experience for his then-toddler by being able to provide more information about the world she lives in, to foster interest in her natural surroundings, encourage her to explore and make connections to learn more. How uninspired it is to just tell the kid, “That’s a bird. It’s black. It’s called a crow and goes caw-caw.” What if I could tell the kid fascinating and true stories about the intriguing life of crows? The first chapter is about pigeons and I am now smarter for it.

So, I’ve started taking pictures of interesting trees in my neighbourhood so that I can set about to learn about them. One can hope.

On evening recently, I took the kid out after dinner to nearby Hinge Park. It was approaching dusk and since it’s nearly summer, it was past many toddlers’ bedtimes… but not my toddler’s…! We saw one fuzzy tree that I have yet to identify. We walked to the marsh – the best I can describe it – where of all creatures, a couple of beavers have set up residence. The kid didn’t spot the beavers, even as I pointed them out but he can identify their dam. He was intrigued by the duck and – I think – starling. And we watched (just identified) the distinctive red-winged blackbird chirp-chirp and then emit a shrill alarmed sound. After a while, the kid found it too shrill.

I felt like that was embodying the lessons from the book already. =)

Primates is non-fiction – except to the critics who say it’s fabricated – but it certainly reads like fiction in some ways. I’m not very critical so I accept every anecdote Martin relates a fact. Like Johnson who researches the plants and animals he writes about in Unseen City, Primates treats the subject matter at times from a scientific perspective albeit with a highly satirical tone. At the core of the truly extraordinary behaviours of the Upper East Side parents (moms), is a desire to provide the very best for their children. It leads me at times to feel guilty, especially at this point regarding the kid’s language learning.

To wit, I’m feeling some guilt about the kid’s early education at a time when his mind is, Johnson reminds you, “calibrated for absorption”.

Finally, I read an article recently – can’t remember the source at all – about people who retire in their 30s or 40s. It did not mention the scenario of re-entering the workforce later but did mention those such as physicians suffering burnout or being in a comfortable enough situation to pursue passions and hobbies instead of a paycheck. Not many people plan for such an early retirement and an element of good fortune to amass sufficient funds is also part of it. Yet, reading about how it means some people – particularly if they know they will not enjoy health and fitness when they are older (e.g., having a debilitating hereditary disease) – get to spend prime years with their children, just felt like a third blow to my guilt.

On this day..