March 25, 2020

The Fortress of Solitude

Top of the morning!

In Our Solitude

Everyone needs a break from the world. Even Superman. And when Superman needs to recharge his batteries, he heads straight for his Fortress of Solitude. Seriously. (As you can see from the ice around him, it’s somewhere near the North Pole, but I digress).

Superman is not the only superhuman who takes the time to seek solitude. Albert Einstein wrote:

“I take time to go for long walks on the beach so that I can listen to what is going on inside my head. If my work isn’t going well, I lie down in the middle of a work day and gaze at the ceiling while I listen and visualize what goes on in my imagination.”

Choosing to chill from the daily burden of saving lives or working on the theory of relativity is healthy. Just like the Man of Steel, we now are retreating into our fortresses of solitude. Imagine we are super men and women, who have been working, studying, struggling with life’s problems for years. We now have been forced into our own “fortresses of solitude.” What do you imagine your fortress should include? Loved ones? Favorite movies? Endless television? Nature? Great books? All these things are still available to us.

While this period of solitude is not of our own choosing, we should find the positives in this and take advantage of the “breather” we’ve been provided. A bit more time in nature, music, time with loved ones, calls to old friends, music, hobbies, learning, may be just what the doctor ordered.

Take a closer look at the picture to see what Superman does to relax. He’s not doing nothing—he’s not loafing around in his super-slippers and his super-bathrobe, with a super-beer in hand, watching the super-channel. Instead, he’s floating in space (which is pretty cool), deep in contemplation, reading a book—in a library! Could there be a better image to describe the zen of solitude than being able to sit and read and think?

Reading, while a solitary pursuit, is not really a lonely pursuit. There is a difference. There are many people to meet and many places to go inside a book and with a willing imagination. I remember my mother, Jessica, imparting a love of reading to my sister and me. She would say, “you may not be able to visit everyplace in the world yourself, but books can take you anywhere you want to go.”

We can’t float in the air like Superman and we may not have the genius of Einstein, but we can float in our favorite chair to places far away, with book or Kindle in hand, finding our solitude and, in the words of Einstein, visualizing what goes on in our imaginations.

Recent Literary Travels

Here is “Part I” of some of the notable books that took me to places far away in the past year:

  • French Exit, by Patrick deWitt. This was recommended by the amazing folks at Book Soup. Take a cranky Upper East Side dowager, add in her dog Frank, whom she believes carries the soul of her departed husband Frank, and add in her spoiled, self-indulgent dillitente of a son; then bring them to near-destitution. They then make a “French exit” (i.e., a quick getaway) to Paris, where they encounter another set of crazy people. This is a quick and delightful read.
  • Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje (the author of The English Patient). The parents of two kids in London near the end of World War II move to Singapore. They are deposited by their parents in the care of their boarder and an apparent scalawag (in the vein of Fagin), nicknamed “The Moth.” They meet a number of interesting characters through the Moth, including “The Darter,” a man in a questionable import business. The kids have suspicions about the involvements of their parents and friends in the war effort and the plot shifts to them in adulthood, trying to understand their past and who their parents were and shedding light on their extraordinary story.
  • The Library Book, by Susan Orlean. Besides winning the Scripter Award from the USC Libraries, https://libraries.usc.edu/scripter/scripter-2020, and one of the New York Times Books of the Year, this is a love letter to libraries and librarians everywhere. Using its jumping off point as the 1986 fire in the Los Angeles Central Library. The book goes into subjects like arsonists, how fire investigations are conducted, the central place libraries play in people’s intellectual and physical lives, censorship, the history of librarians in Los Angeles, and more.

If you’d like Someone Great to Read to You…

Esteemed actor Patrick Stewart is reading Shakespeare’s sonnets—one a day! If you love the bard and you love the dulcet tones Captain Picard, tune in: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/patrick-stewart-shakespeare_n_5e79862ec5b63c3b64962d7c or if that link doesn’t work, use this and get to his twitter account via the nerdiest of the nerds: https://comicbook.com/startrek/2020/03/23/star-trek-patrick-stewart-shakespeare-sonnets-quarantine-coronav/

This isn’t just audiobooks…he’s right there…in the flesh, reading to you. Just press play and “make it so.”

 And For Some Background Music for Your Reading

You can listen to all of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, courtesy the Paris Opera Orchestra: operadeparis.fr Thanks, Ed Nahmias, for this.

Humorous Interlude

Thank you to my beloved cousin, Chris, with whom I grew up and who shares many of my most annoying quirks, for offering this musing:

As I walk the streets, I’m looking at the number of people and cars. Guessing this is what life will be like for us after The Rapture, except the bars and clubs will be open 24/7 and there will be enough toilet paper for everyone…

An on-line reporting of bad behavior:

Well, I finally lost it…was just at CVS and saw a man whose cart was FULL to the brim with hand sanitizers, baby wipes, soaps, everything that people need!!! I called him a selfish @$$hole and gave him a low down about the elderly, moms and people who need these types of things. Told him he should be freaking ashamed of himself! He said: “Are you done? Because I really need to get back to restocking the shelves now…

From my favorite “Kiwi,” colleague Craig, tourists leaving New Zealand with special souvenirs for the folks back home: 

Big Thinkers With Big Post-COVID-19 Ideas

Thanks, Lauren, for forwarding on this thoughtful piece. While we are nowhere near through this crisis, some big thinkers are thinking about the world “Post-COVID-19”:


Here is one more charity looking for help, offered by Dana Gordon:

Blessing in a backpack is an amazing charity that is getting food to our country’s children. David is serving lunch up in Oakland as each child in his school relies on two or three school meals a day. Here is the link. https://www.blessingsinabackpack.org/

Closing Image


Andrea and I had a wonderful walk around Hillcrest’s deserted golf course last week—

Here’s to visualizing what goes on in our imaginations!

Warm regards,

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