Wednesday Backreading: The Haunted Room, Essay by Carole de Santi (Women’s Review of Books, vol. 26)

  • “Give her another hundred years . . . a room of her own and five hundred a year,” wrote Virginia Woolf in 1929, of the woman novelist. “Let her speak her mind . . . and she will write a better book one of these days . . .” — Virginia Woolf, A Room of Her Own

  • Woolf “knew very well that creative and intellectual freedom depend on material resources, and that women have always been poor . . . Despite bestseller rankings and lifestyle features, big advances, and superstardom, many women writers seem to be living hardscrabble creative lives. Even those whose ‘rooms’ are more like palaces are nailing down the floorboards, putting buckets under leaky roofs, and wondering how to keep the lights on, particularly those of the incandescent mind.” — Carole DeSanti, The Haunted Room

my guilty pleasures: Bicycles

Self was supposed to watch a Curtis Choy movie on eventbrite, which started at 5 p.m., but was having difficulty because she couldn’t remember the password to the email account linked to the event, and she didn’t feel like thinking up a new password because she’s had that same password pre-populated on all her different accounts for about 10 years, and if she changes one, it means she’ll have to change everything, and that would suck. Can’cha just tell self is such a whiz at all these different on-line events she signs up for? Also, she doesn’t feel like creating a new account for just one event, as that’s how she ends up with a gazillion new accounts all over the place, that she continually forgets the password for, and that is how things get out of hand.

Instead, self will reminisce about a crazy adventure she had in 2012, when she agreed to meet an old friend and her two daughters in Amsterdam.

The trip down memory lane was triggered by viveka’s blog, my guilty pleasures, one of self’s absolute faves. Her most recent post is on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: BICYCLES. viveka starts off her post by citing some statistics about bikes in the Netherlands.

In 2012, self was wrapping up a residency at a writer’s retreat in Scotland. Her friend was renting a house in Amsterdam for a few weeks and invited self to join them. Self didn’t know until she arrived that she’d be expected to bike all over, and she hadn’t gotten on a bike in 30 years (because California suburbs are bike deserts). So the first thing that happened to self was: she pretended like she had no problem biking, and immediately fell down. And she kept falling down. The last straw was when she crashed into a car at a traffic light. The man got out of his car and self wanted to die of shame. Have you ever seen a Dutch person angry? Neither had self, until that moment.

After that wonderful experience, the rest of the day continued, but self was “out of it.” That is, she was on automatic pilot, falling in between cars, falling on the sidewalk, etc. The worst part was, it was only her first time in Amsterdam in 40 years. So she didn’t recognize anything. Come to think of it, she didn’t even know why she agreed to bike in the first place. She would have gotten anywhere she wanted to go, much faster, if she had just walked. But her friend had gone to all this trouble of renting a bike for her (before self arrived). So it would have seemed really mean and petty if self didn’t at least try to show her appreciation. By biking and falling down. Biking and falling down.

Then we boarded a ferry to a distant island, and it was expected that the whole group would bike the circumference of the island. Self wondered why no one asked themselves: is this woman capable of biking the circumference of an island, after that display she gave of falling down 20 times on her way to the ferry? Apparently that was not a question that occurred to anyone. End of story.

Self has no memory of the island at all, even what it was called, and she has no memories of Amsterdam except a wee canal, and afterwards encountering a young man who was blissfully enjoying the sun, and who offered her a joint. NICE! The time to have enjoyed that joint was before she got on a bike, but let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth!

Self will post pictures with bicycles, shortly.

In the meantime, stay safe, all!

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