A Therapy Session of Sorts

May 22, 2013

by Louis Borgenicht

My trainer, whom I work with once a week, calls me a recreational overachiever. Initially I thought it was because it seemed to him that I simply did too much to avoid doing something constructive, but when I asked him what he meant, he suggested that with all of my recreational pursuits there was a common theme.

I play tennis twice a week, golf once or twice, fly fish, ride my road bike, and nap. His contention is that I am not at all competitive; I simply enjoy them. I do not need to win, never keep score in golf, enjoy the moment when I am fishing, don’t care if someone passes me on the bike, and wallow in the pleasure of a short nap.

All of which may explain why my reading suffers. So the other day I stopped in at The King’s English for a little therapy from Jan and Anne. I parked in the 15 minute slot across the street. I figured that I could only afford a short session rather than the de rigueur 50-minute therapeutic hour.

“I need some therapy,” I said making eye contact only with Anne. Jan and I have a long-standing sardonic relationship.

They both laughed though.

“I am currently reading a month old issue of The New Yorker and have a ten inch stack of the New York Times Magazine. Plus about fifty articles I have saved on my Mac, not to mention the book, People Who Eat Darkness, on my bed stand.”


“Well, I feel guilty about not devoting as much time to reading as I do to anything else,” I said.

Anne said, “Get rid of your New York TImes Magazines. Just toss them out.”

“But there might be really interesting articles in them,” I said, feeling a sense of expectation. I live my life through the phrase “but what if?” My glass is usually half full.

Jan simply watched the evolving conversation but I knew what she would have had to say.

The meter maid had not come by to to ticket me for overtime parking but I was getting nervous that my session was nearly over.

I knew that I would have a hard time tossing out something as august as the New York TImes Magazine.

I turned to both Anne and Jan and said, “I think I need to program my time better. You know maybe give up a golf game.” I knew I would not be able to do it.

Then Jan said, “Yeah, maybe you will have time to read Anna Karenina.”

I looked at my smart phone; my fifteen minutes was up. Thank god.

Nose for Books

February 12, 2013

by Louis Borgenicht

Back in the day paperbacks had a very definite smell. I was going to write “odor” but that connotes something noxious and “olfactory” is too technical. It was a smell, sometimes characteristic enough to encourage to buy the book on that basis alone. It did not last long; you had to read the book shortly after purchase to glean the full experience.

None of the unique smells are describable at least from the distance of fifty years, but each of them was distinctive. My favorite was Bantam paperbacks. At one point in the mid-seventies I had convinced the publisher that I had the (then) equivalent of a blog and that I reviewed books. Thus I would receive a box of newly published Bantam books and would open the box with literary expectation; it was redolent with my favorite paperback smell.

The books were a mix: fiction, non-fiction, self-help, The Best Jewish Jokes, etc. Receiving freshly minted Bantam paperbacks were one thing but their smell was another. I never really got high from sniffing, but the smell was always reassuring.

Ballantine Books, publishers of tales of adventure and escape (e.g. Paul Brickhill’s The Great Escape), also had a distinct but evanescent smell. It did not last that long. Penguin Books were odorless, perhaps because they were published in Britain back in the day. Crest paperbacks probably had a smell that I cannot recall.

Bantam was indubitably my favorite.

Nowadays books don’t smell. Sometimes they are hardly even books (see Kindle, Nook and Kobo).

IMAG0546Editor’s note: And for something completely different this Valentine’s Day…book-scented perfume! The perfect gift for the consummate book lover is from Steidl Publishers in Germany. Paper Passion: Perfume For Booklovers at $98 may be just the thing for the person who loves their e-reader but misses the smell of the written word! Perfect to pair with your new Kobo eReader.

Evolution of a literary distraction

February 13, 2012

by Louis Borgenicht

Since the advent of the Internet my reading habits have dramatically changed.

Truth to tell I never learned the proper lessons from childhood: my mother was a voracious reader consuming several books in a day. As a youth I recall wallowing in Nancy Drew mysteries and the historical novels of Geoffrey Trease and would actually sit for lengths of time in bed before falling asleep.

Trease was a British writer of 113 books; the Nancy Drew mysteries were written by a variety of authors under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene, a fact I recently learned from  Wikipedia. But the lessons learned in childhood did not last long; I rarely read for extended periods of time.

Readers of this blog have learned about my New Yorker angst, long ago making my peace with being behind.

Similarly, I have had problems with the Sunday New York Times. The drive to read it on the day it is tossed unceremoniously onto my snowless driveway is just not there. Years ago, when I lived in New York City, I would make a special effort to read the news of the week in Review immediately feeling I had to get the heady stuff out of the way first. If I waited until the end of the week to read it I would likely not.

Now I have become more lackadaisical. I glance at the front section, peruse the Arts section mainly to see if some spectacular television offering is coming up, and then relegate the business, sports, and travel section (unless there is an article on some destination we hope to visit) to the recycle bin. Living in SLC there is no urgency in getting through the Times at one sitting; years ago living in NYC there was a hip pleasure buying the Sunday Times on Saturday night along with fresh real bagels,
going to bed shortly after midnight, and awakening leisurely on Sunday morning knowing I had everything I needed.

The Internet has exacerbated my tendency to literary distraction. Emails were the first step. There are decisional issues: you read an email and have to decide whether to erase it immediately or retain it for future reference. This is particularly true if a friend sends you something with the subject “FYI or I thought you might like this.” You can open the attachment, give it a quick glance and file it somewhere for future reference.

That is the problem: future reference. It feeds into possibility and hope. Will I read it? If so when? Where will I find it if I finally decide to read it?

Unless you are incredibly disciplined you will forget about it, discovering days or months later when you accidentally open a file you did not know existed. The moment of truth arrives as your guilt wells: read it or delete it sight unseen.

This short-order reading has affected my dealing with real books. I rarely take the time to sit down for upwards of half an hour in a comfortable chair and just read. It would be lovely to do so, meditative even. But my brain has been programmed for distraction.

Even at night I am only able to read for five minutes before falling asleep. It is clearly the fault of the computer. I have often thought that Apple should give every new customer a prescription of Ritalin with each new computer to minimize attention deficit.

Only then might I get back to the good old days of my youth.

iPhone Diary

March 14, 2010


So last night Jody got her iPhone. I had visited the Apple store two times in less than six hours hours that day and our visit at 7 p.m. was the third, two too many.

9 a.m. I had accompanied Jody to her One on One Mac counseling session: she is trying to create her own website.

1 p.m I had gone back there to check out buying Jody an iPhone Gift Card so she could configure it to her needs.

7 p.m I had to go with her to do the actual deed. I had resigned myself to the fact that the iPhone was going to be her deal. I would not learn anything about it and would not be able to help her. It it was about time she dealt with technology.

The next morning she came downstairs in her pajamas and announced,”I don’t know how to get on the Internet.” It was as if she had had insomnia all night thinking about her dilemma and wanted to dump it on my lap.

I took her gently by the shoulders and looked directly into her eyes. “I don’t know how to help you. This is your deal, OK?”

She seemed to acquiesce. An hour later I got a phone call on my new Blackberry while I was making rounds at the hospital.

“What is your password for our network?” she asked. No hello, and ultimately, after I told her it was “katman2”, no goodbye. All my passwords are variations and vestiges of a trip we had made to Kathmandu in 1996. As I hung up, I commented to anyone who would listen, two fellow pediatricians and a nurse, that “I guess after thirteen years of marriage I should not expect a goodbye.”

The urgency of setting up her iPhone by herself had obviously taken hold.


The scene, a hospital holiday party. Booze. Good food. Camaraderie. Jody walks in and gets a glass of red wine and within five minutes was standing at a table comparing iPhone apps with two other iPhone owners. They were ensconced in deep technologically-incomprehensible discussion for half an hour. There was no interrupting them.

iPhones encourage anti-social behavior. It was difficult to disengage the three of them so engrossed were they in possibility.


Meanwhile, I had been struggling with my Blackberry. Major trouble trying to synch it with my MacBook. Over a five day period I spoke with technical help (transferred from Verizon to the “highest level of Blackberry support”). Over two days case #85035678 embroiled me in three hours of conversation with a supposed wizard.

The problem turned out to be an issue with my computer: my user ID had been “corrupted”, thus not permitting proper synchronization.

Jody claimed that I had been grumpy all week as a result of:

  1. Wasting time with tech support when I had other things to do.
  2. The fact that I did not own an iPhone. Which synced itself without a thought. Jody assured me that if she “put a contact into my phone, it shows up on the computer in thirty seconds. I don’t even have to think about it.”

True, I felt elated when the Genius corrected the problem but I still have significant trepidation of trying the synchronization on my own. What if it doesn’t work? It is an echo from the last lines of Peter Ustinov’s telling of Peter and the Wolf I recall from my youth. Indeed, what then?

—Louis Borgenicht

No iPhone for Me

December 29, 2009

For about six months my wife has been whining: I want an iPhone. This after various people had shown her the niceties of the various applications on their own personal smart phones. Like Constellation, permitting you to point the iPhone to the sky and getting a detailed read on various constellations and planets. Or the one which gives you the most popular songs of any year for the past one hundred. Go to the iPhone Apps Store on line to wallow in the esoterica of possibility.
Why does she want one?
“Because I want everything in one place,” she argues.
I thought that that was our house. A few years ago an astrological reading concluded with the ominous but accurate throw away line that, “The house is yours, he just gets to live there.” Our house is immaculate and meticulously clean.
I had a hard time thinking what “everything” meant to Jody. Clearly her dogeared address book would be replaced. Her handwritten scrawls on her calendar would be entered into iCal. She would be able to receive and send emails while she was shopping at Whole Earth. If she suddenly got the whim to check out the performances at the Opera National de Paris (we are going to Paris for a month) she could surf the Internet.
But did I need to do so? One of my friends had said to me over our monthly lunch, after I was explained why I thought an iPhone an unecessary bit of technological seduction, “Lou you are an iPhone kinda guy.” Unsure whether to take it as a compliment or a threat I was not convinced.
Getting an iPhone would necessitate my leaving Verizon and signing on with AT&T. Admittedly I am not fond of any cellular phone company; they hold us hostage on two year contracts on which, if you cancel it, you pay a significant financial penalty. So you accept your company of choice on faith.
A friend of mine, triumphantly waving his iPhone one day, asked if I knew that “Verizon supported Glen Beck”? The next day I got an offer in the mail to join Credo Mobile, an offshoot of Working Assets: they claimed that both AT&T and Verizon supported rightwing causes and candidates. Feeling loyal to Verizon (I was convinced they had a better network and more responsive customer service) I sent the offer to my friend.
Then Verizon came out with its answer to the iPhone: The Droid. At the Verizon store I was told that I could have $150 off the list price and a thirty day customer satifaction agreement. Tickled that I had gotten the latest smart phone technology, reviewed as being better than the iPhone, I signed the contract and headed home.
I was on call and wanted to see how things would work out. I created settings for phone and text messages and went to sleep. The text message prompt went off indiscriminately through the night; there were no messages. I kept calling the answering service to check that there had been no patient calls. I had a tenuous and tortured night.
The next day I ventured back to Verizon and asked if the Droid could do the one thing I liked about my simple Motorola LG Something Or Other. I could talk to a patient and take down a pharmacy number while chatting, save it and then dial it the minute I hung up. A great convenience for a busy physician who hates the phone.
It could not.
I returned the Droid to its creators and resumed using my old phone. But not before I had announced to Jody when I arrived home the previous day with my new toy that, “I will definitely get you an iPhone for your birthday and Christmas.”
So I am stuck. When I give it to her I think I will include a prescription for Ritalin.

Louis Borgenicht

Guest Blogger | Louis Borgenicht

November 30, 2007

It has taken many years for me to find my true niche at TKE. As a patron and more recently a kibitzer (what else do you do in a cozy and delicious bookstore?) I found my new calling through pure serendipity.

On one of recent regular Wednesday visits I found myself, as usual, perusing the bulletin board for local cultural events. I have longstanding history of deep and abiding interest in bulletin boards and have never been able to pass by one without stopping. During medical school most of my friends would ask me what cultural events were happening in Cleveland on a given day: embarrassingly, I usually knew.

So on this momentous day in TKE I noticed a personal item on the board: one of those typed notices with twenty tear-off strips with phone numbers for contact. It was search for a roommate.

I was appalled. TKE was not a coffee shop.

I took a quick survey of the booksellers behind the counter (I think Dawn and Jan were the prime movers). The consensus was that the notice did not belong there.

I removed the offending notice with a self-righteous flourish and tossed it.

“I would like to volunteer here as Keeper of the Bulletin Board,” I announced. “Who do I have to talk to?”

“No problem. Just do it. Consider it yours,” Jan said, apparently relieved to have yet another tedious job taken off her over-burdened shoulders.

It is not an easy job. It requires figuring out whether a posted even has taken place or is yet to happen. I love it though; I consider it a valuable community service, one that I easily fit into one of my days off.

Plus I get to kibitz while I am doing it.


Louis Borgenicht, our first guest blogger, is a regular customer, a good friend of the store, and an author. Head on over to his website, LouisBorgenicht.com, to learn more about him!