Tighten up

This morning, as part of my quest to resurrect my melted away/gone south of the border derriere, I tried two segments of a workout DVD titled, bluntly, 10 Minute Solution: Butt Lift. Out of the five 10-minute segments,  this morning I did “Butt Lift” and “Upright Booty” (appropriate, since that’s my goal). Butt Lift

My right hamstring (which has been torn) is already sore this evening and my left is leaning that way – not the effect I was hoping for, but maybe my rear will follow. I’ll have to keep you posted on that. At this age, the odds aren’t great, but hope springs eternal, even if my hindquarters don’t.

Anyway, part of the workout was a dance move, one we used to call the “Hip City” or “The Four Corners” in junior high. Pam and I used to practice and practice all the new dance moves. It’s a good one and a good workout, but my default fave workout dance – and one Pam and I perfected quickly – is still “Tighten Up,” by Archie Bell and the Drells of Houston, Texas.

Love, love that song and still have a blast doing the dance. And, in a side note, I nearly collided with Archie Bell himself a few years ago at The Peabody in Little Rock when he was in town to film a commercial for an energy company about closing gaps around windows and doors, I believe. My friend Susan and I had journalism students conventioning when Mr. Bell decided to do an impromptu set in the bar.

Small world.

Oh, and the workout is quite good. Didn’t see any new moves (I’ve been doing these things for 30 years), but the segments are effectively put together. I may have to pass it on to someone not old enough to have the “Tighten Up” 45 – it might be made for younger knees, but we’ll see.

But what I really want to write about tonight is tightening up my mind through reading, which is one of my favorite things to do. And specifically, we’ll get to Sarah Vowell, one of my literary idols (for many reasons), but first let me mention two novels I flew through in a few days.

honeyThe first, As Sweet as Honey by Indira Ganesan, is as sweet as its name. Just a quiet little unassuming but hard to put down novel about an unusual Indian woman (or “islander,” as her family stresses, since they’re from the island Pi, off the tip of India) who marries into a British family.

If you’re interested in India and Indian culture, it’s a given you’ll like this book. If you don’t require shooting and fast action and appreciate a little story told well, you’ll enjoy it, too. Don’t want to say too much and give away the plot.

Then I flew through Somewhere in Time by the recently late Richard Matheson – and about damn time, since the movie version, Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour has been one of my favorite time travel movies since it came out in 1980. I wanted to see how closely the movie followed the book and didn’t really expect to stay up late reading it, but parts of it just wouldn’t let me stop.

If you’re not familiar with either, probably see the movie first. They’re both a bit dated but lovely, romantic and tragic. The book is a bit maudlin toward the end, but my take is that Matheson took that tone deliberately, mimicking the Victorian era in which the back in time portion is set.

Sarah Vowell, one of my favorite modern writers, makes history more interesting than fiction. If I’d had history teachers like her or textbooks even a third as interesting as her books, who knows – I might have loved history class instead of used it as a good time to doodle or daydream.

I’m halfway through Assassination Vacation, which she wrote in 2005. I’m reading them backward, having started with Unfamiliar Fishes, which I got in 2011 when it was first published. Fabulous book about Hawaii and what the missionaries, then the U.S. of A. did to a tropical paradise.


I already knew the basics of the sordid story and it still made me furious – while making me laugh and gasp. Vowell reaches my inner nerd and delights her – and almost makes me wish I were still teaching.

But what I’d rather do is be the next Sarah Vowell when I grow up. She’s 15 years younger than me but she’s my role model. Brilliant, kindly caustic, funny as hell, quirky and prone to very random-fact tangents.

I adore her. But I ramble.

After Fishes, I pretty immediately got a slightly used copy of The Wordy Shipmates, published in 2008. John was pretty incredulous when I told him it was about the Puritan settlers and was even more doubtful when I raved about how fab it is. But it is. Again, funny – hysterically so at times – informative and edifying.


These are not your elementary school textbook pilgrims, pilgrim.

And now I’m halfway through a fascinating (and, yes, funny) book about the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley.  I made myself wait until I knocked off some other books I had piled up all over the house, but my craving was too great to wait any longer.

The night I started it, I read part of Vowell’s description of a New England B&B aloud to John, and he laughed almost as much as I did. But I haven’t gotten him to read any of her books. I think Julia’s about to bite, though, then she’ll be hooked, too.

Because, if you dig her, Sarah Vowell gets you hook, line and sinker.

She has such a way with words. Jon Stewart can’t keep a straight face when she’s a guest on The Daily Show – and he’s obviously a huge fan, too. But I’m not going to gush anymore – you can google her (or find her talking on YouTube or Comedy Central). I need to stop and go read.


4 thoughts on “Tighten up

  1. Ok…going to look for some of her books NOW!
    And, we met Archie Bell at the Peabody, too! Jason has a photo of him & Archie “tightening up” from that night. 🙂

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