I'm all about improvement of one's intellect. (Even, perhaps especially, when improving one's intellect means doing something retarded for a change.) I do a lot of reading, and I often do it at the Cha Cha because chances are the hubbub will keep me from falling asleep before I've made it through the first five pages. So before I kill the next guy who makes like the little teapot (one hand on hip, the other extended and resting on the bar) and asks me, "Whatcha reading?" or any other intrusive questions, here's a quick and friendly rundown of probable answers/solutions to your inquiries:

1. A book.

2. I can concentrate just fine in a loud bar because I'm wearing earplugs, which you can probably see because I purposely haven't turned my head so as to engage you in face-to-face conversation.

3. If I tell you what it's about, I won't be reading my book anymore now, will I?

4. I'm not being antisocial. Staying home and reading would be antisocial.

5. Soda water and lime, not a vodka tonic, so thanks but no thanks.

6. Because I'm almost always reading an advance copy of something scheduled to come out at a later date, I always have with me the one-sheet synopsis sent by a publicist on hand, ostensibly standing in for a bookmark. In reality I bring it so when you ask me what the book is about, you can read the one-sheet and I don't have to stop reading--a win-win. (I did that last Thursday, and the guy actually responded by saying he couldn't read. "Then the book is of no use to you," I said, and swatted him away. Did he go? Of course not. He loomed next to me, making like the little teapot, spout-hand tapping an empty Tecate can on the bar for 10 dang minutes before he realized I was serious.)

Okay, here's the deal, guys: I am not a fish ladder, so kindly cease heroic jumping while trying to "get over." Move on to the downstairs part of the bar where not only are there many fun and festive fish ladders, but most of them don't require much of a jump to clear.

An interesting side note: That same night a sweet lady came up to me and actually GAVE me a book. Unheard of! Thank you sweetheart, it's right up my alley and I'm especially enjoying using the adorable photo of your boyfriend in a suit and tie as a bookmark.

***

So contrary to rumor, the Vells are not breaking up. And after a week of obsessive listening to his "Waltz #2 (Xo)" off X0 (it's like comfort food for me), I was elated to see an excellent interview of the healthy Elliott Smith in the new issue of Under the Radar. Then I read there was more of the interview on their website (undertheradarmag.com) and I learned so many things I never knew about Smith when I lived in Portland and he was in Heatmiser. Like how he and Neil Gust met (at Hampshire College), that Smith holds a degree in philosophy and legal theory, and that we both don't much care for Heatmiser's Dead Air but love Mic City Sons. (But Gust's "Why Did I Decide to Stay?" off Cop and Speeder is the greatest Walk of Shame song ever written, and the video, directed by Chris Slusarenko, makes you so "been there" that you'll want to put on a pair of shame sunglasses.) I also learned that he thought about being a fireman, but was too small. Anyway, if you've been wondering how he's doing, pick up a copy of the magazine and check it out.

kathleen@thestranger.com

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