'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' by Jonathan Safran Maier

First off, thanks to my cousin Amanda for constantly recommending this book to me since it's release and to my wife for finally whacking me over the head to actually read it.  You were both instrumental to my resignation to read this book.  I'm ever-so-glad that you did.

This was a devastating book.  It's very good, don't get me wrong; just the first of it's kind for me.  The story deals with a nine year old boy who lost his father in the September 11th, 2001 attacks and his subsequent quest to unravel a mystery that he feels is the 'key' to staying close to the memories of his father.  It also deals with similarities and parallels his grandparents faced during World War II.

This is the first piece of fiction I've read or seen that uses 9/11 as a backdrop.  It's not tacky, it's not politicized.  It's something that happened, and it changed things.  For everyone.  It brought back memories of those first unbelievable moments as I watched the horror unfold live on television.  It reminded me of the endless walls of 'Missing' posters in New York and the outpouring of grief, sadness, and support from the rest of the nation.  It also reminded me of the innocence of childhood and how an event of this magnitude must have ripped so many children from that innocence prematurely.

The passages in this book about the young boy's memories of his father tore me to pieces.  Granted, I'm a sucker for Father/Son relationships in media (especially movies, like Field of Dreams or Big Fish) and I fully expected some personal emotional instability.  It's the little things that reminded me of my childhood and the details of my father.

The stubble of his beard.  The sound of his briefcase latches opening.  My careful footsteps upstairs to bring him his coffee and tea in the morning.  His Tarzan yell from the living room.  Watching him practice his golf swing in the back yard.  Going with him to store inventories late at night.  The smell of the leather of his chair at the office.  The iron grip of his handshake.

After I finished the book, I sat for a long time and considered.  The book deals a lot with themes about losing loved ones; some to death, others to separation.  I was reminded of the ever-popular theme in Hollywood of the "Life Changing Event" and how characters responded and become 'better' people.  I thought to myself, "Why can't we appreciation people when they are STILL HERE?  Where is it written that we have to learn life's lessons when it is Too Late(tm)?"  Fact is, we don't have to.

It's very easy to take life for granted.  My time abroad has taught me many lessons, but the ones I learned the hardest are the ones I cannot do anything about, like conversations I would like to have with my grandfathers, who have both passed on.  Not to some sudden disaster or unexpected circumstance, but to long standing medical issues.  I had plenty of time to grow closer to them.  I failed.

I heartily recommend the book, as it has some fantastic life lessons and is written EXTREMELY well.  It'll break your heart, but in a way that will get you to re-evaluate your relationships and take stock of what is important.  It will also transport you to a time of uncertainty and nationwide attention, albeit through much younger eyes.



Did you know that Oklahoma is experiencing a rapid population growth in the East/Northeast area?  So much so, in fact, that the State has been weighing options to prevent them from running out of 918 area code phone numbers.  There have been two options on the table:

New Area Code:  Split the 918 into two areas, one 918, one a new code.  Some numbers would change.
Overlay:  Newly issued numbers in the 918 area would be given a new area code, but no maps would be redrawn.


Lex Luthor: [pointing to a map of Oklahoma] Right now, this state has two area codes:  918 and 405.  Since the state of Oklahoma has less than four million people in it, this has not been a problem.  However, a certain area of the state has seen a rapid jump in population
[Whaps Otis with his pointer]
Otis: Uhhh... Northeast Oklahoma.  Tulsa area.
Lex Luthor: Now, call me foolish, call me irresponsible, it occurs to me that a total exhaustion of phone numbers in a huge segment of the state, uh...
Superman: Would cause chaos and panic.  No one could get a new phone number. And the ease in which we talk to one another-...
Lex Luthor: Falls into the history books. [Gives a little wave with his hand] Bye-bye, landlines. Hello, US Postal Service. But I have an idea!.
[Otis overlays map with new map]
Lex Luthor: Split the 918 area code!  Some keep their old area code, some get a new one.  It takes a little getting used to, but it’s organized!  It makes sense!  Just like the map here.  I’ve written what I feel are fair boundary lines for a new area code division and, uh.. Overlay [hand-written by Otis, with backwards 'Y']... Overlay?
[Lex looks at Otis with a narrow and darkening gaze]
Otis: Other states, they went with an Overlay.
Lex Luthor: Overlay?
Otis: It’s just a small change, old people wouldn't have to learn something new.
Lex Luthor: [Angrily] OVERLAY?!
Otis: Okay, I'll just wipe it off, that's all. It's just a little town. [Erases Overlay]

Oklahoma is going with the overlay.  WHAT?!  This is the most ridiculous item of the day.  So you are telling me, if I have a 918 number in my home, and I want a second line...it may have a DIFFERENT area code?  If I have a personal cell and a work cell, they might look like they are from ENTIRELY different areas?  This is preposterous.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission decided to go this route due to the fact that people having to learn new area codes could "hurt small businesses" and cause confusion for older people.  Call me crazy, but it's WAY more confusing to have the SAME geographic area with TWO different area codes, the only differentiation between the two being some invisible time line.

Oh, but they are warning people that they will start to have to use ten digit dialing.  Naturally.  Because if you want to call your neighbor, it's an entirely different area code...but only that neighbor, the other one has a number just like yours.  It's EASY, SEE?  Surely easier than just dividing the map differently and providing an easy A B C area code solution.  Oh, wait, no, that's NOT easy, because some people will have to LEARN.  This way the good ol' boys can do things the way they always have.

It is this kind of compromise and "we don't want to change the way things are" that REALLY puts me in Yosemite-Sam-Shoot-The-Floor mode and want to find another place to settle.  This. Decision. Makes. No. Sense.  Cotton-pickin' varmints!

If anyone has any way to make me see this in a better light, please...I'm all ears.  And rage.  Ears and rage.