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Art Callaham: Addicted to books

hopeful for Hub City

March 03, 2013|By ART CALLAHAM

I’m an addict. There I’ve said it. I’m addicted to several things, but the one I’m talking about in this column is books. I am a voracious reader and that costs me money, time, a broader behind and a larger girth. None of the costs is really good for me, but I can’t help it. Like I said, I’m addicted.

Although I read books in a variety of genres, mysteries and historical fiction are my favorites. My favorite authors are James Patterson, W.E.B. Griffin and Jeff Shaara. (And Nelson De Mille, Ralph Peters, John Grisham, David Baldacci, Bernard Cornwell, Ken Follett …) See how the addiction takes over.

Give me five minutes and I’ll either read or fall asleep trying to read. My favorite reading place is the hall bathroom on the third floor of our Hagerstown home — best lighting in the house. The second- and third-best places are the living room with afternoon sun and the master bedroom with morning sun. Thank God the sun doesn’t shine well in the kitchen or I would weigh more than I do now.   

I just finished the latest James Patterson book, “Alex Cross, Run.” The ink was barely dry. (I’m a “frequent flyer” with amazon.com, so I receive many books in the mail on the book’s first day of release in the United States.) Patterson writes a series featuring a D.C. detective/psychologist named Dr. Alex Cross. The Cross series includes 20 books and is only one of several multiple-book series penned by Patterson.

Some of his books have been made into movies with Morgan Freeman and, recently, Tyler Perry playing the part of Cross.  No disrespect to Perry, but when I think of Cross while reading a mystery, I see Morgan Freeman in my mind’s eye.

Patterson, particularly in the Cross series, usually has multiple plots and twists in each book. He uses a short chapter style that makes most of his books a real page-turner. Many nights, I will start to conclude my reading time by saying, “Just one more chapter,” and then put the book down 100 pages later having read 30.

Although Patterson’s books are fictional, usually there is some moral takeaway. In addition to inner-city crime issues, he has dealt with personal grief, drug use, drug recovery, mental illness and many other human issues that affect society. In this latest book his moral issue is how we deal with the future.

As Patterson’s protagonist, Cross suggests two courses in life: eventuality or possibility. “Eventually” something will happen, that is a given; however, you might consider that a specific outcome is “possible.” Dealing with the eventual requires no action; whatever will be, will be. Dealing with an outcome that is possible requires taking action to achieve a result.

As human beings, we can simply wait for the eventual to occur. That eventual outcome might be positive or negative. Or we can look at possibilities and take action that might achieve a positive outcome. There is no risk or effort in an eventual course, yet the possible course requires both effort and sometimes risk.

Most of you that know me can see where this is going. This is not about my addictions, Patterson’s books or Cross’ psychoanalysis, it’s about looking into the future and plotting a course for Hagerstown.

For many years, our city has studied and planned, yet taken little action to resurrect a once-thriving downtown. We’ve been waiting for the eventual, while the possible has been right in front of us.  Stadiums, market-rate housing, corporate headquarters, big box stores, theater improvements, educational facilities, arts centers, convention centers, museums — almost anything you can think of in terms of revitalization of our crumbling downtown has been possible. But here we are — same stuff, different day.

The eventual will happen, but the possible is fleeting like sands through an hourglass. I wonder when we’ll seriously look at the possible.

Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.

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