International House of Johnson

  • Bookstuff: Room to Read


    The International House of Johnson, despite its impressive moniker, is not a grand palatial estate. It is, in fact, a three-bedroom, one-and-three-quarter bath, split-level ranch with approximately 1,100 square feet of living spaceI think. My recollection of the months leading up to and immediately following April 2001, when the International House of Johnson was purchased, is somewhat hazy; it is entirely improbable that our Realtor drugged or hypnotized me, but I have no other (interesting) explanation of my inability to dredge up the particulars of the sale from the nigh-infallible storage system that is my memory.. Laura and I have claimed the master bedroom and the second doubles as both Kyle’s room and our guest room. The third bedroom has been converted into an office, as has the family room; the former is used by Laura, the latter by me and the catsRosie and Gil, to the best of my knowledge, don’t perform any clerical work in the office we share. Rather, it is the site of their food and water dishes as well as their litter boxes. My office is their cafeteria and restroom..

    In most respects, the International House of Johnson is the perfect size for two adults, one toddler and two cats. When I want to read, however, the compactness presents something of a problem. There are really only five places within the walls that I can comfortably read: the master bedroom, the living room, my office, and…well, I’ll get to the other two in a bit, but first I want to explain why I don’t do all of my reading in the other three locations.

    The Master Bedroom

    The master bedroom at the International House of Johnson is gloriously appointed with a queen-sized Select Comfort bedMy Sleep Number tends to be in the area of 55 to 65., two night tables, two dressers, two laundry hampers, and no chairs.

    The lack of chairs doesn’t present a problem for bedtime reading, but I’m not particularly fond of lying down while reading during the day, so the master bedroom—while great for sleeping and other nocturnal activities—isn’t the ideal location for daytime or early evening reading.

    The Living Room

    One of the first things we did upon moving into the International House of Johnson was…well, that’s beside the point, but eventually we purchased two new sofas, both of which feature a recliner on each end. Laura and I sit at opposite ends of the north-south sofa when we watch television, while the east-west sofa is generally only used when we have guests.

    My southside recliner is a very nice place to read; just yesterday, while my young apprentice napped and Laura was out shopping, I finished Robert R. McCammon’s The Wolf’s Hour there while sipping Lipton Instant Raspberry Iced Tea.

    Unfortunately, if the television is on, I can’t read in my southside recliner. Whether the television is tuned to The Backyardigans, CSI or Eureka, I am almost entirely incapable of the maintaining focus necessary to ignore the boob tube and concentrate on the printed words marching across the page of a novel. The television is not only a distraction when it is on, but the twenty-plus hours of pre-recorded shows and movies on the TiVo are a temptation even when the idiot box is turned off (not to mention the siren call of the Xbox).

    The Office

    Formerly the family room, my office features a fireplace in one corner and a large, three-paned window that looks out on Laura’s rose garden. It should be a cozy den to which I can retreat for some peaceful solitude when I want to read. Should be, and would be but for a few minor drawbacks:

    1. First and foremost, I share the room with the cats. Take a cozy office family room, add a bowl of cat food, a watering dish and two litter boxes (not to mention two cats) and it becomes something entirely different. The fact that there’s nowhere in the room one can sit and be more than four feet from a litter box is a problem in and of itself; the carpeted floor onto which the cats scatter or track the litter (and food) is another issue all together.
    2. Second, my office is adjacent to the laundry room. The very small laundry room. Laura does a very good job with space management inside the laundry room, but there’s just no room to set up an ironing board in there. Sometimes, the ironing board gets hauled into the living room when it’s needed, but more often than not it is set up in my office.
    3. Finally, there is the matter of the crawlspace. The crawlspace is accessed through the laundry room, which is accessed through my office. Thanks to Laura’s space management in the laundry room, it can be a bit of a chore to get to the crawlspace on a regular basis. Thus, my office serves as a sort of storage purgatory; a place where Christmas decorations and baby clothes linger in cardboard boxes and Rubbermaid containers until I get off my ass, shuffle around the contents of the laundry room so I can get to the crawlspace, and put it all away. This, as you may have gathered, is my own damn fault; more a product of laziness than any true necessity.

    Reading Rooms

    If a man can’t read in his living room, his office or his bedroom, where can he go? That’s where those other two rooms enter into the picture: the master and guest bathrooms.

    Now, I understand that there’s a certain amount of ickiness associated with reading in the bathroom (not that it’s ever hurt the publishers of the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader series), but I’ve been in plenty of bathrooms that are furnished with a magazine rack, and I often find a copy of The Plain Dealer in the restroom at work, so clearly the practice is not entirely outside the realm of social acceptability.

    That said, I do have my own personal rules as to what I will and will not read in the bathroom:

    1. Books I own. If I purchased it, chances are I’ll read at least part of it in the bathroom. I don’t generally disclose this when loaning my books to other people, but perhaps I should in the future.
    2. Books I’ve borrowed. Under no circumstances do I read borrowed books in the bathroom. This is one reason it takes me so long to read borrowed books.
    3. Library books. I waffled on this one for quite a while, but with the due date for The Wolf’s Hour looming and several hundred pages yet to read, I decided that I would allow myself to read library books in the bathroom. I have a feeling that being read in my bathroom is fairly mild compared to the unpleasant things that have been done to most library books.

    Reading in the bathroom is not without its difficulties. Aside from the obvious desire to maintain a certain degree of hygiene, there is also the problem of blood vessels: after about twenty minutes of reading with my elbows firmly planted just above my knees, both of my feet fall asleep, resulting in a few minutes of post-bathroom pins and needles and the need to “walk it off”.

    Perhaps one day I will devise an alternative solution to sharing my office with Rosie and Gil, enabling me to reclaim the space and make it truly my own again. Until (and probably well beyond) that day, the Reading Rooms will remain open.

    Essay Questions

    1. Where do you do most of your reading?
    2. Do you have a special place set aside just for reading? What type of environment makes for a relaxing, satisfying reading experience?
    3. Do you read in the bathroom? If so, what are your personal bathroom reading rules?