I love having “aha” moments and I’ve had three recently, all from reading.
#1. 99% Invisible City by Roman Mars details a lot of the infrastructure that surrounds us in the urban environment, much of which we don’t notice and definitely take for granted. In discussing wireless towers, he writes: “As commercial cellular towers began to sprout up in the 1970s, diagrams depicting their coverage areas looked like blobby plant or animal cells pressed up against one another – hence the name ‘cell phones’.” I had never stopped to think about why we say “cell phones” so this was an amazing discovery for me. I stopped reading for a moment and reveled in the fun of it.
#2. This is Your Mind on Plants by Michael Pollan. This is the second book of Pollan’s that features discussion of hallucinogenics. In writing about mescaline, he alludes to the song Mellow Yellow by Donavan and that the meaning of the song is about smoking banana skins, believed in the 60s to be hallucinogenic. I can sing along to Mellow Yellow but never ever thought about the lyrics and what they might mean. (Turns out Pollan was actually wrong – Donavan was writing about an electric vibrator that he had seen an ad for – the equipment was called the “mellow yellow”.)
#3. A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor. This is an older travel book; the author walked from England to Constantinople in the days before WWII. After completely overdoing it in Munich at the Hofbrauhaus, he woke up with a “katzenjammer”. Now I remember the old comic the Katzenjammer Kids, but had no idea that katzenjammer actually means hangover. I’m not sure how “cat” and “distress” came to mean hangover, but it’s fascinating to know this tidbit!
Can’t wait to see what the next few books reveal!
Any “aha” moments for you recently?