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Synopsis: A cynical writer searches for the world’s happiest place
You might like this if you liked: Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert)
Recommended to: Grumpy people
What I loved about it: This was my first Weiner book, so I wasn’t sure whether I would like it or not. Truth be told, he seems like a bit of an ass, but he had me at the first mention of a PET scan. I’m one of those people who enjoy reading books peppered with sound-bites of science, culture, history, and philosophy. Like right here on page 41, in a chapter on Switzerland, he manages to work Einstein AND Bertrand Russell into a passage. Later on page 183, he combines Iceland, Aristotle, and Nietzsche. Gosh—it just makes me feel all heady and smart in the same way that sprinkling wheat germ in pancake batter makes me feel healthy, even if I do wind up drenching it all with butter and syrup.
So yes, I will be reading him again. Plus, I now have added two new places to my bucket list: Bhutan and Moldova.
What was unexpected: Weiner was a little mean to the Moldovans.
Best Quotes: There were so many fabulous descriptions of places and people, so I will give you a few:
In Bangkok, the sacred and the profane exist side by side, like a divorced couple who, for financial reasons, decide to continue living together.
Watching Brits shed their inhibitions is like watching elephants mate. You know it happens, it must, but it’s noisy, awkward as hell, and you can’t help but wonder: Is this something I really need to see?
India does not disappoint. It captivates, infuriates, and occasionally, contaminates. It never disappoints.
Qataris have no culture. Frankly, I can’t blame them. If you spent a few thousand years scraping by in the desert, fending off the solid heat, not to mention various invading tribes, you wouldn’t have time for culture either.
Synopsis: Nicholas takes a trip around the world with his brother and the two reminisce about their family.
You might like this if you liked: Message in a Bottle, The Rescue, The Notebook, A Walk to Remember (Nicholas Sparks)
Recommended to: Fans of Nicholas Sparks, people trying to make sense of loss
What I loved about it: In his fictional work, Nicholas Sparks writes sweet stories of love, family, and loss. His memoir moved along the same themes and provided insight into why he tells the stories he tells. The speech-language pathologist in me was also particularly interested in the intense work Sparks described doing with his son, Ryan, to help him learn to communicate.
What was unexpected: This book is not so much about the places traveled in real time as it is the places traveled in the past. That said, Sparks does deliver enough descriptions of places they visited that I added a few destinations to my bucket list (e.g., Machu Picchu, Peru and Phnom Pehn, Cambodia).
Standing next to Micah, I realized that there were times when we talked not because we needed to communicate anything important, but simply because we each drew comfort from the other’s voice.
You never know what fascinating sights you’ll see when roadtrippin’ through Arkansas. Both the backroads and interstate hold an array of surprises. From I-40 you’ll spy roadkill, rice paddies, and religious signs reminding you to beat the children with a stick.
In Central Arkansas you can hop off the interstate, do a little wine tasting and stock up on your favorite vintage at the wineries.
Wiederkehr Village (population of 42) has more grapes than residents.
At one point in our journey, an emergency coffee attack required a pitstop to a Love’s Travel Shop. As The Devil was pulling in to a parking spot right beside a fella fiddling with stuff under the hood of his SUV, a 96% naked lady jumped out of the backseat of the fella’s vehicle. I was so astounded by the scene that lay before me that I forgot the camera entirely. You’ll have to settle for the picture I paint in words. The 96% naked lady was wearing a little bitty bikini with a tiny see-through crocheted skirt. Her backside was emblazoned with a tattoo of a bull’s head. Its horns rose menacingly out the top of her bikini bottoms. And, she looked ANGRY! She said a buncha words I didn’t understand partly due to the southern twang that shaped them, partly due to the shock of seeing an angry 96% naked lady unexpectedly jump out of a vehicle, and partly due to the music that was blaring from the speakers of their opened door: ”We’re from the country and we like it that way.”
It was all so very much to process.
The man under the hood looked up long enough to glance at her, register us and our agape expressions, and chuckle to himself before returning back to his tinkering. The 96% naked lady walked this way and then that, continuing to make a fuss over something before finally settling back into the backseat and closing the door.
By that time, The Devil had returned and we were on our way.
The backroads and small towns of Arkansas are also great fun. There are interesting places to eat. For example, in Springdale there’s a giant waffle sign in the sky that announces a Waffle Hut. If that doesn’t suit your taste you can try the Mexican-Middle Eastern Restaurant.
Around one bend in the road we spied a natural swimming hole.
Several fireworks stands were set up along the road. One stand had a sign that read “Fireworks. Help Christians Serve.” Another sign said, well, see for yourself…
Good times. I will really miss this state when it’s time to dismantle this particular life.
For more sights and scenes from my Arkansas travels, see:
Cultivating compassion and joy is not a linear process; it’s organic, like growing flowers. If you work regularly at decreasing your compulsive desires and narcissism gradually you will see beautiful results.
–Lorne Ladner, The Lost Art of Compassion
Last June, I spent two weeks deconstructing at an ashram. On the surface, the ashram experience seemed a nightmare. Group constipation, perpetual cravings for hamburgers, and sleep deprivation combined with withdrawal from various vices, hard work, heat, and allergic reactions. (See Poo-poo Tea at the Ashram and Ashram Adventures for a recap of those fun details.)
Beneath that muck, seeds of joy were being planted. Several lifetimes of lessons were condensed into those two weeks. It was a lot to processes. I’m still working to understand what I learned and to apply it to daily life. (For more on that end, see A Heart Flung Open and Knowing by Doing.)
And here is but one of the many lessons I learned from the experience: Beauty will unfold day by day when you work to tend the garden.
“You love me. Real or not real?”
Every single weekend for the last month I have been consumed by The Hunger Games. Four weeks ago the movie came out and I bought the book. I devoured it that Saturday before going to see the movie the next day. The following Saturday I read the second book. The Saturday after that I finished the third book of the series. With that, I thought my obsession was over and I could get on with my life.
This past weekend I inadvertently found myself in Asheville, North Carolina, where much of the movie was filmed. We were road tripping our way to a conference in Raleigh, when my own hunger struck. I consulted Yelp, (a must-have app for roadtrips), read a few reviews, and decided on Rezaz in Asheville for lunch. The odds were oddly in my favor. The seven vegetable couscous was a different flavor in every bite: here a chickpea, there the sharp crunch of fresh ginger, and everywhere the ruffley texture of grilled kale intermingling with couscous and cilantro. It was a real Capitol meal. The Devil had a pizza that rivaled his own devious creations. The pizza alone warranted another visit to the restaurant on the return road trip: a crisp cracker crust, lightly grilled and topped with marinaded mushrooms that finished with a hint of pepper. Creamy gellato for dessert – chocolate for her, vanilla for him, each topped with a flakey sugar cookie. Hunger games, indeed.
I thoroughly enjoyed the books. I’ve started, abandoned, restarted, and reabandoned an embarrasing number of books the past several months. Nothing has been able to compete with the flying colors of life experienced moment-to-moment in its bold and beautiful unfurling. Until this. What a pleasure to finally find a series to keep me captivated and wanting more.
Across from Rezaz sits the Grand Bohemian Hotel. It was filled with interesting things – a stuffed boar wearing a fishing hat, for instance, and other dead things surrounded by unusual lighting. The decor was overwhelmingly antlered. There are fine lines to be drawn between rustic and classy and creepy. The hotel decorators played hopscotch with those lines.
There were all sorts of fancy people milling about in the lobby doing all sorts of fancy things like sitting around in their fancy hair and shoes drinking fancy drinks while having fancy conversations. What a strange scene to take in against the backdrop of skulls and skins, hides and horns.
The hotel I learned offers a Hunger Games package for a few hundred dollars. Apparently trips to the setting are all the rage.
I enjoyed my brief adventure and I definitely want to go back to explore.
I need a remedy for what is ailin’ me!
Wake me when the day breaks. Show me how the sun shines.
Let your love light shine.
–Christopher & Rich Robinson
It’s been a bumpy ride the last couple of weeks.
But my remedy came in the sunshine and wind…
It was a good day for a roadtrip.
The more I scoot around Arkansas, the more I fall in love with the Natural State and all her secrets.
In Rosebud, a one-light town with a population of 429, there lives a medicine man who sells remedies…
It’s a magical place…
…and the medicine man is a busy fella.
And there was much to consider about the energy of the sea and the power that is harnessed at Greers Ferry Lake dam.
Mountain View is a place where you can find music around every bend.
At Mountain View Music, they’ll trade ya a banjo for a puppy. It was a tempting offer….
Even The Devil gets in on the music action…sorta…
And now a visual interlude to show off a happy puppy….
….and a few other interesting sights around AR, like Redneck Pride….
….and the setting sun’s silver reflection on the lake.
…or at least that’s what I was instructed to do when Dana nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger Award in her blog.
In reality I think my adoring crowd consists of just Dana. But Dana, I am smiling and waving at you!
The “Rules” for this particular award are:
1. Thank the blogger who presented you with the award. Thanks Dana!!
2. Post a photo of the award.
3. Share ten things about yourself readers don’t know.
3-1. I don’t have a TV, but I am maniacally tearing through two shows via Netflix. The first is Legend of the Seeker. Everything and everybody is just so pretty on this show. And the sword fights are like dances. It makes me giddy.
The second is Big Bang Theory, a show that is funny and that features smart people who use big words. Being a scientist has never been so sexy. Thank you Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady!
3-2. I briefly entertained the idea of going to Cancun/Tulum/Chichen Itza for spring break because the “2012 end of the Mayan calendar” seemed like THE time to go. Then I decided I was being cliché and that maybe I should just stay home, read a book and and plant a garden instead.
3-3. Speaking of books, these are the ones I’m concurrently reading: The Lost Art of Compassion, 2012 The Return of Quetzalcoatl, Born to Talk, The Geography of Bliss.
3-4. I went to Tulsa last weekend, mostly to eat.
3-5. I ate cupcakes with eggs in Tulsa – the first violation of my dietary restriction in months. The Devil made me do it (as usual). He said he wouldn’t tell anyone, but there’s no point denying it happened.
3.6 While in Tulsa I also drank Irish hot chocolate. Two cups in fact.
3.7 Following this imbibement, I drunk-texted my yogini support group for an emergency intervention. With their help I managed to resist ordering a hamburger from the restaurant that serves the best hamburgers I’ve ever had anywhere. Ever. (Thank you yogini’s for talking me down off that ledge!)
3.8 Then I apparently took some drunken pictures of Tulsa…
3.9 Tulsa is one of my favorite cities. On this trip we visited a spot I didn’t know existed until recently. It’s known as “The Center of the Universe.” It appears to be an ordinary place in downtown Tulsa bordered by buildings and a parking garage. However, ordinary it is not. There is a certain place that has very odd (and unintentional) acoustic properties. If you walk up and stand at the center of a circle of bricks and speak, your voice will h ave an odd distorted quality. If your partner stands right outside the circle and you are in the circle listening to yourself talk with this weird voice, he will not hear anything odd about your voice. If your partner stands in the circle while you stand in the circle and you both talk you both will hear the weird distortion. If you both stand in the circle in the cold trying out a variety of weird voices to see how they will sound you will be delighted at the effect; however, other people passing by outside the circle may look at you quite strangely and wonder if you’re crazy. At any rate, from what I’ve read the archeticture of a nearby concrete planter has a parabolic reflectivity that creates the acoustic effect.
3-10 One last weird thing about Tulsa — the sky seems unusually high. There is just so much of it and it is so far away.
4. Choose six people to present this award to.
4-1 Amy - because your blogs are creative, but they don’t come nearly enough.
4-2 The Good Greatsby – because you’ve made smoking jackets cool again.
4-3 Tori Nelson - because letting readers plan your wedding is creative and fun and…brave.
4-4 Rene – because Life in the Boomer Lane makes me giggle on a regular basis.
4-5 Plum Bananas – because you promote good health and keep two blogs and reading your blog makes me feel less neurotic.
4-6 Progress on the Prairie – because your blog inspired me to grow arugula and I have to respect a woman willing to kill for herself a life she consumes.