Archive | April 2012

Something Else I Miss

I always wanted to be in a band. Apparently not bad enough to learn an instrument, take vocal lessons, or ask around for like minded people.  After teaching myself how to passably play some chords and a few simple melodies, I did partner up with a few friends for some garage like band playing. Only one of us was actually competent. The other two hammered along, trying to keep time and tempo while the third tolerated our attempts, encouraging when he could, waiting when he knew we just had to push through.

A work talent show was the goal. We planned to be deliberately awful. In fact, I thought it would be hilarious if we just stacked the stage with ten guitarists, playing the same three power chords for seven minutes, no solo’s no bridge, no chorus. It would have been confusing and epic; awesome and annoying. Also, it would allow me the thrill of playing in front of people, hiding my lack of ability in a well conceived and executed joke. One we added a drummer, that sort of put an end to the original plan.

Robert, Travis and I practiced once a week, sometimes twice, trying to put together a song that we thought would still get our joke across, but would be interesting and well performed. I practiced my part over and over, trying to hear Roberts (much better) guitar playing and Travis pounding it out on the drums. The closer the talent show came, the more I wanted it to sound good. Another friend of ours, Sean, played a fabulous bass guitar. He agreed to join us and give us a more complete rhythm section. I am sure he thought us ridiculous, our little three minute song, stealing the words from The Music Man, three jumbled parts that hardly went together, but he never said anything mean or insulting, just played along. Another c0-worker, joined us and the five of us practiced a total of three times together before performing.

My favorite moment came three days before the show. We were in my basement, trying to add some dynamics and finishing touches to the song. I had the intro-a four chord pattern that (at the time) I thought was the coolest thing ever. Travis counted me and I began to play. I felt very nervous, though I had played this seventy times already. For some reason, this time felt different. A sense of anticipation hung tight around me. Then after two measures, the rest of the band came in, synced for the first time. The sound was amazing and for a moment, I really felt like I was part of a band. I had chills. I felt powerful.

We played for the talent show. The song sucked. The performance was alright. It was loud and muddy but that was fine.

I really want that feeling again, being a part of a group of people playing music together. I am still a mediocre guitarist, but would love a reason to practice, get better, play again. Anyone feel like starting a band?

Watching the Wheels

What makes one moment more  memorable than another? Often, it is the feelings associated with an event or an experience that make the memory of it stronger, stay in our minds, for good and bad.

I have strong memories of the night we put our dog down. The images are burned in my brain and though they are relatively recent (a year and a half), I don’t imagine them fading away.

I also remember happier moments-getting off the airplane after my mission and hearing my family waiting for me at the end of the exit gate. I still hear their voices, the way they echo down the ramp, hearing words before I see their faces.

I remember a great deal about the day I married Sheryl. Most of that is too personal to share here, but I remember smells, the heat of the sun as we walked around taking pictures, the taste of the Dominos pizza we had delivered later that night.

Occasionally, I catch memories that I was certain I would never forget, yet have let slip and slide. Where I was when my parents announced their intention to divorce. My high school and college graduations.

What surprises me are the memories of moments where I did absolutely nothing.

One afternoon when I was living in Claremont, New Hampshire, I spent an entire afternoon, five or six hours, just sitting in an old, disgustingly dirty (yet oh, so comfortable) orange chair,  fabric worn through on the arms and near the head rest. Padding yellowed with age, poked out in spots, often getting stuck on the blended fabric of my suit pants. This particular day, for some reason I forget, I had ample time to kill and a beautiful winter afternoon within which to kill it. I put on some large black sweat pants and a worn t-shirt, pulled out  photos of friends from home and sat down. The other missionary I was living with was taking a “short” nap. I looked at the photos, then out the window. The sun was already arching towards setting and a brilliant pale yellow light was dancing off  run down houses across the street, painting them beautiful for the first time. I could hear Elder Thomas sleep breathing in the other room,  too loud hum of the ancient refrigerator, water slipping through the radiator to my right, along with the occasional passing car. It was the first time I found myself really starting to love New England, New Hampshire and Claremont in particular.

I watched as a squirrel wander back and forth along telephone wires, crossing the street in safety, carrying random objects to and from its home. As the sky darkened and evening came, the view altered. My reflection started to dominate my view. I turned off the light and sat in the darkness, once again able to see the street outside. Headlights of cars were intrusive. I could catch glimpses of people in their houses, moving from kitchens to bedrooms, setting tables, watching television. Tiny windows, like picture frames, telling stories. I understood so little of it, knew none of them. Reveled in the sensation, the pure voyeuristic thrill of it all. One of the best days of my life to that point and I really did absolutely nothing.

 

An Epic Inquiry (or Gosh these castaways are pretty)

When I was a boy of about 7, I fell in love with the TV show Battlestar Galactica.  I am sure I understood very little of what was going on, but I vividly recall watching the television in my sisters room, wishing I could be Apollo or Starbuck, out on adventures, flying a viper, combating those evil Cylons. My kid memory has me doing this for at least three years and it took me by surprise, when years latter I learned it was only one season, less than 25 episodes.  Still, whenever any station would run episodes, I would watch them, my older self still loving the sappy adventures, the poor acting.

When the remake began in 2003, I was thrilled. It was easy for me to accept a woman Starbuck, Boomer being a woman AND a cylon. The shows story-line was much better executed, a great deal darker and the lines between good and evil were blurred in a way that made the characters much more human, much more realized. As soon as I aligned myself with the humans, they would commit some horrendous act that made them detestable. The Cylons were horrible and malevolent at first, then became redeemed. I hung on every story, loved ever sub-plot.

Having just re-watched the original series, I cannot help but compare it again to the remake. I remember seeing some episodes in the 80’s and 90’s and thinking how campy and seventies everyone looked. This time through, I have come to the conclusion that that 1978 cast was pretty damn sexy. In my opinion, they compare across the board with the 2003 cast which is full of very pretty people.  Lucky for the human race, the pretty ones survived.

I need your help and opinion. Which cast starred the prettiest of refugees? Look at the pictures, make a choice, let me know.

Here we have Richard Hatch who played Apollo in the ’78 series. A boy scout and a warrior. He was often impetuous and rash, but he was also the voice of reason.

Compare him with the lovely Jamie Bamber-

This Apollo had to make hard choices-obey orders (from his father) and destroy a civilian ship or not, obey orders and arrest the president in an illegal coup, or stand up for what was right. Cheat on his wife with Starbuck or…(giggle). Tough choices, I know!

The Adamas-

Lorne Greene has those roguish good looks, combined with a distinguished demeanor. Not as rugged or decisive as his ’03 counterpart, he still commanded respect from his crew and the civilian council of which he was part. Much more religious than ’03 Adama, he never doubts his course towards Earth and is always open to the fates. And besides all that, look at that jaw line!

I think Eddie Olmos was perfect for this role. Without equal, the most badass commander in my sci-fi experience. He never backs down, is most often right, and his crew completely respects him. Even during a mutiny, those that try to dispose him, fear his power and his determination. Best quote for me -” That doesn’t matter, because when this is over, there’s gonna be a reckoning. And live or die, it’s how you act today that’s gonna matter.”

Starbucks-

Such a pretty boy! This Starbuck was supposed to be the bad boy, living on the edge and what not. Truth is, he was never very edgy, though he did get lots of  ladies.  Not even close to the frak up his ’03 counterpart was, Dirk was fun loving and silly (and let’s be fair, he was very good looking). One thing both Starbucks shared was a tendency to run when things got difficult. They also both had an Apollo willing to stick their neck out to protect their closest friend.

Katee is amazing as Starbuck. Defiant, determined and tough as nails, she took the character to new levels of depravity and bravery. Dirk never had the chance to see his Starbuck mature and grow. Katee’s Starbuck was able to grow, face her fears, become a better person (angel, whatever she was), and experience a deep love that the ’78 Starbuck was only able to think about.

Boomer-

Herb is a third wheel most of the series. He is the ‘other’ friend of Apollo and Starbuck. He is along for the ride in many episodes, always trusting whatever plans Apollo or Starbuck are suggesting. He almost dies once, saves some crew members with his “carjacking’abilities in another episode. And don’t forget, Herb is also quite a looker.

Grace Park is a looker for sure, but ugh, she is the worst actress in either series (and that is saying something). Her portrayal of Boomer is exactly the same as her portrayal of Athena. I know they are genetically identical, but there is almost no difference in the two. She gets much more air time than Herb ever did, and she is very influential in the overall story of the ’03 version.

That is it for the pretty characters that cross over to both shows (with, as Joel points out in the comments, the exception of Baltar, who was just not very pretty in the old series, sorry John Colicos). Below are pictures of some more too pretty human refugees, giving you a chance to really compare the casts, deciding for yourself which one is more pretty.

 

First some minor characters from the ’78 series

Laurette Sprag played Cassiopeia and one of Starbucks love interests. She started out as a prostitute, then became a med tech.

 

 

 

 

 

Anne Lockhart played Sheba, the daughter of Commander Cain. I think she would have eventually been Apollo’s love interest if the show had continued.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maren played Adama’s daughter, Athena. She also had a brief relationship with Starbuck and was a warrior in a few episodes before beingrelegated to the bridge crew for later episodes.

Jane Seymour! Oh my…She was always too good for this show, but lets be honest, how hot is she? She played Serena, a reporter on Caprica, mother of Boxy and Apollo’s wife for a few hours. She left the show for better things after being killed by a cylon centurion. Her presence alone might make the ’78 version the pretty champion!

 

 

 

Rick Springfield played Zac in the pilot. He gets blown to bits by the Cylons while trying to make it back to Galactica with a damaged viper. A pretty boy for sure.

And from the ’03 series-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Mcdonnell is fantastic in her role as  President Roslin. Later on in the series, her and Adama have an interesting romance. She had some horrible purple hair in the pilot and I was glad they let that go for the actual series. I have always found her very attractive and she did not disappoint as an actress in this series.

 

 

A perfect Baltar, never really the hero and never really the villain, James Callis was exceptional in this roll. Another very pretty refugee, even when he was greasy and over bearded, he looked good.

 

 

 

Tahmoh played Helo, my favorite character in either series. He was the voice of reason and humanity throughout the story. Every choice he made, even the wrong ones, were based on a belief in doing the right thing, doing what was best for the most people. He was a great father and husband and a true friend.

 

 

Micheal played Samuel Anders, Pyramid star, resistance fighter and one of Starbucks love interests. Another all around good guy, he is devoted to Starbuck, despite her wandering heart. He never stops loving her or wanting to help her. Too bad it took a bullet to his brain for Starbuck to realize any of this. Oh well, the things we take for granted, eh?

 

The actor who grew the most over the series, moving from being really wooden, over the top, just there because she was pretty, to often stealing the scenes she was in, Tricia Helfer played her role to it’s fullest potential. Not only did she improve her acting as Caprica 6, but her role as Head (Angel) 6 as well as various versions of the Cylon Model 6 showed her diversity and skill. Each version of the 6 model is distinctly different, moving from naive and clueless to smart and sophisticated. She is the Jane Seymour pretty of the 03 version. I am embarrassed that I forgot to include her in the first edit of this!

There they are, pretty in their pictures. Now it is time to decide. Which rag tag fugitives are the most pretty? Inquiring minds want to know. The fate of the universe may depend on this.

Gut Check

I came across this photo on Facebook a while back.

I read it and started to ponder. Like some of you probably might, I felt that the child I once was would be extremely disappointed in the adult I have become. If that child were to have a glimpse of me, right now, somehow be able to get inside my head, know my thoughts, know what I feel and believe, that child would surely be shocked, maybe even be angry.

Then, right in the middle of feeling sorry for myself and the dreams and plans I had let slip by, right when I was feeling completely unaccomplished, when I was feeling I had let myself down in all the worst possible ways, it came to me-That child’s opinion doesn’t matter at all. His acceptance or disappointment in who I am right now is not an assessment or evaluation of my life, or who I have become. Any thoughts that child would have would come without context, without any sense of understanding. The child in me would not be able to comprehend most of the choices I have made or the situations in which I had to make them. I try to imagine my ten year old self making any of the adult decisions I have made any differently or with any better success. When you are unable to comprehend anything beyond the next year, the next month, or even the next day, how could you ever begin to understand or accept the choices you would make decades down the road?

I can’t imagine any child being remotely comfortable with any adult version of themselves. All of us had an idea of what or who we would like to become, the ‘right’ things we should have and be. Still, even those of us that have somehow found ourselves with the right job, the right family, the right appearance, have things about ourselves that our child-self would find repugnant. We grow up. We understand the world differently as the years go by. We understand that despite or in spite of our wishes for a black and white world, we live in one of color and context. No choice is ever completely right or wrong and as adults we figure that out, hopefully. We do the best we can, make mistakes, have successes, grow and learn. I don’t know anyone who is completely satisfied with who they are, and really, I am not sure I would want to be around someone who was. Someone with no room to grow or change or be wrong, that seems like the essence of narcissism.

I did wonder what my 18 year old self would think of the adult me. I am sure there would be many things that would confuse him as well, even though he would be better able to understand, or at least see why certain decisions were made. I wondered what one thing would be the most shocking to him. I am sure he would be more than thrilled with my choice of life partner. He would adore my boys and never question why they were adopted and not my physical offspring. I think he would even understand my spiritual beliefs (or lack of them), as he was already asking those questions by then.  He would hate that I was bald and gray, and that I was ever overweight, but with some thought, he could make sense of those things as well. He would be happy to see that I still have many of the same friends and that the new ones are such fantastic and clever people. He would love where I lived and the kind of husband and father I am.

Strangely and silly enough, the one thing he would not understand is my lack of interest in basketball. Yeah, that is who I was at 18. Living, breathing, playing and craving basketball all the time. Ridiculous, I know. Maybe even sad and pathetic, but that is what I think would bother me the most.

I loved being a child, growing and playing, experiencing things, living life. I am grateful for the family I had that let me try things, let me succeed and most importantly, let me fail and learn. Every choice let me experience things I am lucky to have experienced, made me weaker at times, stronger for sure. If some of those choices made me someone my child self would be upset with, fine.  I am loved and love. I am happy most of the time and really, that is the only gauge that matters.

 

Three for Breakfast

In an earlier post, I discussed the fabulous omelets made at Over the Counter Cafe.  Since then, I have been pondering other ways to talk food here on this fine website.  Sticking with a breakfast theme, I present to you my three favorite places for one particular breakfast, Eggs and bacon. Each of the places serves a very similar dish, including Hash browned potatoes and either pancakes or toast. I have had several variations of eggs at each location, but for the purposes of this post, I will limit my discussion to meals with scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast (oh, how I love good toast) and coffee.

Original Pancake House-Without equal, the best bacon in the city. Perfectly cooked in its own fat, this bacon comes almost as thick cut as a ham slice at most other restaurants. I cannot go to OPH without ordering bacon, regardless of what else I am eating. Moist in places while crispy and blackened in others, the flavor is exceptional. For the bacon alone, I often pick OPH over most other breakfasts. The eggs are decent. I like my scrambled eggs on the moist side, and these are pretty good. They do require pepper and Cholula,  but so do most eggs served at restaurants. The hash browns are cooked in butter and while not the best I have eaten, they are good enough. Ketchup and some black pepper make them quite tasty. The toast often comes cold, which bothers and the coffee can be great some days and very watery on others. If you enjoy good bacon, this is where to get it. Even with the other elements being less than stellar, this place is exponentially better than Dee’s, Denny’s or Ihop (all of these, including OPH are chain restaurants).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finn’s-Originally located in what is now my Vet’s office, Finns serves breakfast and lunch and is famous for their Norwegian influence. All the servers here where white, which is sometimes a bit unfortunate (how judgmental of me), and annoying, but I have yet to have bad service here. My  cup never gets empty and the coffee is dark and delicious. Presentation is fantastic here as well. The plate of food looks delicious and smells delicious when it is served to you.  The eggs  are my favorite of the three places. Moist and delicious, they require no seasoning. I tend to eat them very quickly and always want more. The hash browns are good as well. The potatoes have a very light flavor and I don’t feel heavy after eating them. Unfortunately, the bacon is not my favorite. It is not under or overcooked, just too crisp for my liking. I prefer being able to tell whether I am eating the fat or the meat and with this bacon, it all tastes the same. My favorite part of eating at Finns’ and what will influence me to chose this place over others is the toast and Jam. The toast comes out warm and buttered and when covered in the decadently sweet and savory berry jam, it is fantastic. I have gone to Finn’s just to eat the toast. The jam is that good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Plate Diner-This place is good for any meal. There dinner menu is fantastic. Burgers and sandwiches never miss but I am a sucker for their breakfasts and the Classic Blue with meat in particular. The second best bacon I have had in SLC. Peppered and thick cut, it is greasy deliciousness. I feel gluttonous just thinking about eating it. The eggs are well prepared though I hear they do better poached eggs than scrambled. I like them with pepper and hot sauce and though not as tasty as Finn’s they are much better than OPH. The coffee is not fantastic but it is quite good. I like their toast, as it is served right off the grill and the bread is better than the other two places. The jams and jellies are the pre-packaged sort and that is disappointing. They serve home fries rather than hash browns, and it might not be fair to compare these to the potatoes at the other places but regardless, they are oh so very good. Served with bits of green and red pepper, they are evenly cooked and served hot. I am loathe to share them with anyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three places that are fantastic! If you haven’t tried them, do! If you have and just want to try them again, invite me. We could go this week.

Number 601

I show up late, half-bottle drunk on Maker’s Mark with a skinny girl in a flowing strapless dinner dress. On the porch, she twists first left, then right while pleats flips out, then back, exposing pale ankles, deep purple slingbacks.

I knock.

Inside, the constant hum of conversation intertwines with the distinctive warble of Roy Orbison. I wait, looking at shadows behind heavy curtains. Then you are there, all smiles at the door in a pressed white blouse and dark gray, linen trousers. A new 20’s era crop peaking out under a navy cloche hat wrapped in a baby blue ribbon.

“Welcome,” you say, the crooked bottom teeth you always try to hide making an appearance, then stand sideways, stretching one hand into the house, the other holding the door open. “Come in. I am so glad you could come.”

Everyone is ten years too young and I instantly regret this. Bad fedoras worn by boys in skinny jeans, thin ties and too short button down shirts with tails peaking out, wrinkled and worn. Girls in overdone make-up, retro dresses, loud voices and cackle laughs. Cheap drug store colognes and various liquors permeate the room and I am almost too drunk, which brings an edgy nervousness. Someone I do not know says something I do not understand and coming around in the middle of a sentence I hear myself saying- “my sister, Chelsea,” see my hand on her elbow. Chelsea nods, talks and nods some more.

I escape, wandering off to the wall, feeling the uneven plaster as I press my back into it. A pleasant coolness follows, relaxing.

Scanning the room I find you quickly, animated and talking with your slender fingers, waving an unlit cigarette up near sublime lips. You laugh, look up and then at me, a little wink, which puts us back in your bedroom, weeks before when you lay facing the ceiling, legs crossed right over left, shoes cast off, clanking to the floor. Self portraits on the wall. Elaborate, delicate backgrounds surrounding crudely created stick figures, stringy hair, exaggerated breasts, pointy shoes, all black, telling stories. “This one is me at seven.” and there is fear, blue skies and intricate trees where you would hide when he came home angry, fists ready, fighting. “This is me, now” but I am no longer looking at your wall, what you have created.

Your hands are behind your head and I see the rise, fall of your chest. From my place on the carpet, I crawl up on the bed, your lips finding mine before I can change or swallow, before I can think to say no.

I have crossed the room, followed you out to the patio. A few others, sitting on wicker chairs, summer sun faded cushions, green and yellow, seem wax-worked, set up-film-like staged and easy to ignore. Smoking now, you lean against concrete and stucco, “the moon is small tonight. It wants to hide.”

I could take your hand. You would let me. It would be easy. I could press together our heavy hearts. My forehead could rest against yours, our eyes downward, staring at excellent shoes and gray painted floorboards. I could take in the smell of you, sharp and sweet, whiskey and trendy American Spirits. It would be effortless. I might even be able to say I was sorry, which would be surprising, but not unexpected. I could do a great many things. Instead I walk up next to you, leaning forward and gaze into the night, finding the fading moon, its distance growing more complete.

Purging

Family photographs strewn carelessly underfoot,

while needlessly complicated music plays through

floorboards. “He loves the wrist breaking chords

the best,” you say, stepping on a photo of aunt Nancy

wearing her Sunday best (which was never good enough),

 

always in floral patterns and high waist, belted dresses,

shoulder pads making her athlete strong, Trapped

in nineteen eighty six, gigantic glasses and purple

eye shadow, like bruises, like sunset stripped dreams.

 

I am low on drink, a clanking of ice cubes and I swallow

the rest, rinsing out what remains of an unexpected

kiss, tongue-tipped and tormenting. I want more.

Instead, you give me watered down words –

Fear and Regret-Even if your pupils tell a different story-

 

dilated, sucking in light, emptying, darkening down

the room-“Sometimes, he plays all afternoon. Songs

I don’t know, with intoxicating precision,” flopping

to the floor, marker in hand, crossing out the eyes

 

from pictures, “he calls me Debbie when he sees me.

I hate it,” and you will write it all down on scraps

of over-used paper, misunderstood as usual, which

is not your fault, while I pick skin near damaged

cuticles with my teeth, bitten-too-short nails an afterthought,

 

like after shave lotion, like dry toasted afternoons.

They all bleed in bright red trickles to the floor,

where you sit among the fabricated memories.

Moving your lips as you count them off one after another.

Devils Everywhere

I started this post, stopped and deleted, then started again. I am still unsure if I really want to talk about this in such a public forum as I worry (though I shouldn’t) that it is taking things in a direction I have tried to avoid.  I am as preachy as anyone else, often sure of my position and confident in the correctness, the rightness of my thoughts. I have surely said things, believed things, that in retrospect have been foolish. I hope that I have tempered that certainty with a willingness, an ability to be wrong. Accepting and being comfortable with a mistake is not always an easy thing, especially when it comes to something you were passionate about.

Sometimes we become so certain, so convinced of an idea or a set of beliefs that we become obsessed. Our entire lives become wrapped up in them and regardless of evidence to the contrary, we cling to our certainty, clutch it so tight that we become irrational.

Several experiences lately have put this into such stark clarity for me. I have come across instances that have confirmed to me that sometimes, we are so certain of our version of a truth that we see devils everywhere.  I am trying to be careful when I use the word truth. I have a hard time with that word in general, so much that even typing it here makes me want to explain and expound over and over how flawed that concept seems to me.  Regardless, it fits the bill today and gets the point across quite cleanly.

It would be wrong of me to describe the specific examples I have seen and I am not comfortable calling out anyone for falling into this trap. All of us at some time or place have done it. When I was going through my atheistic stage, all I could see were people trying to force God down my throat. It was all I could see, everywhere and in everything. Simple acts of kindness on the part of someone religious were taken out of context, distorted and exaggerated to the point of ridiculousness. There are those who see racism, sexism, in everything and everyone. Like a Police officer seeing everyone as a criminal, this kind of thinking paralyzes us, limits our opportunities and stunts our ability to learn and grow.  Again, in my own  life, I became convinced of the evils of anything related to governance that I only saw  flaws in my own country. I wound rant and rave at the drop of a hat and I made an ass of myself on several occasions. Some of the memories are still embarrassing.

I think it is good to challenge our beliefs, what we think and why we think it by asking ourselves simple questions. It is an old cliche’ but remembering to ‘question everything’ feels right to me. Always question things you don’t understand or agree with, but what is harder and more important is questioning  things you do understand and especially things you completely agree with. I think this is key and the essence of an open and free mind.

There is plenty enough in our world to be worried about, fearful of without adding to it.

 

 

Someone to Read

I wanted to write about the glory of Smith and Edwards Country Store today. The family went there for an outing and it is truly an adventure. So much random stuff to see. I am unsure how to even approach that place. If I had been planning ahead, I would have taken pictures. Then the blog would be done!

I will save that for later…

Instead I feel like telling you about the novels of one of my favorite writers, David Mitchell 

He has written five books so far and for me, each was better than the previous. My father pointed me towards his debut, Ghostwritten, a little over a year after its release.  The book tells nine separate but linked narratives. They include a terrorist from Okinawa in hiding after an attack, waiting for orders, a record store clerk in Tokyo falling for a customer, an old woman running a tea shack in China who talks to her tree and a radio Deejay, talking the end of the world with a mystery caller. The stories jump back and forth through time, sharing common themes and threads, but distinctly different in voice.  I rarely read books more than once, but I have read Ghostwritten three times.

He second Novel, Number 9 Dream, is a coming of age story of sorts. Set in Tokyo, the story blurs the lines between reality and fantasy, as Eiji Miyake searches for his father, finding himself emerged in the Tokyo underworld and a mysterious connection to the number 9 (the title coming from a John Lennon song).

Cloud Atlas is my favorite of Mitchells works. Again, the story is told from multiple perspectives and moves back and forth in time. The book begins with the journal of Adam Ewing and his journeys in the pacific ocean during the 19th century. It ends mid sentence and we move to a series of letters written during the 1930’s. followed by a 1970’s mystery story and then by a story about a 21st century publisher. A near future tale of cloning and revolution, followed by a post apocalyptic tale of an emerging, evolving tribal society ends the first half of the book, and we retreat backwards through the tales again.  Again the narratives link together in unexpected and astonishing ways. What makes this novel different and my favorite is the manner it which it blurs the lines between fantasy and reality, fiction bleeds into real life and as the stories intertwine, it becomes difficult to separate them. This might be my favorite book of all time!

Bouncing back to a story about growing up, Black Swan Green takes us through one year in the life of 13 year old Jason Taylor. The year is 1982 and the Falkland War is just beginning.  Set in Worcestershire, England, the story vividly captures what it was like to growing up in the early 80’s. We experience Jason’s despair at trying to replace his dead grandfathers watch he has broken, his wanting to fit it with the older, cooler kids, his infatuations with girls, first cigarettes, kisses and poignant deaths. This book is a departure as it is pretty straightforward. It is brutally honest and clever. A good, fast read.

Finally we come to the fifth novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet. Again, using multiple narratives, Mitchell tells a story of Japan in the 18th century, when the Dutch were the only western nation allowed to maintain trade. A clerk, Jacob De Zoet falls in love with a Japanese woman, a midwife  and daughter to a samurai doctor. His attraction to her proves detrimental to his position and places him in a position of extreme danger. The story then shifts, taking the reader on a bizarre journey into superstition and sorcery and a religious cult in the Japanese countryside. Political plots are hatched and executed, dramatic escapes and unspeakable violence occurs. The book’s climax is a siege and assault on the cult and one by the British navy on the Dutch. A very powerful book and one that I really need to read again.

I am anticipating the 6th novel which seems to again revolve around a coming of age tale.

I highly recommend any of these books.

 

Top Stuff-6

My family rarely took vacations. We did a great many fun things together, but finances and work schedules made it difficult to go very many places more than half a day away. In fact, the only place out of Utah we ever went was Yellowstone. I love Yellowstone! My parents photo album sometimes reads like a skipping record. The year is broken down into the same elements-Holidays, birthdays and Yellowstone. Every year we seem to take the same twenty pictures. We must have thirty or forty pictures of the same places during the same events. Geyser eruptions, waterfalls, buffalo, elk and us eating ice cream. Every trip (even into my married life) I would promise myself I would not take any photos of things I had already photographed. Without fail, I would see a hot spring in a different light, or be certain this eruption of Grand Geyser was the largest I had witnessed. The place is so spectacular, so unique that the instant I enter the park, I am captivated by it. Still, it is nice to want to go other places every once in a while, right?

The first time I had been east of Vernal, Utah was when I flew to New Hampshire to begin my LDS mission.  It was also my first airplane ride. Arriving in New England in the dead of winter, I can say I was not a fan of the place at first sight. It was bitter cold, very snowy and unfamiliar. I was extremely homesick, living in a run-down and dirty apartment, feeling completely lost. I hated every day for the first two months. I found flaws with everything and everyone, self included. I hated the weather, the rolling hills, the way people talked, how old the buildings were, how my clothes fit.

Of course, by the time Spring and Summer rolled around, things had changed. I was really starting to love everything about New England, especially the things I had initially loathed. I loved the weather, the rolling hills, how the people spoke and loved, loved how old most things were. I was sad to leave when the time came.

With those two  as a starting point, I have been pondering places I have been, some have inspired me while others, while interesting and worth the visit, were not places I would love to return.

I feel like making a happy list, so this one gets to be called-Places I have been that mattered.

1.Phoenix, Arizona-I first went to Phoenix in the late spring of 1993. I was going with my friend Joel and my brother Dylan. We drove down in my 1992 Geo Metro, three cylinders and just enough room for two grown adults. It may have been crowded, but we did get great gas mileage. We drove all night,  through Southern Utah and across the Navajo Reservation, through Northern Arizona and near the north rim of the Grand Canyon. We couldn’t see anything as it was the dead of night, but I recall driving with the windows down, loud music and dodging jack rabbits.  This was my first extended road trip without my family and I loved every second of it.

I fell in love with the Phoenix area the moment I saw it. Morning light and the palm trees, the desert sand, the vast expanses of urban sprawl, I was hooked. It was still a bit cold in Salt Lake when we left, but it was a lovely 69 degrees at 7  in the morning in Phoenix. I loved the orange trees growing in the medians (Dylan actually ate one of those nasty things), the smell of chlorine that seemed to be everywhere and the wonderful heat. I have been to this area many times since then, but the first trip is the one that sticks in my head. I remember cruising  around the Tempe area with my brother. It was nearing 8 or 9 at night and we were driving with the windows open, the sun setting over some of the most insanely shaped mountains I had ever seen. The heat of the day was still lingering and it must have been close to 85 degrees. I wanted to move to Arizona. Sometimes I still do.

2.Coeur d’Alene Idaho-Yep, that’s right! Idaho! Sheryl’s mother grew up in Couer d’Alene and much of Sheryl’s extended family still lives there. We took our first vacation as husband and wife in the summer of 1994, driving the 11 hours (again) through the night, across most of Idaho and a western Montana, to Coeur d’Alene. I wish I could express how amazing it was as we drove along the freeway and the lake came into view. It was a brilliant morning, near cloudless and the sun was less than an hour into the sky. I was exhausted from the night of driving and really wanted to sleep. The sight of the lake woke me right up. The mountains surrounding it, deep forest green pines and the sparkle of the sun off the water, it captivated me.

Couer d’Alene is a fairly small town that survives mostly on tourism with water sport being the largest draw to the area. Strangely enough, after close to ten trips, I have never spent even one hour on a boat on this lake. I have instead hiked amazing trails, eaten exceptional food, and mountain biked on some of the best single track I have ever seen, some of it  no wider than three feet. What a rush that can be, flying down the mountain, a steep drop of to one side, clinging to your bike as everything rushes by you. I miss that!

The entire area is breathtaking. I highly recommend going there.

3. Boston, Massachusetts-The first time I was in Boston was while I was doing that mission thing. I was not supposed to be there, but went anyway. I spent a whopping three hours seeing places like Beacon Hill and Fenway park. I wanted to see more and I promised myself I would go back.

It took over ten years.

Sheryl and I went to New England in 2003, visiting Joel and his family in Rhode Island as well as staying in Maine and New Hampshire. We spent a full day in Boston, a perfect spring day in May. It was 70 degrees and so sunny. We walked the city, walked the Freedom Trail. One thing I love about Boston is the mixture of old and new. So many historic buildings nestled among sky scrapers creates a completely fabulous experience. Joel and I drank cocktails and Sheryl a lemonade  by the bay. We ate great pasta. It was a perfect day.

New England feels like home to me.  One of the ways I determine how much I love a place is by being in it at its worst. I visited Boston a year or so later in January. Joel and I spent an evening out and about on the town, eating a fantastic steak dinner, drinking 7  dollar cocktails and having one of the best nights of my life. I remember distinctly walking from the underground station to the hotel, the winter wind blowing right through me, freezing cold and thinking, “I could live here. I need to live here”  Of course I already knew that, having wanted to move back since leaving my mission, but it was nice to have that confirmed all over again years later.

4. New York, New York-Ok, yeah its a huge cliche, but going to NYC totally changed my perspective on the world. So many people, everywhere. My first day in NYC started with hiring a car from the airport, fearing for my life the entire way into the city as the driver jammed in and out of lanes, accelerating into the exit lanes, then breaking quick and sliding back into traffic, all the while saying over and over “very busy today”.  I was so freaked, so ready to have this guy out of my life, that I jumped out of the car at the hotel and  left my jacket in the back of his van.

Later that evening, Sheryl and I met up with Meredith (Sheryl’s cousin) and we went to get some Italian food. As we walked to the restaurant, we passed buildings were people sat out on the stairs, smoking and talking to each other in loud voices. It felt like something out of a movie-some guys in wife beaters and fake NY accents screaming at each other on the stoop, drinking beer and what not. I couldn’t help but feel it was all staged for my benefit. No one really did this sort of thing, right?

The sheer amount of people, everywhere, all the time, was so amazing. I loved walking the streets, the smells, good and bad, the buildings, taking it all in. You could spend months in New York and not do or see even half of what was there. I heard so many languages, saw so many different people, it made me envy my friends who were lucky enough to live there.  If nothing else, the food is reason enough to go-Every conceivable nationality, every imaginable dish.

I have never felt as insignificant as I did in New York, but it wasn’t a bad thing. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was part of a larger world, not just the community where I lived. New York probably doesn’t feel that way to those who live there. Then again, maybe it does. I have never asked them. But for me, it was my first real experience with really feeling like there was more to the world than my limited view.

Another cliched example-Visiting the crater that once was the World Trade Centers was incredible. Before going there, it was easy for me to dehumanize the experience, seeing it only in a very politicized perspective. Standing just off the street, reading the posters that gave an hour by hour account of the events, I was struck by the pure human element of it. People  just going to work, helping others injured after the first plane struck, people living their lives just like me were killed. For that moment it didn’t matter who had done it, or why. I did not have a huge wave of patriotism wash over me. Instead it was a connection with the people of New York. I could not fathom the experience, but I could feel a deep sorrow for what they went through. It was at this moment that I looked around me, saw others reading the words, seeing the pictures. It was totally silent in this place, which is an amazing thing in a city like New York, where it is never silent. It was one of the most profound moments of my life.

I have not been back  since 2007 and that is not a good thing.

 

Well, that’s all I have today. Seems like it is time for another trip. Maybe to someplace I have never been. Maybe out of the country for a change.