Friday, February 26, 2010

What it's really about.

A good friend of mine has been trying for ages to get me to check out a website called CouchSurfing. It’s this fantastic site for… well I was going to say for travelers, but really it’s for people who want to connect with individuals from other places and cultures. Obviously I finally took a look – and signed up straightaway.

When filling out the profile, I really liked that they had a section for “Teach, Learn, Share.” Under the premise that surfing isn’t just about a place to sleep, but about an exchange, they gave a place to share any sort of special knowledge or insights you might have.

So when I got to that section, the following is what I shared…

When I was simply crossing a park in Athens on my way to someplace ancient, carting my bag as well as some leftovers which were meant for my supper, I came across three homeless men. The only three I saw in that country, I believe. They spoke to me, eventually in perfect English, with respect and politeness they tried to induce me to stop for a moment. I'm a girl, traveling alone in my first foreign country in a shrouded area at dusk. What did I do? I stopped. Sure there were things I wanted to see, places I wanted to go, but this was after all truly Greece right here in the park.

After some conversation around a burning trash barrel by a park bench, they insisted I eat with them - & were insulted when I pulled out my own food. First of all, the food they shared was phenomenal - the churches made sure they were very well fed, so it was one of the best meals I had in Greece. But then chatting with them I discovered that one of them had worked for years at one of the most famous restaurants in New York. He told me about serving all the famous people of the 60's & 70's and who really had been magnificent and who had been horrid. Another had been a merchant marine & told of some thrilling adventures & travels as well. The third told shyly of the love of his life, whom had eventually died after many years of joy together. We all talked and laughed into the wee hours.

In the end, I discovered the one who had lived in America had recently inherited a tiny two room flat, and knowing I hadn't yet found a bed for the night, insisted I stay at his place. The other two explained they were homeless by choice. They enjoyed this life, even on cold January nights like that one. Indeed, they were some of the most contented people I'd ever met. I'll never forget any of them nor those hours around the rubbish bin fire where they, each one, enriched my life.

Never discount the little moments. Take every opportunity to embrace life, but even more to experience the people around you, whatever their status. Don't miss the people for the place; don't miss the now for the past; don't miss the beauty in front of you for the dust on it's shell.

There is so much more to that story, like how horrid my host’s home smelled because he had recently painted it… and they put crazy stuff in their paint there. I believe I may have experienced something akin to an acid trip. I mean, I wouldn’t know because I’ve never dropped acid, but… it was SOMETHING. In that neat, sparse room were there REALLY bed bugs, or was it all part of the hallucination?

Still, great people, great experience, and many, many great stories… all because I stopped for people most pretend don’t exist.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wanting more.

So all day today I’ve been going through Stephen Fry withdrawals. If you’ve been reading here long (or if you’ve actually looked at my sidebar), you’ll know I love Craig Ferguson. But Stephen Fry is a whole other level of respect and adoration. Well, last night Craig Ferguson interviewed Stephen Fry old school style – no audience, just the two of them talking for the entire show. It was fantastic. I mean, it wasn’t the usual hilarity Craig brings every night, but it was endearing and smart and wonderful. And I want more.

The interview, or really the conversation, touched on some very interesting things. And what I found in the midst of it was that Mr. Fry and I have an great deal in common when it comes to perspective.

For one thing, I’ve always felt that it was so odd that one word can be a “bad” word, whereas a word that means the same thing is acceptable. I also found it odd just what the words meant that were considered bad… not hater or killer or abuser, but fucker. Hmm. Here’s Mr. Fry’s words on the topic:

If an alien was looking down on us and inspecting our language, they would see that the worst that we do on this planet is that we torture, we kill, we abuse, we harm people. We’re cruel. And those are the things in which we should be ashamed. Amongst the best things we do is we breed children, we raise them, and we make love to each other. We adore each other; we’re affectionate and fond of each other. Those are the good things we do.

And they would say how odd that the language for the awful things is used casually all the time. “Oh the traffic was agony - it was hell - it was cruel. Oh it was torture waiting in line.” You use words like torture – that’s the worst word! And yet if we use the “F” word which is the word for generating our species, for showing physical affection one to another, then we’re taken off air and accused of being wicked and irresponsible and a bad influence to children. Now we’re part of this culture so we often don’t question it. But if you think of someone outside of it, it is very strange.

As always, most cleverly put.

Early on Craig said when they knew each other years before how he always felt that Mr. Fry had it all together. His response was so true to the nature of the human psyche.

This is sort of a truth about all humans… You arrive at a party and everyone, in your mind, is armed with a club and all you have is a little Q-tip behind your back. And you think somehow everybody else was at a lesson at school where they learnt some life trick that you will never know because you missed that lesson and you will never catch up... and they think the same as you.

Isn’t that just the way of things, especially in our youth? We think somehow we are missing the punch line to THE joke; the secret ingredient to life, but everyone else knows it and isn’t sharing. I think the wisdom that comes of experience can change this perception, but indeed, not always... or rather, not everyone gains this wisdom in life.

The whole of the show held such insights, but as a whole it was simply captivating. Because of the unique style of this show, two friends talking without an audience, I rather felt like I was the one chatting with Steven Fry. It’s quite disconcerting to find I can’t enjoy a cuppa and a conversation with him again sometime.

Speaking of cups, I did notice that for the first time ever, I believe, Craig gave his guest THE SAME rattlesnake mug as he uses. He’s given the smaller version on rare occasions, but never “the real thing.” That’s some respect right there!

I wanted to end with the W.H. Auden line that Mr. Fry quoted in response to Craig’s tattoo which reads “Live free or die,” because again it is to the heart of my philosophy…

“We must love one another or die.”


Addendum: Yes, I know I referred to Craig Ferguson informally as “Craig,” and to Stephen Fry as “Mr. Fry,” but when you think of each of them and how we know them… can you blame me??

Monday, February 22, 2010

The world is upside down.

Yesterday was a great day in hockey history. The last three gold medal games were replayed in the last day of the preliminary round, and it was exciting!

The first game, Russia and the Czech Republic, was intense and fast. But even more, there was loads of hitting. Yes, this is my favorite part of the game, but it was more impressive to see so plainly how a single hit can alter the course of the game, as with Alex Ovechkin’s hit on Jaromir Jagr. It was a mid-ice smackdown. And ten seconds later, Evgeni Malkin scored for Russia. Wow. The energy completely shifted, too. The intensity of the game never let up, and the Czechs were in it until a late empty-net goal by Russia that sealed it.

The second game is THE game. Come on, even non hockey fans must have heard about this stunner. The USA taking on favored, powerhouse, home team Canada. If talent had weight, the Canadian team would be an anvil. Not a single person, not media not experts, not really anyone who knows hockey slightly thought that the US men could pull out a win. No one, that is, except them.

I hoped. Hard. I know anything can happen, but I didn’t believe… until they started playing. They were a Team, with a capital “T.” They knew their roles, and they played as a unit. I love a huge amount of the outstanding players on the Canadian team, but great talent, as we well know from history, doesn’t make a great team.

The game was back-and-forth for a while, but the US seemed to dominate momentum and pace, especially later in the game. But goaltender Ryan Miller was on fire, saving 42 shots. Then when Ryan Kesler made a near-miraculous empty net goal, it was unbelievable. The US was going to win. My joy poured forth!

Kudos to NBC, by the way, for playing that entire game (excluding between periods of course) commercial free. Because there are no TV timeouts in the Olympics, the other games would go to commercial and we’d miss segments of the game. So thank you, NBC.

In these first two match ups, the silver medalists toppled their gold medal counterparts from the years before. But in the last game, Sweden versus Finland, it didn’t turn out that way. In fact, it didn’t turn out to be much of a game. Miikka Kiprusoff came to play for Finland, but he didn’t seem to have a lot of help. Sweden dictated play on every level after the first few minutes, blanking Finland. I was disappointed because I really thought this would be the game to round out one of the most amazing days in hockey in recent history. Still, Finland was good enough in preliminary to garner the forth spot, giving them a bye along with all of yesterday’s winners.

What is so astounding about all of this is that now the USA has top ranking, meaning they play the easier teams, and either Russia or Canada will be out before the medal round as they will play each other in the quarter finals provided Canada beats Germany tomorrow. Holy cow. That’s just crazy. These are the teams predicted to be the top two. What an exciting tournament! What a great sport.

I feel guilty for saying this, but between Canada and Russia, I’d rather see Russia continue. Not because I have anything against the amazing players on Canada (save one or two – LOL) nor the country (Vancouver is one of my favorite cities in the world), but because Russia is just a more exciting team to watch. The have a fire that is… fun. They are having fun, so you have fun watching them.

I’m open for any eventualities, and LOVE the unknown of it all. Nothing is a sure thing in this one-game elimination setting that we are entering. But that’s what makes it so exciting! Slovakia or Sweden? Russia or Canada – or does Germany surprise the world and be the ones to take them both down. Now THAT would be a long shot. However it goes, whatever the outcome, it’s an amazing game and I wouldn’t miss this for the world!

...U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

You can't take it with you.

“My idea of the ultimate luxury is to be able to move all my worldly goods in one taxi.”

This, one of my favorite quotes, is from a British TV series (Murphy’s Law). Though I’d thought like this for years, I’d never put it so well. Actually, until this show I hadn’t really known there were other people, even fictional ones, out there that thought like me in this way.

Having said this, it’s likely apparent that I’ve not been a big saver of things, and am, in fact, excessively sparing compared to most Americans. Because of my desire to live abroad and travel the world, I’ve attempted to keep the ever-building amalgam of collected paraphernalia to a minimum. (Of course, being a compulsive organizer contributes to the constant downgrading as well.)

Yet the mass makes headway. Like when I took up triathlons. The equipment and wears add quite a bit. Or my growing collection of luggage and travel gear. Meant to help me keep things to a minimum, or at least to keep them quite small, these little items add up and take up space. Or my high quality kitchen items that have accumulated during my more domestic moments.

Most of all, it’s my books. It is the one collection with which I just can’t seem to part. I’m ever torn between wanting to be free of the encumbrance of mass quantities of stuff, to adoring the library I’ve taken a lifetime to build up. How can I reconcile this? I get advice spanning the spectrum. Yet my core is still torn asunder.

What’s worse with the books is that, because I was in a non-productive space both mentally and physically for the last few years, I indulged in collecting easily over 300 books I’m longing to read. What do I do with them as I prepare to move abroad? How do I keep up with them? When living in Italy, I used to send the books I’d read home to my parents. Do I keep that practice up? Am I then spending the same as if I bought them again? It’s my constant conundrum.

As to the “memory items” that fill up closets, garages, and storage sheds all over this vast country, I’ve been good about ridding myself of such things. If it still holds personal value and I can, I’ll scan or take a snap of it then free myself of it. But mostly it just goes. This is perhaps easier because I don’t have a family of my own. If one day I do, my kids will likely be grateful not to have to sort through my life in objects and paperwork.

Now when it comes to things from my ancestral past, I truly treasure the connections to those that have gone before. I would like to hold onto a few things from them. My grandad’s old stand-up radio that he brought to California from Nebraska as a surprise, the rocking chair my great-grandfather built, the painting my great-grandmother created… those things I will cherish whether they take up space or not. And the photos, of course. But the rest I can leave behind.

All this said, I do still love to have things. I’m not all that abstemious. Nice things feel good. I just want to keep them in proportion. Especially since so much of it is going to be in storage very soon. And, too, I don’t want to have things just to have them – I’d like them to be useful as well as nice. Form and function together is ideal. And always, always, always I must remind myself that in my case, less really is more.

If I try to stick with this, then perhaps I can live something close to that quote. That is, so long as there is a bike rack on the back of that taxi…

Friday, February 19, 2010

[not an actual post]

Okay gang, just a supplemental. I’m toying with the layout a bit, obviously. I’ve never been a big “blue” fan so was getting worn out on the old color scheme, yet I love the design. This one seems a bit flashy, but I’m hoping with the help of an incredibly generous, creative, and talented friend that I might get something more suited to me soon, while still keeping the general look. In the mean time, don’t get blinded by that green. I think I am already.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Learn from the best.

So tonight, with family in from out of the country, I was chef for the night. I usually create my own recipes – a habit from when I had a catering and party planning business, but occasionally lately I have gone to Nigella Lawson for inspiration. Today I wasn’t feeling too well, so I bowed to her genius rather than pulling something out of my own hat. She is a goddess on so many levels, but her cooking is insane.

I decided on a Cheddar Risotto. Sounds weird, I know, but just keep reading! Because I was under the weather a bit, Mum was gracious enough to do the shopping for me. But she only found boxes of porcini risotto. So the scramble began. Hey, this is ALWAYS where I shine. So I filtered most of the mushroom bits out, but a couple of the boxes had some flavoring already mixed in. Then I became my usual creative self and added little bits of fresh broccoli and chicken at just the right times to balance it all.

May I say, amazing! It’s incredibly rich, but the flavors were so fantastic together. As more of a purist when it comes to Italian cooking, having lived there, I’d NEVER have thought to try a risotto with cheddar – sharp at that. However, this was delectable.

I followed it up with – I say with all modesty – the best mousse I’ve ever had, much less made! I was doubting my beloved Nigella on this one when it was done as it seemed runny, and I’d already decided I was going to write further instructions in the book, but I should have trusted one of my favorite sirens. I let it chill (as I made it before the risotto). It was PERFECTION. The most chocolaty, rich, flavorful, smooth thing imaginable. Absolute heaven for any chocolate lover. Best of all, one of the easiest things I’ve ever made for dessert!

As I said, I’m not a big recipe person. I’m an artist, and I carry that into the kitchen. I use flavors like colors on a canvas – one must always be sparing and they must compliment and flow into something beautiful. But again, Nigella is my go-to for inspiration and elevation.

And she IS a goddess, I promise. Yes, part of her allure for me is that she is a curvaceous woman who is considered one of England’s top beauties. HELLO! We have very similar shapes, and to me that’s just fabulous. (If you were a fan of the Gilmore Girls, Lorelai and Rory had a discussion about how amazing she is in an episode.) She is sexy, sultry, yet also practical and friendly. It’s very endearing. But she makes simple, quick, and easy dishes also be off-the-charts delicious and somehow also elegant.

I actually bought her biography and am looking forward to reading it. Truth be told, I had to buy it twice because my friend’s dog quite literally ate my first copy. He must have known she was a chef. Well, that and he missed me and wanted to be sure I knew he wasn’t happy I’d left him. At any rate, shows my excitement at reading it!

So I highly recommend Nigella’s Cheddar Cheese Risotto and Instant Chocolate Mousse, as well as about anything else from her cookbook entitled Nigella Express. If you like to cook, and want great things that are quick and easy, that is the best possible book out there!

As a post script, may I say that I began the meal while completely entranced by the Canada – Switzerland hockey game. Can you believe that they went to a shootout?? How great is that potentially for USA? How much greater for the Swiss, of course. I confess I was mesmerized and had to put the risotto on hold for a while. Hockey first, peeps! :)

How to read.

Reading is such a personal thing, I find. It’s not just our different tastes that make this so, but each person experiences the act of reading differently. We even approach it differently.

I’ve always been someone who devours books, reading whatever it is to which my mood drives me. A biography set during the Resistance in Europe in the midst of World War II or a cozy mystery, very often a classic I missed in my studies or a random piece of modern fiction I picked up at the airport or at Costco… whatever I felt like at the end of the previous book, I’d take down from the shelf and dig into.

A couple years ago I got ambitious and decided to try a different approach. With much zeal I undertook first one list, then another, eventually adding a partial third list to the stack. I was determined.

I collected most of the books from one list, while reading dozens from the second. I was moderating a book club which followed one of the lists, doing so virtually on my own for a while. At first it was great because the discussions were so rich and deep, but soon I became overwhelmed keeping up with the posts AND the reading (and the complaints that came in back then). The lists soon became chores as well, so weighted down with it all was I.

Suddenly, it wasn’t so much fun any more. I wasn’t reading what I wanted, but what I felt I SHOULD read. Some people are driven by lists, and I commend them. But was loosing my joy for the demand. And yes, it was a demand I put on myself. I’d also committed to reading a huge amount of books the last two years, so that was even more pressure.

To counter act this and regain some of that joy, this year I decided to just read what I’m in the mood for and have fun with all of it. I’m loving it! I do read from those lists, but only if I feel like it. I had to get out of the mindset of being bound to something so that I could actually dive into that very thing. However, the key is that when I feel like reading something as far away from those lists as is imaginable, I don’t feel pressure or guilt that I'm not doing as I should – I just go for it.

And now I’m in the midst of reading The Catcher in the Rye, a book I’ve never had an urge to read (and in fact have avoided), because it’s on all three lists and particularly because as a well educated woman, it seemed a gap in my knowledge. I’ve loved several of the other books I've taken on so far this year, so I thought reading something that likely I won’t enjoy, but will appreciate on certain levels was a good way to do it. That and I made it “homework,” as in I gave myself a deadline. (So I won’t have to suffer forever.) Hee-hee!

Anyway, I’m so glad to have reading be a pleasurable part of my journey again. It’s been a vital part of my life since I was very young, and I want to keep it always a delight. Happy reading!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Breaking it down.

HOCKEY TIME! I watched both the US game against the Swiss and the Canadian game against the Norwegians. Watching the US game first, I felt like they were really strong for being a team so unaccustomed to each other… until I saw Canada. Wow. They really are going to be hard to beat. Good for Norway, staying with them for an entire period. One thing's for sure, our two teams meeting (on the 21st) will be both an interesting and exciting match.

Here’s my anger point. Jerome Iginla scores a hat trick for Canada, and the announcers somehow give the credit to Crosby. GAH! As if Iginla isn’t an amazing player in his own right. Crosby didn’t even touch the puck for at least one of Iginla’s goals. I truly cannot stand the Canadian attitude about that guy (Crosby)! He is so incredibly over-hyped. He’s a good player, but he is most certainly not the best player in the world. Oh, and they kept calling Crosby the Captain – which he so isn't. (That would be Niedermeyer, if you were curious.) I just know I’m going to be pulling my hair out over this before the end of these games.

Two of the US goals were pretty amazing no-assist goals. Though it was a tighter game in regards to the score, the did dominate and it felt more like they were just feeling out the other players on their lines. I mean Canada has an entire line (from the Sharks!) as well as defencemen that have or are playing together in the NHL. That makes a huge difference to gelling quickly on the ice. I think as the tournament progresses the US will find their cohesiveness and really shine.

Oh, and as a Sharks fan, I’m LOVING that Roenick, who finished his career with us, is doing the intermission commentating! He’s being too professional, though. He’s so much more fun off-the-cuff!

I’m really excited to see the Russians play later. I’d like to see the Swedes, too, (tomorrow) but the Russians are one hot team – especially with Sharks’ goaltender Nabokov, Malkin (who makes Crosby a better player on the Pens), Kovalchuk, and the player who REALLY IS the best in the world, Ovechkin. He truly does make the players around him better.

Yes I’m biased. Deal with it.

Another thing that’s irritating is to have the Most Hated Player, Pronger, be on the ice with so many players I respect. He’s considered great, but really he’s just plain dirty. He hits to injure. He’s nasty. And, as all Sharks fans know (if they actually know why we boo him every time he touches the puck), he is a great big whiner. There are other players I don’t like (Perry) or for whom I don’t have respect (see above), but there are none as completely loathed as Pronger.

I know most of you could care less about any of this – but (obviously) hockey is something for which I have great passion. It is such an exciting sport which takes skill on several extra levels than most sports do. In these Olympics I’m enjoying so many sports for so many reasons, but summer or winter, for me nothing compares to my beloved hockey.

Can't wait to see what happens next!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Simply luscious.

What makes a day a good day?

Today I woke up to a fresh doughnut (thanks Dad!) and coffee while enjoying the end of last night’s Olympics (Ohno! Kearney! So exciting!). I then put on a cute skirt with fancy tights and my still-pretty-new boots and headed out to the farmer’s market. Sheer joy. I can’t explain why. I think it reminds me of when I lived in Italy… except far more international with sellers originally from Tunisia and India and Portugal, to name a very few.

Maybe because I know after I’m done I’m going to my favorite French-American fusion café, located right on the strip of the market, for the lightest, most delicious crepe imaginable. Today I upped the ante by getting champagne instead of café au lait, and when the chef/owner found out I didn’t have a sweetheart, he gave me a tuxedoed chocolate strawberry – very sweet – as well as instructions on how I need to find a French man for real romance. I even got a second glass of champagne on the house! Best of all I laughed with a lovely couple from Australia during all of this.

I also walked into the local used bookstore on the off chance that a specific copy of a book I wanted might be there, fully expecting to have to go elsewhere as they didn’t have it only days ago. But there it was! Just EXACTLY what I wanted – and for so little!

I eventually wandered home to snack on a fresh hummus and warm pita, finishing with a perfect cup of tea. Then after a quick change, I was off to the park for a long, brisk walk around the lake – a big deal with the ankle still recovering. It was lovely, if packed with couples taking a Valentines stroll. It felt like spring with trees flowering here and there. I finished lounging on my blanket on the hillside overlooking the lake, reading until dusk.

Now, after a warm shower (under a wonderful new shower head) and a fresh and light dinner, I’m enjoying the Olympics before watching a movie!

So, little joys, fun interactions with people on an international level, delightful surprises, tasty treats, refreshing exercise made up this good day. But even more, purposing that it would be good made it so. I chose to believe it would be, and my outlook made all the difference. Now if I could just remember to do that more often…

Anyway, after sharing about “one of those days” recently, it seemed right to share this simple yet wonderful day as well. I hope in the days to come you find delights around every corner.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The wondrous spectacle.

“…in what other place does the queen of silence show us more splendour…” - François-Xavier Garneau

With all lights out, I sat in front of a giant LCD LED HDTV with the surround sound turned up to decibels never before reached in this household to fully experience the festivities of the opening ceremonies of the 21st Winter Olympic Games. I mean, this is a one-night-only live show on which was spent 35 million dollars and the likes of which New York and Las Vegas shows can’t compare. With this killer system, it was nearly like being there… except I was in my robe instead of one of those white poufy parka-mini-skirts the help had on! And I didn’t get to bang a drum, darn it.

The lead up to the event included a wonderful reflection on Canadian-American relations and a lovely segment about carrying the torch near the arctic circle. Even the premier of the new version of the song “We Are the World,” recorded to benefit Haiti relief, was moving. But the main event was just getting underway!

I loved the visuals and the lead in with the sights of Canada and the snowboarder heading down the mountain and… into the arena. Really a great way to showcase the country’s beauty. One observation I had early on was when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were carrying in the Canadian flag. I was slightly surprised and not a little impressed that of the eight holding the flag, five were women. It’s not the typical idea of an RCMP, but rather an exciting one I think. What an honor to be chosen, too, regardless of sex.

Watching all the athletes in their procession, I observed that there really are a lot of beautiful people in this world. Really. I thought the colorful giant paisley print pants of Azerbaijan get the award for most daring outfit, far outstripping the Bermuda shorts of the (duh) Bermuda delegation. I thought Russia’s jackets were by far the nicest looking. (But then, if you don’t yet know, I adore red!) I was excited that there was a woman competing for Iran for the first time in the Winter Games – AND she carried their flag.

But most of all I was moved when the dancers stopped and the audience gave a standing ovation for the entrance and procession of the Georgian delegation. Such a truly tragic – and horrific – thing to loose such a young teammate (21) the day his dreams were to come to fruition. Kudos to both the Chilean and Croatian delegations for wearing the black armbands as a sign of respect. How sad that none of the bigger countries, or at least all the other lugers, didn’t follow suit.

As to the ceremonies themselves, I was delighted. So many things stand out. That 16 year old Nikki Yanofsky singing their national anthem – wow! The entire fiddling & tapping sequence was outstanding, exciting, and inspiring – fully my kind of thing, and so much energy! k.d. lang was utterly amazing singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” (I’ve never been a fan of hers, but that one performance caused me to want to be one.) And that slam-poet Shane Koyczan was phenomenal. Made me wish I was Canadian. Nearly. “…Don’t let your luggage define your travels – each life unravels differently…” Fantastic!

And then there was the torch lighting. But it’s a little hard for me to comment on it, as I was watching it via DVR (so as to skip commercials all night), so it cut out during the extended delay they had waiting for… I don’t know what. I missed it entirely – and was incredibly irked about it! Four and a half hours, and I miss the finale! I’m hoping it will eventually be posted online, but no luck so far.

I know it’s a bit silly to go on about this, but really it’s so thrilling to this child-like soul. I love the competition and the sport. I love the stories of overcoming personal struggles to just BE there. (Like that athlete from Tajikistan who didn’t qualify, but they let come be a part of it just for the experience – he won’t compete. He’s that country’s only athlete.) I love the spotlight on a city and country – in this case one of my favorite cities to which I’ve ever been. And I do love the pride of country that comes forth. It’s going to be a great two weeks.

Friday, February 12, 2010

What this girl wants.

Hockey. The greatest sport in the world. Now don’t attempt to argue – on this little patch of cyberspace at least you won’t win.

I’m bringing it up today, however, because it’s Olympics time! Woohoo! I always get excited for The Games. I enjoy the entire spectacle, from start to finish; opening ceremonies to closing festivities. From the obscure sports to the little known countries competing to the personal stories of the athletes to learning about the host city and country, I immerse myself in the whole of it.

However, this time with it being in Canada, and being the Winter version, I’m over-the-moon! Hockey played in it’s birthplace on a world scale – flipping awesome!

The thing that makes it all the more exciting and urgent is that this isn’t like the NHL playoffs. Come the finals of this tournament, it’s one game elimination. No best of seven. Just one shot. Your team doesn’t gel one night and your country’s metal chances could be over. So much more thrilling and nail biting this way!

With that in mind, a team like Canada with all that talent and more pressure than most could fathom (particularly after the last Winter Games results of seventh place), might just have an off night. In this one-game final rounds elimination world, even a most unlikely team might emerge… not to mention the other powerhouse of Russia.

I will, of course, cheer for my country. I will also cheer for the players from my NHL team (the San Jose Sharks) on their respective country’s teams. And I will just cheer because it’s that rare thing of world hockey. There is no (real, regular) world cup for hockey, so this is what I’ve got. And I’ll most certainly take it!

I know most girls (who actually like the Olympics) are excited for figure skating or perhaps, if they are more edgy, then some of the more extreme-style sports. But this girl, she just wants to see her some hockey!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

For better or for worse.

It’s the middle of the night and I’ve just finished “one of those days.” At the same time, it wasn’t all bad… it just left me melancholy and feeling a bit hopeless.

The good bits? For the first time in a really long time I had someone who listened and told me they were sorry and how much what was happening sucked. To individuals that have always had that, please TRUST ME, count your blessings. The last time I had a far, far worse situation I had a “good friend” tell me in the moment of crisis to just stay away then… at least that was the kindest bit of what they said. It is the most wonderful thing when something yucky happens to have someone listen then simply say, “That completely sucks, I’m so sorry!” So for that I’m overwhelmingly grateful.

The other nice thing was that another person whom hasn’t always made things easy for me actually came to my rescue – graciously. Usually this person has to let me know how much they are sacrificing for me and how I’m putting them out, but today she simply helped. It felt almost miraculous.

Still, the day seemed to want to twist me about his finger (the evil days are generally male… the truly depraved and vicious ones are obviously female). He wanted me to cower. With so many negative things piling up and his fierce vigilance at trying to bring me down, a simple conversation where I perceived that someone of importance in my life didn’t have faith in me for that which I’m striving toward was "the thing." You know, the tipping point. The day got his way. I crumbled.

I tried to process, but get angry when I can’t get past the self flagellation, so I thought escape was a good idea… in the form of organization (my go-to for feeling in control again) and a film. I chose, at random, Up in the Air. A movie about a man who had made an art of pairing down – great right? I’m working on that daily! – and a life of travel – so my goal! – only to discover that it’s all really about connections with people, and he didn’t actually have any. *Sigh.* Yes, let’s make me feel that much more crappy about my life and where I’m heading.

So. How do I then proceed? I’m a person who loves connections, but have never had one that… held out. I’m okay with that. I will continue to enjoy them for however long and on whatever level they are extended. Would it be nice to have one last? Most definitely. But in the mean time, I have to try to go for my dream, one step at a time. Even if it means I may be further isolating myself. I hope that’s not where this leads, but I will pursue regardless.

I’ll survive today’s adversity in large thanks to a lovely connection I have with a great person who knew to say, “I get it and I’m sorry.” I must have faith that my life will be graced with a few others that will also know how to listen and care – whom I can be there for as well. Lastly, I have to believe that whatever others think, I REALLY CAN.

Now to just get my heart to own all that… perhaps sleep is a good place to start. Thank you for indulging me in this reflective rant, and, well, good night.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Best pick-up line EVER.

(Well, by a geek to a geek at least.)

It was last year, and I was in a frustrated and miserable state as my car, which I’d just the day before dropped a bunch of money into to replace the radiator while on a trip, had not even 11 miles later fizzled into eternal death. By that time, however, I had crossed the San Francisco bay (from Marin to Oakland) and there was not a soul I knew in the vicinity.

So I waited for a tow truck (that was going to suck even more money out of me) to make its way up from home in the south bay to where my car had breathed it’s last. I was stuck in a sort of in-between place, so had to walk some distance to find a spot in which to finally eat. It was a restaurant next to a boat dock.

I go in, and head upstairs to the less… romantic area. I ascend the stairs into a raucous, merry world filled with local fishermen and posh yacht owners swilling together. There were peanut shells on the floor, and dice rolling around on the bar.

I reached the top and INSTANTLY became the center of attention. Oh, and you can believe me, I (also instantly) decided I was going to have some serious fun with this!

I was invited to sit many places, but chose the table at the head of the stairs, just next to the bar, that was filled with a motley group. Sort of a large “welcoming table” as you got to watch the ebb and flow of customers… and discuss said customers at length in front of them if you wished (apparently this was the local custom).

Now, in that mix, some of the guys were complete idiots (to be expected) attempting to pick me up by insulting me and calling me a liar. As a side note, the irony was it was the one thing I wasn’t… “misleading” about! You see, I’d also decided to just be evasive about everything, so that when they questioned me about what I did for a living, they decided it was whatever they suggested because I didn’t stop them from thinking that. So I had a myriad of occupations (and a plethora of names), depending on who you talked to!

There were other guys that offered, and did, buy my drinks and my meal. There were some that were so drunk they could only say sexual things to me as their friends laughed nervously, while I, smartalec that I am, had scathingly awesome comebacks that the drunk guy couldn’t follow, but which his buddies so admired that they rather were in awe of me. There were others that were overly polite trying to make up for the rest of them. In all, I was on top of my game, witty as all get-out, and having the time of my life!

But then there was the guy next to me. Sigh. It’s true, my geek-love set in. He had the hot geek-style glasses, was thin and tall as I often lust after, and was, I discovered, quite smart. He thought I was a quantum physicist.

He took his time at starting to talk to me, and when he did it was to “save me” from the idiot who wouldn't stop insulting me in a twisted attempt to win me over. So the geek turned my stool toward his and started chatting. It was natural for both of us and we matched wits well. He wasn’t trying to pick up on me in the least, but just trying to keep that rude guy from annoying me. We continued to interact sporadically with the entire table, but focused more on each other. Then as his confidence grew with my attention, he started telling me this great story.

Did I know, he wondered, that we are all made of stardust? He talked about eons ago how different stars exploded and their molecules were blown across the galaxies. He told me how we are now made up of these molecules. He also talked about how molecules have memory and how if they’ve ever been linked, they remember and are drawn to those once connected molecules. In his thoughtful, rapturous monologue, he continued his thought process with, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if some of your molecules were from the same star as some of my molecules and that’s why we were drawn together? We are from from the same star...”

Completely involved in his story, he was intending on continuing, but I sucked in my breath, my eyes wide, I said, “BEST PICK-UP LINE EVER!” He was completely thrown and couldn’t remember what he was going to say… instead, red as a beet, he finally grinned.

Yes, it turned out he was married. But this event made flirting the rest of the evening, in the midst of and while participating in the chaotic revelry of that place and the phrenetic enthusiasm of our table, until the tow showed up a blast – no worries about it being taken seriously either way. We could be saucy and sassy and know that this was it. This moment. It was, in the end, a perfect moment. All thanks to my car deciding THAT was the spot she wanted to “shuffle off this mortal coil.”

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ten on Tuesday.

So I saw on several other blogs this list of questions. I really liked the idea, but more I liked the questions. I know I won’t do this “Ten on Tuesday” weekly, but perhaps monthly I can come up with a list of questions like this that seem interesting and put them out there. This first one is…

All About Books

1. Favorite book(s) when you were a child and why?

I loved Babar. Madeline, too, but with the Babar books I still remember the feeling I got reading them. I think it was the art – I adored how they looked. Madeline... I think I loved how she dressed and where she lived – how exciting, a foreign land AND with lots of other girls (I had only a brother, so this was a mysterious and magical idea all it’s own)!

2. First “grown-up” book you remember reading?

Okay, this is really funny. I think it was like Poltergeist or Ghost House or something. I LOVED to be frightened, and reading it was far scarier than seeing it in a film or something. Honestly, it was more likely a work of classic literature, but I read so much, it’s all jumbled up together. This is what stood out. No! Wait! I just remembered! I read a Danielle Steele novel - crazy-long for a preteen, I must say (and embarrassing as an adult). No idea how I got my hands on one in my household growing up!

3. Favorite movie that came from a book?

I would go with Pride & Prejudice, but the version I like was a mini-series so that doesn’t really fit the parameters of the question. Probably Peter Pan. I loved the animated version as a child, and think the live action version made in the 90’s was fantastic, too.

4. Movie that you loved so much that you WISHED there was a book out so that you could find out more about the movie?

I guess it would be Amelie. This is possibly my all-time favorite movie. It is very parabolic, so would make a great book. (I love movies like this – that roll like a parable.) I’d just love to hear more of the little things that she did to continue to effect positive change. Ack! Just such a precious movie, I think I might have to watch it again tonight now! The only thing about it being a movie is that it is really visually interesting, using color and images to effect mood and such, so that it mightn’t be as interesting in the end as a book.

5. Worst book you’ve ever read?

Hands down, a horrid thing called Blue Angel by Francine Prose. When I lived in Italy, a great friend at the time gave it to me saying it was so incredible – has this major twist at the end. So I hungrily read it. It got worse and worse and I just wanted to chuck it out my 6th floor window, but I kept thinking how it MUST redeem itself at the end, what with that twist. The letter fairies must have got in and changed all the words around by the time I read it, because there was no twist, no redemption, and NOTHING INTERESTING about it. God what a waste of my time that was!

6. Book that everyone raves about that you either a) haven’t read and feel slightly dumb for not having read it or b) have tried to read and hated and so feel slightly dumb that everyone is getting something you don’t?

Okay, first of all, I don’t feel dumb if I don’t like it – because I generally see what “everyone is getting,” but just think whatever that is is rather lame, or at least not up my alley. Nor do I feel dumb if I haven’t read it because I read all sorts of vital and awesome things, but still have a life so can’t get to everything at once... and besides, I don’t tend to follow the masses in anything, but most especially reading. Except Harry Potter – it’s just that good. But a book that is huge which I haven’t read but want to? Hmm... The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, most anything Dickens (used to hate him, rediscovered recently), and as for modern stuff... maybe Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, Arcadia by Tom Stoppard, and Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino.

7. If you were forced to choose only 3 books that you could read for the rest of your life, which ones would they be?

Well, I’d likely cheat and make them anthologies of authors or something... but if it were a strict island life with book Nazis patrolling, maybe – wow, this is hard! – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, and something by Dickens... as I’m just now getting into him, I’m not sure which yet. Maybe David Copperfield or Little Dorrit. I must say, tomorrow I might change the first two to Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen and Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman, though. Crap, you know what? I just wouldn’t choose. That’s evil and wrong. Three books? *mumble-mumble, whine, mumble*

8. Name one book that you would recommend everyone you know read.

I really had to think on this one because I know a diverse crowd, many with strong viewpoints, and that can get dicey for a blanket recommendation... but I settled on Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Incredible.

9. What is your “guilty pleasure” reading?

I guess the closest I get to that is the book American on Purpose by Craig Ferguson. I don’t feel guilty about it because he’s actually a good writer and is very transparent about himself in it, but you know, books by famous people generally fall in that category. Also Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert would probably fit here. Indulgence and abstention bound together – says “guilty pleasure” if ever a thing could.

10. What book (excepting the Bible or other major document of your religion/faith) has changed your outlook on life the most?

Honestly, there was recently a succession of books that together changed my perspective on life... a few of them are: The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, cheesy as that sounds, really reminded me to keep my mind always focused and positive, His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman trilogy gave me the gift of seeing the intrinsic value of THIS MOMENT – of life right now as well as how precious every single life is (plus it’s a fun story), and then years ago I remember No Graven Image by Elisabeth Elliot altering my perspective on cultures and how faith interacts with it. I’ve read many, MANY books on faith, but it seems those that are about living effect the most change in me.

So I’d love to hear some of your answers to the questions, especially the ones that jumped out at you the instant you read them! Chime in! Tell me about you…