One Day (I will write a book)

Every once in a while a book comes along that just takes me over. This happens relatively infrequently, but when it does it’s always good. Usually I start reading and within the first few pages I’m hooked. I’m thinking, Man this is awesome! what is about this literature that has been compulsively reading and beggin’ for more? It could be the dialogue, the characters, the plot line, whatever it is, I’m hooked–bait, line, and sinker. The most recent instance of this is with the book One Day by David Nicholls. My mom bought this book for me as a little treat when she was here in March. I had read The Understudy the summer previous and was looking forward to reading more by him. I brought it with me to Spain and didn’t get an opportunity to read it until my journey home, which was my Disaster Day of Travel. I read the book in a 24 hour sitting. Excuse me, let me rephrase, I devoured the book; I couldn’t get enough of it. There were times when I told myself to just put the book down and let my eyes rest. Plus, I didn’t want to fly through it and not really soak it in. Alas, like an addict, I was unable to put it down.  I felt myself drawn to the characters and their situation. They were my good friends, my cronies, and I couldn’t help but want more, MORE of their story.

The plot is a new twist on an old genre, the romantic comedy. Nicholls tells the story of Dexter and Emma, getting together for the first time on July 15th, the day after they graduate from college. Each chapter takes place on the same date, the following year, for twenty years. The reader is taken through the evolution of their friendship, the awkward beginning, the familiarity of the middle and the exasperations throughout. Nicholls is one of my favorite authors for his ability to incorporate laugh-out-loud situations in a non-slapstick way. It’s genuine humor and comedy. He also is simply a great storyteller. I sent One Day back home for Courtney to read, not realizing that it isn’t even available over there yet. So, she has a hot copy– and she better start reading!

I bring all this up now, not only because I have a slight obsession with reading, but because last night I was privy enough to attend a reading by David Nicholls, himself. My friend Adam, who I more or less persuaded to become a fan of Nicholls as well, joined a surprisingly large group of other nerds for a night of storytelling. What we didn’t anticipate was that a significant portion of the reading would take place in German. As we settled in and the program began we realized there was a serious possibility we would not understand most of what was being said. Thankfully, however, Nicholls and the German translator (I’m assuming) took turns reading excerpts. The best part about this was he reads exactly as I ahd imagined. I don’t know quite how to describe what I mean by this, but I suppose it’s like seeing a movie and a scene in the film perfectly matches the imagery you created from the text. He then proceeded to answer questions presented by the moderator and also some asked by the audience. The questions were interesting and gave great insight into both his craft and his beginnings as a writer. One utterly foolish woman in the audience basically ruined the ending for the entire room with her inquiry and left the room covering their ears and groaning at her selfishness. It was a cringe-worthy moment and made me happy that I had already finished the novel. It was first live reading and hopefully not my last. I realized how insightful it is, as well as entertaining.

I guess what I’m trying to convey through all this jumbled mess is that I really want you to read this book (and his others! At the train station in Manchester I bought his book Starter for Ten and read it in much the same fashion. Highly entertaining). You don’t have to have the borderline-inappropriate relationship that I did, but I definitely think it’s worth picking up. I finished the book in Laax on Easter weekend. The Nonna was at the house with Little Bean and I while the family was out skiing. For the last couple chapters I was a hot mess, getting way too involved in the story. I felt sorry for her as she had no idea what I was so worked up about. Her English is so-so and as you know, my German is rudimentary at best. I couldn’t really explain myself in a way suitable. Let’s just say, the book stirred something within me. If you get a chance, head to the library or bookstore and give the book a try. And thus begins our international book club.

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When I Grow Up

I KNOW WHAT I WANT TO DO WHEN I GROW UP!!!!! This is exciting. I’ve given it a great amount of consideration, weighed the pros and cons, and am one stop short of declaring myself employed. I want to be a travel writer. Feeling a little let down? Maybe you thought I was going to say something a little more practical or albeit in the realm of education, for which my degree has been issued? Unfortunately, no. Ever since I started this silly blog I have discovered how much I like writing. I have never taken a single creative writing class, dappled in poetry, or even kept up a steady journal. But, I have stumbled upon something that I believe I have a real passion for. Think about it, I know I have. I love to travel and I love to write. I cannot think of a better combination. I owe much of this idea to the fact that I am reading yet another Bill Bryson book. Jill loaned me her copy of The Lost Continent and I have been devouring it ever since. The book is about his journey through small towns in America and discovering little gems along highways, tucked back in the mountains, or perched on seaside cliffs. Jill and I happen to share a of love of Bryson and this book is no exception. It has me laughing out loud all over Zurich. I don’t think  I realize/care how embarrassing this might be, but I just can’t help myself. If I could, I would do a dramatic reading for you, but you will have to settle for just reading it yourself. This particular bit is about people who are fond for RVs:

  • “A whole industry… has grown up to supply this market. You can see these people at campgrounds all over the country, standing around their vehicles comparing gadgets–methane-powered ice-cube makers, portable tennis courts, anti-insect flame-throwers, inflatable lawns. They are strange and dangerous people and on no account should be approached.”

I feel like I could do this. I could discover foreign, or in Bryson’s case familiar, lands and then regale you all with my tales. It is a given that I would find myself in some noteworthy circumstances, therefore it would be an entertaining tale that I would tell. And to be honest, I haven’t committed myself to teaching quite yet. This would be a great distraction/job. I know it’s far-fetched, but it’s what I’ve come up with so far. I still have six months to decide, right?

I will leave you with another excerpt. This is what Bryson says about women in Iowa:

  • “Iowa women are almost always sensationally overweight– you see them at Merle Hay Mall in Des Moines on Saturdays, clammy and meaty in their shorts and halter tops, looking a little like elephants dressed in their children’s clothes, yelling at their kids, calling out names like Dwayne and Shauna.”

I know it’s a cheap laugh, but his writing his ridiculous and thankfully he doesn’t exclude himself in the slaughtering of American culture.

Ostersonntag

Today is Easter Sunday and it has certainly been a deviation from the norm. When Mom came a few weeks ago she brought me a monster Easter Basket, which I have been slowly devouring ever since. I waited to open the included card until this morning so I would have at least one way to celebrate. I didn’t realize the family would include me in their celebrations. The only thing the kids could talk about yesterday was what good fortune the Osterhase would bring them. I will stop here to make a quick interjection. I’m kind of bored with referring to the kids as “boy,” “girl,” and “baby” so in order to protect their identity I will give them nicknames. The girl will be known as Rapunzel (you would understand if you met her), the boy shall be called Taz (after the tazmanian devil), and the baby will be called Little Bean. I actually do call the baby Little Bean, and she now responds to it. Don’t ask for any explanation because there isn’t one. It’s just something I said one day and it happened to stick. Isn’t that the way it is with most nicknames? There’s hardly any rationality. It’s the same reason I call my brother Matt, Brother Starship Commander and sister Courtney, C-Slice Money Bags. Honestly, I have no idea where these things come from. Hard to believe I’m 23, right?

Back to the festivities. I woke up and read my card and felt a little pit in my stomach for not being able to be with my family on this holiday. Not to mention missing Mom’s birthday yesterday (Happiest of Birthdays!). It’s kind of a sad feeling. Nevertheless, I continued to lay in bed for a couple minutes until I saw the door crack open and Taz’s face appear in the doorway. I should mention he is quite the Peeping Tom. I am paranoid the one four-year-old memory he will have is the time he walked in on me in the shower. Obviously, now I never leave a bathroom door unlocked, guests beware. I resigned myself to get up and go downstairs. The kiddos showed me their Easter baskets and the Dad informed me that the Osterhase had paid a visit to me as well. “Wow,” I thought, “that was really kind. It’s nice to feel a part of the family.” So Taz, Rapunzel, and I set off upstairs to look for it. It was finally discovered on the top shelf of the bookcase outside my room. The object inside was unmistakably a book and I got rather excited. I love to read and am always looking for a good book. Rapunzel helped me split open the wrapping and her interest in my present immediately vanished as she discovered it contained no sugar. I wish I could recall my exact reaction to reading the title but now all I can think is that it’s rather funny and completely characteristic of the family: Vocabulary for Learners of German–A Comprehensive Thesaurus. No doubt this is a very thoughtful gesture, and the present has much more practicality than a brick of chocolate. I am accustomed to white chocolate pretzels and Skittles on Easter morning, however, so this came as a bit of a surprise. I thanked the parents downstairs and they both smiled. The Mom replied (with a smile, mind you), “I could have gotten you something to read but I thought this would be of more use. And, you know, you actually have to use it. It’s no good if it just sits there.” Noted. I realize my German is bad, but that’s partly due to the lack of placement in a class. And, hey, I’m not completely daft. I could understand perfectly well last night when Rapunzel was telling her parents she is a much better skier than I. Anyway, it was just a different sort of gift.

The rest of the day passed rather unceremoniously. Outside, it was intermittently raining and snowing; it paused for about 5 minutes this afternoon and then quickly picked back up with a more intensity, perhaps to make up for lost time. I read close to 100 pages in my latest book, Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffeneger–excellent, by the way– and watched an episode of “Castle.” I made approximately four cups of tea and ate with the regularity of a newborn. I am positive I will make it the whole day without stepping a foot outside, which I kind of hate. I like to get some form of exercise or at least outdoors time each day and it makes me feel beyond worthless to count my accomplishments in terms of how many chocolate eggs I resisted. I was able to watch the live sermon from Church of the Resurrection back in Kansas City, so at least I did something I would usually do on Easter. I also spoke with my family, who I really miss today. All in all, holidays with another family are just strange. It makes me nostalgic for the traditions and activities that I simply take for granted. Don’t get me wrong, though. This family is great and I feel I really lucked out. I suppose they will do as a “prop” family for the next year. Too bad my birthday isn’t for another 8 months–who knows what lies ahead!

Soundtracks

Between train rides around the city, working out, and the general walking around I do on a daily basis I have a lot of time to listen to my ipod. Thankfully, right before I left a friend added just over 400 songs to it to keep things fresh. I’ve made several playlists while I’ve been here to keep me entertained during my various activities and I thought I would share some (consolidated versions) of my favorites.

THURSDAY*

  • “Mountain Man” -Crash Kings
  • “Assassin” -John Mayer
  • “Kings and Queens” -30 Seconds to Mars
  • “Armistice” -Phoenix
  • “The Runner” -Kings of Leon
  • “Seaweed” -Passion Pit
  • “Fight Test” -The Flaming Lips
  • “Love Affair” -Copeland
  • “You and Me” -Dave Matthews Band
  • “Policies” -Pete Yorn
  • “We Sing” -Vedera
  • “Undisclosed Desires” -Muse
  • “The Funeral” -Band of Horses
  • “Make this Go on Forever” -Snow Patrol
  • “The Man Who Can’t be Moved” -The Script
  • “1234” -Chairlift
  • “I Couldn’t Explain Why” -Citizen Cope
  • “Samson” -Regina Spektor
  • “Breathe In Breathe Out” -Mat Kearnery

WEDNESDAY*

  • “Our Swords” -Band of Horses
  • “Three More Days” -Ray LaMontagne
  • “Dig” -Incubus
  • “Daylight” -Matt & Kim
  • “Who Says” -John Mayer
  • “The One I Love” -David Gray
  • “Life in Technicolor II” -Coldplay
  • “”Oh My God, Whatever, Etc.” -Ryan Adams
  • “Crooked Teeth” -Death Cab for Cutie
  • “Island on the Coast” -Band of Horses
  • “9 Crimes” -Damien Rice
  • “Fans” -Kings of Leon
  • “Control” -Mute Math
  • “Finer Feelings” -Spoon
  • “The Last Stop” -Dave Matthews Band
  • “Shiver” -Coldplay

WORKOUT 2

  • “Lisztomania (Alex Metric Remix)” -Phoenix
  • “Boyz” -M.I.A.
  • “Fancy Footwork” -Chromeo
  • “The Reeling” -Passion Pit
  • “1985” -Crash Kings
  • “Bulletproof” -La Roux
  • “This Must Be the Place” -Miles Fisher
  • “Just What I Needed” -The Cars
  • “Easy Love” -MSTRKRFT
  • “Sinnerman (Felix Da Housecat’s Remix) -Nina Simone &Felix Da Housecat
  • “Run This Town (feat. Rhianna)” -Jay-Z
  • “Call On Me” -Eric Prydz

It might seem silly to include you all in my kickin’ DJ skills but with as much music as I listen to I always appreciate finding something new. The website http://www.runhundred.com sorts good workout music by category, BPMs, artists, etc. and it has been very helpful in the construction of playlists. I find that it’s much easier to push through those last minutes/miles of a workout if I have something energizing blasting into my ears. It’s been a pretty slow day around here, for which I am so thankful. I’m now headed back to House Rules by Jodi Picoult–Thanks again, Mom! Is there anything better than a rainy, Sunday night and the only activity on the agenda is reading a good book?

*Title of Playlist refers to the day it was made. Creative, right?

Just Say… YES!

Books are traded like currency among au pairs as they are grossly over-priced at the English bookshop in Zurich. For example, I went to purchase the latest Elizabeth Gilbert memoir, Committed, and upon looking at the price tag on the back I dropped it like it was on fire. It was close to 40 Swiss Francs (equivalent to $40). There is no way I am going to pay that amount of money for a book, despite the deep love I have for reading. For my birthday I was given a Kindle (Thanks Mom and Dad!), which has been tremendously handy– pun intended. But there is still something I enjoy about holding a book. In any case, my friend Jill (the keen skier) lent me the book The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker. This is, hands-down, the best book I have read while I’ve been here. If you are looking for something entertaining and literally laugh-out-loud funny then you MUST pick up this book. Allow me to explain:

In brief it is about a mid-20’s, single, Mormon girl surviving in New York City. I stress the word surviving because if you are at all familiar with the Mormon religion you may imagine how difficult it might be to live in a city that pulses with temptation. She manages to make her religion accessible and reader-friendly, without pushing her ideals. Basically, she is simply telling her story and allowing you to join in the humor of the natural ups and downs of life. Her style is so unique and the writing so genuine, you can’t help but ask for more.From this book I took away so much, including a valuable lesson she presents in the beginning of her story: If at all possible, just say yes. Say yes to the possibilities that come your way because what do you have to lose? She recalls a time when her friends and she party-crashed a paper supply convention and managed to score tickets to a booze cruise. Never-you-mind the fact that she doesn’t drink alcohol, she still took the opportunity to do something spontaneous and ended up not only having a blast, but also making a toast in front of hundreds of people to top off the night. I’m not saying I’m about to find the nearest gathering of people and bully my way in, rather I have taken the “Yes” mentality to heart and am working on opening myself up to as many opportunities as I can. I have been granted an entire year out of the “real world” in which to be (almost) completely selfish. I don’t know when I will get a time like this again. I want to make the most of it while I can. Perhaps that’s why I take all the walks the parents suggest or go skiing with them even when I’m nervous. Today I hiked 2 hours in the snow and cold because I didn’t know when I would be out here again and I would kick myself at this time next year if I knew I could have been somewhere beautiful and I didn’t go. It’s not like I’ve never heard Carpe Diem before but there was something about this book that struck a chord with me. Maybe it was the ridiculous and over-the-top situations she found herself in that lit this little campfire inside me.

In any event, in the spirit of the book, I have decided to say “yes” to a day-trip to Lake Como Saturday. Rough life, right? An afternoon in Italy. Did I mention I was going to Spain at the end of the month? Southern Spain, tapas, beaches, 70-80 degrees. Need I say more?