All this happened, more or less...

My name is G and these are the true stories of my adventures.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Guitar Cast IV

Beautiful Mess by Jason Mraz
Still working on this one, but I like it...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tempus Fugit

My new trick is crawling!  Look out, world!!

This weekend we got our first proper snow of the season. On Saturday it rained and drizzled and froze and culminated in a slushy mess at the foot of the driveway, but on Sunday the snow came drifting quietly down in great clumpy flakes. I tried to explain the significance of this to my nephew; he quickly reminded me that at six months old, he's not quite interested in snowmen or sledding yet. In fact, he's not concerned with much beyond bottles and rattles and his auntie's dangly earrings.

I'm rather enjoying Nephew at this age. He's a profoundly happy child. Every time someone pulls a face at him he bursts into laughter, and he stares at me in awe whenever I play the guitar. (He seems to prefer John Mayer to anybody else. We might have to work on this... Sorry, John Mayer.) But as much fun as he is right now, he's growing like a weed. Every time I see him -- which is pretty frequently -- he has a new trick. His newest trick is the fine art of Mobility. Yikes, baby boy!

Father & Son

And while we're speaking of people growing too fast, my students -- most of whom I met two years ago when they were barely sophomores -- are now well on their way to graduation. When I first started teaching at my current school, I taught 10th grade. The following year, I moved up to 11th grade. This year, I'm teaching seniors. The result of my professional evolution has been that I've had the same base group of students for three years and am now inextricably attached to them. I'm up to my eyelids in college application essays they want me to look over and have already written a couple dozen letters of recommendation, but I still can't quite wrap my brain around the idea that they are leaving.

My kids bring me flowers & apples & such

Of course, I plan to thoroughly enjoy them between now and May, and they're making that pretty easy. Not only are they behaving like angels, they're also working harder than ever, in class and out of it. Every year for Thanksgiving, our school has a massive food drive to benefit the community. The kids pour their hearts into fund-raising for it, and this year, of the 28 kids in my AP class, 18 of them were directly involved in the senior class's primary money-maker -- The Senior Auction. As a proud supporter, I went to the auction and "purchased" a trio of my boys. Their task in return for the money I paid was to each perform a soliloquy from Hamlet for their classmates. They did a fantastic job. In addition to their assignment, they also brought me a mass of roses, a box of chocolates, and a latte; made me lunch; and prepared a little N'Sync dance number for the class.

I love these kids.

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time?
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

To Write Love on Her Arms

Today is facebook's 2nd annual "To Write Love on Her Arms" Day. Read it. Share it. Live it.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's a beautiful day, America.


PS, I love you.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

GuitarCast III: Let That Be Enough

A little Switchfoot for you this chilly October morning...

I'm a plane in the sunset
With nowhere to land

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

That Thing About Ignorance


My kid sister just got a job in my favorite sandwich shop. She finished her undergraduate work last May, and she's quickly discovered that holding a BA from a prestigious liberal arts university means very little in the work world. To get a real career in her field, she'll have to go back for a Master's (at least). Despite her brilliance and her work ethic, she's joined the ranks of thousands of members of Pepsi Generation Next© who went off to college a few years ago but are now living back in their parents' basements, working minimum wage jobs, and playing World of Warcraft. Because of this, we've been dubbed the Boomerang Generation and accused of being incurably adolescent. It's not all our fault though. Ever since the first day in Miss Gerkin's kindergarten class, we were taught we could grow up to be whatever we wanted; all along, the truth was that we could grow up to be whatever someone else would pay us for. That was a mean trick, Miss Gerkin.

But I do admit that the WoW has gotten a bit out of hand. I mean, I like dragons and stuff, but seriously...


So about my sister and the sandwich shop...

I thought it was really cool. Not just because I was looking forward to free sandwiches (though the thought did cross my mind). I thought it was cool because I thought it was a great little shop. I've been in there a billion times. They have this Smokehouse Turkey Wrap... mmm! Party for your taste buds! She'd also been job-hunting for quite a while with no success, so we were all pretty relieved that she finally landed something.

Then she came home from her first day of work, plopped down on the couch, and declared that she hated it and was going to immediately start looking for something else.

Being the loving older sibling, I immediately started dispensing some love of the "tough" variety. My sister is a great kid and pretty hard-working, but she's not very good at taking orders. (Trust me -- I've been trying to give her orders for 22 years now.) Naturally, I thought she needed to man up a bit in the face of an obnoxious boss or sore feet or whatever was ailing her. With the economy all in a shambles, you don't walk out on a brand-spankin'-new job just because you're unhappy. Especially if you live in your parents' basement.


Well, then she started explaining to me exactly why she didn't like it. Her reasons included things like the uniform they gave her -- which was a dirty company t-shirt (complete with grease smudges & stink), which some former employee had left in a wad in a corner of the coatroom; the food prep area, where other employees (manager included) were consuming their own food and drinks on the disinfected(ish) prep counter whilst preparing orders; and the mushrooms, which her trainer advised her to throw into the slicer without cleaning, even when she inquired about the conspicuous clumps of dirt on them.

Um, yeah.

Obviously, anybody would think the place a bit suspect after hearing that, but I used to manage a little coffee bar, and I am an exacting sumbitch when it comes to Health Code. You think it's bad; I know precisely how bad it is. And if those kind of blatant things are going on, I also know that they aren't monitoring the temp of their refrigerators or the concentration of their disinfectant rinse or the laundering of their rags or... well, I could go on for a while.

So ever since my kid sister got a job at my favorite sandwich shop, I don't eat there anymore.

What's that thing they say about ignorance... and bliss?

Sayonara, Smokehouse Turkey Wrap.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Status Update: G is Stir-Crazy


My life is a bit of a dichotomy. In the summertime, I hardly sit still. This past summer was especially action-packed -- as you probably noticed -- so much so that I took my cat to my parents' house in June and didn't pick him up again until mid-August. I took over 2500 photos in four countries over the course of those three months, and I wrote nearly 200 pages, including personal journals, notes on traveling, bits of fiction, and of course, this blog. This is my idea of a rewarding summer: every day worn threadbare and something to show for it in the end.


If I could live this way twelve months a year, I probably would, but the bills don't pay themselves -- even those sneaky "auto-pay" ones -- and I've yet to find a creditor who'll take a story or a photo in lieu of a check.

Waikoloa Sunset

So when autumn comes, as it invariably must, I turn to the other half of my existence. I dust off stacks of novels, inventory boxes of ball-point pens, and attempt to find my glasses. I dig my dress clothes out of the back of my closet and polish my boots, and the transformation is complete -- from rootless amateur travel guru to studious, sensible, state-certified literature teacher. Camera for dry-erase marker; plane tickets for ID tag; travel brochures and maps for Browning and Shelley, Miller and Vonnegut. My seat-of-the-pants lifestyle vanishes in a neat stack of syllabi, the regulated chiming of bells, the daily comings and goings of my students -- each face in its assigned place at the appointed time. Even when I don't tell them where to sit, they establish their own routines and cling to them stalwartly. They arrive not just at the same time each day, but in the same order like clockwork: Labrina, Ethan, Taj, Kelsey, Tyler... David arrives two minutes late with a pass from the office.

This is what I do from the first of September to the end of May. Not a bad gig, really.

James on the Mandolin

... But if you know anybody who takes stories and photos instead of checks...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

GuitarCast II

I have one little sister. As far as siblings go, she's fairly cool and reasonably easy to get along with for the following reasons:

1) She's young enough that we don't typically compete for friends, boys, or our parents' affection but old enough that we operate on more or less the same plane of existence.

2) She did her BA in US history, so she knows all sorts of things I don't, making her an invaluable resource if I ever end up on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

3) Her extensive vocabulary and firm command of English grammar mean that I am never ashamed of her at social gatherings -- i.e. she never says "nuculer" in front of my friends.

4) Her feet are not the same size as mine; hence, she has never ever stolen a pair of my shoes.

5) She can do harmonies.

Rockin' the Epiphone

Because she can do harmonies, we like to rock out. And by "rock out" I mostly mean crack ourselves up. We even have a band. Well, we have a band name. We don't know any songs or play any instruments, but we do have the name. I'd tell you, but if you stole it for your own band, got famous, and made a bazillion dollars, I'd be pissed, so for now, the name's a secret.

We do often sit down and attempt to write "songs" for our "band" to "perform," but Sister always has to get critical and make a remark about how every song I write sounds like an Adam Sandler song. This makes perfect sense, since every song I write has the same chord progression as "The Hanukkah Song," but it annoys me that she acts like that's a bad thing.

So in honor of Adam Sandler's kickass song-writing skillz, here's a little video of me singing "I Wanna Grow Old with You." Sister, I know you read this blog even though you feign ignorance, so this one's goin' out to you. Rock on, little sis. Rock on.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ask My Kids IV: The Holocaust

Once again, my kids amaze me with their awesome grasp of history, culture, and the human experience. Today's feature: Hitler.

(This is the real deal, in all its raw and unedited glory.)

Hitler was a very cruel person who killed a whole lot of people which were Jewish, he also made them slaves it didn't matter how old you were he would make them work in open land and he would have his soldiers wip them if they did not work fast or if they said anything back to them. The reason he chose to pick the Jews instead of any other culture was because he did not like Jesus, and Jesus was Jewish, he also didn't like God because he herd from many people that God owned the world and that was what he was trying to do.

Fair enough.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Now that I'm home for the school year, I'm having adventures of a more domestic nature. Here's the story of my day today:

And the song...

Friday, September 12, 2008

MJ 2.0

About two years ago, I got an email from a stranger on MySpace. In his message, he asked me about my interest in travel and briefly told me about his recent back-packing trip in Europe. For a few weeks, we exchanged emails almost every day, and eventually, we went out for coffee.

That was how I met MJ.

Mercedes Ice Wall

After we'd had several months of dinners, movies, fine wines, and good times, he decided to move to Los Angeles. From previous unpleasant experiences, I'd already learned that there are generally three ways these scenarios can play out: 1) You can feel abandoned, throw a fit, and break up with the person before they leave; 2) You can attempt a long-distance relationship, make lots of promises neither of you will keep, and break up after they've gone; or 3) You can quit your job, pack your things, and go with them, which is no guarantee that it'll work out once you get there anyway. Cynical? Yes, but not without reason.

Dissatisfied with all those options, I decided to invent an alternative strategy: 4) You can be unselfish and let them go. Now I'm no saint, and I don't mind admitting to you that I was pretty bummed at the thought of losing him, but I also knew how badly he needed the change and how well LA would suit him. So while he was making arrangements, I went full-tilt into supportive friend mode, and when he left, I sent him off with a hug and a smile and never expected to see him again.

And I didn't. We spoke on the phone once or twice when he was first settling in, but then we got busy with our own lives and left it at that.

Ah, LA!

Until two weeks ago, when I got another email. It took me a few minutes to sort out who it was from as the address was unfamiliar and the author signed it with his initials. Something about how it had been a long time, an apology for not keeping in touch, going to be in town for a few days, really want to catch up, lots to talk about...

So after not speaking to him in well over a year, I suddenly found myself sitting across from MJ at one of our favorite haunts, talking jobs and families and traveling as if he'd never been away.

Since then, we've spoken several times, and a few days ago, he called to ask if I want to go to Spain with him. Ah, that unbridled spontaneity! Welcome back, MJ. I've missed you.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Indecision '08

I'm not normally one to get into politics (or Matt Damon), but my friends (mostly my religious friends) are all getting up-in-arms over this video at the moment...

Irrelevant remarks about dinosaurs aside, Damon's point that Palin is a wild card is valid. We really haven't seen her in leadership enough to know who she is or what she's about. I think she's been chosen for two reasons 1) she's a young woman, which they're hoping will sway young voters and Clinton supporters, and 2) she's deeply religious, which should appeal to those on the right who think McCain is too socially liberal.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm not about to vote for someone based on what religious beliefs he or she claims to hold any more than I'd choose my heart surgeon based on whether I thought he was a nice guy. Show me training, skill, and experience. Show me an intricate knowledge of foreign & domestic policies, a history of prudent financial decisions, a deep thirst for justice, and a stomach strong enough to take the world's scrutiny. I'm glad Sarah Palin loves Jesus, but I know a lot of people who love Jesus and still aren't qualified to lead the free world.

I'm right with Damon on this one, especially that priceless Disney movie analogy. I just do not care what a swell gal Palin is. She has no business being in a national executive office.

And that is all I wish to say about this election.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Hawaii Photo Blog


Rather than attempt to recount all my tropical adventures, I'll let the photos do most of the talking.

Kayak Shop

If you like to relax on vacation, Hawaii may not be the best place. Our trip was the Fear Factor© version of vacation -- nearly everything we did required us to sign a waiver in case we were maimed or killed whilst doing it. That included kayaking on the open sea, which is pretty hard work, but well worth it to get to reefs, beaches, and bits of coast like this that are otherwise inaccessible.

The Disagreeable Boulders


These are the little touches that make Hawaii so awesome.

Dive Miester... Lobster Miester

The west coast of The Big Island has top notch scuba-diving. This is Eric, our dive meister, who is a fine man and an expert in his field, and who also nearly killed himself the first time he took us out. When we got out to the reef, he leapt gracefully into the sea to moor our boat to the buoy. A few moments later, he came back to the surface with blood streaming down his face and neck from a massive gash on the top of his head, which he had slammed at full-speed into the hull of the boat. He was quite dazed, bleeding profusely, and lucky as hell that he didn't knock himself unconscious. His boss, who was captaining, helped haul him out of the water and said, "Duuuude, you gotta be more cogniscent of where you are in the water, bra." My favorite scuba quote.

To his credit, once his head stopped bleeding (several hours later), Dive Meister strapped his fins back on and was a pro the rest of the week -- by far my favorite among a stellar crew of people.

Cracked Coconut

Does anyone know where we're going?

Luau Food -- A party for your tongue

Luau food will tickle your taste buds! The pork was buried in a pit and slow-cooked, which is the traditional Hawaiian method. So tender and juicy, it makes me ache just thinking about it.

Fantastic view up here!

When we needed a break from the water, we went on an open-range horseback ride up in the mountains. A word of caution -- you cannot go up to high altitudes for a day or so after scuba-diving, so plan accordingly. Getting the bends and/or dying can ruin your vacation. But the view up there might change your life.


Surprisingly desolate terrain on The Big Island

Much of the terrain on Hawaii was surprisingly desolate, covered in lava rock and not much else.

White Plumeria

Plumeria and hibiscus -- classic Hawaii!


Not Don Cheadle

Tracking down a pod of wild dolphins and swimming with them is a pretty popular pastime in Hawaii. Early one morning, we found about 150 of these spinners and played with them for a couple hours. Great fun!

Friday, August 8, 2008

The True North

Shaky Geography

I'm from Michigan. For anyone whose US geography is a little shaky, -- I'm looking at you, Kentucky -- Michigan is the one in the north that's surrounded by all the water. From where I live now, driving to Windsor is faster than driving to Toledo. Given the option, I'd rather drive to Canada than to Ohio anyway. I have more friends there and I know the area better. This unique border-state position of being closer to a foreign country than to a neighboring state makes for some interesting blending of cultures.

For starters, I have a deeply rooted affection for Canada. Sort of the way I imagine I'd feel if I had a younger brother who had out-grown me. He's bigger than me, and if I really pushed him, he'd probably be able to kick my ass, but he would never do that because at the end of the day, he's still just my sweet little kid brother. And I'd never claim that Ontario was exactly like Michigan any more than I'd claim my brother was a little clone of me. But we can't deny we grew up on a lot of the same culture -- euchre, "The Red Green Show," fantastic winter storms, no shortage of corn fields, and of course, the Lakes.

Ontarigan -- Between the two of us, we pretty much own all the cool beaches.

Ohio's like my stepbrother. We live in the same house. Other people seem to think we have things in common, but... I don't really know him. I'm told they play euchre there, but sometimes they use sixes and fours to keep score instead of fives. And while Michigan has nearly 3300 miles of shoreline on four of the Great Lakes, Ohio borders Lake Erie for just over 300. I can't begin to relate to that.


When I returned home from Seattle, I took a little look-see at my calendar and realized I had two empty weeks before our annual family romp on Lake Huron. I wanted to get out of the house, but after so much traveling, I knew I needed to head for somewhere relaxing. I immediately composed an email message to send to a handful of my Strong & Free friends. It began: "Dear Canada, are you busy next week?"

Several emails, a few pricey phone calls, and one exemplary set of directions later, I set out on the eight-hour haul to central Ontario.


Despite having several friends in Toronto, I decided to spend the majority of my week a couple hours east of there in a quiet, rural area close to the shore of Lake Ontario. Going to another major urban center just didn't appeal to me. So instead, I went to see my buddy Brice -- an old work mate from Japan who, like me, has since returned to his hometown. This made Brice the fourth ex-NOVA friend I got to see this summer. Well done, me! And as with Dave and Jenny in Dublin, I hadn't seen Brice in over two years, so it was a deeply gratifying reunion.


In the first fifteen seconds after I pulled into Brice's, I got three things: a bear hug, a brief introduction to the fam, and a cold beer. That set a pretty good tone for the whole visit.

Despite Brice's assurances that there was absolutely nothing to do in his town, we kept pretty busy. We went to a bonfire and a baseball game; we grilled out every night; we played ferociously competitive euchre (the only kind, really); and we sat outside at their mom's listening to the coyotes. Brice and I went swimming in a rock quarry one afternoon, which is an experience everyone should have at least once. His brother's girlfriend and I got to laugh and roll our eyes while the menfolk attempted to force open a safe they had found, using an electric drill, hammers, chisels, and sheer tenacity. Naturally, we spent a day on a Lake Ontario beach with a bit of frisbee, a bit of sunburn, and a respectable cooler of beer. And at night when I crawled in bed at the family farm, it was pitch black and perfectly silent. I haven't slept that well in quite a while.

I even changed my plans for the rest of the week so that I could stay longer. I guess I just couldn’t think of anywhere worth running off to. :-)


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Summer Film Review

While everyone's going batty over "The Dark Knight," make sure you don't miss "Mamma Mia!" Meryl Streep is a diva! She dominates the screen throughout and delivers a particularly heart-rending performance of "The Winner Takes It All." The adorable Amanda Seyfried sparkles as Sophie, bringing a fresh face and powerful voice to the hopelessly starry-eyed role. Packed with humor, charm, and a fantastic score, this film is so wonderfully well-done, you won't even mind that Pierce Brosnon was cast for his ability to act the aging heart-throb and not for his singing voice. ★★★★★

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hello, Seattle!

I’m currently in Seattle for a "work thing." A conference, that is. I'm here with several coworkers who are twice my age and have been calling me "kiddo" all week. Still, it's not half bad.


Seattle's a fantastic city -- quite the jewel of the American Northwest. It has that young and fit West Coast vibe, not unlike much of California, but with a down-to-business edge. I always imagined Seattle as sort of a yuppie city, and I wasn't far off. The downtown is very clean and very green, cycling is wildly popular in spite of the roller-coaster hills, and you are literally in sight of at least one coffee shop on any block of any street. The directions our concierge gave us to the conference center were: "Go out this door. Take a right at Starbucks. Go 'til you see Seattle's Best. Take another right there. Go past the next Starbucks and you'll see the conference center straight in front of you."


Cool Things to Do in Seattle:

Cruise on Puget Sound: Specifically, we went on a Booze Cruise. Booze Cruises always frighten me a bit because I see them as little more than a floating club. That may sound hip and groovy but consider this -- no matter what happens, you have to stay in the club until closing time. If you do decide to brave it, the view of the city from the water is priceless.

People-Watch: Something I do everywhere (because it is free and I am nosy) but especially enjoyed in Seattle. The locals love the fresh air, so the downtown streets are hopping with activity. In my favorite Seattle moment, I spotted a fellow begging into a Starbucks cup. Only in Seattle are the bums scrounging pennies for lattes.

SubSeattle Tour: Seattle's Underground -- that is, the old district of the downtown that was buried when they raised the street level to avoid flooding and its associated unpleasantries. The old sidewalks and buildings have become the city's musty basement, and many are the secrets and scandals that lurk in its shadows. Extra bonus points for uniqueness and kick-ass tour guides.

Pike Place: Yes, yes, you've heard about how awesome this market is. The rumors are all true. Go check it out.


Monday, July 14, 2008

You Just Never Know...

Last week, in a rare moment of repose, I was sitting at home thinking "Yeesh, another Saturday night in Nowhereville," when I got an instant message from a friend inviting me to a wine tasting party. That's a little chic for this hick town, and for a second I expected him to say "No, just kidding. It's actually a barn-raisin'! Yehaw!" But no, he was serious about the wine.

So of course, I went.

Now I have known this guy for ages, but I know him because I used to babysit him. Yeah, he's a little younger than I am. And naturally, so are his friends. In fact, they're all three or four years younger than I am. I can't decide if hanging out with the college crowd makes me feel cutting edge or lame beyond redemption.

I gravitated towards the only other "grown-up" in the house, who happened to be a pretty smokin' hot guy. We got into a conversation about who he is and how he spends his time, and guess what? He races sled dogs.


Yeah, he's an Alaskan tundra conquering, fur-trimmed coat sporting, frostbitten appendage losing, Call-of-the-Wild answering sled dog racer.

You never really know who you're going to meet next, do you?

Rock on, sled dog guy. Rock on.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Writing Class & The Pipe Dream

I returned from England Sunday evening and actually fell asleep with my head still a couple inches above the pillow. Luckily, forward-thinker that I am, I had already set the alarm on my phone. Monday morning, it went off at 6 a.m. I rolled out of bed, stumbled blindly to the shower, and managed to drive across town for the first day of my summer writing class.

The class is aimed at teachers, and most of us have been involved with it for about two years now, but for some reason they change the location every six months. This phase was on the south side, and since I always get lost on the south side of town, I got to class about five minutes late. They’d already started going around the circle doing introductions and “This summer I’m...” stories. When my turn came, I apologized for coming in late and said that this summer, I’m doing a bit of traveling. Of course, they asked where, so I gave the brief overview – London, Dublin, work conference in Seattle, family week on Lake Huron, then off to Hawaii.


O Reader, if you could have seen the shock and indignation! You’d have thought I said I was flying to the moon in a diamond-studded space pod. While drinking champagne. And making out with Jude Law.

Then a woman on the other side of the room spoke up and articulated everybody’s sentiment in one huffy little retort: “Well, that’s because you don’t have kids.”

The rest of the week was great – I got lots of writing done, was very happy with the feedback I received, and just generally enjoyed bonding with the other students – but the whole time there was an undercurrent of tension. Half of the women there seemed bent on convincing me that I’d soon tire of gallivanting around the globe, realize how empty and meaningless my life is, and find some sensible boy with whom I could settle down and raise a little brood of ankle-biters. They kept writing pieces about how happy motherhood has made them and giving me significant looks. The other half was just blatantly bitter and jealous of my freedom. You know, like the terrorists.


I, frankly, can’t imagine any more rewarding way to spend a summer than traveling, nor can I figure why, at twenty-five, I should be worried about anything other than enjoying myself. As long as I’m happy and the bills get paid, I don’t think my priorities need reevaluating.

Eventually though, I may get a little lonely, but wouldn’t it be more fun to find a boy who isn’t very sensible? Then, instead of “settling down”, we could just pack our ankle-biters up and take them gallivanting with us.

This is my pipe dream.


Saturday, July 5, 2008

And On to Dublin!

Lovely Day for a Guinness

Sunday we made our way to Gatwick and waved goodbye to London. Then we waited in the airport for our RyanAir plane, which was almost two hours behind schedule. I normally don’t get fussed when flights run late. A million different things can delay a plane, and it’s all just part of the traveling experience. BUT in Gatwick, we were waiting for our flight next to a rather conspicuous sign that read: “RyanAir: The On-Time Airline.”

We entertained ourselves by inventing new slogans for RyanAir, since clearly their current one didn’t cut the proverbial mustard. Among our suggestions were some less presumptuous options such as: “RyanAir: An Airline”; “RyanAir: The Sometime Airline”; “RyanAir: Yep”; and my personal favorite – “RyanAir: If you want some planes... well, here they are.”


We chose to go to Dublin for two reasons: 1) David and 2) Jen. Though they've been together for about a thousand years, so they might only count as one reason. Okay, how about this: 1) David & Jen and 2) Guinness.

I know that living in Japan changed and challenged me in more ways than I can begin to take stock of, but I maintain that no part of that experience has benefited me as much as the friendships I made.

In Japan, Dave worked at my office and Jenny worked at S's, so both of us got to know them quite well. Since they moved back to Dublin in January of 2006, this reunion was two and half years in the making. You might think that after not seeing someone for that long, it'd be hard to reconnect. Not so! They were just as warm and wonderful as I remembered them, and in a matter of moments, the four of us were thick as thieves once again!

It's really a testament to how deep a mark living abroad leaves on your life. The people you meet become like a second family, and that bond doesn't really fade when you go your separate ways. Just like Ossie and Tato -- we ne'er forgot da tricks a'da travelers.


Unlike in London, where we kept ourselves busy with loads of site-seeing, we spent most of our time in Dublin relaxing with our friends. We did go to the Guinness Storehouse (strongly recommended!), and one day, just for laughs, Jen took us to an Irish petting zoo to play with the sheep. Other than that, we spent most of the rather rainy week nestled in pubs, drinking a bit of Guinness (and quite a bit of Jameson).

A perfect week, actually.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

London, Days 6 & 7 -- Happy Birthday to S & The Great Schism

Happy Birthday, the London Edition

Friday was S’s birthday and our day of catching up on the things we’d missed earlier in the week.

In the morning, we went to the Tower of London. As we were waiting outside, we happened upon a local tour guide and his merry band of followers. His commentary went like this:

“This is the Tower of London, so... if you want to see it... here it is. And, uh, the rest of London is kind of over there... So if you want to see the Tower, uh, let’s go this way...”


First day, buddy?

The actual Tower tour guides – the beef-eaters – are eloquent, professional, and hilarious. A most-do if you’re hanging about London.


On the flight over, I had watched the movie “The Other Boleyn Girl.” The whole film is a little off and left me feeling sort of queasy, but I’ve never before been so fascinated by the story of Anne Boleyn. I had hoped that in London I might get answers to some questions the film raised for me and find that fine line between legend and history.

No such luck.

Our beef-eater showed us the spot where Queen Anne was privately executed in the Tower courtyard. She explained that Anne Boleyn was terrified of the axe and requested a French-style execution with a sword. Henry granted her request, going so far as to recruit an executioner from France who could ensure the job was done properly. So skilled was he and so sharp was his blade, that when he held up the queen’s severed head, her lips were still moving in prayer.

Good story, right?

Then we went inside the White Tower, which served as an armory for centuries and is now a military museum, and right there in one of the exhibits, they have a massive beheading axe with the caption “The Axe that Beheaded Anne Boleyn.” Bewildered and befuddled, S and I read the fine print, which said this was the axe that So-and-So wrote had beheaded Anne Boleyn, but now we know she was actually beheaded with a sword. The axe in the display is a meaningless example of twisted history, and the sword that really killed Anne Boleyn is probably lost in somebody’s basement with their grandmother’s musty wedding dress and their Deep Purple LPs.

So essentially, the label on the exhibit said:

Except, oops, this isn’t really it.


That afternoon, we returned to the British Museum. Or the UnBritish Museum, rather.

Nothing in the British Museum is British. Really, it’s just a monument to imperialism. If you are not British, and you’re missing some of your stuff, it’s probably here.

Still, they have some pretty cool stuff. Remember what I said about mummies? The gawkers around these guys were so thick, I nearly caught in elbow in the face whilst taking this shot...


Friday night we met up with Our Rob, who took us out for drinks with his work friends and introduced us as “My Americans.” They asked him how he met us, and he looked at me as if I was going to explain that we met on the Internet and try to make it sound like it isn’t awkward. No, sir. If they were my friends, I would lie bold-faced about that shit. In fact, if he ever comes to the States to visit, I already have a bold-faced lie ready.

Then he took us back to his place and made dinner for us, all the while mocking our attempts at fake British accents. Which I think are pretty good, by the way.

Now S may be the only person in the world I’d be able to handle spending 24/7 with for two weeks, but on Saturday, circumstances forced us to spend a little time apart. She had a friend from home coming to town for the day on her way to Scandinavia, and one of our hostel roommates just happened to have an extra VIP pass to Hard Rock Calling.


So S went out to see “Twelfth Night” with her friend, and Dave and I went to Hyde Park to rock out. If there’s a guitar involved in something, I’m probably happy, so I had an awesome day. I even enjoyed watching John Mayer, and I am, as a matter of principle (and a result of hanging out with indie musicians), not a John Mayer fan. He was actually kind of funny, and you can’t deny he has some skill with a guitar, so I’ve gained a new appreciation for him that I never would have gotten from listening to CDs. Among the other performers were up-and-comer Jason Mraz, the always fabulous Sheryl Crow, and the headliner – Eric Clapton. Clapton's a little old for me and not someone I get very excited about, but again, seeing him live made all the difference.

And hey, no complaints about spending the day with an Aussie. I did miss S and her antics though.

What we lack in knowledge...