United States


Jun 22 2010

Being American in Washington, DC

Published by under Travel

Julia Child's Kitchen at the Smithsonian - photo by Cecilia

I count 39 museums and galleries in the Washington DC’s Official Visitor’s Guide, and I read that the Smithsonian alone has 19 separate museums. It is my last day here, and I have only one afternoon to see something of this city. When I was in DC two years ago, we visited the Mall, the White House, the Natural History Museum, and walked Constitution Avenue. With the “basics” covered on this rainy afternoon, the obvious selection was a museum. I just had to choose from those 39+ options. Looking at the map in the city’s visitors guide, I discover the National Museum of American History (one of the Smithsonian’s museums), and I decide to visit when I  read that Julia Child’s kitchen and Kermit the Frog are there.

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Jul 05 2009

Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon

Published by under Book Reviews

Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon

Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon

“I took to the open road in search of places where change did not mean ruin and where time and men and deeds connected.” And such is the reasoning behind Blue Highways, a travelogue of a man and his van, traveling around the perimeter of the United States solely on backroads, no federal highways allowed. William Least Heat-Moon named his van Ghost Dancing, an homage to the resurrection rituals of Plains Indians–he left home in part for personal reasons. But he also went to see the parts of America few people ever see, except those living there. He wanted to travel from Simplicity, Virginia to Whynot, Mississippi and onward.

Perhaps what he accomplished could not be done today–the trip was taken in the late-70s–but it seems worth a shot. The people Least Heat-Moon met and talked to at length is the meat of the book; his actual travels merely the backbone. He has an uncanny ability to get to the heart of a town and has an insatiable curiosity that gets him deep into the relations of people to each other in the town, the relation of them to the rest of the country, the peoples’ personal philosophies, and often, the story behind the name of the place.

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May 27 2009

Put On Your Adventure Pants for T.S. Spivet!

Published by under Book Reviews,News

Great News!!! Reif Larsen’s new book, The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet, lets you in on the four things needed for an adventure: “Guns & Knives”, “A Magnifying Glass”, “A Map!”, and, of course, “Adventure Pants”! (Be sure to pick a good pair.)

I have recently finished reading The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet and was not disappointed in any way. In fact, I am able to say that it is one of the best books I have ever read. It is packed with amazing illustrations and maps, as well as a great story. With my new found discovery of “The Hobo Hotline”, I am now able to travel across the country by train with the knowledge of where each specific car is going. I am also now aware of how to go about mapping a mustache and that a flashlight really has futuristic healing powers. His cross-country journey takes him on a great adventure filled with questions about the world that you should really be asking yourself.

This might sound like a bunch of nonsense, but it is truly spectacular nonsense! For example, I guess that every twelve year old boy knows that Winnebago’s have their own personal names, such as Valero, and can talk to you. In order to fully grasp the whole situation of young Mr. Spivet, I highly recommend this book to you and suggest you then pass it on to everyone you know. Not only for the read but also for the visual understanding of how car alarms can affect your brain.

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May 02 2009

Netherland

Published by under Book Reviews

Netherland - by Joseph O'Neill

Netherland - by Joseph O'Neill

So, apparently President Obama is reading Netherland. This is great news for Joseph O’Neill, the novel’s author.

Netherland, just out in paperback, was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and, much to my surprise, cut from the short list.  It was also one of the New York Times 10 Best Books of 2008.

When I told a friend I was reading Netherland, he responded by asking if it was a book set “back in the day.” It’s not, but it was a fair question. The title is enigmatic and elusive: Netherland refers to the protagonist’s birth country (the Netherlands) and to the primary setting of the novel, New York City, once called New Amsterdam (“back in the day” of course). And going further, the title, read as nether-land, evokes images of some sort of underworld, a hidden realm that exists below the surface of the what’s most apparently visible, a nether world I understand to be the psyche of New Yorkers living in a post 9/11 world and struggling to make sense of life in a city that is often too immense, too overwhelming. Continue Reading »

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Apr 30 2009

Summer is Just Around the Corner

Fun at the Beach

Fun at the Beach

Weather-wise, it was perfect in Boston this weekend. Everyone seemed to be in a fantastic mood, people broke out their summer clothes, neighbors were sitting on their stoops, invitations to barbecues were popping up, and people were seriously starting to plan trips to the beach. Thanks to the weather forecast, I now know that the sun will disappear soon – most likely on my next day off from work – but that shouldn’t stop me or anyone from planning their next beach adventure. One must be prepared to take advantage of every weather-permitting opportunity. My godson Andy, who is featured in the photo, is always ready and willing to head to the closest beach. All he needs is his hat, shorts, sunscreen, adult supervision and he is ready to go. All the adult supervisors need to know is where to go. Continue Reading »

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Sep 19 2008

State By State: A Panoramic Portrait of America

Published by under Book Reviews,News

State By State: A Panoramic Portrait of America

State By State: A Panoramic Portrait of America

I have never known the correct word for someone who lives in Massachusetts and I have never really bothered to find the official name. Is it Massachusian… Massachusettite? The only thing I have ever heard was not very flattering and is something usually yelled at people driving on the Mass Pike.  When asked, I usually start to trip over the word and then just say, “I live in Boston, but I will always be a Washingtonian at heart.”

Yesterday, I was checking out a book new to our shelves: State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America. It is a compilation of 50 writers writing about 50 states with the lofty goal of “explaining America to Americans.” Inspired by the WPA American Guide series of the Federal Writers’ Project in the 1930s, the editors of this project commissioned 50 writers, cartoonists, a cook, and a musician to write an essay about their home or adopted home state. (Washington DC is covered in the afterword.) The list of contributers is impressive and includes Dave Eggers (Illinois), Ha  Jin (Georgia), Susan Orlean (Ohio), Anthony Bourdain (New Jersey), and Carrie Brownstein (Washington State).

Each essay is preceeded by some general information about the state (which is great for trivia nights at the pub), such as the state’s capital, nickname, official flower, geographic center, and what to call the residents. That is where I discovered the answer to my question, and now I can say with some confidence that “I am a Bay Stater!”.

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