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Posts Tagged ‘John Steinbeck’

The blues run the game- Nick Drake

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/BluesRunTheGame.mp3?attredirects=0

Let’s take it back for a bit. Shortly after my last entry, I found myself stuck somewhere in the middle. I was still taken aback by the views of Santorini, but I was getting lost in a routine and not taking time to enjoy them. I was stuck somewhere in between feeling protective of the bookshop and spending WAY TOO MUCH time there. I wasn’t being trusting of other people and was being too hard on myself, and consequently didn’t leave the bookshop for days on end- about five to be exact. I was stuck in the middle of feeling lonely and wanting people around on one side and on the other I was growing increasingly tired of the repetition and routine of meeting new people who would just be leaving in a few days. I was well aware of how idyllic and perfect my life was, but I feel purposeless in many ways. Clearly, I had gotten myself stuck. And, more than anything, I was more homesick than I had been since I left for Greece in July.

Bookshop life featuring a handmade cat toy.  Don't ask why I am holding this with no cats in sight.  It was a quiet night at the shop.

Bookshop life featuring a handmade cat toy. Don't ask why I am holding this with no cats in sight. It was a quiet night at the shop.

For as much as I work to be in the present and enjoying moments as they last, I cherish the places I have already been, the places I am from, and the people I love and have loved long before this given moment. I always try to remind myself how much those places and people have shaped who I am. I miss them constantly and the nostalgic part of me often wishes I was still there and with them. Here are some pictures of people and things I miss:

I often miss dressing in yellow and Sophie's unapproving glare.  Though, mostly I miss Sophie.

I often miss dressing in yellow and Sophie's unapproving glare. Though, mostly I miss Sophie.

The original style family dinner at Nirvana.

The original style family dinner at Nirvana. I miss family dinners almost as much as these people.

Equally, for as much as I cherish my memories and take time to live in the present, I am still a forward thinker, and not knowing what I am doing after Greece often stresses me out.
None of these things are extraordinary. It is natural when you have been in a place for long enough that you eventually deal with day-to-day problems, you get homesick, and your mind starts to wander to future adventures. But, it is clear that something had to chance.

That’s where London comes in.

The world's largest hamster wheel.

The world's largest hamster wheel.

All for the best- Thom Yorke

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/01AllForTheBest.mp3?attredirects=0

I arrived in London last Tuesday on a direct flight from Santorini. Immediately upon arrival, I was taken by the city, charged by its energy, lost in its endless, winding streets, absorbed into its big grey sky, and kept on my toes by the cars moving on the other side of the street than I am accustomed. I wanted nothing more than to be swept up in the bustling crowds as they completed practical tasks, ran real-life errands, and didn’t take four hundred pictures of the building I live in, two hundred more of my cats, and then NOT come in.

The last time I was in London it was 2005 and this was the crew I was with- Danielle and Corey.

The last time I was in London it was 2005 and this was the crew I was with- Danielle and Corey.

The crew this time: me and Jack.

The crew in 2009: me and Jack. I made a point of having the same haircut and a similar hoodie for the sake of these pictures only.

Here is me with Big Ben in 2005

Here is me with Big Ben in 2005

Big Ben in 2009.  Turns out London has some staying power.

Big Ben in 2009. Turns out London has some staying power.

This is London, one of the most significant cultural and historical cities in the world. Let me give you concrete examples of this. In my first full day here, I went to the British Film Institute, which has a room called the Mediatheque that allows you to watch free films for hours that range from 1920’s documentary footage of London to post-war tea advertisements to recent independent British movies to BBC comedy specials aired a little over a month ago. Then I hopped a bus, got lost and did some letter writing at a cafe and then a pub. The night was capped by a visit to a pub with various Teach First teachers and alum. My interactions with teachers all over the place continues to inspire me.

In other news, how good is tea? The longer I am in Europe this time, the more I am enjoying tea.

Folks, I have only told you about one day in London so far and I have been here for SIX. Wow. That almost sounded like a threat.

On Thursday, I walked myself to the Tate Modern Art Museum, which, if you were wondering, was FREE, like most museums in London. Because of this, I was able to wander freely without feeling like I “need to get my money’s worth.” I could simply get lost in the ideas around me, and thats what I did.

Speaking of ideas, if you happened to be wondering what Justin “Chilly” Lamb thinks about English food, you can hear it in great and clever detail here.  Enjoy.

From there I walked to Borough Market where I had a mission to accomplish. I was going camping for the next two days with Jack, a few other teachers, and a handful of his students. My mission was to assemble a lunch at this market for the adults on the trip. Of course, before I took on such a task, I had to eat, and eat I did. A freshly-made veggie burger with fresh salsa followed by cheesecake with fresh fruit on top was just the ticket. Then I assembled what could be argued as the greatest picnic lunch in the history of teacher-chaperoned camping trips. It starred notables such as apple-tamarind chutney, fresh ciabatta bread, fresh apples, pears, and grapes, some of the best cheese in the universe from Neal’s Yard Dairy which is unarguably one of the the most renowned cheese shops in the world and has a sister shop in New Orleans, English biscuits, and sweet chili crisps. Please contact me if you would like me to plan a picnic for you because it is advisable that you do. Following this trip, I met Helen Boobis and Jack Ream for a little Atlantis Books reunion, complete with plenty of pints

The English Pub.  A home away from home for the last eight hundred years and counting.

The English Pub. A home away from home for the last eight hundred years and counting.

Then came the camping trip. I genuinely feel like I should devote another whole blog post to this camping trip because that is the only way to do it justice. When you work with students everyday, you sometimes lose sight of their growth from day to day. I had the opportunity to witness profound student growth in a matter of two days. Briefly, the boys in the group are who I spent the most time with, and they started the weekend not necessarily getting along and having little to no idea on how to navigate the glorious English countryside, which was their assignment. They were supposed to use their compasses and maps and find their way from one site to another. High point of the first day: happening upon a group of the girls in high spirits, feeling successful and knowing exactly where they were going. Low point of day one: The boys becoming lost for what proved to be quite a few hours.

Girls: Found.

Girls: Found.

Boys: Not found.

Boys: Not found.

By the end of the weekend, the boys were getting a long, working together, and striving to achieve a common goal. There confidence was higher and their independence was noticeably higher. Hmmm….Let’s just agree that I am not going to be able to do this experience justice in this post and call it good. Rest assured, I had a wonderful time and the English country side is everything I hoped for and then some. I have been told on numerous occasions that seeing London does not mean you have seen England. You have seen London. Having seen both, I can confidently say that I am a fan of both London and England.

UPDATE: Boys now found!

UPDATE: Boys now found!

Sunday was spent the way Sundays should be spent. I slept in, listened to music, and had dinner with a family. In this case, it was not my family or my best friends, but it was Dan’s, one of Jack’s roommates, parents who had come in from the Oxford area. We paid a quick visit to the Imperial War Museum and took a pretty long walk to meet some more of Jack’s friends at a pub where we stayed for a few hours and enjoyed the uncharacteristically good weather.

It is important to note that I was really, really looking forward to the grey weather of England. I wanted to be walking in the rain, be cold, and seek shelter in pubs and cafes from the cold. Strangely, most of my time has been marked by incredibly PERFECT weather, in that it is 65 to 70 degrees everyday and the sun shines bright all day. Now, I am not one to complain and I am not going to start now because for as much as I would have liked to be feeling like it was fall, this weather was too perfect to not enjoy.

Look at that sky.  What is this?  Santorini?  Actually, it was the church where Darwin's wife was buried, for the record.

Look at that sky. What is this? Santorini? Actually, it was the church where Darwin's wife was buried, for the record.

Tomorrow I return to Santorini as a refreshed person and one very much looking forward to seeing my sister.

There’s something to be said for breaking your routine and doing something out of the ordinary. I’ve had that now and been reminded of the value of enjoying the moment I am in, but I am still finding myself worrying about the future and making the right choice and missing the people I love. This is normal, of course, and okay at that.

I wanted to make a correction. I said that reading John Steinbeck was like having your first crush and this is incorrect. That feeling is far too fleeting and something you look back at with good humor, but in no way wanting more of it. Reading John Steinbeck, for me, was like eating a home cooked meal for the first time in a very long time. You can’t help but wonder what else you have been eating for all this time and you finish feeling full and resolved to never eat anything other than homecooked meals for the rest of your days.

The reason I bring this up is because at the end of “Travels with Charley,” Steinbeck talks about the way that journeys pick us and how they also pick when they end all themselves. There are times when you journey is over well before your trip is over and other times when you journey continues well beyond the end of your trip and back into real-life routines and day-to-day life. As for me, I am well aware that this journey is in control of me and where I am going, and I’ve yet been able to determine if and when my journey is or will be over. I wish it was this easy, but unlike Mr. Steinbeck, I have still have to buy a place ticket home in order to finish the trip itself. But, like Mr. Steinbeck, I know that no matter how much I see there is always more to learn and until this journey is definitely over, I need to continue to take it all in stride.

In the Night- Basia Bulat

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/07IntheNight.mp3?attredirects=0
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I’ve been having this creeping feeling lately that something big is about to happen. In a good way. I can’t be sure what is bringing this feeling on or if it is true but the last few days have found me with this exact feeling- that something important is going to happen.

Here's whats coming, James.  Checkmate.

Here's whats coming, James. Checkmate.

Upon Sophie’s recommendation (which is something you should almost always follow, particularly when it comes to books), I have started reading “Travels with Charley” by John Steinbeck, which is Steinbeck’s travelogue of his trip across the US in 1960. First of all, I should reluctantly admit that this is the first time I have ever read any Steinbeck, so I am taken in the same way one is when they have their first crush. “Oh, this is what everyone has been talking about.” Or maybe, more accurately, I am taken in the same way I was when I first started listening to Bob Dylan in high school and vowed to ONLY listen to Bob Dylan for at least two weeks. I called it “musical cleansing” and I think I made it the two weeks, or at least very near. If you don’t remember this, ask Gabe, because I’m sure he does because I made him listen to more Bob Dylan in that old Le Baron of his than he could have ever wanted. I feel like a world has just opened up to me.

It doesn’t hurt that the book contains so much of Steinbeck musings about journeys, exploring, leaving home, and experiences in a way that resonate so deeply with me that I often just put the book down after a passage and walk away. There have been very few times where I have had to do this in my life. I should clarify that the themes in the book are more numerous and much deeper than I am even beginning to explain, because I am only touching on the things that immediately affect me and this blog. I should also note that I only about a third of the way through the book, so if something drastic happens and I no longer like it or something changes, I will be sure to notify you. But currently the book has been turning the way view this experience on its head.

This was the same time that I went to go see the sunset but fell asleep.  True story.

This was the same time that I went to go see the sunset but fell asleep. True story.

Perhaps what I have been feeling is momentum, as the last week or so has felt as if I have taken a step definitively in a direction. What direction exactly, I don’t know, but it is in a direction.

This last week has had many firsts and changes. First of all, it rained here for the first time. Before that, though, it was foggy, as in fog descended over this whole end of the island and overtook everything. It started at night and we chose to go nightswimming in it. This was a good choice. But the next day, it was even more so. I welcomed the weather change, as the weather has been virtually the same from day to day for over two months. Also, I grew up in Colorado, which was incredibly distinct and pronounced seasons, and four of them, at that. So, I have come to appreciate having variety in weather and despite moving to New Orleans and then onto a Greek Island, I really love the cold and gray.

Not pictured: thousands of disappointed tourists.  Also, not pictured: Me.  Happy as could be.

Not pictured: thousands of disappointed tourists. Also, not pictured: Me. Happy as could be.

It stayed gray and rained for a few more days. On the last day of this, Amanda and I sat in the shop as customers walked in and out virtually unphased by the change in weather. I understand this. It is their holiday and, to be very honest, it wasn’t THAT cold, just chilly. However, Amanda and I were acting like it was the dead of winter or the coldest day of the year. We holed up, read books, act popcorn, drank copious amounts of hot tea, messed around on the internet, and pretty much did the things you do in Colorado when it is a blizzard and school has been canceled.

This is an example of a real life winter day in which one might hole up, read books, and drink tea.  We did not do that on this day.

This is an example of a real life winter day in which one might hole up, read books, and drink tea. We did not do that on this day.

Add some clouds to this and you would still not have an example of a day where you would hole up, read books, and drink tea.  We did that anyway.

Add some clouds to this and you would still not have an example of a day where you would hole up, read books, and drink tea. We did that anyway.

Also, I shaved. It was just time. It’ll grow back. Here you go. This took me no longer than a few minutes to make, so don’t judge the quality, but enjoy the product.

Although it wasn’t a first, I went to Ammoudi with Chris and Amanda one day. We swam and found a spot secluded from the mid-day crowds. It was not swelteringly hot so I just sat on this rock overlooking this beautiful place that has been so important in my time here and has seen so many chapters of my experience. I was perfectly content. Slowed down. Relaxed. This is why I came here. It felt like a first for some reason.

In case you didn't believe me, I included my foot in the shot.  I was there.

In case you didn't believe me, I included my foot in the shot. I was there.

There was another first. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is the start of something that later turns into a sort of revolution. We officially founded an activity called “pool skimming,” though it has been loosely and unofficially practiced for decades by rebellious teens everywhere. It involves locating, entering, swimming in, and sharing high fives in private pools. There were five people participating so it was no small task to silently get everyone in the water at three in the morning, swim, high five, and leave, while many of the pools were immediately next to rooms of the residents of the hotels and villas where these pools could be found. We did this NINE times in a little more than an hour. There is something to be said for a group of full-grown adults (I was the second youngest to give you an idea) not being able to control their giggling as they enter a pool in the same way a ten year would do as they enter any room clearly marked “DO NOT ENTER.”

This is a picture of Oia at night where you can see some of the pools glowing bright.  They were all victim to the famed pool skimmers of Oia.

This is a picture of Oia at night where you can see some of the pools glowing bright. They were all victim to the famed pool skimmers of Oia.

I decided to take a break from shaving to go pool skimming, so I looked like this as I entered private pools.

I decided to take a break from shaving to go pool skimming, so I looked like this as I entered private pools.

Today marks another change in Atlantis Books personnel. Liz left a few days ago after a FULL YEAR of traveling around the world. September 9 to September 9. Read her blog when you get a chance. It’s awesome and the things she has done and seen are remarkable. Many of the pictures on this post are from her. She also gives a good description of her last night here, which had Liz, Amanda, and me “getting our America on” after a botched attempt to see “Inglorious Bastards” at an open theater. We listened to music VERY loud in the car, sang, ate popcorn, and drank beer in parking lots of strange mini-bowling alleys

Amanda left today, though with a promise of returning in a few weeks, and Rich and Chris will leave in about an hour. That means its just me and Tony for a few days.

The constants at the bookstore are me, John, a guitar, and us tuning out everything else to play music.

The constants at the bookstore are me, John, a guitar, and us tuning out everything else to play music.

As a preview of things to come, I just booked a flight today to visit Jack in London. We will be going south of London for the weekend with some of his students and camping in the English countryside. More on this at another time.

The day I arrive back is the day that this one girl gets here. Her name is Aileen. She is my sister. I am somewhere between absurdly and unnecessarily excited about this happening.

She likes me more than it appears here.

She likes me more than it appears here.

Maybe I don’t feel like something big is going to happen soon, but I am just feeling forward movement. In “Travels with Charley,” Steinbeck talks about the Spanish verb “vacilar.”

If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere but doesn’t greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction.

One of the many reasons that pushed me to come to Greece was knowing that there is so much more in the world that what I have experienced and what I have seen. Its humbling, for sure, but it is part of the reason I was driven to do something new. I am most definitely “vacilando.” I am heading towards something, though, unlike Steinbeck’s definition, I can’t quite tell you where, but I feel my movement in that direction. Though, at this particular moment, I can’t say I’m in a rush to get there. I can’t foresee being in a rush until I understand how I am going to manage how to experience all there is to experience.

Of course, this is a question that can’t really be answered, and surely not in a blog post. It’s more of a question of how to find meaning in one’s life, which is for another post to say the least, and a question that we all answer every day. So, I’ll just continue to love where I am, learn as much as possible, and move forward thoughtfully and meaningfully. The rest, I have faith, will follow.

Greg Brown- China

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/05China.mp3?attredirects=0

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