Posts Tagged ‘Leaving’

Let’s start with this: A lot has happened since I last wrote. I don’t mean a lot as in someone saying they ate a lot after having a second helping of a good meal or when another person says they did a lot of walking following a five-mile hike. When I say a lot here, I mean it as a bold, stark understatement. I mean the kind of a lot that would convey brimming over, filled to the top, or having NO capacity for anything else. A lot in this context means there is literally no way that I will be able to get all of what has happened on this blog. But just know. A lot has happened.

So, where to start? Well, music, of course. It has come to my attention that many people have been unable to listen to my music clips the last few months, and through trial and error I have concluded this is largely due to the fact that this site’s music player only works on Firefox. Knowing that not everyone uses Firefox and in an effort to create the best blog-reading experience as possible, I have switched to another music widget. Hopefully, it works for everyone. You should be able to download the song by hitting the arrow on the right of the player and streaming should be better for everyone. In case you are wondering, I learned this from Michaela (aka Mak, Mak Attack, Makintosh Computers, MakDonalds, MakFace, or Makaroni and Cheese) who has recently unveiled her own wonderful blog that is well worth a visit or two or eight.

Tom Waits- You Can Never Hold Back Spring

If I remember correctly, we left the story off when I was last at the farm in the Czech Republic. I concluded my time there feeling rested and thankful for the opportunity to work with my hands and have time to process everything that had happened. I left with my love of the Czech Republic, chopping wood, and reading by one light underneath the covers as strong as ever, my pocket a bit lighter from losing at poker to Rich and Katie, and my hatred for doing the dishes at an all time high. I remember feeling a bit disappointed that I hadn’t seen any Czech snow, as some of my finest memories from being there in 2006 was from it dramatically snowing in the way that brought out anticipation in every flat place in the city and made the quietest of streets just a little bit quieter. But sure enough, my last night, after having an impressive homemade curry that made me forget how cold it was outside, someone muttered “I think it’s snowing,” and upon double checking on the porch, it sure enough was snowing just slightly.

As you can tell, I am almost single-handedly responsible for the deforestration of a whole Czech forest.

The next morning I made my way back to Prague with high hopes of my second stint in the city in as many weeks. The first day was spent and felt much like my brief stay their before the farm, familiar but only in a nostalgic way. Despite a visit to the Communism museum (where I had never been before) and the celebratory and slightly subversive way the sun was shining even though it the beginning of December, I still felt much like I was knocking at the door of the city, not being able to fully access it in the intimate way I knew it when living there.

Here was what I brought with me from Greece as a present for the Czech Republic- sunlight. I could barely get it through customs but it was worth it.

It wasn’t until I met up with Katka that Prague opened its door fully and let me back in. Katka is a dear friend I made back in 2006. With the exception of a stop at her parent’s flat and a viewing of the classic Czech film “Closely Watched Trains,” our relationship back then mostly consisted of meeting up in the cold Prague night and just walking and talking. Walking a lot and talking a lot (see above description of a lot) in ways that makes a city your own as it yields its finest secrets- little cobbled side streets, views of the city that literally move you backwards in your steps, or the sounds you might have missed in the noisy, busy daylight. And there we were, just like we had been almost four years ago, and feeling like we were the only people in Prague walking and talking. I was madly in love with Prague again, intoxicated by the lighting and the cold air and happy to be with an old friend after spending the two or three weeks prior very much in my own head.

The only photographic proof that Katka and I are friends.

That night feels significant on many levels because it felt like for the first time many of my thoughts on where I was going and the places I was coming from became clearer, not concluded but clearer. It was as if I had been lost and then suddenly found myself on a map. I still wasn’t sure where I was going but at least I knew where I was. And it should be noted that as a taxi took me to the airport, it started to snow. A lot.

It is here where I would put Greg Brown’s song “Every Street in Town,” but I only have a copy I bought on iTunes and it won’t let me do that. Reason #1 I don’t buy anything from iTunes anymore.

This will have to do. I’ve been listening to this over and over recently on trains and buses and just being taken by how beautiful it is.

Lara St. John- Bach’s Concerto No.2 in E Major II Adagio

After catching my plane and leaving the Czech Republic, I arrived in London, once again staying with Jack but this time having two other great friends, Ellie and Debbie, to visit. Here are things that every visit I’ve had with Jack involve: good music and good food. There are no questions about these two things and within the first night we had gone to one of the best restaurants in Central London and listened to the Dirty Projectors on vinyl. The next day we took a trip to a British beach town which I for the life of me can’t remember the name of and I ask Jack about once a day. Sorry, blog.

The English seaside, the English pub, and the English sweet touth- English traditions I was able to adopt immediately.

The next day is when things started to get crazy and when you start to understand what I mean by “a lot.” I boarded a EuroStar train, which takes passengers under the English Channel and to Paris and/or Brussels. I made my way to Brussels with the goal being to see Horse Feathers in concert. According to my Last.fm page, Horse Feathers is my most listened to artist by a long shot, so that is saying something. The perk of seeing Horse Feathers in Brussels is…well…being in Brussels. I had been warned on more than one occasion that Brussels wasn’t very beautiful and might not be worth my time but this couldn’t have been more wrong. I took to the city right away. It had a way about it, an honesty, that I don’t sense from many cities, particularly ones that I am just passing through. It wasn’t beautiful, though it had beautiful things in it. It just was and it felt like the city and its citizens were ok with that and you had the choice of either taking it or leaving it. I, wisely, took it. I walked around the city center at night before the concert, enjoying the fact that families were out and also enjoying the city and not just tourists. I stopped in a cafe famous for chess being played there at all times, and sure enough I was able to watch a few games of speed chess by guys who were profoundly better than I currently am.

The Horse Feathers concert was incredible. Simply put. And the Belgian crowd was the greatest concert audience I have ever witnessed in my life. Horse Feathers was firing on all cylinders; their harmonies and arrangements were perfect, his voice was better in person than on the record, and they closed by coming out into the crowd and playing acoustically with everyone sitting quietly around them. While much could be said about Horse Feathers, and I had good conversation with three of their four members after the show, the star of the evening was the Belgian crowd. Forget Belgian waffles (which I had and was blown away by), Belgian chocolate (also enjoyed), or being the capital of the EU (despite this, ATMs could not be found anywhere in the city, especially not when I needed them), I want Belgian music fans in my life all the time. The was a silence in the underground venue that was charged with an energy that was distinctly directed at the performers. The artist’s silences where exactly that- silent- and their music competed with nothing at all. I realized that in such a context a musician is no longer just playing music but rather they are filling a space with themselves, with their ideas, with their art, and that energy just pulls everyone towards the artist as we hang on their every note and, much more importantly, on their every silence.

Two easy steps to meeting one of your favorite bands: 1) speak the same language as them, and 2) act like you know what you’re talking about. I did both of these things well, though one more than the other

Are you seeing what I mean by a lot yet?

So, I took the train back after a morning of more exploring in Brussels where I found an antique post card shop, a whole building decorated in Chinese lanterns, and numerous groups of school children that made me wish I was able to take my students to Europe with me. Maybe I will just yet. At this point, I’m starting to feel the weight of “a lot.” I’m feeling overcome by the beautiful things, places, and people in the world and feeling almost frustrated that I can’t experience it all and contemplating not sleeping anymore so I can do more things (ask people who know me well- family, coworkers, roommates- how good of an idea this is. It’s just terrible.).

I arrive back in London, take a shower, and immediately head out to meet Ellie to see none other than…Horse Feathers. If there was any doubt that incredible relationships transfer from the bookshop to the outside world, this has been shattered by my friends in London by this time. Despite electrical problems that kept the house lights on and the stage lights off, Horse Feathers played beautifully again. Once again, the European audience surpassed even my greatest expectations of an American concert crowd, and they once again were able to venture out into the crowd for an acoustic encore.

Horse Feathers- Working Poor

By now, the term “a lot” is ceasing to even be in the ballpark of appropriate. We ended the night by walking down Brick Lane, having a beer at a wonderful bar that made me think, “Alright, London, that’s where you’ve been keeping your secrets,” and having wonderful conversation. The next day Ellie started to check things off a Whimsical To-Do List. We marveled at the British Museum and explored the wing completed dedicated to clock making. Just a lot of clocks.

I need you to understand that I haven’t even met up with Debbie at this point, and when I do shortly after leaving the British Museum, she took me on a quick whirlwind of her neighborhood which included Rough Trade records where I was so overwhelmed I just had to ask to leave, a ukulele shop, and grocery shopping. A lot? I would say so. We went back to her flat and played chess on a board that we made right there and then we had dinner with Ellie and a group of their friends who were some of the best dinner company one can ask for.

Have you even made it this far? If you have, you must surely be agreeing that “a lot” has happened, and its not even close to ending. Do you need to come back in a bit? Don’t. Stick it out.

The next morning Ellie took me to a meditation class and I realized how much I could probably benefit from meditation in terms of being present, focusing, and calming down. We met with Debbie and had lunch in a cafe that should submit itself in the “Cafe most likely to be called perfect and then be featured in a charming romantic comedy movie” contest. I could’ve gone to sleep at this point and had enough whimsy in my life to sleep into 2010, but Debbie then took me to a farm…!!!…in the city, and we ate gelato and hung out with the goats and Debbie didn’t even make any jokes about my beard when we happened upon the “Ginger Pigs.” That night, Atlantis Books worlds collided as Jack met Debbie and Ellie, and guess what we talked about? A lot of stuff.

Debbie was in love with this goat and showed it through repeated praise and petting.

I showed my love for the goat by getting in its face and making fun of its biggest fears and insecurities.

I rose the next morning and caught a train to Sheffield, England, which if you don’t know is in the North of England and is the fifth largest city in the country. Pete met me at the station and we started doing- yep, you guessed it- a lot, and here I mean a lot in the way that there was so much goodness around me and so many new experiences that I just stored them away as if I was a bear about to go into hibernation.

Here is a fashion of "Where's Waldo?" that some people think is too easy, its called "Where is Pete in this photo?" Next post we will use this same picture for another game called "Guess what Pete is doing in this picutre." I like my readers to feel successful.

Now, understand, Sheffield is not at the top of people’s tourist list of places to visit in the way that Prague or London might be, so, as has often been the case in my travels, I found myself feeling like I was in a secret, but the only thing about this secret is that the people who lived there were well aware of the secret. I have been few places in my life where I experienced such hospitality and witnessed the way people take pride in where they live as I did in Sheffield. Not only was Pete letting me stay in his house, wear his coats (I left mine in London), eat his food, follow him around, and meet all his friends, but his friends all had distinct ideas of what I should do while in their hometown. But instead of just recommending things to do like most people would, they went the extra mile to ensure I did it right. I liked this. A lot. When Neil thought I should be be able to go for a car ride through the country side, he came and picked us up himself and took us driving to a near by village for a gentleman’s brunch. When Kate told me to try geribaldi biscuits and read Ted Hughes, she bought them herself and brought them to me. It is here I learned just how much of a difference being hospitable, going an extra mile for a stranger, and just generally following through with the things you talk about can make a huge difference in others’ experiences. Meeting all these people, feeling so welcome in their home, and sharing a part of their life was one of the most affirming experiences I have had in a long time, and is the exact epitome of what I blogged about all those months ago about meeting new people, planting seeds for friendships in your little garden of life, and hoping for the best.

Pete and I walked the countryside and ate chipbuttys (which I just cannot say correctly no matter how hard I try) and had what was simply called a “pint of tea.” We enjoyed excellent beer as often as possible and listened to excellent music. A lot of all of this, and I concluded that whether or not I return to Sheffield in my lifetime, it will always hold a dear place in my heart.

I present the Chip Butty, a northern English treat that gives the New Orleans po boy with fries as the most carbo loaded sandwich ever. This sandwich, it should be noted, was ridiculously delciious with that English brown sauce and a pint of tea.

Another thing that happened in Sheffield is that Pete’s roommate Rosie opened a photo exhibition at Pete’s bookshop/coffeehouse called The Rude Shipyard (which is an incredible space). For the event, I was asked to open for Pete as the music for the evening. This was the first time I had played a proper gig as such in well over three years or so and the first time I had ever played by myself in this way, and I must say, I loved doing this and for the first time in my life I didn’t feel like I was just playing music but I was filling a space with myself and my ideas and I felt an energy as people listened and I felt the weight of respect in my silences. It was a really special evening and yet another reason to love Sheffield.

Wow. This is a lot. I’m impressed you’ve made it this far. I’ve returned to London and find myself yet again blown away by the new friendships I’ve made as I feel the power of this great city below me, around me, and towering high above me. London is such a big city that having three great friends in the city means that you see three incredibly different worlds. Ellie’s ability to continually come up with whimsical adventures is similar to Mary Poppin’s ability to pull objects out of a hat- the goodness just keeps coming. Debbie knows the coolest places in the city it seems and, blog, you need to know, that she beat me at chess today and Ellie has decided she is ready for the world championships. Jack’s work in the classroom and at his school as he rises every morning at 5:45 is inspiring in ways that have me missing teaching more than ever, and after he took me to my first Pantomime at his school (which I will add next to tea time and free museums as something that Americans have really missed the boat on) I was as inspired as ever.

So, here it is. Walking through the city and seeing Christmas decorations, walking through the London snow today, and seeing a performance of Handel’s Messiah in the British Library have made me realize it’s Christmas. I leave for the US on Friday, meaning tomorrow is my last full day in Europe. What this means exactly I still don’t know. I can’t tell you if my journey is over or not in the way John Steinbeck could at the end of his journey. I can’t tell you what I’m doing next and I can’t quite verbalize the ways I’ve changed and grown. What I can do, though, is remember why I chose this path in the first place. I refrain from using the word “expedition” here or adventure because as I just read in “Lady Chatterly’s Lady,” an expedition hints that you will be returning home. In a way, I suppose I am in that I am going home, but I don’t feel as if I will be returning anywhere. Despite physically returning to somewhere, I feel myself moving forward in so many more ways.

I’ve don’t a lot to say the least. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful places and met a lot of beautiful people, and I use “a lot” in the way that you might say that Dikembe Mutombo had a lot of blocked shots in his NBA career (he had 3,289). I learned a lot and had a lot of new experiences, and I mean that in the way that you might say Bob Dylan has released a lot of albums (according to iTunes, there are 77 of them including greatest hits compilations). More than anything, I’m thankful. A lot.

Happy music for safe travels. Talk to you from the US.

Fanfarlo- The Walls Are Coming Down


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It was a black night, the Hudson swayed with heavy blackness, shaken over with spilled dribbles of light. She leaned on the rail, and looking down though: This is the sea; it is deeper than one imagines, and fuller of memories. At that moment the sea seemed to heave like the serpent of chaos that has lived for ever.

‘These partings are no good, you know. They’re no good. I don’t like them.’

-D.H. Lawrence

It's too bad Santorini isn't beautiful, because that would almost make leaving difficult. Good thing its not... (photo courtesy of Pete David)

It’s been a long time, so there is much to cover. I left the bookshop on November 16 and started a journey to Prague. Upon landing in the Athens airport, I chose to take advantage of the 45 free minutes of wireless internet to write a post about leaving Santorini, in other words, to neatly wrap up my four month experience only two hours after leaving. This was, of course, incredibly unrealistic but I did muster this line, “It seems you can live a whole live in only four months.” I was struck by the difference a day could make. One day I was living a life on a beautiful island, surrounded by friends, cats, good dinners, and books, and the next day I just woke up and left. It seemed abrupt and I already felt removed from it.

This song has been stuck in my head for days, and it content-wise fits nicely here. Enjoy the classic.

Dinah Washington- What a Difference a Day Makes (download/wiki)


If you thought this was me at the highest point on Santorini overlooking it all, you were wrong because this is me in front of a tiny model of Santorini complete with a tiny ocean. It was adorable.

But, with hindsight on my side, I am going to disagree with my past self. Saying that I lived a life in four months just isn’t simply true because, a) its a bit dramatic even for me, and b) it carries with it a sense of detachment from the rest of my life, as if that was an isolated event that is now over. And, let’s really think about this, past self, because thats just simply not true. The experiences I had there were very real. The lessons I learned are things I will carry with me into whatever it is I do next and even past then. The friendships are as real as any I’ve known. Not to mention, I didn’t even “just wake up and leave,” I stayed up unnecessarily late (per the usual) and then got up with Vlad and Pete to see what we thought was going to be the sunrise, only to realize it was WAY too early for the sunrise, so we went and hung out on a cliff in the dark, with the dark sea below us. I remember some laughing, some farting, and some “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” being hummed. Mostly, somewhere in that dark moment, we were happy to just be there. That was enough.

Vlad may have beaten me many other times, but, make no mistake, I won this one with a little help from an opening I learned from Craig.

What books did I buy to take with me, you might ask. Well, I bought "Empire" by Niall Ferguson, "The Woman Who Rode Away" by D.H. Lawrence (see above quote), and "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides- the last of which I was recommended by Pete David, went on to tear through in only a few days, and strongly recommend.

So, there I was, in the Athens airport trying to make sense of what was happening- long after my 45 free minutes of internet were up and I had managed a few simple sentences of a blog entry. Memories filled my mind of the way the light filters into the shop, the sounds of donkeys above the ceiling of my room, walking the main walkway of Oia with John as he headed home and stopping along the way so we’d have more time to talk, and all the beautiful faces I’d met a long the way. The thing about writing a blog like this is that somewhere in all of these events and thoughts, I am supposed to arrive at some sort of conclusion or some concise lesson or lovely thought that I can write down and make document forevermore. And thats just not going to be the case here. I’m going to be processing this one for a long time to come, and I think I am going to choose to keep a lot of those things to myself. At least for now. Sorry, blog, there are some things I just won’t be able to include here.

What post from Santorini would be complete with this face? Why is she looking so down? Don't fool yourself into thinking its because I'm leaving, it's probably because she knew she was about to get fixed. So, for all you Sylvie fans out there that were hoping to have a baby Sylvie of your own and to all you hip male cats who were hoping to "get wit this," sorry, you're out of luck.

With the minor physiological crisis passed/averted/working itself out, I arrived in Prague, unaware of what it would be like to return to the place where I studied in spring of 2006. Prague, with its incredible buildings and history and the mighty Vltava, is famously a city for walking, and thats exactly what I did upon arrival, just as we used to do back in 2006. The thing about visiting Prague is that I had kind of told myself that I wouldn’t do visit it for quite a while, because I knew it wouldn’t be the same and the vision of Prague I had in my mind was near perfect and largely contingent upon the people I shared it with back in 2006. So, being there, almost only four years later, seemed strange, and it felt as strange as I could have imagined. The only way to really describe my first night there was that it felt like I was looking at a photo album. I felt nostalgic, but in the way you feel when are you very far removed from something. However, the memories of my time in Prague, a time that I still call one of the most important of my life, came flooding back. I could feel the way the winter felt and the breaking of spring. I remembered the friendships I made, many of which I’ve been fortunate enough to keep up with over the years. This night of wandering around the city in the rain served to remind me why I had loved Prague and my time there.

The year? 2006. The place? Prague. The problem? One beer for three guys. Two of us don't seem that upset about that.

The year?  2006.  The place?  Petrin Hill.  The problem?

The year? 2006. The place? Petrin Hill with Prague Castle in the back. The problem? I am made nervous by beer when not having to compete with two other guys for it. It seems too easy.

It was here that I realized the importance of revisiting an important place from my past, as I leave one from the present. Being there, and realizing how much of that experience I carry with me still, especially the relationships, worked to assure me that my time in Santorini was anything but an isolated life in and of itself. Remembering my time in Prague and its profound mark on the path I ended up taking, from new friends, to the Romero Troupe, to joining Teach for America, etc. It was as if it was all saying it all works out and when it does, its for the best.

Here is a song I got once from Bonnie. I’ve been enjoying it lately and considering how much blues we used to listen to in Prague, its also fitting.

R.L. Burnside- Skinny Woman (download/wiki)


The next day, however, served to illustrate the things I love about Prague at its core. Of course, I made a point of visiting all of my favorites places from before, but I was also very much engaged with Prague as it stands now. It was an important balance to strike. I visited Maly Buddha and had coconut milk, I had dinner at Pivovarksy Dum and had cerny pivo, wandered around Petrin Hill and overlooked the city, I visited the Kolej (where we all lived), had a beer at A Proc Ne, had a spinach pizza outside of Tesco (which is no longer Tesco, it is some partner of Tesco), sat next to the Vlatava, rod the tram, and the metro. This all fell on the national holiday of the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, and I was fortunately to see the days festivities. It was somewhere in the midst of walking from one side of the city to the other on this day that the feeling of it all changed from me being nostalgic to sitting down with an old friend and catching up. There was a reciprocity to it all- a sharing. “Oh wow, Prague, your hair looks great long and your economy is as strong as ever! Things seem to be going well for you. You deserve that. Oh, me? Ha. Yeah, my beard is long. Do you want another beer?” Because, lets face it, if Prague was a person it would be really exceptionally good at having a beer with a friend, reminiscing, and reconnecting.

Let’s quickly play game called Greece or Prague. Ready?

That one. Greece or Prague? Are you stuck? Hint: It DOES NOT rhyme with the word fog.

Now this one. Hint: This one DOES rhyme with fog.

My visit to Prague was short-lived, however, as I made my way south to Novy Myln- better known as the farm I will be staying at for the next few weeks. Let me paint a quick picture for you of my greeting to rural Czech life. The bus dropped me at a crossroads in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, with all of my bags from Greece. I had been told that the farm was the only house on the left, but not only was there not a house on the left, there wasn’t a house anyway, not that I could be sure of this, though, because I couldn’t see anything in the pitch black. So, I wandered for a bit thinking a few trees here and there might be a house, preparing what Czech I could remember to try and find the farm, and muttering swear words to myself. Thats when I just started walking. I knew I’d find it, but what I didn’t realize is that I would have to walk through the wooded part of the road to do so. As I walked deeper into the forest, never straying from the same road and avoiding the cars as they passed, all the while, barely being able to see and relying on my trusty iPod for light to read the signs, I eventually saw a house on what seemed to be the left. I said aloud, “Please be a house on the left.” Since it was and even though it had no visible lights on I ventured up to the main door, leaving my bags on the street in the case that I had to run or something. Not only was it the right house, as not one but three English speakers greeted me, but it was a wonderful, huge home with a kitchen warmed by a fire and cards on the table ready for a game of poker.

By day? Beautiful! Enchanting! By night? The perfect setting for a horror movie.

And that’s the way its been ever since- nothing short of storybook-esque. The weather is supposed to be really cold in the Czech Republic right now, and while its chilly, the days have been beautiful with blue skies- a bit of the fall I didn’t really get in Greece. We wake up in the morning, eat porridge, and the get to work around the farm. There is a lot of wood cutting to be done, as all our warmth comes from wood burning stoves. We scour the forest for mushrooms and take turns cooking. There are many projects around the farm, including painting window panes and refurbishing furniture, and always time for a tea break and kicking the soccer ball around.

Despite the fairytale nature of the farm, the real excitement started last Friday when we ventured into Tabor, the nearest big town. We played indoor soccer with a bunch of Czech guys and I…ready yourself, blog…scored a goal. This was probably the most Czech I’ve ever been, and followed it up by going to a pub and enjoying Czech beer, or, as it is better known, the best beer in the whole world. Whether its in Tabor at a pub with a pivo or walking the forest looking for mushrooms or reading my book next to a fire, this is proving to be a wonderful experience and a welcome addition to my European adventures.

Pictured? The house in which I am currently staying. Not pictured? The piles of wood we cut. Also, not pictured? Greece.

By the way, a late Happy Thanksgiving to all. As the only American on the farm, the holiday was more toned down that I am used to, but I still managed to make apple-walnut stuffing, mashed potatoes with beans, and steamed spinach with some help from Richard and Katie, the Australian couple here. This is also not to mention the pumpkin pie I made from scratch- yes, I mean from a pumpkin. I do hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

I’ve been enjoying the band the Dirty Projectors lately, thanks to Jack. So, if you like the track, you can thank me. If you don’t like it, feel free to contact me for his contacts and you can tell him personally.

The Dirty Projectors- No Intention (download/MySpace)


There is much to think about these days. I am planning my moves for when I return to the States and trying to process all that has been this last year, including the last four Greek months. Between all the new people and new experiences this last year brought me, I find myself moved by how much I’ve learned from these things. I am reminded of a woman who came into the bookshop, bought a book and asked to shake my hand. She said it is always an honor to meet someone who is living their dream, mistaking me for the person who started the bookshop. Being at the bookshop and living the realization of a group of people’s vision, being at the farm and being the part of a couple realizing their dream, knowing John as he works on a Greek island to finish his poetry collection, and meeting all the people who are made their journey possible, I realize what this woman was talking about. It is so easy to do the easy thing, the thing that makes sense, or to ride the waves we’re given, but the honor and inspiration I take from the people I meet who are living their dream is something I can only hope spills into my life. Until then, I think I will just shake their hands and then chop some more wood so neither of us get cold.

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The island has felt gentle these last few days. After months of intensity in many forms- intense sun, rain, living, happiness, longing, friendships, dreaming, scheming, missing, loving, food, adventure, books, music, etc., the island suddenly feels calm and gentle. The sky is a soft and clear blue while the breeze is neither cold nor hot. A silence has settled over Oia, a place that stripped of the tourists, truly is just a beautiful, simple village tucked away in the rocks. I’ve felt immersed in the slow pace that I’ve longed for and sought after since I got here, as its easier to lose yourself working in the shop, taking a lunch at Roka, or playing music in the little courtyard.

Here is a song to start off the blog that was played MANY times in the shop in the last few weeks. Luckily, it doesn’t really get old.

Raphael Saadiq- Sure Hope You Mean It (download here/MySpace here)


Following a great stint of bookstore personnel, there are now only three of us, me, Amanda (who has returned) and Pete (who owns and runs an independent bookshop in Sheffield, England and plays some great folk music). This is down from six just a few days ago. Ali is back in San Francisco. Debbie and Ellie have gone back to London and onto Paris, respectively, and Desirina left just yesterday to head to Charlotte for a family visit. I was worried that this mass exodus would leave me in a bad place, worn out from more goodbyes and ill-equipped to mentally prepare myself to leave. This, however, was not the case. While I admit I am emotionally exhausted, I feel invigorated by my time with these people and thankful that my last experience with a big group in the shop was with them, because I’ve been left with a sweet and celebratory taste in my mouth (which could also be due to the absurdly and gluttonously good food we regularly consumed). As opposed to thinking upon each respective departure with a mix of hope and worry, “Well, I wonder what is next,” I found myself taking a deep breath and thinking to myself, “Ok. It’s fitting that they’re leaving, because I’m leaving soon too.”


Featured in this photo: A yellow car we rented that we came to call "Tiny Taxi," the newest bookstore worker known henceforth as "Tiny Pete," and a blue sky that is anything but tiny


Debbie won a prestigious award for her theater venue, so Amanda and I made her this fruit tart.


Ellie was jealous so she stuck her tongue out at it. Yeah, real mature.

The profoundity of the calmness I am feeling is only understood when I remember the urgency with which I lived during my last few days in New Orleans. My last few weeks there were a blur of last times, goodbyes, and the milking of every second for all it was worth to the point of exhaustion. This is not to say that the last few weeks have been without excitement, though. The days before everyone left were, for lack of a better word, epic. We crammed in as much adventure and whimsy as possible while always making time for good food and loving and tending the shop in a way I didn’t know was possible with so many people.


INTERLUDE! I now present a new photo series called, "Boy and his oar." This specific one is called "Boy and his oar and his confusion"


This one is called "Boy and his oar and his friend who lives in a cave and won't come out because she is afraid of the boy and his oar."


"Boy and his oar and his beard and his jacket that doesn't fit very well in the sleeves"

Finally, this is called "Boy and his oar and the victory of climbing a moderately-to-small-sized hill"

Finally, "Boy and his oar and the victory of climbing a moderately-to-small sized hill"

One of these adventure-filled days, we adventured to Therissia (which has possibly turned into my favorite trek to make on the island) where we all agreed to not speak a word from the time we stepped off the boat from Santorini to the moment we left the island. This proved to be a powerful experience which heightened the views and the silence and made me feel closer to everyone. Ali mentioned it in his blog, too.


Let's play a game. It's called Real picture or fake picture. Alright. That picture right there, real or fake? If you answered fake, you are wrong. I've been there. I know.

land before time

Next picture. Real or fake? If you answered fake, this time you were right. This is a scene from the Land Before Time. If you answered real, I really don't know what to tell you.

Loudon Wainwright III (yes, again)- Come A Long Way (download here/MySpace here)


In the midst of all this, I accepted a mission from my sister, which was to have one day of completely new experiences- new food, new places, new music, etc.- and one day completed filled with familiar and comforting things. I have managed to fill many of my last days with things I love and find comforting. These are things that fit nicely into the calming of the days and enjoying the last of my time here. It was the new day which proved to be the most interesting.

The day was filled with new music (here, here, and here), my first perfectly pouched egg (thanks to Ali and Debbie), a picnic in a field where we all stuck in a tight circle in order to keep the wind out, the exploring of a dilapidated building with three people I’ve never met before which resulted in us being kicked out and followed by a furious Greek woman, and was my first Halloween out of the United States (we watched a terrible scary movie and I fell asleep). Perhaps it was cheating, but I actually started the time on the new day the night before, when we went to the house of a friend of the shops who is a local fisherman. He made us a wonderful dinner of fresh fish (many of which he had caught) and we shared dancing, music, and various forms of Greek alcohol. Following the meal, Ellie and I were taken out in the tiny fishing boat where we (kind of) helped with some night fishing in Ammoudi Bay. We hauled in the load, picked the fish out of the net ourselves, had them fried there, and ate the fresh fish. Now, this night included a variety of first-time experiences. I have never had such a wonderful dinner of things someone has caught, eaten it in their home overlooking the water, gone night fishing, picked dead fish out of a net, and then eaten the fish I helped cook. Folks, I am a vegetarian. I really am. This is big. This night was something else, though. Goodness.


Scene from our dinner at Ammoudi.

All this has passed now and I feel myself waiting calmly and feeling at peace the best of what has happened and what will surely come next, just like the island seems to be gently at peace with the changing of the seasons as it wields the best of summer and fall, an intricate balancing act I know won’t last too long. I am absorbing and cherishing the last of my time with the things I love most here- being amongst the books, on the terrace, eating pitas, going to Ammoudi, playing chess, and talking with John and Zalina. In fact, just yesterday, inspired by the clear blue skies and the calm air, I took a dip into Ammoudi where I was welcomed by refreshingly cold water and a loss of breath, something I welcomed right back. And while these moments are fleeting in nature, I can’t help but rest assured that these are all things and places and people that I will carry with me forever. I can’t help but feel that these are the moments for which I came all this way.

Gillian Welch – Wrecking Ball (download here/MySpace here)


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For those of you who like to listen to music while you read here is a song from an artist called The Tallest Man on Earth. I have been listening to him non-stop for the past month or so. This song might be my favorite of his.

The Tallest Man on Earth- The Gardener


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I started writing this post from the Portland airport (ranked as the nation’s #1 airport, mind you) following another week+ of epic adventure with Sophie. Our days in Colorado were filled with beauty and adventures. We explored Denver’s City Park, met up with Joel and Bri as they passed through Denver, got some good family time, went to the mountains for a hike and explored small mountain towns, ate Mexican food AND went to the museum AND got ice cream AND ate thai food with Gabe and Sean, explored the mountains, and went to a Paper Bird concert.

If you are unfamiliar with Paper Bird, you should quickly change that. They are a band from Denver, featuring my friend Tyler Archuletta on the trombone, who spread happiness and joy wherever they go, and are currently doing so on a vegetable oil-fueled bus as they tour the West Coast. They just released an EP called “A Sky Underground.” You should visit their new homepage and/or MySpace page.

In City Park, Sophie tried to eat my face and I got mad about it.  Who wouldn't, really?  Do you want your face eaten?

In City Park, Sophie tried to eat my face and I got mad about it. Who wouldn't, really? Do you want your face eaten?

As vegetarians, Sophie and I were prepared to settle for not much to eat in a small Colorado mountain town.  Then the owner of the cafe said, "I don't have much on the menu- just quinoa burriots, butternut squash soup, and cherry rhubarb tunrovers."  "Yes.  We will have that."

As vegetarians, Sophie and I were prepared to settle for not much to eat in a small Colorado mountain town. Then the owner of the cafe said, "I don't have much on the menu- just quinoa burriots, butternut squash soup, and cherry rhubarb tunrovers." "Yes. We will have that."

Sophie was so excited by the scenery and delicious food that she smiled.

Sophie was so excited by the scenery and delicious food that she smiled.

I was so excited by the scenery and delcious food that I trampled all the poppies in sight.

I was so excited by the scenery and delcious food that I trampled all the poppies in sight.

We made our way to Portland and continued to enjoy our adventures together. We spent more good family time (this time with the Johnson’s instead of the Hamilton’s), hiked in the lush Oregon forest, swam in natural bodies of water, watched movies and Lost, ate good food everyday until I didn’t think I could walk, and got good new music. This was my first time to Portland and more than just its airport is top-notch. Leaving Portland also meant leaving Sophie, which, as you might have expected, was the hardest goodbye for me to make. This is all I will write about this sad event- the rest will remain in my head. And as M. Ward says, “Every town is all the same, when you’ve left your heart in the Portland rain.”

M. Ward, “Paul’s Song”


Download here.

Look at me and those Johnson sisters.  If someone were to call us mountain goats, it would be for good reason.  No one has done that yet, though.

Look at me and those Johnson sisters. If someone were to call us mountain goats, it would be for good reason. No one has done that yet, though.

Once again, Sophie tries to bite my face.  This time I don't seem as upset.  This is because I have been watching "Lost" and I now know scarier things can happen in the forest than Sophie biting my face.

Once again, Sophie tries to bite my face. This time I don't seem as upset. This is because I have been watching "Lost" and I now know scarier things can happen in the forest than Sophie biting my face.

This is a very rare picture because Sophie is not biting my face off.  I have entitled it "Bad Ass Brunch."

This is a very rare picture because Sophie is not biting my face off. I have entitled it "Bad Ass Brunch."

I’m back in Colorado for a few days before I leave on Tuesday for Greece. Yes, Tuesday. As in one day from now. I don’t know if you thought these last few days in the country would allow for some rest and relaxation, but you would be wrong if this is what you thought. I have barely had time to pack, as goodbyes (for the time being): Colorado edition hit full force. Also, I was the DJ and master of ceremonies at Katie and Rob’s wedding in Breckenridge for the last weekend. Their wedding was on the Fourth of July, and I am very thankful that I was a part of it. Sean was the best man and I was also very thankful to have all that time to hang out with him.

This is the point in the wedding where I played some bumpin' tunes and wrote an award-winning short story.

This is the point in the wedding where I played some bumpin' tunes and wrote an award-winning short story.

I can’t say enough about the people I have in my life, and if this move brings me nothing else it has reminded me of how exceptionally lucky I am to be loved by the people I love. Every place I have gone and every place I am now from, I was lucky enough to find incredible people who are willing this celebrate this life we share. I’m not quite sure who I’m supposed to thank for this gift I have been given but I am grateful for every one of the people that I love and that love me.

The other night, a friend told me that when you move away its like planting a garden. This was the most comforting thing anyone had told me about moving, because my friend went on to explain that in moving you have planted those seeds and you just have to let them go, never knowing quite how they will grow, or if they will grow at all. When you come back, many of those seeds have grown strong and tall, and often in ways you wouldn’t have guessed when you first left.

Like I said, I leave Tuesday for the bookstore. The next time I write I will be far from here. In this new place, I hope to plant some new seeds with new people, see beautiful things, and have an adventure or two. But know that my heart is always here- with the people I love.

Paul Simon, “The Boxer” (live)


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I must start by saying that the last ten days have been an absolute whirlwind. The day after my last entry (a Thursday), I said my final goodbyes to my school and most of my co-workers, got in my car, and started driving towards Tennessee. I was thankful for the opportunity to spend hours alone on the road as I was sure it would offer an opportunity to process the countless overwhelming events and goodbyes of the past weeks. I am someone who needs time to process things. I generally take at least a day to really be able to talk about a good movie. I usually don’t like to judge music on the first listen, and I rarely am able to fully engage with profound moments or changes all at once. It takes me a while to process. It seemed that the 8 hours of driving from New Orleans to Manchester would provide ample time to process- to understand everything that had just happened and everything that was changing.

And, I suppose, on some levels, I was able to do this, but not very much. Awaiting in Manchester was the famed Bonnaroo festival in all its glory. There was simply not time to process. Instead, I chose to be present in the magnificence and chaos and beauty that is Bonnaroo. I can’t begin to explain to you this festival. You must see it with your own eyes to truly understand the magnitude of the whole thing. For a weekend, I was surrounded by wonderful things- music, art, food, and games. The music was an incredible balance of personal favorites (i.e. Neko Case, Bon Iver, Andrew Bird, Wilco), all-time greats (Tony Rice, Bruce Springsteen, David Grisman), and new interests/pleasant surprises (Raphael Saadiq, St. Vincent, Brett Dennen). The weekend was spent with great friends (Danielle and Bryan), which really just added to the fun and, once again, the overwhelming nature of the event

An event of this magnitude, in and of itself, needs time to be processed, and compiled with my need to process events from before, I welcomed the 8 hour return trip to New Orleans with the idea that I could finally reflect on my life changes and the epic event I had just experienced.

And I’m pretty sure I started on this reflection. I really am. But before I knew it, I was back in New Orleans and Sophie and I were having dinner at Lola’s, a personal New Orleans favorite. Then the next two days were spent frantically packing and preparing to actually leave New Orleans. Instead of really taking this as time to look back on the last two years, I chose to be present as I spent my last days in New Orleans, in my house and room, and with my beloved roommates. This was a good choice. My last night in New Orleans was spent much like my first nights in New Orleans- surrounded with friends, music, and celebration. CJ, Justin, Joel, Bri, and I played games, laughed, and sang well into the night.

Here are a few pictures, set up as a timeline to illustrate that my roommates and I have always managed to make our own fun:

This is the first time we all hung out.  We started cheers that filled MinuteMade Park.

This is the first time we all hung out. We started cheers that filled MinuteMade Park.

We ruin every party by playing rapping games.  Luckily, CJ and Justin are good at rapping.

We ruin every party by playing rapping games. Luckily, CJ and Justin are good at rapping.

After many rousing cheers, we caught a majestic Horse Monthly Calendar at Mardi Gras- a coveted item, indeed.

After many rousing cheers, we caught a majestic Horse Monthly Calendar at Mardi Gras- a coveted item, indeed.

We were responsible for other people's children...

We were responsible for other people's children...

The next morning I woke up, picked up Sophie, and we hit the road. Surely, a road trip is a great opportunity to process/reflect/understand everything that had happened. Surely this would happen.

And, to some extent, on some level, this happened. But not a lot. Rather, I chose to be present in what could only be described as a wonderful but strenuous and forward-looking road trip. The goal was to arrive in Denver on Friday night after leaving Thursday morning. This is a twenty-one hour drive, which could easily be done but the pit stops and site-seeing must be kept to a minimum. But being present was a great choice on this road trip. I felt incredibly close to Sophie, the sky throughout Texas is incredible and somehow bigger than anywhere else I’ve ever seen, and that stretch of I-25 between New Mexico and Colorado is overwhelmingly beautiful. And, in case you were wondering, we not only made it in time to help Aileen move on Saturday morning, but we made it in time for Kyle’s goodbye get-together on Friday night.

If anyone can explain to me why the sky in Texas looks so big, I would really like to know.

If anyone can explain to me why the sky in Texas looks so big, I would really like to know.

And that essentially brings us to now- with me writing to you from my parents house, with Sophie asleep next to me. And never fully have I processed the incredible change I have gone through. I think thats okay, though. The time between goodbyes and endings to now has been filled with far too many celebrations, beautiful sights, good songs, and togetherness to not allow myself to be present. I refuse to miss this.

Prior to moving to New Orleans in June, 2007, I was an avid follower of Dan Baum ‘s New Orleans Journal in the New Yorker. If you don’t know Dan Baum, I strongly recommend you check out his writing. I think he is a very good writer and is always able to eloquently describe the elusive essence of New Orleans. He book “Nine Lives” is the best example of this. Anywho, he had been writing from New Orleans for two years and that very same summer his Journal had been canceled. Aside from his time in New Orleans, he lives full-time in Boulder, CO. I remember distinctly reading his last Journal entry from a hotel room in Amarillo, TX, as I made my journey from Colorado to New Orleans. He wrote this entry from a hotel room in Houston, TX, as he made the exact opposite journey from New Orleans to Colorado.

I don’t know if our paths crossed exactly but I wrote him that night in Amarillo and told him about our swapping of places and thanked him for his writing. He wrote me back promptly and thanked me for reading his column.

While I was as present as possible on my trek away from New Orleans, I carried his last column prominently in the front of my mind. Mr. Baum wrote of feeling in exile outside of New Orleans and missing it dearly, or “knowing what it means to miss New Orleans.” He wrote of feeling shocked by the sanitary, wide-open, corporate-run world outside of New Orleans, and how somethings feels amiss. It was, however, his focus on New Orleanians ability to be present in a moment that stuck with me as I drove- to not be driven or controlled by the dollar or the clock, but to rather simply be in a moment, for better or worse.

This lesson, this skill, is the face of the parts of New Orleans that I carry with me. It represents what I learned in New Orleans, the wondeful people that I knew and loved there and the times I was present- up to the very last night and into the wee hours of that morning. And as Dan Baum said, “It took me a while to figure out that in New Orleans the future doesn’t really exist. There is only the present.”

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Tomorrow is the last day for students to attend school. Teachers are supposed to stay for Friday and the next Monday in order to get rooms cleaned, finish paperwork, and turn in media resources, but in a rare display of efficiency, I have everything done now- Wednesday. I am writing from my empty classroom with the exception of twelve barren desks in the middle of the room, left for the students who are still coming to school regularly. No homemade motivational posters of Nelson Mandela, Toni Morrison, and Muhammad Ali. No schedule written on the board. No ungraded papers, lesson plans, or student work on the wall. Its a stark contrast to the last two years in this room, which were chaotic, cluttered, and altogether the fastest two years of my life.

I have entered into what CJ, my roommate and best friend, called “The Beauty of the Last.” Each day is marked with the lasts- one last Saturday basketball game at KIPP Believe, one last family dinner at our beloved Nirvana, and one last time watching CJ perform at Comedy Lives. Ashley Prevost shared a quote with me recently she had found in The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai- “She had not estimated the imbalance between the finality of goodbye and the briefness of the last moment.” Thats where I am, unable to fully engage with each profound moment, but shocked by its brevity.

Site of countless Sunday Family dinners, including 17 weekends straight spanning from late 2007 to Spring 2008

Site of countless Sunday Family dinners, including 17 weekends straight spanning from late 2007 to Spring 2008

But if there is one thing I cherish, and one thing that New Orleans has taught me, it is the power of celebration. And there is so much to celebrate as I get ready to depart. Almost every night of the last two weeks has been going out for a goodbye dinner. The temptation, of course, is to want to leave and wallow in the night’s goodbye, but this would only end in an unhealthy amount of sadness. And, as CJ also pointed out, there is something about this time that inspires us to live more fervently, to cherish what we have, and to make good on all our promises. So, I’m trying to view every night as a celebration. Something that I share with each respective person or group of people to celebrate what we have- not because it is over, but because its changing and we now officially have a history together. And if I’ve learned anything from my past friendships, they’re never really over and those relationships always resurface just when you need them. Ah, life lessons- they never cease to be just general enough that they sound cheesy.

Last night I had dinner with Sanjana at Theo’s and she surprised me with a book she had made with pictures of me with my class and notes from every one of this year’s students, some of last year’s students, Sanjana and Ms. Segady. Many of the thoughts were incredibly powerful (“I’m sorry for giving you such a hard time and I thank you for getting me ready for the fifth grade”), some adorable (“You were my first best teacher”), and some students couldn’t quite express their thoughts (“What I like about our class is it is clean.” It is important to note that my classroom is infamously NOT clean, so where this came from I have no idea.) These are the presents people should get more often, things that show us we are loved and appreciated and validate all we believe in and have worked to accomplish.

This is what I have taught them- how to not pose for pictures.

This is what I have taught them- how to not pose for pictures.

It is important to note that I will not be going to Greece by myself. I will be joined by my friends Sheena and Mike. I have had the pleasure of working with Sheena this last year and the quality of my personal and professional life has skyrocketed as a result- she’s incredible. And remember Mike, because he has apparently vowed to do anything and everything to get mentioned in this blog (Let’s count- this is the first). I am very lucky to start my adventure in such good company.

And they play harmonicas!

And they play harmonicas!

Here is a song that I have been enjoying quite a bit lately. CJ, Jalls, and I blasted it and sang on our way home from our last dinner before Jalls left for Virginia. I also listened to it on the way home from family dinner last Sunday, only to have CJ pull up next to me with his windows down and he was singing it too. We drove a while next to each other singing to the same song. Then I got too ambitious and tried to throw the CD from my car to his car and it didn’t make it. Don’t worry, I got i back.

Gillian Welch- Black Star (Radiohead cover) http://7970917082554362344-a-1802744773732722657-s-sites.googlegroups.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/01blackstar.mp3?attredirects=0&auth=ANoY7cp3FRpHQpGpFfxlfWR7lp8w9AgmmaIY1-8SfCjdOkXxCipEQnarx5LV3vqphQjhZa2P0NSj3vaxfkSxEYPxzknbnsHw0Ok9sCJX_-5wes0UN6DTXyaLlonsky2QMEtiHI-B7HboMCA6wvOf-wh_EQh-mFvrfQoQQXHj8gG1YM8TN8F2EwFqqFUXfhiL_7BV4m7WG7idOVApgZ9-wdjWbU0RIVYgNFpJqi2tRWPVYlbRyT6OYV8%3D

Download here by right clicking and hitting “Save Link as.”

Now, my friends, I am going to walk downstairs and hand my principal my set of keys to the building. My steps will be weighted with the memory of long nights spent planning and working, years of student reading growth, hours of games and fun with people who taught me more than I could have ever hoped to have taught them, and a undying hope that the best is always yet to come- for me and my students.

Tomorrow I leave for Tennessee immediately after school ends. I need to be in Manchester, TN before Friday at noon where I will meet Danielle and Bryan and partake in the one and only Bonnaroo Music Festival.

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