November 30, 2006

TBR Challenge

Yep, another challenge hosted by Mizbooks over at Literary Cache. Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining! I love to compile lists of possibilities, stacking books in my office or on my nightstand and focusing on a specific set of titles for a given period of time. And this one should be fairly easy. Here are the details:

** Pick 12 books - one for each month of 2007 - that you've been wanting to read (have been on your "To Be Read" list) for 6 months or longer, but haven't gotten around to.

** Then, starting January 1, 2007, read one of these books from your list each month, ending December 31, 2007.
Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! I have SOOOOO many to choose from. And these are books I actually own. I don't dare choose books from my To Be Read Wishlist! I need to read what I own! I decided to look at all the possibilities and choose authors I've already read and loved. Since I'm also partaking in Bookfool's "Chunkster Challenge" (read: BIG time investment), I need to be fairly certain that I'll have good luck with what I've picked for Mizbooks' challenge. No new authors!

So, for today's Thursday Thirteen, here's my list (with one extra just in case...):

The Great Santini by Pat Conroy (Finished on 8/20/07)

The Tall Pine Polka by Lorna Landvik (DNF on 2/7/07)

Water Witches by Chris Bohjalian

Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! by Fannie Flagg

A Stranger's House by Bret Lott (DNF on 2/17/07)

Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher

Up Island by Anne Rivers Siddons (Finished on 6/26/07)

Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult (Finished on 2/22/07)

Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris (Finished on 4/13/07)

One True Thing by Anna Quindlen (Finished on 9/12/07)

The Baker's Apprentice by Judith Ryan Hendricks (Finished 1/22/07)

Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama (Finished on 3/12/07)

I was going to include remarks as to why I chose these books, but I figure I'll either add that information in response to reader comments or when I actually post my reviews next year.

I just realized one title (The Baker's Apprentice) overlaps with the Winter Reading Challenge, but that's ok. I'll just read it in January. You know, I could have just picked the same books that I selected for Bookfool's challenge, but where's the fun in that? This way, I should be able to knock off two dozen books from my TBR stacks. Hmmmm, wonder what I should do with all the empty space in our bookcases??? ;)

That's enough list-making. Time to go read!

November 29, 2006

We Interrupt This Program...

to bring you an important message.

I rarely, if ever, deviate from my book-related posts. However, I came across this video that I feel should be viewed by anyone who has a young child (or is the caretaker of young children). It's all about carseats and safety. And it's about a beautiful young boy who passed away on May 29th, 2005. Please take a few minutes and click on this link.

November 28, 2006

Robert Frost

Carl's G.I.F.T. Challenge Post #1

The recent poetry meme has got me thinking about more of my favorite poems. I gave my husband a pretty children's book edition of Frost's poem several years ago for Christmas, as it's also one of his favorites.

Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there's some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


I've been unofficially tagged by Ex Libris for a poetry meme. It's been a while since I've participated in a meme and thought this would be fun and thought-provoking.

What's the first poem you remember reading/hearing/reacting to?

Goodness, I'm not sure. Possibly Who Has Seen the Wind by Christina G. Rossetti which is in one of the children's books (My Brimful Book) I recently mentioned here.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads
The wind is passing by.

I was forced to memorize (name of poem) in school and...

I don't recall ever having to memorize a poem in school. I'm ashamed to say that I don't even remember studying poetry other than maybe in 7th Grade English! I guess that's what you get for growing up in Southern California during the 70s.

I read/don't read poetry because...

I don't generally seek out poetry to read on a regular basis. However, I'm always happy when I discover a poem that sounds pleasing to the ear. Since I don't really know the proper way to read a poem (with comprehension), I prefer those that rhyme and have an understandable cadence (I'm sure there's a technical term for this).

A poem I'm likely to think about when asked about a favorite poem is...

Well, I actually do have a couple. I love Wordsworth's Daffodils. It's one of the few poems I've memorized (in bits and pieces) over the years.

I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o'er Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company:
I gazed-and gazed-but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.

I also like Funeral Blues by W.H. Auden:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

And then there's Song from Pippa Passes by Robert Browning:

The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in his Heaven -
All's right with the world!

I write/don't write poetry, but...

No, I don't write poetry. However, my wonderfully romantic husband wrote me a poem for Valentine's Day this year. We have an on-going joke about the pronunciation (or misprounciation!) of the word "poem."

A Poime for Lesley

Is it too much to ask of life
That we run our race with one true friend?
That when we sleep we slumber deep,
And then our fences kindly mend?

That hearth and home be bright and warm,
A lovely, lively place?
And can we find some peace of mind,
A partnership of grace?

Should not our souls be free to fly?
And when we strive we do beseech
The stars agleam - so bright, they seem! -
Could our grasp this once exceed our reach?

It must be so! What else explains
The love I've found, this joyful song to sing?
You brought a light to deepest night
And made a fool a king.

Perhaps it is that Poe was wrong,
That what he said was false and sad;
It seems there is some trace of it,
Some bit of balm in Gilead.

Recollect emotion in tranquility
Is what Wordsworth said to do;
And thus I came (however lame)
To make this poime for you.

I tag Bellezza, Bookfool, Nat, Lotus and Sassymonkey. Oh, what the heck! Anyone who's interested can play!

EDITORIAL NOTE: Apparently, somewhere along the way, part of Cam's meme was lost. (Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Cam!) Here are the remaining questions:

6. My experience with reading poetry differs from my experience with reading other types of literature.....
7. I find poetry.....
8. The last time I heard poetry....
9. I think poetry is like....

November 21, 2006

Free Books!

Remember this?

Well, here's what I wound up buying.

I've already started The Night Watch and am about 230 pages in. It's wonderful!! I can't wait to read more by Sarah Waters. I have The Other Side of the Bridge and The Swallows of Kabul in my stacks for the From the Stacks Winter Reading Challenge.

Now if we'd only get a blizzard so I could stay home and read all day...

Land Girls

Land Girls by Angela Huth
Finished 11/17/06
Rating: B+ (7/10 Good)

“The year is 1941 and John and Faith Lawrence’s farmhands have been called away to serve their country. Desperate for help, the Lawrences take advantage of England’s new Land Army plan, which brings young women out of the house and into the fields. But the three ‘land girls’ that John and Faith receive may be more trouble than they bargained for.”

“Three young women from different backgrounds find themselves thrown together, sharing an attic bedroom and developing friendships that will last a lifetime. Land Girls is the poignant, intelligent, and often heartbreaking account of their first summer together.”

I enjoyed this somewhat simplistic novel, but wish it had dealt a little bit more with the war. If anything, the war merely provided a backdrop for this gentle drama, which came dangerously close to becoming a romance several times, what with all the romantic entanglements in which the young women found themselves involved.

Huth’s novel is peopled with endearing and memorable characters, but the actual plot left me hungry for something more. Greater depth? Richer detail? A more complicated dilemma? I think I expected to learn more about the Second World War and its effects on the rural communities in England; what I came away was more of a gentle beach read, if you will. Not exactly “fluff” but definitely not “literary” quality.

November 19, 2006

Guest Columnist #2

January 2007 • Vol.18 Issue 1
Page(s) 92 in print issue

Editorial License

Blogging For Your Supper

By now, most of us are aware of Web logs, or blogs, as they’re called. There are millions of them, covering every imaginable topic: Internet-based public diaries (let’s assume for the moment that “public diary” is not an oxymoron) in which entries are displayed in reverse chronological order and in response to which readers are encouraged to post comments. (And, for that matter, comments about the comments. Some folks, unable to leave well enough alone, then post comments about the comments made on the comments, thus creating a recursive flurry of words that immediately makes me reach for either the aspirin or the bourbon, depending on the time of day.)

Blogs turned out to be The Next Big Thing, although many of us failed to appreciate their potential impact, distracted as we were by such significant technological advances as the GPS-enabled in-car video player (no doubt helpful for drivers who, busy watching the latest “Battlestar Galactica” DVD as they drive, neglect to keep track of where they’re going); the explosive growth of “burst mode”-equipped digital cameras (which, thankfully, enable us to take truly dreadful pictures much faster than ever before); and a mind-numbing surfeit of Hello Kitty devices ranging from digital cameras to the disturbingly adorable Hello Kitty waffle maker. (I’m serious. There’s now a Hello Kitty waffle maker. When Wrigley Field—and mark my words, this will happen—becomes Hello Kitty Stadium, I’m moving to the mountains to become a hermit.)

I like blogs, actually. I have one of my own, and my wife has several. As were pen-and-ink journals before them, blogs are an opportunity to speak to the world—or at least to whichever parts of the world are interested enough to listen. And even if no one reads a blog—and very few read mine—at least the blogger has access to a convenient mechanism for sorting through and then articulating his thoughts.

However, things are getting a bit out of hand, blog-wise. There are now instances in which the proliferation of blogs is having a deleterious effect on the very fabric of our society. And by “deleterious effect,” I mean “delaying my dinner.”

Lesley, as I mentioned, has several blogs, including a book blog, a gardening blog, and a cooking blog. Because her blogs are well-written, often humorous, and always informative, they have attracted many readers. Not that I’m jealous or anything. (Lately, her book blog has been attracting fan letters from the authors of the books she reviews. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?) Lesley’s latest bloggish endeavor is her cooking blog, and it’s full of great recipes and homey, helpful notes about food preparation.

All of which was well and good, until my wife hit upon the notion that her cooking blog should include pictures of the dishes she was preparing. Now, Lesley is a truly great cook. She will spend hours carefully crafting a delicious Chicken in Tarragon Sauce, a scrumptiously rich Scaloppini di Pollo, or a wonderfully hearty homemade macaroni and cheese. The smells waft tantalizingly through the house as the dinner hour draws near. Meanwhile, I'm downstairs working. (And by “working,” I mean “scouring the Internet for a right-hand front turn signal assembly for a 1983 Honda 650 motorcycle.”)

Finally, the ship’s bell rings upstairs. It’s time for dinner! But no, not really. It’s time to take pictures of dinner. For her blog. We will spend the next 20 minutes taking photographs, while my beautiful meal cools and congeals. (“Honey,” she says sweetly, “Will you hold this centerpiece? It clashes with the chicken and dumplings.”) Mmmm . . . chicken and dumplings. Delicious chunks of fresh breast of chicken; rich, steamy broth replete with potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery; soft, light, fluffy dumplings; all of it daintily flecked with . . . uh, well, some kind of green, leafy thing. One of my favorite winter meals. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be delicious, but I don’t really know because instead of eating, I’m standing hunched in the corner (“Honey, you’re casting a shadow on the tablecloth.”), watching The Photographer at work. I’m trying, desperately vampire-like, not to cast a shadow. This is difficult and oddly tiring. Who knew that being a vampire was such hard work?

Of course, I’d be a fool to complain about Lesley’s food blog. It could be the best thing that’s ever happened to me, gastronomically speaking. As opposed to her gardening blog, an undertaking in which my participation seems to be limited to lugging heavy bags of mulch around the yard until she picks out a spot, seemingly at random, and points to where the mulch should be dumped. Mmmmm . . . mulch. Nah, see? I told you. It’s just not the same.

by Rod Scher

Rod Scher is a former software developer and a recovering English teacher. He's also the publication editor of Smart Computing and will no doubt continue in that position until such time as his boss reads this column. Contact Rod at

November 18, 2006


Obasan by Joy Kogawa
Finished on 11/12/06
Rating: C (3/10)


We are leaving the B.C. coast – rain, cloud, mist – an air overladen with weeping. Behind us lie a salty sea within which swim our drowning specks of memory – our small waterlogged eulogies. We are going down to the middle of the earth with pick-axe eyes, tunneling by train to the Interior, carried along by the momentum of the expulsion into the waiting wilderness.

We are hammers and chisels in the hands of would-be sculptors, battering the spirit of the sleeping mountain. We are the chips and sand, the fragments of fragments that fly like arrows from the heart of the rock. We are the silences that speak from stone. We are the despised rendered voiceless, stripped of car, radio, camera and every means of communication, a trainload of eyes covered with mud and spittle. We are the man in the Gospel of John, born into the world for the sake of the light. We are sent to Siloam, the pool called “Sent”. We are sent to the sending, that we may bring sight. We are the scholarly and the illiterate, the envied and the ugly, the fierce and the docile. We are those pioneers who cleared the bush and the forest with our hands, the gardeners tending and attending the soil. With our tenderness, the fishermen who are flung from the sea to flounder in the dust of the prairies.

We are the Issei and the Nisei and the Sansei, the Japanese Canadians. We disappear into the future undemanding as dew.

Kogawa’s prose is beautiful and lyrical:

The laughter in my arms is quiet as the moon, quiet as snow falling, quiet as the white light from the stars. Into this I fall and fall and fall, swaying safe as a feather through all my waiting hours and silent night watchings, past the everyday walk through the woods and the noisy school grounds, down past the Slocan City stores and the sawmill whine and Rough Lock Bill’s cabin, back along the train journey and the mountain ridges and the train station in Vancouver with all the people and the luggage and missionaries and women trotting here and there, carrying babies and boxes. Back up the long bus ride to Marpole and our house and the hedge around the yard and the peach tree outside my window and the goldfish bowl in the music room and I am in my father’s arms again my father’s arms.

In spite of the stunning language, I didn’t care for this book nearly as much as I’d anticipated. I was sympathetic to the individuals in the story and learned quite a bit about how the Japanese (both immigrant and native Canadians) were treated by Canada during the Second World War. Yet, I found the novel lacking some key element to draw me in to the lives of the main characters and their terrible plight. In spite of the educational aspects of the story, I felt it was a bit slow going and struggled to see it through to the end.

Obasan is a work of fiction based on Joy Kogawa's personal experience. Please go here and here for more on her family's story.

November 16, 2006

Children's Book Week


In honor of Children's Book Week (November 13-19), I'd like to share some of my favorite books from my childhood.

1. The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton

I adored this book but looking back, I think it was a source of an on-going nightmare I had as a child; something to do with the hollow tree that served as a portal to a magical world.

2. Well, Really, Mr. Twiddle! by Enid Blyton

This book made me wish I were British. I wanted to eat fish & chips wrapped in newspaper just like Mr. Twiddle did!

3. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

I believe this is the first chapter book my mother read to me and my brothers. I was in love with the idea of living on a farm and wanted to wear overalls and feed a baby pig with a bottle, just like Fern.

4. Heidi by Johanna Spyri

I loved this book and wanted to eat melted cheese on bread the way Heidi did with her gruff old grandfather - notice this fixation I had on food?!

5. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This may have been the first book that moved me to tears.

6. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (the whole series)

I read this series over and over, but my favorite was always Little House in the Big Woods. It's been many, many years since I last read it, but I can still picture Laura helping Ma feed wood chips in a hollowed out tree to smoke venison or Laura and Mary making candy with molasses and sugar (again with the food!)

7. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

My godfather gave me the first two or three in this series and I fell in love with the characters and setting (and the phrase "kindred spirits"). Wonderful, wonderful books. I'd love to read the entire series some day.

8. All-of-a-Kind-Family by Sydney Taylor (the whole series)

This set of books made me wish for a bunch of sisters!

9. Susan's Safe Harbor by Katherine Wigmore Eyre

I have an old harcover of this book (1942 copyright) and it appears to have been signed by the author. It pains me to say that the signature has been crossed out with blue ink and my name is written in the front of the book in blue ink. Did I think the inscription was the previous owner's name and it was my duty to cross it out and write mine?! I was probably eight years old when I was given the book and obviously didn't understand what I was doing. Please don't tell me a signed copy of this book is worth a fortune. I won't torture myself and check the Internet to see how much the book was worth before my possesive action! Sigh.

10. The Happy Hollisters by Jerry West and Helen S. Hamilton (series)

I don't remember any specific title in this series, but I remember checking them out from the library when I was in 5th grade, anxious to get the next as soon as I finished what I'd already borrowed.

11. The Bobbsey Twins by Laura Lee Hope (series)

Again, the same as with The Happy Hollisters. I don't remember a specific book, but I do remember the thrill of finding yet another in the series on the shelf to check out.

12. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

I loved the idea of living in the mountains in a hollowed out tree! I was young and naive, what can I say.

13. Homer Price by Robert McCloskey

Can you say hot, fresh donuts?!

There are so many other wonderful books that I read and loved as a young child. It's impossible to just list 13! Some of my other favorites include The Noonday Friends (Mary Stolz), The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew (Margaret Sidney), Five on a Hike Together (Enid Blyton), the Trixie Belden series, Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren), Paddington Bear (Michael Bond), The Story of Ping (Marjorie Flack), The Water-Buffalo Children (Pearl S. Buck), The Blue Fairy Tale Book (Andrew Lang), and my very first book (I believe) called My Brimful Book. I'm pleased to say I still own most of these and just might devote an entire month to re-reading them in 2007.

November 13, 2006

The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
Finished on 11/3/06
Rating: A+ (10/10 Superb!)

Forty-three years old, and the war occurred half a lifetime ago, and yet the remembering makes it now. And sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That’s what stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.

I so very rarely ever give a book a perfect A+ rating (the most recent was The Book Thief). I always seem to find some minor flaw or quibble to keep the score down to at least an A or A-. But this book is brilliant and flawless.

And what an incredible surprise. I never expected to encounter such a beautifully written book about the Vietnam war and its aftermath. I should have realized that a book with several pages of acclaim (36 reviews in all) by various newspapers and magazines would be a winner. I just never read those blurbs before reading the book. However, glancing at them now, I see more than one that sums up my reading experience to a T:

“In prose that combine the sharp, unsentimental rhythms of Hemingway with gentler, more lyrical descriptions, Mr. O’Brien gives the reader a shockingly visceral sense of what it felt like to tramp through a booby-trapped jungle, carrying 20 pounds of supplies, 14 pounds of ammunition, along with radios, machine guns, assault rifles and grenades… With The Things They Carried, Mr. O’Brien has written a vital, important book – a book that matters not only to the reader interested in Vietnam, but to anyone interested in the craft of writing as well.” (Michiko Katutani, New York Times)


“The integrity of a novel and the immediacy of an autobiography… O’Brien’s absorbing narrative moves in circles; events are recalled and retold again and again, giving us a deep sense of the fluidity of truth and the dance of memory.” (The New Yorker)

and finally,

“I’ve got to make you read this book… A certain panic arises in me. In trying to review a book as precious as The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, there is the nightmare fear of saying the wrong thing – of not getting the book’s wonder across to you fairly – and of sounding merely zealous, fanatical, and hence to be dismissed. If I can’t get you to go out and buy this book, then I’ve failed you… In a world filled too often with numbness, or shifting values, these stories shine in a strange and opposite direction, moving against the flow, illuminating life’s wonder, life’s tenuousness, life’s importance.” (Rick Bass, Dallas Morning News)

This is such a powerfully rich book. What The Book Thief is to WWII, The Things They Carried is to Vietnam. Maybe not with the young, loveable protagonists, but with the amazing emotion and brilliant storytelling. But is it really storytelling? The line between fact and fiction is quite blurry and I found myself wondering several times if a certain event really did take place and if O’Brien was there as witness.

A favorite passages:

When a man died, there had to be blame. Jimmy Cross understood this. You could blame the war. You could blame the idiots who made the war. You could blame Kiowa for going to it. You could blame the rain. You could blame the river. You could blame the field, the mud, the climate. You could blame the enemy. You could blame the mortar rounds. You could blame people who were too lazy to read a newspaper, who were bored by the daily body counts, who switched channels at the mention of politics. You could blame whole nations. You could blame God. You could blame the munitions makers or Karl Marx or a trick of fate or an old man in Omaha who forgot to vote.

I don’t know if this particular book is taught in high school, but if I were a U.S. History teacher (or better yet, a Creative Writing or Literature teacher), I’d do everything in my power to make it a part of the curriculum. I plan to read more by this incredibly talented author, starting with Going After Cacciato.


"They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing--these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight. They carried shameful memories. They carried the common secret of cowardice.... Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to."

A finalist for both the 1990 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Things They Carried marks a subtle but definitive line of demarcation between Tim O'Brien's earlier works about Vietnam, the memoir If I Die in a Combat Zone and the fictional Going After Cacciato, and this sly, almost hallucinatory book that is neither memoir nor novel nor collection of short stories but rather an artful combination of all three. Vietnam is still O'Brien's theme, but in this book he seems less interested in the war itself than in the myriad different perspectives from which he depicts it. Whereas Going After Cacciato played with reality, The Things They Carried plays with truth. The narrator of most of these stories is "Tim"; yet O'Brien freely admits that many of the events he chronicles in this collection never really happened. He never killed a man as "Tim" does in "The Man I Killed," and unlike Tim in "Ambush," he has no daughter named Kathleen. But just because a thing never happened doesn't make it any less true. In "On the Rainy River," the character Tim O'Brien responds to his draft notice by driving north, to the Canadian border where he spends six days in a deserted lodge in the company of an old man named Elroy while he wrestles with the choice between dodging the draft or going to war. The real Tim O'Brien never drove north, never found himself in a fishing boat 20 yards off the Canadian shore with a decision to make. The real Tim O'Brien quietly boarded the bus to Sioux Falls and was inducted into the United States Army. But the truth of "On the Rainy River" lies not in facts but in the genuineness of the experience it depicts: both Tims went to a war they didn't believe in; both considered themselves cowards for doing so. Every story in The Things They Carried speaks another truth that Tim O'Brien learned in Vietnam; it is this blurred line between truth and reality, fact and fiction, that makes his book unforgettable. --Alix Wilber

November 12, 2006

Look at that old photograph...

Is it really you
Smiling like a baby full of dreams
Smiling ain’t so easy now
Some are coming true
Nothing’s simple as it seems

But I guess you count your blessings with the problems
That you’re dealing with today
Like the changing of the seasons
Ain’t you come a long way (Ain’t you come a long way)
Ain’t you come a long way down
This old road

When I began this blog almost a year ago, I was determined to keep the focus on books. I’ve since created other blogs in which I can share my favorite recipes, pictures of my garden, the birds that visit, or simply chatter about the beauty of the changing seasons. But like a great book that continues to haunt me well after I’ve finished reading, I find myself reliving a magical evening spent listening to one of my favorite singer/songwriters and I decided to write a bit about it here.

In some ways it feels as if I cut my teeth on Kris Kristofferson’s music. My entire family (parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles, etc.) owned all his early albums

and I have fond memories of hearing them played in the homes of my childhood (or on the 8-track deck in my grandparent’s car when we’d go to visit them at their beach house in Southern California), learning all the lyrics as I sang along to the gravelly voice of the man whom everyone referred to as “Kristy.” The very first concert I ever attended was in 1973 when Kris & Rita (Coolidge) performed at the San Diego Concourse Center (yes, that's me standing next to Kris in the above photograph). What a thrilling evening that was, as we got to go backstage after the show and say hi to Kris, Rita and the band. At 11 years old, I thought I was super cool!

It’s been 33 years since that first concert. Rod and I have seen Kris perform several times since and last month’s show in Omaha was by far the best. We were entertained with songs spanning his entire career, a few of which I haven’t heard in several years, if not decades. Over 30 songs (some abbreviated to accommodate the lack of band or backup musicians) in two hours. I’m not sure I remember the entire play list, but here’s what comes to mind (I’ve highlighted my favorites):

Just the Other Side of Nowhere
Shipwrecked in the Eighties
Casey’s Last Ride
Best of all Possible Worlds
Help Me Make It Through the Night
Johnny Lobo
I’d Rather Be Sorry
Here Comes That Rainbow Again
Darby’s Castle
Me & Bobby McGee
Jody and the Kid
The Pilgrim, Chapter 33
Pilgrim’s Progress
Billy Dee
Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)
To Beat the Devil
The Last Thing to Go
Wild American
Holy Road
In the News
Final Attraction
This Old Road
Sunday Morning Coming Down
Nobody Wins
Thank You For a Life
Love Is the Way
The Silver Tongued Devil and I
Chase the Feeling
For the Good Times
A Moment of Forever
Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down
Why Me
Between Heaven and Here
The Promise
The Heart

It was a remarkable evening. Someone recently said Kris is a living legend. All I know is that I hope I have half his stamina when I’m 70 years old! Given the fact that Kris’ mom and my grandmother were sisters, it’s entirely possible. We share the same great family genes. I, however, missed out on the musical talent.

Kris has a long list of engagements on this particular tour and I strongly urge you to check out his website. If you can’t make it to one of his shows, pick up a copy of his latest album, This Old Road

It’s one of his best (although A Moment of Forever remains my favorite).

Personally, I’d love to see the show again and I’m trying to figure out a way to convince my husband that Scotland (or Vienna) would be a perfect location.