Thursday, August 28, 2008

Of Things Past

While I was in Memphis, I went into the attic to find the box of my old Dean Koontz and Agatha Christie books. When I was a teenager, I used to go to Bookstar up on Winchester to buy one of those books once a week. I think I read everything Dean Koontz put out before 1992, and I tried to read every single Hercule Poirot book that Agatha Christie wrote (Miss Marple sucked). But, recently I borrowed a Koontz book from Chip and read it. It kind of sucked, but it sparked the urge to go back and read some of the old stuff again, just to see.

The first time I read Dean Koontz's Watchers, I considered it to be the best book I had ever read. Granted, it was the late 80s, I was not quite full on puberty yet and didn't have many other books under my belt to compare it to. Even after I read some good quality books in high school, the memory of how awesome Watchers was the first time I read it still put it at the top of my list. Recently I have been thinking, if I had to name my favorite books of all time, would Watchers still make the cut? Then, seeing a special 20th anniversary edition at Target really piqued my interest enough to seek it out when we were in Memphis this last time.

Well, I am about 3 quarters of the way done, and let's just say it no longer tops the list. It hasn't been for a while (that spot belongs to Frankenstein - really, the book works on so many levels, I could discuss it all day) and now it just kind of seems like all of Koontz's other books. You know, every person (or dog) in all his books have the same sense of humor, have some degree of smug conservatism, the characters are clear cut good or bad, etc. He is really good at the suspense part, but the reveal is never as spectacular as the buildup. So reading the book has been a good bit of nostalgia for me, but the nostalgia itself far outweighs the substance so far. I think just remembering how excited I was at this part of the book is more exciting than reading this part of the book now, if that makes sense. Koontz is now just escapism for me, something to read on a plane or on vacation, where not much is required of the reader.

Then, in the car the other day, I heard Just Like Paradise by David Lee Roth. Also for a time in the late 80s, this was my favorite song of all time. Really, Vai, Sheehan - good times. Then I hear it in the car, and there is this line that goes, "Suzie Suzie, girl, for cryin' out loud, you got all the right moves you make me eat my heart out nightly. And that's all right with me, yeah!" I mean, I always knew the lyric was there, but yikes! What disturbed me was that I associated that song with some level of transcendence, like with Dreams by Van Halen - same time frame, emotional song, good music, still holds up after all these years. But Just Like Paradise is just goofy - this song used to move me! I guess when you are 12, that is how the world works.

These are just extreme examples, but seriously in 1989, that was my favorite book ever and my favorite song ever, right there. Coming back to them now, well, it is comparable to finding out that the actress that helped you get through puberty is dating Tom Green now. I figured out long ago that Mr. Roboto was just goofy, but I was like 6 when I thought that song was awesome. At least Star Wars still kicks ass. Well, the original versions at least.

Monday, August 25, 2008

South Haven, MI

Some notes from the weekend in South Haven at the beach:

- We went with Frank and Hillary, and Hillary's college friend Meg, and the guy that Meg has been dating, a guy named Hunter Kim. He has a last name for a first name and a first name for a last name.
- This is the third time this summer that we have been to the western part of the state, after not going once in the first 8 years here.
- When I was in high school, I had the live VCR tape of the Van Halen concert after 5150 came out, where they were in New Haven. Of course, Sammy Hagar said that he would call the town "New Halen" from now on. This is important only because for the last few months, I have been saying that we were going to South Halen, to the point that Carrie thought that was actually the name of the town. Private jokes aren't really funny when you are the only one in on the joke. Sorry about that.
- The beach on Lake Michigan is better than the ocean for several reasons: fresh water rather than salt water, no sharks, no jelly fish, very little fish at all really, no real seashells on the beach to step on, and it is all really close to where we live.
- I can handle sunburn most places on me except for the top of my head. I avoided any sunburn really this time. At least, I thought I had avoided it until I went to brush my hair.
- Really there are few things as mindlessly enjoyable than a game of catch. There have been many times in my life where this involved a baseball and some gloves, but this time it was a football. I need to work on my spiral for sure. But for some reason, Saturday night I was thinking the best part of the day was throwing the football on the beach.
- I played Rock Band for the first time ever. I wasn't as keen on the guitar as I was the drums. They need Drum Hero by itself so I can get that and slowly work my way up to Rush and Metallica's One on Expert level.
- I had a fantasy football draft that I did from the back porch of a coffee place called Cafe Julia, that took most of Saturday afternoon. The next time I go to the beach, I really don't want my day to revolve around that. Also, Andre Johnson and Kevin Smith need to have HUGE years.
- This year, I watched the Olympics in Memphis, Olive Branch, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and South Haven. (Seriously, someone once ran the 5K in 12:37. That is asinine.)
- South Haven was a super cute town and we plan to spend more time there. It is much closer than Traverse City is, so the next time Mom comes to visit, we may have to take her out there.
- Oh, and if you get a mocha from a place called the South Bend Chocolate Company, chances are that it will be really chocolaty.

Back at work today, I was told that there was a place that was an old boat located behind all the stores on the waterfront in the bay or whatever (really, those were about the exact words used) that served a drink called South Haven Iced Tea, which is well known only because of the abbreviation. We totally must go next time. And we need to open a franchise down in Mississippi.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


For Mom's birthday, I got her a book called In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. With her permission, I read the book before I gave her the present, and it changed my life. Not in the dorky grad student "it changed my life" kind of way, but it just made me more aware of what I am eating and what I need to be eating. The basic thesis of the books is "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." It says to not eat anything that your grandmother wouldn't have eaten. Basically, only get stuff from the edges of the grocery store, not the stuff in the middle that is all processed and has a bunch of ingredients that you don't recognize, etc.

It makes the case that there are certain "western diseases" such as heart disease, diabetes, etc., that have come about from all the processed foods that we eat. Places in the world without all of our processed foods don't have the same rates of these diseases, and there is a reason. In order to prevent these diseases, we need to eat "whole foods". Not foods from Whole Foods per se, but actual fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, etc., that exist the way that they did in nature. They have some balance of antioxidants and nutrients and vitamins that you can't get in foods that you buy frozen and precooked in the frozen food section.

Long story short (really, just read the book), we have decided to eat better. Make meals with real ingredients, not just eat frozen foods. This is important because we have been on Weight Watchers for so long, and have been eating a lot of frozen foods that are Smart Ones, or Boca. Now, I am not saying that those are the worst thing in the world (we did lose some weight), but now on I want to know what the things I put in my body are (that's what she said). So, per the rules in the book, we are reading labels: no foods with ingredients I can't pronounce, I have never heard of, or ones with high fructose corn syrup.

We are buying most of our groceries now at the farmer's market and at specialty stores, and it is really nice. We are cooking together, and having really awesome meals. Included in the awesome meals was this at Zingerman's the other night. Heirloom tomatoes all day! Fancy Zingerman's food! The most Ann Arbor crowd I have been around in a while! There was even a Chip-guy there who was photographing all the food, but wasn't like the official guy or anything. It was fancy and awesome. So many strappy sandals with jeans and such little makeup!

Last night we cut some corn off the cob and roasted it with onions and peppers and whatnot, and it was really fantastic. A very worthy meal for us to eat while we watched BSG. I don't know if the new diet will make us lose as much weight as the WW diet did, but I feel a little bit more piece of mind about what is going in my body (twss). Plus, we get to drink red wine every night!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Memphis Trip (in bullet points!)

(Sorry I haven't been posting this month, but things have been hectic. Here goes!)

- From all the horror stories I have heard about mothers-in-law (especially from Chip and Carrie), I feel that I am fortunate that I only have to use 4 words in order to make mine laugh: "That's what she said."
- The post-wedding party went off without a hitch. It was great to see all of my extended family-in-law in one place, as well as my own immediate family. The food was great, the cake was great, and although the kids were everywhere, I actually had a good time with them all. We got to spend some quality time with Nathan, Chloe, and Christopher - all the youngests!
- I also got to see plenty of Gerald and Jerry, which was really nice. I have had almost exclusively women in my family, so I welcome some dudes into the mix.
- I find it amusing that for the entire relationship, Carrie and I have slept in the same bed at the Stanfills, but the first time we show up as a married couple, we get the twin beds.
- Balmoral. Well, I have too much to say here that I may have to give it its own blog post, but let's just say that the next time Carrie and I are in town, we may just go even if no one else can make it, including Mom. It was just heartwarming to see so many well-wishers and friends in one place. Then, Carrie wanted to talk to me about the sermon on the way home!
- Connor. That boy can run me ragged. There is nothing better than walking into the Chockleys and having him come running up to give me a big hug! Even if it happened at Mom's this time.
- Di. I feel I reconnected with him for the first time in a while, and now I really want to make it out to DC. We picked up right where we left off. Good times! It was good to hang out, if only for a little bit.
- The Olympics. 4 years ago, they were on when we were in Florida with the Stanfills, so it was funny to be watching the games with them again. Also, on that Sunday night, just sitting around watching the games with Mom and Steph and Chip and Carrie really got me talking for some reason - I think we need to watch TV sometimes with the phone on speaker so I have more of an audience than just Carrie. She has heard all my good material. What little there is.
- Strangely enough, Carrie and I were both nervous to tell Steph and Chip that we aren't really big fans of the Flight of the Conchords. I want to like them, and I am sure I will try again, and I can see why people would like them and all, but I am just not a big fan of musical comedy. I am not faulting you if you are though!!! It is just subjective. They aren't objectively awesome, like, say, the Arcade Fire.
- Speaking of the Arcade Fire, big thanks to Mark and Tiff for the DVD of wedding pictures. That was really sweet. (Please save any and all of the photos for us though! Even if they are times when your cameras accidentally went off, we want those too!!!)
- I found my box of all my Dean Koontz and Agatha Christie books in the attic. I didn't bring them up when I moved up here, because what if someone from the History program came over and saw them? I would lose all credibility!
- I didn't wake up with any explosive diarrhea and projectile vomiting like the last time I was in town, so we were able to make it home on time. TMI, I am sure, but I am just keeping it real. I was actually somewhat apprehensive about eating anything this trip for fear of it coming back. Plus, we made good time on the way home, so that was nice. Whatever.

Overall, it was a nice trip. No unnecessary drama, because maybe there just wasn't enough time. Again, the drive sucks, but what can you do. Maybe if we keep these trips to just a few days, we will start liking you all again. (Just kidding!)