Sunday, November 7, 2010

I want to be Norwegian

Tonight I watched Elling, a film that reminded me how hilarious reality can be. The two main characters Elling and Kjell Bjarne are best friends. Elling is a neurotic mama's boy who wants to be a poet and Kjell Bjarne is a simple oaf who wants to get laid. At first dependant on each other and their social worker for everything, they eventually find different paths toward happiness while staying loyal to each other. I love this movie.Watch it. You will love it too.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I'm Not Scared

I don't normally read thrillers or horror/suspense novels, or however you want to label them. Since reading "I'm Not Scared," by Niccolò Ammaniti, I've seen the error of my previous opinion. I snobbishly thought that books in this genre could only speed up your heart rate, but not provoke any real deep emotion or reflection.

This book is like the Italian "To Kill a Mockingbird," so convincing is the child narrator. Michele, the child narrator, shows readers adult monstrosity through a lens of purity. "I'm Not Scared" centers around a common fear: kidnapping. If we haven't been affected by this fear personally, we've been exposed to others' trauma through billboards, crime shows and milk cartons.

I highly recommend "I'm Not Scared." The writing is sharp and it will stay with you long after you put it down.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Cleanest Race

This is a fascinating book, full of insights into North Korean propoganda. The author, B.R. Meyers, impressively lays out information and develops compelling theories, while not claiming to understand everything about this mysterious country.

In the middle of the book are some outlandish propaganda posters, depicting Americans as "Yankee vampires" and baby killers. Koreans are always portrayed as pure and innocent, naive like little children, and helpless victims of hostility from the outside world. That is why many North Koreans believe they need the protection of their "dear leader," Kim Jung Il. He supposedly braves the storm and acts as their selfless, all sacrificing parental figure. Meyers shows the brutal truth and tells how North Korea's flimsy facade, which is the whole foundation of the country, is slowly beginning to crumble.

North Korea is not Never Neverland. Even though all the citizens are encouraged to act like mindless, helpless children, they're going to have to grow up someday. Just like children's movies in which the kids outsmart and overpower the adults who come up against them, there will be a role reversal eventually, when the great leader gets his comeuppance . . . or he'll just get shorter and shorter until he disappears.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mrs. Dumpty

I do not read as much poetry as I should. Sometimes I feel inept at judging its quality. In critique groups, I am concerned about the kind of feedback I give poets because I think their writing comes from a different realm of creativity than mine. Reading clunky poems can feel like running a 3-legged race with a very uncoordinated person, but reading a beautiful poem can be like teaching my brain to dance ballet. In Mrs. Dumpty, Chana Bloch's slim book of poetry, she reveals herself with elegance. Readers have the pleasure of watching her fall in slow motion. Her vulnerability is angelically orchestrated in this melancholy collection of poems.

Chicken With Plums

Chicken With Plums made me ponder my existence, and what complex passions and simple pleasures give my life meaning. Marjane Satrapi is a genius. In this book, she chronicles the highlights of Iranian musician Nasser Ali's life, paying special attention to the eight days before he died. I am taken by how Satrapi's simple drawings can conjure up so much emotion, from hilarity to heartbreak. After Ali's wife breaks his tar (a musical instrument) during a feud, he resolves to die. Toward the end of the book, we learn what memories that instrument represented and how his wife breaking it was to him akin to murder. It was Nasser Ali's lifeline, his only joy.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stumptown Comics Fest

There are too many nerdy geniuses in the world. Well, actually it only seems that way right now because I just spent all afternoon packed in a big room with hundreds of them. The nerdiness was overpowering, but I plowed through it and left with a bag full of zines and graphic novels. Standing in line to get a book signed by Craig Thompson, a guy wearing a "Girl Watcher" button asked me if I liked British TV shows. That was his pick up line. It just so happens that I do like British TV shows, but I wasn't about to get too friendly with a guy wearing a "Girl Watcher" button. Why doesn't he just wear a button that says, "I'm Creepy"? How about a T shirt that says, "I like to stand uncomfortably close to girls and ask them if they like British TV shows"?

I waited an hour to get my book signed. That is the longest I have ever stood in line for an autograph and that really goes to show how much I like Craig Thomspson, especially since I'm willing to wait that long with a girl watcher standing next to me. After I chatted with Craig and he drew a bunny in my book, I felt the reward was worth the wait.

Strolling around the aisles, I realized how much I need to plug into this new world of creativity. Anybody can make a zine and sell it, and I think that accessibility will bring more and more people together. I found a lovely zine called "Bookulele: A Love Story" by Skylaar Amann. I got it for my mom because she plays the ukulele. Now my mom and I are both enchanted with this beautifully illustrated book.

I was mainly on the lookout for dream comics. I found two that are part of a series called "Night Life," by Tom Lechner. His drawings remind me of M.C. Escher's work because they're so detailed and he does a great job of showing sequenced events, so I really feel I am following the complete span of his dreams. I hope he expands his series so I can get more of his books.

At the Dark Horse table I asked for the book "The Night of Your Life," by Jesse Reklaw, recommended to me by Craig Thompson. A guy handed me the book and when I tried to pay him, he said, "Just take it." Wow. A free book. A totally awesome free book about dreams that I can't wait to read.

Comics really do make the world a better place.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

In the mood for music videos

When I was a little girl and I saw Lisa Loeb's video "Stay," I thought my future was assured. I knew that when I grew up I wanted to be a spectacled, mousy-haired woman with a bias for black dresses. At 26, I am exactly what I thought I would be . . . at least as far as appearance goes.

Another video I was obsessed with when I was younger was "Let Forever Be." I love how it zips back and forth between this woman's pink and silver nightmares and her black turtleneck existence. It reminds me a little of the Steve Martin book "Shop Girl" and of "Pig Tales" by Marie Darrieussecq, two weird books about women who sell frivolous products in department stores. I always imagined that this video took place in London and that this girl would make a fascinating character in a work of fiction.

I am enamored of the writer/director Michel Gondry. He directed "Let Forever Be" and the Foo Fighters' "Everlong." He is probably best known for writing and directing "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "The Science of Sleep."

In his music video, "Lucas with the lid off," Gondry echoes the song's fusion of old-fashioned and contemporary with black and white scenery, reminiscent of classic movies. I want to live in this video! It makes me feel sooo good. I hope everyone who watches it enjoys it just as much as I do.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Everybody must read Blankets.

The graphic novel "Blankets" is a perfect revelation of a life. I LOVE this book! The word "blankets" is so bland and yet, that word conjures up so many memories and images. I marvel at Craig Thompson's ability to draw 600 pages of gorgeous artwork, artwork which is funny and heartbreaking all at once.

The scenes depicting sibling rivalry are hilarious. During the first childhood fight is when the blanket theme is slipped in. This theme is the most poignant when Craig's high school girlfriend gives him a quilt she made. Craig's stifling religious upbringing is like a blanket thrown over his eyes, and one of his great challenges is learning to prosper as an artist and as a free thinker.

I knit scarves for people, but seeing as how scarves are not as useful as blankets, I don't think my gifts would inspire someone to write a graphic novel called "Scarves." I would love to learn how to quilt, but I have too many hobbies already and not enough time. I think giving this book as a gift to someone would be just as wonderful as a handmade quilt or scarf. This book is so beautiful, it will resonate with just about anyone.

In The Flesh

When I was browsing the huge collection of graphic novels at the Portland State Library, I was looking for covers that featured real people, no superheroes or monsters, although sometimes I'll gravitate toward cutesy animals. I picked up "In The Flesh" by Koren Shadmi and I was blown away as soon as I started reading. Each story is about a twisted relationship, ground in reality, but wafting through a realm of magic. My favorite story is "What Is Wrong With Me?" I like it because it shows the contrasting activities of two people after they just spent the night together. The stories go from funny to serious, and I think they were arranged that way on purpose. Each story is tinged with sadness, so this book really pushes the boundaries of human emotion, in a good way. Reading this book is like drinking too much at a party, laughing with friends and then inadvertently crying over some sensitive topic.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ashland, Je T'aime

Two weekends ago, my mom and I drove to Ashland and saw 4 plays: Hamlet, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Pride and Prejudice, and Well.

Ashland is my idea of the perfect little town. It is like a masterfully edited novel after all the unnecessary words have been deleted. Ashland has everything I could ever want. It has a beautiful park, plays, restaurants that serve Stumptown coffee, music, good beer, tons of used bookstores, a candy store. And if I ever felt like running, or pretending I was an athlete, I could go to the running store and buy an outfit to look the part. Yes, I could definitely be content living in Ashland.

The Hamlet we saw was very good. It was not as breathtaking as the Hamlet I saw last month at the Coho Theater, but still, it was intriguing and suspenseful and utilized original ideas. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were lesbians! Never seen that before! King Hamlet was deaf and communicated through sign language and Hamlet's friends put on a rousing hip hop performance for King Claudius.

The actor who played Hamlet looked remarkably like Conan O'Brien. So much so, that I wanted to stand up and yell "I'm with Coco!" Luckily, I'm not that insane and I have some self control. I loved how Hamlet became noticeably more looney tunes as they play went on. He kept cutting off pieces of his clothes until they were all ragged and he donned a colorful, eccentric hat. His laughter also became more insane, which got some laughs from the audience, especially when Hamlet was dragging away Polonius' body and cackling in front of a horrified Gertrude.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was my favorite play in Ashland. The play was 3 hours long with 2 intermissions, but the characters were fascinating, with deep secrets and ulterior motives, so I was hooked the whole time. I believe the characters are what make this play brilliant. Brick and Maggie are the focal married couple and their union seems like an arranged marriage gone afoul. No love, no desire, just bickering and drinking and complaining about Brick's nieces and nephews, whom Maggie calls the "no neck monsters." Tennessee Williams is such a master at naming his characters that when the play ended with a possible pregnancy, I wanted it to keep going just so I could see what name Tennessee would give that little "no neck monster."

Pride and Prejudice was my least favorite play. It had no Mr. Darcy coming dripping wet out of a lake and nothing else to hold my attention. During this play, my eyes wandered and I spent most of the time spying on a woman in the audience. Her facial expressions were so animated, I am guessing watching that play was the thrill of her life. I'm glad someone enjoyed it.

The play that wrapped up the weekend was Well by Lisa Kron. This play had potential, but it failed in originality and clarity. The main character seemed like a spin off of Liz Lemon from Thirty Rock. She even looked like Tina Fey. Well is about a mother and daughter and their health concerns. Some scenes and minor characters were rollicking, like Joy the serious and highly irritable patient at the at the hospital. I just loved it that her name was Joy! I burst out laughing several times during this play, but I left the theater confused and angry. I have never left a play angry before. Lisa Kron forcibly restored my disbelief on one occasion after another as characters were revealed to be mere actors. Lisa Kron set out to tell a story. In my mind, she made a promise to keep the story convincing and she broke that promise. She probably thought she was adding funny twists, but I found her twists very annoying.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Graham Greene's Dreams

One of my new favorite books is Graham Greene's "A World of My Own." This dream journal is divided into 19 themed chapters. Graham Greene recorded his dreams almost daily, relying on them for inspiration, and then selected the dreams for this book before he died. I read in the forward that his interest took off when he was a boy and a psychoanalyst instructed him to keep a dream journal. This world of his own influenced the worlds of his characters, fueling his fiction and making him a better writer. I occasionally draw my dreams and I've thought about putting them in categories, so I can notice themes, and in turn discover subconscious fears, desires, and insecurities. I especially like the dream in which Graham Greene is sent to murder Joseph Goebbels, and I also like the dream in which he is not himself, but the World War I poet Wilfred Owen. I often have dreams in which I am not myself, so I was delighted to discover that similarity.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I had a good day

Tonight I went to a mixer for artists called Art Spark. I bought a beer and wandered around, wondering if everyone there was an artist. A woman invited me to play with clay at a small table. This must be Art Spark's version of a free sample giver at Costco. The clay was hard at first and I had to loosen it up by rolling it around before I could shape it. I am the same way at social events where I don't know anybody. I made a turtle and set it down with the dogs and dinosaurs other people had made. Then a woman came over and introduced herself. Her name is Amy Buchheit and she is also a turtle enthusiast. Small world. She showed me pictures of her artwork and explained to me that one portrait was done with bubbles. I'm still trying to figure out what that means. The portrait is beautiful and I think whoever the woman is, if it is a real woman portrayed, should feel honored. I know I would be if I were depicted so beautifully, like one of the elegant ladies in a John Singer Sargent painting.

After Art Spark, I went to a mentor appreciation party, where I played fun trivia games and ate ethnic cuisine. I work as a mentor at IRCO (Immigration and Refugee Community Organization) and I love it.
My day was off to a terrible start and now I feel glamorous and lucky. I love it how days can take unexpected turns for the better. This morning at 7 AM, I was walking through the park blocks on my way to work when out of nowhere a blond girl jogged past me and screamed in my face. I screamed and dropped my coffee, which I believe was her malicious intent. This girl just ran away and I yelled after her "What the hell is wrong with you?!" It's kind of funny now, but at the time, I felt like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Really really mad.

I prefer serene turtles to joggers with Tourrette's. And now for one of my favorite videos.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hamlet's a hottie

Now, like a whore, I must unpack my heart with words and fall a-cursing, like a very drab, a scullion. My friend Brittany and I just saw Hamlet at the Coho Theater. This was an abridged version with just five actors, five amazingly gifted actors. I know it would be hard enough memorizing lines for one character alone, but these actors, excluding the heartthrob who played Hamlet, played several parts, sometimes switching genders like it was the most natural thing. The woman who played Ophelia, Brittany Burch, also played Laertes and would drop her voice several octaves and toughen her body language. I was never confused about who was talking, and I think that says something about the planning of this play. With just five actors, I think confusing the audience would be easy.

I've never laughed so much while watching Hamlet, but these actors really had fun using their poetic license. The only part I would have considered really funny before tonight was the exchange between Hamlet and Polonius about clouds looking like camels and weasels. Tonight, Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy was interrupted by Polonius. That soliloquy has grown so stale for me, after hearing it a thousand times, and it was nice to see it performed differently.

I saw in the program that Christopher David Murray (Hamlet) and Gary Norman (Horatio and Polonius) were in the original production of The Receptionist. They would have performed in The Receptionist I saw at Portland Center Stage, except they were too busy adapting this play. In Christopher David Murray's bio, one claim to fame was Bill O'Reilly calling him a heathen for appearing in an Everclear music video. Judging by his skill as an actor and the way he really melted into his role, I think he has more fame coming his way.

I am not good at initiating standing ovations, but these actors deserved one. Now I regret not standing up when they took their bows. Next time I see a play as impressive as this one, I will jump out of my seat and applaud, and not wait for other people to stand up first.

Afterward, Brittany and I had a conversation about grief and dying. In the past, I have judged others for not grieving enough, thinking that there's only one way to grieve . . . . my way! She opened my eyes to the fact that everyone has their own way of grieving. I guess I knew that already. But at least I'm not the only one who calls people "wretched" (as Hamlet did) for moving on so quickly.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Receptionist

I just saw Adam Bock's play "The Receptionist" at Portland Center Stage. It was extremely weird and darker than I had anticipated. When I heard it was an "office comedy" I thought of the TV show "The Office" and the movie "Office Space," but this play showcased the wicked sides of humanity, all encircling the receptionist Beverly's desk.
This play has mysterious and intriguing characters. Beverly is a self-righteous, unfashionable, controlling receptionist. Lorraine is Beverly's scattered, flirtatious, volatile, and lonely coworker. Together they have roller coaster conversations, rising in tension, about relationships, books, and Beverly's tea cup collection.

When handsome Mr. Dart shows up, looking for their boss, the play takes a dark turn. The audience gradually learns that this "Northeast Office," as Beverly calls it every time she answers the phone, is a vile, corrupt business, dealing with torturing people and "getting information," although what kind of information is never revealed.

I thought this play was fantastic because I love slow tension and I love it when people act in surprising, but not out-of-character ways. Beverly turns out to not be as efficient as she thought she was and Lorraine turns out to be more capable than either of them gave her credit for. In just a little over an hour, this play made me laugh several times and bite my fingernails toward the end.

Clowns and choirs

The Raleigh Hills Fred Meyer is cursed. The last time I went to this grocery store was on Christmas Eve and I had a headache that lasted several hours. I wrote about that unpleasant experience in the blog entry "Melancholy Christmas" and now I must chronicle yet another harrowing ordeal. The first freakish thing I noticed when I maneuvered my cart past customers through the automatic doors was the choir. They were singing what sounded like Christmas music. I ran into my friend Jazz who told me today is Fred Meyer's grand opening.

In the produce section another choir was swaying back and forth and clapping their hands. They were all dressed in black. None of them looked happy or as perky as their body language implied. Then I saw the clowns. (Cue scary violin music from Psycho.) Creepy, red-nosed, floppy-footed, rainbow-attired clowns. Three of them. I have never bagged apples so fast in my life.

I don't have a clown phobia, but they give me this kind of claustrophobic feeling, like they're invading my personal space, even if one is standing far away. If I could put a restraining order on all clowns, I would. There is something sinister about them. Once I was stuck in the Detroit Airport for ten hours during a clown convention. Another time I went to what I thought was going to be a football or baseball game, or some kind of sporting event, and the field was overrun by clowns. That may have just been an opening act, but needless to say, I left before I could even figure out what kind of game I was about to see.

In the car after my scary clown encounter, the song "Dream Weaver" came on. The beginning of the song sounds like a flock of seagulls and it helped me feel safe again. If the song had been "Send in the Clowns" or "Everybody Loves a Clown," I would have screamed.

Friday, January 29, 2010

WITS reading

Yesterday, at 5:30 PM my alarm woke me up from a deep, dream-filled sleep. This is usually the time I wake up in the morning so I was disoriented. I thought I had a second chance to make my day go better and that I hadn't really bombed my Arabic quiz. It was just a dream! Then I remembered why I had set my alarm. The WITS reading at Powell's! Every year Writers in the Schools releases an anthology of students' stories, poetry and artwork. I participated in the reading last night along with other former interns like myself, writers, teachers, and students.

I stood behind the podium and read the poem "Girl," by Jaleana Williams. That poem, along with all the work in this anthology, is inspiring.  I wish all the students the best of luck with their literary aspirations, and I hope this publication gives them encouragement to keep writing.

Writers in the Schools is a great program which sends professional writers into high school classrooms to get kids excited about writing.

I wrote and drew a lot in high school. One teacher, Mr. Hardin, encouraged me, and each time I'd read one of my stories aloud, he would do a one-fisted Tarzan drum roll on his chest, or yell out, "Solid!!!!" If it weren't for him, I would have been even more depressed and hopeless and full of self-loathing, and that is a scary thought.

On Wednesday some memories came back to me, memories I had shoved in my brain's junk pile. I had reserved Wednesday for sleeping all day, my reward for giving a long presentation in one of my classes. When I finally woke up, I knew I needed to study Arabic, but I really wanted to read Langston Hughes instead. I resisted the temptation, and tried to focus on Arabic. In bed, hunched over my textbook, my mind wandered back to high school and how I was so fascinated with the Harlem Renaissance. I loved Richard Wright, I loved the word "renaissance." I wanted to start my own renaissance. I wanted to show people who never noticed me before that I could create beautiful and meaningful works of art and literature.

To commemorate these artists and writers from the Harlem Renaissance, I drew their portraits and handed them in to my 10th-grade history teacher. I included a short paper, telling a little about each of their lives. Well, I never got that assignment back and I don't know what grade I received, but 5 years later when I was 20, I was on a coffee date with a potential suitor. He and I had gone to the same high school and he brought up how much he loved that history teacher. Trying to persuade me that our old history teacher was really good,  my date told me about a time he was in this teacher's room at lunch and how the teacher ridiculed some student's assignment. "It was so funny!" he said. "This student just handed in a bunch of drawings of black artists, and Mr. Blah Blah was like, 'These drawings are the only good thing this student's handed in to me.'"

The horror. I wanted to get up and leave. But looking back, I'm glad I drew pictures of Harlem Renaissance writers, even though I wasn't following the assignment.

Monday, January 25, 2010

How I Write

I can be extremely nosy, although I've gotten better over the years. Maybe this quality comes from being the daughter of a journalist, and tagging along as a child to her interviews. After listening to my mom shoot questions relentlessly, maybe I thought this was how people normally interacted.

I like it when people open up to me and I don't have to ask questions, when unexpected answers arrive to questions I never ask. But sometimes I can be given too much information, like in the book I just read.

"How I Write" is a collection of vignettes by famous writers, all about their superstitions and inspirational knick knacks. I'm embarrassed to admit I had only heard of about a quarter of the authors featured in this book. I think most of them are English, but anyway, that's no excuse. Perhaps not knowing most of them accounts for me not caring about the weird things on their desks.

I loved the first essay by Vendela Vida, all about her used copy of "A Farewell To Arms." That was so interesting and well written I was aghast that I had never read anything by her. Now I plan to read both her novels and stay on the lookout for anything else she writes.

I skipped the lies by JT Leroy because I am still mad about that literary hoax and how I fell for it. I even gave a presentation on JT Leroy to my bookclub many years ago, giving special attention to the writer's personal life. And all that time a woman was pretending to be him. The nerve!!! Although, judging by JT Leroy's photos, I wonder why she wasn't called out sooner.

After reading Jonathan Franzen's little snippet about his squeaky chair, I think he must be the next biggest liar featured in this book. Either that, or he's just plain crazy. Apparently, when he's done working, his voice is hoarse from talking loudly all day, but he has no recollection of making a sound. I just don't believe that. He would have to be shouting to make his voice hoarse and the only way I can imagine someone shouting without knowing it is if that person is sleeping.

I found it interesting that Natasha Mostert pummels a speedbag for inspiration. Many of the writers in this book have routines just like boxers preparing for bouts. I wish I had a speedbag. Right now I like writing in restaurant booths, drinking Guinness, and eating fries doused in malt vinegar. Note to self: hitting a speedbag would be healthier.

I thought I would enjoy this book more than I did. Maybe the JT Leroy scandal teaches the lesson that we should not meet our idols. They're only human and focusing on their lives in addition to their writing might give them incentive to lie, build themselves up, even pretend to be totally different people. When Christopher Hitchens came to Portland, I was so determined to meet him, I sought him out with as much gusto as that lady who tackled the Pope. Luckily, I wasn't disappointed. He left a deep impression on me as being charming and kind, and he didn't bore me with stories about squeaky chairs and superstitions.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

My Magical Morning

Today I went to the St. Honore Boulangerie to read my book and as usual it was crowded. I always hope it won't be, but I guess I'm not the only one in Portland addicted to chouquettes. I sat down at the long table and exchanged smiles with a cute girl. She had short disheveled hair like mine, brown eyes, and freckles that almost looked fake, like she was playing a farmgirl in a school play and someone painted freckles on her cheeks.

She reminded me of a Strawberry Shortcake doll I wanted when I was little. In the beach house my mom rented for our family, it was hard to accept that the toys in the bedroom belonged to some other little girl that I never met. I loved smelling that doll's strawberry-scented hair. For me, that was the most amazing, mysterious, wonderful indulgence. That doll obviously had a big impact on me because I remember its smell so clearly. To this day, I am comforted by perfume, and the smell of delicious food. (Another reason why I love the St. Honore!)

That was the first time I remember feeling envious. I don't understand why envy is considered a deadly sin. It seems like a normal human weakness to me, and one I am afflicted with quite often, usually in regard to talented musicians. Sitting at the long table, trying to read my book, envy engulfed me once more.

An Italian trio sat down across from me, all very attractive. One guy I recognized from a couple parties I've been to. He asked what book I was reading and I told him, "A Forbidden Passion by Cristina Peri Rossi. It sounds like a trashy romance, but it's actually really good." I returned to my reading, or attempt at reading, when more attractive Italians joined everyone at the table. Loud, animated dialogue and wild gesturing ensued. I wanted to speak Italian so badly, or at least understand what they were saying. The way they rolled their r's was sublime. I wanted the gift of bilingualism and I wanted to connect with people in meaningful ways, like Italians celebrating a chance meeting with other Italians.

I looked up again at the cute girl with hair like mine. She smiled and held up the same book by Cristina Peri Rossi. We were both amazed by this rare coincidence. "She's not even that famous," I said, meaning the author. "I just randomly picked up this book at the library." The other people sitting around the table grew interested in our conversation and started asking about the book. The cute girl told me she read it in Spanish and English and that she loved it. I said, "I was just feeling bad about not being bilingual. Am I missing much by reading it in English?" She said some things didn't translate, but the English translation was good. When she had to go, she smiled and waved good bye. We never exchanged names. I felt the urge to run after her and exchange contact information. (The Italians exchanged business cards.) But I restrained myself. Now I'm wondering what else she and I have in common.

I was replaying that coincidence all day long. There I was, lamenting my lack of meaningful connections with people, and then I made one.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bravo, Christopher Hitchens.

There is a God. Christopher Hitchens signed my book and blessed me. I had never been blessed by an atheist before, and it was the most heartfelt blessing I've ever received.

Tonight, Christopher Hitchens read at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, which he said felt uncomfortably like a cathedral. He was delightful and witty and it was clear that he really enjoyed engaging with people, and getting them to think. Even though about two thousand people listened to him tonight, he had a personable charm that reached out to individuals. I'd say he ranks at the very top of greatest authors whose book readings I have been to, right next to Dave Eggers.

Afterward, I smooth talked my way into the after party, all for my brother, Cory. He is a huge Christopher Hitchens fan, and I wanted to ask Christopher Hitchens to autograph the book "Is Christianity Good For the World" for his birthday. Mission accomplished.

Christopher Hitchens was so gracious and kind. I told him how much I enjoyed his lecture and I complimented him on a debate I saw him in on Youtube. We talked a little about that, long enough for my mom to snap about 12 pictures of us. (My smooth talking got her into the party too.) I was shaking the whole time. He happily signed the book for my brother and when he shook my hand a final time, he said, "Bless you." Wow.

Christopher Hitchens made so many witty remarks tonight. If only I had written them down. I'm still star-struck, which is probably why I can't remember. I am so grateful for Christopher Hitchens. I wish more people were willing to question traditions and dispel myths for the betterment of the world.