Meeting Dr. Bob Brier:
For the majority of my life, both in childhood and adolescence, Dr. Bob Brier has been present. Never physically, but his voice and image have been constantly around me. He’s an iconic figure in Egyptology, and he’s always been a researcher that I particularly admire. His Great Courses lecture series that covers the entirety of Egyptian history and plays for over twenty-four hours is remarkably engaging and magnificently accessible. I’ve watched the specials he has been featured in, read his fabulous books, daydreamed about going on one of the tours he leads, and wondered what it would be like to visit his apartment and view his collection of Egyptomania paraphernalia. His most recent book, Cleopatra’s Needles, is about the extraction and installation of obelisks around the globe. It’s fabulous, and when I was in the Aswan granite quarry last summer, I thought frequently of Bob’s book and smiled. Unbeknownst to me, I was about to have a remarkable encounter. When I booked my spring break trip to New York, I was mainly going to see Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard. That was enough for me. I wanted to find other things to do, though, so I started looking up more obscure opportunities in the city. I came across a place called The Explorer’s Club, which called to me immediately. I scrolled through their site and immediately began screaming when I read that Bob was going to do a lecture in the first day I was in New York. This was too fortuitous so I immediately got a ticket. On the day, I arrived early and gorged on free wine and cheese — what a great dinner! I chatted it up with a wonderful woman, Lenor, on the rooftop in the falling snow.
She proceeded to shove me into Dr. Brier at a meet-and-greet that took place before his lecture. I was gobsmacked. There he was. Lanky and nerdy and wonderful. His talk was brilliant and the books he signed were iconic.
He claims that we took his first selfie together. I hope that’s true. It was just such a fabulous time to meet and chat with a hero of my youth. This has happened to me fairly regularly, for which I am eternally thankful. I remember one moment, not really paying the lecture any mind, I was just focused on Dr. Brier’s voice and my being in that wonderful place at that perfect moment, and I was quite overcome. I could have cried such happy tears. Life has been inexplicably good to me.
New Mitsubishi Mirage:
I’ll open this installment by telling you the SparkNote version of an abridged story. When I finally realized I couldn’t make it in the world without a vehicle, I went out and bought one. I was opposed to the greenhouse gas emissions, the cost, and the burden of ownership. But as I don’t live in a large and wonderful metropolis like my beloved Paris where you can easily get anywhere on the Métro, I decided it was time. So, I purchased a used Dodge Avenger. It was luxurious for the price I’m paying and had a cooler in the dash. You read that right. You could keep four Diet Cokes chilled and at the ready. It was absolutely unnecessary, but it was absurdly chic. Whilst I was gallivanting through Europe and Africa last summer, the car was damaged beyond repair:
Annoying. Since my glorious return from my spiritual (and genetic) homeland. I’ve been driving a rusty piece of junk and I have not been amused. Reader, I have NOT been amused at all. Well, I finally have a new car and that horrific thing is no longer a concern of mine. It’s Jessica’s concern now. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Last week I picked out a brand new Mitsubishi Mirage. It’s a car that is small and ecologically friendly. It’s panned by critics but seemingly beloved by commuters. I’m not a car person. I just want it to move, be free of rust, have something more modern than a cassette deck, and have a few little luxury features. This critically maligned little hatchback has everything I want. There’s a touchscreen display to connect my phone to. It’s brand new and I picked it up with fifteen miles on it. There is a push button ignition. I don’t need to use keys to use the thing at all! It has a great warranty and I can’t wait to drive it all over the place this summer and go through the first set of tires. I’m currently speculating a road trip to New Orleans exclusively for beignets. I’ve done more ridiculous things, and you know that’s true, reader. With my new car, with my excellent gas mileage, and with all those buttons to push, I feel relaxed for the first time since I was in Turin and told the old Avenger was kaput. It’s nice.
ALDI’s Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce:
ALDI is my bae. It is easily one of the great loves of my life. Every time I visit, I easily find something new and wonderful. Now that I have gone probably a hundred times, I’m starting to find things that I missed or didn’t concern myself with at the beginning. The other week, I was scouring the sauces, and I came upon some Indian simmer sauces. I’m a ho for Indian food, so I was happy to grab an unreasonably affordable jar of Tikka Masala. I haven’t had it in four hundred years, so I had completely forgotten what it tasted like, but it was less than two dollars, so I was excited. The other night, I finally got around to cooking it up. I took all the leftover vegetables I had in the fridge: broccoli, chickpeas, potatoes, onions, garlic, and then I added some tofu, and roasted it all on a sheet pan covered with olive oil and chili pepper. While these were roasting and gaining an intensified flavor profile, I put together something to pour my makeshift curry onto. I found some barley and French lentils in the cupboard, so I put these together and simmered until soft, but still al dente. To this, I added sesame oil and butter. Once the vegetables were roasted, I put some of the simmer sauce into a skillet and let it coat all the surfaces, really getting into the nooks and crannies of all my beautiful vegetables. I put it all together, tossed it with a dollop of ricotta, and then sat it on my table. I looked at it for a considerable amount of time, concerned that I’d spent an hour making crap. But, I finally decided I had to try. Reader…my dear, sweet, darling reader…it was an unreasonably fabulous dish. It was savory and spicy and amazing and I intended to have leftovers, but I most certainly did not manage that. It was a delight, and in no time, I had finished off a massive bowl full of the most delicious food. ALDI has never let me down. I wonder if it ever truly will?
Dan Brown’s novels are always interesting, usually thought provoking, and entertaining romps to read while zipping through the Italian countryside on a train. They are hardly serious literature, and they never try to be. They are frivolous delights of the type that are easily digestible and ready for mass consumption. Brown is a master of tackling common subjects and covering them with symbols and making a delightful story out of it all. I applaud the man routinely. However, the cinematic adaptations of his books are nightmarish. If I was him, I would be horrified at what the end result becomes. The Da Vinci Code was fine. Angels & Demons was palatable. But Inferno was an unforgivable, exhausting, and irritating disaster. The book itself was rife with engaging ideas to ponder. The rapid escalation of the human population is a great and real concern. And the way this was dealt with in the novel was imaginative and quite a lot to consider. I don’t know if we could ever advocate the unwilling (if painless) sterilization of half the world’s population…but it’s a kinder solution than genocide. I’m off topic. The film got rid of this notion completely. It focused instead on the usual race to midnight to find the bomb or potion or whatever literary device Brown insists on. (The books write themselves, I’m sure. Let me know, Dan.) It’s endlessly dull. The characters are detestable. There’s an unlikely romance towards the end that is about as believable as all of Jessica Fletcher’s random relations around the world. The ending was anticlimactic, the female foil hardly the interesting character from the book, and Tom Hanks seemed pained to be in every frame. It was awful. The only redeeming character was Harry Sims (played by Irrfan Khan) who annoyingly gets killed at the end. Don’t worry if you think that’s a spoiler, the movie isn’t worth being spoiled! There’s two hours I’m never getting back of my life. Sad.
Inability to Attend Hieroglyph Class:
Reader, I am devastated. Last night, I saw an announcement from UCLA that offered an intensive six-week class on hieroglyphs. It was the equivalent of a year’s worth of courses, and I want nothing more than to sit in a classroom in LA this summer. It fit my schedule perfectly and it fit my interests absurdly well. Nothing — aside from a Parisian apartment or Luxor villa — would fill me with more pleasure than screaming with frustration at Egyptian translations. What a treat that would be, and how helpful it’d be for me. So, I immediately began researching the price for this class. I couldn’t figure it out, so I took a break to research accommodations. This is always delightful for me, and I found the perfect apartment to rent near the La Brea tar pits. I was in ecstasy. Six weeks in my favorite part of Los Angeles learning about my favorite subject. I would probably die. It would complete my life. Then, I finally figured out how much the classes would cost. Just over four thousand dollars plus fees and books. I have rarely been more upset. I do absurd things all the time, but I don’t have that kind of money. I have the money to go spelunking through the Sahara to study the hieroglyphs, but I don’t to sit in a classroom. Is that not the height of lunacy. Why do classes need to cost this much? What is the possible need for a fee that high? If it was one or two thousand, maybe I would have been able to justify it to myself, but not four. I didn’t even figure in food or transportation. And renting a room that long would easily be another two thousand. In my dreams, I could spend nearly seven thousand dollars for one month, but that’s about a third of my yearly income, so this is simply not happening. One of these days it will, but not right now. Maybe after my BA in teaching I will better be able to attend summer courses for my next degree in Egyptological studies. But not now. I’m just so sad. Every summer I have a purpose, a goal, an intent. This summer, I don’t have that. And it’s making me absurdly stressed out. I have places I could go and things I could see, but there is nothing calling me. Romania did for a spell, and it still does, but I’m trying to be fiscally responsible. That’s why I’m not going, and that’s why I’m not going to UCLA. Will somebody please give me buckets of money? It’s for a good cause. I’ll buy a cute archaeological wardrobe and take intense courses and be a better Ben. But until then, I’ll just be the same me in very nice shoes. I hope this summer ends up with something wonderful and unexpected.