I would happily drive all the way to Kansas City to enjoy a meal at the Waffle House. This beloved institution gets a lot of crap from the general public, but those that demean and dismiss this gourmet institution are tasteless fools. There are few gastronomic triumphs more deliriously good than the Waffle House. My family used to vacation regularly in Florida, and the opportunity to go to the Waffle House was usually more exciting than the chance to go to Disney World. That might sound sad to you, but I can assure you, dear reader, that it is not. We simply had excellent taste. I recall my sister having not one, not two, not three, but COUNTLESS mental breakdowns when she couldn’t go to the Waffle House. She would fling herself on the bed, she would holler and scream and become completely unruly. I was never so dramatic, but I adore the Waffle House, too, with an unreasonable passion. So when she and I went down to Kansas City for her birthday, we made it our sacred mission to visit as many of these delightful institutions as possible. I believe we made it to three different locations. There were more, so we will return again. Hopefully soon. Reader, if you’ve never gone, then you only know the stereotype of terrible food and violence. Nothing could be less true. The staff are all composed of actual earthbound angels. They greet you with a, “Good morning honey/dear/baby/sweet thing,” and then they place your silverware on the table and smile and make the most decadent chitchat. It’s very southern and absolutely fabulous. I always feel like a regal queen amongst beneficent subjects when I’m there. I always get the same meal: a massive glass of orange juice, two fried eggs, and a heaping pile of hash browns mixed with onions and charred to perfection. Then I gorge myself silly. It’s fantastic. The delightful waiters will check in on you frequently, but never too much, the prices are right, the food is delicious, and when you leave, you feel like you’re leaving a family reunion. The Waffle House is fabulous. When I decide to run for president — because why not? anybody can — I will have tons of town hall meetings in the Waffle House. I will have easily gained twenty pounds from hash browns alone by the time of my inauguration. Will I mind? No. Will I be happy? Yes.
The Shadow Land:
When I was in high school, I checked out the abridged audiobook of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I was utterly captivated and enthralled by the story’s melange of true history and fabulously elegant prose. It is a tale of vampires, but it doesn’t fall into that category of seedy horror that so many authors craft. This was a beautiful story and it really made me desirous of exploring the wonders of Eastern Europe, of sailing to Lake Snagov, wandering the streets of Istanbul, and exploring mythology in tiny, dusty libraries. It’s really a captivating novel and has been my favorite since I finished it for the first time. I have read it dozens of times now, and I think that it’s the only book that can claim that feat. Of course I delightfully anticipated the next novels of Elizabeth Kostova, but her sophomore attempt, The Swan Thieves, did nothing for me. It was written with gorgeous words and filled with sumptuous detail, but I couldn’t connect. And so, when The Shadowland was finally released, I was filled with a bizarre trepidation. Would I love it? Would I hate it? Would it bore me to tears? I finally cracked the spine and I fell in love the way I had all those moons ago with The Historian. The setting is Eastern Europe again, Bulgaria this time, and the characters are all exquisitely fleshed out with backstories that work tremendously well for them. The prose is once again beautiful. And the mystery, with all its connections and subtleties is decadent. I’ll give you the briefest of synopses, because it is quite impossible to detail it all. A young woman arrives in Bulgaria to teach English. Inadvertently, she comes into possession of the cremated remains of a violinist. This propels her on a quest to restore the dead man to his family. Aiding her is a young taxi driver who has unexpected depth. They travel across the country, seeking the owners, piecing together his history, and finding themselves unexpectedly in a political corruption scandal. That bit sounds tedious, but it is crafted so organically that I found myself enjoying it. Allow me to type out an excerpt that I loved: “When he played that violin for us, I thought about his stories and the history he talked of, about paintings I had seen and books I had read. His violin made a smoky, mysterious sound. I heard in it the explosions of chestnuts cooking on a brazier at the edge of a river, and horses clopping across cobblestones in Siena and Florence, and also the rustle of leaves that fell on Garibaldi’s troops as they marched. The violin sang “Roma o morte,” and it wailed for the mountains of dead in an American Civil War across the sea, and for Paris glittering with the Second Empire. It rose and fell with voices reading Victor Hugo aloud by whale oil, and it sang about dynamite, about Ottomans and Englishmen falling under their horses in the Crimea, and the feet of crowds shuffling through international expositions. Above all, Stoyan’s violin sang about places—places its maker had been, places the teacher of its maker had been, places its current owner would someday see, and the many, many places he would Sunday perform on it.” At times like this, when I read something that beautiful, I have a great dreary contentment. I wish and hope to someday craft something this marvelous and jealous that I never have. Elizabeth Kostova is a tremendous author. I hope to emulate her someday, but in the meantime, I’ll think on her prose and dream.
“Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You” by Kesha:
I was absentmindedly doing the dishes this summer in Mexico City. As I grumblingly scrubbed, I listened to some new music, and I had the oddest sensation as a song came on. I knew the words, but for whatever reason, I couldn’t place it. Then, I nearly dropped my pot when I realized it was a cover of a Dolly Parton classic! Kesha was singing Dolly Parton’s “Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You!”
Yassssss, #freeKesha! As soon as I connected the dots, Dolly’s telltale voice emanated from my iPod and I squealed. Y’all know there are few people I love more than Dolly! Need I remind you of the concert Jessica and I attended in London where we fell rapturously more in love with her? I didn’t think so. The song was fabulous, reader, because anything that Dolly touches is the epitome of perfection. I thought it was just the most wondrous coincidence, but I later stumbled upon the history. It turns out that Kesha’s mother is a songwriter, which I know because any loyal viewer of the reality series classic, The Simple Life, is well versed in Kesha’s backstory. If you don’t get that reference you’re a fake fan. Anyway, reader, Kesha’s mother had written the song decades ago when it became a hit for Dolly. Isn’t that fabulous? What a fun connection. I have since listened to this song a hundred times and have decided it’s likely my go-to karaoke jam. Prepare yourself, audiences everywhere.
Quite unexpectedly, I quite like going back to school. Again… This round is probably the last for some time, since I have no idea which exact direction I’ll turn with Egyptology after I acquire my Bachelor’s Degree in education. But for the next two years, I am a student at Upper Iowa University. I was really quite worried about going back to school because I haven’t been in an actual classroom since I was at Le Cordon Bleu back when our blessed Obama was president. That was many millions of years ago, and even though I work in a school, I wasn’t entirely sure that I would be the best student. I’ve become a bit less studious as I’ve aged, which is a tragic character flaw. Still, being able to identify a problem helps to solve it. And as it turns out, I have enjoyed my reintroduction to academia. The course schedule at UIU is really to my taste. I have been struggling to find a university with an education program that fits my schedule. I cannot leave my work because I am very much in need of money and quality health insurance. I have innumerable blessings from my job. A friend introduced me to UIU, and I knew at once that it was right for me. Classes only last for eight weeks, so the courses are fairly intensive and last for about five hours a night. But because they are so lengthy, I only have to go in for two nights a week. This schedule suits me right down to the ground! And I quite like being in a classroom interacting with peers and educators. I can hardly believe it. When I was taking online courses through the local community college, every day was filled with homework and tedious readings. It was really hard to be a full time student and maintain a life and budding career. The schedule that UIU offers fit my lifestyle perfectly. I feel so much less stressed than I used to do when I was solely online. That could be my age or the antidepressants I take every morning. Who knows? Also, it’s really rather intriguing to be in classes that truly intrigue me. At DMACC, the classes were interesting and mind expanding, but I didn’t give two hoots for about half of them. The courses at UIU all directly apply to my future. How fun. And I’m having a nice time.
I have probably written a similar post every year since I started doing this blog series. I hate when summer goes away. I thrive when it’s hot outside. I don’t much care for shortened days or chilly nights. I mean, I like a good bonfire and apple cider is delicious and I love wearing a chunky sweater. But I can do all of that in the summer. I think September is one of the saddest months of the year for me. It’s when I used to start noticing the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. I take pills now, so I don’t seem to mind so much, but there is a lingering melancholy about this time of year. I miss laying outside in the sun sipping on an icy gin and tonic. I miss the flowers in the fields and the garden full of ripening vegetables. I miss the endless sunshine. I miss the heat. I miss the lazy days. I miss broccoli on the grill. I miss spending the entire day outside. I miss having free time. Summer is the best time of year, and it will come around again soon I suppose. The arrival of autumn is beautiful, and the changing leaves are grand, but I’d much rather have them green and attached to the trees year round. I’ll need to dig out my sweaters this weekend and air them out. I haven’t missed them. I do look forward to the pumpkins for I truly do love Halloween, but then I’m done. Autumn means that winter is coming, and that I’d certainly the greatest tragedy I know. Well not really, the world is full of tragedy, but cold days and whipping winds and that miserable snow are nearly hell. I’m so annoyed. This post didn’t have much of a point. I’m just a bit depressed.