Best thing ever

You know what the best thing ever is?

It’s a beautiful May day on Capitol Hill, just hot enough to make you grateful for shade. You’re walking down the sidewalk and what do you see? Miraculous words:

“FREE BOOKS.”

That’s right. I got Annie Dillard and a nice old-looking edition of O. Henry. Homère got that little yellow manual about worst-case survival skills. And in it he found 20,000 dollars!!

Ok, not really. But he did find 20,000 Korean dollars! Google tells me they’re actually called “won.” He won 20,000 won.

Wishing you many free books in life!

Planting roses

Ok, remember that quasi-New Year’s resolution about blogging more? Yeah. Total fail.

Lately I have been soaking in life and not writing about it. Sometimes it’s nice just to live and not think about how you will tell someone else about what you did. Facebook and Twitter like to whisper in my ear that things aren’t real unless you put them on the Internet — which is total nonsense. But they also aren’t less real if you put them on the Internet, which is what some pretentious young men in tweed will tell you. So here I am, writing.

Today was a delicious day. The sun was shining and warm. I went on two walks, reveling in how happy the world seems when you can go outside without a coat.

It was so warm that I decided I should plant these roses, given to me by a wonderful boy on Valentine’s Day.

Marieke’s generous mother gave us the beginnings of a garden last year. I confess I haven’t done the best job of keeping it up, but I’m determined to change that. I pulled out all the vines and winter weeds today, and I’m excited to do some spring planting. Our bulbs planted last fall are already poking through the dirt. There’s nothing like planting in the earth to remind me of my utter dependence on heaven. I can’t make anything grow on my own.

The dirt felt good in my fingernails, and reminded me of this passage from Candide:

“‘All events form a chain in the best of all possible worlds. For in the end, if you had not been given a good kick up the backside and chased out of a beautiful castle for loving Miss Cunégonde, and if you hadn’t been subjected to the Inquisition, and if you hadn’t wandered about America on foot, and if you hadn’t dealt the Baron a good blow with your sword, and if you hadn’t lost all your sheep from that fine country of Eldorado, you wouldn’t be here now eating candied citron and pistachio nuts.’
‘That is well put,’ replied Candide, ‘but we must cultivate our garden.'” 

Hillsdale

All week long I’ve been trying to think of something I could say to adequately describe my trip to Hillsdale last weekend. I came up with nothing clever or profound — just that it was so, so good. The familiar faces and buildings and trees did wonders for my soul. In just a few days, for whatever reason, I was not only comforted, but inspired and filled with confidence for the future, which was an answer to prayer. And I know I’ve already reached my limit on cheesiness, so I’m just going to leave you with this passage from one of my favorite books from one of my favorite authors (you can probably guess who…), a passage that gives off the same sort of magic that Hillsdale gave me last weekend.

“I’m going to tell you something that you may or may not understand, and I want you to memorize it and say it to yourself now and then, until, someday, you do understand.”
“Is it long?”
“No.”
“Go ahead.”
“Nicoló,” Alessandro said.
“Nicoló,” Nicoló repeated.
“The spark of life is not gain.”
“The spark of life is not gain.”
“Nor is it luxury.”
“Nor is it luxury.”
“The spark of life is movement.”
“Movement.”
“Color.”
“Color.”
“Love.”
“Love.”
“And furthermore…”
“And furthermore…”
“If you really want to enjoy life, you must work quietly and humbly to realize your delusions of grandeur.”
“But I don’t have them.”
“Start to have them.” 

Vice presidential curse words and rainy day Turkish pop

The other day this thought drifted across my mind: “My life isn’t very exciting.” My mind immediately jumped out of its front porch rocking chair and said: “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Not that there aren’t days that are very, very slow… (the other day I found myself googling: “Funny bunny pictures”….) or weeks when I feel like all I do is work, go home, eat, read, go to sleep, repeat…

But some days I get told stuff like this:

“Hey, you wanna go see Biden tomorrow?”

Now, I know that as a D.C. resident and journalist I’m supposed to be all jaded and used this kind of thing, and I convinced myself I was for a while, but at some point sitting in that big room waiting for the VP to show up, I got tingles. I’m going to see the vice president of the entire United States of America in person! I felt like a little girl on a field trip.

Awaiting the VP

He was just as goofy as they say he is. The whole room was decked out, police officers’ boots and badges shiny, Aaron Copeland symphonies playing while they waited — a certain sense of grand expectation. And then in walks Biden with a ridiculous lop-sided grin on his face to give a speech that I’m sure had to be more dignified in its original form, but when it came out of his mouth sounded like a talk he was just givin’ the boys over donuts. Maybe that’s his gift.

Also, in case you were wondering, the only inappropriate word he uttered in that speech was “hell” — as in “How the hell are you going to do that [police streets without funding]? Excuse me, how the heck.”

Those pesky broadcast journalists

While we were waiting for the VP, a Virginia congressman I sometimes write about came over and started talking to the woman on my right. Then he turned to me and introduced himself and shook my hand and said: “I wanted to meet you because I see you’re reading All the King’s Men.” It gave me a little a hope for the world that he, too, has read a good book and loved it.

“And now for something entirely different,” as they say. (Pop culture reference!) Yesterday I went to the D.C. Turkish festival with my friend James. I think we both decided we could die happy when, after crooning Turkish love songs ad nauseum, the tan Turkish pop star with the too-tight jacket and slightly unbuttoned white shirt started singing “We will, we will rock you.” I kind of wanted to go touch his hand and swoon with all the other front-row females, but didn’t. I also got to meet some Ottoman impersonators (the historical regime, not the furniture), pet a Turkish kitty, pick up a slightly creepy Turkish airlines magnet with a picture of a pretty woman with hairline problems, and see and smell little reminders of my trip to Turkey last year… scarves, plates, calligraphy, doners, baklava.

"It was fun," as Mehmet would say

And the last picture is for Juls, because I know she would disapprove of me taking pictures of children I don’t know… This polka-dot-covered baby was getting bounced to the beat of Queen and seemed to like it.

Nothing like polka dots to go with your pop music