Travel to Shop

luxuryrow-header-tmb  The main street in Waikiki is known more for its shops than for its obscured view of the beach and ocean.  Japanese tourists have long been the mainstay of the economy as they flit in their stilettos from Chanel and Tiffany to Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, carrying bags of luxury along the sidewalk.  According to author Dave Sedaris, Japan is his preferred place to shop.   In Tokyo, shopping is not an art – it’s a sport.

In the New York Times travel section, “In Transit,” Nell McShane Wulfhart interviews David Sedaris for a list of places to stay (the Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara – “everyone there looks like Mitt and Ann Romney”) to his dream trip (to India – “I want to go to India for three hours.  So I can leave when I get thirsty, and then I can get back on the plane without any risk of getting a stomach bug.”).  But his favorite travel activity is shopping; forget the monuments and art.

As a seasoned traveler, Sedaris offers a list of must-haves for every trip, including:

  • Vicks VapoRub  (Use on your upper lip to diffuse cloying perfume of fellow travelers.)
  • An extendable backscratcher (to relieve the itchiness brought on by dry air in planes).
  • A wooden hanger that folds in half to dry shirts (because “in a crummy hotel you can’t disconnect the hangers.”)
  • Set Editions’ Stop Talking Cards (useful to give at appropriate times).Set-Editions-Stop-Talking-Cards

Related Review:  Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris

Try Writing a Haiku

poetry-clip-art-1Do you remember a well-meaning teacher assigning a haiku for homework – maybe to instill a love of poetry. The products often resembled Ogden Nash poems – lots of nonsense but without his wit.

Alan Feuer’s “The 3 Lines of the Haiku Train Make 61 Stops in Manhattan” – online at Haiku Challenge in the Sunday New York Times – offers a short review of the style and samples from New Yorkers who participated in the paper’s challenge to write about the city in the three-line verse. Poets wrote about Central Park, the subway, Times Square… My favorite came from an online reader in Dallas –  Sharon Cohen wrote:

Union Square Market
Blueberries for ten dollars
New York City blues

Thinking about the city I live in now, I am working on a verse to celebrate the end of national poetry month – ocean, sun, surfers – not that easy to create three lines with 5,7,5 beat – and a punch line at the end of the 17 syllables. The New York Times offers  “a quick 101 guide on writing a haiku”:

• Only three lines.
• First line must be five syllables.
• Second line must be seven syllables.
• The third line must be five syllables.
• Punctuation and capitalization are up to you.
• It doesn’t have to rhyme.
• It must be original.

Have you tried writing one?

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Grange House by Sarah Blake, author of The Postmistress

If I find an author I like, and can’t wait for the next book – I look for the last book.

Sarah Blake has only written two novels – 10 years apart. Better known for The Postmistress, her 2010 success, Blake’s first novel Grange House is more Victorian Gothic romance, channeling Brontë with references toJane Eyre, ghosts in the attic, drowning lovers, and a mysterious character who drives the story.

The summer at Grange House in the late 1890s becomes the turning point in seventeen-year-old Maisie’s life.  Blake convincingly uses the manners and the language of that time to create what appears, at first, to be a summer idyll in Maine, with walks in the woods, ocean views, and a young girl spending the summer with her family.

Determined not to be “directed straight into marriage,” Maisie resists her parents’ plotting; other possibilities tempt her.  The mysterious Miss Grange teases Maisie with stories that are “not fiction – not true,” and challenges her to abandon convention and write her own life story.   Miss Grange, spinster and author, who lives on the top floor of the old hotel,  holds  secrets about Maisie, her father, and her heritage that threaten to change her world.

Up to this point Blake cleverly integrates mysterious characters and sustains the intrigue by never revealing all.  Who really were those lovers who drowned?  Who is buried in the lone grave?  Why does Maisie’s mother change her mind from protecting her daughter from a likely husband?  What ghosts roam about? What will happen next?

Hoping to be a writer like her role model, Maisie starts a correspondence with Miss Grange when the summer ends.  The diaries are a window into the secrets, but when Miss Grange reenters the story with her diaries in “Volume II,” the stories within the stories, and Blake’s long tangential pages on the philosophy of writing that had no apparent connection to the action are frustrating distractions from the plot…

“When I sit down to write, at first it is as though I am descending downward through the fleecy coverings in my head, and down I go, down I go, all the while staring out the window, in the attitude of someone at study, my pen in my hand.  And the soft procession of my thoughts float past me as I fall, until I am suddenly stuck upon one that will not fall past, something solid, a voice perhaps or a scrap of conversation I do not know the beginning of, or the end.  And then I take up my pen and I begin to listen.”

Blake returns to her story with more revelations in “Volume III,” and recaptures the pace.  Suddenly, the action speeds up with Maisie refocusing on the mysteries and reexamining her power in determining her own future.  Of course, the handsome knave who professes his love helps, but all is not what it seems, and Blake turns the narrative again, keeping the reader off balance.

The ending is a surprise.  Be sure to note the date.

Grange House is a “delicious read,” full of nuances and mystery – a book to be read by the fire or on the beach, forgetting the rest of world.

If you like Brontë, you won’t be disappointed in Blake’s book – her first.

Yoga in Bed – Asanas to do in Pajamas

I found the perfect exercise program with a vook – the digital video book.  After reading about this newest phenom substitute for real books in the New York Times, I tried to download the iphone app for Yoga in Bed: Awaken Body, Mind, and Spirit in 15 Minutes.  

I kept getting one of those messages – not as bad as the old “you have performed an illegal operation,” but close.  Maybe my chakras were not in order?

So, next I tried downloading (as directed) on my computer.  At the website, I watched a short trailer that looked promising, with instructions for downloading to iphone, ibook, or kindle, at varying degrees of cost.  Downloading the 15 minute vook took longer than 15 minutes – time to do some deep breathing and practice patience.

The library has an actual book – Yoga in Bed: 20 Asanas to do in Pajamas by Edward Vilga – so I checked that out – for free.  Lots of full page pictures demonstrating how to “Invigorate Your AM,” with coffee cup meditation, and how to “Ease into Dreamland.”

My favorite section is “Nap Your Way to Nirvana” – I may already be ahead on that one.  I finished reading the book; still downloading the vook.