Thursday, October 15, 2009

Visiting Champagne

Champagne’s sweet, distinctive scent struck the moment we stepped off the train and would continue its surprise attacks as we wondered around the city of Reims in eastern France. Much smaller than Paris, with almost 200,000 inhabitants, Reims played a significant role in France’s monarchial past and continues to be called home to several champagne producers today.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lac Inférieur

The lake, looking north along the east side, in the afternoon.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Sorry I haven’t been updating! It’s been an exciting couple weeks. I will write soon about what I’ve been up to but for now I’m going to simply post the courses I will be taking this semester. One will be English and the other three are in French. I’m excited for the content courses, not so much for the spoken French course. We are required to take a language course though and my spoken French definitely needs some help. Next week I’ll be able to talk about how they are. The most exciting thing? I only have class Tuesday through Thursday, four day weekends!

Thursday, August 27, 2009


And once again I find myself in the weird time/space that sneaks up from behind me whenever I’m about to leave one home for another. I’ve been living at home in DeForest since mid May and I’m about to leave for Paris, pausing in New York for a few days. I will be in Paris until December.

It seems I’m not as excited as I should be. I am, very much so, but there’s an aspect of exhilaration missing. Traveling and exploring places that are new to me is among my favorite things to do. Still, I don’t feel as excited as I did when I was preparing for Dublin or Belize or Hungary. I’m not passé about it, it just seems natural to go, which is somehow muting the pre-departure experience.

Part of it all may be that people here are incredibly, incredibly excited for travel, especially international travel. Most vacations involve a cabin up north or hours upon hours getting somewhere in a car. I don’t say this to be judgmental, I love camping and road trips, but perhaps its hard to be excited when you’re trying to be humble and are trying to downplay something that might cause jealousy or resentment.

Regardless, once my flight lands and I arrive in Paris, I will feel like I’m standing on a mountain’s top nearly flying on the wind’s powerful gusts and I can not wait for that feeling of exhilaration.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

And so I dive...

And so I dive
deep into those scrawling symbols
representing lives lived not my own
but known.

Diving down, kicking there, leaving here--
eyes stinging and lungs burning--
but stop, no. I hurry, striving deep
within to find the light those lives keep.

For my own stolen after offered,
stolen quickly, simply, dejectedly
plunging my way into darkness
complete and blinding.

And so I dive
deep into these scawlen symbol
representing lives lost, never to be known,
my own.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Fair-Weather Fans Wait in Line for SNL

Socked feet waving in the air, jäger shots being poured and the clicks of poker chips, all normally found at drunken sleep-over parties, were seen at Rockefeller Place among the students and young adults waiting for Saturday Night Live tickets on a warm night that hinted at spring’s arrival after a painfully cold winter.

Fans wait in line through Friday night to receive stand-by tickets for the Saturday Night Live’s rehearsal and live show 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning. The cold, windy, rainy and snowy conditions of the past months have deterred fans from lining up to see Saturday Night Live. With the arrival of spring, more fans are sprouting from the sidewalk to try to catch the cast and guests in a live performance.

“The warm weather helped a lot in deciding to come,” said Mia Gomez, a freshman at Marymount Manhattan College. Hailing from Texas the past few months have been her first true winter experience. She enjoyed the snow but “hated walking to and from class,” especially on the day when she “couldn’t feel her face.”

“I wouldn’t be here tonight if the weather was that cold,” she said. “I love Ray LaMontagne, but not that much.” The coldest temperature Mia would wait through is 25 degrees. Cold weather prevented Mia from seeing her hero, Steve Martin guest host in January. “It was 2 degrees outside and I just couldn’t do it, I wish I could have,” said Mia.

“I came because of Ray LaMontagne,” said Caitlin Boag, Mia’s friend and another freshman from Marymount. She has waited through below zero temperatures for concerts but wouldn’t endure wintry conditions for Saturday Night Live. “I would never be here if it were freezing, not for SNL, not for Ray,” she said, but, “it’s so much easier because it’s warm out.”

Other fans were more explicit in their distaste for waiting in line during wintry weather. “I would never come in the middle of winter. I have a brain,” said Preston, a junior at St. John’s University. He looked comfortable in a folding chair, sweatshirt and jacket.

The warm weather, for Preston, was a main reason to wait for SNL. “I don’t care about the Rock and I don’t even know the musical guest,” he said.
John, Preston’s friend, agreed. “I wasn’t doing anything and the weather was nice. I didn’t feel like getting drunk so I came here,” he said. They brought homework to help the several hours of waiting to pass more quickly. Neither would wait through cold or snow but “I’d come again if we had the free time and the weather was nice,” said Preston.

While most of the people waiting in line came—or were helped in coming—by the warm weather others did come because of the hosts. “I came only because the Rock’s here,” said May Steinberg, a junior at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “I’ve had a crush on him since I was 11 and I’m almost 21, so that’ almost 10 years,” she added.

May knows what it is like to wait in line during cold weather too. She waited in line to see Rainn Wilson guest host two years ago and remembers it being 5 degrees that night. “It was really cold, really bitter cold. I felt like I’d almost died,” she said. Such severe weather would have prevented her from waiting to see the Rock guest host. “I wouldn’t come again in weather like that, even for him. It could kill me and if I died I couldn’t like him anymore,” she said.

Even so, some fans of Saturday Night Live will wait through any conditions to see their favorite stars host. “I waited through the snow and sleet to see Ellen Page last year,” said Morgan Collins, a sophomore at New York University. “Even though it was freezing and probably made me sick it was worth it and I would do it again,” he added. Morgan wasn’t in line to see the Rock but has gone to Saturday Night Live several times. “The host, sometimes the musical guest, is more important than the weather,” he said.

On the night of Friday, March 6, 2009 the overnight low was 36 degrees and at 1:00 am the temperature read 51 degrees. Saturday Night Live was unable to verify the seasonal trend but the fans’ testimonies speak strongly toward the idea that warmer nights lead to more fans waiting in line for the show.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chocolate Sales Stay Sweet Despite Melting Economy

This Valentine’s Day, despite the economic crisis surrounding every decision individuals—and couples—must make, sales of boutique chocolates remained comparable to previous years in New York City’s West Village and SoHo districts. Though it would seem that sales would melt they held strong because of the emotions, feelings and traditions that connect chocolate to many major holidays and events, especially Valentine’s Day.

It is difficult for a weak economy to affect Valentine’s Day. “People like nice things and if they won’t buy them on other days they will buy them for Valentine’s Day,” said Jackie Caruso, an assistant manager at Vosges Chocolates. Most of the chocolates purchased on or before the holiday were bought as gifts. Though fewer customers bought the truffles that Vosges is known for, those who did purchased more. The average purchase was $45 but customers bought individual pieces ($2.25) and boxed sets whose price depends on the number for chocolates purchased.

Similar trends were found at other stores in the area. This Valentine’s Day “people aren’t spending as much on big luxury items but chocolate is still a luxury and it’s affordable,” said Keeling Tong, owner of Kee’s Chocolates. In fact, at Kee’s, this year’s Valentine’s Day was “a little better than last year’s,” continued Tong. This is important because the cost of cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, is higher than it was before past Valentine’s Days. The International Cocoa Organization shows prices for January 2009 at $2,600 per ton of cocoa, up $400 from 2008 and $900 from 2007.

Despite the increased prices for raw goods Tong hasn’t raised prices. “It is more important to maintain the product and customer base and to keep the customer’s happy than to gouge prices to make a better profit,” said Tong. At Kee’s Chocolates a single bonbon costs $2.35 and the average Valentine’s Day gift purchase was a box of 12 pieces for $30.

Like Kee’s Chocolates, Li-Lac Chocolates experienced strong sales this Valentine’s Day also. There wasn’t really difference in sales “and if there sales were different, they were a little higher,” said Martha Bond, owner of Li-Lac Chocolates.

Having owned the store for 21 years, Bond’s contacts reach as far as Hershey’s bars. The “old-timers say, in their experience, that chocolate does well” no matter what the economy is doing; “it comforts people and is an affordable luxury. It is part of almost every holiday,” said Bond.

The comfort and traditions associated with chocolate may help it survive, especially because it is often given as a gift. “I would continue [buying chocolate] no matter what. The amount might go down but I would still give it as gifts” for others and myself, said Lee Russeth, a regular consumer of Vosges Chocolates. 

Friday, January 23, 2009


My first class of Baseball as a Road to God took place last Tuesday. We talked about the books we read; the discussion lead by James Traub. It was a wonderful discussion but someone (logically) expanded a point I made about the Kinsella book. I was talking about a connection between Gideon’s experience and that of the Indian philosophers who came up with the concept of a release from karma, of moksha.

Because of the cyclical nature of the book and Gideon’s role in the story I said something about how he had been perpetually trapped in a cycle of time travel and experience and that because this time around he was learning more about the game and about Drifting Away he realized that Drifting Away had suffered more than he had. This knowledge led to the breaking of the cycle and showed an evolution of thought surrounding sacred time similar to that of the Indian philosophers and elite.

Someone then took this to the next logical step and said that religion, then, is something that traps people in an ignorant, painful place and that only through knowledge can we escape it. The Catholic in me, simply the religious/spiritual person in me, was very struck by this idea which has been around but which I hadn’t had to grapple with or deal with, especially as something that would lead from something I had said.

It took me the rest of the class to find a way to rebuke this and I didn’t have the opportunity to do so in class. What I figured out was that while it looks like religion can seem to trap people in ignorance it doesn’t. What does, though, is when man uses religion as a means to other ends outside of the spiritual, outside of love and salvation. When someone uses the church as tool to control thoughts or achieve their own goals, for it is only when kept ignorant that people will allow something like that to happen. Neither religion, nor the church, work to perpetuate ignorance except for when man uses it to do so.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


I’m writing my Kairos talk, or trying to anyway. It’s easy and difficult at the same time. Easy because it’s easy enough to write about yourself, especially when you’ve got a task. Difficult because it’s hard to know how to say what you think you want to say to say what you think you should so that the retreatants get what they should be getting out of the talk, if that makes any sort of sense. It’s hard, too, because many of the talks I heard on my Kairos revolved around great personal tragedies and I don’t have experiences like that. I also don’t know how many typed pages make an hour’s worth of talking, or if I should even type it out anyway. I wanted to be further with it (beyond draft one) at this point, but I procrastinated and so I've got to make up time I suppose.


Part of my procrastination was the nifty picture on the side. I made it at using a couple different prayers. They size each word according to how many times it is used in relation to how many times the other words are used.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

First Post

I’ve been doing a good amount of reading for my class with President Sexton, Baseball as a Road to God. One book is called The Sacred and the Profane and the other is The Iowa Baseball Confederacy. The first is academic, the second fiction. Guess which one I like more.

While it isn’t my favorite of the two, The Sacred and the Profane is interesting in small doses. I don’t really know what the author’s point is because he didn’t often compare the sacred and the profane but usually expounded on the ways that the religious man experiences the Sacred in everyday life. He uses myriad religions to show is point that for the religious man everything in life is Sacred because everything is a symbol, everything represents something that is connected to the creation or to the God(s). He says that modern man experiences this on a much smaller scale than primitive man, which makes sense due to our reliance on technology and their reliance on nature, and being able to read natural signs instead of

I think, though, that there are often opportunities for modern religious man to see the Sacred in his everyday life. A child’s smile, the perseverance of a weed growing in a sidewalk crack, the many moments of charity, the graffiti encouraging one to follow his dreams,  all these could been connected to the origin stories, to the cosmologies, to the Sacred.

As more of what both books say sinks in, and as we discuss them in class, I’m sure I’ll have more to say. I mostly wanted to just get something written, to get this blog started.