Saturday, July 24, 2010

Will you take Z as your lawfully wedded husband?

I would. He hails from Sweden, plays for the Red Wings, grows an incredible beard, and sleeps next to Emma Andersson. Hell, I'd marry into that family just for the last name. Cameron McGinnis Zetterberg. I can hear the ladies swooning already.

But just for a second, forget his homeland, his career and his fantastic facial hair. The man proved Thursday that he has the temerity of real-life James Bond. And if you think you can match such boldness, ask yourself this question:

Could you pull this look off on your wedding day?

Here's the happy couple, Zetterberg and Andersson, during their pre-wedding ceremonies in Sweden. They said it was a joke on tradition, and all 120 wedding guests were given the mandatory beachwear right as they arrived on shore. Surprise!

You can see fellow Red Wings Pavel Datsuk (far left with the strawberry-shaped head), Valtteri Filppula, Johan Franzen, Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Tomas Holmstrom, and a few others in the picture if you look hard enough.

When I first saw these photos, I couldn't help but laugh.
The wedding album is going to look like a Where's Waldo book. Or a curtain call for the cast of O Brother Where Art Thou. The outfits are ridiculous. At least for women, it's basically a dress turned swimsuit. But it's hard for guys to pull off the onesie look past age seven. Even the most trendy European men turn this thing down before they mousse their hair and make for the club.

But that's part of the reason I love it. Zetterberg and his new wife went totally off the reservation. Sure, maybe yesterday they married in a church in proper suits and dresses like everyone else in the world, but they called one hell of an audible to kick off what I'm sure was an amazing weekend. I would have loved to be there, even though I don't speak any Swedish and every conversation would probably go something like this:

Wedding Guest: Vilken sida av familjen står du på?


Wedding Guest:
*Smiles* Ja, det är ett av världens sju underverk. Säg inte till mig är du bara en annan amerikansk idiot som inte kan tala ett främmande språk?


Wedding Guest:
Varför har du stjäla bara min dryck?


Friday, July 23, 2010

One teacher's voice

I spent much of my Wednesday at work writing this story, and I think it came out great. Certainly on par with anything I've done in Nashua since I started last month. The story will probably run on the front of tomorrow's paper, but I wanted it to be available NOW, since I'm not a patient person, so I decided to copy and paste it here. Enjoy.

Nashua Superintendent Mark Conrad said he’d never seen anything like it. He wasn’t alone.

It’s not every day that fashion sparks an important issue at a Board of Education meeting.

Katherine Evans, 29, of Hudson, stepped to the microphone Monday night to speak about her struggles to find a job in education since 2008. For emphasis, she wore a white T-shirt with the words “HIRE ME!” inked in large green letters on the front. The shirt said, in smaller letters, “(See back for details)” under the hiring plea. A copy of her resume was printed on the back.

Evans said she wanted to be a voice for all the good teachers who are out of work and unable to land a job in the tough economic conditions. She said her speech was “out of character,” but she wasn’t sure how else to be heard.

“I wanted to express myself and network a little,” she said after the meeting.

Evans graduated from Keene State University in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and also completed a year-long extended education program at Southern Maine University, which she called “very intense” and difficult to get into.

“I thought that program would be the hardest part,” she said. “It really prepares you. I just wish I could use it.”

Evans said she has applied for “hundreds” of jobs since 2008 with no luck and even sent out 60 resumes last month to every school from Nashua to Concord. She received two responses.

“I don’t know if it’s what you know or who you know at this point,” she said.

Evans is hardly alone, and she knows it. The labor market in education has been flooded with teachers searching for jobs, but the positions just aren’t there.

“I think there’s a lot of good talent out there that we’re not able to take advantage of because of the lack of positions open,” Conrad said. “We’re finding many more resumes coming in than in the past from both new teachers and veteran teachers.”

Hudson Superintendent Randy Bell has seen a similar trend.

“Two years ago, we had a very large number, something like 40 vacancies,” he said. “But last year, they dwindled probably in half, and this year, at this point, it’s running a little less than that. So we do have vacancies, but nowhere near what we had two years ago.”

Mary Frazzetta, a human resources assistant for the Merrimack School District, said they have filled 12 positions this summer and three more are still available.

For those 15 teaching jobs, Frazzetta said the district received almost 1,000 resumes and applications.

“As high as that seems,” she said, “it’s not as abnormal as it sounds.”

Dana O’Gara, the director of human resources in the Nashua School District, said there were 954 applications for 87 jobs this year, 40 of which have already been filled.

“With the wealth of applications, many people do not get interviews,” O’Gara said.

But all of these schools are still hiring. Conrad and Bell said they are not cutting jobs from the budget, and they always have positions open up when teachers leave at the end of the school year. The difficulty comes from the abundance of people who want those jobs.

“There’s a lot more teachers out there in the waiver market,” Conrad said.

Most of the open positions vary across subject and age fields, but Bell said in Hudson there have been more middle school and high school positions available than in the elementary schools.

With no pattern forming in the job market, it means teachers like Evans have to stay on their toes.

“I love fourth grade, but beggars can’t be choosers,” Evans said. “I’ll get my Praxis in anything at this point.”

Evans is certified to teach kindergarten through eighth grade and has picked up anything she can get her hands on for experience. Right now, she receives wages from the federally funded Title I teaching program as a reading interventionist in Manchester – where she works one-on-one with children to help them learn to read – but is only paid for 30 hours per week even if she works more.

“If I could live off Title I pay, I would,” Evans said. “I just can’t.”

Her husband of four years, Josh Evans, landed a job as a teacher in the Litchfield School District, but Katherine Evans said money is still tight. The couple used much of their savings to pay back her college loans in 2008.

Evans said she has felt doubts about studying for a teaching degree since she’s been unemployed, but other jobs don’t have the same gratification.

“I’ve had jobs that had a potential for nice paychecks, but I just wasn’t satisfied at the end of the day,” she said. “In this job, you don’t do it for the paycheck.”

Multiple board members wished Evans good luck and commented on her “chutzpah” to get up in front of the board on Monday night and fight for teachers in New Hampshire.

Still, there was little Conrad could do except put her resume on file in the school district, something Evans said has already been done “multiple times” since her unemployment began.

But even if her attempt fails, Evans said she knows it will happen. In the meantime, she’s just trying to keep a positive attitude in mind.

“I like to think I have a good sense of humor about things, so why not have a little fun with this?” Evans said. “It looks a lot better than puffy paint would have.”

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Dorothy Moment

Tonight, I took the painful, nostalgic plunge into uncharted territory.

I drove through campus as an alumnus.

It was quick, like a shot at the doctor’s office. I drove straight through and into Newmarket for a round of golf and a burger at Rocky’s with Mom. On my way out, the doctor pricked me again. Except this time, the needle stuck.

The familiar has never felt so strange.

I will never be in Durham the same way I once was. Not if I go to graduate school, not if I become a professor, not even if I take over Huddleston’s cushy job.

I’m a permanent visitor. The road team.

So many of my favorite places are no longer mine: The clocktower. The dorms. The luxurious lawn begging to be laid on in the breezy sunshine. The Whitt. The tennis courts. Ham Smith. The MUB. Pauly’s. Ballard’s. Wing’s. That center spot in front of the library.

I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t ask to go. My four years came and went. I didn’t realize what I had until it was gone. Time didn’t ask my permission. If it had, I would’ve begged: Please don’t make me go out there! I’m not ready! The real world has work! Bills! Taxes! Responsibility!

But I am ready. Other than a few forms I can’t begin to comprehend – I have enough trouble with a W2, don’t even try me on health care terminology or insurance or leasing agreements – I know what I’m doing out here. I have a job. I have an apartment. I have bills and I have paychecks. I am responsible. Sustainably independent.

But here’s the thing: it fucking sucks.

Not the way the Buckeyes or Rosby or the Blackhawks do. Not the way disease or death rips apart your life. But it’s the only way I can think to describe the change in lifestyle between a student in college and a young adult in life. It fucking sucks.

And I’m not trying to complain. Honest. The fact is that the change is jarring.

It doesn’t matter if you’re doing what you love, working a shit job, or struggling to find one at all. It just hits you all of a sudden. The Dorothy Moment:

I’m not in college anymore.

I’m not in the mood to preach. If you’ve got years left at school, do what you want with them. But know this: whether or not you want to, whether or not you’re ready, you’ll be leaving someday. You’ll be an alumnus.

And the transition’s not an easy one.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The British is coming! The British is coming!

In honor of the British Open at St. Andrews, which starts tomorrow, and my still favorite golfer, Tiger Woods, I've decided to post the op-ed I wrote back in April about Tiger's impending return to golf, "I am still Tiger Woods."

The Open at the Old Course at St. Andrews is special because it's one of the world's best golf tournaments at the game's most historic course. I've been lucky enough to walk the Old Course twice, and it's quite a sight. I can't wait for an exciting week of championship golf, culminating in what I hope will be Tiger's third British Open victory. Here's what I wrote about the loved and hated man back in April:

When I was five years old, my dad sawed off the end of a rusty MacGregor five-iron, popped off the worn black rubber from the useless end, refastened it to the jagged top of my new club, and led me out to my backyard in Canton, Mich. to smack my first golf ball. The second those Top Flite dimples whisked into the high grass behind our house, I was hooked for life.

I practiced putting with my Papa’s trusty old 10-iron on his muddy orange carpet every time we visited them in Oregon. The ball would roll into a tiny blue cup time after time again, each plop of the ball hitting the plastic producing a cheery “Oh!” from my proud grandmother. I spent hours putting on that carpet as a hopeful young 10-year-old and begged Papa for daily trips to the driving range downtown.

My parents have spent thousands of dollars on me for golf clubs, golf balls and greens fees. I’ve played in rain, snow, wind, hail, and sun. I remember putts like the 60-foot miracle that curved and dropped for birdie on No. 2 at North Conway Country Club; I remember shots like the 135-yard pitching wedge on No. 9 that bounced once on the green and sunk in for a birdie 3 and a front-nine 39; I remember my best score (72) and my worst (119); I remember mornings golfing across Ireland and Scotland with my dad and rainy afternoon rounds with my grandparents in Oregon.

You pick a year in my life, and I can tell you where I was golfing and how well I was playing. I am a golfer. And, in line with every young golfer of this generation, I loved Tiger Woods.

I had a poster of Tiger in my room. I went through a period where I would hit, wear and play with nothing but Nike equipment. I wore my “I am Tiger Woods” t-shirt so much as a pre-teen that it nearly disintegrated. I watched Tiger win and sulked when Tiger lost. I admired every stroke, every putt, every fist pump. Tiger was my golf hero.

And guess what? He still is.

Tiger will tee it up on Thursday for the most prestigious tournament in golf: The Masters at Augusta National. It’s his first tournament in 144 days, since he declared an indefinite leave from golf to fix marital troubles stemming from infidelities to his wife, Elin.

It’s the media storm of the year. The best player in golf history, in sports history, is nothing more than your everyday, professional sleazeball.

Many fans feel betrayed. They feel angry, let down, disappointed, and appalled. Not me. I hold Tiger in the same regard as I once did.

Why? He’s an athlete. I look up to him for his unmatched talent in golf. What he does in his personal life is none of my business.

If I want lessons on strong disposition, I remember afternoons with my late grandfathers, who served proudly in World War II and the Korean War. If my moral compass needs direction, I talk to my parents: successful, smart and happily married for 25 years. I have a collection of relatives, friends, coworkers, coaches, and teachers from my past who have all shown me virtuous traits in different forms.

With the support system around me, why would I hold the character of a professional athlete with much regard, given the incredible track record of failures?

Sure, there are athletes that give as much of their hearts off the field as they do on, but those stories don’t make headlines on page one. That space is reserved for the seemingly endless list of rapists, liars, womanizers, and drug abusers. Criminal acts of athletes point out the fatal flaw in our media-crazed environment: we worship these men and women and expect them to soar above standards that no one can possibly fulfill. And when they inevitably fail, the world ignites in fury.

Tiger Woods’ legacy as a man is tarnished but his reign over the golf world remains strongly intact. And when Tiger plants a wooden tee in the firm Augusta ground, locks his chiseled hands gently around his Tour Velvet grip and fires a dimpled Nike swoosh into the dazzling green distance, I’ll be the same pre-teen adolescent I once was: wishing that for just one day on the golf course I could say, “I am Tiger Woods.”

Monday, July 12, 2010


Looking for a story that will lead you on and let you down? Then read ahead, bored web crawler.

Today I spent six hours in a real-life standoff.

I wasn't one of the cool guys holding the gun and calling it a MEXICAN STANDOFF! in the blog title is completely just to catch your eye, but I was there.

Where? New Hampshire. Nashua. Downtown. Morningside Drive. No, the standoff wasn't between old people.

I wake up at 7:30. I shave. I shower. I sit down for a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. My phone rings. It's my boss.


*actual conversation not recorded and therefore cannot be claimed to be entirely accurate

"Yes, I'm awake. I'm eating Cheerios."


"I will be there in minutes."

I hang up. I finish my Cheerios. I move to the kitchen. Must think ahead. I pack lunch: four slices of turkey sandwich with honey mustard and lettuce on whole wheat bread, a granny-smith apple, Sweet and Spicy Doritos, a handful of baby carrots, and a Coke.

I check out Morningside Drive on Google Maps. Straight-left-roundaboutstraight-right-right. I'm ready for said blood.

I jump inside Blue Charlize. The Mini roars to life.

I'm there. The intersection of Taft and Clement is blocked off by police cruisers and armored cars. Two S.W.A.T. teams assemble. It's now 8:30.

Nothing happens for almost an hour. Then two deafening flash-bang grenades. Then another hour. Then 21 softer explosions said later to be tear gas.

I touch the police tape. Feels like yellow. News stations crowd around me. I talk to neighbors.


*again, conversation not recorded and only estimated for accuracy

I write. I approach another neighbor.


I write. A suited bald policeman comes forward.

"I can't tell you anything I know and I really can't answer any specific questions."

I write. The story is coming together nicely.

An hour passes. I sweat. Black polo in 92-degree heat was a bad choice. Another hour passes. I eat my lunch in Charlize with my newly appreciated friend, AC. I chew chew choose the turkey sandwich. It's warm. So is everything else, boiled in the hot sun. I finish the hot mess and step outside when the policeman reappears.

"I will tell you what I told you before, but this time I'll say it differently."

I lick my pen and write, just like a cool newspaperman should. Boom. Words.

The night reporter shows up. He'll take over, he says. I do not argue. My eyes have seen enough bloodshed. I drive back the newsroom.

I sit. I write my story. My shift ends. The night reporter will add his tidbits and we will share the front page tomorrow. Success.

This partly fictional story is brought to you by news stories that sound really exciting when you hear about them but are actually mostly boring to cover because everyone says the same things and the cops rarely give out pertinent information. If you are more into facts and less into prose, visit this website.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Holdin' out for a home life

Winding down another great weekend with a bad romantic comedy on the couch by myself in my apartment (this Sunday's selection: I'm Reed Fish - it's pretty lame, even as far as romantic comedies go, and I'm about as lenient a judge on movies as it gets), I'm struck for the second time in a week with a bout of homesickness.

Now, I've got myself a great life. I drive my dream car to work every day. I somehow picked up a full-time job at one of the state's most well respected newspapers right out of school. I have the best girl by my side. I have a nice apartment with a great friend fully furnished with gifts from my parents - a huge leather couch, a soft comfy queen bed, a kitchen table, chairs, and the like. I'm truly happy, and I don't take it for granted. As MGMT says, I'm in the prime of my life.

But every once in a while I really pine for my dad's mashed potatoes, my mom's grilled chicken, my sister's Risotto. The couch in my kitchen: a perfect spot for reading, even if it's too short to completely lay down. My energetic Corgi, aged Golden Retriever, and the affectionate but insane cats. Family movie nights. The view of my backyard. Walks around the neighborhood.

I don't want you to get the idea that I'm turning my Blogspot into a Livejournal. Most of these types of posts are reserved for my real journal each day or night. Recaps of the day, life's aspirations and goals. That stuff's not often necessary for public viewing, even on the Internet.

But since my mind's been racing a bit tonight, I thought I'd do some writing to clear my head and send a message.

If you're young and living at home, be it that you're out of school and unhappily unemployed or still a student and working your summer break at a life-sucking job, enjoy the home life. Push for new opportunities and work toward the excitement of an independent life, but don't throw away your time at home. It's worth more than you think.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

TONIGHT: The LeBrongest hour of TV....ever

In light of the most anticipated sports announcement since Brett Lebda's signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs (ha!), I must weigh in on LeBron James' egomaniacal one-hour special set to air tonight on ESPN.

First, let me say that I once had respect for BronBron. I thought he was one of the gentle giants, a modest NBA star (comparatively, of course). But since the "Chosen One" tattoo surfaced on his back, I've been suspicious that he really is entirely obsessed with his own greatness. And this week, when the news broke that he would announce what team he would sign with during a one-hour-long "special" on ESPN, I lost it. Any respect he once had is now gone.

Let me just put this in perspective. He's a free agent about to sign with a basketball team. He's not the only one this summer, not the only one ever, not special at all. The guy doesn't even have any championships. And while I understand that his signing is big news, especially because whatever team gets him will immediately be better, one piece of big news does not merit an hour of live television airtime.

So, I've compiled a short list of things I'd rather see get an hour special on TV than LeBron James' free-agent signing announcement.
  • A Day in the Life of an Earwig: Yes, I'd rather watch these disgusting little critters crawling in and about someone's ear canals for an hour than catch a second of LeBron Mania.
  • The Making of Gigli with special commentary from Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck: Yep, bring on the fake laughs and stupid inside jokes from two annoying ex-lovers as they talk about one of the worst movies ever made before I watch tonight's announcement.
  • Behind the Scenes of Toddlers & Tiaras: I would love to get up close and personal with this reality show and watch how insane mothers put "flippers" (fake teeth) in their infants' mouths before tuning into ESPN tonight.
  • American Idol Sings the Beatles: Please Please (give) Me the worst voices in the country and let them Maxwell Silver Hammer my favorite songs for an hour before I give any of my loving to LeBronberry Fields Forever.
  • The NASCAR Sprint Cup Racing Series: I would even watch stock cars do 500 laps around a circular track in front of thousands of screaming redneck hillbillies before buckling down on the couch for LeBron. AND I'd do it sober.
Feel free to leave any hour specials you'd rather see than LeBron's self-love fest.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Commercialization to the extreme

It's so hot that I just walked down the hall past my only roommate to use the bathroom, saw the door was closed and proceeded to wait two or three minutes before realizing the light was off, no one was in there and I'm simply losing my mind.

But I've been able to keep the heat somewhat at bay thanks to two new fans from Wal-Mart, which segues perfectly into Tim King's choice for my next blog post (he won the caption contest with the only entry, therefore I must give him his due for such loyalty): The incredibly over-commercialization of my "neighborhood" in South Nashua.

From my window I can see McDonald's through the trees. From that McDonald's, looking up and down the street I can see Guitar Center, Toys R Us, Market Basket, Starbucks, Sports Authority, Best Buy, Staples, The Post Office, Pizza Hut, Modell's, Walgreen's, Bernie and Phyl's Furniture, Barnes and Noble, Panera, and more bright signs that squeeze your head. Within a five-minute drive I can go to a different Market Basket, or Shaw's or Hannaford or Stop and Shop if I prefer, any New England regional bank, Wal-Mart, Target, UNO's, Burger King, a UHaul center, Rite Aid, Jordan's Furniture, and an entire mall full of more brand-names like the Apple Store or Claire's (in case I finally decide to splurge on those faux diamond earrings that are just so fetch - yes, it's happening).

So on any given night with an unlimited credit card, I could be strumming a new guitar with a Pokemon lunchbox, gnawing on some store-brand chicken sauteed in Venti Chai Latte, slapping a 'Kazaam' DVD around with a set of Atomic Race 7s, printing off some personalized stationary to mail, and cooking some Asiago bagels in an Easy Bake Oven all from a reclined position in a blue suede love seat. Sounds like my own little slice of heaven, doesn't it?

There are so many things wrong with society today, you've really got to pick your battles. I don't have quite the historical background to properly take on this commercial giant and talk about the good ol' days when there was a milkman and payphones and plain old 2-D television, but this really has to stop. Or at least slow down.

Example: I shouldn't be able to go work out at Planet Fitness at three in the morning. Those people working that shift should be sleeping. There's truly no need for any store to have 24-hour service except the occasional gas station for late-night drivers. I mean, I appreciate the fact that if I wake up at three and find the energy to drive 15 minutes to work those glutes, I can. But it's not exactly a membership deal-breaker if I can't.

It's so hot that I'm barely able to string two thoughts together, but I think my general message is this:

While convenience is, well, convenient, it's also terrifying for the future. There are too many stores and too many people buying too much plastic shit. There's not enough education and not enough originality or authenticity. I say close down the stores in my area and send all the employees off to join the Peace Corps. Then people might start to understand how morally bankrupt our country has become.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

New Summer Look

Note: New blog header uploaded. I like it, but feel free to comment and let me know what you think.

Three weeks into the real world and I already understand why people always say college is the best four years of your life. If you've got any sense at all, you know you have it good, sometimes great, during those four years. But once you get a real job, it hits you: I have to work? Like, every day? Fuck.

Yeah, not a great realization. Especially when the average time I woke up last semester was about 10:30 or 11 a.m. and I'm currently an hour and a half into my shift right now and it's 7:30. Jesus. But at least the only thing I'm responsible for right now as the only person in the newsroom (and probably the only human being awake at such an ungodly hour) is watch the idiots on WMUR, check three local newspaper websites, check the fax machine for police logs, check the AP Wire for anything interesting, listen to the police scanner, check the news computer for press releases that come in, and write up little live briefs for the web. Sounds like a lot, but believe me it's not. Why do you think I'm sitting here blogging for the first time in over a month?

Certainly, the MoJo shift (6am to 2pm) has a lot of responsibility. Say, if a massive fire or a major arrest or something crazy like that happens this early in the morning, it's all up to me to cover it and get it online. Moderately terrifying. But then I remember we live in New Hampshire, and I can breathe again. All I've had to do in the past two hours is write a three-inch brief about a Hudson kid who rolled his car yesterday, post two wire stories, and make four or five useless walks over to the fax machine/news computer. So that's what I get up for in the morning. What did you do? Sleep? OK, probably about equal effort then.

You can check out some of my front page stories so far though. Here, here and here. Enjoy. The rest of the stuff I've written is pretty meh. Even I'd tell you to skip it and pick up a book instead.

Speaking of books, I'm up to 22 so far this year for a total of 6,135 pages. And since the fax machine was empty again and the 'Send/Receive' button on the News computer came back with nada, I've got more time to write.

So I'm going to review them here. Yes, all of them. Because I'd prefer to do that than call more police officers who'd rather get shot than tell me about a minor accident in their no-name New Hampshire town.

Anyway, the book thing started with a New Year's Resolution to read 100 this year (a number that I've noticed is astronomically high for anyone younger than 80 years old) and so far I'm way behind. But, I have been reading consistently, and that's the real goal. And 22 books halfway through the year is a decent number. Here's what I've read since January, in order of when I read them:
  • Piecework by Pete Hamill - Hamill is one of my favorite authors and until I read this book, I had no idea he was a journalist for a long time. This is a great book for travel writing and has plenty of good stories in it.
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote - Funny, short and famous. Good characters. I wanted to read some Capote and this was a good way to get a sense of his writing style.
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote - One of the best books I've ever read. Chilling, intense, page-turning. It's shocking to believe a story this good and this incredibly detailed could actually be true. A must read.
  • On Writing by Stephen King - I didn't really think I was going to like this book, but I actually loved it. The last thing I read by Stephen King was The Shining when I was about 15 and I swore I'd never read him again (I don't do well with horror anything). But On Writing was candid, realistic and helpful for anyone who wants to write. I loved it.
  • The Tender Bar by J.R. Moeringer - Great memoir about a guy who grew up in New York City around a bar his whole life. I think I liked this book so much because I felt a strong connection with the author. Seemed a lot like me. A good pick if you like memoir.
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz - Good fiction by a great writer. I'm not sure I agree with his Pulitzer for this book, but it was a good story. I enjoyed it. I was a little annoyed with the crazy amount and length of his footnotes, but I'd say it's worth reading.
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - So wonderful and beautiful it's hard to call it a book. What's that? No, I don't have a vagina. Men can be romantic too. And I loved this book. It might even be my all-time favorite. I just love the language, the words, the story, the way he tells it; it's woven just perfectly. Another must read, but it helps if you have a romantic side.
  • Where I'm Calling From by Raymond Carver - A great collection of short stories by one of fiction's best short-story writers. Read it if you like short stories. I'm not big on them myself, mostly because I like stories that don't abruptly end ambiguously in ways I can't understand (always feel like I'm missing something). That said, Carver is still a great read.
  • The Good Soldiers by David Finkel - Unbelievable true story of life in Iraq. The author spent two years over there with the troops and he came out with one hell of a book. Seriously, if you think you know anything about a soldier's life in the Middle East, think again. This book changes your whole mentality and will depress the hell out of you. It'll color up your vocabulary and make you feel for anyone's family with a kid over there. Truly an amazing story.
  • Justice by Michael Sandel - I read it for my persuasive writing class. The guy who wrote it is a Harvard professor and writes well. Pretty cool stuff about philosophy and all that. But it gets slow at times and asks way more questions than it answers.
  • Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger - I hadn't read any Salinger since I was in high school, so I picked up Catcher in the Rye a little while after the writing legend died in late January. Still as great as I remember, with Holden Caufield as one of literature's greatest characters.
  • Trash by Dorothy Allison - A bunch of vivid stories that seem fictional but aren't. The author is a lesbian who grew up on a farm with a family of nutjobs. The book is mostly little vignettes of her life, and they vary from interesting to crazy.
  • Born to Run by Christopher McDougall - A good book about the Tarahumara runners in Mexico and the author's experience with them. To be honest, the guy's a pretty crappy writer but the subject was interesting to me. I thought it was very cool that wayy back in the day, humans used to run their prey to death. It's the only explanation as to how we could have evolved as a species, since humans are slower and weaker than just about everything else.
  • High Fidelity by Nick Hornby - I love this movie and I've always liked Nick Hornby, so I had high expectations for the book. It met them. I thought the book was just as funny, if not funnier at times, than the movie and it was a quick read. It helps too that the movie wasn't entirely scripted from the book, so there were new parts of the story sprinkled among the great lines of the movie. I wish they had Jack Black's line in there somewhere though..."That's the worst fuckin' sweater I've ever seen's COSBY sweater, a COS-BY SWEA-TAH!"
  • Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger - I already said I'm not a big fan of short stories, but Salinger is a different breed. His writing is just so inviting. You can always relate to the characters, I feel, because they talk and speak and act like real people. The generation is different and the language is clearly outdated, but that doesn't take away from the connection. Each of these nine stories are worth reading many times over.
  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell - Amazing amounts of research usually makes for a boring-as-hell book, but not in Gladwell's case. He writes with such ease, such relatability, that I went out and bought his other two books to read sometime this year. I really like his writing style and how much work he puts into his books. Crazy guy to look at though. Makes you wonder if he's actually the abandoned lovechild of Harry Potter and Sideshow Bob.
  • In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan - The only book of the 22 that I didn't enjoy. The subject matter didn't particularly interest me (all about the health crisis in our country and nutrition) but I read it because I had to for my persuasive writing class. Not great writing and not a great approach to his argument, I thought, but lots of people like this book. Then again, lots of people like NASCAR, American Idol or mayonnaise on their french fries. It ain't right!
  • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson - A very cool 'get in touch with nature' kind of book. Bryson is a hilarious writer and I'll probably read more of him. This book is about his attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail and the only thing I didn't really like about it was the history and preachiness of "Save the Wildlife!" every once in a while. Other than that, I'd recommend it.
  • Shit My Dad Says by Justin Halpern - It's amazing to me that a guy can get a book contract (and soon a TV show) based on nothing but a Twitter account. It's hilarious and awesome and a quick read, but it still boggles my mind.
  • When the Game Was Ours by Jackie MacMullan - No, I'm not giving any credit to Magic Johnson or Larry Bird for "writing" this book even though they're the main authors on the cover with UNH alum Jackie MacMullan's name in small print underneath them. She wrote it because she's the writer. Very good sports book though. Really cool angle on how these two superstars were so obsessed with each other throughout their careers. I don't really like professional basketball and don't particularly care much about what it was like in the 80s, but MacMullan's writing got me past all that.
  • Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger - My most recent read is another Salinger masterpiece. Everyone talks about Catcher in the Rye, but if you read anything else by him you really start to understand why he's so good. I liked this book even more than Catcher in the Rye, to be honest, because it was almost like it had two Holden Caufields. Franny and Zooey aren't anything like Holden, but they are two separate characters that you can connect with in the same way. It's really an amazing little book.
I'm more than halfway through my shift now since I've had to periodically stop blogging to start working, but it felt good to actually spend some time doing something constructive at work rather than update my Twitter feed 10 times in four minutes or check ESPN every minute on the minute. So, I'll be back at some point. I'd like to make this blog not always about Red Wings and get it back to the space where I can just let go and write. It's an essential part of life, after all.