Category Archives: My Weekly Reader

The world of letters, seven days at a time.

Reading, again

I love to read, and am always thrilled to talk to anyone who unabashedly will tell me what title they’re into at the moment, no matter what age the person.

It fills my heart to know my next-door neighbor’s kid liked the book I gave him for Christmas (Roscoe Riley Rules #1: Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs, by Katherine Applegate). I like to check out what friends’ book clubs are doing, and see what people were reading on each of the legs of our most recent trip — everything from Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann to White Rage by Carol Anderson, The Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert, and Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance.

Some are new, some are not; some have been made into movies and some are non-fiction. This half-dozen is a pretty good cross-section of people’s tastes — eclectic at best. (Curiously, I also noticed more “real books” of the paper variety and fewer electronic devices.)

As a former bookstore owner, I’m instinctively drawn to people who “flaunt reading,” who aren’t shy about talking about books, or recommending something, or mentioning their viewpoint about what I consider an essential part of life.

For example, a local teacher I’m just beginning to know — I loved seeing the signoff on a recent email from her. It quoted Kevin (the freak) in Freak the Mighty, by Rodman Philbrick : “Books are like truth serum. If you don’t read, you can’t figure out what’s real.”   

Well, that pretty much sums it up. In my opinion, you MUST read to be able to cope with the rest of the world.

Not to be political, but honestly, that’s probably my biggest beef with President Trump. How can he be the leader of the modern world if he doesn’t read and read widely?

Just came across some stats gathered by the Pew Center for Research. Granted, these aren’t considered current, but I believe they’re still thought-provoking — and probably haven’t changed drastically.

Summarized in Iris Reading‘s blog (my thoughts to each point in italics)

  • “Roughly 72 percent of American adults read a book in 2015, continuing a gradual decline over the last 5 years (from 79 percent in 2011).  Really? Ouch.
  • “However, these stats include people who reported reading “one book…in part”, so it’s unclear how many made it all the way through. Can’t even FINISH one book?
  • “The average number of books each person read over the course of a year was 12…but that number is inflated by the most avid readers. Pretty sure we’d qualify as the latter 🙂
  • “The most frequently reported number was 4 books per year.  One book a quarter; at least that’s better than a single unfinished one annually.
  • “Of course, there’s plenty of variation among demographics.  Certain groups read more, or less, than the country as a whole.” Oh, OK, maybe some light here.

In fact, young people read more than seniors — that surprised me, since I’m in this latter group (as are so many of my book-reading friends). Women read more than men, in general — nothing new there. CEOs read much more than the average person. The higher your education level, and the higher the income bracket you fall into, the more likely you are to read. It may have to do with having the spare cash to purchase books or the easy chance to explore the stacks at a library.

Reading also takes time, and brain power. Admittedly, I read less when stressed, or when I’m pre-occupied scrolling my phone, looking for truly escapist entertainment.

In my heart, I know that reading is an active way to be entertained.  It engages your mind. It can absorb you, fully, and carry you to different worlds in different people’s shoes and put you there at different times of history. Reading is about learning, and expanding what I know, bringing others lives into my own.

Truly, I can’t imagine a life without reading.

And one of the real delights in reading is gathering insights into the universal condition, like this gem of a quote from what I’m currently reading, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. It’s on page 165: “… to love is to enter into the inevitability of one day not being able to protect what is most valuable to you.”

Oh my.

Such a well written bit of wordsmithing gives one cause to pause, and THINK. For me, well, I’m pretty likely to mark such a quote with a bookmark.

What are you reading?

If you don’t read, why not? No judgment intended, I’m just very VERY curious.

Oh, adding these images as they represent, to me anyway, some important selections from our collection. And lastly, since we just finished National Library Week, you can read more about how I feel about libraries here.

Books read in 2018

This year, I’m participating in the “Book Geek Challenge” — to read 50 books in 50 weeks — at the Valley of the Tetons Library. Prize is a fleece hoodie sweatshirt, which will come in handy next winter.  Here’s what’s in my “reading journal” so far; kinda went on a Maggie Hope spree for a while, didn’t I?

 

Current books

My “in process” books, including the stack that I keep next to the bed. Some of these I’ve just received from a fellow booklover, and haven’t even cracked ’em.

 

 

Books from Tyler teammates

Each of my teammates from Tyler Technologies gave me a book at my retirement part earlier this year.  I also consider them current books, even if there’s too many to have on my night table…. So special, touching, and personal. (Thank you again, my friends!

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Favorite books!

Going through some old files and found this one…. I might make some revisions as of this writing, but these really are “all-time favorites.”  Enjoy!

pic of big pile of books croppedPS on the image: not sure where this is; I discovered it when I was looking for something to illlustrate my last blog post, about my Giant Journal of Joy.

This is just one list of Jeanne’s 25 all-time best recommends for reading.

Note: I put this list together for a friend who hasn’t yet read all that much but wanted a good background in books, both contemporary and classic.

It was compiled Nov. 9, 2008 (in no particular order, but fiction first) along with a little commentary on each…with additions made Jan. 21, 2009 (when I realized I couldn’t leave out some of these!)

1. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner: a Pulitzer Prize winner that deserved the honor; based on a real woman and real place, with a contemporary character sure to make you think.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; though you might have read this in high school, it’s even better as a grown-up (and one of the few books ever turned into a movie that actually conveyed its authentic sense.)

3. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini; a must-read story if one wants to have an inkling of the cultural differences between Westerners and those who call the Middle East home.

4. The Way West by A.B. Guthrie; a thoughtful look at those who crossed the country on the Oregon Trail by a Montana writer who gave his state the notion of The Big Sky (forerunner to this book.)

5. Oh Pioneers by Willa Cather; Peter did his Master’s thesis on another book by this early 20th century writer—this one captures a sense of community like none other.

6. The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck; after winning the Pulitzer for Grapes of Wrath (and the US joining World War II) Steinbeck went to work at the Propaganda Office—this is a short look at collaborators and resisters that was smuggled into many countries in Europe to provide inspiration to the latter.

7. The Moon and Sixpence by Somerset Maugham; another short one, a lyrical lovely story of a painter who leaves his conventional life and eventually ends up in Tahiti (think Gauguin.)

8. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon: brings post-WW2 Barcelona to life in vivid color: a little mystery, a little obsession, a little of the book world (and less well-known than many of the titles in this list.)

9. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry; another Western? Yes! But really a wonderful tale of adventure and two men who are friends to the end.

10. Dancing at the Rascal Fair by Ivan Doig; again, another Western? Yet another yes. This one’s a tale of adventure and two men who are friends but NOT to the end.

11. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway; if you’ve ever tried to reach a goal and thought you’d done it (only to find it had slipped from your grasp), well, this one’s for you. (Besides, I HAD to include at least one Hemingway.)

12. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury; I like to think I can’t imagine a world without books—after reading this book, you can…

13. A Brother Cadfael mystery by Ellis Peters: I especially like A Morbid Taste for Bones or One Corpse Too Many—first and second in the set but any would do—the lack of widgets (they’re set in the 12th century Britain) and the deep understanding of human nature make this my favorite mystery series (oh, but what about Tony Hillerman, Steven Saylor and so many others? Mysteries make worthy reading, especially when you’re in the mood to be entertained.)

14. Night by Elie Wiesel: while Diary of Anne Frank may be more famous as Holocaust literature, I find this recollection of the author’s teen years in a concentration camp more horrifying (and insighful) by far.

15. Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder; the story of Dr. Paul Farmer will give you inspiration about making a difference.

16. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson; more inspiration about one person’s ability to create miracles and the power of education.

17. Where Rivers Change Direction by Mark Spragg; Teton Valley’s 2007 One Book One Community choice, a remarkable memoir of growing up on Wyoming’s oldest dude ranch; An Unfinished Life is also worth reading (is’s a novel.)

18. Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams; one of the most beautifully written books ever, interweaving the saga of her mother’s death from breast cancer against the story of the flooding of the Great Salt Lake.

19. Any “big book” by Edward Rutherfurd: my go-to of his historical, multi-generational epics would be Sarum, which brings Stonehenge and England’s Salisbury plain vividly to life.

20. Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller; the memoir of growing up in Africa by our friend, Bo Ross, of next door Jackson Hole, this was (deservedly) the BookSense Book of the Year in 2002.

21. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby; another very short book (I reread it several times a year) Bauby was the editor of Elle Magazine in Paris when he had a stroke, and ended up communicating by blinking an eyelid—an amazing reminder to live fully.

22. Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose; this book truly brings history to life. While the bulk of the story is about the adventures of the Corps of Discovery, it also illuminates Thomas Jefferson’s vision of America, his faith in his friend Meriwether Lewis and his wisdom in choosing William Clark as co-leader.

23. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin; another history lesson in a book. During the Union’s time of strife, Abraham Lincoln surrounded himself with people who disagreed with him, much to the country’s benefit.

24. Any history by David McCullough; I like the ones about particular events (i.e., the Johnstown Flood, the building of the Panama Canal) but the ones about particular historical figures (i.e., Teddy Roosevelt, Truman, John Adams) are also spectacular!

25. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien — completely different in tone, time-period and subject matter than any other title on this list, this writerly book seems to blur fact and fiction within its stories. While ostensibly about the Vietnam War, it is really about America and Americans, especially those, like O’Brien, who saw combat duty in Vietnam.

Note: Did not include co-authors’ names or sub-titles (mostly going from memory here!) Tried to assemble a variety of settings and styles of writing, but does seem to have an emphasis on Western Americana (what can I say? I live in Idaho!)

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Making the case, brilliantly — O/N it 6

As a kid, on hot summer days I loved taking my bike down the hill behind our house to the little library tucked on one side of Cole Shopping Center. I had some sort of carrier for the books I’d check out; although I don’t remember its shape or color, a clear muscle memory remains, of carefully stacking my treasures so they’d all fit inside for the ride home. I’d be back in just a few days to find something new to absorb my long afternoons and open my world, far away from our house on Foxcroft Road.

It wasn’t long, however, before I started acquiring my own collection of books. A school vendor, Scholastic I think, offered some kind of deal where purchasing books from them would earn points that could be “spent” on free books. Just my kind of thing! That was the beginning of my own personal and lifelong desire to not just read books but to acquire them myself.

More nonfiction on the main floor, and my reading chair, where I also knit, watch TV, and occasionally do artwork.

Nonfiction and reference books on the main floor, and my reading chair, where I also knit, watch TV, and occasionally do artwork.

Luckily I found, fell in love with, and married someone who, as a young boy in Worland, Wyoming, devoured every Hardy Boys mystery (and much more) in *his* local library.

Our mutual appreciation of words eventually led to our bookstore business. More importantly, it is a hallmark of our relationship and indeed, our lives together.

So we have our very own library.  It sits 20 feet away from where I write this, one of the many additions to our original log cabin, on the flats north of Driggs, in an alfalfa field with a beautiful view of the Tetons.

I’m blessed to be surrounded by books.  But I’m often on the quest for something that’s not yet on our shelves.

In the last ten days, even in my small rural area, I’ve visited (and checked out books from) three public libraries. These institutions are in two states — Jackson and Alta in Wyoming, and Victor, Idaho, a mile from Rusty’s house. Speaking of miles, my cross-border literary consumption covers about 550 of them;  I just received a book via Wyoming’s inter-library loan system (from Laramie) of a title strongly recommended by a avid-reader friend (author Cort Conley, director of literature for the Idaho Commission on the Arts) in Boise.

My good friend Eva Dahlgren — former longtime Dark Horse employee who has been a fulltime librarian for something like eight years now — told me this week about a piece by author Neil Gaiman. The essay’s all about libraries and the importance of reading for kids, and adults, even in this techno age (here’s the link to it).

Wow, struck such a responsive chord in me! In seconds, it took me back to those childhood bike rides in Cheyenne.

The title pretty much says it all: Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming.

If  you don’t get the point from that, the subtitle goes even farther:  A lecture explaining why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens.

We have three shelves like this one along both the north and south walls of the mezzanine. This is our collection of travel books of all types.

We have three shelves like this one along both the north and south walls of the mezzanine. This is our collection of travel books of all types.

Just one of the quotes she called to my attention:  According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days now the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until 2003. That’s about five exobytes of data a day, for those of you keeping score. The challenge becomes, not finding that scarce plant growing in the desert, but finding a specific plant growing in a jungle. We are going to need help navigating that information to find the thing we actually need. Libraries are places that people go to for information.

If that blip doesn’t make you want to read Gaiman’s whole essay — it takes ten minutes, max — here’s one that jumped off the page to me (and maybe explains, better than I ever could, why I still love to read a great novel): Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.

The center section, fiction, on the west wall of the mezzanine. Peter built this giant shelving unit while I was traveling in Asia seven years ago.

The center section, fiction, on the west wall of the mezzanine. Peter built this giant shelving unit while I was traveling in Asia seven years ago.

That’s the bottom line for me.

I know that reading has made me better, made me different.

May today you encourage a child to read, pick up a book to inspire yourself, or maybe sit down to write a few lines of your own.

 

These three photos, for those who have wondered what our library looks like, provide some views of it. Trust me, it’s oh so much better in person!  And when we’re gone from this world, I’m guessing our books will end up — where else — in a library.

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Yet another book list O/N it 4

map of the most famous books set in each state croppedBlaire Kribs, a bookstore customer friend who’s moved from Teton Valley, posted this on FB this week, and although I already shared it there, I think it’s worth a few more comments. After all, talking about books has always been a joy and one of my best ways to connect to others….!

The map and the accompanying list show “the most famous book set in each state,” (or at least in one person’s opinion) published by Business Insider.

What I find most interesting is the depth of literature written across the country’s history pulled together in this one list. It includes short books, epic tomes, stuff for kids, stuff for young adults, nonfiction, classics, fairly new titles, scary ones, tame ones — well, you get the idea. They run the gamut of tastes, subjects, length and genre.

Choose two randomly and you might be surprised at what turns up. Consider these pairings…..Twilight and Uncle Tom’s Cabin; Into Thin Air and My Antonia; Little House in the Big Woods and The Laramie Project; The Shining and The Jungle. Wow.

Some would certainly argue with the book selection state by state — even several of my local well-read friends were surprised to see Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson as the book chosen for Idaho. (She’s much better known for Gilead, which won the Pulitzer — but it wasn’t set here.)

But to me using a list like this is just a starting point, a little like standing in front of the racks at a bookstore or library and hunting up something new. The first one (or what was recommended) might not be your choice, but spend just a little more time and you’ll find just the right thing.

Haven’t read them all of course, but this collection *does* include some of my all-time favorites. Reading over this list inspires me to REREAD several — and to search out those I’m unfamiliar with. Not today, though; it’s too beautiful a day to spend buried in a book, and I have many other things to accomplish today. But winter’s coming, and there’s not much better than a good book by the woodstove. it’s always terrific to have something new to look forward to, isn’t it?

Happy reading!

PS. Here’s the list only, for those who don’t want to use the link.

list only of the most famous books set in each state cropped

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Oct-Nov — “O/N it” 1

I have no single particular overall theme in mind for the blog post series I begin here — but recently I have been bothered by how quickly time flies, and how elusive it is to capture the brilliant moments of life. So that’s my goal, to share one “something” that’s completely relevant at the moment. Some of my more perceptive readers might catch on that that’s what I *always* try to do in these eclectic essays….

Today it centers on the numbers, and the symmetry that surrounds us if we only see it.

* The series will run for the next five weeks. Why? We leave on another trip about then, and it’s been almost five weeks since my last blog post — the former exciting, the latter not so. (Haven’t I had anything to say since early September? In a word: YES — so better get “on it!”)

* I’m shooting for 20 posts in the series.  This seems entirely reachable, an average of four per week.  Setting the target to write daily always strikes Peter as a “homework assignment,” and my intended-to-be-daily series tend to dribble off at the end.

* Eva Dahlgren is a special friend who never fails to inspire me — she and husband Dan have recently remodeled their house and wow, does it look great! Plus she’s heading back to grad school in a few months (at the same time as juggling full-time work and a busy household that also includes two kids, three dogs, and a cat.)  I admire her courage and willingness to jump into the unknown future. The timing doesn’t work for either Eva or I to lead the Young Writers After-School program this year, though. Recalling last November’s intense crunch with the kids during “National Novel Writing Month,”  it feels absolutely right to recommit to my own writing; this blog is just one part of it.

* We watched the Teton High School Homecoming parade standing on Eva’s front lawn on Friday morning. An “aha moment” of historical perspective as I saw the flatbed truck marked “Class of 2014” drive by: I was part of the Class of ’74 (forty years ago!), and if my mother had attended high school, she would have been part of the Class of ’34, forty years prior to that. Just think how much change the world has seen in just our two generations!

* Thus another bit of symmetry: I’m nearly exactly the same age that my mother was when she met our Up With People cast in San Sebastian, Spain in September 1973 — a memorable visit, for sure. One of the things I distinctly remember is turning to Cast Director Ken Ashby, who had driven me to the airport to pick her up, and saying “Oh my gosh, she has way more wrinkles than I remember.” A teenager’s comment, embarrassing in its bluntness even then. And humbling to recall: when I look in the mirror now, I see so many of her characteristics in my own face.  I now know how well-earned was every single one of those wrinkles!

* We have no fewer than a dozen books to read and refer to about our next destination and I’m doing the “sponge thing” to absorb as much as I can. Sometimes what sticks out isn’t sightseeing advice or a tidbit about history, but instead a line is applicable to other parts of life. So, these  two quotes, gleaned from some weekend perusing, bear repeating here:

  • “Failure was so often better than success: there was so much more to be learnt from it.” (~ Peter Stothard, referring to Roman historian Symmachus, in Spartacus Road)
  • “Great travelers always enjoy gazing upon rivers.” (~ Bruno Racine, in Living in Rome, regarding a couple with homes on both the Tiber and the Seine).

You may have figured it out — Trastavere, here we come!

*Lastly, we picked up a box of peppermint tea on Saturday at the grocery, and the box had an “inspirational commemorative tin” inside. On the back was this bit of wisdom:inspiration_moments_when

Really?

Hmmm. Golly, this seems to be one of these times for me.  I’m looking for work, and what an exercise it is to compress one’s life into a single-page resume, sorta like the history one carries on one’s face.  While I face the daunting task of finding a job, feeling concern about aging but yet as excited about the challenges of life and the opportunities of travel as ever I was when younger…. well, I might as well start a new blog series.

Have a great week, everyone!

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A little history (8/14)

I read a lot. Books give me entertainment and education, and I’ll choose something to read with different intentions from book to book.

It’s a wonderful delight when I find both of these things happening at once while I read. It’s an even rarer treat when the book throws in “enlightenment” as well as “engrossing engagement.”

Such is the case with A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich. little_history_book_cover Originally written in 1935 while Gombrich was an out-of-work but well-educated 26-year-old, A Little History was intended for young readers.

Gombrich moved to London in 1936, was knighted in 1972, and became one of the most famous art historians of our age. (See the book he’s most famous for, The Story of Art, for example.) He revised A Little History in 2005 and finally wrote his own English translation.

It starts with a fairly simple-to-grasp but encompassing four-page intro to history called “Once Upon A Time.” The penultimate chapter is entitled “The Small Part of the History of the World Which I Have Lived Through Myself: Looking Back.”

In between, its 385 pages has 40-in-all chapters, each fewer than 10 pages (and some as short as just two pages in length). They literally cover everything from the Stone Age to the atomic bomb. Written in a voice certain to appeal to its original target audience, A Little History does so without “talking down” to readers of any age and is appealing regardless of an indivudal’s depth of knowledge of history.

In fact, A Little History is not little at all. The book jacket says it well: “This is a text not dominated by dates and facts, but by the sweep of mankind’s experience across the centuries, a guide to humanity’s achievements, and an acute witness to its frailties.”

Quite a promise to a history lover like me.

And thus far it’s certainly lived up to that promise! I’m only about 50 pages in and I feel like I’ve learned A LOT in just that little bit of reading.

While I agree with that encapsulization of its scope, the dates ARE in there (with comparisons from one region to the other to provide insightful context) and so are the facts, covering everything from word origins (why we call austere living “Spartan”) to the very human reason the seafaring Phoenicians created the alphabet we still use today — they wanted to stay in touch with loved ones back home.

Adding to my enjoyment are the entrancing line drawings which begin each chapter and adorn the cover. By the British anarchist Clifford Harper, the woodcuts lend a grace imminently suited to Gombrich’s “amiable conversational style.”

This little volume warrants its rave reviews; Peter picked this up for me on a recent trip to Philadelphia and I have a feeling it will be one of those lifetime keepers.

While not your typical beach read, and even if you’re not a passionate cobblestone-cathedral-castle-and-culture monger like we are — I highly recommend checking it out!

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So very NOT Driggs (8/6)

In The Bridge of San Luis Rey, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1928, author Thornton Wilder describes one of the characters, Uncle Pio this way:  “He possessed the six attributes of the adventurer — a memory for names and faces, with the aptitude of changing his own; the gift of tongues; inexhaustible invention; secrecy; the talent for falling into conversation with strangers; and that freedom from conscience that springs from a contempt for the dozing rich he preyed upon.”

Peter was reading this book while we were traveling in May, and read it aloud to me, which lead to an interesting discussion. Some things we agree about, especially aptitude for languages, and the willingness to talk to new people.  Inexhaustible invention does come in handy, when it’s late at night and you can’t find your hotel (and the road signs are all in Cyrillic.) But secrecy? What’s that all about? Discretion might be a better word; having seen examples of “Ugly Americans” (i.e., loud, overbearing, unsatisfied, or critical), we are pleased when people aren’t sure exactly, at first, where we’re from, until our passports are produced. And “freedom from conscience?” I hadn’t yet read The Bridge, so didn’t yet have a context about the character.

If I was writing this list, I’d change that last one to this: “that willingness to attract generosity (in spirit or substance) that comes from being open to broader experiences.”

We’ve been on the receiving end of many kinds of generosity. For example, on our most recent trip, we received invaluable directions at the border of Slovenia and Italy, champagne in Dubrovnik (see On Milestones), and in Mostar, a bottle of Bosnian wine from yet another hotelier that we had bonded with over several impromptu conversations.  But such opportunities come not only when others take care of us, but when we roll with what’s happening…. one of my favorite memories of that particular mix took place in St. Petersburg in early October 2011.

Riding from the airport through a blinding rainstorm, we had to trust that our cabbie knew where he was going, to our small hotel just off Nevsky Prospekt, not far from the Hermitage (a perfect location, we thought, when we booked it online). The taxi pulled into the end of a street where a gigantic construction project was going on off to one side. It was a busy spectacle despite the downpour: a line of trucks containing beams were being unloaded by hard-hat-wearing workers, as other blue-overalled men wielded welding torches, soldering joints into place with a hiss and sparks.

The driver indicated that this *was* the proper street for the hotel (REALLY???)  Just to be sure,  he jumped out in a flash — even without a common language we could tell he didn’t want us to be stranded there. He checked out the place, racing into a nondescript building opposite of the construction to make sure the hotel was really there. And yes, it was, he confirmed for us with much head-nodding. We headed in, walked across a dirt-floored entry way and up an extremely dark stairway; the third-story door was secured with a six-inch padlock (and I was pretty darn dubious.)  One more flight up, a 60-ish-something woman opened the door to a tidy space decorated with honey-colored wood planks.

The hotelier, nearly apoplecticly apologetic about the fact that all this was going on, hadn’t wanted to lose our business by telling us about it before hand; the hotel was clean, nearly perfectly situated for our purposes, and rang with Russian authenticity, so we asked to see the room. It was somewhat narrow, with a nice bathroom, serviceable, sturdy furniture, and double-paned windows (and heavy long curtains).

Within just a few minutes, we learned that this woman had grown up in that space, her family living with four other families in the area now occupied by just a few hotel rooms and a common kitchen; the property had been purchased and renovated by a British couple after the breakup of the Soviet Union. The manager stayed on to coordinate the lodging because it was a good job and she knew just about everything about that corner of St. Petersburg that one needed to know.

The fact that she spoke English — fairly rare there — provided an advantage to us that far outweighed the sounds of banging hammers next door.  We decided to stay there no matter what, and over the course of our visit, we watched the progress of the building project (it was to be a Metro station with retail shops).

It was, in a phrase, so very NOT Driggs! Then again, we were made to feel welcomed and provided with a lion’s share of helpfulness — part of feeling like you’re at home in a place that’s very new and very far from what’s familiar…

We only have a few pictures of St. Petersburg, our camera being stolen (in another rainstorm, near another Metro station) — but that’s another stoP_so_very_not_Driggsry.

This photo was taken in Mostar in May, and I named the file “so very not Driggs” when I saved it a few months ago (not actually thinking it would ever be tied into a blog post that was mostly about St. Petersburg!)

I like this shot. In it, Peter’s doing what he does best — checking a map to see where we are — and I’m doing what I enjoy most — soaking up the architecture and setting and light and color and experience.

I’m pretty sure that moments after I snapped it we headed off across those cobblestones to find what was waiting around the corner. (The construction projects there were much more small-scale — that’s another story, too.)

If that makes us adventurers, I’m glad of it!

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