March 2012


To contrast with a night of drinking Guinness and screaming “Slainte,” I’d recommend picking up some good Irish reads to round out the green month of March. My two recommendations were not on the designated Irish Reading Table at Denver’s, Tattered Cover, although there were some good reads there. Oscar Widle and James Joyce were the obvious choices, but I haven’t read Ulysses and writing a  blog about The Importance of Being Earnest and Dubliners might sound a bit too much like an essay for some Freshman Western Lit college course.

The shamrocked decorated table also included Tony Hawks’s Round Ireland with a Fridge, which I purchased because I’ve heard great things about the tale of the guy who carried a fridge around the Emerald Isle. However, I haven’t read it yet – look for the review NEXT St. Patrick’s Day.

My favorite Irish story to date is Leon Uris’s Trinity. Uris is an American writer, so maybe that’s why Tattered Cover didn’t have a place for him on the Irish Reading Table. Then again, there wasn’t a single copy of his book in the entire store, so that might have had something to do with it also.

I read my former husband’s copy of the book three or four years ago, after he’d been pushing it on me for years. I wasn’t initially excited about the read. The book was thick, the yellowed pages featured very small print, and the dusty cover was not very interesting looking. Plus I’d just started my YA lit phase (which has yet to end), and Trinity was going to be a serious departure from slim books about teenage angst.

But since I’m here writing about it, you know I loved the book. First of all, my grasp on 19th century Ireland is much stronger after reading Trinity. I even read Uris’s description of Ireland’s potato famine and tales of the Irish sneaking into British lands to steal food aloud to my 8th grade students, and they were captivated by the tale (although the girth and obvious age of the book had them initially suspicious as well). The conflicts between the British and Irish, Protestants and Catholics, those who immigrated to America and those who stayed (often to fight for Irish independence) were portrayed with all their complicated nuances. The fictional stories of Conor, Seamus, and their extended families is what made the history interesting (even to 13 year old “urban youths”) and the book one of my favorites. Be sure to read it by next St. Patrick’s Day.

From Leon Uris, I’m moving on to Marian Keyes. Writing about these two authors in the same 700 words is a bit like writing about how smart Einstein and Dave Barry are. Yet, here we go.

I went through my chick-lit phase in my early twenties, passing around pink-jacketed books with my girlfriends along with our Steve Madden heels. Authors from across the pond were our favorites, (exception: Jen Lancaster) most likely due to Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary. We still exuberantly text each other when the Renee Zellweger flick comes on TV despite the fact that we all have copies of the movie.

Anyways, my chick-flick phase has (somewhat) come to an end, but I still read anything Marion Keyes writes. Her best batch of books chronicles the tales of five Irish sisters. Keyes is working on writing a book about each sister. The oldest sister’s husband takes off the day her baby girl is born, another sister loses her mind and takes off to L.A. for awhile, another get a tad too friendly with heroin, etc. The books are HILARIOUS. Reading them in order is not at all necessary. My favorite of this series isAnybody Out There?

I’m not even mentioning the plot as to not give anything away, but unexpected heartbreak comes with the expected hilarity in this one. I’ve read it over and over – usually in one sitting. Don’t start this book at night if you have to get up in the morning.

Uris and Keyes are the ultimate Irish-tale due for girly wanna-be history buffs. If you are of the male persuasion, you might want to skip Keyes and pick up Round Ireland with a Fridge instead. Let me know if it’s worth the read.

Leitheoireacht Shona…Happy Reading!

So once upon a time a Norwegian expat died, his body was frozen in a cryonics facility, and then send to reside in his grandson’s backyard in Nederland, Colorado. When Trygve Bauge (that would be the grandson) was forced back to Norway, his mother informed that community that there was dead body on ice in the yard. This provoked a few responses:

  • A law was passed prohibiting the storage of dead bodies within the town of Nederland. However, Trygve’s grandfather was grandfathered in, since he was already dead and stored before the law was written.
  • Dozens of TV trucks and tourists flocked to Nederland to check out grandpa. Employees of the local newspaper was getting sick of giving direction, so they put up a sign (complete with map) in the window entitled “Directions to the Frozen Dead Guy’s house.”
  • In 2001 Teresa Warren, Nederland’s Chamber of Commerce president a the time, suggested that the town capitalize on the frozen situation and the first “Frozen Dead Guy Days” took place in 2002.
  • After heading about FDGD’s a few years ago, and moving to Denver a few months ago, I have been anxiously awaiting to attend the festivities.

When you show up for an international event in a tiny mountain town, it’s a bad sign when you easily find a parking spot. Yes, I was there on the right day. Unfortunately. The reason for the amble parking was the weather. I parked the car and took a look around me. People were miserable shuffling around, hands deep in their parkas and heads bent to the ground to avoid getting a face-full of wind. Those standing still were making a conscious effort to remain upright. I surveyed this scene from the comfort of my car as I buttoned up my coat and held a fruitless search of the front seat for my gloves.

My glove-less hands I and I got out of the car. My mouth immediately filled with the sand and snow that was furiously blowing around. The hood of my coat was incapable of staying on my head. I watched a porta-pottie tip lose a battle with the wind and tip over. I hope nobody was occupying it.

Fighting the urge to get back in my car and head back home, I made my way to the nearest indoor space and entered. Much to my happiness it was a thrift store wherein a purchased a woolen hat with ear flaps and gloves. The thrift store, full of clothes, shoes, and baby gear is right above “Off Her Rocker Mercantile.” This furniture/art/novelty shop was really cute. I especially liked all paintings of local scenes and funky furniture. This was also one of many places to buy Frozen Dead Guy Days ornaments and chocolate bars.

I ventured outside and kept heading down First street, poking my head inside packed deli shops, coffee houses, and stores as I made my way towards where some activities were scheduled to be. Frozen Dead Guy days activities for the weekend included a hears parade, frozen turkey bowling (once thawed and no longer useful, the turkey meat was scheduled to go to Ed’s dog), a frozen salmon toss (Ed’s dog apparently has some competition, because retired salmon goes to Hillary’s cat), a frozen T-shirt contest, a brain freeze contest, coffin races, and a scheduled plunge into the icy Chipeta Park pond.

By the time I got the Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery, the activity tent across the street was being hastily disassembled, and freezing-looking guys were packing gear into a van. Activities were cancelled for the day due to wind.

 

I suppose I should have been annoyed that I’d driven all the way to Nederland for nothing, but I the news of the cancellation was a huge relief. Now I could go home.

On the way out of town, I stopped at Backcountry Pizza (avoiding the $20 event fee that was being charged for parking in the Caribou Shopping Center parking lot by simply parking for free up by the Black Forest Restaurant and taking the quick walk down and around the shopping complex) in hopes of warming up a bit. Naturally, everyone else in town had the same idea and the place was a crowded disaster. Camera-men were huddled with their gear and beer on stools by the bathrooms, discussing other occasions wherein they had nearly froze to death (“…yeah, man, once I was out with this guy from National Geographic and we were camped up above the tree line when a snow storm came in and ripped our tent off the ground…”) Families sat tucked under the soda fountain machines. I surveyed the scene and (feeling like a complete wimp) got the hell out of Nederland.