Review: Daniel Silva’s The New Girl

eagerly awaiting my turn

I was actually going to put this on Goodreads, but then I realized how many Daniel Silva books I’ve reviewed here over the various iterations this blog has gone through in 17 (!!) years and realized it has become a bit of a tradition.

Also a tradition, attending his signings here in New York. Silva and his publishers have an annual “break the embargo” event at the Barnes & Noble Union Square on the eve of the official publication date which is why I often read his in hard copy. I missed the one two years ago when I was in Montreal, but I’ve been at most of the others in the last ten years. Also poignant with his release date: I was in Israel ten years ago this week and Silva’s writing, albeit fiction, was a huge part of why Israel was on my bucket list.

Spoilers below.

My annual visit to the world of Gabriel Allon with #TheNewGirl. Thank you, @DanielSilvaBook for your time & workds Click To Tweet

Continue reading “Review: Daniel Silva’s The New Girl”

Review and a Race Recap: Matt Fitzgerald, Life is a Marathon

For this week’s Tuesday Topics, I’m linking up with Kim and Zenaida to share a race recap and book review.

Tuesday Topics

I was given a copy of this book to read via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

While Matt Fitzgerald is a name I’ve seen in perusing running titles, this is the first one of his books I’ve read. The title piqued my curiosity when I saw it on NetGalley and decided to give it a whirl. That it took me a week+ to read isn’t indicative of its quality, I just had minimal reading time with friends in town.

Reading @mattfitwriter's latest and running @nyrr's #RunToBreathe Click To Tweet

This book begins with Fitzgerald quitting on a high school race out of stage fright and ends some 20+ years later with his eighth marathon in eight weeks. The latter encompassed a road trip that took him from California to Oregon via Scranton, Boston, Toledo and beyond. What a journey. This book isn’t just a chronological look at his running career or a travelog, but rather the eight marathons are interspersed with his autobiography.

Fitzgerald’s roadtrip companions are his dog Queenie and his wife Nataki. Both figure prominently in his life history, in fact one night he almost squashed Queenie when attempting a return to his apartment after fleeing it when fleeing from one of Nataki’s psychotic breaks. To say the three of them have had an eventful life is an understatement, but this book isn’t a tale of woe so much as the tale of the author’s growth as a man, runner and husband. My one quibble with the book is that the chronology wasn’t always clear, making it challenging to determine whether a particular race had a goal time, or just a goal of finishing.

As he traveled the country to run his eight marathons he met up with local runners – either for a shakeout run or at the races themselves. In some cases these were planned and in others they came about as he was approached while walking into a port-a-potty. One of those he met up with is Lisa from Tech Chick Adventures who I’ve come to “know” through the Weekly Run Down and its predecessor, the Weekly Wrap. I look forward to her review of the book.

All in all, a wonderfully written account of a difficult journey.  I would definitely recommend it to most runners. If you have personal experience with bipolar disorder, you might find some sections to be somewhat triggering. I think Fitzgerald portrays his & Nataki’s journey to live with her diagnosis very well.

***

Boomer Esiason

Movement is a privilege. That’s something my colleague often says when we go for a run, and it’s so true. It’s also something I fought to keep in mind during Sunday’s #RunToBreathe -one of NYRR’s regular four milers which doubles as a fundraiser for Team Boomer, Boomer Esiason’s foundation that raises money in honor of his son with Cystic Fibrosis.

9AM start was nice, and I jogged to the start. It was so liberating not to need all the layers! I wore capris but would have been fine in shorts most likely. Who AM I?!? It was a staggered start and Corral K crossed the start about 11:30 minutes after the front runners. They said this race had about 5,000 runners. It felt like everyone wanted to come out and play in support of a good cause.

I didn’t have a race plan. I didn’t really have a goal. I just ran by feel and walked the water stations as they’re too crowded not to. I tossed my long sleeved shirt at the top of Cat Hill. My Achilles was perfect. My hip was chirpy, but not to the point where it impacted me during or after, although I opted to walk rather than run home. Mile one into two, I wanted to peel off and walk home for no good reason other than I wasn’t feeling it. Then I got into a rhythm and three, four seemed to go quickly. As much as I enjoyed 5-7 mile runs, the first two are always mental torture.

As was the case with the Bronx, some distance helped with my look at this race.  The issues:

  • Running three days in a row: tired legs
  • Cat Hill. I’ve run the West Side rollers a few times lately but other than the office run group I’ve been avoiding Cat Hill. Had to deal with the kitty in the first mile. She made me pay for my abandonment

The results weren’t terrible, but they weren’t good. When compared to other 4 milers, it’s better than 2019 Gridiron when I was more broken and 2018 Achilles when I was sick. Oh and much better than my inaugural #RunToBreathe. I realized early on that my legs were tired and decided to focus on the fact that I was healthy & able to run this race while  that isn’t the case for others.

On to the next. And yes, movement is indeed a privilege.

  • What do you do if you just don’t have it during a local weekly race?
  • Any favorite local races that aren’t destinations, just fun for your community

Travel Tuesday: Mark Mason’s Walk the Lines

aka walking around London.

England book acquisitions

The rule for buying any books in England was as follows: not available for Kindle and/or some specific or unique tie. I think I did pretty well bringing back only 4* (one on the way from Amazon because I was still regretting not buying it at Stonehenge despite the font). The top two were charity shop purchases in Stratford-upon-Avon: love Marian Keyes and she’s not easy to find here, and Liz thrust the second at me as it was set partially on a bus we’d taken. The bottom two were London finds.

Other London Write-Ups:

  • Travel Tuesday: Pre-Roman Britain
  • London’s Churches: St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey
  • London’s Castles and Palaces: Buckingham, Kensington and the Tower of London
  • Walking London
#TravelTuesday Review: @WalkTheLinesLDN walks the entirety of the London Underground, 269 stations Click To Tweet

Only in America is the BBC Correspondent on life in America in the early 2000s, which I found at the South Bank book stalls. I found Mark Mason’s Walk the Lines: The London Underground, Overground while waiting for my train at London Euston to meet Liz. After finding WiFi to ascertain it wasn’t available for the Kindle and was well priced, I bought it. What caught my attention? Walking. Of course. Fittingly, it’s the 80th book I finished in 2018 and I often lament that reading is a casualty of my love of walking. If I took the train more, I’d definitely read more.

I loved this book from its premise but rather than reading it on the train to & from Birmingham, I was staring out the window at the sheep. Yes, sheep. I got the bulk of it read on my flight home last weekend but didn’t want to carry it in my purse, so it took me until Sunday at the beach to finish it. Had Friday turned into beach weather it would have happened then.

Although it felt like I walked all over London, I didn’t hit even a fraction of his 269 Tube stations. As I read about places I was/had been, especially Pimlico early in his walk, I loved those moments of I know that place! That happens often for me in New York, but I think London is the first place it happened for me because of all the walking. I only took the Tube six times in London: to and from Heathrow, to Kings Cross (to do Platform 9 3/4 on the way to Euston), from Marylebone to hotel to drop off my bag and make a mad dash to St. Paul’s for sunset, to the hotel after a late-ish dinner/long day in South Kensington after Stonehenge and home from dinner on the South Bank in the rain. Taking the Tube would have been more time efficient (especially when going from South Bank Festival to the British Museum and/or Buckingham to Kensington Palace) but I really think walking nearly everywhere helped me better get the lay of London and incorporate sightseeing with “commuting”. I did some of this in Amsterdam too, although the weather wasn’t anywhere near as conducive to it.

The days I was fully in the city I averaged about 12 miles. Even the ones with transit were in the 8-10 mile range with the exception of Stonehenge which was full day driving. London is just perfect for a wander or focused walk. What helps is that the stations are so close together – it often didn’t pay to spend ~$3 to get between places A and B when it was just as easy or easier to walk. In doing so I managed to see things I wouldn’t have otherwise including: the book shops on Charing Cross Road, the theaters of Drury Lane, the Cleopatra’s Needle along the Thames, Churchill War Rooms and Downing Street and more. None of those were on my itinerary, but I was so pleased to stumble on them. While most of my walks were in daylight because I was otherwise too tired, the dusk walk from St. Paul’s back to my Tower Hill hotel was great in seeing how the city switched off.

Would I recommend my walk sightseeing of London to another visitor? It depends. There’s a lot of “lost” time so if you only have a short time, I might say hop the Tube. But if it’s someone like me who enjoys the journey and the unexpected finds along the way? Absolutely. I’d love to do a walk like Mason’s in New York, although I can’t imagine it would be anywhere near as feasible, especially in the boroughs. Manhattan though might be a bucket list when/if I ever finish the bridges.

Some moments that lined up well with my London sightseeing:

  • the “government buildings” on the south side of Vauxhall Bridge. I had a feeling when I ran that way on Tuesday that it was either MI6 or some other not so secret entity based on the number of armed men and CCTV. Haven’t seen much James Bond, but I do read Daniel Silva and Gabriel Allon frequents Vauxhall.
  • “one almighty temple to Travel known as VIctoria” yep. Aside from my last day when I got super turned around near Borough Market, the only time I came even close to that was walking back to the hotel from the V&A via Harrods. All the roads seemed to go kablooey around Victoria, which is a behemoth.
  • I loved his walk down Piccadilly from Green Park toward Hyde Park Corner and beyond. This was my first real exploration of London on Sunday morning (more, TK, when I post the London Palaces writeup) when I walked from Horseguards to Kensington Palace along Piccadilly because I wanted to find the Hard Rock Cafe. I don’t eat or shop there, but this tradition with a friend goes back to when we lived in Osaka and would use it for American food. Also, I started “collecting” Hard Rocks as a kid after my first in Toronto in 1993, and sometimes you have to. Besides, why not take the longer and more scenic route between two places when possible. You see so much. I saw the Ritz, which he mentioned but did not know about Burlington’s prohibition against whistling. It was also fascinating to learn why the line went so far south of Harrod’s — plague pits! Part of what made this book even more interesting is the people he interviewed: the city planner, the voice of Mind the Gap on the Piccadilly line. It added so much more to an already interesting book.
  • “The tourists at Tower Hill stand on the same ground where huge crowds used to gather for executions…” creepy! OK, maybe I’m glad I didn’t read this part as I stood there.
  • The Waterloo and City Line was super confusing. How is that even a line?  That said, I was glad to have it when I needed to get home from Waterloo in the rain. Although the connection from Bank to Monument is long, it was great to do it below ground so as not to get more wet.

Other moments I enjoyed:

  • I loved his idea of a personal Tube  line for the places and moments that are significant. For me in NY, it’s the Upper East Side and on  a running note, Central Park.

“Preferring Dickens to Disney is all very well, until you come face to face with Bill Sykes. Besides, to wish that London was immune from boom-and-bust economics is to wish away the city’s entire history. A few miles south of here they’ve turned boom and bust into an art form”

Part of what I loved the most about London – especially in The City where this description is from – is the layers upon layers of history. Discoveries like The Great Conduit when building One Poultry, and items extant from before The Great Fire are all over and it’s really only possible to find them when wandering. Or even walking with purpose like Mason did.

  • It’s sad, but also perfect, to realize that there was one part he couldn’t walk, the tunnel at Heathrow which has been closed to pedestrians. If there’s any place more non-pedestrian friendly than airports, I’m not sure what it is. Like earlier when he wrote of Wembley and other city icons not actually being in the city due to space constraints, airports are meant to be traveled to, before serving as the start or end of another trip. It’s eerie, and kind of interesting
  • One of the places on my ginormous google map that I didn’t get to was Olympic Park – it was just too far out. While I rarely watch the Olympics, I love visiting their “remains”. Mason’s walk was in the lead up to the Olympics where many sights were still being constructed and I enjoyed how he imagined their use. I did visit a couple spots where Olympic events took place, including Greenwich and part of the route of the marathon, which made me think of Becky Wade’s book as she was there for the games.
  • Loved his realization that the issue with the view from Tower 42 and Barnet church was that it was still man’s eye view. I never thought of maps that way and while I’m not a maps person, I liked how he used them throughout. Not just the literal journey planning, but to explain the city. To truly know the lines.
  • I agree with him that it is people, and stories that bring the cities, buildings and lines to life. London has a history, but we tell its story

The book? It’s traveling again now, back to Liz who mentioned she had it on her wishlist.

Travel Tuesday: Pre-Roman Britain

Unlike previous trip recaps, my 2018 England trip is not going to be chronological but rather thematic. My trip was rather hap hazard and doing a day by day travelog just won’t work.  I’d like to think they’ll take up the next Tuesdays and Thursday as Travel Tuesday or Throwback Thursday, but I know my own blogging habits to know that probably isn’t realistic. Also, this stupid Flickr plugin is still misbehaving.

Other Write-Ups To Come:

  • London’s Churches: St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey
  • London’s Castles and Palaces: Buckingham, Kensington and the Tower of London
  • Walking London
fun with filters

“Two legends are wound about Avalon, the legend of the Cup and the legend of the Sword – the cup from which Our Lord drank at the Last Supper, and in which the drops of His Blood were caught; and Arthur’s sword, Excalibur, engraved with ancient pagan runes. Two traditions meet in Avalon – the ancient faith of the Britons, and the creed of Christ.” ~ Dion Fortune

I knew when this trip came together that I really wanted to do Stonehenge. Like Rushmore last year, I accepted that it would probably be a let down, but it fascinated me. After some research I booked a tour with International Friends that took in both Stonehenge and Glastonbury. The original plan included Winchester but they had to adjust that due to access issues, and Avebury ended up being way more interesting than Winchester would have been.

Why did I go for one that included Glastonbury vs. say, Bath, Windsor, Oxford or the Cotswolds? In short: I have a soft spot for the legends and tales around King Arthur and while I know that Glastonbury’s ties are considered iffy with recent research-not to mention that it’s hard to visit the site of a legend-I still wanted to see it since it was reasonably accessible.

The night before this trip left, I realized I probably should do some reading on Stonehenge and a perusal of NYPL’s Kindle offerings introduced me to Francis Pryor’s Stonehenge: the Story of a Sacred Landscape. I was subsequently pleased to see that and one of his other titles for sale in the English Heritage gift shop at Stonehenge, therefore lending some legitimacy to a book I was enjoying. I didn’t finish it on time, but learned a lot: my review. Speaking of books at Stonehenge’s gift shop, I didn’t buy this Oxford Guide to Arthurian Legends because the font was way too small, and now I find it’s not available for Kindle. Or Nook. First world bookworm problems!

Monday morning started early and I met the bus at Marble Arch. We made two other stops to pick up others on the tour and I was thrilled we were not only a small vehicle, but that we were only seven people. It made everything a lot more efficient time wise, and more accessible. It also felt like a private tour in some ways because the guide got to know each of us, and what we were interested in learning more about. He’s lived & guided in a number of locations worldwide so it helped him contextualize some of the sights we were visiting.

The first stop just minutes away from Stonehenge was Woodhenge, with which I was completely unfamiliar. It was helpful though in teaching us about the Stonehenge Avenue, Cursus and other key features of the landscape that explain how Stonehenge isn’t “just” a circle of rocks. I think that’s what leaves people walking away unimpressed. Key to understanding Stonehenge is understanding why it was constructed and what role it was meant to play for those who lived and made pilgrimages to it. As a circle of stones, it may not mean enough for people considering the travel time from London, but as a place of cultural significance? Absolutely.  Beware of some serious woo out there when researching Stonehenge.

first sighting
Heel stone with winter solstice arrow

As a tourism professional, I love how they’ve set up the Stonehenge experience. They closed one of the major roads and run access to the Stones via shuttle buses (or a walking path) from the Visitor Center. I think it makes the first viewing even more awe-inspiring. It’s also much more pleasant to walk around the circle without high traffic, although there’s still a road that goes fairly close. I’m glad we were there early in the morning as there was no wait for the shuttles, which wasn’t the case when it was time to leave. Although I think the Stones might have been more striking against a blue sky, the overcast seemed to lend an aura of mystique to them and allowed the different textures, heights and scale to show more. While it’s true that Stonehenge imagery is saturated, it was still great to see them live. Other companies run tours where you can go in early or stay late, and I’m not sure that’s of interest to me – it would be a very long drive only to do Stonehenge. That said, sunrise or sunset at the right time of year could be pure magic.

National Trust sign near lot adjacent to the Tor
Glastonbury Tor, remains of St. Michael’s Church

From Stonehenge it was a long-ish drive to Glastonbury, reported to be a very hippie town. I actually didn’t find it overwhelmingly so. Our first stop was Glastonbury Tor, just outside town. It’s run by the National Trust who share some of the legends about the Tor. On some level, the ties between Arthur make historical sense, especially the Tor and the adjacent Somerset Levels’ flooding throughout history. Do I believe King Arthur was literally a man who walked the soil of early Britain? No. Do I understand where the legend/fairy tale could come from and survive? Yes. The setting is perfect for these stories. And who doesn’t love a good fairy tale?

Chalice Well Gardens

Arthur isn’t the only story with ties to the region. Chalice Well is claimed to be the place where Joseph of Arimathea brought the chalice from the Last Supper. I’m not a Christian, so it isn’t my place to judge a religion that isn’t mine’s history – but I’m more than a little confused how this man would have ended up in the English countryside. Northern Spain along the Camino de Santiago, or somewhere in the Mediterranean? Sure. I’m a little iffy on England.  And yes, I drank the kool aid err… iron water. A week later, I’m still breathing. It tasted better than Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth which was more sulphury. Still, it was an interesting piece of history to learn about and pilgrims continue to come to Glastonbury for both of these as well as for the stunning remains of the Abbey in town.

Great Hall, Glastonbury Abbey
Glastonbury Abbey ruins

Like the rest of Glastonbury, the ruins of the Abbey are tied up in a mix of history and legend. Do I believe Edward I oversaw the reburial of Arthur and Lady Guinevere? No. But tourism was understood to bring money throughout history so I can see why that story was promoted. As someone familiar with and interested in the legends around Arthur, I’m confused how they were ever buried since it’s alleged that the Lady of the Lake took him… But I digress. What stunned me about the Abbey was its construction. It’s not like the contemporary churches where we understood how they were built. This, the Great Pyramids, Stonehenge… just how did they construct these? How did they reach such great heights? It must have been stunning prior to the fire. And the recent research around the glass found at the Abbey site is phenomenal. Whatever the myths and legends around Glastonbury, it was active and thriving until the Dissolution. Impossible not to think of what could have been.

While I’m not Christian (or Pagan), I’m fascinated by myths, legends and religious histories so I was happy to find Glastonbury: Avalon of the Heart available in Kindle edition through NYPL. Unfortunately it was a little too heavy on the woo for me, presenting some of these stories as literal fact. I’m not sure if that was the author’s bent or just a factor of it having been published in 1934, but it didn’t complement my experience the way Pryor’s Stonehenge book did. To be fair, a number of the reviews clearly said this wasn’t the book for skeptics. We didn’t have time to climb the Tor, but this is an interesting look at it and I found it more accessible as it was steeped somewhat in facts and history to go with the myths.

Although I’m a non believer, I found Glastonbury fascinating. In many ways, it’s how I felt about Israel when I went. Was there a King Herod?  Maybe. Masada is a stunning fortress regardless. The other tie between the two that fascinated me was linguistically: Tor was a hill and when we were in northern Israel we learned that “Armageddon” comes from Har/Tel Meggido an archaeological mound. I’m not at all familiar with Celtic or Hebrew, but that caught my attention immediately.

Avebury: for scale
Avebury perimeter

The tour originally called for Winchester, but when the guide explained the access challenges and the fact that the round table has been proven to be an reconstruction, we were all sold on Avebury as a replacement. It is no loss, it’s the largest Stone Circle in Britain and surreally empty, save for sheep. I’d heard of Silbury Hill, which we saw on the drive in, but the only stone circle I was familiar with prior was Stonehenge. It was amazing to see the scale of Avebury’s, and to be able to walk among them. While the perimeter was a clearly delineated line, the other stones appear haphazard but it may have originally been a square formation. While current research leads to the belief that Stonehenge was associated with death rituals, it is believed that Avebury was associated with fertility. Both of those make sense within Pryor’s point that religion played a larger role in the prehistoric people’s lives, and the artifacts that seem to show that no one lived permanently at either location but traveled to them.

If this were my tour to design, I’d flip Avebury and Stonehenge. I understand why that isn’t done — the crowds at Stonehenge would be insane on a nice summer afternoon — I think there’s a lot to absorb at Avebury that would be easier to take in on a fresher brain. Maybe that’s just me. We didn’t visit the museum or any of the other National Trust facilities, and I’m not sure I’d go back in order to do so-but I’d love to learn more about the site since it’s so complex.

Overall, a great intro to/refresher on pre-Roman Britain. Pre historic as a term drives me nuts. You can’t be pre history!

Review: Daniel Silva’s The Other Woman

rockstar!

How did I spend Prime Day?

Feeling like a rock star because somehow book signings have become a place that require wristbands. Epitome of nerd cool. Because I knew I had a long train ride to and from  our staff outing on Wednesday, I made the decision not to get Allon for my Kindle and as a consequence I had to wait until I headed down to the Union Square Barnes & Noble to get my grubby hands on a copy 😮 I’m glad I headed down there early as it was more crowded than I expected.

in my grubby hands!

I usually go to both Silva & Linda Fairstein’s book signings at Barnes & Noble (and shamefully, probably the only visits to Barnes & Noble), but I’m pretty sure this is my first “Exclusive Edition” and I can’t honestly say I noticed anything different to prior titles. I quickly started to read and wasn’t too sad when Daniel Silva’s social media person mentioned he was on his way but running late.

After an introduction to the book and its relationship to the current state of affairs, Silva took questions from the audience. This is almost always the first stop on his book tour for each new release and it was a sea of friendly and mostly familiar faces who asked him questions about the series, the book, the eventual movie and more. They then quickly re-set the stage for him to sign the books. I was behind someone in line who brought a few from the backlist. Although I’m not much of a hard cover (or even hard copy) person, there’s something magic about the smell of books.

the great Gabriel Allon..err.. Daniel Silva

It was soon my turn and I’m still amused that he told me to “say cheese”. The great Gabriel Allon should not say “cheese”.  I thanked him for his time and the creation of Allon and headed home to read.

Here there be spoilers. Dragons maybe, but mostly spoilers.

Continue reading “Review: Daniel Silva’s The Other Woman”

Review: Finders Keepers

was: #AAM2018, You’re on Sacred Land AKA the conference blog that was never finished ***.

I think Craig Childs first crossed my radar during my New Mexico trip in 2015. I’ve certainly had House of Rain on my Kindle for some time and as I was sifting through a box of books I got from BookCloseouts in advance of a Memorial Day trip I happened upon Finders Keepers. Since AAM rekindled an interest in the people of the Colorado Plateau, I decided to take it with me. Alas it was a super busy weekend trip and I didn’t get the chance to start it until sitting at LAX for my return flight home. Once I started, I could barely put it down.

What’s the difference between a pothunter and an archaeologist, or a museum curator? That seems to be a primary tenet of Childs’ book, which operates under the question of To whom does the past belong? The book is now somewhat dated (2010) but still extremely relevant and resonant as more and more countries begin to ask for the return of their cultural heritage.

Although it draws significantly from the Native American populations in the southwest due to Childs’ extensive travels in the area, the book also identifies other sources of issues: from well-documented situations such as Marion True and the Getty to the Elgin Marbles and the looting of the museums & other cultural heritage sites in Iraq to lesser known areas such as Guatemala’s Peten. One thing that he didn’t touch on, that I found myself wishing he would was other cultural heritage destruction such as the Bamiyan Buddhas. While that was less archaeology and more acts of war, it isn’t completely dissimilar to the question of what happened in Tibet after Chinese invasion, which he did touch on.

The book is a mix of Childs’ own travels as a younger man where he lived at the intersection of archaeologist and pothunter, historical looks at cases that covered the world, and meetings with members of Native American tribes, museum staff and private collectors.

The Four Corners region was of particular interest to me, as it was really my first interaction with the Native American tribes of the southwest. From the Navajo at Four Corners to the Anasazi I “met” at Mesa Verde.  I didn’t recognize the name San Juan County, but that’s the location of Salmon Ruins, my first introduction to the pueblo people. As horrific as a character he was, I really enjoyed the way Childs recounted the story of Earl Shumway as a lens into pothunters and private collectors. Do they really have a lesser claim because they weren’t working officially on behalf of a museum?

The book doesn’t answer that question, but it leads the reader down the paths to consider the question through the various lenses. As George Johnson noted, and Andrew Vasicek further explored, Childs wasn’t perfect in his own actions and that I believe allowed him to see the good and bad in all the actors involved in dealing with artifacts. Among the high profile and complicated figures he explored was Thomas Hoving, former director of the Met. Hoving admitted his actions weren’t always clean:

“My collecting style was pure piracy, and I got a reputation as a shark,” he wrote, adding that his little black book of “dealers and private collectors, smugglers and fixers” was bigger than anyone else’s. ~ Randy Kennedy

Yet he also shaped the way the Met and many other museums look today. Does the good outweigh the bad, or vice versa? Does anyone know the answer, or will it forever be open for debate?

“Navajo traditions are rife with death taboos and rumors of sorcery-makes sense in the Southwest, where bones are constantly weathering from the ground. The Navajo have learned you don’t touch dead people’s things. They aren’t yours. They just bring trouble. This is the Indiana Jones side of archaeology, the curses and chilling adventure. But in the real world, archaeologists do not believe in curses. They do their jobs.”

Sounds like we could learn a lot from the Navajo.

***

What made me start thinking about the anasazi and other pueblo people?

The Museum of Northern Arizona‘s new installation Native Peoples of the Colorado Plateau, which we stopped at en route to the Grand Canyon on the first day of AAM.

This newly-renovated, long-awaited permanent exhibition displays the story of ten tribes of the Colorado Plateau: Zuni, Acoma, Southern Ute, Southern Paiute, Hopi, Havasupai, Hualapai, Yavapai and Dilzhe’e Apache, and Diné (Navajo). Through over 350 objects selected by 42 tribal consultants, this exhibition reflects tribal histories, values, and cultures.

The museum’s bookstore was wonderful “trouble”.

I loved that they incorporated so much tribal input, which really set the tone for the conference which highlighted in many ways how we were on sacred, native lands. It’s a difference in perception from the East Coast where we (or at least I?) think of native lands as the contemporary reservations. I really need to adjust that. The Hohoham were honored and mentioned throughout the program, including a moment of silence before one keynote address. I need to read more on them

That was amazing in a conference whose official theme was Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion where the tone was set early with the code of conduct and reinforced on arrival with pronouns available for badge holders. I will-eventually-write up the conference. It was amazing to meet MuseumQueer and many other new friends.

Ball court, Pueblo Grande

The ending of the conference was just as amazing as the beginning as I lucked out and got a ticket for the excursion to the Pueblo Grande Ruin and Mesa Grande Cultural Park. I knew this was a somewhat crazy decision as it was 100+, but I felt like this was a trip I needed to do: much like Mesa Verde, it’s amazing to see the Native American history in situ vs. in a museum.

We stopped first at Pueblo Grande where our tour included a walk around the ruins, ball courts, kiva and other pre-Columbian architecture (and amazing desert plants!) I found their canals to be amazing and was wowed that they still contained water whereas the Salt River is mostly dry. Planning for the Phoenix Metro uncovered some of the Hohokam architecture and while Childs didn’t specifically speak of the Hohokam in this book, he talked about the vital role of salvage archaeology as cities evolve and grow. I’m amazed Pueblo Grande is extant in the shadow of Sky Harbor Airport.

finding shade, Mesa Grande

Compared to Pueblo Grande, which is also home to a small museum, Mesa Grande is much less developed. It’s operated as a site of the Arizona Museum of Natural History and due to the lack of indoor space, it’s only open from October to May. It opened in 2013 after a century-long quest to preserve and interpret the mound which was believed to be a religious center for the Hohokam people. We walked around and over the mound (which felt slightly wrong, to be honest) and while we had an amazing guide, I didn’t take in as much as I did at Pueblo Grande as it was just too hot. I understand why it isn’t open in the Arizona summer.

I look forward to returning to the world of the Hohokam and people of the Colorado Plateau either in person or in another book. Besides Childs’ other books, this is definitely sending me down a rabbit hole of more to read on this topic. Just ordered Hoving’s Making the Mummies Dance, which has been on my wishlist for some time. And I need to read David RobertsLost World of the Old Ones and In Search of the Old Ones.

 

 

Review: Michael McEwan’s Running the Smoke

There are a lot of books I’m supposed to be reading: library books and NetGalley queue, to name two sources. I also needed to buy a new book like I needed a hole in the head, but then the London Marathon came around, a conversation bubbled up on The Runners’ Bookshelf and I fell into this book. Liz had the privilege of reading it while en route to London to spectate

Michael McEwan’s Running the Smoke

What an amazing read.

I think what I loved about this book falls into two tracks: that it was a collection of runners’ stories rather than one runner’s story of his/her London training & race and that those featured ran the gamut from world class runners and athletes in other sports to every day people who found meaningful reasons to run the London Marathon. While the elites are always amazing, I can definitely relate more to the everyday runners.

I can’t even begin to pick a favorite as these were all amazing, but the ones that resonated with me the most were:

  • Dick Beardsley & Inge Simonsen’s finish line sportsmanship after running a very close race. Neither man should have lost, and neither did. I think it particularly resonated with me due to Desi Linden & Shalane Flanagan’s sportsmanship in Boston last week.
  • Claude Umuhire’s stories of survival were amazing. The Rwandan genocide is one of those news events that I remember watching unfold on the news and like Sarajevo, it comes back to me when reading. His subsequent struggles with homelessness were just heartbreaking, yet he and the other 25 runners featured here really fought to overcome their challenges.
  • Similarly, I’m in awe of how Jo-ann Ellis and Kannan Ganga ran in memory of their son and partner, respectively, after each passed away due to cancer.  It’s one thing to run with artificial limbs as Jamie Andrew did after his mountaineering accident, but another to run with such a large and fresh hole in the heart. But what a way to honor those gone
  • I loved the sillies, from Lloyd Scott’s deep-sea diving suit to John Farnworth’s football free styling. Not everyone needs a Reason to run, and this was a nice counter to some of the heartbreaking stories that McEwan told so well.
  • 7/7 survivor Jill Tyrrell was perhaps the perfect culmination. Like 9/11 (and later Boston in 2013), 7/7 defined London not in it being a victim of an attack, but for its resiliency. For Tyrrell personally, but all of these runners overcame something, or many somethings to survive and thrive. Almost fitting that Tyrrell and other 7/7 victims were among the first adults treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital since the Blitz, another time London had been under siege.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • Although I know that “fancy dress” means costume, my mental picture of these runners was still in a fancy dress, even men running in deep-sea diving suits. Now that would be a sight.
  • I love that these were all edited together in one “voice” and style. One of my pet peeves about International/US editions of books is when they don’t stick in one format. Either do pounds/kilos/stone and color/colour. Don’t mix and match, it’s too confusing and jarring. I have more patience for distances varying as those do even in one country.
  • For whatever reason, I always interpreted “fell pregnant” to mean an accidental pregnancy. It took me a few stories to read it’s the same as US English’s “got pregnant” yet seems so much more elegant.

A really wonderful book, and one I’d wholeheartedly recommend whether or not you have any interest in running in general, or the London Marathon specifically. It’s not exactly a guide to London in the same way Liz Robbins’ A Race Like No Other is to NYC, but it certainly feeds the travel itch.

I’m going to regret asking this due to the size of Mt. TBR, but what other running reads have you enjoyed? If you’re looking for further recommendations, Wendy at Taking the Long Way Home’s Book Club and The Runners’ Bookshelf never let me down.

Review: First Ladies of Running

I read a mix of fiction and non on a recent beach getaway: fittingly all the non fiction was about running and I started Amby Burfoot’s First Ladies of Running on the plane on the way home. I wished I’d started it sooner as it was such an engaging read, but I had no time the rest of this week. Not sure where exactly I first heard of this book, but when Wendy mentioned she’d blogged about it, I realized that was probably the source since at some point her posts became my Mt. TBR.

While many of these stories are commonly told throughout the pages of Runner’s World and in other tomes of running, some of the stories and the athletes were new to me. I really liked how he used the pioneer women’s stories to narrate the timeline of women’s running. It’s amazing how quickly it changed once it all changed after the work of Julia Chase, Bobbi Gibb, Jackie Hansen, Kathrine Switzer, and beyond. In some ways, reading this now was even more fitting with Shalane having won NYC and Cheryl Bridges included in this book.

I think what made this book even better was that it wasn’t just an author interviewing these women later. As a runner or in his role at the magazine, Burfoot knew many of them and their achievements personally. As someone who came a generation later, the only one of these I remember was Oprah’s Marine Corps run to this was a great 101 on the history of women’s running beyond the oft repeated Switzer and Benoit stories. Burfoot’s choice to ID the women by the names they were using at their moment in history was an interesting one: I can see both sides of it. Personally I also liked that he included Crazy Legs and Jacqueline Dixon in the afterword. In the last year I’ve been lucky enough to hear her on a panel about the Women’s Mini and a number of other women runners and the impact of Title IX earlier in February. While I’m running the Mini again this year, I’m kind of sad I can’t do the Women’s Half, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about Cherry Blossom.

While I understand why he included Joan Benoit and Oprah and think they do fit by the strictest standards, I think it would have been a stronger book if it ended with the toast to Grete Waitz.

Joan’s own words in her intro to her chapter spell out why I don’t think they’re part of the same story that the prior chapters were:

“I consider myself part of the next generation. I’m not in the same league as the pioneer women runners who came before me. They were part of the process of history changing. They brought progress to the sport. They are in a league of their own. They had guts, they had talent, and, most of all, they had the passion to pursue the sport they loved.”

Yes, she was a pioneer in being the gold medalist in the first Women’s Olympic marathon, but she wasn’t a trailblazer the way they women before her were.

And Oprah…

I get it, if she could do it, so could so many other women. But up to her chapter, this book was about professional women runners. Including her MCM run made it seem like there were no other everywoman runners in the races these professionals competed in. And that none of these women inspired others to run. This book was about the pioneers at/near the front, not mid packers. I think it would have been better to leave her out. Could easily have added one of the women from the afterword, a contemporary pioneer or a profile on one of the women still running now.

“Getting Real About Running” and Workouts week of 2.5

You know those books that stick with you? It doesn’t happen with every book for me, but generally when it does it’s a sign of a good book. This time, I’m not sure.

Jogging v. Running

The book in question is Gordon Bakoulis’ Getting Real About Running: Expert Advice on Being a Committed Athlete and that is basically the passage that’s still bothering me a week later. If running is about 6.0mph and jogging is below, well then a whole lot of runners aren’t real runners according to Bakoulis. In her defense, this book is fifteen years old and said runners or joggers likely aren’t measuring their runs with chronographs either.  She’s also a former elite runner and I think her views of slower runners are different from that of mainstream runners – but I think this passage is a disservice to new and slower runners all of whom run. I wonder whether her opinion on slower runners has changed during her tenure as Editorial Director at Road Runners, which is open to and welcoming of all paces. There’s no sub group for New York Road Joggers.

While this was overall an OK read, I think I’ll take a pass on her other two books. I’d actually gotten this one from the library once prior and hadn’t finished it. It’s not that it isn’t well written – it is – it’s just not the kind of running book I find particularly helpful. In a bizarre timing coincidence, Bakoulis was on NYRR’s Women in Running panel that Jen Lada hosted and she was fabulous as someone who had been directly impacted by Title IX’s passing vs. the younger runners on the panel. If there had been an opportunity, I’d have liked to ask her about the book, but it didn’t work out.

Yep!

Unrelated to the book, this showed up in a Facebook group I’m a part of, and it was exactly what I needed to see/hear. I don’t think I jog, I run. It took me the better part of a year of running to realize that I absolutely am a runner. It still feels weird.

On to the rest of the week

  • Monday: cross train. Not exactly intentionally as my knee felt OK after Sunday’s run and I could have run two days in a row, but I got to the gym earlier than normal and could not get a treadmill. So 23 minutes bike (don’t ask, I don’t remember), 10 m elliptical and 13m row (that one I know, it’s 2K). I’d forgotten my watch and headphones, this was not easy to focus.
  • Tuesday: .6 mile run after a work event. Yep, still can’t eat and run. So I went on the LateralX for the rest of my steps

  • Wednesday: aforementioned panel and a day off (more on that later). Before the panel, I went to the New Balance store because NYRR was doing a promotion where in exchange for a shoe donation, you got 10% off a new pair. It was time to say goodbye to the shoes that got me started running. The mileage tracker is off as I wore these to and from the gym and general use (although they were new when I started running). There’s almost no cushioning left, and they’re too small. I’d hung on to them as backups, but I think they were the culprit behind January’s injury and it was time. I also have no room to keep them as a souvenir. So I took the picture and chose my running journey as the souvenir for these shoes. The purchase was another pair of Vongo2 (I’m in love) in Blue Iris & Fiji. Not as fun as my fuschia ones, but more fun than the November black ones. I’m probably going to run in them for the first time on Tuesday. Oh and they’re a nine. The fuschia ones have felt too tight and I’m not sure whether I documented it or not, but when I got the new pair in November I ended up trying an 8.5 W which worked. But when I had my feet measured this time I realized the 8.5 is really just too small. My toe is right u p there, so 9 it is. Eek.
  • Thursday: had dinner plans and after Tuesday I knew I couldn’t dine and run so I got up early. I’d have preferred running outside, but it was just too cold so I headed to the gym. On arrival I realized my headphones weren’t charged. Oops. I wondered whether I could get through a treadmill workout without music. It wasn’t easy, but I did ~5K. What I realized when switching to cool down and feeling a tweak in my knee: it isn’t the running that is an issue for my knee, it’s the speed changing on the treadmill. It was manageable and didn’t really have an impact on my day. I wisely decided not to go back to the gym after dinner.
  • Friday: I didn’t have a set distance planned, I ran by feel and wore my knee brace. I was able to maintain 5.5 over ~40m and felt that was a smart stopping point. I made sure to stretch, and roll the IT Band after.
  • Saturday: off. Errands, including a knee strap. My brace is stretched out and uncomfortable to run in, so wanted to try this before getting a new brace. I don’t think my knee is “injured” so much as irritated. This is the one that was surgically repaired and has never quite been 100%, but I don’t think it’s getting worse so much as flaring especially with three days of horrid rain this week. It hasn’t required Advil since the day after my Half, and everything needed Advil that day.
  • Sunday: knee was stiff, so decided to play it smart. Ran about 25 minutes in the aforementioned strap and it was OK, so decided not to push it. The rower was free so I followed the run with a 5K row. All in all a great workout and while I’m icing my knee, it doesn’t hurt.

I’m happy with the week and think I’m ready for Sunday’s half. I’m hoping to get in an outdoor run or two before then to test my theory that it’s the treadmill, not running that’s bothering my knee.

I love this. Unknown source, Facebook

 

Other Notes:

  • I’m probably not going to hit 400K steps this month and I’m remarkably OK with that. I’ve learned that rest days are essential. And days like today and Monday when the workout felt great, but rowing is just no good for steps. The increased step goal was to get me to be active — I’m doing that with the gym. I don’t feel my body will be worse off if I come in until 400K on a 28 day month. Not listening to my body would be worse.
  • Running has been amazing for gym visits. When I was gym shopping I knew location was primary because I wanted to be able to keep running through winter. Blink has been perfect, and the towel concern has mostly been a non issue. As I was near the end of my six month window I asked about getting a report on visits and how they handled it. I need 50 to be reimbursed and as of Friday I had 63! Granted some of that was from how awful this weather has been, I wish I’d been able to run outside for some of those, but it’s so nice to know that with some time away coming up I don’t have to stress it and I can start anew in March for March-August. It was also really nice to know that even with the annual fee billed in November I’m under the $200 reimbursement from Oxford so the gym is free.
  • Pre-packing for Florida has been fun. I asked in a running group about things people wished they had for their first destination run-and some things came up that I hadn’t even thought of, like bandaids.  I did finally find my sunglasses, so that’s a win. Need to trial running in a ballcap as I never have and think I’ll hate it.

On to the next, probably after my Half.

Review: Rolf Potts’ Souvenir

Rolf Potts’ Souvenir. Courtesy: NetGalley

This was a NetGalley title and I was previously unfamiliar with Bloomsbury’s Object Lessons series.

Souvenir completely fit Object Lessons’ profile of being a series that “paints a picture of the world around us, and tells the story of how we got here, one object at a time.”

Besides the cover, what caught my attention was that the author was Rolf Potts, whose work I’m familiar with and have quite enjoyed. Souvenir did not disappoint. In a short, novella-length piece, Potts covered the history or souvenirs from religious relics to “13 tons of contraband Eiffel Tower kitsch!” which were confiscated by Parisian police. The way he looked at things such as a possibly authentic Shakespeare chair in a similar vein to the religious relics – who knew how many sets of a saint’s bones had been found-was fascinating.

I’d recently had a thought about some made in China souvenir I’d picked up and how souvenirs had, in some ways, lost their connection to what they depicted. But as he also addressed, the souvenir might be about the physical object, but it might be about the memory of where the object came from. I personally am more likely to keep the found items type of souvenirs: ticket stubs, museum brochures and the like, but there are items such as a flamenco poster from a 1996 trip to Spain that I remember the exact moment of purchase.

I liked how he traced the history of post cards, once called postal cards. They are, for me, the type of souvenir buying that has changed the most over time. At first, they were cheap and I enjoyed sending them to friends & family back home. Plus the photos they were with were much better than something I could take with a film or early digital camera. Then I wasn’t sending them as often and sometimes felt “I could take a better version of that photo”. Recently with the advent of drone photography, it’s back to “wow, I can’t get that photo”. I don’t always send them, but rather use them as photo memories of a trip. This is also true of items in a museum which maybe didn’t allow photography or the light was too dim to get a good one.

I also really liked how he used his own souvenirs to tell the broader story of what made a souvenir. These ranged from a “seashell” he collected on a trip where he first went to the beach as a child, to a fuse box pilfered from (and later returned to) a plane crash in Colorado as a teen, to theater masks collected while traveling in Asia. This also allowed him to explore the intersection between souvenirs, museum collections and the evolution of museums today, another area of personal interest to me.

All in all, a wonderful, quick read. I look forward to reading more in the Object Lessons series as I think this is a wonderful vehicle for exploring the everyday world.