Monday, November 15, 2010

Pass the Port, Please

Back in the 1970's, the immensely popular comedy Monty Python's Flying Circus featured a skit titled "Spot the Loony". I fear that this phrase might be applied to me when it comes to obsessive reading behavior.  Hey, all you people in Atlanta...I know there may be other justifications for this title, but we're strictly talking about reading here.

Some years ago, I heard on the wind about a little book called "A Year in Provence".  In this whimsical tale, a British advertising executive by the name of Peter Mayle decides to move to the south of France to start a new life.  The book is divided into twelve chapters, each devoted to a month in the author's first year in Provence.  It has become such a favorite of mine that I re-read it about every two years, and I always find something which I had never noticed before...I suppose that's the definition of a truly good read.

Anyway, not being content to have read only one of Peter Mayle's books, I proceeded to "Toujours Provence", the followup to the first book.  "Toujours" focuses more on local customs, holidays, and traditions, and in its pages, I immediately found a delightful story about using just the right kind of pig to locate truffles.  I must admit that, prior to this, I had given absolutely no thought to truffles and little more to the porcine persuasion.  But I was enchanted by this book as well.

Shortly thereafter, I became intensely interested in the culture and customs of Italy.  I had become addicted to Rick Steves' "Travels in Europe" on PBS, and the more I watched, the more entranced I became, and consequently, the more travel books I acquired.  But because of the fact that we had recently moved from Atlanta to Charlotte and back to Atlanta, using most of our disposable income in the process, it was impossible to entertain any serious travel abroad.  Besides, I had no passport.

It seemed that the books all had a common thread: a person who appears otherwise stable uproots him or herself and the family (in some cases) and moves to a new home abroad, in the process purchasing a house which needs, shall we say, renovations.  The prospect of such a thing is daunting to me -- I can see a little paint here and there, maybe knocking out a wall or adding hardwood flooring, but the idea of casting one's net in a faraway place without reliable HVAC is a little scary.  But in a book, it's all okay, because someone else is doing it.

Hence, within a few years, I had amassed a stockpile of books dealing with relocation to other parts of the world.  And still, I had no passport.  Finally, on a spring day early this year, my (Atlanta) friend Tanya, having lost all patience with my lack of said passport, actually accompanied me to the post office where I applied for one.  Friends, I had reached the age of 54 without having a passport.  Yes, I might have known all about contruction financing in Portugal, the best exterior siding to use against the mistral wind of France, and how to waterproof a houseboat on the Seine, but acquisition of that little blue book had evaded me all those years.

Within a few weeks of application, despite my edgy reputation here in the United States, I was given a passport.  It came in the mail while I was at work, and my wife called me to tell me that "something" had arrived.  The next day, several of my friends from Macy's took me to Taco Mac for a "Passport Acquisition Lunch".  It was a divine moment.  Tanya had created a small golden "tree" decoration which featured the flags of many nations.  We put it in the center of the table and wished that we could drink beer at lunch.

Nowadays, no one picks on me for not having a passport.  My friend Tim, who has been all over the civilized and partially civilized world, loaned me a stack of travel books to get me started.  Now, it's just up to me to decide where to begin my explorations.  Hmmm, I think I just may pick Provence.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Feeding Your Caffeine Addiction

OK, to all you serious coffee drinkers out there in metro Atlanta, a good friend of mine has just launched a website,, which offers great deals around the Atlanta area.  Be sure to check out today's link, which gets you $20 worth of goods at Duluth's World of Coffee & Tea for only ten bucks!  Here's the link:

Enjoy!  :)