Monday, September 10, 2018

Good Story...

Donald Davis is a Master Storyteller

Karen Ashton
Almost 30 years ago, Karen Ashton began to try and bring storytelling to Utah County. The wife of WordPerfect founder and successful businessman Alan Ashton, Karen had discovered festivals dedicated to sharing all kinds of stories: stories with heart, humor, history, fantasy and reality.
She offered her backyard for the first festival and put together a committee who worked tirelessly to create a local venue for magic.
That first festival drew a couple of thousand people.
The 2018 Timpanogos Festival brought in more than 10,000 on the just the two Laughin' nights alone.
The tellers come from across the nation and across the ocean including longtime favorite Donald Davis (who tells stories from his childhood in North Carolina and from his lifetime of experiences from riding a mule down the Grand Canyon to standing beside his beloved wife Merle as she succumbed to complications of rheumatoid arthritis), Kevin Kling's witty descriptions of watching a Demolition Derby with his mother's Chevy Nova in the competition, Bill Harley's recounting of a T-ball season and Irish teller Clare Murphy's vivid tale of three women trying to make fools of their husbands for free rent.
Kevin Kling
Dovie Thomason brings her stories of animals, Apaches and the modern-day trials with the TSA ("It's my dog. His name is Rex," she said when the TSA agent wondered why she had a coyote skull in her suitcase).
Each is a master of words, of gesture and of expression.
There's no easy way to describe what the festival is.
I've tried for years as I've written advance stories for the Deseret News.
It's been somewhat frustrating as there's really no way to convey how it works and what happens without somebody actually being there.
I felt better when one of the tent hosts said she never could explain it either.
It's magical, real and unique.
After two days hosting and helping make sure people found their way into the story tents this year, you'd think I'd be weary of storytelling.
But, actually, I came away Saturday night marveling at the complexity and simplicity and creativity of the human spirit.
I realized that as different as the stories were, there was a common thread.
Every story and every teller recognized the value of people, the value of sharing experience and laughter and life.
They celebrate making and learning from mistakes.
They revel in falling in love and the triumphs that come from surviving mishaps.
A storytelling festival is art, reality and tremendous warmth.
I wholly recommend it.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Close your eyes...

The sand and the see
When we asked the lady at the hotel desk for directions to a nearby beach, she wanted to know if we wanted a "Barcelona beach" or a good beach.
We wanted a beach in Barcelona where we were, of course.
We did not want to board a bus or train to a beach far away and we couldn't see anything wrong with the beach right in front of us.
It had pleasant sand, warm blue water, boats going by and plenty of sun.
We couldn't see any problems and we were totally enjoying ourselves in the water and on the sand.
It was also crowded but not too.
Many of the locals had left the city for cooler places during the hottest part of the summer.
We had brought water and snacks and towels and hats.
We laid back and relaxed.
"Oh, I see the problem," Marc said after a minute.
I looked around.
The guy in front of us seemed fine except for the fact that he wasn't a guy but actually a lady without a top.
And she wasn't alone in her world.
Apparently in Spain the stores don't sell tops with the swimsuits.
At least the ladies around us didn't have any.

Not a problem...just keep your eyes and mouth shut.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Missing a step...

Before we left for our visit to England and Spain, my doctor sent me in for an MRI to determine where the discs in my back were and what they were doing. Had they collapsed or shifted? Were they causing the pain in  my upper arms and hands?
The tile work in the alcazar is legendary
He also prescribed some pain pills I should take every four hours.
I didn't want to be drugged for the trip and the sightseeing.
I already had insulin pens I was hauling with me which required I find a refrigerator in a couple of the small hotels that didn't provide a mini-bar in the room.
So I thought I could just tough it out although it made hanging onto the Metro straps a little hard and raising my arms to put a carry-on up in the overhead bin on the airpline.
The alcazar gardens are works of art
I winced a bit as the days wore on but I was dealing.
After all, what could I do several thousand miles from my home and bed?
We had plans, things to do.
We were doing one of those things in Seville.
We were checking out the Alcazar with its fountains and mosaic tiles when I missed a step.
The jolt was painful.
I felt it all up and down my spine.
Marc said my face reflected the moment.
However, once the pain stopped, I was amazed at what I felt.
I could lift my arms to the sky, twist and twirl.
I understand that this may not last and I recognize that it's an unconventional way to fix a painful problem.
And I in no way recommend it.
But in the meantime, I'm celebrating the respite..
And hoping no one sends me a bill for chiropractic therapy.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Sagrada Unfamilia

One side of the Sagrada Familia

Inside the Sagrada Familia

The chapel in the forest

One of the Spanish tourist sites on our list was, of course, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
I knew very little about it before we visited except it was a must-see.
I had a vision of this castle-like structure that Robert Langdon dropped into when he needed a place to hide for a minute in the "Origin" book.
Well, it is castle-like and huge. It makes you gasp at first glance, partly because it is so big and tall and it looks like a child has played in the mud to make the towers.
It's really indescribable.
It rises to 566 feet and has four different facades.
Inside it's like a big forest, serene and colored with the light from green, orange and blue stained glass windows.
It's very soothing and unlike any other cathedral we visited.
The ornamentation is all outside with statues that depict Christ throughout his life: when he is born, as he taught and as he died.
It's a spectacular feat of architecture overseen by Antoni Gaudi and under construction for 131 years since 1882.
There are still 14 towers to be constructed and much detail work to be done but the plan is to get it all done by 2026 even though Gaudi died at 81.
I came away much more impressed than I expected.
I knew we were seeing a World Heritage site, the most popular site in Spain but I didn't expect it to move me.
In fact, it wasn't until we were on the rooftop of the Casa Milà-La Pedrera that I fully appreciated it.
I could look over and through the archways and see the Sagrada Familia.
The Guida Pedrera, built with no rules
I am uncertain as to whether he was a genuis or a crazy man, with many experts divided as to what his decisions as architect and builder mean.
He was fined for building his Pedrera too high. He horrified the residents of Barcelona when he built what is a completely unorthodox multi-level home for himself but declared his methods as based on nature and therefore inspired.
On the rooftop of the Pedrera, high and spooky
He did his own thing. He bent the rules. He made buildings that have impressed and intrigued people for more than a hundred years, including the Park Güell, the Palau Güell, the Pedrera, the Casa Vicens, the Nativity Façade and the Crypt of the Sagrada Família, the Casa Batlló, and the Crypt of the Colònia Güel.
He's everywhere in Spain and talked about the world over. (Did you know he used the skeleton of a python to use as a model for the interior of the Pedrera?)
I think I vote for his being a genuis.
A note: You absolutely need tickets purchased online ahead of a visit. It sells out and there's no mercy at this religious site.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Bread and jam

I have a little story I like to read to my grandchildren about a child named Francis who would only eat bread and jam.
Nothing else.
She turned up her nose at new things and yet was alarmed when her mother stopped offering her the spaghetti and other delights the family was having for supper.
It's filled with cute little songs as well and illustrations but I like it because I identify with Frances.
I know her pain as she looks at wiggly eggs and other threatening foods.
In Spain, I faced three strange meals a day for 18 days.
That - I explained to Marc - is a lot of food hurdles to climb over, 54 if you don't count airline "meals" and snacks.
Marc was in hog heaven. He likes vinegar and Saffron and onions and squiggly creatures in strange sauces.
We had to do a lot of talking about the daily meals.
He would have a traditional English breakfast while I looked for raisins in my Muesli.
He asked the waiters for the traditional favorites while I looked for pizza.
The further into Spain we went, the harder it was to find things I can eat to fill out my meals, things like bread and ice water.
It kind of went like this:
Marc had shrimp paella with a 5-inch beady-eyed critter sitting in the middle of the platter.
He ate squid and octopus rings and clam in their shells.
Sharon: cheese pizza and Sprite
Marc: had Ox Tail soup
Sharon: cheese and ham sandwich with no dressing and Sprite
Marc: had Guzpacho soup
Sharon: potstickers and Sprite
There were a couple of highlights because the restaurant right across from our hotel was a copycat version of Texas Roadhouse with ribs.
There I had a marvelous plate of grilled vegetable two nights in a row!
At the last place we ate by Gaudi's Pedrera I had a totally splendid piece of salmon with real bread (No butter because Europe doesn't believe in butter).
On the flight home, the airline actually served a chicken and potato and spinach dish that was tasty.
But mostly, I dreaded every meal. I always had to make myself study the menu searching for something safe.
So here's some advice from a food coward.
When in Europe, take some packets of salt and pepper and something to deal with the aftertaste like Peanut M&Ms.
Or as some might advise me: grow up and deal with it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The what I forgot before list...

Packing for a lengthy trip has become a marathon event.
I start thinking about what I might forget the minute I make the plane and lodging reservations.
Once I miscounted my sleeping tablets and had to rob Peter to pay Paul to make the nights and sleep come out even.
Lately I failed to check the amount of insulin still left in my Pen so Marc had to make a midnight run back to home from Midway.
Over the years we've forgotten things like our temple recommends (which we had to have air-mailed to London) and rain jackets (because, for some reason, it rains a bit in England).
This time is a bit more complicated because there are three of us heading to middle England and then two of us going on to Spain and home again.
We are trying an airline that's new to us and they're British and everything is a little different.
(I have to read dates backwards and already, more than once, I've panicked a bit thinking it said our flight was on 2/8 instead of 8/2.)
And our travel needs have changed.
Instead of just packing a travel pillow and a small blanket, I need my headphones and my aux cord and my Smartphone.
We need recharging cords along with our power adapters.
I have medical needs that go with being a senior citizen. (And a letter from the doctor explaining to the TSA why I need needles in my carry-on.)
We need our passports, our ticket vouchers, our phone confirmations of passes to things like the Alhambra and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
I am more forgetful now so I have lists everywhere, and lists of my lists.
It's arduous.
Now, for Marc, it's not such a process.
He calls up his list on his phone and Voila!..
It's all there from before and he packs light. Everything in a backpack.
Plus, if he forgets anything, he buys another in whatever country we're in at the time.
And he has me.
I bring the cash for the country we're in, the sunscreen, the bug repellent, the emergency cookies and the treats.
It's always fun. We like traveling together.

But I can't wait till I get on the plane to find out what I forgot this time.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


I'm sitting quite comfortably in my car in the parking lot at Market Street Grill waiting for Marc to arrive.
He's coming on his bike from American Fork to meet me for a birthday dinner.
Never mind that it's 103 degrees outside and the journey from our house to the restaurant is more than 20 miles.
As the time ticks by, I start to recognize that it's a reckless thing to attempt.
I had just watched a TV report on a kid who died hiking in the heat, a report that noted that it's too late to stop an episode of heatstroke once the symptoms have shown.
I began to fret.
At 5:45 I went in and told the reservation desk girl that we better make the reservation for 6 p.m. instead and let her know I was probably going to have to go hunt for my husband.
Then Marc called.
He'd had a couple of flats and the tire was still losing air despite his repeated attempts to pump it up. Would I come get him and his bike?
He estimated he was somewhere in the 12600 South area but nowhere he could recognize as an address to give me.
I sighed and started the car.
Marc said just head down the road in front of the restaurant heading south and I would come to 12600 and see the park where he was waiting.
That was good advice except the road ran out after a bit.
I came to a big sign and concrete blocks. The sign said, "This road will be finished in the future!"
So I turned to the west and kept looking for a way through.
"Private Property! Keep out!" said the notices I found.
I went up the hill some more.
And some more. Further west.
Finally I came to 1300 West and found 12600 South.
Marc called again and said he could see the car.
I could see the park he was in but there was a barrier in the road.
I slowed and looked and tried to find my way over.
Cars behind me didn't appreciate it.
They honked.
Marc said he could hear the honking all the way over to the park.
I'm sorry if I delayed any of you.
I did eventually find my husband and we got to dinner without injury or serious trauma.
I have figured out the secret to having a good bike ride?
Have a working car and a willing sidekick.