Friday, August 30, 2013

Seven Quick Takes: If you come to DC....

1. ... Don't eat in DC. Or Old Town Alexandria. Or at any of the other over-advertised, over-priced, crowded messes of crap.

2. Go west, young man. Specifically, get on I-395, get off at exit 5 King Street, and take the west exit. Then take Lee Highway and keep going. It will look a little sketchy, but stick with it. You are leaving the tourist attractions and entering the promised land of ethnic food.

3. For a wonderful, calming atmosphere, check out the Afghan restaurant Bamian on Lee Highway. It doesn't look like much from the road, but the inside has delightful little nooks where you can eat in semi-privacy. And the food. Oh my word, it is swallow-your-tongue good. It's a great place to eat if you're not super-adventurous, because the food is quite mild. If you like Middle Eastern food, you'll adore it. (And the prices are great).

It looks gross, but these vegetables are melt-in-your-mouth

4. Practically right next door, you'll find Dungrat's, which for my money is the best Thai restaurant in the area, with reasonable prices. But the best thing about this place is the Asian grocery next door. My husband cooks Asian food like a pro, and we get all our curry sauces, rice noodles, rice paper, etc, at this little place.

5. Honey Pig Gooldaegee Korean BBQ. I haven't been there yet, but I have heard raving reviews. It's a family-owned Korean BBQ joint, open 24 hours a day. You can jump right in with the Hot Small Intestine or play it safe with the boneless ribs. 

Heart attack on a stick

6. If you need a sushi fix, check out May Island in northern Alexandria (farther east than the rest of these places). This is our regular sushi joint, because the chef is a freakin' genius. He creates beautiful works of art rivaling anything the city has to offer. The building looks kind of like this: 

Not the exact place: add Christmas lights and a Shell station next door

But the food looks like this: 

7. But if Asian food isn't your thing, try the Arlington Cinema and Draft House. If you're over 21, you can watch a $2 movie plus beer (for extra, but not bad prices). The movies are a little older, but they're still recent, and they have appetizers along with the (excellent) beer. The atmosphere is casual, with tables in front for your beer and food while you watch the show. Genius. (They do live shows too, but I've never been to those). 

P.S.: don't go to Busboys and Poets. Just don't. It's achingly pretentious and overpriced, and you can find better food.  They describe themselves as "a space for art, culture and politics to intentionally collide...we believe that by creating such a space we can inspire social change and begin to transform our community and the world." Maybe they'll heal the planet and make the oceans recede while they're at it.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


If you're like me (God help you), you freak out constantly, wondering what people are thinking.

Here's the secret: no one gives a shit. The coffee stain on your shirt? No one will notice because they're all too busy hiding that mustard stain on their pants. I mean, unless you just poured it all over yourself, and then we'll have a good laugh at your expense.

The person with an earpiece saying hello on the bus? Not talking to you. The surly barista at Starbucks? Not mad at you, just having a bad day.

So don't do anything outrageously stupid like posting naked pictures on the internet, and get over yourself. It's not about me, and it's not about you.

I got so into reading Catholic blogs that I decided that my life was meaningless because I'm not popping out babies right now. I work at an office, and my husband is a student. And that's OK - we're not all alike, and sometimes I'm going to cuss (OK, I cuss a lot). No need to fret.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The corny 1970s Hobbit cartoon, still better than Peter Jackson's

Don't even bother watching Peter Jackson's The Hobbit. And if you have, don't make the mistake of watching the sequels. I can't see how it could improve over two more long, drawn-out movies.

This Atlantic Monthly article really nails the thematic issues. The problem can be summed up like this: "As for Bilbo, Gandalf tells the elf-queen Galadriel that it is not great power but rather the everyday deeds of ordinary folk that defeat evil. It's a nice sentiment, but not one that the film buys into even for a moment"

That's right: the entire point of Bilbo and the book was taken out back and shot.

I'd like to add yet another problem though. Not only was the movie thematically off and unnecessarily violent, but why all the CGI? The Lord of the Rings had wonderful special effects, beautiful (and sometimes grotesque) makeup, amazing set design and costumes, breathtaking landscapes. What happened Jackson? Sheer laziness?

This looks like a Disney poster

And then there's this fellow.

He talks to birds, like Cinderella

In order to drag out the movie into a trilogy, Jackson created this chap out of nowhere, for no good reason. He rides on a sled carried by rabbits. You read that right. A rabbit sled of CGI.

I agree with these guys: watch the actual cartoon, not the cartoonish live-action. It's creepy but it doesn't take itself too seriously. And don't you love this Bilbo?

These goblins terrified me as a kid.

Probably because they sang this:

(If you're a South Park fan, they cribbed the cartoon's theme song for Lemiwinks. Can you tell?)

Speaking of the Inklings and Father Christmas...

Since I clearly haven't been covering that ground myself, in spite of my blog's title. Sad.

Father Longenecker at Standing on My Head does the job quite nicely. As most folks obsessed with Lewis and Tolkein know, the two had an uneasy relationship that finally imploded. It's sad to think of, especially since Tolkein originally brought Lewis to Christ through myth and imagination. Ironically perhaps, it was myth that also drove them apart. (Well, that and personality clashes).

Contrary to popular belief however, Tolkein wasn't just a prickly professor engaged in world-building and myth-making. He was first and foremost a devoted husband and father, as is obvious in the posthumous collection of "Father Christmas letters" that he wrote and illustrated for his children.

The best part is when Father Christmas tells stories of the North Pole. There's a friendly but bumbling polar bear who's constantly gumming up the works; he sometimes makes an appearance (with distinct handwriting) to contradict Father Christmas and set the record straight. It's also so delightful to see how Tolkein has Father Christmas addressing the children by name and individually. And just like Narnia, sometimes the kids are "too old" for Father Christmas, but he remembers them just the same.

And you have to love how Father Christmas tells the kids how to take care of their new kitten (with spots so she's easy to find in a snow storm):

Monday, August 26, 2013

In praise of black coffee...

... Here is a (quite old but good) post by Marc Barnes over at Bad Catholic. Marc is a student at Franciscan University and a damn good writer; even when we don't agree I like to read his posts. This homage to black coffee and acquiring a taste for bitterness in life is one of my favorites. One quibble though: black coffee is good, period, and Starbucks caramel drinks are bad, period.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Seven Quick Takes: Customer (Dis)Service Addition

In which I will pass on my hard-earned wisdom on how to untangle the madness of automated voice response systems (otherwise known as automated raise your blood pressure systems).

1. I work at a law firm specializing in hospitals and health insurance companies (no we're not ambulance chasers: it's much less exciting). So I spend a significant portion of the day trying to squeeze accurate information from insurance companies by phone, and not all systems are created alike. There are different types of automated mazes, and each requires a different strategy. Think of yourself as Harry Potter in The Sorcerer's Stone: there are many obstacles, and each requires a different spell. (Note: if you try to turn this into a "Harry Potter is evil" thread, I will mock you before I block you).

2. The voice-recognition demon: there's something particularly grating about that disembodied voice that never understands what you say, yell and plead. Here's the thing: it's looking for specific, set categories to sift you into. It's not interested in your petty problems; it just wants to label your problem as A,B,C so it can properly determine your punishment.

How to defeat it: say representative repeatedly. Most people say "customer service," which is a mistake. For one thing it's two words, which complicates things. For another, the more sophisticated systems are designed to ignore your pleas for customer service, but most of them will crumble at the word representative if you say it forcefully enough.

3. The "press two for Spanish" option: even if you are a native-English speaker, press two. You will likely get a bilingual representative.

4. The numbers only system: boy I hate these. Sometimes you can press 0 repeatedly, but the newer ones are on to that method and will only respond to what they want. Nothing makes me angrier than hearing, "I'm sorry, that is not a valid response." The only valid response to this madness is to scream creative curses at it (if you're at home, that is). Sometimes hitting various numbers at random, not stopping to listen to its inane responses, will alert the system that you are incorrigible, and it will drop you in the queue.
Where does this guy work anyway?

5. Speaking of the queue: some systems now have a call-back method. Sometimes this is glorious: it does what it claims it will do, and you will receive a return call from a living human approximately around when you wanted it. Note: if you are calling health insurance companies, Blue Cross is actually good about this. Unfortunately, there is no quality control, so it's a gamble. I've had one call back from Amerigroup insurance that simply dropped me back into the queue where I had to wait an additional 40 minutes. It's a gamble worth risking though because when it works, it works.

6. If you're a repeat customer, or you expect to be, learn the ropes. Write down the categories and what your answer should be. Most (but not all, alas) systems will shut up and move you along if you press option 6 right away without going through all 12 irrelevant options. Some systems will carry on and make you consider homicide, but thankfully these are few and far between. Also, do your homework: if you already have your driver's license, insurance card etc. handy, it will save you much time and frustration.

7. If/ when you reach the holy grail and a representative answers the line, don't take no for an answer. Always push. If you consider yourself to be meek, timid etc, think of someone who you would affectionately call a bulldozer. Channel that person. You have endured the madness; you have passed the tests; you have defeated the obstacles. You will not be defeated by a high school graduate working at a call center with a headpiece. If they say "this isn't my department, let me transfer you," say "Do you have online access to that department?" This is the internet age, people. This "not my department" crap is ludicrous. You do NOT want to go back to the queue; often this just means they will conveniently drop the call, putting you back at square one. Whenever they say no, say "I understand that isn't an option. But I would like you to do X instead." Always push to the next thing. Did you ever do "yes, and" in a drama class? This is the "no, but" version.

Also, no matter how enraged you are by the time you reach them, be polite. Do not bite their head off, because you need their help. Remember: these people didn't create the automated system. They may be lazy and incompetent, but they are not the enemy. The people at the top are your enemy, but alas, they hire the minions to distract you.

If you manage to get a helpful, considerate and informative representative, you have won the Holy Grail. Get this person's direct extension, and hang it on your wall in big bold numbers. Know their name. Ask if they have direct fax. Become their best friend, because believe me, the dividends will pay.

And remember, the folks at "member services" tend to be much more patient than the ones I deal with. So be thankful; it could be worse.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Episcopal ghost

Do you remember the Episcopal ghost in The Great Divorce? It's uncanny, isn't it? I myself am Episcopalian, and Lewis' portrayal makes me laugh and cringe every time.

In response to Mr. Above-All-That-Superstitious Nonsense, here is a quote from Mrs. Brady via Standing on My Head (the link won't work now, but I'll fix it):

“People who want a religion without the supernatural don’t want a religion, they want a set of table manners.”

And table manners are overrated.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Hannah Montana, Coon Repellent

Gettin jiggy with it 

I'm always the last one to the party, but there may be 5 or 6 people more behind the times than I am.* And for those 5 or 6 people, here is the best thing on Youtube since S**t Southern Women Say:

Meet Mark Brown and his pet raccoon as they cut a rug:

Mark admits that the critter bites, but he considers it an occupational hazard. Besides, he has the perfect solution:

And he has the perfect rejoinder for those who mock his Hannah Montana body spray:

It's bold but sassy, y'all.

*Thanks to Simcha Fisher, where I learned about this treasure.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Seven Quick Takes: Attack of the Squirrel

It's not a scorpion invasion, and it's not a sofa full of rat babies. (My apologies to Jennifer Fulwiler and Hallie Lord, by the way - no one should have to suffer like that). On the other hand, who expects a squirrel in their apartment?

1. I was taking a long, relaxing (ha!) bath when I heard a crash. Normally I am the cause of crashes in our household. Let's just say that in the year and a half I've been married, I have broken a glass table that wasn't even ours, smashed a serving dish that my mama gave us for Christmas, and (just this week) broken a gradual cylinder that my husband's grandfather used for chemistry labs in college back in the 1940s. I have panic attacks in antique stores. However, this clearly wasn't my fault.

2. My first thought was "great, I've finally lost my last scrap of sanity, and now I'm hearing things." I was wondering whether our insurance would cover permanent commitment to a padded room when my husband yelled "what was that?" Instant relief.

3. Followed by instant panic. Please note: I was in the tub, so clearly I could not go investigate. It had nothing to do with cowardice about creatures in the apartment, and if I'd been dressed and spry I would have fearlessly entered the field. As it was, my husband wandered towards the sound of the crash.

4. "There's a $#&*ing squirrel in our apartment!" "Are you $*%^ing me?" "Would I make this up?"

5. I had to see it. I wrapped myself in a towel and peered around the door. I didn't expect it to be so close to my bare feet; I screamed, ran back to the bathroom and slammed the door. The squirrel was equally terrified - he jumped a foot in the air when I screamed. 

6. My husband's reaction was to video the critter on his phone. Unfortunately, he missed the part where it went into a blind panic and (in my husband's words) "took a flying leap" into the glass door.

7. Somehow, my husband's method of opening the door and saying "Here squirrel, come on squirrel" worked, and the squirrel escaped. Miraculously nothing broke in the crash of kitchen window bottles into the sink (which means the squirrel is less klutzy than I am). We also discovered his mode of entry: he chewed a hole in the window screen above the kitchen sink.

(Picture forthcoming so you can get the full effect. Also, my husband got a fuzzy still image from the video he made. The video will not be posted on account of salty language, most of it from me).  However, the fuzzy image doesn't show much except how messy the living room is, so no dice.

To get the full appreciation for his tenacity, you must know that the booger had to climb a 5 foot brick wall in order to reach said window and chew his way in.

Jennifer, before you mock, please note that squirrels carry rabies. Do scorpions carry rabies? That's what I thought.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Sorry about the all-caps, but this is the most wonderful thing I've ever heard of. It makes me want to move to Nova Scotia just so I can escape from the world and surround myself with puppies whenever I feel like screaming (ask my husband, this happens on a regular basis). Also, like most women in their mid-20s, that clock is not just ticking but hitting me over the head. Unfortunately, my husband is in school and we live in one of the most expensive areas of the country. Can you say bad time?

Puppies aren't as good as babies, but desperate times....


Books to Read: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and...

I'm trying to get back into reading.

I know, this is a book/ culture blog, and here I am fighting ADD and trying to read again. I'm such a poser (there's a reason why I talk so much about children's literature). Somewhere in grad school I lost the will to persevere, and my attention span just up and died.

That's one reason why I started this blog: to return to my former loves. In the interest of this goal, I decided on the lame wedding phrase, something old etc., as a way to pick four books.

Something Old: The Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti. This is a narrative poem written during 19th century England that I've been meaning to read for ages. (This picture is for a musical setting, but I couldn't pass it up).

Something New: Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chobin. I just learned about this novel today. It was published in 2012, and I've never heard of the author, so it fits the bill of "something new." It got raving reviews from regular readers and critics alike, and it's been called "The Middlemarch of Northern California." Since Middlemarch is my favorite novel ever and I'm a total George Eliot fan girl, I can't resist. Here's the amazon page.

Something Borrowed: my husband read the popular Eragon series and has been pestering me to read it for years. I finally gave in, but he recommended I start with the third book for various reasons. Therefore I'm starting the "borrowed" Brisingr.

Something Blue: yeah, I gave up. Everything I found was hokey, so I decided instead to read:
The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman by Nancy Marie Brown (hey, it's got the ocean right?). I like swashbuckling adventure novels and strong female protagonists, so this has promise. And it can't be as kooky as this:

Still better than The Alligator People

Any recommendations, gentle readers? 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Harriet the Spy as Social Satire

***Warning: contains spoilers***

Harriet the Spy is one of those books you should read twice: once as a child, and again as an adult. As a kid, you'll laugh out loud at Harriet's escapades and maybe learn a valuable lesson about kindness. As an adult you'll appreciate the hilarious social satire of 1960s Manhattan.

Harriet's parents are wealthy New York socialites with the world at their feet. Her father "works for television" (we're never told how). When Harriet asks what her mother does, the mother says she does "many unappreciated things," among them being packed in mud for beauty treatments. Harriet is raised by her nurse, Ole Golly, and fed by the cook. Her parents are minimally involved in her life, and yet they are shocked when their darling daughter turns out to be amoral. Rather than taking a moment of serious introspection, they sent Harriet to a psychologist, who informs them that nothing is psychologically wrong.

Her parents are not the only adults with priority issues. One of the couples on Harriet's spy route is a materialistic husband and wife whose only hobby is accumulating extravagant purchases to show off to their acquaintances. Between expenditures, the couple sits idly on their couch without a word to say to each other. While this portrayal is far less subtle than the picture of Harriet's parents, it drives home the point about materialism and shallow values.

In fact, the only characters who escape this problem are poor, eccentric, or both. Harriet is inspired by a poor Italian family who owns a grocery store. They are a large, argumentative immigrant family, Catholic in an era of WASPS, but they pull together and care for one another in adversity. Another sympathetic character on the spy route is a cat-loving bachelor who creates sculptures in his home and struggles to feed both himself and the cats. After his multiple cats are taken from him by the city for violating health codes, he wastes away in mourning until he finds a kitten. In a rare moment of humanity, Harriet is moved to tears by the sight; she writes in her journal that "There are as many ways of living as there are people."

In spite of the satire, Fitzhugh resists the urge to create mere caricatures. The parents are very flawed, but they still love their daughter. The wonderful Ole Golly is no saint; she sees the deep flaws in Harriet but responds in enigmas that fail to penetrate. Harriet herself is a delightful mix; at times I wanted to slap her, but in the end she learned what it means to empathize:

She looked at them each carefully in the longish time it took them to reach her. She made herself walk in Sport’s shoes, feeling the holes in his socks rub against his ankles. She pretended she had an itchy nose when Janie put one abstracted hand up to scratch. She felt what it would be like to have freckles and yellow hair like Janie, then funny ears and skinny shoulders like Sport. 

The author Louise Fitzhugh knew firsthand what it is to live on society's fringes. Her background of divorce and parental neglect makes Harriet's look like a model of stability, which adds poignancy to Harriet's obsession with consistency (for instance, she will only eat tomato sandwiches for lunch, much to the cook's chagrin). Although Fitzhugh herself was a liberal bohemian, her books delight in poking holes in the agnostic sophistication of New York's elite.

Those who reveled in the satirical aspects of Harriet should read the odd but brilliant sequel, The Long Secret. But more on that another day.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hollywood and Heroines - On to Harriet

Most people have a misconception of Harriet M. Welch from Harriet the Spy. Perhaps it's because they only saw the abysmal 1996 movie. I was only a kid when I saw the movie, so I didn't know that casting Rose O'Donnell as Ole Golly was a red alert, not to mention the fact that it was produced by Nickolodeon. (As a 90s kid, I equated Nick with Animaniacs and Doug, which I still say are great cartoons. Nick, why didn't you stick with cartoons?)

The real Harriet is probably a psychopath. She takes meticulous and consistently negative portrayals of everyone she knows (or finds): her parents, classmates, and random strangers in Manhattan whom she spies on through windows. (In one case, she goes so far as to break into a woman's house and go up the elevator to watch the woman in bed). Her life plan is to become the most famous writer in the world and to know EVERYTHING EVERYTHING EVERYTHING (she also has a fondness for all caps). The obvious problem is that she lacks an ounce of empathy for the people in her way, and she takes delight in crushing them. The only person with the ability to have a good influence on her is the no-nonsense nurse Ole Golly, who gets married and leaves Harriet about mid-way through the book. The rest of the book is about Harriet coping with this loss in increasingly destructive ways before finally learning the basics of empathy. The book is a complex, subtle look at the different ways of knowing, and it shares a lovely secret: that you can know all the scientific, surface details of a person without knowing them at all.

I can't expect the movie to match the complexity of the book. What I can expect is for Harriet to still be Harriet. Here is Harriet M. Welch sporting her "spy gear," the belt equipped with flashlight, canteen and other supplies which she always wears on her spy route:

And here is the movie version of Harriet with her notebook: 

In other words, the individualistic, rambunctious Harriet was too much for Hollywood. She needed to be tamed, to become a girly-girl with lip gloss. I can see Louise Fitzhugh turning summersaults in her grave.

There is more to be said, but in the interest of shortening the blog post....


Saturday, August 10, 2013

And now for something completely different

As a girl from the South (Georgia to be specific), I grew up with classic American folk music. And by folk music I don't mean Bob Dylan and hippies; I mean Little Brown Jug, You Are My Sunshine, Poncho and Lefty, I'll Fly Away, Were You There?, Angel Band. The kind of song you learn to sing harmony to with your mama while your uncle plays the harmonica. If you don't know about field hollers, Negro spirituals and Appalachian folk ballads, you really should check out the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack for a beginners' course.

Thankfully, this artistic form didn't end with the 21st century. Not only are modern musicians keeping the classics alive, but others are composing their own haunting pieces in homage. My personal favorite is Gillian Welch and her guitar-pickin' partner, David Rawlings. There is no weak link: the singing, songwriting, and instrumentation fit together beautifully.

But enough talking - on to the music! Here are a few of my favorites.

One Morning, from Hell Among the Yearlings. A mother's lament for her son.

Hard Times, from The Harrow and the Harvest. Some enterprising soul created a video mixing the song with scenes from Paper Moon.

Winter's Come and Gone, from Hell Among the Yearlings. This might be my favorite of hers.

Annabelle, from Revival. This is a heartbreaking song of the Depression.

Rock of Ages, from Hell Among the Yearlings. I adore this creative rendition of the hymn.

Scarlet Town, from The Harrow and the Harvest. One of her more upbeat pieces.

I could go on, but I need to cook some cornbread. Enjoy the music!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Seven Quick Takes

Thanks to Jennifer at Conversion Diary for hosting! Unfortunately, I lack her ability to post 7 random but profound/ hilarious observations, so I'm stuck with a theme. For today, it's classics (books, stories and poems) that I just can't appreciate.

1. The Swiss Family Robinson. This is supposedly a rollicking story of a ship-wrecked family who explores a tropical island.  It's actually the most boring children's book I've ever been forced to read. If the parents said "Well done, Franz!" once, they said it 195 times. Note to aspiring authors: if you find yourself using the words further, more, again, and another for chapter titles, chances are you're being repetitive. Chances are that a child will throw your book across the room when they're forced to read it for a book report. One amazon reviewer said that "the father's endless prattling about his knowledge on each subject made me want to row him out to the wreck, and then ditch him there." Amen.

This cover is misleading

2. "A Pair of Silk Stockings" by Kate Chopin. In this short story, the mother of a large, poor family decides that buying a pair of silk stockings is a good trade-off for buying food for her family. The supposed theme is how one downtrodden mother learned to satisfy her own desires for a change, that she had a "great awakening." At least, that's what I was told in college. My impression was that this story is deeply anti-feminist, portraying women as selfish and trite, willing to sacrifice their own family's needs for vanity. Am I missing something? 

3. Stuart Little by E.B. White. I know, it's technically an excellent book. I just couldn't get into it, probably due to my own artistic failings as a nine-year-old. This is another example of failed education: I started reading it for a book report and, about 30 pages in, decided to ditch it. For the sake of "perseverance" I was told that I must read the entire book merely because I had begun it. Note to parents and teachers: this method will not inspire a love of reading in your children. Thankfully I was also allowed to choose my own books.

4.Sarah, Plain and Tall. There is a tendency in schools to assign books based on length rather than content. If you homeschool, please avoid this trap. Just because a book has fewer than 200 pages does not make it child-friendly, and some "long" books like Treasure Island keep you on the edge of your seat. With Sarah, Plain and Tall, the short length made it look like a children's book, but most children are not mature enough to appreciate the themes of a pioneer woman coping with loneliness and alienation. Or maybe I was just shallow.

5. If The Swiss Family Robinson takes the prize for most boring children's book, it's only because Ethan Frome is an adult novel. Otherwise, Ethan Frome would win hands down. Unfortunately, this was another case of a short novel being foisted upon middle school students who couldn't care less. I might actually enjoy it now, but I have post-traumatic stress from downing liters of Coke to keep myself awake. Why do schools do this? Did an education professor decide this was a good idea?

6. Ulysses by James Joyce. Yes, it is packed with literary allusions. Yes, the final chapter is a brilliant feminine monologue. That doesn't change the fact that this book is an exercise in literary one-upmanship, a chance for Joyce to prove to the world just how clever he is. The only reason it is still in print is because literature professors are enamored with obscure allusions. The contemporary equivalent is 100 Years of Solitude, which I refuse to read.

Prepare to be disappointed

7. The Road Not Taken. This is really a case of over-exposure. This poem is not the best by Robert Frost by any stretch, but people persist on printing it on posters and calendars. It's interpreted as a call to unique living, to bucking the trend. Be all that you can be! Never mind that Frost never says that the road was better or more fulfilling, simply that it "made all the difference." Don't take my word for it; here's his own reading of his poem.

If I come to a fork in the road and choose a path that leads to a pack of wolves, that will indeed make all the difference. Different does not equal better, people. The American myth of individuality is just that, a myth. Most of us have "ordinary" lives with sublime, quiet moments of joy. Nothing wrong with that.

I took the path of exorbitant student loans, and that has made all the difference.

Happy reading!