Sir John Keegan

British historian John Keegan and I were almost contemporaries.  Although he was four years older than me, both of us were boys living in a Britain troubled by war in the early 1940s; he in England, I in Scotland.  Keegan told interviewer Brian Lamb a few years ago he chose military history  to study because he lived in the south of England as a boy in 1944 and saw the enormous Allied force that was preparing liberate Europe from the Germans.   Ironically, because of the lasting effects of a boyhood illness, he was disqualified for serving the military. When he went up to college, it was to Oxford.   After Oxford,  and a trip the United States, Keegan was appointed to a senior lectureship at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and later held visiting professorships at Princeton and Vassar. After twenty years at Sandhurst, Keegan retired and went to work for the Daily Telegraph as a reporter and Defence Editor.

Beginning in 1970, Keegan launched a writing career that spanned four decades, including a History of Warfare, histories of World War I, The Second World War, and the American Civil War; he also authored volumes on Intelligence in WarThe Mask of Command, and The Face of Battle.  Although Keegan deals with individual battles in a number of his books, Six Armies in Normandy  is the only one that focuses on one campaign.  With the exception of his general histories of wars and the Price of Admiralty, Keegan wrote exclusively about conflict on land rather water. In addition teaching and writing, Keegan lectured all across the United States and Canada.  For his contribution to military history Keegan was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in the Millennial Honours in 2000.  For the purpose of this blog, I want to focus  on one of his twenty books:

The American Civil War, published in 2009. Instead being battle oriented like so many other histories of the American Civil War, this book concentrates on topics and campaigns.   Keegan’s theme of the importance of geography to the fighting of war  in North America continues from  the The Fields of Battle, which described Keegan’s travels on the continent and the wars that have fought there from colonial times to Indians wars of the late 19th century .  The distance between Washington and Richmond and the Mississippi Valley explains why  the armies on both sides in the western theater seem not to have as much attention paid to them as those around the two capitals in the east.  Along with distance, Keegan points out that the Alleghany Mountains provided a formable barrier between  the two areas of the conflict.    Keegan also explains that the differences in the majors rivers in the eastern theatre, which tended to flow northwest to southeast, making barriers to approaching Richmond from from the north; and those in the west, which, with the exception of the Mississippi,  flowed from the Appalachians north to the Ohio River and hence to the Mississippi and to the Gulf of Mexico.   The major rivers in the west, the Mississippi, the Tennessee, and the Cumberland led right to the heart of the Confederacy instead being a barrier like they were in the east.  To make use of the major rivers in the west, Union forces developed a shallow water naval force that backed up infantry by using their  guns as artillery and providing transports for moving troops in the same way the Army of the Potomac  was transported in Virginia.  A little over eighteen months after Ulysses Grant’s first battle in November 1861, he had captured Vicksburg splitting the Confederacy in two.

In addition to the geography of the eastern United States, Keegan discusses the military leadership on both sides.  It seems he only thinks two generals are outstanding:  Grant and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. In the twentieth century, compares Rommel to the Confederate general.  He points out Lincoln had a problem finding leadership in the eastern theater until he brought Grant east in 1864.   Keegan sees Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan as a team winning the war for the Union, especially after Sherman’s march through Georgia and up to the Carolinas, while Grant was leading to charge in Virginia.   On the southern side, Keegan claims Lee was to much of a gentleman to be a good commander and President Davis could not get along with his generals.

What makes Keegan’s history of the American Civil War interesting besides its emphasis on geography  and leadership are its comparisons with twentieth century wars, especially  the Great War and World War II.   He relates the battlefield, the casualties, and type of fighting at Shiloh to World War I battles.   Keegan attributes the high rate of wounded and dead to the minié bullet,  fired from a rifle, that traveled at a higher velocity than the ammunition  from a musket.   The American Civil War yielded more than million casualties, according to Keegan, of that number, 200,000 died.   In percentage of population, he compared that to European losses in World War I and Soviet casualties in World War II.

Keegan died in 2012 after a battle with illness caused by a reoccurrence of his boyhood sickness.

John Keegan on Book-TV

Dewey Attack 2015! 10 Books for 10 Categories

If you are like me, you may feel like you do not read enough nonfiction.  (Note: fellow blogger Stephen is not like me.) To help with that we are doing a Dewey Attack.

As most public libraries do, Fontana Regional Library uses the Dewey Decimal System to organize many of our books.  More specifically, to organize nonfiction books.  While novels and other works of fiction are arranged by author, nonfiction books are done so by subject.

Dewey gives every subject that exists its own number.  These numbers range from 000 to 999, with usually a decimal point and more numbers after that.  Combined with some other information, this creates the call number for the book, and the call number tells us on which shelf the book is at.  Each range of 100 numbers (100-199, 500-599 etc) is a separate general category.  So today we are going to choose a book from each general category.

Dewey Decimal Categories


Abominable Science!: Origins of The Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids, Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero   001.944

Abominable Science! book coverThe library has many books about Bigfoot and other cryptids.  The thing that sets this one apart is that Loxton and Prothero take a very science based approach to their investigation of these beings.  Prothero himself is a paleontologist.  They focus on the evidence and not on the stories and myths.  Whether you are a believer or not you will find their book a great read.

Unrelated, I won a spelling bee in 8th grade by spelling abominable.

PostSecret : confessions on life, death, and God, Frank Warren  155.6

Boy telling girl a secret.
She is totally going to tell.

Do you like secrets?  Would you tell a stranger yours?  That is exactly what happens in PostSecret.  People share their most guarded secrets…via postcard.  Anonymously sent to the PostSecret website, the book compiles many of the most stirring ones.  Be warned, though.  Some are inspirational but many are heart breaking.

The complete gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt, Richard H. Wilkinson  299

Book coverZeus and Odin, Thor and Apollo…are not in this book.  Greek and Norse mythology is pretty well known to many of us.  But what about the Egyptians?  Their gods have stories that can rival any other pantheons.  This book has a nice multiple angle approach, covering not only the mythology but the historical aspect as well.  It has great pictures making it suitable for browsing but also has enough depth for true studying.


Green River, running red : the real story of the Green River killer– America’s deadliest serial murderer, Ann Rule  364.152

Book coverWhen I first moved to the Seattle area in 1991 the Green River killer was an ominous presence.  I read a paperback at that time that detailed the case, and if I remember correctly even named the killer as a prime suspect.  The book was a frustrating read since at the time Gary Ridgway, the killer, was unidentified and still a free man.  Fortunately he was later caught and convicted, and Rule, one of the best true crime writers, fills us in on the details.

Mortal syntax : 101 language choices that will get you clobbered by the grammar snobs– even if you’re right, June Casagrande  425

Book coverYour wrong!  It says so right their!  Anyone who spends much time on the Internet sees many spelling and grammatical errors, and also sees those who take it upon themselves to offer corrections.  Mortal Syntax tackles this issue head on with humorous, and often unexpected, results.


A lion called Christian, Anthony Bourke and John Rendall  599.757

In a story that is stranger than fiction, two Australians bought a lion from a department store(!) and when he grew too big set him free in Africa.  A year later they came back, and you really have to see it to believe it.

The book, of course, gives you the whole story.


Brewed awakening : behind the beers and brewers leading the world’s craft brewing revolution, Joshua M. Bernstein  663

Book coverI like beer, and since the 1990s I have been a bit of a beer snob, eschewing the big name brands for the locally produced craft beers.  In recent years the craft brewing industry has become much more mainstream, and this book gives you that history.  Drink up!



The noble hustle : poker, beef jerky, and death, Colson Whitehead  795.412

Book coverWhitehead, who wrote one of my favorite zombie books, here tackles poker, and more specifically the famous World Series of Poker.  Originally tasked to do an article for a magazine, he ended up with a book.  Witty, searing, and educational, this is a great read for you whether you have never gone astray betting on pocket jacks, or if you are a poker pro.  Go Team Anhedonia!


The war that killed Achilles : the true story of Homer’s Iliad and the Trojan War, Caroline Alexander  883

Book coverI’ve always loved Greek mythology, and Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are among the best examples.  Did you know that the Iliad has basis in fact?  There really was a Trojan War, and Alexander details how the truth and the stories are intertwined, and shows how the Iliad reflects war in all its glory…and horror.


Chile, edited by Tony Perrottet  918.30466

I love to travel, although I don’t get to do it very much.  One place that is on my list to visit is Chile, if for no other reason than my wife was born in Santiago.  This book shows you some of the highlights of travelling to that country.  The library has travel books for most anywhere you want to go, so before heading out check them out.

Santiago, Chile skyline


All of these books can be found in the library catalog here:;page=0;locg=155;depth=0


Culture Club

By Amy

Despite how badly I want to make all the jokes, you won’t find any Boy George here! And I’m not just saying that to make you cry!

Italy Display

The Culture Club is a new program at Macon County Public Library. Parents of the some of the littlest library patrons mentioned that it would be great to have a group where kids could learn about the world and all the people in it. Culture Club was started at Macon County Public Library because YOU requested it!

Culture Club’s first destination was Italy: land of pizza and leaning
towers right? Eh… maybe just a little, but there’s so much more! Culture Club discussed not only Italy’s rich culinary history, but also delved into Italian art (children were able to see italian pottery and Murano glass in person!), architecture, language, history, and even economics.

Reading about Italy
Can’t catch a plane to Italy? Travel via book!

The group took a virtual tour of Pisa, Venice, Rome, and Pompeii.
Participants were treated to gelato, spaghetti, italian cookies, and more! Along with the presentation and good food, there were also several book recommendations for children wanting to do more exploring on their own and a crafts project where children constructed their own Leaning Tower of Pisa!

The Culture Club’s next meeting will be December 11 at 1pm. Next stop? France! Every month, the children will nominate a new place they’d like to visit and vote on their next destination.

Italian Cookie
Yummy Italian treats!
Crafting Italy
Children had great fun creating their own version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa (Torre pendente di Pisa)

Culture Club will meet every 2nd Wednesday of the month at 1pm in the children’s program room at Macon County Public Library. Everyone is encouraged to share things they have relating to the country of the month, so bring your favorite snacks, souvenirs, pictures, etc. You can call MCPL Youth Services at 828-524-3600 for more information. À bientôt, j’espère!

The Shield, 40 Hours Without Sleep, and a Broken Trunk: A Wrestlemania Road Trip (Part 2)

By Chris and Christina

What you are about to read is Part 2 of a true story of two library bloggers and their daring Wrestlemania 29 adventures. Part 1 can be found here. This harrowing account is presented in a back and forth manner, taking you from the road trip itself to each of the exciting Wrestlemania matches. Christina will tell you about the wrestling matches, and Chris will tell you about everything else.

As we recount more of this gritty tale we will weave plenty of literary connections into it. Links for titles titles will take you to that item in the library catalog. Links for other things will take you places where you can learn more about the topic being discussed. And as always we will have a link at the end that will take you to a list of all the items mentioned in this blog.

You will also encounter two videos in this post. They are both embedded into this blog, meaning you just need to click on them and they will play right here. The first requires sound, since there is a lot of talking. The second has music, but the sound is optional.

Also, did you know you can see a larger image of all our pictures simply by clicking on them?  Well now you know.  After viewing the larger image just click the back button in your browser to return to the blog.

Sunday, Day 6: This is it, the big day! Up until this point we haven’t really talked about Wrestlemania itself, other than the matches. So allow me to fill you in some here, and I’ll try to give you an idea of the scope of this event. As Christina’s father, who lives in New Jersey, said: “I guess this is a bigger deal than I thought.”

First, the basics. Wrestlemania 29 was held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. This is the same stadium that the New York Giants and J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets play at. Announced attendance was 80,676, which set a stadium record. Yes, you read that right, eighty thousand. Fans came from all 50 states and from 34 countries. WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.) also reported over 1,000,000 pay-per-view buys. The Empire State building was lit up in Wrestlemania colors. It was, indeed, a big deal.

It was a short drive from the hotel to the stadium, and I made sure we got there plenty early.  Once they opened the doors first stop was a souvenir booth. Sure, we could have gone into the WWE superstore they had set up, but the line was out of the door of that place as soon as they opened. That line was positively Disney-esque.

The souvenir booths at these types of events always seem to be the same. There is no line. Just a mob of people pressing forward, waiting their turn. It somehow works. Sure, you always get a couple of drunk ones and the creepy guy pressing up on the ladies, but perseverance pays off and tshirts are acquired. We had to wait a bit as the guy in front of us wanted to double check the $450 replica championship belts he was buying. Note the plural there.

Finding our seats proved to be an adventure. I finally asked (I know, how unmanly of me) and turns out our tickets were for club seats. Woohoo! While still outside, the seats did give access to an exclusive inside concourse. It was fun to watch others arrive in our section and give each other high fives at the awesomeness of the seats.

WM Seating Chart
We were in section 245.

And finally the show began! As Sheamus came out to his music in preparation to a beatdown from The Shield it began to rain. Fortunately the rain didn’t last long. It was in the 40s, and we should have brought a blanket with us, but once the show really got going we weren’t bothered by the cold. Plus we could always pop inside to warm up.  One time that Christina did pop inside to grab some coffee she ran into a New York Giants football player.  She knew this because others were recognizing him, but alas she did not remember his name.  He was a big dude, though.

Celebrities often get involved with Wrestlemania. Governor Chris Christie was there, and was roundly cheered. Snooki was there, and was soundly booed. P. Diddy performed, which provided an excellent opportunity for a bathroom and beer break. Fireworks boomed throughout the show. CM Punk, as usual, came out to Living Colour’s Cult of Personality, but this time they were on hand to play it live!

After the show the line was still out the door for the superstore, and of course it took quite a feat to get out of the parking lot.  But to be honest, it was easier getting out of there then it was leaving Wrestlemania XXVII in Atlanta two years ago.

Travel note: I’m pretty sure that I gave the parking lady two $20s and a $5 instead of two $5s and a $20.  Ah, such is life!  A little planning can go a long way.  Buy shoes on Wednesday and tweet at 4:00 : more of the best times to buy this, do that, and go there

Match 6: One of the more controversial feuds right now in WWE is the one between Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio. Jack Swagger’s current gimmick (or wrestling persona, if you will) is of a self-proclaimed “real American”, who along with retired wrestler Zeb Colter creates promos in which they rail against foreigners and immigrants. Swagger and Colter are, of course, merely portraying characters, and have addressed this in an open statement to Glenn Beck:

I went to fetch a drink and when I came back, Zeb Colter was in mid-rant about all the languages he’d heard while in New York. This is not an unusual observation; this Times article proclaims New York City as “the most linguistically diverse city in the world”.

Monday, Day 7:  Once again we start out at midnight, as we pull into the Tick Tock Diner on the way back to the hotel.  This New Jersey landmark, located a stone’s throw from the hotel (I have a pretty good throwing arm), was once featured on this show.  You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the diner was full of people wearing wrestling themed shirts.  The food was great, and we avoided any issues with management, which apparently was a very good thing.

Once we got back to the hotel I verified that a headlight was out on the car, and we grabbed some sleep.  First thing in the morning Christina made an appointment at a nearby VW dealership, and we again played the waiting game to see if a hospital visit was going to happen.  It did not.

The car dealership fixed up the headlight no problem, and also a back up light that was out.  this part was tricky because of the broken trunk.  As we headed off, I noticed that one of the directional lights was acting funny, and a quick check showed that a brake light was now out.  That car also suffers from loose connections with the lights.  So, right back to the dealership so they could fix that stuff up.

After that we decided to hit the movies again and see Jurassic Park in IMAX.  To fit the theme of the trip the theater’s soda fountains were broken.  but they had a coffee and smoothie bar in there, so consolation raspberry and strawberry smoothies it was.

Dinner was a yummy take out pizza from Anthony’s, and then it was time to watch Monday Night Raw.  This (usually) live show has aired every Monday night since 1993, and is the longest running weekly episodic TV show in history, with over 1000 consecutive episodes to date.

The Raw after Wrestlemania can be an exciting show, like last year’s, when Brock Lesnar made his return to WWE after years fighting for real in UFC.  This one, which took place at the IZOD center directly next to MetLife stadium, took a different tone.  The crowd, likely featuring a goodly number of foreigners, had a grand old time, singing and chanting things that had no relation to the in-ring action.  Indeed, they made Fandangoing a thing.  People were even playing Fandango’s song on their car horns after the show.

Travel note:  the fifteen minute drive from the hotel to the car dealership crossed multiple town and county lines, and a river.  We crossed the river via bridge, as opposed to, say, something like Cork boat : true story of the unlikeliest boat ever built.

Match 7:  Oh man. I was really looking forward to this match, as was everybody else in the crowd. Basically Undertaker is sort of the Meryl Streep of Wrestlemania. His record is 21-0, no losses at Wrestlemania. Chris was rooting for Taker, I was rooting for Punk. I was sad to see Punk lose, but as always he put on an amazing match. Dude can wrestle.

Photo by Christina Wilder
A look at inevitability.

In case you’re wondering why I compared the Undertaker to Meryl Streep, it’s because she has quite an impressive record of her own – she has been nominated for an Academy Award seventeen times. In fact, Wikipedia has a page devoted to all the awards Ms. Streep has won or has been nominated for and it’s rather extensive.

Tuesday, Day 8:  Time to take our leave of the Garden State.  With the trunk not being available to us, I had to pack everything into the back seat that morning.  It was during my second trip out to the car that I had to take off my hoodie due to it being warm.  Yep, after a week of cool temperatures Mother Nature said, “Hey, you guys are driving for hours and hours?  Then let’s make this the warmest day of the year so far!  The wafting stench of baking manure will be your companion today!”

So back south we drove.  I’m sure you are all gleefully anticipating that something else terrible will befall us, or more specifically to our car.  But alas, we made it back unscathed.  And again we drove through the more scenic parts while it was dark.  Either that or some parts of Tennessee are covered in eternal gloom.

Anti-gloom evidence, or Photoshop?  The truth is out there!
Anti-gloom evidence, or Photoshop? The truth is out there!

Travel note: it seems to me that in the not so distant past, the signs on the highways that indicate what eating establishments were available at exits only showed fast food chains.  This time I saw more local places featured, and also non-fast food chains.  Case in point, we found a Ruby Tuesday’s for lunch, and the salad bar really hit the spot after hours of hot driving.  With more time at our disposal we may have looked for one of these:  Retro diner : comfort food from the American roadside.

Match 8: Triple H (with Shawn Michaels) defeated Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman).  A No Holds Barred match with the stipulation that if Triple H had lost, he would have been forced to retire.

Photo by Christina Wilder
Brock Lesnar heads down the ramp. The fan boys in our section got giddy when he came out.

Most people look forward to retirement, even if they are forced to retire early due to injury (like Edge). Philip Roth, author of the notorious Portnoy’s Complaint and various other novels, has recently announced his retirement, prompting this article to ask if writers ever actually DO retire.  All I know is that I hope Stephen King keeps plugging away.

Wednesday, Day 9:  Technically we again start at midnight, still driving home, but nothing exciting happens.  In fact, nothing exciting happens that whole day.  We may have watched a movie.  We were not inspired to eat 50 eggs.  Cool Hand Luke.

We recommended starting small and working your way up to 50.  Remember, pics or it didn't happen!
We recommended starting small and working your way up to 50. Remember, pics or it didn’t happen!

Match 9: John Cena defeated The Rock, becoming the new WWE Champion. The final match of the night was a revisit from last year’s Wrestlemania, only this time Cena was victorious against The Rock. This battle became personal, with John Cena discussing his real life marriage troubles in promos against The Rock.

Photo by Christina Wilder
The Rock waits in the ring for John Cena.

Redemption is a popular literary theme, from the Harry Potter series to Crime and Punishment to A Christmas Carol. If you’ve already read those and want more titles, you can search “redemption” as as keyword in our catalog and come up with over two hundred titles. I’m guessing you’ll find something that interests you.

Wrap-up.  In the past I had wondered, while watching wrestling on TV, if the fans in attendance were encouraged to cheer or boo or chant by messages displayed at the arena.  Kind of like the taping of a TV show, where an applause sign is lit up at the appropriate moment.  And the answer to that is no.  All of it is spontaneously created by the fans.  The epitome of this was during the CM Punk/Undertaker match, which was easily the best match of the night.  It is not just that the dueling “Un-der-ta-ker/C M Punk!” chants were loud, I think even louder than the Cena vs Rock chants were, but that they went on for the entirety of a 20+ minute match.  Except when they changed to the rare “This is awesome!” chants.

Wrestlemania is a grand spectacle to behold, put on be a company that really knows how to deliver its product.  There is the predictable (Undertaker is now 21-0 at Wrestlemania) and the surprising (the Rock lost).  Our adventure had more than the standard amount of frustration and expenses and heartbreak.  But we got through all of that okay.  And already our eyes and plans turn towards The Big Easy, New Orleans, the site of Wrestlemania 30.  Let us know if you need a ride.

Here is a treat for you: a “slideshow” of Christina’s Wrestlemania 29 photos.

This link will take you to a list of all the titles discussed in this blog.;page=0;locg=155;depth=0

(Edited 11/3/14 to fix/replace broken links and to correct typos.)

The Shield, 40 Hours Without Sleep, and a Broken Trunk: A Wrestlemania Road Trip (Part 1)

By Chris and Christina

What you are about to read is the true story of two library bloggers and their daring Wrestlemania 29 adventures.  This harrowing account is presented in a back and forth manner, taking you from the road trip itself to each of the exciting Wrestlemania matches.

Photo by Christina Wilder
Yes, Wrestlmania is this cool.

As we recount this gritty tale we will weave plenty of literary connections into it.  Links for book titles will take you to that book in the library catalog.  Links for other things will take you places where you can learn more about the topic being discussed.  And as always we will have a link at the end that will take you to a list of all the books mentioned in this blog.

Tuesday, Day 1: Usually a road trip starts out in the morning. You wake up early, finish loading the car, grab the coffee or Dew or energy drink, and head off.  This story is different.  This trip begins at night, in the dark.  The goal was to leave from North Carolina Tuesday and to reach New Jersey in time on Wednesday to meet with friends that evening.

The day started with Christina running errands and me visiting the dentist.  We both worked until 8:00 that evening.  Once home we grabbed a bite to eat, finished packing, and loaded up the Jetta.  Such excitement!  Plugged in the iPod, queued up a new playlist, and headed out.

Travel note:  the 6th generation iPod we have was bought last April to use for our wedding and reception.  It held its battery charge for the entire drive up there, and same for the drive back.  Learn more fun things with iPod : the missing manual .

Match 1: Oftentimes, WWE will have “dark matches” before shows, which means they aren’t televised. This being Wrestlemania, they had a “prematch” before the big show started. Unlike dark matches, this one was in fact televised and featured a title change.

Photo by Christina Wilder
Entrance stage at Wrestlemania

Fun fact: If you read the introduction to Neil Gaiman’s “Fragile Things”, you’ll find a short story hidden in there. How cool is that?

Wednesday, Day 2:  Midnight is when this day starts, driving through the mountains.  Clear skies, clear roads, and good tunes.  I-40 into Asheville, I-26 up through Tennessee, and then I-81 in Virginia.  the bulk of our driving is on this interstate.  We always seem to drive through the scenic areas when it is dark.  Christina handles this stage of the driving.  We stop at most rest areas to stretch and keep awake, stamping about in the cold.

Life as we know it.
Life as we know it.

We stop for a sit down meal at a Denny’s in Wytheville, VA.  Nearing 4:00 am now.  In our younger days staying up like this was much easier.  But we have things to do and people to meet!  Must push on!

Christina is able to keep it up until about dawn, and then I take over the driving.  I discover that 5 Hour Energy does indeed work.  We get through West Virginia and Maryland.  The end seems to be within reach.  Most of Pennsylvania is done, and we move onto I-78.  As we get to the Bethlehem area I suddenly feel a tug on the steering wheel.  Well, the road conditions in PA are not great.  But I notice that the battery light is now on, and that the steering has gotten tight.

I don’t say anything at first.  Once we come up to an exit with gas stations I let Christina know that we might have a wee bit of a problem.  As we go off of the interstate I realize that the power steering is gone.  I’m able to manhandle the car into the no parking zone of the first gas station we come across.

This is not good.  A call to 411 to find a tow truck or similar service is not helpful.  Christina inquires within the gas station and the woman there tells her that there is an auto parts store nearby.  With limited directions I head off on foot.  And what do I find directly next door to the gas station?  A Chevrolet dealership that has a service department.  Huh.  What do you know.  I head into there, and they are glad to be of assistance.  They even send a guy over to drive our poor wounded car to their shop.  Turns out that the power steering belt and arm are gone.  They quote us a reasonable price and get to work.  Takes longer than anticipated since they had to get the parts delivered, but they stick to the quote and soon get us on our way again.  Not as disasterrific as it could have been.

Now the plan had been to get to the hotel, grab a few hours of sleep, and then meet up with Christina’s friend Mary and her boyfriend for dinner and such.  But it is already into the afternoon, and we haven’t even made Jersey yet.  Plans will have to change.  Christina gets a hold of Mary and finds out that she is not in NJ either.  She is in Philadelphia.  In the hospital, to be precise.  They had been in a serious car accident the previous night.  Multiple fractures to both of them.  This is really not good.

Mary (not her real name, by the way) is an aspiring wrestler, training with one of the independent wrestling companies.  She was scheduled to make her in ring debut in July, but now has two broken legs and assorted other injuries.  This is super not good.  Now, let me jump ahead here and assure all of you loyal readers that Mary is going to be okay.  She is done with the surgeries, should be up and walking next month, and doctors are optimistic that she can resume her squared circle dreams.  She hopes to visit us here in Franklin in the coming weeks.

With heavy hearts we drive on, passing into NJ, onto the Garden State Parkway (toll only $1.50), and make it to Clifton and the Howard Johnson we had our reservations at.  Luckily our room is on the first floor.  We unload the car and hit a conveniently close by TGIF’s for dinner and much needed drinks.  Back to the hotel and finally sleep, blessed sleep.

Travel note:  I find out very quickly that people drive differently in NJ than in western NC.  If there is the slightest gap they are going to take it.  But once you realize this and expect to be cut off than it is not so bad and the traffic flows.  It turns out that I am not the only person to notice differences in driving styles: Traffic: why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us)

Match 2:  When you’re a fan of anything, you learn to deal with crazed optimism and cynical defeat. I had high hopes that one of my favorite  – okay, my favorite – wrestling stable known as The Shield would win their match. I’m used to not having things work out the way I want in the wrestling world, but I was hopeful. My hope was not futile, however, as they won! I was the only one who stood up in our section and cheered (The Shield are bad guys and are often booed. But hey, I tend to root for the bad guys.)

Photo by Christina Wilder
The Shield in action

It sort of reminds me of when I first read The Stranger. The main character, Meursault, is by no means a good person, but when we read it, we care for him, as the story is told from his point of view. It forces us to see things from his perspective, and naturally, we try to empathize, even though he’s cruel. The same could be said about Lolita, or A Clockwork Orange.

Thursday, Day 3:  I’ve never slept so well in a hotel room.  I’m guessing that exhaustion has more to do with it than the comfort level of the room.  We were up approximately 40 stress filled hours.

Clearly this is a pre-trip photo, when sleep was plentiful.
Clearly this is a pre-trip photo, when sleep was plentiful.

Any existing plans for the day having been trashed, we set out on a quest for supplies.  Google maps works wonderfully for this.  Simply zoom in on the area and most businesses are listed.  And what do we find within minutes of our hotel?  Anything and everything we need.  Multiple restaurants, a grocery store, Trader Joe’s, Target, Barnes & Noble, a movie theater, multiple drug stores, a post office, a 24 hour Dunkin’ Donuts…jackpot.

The rest of the day is spent killing time in the hotel room.  No matter where you go there is still not much on TV.  Luckily there is a lot of Duck Dynasty on, as well as My Cat From Hell and a replay of the Mets losing.  Not ideal vacation time but understandable all things considered.

The plan for that night was for us to meet up with Mary and her guy at the famous Caroline’s on Broadway.  Here is a partial list of the comedians who have performed there:  Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Chris Rock, Jon Stewart, Robin Williams, and on and on.  Joe, a professional wrestler whom Christina had become acquainted with via Twitter, was also supposed to be there.

The plan was that the ladies would hang out with Joe and us guys would busy ourselves talking about guy stuff, like this.  But since Mary wasn’t going to make it, I told Christina that she should go ahead on her own.  It took her way too long to get a cab, but it finally showed up and she headed off to New York City.  I headed to bed.

Travel note:  seriously, how does a NYC cabbie get lost going to Times Square?  Of course, NYC is pretty big:  The world in a city : traveling the globe through the neighborhoods of the new New York.

Match 3:  Two giant guys collide! One of them is Ryback, who is over 6 feet and almost 300 pounds, and the other is Mark Henry, legitimately billed as The World’s Strongest Man.  Some of the weightlifting records that Henry set back in the 90s still stand today.

Speaking of records, most of you probably envision Les Miserables and War and Peace as huge tomes. You’d be correct; both books are over 1400 pages. The record holder for the longest book goes to In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, though – it’s 4211 pages in seven volumes. That’s almost three times the size of War and Peace and Les Miserables.

Friday, Day 4:  My day started with the hotel phone ringing.  It was my wife, who was still in the city and wanted a ride back.  The cab had been very expensive, and especially after emergency car repairs we weren’t exactly flushed with disposable cash.  So I grabbed a stray bottle of 5 Hour Energy and my keys and headed out for my first venture into New York City.  Yes, my first time was driving into the city on a weekday morning!

My route took me through the Lincoln Tunnel, which has a $13 toll.  Luckily I had enough cash on me, because they don’t take debit cards at toll booths.  (There is a business idea for someone.)

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

Once you come out of the tunnel there is a large intersection where all traffic laws seem to be suspended.  I made sure to follow one of my personal driving laws (yield for bus) and made it through.  I was amused by the guy in the red car who blasted away on his horn at the taxi and bus in front of him.  He was a prime example of an exercise in futility.  The woman in the car with him did not seem amused.

Once I cleared the Intersection of Doom successfully, and without making a wrong turn, I discovered something very interesting about driving in NYC.  The streets are laid out in grids and and are numbered in a sensible fashion.  Very different than driving in, say, downtown Atlanta.  With good directions I had no problem finding my way.  And thankfully no toll in the tunnel coming back out.

By now I am sure you are all wondering about Christina’s adventures in the city.  Well, by the time she got there Caroline’s was closed.  Luckily Joe was still about and the two of them strolled around.  Some people might ask me, hey, weren’t you worried about your wife walking about NYC after midnight?  And the answer is no, not particularly.  The Times Square area is not notably dangerous, plus she was accompanied by a rather large man.  She was pretty safe.

So they wandered along to a bar which wasn’t letting anyone else in since closing time was coming up.  But the doorman actually recognized Joe and let them in any way for a drink on the house!  Yay!  And as these things tend to go, people were met, conversations engaged, and now as a larger group they closed down the bar and headed out in search of pizza.  Being NYC it is totally normal to expect to find an open pizza place in the middle of the night.  And they did.  And before you know it, it is 7:00 am, Joe is heading back to his hotel, and Christina’s feet are aching and she decides to forego the cab fare.  And I get to be the hero who rides in to her rescue!  Well, okay, she didn’t actually need rescuing, but it was still a mighty feat to drive into the city as I did.

The rest of the day was spent largely waiting to see if we would be able to drive down to Philly to visit Mary in the hospital, but that didn’t work out.  So we went and saw the excellent Evil Dead remake, watched SmackDown, and called it a night.

Travel note:  we had lunch at Anthony’s, a surprisingly large chain of pizza places that was within walking distance of the hotel.  First thing they said was that they only do thin crust pizzas in their coal-fired ovens.  We said excellent!  Also, they had dark beer on tap, which seems a bit of a rarity in NJ, in my limited experience.  Wish I could make pizza like that.

Match 4:  We were excited to see Daniel Bryan and Kane (better known as Team Hell No) in tag team action. We got to see them at a house show back in November, but seeing them defend their titles successfully was pretty awesome.

Team Hell No is fun because it involves a huge scary guy in a mask and a smaller, bearded “goat face” guy going around demanding hugs. It’s all because they were forced to undergo anger management classes and the results were…interesting.

Photo by Christina Wilder
Kane makes his presence felt

If you’re having your own problems with conflict resolution, you can always search “conflict” under Subject in our catalog. My favorite title would be “Since strangling isn’t an option: dealing with difficult people – common problems and uncommon solutions” by Sandra A. Crowe. Or you can be like Kane and go around wearing a mask, demanding that people “hug it out” with you.

Saturday, Day 5:  Another day spent waiting around.  Everyone was very keen on a hospital visit, but things like “minimally invasive back surgery” (I may be mis-remembering the actual procedure) kept getting in the way.  Mary also wanted to let us use her Wrestlemania tickets, since they were presumably better seats than ours.  Believe me, that was not a big concern of ours at the time.  But in the end again no visit.  Bummer.

There was one interesting thing that happened on Saturday, though.  The opening mechanism for the trunk of the car broke.  At least the trunk was empty of anything important at the time.  Turns out this happens with some frequency to this model.  There is more than one video on YouTube about how to fix it.

Travel note:  I find most hotel or motel showers to be subpar.  There always seems to be an issue with them being too small, or not enough hot water, or some oddly configured curtain system that ensures you will flood the bathroom floor.  But the shower in this room was great.  Decent size, great water pressure, and plenty of hotness.  The term “hotness”, in this case, applies equally to the water and my wife.  Of course the toilet was a good six inches higher than they usually are.  Heads in beds : a reckless memoir of hotels, hustles, and so-called hospitality .

Match 5: Wrestling is an interesting business and often becomes surreal. Case in point: Fandango. His gimmick, or wrestling persona, is one of a ballroom dancer who flips out if you mispronounce his name. In his Wrestlemania debut, he fought and won against Chris Jericho, a wrestling veteran and one of my all time favorites.

Photo by Christina Wilder
Chris Jericho fires the crowd up before battling Fandango. The close up at the top right is one of the 20 giant screens at MetLife Stadium.

Fandango winning in his first match at Wrestlemania is an impressive debut. Some other people who have had impressive debuts: V.C. Andrews with Flowers in the Attic, William Gibson with Neuromancer, and Ian Fleming with Casino Royale, the first book to feature James Bond. If you want to peruse through other literary debuts, Wikipedia has an impressive list, sorted alphabetically by title.

Stay tuned for Part 2, coming your way in two weeks!

Use this link to find a complete list of all the titles mentioned in this blog:;page=0;locg=155;depth=0

(Edited 11/3/14 to fix/replace broken links and to correct typos.)

Spring Break? Time for an Adventure!

Delphi, Greece
Delphi, Greece

By Erika

What do monkeys, monasteries, and banana milkshakes all have in common?  They are all part of my most memorable travel moments.  Whether it’s a last-minute weekend camping getaway or a more extensive planned out affair, travel feeds my adventurous heart.  Each year I anxiously await the arrival of Spring – the season of spring breaks.  It’s the time to break free from our normal lives and go on an adventure!

Before I start planning any adventure, I ask myself a few questions:  How much time and money do I have?  Do I want to immerse myself in another culture?  Do I want to relax on the beach?  Do I want to have an active vacation?  Answers to all of these questions help to determine what kind of adventure to plan for.  The library should be any traveler’s first stop on their journey.  Fontana Regional Library has many books to help dream, plan, and realize a multitude of trips.

For the armchair traveler or for those that are dreaming of trips to come, check out our NextReads Armchair Travel Newsletter for a number of titles to whet your appetite for adventure.  National Geographic’s Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips and Secret Journey’s of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Best Hidden Travel Gems provide stunning visual trip ideas.

If the previous suggestions failed to inspire an adventure, there is always Patricia Schultz’s 1,000 Places to See Before You Die or Frommer’s 500 Places to See Before They Disappear.  Conversely, if you are looking for places to avoid on your travels then Catherine Price’s humourous 101 Places Not to See Before You Die should be right up your alley.  If humanitarian work is what you seek, check out Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others by McMillon, Cutchins, and Geissinger.

Tulum, Mexico
Tulum, Mexico

Once a destination and trip type has been decided upon, it’s time to plan!  Different travelers plan to different extents.  Some travelers pick up a guidebook, hop on a plane or in a car and leave the rest to fate.  Others spend hours doing research and planning everything out.  The rest fall somewhere in between.  Regardless of travel style, most people have an idea of what they would like to accomplish on their adventures.  Guidebooks help travelers learn about what’s available in certain destinations from food to lodging to attractions and activities.  Before heading out the door, The Smart Traveler’s Passport: 399 Tips from Seasoned Travelers by Erik Torkells is a fun read and provides a variety of unique travel tips.

Of course, regardless of how much you prepare, everything doesn’t always go as planned.  You may miss a flight or an attraction you desperately wanted to visit is closed or you have to suddenly leave a country in the midst of a revolution.  Nevertheless, travelers have to learn to be flexible.  In fact, many great travel stories evolve out of situations that were unexpected.  So enjoy your spring break adventures and create your own memorable travel moments!

“Adventure is worthwhile.” – Aristotle

You can find all of the books discussed in this blog post by clicking HERE.