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Weekly Run-Down: Dan Baum’s ‘Nine Lives’ and stuff I learned in SoCal

10 Feb

“Nine Lives”
One of my favorite writers, Dan Baum, has a new book out that I’ve looked forward to for a long time. Baum was sent to New Orleans by The New Yorker in 2005 to cover the Hurricane Katrina disaster. His extended stay there resulted in a series of fine articles and was the impetus for “Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans,” which is available today. From Baum’s website:

Hurricane Katrina is hardly the most interesting thing about New Orleans. The food, the music, and the architecture of New Orleans are fabulous, but it’s the unusual nature of the city’s people that make New Orleans unlike anyplace else in the United States. Obviously I couldn’t write a book about all the people of New Orleans, so I chose these nine. Some I met during the crisis; others I met long after. All of them spent many hours telling me their life stories, with nothing to gain but the very New Orleans pleasure in storytelling.

If I skip a few lunches, I figure I can pick up a copy at Barnes & Noble and read it this weekend. You can read about the book at www.danbaum.com. I’ll review it here as soon as I can. Mr. Baum also writes an entertaining and informative blog that I highly recommend for anybody interested in the field of journalism and writing in general.

Stuff I learned in SoCal
I have a healthy respect for winter, and I’d like to think I’m warming to the season. Still, I’m extremely grateful I’ve got family in the travel and lodging industries. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to spend last week in (mostly) sunny southern California. For the most part, the trip was the typical pilgrimage to Disneyland that most Utah families take once every few years, but we took some time to explore the area and visit the beaches. As unexciting as it may be for those of you who live in warmer climates, I still get a kick out of donning flip-flops in February. The following are a few things I learned/re-learned from my recent stays in SoCal:

  • In person, actor Mel Gibson looks like a dude you might see in the dog food aisle at Wal-Mart.
  • No matter what’s going on in the world– wars, the recession, our abrupt and disturbing race toward a socialist economy– everything’s ok when you’re on the beach.
  • Ditto for Disneyland.
  • Californians freak out about rain like Texans freak out about snow. Even if it’s just a light sprinkle. Seriously– travel to CA during one of their “storms” and turn on the local news. What a crack-up.
  • Californians really like donuts. I should have counted every strip mall store with the word “DONUTS” prominently displayed somewhere on its windows or marquee. Some of these stores, as far as I could tell, are actually named “DONUTS.” Simple and direct–  I like that.  And frankly the world could use more donuts.
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