Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Question time: Let's ask the 'Memo' blogger

Question time / Ask the blogger.
I enjoy the art of conversation with my friends on Facebook. It's a great way to get to know this diverse and inclusive group of people better, and I can do so from the convenience of home without having to worry about how I look or to shout to make myself heard in a noisy café.

Think about it. What's not to like about enjoying a cup of French roast coffee, creating an ambient music soundtrack to fill my chat room, and catching up on the world events around me that my Facebook newsfeed sees fit for me to read? And, best of all, I can learn what's on the minds of my friends near and far. It's the kind of multi-tasking I truly enjoy and derive a tremendous amount of benefit from.

Often, I am asked a lot of personal questions, especially by newer friends who want to get to know me better. Some of these questions are about my blogging or other writing I may be engaged in at the time. Others are about what I majored in at university (the answer: American History) and, especially from friends where English is their second or third languages, how to improve their English-language writing skills. I don't mind because I'm usually the one asking a lot of questions of my friends. I guess, it's the natural reporter's instinct in me. And, it's only fair to turn the tables every once in a while.

So, here are my answers to five questions I'm often asked:

The book currently on my bedside table is: The Tao of Travel by Paul Theroux, published in 2011. The New York Times called it "part gossip, part philosophy, it covers a lot of the angles on literary travel." Like the author, I cannot imagine myself not traveling. I bought the softcover version of the book last year while visiting Seattle.

An unforgettable place I've travelled to in the past year is: Seattle. My wife and I have been regular visitors to the Emerald City since the mid '90s. We have longtime friends who live there and enjoy hosting us. Often, our visits are timed in conjunction with the annual Bumbershoot music and art festival that takes place each year over Labor Day weekend. We have a list of favorite restaurants and cafes we enjoy dining at when we visit; favorite walking trails; even a favorite bookstore, Elliott Bay Book Company, which is one of the country's outstanding independent booksellers. And, if it's clear enough to see Mount Rainier on a nice day, that's a magnificent bonus.

What kind of wristwatch I wear: I wear a Swatch watch I bought while on holiday in Amsterdam in 2003. I like the way Swatch watches look on my wrist and, over the years, I have bought several in different styles and colors. To me, Swatch watches are always fashionable and in style.

In my fridge you'll always find: A half-gallon carton of low-fat milk and a half-gallon carton of orange juice sans pulp, both usually purchased from Trader Joe's. I like to start each day at breakfast with a small glass of orange juice and a bowl of cereal -- usually a mixture of oat squares with a dash of pecan praline granola served with milk. The milk also comes in handy when I have a cup of French Roast coffee, too.

Music that always leaves me in a good mood: Of many albums, one come to mind: 'Horowitz in Moscow' (Deutsche Grammophon, 1986). The piano virtuoso Vladimir Horowitz returned to his native Russia after an absence of more than 60 years, and he gave the recital of his life at the Moscow Conservatory in April 1986. It was broadcast live in the United States on CBS Sunday Morning. I remember waking up early on that spring Sunday morning to watch the lovely joy on the pianist's 82-year-old face as he played with both subtlety and with great power. "He gave the crowd pastel rainbows and crashing thunderstorms," wrote Charles Kuralt, the late host of CBS Sunday Morning, in the album's liner notes. And, indeed, a climax of memory and emotion, of pasel rainbows and crashing thunderstorms, could be found in Liszt's "Soirées de Vienne: Valse-Caprise No. 6". Lots of bravos and lots of tears everytime I listen to this album.

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