Book Review: Sixty Meters to Anywhere by Brendan Leonard

 

Last Saturday, I found myself in Trident Booksellers, a cute coffee shop/bookstore in downtown Boulder, Colorado. Trident sits off the West End of the Pearl Street Mall, in the shadow of Boulder’s signature Flatirons—three iconic rocks that provide a slabby playground for the thousands of climbers that call the city home.

Even though the weather was beautiful, I wasn’t spending my weekend outside. I was alone, tapping away on my manuscript inside Trident. I spend a lot of days this way.

A man I know—a Bangladeshi Buddhist monk—tapped my table as he went to order a drink at the front. I smiled; happy to see him. He came back, Kombucha in hand. “We are studying out back, if you would like to join us.” I grinned a big grin, and said absolutely, I’d be out in a minute.

Boulder’s the sort of town where things like that aren’t too far out of the ordinary.

Out back, I found my monk with two friends who I had met once before, while rock climbing. They were all studying for their exams at Naropa University, a small Buddhist university. They asked me what I was doing. Writing my book, I responded. “Oh sweet, what’s it about?” one asked me. “Climbing?”

I laughed. “No, although you’d be forgiven for thinking that,” I said. “I am reading a book about climbing, though,” I said, brandishing a copy of Brendan Leonard’s new, bright-yellow book, Sixty Meters to Anywhere. “Have you guys been climbing since we last went?”

No!” the woman says. “We’ve tried to get out with Meg a few times, but it hasn’t happened.”

“I’ve got a rope and draws with me,” I said. “I could take you.”

We worked for a few hours, and then skipped off at 4:30, rushing home to grab our climbing gear, reconvene, and squeeze in some evening laps before the daylight died in Boulder Canyon.
We cheers over a few post-climb ciders and a vegetarian pie at Backcountry Pizza. Glad I ran into you two, I say. That was fun.

“I just feel so good after I climb,” the woman says. “I really want to learn more!”

This sentiment is what lies at the center of Brendan Leonard’s memoir, Sixty Meters to Anywhere.

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Book Review: Catcher in the Rye

 

I interviewed for a job recently, largely off the strength of this blog. The interviewer, who, after clicking around this site surely knew a lot more about me than I’d like, said: “The thing I like about you is your authenticity. You seem to be honest, no matter what you’re talking about.”

This was a big compliment for me, even though I ended up not getting the job.

Even now, the comment still warms me from within. It means I am doing something right. It means I am being the person I want to be. The kind words multiple interviewers gave me about this project warmed me against the sting of rejection.

“Authentic.”

Why does that word carry such a positive charge for me? And why is it such a deadly sin—in my perception—to be fake?

These are the questions that were knocking around in my head while I reread “Catcher in the Rye.”

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Book Review: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

I brought my Amazon Kindle on my most recent backpacking trip through the Balkans. There are many reasons for traveling with a Kindle—it’s smaller, lighter, and more versatile than bringing a physical book. Essentially, you can bring every book and magazine in all of human history without adding more than a few ounces to your bag.

And yet, I didn’t read a single book on my Kindle during my trip.

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Nepal 45: Howl

Alan Ginsberg Howl

My search for breakfast again took me along the touristy Lakeside strip. I didn’t much mind though—after a month of having the “local experience” in Taiwan, I was more than happy to play the tourist for a little bit.

And the Nepali love tourists. Not in a snide, disparaging way like you might find in some other places— the Nepali genuinely love their visitors, and are happy to help them experience the culture and natural beauty of their country. This is the only touristic place I visited on this trip where I didn’t feel any sort of tension between the tourists and the locals. So if you’re going to be a clueless tourist looking for a piece of home, Nepal is as good a place as any to do it.

My search for familiarity led me to the Pokhara branch of Himalayan Java. I had spent some time at the Himalayan Java in Kathmandu.

Apparently it’s a chain, I thought to myself as I spotted the signs. Maybe not a chain, could just be a second location. After all, the Himalayan Java in Kathmandu hadn’t seemed particularly slick or reproducible. And although Nepal’s a wonderful country, there probably aren’t too many opportunities to open a western-style coffee chain. Kathmandu, Pokhara, maybe Chitwan, I mused as I crossed the road and headed to the coffee shop.

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