>Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive & Write

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Driving down I-55 with my car on cruise and a favorite CD playing, I keep a pad and pen handy and often write down ideas for a short story or my novel or even a poem…. What’s scary is that on occasion I’ve suddenly noticed that I’ve written several paragraphs and wonder who’s driving the car. (Maybe it’s Earl—Holly Hunter’s angel on “Saving Grace”.) By the way… that’s not my car… yet…. I was watching this gorgeous ’86 Mercedez on eBay a while back and a friend Photo-Shopped me into it and sent the pix to me. Maybe some day….

Anyway, I was shopping the other day and picked up a little gadget called My Lil’ Reminder. It’s a personal digital voice recorder. Only cost $9.99 (should have been a clue, right?) for a package of two!

So, I get home and take them out of the package and, you guessed it, they only record for 20 seconds. And the next message you record erases the first one. Twenty seconds! You really do get what you pay for!

The next day I open up the Brookstone catalogue and on page 37 I see a Sony Voice Recorder with 256MB flash memory which records up to 91 hours. It’s $149.95. So I thought I’d ask my friends and readers if they’ve got a gadget to recommend. Please leave your suggestions in the comment section below so others can benefit! (or send me an email if you don’t do comments)

And speaking of gadgets, well not really gadgets but products, I’ve got two to share. Most writers really really care about the kind of pen we use. For years I’ve used a Pilot Precise V5 extra fine, which I still love. But recently I discovered the Precise V7 RT Pilot click pens! Yes, they click open and shut… not more keeping up with the top. Try ‘em.

Another recent purchase is a medium-size kidney-shaped bag for our trip to Greece. It’s by Ameribag. My tiny laptop fits in it, and a camera, notebook and other stuff. It’s ergonomically friendly to my back and less pick-pocket friendly, since your stash says at your side.

And speaking of Greece… here’s the first of a series of book reviews of the three books I’m reading to prepare for our trip in October. (We’ll be going to Athens, Leros, Patmos, Aegina, Delphi, and other places, but Patmos will be the highlight for me, because St. John wrote there, and he’s the patron saint of our parish.)

I decided to read a memoir about Patmos, a spiritual book about Patmos, and a memoir about Athens, in that order. So, today I’ll review The Summer of My Greek Taverna, a memoir by Tom Stone.

Tom Stone was a Broadway stage manager for ten years before moving to Greece. He has published several books on the history of Greece as well as travel guides, (including Frommers) Greek dictionaries, etc. The Summer is a wonderful combination of travel guide, memoir, and yes, cookbook. The final chapter, “Extra Helpings,” is 43 pages of recipes cooked up in his kitchen at “The Beautiful Helen,” the taverna he ran in Patmos one summer. He also describes and defines many Greek foods offered in restaurants, which will be very helpful during my visit! My favorite of his recipes is “Chicken Retsina” – which he invented while staying at a friend’s house on Mykonos. He couldn’t find anything to eat but some rice, a chicken in the freezer, grapes hanging over the door, and a large wicker bottle of retsina in the pantry. His family was hungry, so he threw it all together and ended up with what he calls “a gift of the Greek gods.” (Retsina is a Greek wine… he uses some of it to cook the chicken and drinks the rest with the meal!)

I loved the memoir because it’s so personal… his love affair and marriage to a French artist (who does gold-leaf applications to copies of icons and sells them to tourists!) and his colorful but rocky partnership with the owner of the tavern are described with candor and intimacy. Tom went to Greece to write a novel, and yes, he spends some time writing, but it’s his escapades with the locals and the taverna and the tourists that captivated me. Since I’ll be spending three days on Patmos, in a hotel right on the water, I’ll be anxious to look for the places he describes.

Because I’m Orthodox, a big part of my trip will be pilgrimage to the holy places in Greece… including attending services at the monastery church on Patmos and visiting the cave where St. John wrote the book of Revelations. (My icon of St. John, in progress at right, is based on a prototype from Patmos.)Tom’s memoir infuses daily life with only a bit of the flavor of the local pious Orthodox Christians’ lives. I’m getting a big dose of the spiritual side of Patmos in the second book in my series—A Place of Healing for the Soul: Patmos by Peter France, to be reviewed next.

That’s all for today… but I’ve got some news to share soon, so stay tuned! And please make Earl’s job easier by recommending a personal voice recorder I can use while driving!

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