Archive for March, 2013


I’ve been invited to speak at the Rochester Public Library at 7 p.m. this Thursday (March 28) as part of the Library’s Visiting Author Series.

Months ago when we set this up, I thought when the day finally came I’d be terrified to speak. But I said yes. I try to always say yes. Years ago, I met Aleksandra Kasuba, the artist, who told me that whenever anyone came calling for her work, she’d say yes. She said there were times when she’d agree to something she didn’t even know how to do, then hang up the phone and look around at her small children, the house that needed some cleaning, a full schedule of plans, and realize she had no idea how she was going to get done what she’d just promised to get done. Yet, she stressed, she always said yes. Then she’d set out to teach herself the skill she needed.

cropped-book.jpgWhen Katherine from the Library asked me to speak, I said yes. And, as of a few days ago, I still had no idea what I would talk about. Upside Down Kingdom, of course, publishing… Me, I suppose… But I’m hit or miss. I’ve been telling my friends, “Sometimes I wake up and I’m interesting. Other days, I’m dull. We’ll see which Jody we get!”

And then I received two emails on Sunday from guests who’d come into Söntés and bought the book. The first was from a man who said the book gave him a whole new perspective on Washington, D.C. I daresay it opened his eyes on restaurant servers as well. He told me that he finished the book while sitting at an Outback restaurant, and though his tab was $30, he left his server a $100 tip and left before the server could discover it. “That,” his email said, “Was for you.”

His pass-it-on gesture was done in honor of me. How amazing! I just sat and smiled at that email. (And I wrote back that I remembered his table, the conversations we had, and what they ate. A server usually remembers what a guest liked to eat.) Days later, I’m still smiling over that email.

The second email I received was from a woman who gave me her perspective of meeting me. She came into Söntés with her friend, was sitting at the bar when she noticed my bookshelf. She wondered why the restaurant would endorse a book. The bartender, Annie, told her the author worked there.

Then I came over and talked with her, and that conversation made her want to know more. She bought the book, read it in two days, and emailed me. She said she was finishing cancer treatments and that my book reminded her of her adventurous spirit, and how she’d put her life on hold lately. Now she was going to set it back on track again with some traveling and anything necessary to “track down her happy.”

Wow. I took a few days before I wrote her back to really let that sink in. Last night, I wrote her and thanked her for reminding me why I do what I do.

Both of these emails remind me that my passion is for writing, in all forms. They remind me that what I do is important. There are days that I question myself—usually those are the days a bill shows up in the mailbox. Or when the house is a disaster and I’m behind on seemingly everything in my life. But everyone has that. This thing that I love to do, love to practice, has an effect on others. A good effect. I continue to say yes to opportunities, no matter how large or frightening they may seem. I teach myself something new.

Even the worst days writing are better than the best days working at something I’m not passionate about doing. Thank you, Chris and Michelle, for your emails and for inspiring me.poster

Again, I talk at the Rochester Public Library tomorrow, March 28, at 7 p.m. I’m going to read a little from my book and I’m going to talk about some stuff. It might very well prove to be inspiring, now that I know what I want to say.

In addition, (and just one of a million reasons why I love Söntés) Söntés Restaurant is offering a 10% discount off your entire check this Thursday and Friday (March 28 & 29) when you bring your copy of Upside Down Kingdom in to the restaurant. Nook, Kindle, and various E-readers count, too. Bring them in. Eat, drink, and read.

~

Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, available on Amazon: dld.bz/bYuX4

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What have I been doing lately, you ask? Ta da! What follows is a Tall Tale speech I gave that took first place at my ToastMasters Club in February, and placed third at the Rochester Area level competition last Saturday.

I tell a tale, a tail, you’ll see,

a tale of adventure and woe

A tale of we three, my friends and me,

of me and Bill and Joe

We three we went away one day,spooky

away from the pub we know

We went to see what else could be,

where else the liquor flow

And just next door, never seen it before,

there was a pub called Suds

We looked around at this new place we’d found,

Seemed all right for me and my buds

This place was very warm, and true to form

The patrons looked a little roughcrowd

They didn’t dance in the aisle or give us a smile

They did manage to look quite tough

There were no sports pictures or TVs or transistors

The walls were the color of tar

We could hold our own, and people like us at home

So we walked ourselves up to the bar

They may not care who is winning the inning

beerBut if the beer is cheap we approve

We sidled on up to get us a cup

At last we would get in the groove

We got five mugs each–we had to try the place at least—

and that’s when things got strange

the barkeep Old Charon said life was just barren,

would we like to expand our drinking range?

He took out a bottle of something called grottle,

the bottle it just seemed to glow

With a wild look in his eye and the grottle held high,

he was not a man, we did know

He said call me friend

and drank the elixir

We watched as he poured what was left

in the mixer

He gave out Howl that sounded like a growl

And his frenzy chilled our blood

But when he grew a tail and horns and eyed us with scorn

That’s when we ran from the place they call Suds

And so in the end we did not call him friend

We ran back to our old happy haunt

We told of our plight and no one laughed at our fright

They’d all had their own grottle jaunt

They said we had luck that we didn’t get stuck

in the place that was right next door

For they all knew our story was true

That’s why they don’t venture for more

Since then we’ve been able to remain quite stablecoasters

drinking mug after mug at our pub

We don’t go too far, we love our great bar,

We’re glad to avoid Beezlebub

Cheers!

~

Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, available on Amazon: dld.bz/bYuX4

Landstuhl Postcards

Excerpt from my Germany 2012 travel journals, with my friends Keith and Johanna…

It’s late summer here in Landstuhl, Germany. The sun is shining and the air is clean. There are a few thin clouds above that are strikingly white against the bright blue sky, and the town itself is quaint and easy to walk.street 2

We drove through a couple of smaller towns on our way here from the Frankfurt airport, towns full of pink brick houses. houseWe’d also passed fields and fields of red clay. There aren’t many of those pink bricks here in Landstuhl, but the houses and flower boxes are just immaculate. People really take time and care to make their dwellings look trim, neat, and colorful, yet orderly.

The ride on the Autobahn was thrilling and terrifying. Our driver told stories of how he’s been pulled over in France many times and been made to pay the tickets on the spot. He was probably the fastest driver on the Autobahn this morning. We flew past trucks and small cars as the scenery of blurred greens whizzed by. I was trying to get a sense of the landscape, the size and shapes of the hills and rolling fields, but it really was just blurs of color since we were traveling so fast. It made me sick to my stomach and I had to look away. Johanna focused on her knitting and had no problems.

Keith looked at the speedometer at one point and did the kilometers-to-miles conversion in his head. He made a startled face, and then didn’t want to tell me. I decided I didn’t want to know. There was an order to the deadly chaos, though. Cars used the left lane for passing, and the right lane for driving. (Our driver stayed in the left lane nearly the entire time.) We only had to slam on the brakes a couple of times.

The Frankfurt airport was every bit as sparse and dreary as the Keith and Johanna said it would be. (I’ve always thought Philadelphia was the worst. To their credit, they’d been doing repairs at the time.) Our airplane into Frankfurt, though, had been new and gigantic. I was in row 43, which was not quite the last row. And they had USB ports at every seat so you could charge your phone or other gadgets while the plane flew. That was convenient.

We ate pizza at a café here that had a view of the hospital on the hilltop. lunchstreetWe ate out in the fresh air under an umbrella as a few cars passed by. We laughed at ourselves for thinking the entire place looked like a postcard—a modern card or even one from 60 years ago—Landstuhl, and what we’ve seen of Germany so far, looked lifted from a timeless book.

After the plane trip and the severe lack of sleep, we were all feeling very woozy. Keith and Johanna said I have vertigo. Johanna has it, too. I nearly fell down on the walk back from lunch. As we walked along, there were suddenly steps that I didn’t see. Someone put steps in the middle of nothing along the sidewalk. [Editor’s Note: I would trip on these steps two more times during our stay in Landstuhl, even when I was looking for them.]

After lunch, we visited the train station briefly and then returned to the Hotel Christine for a little shuteye. johannaKnowing we shouldn’t sleep if we don’t want massive jet lag to set in, we still realized the need for some sleep. In the past, I’ve been able to take quick catnaps and still wind up acclimated by the second day of a trip. [Editor’s Note: Ha! That’s because in the past, I knew some restraint. In a future post, I’ll tell you how I found out firsthand that alcohol, trains, vertigo, and jet lag don’t mix–and how on this trip I won’t acclimate ‘til Italy. But for now, hear how calm and self-assured I am. So cute.]

My room is spacious, with wooden furniture and a lot of pine. The bed is two beds pushed together, but they gave me one pillow and one one-person comforter.room  The bathroom is rather spacious, and very clean. There is a lot of dark marble in the bathroom that makes it look very new and sleek as opposed to the large, wooden furniture of the room. The hot shower felt great. bathroomI slept really well, despite my suspicion that the walls are very thin. I don’t hear much from the rooms on either side of me, but I hear everything from the hallway. Conveniently, I can hear Keith and Johanna leave their room on their way to mine to pick me up.

Keith is here for a meeting, and to talk at the hospitals. Johanna and I will use the free time to walk around the town and take pictures. Tomorrow we’re off to Munich. We have some crazy plans on this trip, some good, some worrisome. But this is just the start of our 17-day adventure…

 

Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, available on Amazon: dld.bz/bYuX4

 

 

Sea of Galilee

Excerpt from my 2011 Israel journals…

This morning, we went to the Chapel of the Primacy along the edge of the Sea of Galilee. Our guide Hani explained that this church was made of black basalt stone.  DSC00044Hani told us how the Sea is really a lake, and how the original transcribers translated it incorrectly. He called the Sea of Galilee “the lake” all day.

We took pictures and a group photo, and gathered rocks and seashells along the water’s edge. There was a mist above “the lake” that never burned off as the day progressed. We had a gathering together under the trees at a small amphitheatre, and it sprinkled a bit, but the trees protected us.

I was amazed how peaceful the Israeli countryside is. Very serene.

We went to another spot on the Sea of Galilee for a boat ride. It was raining now—a decent, heavy sprinkle–and we were happy to find that our boat had a flat canvas covering over most of the middle to keep us fairly dry. It did not protect us from the wind, however, which was wet and cold as we powered out onto the water.

Biblical Note: This was the water that Jesus walked on.

Today the water was grey and flat, and fairly opaque, and our boat was a large, wooden motorboat that aptly smelled like oil and wet wood. We went to about the middle of the lake and the boatmen cut the engines on cue.DSC00552 It was instantly quiet and peaceful, not even the flat water was lapping, and we had a time of teaching where Hani gave us information and Pastor Farm did a small sermon. We sang a song and then got up from our chairs. [Author’s Note: Singing makes me uncomfortable. It’s something that I need to get over, but it’s low on the list at the moment. In reading that last line, I’m alert to the way I shoved getting “up from our chairs” into a sentence about singing, and how that minimized the singing. We did sing, and we did get up, but I could have written it a million different ways. This is the kind of thing that amuses me.]

The boatmen demonstrated their casting nets to show us how Peter and the other DSC00054Disciples would have done it. These are not drag nets pulled (dragged) behind the boat, but are cast nets that one gathers onto one’s shoulder and then tosses out the side of the boat (i.e., they’re cast). The cast net looks like a spider web with little rocks tied to the outer edges. Hani said the rocks gather together and help close the net as you pull up the fish. He said sometimes the net would catch on something and so it was the job of one of the fishermen to dive into the water and unsnare the net.

Biblical Note: Unsnaring the net was Peter’s job, Hani said, because it says in the Bible [John 21] that after fishing, Peter dressed himself. He was not lounging or sunbathing, Hani said, but rather he was likely the guy who had to jump in the water that day. [Author’s Note: I can’t help but be tickled that Hani pointed out this detail in the writing.]

The boatmen restarted the boat and I was worried that it would get cold again because when the boat stopped, so did the cold, wet wind. But heading back to shore actually seemed much warmer.

Hani explained to us that windsurfing was outlawed on the lake. Only fishermen wereValley of Doves 2 permitted and tour boats like the one we were in. He said the lake is a basin with mountains all around, and authorities realized that the wind traveled across the water, hit the opposite mountains, and reversed itself back over the water—which would capsize anything with a sail.photo

Hani told us that stones that are found in the lake are polished and made into necklaces. Our boatmen sold them from a wooden case and we bought these inexpensive little trinkets because they were beautiful and fun.

We took pictures out on the water and the boatmen played American music for us and we carried on like it was a party. We were no longer stiff, cold, and afraid, but walking (and dancing) freely about the boat…

 

Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, available on Amazon: dld.bz/bYuX4

 

 

 

 

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