My colleague, the system administrator, thought it was really weird that I would go on vacation with my ex-wife and her partner. In a mock intervention, he demanded that I confess to wanting a three-way. A lot of us at the library were refugees from the humanities, with bigger vocabularies than we knew what to do with. The banter. We still make each other laugh. But then, two weeks before my furlough was scheduled to begin, I got an email from my ex-wife.
She and her partner and their French friends had decided to do the Camino de Santiago instead. That is, instead of riding in a minivan from Speyer to Canossa, they were going to do a real hike, an actual walk on foot, from Pamplona to Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain. My ex-wife wished me well. I was disappointed, of course, but then it occurred to me: maybe this is another opportunity, just like the furlough.
I had found a good price on the minivan rental, and when I added up the numbers I realized I could afford it by myself. What could I do with that minivan? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was my opportunity to do the Walk to Canossa the way I really wanted to do it, the way I had always wanted to do it, since that day in undergrad when I first traced the route on a paper map.
I'm Too Young to Be This Old
I carried that map in my own backpack from study carrel to study carrel in the university library, and as I read the history of the Middle Ages I would draw on that map, with a mechanical pencil, my own personal overlay of the medieval world. My penciled overlay included old boundaries, old place names, old routes: Speyer to Bisanz. Bisanz to Gex.
Gex to Mont Cenis. Mont Cenis to Savoy. Savoy to Canossa. Buy the Book. What I thought, when I began the journey, was that I was on top of my financial situation. And it was true. What I had were credit cards. To be exact, at the beginning of my journey, I had six credit cards, each of which had a zero balance. It was a number of which I was aware, a number I tracked in a spreadsheet, a number of which I was somewhat proud. Now was it my plan to put the trip to Canossa on credit? Of course not. Absolutely not. No way. I wanted to preserve the beautiful snow-white purity of my unused credit.
I had enough money in my checking account to bankroll a thrifty vacation, and that was without even touching my emergency fund , which I kept in a money market account attached to my checking as overdraft protection. You see, I started the trip in a good solid place financially. Even though the world economy had collapsed, even though I was being forced to take a two-week unpaid furlough, I had my act together.
I was one of the ones who were going to navigate the crisis with confidence: I was going to thrive. It would have been out of the question. I would have taken a temporary consulting gig. I would have made sure the cash kept coming in. Of course I was going to pay for the trip with money I already had. That was obvious. I never even considered the possibility of using my credit because the point of the journey was almost the exact opposite of going into debt.
You see, I firmly believed that I was paying a debt. It was a debt which I believed at long last I could afford to pay, that after almost two and a half decades I needed to pay. A debt that had come due. What kind of debt? Well, there are debts and there are debts.
It was a debt I felt I owed myself: the debt I had incurred twenty-odd years earlier by abandoning a graduate program in Medieval Studies.
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Back in , after my first year of graduate school, my advisor told me in no uncertain terms that if I ever wanted to become a professional scholar of the Middle Ages I needed to improve my Latin skills. A lot. She recommended a summer course with her old professor.
So I signed up for the course, and took a part-time job at the Waukegan public library. I figured it would be an easy job in a comfortable environment, just wheeling books around on carts and putting them on shelves, which would leave my brain free to finally master the difference between ictus and hiatus. Well the original professor, the nice old guy, had a heart attack, and he was replaced by this Romanian linguist, an individual who did not include English among his seven fluent languages and immediately removed all the medieval Latin—the only kind I was interested in—from the syllabus.
Meanwhile, the library was in a big push to finally close its paper card catalog and go completely digital, and I was one the few people in the building who could navigate their new computer system. In fact, it turned out that I could read and write Structured Query Language.
So the easy job quickly became an exciting and challenging one, and my mind a battleground between two languages: Classical Latin and SQL. Toward the end of summer, the library offered me a full-time job. The choice was easy. I took an incomplete in the Latin class and a leave from graduate school, and by the time I looked back, a few years later, all my academic options had expired: I had become a database professional, and was no longer a grad student on leave.
Sure I had some regrets. I remember one time, probably in the early s, during my lunch one day I was reading a new book from the one of the medieval history shelves I kept an eye on the s and s of the Dewey Decimal System. Great stuff. I think I was even taking notes, there in the lunch room.
Anyway, one of my colleagues, the system administrator, muttered a Brando imitation as he walked by me:. Or, to be accurate, it looks like I began to compose posts that I never published. I just found them, about an hour ago, three long unpublished posts which must have been sitting, for the last seven years, in the Online Drafts folder. Like the nightmare in Strasbourg, I had completely forgotten about those two nights in Halifax, and that in-between day of both intellectual and sensual delights. And I had forgotten about my exhilaration: how I felt that my journey had come to a culmination, to its—yes, I actually said this in one of the drafts— to its climax.
I thought I had finally figured out something important. I really believed, at least for a little while, that at last I knew how to tell the story, a story that was about so much more than me driving from Speyer to Canossa in a minivan—it was about the meaning of things that happened more than a thousand years ago, about the way they mean , about how they mean.
According to those posts, I had found the magical key to the past: I had discovered, that is, how history always happens in the present. Of course when I write that now, it looks pretentious and pseudo-profound, kind of stupid, really, but at the time, there in that hotel, that overcrowded way station with its touches of value-added luxury, it must have struck me with the force of a profound insight: something that was true , not just for me, not just in April and May of , but for everyone , all the time.
What is history after all I thought but someone in the present telling a story about the past? In fact, it all seems part of a very different narrative—the idea, those posts, even that scene in the bar now seem to me to be elements of a much simpler story. Two thousand-fucking-nine, for chrissake, when the economy of the world was collapsing all around me.
Yeah, I suppose it was worth it. Yeah, it was some vacation, an amazing opportunity, I still have to admit that.
Seven Minivans That May Be Your Perfect Family Car
Yeah, I met some people in person whom I had previously encountered only in dry histories or in overwrought dramatizations. But did I really get to know them? Not really. It was more like I went on a timeshare vacation with a dysfunctional family—a family I was more than happy to part ways with once we had reached our destination. I wished I had a navigator in the car as I looked for the rental car place, because I ended up in the wrong lane the first time through and had to loop around again.
But still, when I parked the minivan and went into the little shed to do the paperwork, I was right on schedule. At first everything seemed to be going smoothly, but then the clerk asked me to follow him to their main office inside the aeroporto itself.
The clerk took me behind the counter, and asked me to have a seat in a little room. There was a lot of whispering in the hallway, and when they saw I was listening, they closed the door. I sat there alone for an hour, until they found someone who could explain the situation to me in English. She told me there was a stain in the wayback seat of the minivan. I told her that the stain was probably just Turin maybe? She wrote something on a piece of paper, took it to the door, and handed it silently to someone outside.
I thought. The woman came back to the table and began asking more questions. Robb Lightfoot lives in the country and has been fighting a losing battle against home repairs, misbehaving dogs, and his four children. He hates his minivan, but loves his leftovers. Robb was the first to reveal the connection between the Mayan extinction and their secret fruitcake recipe etched into the background of their famous calendars.
These 23 tales, illustrated with appropriate and child-safe images, are offered here for the first time as a collection. Visit his website www. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published March 12th by Thinking Funny first published December 30th More Details Other Editions 2. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Or So It Seems Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters.
Sort order. Apr 17, Tony D'Souza rated it it was amazing. Robb Lightfoot is a humorist and a humanist ; 'a parent who pays a mortgage' as he writes in his hilarious book , a kinder, gentler Dave Barry. I laughed out loud more times than I can count reading 'Stupid Minivan' and books don't often make me do that. His eye for detail is outstanding--recalling for example that dads always risk burning off their arm hair when they light candles in pumpkins just to make their kids happy, the absurdities of cell phone plans when everyone in the family demands t Robb Lightfoot is a humorist and a humanist ; 'a parent who pays a mortgage' as he writes in his hilarious book , a kinder, gentler Dave Barry.
His eye for detail is outstanding--recalling for example that dads always risk burning off their arm hair when they light candles in pumpkins just to make their kids happy, the absurdities of cell phone plans when everyone in the family demands the upgrade, those horrible early mornings when we hear the garbage truck rolling by and realize that none of the kids who have promised to take out the trash actually have--these are stories of everyday life in all its ridiculousness and repetition.
But behind it all is that most important thing--which Lightfoot knows on every page of this warm book--all of it, the mortgage, the dog, the marriage, the kids, make up that great equation we call love. Nothing could be more important, and what can we do in the end but laugh? Such as with the 'stupid minivan' of the title. After all, none of us expected to end up driving--ugh! And yet when the kids are grown and the old ugly Windstar gets hauled to the scrap heap at last, what can we do but stand in the driveway with tears in our eyes at the passing of a beloved era?
Lightfoot makes us notice and remember all those difficult, funny moments called life that we simply wouldn't trade for the world.
- Reward Yourself.
- Or So It Seems The Stupid Minivan and More Tales of Midlife Madness on Apple Books.
May 13, Amy rated it it was amazing Shelves: goodreads-first-reads , short-stories-novellas. What amkes this book so funny is the fact you can totally relate to it. Counting the cost of a risk based in dollars for medical care Being embarrassed by the mini van but then growing to love it Good cop, bad cop method of getting to the bottom of a mystery involving the kids All the while you know this author is devoted to his family and I love that!
I laughed out loud, laughed until I cried and snorted in joy. Fun for any parent! It helps you re What amkes this book so funny is the fact you can totally relate to it. It helps you realize you are actually sane for thinking some of the things you do! There were many different writing techniques used in this book and I enjoyed them all.
I was grateful to receive this book as a goodreads giveaway. Jun 16, Chanda rated it really liked it. A hilarious book that accurately chronicles the crazy busy midlife-with-little-ones years. I loved how the author weaved the truth throughout the book and took a comedic stance at the insane things we go through with our children.
I will definitely pick up the Christmas book of his. Thanks for the laughs!!
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May 14, Bonnie Franks rated it it was amazing Shelves: first-reads. This book is soooooo funny! I love the type of humor and the ability to write it is great! Smiling and laughing all the way through. And free is good, right? If you'd be so kind as to whitelist our site, we promise to keep bringing you great content. Thanks for that. And thanks for reading Autoblog. You still haven't turned off your adblocker or whitelisted our site. It only takes a few seconds. Seven great minivans that may be your perfect family car. Autoblog Staff.
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