Literary Archeology

Just outside of Darmstadt in Germany is a medieval ruin which would have little to distinguish it from any of the other hundreds of medieval ruins in Germany except for a short story contest held in Switzerland by a few friends staying in a cabin for the summer.

The friends were Lord Byron and the Shelleys (Percy, known for Ozymandias, among other poems, and Mary, who is the heroine of this tale). To pass the time, Byron apparently suggested that they each write a ghost story-- his and Percy's have been lost (they were probably no good anyhow) but Mary's has been remembered.

If you're wondering what all of this has to do with the aforementioned medieval ruin in Germany, you're asking the right question.

The reason this lonely castle has not been completely forgotten (although it has been almost completely forgotten) is that the tale Mary Shelley wrote that night borrows its name: Frankenstein. And thus Frankenstein Castle, un-notable in its own right, became the namesake of a great work. And thus, Frankenstein, the name of a small German noble family, became a name synonymous with terrifying monstrosities-- not perhaps the way Konrad Reiz von Breuberg wanted to be remembered, but a way to be remembered (or forgotten while your name is remembered and completely divorced from you and your history) nonetheless.


Late Night in Zion

Today was my third day of classes at BYU... usually I won't have class on Saturday, but I'm in a one-week accelerated course right now, as an introduction to the Honors program.

It's a lot of fun, but it keeps me busy.

I sent in my assignment about an hour ago-- it was due at midnight, so I'm making progress ;)

I don't have a European story tonight... Instead I have another boring announcement:

I like the idea of neatness (or, as G. K. Chesterton might say, the quality of neatness in writing) and part of my sense of neatness is that things should kind-of sort-of stick to a topic.

College life will, no doubt, give me a bunch to write about... and in the odd moments between doing my assignments and sleeping, I'll try to do so, and then post my thoughts online with the vague thought that they might be useful to someone or at the very least that those of you I sometimes neglect to call or write to or visit will have some notion of what I'm doing and thinking.

But this is not the place for that, because this is the place for memories of 'my tour of the Continent', as the heading clearly says.

Which means in a few days, or weeks, I will start another site for those writings, and join my brother and sister in the race to have the most blogs in the family.

Don't worry, this shouldn't make me any more neglectful of writing here than I already am... you can still hope for an update a week.

Also, new priority list, which is probably obvious to most of you but has not, heretofore, been obvious to me:

Homework second, family third, friends fourth, you, my dear readers, still in the top five... and since some of you are also family and all of you are friends, I'll take extra care.


Money Can't Buy

Throughout my trip, I find myself walking a very important line, which I finally find words to describe one day in Serbia.

I'm at the grocery store, buying cookies to take home to my family-- there are three different box sizes, but since I immediately eliminate the largest as an option, on the grounds that it's too big to fit in the little space I have left in my luggage, I'm left with two options-- the first, about the size of a standard Oreo box, costs about two dollars-- the other, single-serving-snack-sized, costs about fifty cents-- after a moment of staring at both options, I reach for my wallet and realize how little money I have left for my last two days in the country. I pick up the smaller box, reasoning that I really only need enough for my sister and parents to have a little taste of what Plazma cookies are like.

This is not a particularly rational decision, because I really like Plazma cookies, and I know that there's no way I'll be able to get them when I go home, unless I can find a Serbian grocery store (unlikely in the extreme). And the difference of a dollar fifty is not nearly enough, in terms of my budget for the trip, to really justify not getting the larger package.

But it's a decision I make anyway, and it's a decision I make mostly because there's a part of me that really hates to spend money.

And here comes the line I've been walking, and that I no doubt will continue walking for the rest of my life: When is saving money thrift, and when is it stinginess?

Because I value thrift. It's a virtue that comes from the knowledge that most of the best things in life are not material, and that material needs can be filled without getting things that are flashy or expensive. Thrift is the reason I stay with friends or in hostels rather than hotels. It's the reason I look for little local restaurants instead of eating in the first tourist trap I see. It's why, when I'm at home, I patch old clothes instead of buying new ones. And when I do need new clothes, my favorite way to get them is by 'thrifting'.

But there are times, like the one described above, when my penchant for saving drifts into the realm of stinginess, and I'm trying to find better ways of differentiating the two.

My simplest definition is that thrift raises quality of life, and stinginess lowers it. But since that's still a little murky to draw a clear line, I can also say that thrift is about spending money on the things that really matter, and stinginess is about spending no money at all. Or I could say that thrift comes from a sense of responsibility, and stinginess from a sense of greed.

But in the end, it's this that will guide me: Thrift is not caring too much for money, and stinginess is caring for nothing more.

Do I care too much for money? 'Cause money can't buy me love.


Time Travel

The problem with posting about my trip now is that the further I get from my experiences, the less urgent it seems to share them with the world. I'm caught in the flow of a new everyday life, where my major concern is not packing my bags and catching the train to Brussels, it's packing up my life and driving off to Utah for college.

Soon I know I'll be in another stream, moving between new classes and a new home, my daily concerns and habits reformed once more.

Travel through time makes a lot more difference than travel through space, and it happens only in one direction.

Well, almost only one direction...

Memory is almost like time travel, in the sense that it takes us back to things and places that would otherwise be lost in that relentless forward flow. So posting here becomes a chance to pull my mind back to the days when I was hurtling through space as well as time, hearing a different language and seeing a different city almost every other day.

From here on out, there will be two changes:

First of all, the posts will no longer be necessarily chronological in order-- the path of memory is no straight line, and I'll tell things as I remember them.

Second, because I know it's going to be hard for me to post in my new routine, I need a routine for posting... so look for updates each Saturday and Tuesday.

Now I'm going to sleep, which brings about another kind of travel through time...


Wisdom Extraction

I had five wisdom teeth taken out yesterday.

While this does not leave me feeling particularly more foolish, it does leave me with a more-than-sore jaw and a yearning for soft, lukewarm foods.


My recovery time will probably result in more regular postings, not less, because I can't do much but read, sleep, and bang away at my laptop.

I promise to get back to writing about the past in the near future.