Oh, Tolstoy!

Tolstoy scaring some children.


Recently I’ve been reading Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina—but then again, who hasn’t??

It’s a great book, and for a 19th Century Russian society novel, it’s pulled me in with surprising force. I’ve read and quite enjoyed books like Pride and Prejudice, so I’m no stranger to foofy, old-fashioned stories of debutantes at balls, unrequited love, swooning, and all other that crap. However, I can say without pride that my prejudice lies on Anna Karenina’s side. While reading the book, I intercepted this discreet note from Tolstoy to Jane Austen: “My dear lady, you seem to have dropped your ass. Please allow me to hand it to you. Sincere Greetings, etc, –Lev “Leo” Tolstoy.

Yesterday evening, in fact, I had time to consider the book more during my “Girl’s Night In,” as I called it in my mind. I only named it that ’cause I realized while it was going on that it was a pretty girly way to spend an evening.* But as I was reflecting on the book over a homemade quesadilla, I seemed to remember that during my Tolstoy class in college, my professor noted that one of the author’s main interests was trying to answer the question “How should one live life?” I have also been grappling with this question of late, as I’m sure many of my friends and contemporaries are. And thus far, the answers have come out jumbled.

One would think that living with a beautiful wife in a foreign country, with a job I enjoy that gives me plenty of free time to–as my grandpa would say–putz around, that I’d be sitting pretty. And indeed, I am quite content with my life right now. But then again, there’s always that itch. What is it about human nature that gives us this striving for something new, something better, something—anything—different than our current position, regardless of how desirable our current state is?

I think I’m just concerned that if I’m not careful, life will pass me by, and that I have an obligation to try to live it to the fullest. Damn you, Ferris Bueller, you were right! But where does that take me now? Should I stay here and live for the rest of my life in this shit-kicking hamlet in the mountains of Central America that I have grudgingly begun to love? Should I abscond with my wife to my homeland of the Estados Unidos to get us some more advanced education, a better-paying job, and possibly better prospects for any future kids? Should we get my brother Paul on the phone who, for some reason, I really want to call and see if he wants to go to Japan? Should we try our luck again with the Germans? Despite all my efforts to the contrary, am I somehow nevertheless wasting my life?

I know that there is a certain urgency to these questions. As my last boss put it, “You gotta figure this stuff out; soon you’ll be 35.” Hmm, well, I hope he meant “30,” but with my hairline, the confusion’s understandable. 30, 35, even 25…whatever. He’s right. I do gotta get this stuff figured out, and soon, if possible. I guess that this confusion is possibly the root of human existence, and if we’re not asking ourselves these questions, we’re probably doing something wrong, or at least attempting to live obliviously in relation to life’s reality, the one, underlying fact behind it all: from the moment we’re born, our days or numbered.

Any suggestions from the crowd?

On a lighter, less wino-sounding note, today is mine and Angela’s second anniversary. At least I got the “essential companion” part of my life figured out. Angela, if you get to an internet café in the next three months and happen to read this, then Te amo! Gracias por todo el amor y todas las felicidades que me das cada día!


*Here’s how the “Girls’ Night In” evening went down: After working in the yard all day—Thank God I did at least something manly!–shoveling rocks and cutting stuff with my machete, I retired to the house. Angela was at work, so I poured myself a glass of cheap, shitty boxed white wine, drew a warm bath, and while listening to music I read through the new Martha Stewart Living that my mom sent me. I was going to read more of Karenina, but I wanted to be sure not to drop it in the tub and get it wet. Even though a lot of the music was stuff like Johnny Cash, Black Sabbath, or The Mars Volta, I still felt it a rather feminine way to spend the evening. All that was missing was a viewing of Angela’s copy of Sleepless In Seattle, a tub of chocolate ice cream, and those old sweatpants that only I like…

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Sitzman

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6 thoughts on “Oh, Tolstoy!

  1. Julio to Ryan: You’re the funniest chick I know. A bath? White wine?

    RE: your future plans: hows about coming to DC and keeping me company while the wife’s away? We could eat astronaut ice cream together!

    It would be just like Berlin, C.R., except less beautiful, and the home of a ba-zillion ethnic groups all making beans-n-rice derivatives.

  2. Flavor?!? I think it’s Neopolitan, so you get it all. But you’re missing the point here, man: this ice cream, is ice cream that is consumed in SPACE, by freaking Astronauts! And, unlike in commie Russia, in DC they let average joes like you and me eat it! USA! USA! USA!

    True, it might be 5 bucks a pop, but as yourself this: Can you eat a moon rock!? No.

    Additionally, DC is becoming The Hip city to be in (screw-you Portland!) Don’t take my word for it. Check out all the cool shit that’s going on here: http://dcist.com/ (just glance over the Marion Barry stuff.)

  3. Throw in a Space Pen and you’ve got yourself a deal.
    BTW Costa Ricans love space, since they love Franklin Chang-Diaz, the first Costa Rican in space. Look him up. He’s like Lance Armstrong combined with Christopher Reeve, in terms of Tico Inspiration.

  4. You know you are always welcome to come up to Iowa. I don’t really know where Im going either, but the invite there all the same.

    Oh, and grow a pair. Im going to send you some country music and beer.

  5. Iowa? Jesus, when you put it that way, Costa Rica’s looking pretty spectacular!
    Just kidding, but for an Iowegian, you’re pretty belligerent (sp?).
    I don’t think that anyone really knows where they’re going, so I guess at least we’ve most all got that in common.
    And strangely enough, when I read your message, I was listening to Alan Jackson. So I’m OK on country music, but beer is always welcome.
    –Sitzman

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