Quick Takes from the Drive-Thru

  • One lady came through the drive-thru during a downpour and didn’t turn off her windshield wipers. I got several facefuls of water before I managed to spit out a cease fire. 
  • One of my more funloving coworkers and spent a happy downtime whispering like Gollum into the headsets to each other from our separate domains within the kitchen.
  • I told my family about said funloving coworker’s diabetic cat who gets insulin shots on a specific schedule and everything. Clare thought the cat’s name was Diabetic Cat. If I ever own a cat, this will be its name, but only a select few will know because I will normally call it DC. 
  • The day after a bad storm/tornado ripped through the area and took out the power of a large swath of northern St. Louis, I clocked 12.43 hours at the drive-thru. One coworker described me as being “off my nut.” I hit a weird giggly numb state at one point. Never again. 
  • A lady came through with a spider on her window and refused to roll it down, forcing me to squash the intruder to keep my time down. She proclaimed my bravery and heroics as she paid me.
  • Did you know every drive thru worker you come across is on a timer? The time you spend at my window is of utmost importance to my manager, how my day goes, and whether or not I’ll ever get paid more than minimum wage. Every time you ask me for a side of honey mustard or an ice cream sandwich or change your turtle caramel milkshake to a red velvet milkshake at the window, one more of my hairs turns grey. Every time you order more than $15 worth of food…you are abusing your drive thru privileges. Seriously? You’re making me count 24 pennies? I guess you get points for actually having your money ready, but still.
  • Also, since when is it okay to be on your phone at the drive-thru window.
  • No, I’m not trying to memorize your credit card number. I’m looking at your name, because there are some great ones out there. (Best last name so far: Erp.) Other perks of my job include wearing a bowtie, the cute dogs who come thru in the passenger seats, taking out my unquelled rage on the unbroken hunks of ice, and the rare occasion of someone I know coming through. 

Last Days in Rome

After approximately 19 hours of travel, fortified by Chick-Fil-A and Jamba Juice. I’m still not quite ready to process my semester. So all I have is this baby step:


My last evening in Rome was made up of a series of firsts: the Cupola of St. Peter’s was conquered. Chocolate-drenched gelato from Frigidarium was digested, as was a drink at  Scholar’s. Then, because my fellow gelato and drink digesters had not planned our time well, I finally ran along Via dei Fori Imperiali, right past the Colosseum  In a floor length skirt. Because we were going to be late for the school-sponsored pizza dinner. Luckily, we made it, despite my purse breaking mid-flight.

After dinner, a large group of merry students made their way back up Via dei Fori Imperiali, taking silly photographs posing as famous statues we studied in Art & Architecture: everything from Bernini’s Apollo & Daphne (with help from a bystanding tree) to the classic Venus Pudica. Once we hit the bars, the group broke into bar-hoppers and cigar-seekers. Not particularly interested in spending money (or smoking a cigar, for that matter), I used my powers of persuasion on a few girlfriends to accompany me in my continued mission of firsts: a coin was tossed into the Trevi Fountain (and my camera decided to capture the moment and make it artsy-fartsy), merriment was made in Piazza Navona (read: heads were dunked in Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi), and I played my harmonica on the steps of Sant’Ignazio.

Sunday, May 5, I wandered about Rome for the last time. I teared up as I turned my back on St. Peter’s Square, prayed at St. Catherine’s tomb at Santa Maria sopra Minerva, and listened to the organ at San Luigi while I admired the Caravaggios, and wondered at the Pantheon. I didn’t let my solo-ness stop me from sitting down in a sea of couples for lunch in Trastevere. “Solo?” asked the waiter. “Solo,” I confirmed. The church count for the day soared into the double digits.

Last Day in Rome

Needless to say, it was a triple gelato day.

Hello, America. Hello summer jobs, Youtube, letter-writing, family, frisbee, barbecue, home cooking, and coffee with old friends. Hello organic chemistry, library books, Spotify, driving, Cardinals baseball, and making myself romesick by looking through photographs on Facebook for too long. 

One Year

It’s been one whole year, folks, since I started this little shindig.

Writing publicly here provides a certain challenge I have fallen in love with: how do I write this well, clearly, and sensitively? How can I show through my words? How can I stop using so many forms of to be?

Writing for Climb Ev’ry Mountain opens my eyes to the strange and the wonderful and coincidences in my life I doubt I’d otherwise notice.

Writing publicly reminds me that I don’t just write for myself. I do write to extract these lessons for myself, but also for anyone else who happens to poke his nose around these hereabouts.

Here’s to many more years of thinking deep thoughts and writing deep writes. Thanks for reading.

Twenty Before Twenty-One

We celebrated New Years’ over three months ago, you say. Better late than never, I say.

Normally, I hold off on “New Years’ Resolutions” until my birthday, in late January, anyway. And they aren’t actually resolutions…I like to think of them as missions. And the number of missions I attempt is determined by the age I am turning.

I finally brainstormed up twenty whole things during one of my many train rides over spring break, so here they are:

  1. Try gelato: so far, my favorite flavor is melone. Other recommendations: pistachio & ricotta,
  2. See St. Peter’s with my glasses on
  3. “Learn” one piece of classical music a week. As in, be able to identify the piece when I hear it
  4. Learn a piece on the piano
  5. Run in a race: during the class trip to Greece, I participated in a footrace in the original Olympic Stadium.
  6. Climb a mountain: climbed the Mt. Parnassus in Delphi.
  7. Write a letter to my future self (post-Rome)
  8. Go to the Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis
  9. Make Dean’s List
  10. Play the lick from Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” on the sax
  11. Read 30 books
  12. Write up college advice for my sister
  13. Go to 10 performances: So far, I’ve been to Aida at the Staatsoper in Vienna, Lang Lang at the Koln Philharmonic
  14. Watch 5 new films from the AFI’s Top 100 list: possibilities include Gone with the Wind, Schindler’s List, Bridge on the River Kwai, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Maltese Falcon, North by Northwest, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, or The Philadelphia Story.
  15. Figure out Fun.’s “Some Nights” on the harmonica
  16. Go stargazing
  17. The Research Project: pick a random topic to read about each month. Possibilities: cartography, astrobiology, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pixar, operas, saxophonists, Cardinals baseball history, music theory, hair dye color theory, geology, eyes, John Steinbeck, epigenetics…
  18. Post every Sunday (at least)
  19. Punt a pigeon: kicking a pigeon is good luck in Italy!
  20. Not lose my glasses

Here’s hoping I’ll be posting again very, very soon.


March has been the most jam-packed whirlwind of a month in the history of…well, my life at least, but I think it’s in the running for the history of the world category as well. I have spent the night in 11 different cities in the month of March, in 4 countries, as well as a night on a train, and two nights on a ferry.

March 1 through 10 I traveled through Greece with my class, hitting up Olympia, Nafplion, Athens, Mycenae, Delphi, Epidauros, Thessaloniki, and Meteora.

March 11 through 14 I attempted to pay attention in class, but actually was thinking about Greece, the papal elections, and Ten-Day/Spring Break. Yes, I was in St. Peter’s Square when the white smoke went up. Yes, it wins the coolest moment of my life award.

March 14 I took an overnight train to Munich, and I’ve been traveling through Austria and Germany by train ever since, visiting Salzburg, Vienna, Munich, Cologne, and Berlin.

I can’t wait to sit down and go through all my notes from the past 22 days, and start writing again. I’ve climbed a lot of mountains, literally and figuratively. Get ready for this.

Art of Assisi

Immediately following the canonization of St. Francis in 1228, the construction of a church was begun in his honor in his hometown of Assisi. The entire complex, known as the Basilica di San Francesco, contains an upper and a lower church, as well as the crypt of St. Francis.

Upon entering the lower church, the visitor is inundated with an overwhelming collection of frescoes adorning any and every surface. On either side of the main part of the church are scenes from the life of St. Francis mirroring the life of our Lord: when Jesus is stripped of his garments in the moments leading up to his crucifixion, St. Francis is stripping off his clothes, denouncing his father.

The numerous frescoes were painted by a variety of artists: Giotto and Cimabue are the most famous names, but many more artists contributed as well. The more I looked around, the more details that popped out at me. One of the “filler” paintings (my own name for the strips of space that someone just filled in with a pattern between actual scenes or saint portraits) was filled with feathers, recalling the preaching of St. Francis to the birds. In another spot, there were some blue squares where normally a saint would be painted. Perhaps the reason for the blank canvas is due to the ongoing restoration following the 1997 earthquake that struck Assisi, but I like to think that the spots are beckoning us to be saints, and to live lives to fill the blue square.

Cimabue’s “Maesta,” with St. Francis to the side. Besides the portrait of St. Francis in Subiaco, this depiction is held to be the most true to life. The solemnity and simplicity of St. Francis draws your attention, as it contrasts with the grandeur of the rest of the lower church.

Here’s the grandeur I’m talking about. There are numerous lights in the between the columns of the altar that were lit up, too, while I was wandering around.

In stark contrast with the lower church’s intimidating grandeur is just down some steps on the left side of the main part of the church: the crypt of St. Francis. The simplicity of stone walls and the muted color scheme (brown, brown, and more brown) is like a breath of fresh air. Don’t get me wrong, the lower church definitely earns a spot on my favorite churches list, but I think it’s good that the tomb of a saint that lived so simply is so simple.

The upper church’s main collection of frescoes is more coherent, all focusing on 28 scenes from the life of St. Francis. There are other frescoes in the church, but I didn’t really get a chance to look at these in great detail.

The Upper Church

I also paid Chiesa di Santa Chiara a visit, early Sunday morning. Two very impressive crucifixes reside here: the Crucifix of San Damiano and a crucifix for which I cannot find a name.

Crucifix of San Damiano

The Crucifix of San Damiano is housed in the Capella di San Giorgio, the entrance to which is on the right side of the church. This is crucifix that addressed St. Francis in the nearby chapel of San Damiano, saying, “Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin.” As we entered the chapel, the Poor Clares could be heard singing their morning prayers from the hidden wings off the sanctuary. I was surprised to find that the crucifix was very familiar; copies of this crucifix can be found in many places, including the UD Rome campus’s chapel.

The second cross dominated the simple interior of the main part of the church. It was larger than life, and at such an early hour in the morning, the only decoration lit up. The picture below really doesn’t do it justice. Definitely visit Santa Chiara twice: once when the crypt is open, and once around 7 in the morning, because that is Santa Chiara at its most dramatic.

Unfortunately, none of these places allowed me to take photographs inside, nor was the crypt of Saint Clare open.

Art of Subiaco

I promised my aunt I would take pictures of art, so here is the first in a series of posts revolving around that. Unfortunately, these are not my pictures: the frescoes I saw at Subiaco were in much better condition, having been recently restored. I took these photographs from the Subiaco Benedictine’s website.

Subiaco is the site of the cave St. Benedict lived for a few years in his young adulthood, around the year 500. The first communities he founded were set up in the area as well, and a monastery stands there today, built into the side of the mountain, around the cave. Known as Sacra Speco, it features an impressive collection of frescoes, adorning the walls of two churches and several chapels, painted in the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries.

The fresco reminds the viewer that death (the flowing haired skeleton) can strike anyone at anytime. This photograph doesn’t show it well, but there is speech next to each character’s heads, so this fresco is one of the first comic strips.

I’ve never found an image of our Lady to be totally satisfying. I never find any of them to actually portray Mary as beautiful or natural or human. This photograph really doesn’t do it justice, it’s taken from a weird angle. She has a kind but knowing look in her eyes, just like every other mother on the face of the planet. I bought a couple of prayer cards with this image, and I study with one in view.

There is a rivalry between the Benedictines and the Cistercians (the Cistercians broke off from the Benedictines at the end of the 11th century), and the Benedictine fresco painters protrayed any bad monk in Cistercians garb (white habit with black scapular on top). One Cistercian is being punished, and another is being tempted by the devil in the doorway.

This portrait of St. Francis was painted during his lifetime, because the inscription reads “Fr. Franciscus” and he was widely believed to a be saint immediately following his death. Indeed, he was canonized only two years after his death.