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Katlyn writes about history, travel, and culture… with some snark. www.KatlynRoberts.com.

Past Is Prologue

What a princess, a knight, and an evil dragon can teach us about Covid-19

Photo: Coneyl Jay/Getty Images

We have not even to risk the adventure alone for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path. And where we had thought to find an abomination we shall find God. And where we had thought to slay another we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outwards we shall come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone we shall be with all the world.

— Joseph Campbell

I’ve lived in Catalonia, a…


This. Changes. Everything.

Mitri the Scribe looking fresh as ever.

Mitri the Scribe was once the highest-paid servant of Pharaoh Unas in the 24th century BC. He was the guy you went to if you wanted a temple built, or a letter written, or if you needed a funny idea for a personalized license plate. Now he sits in the middle of a room at the Cairo Museum, unmoving, unblinking…

…but very much alive.

Really, this is a story about a tour guide. I promise I’m going to get back to Mitri, our Lord and Savior whom I met in Egypt, but first I want one of my favorite scribes…


Check in with your audience and avoid shouting into the void

Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash

According to a study by Microsoft, humans now have an attention span of eight seconds. Eight seconds! Don’t ask me for details on the study, I only skimmed it. And please don’t click away to that study link, I only included it so you’d believe me.

Anyway, if you’ve made it to this second paragraph, congrats! You’re a rare breed. Though you’ll notice that I’ve increased my odds by appealing to writers in my title. Writers tend to be readers by nature and practice. Reading articles from start to finish is like our daily push-up routine. …


A celebration of science and spirit.

Interior of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral. Architect-Antoni Gaudí. Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. Photo by Eleonora Albasi on Unsplash

I’ve started a little tradition for myself. I never leave La Sagrada Familia Cathedral without sitting down in a pew and meditating, specifically on what it means to live a sacred life.

I’m not a religious person, but I think a sacred life means looking up and around at your surroundings, lifting your face to the light, connecting with the work of someone who had something profound to say, whether that be God’s own work or that of some charming old architect who died in 1926 with faith in his heart — a faith that takes both attention and intention…


And why you feel like an a-hole for complaining about it now.

Martyrdom of Saint Ciricus and his mother Juliitta represented in the Romanesque antependium (frontal altar), known as the Durro antependium, dated to the mid-12th century, originally from the Sant Quirc de Durro chapel in the Vall de Boí area in Alta Ribagorça in Catalonia, Spain, now on display in the National Art Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona, ​​Catalonia, Spain. Photo courtesy of the author… who will never un-see it and now you can’t either.

Churches in Europe are on a whole other level, man. And yet I’m somehow drawn to them like I was to the Cinnabon shop back at the mall in Tucson. There’s something irresistible about an over-opulent assault on the senses mixed with guilt and bodily hostility.

I can’t believe I pulled that comparison off.

See, since pain is, in many senses, invisible, and one of the only methods we have to measure it or express it to one another is language, I thought maybe if I couched this cringe-worthy topic within the folds of a delectable dessert, it might take…


It’s great, actually. Everything’s fine. Nothing excruciating to see here.

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash

As a previously healthy and semi-vital Long-Haul Covid sufferer, I’m asking myself several key questions these days:

  1. WTFishappening?!Whywon’tthisstop?!WhatdidIdotodeservethis?!Owowowowow!
  2. By the time experts know more about the long-term effects of this, am I going to be an irreversible pile of mush? Or worse, a dead pile of mush? Seriously, what’s happening to me?
  3. Wait. …Am I someone with chronic pain now?

I got sick with Covid back in March of 2020 and my symptoms were mostly neurological rather than respiratory, which is rare for Covid but definitely not unheard of. …


Processing 2020 in a cemetery so you don’t have to.

The Kiss of Death by Jaume Barba (probably). Photo by Ferran Pestaña on Flickr.

A few weeks after the presidential election was called back in my home country, the United States of Giving-Me-An-Ulcer, I went out to Barcelona’s Poblenou Cemetery looking for a famous statue. It’s called El Petó de la Mort in Catalan, El Beso de la Muerte in Spanish, and The Kiss of Death in English.

I’m somewhat of a cemetery connoisseur and a massive history buff, so this sort of excursion would normally fill me with deferential, if not downright giddy, warmth. Napoleon razed this cemetery to the ground in 1775, for France’s sake. And my country’s been run, for the…


The history behind America’s billion-dollar wage theft problem and how to fight it.

A Black miner in the northern Sierra foothills in 1852. California State Library

Hardly any of the bus drivers at the tour companies I worked for in the early 2010’s lived on the San Francisco side of the Bay. Most of them were Black, Latinx-American, or Chinese-American and they drove in from Oakland or as far away as Vallejo… They’d leave the house before the sun came up to beat the bridge traffic. If they made it to the bus yards in the Dogpatch with any time to spare, they’d catch some Z’s in their car. …


Why time flies when society comes undone.

Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash

This pandemic is shaking us to our foundations. It’s literally forcing us to reconsider both time and space.

  • We’re struggling to block out our time like we used to. We’re unsure if we’re spending it correctly. We can’t decide if it’s moving too fast or too slow. Wasn’t it just March? We’ve been inside forever.
  • The space between us is wider and yet we’re in constant contact with each other over Zoom, social media, etc. We’re trying to be there for each other, to stick together, but not physically.

If you’re feeling rattled right now, it makes total sense. These…


A traveler’s perspective on how the U.S. can find itself again.

Photo by Michael Ramey on Unsplash

I’m going to start with an analogy. I’m very proud of this analogy.

I’m 5'2. And I’m talking feet here because I’m an American and, even though I live in Europe now, I still can’t convert inches to centimeters. 5'2 is pretty short, if that helps my non-U.S. friends. Salma Hayek is 5'2. Feel free to imagine I look exactly like Salma Hayek.

Now, because I’m very short, I don’t have a great sense of exactly how much taller people are than me. They’re just… taller in general. It’s not until I see myself in a mirror with them or…

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