Saturday, December 27, 2008

"When I go abroad I always sail from Boston since it is such a pleasant place to get away from."
-Oliver Herford

Gladly, my new home hasn't inspired these words from me. In fact, I'm considering leaving my parent's in NJ early, I'm so anxious to buy some furniture, put up some photos on the walls and settle in. You would too after 48 hours on the road and in the airports during the holiday rush.

My flight would have been missed either way, but I did experience some luck on my 2 day trek to Boston from Aspen. The last night in Aspen I did my normal revelry, waking up in someone else's bed in someone else's condo. Through a morning haze I glanced at my wrist watch and noticed it was 7:30. The bus to Denver to catch my plane left at 6am.

I ran back to my condo packed in seconds and began racking my brain for plan B to get to Denver while I microwaved some leftover grits. Then my phone rang, "Megan? Are you still here? The bus arrived late. We're going to leave now." The Gods had smiled upon me!

I made it just in time to hop on the back of the line into the bus. I settled in. Eating my grits I had thrown into a paper cup on my way out the door, I thanked my lucky stars. No matter that my name during roll-call elicited some loud boos from the crowd (they had been waiting 2 hours in the cold while I had slept soundly through the alarm)--I was on board!

Of course with the tardiness of the bus and the heavy snow, we all still missed our flights, but at least I didn't have to hitchhike into Denver.

When I finally made it into Boston the next day, the 2 feet of snow there made Aspen pale in comparison. We spent a good long time digging the car out of it's mini-snow mountain. It was all worth it when I lugged my suitcase up the stairs in my beautiful 3-story victorian house--I was home.

Boston, such a pleasant place to come home to.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Road Tripping Photos

I barely had time to blog about this before since I was driving 7-10 hours a day to get across country, but this fall I repeated my cross-country trek. This time going East, I was joined by Dad. We had a good, if tiring time.

Highlights from the Trip and Photos

Driving through Las Vegas during daylight and seeing 3 people getting arrested and an Elvis wedding
Amazing Mexican food in Nevada
Work retreat in Keystone, CO
Listening to RadioLab podcasts with Dad
Chicago! -- staying with Dad in a hostel, drinking and suprise dance night at the Green Mill, Lonley Planet-led walking tour
A tiny diner in Indiana next to an industrial mill
Seeing the great lakes, multiple ones
Reaching Boston!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tips for Sleeping in Airports

Layer on the sweaters.

Use your scarf as a mat and balls of yarn in your bag as a pillow.

Give crying babies dirty looks and imagine yourself telling them that they're going to rot in hell if they don't shut up.

Find the waiting area where 1/2 the lights are out (near the Continental checkout counter in Denver.)

Just remember that the next night you'll be warm in your own bed (unless of course you're moving into a new 
apartment with no furniture).

Sleep is for the weak!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Worse for the Wear

This year's Aspen was definitely the kind of vacation you need a vacation from.  Luckily, Christmas vacation starts Thursday.  

Unluckily, there are inordinate amounts of work to do.  I have to move my belongings up 3 flights of stairs and I'll likely pull an all-nighter on Tuesday to get all my work done.

I have only a few regrets this year from Aspen.  I should have slept more.  I should have excercised.  I probably should have watched less tv and gone outside to enjoy the place.  There's a few friends that I didn't even know were there until the last day!

The theme of this year's Aspen was pah-tay.  Every night was full of dinner parties, drinks, dancing and a bit of mischieviousness.  While I barely moved from the couch next to the fireplace and tv all day, I kept myself very busy from 9pm-2am every night.  

I happily have figured out the secret to avoiding hangovers, but my nose is runny, my throat is scratchy and my makeshift bed on the airport floor won't be good for making up for lost sleep. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In the Air (almost)

Of course I can't write this from the air, but I'm sitting right next to gate 18 at the Boston Logan airport.  I think I didn't know what I was missing after flying out and in of Miami, LAX and Denver the past few years. 

Office to Airport: 30 minutes
Check-in and security: 15 minutes
Time left to hang out at the Borders store reading up on Mexico travel and blog: 2 1/2 hours!

Free wifi to boot!
(edited: Turns out not free, I'm just tapping into an unsecure network.  Why the hell is there an unsecure network at the airport?!)

I might just have to take more flights.  

In fact, I'm already planning my next 4 trips--Miami, Montreal, Virginia Beach and Mexico.

Feel free to join me or just give advice!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

"Europe will be more fun without you."

As I had hoped, Rick Steves did not disappoint.  He changed his normal talk about Europe traveling tips to his own personal musings on 'Why We Travel.'  Some of it was about why we do travel, but a lot of it was 'Why We Should Travel.'  Especially meaningful in our  protectionist, more narrowly-minded society than ever.  The 21% of us in America with passports have some work to do in bringing cultural understanding to the folks for whom travel is lying on a cruise ship deck to tan.

We should travel because we will understand and be more compassionate of other cultures.  We should we'll learn to appretiate why certain people around the world are incredibly passionate about cheese or cigars--or religion for that matter.  We should travel becuase it will help us realize that other cultures find other truths to be self-evident.  (got that one from Rick)

Much of the material was familiar since I read his blog regularly, but there were some pretty inspiring snippets.  Rick's critique about legislating morality--like marijuana and prostitution--in America, that it doesn't stop people from breaking the law, just makes it more dangerous and wastes tax payer dollars on prison.  His railing against the dumbing down of society by our media and politicians.  

The crowd's favorite moment was when he told us about customers who would write to him that they were no longer going to go on his tours since he promoted 'trying to understand the enemy' (his visit to Iran) and legalizing drugs (decriminalizing marijauana).   His comment, "Well, Europe will be more fun without you," was greeted by loud applause.

Ah, it is good to be back in a city full of progressives.  For the long term I still haven't decided where I should settle down (if I should decide to do so).  Do I like old friends and liberals more than sunny skies and palm trees?  

I think they might be winning me over up here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Rick's in Town

My favorite travel guru is in Boston this week! Rick Steves is not only an excellent guidebook writer, but a great travel writer, host of an awesome NPR show and a progressive activist.

I saw him speak in California at a travel conference where he railed against all the profit-driven tours that take kick-backs from crappy tourist stores pointing to their booths right outside of his speaking area and then complained about how the media scares people from traveling while there was a big LA Times banned behind his head.

If you're in the Boston area, check it out:

Rick Steves at the Globe Bookstore

This Thursday at 5pm
90 Mt. Auburn St.
Harvard Square

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Jersey Days, Philly Nights

I've continued my lazy streak now that I'm home for Thanksgiving. Since getting off the election campaign, I've done nothing but watch tv and sleep. I've got a million friends in Boston I haven't seen in ages and all I want to do is watch 'CSI: Miami' and sleep 10 hours. Part of me chides myself for my laziness, the other part drags me back under the covers.

Thanksgiving night I slept 12 hours, so I think I might be caught up now and am ready to be back to my exploring self. Last night I went into the city (meaning Philadelphia for us South Jersey people) to see a show with the folks. We tried to get a table for 45 minutes at Monk's to no avail. In the meantime we tasted a lot of good beers from their 60+ beer menu, including my new favorite 1809 Berliner Style Weiss Beir. Without a dinner, we took in a show at the Walnut--Hairspray--which was incredibly corny and didn't hold a candle to either of the cult classic movies, but still thoroughly enjoyable.

Today we're taking Dad into the city again for his birthday to do a tour of the Philadelphia Brewing Company. Word has it is that he took a tour of a brewery in Atlanta with the sister and loved it, probably more for the free beer than the beer-knowledge though.

I'm glad I've had a chance to give Philly a second chance since childhood. When I was a kid we'd take our yearly trip to walk South Street with mom, an occasional visit to the Franklin Institute and of course the Christmas spectaculcar at the downtown department stores. When I was a teen we'd get cheesesteaks at midnight on all the high holidays. (The biggest act of rebellion for my jewish friends was eating bread and meat and cheese together on Rosh Hashanah.) We'd drive to the art museum and run up the steps like Rocky. Later on I'd go in for a swing dance every once in a while.

But there's a lot more to the city. Yes, cheesesteaks, the Philadelphia Art Museum and the Libery Bells are must-sees (and eats) when you're visiting the city and still won't get old, but it's great to discover the neighborhoods. Shopping on Walnut is a lot better than South Street. Eating at Ludwig's is more of a dinner experience than Pat's & Geno's. Hanging out at Tattooed Mama's with friends or catching a jazz jam at Ortlieb's will beat out the regular diners for a night out. There's a lot of art--the city's buildings are covered with murals (2,800!). There's a lot of community too.

And best of all, there's no attitude. Unlike DC and NYC, you get the feeling that no one is out to impresss anyone. What a great feeling! I probably won't have a chance to live there, but it's nice to visit home and such a great city each holiday.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Newly in New England

I arrived in my new home of Boston yesterday and prompty left for Vermont. I'm here to help organize a conference with my new organization, the Toxics Action Center.

Vermont must be one of the most beautiful places in the country. I must have just missed New England's famous autumns since the trees are bare--but the ground everywhere is covered with bright leaves. The mountains here aren't quite the "Green Mountain" spectacle I remember camping in in childhood, but still gorgeous. Rolling mountains tug on my heart more than the jutting, rocky peaks of the West. Perhaps because of that childhood connection.

The sky is also grey and swirling. I remember when I moved to Miami how every day I would look up at the sky and marvel at it's beauty, wondering why I never really noticed it before. I thought myself a little silly for staring up with a silly grin a lot of the time when I was canvassing. I see now why--up North the sky only shows it's full glory a few months of the year and the rest of the year it peaks out occasionally.

But back to Vermont. It's adorable. Driving through the state reminded me a lot of driving the Romantic Road in Germany. As I sped by the exit signs I imagined them saying "Ausgang-Pfaffenwinkel" or "Ausgang-Creglingen." Each town was tucked into a mini-valley with just a few buildings, some barns and a tall church spire. Montpelier, the state capital is no more than a few roads, with yes a tall church spire, but also a gold-domed capitol building. Otherwise you'd have idea that the important business of the state goes on here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On the Road Again

Now that I’m off the campaign I’m back on traveling for pleasure instead of business.  My first trip is a big one.  Wednesday I flew back to Los Angeles.   I think the city didn’t want me to leave as much as I didn’t want to—it took me a full hour to get out with the giant knot of traffic  that was tying up the roads. 

The rest of California was pretty uneventful.  The buzz around the election was still audible.  I overheard the gas station attendant and an older African-American lpady debate where one could find a copy of the LA Times from the day after the election.  Apparently  peole were stealing them off neighbor’s lawns and copies were going on ebay for hundreds. 

The terrain grew less and less lush as I continued, until I finally hit Las Vegas.  Perhaps this place once held some kind of hedonistic charm back in the rat pack days, but today it looks like one big neon covered construction site.  I detoured off the highway to drive through the downtown and saw no less than 3 people getting arrested.  I also cruised by the Elvis chapel which was surrounded by an Elvis-dressing wedding party. 

I underestimated the toll that 14 hours of driving takes on one, especially after a 100 hour work week.  By the time I turned east toward the mountains in Utah, the sun was setting.  I had lost an hour with the time zone change and my eyes were growing weary.  I refilled my coffee cup for the 5th time, which wasn’t anything new since giving myself over to caffeine weeks ago.  It got really bad as the snow started.  The weather combined with the feeling that the curvy roads could send me off the cliff at any moment erased any of the relaxing benefits from the Korean health spa. 

When I made it to the resort I had missed most of the fun.  As I was dragging my suitcase to my condo I spotted several groups of drunk campaign workers stumbling back to their rooms.  So I did the same, snuggling up gratefully in my bed.

Keystone was more relaxing after 8 hours of sleep.  I spent my afternoon drinking a thick Malbec and floating around the hot tub.  That night I joined the party at a local Mexican joint, danced like crazy and rang up a modest tab.  One day in Keystone was definitely not enough.   Tucked in a nook in the mountains with steep, tree-covered slopes rising on every side, I felt worlds away from the suburban stretches of Colorado Springs.  Being surrounded by smart, political, hip people probably did just as much to ease the tension I had built up from canvassing ridiculous undecided voters and dealing with less-than-bright staff.

My early morning wake up shake was later than I wanted to get started, but probably earlier than my body could handle.  (I have to figure out how to kick this hang-over problem I’ve gotten in old-age.)   I picked up my dad at the Denver airport and after a brief reunion, we set out.  Colorado really is beautiful—both the mountains up close and the snowy caps in the rearview mirror. 

Nebraska is, well, beautiful for a time, but 8 hours of wheat fields can be tiring.  Our one detour turned out to be a big disappointment for Dad.  The Great Platte River Archway.   The Archway during the day, I imagine from the large parking lots and bus lanes, is swarmed by children and tourists coming to learn about all the folks that have traversed the Great Plains—from settlers to cowboys.  I had a feeling there was a reason all these travelers kept going, so we did too. 

We ended the night in Lincoln.  Seeing the state capital building glowing across the wheat fields, we headed to ‘downtown’ to the Haymarket.  I was surprised to see a gorgeous old renovated factory district.  It was a Sunday night so the bars were fairly deserted, but there was a trio of bustling coffee indy coffee houses.  After dinner it would have been nice to curl up in a comfy chair in one of them, but my eyes were so droopy by this point, that I don’t think even my beloved coffee could pick me up.    

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Place Matters

Well, it's done.  We won it.  Colorado got shifted over to the blue column.  Colorado Springs remains a republican county, but there's a stronger progressive element there now.  My hope is that we can keep them connected, keep it building, and make it stronger.  And hopefully Focus on the Family realizes it isn't the only game in town now!

But oh, am I glad I am out of there.  I used to think of myself as mutable and able to find my favorite things about any city I've lived in.  East coasters marvelled at how I enjoyed dirty, crowded LA, but I loved it!  Northerners were shocked I could withstand the brashness and humidity of Miami, but I reveled in it.  Miamians wondered how anyone could live where there was snow half the year, but I enjoyed Boston.  

But now I see that not all places are suitable for living.  I think I just lucked out on all the wonderful cities I've been placed in up until now--New York, Philadelphia, DC, Boston, Miami, LA.  I fell in love with each of those cities.  But Colorado is a whole other matter.  I also saw how my entire personna is completely affected by the place I live.  

It started with NYC.  I became more progressive, involved in the arts, developed my sense of style and a love of diversity.  In DC I was completely politicized.   In Miami I let loose, wearing clothes I would have been shocked to see on anyone else up north, hanging out until late at Tapas bars and dancing salsa with strangers.  LA's neighborhoods brought together the universal influence that I loved making me learn Spanish and Korean and spending my weekends visiting historical sites and art museums.

In Colorado (and Virginia to a lesser extent) I was different.  My heart wasn't in it--not in the place I was living, and hence not as much in my work.  I still worked ridiculously hard, but without the enthusiasm and charisma I typically employ.  

Landing in LA I changed.   Winning the election had made me happy, but didn't thrill me like it did to so many of my friends around the country.  But when I walked out of the metro on Wilshire Blvd., I felt so much emotion, I was overwhelmed.  I wanted to shout for joy.  Finally I felt at home and happy.  They were the same emotions I had expected when we won the election, but somehow had been unable to surface in the misery of being unhappy in a particular place.

I feel so much better now.  Today I am working out of the LA office and I took some of the best job calls and did some of the best interviews I've ever done in my life.  I did a great indy with one of the ADs and helped out with turfs.  Even though I wasn't supposed to be helping, I was so excited to be back here that I was excited to do the work.  It felt great to be doing campaign work again.

So my lesson learned is that place does matter to me.  I was once given advice to pick my career moves based on great opportunities, not location, but I see now that will never work for me.  As I look into the future I'm keeping an eye out for opporuntities that will match with where I want to be, even if it's not the most politically import.  I will have the biggest impact when I like where I am.  Now that I'm preparing to leave LA to head east I hope Boston will give me the same energy as being here has. 

Stay tuned for updates on the road as I drive East.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Working for a Progressive Future

I've been working +100 hours a week to get Obama elected, so not much time to post, but here's some pics from my camera-phone on turf.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Second Look

Perhaps I was too tough on Colorado. Having other stresses in my life and not having a winter coat probably clouded my judgement a bit. I'm also a water person, so anytime I'm not in sight of a big bay or ocean I feel closed in. Being in Miami, then Barcelona, then LA has made me totally susceptible to cold-weather shock. It was freezing when I arrived and the heat in the office didn't work.

I realized my sickness was part the lack of sleep and traveling, but also stress. I relistened to a RadioLab about stress. A scientist describes an experiment they did with mice. They threw them into cold water, showed them food, then took it away, and other nasty things I don't condone doing to animals. The mice's reaction was the same--to get flu like symptoms. When my mindset got back in working order, my health came back.

Now things are better. I finally have a winter coat and hat, some thick tights and working heat. My housing is wonderful. A generous retired activist has given us her house for two weeks while she's snorkeling in Bali. (Not bad, huh?) My coworkers are generally pretty darn cool too.

I've seen some beautiful sights--deer grazing in yards, sunsets over the mountains, snow far away on the top of pikes peak. The place as a whole still seems like a suburban trap, but it's just until the election, so for now I'll look above the ground situation to the gorgeous mountains and keep my eye on the prize--election day.

It also helps that many things remind me of my only other Colorado experience--Aspen. Every year I go on a vacation to Aspen with about a hundred other folks from the non-profit world. Many of the apartment buildings echo the architecture from Aspen. The smell and feel of the air--crispness and firewood burning--is just like Aspen. The mountains that circle the town bring back similar memories.

More on Colorado when I catch up on work and sleep.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

On the Road Again

We were set to end our voter registration drive on Monday with a bang and spend Tuesday packing and tying up loose ends.  Then Sunday night at 1am I get a text, "Training strts Tues! Fnsh everythng tomorro!"  

We squeezed everything into one day and I had a last hurrah party with the Hampton staff at a director's beach house.  I woke up in a daze, dragged myself off the couch and readied myself to move all the heavy stuff from our offices up to the north.  My arms already hurt from lifting copiers the day before, but it was nothing compared to the hurt in my head.  

We made it up to Richmond, capital of the confederacy, by 1pm.  As phase II of the campaign training went on in the hotel conference rooms I holed up in the coffee shop finishing up payroll and budgets.  After a few hours I got a call telling me to buy a plane ticket, hop in a cab and get over to Denver.

Here's the point where I should have put on the brakes--I have no warm clothes, not much money left and no strong desire to go to a state without beaches.  But instead I spent 1/2 hour on the phone struggling with a computer to buy my plane ticket and spent a restless night on a plane next to a very very fat man in the rear seat that doesn't lean back.

My sole solice was that by the time I arrived at the hotel my posh room had a gorgeous bed layered in down comforters and blankets that I didn't have to share with anyone.  I still woke up sick, tired and juggling both jobs at once.  After another day I was told I'd be sent to Colorado Springs.  If you don't know anything about Colorado Springs, you're probably a good person.  Here's where the religious right has made their home base with mega-churches and the headquarters of Focus on the Family--an vehemenently anti-gay, anti-choice hate group.

Needless to say, it's not a pleasant place.  It's also so very cold.  Since I expected to be able to get my car (and a coat) from LA before October I'm suffering.  I can only think of one other time I was this miserable--waiting in line for 2 hours in below freezing weather and wet shoes to check into my condo in Aspen last year.  I've become so soft to cold weather, I'm not sure if I'll survive the month, let alone a move to Boston.

Sometimes travel isn't fun at all.  Hopefully I'll have better adventures to post about after this election is won.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Travel Experiment

After a day in the house huddled over my computer with spreadsheets and numbers I got myself dolled up and headed for an evening out on the town.  What does a poor organizer with no car and little money do on a Sunday?  

Head to Barnes and Nobles!  I live near the faux-downtown of Virginia Beach.  It's a town center akin to The Grove in LA or Sunset Place in Miami, though a quite a bit more tacky.  I navigate the 8 lanes of traffic to get there.  

I decide to do an experiement.  I've been a bit devoid of boys lately.  

#1 I'm in Southern Virginia, which isn't exactly known for the smart, interesting, political, passionate type men I'm into.  Not to stereotype, but well, yeah, I guess I will, because I haven't met anyone to prove me wrong.  Come on, confederate flags are not okay to fly on your pickup trucks anymore.  How I miss the self-deprecating sarcasm, over-the-top artsiness and heavy fashion of LA men.  Or even the over-the-top-sensuality of Miami guys.  Give me a Boston preppy anyday over a Norfolk man yelling "Hey baby!" out of his car at me or even the boring looking strip-malled-out guys at Gordon Biersch.

#2 I work all the time and rarely hang with anyone besides my staff.

So, I will plunk myself down in the travel section and see if there's anyone remotely cute that comes by to get a travel book.  If he's in the travel section, he's obviously got bigger horizons than most people here.  I'll figure out some way to talk him.*

I made my way over to the travel section where I settled down with a few good books--Do Travel Writers Go to Hell? , Cheap Bastard's Guide to Boston, and The Europe Book.  I read for about an hour hanging out along the travel wall.  

Zero.  Zero people looked in the travel section.  Doesn't anyone in Tidewater travel?  With disgust (but a few good ideas on becoming a travel writer and obtaining cheap drinks in Boston) I reshelve my books and prepare to leave.  

But what's this, mmmm, pretty cute.  I pretend to scan the racks some more and glance over.

:::sigh::: He is at the next shelf over--self-improvement books.  

Staying away from that one.  I pick up a moleskin notebook, a must-have for any respectable travel writer, and head off home.  

*Sidenote:  I just did a search on "Picking up Guys in Bookstores" and came up with a whole bunch of this.  Seems like it's much more of a man's sport.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Small Town America

Now I don't think I'll ever want to live in a small town, but I do adore visiting them. The small historical sites the towns are so proud of, Main Streets, the walkability, the mom 'n' pop stores. Surely I'd bore myself in a week, but for a day trip, it's nice.

Today I'm in Suffolk. The people are super-friendly with a slight southern twang. The local coffee joint is cozy with a free-book shelf and massive aquarium. The churches and architecture are quaint, but a savior for eyes that have gotten used to the strip malls and concrete.

I even hitched a ride today, against my better judgment, but he was very nice and polite.

I could get used to small town living. I'm excited about what's next. The voter registration deadline is in 14 days and I'd love to do turnout in a rural area. We'll know soon enough, I suppose.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Today I looked up apartments in Boston and spent a little while browsing the travel section of Barnes and Nobles, but while I dream, the reality is that I am still in Virginia.

Today by accident I ended up enjoying it a bit. I spent a night at a friend's new pad on the beach. It's fun to get a glimpse into how rich people live. The condo was, of course, nautical themed. Why do beach-house owners feel the need to cover their places in beach paraphernalia and stock the cabinets with fish plates? I can look out the window and get nautical. Your fat-lady in a bathing-suit sculpture doesn't make me feel vacationy.

To make it home I got dropped off at the nearest bus stop and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

When I finally called, the friendly Hampton Roads Transit guy told me that I could catch the bus Sunday at the Amphibious Base. (No, this isn't a Bond set, it's a naval base.) I walked. No bus stop there.

So I walked some more.

And some more.

Until finally, I thought I'd just walk the whole way home. The day was a rare beautiful, warm one. I spent my time noticing the small things along the way. Beautiful marshland, that isn't visible unless you're stopped, standing on the bridge. Medians recently mown with huge mushrooms sprouted in a perfect circles. Pine trees and hundreds of pine cones. The Ferry Plantation House. It also gave me a view of the horrible strip malls we've paved over everything with and the big cars we speed by in not noticing anything.

In all the walk was good and I'm surprised I made it so easily. Looking at a map, the ground that I covered seems huge and my housemates were astounded by my feat (and my smell since it had gotten pretty warm and I walked fast).

I'm excited to make walking my new hobby. I find it's been my therapy in the past 2 months here. When I was first having my doubts I walked 10 miles on the beach. I had started off the day still depressed by the ugliness of my new city. Virginia Beach, the touristy area at least, is paved right up to the sand. The buildings lack any character, but are just giant cement boxes. The people are fat, ignorant and loud. The restaurant selection consists of all-you-can-eat pancake houses (to make you more fat) or sleazy bars (to make you more ignorant and loud). After having lived near the beaches of Santa Monica, Barcelonetta, and Miami, it just didn't compare.

But walk north, up past 30th and the dunes start--beautiful dunes with walkways tunneled in by overgrown trees and vines. The crowds thin out and the houses lining the shore are old and stately. Go past the 80's and you'll find quiet tide pools, big rocks and no people. At one point I saw a school of dolphins. I stripped down and dove into the water swimming out a few yards. They didn't get more than 10 feet away, but they circled me. After the 8 hours of alternatively sunbathing, swimming and walking I was calmed down and no longer felt a sadness for this place.

Walks are also good for thinking through things. Like why am I here? Where will I go next? What's more important--place? people? purpose? Questions I'm dealing with right now that I still can't quite figure out the definite answer to.

The good/bad thing is that I didn't see one bus pass me the whole time I walked home today. So much for the public transit system.

My route:

View Larger Map

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Dreams of Europe

My travels to Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Sanury Sur Mer, Paris, Munich, Prague, Budapest, Vienna and Berlin were the stuff dreams are made of.  

Literally.  I frequently, travel the streets of Barcelona, the parks of Paris, the U-Bahn of Berlin in my day dreams.  In my head I can look out on the Meditteranean from the teleferic, peek in the cathedrals in Budapest, I taste the paella with fish fresh from the marketplace.

It was my decision to come back and I think I made the right one.  There's too much work to do in America right now.  No more letting vacation days go to waste though!  I'm on a crusade to work hard and play hard.  Playing hard used to be limited to the Friday all-night parties in slummy apartments in South East DC.

Now playing hard will mean hopping on a Chinatown bus to NYC, jetsetting to the Baltics and exploring the National Parks of New England.

For now, I'm living the not-so-glamorous life of a community organizer.  Yes, I do have real responsibility.  I'm overseeing Community Voters Project offices in Virginia bringing minorities into the political process by registering them to vote.  

It's not quite as thrilling as 3 months traipse around Europe.  It's not as beautiful.  It's not foreign.  It's strip malls, projects, hour long bus rides to get anywhere and many ignorant confederate flag wearing folks.

But it's important.  Virginia is looking to be the battle ground state of the year.  The only state shown in a deadheat-- 45% to 45%.   It's no wonder.  The economy here is crappy, people have certainly woken up to that.  Northern Virginia is filling with liberals pushed out of the DC housing market who like the looks of cities like Arlington and Alexandria.  And the last wild card is the 20.4% African American population.

But don't feel all that bad for me, there are beaches here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

En Senada

Sunday we mostly spent on the road. For being so close to California, it takes a darn long time to get around and to Mexico.

First we hopped a locals' bus to La Bufadora, which is a marine geyser. In the heat, the occasional spray of the ocean and staring at the moss-covered dripping rocks was great to cool off. Afterward we climbed down some rocks to a pebbly beach. The water was rough and cold, so I tried to stay only knee deep, but a wave took my flip-flop. I made a daring save, but got pretty soaked in the process. 

While I frolicked Alejandro was followed by a local kid who sat down with him and grilled him about Argentina, America and who knows what else. They made a cute pair on the big rock, talking and staring out into the ocean. Enrique had walked 4 hours that day to get to La Bufadora, which is surrounded by stalls and stalls of shops and food, and hence, tourists, so he could beg. We ended up taking him out to lunch at a taco stand. Afterwards I bought mango for dessert. He shaked his head and I told him to ask for whatever he wanted, which turned out to be doritos loco. Here's the recipe--take a small spicy doritos bag and slit in sideways. Pour in hot sauce, calamari (I think that's what it was), chilly powder and use a spoon to eat it. No Rico I say!

We ended up paying for him to take the bus home and we bade farewell as we both transferred to our respective buses from the Bufadora route. It makes you wonder what kind of life this kid will have. He was bright, spunky, smart, with a lot a personality, but if he's reduced to begging, what will he get to grow up to be?

We continued onto a third bus and then two trolleys before getting back to our car for the walk home . .  

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More Mexican than LA!


After weeks of talk and being an armchair traveler with my Rough Guide to Mexico, we finally hit the road.  The trolley in San Diego actually drops you off right at the border and after grabbing my obligatory coffee we started hiking the ramp up and over.  There was, suprisingly, no line, and more suprisingly, no passport check.  It is silly for Mexico to spend money posting guards checking all those crazy Americans coming to Mexico to stay illeagaly, but I was hoping for a Mexico passport stamp.  Our stay in Tijuana was short and uneventful.  I ate the most amazing churros I've ever had on my life and hopped aboard a more comfortable than greyhound bus to Ensenada.  

We found a hotel right in the middle of downtown.  After flinging our bags down we headed over to the local winery--Santo Tomas.  It was packed with short-wearing, white tube socks up-pulling, camera clicking, plastic cup wine-chugging tourists.  It was recommended we wait until they left.  

Good thing we did.  The second they were gone, the real glasses were brought out and our pourer, Alex, proceeded to take out for us great wines from the region.  The first one I ended up buying was a white semidulche wine that was so full and smooth.  Alejandro ended up picking a complex red we had later.  We spent almost an hour tasting and buying while in that time 2 tour groups quickly came, tasted (or chugged) wine from little plastic cups and left.  As Alex pulled out a 7th (or 8th?  I lost count) wine to try--a rose', he gave us recommendations for places for dinner, wine festivals in the summer (in Mexico, who knew?), and espoused the virtues (yes, I said virtues) of Tijuana.  He finished pouring us the rest of the bottle of rose' and we walked out signifigantly buzzed and ready to see Ensenada.  

Other highlights of the day included getting asked every 5 seconds if we wanted to buy something, getting stared at by guys, even as I held Alejandro's hand, Los Tres Cabesas Plaza with 3 giant gold heads, the largest Mexican flag and eating amazing sushi with melted cheese on it from a make-shift tent at the port.  

More on day two later . . . 

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Whirlwind Tour 

It's been an eventful past 2 months, even if it hasn't involved old cathedrals and great art and I haven't had  a spare moment to post.  So here's a reflection on the whole and the end of 2007. . . .

Now that I'm in LA, Miami seems a world away.  People like Lea, Yeshi, Izzy, might as well live in Oz.   The life that became such a familiar, well-worn (and well-loved) grind is so faded in my memory that I barely miss it.  It was an amazing two seasons for my office.  I really came into my own as a director.  I ran a record breaking, movement building, campaign winning office and didn't run myself into the ground.  

Then I left it all behind.  Europe, which was the opposite of well-worn to me, is actually a world away.  It was definitely the trip of a lifetime.  I probably stressed myself out during the trip a bit much, but in the end the memories of the sunrise on the Charles Bridge, the drive across the Romantischer Road, the dances in Budapest, the nightlife in Barcelona all still set off the happy receptors in my brain.  And now I feel better knowing that there will always be another trip, another vacation, another time to travel.  

My homecoming was also sweet.  Living at home wasn't the experience I thought it would be.  I reconnected with old friends and spent lots of quality time with the family.  My mom, who once forbade me from ever moving home again after her sister's kid moved back in with his wife at the age of 30, cried when I left.  

I also loved Philadelphia.  That city is fantastic and I would never mind living there.  And I turned that damn canvass office around--they're all over the top 5 lists and the canvassers still call and text me all the time.  I really was sad to leave.

Aspen was a trip as usual.  Craziness definitely ensued.  I wore my silk red dress to gala night, got lots of complements and promptly blacked out and had to have my old Massachusetts boss pay for my cab 5 blocks home.  I did a lot of hot tubbing and drank hot toddies.  I stayed up all night the last night talking philosophy and canvassing with a dude from Arizona and drank a bottle of champagne.  I went dancing with the head of the entire organization.  I made it home in one piece.

The drive out west was fantastic.  It was a whole part of the country I never had seen before--Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona.  Even, California for that matter.   New Mexico was breath-taking.  The music and civil rights history in Arkansas and Tennessee was cool.  The mountain drive in Arizona was scary and beautiful.  

And now LA.  I spent my New Years Eve at work.  I cooked a mediocre risotto and rang in the new year at a small soiree--Nando, Drew, Alejandro and myself.  We drank our bottle of Cava from Barcelona and watched the ball drop.  My heart sank a little as I realized that everything I was watching on the television had actually happened 3 hours earlier.  Los Angeles is really a surreal place and the time difference is only the beginning I'm learning.