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.