Archive for the 'Travel' Category


Happy New Year!!!

Hope you feel divine in 2009!!

I wish I had deeper words of wisdom than that, but I’ve been busting my butt populating my new blog on U.S. poverty over at  Check it out, bookmark it, and let me know what you think!

And now, if you can believe it, I’m in Vegas for New Year’s for my mom’s 60th.  Hi.Lar.I.Ous.  (It’s unlikely the man and I will be hitting the Little White Wedding Chapel while we’re here!)

HAPPY NEW YEAR to you and yours!!

Be safe.


My heart, it is warmed

I celebrate 5 Christmases every year: first with the man’s family, then with my mom, then dad, then two different aunts’ houses.  My enthusiasm for this hectic schedule varies each year.  On this quiet morning of Christmas Eve, sitting in my pj’s at my mother’s house with coffee and good company, I’m feeling the yuletide spirit.  Finally.

But this, this warms my tiny, jaded heart, especially the chance spur-of-the-moment decision that spawned this sweet tradition.  If only our military expenditures could always cover important diplomatic work like this.

As I write, Santa’s in Tasmania.  From Tasmania to New England – I’d better get the cookies in the oven!

Merry Christmas!


if i can make it here

I can make it anywhere!

or so I sing to myself from my tenement hotel room on W. 47th in Times Square NYC.  You might normally know me as the sensible “creative class” thirty-something who visits her Northeast Corridor friends and families in their urban condos and co-ops – attractive hetero lawyers, docs, non-profit execs, and finance types and their cherubic kids – ages 3 months and up. (and if there’s more than one, they’re usually spaced no more than 2 years apart.  It’s all very orderly.)

But these kids have left me homeless – guest-room homeless, that is.  As my friends turn into moms and dads, their spare bedrooms become kids’ bedrooms; pull-out sofas and futons are relegated to basements (have you heard the patter of little feet overhead??) or stashed in corner spaces without doors.  My best friends in the Bronx recently converted the “spare” bedroom fully into the office & playroom; my best friend in DC is converting “my” cheery, yellow guest room into a baby’s room by this spring.  Isn’t it sad for Redstar, no longer finding the accommodations to her liking when she takes her appreciative, it’s-been-awhile-and-I’m-passing-through show on the road?

Tonight turned out to be a particularly precarious evening.  My old college roommate now on Long Island has 2 kids under 2, and they sleep through the night sporadically.  My Upper East Side cousin’s fiance is on-call overnight tonight, and likely to be delivering medical instructions over the phone from their living room until the wee hours.  And I’m operating on a sleep deficit after multiple conference nights and a pull-out-sofa-&-ill-child-up-till-all-hours experience last night.

Fortunately, this is NY, where a guy I dated once (briefly) believed that you could get anything for a dime.

Like this place. (Ok, maybe a few dimes)

portland-square-hotel This is a budget hotel undergoing “renovations,” and offering clean rooms, private baths (or shared), free wireless internet, and an extremely convenient location.  I left the L.I. suburbs late this afternoon with my PC over my shoulder and dragging my suitcase behind me.  An hour later I was coming up out of the subway in Times Square, feeling like a movie heroine straight out of Kansas arriving in the big city, alone and brave, ready to sing/dance/act her way to fame and fortune.  The “renovations” in my hotel turn out to be some urn-like sculptures in the lobby, some electronica music piped over the speakers, a mod shower curtain, and clean white linens that contrast with the gray institutional carpet with the iron burn in it in my lockbox of a room.

psh-bathroom psh-room

My grated window looks out onto a firescape in the building shaft, and reminds me of the “city” set at Universal Studio in Orlando.  My small fluorescent bulbs around the room buzz as they glow.  It’s generally very quiet – except when my next-door neighbors open their mouths.  (In that Duane Reade bag above?  Ear plugs.)

But noisy neighbors be damned!  I’m so amused with my self-imposed exile to the frenzied heart of the city that I keep smiling alone in my room, enjoying the solitude within these four walls.

I moved to NY in July 1997 at 21, with a job but no place to live.  I stayed in the same L.I. suburb that week too, then crashing with a friend who was living with her mom until she figured out what came next after college.  On Thursday night of that first, long week, in order to go out for drinks without worrying about trains, I checked into a budget hotel in Murray Hill even more cramped than this one.  I vaguely recall a twin bed, and real fear but elation staying alone in this new, enormous, overwhelming city.

It feels so familiar yet newly adventurous now, seeking refuge from toddlers in a neighborhood I quickly learned to avoid and scorn as a “New Yorker.”  In my final years in the city, drinking in the Irish bars over here with a friend and her actor-husband’s crowd gave me a new appreciation for those whose livelihoods depend on this tourist mecca (and yes, one set of my parents are those that like to see “a show” when they come to NY – musicals only, please).  But it was always about them.

Tonight, I’m playing the part of Ana.

Don’t forget – you knew me when.





don’t forget me when i’m gone…

…as I couchsurf my way around New York City, on the latest “meet the new babies” tour. (Welcome to your thirties, ladies!)

Flew in last night from New Orleans, am on Long Island, headed to Manhattan in a few hours.

i’m fatigued from the travel and the less than ideal slumber conditions, so talk amongst yourselves in my absence.

Suggested topic:

Annoying people at the airport who use too many bins going through security.  If your stuff’s in a bag, the bag does not need to go in a bin!!!  Enough with the bins already!!

Harumph. <flounces off>


Memphis on Obama

I think the countdown to the election clock on CNN is overkill, how about you?

Over the weekend here in Memphis, I surveyed 7 African-American shuttle and bus drivers about the election.  (I spent A LOT of time shuttling between two hotels and riding around on buses with Amnesty International members.  As I texted my boyfriend last night Highways 40 and 55 are beautiful this time of year.)

Here’s what I found:

4 were excited and hopeful, if somewhat restrained in their expression.  A young man, probably in his early twenties, was the most energized, adding that he “knows” Obama is going to win on Tuesday.  The male bus driver of the two I talked was optimistic but added that he hoped “[his] president” didn’t get shot in office.

3 were ambivalent, resigned and/or pessimistic.  I wrote in detail about two men’s opinions here.  I spoke with a young woman, 35?, who didn’t care much for Obama or McCain.  She didn’t like Obama’s (lack of) experience and worried about McCain’s age.  She didn’t think either of them were all that qualified to deal with our “problems at home,” which she emphasized should be a president’s priority before they wandered off to stir up trouble in the rest of the world.  She added that she has never been all that impressed with Obama, which often caused arguments with other African-Americans.  Of the six people I spoke with she seemed the most circumspect, and was the only “undecided” to whom I spoke.  Three, IIRC, had already voted.  (39% of Shelby County voters voted early.)

As I ate at Onyx last night, a jazz club in Memphis’s South Main arts district, the band announced they had a new album out, with a title song “It’s time for a change.”  The majority African-American crowd (majority middle-aged, majority having date night) cheered.  At this great clothing store Divine Rags (across the street from the Church of God in Christ bookstore), they had an Obama t-shirt I’ve never seen before:


Yes We Can!

Obama ’08

made by American Apparel.  It was too long for my taste, sadly.  I own no Obama swag to sport on Tuesday night.  Guess I’ll have to go with my Hillary t-shirt.  Or my Ortiz jersey.  (Go Sox!)

Similar enthusiasm existed among the Amnesty crowd (AI is a non-partisan organization).

Continue reading ‘Memphis on Obama’


Apprehension and Resignation

Red Queen linked to this hilarious Onion piece, noting “It’s funny cuz it’s true!”  Ain’t it though.

I’m in Memphis for the weekend at the Amnesty International Southern Regional Conference, an annual gathering of the mostly white, mostly middle-class, mostly college age Amnesty membership.  Bookending last night’s uplifting opening ceremonies – an a capella performance, spoken word poetry, a talk by an historian of African-American history and U.S. human rights, and dancing to a hippie jam band in the beautiful and cavernous First Congregational Church – were two conversations I had with my hotel shuttle drivers about the upcoming election.

Continue reading ‘Apprehension and Resignation’


Layover Links: Final Election Week (!!) in Review

I’m headed to Memphis for the weekend for work.  The conference is at an airport hotel, but I’m hoping to get downtown on Saturday night. I traveled to Memphis for work a lot back in 2001-3, and loved it.  I’d like to see the place again – check out the downtown development that was underway 5 years ago.

Speaking of development, urban change, etc. etc., I finally tried to estimate if I was one of the 7.5M homeowners “underwater,” meaning my mortgage costs more than the value of my home.  The data suggests that I am; according to Mass. RE research firm The Warren Group, average condos prices in my boston neighborhood have fallen 5% in the last three years.  My income as a grad student-consultant fluctuates wildly, so I have not yet done the math to see if I might qualify to renegotiate my payments should I need to, should any of the various homeowner assistance programs out there darken my door.

At least I’m not post-disaster dependent on FEMA.  “Insensitive” and “foot-dragging”?  Bush’s FEMA? NO!  Surely you jest!!

In other news, like 20% or so of Americans, I watched the Obama mega-mercial the other night.  Quality and boring were my impressions (as someone so saturated in political coverage, I can’t believe that people still don’t know his major promises.  I’m getting to the point that I feel like I could recite them.)  Also, I was struck by the calm, soothing nature of the whole thing, designed to make those folks out there who need some getting used to the idea of a black President.  Though the log cabin Oval Office to me looked like the place where a professor hides out to finally finish her overdue book.  I said that night at dinner to an ardent Obama voter and volunteer who was worried about whether the commercial was “presumptuous” that as a former Clinton supporter, by now I absolutely trust the Obama’s campaign strategy.  Clearly they know what they are doing, whether or not we like it, agree with it, or respect it.  YMMV.

Certainly, preferences for Obama vary widely.  Most national polls put his lead at ~6%.  Turns out he squeaked out a victory among kids, winning Nickelodeon’s kids vote by 2%.  Why the right and left blogs are not deconstructing this outcome six ways to Sunday surprises me.  I know it’s only 2.2M kids (!!), but still…though what do we know about families who watch Nickelodeon?  Why hasn’t FiveThirtyEight crunched these numbers for us??  I demand answers!!

The world, on the other hand, supports Obama in a LANDSLIDE.  Landslide.  Like a gazillion to 300 or something.  Not even Iraq is “strong McCain” anymore.   Other McCain leaning nations?  Algeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  They’re splitting the Sudanese vote so far.

US kids split; world consumed by Obama-mania.  What does this tell us about Obama’s governing mandate?  Digby warns against centrist leadership, pointing out Obama’s bipartisan bookends.

Maybe these folks have some advice for Obama.  Congrats to brownfemipower!  I also have done some work with one of the people named here, so I’m feeling totally cool by association.

Happy Halloween everyone!  I’m not a fan of the holiday, so I’m happy to be traveling.  Enjoy & stay safe!


Equity, Justice, Growth

I’m at a conference in New Orleans covering these themes, though the words “regional,” “social” and “smart” come before them, respectively.  (Me, I’m skeptical of regionalism and smart growth.)

It’s an interesting conference in that these themes don’t necessarily go hand in hand, and it’s effectively a community development conference that’s rather glitzy: held at the Sheraton on Canal St, with talks by Danny Glover and a panel beginning in a minute hosted by Tavis Smiley.  Last night the Mayor said a few words at the evening reception.

But it’s been interesting so far, as I hear from scholars, practitioners and wonks about trends in federal policy, the rising salience of poverty among voters, and municipal strategies for combatting poverty. I’ve been surprised at how much I enjoy it, given I usually can’t sit still during conf. presentations for more than 5 minutes.

I’ll be back over the weekend when this is all said and done with some longer, more interesting updates.  For now, I have to complain about one thing: WHY DOES THE MARRIOTT NOT ONLY CHARGE IT’S GUESTS A DAY RATE FOR INTERNET, BUT ALSO REQUIRE US TO USE A WIRE ATTACHED TO A MODEM?  I THOUGHT IT WAS 2008. 

Happy Friday.

PS: Life’s a lot more peaceful without the incessant virtual shouting of the blogosphere.


From the field: Viva Clinton!!

I am really sunburnt.  Even my fingers are sunburnt.  But not my eyes; I look like a raccoon from wearing shades all day in the hot San Antonio sun.  (Special thanks to the Obama supporter who lent me some sunblock, which I re-applied far too late in the day.)

But it was DAMN WORTH IT – Viva Clinton, who won Ohio, RI, and TEXAS tonight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

I am quoting Rep”>Rep. Delia Garcia (D-KS) in the title of this post, the first  Latina and youngest woman ever elected to the KS legislature.  She spoke briefly at Clinton’s victory party tonight in San Antonio – she’d traveled to the state to stump for HRC – to our crowd of majority Latino/a volunteers.  I’ve probably said this before, but I really think being a Red Sox fan (through ’04 anyway) offers special training for the kind of close victory we experienced tonight in TX.  The enormous camraderie with fellow underdogs, the absolute elation in pulling ahead and coming to the brink, and the inability to truly relax until that ball is in Manciewixzcjghz’s glove and Foulke is in his arms.  D’oh!  Wrong image.

I have 2 pictures left on my disposable digital camera with me here in San Antonio, and I can’t wait to finish the roll and get the photos up on-line.  What an amazing 48 hours, and what a tremendous outcome.  At the heavily Latino precinct where I volunteered until 8:00 tonight, folks waited hours to participate in the evening caucuses, in part because the line to vote in the primary was so long.  A Latino dad drove up to the polling station in the late afternoon in his mini-van covered in Clinton signs, with his 2 daughters and wife.  He and his young teen girls sported similar Dallas Cowboys regalia, and the daughters held signs and cheered for Clinton while he shouted in English and Spanish into a bullhorn why passing drivers should support the Senator.  Eventually a cop came and told him to relocate – the bullhorn, unlike signs, requires further distance from the polling station – but it was a trip while it lasted.

When my fellow local volunteers finally arrived at Clinton’s victory party tonight, around 11 pm, they reported that the 3 precincts caucusing at our polling station awarded Clinton 21 delegates to Obama’s 2.  I heard multiple stories from other local caucuses where Obama didn’t even meet the threshold to receive any delegates, and Clinton took them all.  The crowd at the victory party erupted over and over and over tonight – when CNN exit polls showed 62% of TX Latinos supported Clinton, when Clinton first pulled ahead of Obama, when Ohio was called, when Clinton spoke in Ohio, whenever CNN showed that map of Texas and all the areas in the South that supported her (especially San Antonio), on and on and on and on.  So many reasons to celebrate.

Local and out-of-state volunteers alike kept talking about meeting up again in Pennsylvania.  I think it’s a must.  (Here’s hoping some of you all will join us!)  The nun I keep mentioning in these field posts told me she works with Mexican immigrants in Omaha, many of whom are undocumented and at risk for deportation.  She told us a particularly painful anecdote of a young mother getting deported and leaving 3 young American-born children behind, one not even a toddler.  This mom had come illegally to the country at age 2, and was now being sent back to Mexico, where she knew no one.  Sr. Ana really believes in Clinton because she thinks Clinton will deal humanely with the problems and complexities of immigration in this country.  I heard several times from others how much they similarly believe in Clinton.

Me, I trust no politicians, nor do I feel personally connected to any of them, as others over the last 48 hours have described feeling to Sen. Clinton, Pres. Clinton, and JFK, Jr. (of all people).  But damn! I was completely moved by the image of a woman on the big screen in that ballroom tonight, celebrating her win in Ohio and promising to keep fighting her way through this race.  Later in the bathroom a reporter who first apologized for not being impartial quoted her grandmother in saying to never count out a woman who is down, and the rest of us agreed enthusiastically. 

In the last 48 hours I’ve had the new pleasure to campaign in a Latino region, to work with straight women and men; lesbians, gay men and transgendered supporters; white, black, Latino and Asian volunteers; and campaign participants of all ages and abilities.  Honestly, it was f***ing awesome.  AND WE WON.

Cross-posted at The Hillary 1000.


Travel Blogging: Remember the Alamo!

See here for my recap of campaigning for Clinton in San Antonio.  I’m not sure what else might bring me to this city, but it sure was a treat tonight to spy a CNN reporter prepping outside the Alamo for what is surely the 8,999 story on why Clinton is a goner at any given moment.  Personally, I much prefer sociologist Manuel Castells cautioning me to “Remember the witches!” when I think about the significance of Sen. Clinton’s presidential campaign.

I arrived here last night; I depart on Wednesday.  Tomorrow is the TX primary/caucus chaos bonanza, where “vote early, vote often” is the mantra.  I am staying with a lovely Hispanic couple that is deeply religious and enthusiastically committed to Sen. Clinton.  I have a cab driver from Guinea that was the first of at least four people to ask me what happened that MA went for Clinton after Kennedy et al.’s endorsement.  Apparently, the Kennedy mystique and significance burns more brightly beyond the borders of Massachusetts.  Explaining to people that Ted’s opinion is not especially relevant and is rightly treated with suspicion by proper skeptical Massholes seems like an insufficient answer to the question.  Hell, I wish I knew why he, Kerry and Patrick found it necessary to go all out for Obama.

I phone banked, held a sign at an intersection, and assembled signs for the Clinton campaign all day. I tooled around with a retired grocery exec from Northern CA and a Latina nun from Nebraska.  I took in San Antonio’s Riverwalk but managed to find a much cooler spot for drinks and dinner a couple blocks away on Houston St.  (Probably the main drag of the old downtown – much more appealing than the Riverwalk for out of towners desiring some semblance of authenticity and history.)  The Alamo reminded me of Mt. Rushmore in that it was much smaller than I expected.  A plaque in front of it reprises some dying words from one of the Texas patriots.  At the risk of being inappropriately sardonic, may I say it seemed to me a foreshadow of nativism to come as it began with some complaint of being surrounded by Mexicans.   

During dinner I chatted with two entrepreneurs on either side of me at the bar – in town for a retail convention – about politics.  Both were gracious and interesting, with one a strong Clinton supporter from Northern Michigan, and the other a political agnostic and Republican from Orange County, CA.  Given I’ve worked for years with entrepreneurs, we were able to find common, cordial ground about the primary campaign and politics and policy more generally, without me having to lose any ideological ground.  I enjoyed it immensely.

After they departed, I was alone at the bar with three old white dudes, on who irony is long lost.  After eavesdropping on their conversation about McCain (if only he were Newt, they lamented), their own virility, and Vietnam, I was eventually enjoined by one of them in discussion.  Two were from Chicago, and the guy on the end expressed sympathy for Clinton that she couldn’t beat that “pipsqueak” who did nothing in the IL state senate but “sit in the back and smoke cigarettes.”  As he criticized her moves and strategy, I countered several times that I thought she’d done many of those things.  He loudly told me she hadn’t, and frequently cut me off with his own enthusiastic barstool quarterbacking.  When he got to the MSNBC debate, which he watched for “10 minutes,” and criticized her again for failing to make her case against Obama, I ironically noted that perhaps she had difficulty given she kept getting cut off when trying to deliver her message.  In all seriousness, he told me that wasn’t the case, and continued to harp on her. 

The conversation derailed further when one of his dinner companions told me Clinton was a lesbian, though improved immeasurably given this exchange:

Me: “of course, because all strong women are lesbians and man-hating.”

Buffoon closest to me: “Are you a lesbian?”

Buffoon farthest from me: “It’s ok though, because guys love lesbians.”

Me: “All lesbians?  I thought men liked only hot lesbians.  Or will any old dyke do?”

They were momentarily stymied, and shortly thereafter I took my exit.

I love dining alone at the bar!!  (Seriously, I do.)

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