Travel as a Political Act

Rick Steves is my spirit guide when it comes to traveling. He encourages people to travel off the beaten path, mingle with locals, and travel thoughtfully. If you haven’t heard of him, he has his own travel company and guidebook series and also has a PBS TV show and radio show. He is out there, spreading his important message of travel as a political act.

I’m the kind of traveler who rarely takes time to relax when I’m traveling. I love the idea of it, but I always end up hitting as many museums and cultural sites as possible, taking public transportation vs. taxis, and walking around as much as I can. So I can relate to Rick’s travel philosophy.

He sometimes does speaking tours, and my friends are I were lucky enough to attend his talk in Boston this spring. I think the talk was slated to run an hour or an hour and a half, and he spoke for almost three hours! Talk about getting our money’s worth.

He spoke about his travel background and gave tips on traveling in Europe and how to pack for trips. At the end of the talk, he announced how he would be handling the book signing afterward. I was impressed by how innovative it was. Instead of him sitting at a table while a long single-file line grows, he stood in the middle of the venue’s lobby and attendees formed a circle around him. Then he just moved around in a circle, signing as he turned. This method didn’t leave much time for chat, which might disappoint people. But it sure was efficient.

If you ever find yourself planning a trip to Europe, visit the Rick Steves website and/or pick up one of his guidebooks. You’ll thank me for it.

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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

I’m reporting on the birthday list out of order because of a sense of urgency.

One week ago, I participated in the Boston Women’s March for America. Although I participated in a small march for water justice for the birthday list years ago, this march is going on this year’s list. It was a rally AND a march…and I have never been to a rally and a march with 175,000+ other people!

I attended with a group of friends. We arrived about an hour before the start of the rally. We were pretty far back, so once more people arrived and filled in, we couldn’t see the stage. But we were able to hear all of the motivational speeches by our mayor, senators, and local human rights advocates and community members.

Boston Women's March for America

An hour before the start of the rally

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t put into words what the experience felt like. If I were forced to, I would say it was peaceful, positive, and purposeful. There were people of all ages, gender identities, and nationalities. Many of the signs that people were carrying made us laugh out loud in solidarity. The event organizers were not prepared for the number of people in attendance, so we waited in a logjam for two hours before approaching the start of the march route.

Boston Women's March for America

Waiting in the logjam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The march was great because people were yelling chants into bullhorns to encourage us to use our voices. One of my favorites was “This is what democracy looks like!” By the time we reached the halfway mark of the 1.5 mile route, my friends and I had been on our feet for six hours. Hungry and tired, we peeled off and headed home.

Boston Women's March for America

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knowing that there were 700+ marches taking place around the world made me feel even more empowered and hopeful. There are millions of people who care about equality for all. As one of the speakers said, “There are more of us than there are of them.”

Boston Women's March for America

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I completed the first of 10 actions for the first 100 days. I sent postcards to my senators, writing about which causes I care most about and why. Join me!

 

4, 3, 2, 1

My third favorite band is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. I discovered these guys on December 31, 2000, when they opened for Barenaked Ladies in Boston. I had been a Boston resident for a year and a half, so to me, Guster is synonymous with my entire life in Boston….i.e., my early 20s to early 40s and counting.

Guster had been a band for nine years at that point, having met each other during their freshman year at Tufts University. I dug their music because a lot of it was fun and had a great beat, yet they could also write songs that were serious and thoughtful. And I dug them as people because I found them to be great musicians, as well as being spontaneous, quirky, creative, and comical.

I got to know them well because they toured in New England A LOT, it being their home turf. This is mind-boggling, but between the years of 2001 and 2016, I have seen them at least 27 times. I say “at least” because I know I am missing a few ticket stubs.

January 2016, Boston

January 2016, Boston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What sealed the deal for this love affair is that during my early years of following the band, Brian, the drummer, wrote an online “road journal” about their adventures on the road. I remember laughing out loud until I cried many, many times. My love for this journal led me to send an email into the ether, to Guster’s general email address, to express my appreciation.

And Brian wrote back! We had an email correspondence for a few years. It was a special experience and I really appreciated how he took time to chat with the fans.

There have been many concert highlights over the years, but here are a few:

  • Seeing them at University of New Hampshire in 2003 with a new work friend…we drove up on a weeknight and waited outside after the show and met Brian! So fun. We were giddy and goofy the entire ride home as only 20-somethings who just met a rock star could be. Years later, the same friend scored backstage passes for one of their Boston shows and we met them again.
  • Attending a show at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston on Halloween: Both Guster and the fans dressed up. I think that they also opened the show by descending from the ceiling while seated in chairs.
  • Seeing them perform at Radio City Music Hall and with the Boston Pops Orchestra.
  • Seeing them in my hometown in New York. It was my second time seeing them outside of their home turf of New England. It was sold out, and a friend and I stood around before the show trying to find her a ticket. And at the last minute, we did! It was great to see Guster being embraced in my hometown.

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Guster just announced a four-day residency at the Paradise in Boston in January. Guess who bought a four-day pass?

Great Scots

I have an affinity for Scotland, since many of my dad’s maternal ancestors lived there. When I think of Scotland, I think of wild and windy remote areas and tough, headstrong people who like to have a laugh. I’ve only ever been to Edinburgh—it’s a beautiful city—but I hope to return someday to visit the ancestral homeland and the wild and windy remote areas.

So I was grateful to have the opportunity to see two great Scots speak last week: Alan Cumming and Harry Benson.

Alan Cumming is simply amazing. He acts, he sings, he writes, he photographs. Many people who watch TV know him from The Good Wife; I’ve known him from his movies in the ’90s. And as the Masterpiece Mystery! host, of course.

He was in town to promote his book You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams, composed of brief life stories accompanied by photos he’s taken. I could have listened to him tell stories for hours. He seemed so down-to-earth, charming, and witty. I think Scots have their very own version of a smirk and eye twinkle.

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He signed books afterward but I didn’t have it in me to stand in line that particular night. But I do love him! I hope he brings his sappy songs concert to New England sometime.

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He particularly enjoyed telling the story of meeting Oprah, who inspired the title of this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had never heard of Harry Benson, but when I read the description of the documentary about him—and read that he would be in attendance at a local screening—I had to attend. I wish I could be Harry Benson, one of the world’s most prolific photojournalists. He grew up in Glasgow, getting his start at a local paper and then moving on to the cutthroat atmosphere of Fleet Street in London.

He was asked to photograph the Beatles’ first visit to the States in 1964 and things just went up from there. He has photographed pretty much every celebrity throughout the past 50 years, including 11 U.S. presidents. He was there when Martin Luther King was assassinated and when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. He photographed the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the Somalian refugees in the 1990s.

Calling him driven and hardworking is an understatement. But he also was able to connect with loners such as Bobby Fischer and Michael Jackson and gain the trust of countless celebrities and political figures. His sense of humor and no-nonsense style shone through in the documentary, and in real life when he answered questions from the moderator and the audience at the screening.

Both he and Alan survived bleak childhoods to share awe-inspiring talent, grace, and humor with the world. It was thrilling to hear these successful artists share their life stories.

From left to right: producer Heather Silverman; Harry's wife, Gigi; Harry, Boston Globe arts editor Rebecca Ostriker

From left to right: producer Heather Silverman; Harry’s wife, Gigi; Harry; Boston Globe arts editor Rebecca Ostriker

The Little Things

My heart is heavy…three tragedies this week. I am in a state of disbelief. How do we fix this? I’m not sure, but what I am sure of is that white people need to step up and help change the future.

I’ve heard a few times over the past few days that “this [police brutality] has been happening forever; now we just have cell phone videos to document it.”

I used to walk around “not seeing color.” (I’m white.) I saw no difference between me and someone with different-colored skin. Over the years, I’ve realized that that’s all well and good, but I needed to start SEEING that these people with different-colored skin live with discrimination and bias ALL THE TIME. They are different from me because they have different experiences because of their skin color.

I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book Between the World and Me in a book club and a light bulb went off. I got a glimpse of what it is like to feel unsafe in your body because of your skin color. As a black person in the club said, “I don’t have to read this; I’ve lived it.”

I don’t know how I will help right now, but I will find a way. Inaction is an action in itself, as Martin Luther King Jr. said so eloquently:

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

And one last quote:

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate can not drive out hate: only love can do that.”

I’m taking a short break from my swirling thoughts and feelings of anger and despair and reminding myself that life is precious and to cherish the little things.

Like brunch. I love brunch. So I’m not sure why it took me 17 years to check out a diner near me called Johnny’s Luncheonette.

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Allen and I went for Sunday brunch and it was superb. The food was great and I loved the diner decor. The waitress was nice and the menu was impressive. I’ll be back to try lunch or dinner sometime.

I’m getting to the end of my list = five more things to report!

The term “self-care” seems a little New Age-y to me, but I’m going to encourage you to partake in it this weekend. Attend a vigil or walk in a march if that’s what you feel you need to do. Thank local police officers for the work they do. Or go to brunch with a family member or friend.

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40 things to do on the birthday list!

BirthdayJune 1st, 2015

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