TIME TO PUT-UP OR SHUT-UP

putupshutupIt’s easy to be a Sideline Advocate and stand next to the parade route cheering on the participants. Like men/women at strip clubs, I place money in their belts/garters and watch in the comfort of my home. To my credit, I also write letters to Congress. When there is a march occurring,  I lament that I didn’t know there was going to be a march. Sip my cup of tea and send another $100. While living in San Diego, I lament that the action is occurring in Washington DC while sipping a cup of tea and send another $100.

I proclaim that I am fed up enough to march, as I continue to sip my tea, scream at the TV set, send another $100, but I am now out of excuses. When I found myself yelling at the TV set this morning, I recognized that it is time to put down my cup of tea and march at the upcoming rally in front of the U.S. Capital to protest gerrymandering on this coming Tuesday (10/3/2017).

I know that gerrymandering is a political ploy to arrange voting districts to benefit one gerrymanderingparty’s candidate over the other party, which weakens our voting power. But as I was trying to explain the issue to a friend, I realized that my knowledge is shallow especially concerning the particular case being heard by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). I’m going to have to get up to speed in the next 24 hours. If a reporter asks me why I’m out protesting, I don’t want to be that Black person …. without a clue.

I am taking a break from re-reading the origin of gerrymandering and the basis of the case being heard by (SCOTUS). It’s clear that I cannot learn all that there is to know about the topic in such a short period of time. What I do know is that it is time to stand up for what I believe which is that current political tactics by both parties reduce the power of our vote and they MUST stop jiggering the voting districts to favor one party over another.

Stay tuned…

MY BUTT FLOATS

Donkey assCould have gone forever not realizing that parts of my body float (and not the obvious parts). Been looking for the right combination of exercises to reduce the overall “float”. My health club offers cardio, weight training, spinning, circuit training, swimming, yoga, barre, and pilates. Which is a great smorgasbord, but the number of options are overwhelming. In addition to the variety, I have to figure out which ones to do on which days and which times will give me the most benefit. And the last layer of complexity is which instructor to choose, because not all instructors are created equal. Oy vey!!!!!!!

I am avoiding my Type A tendencies which are crying out to “create a matrix” of classes and instructors, but I refuse to do that. Instead, I am actually trying out a different class every day until I find “what works for me”. After 3 weeks, I have just about found the right combination of classes, days, times, and instructors. Whew!

Since I work out in the mornings, many of my fellow workoutees are retirees too. And the best instructors know that some of us are dealing with knee issues, back issues, shoulder issues and a variety of other stuff. Hence the best ones give us “modifications” and constantly assure us that modifications are not only okay but good. Thanks to my feet, knee, and back, I have now become the queen of mods.

Regarding the float…. While doing water aerobics I felt something on my rear end that bounced up and down every time I jumped. I knew that things had moved south, but I had no idea it was that bad!!!

Oh well…. Just more incentive to get my fat a__  to the club.

Stay tuned……

Being Sucked

Rabbit holeIsn’t it wonderful that sites like Facebook, Netflix, and YouTube automatically launch the next video or post so I don’t have to do it for myself. When I click on YouTube it even lists videos that are similar to the ones I already watched. Unfortunately, it can’t distinguish between my viewing and Clay’s, so I end up with a lot of really weird s@#$% like “how to make knives out of nails”.

The joy of having these sites do all the work for me is akin to being led down a primrose path (which is perfectly defined as “a seductively attractive course that leads to disillusionment or a bad outcome”). The bad outcome in this case is being sucked into a vortex from which I can’t escape, and hours later I have to wrench control pied piper

from the Pied Piper (AKA Facebook, Netflix, Youtube). Even while writing this blog, my cell keeps blooping to get my attention.

Well, I have to go now because Wheel of Fortune just pinged me to return to the game.

Stay Tuned

Paris Day 5 and 6: Finally the Louvre

Clay and I next to seineBeen averaging 5 –  7 miles of walking each day since arriving in Paris. Our bodies screamed at us TAKE A BREAK… STUPID. YOU’RE NOT 25 ANYMORE. With a planned dinner cruise on the Seine for the evening we decided to simultaneously lounge, read, and nap during the day. Around mid-day, we went to a local sidewalk café for a light lunch where Clay ordered a crepe. It was filled with sugar and swimming in a liqueur. Didn’t taste great but Like Mikey… he ate it. Unfortunately, it stayed with him until we got on the dinner cruise where it threatened to exit. Thank goodness we left the boat before it left the dock. I called the boat company and they were gracious enough to make room for us on the next evening’s cruise.

The next day, Clay was now willing to accept that long security lines couldn’t be avoided so we went to the Louvre early in hopes of a shorter line (and in case you were wondering, we had a “skip the line pass” which did not cover security lines). But our early arrival worked out and it only took 20 minutes to get inside.

The Louvre was everything we heard and much, much more. Like in a maze you quickly find yourself retracing your own steps so we got directions to the Mona Lisa. Ended up with the herd of others who were determined to see the picture. Two days previously, our “free tour” guide [Paris Day 3: Getting in the Groove] explained that the reason for Mona’s popularity is

  • Her enigmatic smile? NO
  • The mystery surrounding her identity? NO
  • The fact she was painted by Renaissance pin-up boy Leonardo da Vinci? NO

What really catapulted the small, unassuming portrait to international stardom was her theft over 100 years ago causing her image to be splashed across international newspapers. Two years later the thief was finally caught and the Mona Lisa was recovered, becoming the best-known painting in a time before we shared images on TV, internet, and phones.

Even though we know “the emperor (aka Mona) has no clothes”, we still push to see and photograph this one picture. Below is a photo taken by Clay. As promised all pictures taken here will include pictures of others taking pictures because the crowd is at least 10 people deep.

Mona Lisa

The Louvre is not just huge, it is overwhelming, so after 3 hours we were ready to move on. But before I move our story along, let me say that I have never seen so many penises. Not sure what was going on in ancient Greece, but everyone, (men, women, and children) were nude. Hence, every statue and much of the art showed people in various poses but always nude or mostly nude. In fact, ALL of the male statues had exposed penises. I’m not a prude, but…. Enough already.

Next we went to St. Chapelle which was another find discovered from our “free tour”. The guide said it was on the beaten path but still not on most people’s radar. Letting Google lead the way, we found the old dusty building. (Oh yeah… everything in Paris is old and dusty.) Upon entering, you are looking at a lower level chapel which even in disrepair is beautiful. Then at the top of a winding staircase you find an unbelievably, incredibly beautiful, stained glass room!

NAP TIME….  time to return to our room and rest before our river boat ride.

The ride was beautiful… yada yada yada, but a weird thing happened on the boat…. an old friend from Dubai arrived with a lady (not his wife) and another couple. What made it weird was trying to figure out if we should acknowledge him or not.

Seine boat ride

He looked at me from across the boat and smiled. We hadn’t seen him in 5 years, so he could have divorced, but since we weren’t sure… we decided to play it safe and not acknowledge him. Now, I’m sorry, because I would have loved catching up. Oh well….. c’est la vie

 

Paris Day 3: Getting in the Groove

walkaboutOur last planned day of acclimation involved the equivalent of an Australian “walkabout”. No planned outings, just whatever came up. So, we had an opportunity to tryout Clay’s new toy, a camera. This was also an opportunity to be a good wife and not complain about the purchase of an expensive camera that I knew would be used a few times and then get tossed aside for the convenience of a cell phone camera… but I digress.

Walked to the Notre Dame cathedral so Clay could take pictures of the buttresses. While there, I stumbled on a tour guide speaking English and explaining the cathedral to a crowd of folks. I asked one of the tourists about how to get on the tour and she explained that it was free! Being a firm believer in  opportunities knock, I had to track down Clay so we could join.

Thanks to the miracle of cell phones,  I was able to join the tour and give Clay directions for catching up with us. What an incredible tour!

The guide was a thespian doing this gig between roles! Naturally, the tour ended in a café where we had the “opportunity” to buy more tours, which we actually did.

The tour was great! He took us to

  • Saint Michel Fountain
  • Notre Dame de Paris
  • Tuileries Gardens
  • Assemblée Nationale
  • The Louvre
  • Palais Royal
  • View of the Grand & Petit Palais
  • Haussmann’s Paris
  • Incredible views of Eiffel Tower
  • Latin Quarter
  • Pont Neuf
  • Place de la Concorde

 

Walked 7 miles….. Nap time again….

Paris Day 2: Working the Plan!

IMG_4332Awoke in Clay’s bucket-list city on the second day of our trip.  He’s been dreaming of visiting Paris for over 20 years. So, following our mantra of “do it while we can”, we decided to do Paris for his 70th birthday.

Now we get to test our “plan” to systematically see Paris without exhausting ourselves. So, our plan was to take the Hop on Hop off bus (HonHof), but Travelocity got it all wrong. We went to the address provided by them to pick up our tickets, but it was an apartment building with a buzzer system. Being in a foreign country, we weren’t sure if this was how they do things in Paris, so we decided to enact part 2 of Clays dream, which was to visit as many sidewalk cafes as possible. We selected a café within eyesite of the HonHof door so we could see if anyone opened it.

After waiting 20 minutes, we decided not to let no stinkin bad directions disrupt our “plan” so we began working on Plan B. We could try the next address provided by Travelocity but remembering the “fool me once…” saying, we nixed that idea. Thanks to Google, we were able to find a HonHof bus stop where we hopped on, traded our voucher for tickets, and began our tour of Paris…. Okay the Plan is working!

Originally, we planned on staying on the bus and just sightsee, but when we reached the Military Museum of the Army of France (Les Invalides), my bladder suggested that we should stop. This was my first opportunity to learn about the culture of toilettes in France which translates to “no tickie… no laundry”. In other words, you must pay to use toilets. In this case, we would have to purchase a ticket to the museum to access the toilettes ☹ A little ingenuity got us around the ticket problem….

After our HonHoff tour, we returned to our incredibly beautiful boutique hotel room where art decorated the ceiling and every wall!

Recharged after our afternoon nap, we started looking for evening entertainment and remembered the jazz club, Chez Papa. Naturally they were all booked up on a Saturday evening, but since it was so close we decided to take a chance and drop by.

A lady met us at the door (maybe owner?) and naturally she told us all seats were reserved. Not sure why (maybe it was the grey hair or the American accent), but she decided to seat us at a table by the front door which was far from music. She told us she could move us if someone cancelled. Being a skeptical American, I didn’t believe her, but was happy she seated us. Later in the evening, she actually moved us up front!

Hubby is very adventurous and he ordered Escargot (snails). I am not as adventurous, but I tasted them and they were actually good!

The club reminded us of Blues Alley, a jazz club in Washington DC. Chez Papa is intimate with seats within 1 foot of performers. The club is small (maybe seats 50) and has an upstairs half balcony overlooking the performance space. The night we were there, they had a 3-piece combo that played straight up old school jazz.

Chez Papa Is magical! If you like jazz, this is a place you must visit.

Great ending to our second day in Paris

Chez Papa

 

Paris Day 1: The Best Laid Plans

Blog - Seine

Maturity primarily means that the mature person has made mistakes from the low of 0 (no big deal and laughable) to a high of 10 (a story that we will tell in our rocking chair). Since we (hubby and I) count ourselves among the mature, we developed a loose plan for our Paris visit beginning with our “goto site”, Tripadvisor. Tripadvisor is where all mature people post their experiences, plans, advice and questions so others can learn.

Tripadvisor taught us to underplan because we would not be able to do all that we wanted, and we took that advice seriously. Additionally, we built time into our schedule so we could rest. This resulted in having three anchor activities…. the Louvre, Versailles and Notre Dame around which we built everything else.

Day one was our acclimation day when we allowed ourselves to begin adjusting to the 8-hour time difference. The only plan for the day was ticket purchases and strolling. It was a good thing we hadn’t planned anything because we laid down for a nap and disappeared into LaLa Land.

When we awoke, my cellphone said 10pm, but that was clearly incorrect because we could see that it was light outside. Apparently we were more tired than we knew and had slept through the night. Then our concern was that we would miss breakfast that was scheduled to end at 11am. I quickly dressed and went downstairs to grab breakfast and something for hubby.

When I reached the reception area, I confirmed with the attendant that breakfast went until 11am and went to the lower level for the buffet. When I reached the breakfast room there was not only no buffet but no people! Now I’m wondering what’s going on and go back to the desk clerk to explain that breakfast was in fact NOT being served!

He looked at me quizzically and explained that breakfast began at 7am and lasted until 11am. At this point, it began to dawn on me that something weird was going on and I asked him for the current time. He responded that it was 10:45pm. Oy Vey…. The time on my cellphone was correct after all!!! We hadn’t really slept through the night. We were fooled because it is still light outside at 10pm in Paris.

No one on Tripadvisor had mentioned that sunset is around 10pm in mid-June, with twilight lasting almost until 11pm. So hubby and I undressed and got back into bed 😊

Stay tuned……

Ignorance is Bliss

Colson Whitehead, Author Underground Railroad

 

Being born in the semi-south (northern Virginia) and raised during the 50ties, I had a brush with segregation. I use the term brush because when compared to my more southern counterparts, my life was a piece of cake. I recall that I could not try on hats at the local Woodrow and Lothrop department store. I could not go to the movie theater one block from my house, and could not eat in local restaurants. Nor could I attend local swimming pools, skating rinks, and schools and neighborhoods were segregated. These were just a few of the many things that were part of my life in the semi-south. It was easy to view these things as “the way life is”. Then 40 years later my education about the system of slavery began.

My mis-education about the system of segregation and slavery was based upon the minute information disclosed during elementary school history class which was buttressed by the sanitized movies about the wonderful lives of slaves (aka Gone with the Wind). Even Bill O’Reilly said slaves at the white house were “well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government.” Whitehead’s book, Underground Railroad, turned my thinking about the institution of slavery upside down and inside out.

I read Whiteheads’s book during an intersection of events. First, was a couples vacation to Charleston, South Carolina, which I learned was ground zero for the slave industry. The second event was the receipt of a Smithsonian magazine titled Black in America prompted by the opening of the  African American Museum. The third occurred because I was desperately looking for a good book to read, which led me to the New York Times book review where The Underground Railroad was listed. Finally, I joined a book club and naturally the book being read this month is The Underground Railroad.

I probably would have overlooked any one of these events and filed it away under miscellaneous knowledge soon to be forgotten. It was the convergence of the four events that has thrown me into a tailspin.

While visiting Charleston, I was able to view the history of the major center of the slave slave-posterindustry from a purely business perspective. How well organized it was with great record keeping systems.. At one point, there were 40 different auction businesses housing brokers with jail cells for the “enslaved Africans.” It was in Charleston that I learned the term “enslaved Africans” as the correct new terminology that acknowledges the humanity of people considered property. The auction houses were the terminus for a network of slave catchers, slave thieves, and brokers ranging across the southern states. When someone needed money they would simply sell some of their “property” through this network. Viewing this from a business perspective allowed me to ignore the emotional impact of selling children away from their parents and wives from their husbands.

When I returned home from Charleston, the Smithsonian magazine was there to continue my education. It was filled with stories from the new African American museum which addressed the contributions of Enslaved Africans to the development of the United States. It described the migration of enslaved Americans after the 13th Amendment was passed (12/6/1865) and the effects of that migration. Then when I picked up the Underground Railroad all the emotions began to flow as I read of the degradation, beatings, hangings, maiming, rape, and psychological damage inflicted upon my ancestors. His book is based upon “slave” oral histories captured by the Library of Congress wrapped in incredible creative writing skills.  The “business perspective” barrier that I had erected came crashing down around my ankles.

Now I am faced with book club where I will be the only brown skinned person in the room. This should be interesting.

Soweto Gospel Choir: A Preconceived View

Expectations and preconceptions skewed my view of the Soweto Gospel Choir. I had read about their Grammy awards and as an African-American woman, I looked forward to their performance with great anticipation . When they walked out on stage, I joined with the rest of the audience to applaud their presence here in the US at George Mason University, but the first thing I noticed was the women’s hair and second was the costumes.

I know it is unfair to prejudge, but it is only human to have expectations, and I expected the African women to wear African hairstyles and/or hair wraps. So, I was taken aback that all but one  of the women had African American hairstyles, which means braids and weaves. One of them even had strawberry blond hair.

Additionally, all members of the troupe word nylon or polyester costumes. Somehow that didn’t seem like native attire, which was my expectation. So, as unfair as it is, this skewed my view because I was looking for authenticity.

On the other hand…. the music and dance was outstanding. The male dancers greatly outshined the women with their high kicks up to their heads. The only other disconnect was a tap dance routine performed by the men. Again, it may be my preconceived notions about African dance, but tap dancing does not fit into my  idea of African Dance. The end of their program had the audience on their feed which was appropriate because their music made you feel like dancing, and their rendition of Oh Happy Days was rousing. At the end of the day, it was time well spent, extremely enjoyable, and everyone walked away with a smile on their faces and a song in their heart.

 

 

I Am Starring in the Truman Show

As I power-walk down the street, I observe perfection. Perfectly manicured yards. Perfectly clean streets. Perfect weather. Perfectly behaved children. No two houses the same and many of them architectural jewels. Life moves at a slow pace and what they call traffic is laughable.  The people are southern-friendly. Everyone owns a bike and uses it regularly.  As Garrison Keillor would say it’s a town where  “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average”. Naturally, it was just proclaimed as having one of the top best school systems in the US.

Everything is so sweet and simple that it is jarring. There is so little crime that all the police have to do is give out parking tickets and chastise residents for going without bike helmets. Housing is in such high demand that rentals are gone within 2 hours of being published in the local paper. Kids roam freely throughout the community and like Cheers…. everyone knows your name. It feels fantastical. I keep waiting for someone to pull back the curtain and show some man pulling strings like the Wizard of Oz.

Waiting to wake up from this dream. In the meantime… I will enjoy life in Coronado, California.

Stay tuned.