Monday, August 30, 2010

Back to the grind...back in the saddle..

Back to the future...back to life, back to reality...

Well, you get the point.  I'm back in Arkansas after a 10 day furlough, during which I conquered the New England, LA, San Diego, multiple airports and seared sesame tuna.  It was a good trip!

Day 2 in San Diego consisted of a self-guided tour of the USS Midway Museum, which I enjoyed tremendously.  I'm not sure why, but I've always found the world of the military fascinating, even before my future sister-in-law/Navy officer came onto the scene.  The highlight, for me, was seeing (and walking in!) the helicopter that picked up the Apollo astronauts.  And I couldn't stop thinking about that NCIS episode when the agents visit an aircraft carrier and get hopelessly lost.  I'm sure it would happen to me; I'd get confused, wander into the Master Chief's quarters and wind up in the brig. 

San Diego was having a "heat wave" while I was there - it was over 80 degrees.  That's just funny.  But by day 2 it had cooled off, and so my visit to Balboa Park was lovely, though I arrived too late to enjoy much of the museum scene.  Headed over to Coronado Island again to walk the beach and shops, then drove back through the Old Town and turned in for the night.  Would have been a perfect lazy night except that my neighbors in the hotel blasted loud music until 4 am or so.  What, is the Courtyard Marriott a college dorm now?  Sheesh.

Then it was back to LA for a day, where I spent some quality time with a friend and we went to see a movie "Hollywood Style", which meant people-watching and chatting about "the industry" in a mall (no roofs on California malls, you know).  I was one of a few females in the theater for The Expendables, which was predictably ridiculous, though I enjoyed the gratuitous explosions and smack downs as much as the next person.  The best part of the movie was Jet Li, whom we didn't see nearly enough of. As my friend said, The Expendables is for people who thought Ocean's Eleven was too cerebral. 

The big news of the evening was that, if you live in a big city, you can get food of all ethnicities delivered to your door! We had vegan Thai food. It was tasty.  A Vegan Thai restaurant that delivers?  We have Thai restaurants here in Arkansas.  The pizza places deliver.  And that's about it.  I'm seriously jealous. 

We had an "early brunch" (my breakfast wrap had to have avocado in it, right?) and then it was off to the airport for more hurry up and wait.  I'm happy to report that I had a lovely conversation with one of my seat mates on the flight from LAX to IAH - turns out he manages a band that played at the venue across the street from my venue here in Arkansas.  Luckily, someone sat between us and so they chewed the fat for the entire flight, which is good because I don't think I could have kept it up.  So the verdict on my "plane chatting" gene is that I have it, but it's clearly dominated by the "I'm reading and/or sleeping on a plane" gene.   And get this!  I was so focused on the book I was reading on my Kindle as we were leaving the gate that I forgot to turn the Kindle off, and the 1st mate busted me over the loudspeaker!  Me and several others blackberry/I-Phone delinquents, of course, but he specifically identified a Kindle that needed to be turned off.  Cool.

However, I also learned, officially, that the turning off electronics thing is a crock, because the guy behind me on the final leg of my trip played his rap music long after the rest of us had put our headphones away.  I mean, seriously, what's the point of headphones if we all can hear the lyrics (swears and all) of your music through them?

And now it's time to go back to work.  Being away, and marginally unplugged, has clarified a few things for me.  When I would check email from road, and come across something that made me mad or stressed, I'd just ignore it and or decide not to let it bother me.  I think it's going to be very important, for my mental health, to keep doing that even when I'm on the clock.  I like myself a lot more when I'm not getting irritated or stressed, and I can imagine other people feel the same.  So the big lesson of this trip is trying to maintain a vacation mentality while also doing my job and being responsible to my boss and staff.  No problem, right?  :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Moon over San Diego...

As I've been typing, the moon has risen in a perfect bisection of the curtains in my downtown San Diego hotel room.   Another good omen for what's been a great vacation so far?  I hope so.

When we left off before, I was waxing pompous about a photograph I'd seen at the Getty.  Seriously, though, the Getty was VERY cool.  Maybe I'll post a video of my photos later on if I get ambitious.  But here's one, just as a tease...

Without going into detail, here are the two big things I learned at the Getty:

1.  Old manuscripts are COOL.  Especially when they're illuminated.

2.  When it comes to modeling, I am living in the wrong era.  The women in the paintings in the 1600's and later are round, curvy and gorgeous.  Here's hoping we get back to that standard of beauty sometime soon! 

The day at the Getty was followed by a super fun evening with friends taking a "hipcooks" class - where we learned to make roasted pepper soup, seared sesame tuna, mango-ginger salsa, and strawberry sorbet.  YUM!!!!  That, and we learned the proper "chopping" motions so we can look almost as cool as the Top Chef cooks.

Then I hit the road for San Diego.  I was like a 5 year old when I saw my first glance at the Pacific, and even cruised the Coast Highway for a little bit, narrowly missing causing several fender benders as I gaped at the waves and beaches.  Enjoyed a walk along the waterfront, where I ran into two business colleagues whom I haven't seen in over a year - they just happened to be walking on the waterfront in San Diego at the same time I was!  WEIRD.  It's a small world after all, I guess.  (Apologies if I put that song in your's been in mine all day so it's only fair that I share).   Then I headed out to dinner on Coronado Island with Brenda, my brother's fiance, who also got us onto the Naval base to watch the sunset on the beach.  Two words for that... Awe. Some.

And now, an early night.  This vacation thing is pretty cool.  I should do this more often.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A day at the Getty...

I'm not sure what heaven will look like, assuming I get there, but I think I got a glimpse of it today when I spent a few hours at the Getty Museum in LA.  Or at least, I got a glimpse at what I can imagine architects strive for when they design a building; a sense of the celestial on earth, and the harmony of architecture, art and nature that creates something akin to magic.

Visiting the Getty is "free" - except for the $15 parking charge.  You start your journey (after being greeted by an army of smiling docents) by piling into spiffy little trams that wind you up the hills to the museum, which is actually a research institute and conservation center as well as a public museum.  As you climb, you see the houses and buildings built seemingly in defiance of gravity on the hills, and suddenly landslides make sense.  The tram spills you out onto a gleaming white courtyard, and here's where I start to marvel at the skill of the construction; everything is white, yet it's not that abrasive to your eyes.  Sunglasses are a good thing, though.  Outdoor sculpture spears above the courtyard, set at a strange contrast to the view of a developed Califormia hill. 

As you wander into the Getty, the first thing you want to do is wander out...into the courtyard, around which the different pavilions are clustered.  Fountains, cafes, tables, chairs...they all beckon you to relax and enjoy as your eyes are drawn up and out to the structures of the buildings and the views that beckon just beyond your eyesight.  No one is whispering, kids have room to run and wade in the water and get their energy out before you duck into the cool, air conditioned galleries, which are actually a bit hard to find. 

My first stop was the photographic exhibition, titled Engaged Observers: Documentary Photography since the Sixies.  Unwieldy title aside, it was the most compelling (and non-heavenly) exhibition I saw during my visit.  Lots of war photography and images of civil unrest, which I guess is what there's been to photograph in the last 50 years.  I was struck speechless by one photo from Philip Jones Griffiths, which, among all the photos in the exhibition and the accompanying book, had absolutely no description.  It didn't need one, other than the knowledge that Mr. Griffiths photographed the Vietnam war, and attempted to show something other than the glory of battle. Here's the photo - and here's the link where I found it online, as part of his "Vietnam, Inc" publication.

It's the man's wedding ring that just took my breath. That, and the little girl is wearing pretty earrings.

In fact, I think this is enough for now.  More later.  If you can, just sit with this photo for a few moments.  See what it says.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why I love hanging out in airports...

Let me preface this blog entry by saying I especially love hanging out in airports with free WIFI.  Thanks, MHT.  You're awesome.   Wifi makes a flight delay less irritating, for sure.  So do a plethora of power outlets. 

Traveling by air - alone - is the one endeavor in our entire modern lives that we can do without any social repercussions.  Unlike non-airport life, when one is traveling alone, you get the better end of the deal - it's a lot easier to entertain yourself, and yourself alone, than it is to entertain a family of bored kids or work acquaintances.  In an airport, you can listen to music, read a book, or tap away on your computer without guilt or fear of pity because, quite honestly, there's NOTHING ELSE TO DO.  And these aforementioned activities are what single people spend a lot of time doing.  Because, frankly, we don't have to do laundry for our kids or help our spouse with whatever project he/she is working on. 

Being single in a couple-focused society is never easy.  But it can be fun.  Would I rather have a companion with me on my Both Coast vacation, both to share the cost and excitement and for some romance?  Sure.  Do I wish that there was a big strong man around to tote my bags for me?  Of course (though my independent soul might not let him).    But the simple reality is that single people are only limited by our own self-consciousness in what we can do.  When I leave the comfort and anonymity of the airport, will people look at me with pity when I go to a restaurant or gallery or attraction? Maybe.  But why should I care?  I'm going to have fun.  This is my life.  And I can do anything I want.  Without checking with someone else.  There's something to be said for that.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Both Coast vacation...last day on the East Coast

Well, my plan to dip my toes into both oceans on this trip hasn't come to fruition, but it's ok.  It's been raining and cool here in NH, which really doesn't bother me at all.  I got to read The Help straight through.  I always experience a fleeting sense of guilt when I jump onto the bandwagon of a popular book, but then I remind myself that there's a reason things become popular. And I enjoyed this book. Quite a bit, actually.  As I was telling my dad about it, I said something quite flippant - "You wouldn't like this one,'s a girl's book."  As usual, he surprised me by saying he'd heard about it and wanted to read it.  Never assume, right?  Good to be reminded of that. Anyway, as usually happens after I read a good book, I feel inadequate when I try to write my own words.  So instead of putting together clear thoughts, I thought I'd just share some of the more interesting observances from my last few days in New England.

Friday night activities included attempting to drive to Manchester to pick up my brother and his  However, a lack of working brakes on my dad's car ended that pretty quickly.  Being able to stop is a good thing, it turns out.

Saturday, the five of us piled into the rental car and drove to Weirs Beach, where we boarded the Mt. Washington, a small cruise boat that has been cruising Lake Winnepesaukee since before I was born.  We had a nice day on the water; it's really beautiful on the lake.  I miss New England architecture. And it was probably no hotter than 70 or 72 degrees.  Amazing.

Sunday brought a day trip to Boston.  On the way, I saw a snowplow driving down the road (in the summer!) and spent about 20 minutes in IKEA (just that little bit was awesome).  All I could think was that, if they removed the exit signs from the store, one could literally get lost in there and NEVER find your way out.  Which I suppose is the point.  Then on to Jamaica Plain, MA, where I got to meet Elsa, the two-month old daughter of one of my college roommates.  What a sweetie.  I love hanging with babies, especially when I get to hand them back to their mamas after a while.  Then a slow, easy evening with my parents, eating spaghetti and listening to the rain. 

Today's been equally quiet and slow.  It's great.  I finished my book, and now my mom and I are going shopping.  A time-honored Mother/Daughter tradition. 

Life is so different here.  In a good way.  It makes me realize that, like a good recipe, life should be made up of many places and paces and styles.  Use one spice?  The food is boring or overwhelming.  But have a mix of flavors, and your food is tasty. 

Well, adios, New Hampshire.  It's always fun to hang out for a few days.  Tomorrow will begin the West Coast portion of our menu.  Stay tuned.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Both Coast vacation begins...

Keeping better track of my trips was one of the first reasons I started blogging, so for those who don't find it interesting to get a play-by-play of my travels, you might want to tune out for a few days. 10, to be exact. Because that's how long my vacation is, baby! Wahoo!

Just a brief mention of how much I need this break. Ok, that was brief enough.

So, day one was about travel. XNA to MHT. Last summer, when traveling to a conference in Chicago, I discovered that I'm missing a "networking gene". I discovered another genetic deficiency while traveling yesterday. It's the "strike up fun and exciting conversations with my fellow travelers" gene. Flight one, I sat next to a man who, as we boarded, was on his bluetooth complaining to his wife about their daughter's bad attitude. Try starting up a "hi, how are you, what do you do?" conversation after that. Flight 2, I'm in the very firstest of the first seats on the plane, and I can't get the flight attendant to do more than give me a fake smile. And as much as I made like a 6-year old and craned my head to try to see the buttons in the cockpit, the pilots weren't talking, either. It is me? It must be me. I have a secret fear that I'll miss a chance to chat up [insert really interesting or important person here] because for some reason I give off the "don't talk to me" vibe. I'll have to work harder on flights 3 and 4 later in the trip.

To recap, on this Both Coast vacation, I'll be spending 4 days in NH and 5 days in CA. For a total of 6 plane flights.

So now I'm hanging in my old 'hood for a few days. As happens every time I come home, I'm surprised by how much smaller it is in reality than in my head. Last night I walked up the hill from where my grandma's mobile home used to be, remembering playing Star Wars in the snow with my cousins and brother; I swear that hill was like a mini-ski slope when I was a kid. Surely the stairs to the 2nd floor were steeper and longer than they are now. What I don't get is why it's the kid-sized memories that stick with me. I mean, I also lived in this house as a teenager and adult. How come I remember so clearly the woods where we beat back the bushes to make a fort? Or the old, creepy treehouse that was razed to the ground for safety reasons at least two decades ago?

Regardless, I love coming here. The weather gods have sent me 80 degrees with low humidity and blue, blue skys that are pierced by the tall pine trees I miss so much when I'm not in New England. There's a wind, a special NH wind that rustles the trees. The cicadas sounded different from their Arkansan brethren last night. And there's JoJo's Country Store, aka the Store (as I'm writing this I realize that's what I always do in my head when talking about it - I capitalize "Store"), our family's business that is just one year younger than me. My apologies to the rest of you who have to make due with supermarkets, but you just can't beat "going shopping" with your mom in your own deli, bakery and grocery store. Want dessert? Head out to the Store to get a whoopie pie. Need a muffin for breakfast? Wheedle your dad into getting one for you. Want lunch? Wait 'til the lunch rush is over and then make yourself a "Damn Good Sub". It's awesome.

Today will be about nothing much other than reading (my current read is Seaworthy, by Linda Greenlaw, and I'm enjoying it immensely), writing, walking down to the beach, and vegging out. Ahh. My kind of vacation.

And PS - it was great to watch the Pats play - I'm so ready for football.  I'll say this, though - Tom Brady needs a haircut.  Badly.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

90 years ago

I have to confess that if conscientious friends hadn't alerted me via facebook, I wouldn't have known that today is the 90th anniversary of Tennessee's ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave the amendment the required number of states to make it a reality.  I'm so glad I was reminded.

90 years and one day ago, I wouldn't have been able to vote.  That just...boggles the mind.  (I'd probably also have bad teeth and very thick spectacles, but I digress) Don't get me wrong.  I know sexism and discrimination of all kinds still exist today.  I work at an organization that has far more women than men, and for my first 4 years, was successfully led by a female President/CEO.  More than once, a colleague in the field has asked me, in all seriousness, "so, have they hired some men over there yet?  I sure hope so."  I know about glass ceilings, and the many, many inequities that still exist between women and men, between races, economic classes, and so on.

I'm also the first to admit that I am a very lucky, privileged woman.  I was raised to believe I could do anything I wanted, and for the most part, I have.  I went to good schools, both undergrad and graduate.  I haven't ever experienced what a true victim of discrimination must feel.  I have been trying, all day, to imagine what it must have been like to be a woman 90 years ago, knowing that I'm considered less than a full citizen of my country.  Would I have had the courage to march, to risk arrest or physical harm, for the right to vote?  I honestly don't know, and that is embarassing. 

What strikes me most about today is that my particular gender/race combination got the right to vote only 90 years ago.  Just 90 years...a historical blip.  Those of us who care about politics and our society's progression should remember that we've corrected a lot of wrongs in the brief time our little republic has existed.  There are more to correct.  We're not done.  We're not perfect. We can't crawl behind walls and wish the pace of social change would slow.  Because if it had, many of us wouldn't have the rights and privileges we enjoy today. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ok, enough with this heat...

I'm serious, you know.  No fooling.  We're on something like our thousandth day of heat indexes over 100.  I kid you not, I dropped a tomato on my driveway today and the heat cooked it.  It's so hot, my hair is getting straighter.  Well, not really, but a girl can dream.

This is the time of year when I ask myself "why-oh-why-oh-why did I move to Arkansas?  What's wrong with Canada?  Or Bar Harbor?  Or Alaska?"  It's getting harder to remember those warm, sunny February and November days, when I made fun those who live in the cold, perpetually winter-laden north.  It's also increasingly difficult not to shout "Global warming is a hoax???  Really???" (Yes, I know, one hot summer does not a global crisis make).  I find myself getting angry that it's so damn hot, though who to direct the anger at is a bit of a challenge.  The sun, frankly, has other things to worry about.

I did have an epiphany today, though, after I drove a mere block to an interview to escape walking in the heat.   As I was feeling vaguely lazy and guilty about driving, I realized that, in the winter, if it were 10 below, I would also drive.  In the winter, in cold climates, you hustle from heated room to heated car to heated room and back again.  It's no different in the summer - from AC'd room, to car, to room, and so on. Is it lazy?  Yes.  Would I suffer bodily harm if I walked?  Not really.  Will I henceforth walk even on the hottest of days or coldest of mornings? Uh, nope!  AC or heat is fine by me.

In this, at least, I say three cheers for technology.   And shade.  And sprinklers.  Once I'm not so new to the 'hood, I think I'll run through my neighbor's sprinkler, just for fun.  Or maybe I'll go bust open a fire hydrant.  That'd be cool.

Or perhaps, to avoid arrest and incarceration, I'll just settle for another glass of iced tea.  Stay cool, y'all.