Tag Archives: travel

staycation, all i ever wanted

This weekend, I found myself with an unexpected block of time on my hands. OMD closed on Friday for the day, giving me a four day weekend. Originally, I had planned to go to a BTC3 camp in Virginia, as a trainer, to assist there as needed. (“BTC3” aka “Brownsea Training Camp v3.0” is the B-PSA weekend experiential training for leaders). However, with 12 trainers and only 7 attendees, I wasn’t actually needed at the camp. Still, I wasn’t particularly needed at home, either: both Ben and Paul have gone to Pittsburgh for the weekend to visit Paul’s family. Without work, without my men, without even my friends (who all left town this weekend), I was suddenly left with four days of unscheduled time.

Fortunately, I have never had a problem filling time. I always have a zillion things I would like to be doing at any given moments, but due to the limitations of time and energy, I find all those things difficult to actually get to in the course of a day. So I promptly filled up the weekend with a whole list of things I wanted to do, and then got to about half of them, which is par for the course.

I started my weekend, however, in Pennsylvania, visiting my friends the Northeast Commissioners for B-PSA. Basically, it was Scout nerding out for sixteen hours. As the NYC Commissioner, I oversee the biggest concentration of Scouts in the Northeast, and working through how NYC as a District works and integrates the Northeast as a region has required some discussion. Also we all love talking about just general Scout stuff, like hikes, songs, skits, get togethers…and that’s just for the adult Scouts. Talking about shared visions for our particular organization is also one of my favorite things ever, and I loved being able to visit my fellow Commissioners and talk through all the things we want to do.

Also, we got to go to Longwood Gardens, which is seriously like an American Versailles, except it doesn’t have a chateau. But it does have both formal water gardens as well as meadows and treehouses. It reminded me of Versailles because it had both sides of the planned garden experience: the formal gardens, and the composed countryside, almost like Marie Antoinette’s hamlet

After walking the gardens though, it was time to say goodbye. My fellow Commissioners were packing up their Pathfinder and Timberwolf and heading to BTC3; I was heading home to NYC. Of course, despite the day off, I was still on a schedule: I had had to cancel my Thursday lunchtime session with my anxiety therapist due to a client call no one else had the knowledge base or authority to cover. I had rescheduled to Friday at 4:15 and, assuming that I might not have time to go to Brooklyn and park the car, I chose to pre-book parking as close as possible, near my office in Lower Manhattan. And the timing actually worked out perfectly: despite a slowdown in the Holland Tunnel that appeared during my half-hour snack-and-pee-break in New Jersey, I made it to my appointment at exactly 4:18pm.

After I finished at 5pm though, that was when my free time really started. I had the car parked until 10pm, was already wearing my workout clothes, and had taken advantage of a ClassPass “two weeks free” offer. It was time to go do some sort of trendy workout where I would be the oldest and heaviest person in the room! Enter FitHouse!

The studio is set up with Insta in mind, but the workouts are still real.

I then decided to get a CitiBike, which I almost never use because I prefer my own bike. CitiBikes are heavy, and it is almost impossible to feel like myself when riding one. I’m used to flying down a street, leaning over my handlebars, my center of gravity ready to swerve between cars, my hands and elbows loose to absorb shocks when I hit NYC potholes. CitiBikes force me to sit up straight in a way that makes it impossible to merge with the bike like it’s an extension of myself, like how I feel on my bike, plus I have to have my arms out with my elbows almost locked, which is much more jarring. However, needs must when in the city, and I just wanted to get from Tribeca to Bryant Park with a stop at Trader Joe’s for a picnic.

Why Bryant Park, you may ask? Bryant Park was where I was going to see the “picnic performance” of Othello, a Shakespeare play I had not seen before, but one where I was very curious to see. Why did Shakespeare choose to tell the story of a black man? How did this reflect the emerging globalization of the times? What cliches about racism remain consistent to this day about black men? Put into the modern American context, Othello raises a lot of questions – which may be why the play directors chose modern America military dress for the men, with white outfits of varying modesty for the women.

There is also something surreal about seeing plays with a city of glass in the background

After Othello, I was out of time on my parking, and so, I headed home: across the Brooklyn bridge, back to Prospect Heights. One thing I had not considered, however, was the impact of the West Indies Celebration on my neighborhood at the beginning of the weekend. I had expected more people coming in towards the end of the weekend, especially on Sunday night when the celebrations run all night long, and on Monday when the parade goes down Eastern Parkway two blocks away. I had not, however, considered that all my neighbors would have friends and family visiting, and my street would be so short on parking that cars would be double parked, possibly waiting hours for spots. I know in theory that two million people show up each year to celebrate West Indies culture, but I had neglected to consider that many of them would be arriving via car for the weekend. Cue twenty minutes of desperate circling, before eventually catching a car leaving a spot a quarter mile away.

And then, that was it: the end of Friday, of Day One. I always miss my men when I’m away from them, but it was so nice to be spending the day knowing that just because I was on my own, did not mean I was taking time away from Paul and Ben to do so. I see so little of my men on a day to day basis – between work and school, we’re almost like roommates during the week (and I have a whole comedic monologue about what a terrible roommate Ben is). I’m therefore reluctant to spend time on my own, away from them, when they’re available for me to spend time with. This weekend, however, there was no option for me to be with my family. There was only my time, and how I would spend it. And with Friday over, I was very content with the choices I had made for that time.

the complete lack of glamour in business travel

I’m in Cincinnati!  Again.  This is what it looked like last time I was here in April.

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I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but I used to think business travel would be glamorous.  This is probably because I grew up in the 80s and 90s when being a Business Woman was glamorous. The truth is, there isn’t much glamorous or sophisticated about actual work, which is what business travel is for.  It’s an extra long day, extended with flights or drives or trains, during which time I can’t work, yet still need to get the work actually done.  I do not get to swan around exotic locations wearing oversize sunglasses and a designer scarf, showing up only to deign meetings with my presence, like I thought I would get to when I was much, much younger.  Most business travel, in reality, requires days of prep beforehand, follow-up actions afterwards, and no end of sifting through all the emails that came in as soon as the wi-fi cut out on my flight.

And yet, aside from missing my men, I don’t mind business travel.  Like advertising and business in general, it isn’t a glamorous activity, but it does enable include the part of my job I like the most: talking.  Not just talking myself, but having everyone talk, brainstorming, discussing, planning, reviewing.  The kind of meetings I travel for, are when we take a step back and look at the forest, instead of being lost in trees.  Being in a room of people all working towards the same goal, even a corporate, commercial goal, is exciting, albeit in a nerdy way, and that is what I travel for.  Despite all those promises made in the 1990s about “virtual meetings”, there is still no substitute for just sitting around a conference table.  It’s likely a descendant of storytelling, sharing ideas and concepts, which is a very human element to keep in business.

Still, I’m trying to figure out where I got the idea that business travel would be exciting.  Perhaps it was because I assumed if I was important enough to travel, I would be an Important Businesswoman in general.  And even without watching mainstream movies my entire childhood, I still managed to pick up, by osmosis, the idea that being in business would be exciting and sophisticated.

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Sigourney Weaver in “Working Girl”: an awful boss BUT a sophisticated terrible boss with an amazing harbour view from her office.  It should be noted that when “Younger” did a Working Girl riff this week, I died.

Where did the women of my generation get this idea?  Is it descended from the archetype Helen Gurley Brown created in 1962, the idea of the sophisticated girl about town?  Given that the woman used mineral oil as a salad dressing to discourage eating, I have my doubts about her mental stability in general.

Image result for helen gurley brown sex and the single girl

Small steps forward, ladies!  SMALL STEPS IN YOUR HEELS.

It may be more likely to stem from the increase of women in white collar jobs in the late 70s and early 80s, the daughters of the first feminist revolution, who grew up with wider horizons than their mothers – including the idea of having their own careers

Line graph shows the percentages of men and women working from 1948 to 2013.

Source: “Women in Top Management“, Sage Business Research.  Actually, it is a really fascinating article in general about the under representation of women in top management

Wherever this idea came from, it is nicely encapsulated in this Hark! A Vagrant comic strip.  This is the perception of the business woman in the 80s: all goals all the time.

What is it about being goal oriented, about being tough, that says “sophisticated” though?  It may be the association of businesswomen as being urban creatures, who would have to have the sophistication required to live in an engaging way in a big city.  It may be the idea of the intelligence required to succeed in an environment in which the odds are stacked against women.  It may even be the perceived lack of typical female insecurities, which is a whole other post.  I am still unsure what it was about this image that appealed to me so much when I was younger, much less how this image permeated pop culture enough to trickle down to me.

Regardless, here I am in Cincinnati, on a business trip, waiting for the end of the reggae fest at Fountain Square across the street so I can go to sleep, poking at a deck I’m presenting tomorrow, missing my men and eating a decidedly unsophisticated take-out salad from Panera Bread.

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Corporate reggae brought to you by Proctor and Gamble!

No one actually said business travel would be glamorous, I just assumed it.  And I suppose we all know what they say about “assume”…

the only acceptable wall is the London Wall

I am not sure what it says about the times we live in that even my ten year old associates the idea of a wall built to keep people out with our current presidential regime.  However, I doubt anything built by the government contractors salivating to get their modern-day Boss Tweed style contracts for the Mexican wall will last the two thousand years that the Roman built London wall has.

THAT is a WALL.  We visited the Museum of London today to explore the history of the people who built it, along with the other fifteen centuries of people who have lived and changed London.  It amazed me, the people who have come and gone and lived their lives here, each adding to and altering the city in their own ways.  This has been a process that seems to have accelerated in the last century, with mass communications and the amalgamation of the megalopolis, but the consistent ebb and flow of people in London, the shifts in trends and in the city government that alters how those people move and live in the city, it has changed and yet been consistent for all those millenia.  Roman London was likely a polyglot city, on a similar grid to modern London.  How many parallels do we have with our own history in these oldest of cities?

I’ve been here before, of course, in this city that reminds me so much of my own home.  Like all colonials coming back to the heart of Empire, it is culturally familiar to be here.  London is easy for me to exist in.  I could easily live here, even as an expat marked by my West Coast accent, because I understand the English culture, thanks to growing up in the British quadrant of a former colony.  I also now understand what it means to live in a massive global city, everything from moving in a crowded space to mastering a complicated subway system.  London feels like it could well be a home for me.

This is, however the first time I have brought my son, who is both very intrigued by London, and yet slightly dismissive of it in a way that only a citizen of another equally great city can be.

Ben has the extreme privilege of being able to compare London to New York, being able to compare the borough of Camden to his own of Brooklyn, our neighborhood of Hampstead and Belsize Park to Park Slope and Prospect Heights.  He can see the parallels between the great multicultural mosaics that both cities are, now, in the twenty-first century.  He can ride the Tube and admire that it is cleaner and more reliable than the NYC subway, but also note that New York has more people out and about on the streets at any given time.  Ben is a city child – all he knows is New York City – and so he is able to adapt to a city like London quickly and figure out how it works using parallels with his own home.  It’s a knowledge base and context I lacked when I first visited Europe, and a mental process that is interesting to watch.  Ben doesn’t have to adapt to being in a city in the first place; he just has to adapt to the specific place and culture of the city he’s in.

I had meant to write more about what we are actually doing while here, and even went so far as to take my Chromebook to the local laundrette to write while washing our filthy and stinky camp clothing, but got sidetracked into discussions on Brexit and Trump while there.  I blame the one glass of wine I had with dinner, as normally I wouldn’t decide polite arguing (it was quite respectful!) is more important than my own personal priority of writing.  I do not feel I gained from getting into a debate in a laundrette in London, because I do not need to learn more about opposing viewpoints: I know the opposing viewpoints and why the Left is still losing the critical thought arguments.  In this case though, I didn’t want to be rude and just shut down the conversation, which I feel is a uniquely female social obligation to be nice.  Which is a whole other blog post.  But due to that lost time, there will be no lengthy travelogue detailing our movements around London.  Yet.  It’s inevitable, of course, to post about our adventures here, but not tonight.

Instead, I leave you with the photo of my son on Hampstead Heath tonight, after he remarked “Mom, this looks so much like Prospect Park!  It looks like the Long Meadow,” and then went back to playing whatever stupid game he had on the Kindle and ignoring the scenery:

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You can take the city kid to another city, but you can’t make him give up Smashy Road.

london calling (the third)

I’m taking my son to London this summer!

Of course I have been to London twice before: once in 2006 when I went and explored it on my own and once in 2010 when Paul and I went on our “honeymoon” (and spent a day at the Tower):

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This is me at the White Tower in 2010.  Paul and I had not yet learned to take selfies.

This is the first time Ben will go to London though.  He’s been to Paris and Verona and Venice, to Basel and Zurich, but the closest he’s been to the British Isles is either visiting Victoria or the British pavilion at Disneyworld (both are equally fake-English – I actually felt quite at home in a fake Tudor cottage sweet shop in EPCOT)

I had been holding off on the UK because it’s easy to visit.  I like my world traveling to be more exploring and challenging.  Visiting Britain (or any of the British Isles) doesn’t require any language or cultural effort.  It’s actually comforting for me to visit Britain because it’s so much like home: growing up with an English parent, in a former colony, in a borough that boasted two separate tea rooms and an invisible “Tweed Curtain” separating it from the rest of Victoria, means that I totally get shows like Very British Problems.  I may have gone all-in on my mother’s family heritage of Brooklyn Jewish, but I also have British citizenship by descent, and I grew up in a country that was still governed by the British constitution until I was four.

But now, we’re going to Eurocamp!  A handful of us will be representing Brooklyn – and the USA based B-PSA groups – at the camp in Newbury.  And on the way back, we’re going to stop in London, see the city, stay at Pax Lodge,  and see two of Ben’s three namesakes: Big Ben and the Tate Museum (Unfortunately, while there is a PAUL chain of patisseries, there is no major “Boothe” attraction to check off Ben’s full name).

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PAUL cubed.

We’ll go swimming at the ponds on Hampstead Heath.  We’ll ride the Eye.  We will go to the Museum of the City of London, and to the Tower and the Bridge; we’ll go to the War Rooms.  I will drag my son with me to shop at Camden Market  (Actually, I may leave him in the hostel room for that.) We will see what we can in the two and a half days we have, from Saturday afternoon to Tuesday morning.  It isn’t a lot of time, but I’m still excited to have it.

So we’re going to London.  And it’s a Mama-Ben adventure, like our trip to Switzerland, because Paul doesn’t have the days off to go with us.  I still look forward to it, even if I have to miss my husband (and Ben has to miss his father).  It will be a great adventure.  And while Ben is not as excited about it as I am, at least, after listening to Neverwhere, and getting over his suspicion of China Mieville to read Un Lun Dun, he’s somewhat interested in visiting the city that has inspired many, many fantasy versions of itself.  Or he could just be interested in riding the London Eye.  Who knows what goes on in the brain of an almost ten year old?

 

 

back to a somewhat less magical existence

And we’re back from Disney World!  That was indeed a world, more than a land.  We were thoroughly Disney Park’d out by the time we got back, although you would never know it by the enthusiasm Ben showed on Friday morning while hanging out with his visiting cousin from Savannah (shown here in Pandora: The World of Avatar in Animal Kingdom, floating mountains in background):

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Six days is a LOT of Disney time, but it turned out to be what we needed to cover all four parks.  Two days each in Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, one day in Epcot and a half day in Hollywood Studios was indeed the right mix for our plans.  We were able to hit all the high points on Day One in the parks, and then take it a little more slowly while spending time with my visiting family on Thursday and Friday.  Despite my initial skepticism, this was indeed the right family vacation for us this year, especially since Ben and his second cousin Oliver are JUST the right age to be let loose to complete a pirate quest in Adventureland:

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So now we’re back in Brooklyn, which is still magical to me, even if no one here is going to tell me to “have a magical day” as part of their mandated job scripts.  Ben has also made his list of Top Ten Favorite WDW Attractions:

    1. Star Tours.  We weren’t sure about this, since Ben had a panic attack after riding Flight of the Na’vi in Avatarland, and this was another simulator ride with some drops and a lot of movement.  Ben went on it with great trepidation, but by the end, was grinning broadly from the thrill of flying through the Star Wars universe, and asked to go on it three more times during the day.
    2. Kali River Rapids.  Identical to the Russian River Rapids in California Adventure, only with a different surrounding story of river rafting in India.  We all got drenched on this one, to Ben’s joy and delight.

 

  1. Haunted Mansion.  THAT’S MY BABY.
  2. Mission Space (Orange).  Again, it was the right level of movement and simulator for Ben’s anxiety and dislike of thrill rides.  Also, it is awesome.
  3. Soarin’.  I disagree with this and think it should be first since Soarin’ over California was my favorite thing at California Adventure and Soarin’ Over the World is an upgraded version, but I suppose my nine year old son is prioritizing the space rides as he should.
  4. Pirates of the Caribbean.  The movies are literal nightmare fuel, leading to a BEN WHY ARE YOU IN OUR ROOM IT’S 2AM incident the night before we left, but the ride remains a classic.
  5. Toy Story Midway Mania.  It combined the joy of fairground skill games with a movie Ben loved – of course it was a favorite.
  6. Buzz Lightyear Laser Blasters.  No surprise here either.
  7. Big Thunder Railway.  This was a surprise since Ben was extremely nervous about riding a roller coaster.  However, after riding Flight of the Na’vi, he decided it was actually awesome in that it was well balanced in its thrills.
  8. Kilimanjaro Safaris.  This is basically a big zoo, so we had to balance our appreciation for seeing the animals with our innate dislike of keeping animals in captivity.  It was a well done experience – a Jeep ride through recreated habitats for African animals – but still, not a Disney unique ride.

Ben’s top 5 WDW experiences:

  1. Rampaging Adventureland with his cousin on A Pirate’s Adventure
  2. Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, which combined Magic: The Gathering with a Disney scavenger hunt
  3. Dinner at Sanaa in Animal Kingdom Lodge, where we ate gluten free naan while watching giraffes outside
  4. The Jeweled Dragon Acrobats at the EPCOT China pavilion.
  5. The Big Thunder Railroad Shutdown, when we got to evacuate the train when the ride stopped with us on it  – and got to see the inside of the cave with the lights on (it’s apparently the one part of Disney World that isn’t cleaned, ever)

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I think we can call this another Successful Family Vacation.  It was a much more exhausting experience than Disneyland, but totally worth the energy, money and time to make that many happy family memories.

more help for the working, travelling mom

With all the travel I do for work, I accumulate a lot of kinds of points. I get airmiles from four separate programs, and hotel points from just about every chain out there. I then try to recycle those into free travel to pay for all the family trips Paul and I take in a year, to visit our friends and family back East, and in the Northwest. It’s a complicated process that takes a certain amount of effort and time. Not only do I have to track the points to be sure they’re credited correctly (you think I trust USAir, United and Continental to not “lose” my flying credit?), but I have to figure out how to use them most efficiently.

This actually pays off. We are usually able to score several free flights a year. Last year, we picked up half the airfare for the three of us to fly to Pennsylvania for Easter using points, as well as half the airfare for my sister and her husband to come visit us at Christmas. And then there was the big one: the trip to London that Paul and I took, where I paid for all the airfare and hotel using points. That was estimated at three thousand dollars worth of travel we didn’t have to pay for…which was why we felt justified going out to very nice restaurants.

This year, I started using AwardWallet.com to track everything. I use Mint for finances, and this is a similar concept. I put all the account information in, and let the site pull the information. Not only can I now see all my rewards programs at once, but I also don’t forget that I have, say, five thousand Hilton points lying around.

AwardWallet Screenshot

Everything in one place!

Not only does it tell me the balances of the accounts, but it also lists the last “deposit” to those accounts. See? One glance checking to be sure USAir isn’t trying to get out of crediting my account! (Plus, sometimes our travel coordinator doesn’t put my frequent flyer number on the ticket).

There is also a section for travel plans, which are similarly downloaded from the issuing airline or hotel. For example, here’s one for a business trip I’m going on next week:

Upcoming Plans screen

Just in case I forget where I'm going...

By the time I get through my actual work day, and finish being a mom, there is not a lot of energy or brainpower left to track everything else. Having a reliable site to do it for me seriously helps. And for the travelers who are just choosing which plans to participate in, there is also a section for reviews and comments for airlines and their programs. These also show up in star ratings on the main balance page…which is how I know I’m not totally irrational in my general dislike of USAir.
USAir review

in the land of lincoln

I’m in Illinois today. I’m about 40 minutes west of downtown Chicago, in Schaumburg, at a Staybridge Suites. It’s so quiet here – there’s no freeway nearby – and the complex actually has a sort of timeless family vacation quality to it. Right now, in summer, seeing families on vacation coming through here, it’s actually kind of heartwarming, and makes me look forward to when I’ll be doing this with my own family.

Also, did I mention that its quiet? I forget, in L.A., how much I miss sheer quiet, without cars, without freeways. My last trip out of L.A. was to NYC last week – even noisier and more crowded – and the trip before that, I was staying at a Holiday Inn practically ON THE FREEWAY in North Carolina. Stepping outside and having just that early morning quiet…it’s blissful. Despite the far-suburban sprawl surrounding this area (miles of malls, chain restaurants, inexpensive hotels and office parks), it feels almost isolated, like it is in the middle of America.

I’m also wondering about the historical context of this area. I can only imagine that it was farms before the sprawl covered it – what I call “rural sprawl”. But for how long was it farms, and is there some sort of original settlement around here? I always wonder why these places exist where they do – now, it’s as bedroom communities, but why are these small towns where they are? And it’s different on the East Coast, where each small town was clearly a farming community. Like in North Carolina two weeks ago, I know that this used to be frontier, so what was it like before the farms became sprawl?

Sprawl or no sprawl, the soft quiet outside this morning was a gift. The clean air is a miracle to me. It does remind me how exhausted I am, living in a big city like L.A. I remember early June mornings like this in Oak Bay, how it is full daylight outside by seven in the morning, how the ocean, at low tide, is dead flat, how even one boat, miles away, is the only man-made noise. Solstice is my favorite time of year, and summer mornings, in sunshine, in that early day quiet, bring me so much joy and reverence. It makes me think, I need to go home sooner during this season. I will need to show the wonder of early summer mornings to Ben.