America really needs to put back all the missing trains. I’ve played Ticket to Ride! I know this entire country used to be nothing but trains, trains and more trains! The entire Gilded Age is based on train-made fortunes. And where were all those trains this week when I needed to get from Chicago to Pittsburgh during a storm and thought my flight was going to be canceled? They were NOT AVAILABLE. In fact, there was one train available and it was sold out from Chicago to Pittsburgh, even though I would absolutely have taken it as an overnight sleeper if I’d had to.
However, this is not actually a blog post about how America is, in general, devoid of trains. It is rather a post about how I had to go to Chicago this week, and then to Pittsburgh, and I had to take two planes, one train and a lot of automobiles to do so. Still, I am actually beginning to prefer trains: they are more sustainable in terms of carbon output, and also make me far less nervous. My anxiety over the impact of late-stage capitalism on the safety of a plane to fly gets worse every year, as I worry that a plane will be improperly maintained due to airline cutbacks on service costs. I also worry that the pilots will be over-exhausted and overworked as their pay is cut and they have to fly more hours to maintain a decent wage. And in the last couple years of this New Gilded Age, as inequality becomes more extreme, I am more anxious as a plane takes off and lands than I have ever been in the past.
And yet, it’s a necessary evil. There is no other real way to travel for business, and we’ve set up our society so that planes have made distance less relevant. The expectation is, once again, that we meet in person when possible, with clients or with colleagues. And so, I am back on the road, and back on planes, worrying quietly in my seat that I won’t be on one of the planes that collides while taking off from an overscheduled airport, or is hit by lightning flying in unsafe conditions. I am more comfortable on the ground, in a train, where it may derail but I’m less likely to actually die if it does.
Still, I survived all the transportation this week, and now I’m back home, able to sleep again. It was actually a worthwhile trip, and I had such a nice time seeing all my colleagues in Chicago and in Pittsburgh. I so rarely get to actually be in an office with people I work with anymore that it feels so special when I’m in a room, not a Zoom, for even one day – and I had three days this week in real space, plus a dinner with my team on Monday. I suppose I can get used to travel again for this reason, in that I just like working in person with people, and these are my chances to do it.
Paul and I are officially in training for Wave Gothik Treffen! We have just 19 weeks until we go to the largest goth festival in the world, in Leipzig Germany. We’re celebrating our 15 year anniversary, and what better way to do it than to spend a long weekend immersed in the subculture that brought us together?
However, we’ve been assured that WGT is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. Four days with 200 bands, meetups, picnics and marketplaces spread out across an entire town is going to be exhausting. It’s going to require actual physical training for us to not only get through the days, but also be able to stay up late to go to shows. And everyone knows that when you’re in training, you need a montage, right?
Now that we no longer live in NYC, my step count is down significantly from where it was, even post-COVID. Pre-COVID, I’d do 10,000 steps a day without thinking twice. To/from work via subway plus an errand or meetup after the workday always meant four or five miles of walking over one day. Here in Suburbia, I barely eke out three thousand steps, even with a walk outside and a huge (okay huge to me) house that I am always wandering around. My endurance is way down. Combine my physical fitness deterioration with generally Being Old And Unable To Stay Up Past Midnight, and it is a bad combination to be taking on four days with fellow Children Of The Night.
I have therefore embarked on a multi-part training regiment to get ready for WGT. This consists of:
10K steps per day, either outside or on my new awesome “treadmill desk”
Going out to clubs and staying until 1am. Break out the caffeinated drinks!
Enrolling with Weight Watchers so I am no longer carrying the equivalent of a fully loaded backpack all the time
Therefore, in the interest of Training for Treffen, we will be going out tomorrow night to a club in East Passayunk. Of course I am actually in an office tomorrow and will not be coming home between work and socializing, so this means I will have to wear an outfit suitable for the office that also works for the club. Which means that I’m going to have to look a little more authentic tomorrow at work. And while I have not exactly hidden my goth side from this set of co-workers (my corporate headshot is fairly Wednesday Addams down to the bat shaped circle pin on my collar) it still surprises people a bit when I show up in person in anything that goes beyond CorpGoth. But I keep getting messages to be more authentic when I read my Tarot cards, so authentic I shall plan to be authentic and just maybe keep the bat shaped necklace in my purse to put on during the train ride home.
It’s that need for authenticity that is really motivating me to become more comfortable bringing a more honest version of myself to multiple situations. It takes a little bit more vulnerability on my part to remain myself, instead of changing who I am to the environment. But one of the lessons I learned in NYC was that everyone is actually a little bit weird in their own way, and the city especially attracted people who had that extra-weird and often creative dimension. So even out here in the suburbs, I have to start acknowledging the potential for weirdness in others by being a bit more vulnerable and exposing my more quirky goth side.
Finally, I know this is the right track for me, not just because it keeps my sense of self intact, but because my subconscious keeps telling me so in the form of Tarot cards. When I did the full moon reading suggested by my Daily Tarot Planner, the final question was “What new approach can I take to support my emotional well-being”. The card I got for this? The Devil. Some people may choose to interpret this card with its usual meaning: hedonism, lack of restraint, short term pleasure at the expense of long term pain. I choose to interpret it as be more goth. It has a whole slew of the symbols that show up in goth culture: bat wings, pentagrams, performative fetish displays. The Devil card looks like it’s the inspiration for how filmmakers depict the “bad club” in every movie or TV show, including Quagmire’s in “San Junipero“. And the “evil club” always manages to look like Bar Sinister.
Ergo, the Devil card? Be more goth. Wear more bats and pentagrams. Lean into all that electro-industrial and post-punk and goth rock. And make that part of how I train for Treffen.
Ben and I are on a plane tonight, in first class because we’re so fancy, coming home from the Golden Isles. We’ve been visiting my cousin and her sons for the past week, as they camped on Jekyll Island, just outside Brunswick. It was a concept that my cousin and I came up with when I realized Ben desperately needed to get out of NYC, and wasn’t going to have his usual access to summer camp to do so. We decided to fly down via Jacksonville, rent an AirBNB, and spend our week hanging out on the Georgia coast.
The Georgia coast, I should note, is incredibly beautiful. This was the Low Country, the marshes and coastal ecosystem that extended up into South Carolina and down into Florida. We would drive over the Jekyll Island causeway in the evening and I would catch my breath at the vista of marshes with the sparkling creeks running through them. Jekyll Island itself is only partially developed, and is crisscrossed with roads that run under overhanging trees, dripping with Spanish moss, linking the beaches and historic areas of the island. The island also has the petrified forest of Driftwood Beach, dozens of eerily beautiful trees left on the beach, dead from erosion and preserved in salt, that the boys climbed on for hours. It was a beautiful piece of the world that was surprisingly under-exploited.
There is something deeply romantic about the Southern American coastal towns, built as they are on swamps. The live oaks and Spanish moss, the secondary growth forests, the unique coastal landscapes of marsh and reclaimed land. It is so different than the clean salt air of the Pacific Northwest, and yet similar in the way the landscape is dripping with life. The moss hangs instead of carpeting the forest, and the trees grow outward instead of up, but it has that same timeless quality, a sense that the forests and the marshes will outwait the humans who try to settle and inhabit them.
This is why find it hard not to be charmed by the South at times. There is an eccentric note to the Southern cities, an emphasis on aesthetics over business in places like Savannah. It is like having an old aunt who tells the most marvelous stories while holding court in a perfectly preserved house. Coastal Georgia also holds tightly to their English heritage, looking to not just an antebellum heritage, but to the very origins of European colonization (I almost wrote “founders” and then changed that: it is so very ingrained in me to refer to Europeans as “founders” or the first people). I am also from a British colony, although one built much later in history, when More’s Utopia was a more distant memory, when the colonizers knew they sought exploitation and were no longer coating it in a layer of socialist vision.
This history is a fascinating narrative, until you start reading between the lines to what isn’t in the narrative: the people of color who are left out of that charming story altogether. Those preserved towns and squares were likely built by Black hands. Those beautiful buildings were paid for by cotton proceeds, profits stemming from stolen labour. The coastal marshes and fertile islands were taken out from under the indigenous tribes that shelled and ate the piles of oysters found on the islands. Considering what isn’t in the narrative of the South makes it much less charming.
This is why I find it hard to visit the South, because the narrative I hear when I go there is so skewed, with no interest or insight in creating a more inclusive story. We hear stories about Europeans who came to Georgia and the Carolinas, but we do not hear about how their existence was made possible by the unpaid labour and land that they took at the expense of other peoples. We see the marsh ecosystem but not a tribute to the native peoples who lived i it. We see plantation ruins but do not hear the multidimensional perspective of who built and ran it. In many places, even outside of the Northwest, this narrative is becoming more inclusive; even in Virginia, at places like Monticello, this one dimensional storytelling is changing. In Georgia though, especially out on the coast, I felt like there were voices I couldn’t hear. It was like hearing a single topnote poorly and loudly played on a piano, when I knew there should be a whole melody, a whole orchestra, to make the sound whole.
The reason I’m also writing this, as I parse through my own thoughts this week, is because I’m thinking about statues coming down right now throughout the South. I am thinking of the Confederacy story, how romanticized it is, how those losers are lionized. The accusation is that destroying statues erases history, and I think it is the reverse: keeping statues is what keeps history one-dimensional and keeps the stories that need telling completely invisible. With this perspective top of mind this trip, it was difficult to stop seeing the limited story the Georgia coast presents to the outside world, history that is so narrow as to be revisionist.
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!
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.
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.
I’m in Cincinnati! Again. This is what it looked like last time I was here in April.
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.
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.
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
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.
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”…
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:
You can take the city kid to another city, but you can’t make him give up Smashy Road.
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):
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).
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 readUn 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?
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):
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:
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:
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.
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.
Haunted Mansion. THAT’S MY BABY.
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.
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.
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.
Toy Story Midway Mania. It combined the joy of fairground skill games with a movie Ben loved – of course it was a favorite.
Buzz Lightyear Laser Blasters. No surprise here either.
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.
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:
Rampaging Adventureland with his cousin on A Pirate’s Adventure
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)
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.