Saturday, January 9, 2016

The 2016 Presidential Election

A little bit of context

     My father lived to see the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004 but not in 2007.  My mother, my mother-in-law and my father-in-law, did not.  They were fans of varying degrees.  For completion, the Sox also won in 2013. 
When my husband and I were planning our wedding forty-five years ago, we wanted to have a rabbi and a priest conduct a joint service.  It didn't happen.  Turns out the Catholics had eased up but the Jews had clamped down.  I do understand this but that's not my topic.  One rabbi wrote in his response to my letter (45 yrs ago, email not so much, long distance calls expensive) that I should reconsider the marriage because a house divided against itself cannot long stand.  Well, yeah but here we are and we've only had one semi-major disagreement in all those years.  This topic is not one of them although some other family members will not be pleased with my bottom line.

My Historical Perspective

     I was pleased when we had our first non-Protestant president.   For those too young and not memorizing for Jeopardy, that was John  F Kennedy, a Catholic.   I was pleased when we had our first non-white president.  I was excited when we had a Jewish candidate and I'll be excited when we have a Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim candidate.  But, to give you an idea where I'm heading, consider who makes up fifty per cent of the population of the country and of the planet!
     The first presidential election of which I was aware of was either 1952 or 1956 - Eisenhower vs Stevenson.  I may have had an "I like Ike!" button although I have no idea where I got it.  Sometime after college, I learned more about Adlai and have come to realize that I am a Stevenson Democrat.  I shocked one of my sisters when I finally could register [ah the sagas of not changing my name upon marriage], that I registered not as the traditional Heller Independent in Massachusetts nor it's pseudo-equivalent declines-to-state in California, but rather as a Democrat.  I expect anyone who pays attention to my writing had figured that out long ago!

The Candidates in my Lifetime

     In 1972, Shirley Chisholm ran for the Democratic candidacy. She didn't get anywhere near the support she ought to have received.   But she was the first woman and the first African American to run in a major political party.  In her several terms in Congress, she accomplished much.  Look her up on Wikipedia.  Here, I'm making it easy for you Shirley Chisholm

     The 1972 election had other significance.  I remember the Watergate story.  I know that it had "gate" at the end because that was the name of the building where the break-in occurred.  I know the song Arlo Guthrie considered writing and the one he actually did write.  I know that to a degree we did see Richard Nixon again.  And to be thorough, our first cats, Galileo and Archimedes cheered from the window sill when Nick and I went and danced in the parking lot when he resigned
     And more importantly, I know who was the hero (or as I'm fond of saying shero) of the hearings.  Barbara Jordan was an amazing congresswoman from Texas who sounded like she came from Boston.  She went to college there.  Here's her link on Wikipedia, Barbara Jordan - a lot of firsts.  She was elected to Congress in 1972.  She had a deep commanding voice and she cut through all the nonsense.  I heard her speak at a Brandeis graduation in 1976.  And I thought, oh wow, she could and should be president.  Alas, it was not to be.  She left politics, as I recall in part for health.  I was heartbroken.

     In 1984 - oops, minor tangent.  George Orwell named the book 1984 because he wrote it in 1948 and that sounded far enough away.  I think we all might take another or a first look because in some ways, he was right!
     In 1984,  Geraldine Ferraro, ran for vice-president when Walter Mondale ran for president.  Typical of the sexism that still exists in this country, the other presidential candidates wife (!) felt obligated to make public comments referring to Ferraro as a word "which rhymes with witch."    Again, read the bio, she was totally qualified, firsts, all that.  I was happy.

The Twenty-First Century

      By 2007 (it was a good year in many ways), I was well into my rather well-known obsession with the 1000plus mile dog race, the Iditarod.  When Lance Mackey won, they handed him the phone and said the governor wants to congratulate you.  Lance said something like, oh I can talk to him.  I was aware of the error but not the actual woman.   Sarah Palin was the youngest person and first woman to be elected governor of Alaska.  I've been there enough and know enough of the politics to realize how big that was.  A combination of factors, including sexism, got into her vice-presidential candidacy and I was disappointed. 

     So we come to eight years ago.   I was thrilled when Hilary Clinton entered the race.  I was torn when Barack Obama also entered.   It hasn't been fun waiting to see which would be stronger sexism or racism.   I am not surprised but do remain distressed about the amount of sexism surrounding  Hilary and the amount of racism surrounding the First Family.  While President Obama wasn't my first choice, he was my second.


     There are several reasons why I'm supporting Hillary Clinton.  She and I are both front edge Baby Boomers.  We graduated from small liberal arts colleges less than ten miles apart in the same year, probably the same month.   I know what challenges women like us faced growing up, I know what changes we've lived through and I know what we can accomplish.  POTUS needs to know how to get things done and she's learned that, often the hard way.  
     The President of the United States can get our country into war.  I want someone who will think long and carefully before doing that.  Someone who knows how the world works.  Secretary of State is a great qualifier for that.  I want someone who will calmly weigh the options, speak calmly, not get excited easily.  And a gentle sense of humor helps too!

   Susan B Anthony, another of my sheroes, tried unsuccessfully to vote in the 1872 presidential election, 100 years before I've started this saga.  She died before the nineteenth amendment became part of the U.S. Constitution.    A few days before she died, she said,  "There have been others also just as true and devoted to the cause — I wish I could name every one — but with such women consecrating their lives, failure is impossible!"

      I've heard that younger women do want a woman president and expect to see it in their lifetimes and are waiting for someone else.  Like Susan, I know that it will happen.  But,  I don't know exactly how much time I have left and  I've been waiting long enough.  I want a woman president now!    And that woman should be  Hillary R. Clinton. 
© 2016 Esther A. Heller

Saturday, November 2, 2013

WE13 - The Society of Women Engineers Annual conference

I'm still worn out from attending the SWE annual conference in Baltimore.
As I looked at my bill, checking out of the hotel, I found myself thinking - yikes! 
Like a good Girl Scout, I feel I need to do an evaluation.   Sure, the organizers send out an electronic overview eval to fill out (and I have.)   But they don't ask the questions that DeLuc taught us to ask and that Nick and I used for twenty-five years with the legendary Girl Scout Troop 757. 

The Evaluation Questions

1.  What was the purpose?
2.  Was it satisfied?
3.  What did you like best?
4.  What did you like least?
5.  What would you do differently?

This wasn't my planned concept as I was driving along (best thinking in car and shower!) but it works and it's structured making all the engineers happy!

The Purpose

Whoa, good question!  I was asked something about what I was looking to get out of the conference.  I'd love to get the SWE Board (aka BoD), conference planning board and staff to answer what they think it was.  It is so easy to get immersed in the logistics and numbers.  At conference, there are  business sessions, educational workshops, outreach activities for students K-12 and celebratory banquets.  Whew!   For reasons of schedule and/or budget, I've missed the last two conferences.  Thus, my primary purpose was to connect with friends whom I only see at these conferences.

My purposes were satisfied, read on for details.

Liked Best

1.  Given my purpose, I liked best making all the connections.  They fall into a couple of categories.

   a) Collegians.  I love our collegiate members.  They're full of energy and enthusiasm.  On my first day, I gave a short presentation at the Members-at-Large leadership summit on Succession Planning.  Hanging around for other topics and discussions, I bonded with Lydia over a snarky Minions reference.  That lead to other discussions and that's how I accidentally picked up another mentee!
I also reconnected with Hannah, whom I get to see later this week and met Isabelle who followed up on diversity questions.  

   b) Professionals.  My husband Nick always laughs at how I go off for some event and come back with more BFFs. The joy of these conferences is I get to see and talk face-to-face with a lot of good women and the occasional good man whom I've met at previous conferences and/or with whom I serve on SWE committees or who are facebook friends with the not-quite-full conversations.
I actually went to a technical session because Ashley and Alya were presenting.  I was pleasantly surprised that I followed their discussion on nanotechnology and still remember much of it.

   c)  Spending lots of time with a few people who live too far away.   I shared a room with Jacey and really appreciated her coping with a bit of Red Sox nation bounding about three nights.  I had a long deep visit with my chosen niece Trish over lunch one day.  It really does feel like we're related, and not just because of baseball.  For the first time, I had a long breakfast with Colette whom I see at SWE  and NAP.  I'll say no more since as she put it, we were in executive session.

2.  When I'm at a conference, I always take off to do something local, not SWE related, often with a Girl Scout friend.  In Milwaukee years ago, Cheryl took me on a tour of the synagogues and cheese tasting, in Kansas City, Sherry took me on a tour of historical places and to have barbeque with her troop.   After SWE Detroit, Betty and I went to the Motown museum.  But sometimes, I just go off by myself.  In Birmingham, I went to the Civil Rights center.  
     This year, I went on the tour of  Camden yards.  Camden yards is where the Baltimore Orioles play baseball.   The tour was given by a man who had retired from the CIA, exact job title not given.   I may have called him out, quietly because whenever we had to be in two subgroups to go on the elevator, he put one of the three men in charge.  Did I mention this was a SWE organized walking tour and we had an official, tall, SWE person in charge with us and there were about 15, maybe more, women?    I asked "why do you keep picking a man" and he said "habit"  and I said "you better break it!"
     High spots of the tour - sitting in the press box (at the score keepers seat) and the dugout; visiting the electronics control center.   Cool stuff, the stadium was designed by a woman who was a major fan and knew what's what.  When she wasn't sure where to put the bullpens, she asked other fans!  The head groundsperson is also a woman!   She has access to detailed weather reports and info and can turn on the sprinklers from home.  The way the sod was laid down,  soil over sand over something, shale maybe,  once it stops raining the field is playable in twenty minutes!
   Since I couldn't be in Boston or home for the first four games of the World Series, this was a nice way to connect because it really is a lovely ballpark.   Must go back someday, with Nick, for a game.
And you know, we now have three trophies too!  Just sayin'

Liked Least

1. Personally, I hated the cost.   Even using senior discounts and sharing a hotel room, the transportation, accommodations and registration fees really added up.  For women who get the salaries they should, it's not bad but for those heading into fixed incomes, it's hard.

2.  It was awful being away from home for the World Series.  I ended up watching the Red Sox in our hotel room, on an over-crowded cramped flight to Denver, in a bar at the Denver airport and  using GameDay on my phone, again crowded cramped plane, and finally a call from Nick that Koji had picked off the runner at first.   I need to be with Nick to hug and cheer or cry together.

3. What I really liked the least was needing to make hard choices - do I go to the Bylaws Committee meeting or the Multi-Cultural Committee meeting?  Do I go to the full MAL meeting or the Flash Talks?  Do I go on my tour of Camden Yards or the Senate meeting?

All of this is my mini-version of something I observed globally.   There was an overarching sense of everybody trying to do too much in too little time.   My presentation was based on a 90-120 min workshop and I was given 20min.  Yes, I streamlined the content to fit and talked really, really fast but there was no time for the discussions which are  so vital to the learning experience.   I decided that this too much to do/too little time is a bad model for people and especially for women.  I believe in quality over quantity.  Do less and do it better.   It's been a feminist issue for a long time - having it all - all at once or maybe some now, some later.  You know where I stand on it!

Do differently

1. Spend the money and take American not United!
2.  Wait to see how the Red Sox are doing before registering and really, this year was so exciting, I might not have gone. 
3.  Find a way to convince others that we can't long endure at this pace.  Life is full of tough choices, let's not let a conference meant to support us become part of the problem, not the solution!

Final Thoughts

   So, you know, I actually am glad that I went to SWE13 in spite of not wanting to look at my credit card statements and being exhausted.   I did make it back for the last two games of the World Series and we're still celebrating.   WE14 is going to be in Los Angeles.   The timing is about the same.  I'm leaning towards going.

© 2013 Esther A. Heller

Friday, December 21, 2012

Les Misérables

Note:  Did not realize it had been so long since I last posted.  Too much facebook and too many hours recorded on the DVR and it's so much quicker to tweet.  They've made changes to blogger and I'm trying to sort it out.  This topic has been floating in my head for a while now.

My husband Nick and I first saw the theater production of Les Miserables in San Francisco about two decades ago.  I immediately went out and bought the book and about a year later I finally finished wading my way through it.  I think that's the beginning of my being behind in everything....hmm.  I may have skipped the two appendices.  I know one had to do with nuns, I've totally forgotten what the other was.  I'm considering turning it up and rereading parts.  

We both loved the theater version.   We both cried through it.  Being people who share, a few years later we took our adolescent Girl Scouts to see it.  We both cried through it, enough for all of us, which was good because we were the only ones who cried, so the troop average wasn't too bad.

Recently, we went to see it again.  Yes, we both cried through it.  This production wasn't quite as good as either of us remembered.  While I'm not one to fuss over sets, I found the barricade sad!  I think it's a sign of the financial times that they didn't use the rotating stage.  That barricade is a critical part of the second half.

Eagerly but anxiously waiting for the movie version to come out in four days, I've been driving in the car listening to the Broadway cast CD.   I admit, I have to be careful, the words "Tell Cosette I'll see her when I wake" still reduces me to tears.

Partial spoiler alert:  Here's what has prompted me to write - Javert's solo near the end.  OK, if you've seen it, you know the subject matter.  Again, better presented (wonderful swirling stage light effects) in the first production than in the recent one.   His actions are the results of having his beliefs shaken to the core.

The book is long and dense.  Those who write summaries of the play say it's about Jean Valjean a "criminal who breaks parole" and Inspector Javert who keeps trying to catch him and the "prostitute" Fantine (pronounced Fohn-teen) who has a daughter Cosette.  The later part is set amidst the student rebellions in Europe in the 1830s, which I actually learned of back in college.  There are a lot of subplots which come together.  If you blink in the first number, you miss that Valjean was sentenced to 5 years in prison and had 14 more years added on due to escape attempts.  Javert is there when he is paroled.  Condition of the parole is that Valjean always carry his papers and show them.

Here's the subtlety, the nuance.    Due to the incident in the second musical number, Valjean starts down a road of redemption.  Let's say that's what it is because the years in prison hardened him and made him cynical.  But really, he started as a good man.  He stole the bread for his sister and her children.  One wants to cast Javert in the role of villain. But really, he's doing his job, playing by the rules which he respects.   When I hear that final Javert solo, I keep thinking:  they are both good, honorable men.  One had bad, bad breaks and the other never learned my favorite trait, flexibility.  

My biggest rant comes around the Thenardiers in the play.  I have the same complaint about Fagin in Oliver!
Yes, I read that too, probably a couple of times.  I devoured Dickens back in high school and college.  Hey, he gave us a heroine named Esther in Bleak House.  Imagine my joy on discovering her - up 'till then I just had the biblical Queen who saved her people.  But, as is my personality, I digress. 

I completely understand why writers of musicals have to add comic relief to such heavy stories.  But isn't it fascinating that in both instances, they did it using the most reprehensible characters in the novel and made them into charming miscreants and giving them show stopping numbers?   In Les Miz, in Master of the House, one does get a sense of how dreadful the Thenardiers are, if you pay attention to the acting as well as the singing.  Again, it's done comedicly.  Here's something from the novel - they had five children, Eponine, another daughter, existing while Cosette was living with them, Gavroche (the random street urchin in the play) and two little boys whom they abandoned.  Not so charming by today's standards. Both treatments have never set well with my core values.

Yup, I have to revisit the novel.  Meanwhile, I do plan to see the movie soon.  The barricade in the trailer looks awesome!

© 2012 Esther A. Heller

Monday, October 10, 2011

My 5772 Kol Nidre Appeal: Reflect!

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish Year.  As I'm posting this, I realize I only blogged through half of our East Coast trip.  I started an entry last month about our fortieth wedding anniversary.   As I've said before, when I am doing interesting things, I run out of time.  When I have time, I don't have interesting things to blog about.   This piece was written, so I simply have to cut, paste and fine tune.  In the spirit of the High Holy Days, I hope my fans will forgive me.  I'd promise to do better but as I heard a speaker say last week, it is better to under-promise and over-deliver.  Here for your reading is what I presented just before the Amidah.  My friend Elaine leads the inspirational Kol Nidre service and did a lovely introduction, including that we're friends.  Picture me in my long white, embroidered dress, with my Tallit draped around my shoulders and a Kippah on my head, standing on stage with about 300 people seated in front of me. 

Thank you Elaine!.  That is the sweetest introduction I have ever received.  Shana Tovah!  As Elaine said, I am Esther Heller and  I am the Immediate Past President of Keddem Congregation, among other, mostly relevant roles. 

Many of you are here with us at Keddem Congregation for the first time, many have been with us before at High Holy Days and there are many regulars.  You are all welcome joining with us tonight to form the extended Kehillat Keddem, Keddem community.  Judaism as a religion is all about community. We see that most strongly tonight, as Kol Nidre, with it’s beautiful melody and profound meaning, begins our annual communal confession, repentance and  atonement.  These prayers allow us to move forward as individual people and as a community of people.

The nature of our communal confession causes us to become reflective as individuals and as a community.  In order for us to be together next year at this time, as a large community, Keddem Congregation must continue to function as a community throughout the year.  So while we treasure those of you who come only for tonight, there is an extra burden on those of us who are active beyond tonight.  I invite you to reflect upon how you might share that burden to keep this community strong. 
First, reflect on becoming a more connected, official member of Keddem Congregation.  There are practical reasons for doing so such as access to our mailing lists or being able to memorialize your deceased family and friends in the Yizkor book from which we worship our service tomorrow.  It’s the intangible reasons that I reflect upon.  I know that I can reach out to my many Keddem friends who will listen and advise (and actually take my calls or return my emails) or just hug as needed and I readily do the same for them.  Community is made up of personal relationships and they matter so much to me.   I know that not everyone gathers people as I do (my husband calls me a people gatherer0 but when you’re ready to reach out, we can be here for you too.  The first step is to become a member!

Secondly, reflect on all that we at Keddem Congregation offer through the High Holy Days and beyond.  We have our wonderful but part-time rabbi Elisheva and our wonderful but part-time administrative assistant, Myra, who do so much for us all year and I thank them.  But the bulk of effort to keep Keddem vibrant falls to our active participants and volunteers.  When President Hayley does her thank yous later on, reflect on the list and variety of tasks.  They too continue throughout the year. 

Quite frankly at the end of Tishrei, some of us are quite worn out.  I  thank Hayley and Elaine specifically.  I know how much of each of you has put into our being here tonight.   As you are reflecting upon the Alcheit, which literally is about missing the mark, or in my mind, intent versus effect, consider forming an intent to do more with Keddem in this new year - as a participant and as a volunteer.  We would love to have you and you can start building those community relationships!

Finally, you are probably ahead of me here, reflect upon the financial costs of maintaining a shul throughout the year.   We have been fortunate enough to have a professional consultant provided to us by the Jewish Federation.  He’s guided us through setting goals, learning how to make phone calls asking for funds and our approach to these appeals.   According to our consultant and other Fund Development professionals with whom I’ve worked, the larger Jewish community is quite generous.  You’ve seen the names on the wall at the other end of this Jewish Community Center courtyard.  You’ve seen names you know or recognize as Jewish in museums and on public television.  If you know where to look, you’ll even see my name!  But as a group, we’re not always as generous is within our own congregations and shuls.  

At Keddem Congregation, we’ve always believed in being accessible to all without regard to financial situation.  That continues to be a strong value for us as a community.  The challenges of being in leadership include supporting the values while staying sound.  We set our High Holy Days campaign goal at forty thousand dollars with a recommended donation of  five hundred dollars per household.  Through donations and pledges received thus far, we are forty-seven per cent of the way there. I thank all of you who have gotten us to this point. 

On this night of confessions, I confess  I had hoped we’d be further along.  It is a stretch goal for us.  As we resume our communal confession, repentance and atonement, perhaps each of can consider stretching our intent to a higher level of giving than we have done or planned.   I know that I have and plan to give more than my initial pledge using this very envelope. 

I wish you a gentle fast.  L’shanah tovah tichatemu!  May you and yours  be sealed for a good year.   

© 2011 Esther A. Heller

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

ECRT - Day 7: New Jersy and more Manhattan

Menlo Park, New Jersey

I love the Rain Forest Cafe restaurants.  The first one I ever visited was in Chicago - then I found out they are a chain.  In the older ones (like San Francisco) , apparently before people complained that they're too scarey,  there are roaring leopards as well as the charging elephants and the chest-beating gorillas.  Personally, the gorillas freak me out.  Of course, that's where we were seated in the one at the Menlo Park Mall.  Yes, folks, a mall in Menlo Park, New Jersey.  Some of you must know that is where Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.  This trip we never did drive by the tower with the giant light bulb atop but the mall is off of infamous Route 1 of the Princeton back-and-forth adventure on day 5.

I collect T-shirts if they have the RFC location on them.  The ones here only said New Jersey and weren't that exciting and as I might have mentioned, the suitcases started out full.  I totally must recommend the Bourbon Chicken!   This mall also had a great sock store, called The Sock Drawer,  that had many color choices of my favorite type of socks.  I just went on about this in my interlude space, so I'll spare you.  We did bop in and out of several stores trying to find a rain hat to go with my new rain jacket but no luck.

Jersey City/Liberty State Park

Today was the day that I suggested to Nick that he pick a place to go in our free time.  He seemed to think that I tasked him with doing this.  I thought we were doing too much "esther" stuff and not enough "nick" stuff. The weather continues to be, well yucky, but as mentioned, we're done with museums.  After some time with our handy-dandy AAA book (a factor in the large suitcase weighing 49.5 lbs back at SFO), Nick started telling me about Liberty State Park, close to Jersey City.  I think it's a National Park (and I totally forgot to look for a passport stamp.)  It includes a dock and an old, very cool, train station.  There are ferries  to Ellis and Liberty Islands, where the Statue of Liberty is.  Walking around the Park, you can see parts of both  islands, although it is a side view of the Statue, blocked somewhat by Ellis Island.

We bopped around a while then headed to the Liberty Science Center for their last movie of the day.  They have the worlds largest IMAX theater.  The show starts with an explanation of it; it's the same type of setup as planetariums.  They did whatever with the lights so you could see all the projectors and sound-systems behind the screen.  Very, very cool!  Total tangent - anybody remember Cinerama?  I guess IMAX is the next generation.

OK, back.  We were there to see Hubble.  The movie had a lot of footage of visuals from the telescope and info about galaxies and light years and mostly it's out of my head.  But I'm sure Nick, the almost-astronomy major remembered a lot.  But over half of the movie was about the astronaut mission to do one last set of repairs on the Hubble telescope.  What I did pick up on was there wasn't going to be one and one of my favorite US Senators, Barbara Mikulski from Maryland helped make it happen!  I've actually supported her reelection a couple of times and am now doubly glad.

The movie included showing the astronauts training to do the repairs and then their travel and then the actual repairs.  At one point, something like 39 tiny screws had to be removed, gently, carefully.  Two thumbs up!  Of course, there were maybe 10 of us watching late on a Thursday afternoon, as compared to the several hundred kids who'd come out before us from Tornado Alley. 

Dinner and a Show

The museum was closing and we were due to meet my sisters in Manhattan.  Nick had planned to drive to the Secaucus train station and from there take the subway and walk, the usual.  But the nice guy at the Liberty Park train station suggested we just go to the Path (more NJ transit) station in near-by Jersey City and assured us there was parking.  We thought less driving, good idea.  Well, yes, but.  We found one garage that was only for the attached building, no street parking and lots which closed at 8pm.  Eventually we found our way to Secaucus.  Another quick tangent - the whole time, I kept trying to remember who were the Secaucus seven and never did.  If I go google it now, I'll never get done.

There were some issues with the train and we waited and called Carol and waited.  We only had to go one stop and eventually did and met the twins right on time.  Caren had found a somewhat tony place called Brassier 8 and one half.  As always, we had a great meal and great conversation.  In a fun moment, the four of us shared one dessert.  But, we'd let it go a tad too long and had to hustle to the theater where we just made last call.

The musical we saw was The People in the Picture at Studio 54.  It was written by Iris Rainer Dart who's written many novels including Beaches (as in the Bette Midler movie.)  It takes place, somewhat simultaneously, in 1939-46 Warsaw and 1977 USA, New York maybe, likely?  The lead actress Donna Murphy is the link back and forth, playing Raisa in the past and Bubbie (grandma) in the more present.  We were told, by Caren who has series tickets to the theater, that it was about three generation of Jewish women.  And it was but not what I was expecting.  As Carol said at intermission - I didn't know there would be Nazis.  I think we all expected the timeline to be later.

It definitely has it's own audience - I was the closest and Nick the furthest from that.  If you're into how history affects next generations and get passing references to Molly Picon, you'll probably enjoy this.  Since we had to all take off fast afterwards, I didn't get to discuss with my sisters.  Nick felt the middle character was slighted.  We thought, until we looked up Iris Dart, that it was written by the "granddaughter" but actually Dart's age is that of daughter caught in the middle of several things. 

After hugging Caren, Carol, Nick & I headed towards the subway, she to go uptown, us to go downtown.  Back to Penn Station, back to Secaucus, back to Route 1 and it's bumps and no U-turns and finally, back to the Comfort Suites.

Coming up:  Five states in one day, heading for The Cape.


© 2011 Esther A. Heller

Friday, May 27, 2011

ECRT - Interlude: Road Trip Ramblings

Spoiler:   I'm sitting at the cutest little powerbar in the Manchester, NH airport. (There are photos, not to worry.)  It took me four tries to find the right network and get on it.   Sometime before the sun sets over the Pacific, I will be back in my own house, with my own bathroom, my own bed, my ergonomic (if messy) computer setup and most importantly, my loving cats aka the large evil monsters.

Shopping (contains some spoilers.)

This has been a tricky trip for shopping and therefore gift giving.  I think Megan's boys have scored the best, then maybe Shirley & Gary, the catsitters.  The trickiness has been a factor of several things - first and foremost luggage space.  When we checked in with the new large, lightweight red suitcase, it weighed 49.5 pounds.  Just now it weighed 8 pounds less, whew!  But the smaller suitcase maybe be up and so are our carryons.   Thankfully, Nick's sister Joanne was pleased to get the AAA tour books for everything south of New England and we left the pound of Ghiradelli chocolate squares with Paula.

But, I did manage to get myself a whole outfit plus. Bought the Nationals shirt in MD - where we also did get the price adjustment of $178 (yay!) on the new suitcase.  Got myself a foldup-able backpack, half price with any purchase at the Gettysburg Visitor Center shop. It can also be a totebag and it was great on the soon-to-be told slosh around Jordan Pond.  In Media, PA, I got a nice pair of Gloria Vanderbilt black jeans currently on my body.  In somewhere in Delaware, I got the fashionable rain jacket.

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art I acquired my favorite purchase, a black T-shirt with a Golden Dragon embroidered down one side and my most useful, a set of three Guitar Hero passport size notebooks. In Menlo Park, NJ, coming up soon, I scored 5 pairs of roll over crew socks to match various T-shirts.  You have to go far and wide now to find these and I am known for this matching, esp in shorts weather.  Then there's the bears of the fifty states - still no luck in Rhode Island but Ms New Hampshire and Ms Maine will be joining the others on the shelf.

oops - so somehow the netbook turned itself off as I was midsentence.  But it was somehow on in Cleveland but no display..  I'm going to sleep and sort it all out in the morning and then finish this post.  eah  

 Sleep has happened.  So where was I - rambling about purchases - now have two new hats as well.  More on that later.  I now speculate that every state has a Route 1 and at least in the northeast it is a bad ride.  I have become spoiled by CalTrans maintaining roads out here in California.  Either that or the Kia has dreadful shocks.  But seriously bumpy here and there.  

Real Randomness

I am convinced that I should get a column for SWE out of traveling, including road trips and airport issues and packing and accommodations.  Ah yes,  I had a rant building up the whole trip about placement and style of toilet paper rolls.  I'm sure many of you are aware of the TP orientation debates.  I believe in the roll coming down the back for two reasons - first, it's way harder for a cat to unroll one that way (think about the paws on top of the roll that flows off the front).  If you don't get that, you've never had to deal with a roll post cat playing!  I have been known to reverse them in rooms where I am staying.  And, I find it easier to pull off some one-handed which is a value while you are wearing a backpack/purse and have a camera slung over your neck and long sleeves.  And/or when you're on crutches (been there, done that three years ago)  I also know why we pay the extra money for two ply TP.  I think I end up taking more volume (ie greater than twice as many sheets) just trying to get some off and it twists up annoyingly.  Hey, if you have the digestive issues that I have, you'd be noticing all this too.

On that cheery note, I shall post this and try working on Day 7.  Good thing it's a three-day weekend and I have a bad cold [we both got sick and forged on!]   If I can figure out what's going on with the netbook, I'll throw photos up quick.  Otherwise, I have to figure out what's going on with the Laptop.  I'm on the PC which is my primary computer but the monitor and the CPU don't agree so my aspect ratio is off which is bad for photographs.

a road weary, Esther

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

ECRT - Days 6: Mostly Manhattan

Metropolitan Museum of Art

When I called my sister Carol, she suggested that we meet at her favorite place, the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  There's an exhibit of work by the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen which she wanted to see.  I said, there were two things I had to do in NYC - have a slice of pizza and have a real deli pastrami sandwich.  We agreed to meet at the Met around noon - inside or out depended on weather and how Nick & I did with the train and the subway.

I probably haven't mentioned our cute little red Kia Forte that's gotten us up the East Coast.  It's worked out well for us, holds both red suitcases and various stuff.  I should put up a picture, of course I took them.  Also, haven't mentioned traveling with an Orienteer and a computer means that I only have to read the directions and navigate.  Nick does all the research, hands me the maps and off we go.  Today, he figured out how to get to and from the Rahway train station without making any dreaded U-turns on Route 1.  It actually all went quite well.  We're seniors on New Jersey transit - between us we figured out how to purchase four one-way tickets to/from Penn Station in Manhattan.  It did involve two short street hikes to/from the subway.  But even that worked out because we came out next to a pizza place selling plain slices for $1 each.  The guy was annoyed when i asked him to split the slice in two (Nick didn't think we needed one each, he later agreed we should have) but was happier when we left a tip.

We found the subway, got our passes, got to the upper east side, found Carol (who is looking good!) and headed to the exhibit.  For those who don't know, two things about McQueen:  He committed suicide last year and it was his second-in-charge person who designed Kate Middleton's wedding gown. Seeing McQueen's work - often stark, very edgy, I understand why fashion types were expecting something less conservative for the royal wedding.   The exhibit is fascinating,  My favorite parts were the video chess game played by models in his work and the dress that was finished live with the model/actress standing on a rotating stage while two robot arms sprayed paint at her. She was wearing a sleeveless, very wide dress, which was belted above the chest with a 2" buckle belt.  OK, so I was fascinated more by the video and the engineering.

The three of us, Carol, Nick and Esther, entered the exhibit together with a zillion other people. Nick waved to me as he went around the first corner and we didn't see each other for about 30 min.  He waited at the inevitable exit-mini-shop.  He says I was about 10 min behind him.  Carol and I stuck together much longer - but eventually I emerged before she did.  From there, we went down to the cafe to have lunch and just visit.

We agreed that everyone got to pick and exhibit.  The Guitar Heroes was right by the cafe and of course, I wanted to see it.  This was about the makers!   Somehow we did it backwards so didn't see the Stradivarius violin and mandolins until the end.  There was a well-done video of one of the masters making a guitar.  I watched it twice, once with Nick and once with Carol.  Nick's choice was to see the armor.  That was quite cool as well - diferent times and cultures represented, including for all us Highlander TV fans, Katanas (Japanese Swords.)

 And then there was my favorite odd moment.  Carol had to make a business call.  So we found a quiet place where she could sit.  Nick decided this was a good time to check in with his sister Karen (our next destination).  So there I was just strolling around checking out various exhibits to my heart's content.

A New York Experience

Jonathan, Carol's son and our youngest nephew, is in New York for 10 days between sessions at college.  When he heard we were considering having dinner at one of his favorite places, Arti's Deli, he agreed to meet us.  Then Carol reached Francesco, Roberto's brother (both are Caren's sons) and he decided to meet us as well.

But we had to take the cross-town bus to get there.  I've only ever taken the bus to the Bronx zoo.  We walked two blocks from the museum, with our umbrellas and rain coats and got in line with everyone else.  We worked our way on and whoa was it a bouncy ride.  I figured out why when I got to sit down - we were in one of the two-part accordian busses.  I was actually sitting in the first seat behind the moving part. It's a circular bit of floor that somehow rotates around corners.  I couldn't quite figure it all out but was fascinated.

We got off at the corner by Arties just as Jonathan walked up and Francesco hopped out of a cab. The five of us had a great time together - F&J get really funny around each other,  and I got my lean pastrami on rye.  And then, the time came to go.  Hugs all around and Nick and I were off again back to Avenel via Rahway.

A side note:  about this point, we were both carrying multiple extra swipe cards - our train tickets, the Metro Passes, our room keys and the parking garage ticket.  There's a not positive message in all this - but we won't go there now.

Coming up:  Liberty Island, the Hubble telescope and Broadway theater!



At some point when I didn't have computer access, I realized remembered something I wanted to share.  For the sake of those who might have already read this post, I'm just adding it on here.

Back at the Museum, it was always understood that before leaving, we would go to the shop. They have an amazing, large shop, full of books and cards and prints and items with the logo or various artwork.  The cat items alone could further overflow our overflowing house. 

It took Carol and I all of ten seconds to agree to go up to the sales section on the second floor.  I had already decided that the only thing that would save this blogging effort was to get a small pad or something on which I could keep jotting down notes. I had also told Carol that when the $60 Guitar Hero messenger bag, $60 was seriously marked down, I might like it.  Well, upstairs we found one for $30 but I decided against it.  I did find a set of three passport sized notebooks and did get them.  It was weird because these items were still full-price elsewhere in the museum (it's large with many shopping opportunities)   I also found a fabulous black T-shirt with a dragon embroidered down one-side marked down.  Very classy!  With Carol's discount, even better.

When I opened the notebooks - it turns out one is lined, one is blank and one is music staved.  I'm happily making notes in the lined one.  Angela, my soprano and music teacher gets the music.  The sketch is up for grabs.  Did I mention they all have a photo of a hand-made guitar on them?

Nick and I had one final thought on this day - we are totally museumed out!

© 2011 Esther A. Heller