May 31, 2008
When we first departed from the parking lot our group began to spread out and I thought that would be the last I'd see of all of them - except my biking buddy Bernie since we had promised to stick together. But to our surprise we stayed in a group for the entire first leg out to Mount Vernon and back to DC - 30 miles. Matt did an amazing job keeping us together and moving at a good pace.
Even though Ike the Bike has smaller tires I was able to stay with the group and at one point was even leading the pack at 16.5 miles per hour! Bernie said that I falsely advertised myself as a slow cyclist. I too was shocked. I think the speed had to do with being in a group and the fact that I've been training on a deceivingly challenging route called the Capital Crescent Trail - plus, knowing that I was only going 30 miles with Bernie while the rest of the group was going for 100.
At mile 30 Bernie, who was being coerced by his buddies, tried to convince me to go another 10 miles with the group. I saw that peer pressure working its magic and said no thanks. I knew it was going to be a hot day and I was conserving energy for our DC tour. Bernie finally agreed and we split from the group. It turned out to be a good choice for us since we had a fantastic day visiting all kinds of DC sites.
First we stopped at Arlington National Cemetery. Parking our bikes at the visitor center we walked in our designer biking duds to the Kennedy Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with about 300 eighth graders.
We then visited the Korean War, Vietnam Veterans and World War II memorials. Our timing was perfect for the Vietnam Veterans memorial ranger talk and we ended up having a 40 minute private tour of the wall.
Next we tootled on our bikes along the Mall. Stopped out Teaism for lunch, stopped at The White House to call my good friend and Bernie's daughter Karen, and then made our way to the Kennedy Center and my new favorite view from the terrace level.
We were feeling strong, although hot and grubby so instead of picking up Matt's car at Roosevelt Island we decided to ride to his place and get to 50 miles on our trek record. This last 7 miles was along the Capital Crescent Trail and as I mentioned that deceivingly hard trail was very challenging. It kicked our butts. Plus, we decided to go an extra mile past Matt & Rachel's turn-off so that we could get exactly to 50 miles. Oy.
A few hours later Marlene generously acted as chauffeur and picked up the remaining riders from the 100 mile point. What a scene! Matt was delirious but still had to keep his wits while he rounded up the other riders. It was like wrangling drunken cats. At one point Matt was running along the C&O Canal tow path in his biking shoes yelling - stop here! Stop! He grabbed dad's bike and heroically peddled to catch a passing rider.
We were all so tired - I had done 50 and was brain dead and these guys were coming off of a 12 hour ride having done 100. Matt was amazing.
Marlene then hosted us all at her house with a fantastic dinner prepared by the WAGS (wives and girlfriends). We topped it off with cake for Bernie's birthday. At this point I Matt and I just wanted to sleep - and we were two of the youngest folks there. The "oldies" who had done 100 miles were chatting up a storm.
May 29, 2008
1. No hills - flat, flat, flat
4. Interesting sites
5. A ferry ride
6. Shorter route options for those who want to maintain their sanity
The big ride is tomorrow and the riders begin arriving tonight. I'm doing a 35 mile version from Roosevelt Island to Mount Vernon and then back to Matt and Rachel's house in the Palisades along the Potomac.
While the husbands are out there on the road their wives are shopping. I think I may be the only woman on the ride. Did I not get the memo?
May 27, 2008
May 25, 2008
We joined masses of folks of all ages, shapes and sizes vying for a grassy spot miles from the stage. To our delight Garrison walked up through our area to do his opening monologue and we instantly had front row seats!
It was a warm, sunny day and Rachel packed us a fantastic picnic dinner. I sprawled out on our blankets and took in the show which could easily be enjoyed while gazing at the clouds since it is radio of the mind.
Later in the evening we walked from Georgetown to The Kennedy Center and went out on the roof terrace which is open to the public until midnight. It is the best place for a 360 view of the Potomac, Georgetown and some of the Washington monuments. Plus, I wasn't afraid of the height. Maybe I'm over my fear!
The Kennedy Center has a free musical performance 365 days a year at 6pm on their Millennium Stage. I'm going to check some out.
May 24, 2008
I watched Kristie Yamaguchi dance her way to a win Dancing with the Stars. It was so much fun to watch the American version after seeing a few episodes of the original UK series while in London. The next night I caught the finale of American Idol which was, well, interesting. I also caught an interesting BBC interview with Isabel Allende which.
And to my great surprise the final night I watched a former high school classmate, Dan Naturman, compete on Last Comic Standing. He was so smart in high school and I'll never forget the name of one of his term papers "The Ugly Face of Miss Nomer". I hope he wins!
No one seemed to be in charge or worrying about safety. There was one Adonis looking guy who was doing all kinds of back flips that did seem to take a bit of control at least to get people to jump or get off the plank. Here he is doing a black flip a few feet from the coral cliffs.
I stayed at The Grand Pineapple which recently changed its name from Negril Gardens although everyone knows it as that and all the signage has the old name. It is located about 50 miles from Montego Bay which is the big resort area. The ride out to Negril takes about 1.5 hours and is along roads that take you through villages, past schools with kids in colorful uniforms, fields with wandering goats and along the coast.
The resort was fun - very low key. I would call it more a camp for adults but without the organized activities. The staff were extremely friendly and everyone took the time to learn your name and remember it when they saw you throughout your stay. They also always remember what adventures you've taken and when you are leaving. It felt like an instant family.
The first thing I experienced in Jamaica was the language - "ya m0n", "respect" and "what yo name mon" are all greetings. Jamaica time. And if you just arrive they say, "you smell like Canada mon" or "how long you been here mon? Just arrive today?" which is their way of saying you need some sun. Everything in its own time - "soon mon", "20 minute mon" and "not yet mon". I also learned that single women are targets for endless flirtation. "are you married mon?", "where your husband man?", "you have kids mon?" and "you a sexy woman mon".
Walking along the beach on the first day I got a sense of the flavor of the local people - or at least the ones that make their "living" off of tourists. Every beach front business had a spotter out on the sand who would talk you up or more precisely "hustle" you for business. These folks, mostly men, would walk up to you, put out their hand or fist and say "What yo name mon?" or "respect" If they put out a fist you then knocked it with your fist and replied "respect". Then they did everything possible to keep you chatting in the hope that you would buy something from them. That something was always a bit mysterious. Sometimes it was a ride on their jet sky or in their glass bottom boat, or braids in your hair or an aloe massage, "their" art, beer or marijuana. After a while you learned that you just smile and wave, say hello and then move along.
Our resort had us wear a purple wristband so that they knew we were staying there and could just walk in and out of the restaurant area and bar without any questions. The wristband also acted as a clue for locals to know where you were staying, "ya mon, you stay at Negril Gardens mon?" That purple wristband gave it away. But the nice thing was that these locals were actually eyes and ears for you. In the four days I was there they would remember me and ask how I was doing.
One fantastic person I met was Captain Ian. He had a glass bottom boat that was "anchored" near our resort. It is pictured in this photo. If you click on the photo you can also see a couple walking along the beach being approached by a rasta man who was trying to sell them something, anything.
On day two I decided to take a snorkeling excursion and the resort recommended Ian's boat. Since I was alone it was clear that Ian didn't think a one person expedition was worth his time or money so he kept stringing me along. "20 minutes mon". Two hours later he had wrangled up two other guests from my resort and we were soon on our way. Funny thing was I didn't even ask where we were going. This amused the other passengers Wendy and Azreal who had brought along extreme fishing and snorkel gear including a harpoon and leg knife. Azreal looked like James Bond. I was up for any adventure and didn't much mind what it was.
Along with us on the rickety old boat was Soccer - a sidekick of sorts to Ian. His name was Soccer because, well, he loves soccer. He was a superb accidental fisherman using a soda bottle as his rod and an old piece of line and lure for his fishing gear. That guy caught fish after fish while Azreal with his fancy getup caught nothing. It became quite an amusing joke. It was also funny because Soccer could only catch the fish but was afraid to remove them from the line so Ian did the dirty work. We later learned that Ian was a vegetarian - didn't eat anything with a face - and wanted to throw the fish back in the water but Soccer was so happy with his catch so he didn't. Here is Ian removing Soccer's fish from the line.
Ian took us out to an island which was surrounded by coral reef and inhabited by cats. We sat on the beach and chatted while Azreal was like a shark in the water hunting for anything he could stab with his harpoon. Here is a photo of my feet on top of the glass bottom of the boat. Wendy and I searched that window but never saw any fish. Ian said the area was over fished so the wildlife stayed away.
May 19, 2008
May 18, 2008
Looking forward to my favorite things - adventuring, photography and writing.
May 17, 2008
May 15, 2008
If you've been reading my blog for a while you'll know that I've been on the move since 2005 - from San Francisco to Houston to Connecticut to London and now DC. In every city I've made amazing friendships and worked with some fantastic organizations. But each move has required me to start again with housing, friends, jobs, activities... Although it is wonderful to have all these friendships it also hurts to say goodbye.
Now when people ask me where I live and what I do I have no answer. Starting over again. It takes a lot of energy to find inspiration each time. I think that I need to look at the next for to six week as a holiday and use the time to have some fun for the summer. How often do you have the opportunity to take a breather and be inspired?
May 12, 2008
I put very basic info into an online health insurance broker website and within 30 seconds I was answering phone calls and receiving emails. It was like being in a tank with Parana. I said to the first caller that I was still shopping around and he said, "Well then next time don't put your phone number on the Internet" and hung up. The next person went for the hard sell when I said I was still gathering info and possibly talking to someone locally he snickered and said, "Yeah, well, they will be locked into only one provider." Then he hung up.
The frustrating bit is that the website said NO SPAM and I didn't check the box for email offers. It must be a brutal world out there for health insurance sales people.
Another man just called me and said that he wouldn't send information because they are a non-profit and want to save money. I asked him to email information (free?) and he said that they only meet in person to make sure I don't weight 400 lbs and I am not in a wheelchair. Then he said that he's never heard of anyone who didn't want a visit. He finished his pitch by saying that they weren't going to hold a gun to my head or chain me to a chair and beat me.
This scared me. Am I having culture shock? I am freaked out by these totally aggressive sales pitches.
May 11, 2008
May 10, 2008
Kenny Stevens states that organizations go through lifecycle stages that are categorized as: Idea, Start-up, Growth, Maturity, Decline, Turnaround, and Terminal. In fact, each function of the organization also goes through these stages - financial management, governance, client services, publications, membership, etc. The steepest portions of the curve are the two ends - Idea and Terminal. The apex is Maturity. Turnaround is the critical stage at which it is determined if the organization or function can be brought back around to Growth or should be Terminated.
I'm telling you all this as a backdrop to my own life, which interestingly seems to be paralleling the lifecycles of so many of my closest friends. We are in relationships and employment that has hit the Decline stage. Perhaps it is a late 30s or early 40s stage that everyone hits (mid-life? mid-career?) or possibly it has something to do with ReGenXers, our lifestyles or even our career paths? Maybe it is the impact of globalization? We hit that Decline and do everything we can to Turnaround the relationship or employment. Some of us get stuck there for a long time - because of obligations and the ripple impact of our looming choice. Perhaps in previous generations people would have stayed at Decline and never hit Terminal. Not us, we make changes no matter how unconventional, impactful and challenging.
Something about ReGenXers encourages us to look inside and find a Turnaround in parallel with Terminal. We end our marriages, leave our jobs, move to different countries, find new ways to build support networks and start over. We are fearless about this process, even if it is incredibly painful. Is it that we have a strong need to for self-actualization?
So here I am Turning around again and I am not alone. Friends and family connected electronically across the planet gently offer each other support as we develop new Ideas and move into new Start-ups. We nurture each other's Growth and intertwine our lives.
May 9, 2008
Up until about an hour ago I had four email addresses, two websites and two blogs. Now I'm down to two email addresses one website and two blogs. Getting closer to KISS.
http://www.artsmanagementconsulting.com/ - KISSED it goodbye
http://www.leading-together.com/ - Up and running!
Just logged on to my downgraded Yahoo account and now see that I was paying $19.99 a month to supress ads on my calendar/notes/contacts and non-custom email page. I think I can handle the ads.
May 8, 2008
The only broken item was a lovely bowl I bought in Edinburgh. However, it is raku and has a cracked style anyway so I'll try gluing it together. Should work out fine.
At least all my possessions are now in the US - however in many different States. Major collection still in Houston storage, two suitcases at Matt & Rachel's place in DC and now a menagerie of ceramics and my favorite books at Marlene & Mandeep's in Virginia. Oh yes, and Tika the Cat in Connecticut. I like to share the wealth.
May 6, 2008
1. Walk around your neighborhood and get a lay of the land
2. Open a bank account
3. Setup up a cell phone number and alert your friends
4. Make phone/skype dates with friends
5. Join the library, search their free pamphlets for helpful tidbits about the area
6. Find a place to practice yoga
7. Discover closest healthy grocery store
8. Take the bus around
9. Setup wireless network
10. Don't hide in your house
Reflecting back on my various moves these have been the most helpful steps. Today I joined the library and instantly felt at home.
May 5, 2008
We headed to Trader Joe's for a free BBQ and essential groceries. So good to be shopping there again. Funny thing - the food seemed so much more expensive than in London.
The day was absolutely beautiful - warm but not too hot or humid, breezy and sunny. Even got a bit of a sunburn. Here's Matt & Rachel's house with its beautiful spring yard.
When I was imaging moving to DC I kept seeing this exact setting - the lawn chairs looking out over the Potomac's cliffs. All this just a block from M&R's place. How's that for city living?
This Monday morning I'm listening to NPR on WAMU with their familiar "new member campaign" better known as the fund drive. Next heading out to open a bank account and finally get a cell phone!
May 4, 2008
Had a fantastic welcome from my sibs - Marlene, Matt and his partner Rachel. I'm staying with Matt & Rachel in their DC house near the Potomac River. Was awakened by the chirping of birds, sunshine, green leaves, the breeze coming through the open window and fresh smells. Rachel just popped her head into the room to ask if I want something for breakfast and her dog Lucy said hello too. It feels like a bright new beginning.
May 3, 2008
I wondered why I couldn't check-in online last night. You would think that the airline would have come up with some alternative travel solutions for their stranded passengers, but no. A flight full of people had the pleasure of waiting on line to each be told that there are no flights out and we'd have to come back tomorrow.
Simone went ballistic (that's what friends are for). Come on folks, it is only 10am and there are no flight options? After a seven minute circular conversation with the ticket agent I managed to get a seat on a Virgin flight arriving in DC just a few hours after my United flight would have landed. The entire negotiation experience was bizarre.
Amy: Is there a later flight today?
Agent: Computer says no.
Amy: Is there another airline?
Agent: Computer says no.
Amy: Is there another airport in DC I can fly into?
Agent: Computer says no.
Amy: Is there another city I can fly into?
Agent: Computer says no.
Amy: What is United going to give if I take that flight tomorrow - any vouchers?
Agent: You will need to go to the website, fill out a form, mail it to United corporate offices, they will consider your request and get back to you by mail.
Amy: What? This isn't my fault.
Agent: It is a mechanical difficulty and it is your choice to stay here at the airport and look for another flight.
Amy: You're telling me that you are going to tell the next 40 people in line that they have no options? I feel really sorry for you. My heart goes out to you, but I'm not leaving the airport and coming back tomorrow.
[Repeat 2 more times the above circular conversation, seven minutes pass.]
Amy: Is there another airline I can fly?
Agent: Virgin has some seats on their 5.30pm flight and can get you into DC at 8.55.
Amy: Fantastic! Sounds like a solution to me.
Do most people just take the first "no" as an answer and they just wait until you've proven you can endure their seven minute test - and then they find a solution?
So, we move over to Virgin and I now had to weigh my ginormous bags, already knowing that I'll have to pay for the extra one. Turns out that one is 8kg over weight. Simone and I head over to the repacking area - clearly this happens all the time, and begin to re-shuffle contents. We were not alone. The area was filled with Americans. All of us started to bond over our overweight issues. I was able to even out the contents so that each suitcase had the maximum weight amount. Turns out that the offending weight in the most-overweight bag was a cookbook by Nigella Lawson, the UK's own voluptuous domestic goddess, which made me and Simone laugh.
Bags repacked we move towards the check-in. All is good except that the woman wanted to weigh my carry-ons. Of course they are grossly overweight since I'm carrying all my worldly possessions. We did some quick thinking and magically got them down to the appropriate sizes. Walking away with our hands full of the extracted materials we begin to re-loaded the carry-ons with their former contents. Two can play at this game.
May 1, 2008
I've been able to keep up my friendships across the planet through the Internet - emails, voice over Internet, skyping, vonage...I know we'll still be in touch. Plus, everyone is psyched about the Farm idea. I'm going to have to start booking slots!
Feeling the love.