Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Day 1 -- Road Trip: Maine to PEI

August 13th we landed in Portland, ME and immediately started our drive to Vermont in our rented Pontiac G6. It sprinkled a little on the drive, but by the time we got to South Royalton, the clouds gave way to freaking awesome sunshine! It didn't rain again for the rest of the trip.

Our destination in South Royalton was the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial. When we arrived, we were greeted by an older Missionary who didn't hesitate to ask if we were Members. We said we were on a road trip and that we were both Members. She then asked if we were married. I hesitated for a moment but answered friends. We would later discuss the hesitation as a moment of wanting to equal her bluntness with a "nope, we're lovers" or something similar just to mess with her. Ah well, she meant no harm I guess, just seemed a little motherly being that she could see there were no rings on our fingers.

Pictures of the Memorial.

From South Royalton, we drove to Hanover to stop by Dartmouth; my sister's alma mater and I place I've visited a few times. It felt strange to be there sans Meredith. We walked around the green, then down to the co-op to replace my old, worn-out "Dartmouth Soccer" shirt I had bought there years ago. Neither of us were hungry enough to stop at Molly's for sweet potato fries... oh if only we had.....

Took a picture of Baker Library while there. I do think it's the most beautiful college campus I've been to.
What New England Road Trip would be complete without a trip to Lake Winnipesaukee? Since we were in the neighborhood... sort of... we stopped on by. I had forgotten how huge the lake is! We got a little lost (a theme that would persist the rest of the road trip sadly) looking for the main area. We ended up at Weirs Beach.. not the picturesque part of the lake I was looking for, but the sun was setting, we were running out of gas and getting hungry (also a common theme that would persist through the weekend, hehe).

Took these pics from the Lake:
After our sunset trip to the lake, it was time to move on back to Portland to catch some zzz's. The drive back was on small, country roads which didn't offer my by way of gas or food; two things we were in dire need of. We kept pushing on and eventually found gas, but still no food. My directions to the hotel weren't quite clear and we ended up taking a wrong turn.... ugh... luckily, Danny brought his GPS and it saved the day (another theme here people...) Finally, around 10:30pm, we rolled into the Fairfield Inn, Brunswick, ME, tired and hungry. NOTHING is open past 8pm in Maine. NOTHING. ... except Tim Hortons and McDonald's. McDonald's it was at 11pm. It was pretty gross, but it was food.

The next day we promised we wouldn't challenge ourselves like that again... we would eat and gas more frequently.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The More You Buy, The More You're Bought

There's a line in It's a Wonderful Life delivered by Harry Bailey, brother to James Stewart's character, George at the end of the movie after George is reunited with the life he chose to pour blood, sweat and tears into, for richer or poorer. The line is: "A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town." Now Harry wasn't talking about material wealth, anyone who's seen the movie would know this statement is in reference to the richness of his life outside of what George Bailey owns; a loving wife and family, a prosperous town and an unflappable character. All of this accomplished by sacrificing young ambition, dreams and at one point a very hefty sum of money from the underhanded Mr. Potter, which in the end, could never have been as sweet as the rich life he created.

This past "Black Friday", a disturbing scene unfolded at a Long Island Wal-mart where a savage crowd could no longer be contained, broke through the glass doors at 5am and trampled 34 year-old employee Jdimytai Damour to death. Consumerism has reached a new low. Have we really gotten to a point where the need to buy a discounted dvd player has made it so we don't even feel someone's warm, crippled body underneath our feet as we flood into the store? Even at a time when our economy is suffering from the biggest house cleaning since the 30's, people still manage to find the time and money to forgo all pleasantries and acceptable human behavior in pursuit of an object that will most likely only provide temporary satisfaction.

Have we forgotten what real satisfaction can be found outside of material possessions? The 50's and 60's taught us "you are what you own", but in all the time since, and even in our current situation, we still have not learned proper restraint. I dare say there are many who lack elemental maturity and self-awareness so much so that they can't see past media definitions of success and possessions have begun to define who they are and the need to own has in fact become a way to be validated. Their self-worth is bought at the Apple Store, Best Buy or Wal-mart rather than being learned from meaningful relationships, necessary failures and great, personal successes. If your buying habits validate your existence, what does it say about you when you have to be the first person in line to purchase at 3:30am the day after giving thanks?

As we all eye our bank accounts during this time of economic turmoil, I think it's time for us all to take an internal inventory as well, to count those non-tangibles that make up our character and focus on that which we have instead of worrying about that which we don't. I hope we all find ourselves rich like George Bailey. I hope even more so that we will learn to lift each other, especially those being trampled on.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

London Calling

I sit, with the new, acorn-sized, plastic ring that I bought in covent garden in the heart of London attempting to jot down my thoughts on this fantastic place where remnants of past dominance have given way to a temperament of commerce and comfort where chivalry seems to be a thing of the past and modern ideals and yellow journalism have taken hold. this is not intended to seem a harsh scope, rather a statement of the bedrock of my weekend in London. 

after a hasty departure from dulles airport, my friend misty and I arrived at heathrow just past 5:30am and were soon on our way to the russell square stop on the piccadilly line on the tube to meet up with Amy. due to my hasty departure (because the taxi driving me to the airport was half an hour early), I was without proper footwear. this would plague me the entire weekend; now a week later my feet are still recovering. oh and we walked. we walked like pioneer children. we walked like that dude in the gods must be crazy. like those soccer moms with the three-wheeled racing stroller and the blank look of determination that carve their way through traffic in any supermarket or amusement park... I think you get the picture. 

London is very much a walking town. they've got it all marked out for the layperson - each crosswalk has a "look left" or "look right" on the ground for those of us that drive on the correct side of the road. luckily, these instructions also come with arrows for those of us that drive on the correct side of the road that haven't mastered our left and right. London sort of reminds me of DC... it doesn't have the tall skyscrapers that congest the skyline of New York, rather it allows light and sky to be seen from the street. there are some streets that are small and narrow, due to the fact that they are so old, kind of like Georgetown in DC, or Old Town Alexandria, but older. maybe "old" isn't the right word. mature. perfected. seasoned. cultivated. the architecture fits all of these words. I love the architecture! it is a city of class, although, it is not without it's classless areas. 

the tower of London with it's dark history was fascinating! our tour guide/beefeater was a riot! although, he did pick on me quite a bit - asking me if I knew the president when he found out I live in DC and later admonishing me not to use the camera on my cell phone, sensing that I might have one as I "looked like the sort that would." to his credit, he was right. after hearing all about beheadings and political scandals, we gawked at the crown jewels. wow. bright, shiny objects get me every time! if I owned crowns of jewels such as the queen's collection, i would wear them everyday. we're talking reading a book, grabbing lunch with a friend, even playing sports. oh yeah - can't you just see me on the tennis court serving up an ace trying to keep the beveled object secure on my nauggin?

after Misty, Amy and Amy's parents pried me away from all the pretty things, we headed to the other side of the thames for a nighttime jaunt on that carnival ride of a tourist trap they call the London eye. yeah, I know, it's so cliche, but everyone's gotta ride this thing once and i'd suggest you do it at night. the city looks magical. I thought of my mom as we whisked, I mean crawled, by big ben. I could just see wendy, peter pan and tinkerbell flying by on their way to never-neverland. speaking of fantasy tales... after church on sunday, Amy dragged us to leicester square (pronounced lester) to join the throngs of fans for the world premiere of harry potter and the goblet of fire. no, we didn't see the movie, we were outside watching the privileged head into the theater. the whole cast was there, along with madonna and her daughter, who surprisingly received the loudest ovation, even beating out the shrill screaming for harry himself, daniel radcliffe. everyone agreed, even Amy's mom, that if we were 12, we'd have crushes on young harry... although now that i'm back in the states, i've seen him in interviews wearing more makeup than me. i'm not sure i'd like the competition.

leicester square is in the famed west end of London where all the fabulous theaters are - no we didn't catch a show unfortunately, however we did find a nice little italian joint after the movie premiere for our last meal in Londontown. over bowls of pasta, we reminisced on the last few days - harrod's, the victoria & albert museum, buckingham palace, westminster abbey, the globe theatre, tavistock square, jen's blistered feet, the cute cafe in russell square where we ate breakfast every morning and the never-ending search for chocolate. 

after everything that I experienced in London, I could very easily find myself a flat there and feel right at home. yes the culture is not completely what i'm used to in the states, but I didn't expect it to be the exactly same. the differences, I believe, stem from many sources, not the least of which is a change in the role of religion in the social fabric. a study was published while we were in London that said only 11% of the population attended church, down from 17% in 2000. this number is expected to drop to 6% in the next few years. quite different from the god-fearing areas that blanket the states. 

Also noticed was a lackadaisical nature that was refreshing in regards to their legal system in particular. they aren't suit-happy people. I pondered the reasons for this and think that their old traditions and indeed the social class structure that has been in place for so long has allowed people to accept their roles and also their lack of need to control and reform. our Founding Fathers laid out very detailed "rights" that are both very necessary in society and unfortunately sometimes exploited or misused. this has fostered a society that feels entitled to it's share and in every way each person fights tooth and nail to hold onto what is theirs. of course, our situation in America allows for much lateral movement within our social classes that is not as obvious or easy in many European cultures. when our Founding Fathers left Europe they were leaving behind these restrictive class codes and what they laid out for America was truly magnificent, but I worry that we are letting the pureness of that beginning slip away. 

the last thing that struck me in the contrast of culture is the sensationalistic media. these brits just love their tabloids! while on the train from the airport, I was taken aback when I saw an older gentlemen in business attire reading a tabloid newspaper. I then looked around to see almost everyone else reading the same sort of newspaper. no war headlines, no headlines about the unrest in paris or of the economy, all I saw was madonna at the mtv Europe awards and the latest on jude law and sienna miller. this from a country that brought us winston churchill, bob geldoff and oxfam. quite a contrast. the patrons usually leave their papers on the train for next person. thus, if anyone needs an update on princes william or harry, let me know. as you can see London is a dichotomy of tradition and forward-thinking movement. I can't wait to return!