Tag Archives: story

WikiLeaks: Simply human nature?

Latourell Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

“As one of my intelligence community sources says, we need to eliminate MICE. By that he means Money, Ideology, Compromise, Ego, the common denominators of all leaks. In other words, leaks will persist as long as human nature does.”

Quote from article, “How to Turn Off WikiLeaks;” Keith Thomson Reporter, Huffington Post, 11-29-10 04:00 PM

**Money**Ideology**Compromise**Ego**

Reportedly more than 2 million users on the military’s secret internet network (Siprnet).   This was an information leak and not a breach of internet security (hacking), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today. Undermining world leadership in one fell swoop — simply human nature?


Raining: The Flipside of Down


Washington, D.C.

Rolling through high-heeled streets,
Shimmering in a photo finish.

Small drops with big ideas,
Ya make that steal, or merely cop a feel?

Too much cotton for mirrors on the flipside of down,
But soaking floats color.

So dragging the horizon like an ephemeral plea,
She teases air from smog.

Small drops, what’s the big idea?

She prays for din to break silence,
Before fancying a prey on thunder.

Pattering in gardens of brick and cities of grass,
She won’t ride lightening to wit,
Why take a bolt, when Sun owns color?


Glasgow, Scotland


San Diego, CA


Sunday Night Drum Circle — Little Beach, Maui

Laid out…

Local drum circle on Sunday nights: It’s not in the guidebooks, but, if you are open to spending the evening on a nude beach listening to kettle drum, bongo, and tabla beats, it’s worth checking out. After the sunset, about 100 of us exited in a ritualistic procession led by three men wielding torches and lighting our way down a windy trail of rocks. My friend summarized the evening best:

“I finally understand what this whole peace-love thing is about!”

*Repost


TSA Body Scan: Will you say “No” Nov. 24th — National Opt Out Day?

“If you touch my junk, I’m gonna have you arrested.”

–John Tyner’s battle cry at San Diego International Airport, during an invasive pat down by a TSA screener.  And the new punchline for privacy advocates. On his YouTube video that captured the incident, we hear the overhead announcement, “Security is everyone’s responsibility,”  as Tyner dubs the phrase.
Tree Trunk — Balboa Park, SD
The instructions:  Step into the oversized, closet-like contraption.  Place your palms facing out on either side of your head so that your arms are about parallel with your shoulders.  Spread your legs shoulder length apart.  Now hold still…

If there is any confusion, look around, and you’ll probably see a cutout type drawing that will illustrate the position to assume.

“Is this safe?  How much radiation am I taking in?” I asked with a friendly smile, as I stepped into the box a few months ago at Nashville International Airport.

“You are getting more radiation by using your cell phone than going through this machine,”  the TSA screener responded, equally amicable.

Questions most are asking:  Is it safe for my health? Does it violate my privacy rights?

In the News:

  • San Diego, Calif — Monday, 32-year-old local resident, John Tyner, posted a YouTube video of his probing pat down, after refusing a full body scanner and body search at San Diego International Airport.  In the video, Tyner offers to go through the metal detector on several occasions and apologizes “for the hassle” following the TSA screener’s pat down.  He cancelled his American Airlines’ flight and is now being investigated by TSA.  Irony?  The clip has received more than 50,000 hits as of this morning. “If I don’t do it, nobody will,” Tyner says in the video.
  • New Jersey — Lawmakers are asking airport passengers to refuse the body scan for “National Opt Out Day” on Wednesday, November 24th, one of the busiest travel days.
  • Washington, D.C. — Yesterday, two pilots filed a federal suit against the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security, alleging that the full body scans and pat downs are a violation of their Fourth Amendment Rights (protects against unreasonable search and seizure).

Fresh Droplets — Stick Out Your Tongue!

San Diego, Balboa Park:  Photo taken with BB cell phone.  Poem inspired by a chance meeting during a morning walk through the rose garden this cloud-ridden week.

Fresh droplets,

Stick out my tongue,

Dewy rose,

My celli captures it beautifully!

Plumes of white brighten the dim sky,

Shades sparkle in pink, cream, yellow, red, green…

Gray palette:  Showcase petals and leaves!

Salty drops,

Her hand shakes,

Hushed cords,

No lightning or thunder. Only rain.

“…Sit for a minute?”


Between Seasons: Will you blossom or wilt?

Balboa Park, Rose Garden (recommend)

It’s October, and I watch a bee graze the stamen (that thin hair-like stuff in the center) of a pale yellow Julia Childs.

Some blooms have wilted, while other buds flourish — hard to tell if it’s spring or autumn.  Isn’t that the case sometimes in life too?

We wilt and blossom in the paradox until nature indicates a clear shift, and we are once again intimate with season.



Classic Kindness Strolls By — Luck?

Sitting at Starbucks…
“You dropped your dollar,” a man behind me in line says as I step away from the register. I thank him, pick it up and take my seat on an armless, cushiony, brown chair.

“That was really nice of him,” the woman sitting next to me comments. I don’t bother opening my book. She tells me she would have returned the dollar too.

Her name is Sandra. She used to be homeless, she says. . “I never thought it would happen to me. I guess sometimes you have to watch what you say.”

We chat for a few minutes. Then I tell her about my blog and ask if she’d be interested in sharing some of her story. She agrees.

Her soft brown eyes set upon mine, and she gingerly pats the back of her afro.

Sandra spent 1½ years on the streets of San Diego starting in December 1990, after getting laid off from her job at Longs Drug store in El Cajon. “I used to go around asking people to give me something to eat. I would never ask for money,” she adds.

Sandra would go to St. Vincent on Imperial Avenue to shower, but she chose not to stay there – too many rules and restrictions.

For her, the streets were more congenial. “Sometimes I was spit at. People would throw things at me. That was just for the first couple of nights. But knock on wood, people were really nice.”

Then on a summer day in 1991, Sandra was near the downtown courthouse, when she recognized an old friend. She called out to her. “She didn’t recognize me at first,” Sandra said. Her friend was in disbelief.

But she offered Sandra a way to put her life back on track:  A home.  “[She] took me under her wings and got me a job. I guess she trusted me enough to live with her.”

I start asking another question, but Sandra lets me know that this is all she is comfortable sharing. And it is more than enough.

I see Sandra every now and then at the CVS in North Park. She’s a cashier. If I get her register, I end the transaction with: Good seeing you again.

She responds: Good seeing you too.

Or vise-versa. Either way, it’s nice.


So WORTH It: SD Human Rights Watch Film Festival

San Diego, CA — Balboa Park

Museum of Photographic Arts — Photograph from MoPA website.

 

In between the salty streams we collectively found ourselves laughing.

Last night, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival featured Pushing the Elephant, a film in which the story’s protagonist – 2009 UN Humanitarian of the Year – defiles the face of war by valuing the faces of survival.

During the conflict in Congo, Rose Mapendo’s husband is killed, and she is forced to bargain her 10 children in various ways, in particular her daughter, Nangabire. Through her reunion with Nangabire, Pushing the Elephant seamlessly juxtaposes scenes from the life Rose and her family currently live in a beautiful suburban U.S. neighborhood with the wreckage of surviving the Congolese conflict.

The strength and wisdom Rose gained by forgiving the crimes against her family and community stuns.

After some deliberation with her eldest son, now the man of the household, Rose visits Congo and revisits her memories.

She listens to those left behind, imparts perspective and bestows hope to her community.  At one point, while kneeling alongside community members by a small slab of gray stone that marks the grave sight of a mother and wife, Rose says a prayer and thanks God for growing a tree in the space as a sign of rebirth…

The Festival runs thru September 25, 2010.  For a full schedule, checkout www. mopa.org.

War exists because people lack love.

— Rose Mapendo


San Diego Health and Wellness: Want to Quiet the Cacophony of Thoughts?

San Diego provides a great opportunity for enhancing health and wellness.  During a recent trip to Manhattan and Washington, D.C., I was surprise to learn how many friends and acquaintances relate such ideas to L.A.  So, I thought a story on health and wellness in the San Diego area was in order.

On a Sunday morning…

Meditation is about connecting with your emotions, Courtney Kimpo, our instructor tells us.  About a dozen people, some seated on blankets resting on the bamboo floor and others seated in chairs, prepare to practice meditation (on Tuesday evenings that number jumps to 50 people or more).   Flickering candles line the floor before Courtney.

Today, we will go into relaxation, followed by concentration, and heart-centered meditation, she says.

Sounds easy enough.

But sitting in my chair, I am thankful that we are commencing with some stretches at the top of this hour-long session.  Having practiced meditation before, I can tell you that well-intentioned surrender to these gentle directives can ignite a misfiring of synapses.

A melodic flute charms the space, and we flow into part one: Relaxation.  Relax the muscles in your forehead, your face, Courtney coaxes with soft ease…

Open your eyes slightly and focus on the candlelight or the darker shades of bamboo on the floor, she suggests as the class transitions into concentration.  She guides our breath and our attention like a thread.  We end the session with a vibration of sounds that crest into a concert of “Om.”

I do not see colors or shed tears of joy, but I feel my heart beat.  I sense my spirit.  I brush something pure.

After the session, I ask Courtney if she has any suggestions for those of us for whom meditation does not come easy.

“Begin slowly.  Begin with patience.  Begin with a positive reading — something that brings you inspiration.  Try to connect with the joy of your heart center and know that everyone has challenging moments with meditation.”

A few minutes later, back out on Adams Avenue, I see Courtney again.  “Do you know what I really want to say?” she asks.

“What?”

“What I really want to say is if you are having a hard time getting into meditation, come to a Pilgrimage of the Heart meditation.”

I smile, and think to myself, see you next week.

Located in Normal Heights (10 minutes from downtown), Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga studio offers free meditation on Tuesdays and Sundays.


Chasing Tides

Some days it feels like I’m chasing tides in rapid recession.Focusing on anchored matter helps bring the shoreline into crisp vision. And once again, I can appreciate nature’s flow en route (and in root). Balance usually returns with an exhaling grin.

West Coast shoreline


Agitate Your Senses into Zen?

Agitation – A word that often conjures a negative connotation.  Perhaps misunderstood…

The other day my yoga teacher asked the class to agitate their necks while in mountain pose (upward dog) in order to release tension in the neck and shoulders.
Agitation in film photography usually refers to developing negatives or developing an image on photo paper.
Agitation is great for my contact lenses – keeps them clean and scratch free.
In our daily lives, however, “agitation” seems to wear a visor that flashes words like **annoyed**upset**roiled**.
So when my Vinyasa instructor mentioned agitation in the context of yogic practice – the word stood out like a nightgown-clad drag queen in a sacred temple.
And the utterance convened me to reconsider its meaning in my own life.  I looked up the entomology and according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary:
Latin agitatus, past participle of agitare, frequentative of agere to drive — more at agent.
To drive… to direct movement…
Without agitation, would we ever really change?  Would we grow?  Maybe agitation drives an authentic path.

Starry Connections: Gujarat, India

Photograph by author

This poem is about a man I met in a small town in Gujarat, India.  His perseverance, humanity, and faith in the face of peril continue to inspire me.

Starry Connections

A barren star reflects his spirit,
But a flooded breath drowns his light.

A windy town plunges the boy,
Gasping, he resurfaces a man.

Life anew tethers his own,
Another vindicates the shells of his soul.

Succumbing to her calm,
He sips the air.
Trembling, he wakes.

Her water too icy to birth life,
Vindication takes a dive,
Still, he pays homage to the roots she anchored.

A flooded breath drowned his light,
But her gales blew him ashore.

And as his feet connect to sand,
He is reborn.

No longer does he flail in her starry springs.
He understands that her platform is meant to celebrate life.


Impressing Color: Red, White, and Blue

A reminder that a fresh palette lends itself to the authenticity of color and intent in stroke…

Philadelphia, PA, November 4th, 2008: The impromptu citizen urge to parade Obama’s victory along Broad Street  —  where the architectural awe of the country’s largest city hall drops back like an anchor dressed in Victorian splendor (courtesy of Scottish architect John McArthur, Jr).

election-night-2009

Photograph and Image by author


HOPE: A PROCLAMATION OF EMANCIPATION FROM STATUS QUO

Election Night – Philadelphia, PA

A Collective Exhale - Moments After - Election Night Philadelphia

Exhales and Elation: Moments after Obama's Victory; Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA

I remember tuning into MSNBC in my living room… a few minutes before 11 p.m., and all indicators point to another long night.   During the last presidential election in 2004, I stayed up until 6 a.m. — futilely praying that Kerry could tow-the-line all the way to the White House — before giving into sleep as commentators continued grappling with words like “to close to call” or “electoral ballots.”

So sure, I step away for a moment… just one moment. In the den my husband and friend are having a chat and enjoying the Philadelphia skyline.  All of the sudden, I hear a nonchalant announcement that Barack Obama is our president-elect.  Immediately, the cameras cut to Obama Headquarters and the crowd at Grant Park in Chicago. It’s really happening… Shock… complete disbelief… a breathless flood of collective, connected pride… We won! We illustrated to the pundits and talking-heads our desire to take active stewardship in our future.

Humanity, reason, truth, and empowerment:  Harvest it, and we welcome democratic participation.

Push us, and we welcome democratic participation. But, it may not be pretty, as sampled during the 2006 midterm-elections.

Our country’s indispensable ideology — many times muddled in the championed capitalism of the “American Dream” — is our Constitutional allegiance to human rights.  Perhaps the last 8 years reminded Americans of what we could lose…

Politicians, take notice and raise the bar. Our forefathers painstakingly provided the most just and malleable blueprint to-date so that our empire does not succumb to the pages of history as another swinging pendulum.

We are beings of instinct.  If presented with talking points that try and spin split peas into pretty-green candied yams, we’ll either push them aside or spit them up.  Why?  Not because we are fearful of the awful taste.  We just don’t like being lied to…

Remember that old adage:

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice and… uhhh… yeah that’s it!

The CLOCK STRIKES 11! Freedom Rings Steps from City Hall Philadelphia

The CLOCK STRIKES 11! Freedom Rings Steps from City Hall Philadelphia

Yes We Can!

And We Believe in Something, in Someone... Yes We Can!


Glasgow: THE Music Scene for Those in the Know – Part III

The city’s independent music scene flaunts raw talent that demands notice on the streets and on stage. In August 2008, Glasgow was designated UNESCO City of Music – making it the 3rd city in the world to covet the distinction after Seville and Bologna.

Walk into a reputable venue and experience what the buzz is about.

I decide to visit King Tut’s  Wah Wah Hut – where the band Oasis was discovered – on a Saturday night. The stage rests on the pub’s second floor in a cozy, dim-lit, space with a standing-room capacity of a few hundred people.

In 2006, New York Magazine touted King Tut’s as the 7th best way to “Follow Your Bliss,” in its Top 50 places to visit worldwide.  And as it is Scotland music mogul Craig McGee’s first progeny, the going-concern continues heralding quality performances.

Talent reps screen and audition bands prior to green-lighting shows, and playing a gig here lends musicians a certain amount of legitimacy.

“The whole ethos of this place is that this is how [live music] venues should be run,” says Laura Rooney, the on sight rep.

On Stage, a trio of boys, The Ghosties, play for an audience of 150.  Reminiscent of The Killers, the band coalesces electric and acoustic sounds that set the mood for strong vocals and pithy lyrics rendered by an animated frontman. As the lads close the set and exiting stage left, the crowd chants, “We want more!  We want more…”

Not bad for an unsigned band or a pub-side concert.

Bar Fly (barflyclub.com) and 13th Note (13thnote.co.uk) also book quality talent.  Pick up The List, Glasgow’s weekly entertainment guide, for performance information.

Culture, globalization, and music:  What is the connection?

“We at UNESCO believe that culture not only makes an economic contribution, it provides meaning and a sense of identity and continuity that is integral to the life of all societies,” said the Director-General during the ceremony. “An understanding of culture helps communities grapple with the challenges of globalization, by preserving the values and practices that define their way of life, and by promoting respect for other cultural traditions and ways of life. It represents a way of engaging with cultural differences and building social harmony, of making people of all ages and origins feel involved,” Mr Matsuura added.

Source:  Unesco Press Release


Glasgow: Glaswegians and Murphy’s Law – Part II

The River Clyde

The People

My quasi Type A persona continues to thaw, and it may have something to do with Murphy’s Law, which states, “If anything can go wrong, it will.”

Around here, Murphy is considered an optimist. Not following?

Maybe a page from a life-long Glaswegian who was honored last year with the MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) medal – the first stage to knighthood, will clarify.

As we sit in his Strathclyde University office, just off of George Square – the heart of the city, Jim Wilson shares with me his encounter with a short, silver haired, homeless woman one evening on his way to the train station.

“‘Do you have any change to spare, son?’” said Wilson, relaying her words. Wilson answered, “no” and met her stare for what seemed like 10 minutes, he recalls.

With eyes dancing he continues: Then, she started to laugh and then circled around me and exclaimed, ‘No?! Neither do I!’

“You see life in all its fullness,” Wilson says. “It’s got the good, the bad, and the ugly, and that is the strength of Glasgow. Whatever your condition you will be accepted.”


Dance with Fire Beachside

Fire Dance Series
Little Beach Drum Circle, Maui — A beatnik evening against the backdrop of a setting sun. (See Sunday Night Drum Circle post to learn more about this local tradition.)

 

little beach, maui

little beach maui

maui’s beaches

little beach maui travel vibe

little beach, maui


A Symbiotic Mulligan? Studied with YoYo Ma; Landed in Skid Row

The Soloist - author Q&AStreet Bound photograph by author

[A book about] 2nd chances, human connection, and the power of art and music.”  — Steve Lopez, author and columnist, L.A. Times.

From NY’s Juilliard School to L.A.’s Skid Row

The Soloist, by author Steve Lopez, tells the real life story about how a relationship between a newspaper columnist and a Skid Row musician, Nathaniel Ayer, moves a city, a mayor, and this hardnosed journalist to help the homeless and mental health communities.

People responded to the daily columns about Nathaniel in unexpected numbers because Lopez broke the rules of journalism and let it get personal, Lopez told an audience of more than 150 people at Philadelphia’s Free Library last Saturday.

Lopez was candid, animated and well received. The author opted not to read from his book. Instead, he participated in a moderated Q&A before taking questions from the audience.

(The book is being made into a movie scheduled for release in theaters this November. Robert Downey, Jr. plays Lopez and Jamie Foxx plays Nathaniel. They are done filming, Lopez said.)

A main-character synopsis about how this complex and unlikely relationship unfolds and some of the more memorable quotes from the book discussion follow:

Steve Lopez

He used to be the hard-hitting columnist that kept Philadelphia’s city council in check before moving out to L.A, same job, different fodder.

This day’s prospective storyline: Rainwater stopping escalators and, in turn, repelling public commuters. L.A. tops the list for traffic congestion in U.S. cities. Locals are averse to public transportation as it is, so this escalator thing is a big deal.

While digging for the story near an underground station, Lopez hears a violin celebrating its glory. The man playing the instrument is an unlikely figure. The violin, Lopez notices, has two strings missing.

The man, he notes, is playing without a hat or an open violin case. So, why here, Lopez is compelled to ask.

There’s the Beethoven Statue. I play here for inspiration, Lopez recalls Nathaniel’s words.

For the first time in his career, Lopez abandons professional distance and surfaces in the foreign landscape of a schizophrenic savant living on Skid Row.

Nathaniel Ayer

Nathaniel studied with YoYo Ma as a fellow student at Juilliard School because of his innate confidence.

Ignoring his mentor’s advice, Nathaniel travels from Ohio to New York for the audition. Not only is he accepted, he receives a full scholarship.

Then, sometime during his junior year, elusive voices and images start toying with his reasoning. His condition deteriorating, Nathaniel finds himself out of school and in a hospital undergoing shock therapy. He eventually lands on the streets.

Decades later, in his 50’s, Nathaniel plays the violin near an underground station in Los Angeles, when a man approaches him. The musician does not know it, but his second chance just arrived.

(It was just easier, he would later say, to live on L.A’s Skid Row with thousands of homeless – heroin addicts, drug dealers, amputees, veterans – than to lose something again.)

The following are some of the more memorable excerpts (All quotes attributed to a third person are direct phrases by Mr. Lopez during his dialogue with the moderator and the audience.):

“Music is a balancing force in his life. Notes that for 200 years have not moved.”  Music his Medicine – Disney Hall his Hospital – The Orchestra his Doctors.  –Lopez

“Do musicians inspire you Mr. Lopez the way writers inspire me?” –Nathaniel (Addressing Lopez and launching into a well-versed soliloquy from Hamlet.)

“We are brothers. We are brothers in music.” –Yo Yo Mah (Addressing Nathanael backstage at Disney Hall; Nathanael, dressed in suit and tie, nervously wondered what he would say to YoYo Mah, Lopez said.)

“He has made choices in his life, and he is out there because he wants to be out there.” –-Nathaniel’s Father (Addressing Lopez, when Lopez tracked him down.)

“This chance encounter, this serendipitous moment on the street, has led to a 3-year relationship.” –Lopez


Friday Night Politics, 35,000 Showed: Will You?

photographs by author

Independence Mall, Philadelphia, PA; April 18, 2008; An observation and endorsement of “We the people…”

As the sun descends, I lay in the grass near Chestnut Street, the zenith of the long, downward-sloping expanse of Independence Mall. I can make out the prequel to a full moon under the blue sky; its depth washed out by the beach ball size, florescent flash emanating from the stage area several blocks ahead.

Meanwhile, families, students, and contented and forlorn locals of varied age and race continue converging on the green carpet separated by streets and walkways.

We wait for Barack Obama.

Imagine plays over the speakers: A performance from Live’s frontman Ed Kowalczyk. After a couple of solos, Will.I.Am, lead singer for the Black Eyed Peas, joins Kowalczyk in a rendition of Where is the Love.

As that anti-climatic moment wanes, we wait some more.

Pleasant enough, considering that Friday is enjoying its first warm spring day in Philly.

About an hour later, at 8:45 p.m., a cheer from the crowd, one of a string, but this one seems to linger. A microphone transmits Obama’s introduction. I start walking toward the stage and pass by the Liberty Bell.

Expectations are high after the speech he gave here last month, the one that now stands alongside the orations of Kennedy and M.L.K.

Absorbed by the encompassing bubble of bated hope and Obama’s words, I stop intermittently.

He speaks for 20-30 minutes.

He broaches a McCain presidency as more Bush policy, under new leadership. He addresses Clinton’s propensity to work within Washington’s fractured politics in contradiction to the new political stage he seeks to create. He cites our country’s economic, social, and military woes.

He does not say anything particularly brilliant. But it does not matter. His speech was earth shattering before he arrived.

Thirty-five thousand people, Obama’s largest audience to date, gathered on the land that birthed this country’s freedom for Friday night politics!

And in doing so, we expanded the footprint of our minds beyond our doorways.

We needn’t wait. But we did. And now our hopes and fears spill into 4 square blocks and trickle down the arteries.


Not Dickens’ Christmas Tale: Still, the Spirits Wander On

Trafalgar Square Christmas Cheer

Photograph by author

It is January, not the best time to take a trip to London. The cold comes and goes; and on a good day, 45 degrees is not so bad if you dress properly. Of course, the first semi-warm day and I decide to “layer.” 
 It is my husband’s last night here. I have to make somewhat of an effort, don’t I? By which I mean: jeans, a hoodie, a jean jacket, and boots. But they are really cute jeans – the type that require 3-inch heels to accommodate the longer cut that impresses slendering height. And the hoodie is a purple, synthetic, snuggly fit Armani with an oversized hood and white detailing on the cuffs. I’m not a label whore, but that’s got to count for something…

After rearranging the contents of our bags, we head out around 3 pm. We begin our excursion at Trafalgar Square, all the while snapping pictures and trying to climb the lions. (Admit it – it’s sometimes fun to play the blatant tourist). Then, a quick “oohing and ahhing” at the 10 Downing Street entranceway, followed by a snack across the street.

At 5pm, we stop in for mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The space feels blessed. Its cross-shaped intersection mends above the second largest freestanding dome in the world. On lookers and parishioners muse in the spirit of Christmas. Organs and reverberating hymns fill the cavity. The location has been a holy site since 604 A.D., although the edifice has been destroyed and reconstructed a handful of times; the latest design architected by Sir Christopher Wren, after the Great Fire of London.

As night falls, we go to Leicester Square. A carnival has pocketed the space for the holidays. Bumper cars, a giant rotating stick that looks like it has two spinning wheels on each end (complete with slack-jawed figurines), cotton candy, dinging bells, and popcorn air dance with our senses. Even the English have taken a break for the holidays, releasing the stick momentarily. We take a spin in the bumper cars. The cars are faster here and you can really feel the jerk upon impact, so we take another. This time, I drive.

We end the night at a cafe – a perfect day.

The Morning After

I wish I could say the same about the next morning, but I can’t. My body burned and pounded.Great – down with the flu on the first solo day of my trip. And I have to change hotels again – the downside of getting hooked up with friendly rates in decent accommodations. But I mustn’t complain. Otherwise, I would be on a plane home, with the dollar being in a more terrible way than I am at the moment.

After checking into my new accommodations, I head for the Indian restaurant across the street.

“May I please have some Dal?” I ask, as I rest my arms on the white tablecloth.

“And…” the waiter prompts.

“…and Nann, and make that a large Dal?”

He continues staring through me. “That’s it,” I squeeze out, “Look, I am sick, and I can’t eat anything else.”

“Then you’ll have to take it to go.”

“That’s fine,” I quip and shift into my chair sideways; my eyes blurring out the triptych of windows on either side of the restaurant’s facade.

“Hello,” I say instinctively to the only other customer in the room – a small, unassuming woman with silver hair and olive skin.

“Where are you from,” she asks, taking note of my accent.

“Philadelphia.”

“Why are you here – holiday?”

“No, I’m here searching out stories about South Asians in London. Their stories begin about a generation or so before that of South Asians stateside…thought it would be an interesting comparison. I am a writer,” I said in jumbled order. Hey, I am sick over here. She nods. “Actually, I would like to hear your story if that’s okay. Do you mind if I come sit with you for a moment?”

With that, my conversation with Joyce began.


Haleakala, Maui: A Day Trip, Perhaps?

photograph by author

Haleakala Crater — a spell binding drive…

The sunrise at Haleakala Crater in Maui is at the top of “must see” tourist destinations. Being so close to the equator, the daylight is a 12-hour cycle, approximately 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Not keen on the idea of getting up at 3:30 in the morning and splinting yourself with layers of clothing in preparation for wintry 30-degree temperatures? Then opt for a day trip, and enjoy it!

As we were reminded by the hotel staff, the sun’s glows play off of the clouds — the more clouds the more colors. So if you are an early riser, make sure the weather forecasters bet on dawn paying its dues. We chose to take the trip midday (less crowded). It was December — the height of the rainy season.

Horses lounged in the lush green grass — only expending energy to refuel. Turnabouts offered glimpses of an ocean haze beyond the expanse of undulating land. As we sloped around each new ridge, yellow rays wavered in silver-grey plumes. Green pastures gave way to dry brush and rock-strewn sediment. Clouds gushed and twirled in a hurried tempo. And the blue sky consumed it all.

An approaching storm broke the enchanted Alice in Wonderland spell. And we hauled ass on our descent. We never made it to the crater — pretty close though. Rent a convertible and the ethereal wind-up will unshackle your reality. The vastness of space alerts your senses. And, without hindrance, primary colors intersperse with their complements as the landscape cuts into the sky.


After Gazing Upon the Liberty Bell, How About Sensing Today’s Philadelphia?

Summer Zen -- Rittenhouse Park

photograph by author

Standing at the corner of Walnut and 19th Street, I watch as a Hugo Boss suit, French cuffs, Jimmy Choos, and Burberry Bags make their way up Walnut Street from the East. A Beatles tee, vintage jeans, Cargo shorts, and flip-flops make their way down from the West. They follow the perimeter of the square’s stonewalled entrance and cross into one of the park’s more ornate passageways alongside one another.

Located between University City and the swanky shops of Rittenhouse Row, the park and the city blocks flanking its perimeter share a symbiotic relationship that embodies the revitalization of Philadelphia and its residents.

The unique sense of community and artistic vibe Rittenhouse Park expresses has not gone unnoticed. In 2005, Robert Downey Sr., the namesake of his famous son, released the documentary, Rittenhouse Square. In the film, Downey expounds on the juxtaposition of the square and its’ residents. Urbanite, Jan Jacobs, has referred to the square as the perfect American neighborhood.

Crossing the street, I angle my way into the square’s urban refuge and notice the Hugo Boss suit. The man adorning it grins as a little boy, with his curly-brown locks tousling about, runs toward him. The spiky-haired guy in his Beatles tee swaggers toward a group of friends gathered around one of the many blankets dotting the grass.

The scene would put a smile on William Penn’s face, I imagine. During the late 17th century, Penn envisioned a city plan housing 5 park-squares, urban refuges, where people could congregate and share ideas. Adorned with Victorian architecture, residential high-rises, outdoor restaurants, pubs, specialty shops, hotels, bookstores, and the world famous Curtis Institute of Music, the surrounding bounty engages and attracts eclectic new acts that play harmoniously with its center-stage performance. Like a present-day Monet painting, the grounds capture the fluidity of color in style.

It is 6:00 p.m. on Friday. My husband and I are meeting at the park before getting together with some friends for a drink at Rouge. (The outdoor seating offers a front-row view of the park.)

Shaded by a bounty of trees, my strut shifts into an amble. I take a moment and inhale the scent of spring that permeates from the well-manicured gardens.

Fashionistas loiter about. A couple of twenty-something guys toss a Frisbee. An artist sets up his easel. Two women garbed in colorful Saris pass by.

Casting my eyes down one of the webbed walkways lined with benches, I see no sign of my husband near our usual bench. A call to his cell indicates he is on the other line. Brushing past a police officer (a normal presence in the park), I spot him near the reflecting pool. His eyes catch mine. He waves and puts up an index finger, indicating that he should be available within the minute.

Not holding my breath, I set my tote down on the nearest bench.

As I crack open my newly purchased Marian Keyes novel, the scurried activity of silver-haired men catches my eye. Preparing to engage in what I can only surmise to be the ultimate chess playoff, they set up three boards on three consecutive benches. Each player straddles the end of his respective concrete slab contemplating his attack. Their friends youthfully jostle about, keeping abreast of the action on all fronts.

With the strum of a guitar, my mind segues. Sure enough, it’s the dark-haired musician clad in his signature-black tee and jeans. As he plays, he checks out the scenery from atop a slab of concrete resting on columns that surround the plaza’s interior perimeter.

Having seen one another around, we both exchange a smile. Sitting in close proximity, our eyes rest on a homeless man with one arm stretched out over the reflecting pool. After a short pause, his arm unlocks, and he tosses a coin into the fountain. Once again the guitarist and I exchange a smile.

“Ready?” my husband asks.

“Let’s roll…”