Monday, June 29, 2009
Sunny and pleasant
I am BACK, with lots of stories, of course. Did you miss me? I’ve broken up the post into categories with sub-headings, so you can skip the stuff that doesn’t interest you and only read what does.
And, if you didn’t get a chance to stop by and visit Lara’s blog on Friday, when she hosted a stop on the DIXIE DUST RUMORS blog tour, please do that today. I’d love a comment! She asked some great questions.
Okay, here we go:
The Heath Care Rally, Washington, DC on June 25
Out the door by 4:30 AM; drive to city wasn’t bad. I really don’t like driving in Manhattan, but the trains don’t start running early enough to get me there for an event like this. I handed off the car when I got down there, so the car went back home, I checked in, and got on the bus. Looked like I was the only one who paid attention to the security restrictions memo — wow, did people bring a lot of stuff!
The first blow came at check in, where I found out that, not only was I the only one from my local, but the only one from my union and its affiliates in the Broadway community, period. Seems they “opted out” because single payer is not on the table for this round of health care reform. I felt like I’d been kicked in the gut — first of all, my union has betrayed me YET AGAIN. Not only have they made it impossible for me to have insurance, even as a union member, but they won’t advocate a policy that will make it possible for me to get insurance. I plan to discuss it with my rep in detail next week (he’s out of the office this week) — I like him and trust him and he will give me the overview. Second, if we weren’t supposed to attend, why was the flyer circulated, and, if the decision was made AFTER circulation, why didn’t anyone let me know? They knew I planned to attend.
Would it have changed my attendance? No. I would have attended anyway. I deserve a health care option, whether the union believes I do or not.
The CUNY teachers’ union very kindly scooped me up and made me an honorary member of their contingent.
The trip down was fine. I read a bit, talked to some of my fellow attendees, who were mostly teachers, nurses, and power company apprentices.
We were dropped off at Union Station in DC and walked over to Upper Senate Park — which was a much shorter walk than I expected. They handed out lunch boxes — veggie wraps, chips, a cookie, water. Not bad. Won’t make my list of top ten meals, but it was edible.
New York City sent down nearly 10,000 people for the rally (3-4,000 more than expected), which was pretty good, and we mingled with people who’d come in from all over the country. The atmosphere was both cheerful and determined. The place was packed, but orderly, and people were in good spirits. It was nice to see my Senators leading the charge and various Representatives from our area speaking, along with actress Edie Falco, who, as a breast cancer survivor, has come to know the health care system intimately.
It was hot, it was humid, it was sunny. I tried to Tweet from the park, but couldn’t hook into a wi-fi signal. I wandered around a bit, moving to the edges of the park, and a bit out of the crowd. A mix of Congressional staffers were there, some with the speakers, some just stopping by during their lunch hour, or as they moved about their day.
One guy, who’d flipped his ID badge so I couldn’t read it and refused to give me his name made fun of the rally, stating it was a waste of time and resources, and said, “Health care is not a right; it’s a privilege.”
He can afford to feel that way — he’s on the Congressional Health Plan!
No trashcans and no porta-potties. I realize there are security concerns, but do they really think that heaping trash in a pile on the side of the park is safer than trash bags or bins? One could just as easily put something to cause trouble into one of the empty lunch boxes.
I headed past the Capitol Building in the direction of my meeting. The architecture of the building fascinates me and I took quite a few pictures of it. And everyone running around is either Very Young or an Old White Guy complete with entourage.
I found The Library of Congress, my personal temple. I had a few spare minutes, and would have loved to run inside and look around, but there was a line. I also thought it was kind of cool that The Library of Congress is next to the Supreme Court I don’t know why I think it’s cool, but I do.
DC has something called an “Open Park Project” of wi-fi hotspots. You can pick up free wi-fi in front of the Supreme Court or The Library of Congress and a variety of other areas. Except if you’re using my iPod Touch. Now, I bought the iPod Touch when I did specifically SO I could Tweet from the rally.
I don’t know DC geography and the maps posted didn’t make any sense to me. And, since I couldn’t hook into wi-fi, the mapping app on the iPod didn’t work. I was lost. I know, huge surprise.
I asked a cop for directions and got them. Unfortunately, he told me to turn left at the next corner instead of right, so I would up going off in the wrong direction. (Just like asking for directions in London — don’t. Use the A-Z instead or you’ll never get where you’re going).
I found another very nice cop (I was surprised by how nice all the cops were, considering how many stupid people they have to deal with every day), who got me sorted in the right direction. As we stood chatting,a woman walked by wearing a moronic grin and a tee shirt which read, “Jesus would vote against health care.”
Before I could say anything, the cop shook his head and said, “It’s really best not to engage with her.” She’s a regular in the neighborhood who believes no one should have health care or go to a doctor; that Jesus decides whether or not you “deserve” to recover from an illness.
Important Lesson: Government cars don’t honor traffic lights even when they’re not part of a convoy or don’t have sirens on. In other words, just because the signal tells you to walk doesn’t mean that you won’t get flattened by a large black car running a red light.
Finally found the Rayburn Building. Security wasn’t anywhere near as bad as expected — those guys are really overworked and under-appreciated. The Stupidity Quotient and the Nut Quotient are even higher in DC than they are in NY. (Although,when you look at what’s going on in the Albany Legislature right now, both Stupidity Quotient and Nut Quotients have gone through the roof).
I was early for the meeting with my Congresswoman, so I got directions to the cafeteria, which turns out to be in a different building, accessible via tunnel. I wandered around the tunnels for a bit, enjoying the way one can travel between buildings — helpful in lousy weather or crowded conditions. Somehow, I accumulated several Iraq veterans in fatigues who were on their way to meet with their Representative but had gotten lost. I’d passed the office in my travels, and, while I couldn’t explain to them how to get there, I could walk them there. I headed back to the cafeteria and grabbed a coffee and wound up in a conversation with several of the pages. It started in line with one page who was having a bad day, and I guess they get barked at a lot, because all of a sudden, I was surrounded by a bunch of them, like wading into a group of shelter dogs. I”m sure their lives were made more difficult on a day like this, with thousands of people flooding in to talk to the Reps, and at least I made them laugh.
Headed back to my Rep’s office (I actually knew my way around by now) and met some of the other people also scheduled for the meeting. My Rep was on the floor for a vote, so we met with one of the aides. It was fine with me; voting is how legislation is passed, and that’s why we sent her to DC, to vote for the legislation we want. But, of course, there was one person in the group who had a hissy fit.
One of the other guys in the group had been in DC for several days, making the rounds of Senators and Reps. He’s with CWA and was very articulate. There was also a woman from a local grass-roots organization and three others from three different organizations, and me. What I liked about the meeting was that it was an actual discussion — not one side talking AT the other and then the other side talking back. There was an exchange of ideas and brainstorming on various ideas and how to get them done, and the roles that each of us could take in helping move things forward to a common goal. I was pleasantly surprised that it was interactive instead of presentational. There’s already been some follow-up by all of us, and several of the people are people with whom I’ll stay in touch — including those in the office.
I was very impressed with my Congresswoman’s local staff, and I am equally impressed by her DC staff. They handle people diplomatically and have great follow-up. I feel as though my opinions are taken into consideration. I am only one voice and not everything will go my way every time, but at least it’s weighed in to the bigger picture, and that’s why we pay our representatives — to represent us.
I had hoped to track down two Congressmen from other states who have larger ambitions, who I’ve nicknamed Bonehead and Can’t Do — use your imagination, it’s close enough to their given names — and have a few words with them, but they, too were on the floor for votes.
The meeting ran far longer than I expected, and it was past time to meet the bus to get back to NY. I called the organizer to let her know I was on my way, sprinted past the United States Botanic Garden (which I must come back to visit), and, much to the surprise and chagrin of some of the cops, cut across the Capitol Plaza, barricades or not. I sprinted across Upper Senate Park headed back towards Union Station At the light, some very nice EMS guys stopped me for a few minutes because they saw I was over-heated and dehydrated. They got me back on track, and I swung through Union Station to pick up a salad and some water for the trip back.
I was still one of the first people back on the bus.
And I was one of the only people who’d thought about picking up something to eat for the trip back.
The salad and the water revived me. It took nearly an hour for the bus to get out of the area around Union Station and back onto the highway. I settled in and read Yasmine Galenorn’s DEMON MISTRESS and listened to music on the iPod.
They dropped some of us off at Madison Square Garden, I walked back to Grand Central, and missed my train by ONE MINUTE. I hate it when that happens. I had to wait a half hour for the next one and deal with Metro North’s higher prices and lower service.
I got home a little before midnight. I was rather infuriated to discover that there had been NO coverage of the rally on the news channels AT ALL — everything was exclusively about Michael Jackson’s death. Yes, it’s horrible for his friends and family, but it is not the only news story in the world, and for the stations to cover it exclusively instead of having it as ONE of the stories breaking that day is ridiculous. Look, I’m sorry he’s dead and all, but that story is not more important than 47 million Americans without health insurance or what’s going on in Iran or any of a handful of other events. MEDIAFAIL.
There’s all this commotion about Gov. Mark Sanford, and, of course, I have an opinion. First of all, it was badly handled. All he had to do to prevent such a public, volcanic meltdown was to say to his staff, “I will be out of town for a few days to handle some personal business; the Lt. Gov. is in charge.” And then he and his family could have unrolled things in a more subtle and private fashion, instead of building the obvious lies that had to explode in his face. Second, if he wasn’t such a hypocrite, it wouldn’t have gotten so much attention. For years, he’s passed harsh judgments on others. Once the affair started, one would think he would be self-aware enough to realize how it felt to be in those shoes, and, if he wasn’t going to reverse course, he could have at least shut up. But he continued to be judgmental, and it’s come back to bite him in the butt. Look, if he really loves this woman, may he have a long and happy life with her; it’s none of my business. But he made it everyone’s business when he handled it so poorly. Kudos to his wife for not standing beside him and letting him make a fool out of her, like so many of these political wives do. As far as his future, it’s up to his constituency to decide what will happen in his home state. The only time it becomes an issue beyond that is if he tries to run for a more national office. On a human level, I feel bad for him and for his family. The press conference was excruciating. But it was such an enormous act of self-sabotage, I’d love to hear a psych expert profile it.
As far as the meltdown in Albany, I am tired of the dysfunction on that level. Let’s wipe out everyone in power there and have the people take a new vote WITHOUT TIME FOR CAMPAIGNS. Give those interested in representing us one week to convince us they’ll do a better job, and let’s vote a whole new group in there. Enough already.
Nothing like heading out the door at 6 AM when you’ve come home at midnight after a 16-hour day that covered 450 miles on the road and several miles running around on foot after two hours’ sleep. Plus when there’s banking and post office business to do and you have to leave before anything’s open.
Fortunately, by the time I hit Saratoga, places like banks and post offices were open. So I could have a divine almond croissant at Mrs. London’s, and then I could hook into a cafe where my Macbook picked up wi-fi (although the iPod still didn’t) and I could catch up on some email, Tweet about DC, and take care of my banking and post office errands. Spent more than I meant to, but at least it all got done. This week will be hell without the handbasket, and I’ve got to get my ducks in a row.
Stopped somewhere in VT for lunch and a quick wi-fi (still no luck with the iPod). I was so tired I was nauseous, and I started to worry I’d fall asleep at the wheel. Border traffic bad, but got to the hotel mid-afternoon. Checked in, showered,napped. Woke up feeling like hell. Ordered room service (rare), a steak and baked potato (even rarer).
Covered the first round, which was fun, but I wasn’t in any shape to do the type of running around I usually do. I have to say that this is the most media-savvy group of draft picks I’ve seen since I started covering the draft in 2002.
Hung out with some friends/colleagues I only see once a year at this event. We’re all at pretty major turning points in our lives, so the talk had little to do with hockey and a lot to do with life stuff. Went to bed pretty early for me (I usually get to bed around 3 AM on draft weekend).
Leisurely morning, hooked into hotel wi-fi (again, not with iPod), caught up on some stuff, read a little, indulged myself with several newspapers, felt better. The next six rounds of the draft went pretty fast; gathered info and headed back.
Originally I was going to drive until I was tired and then just check into a motel and head back Sunday. However, my friend in CT called and invited me over, so I drove all the way back down, swung by the apartment to check on the cats and pick up the laundry, and went to CT. Also picked up mail, and found yet an additional extortion attempt from UHaul — they are going to make my life HELL this week. On the upside, my new yoga DVDs arrived.
Yes, I took my mat with me this weekend and maintained at least my morning yoga practice in the hotel.
Went to my friend’s place for a late dinner, did laundry, hooked into the wi-fi — the iPod STILL doesn’t work. Spent about 45 minutes with AppleCare, who thinks the problem is with the iPod. So I’ve got an appointment at the Genius Bar on Tuesday morning — I so do not need that this week, but the reason I bought the Touch is so I could hook into MobileMe and Twitter and get email and all that, and IT HAS TO WORK. If all I needed it for was music, I would have stuck to the much cheaper Nano in one of my favorite colors.
And back to life stuff
Had a nice, restful Sunday at my friend’s place, working on my articles, recovering from the travelling, and gearing up from a Week of Hell Courtesy of UHaul.
I started working with one of the new yoga DVDs, MORNING, NOON AND NIGHT. I like it. I feel like my practice has hit a plateau, and it was time for a challenge. The evening practice is less challenging than my current one, more restorative. The morning practice is HARD. I’m not fond of lunges in the morning. But I’m willing to give it a try for awhile and challenge myself.
It looks like I’ve landed a new gig — I won’t be able to talk about it until there are signed contracts, but I’m pretty excited.
I’ve got a lot of follow up to do today from the past four days, and I’ve got some client projects to handle. I need to check job boards and get out some pitches, but we’ll see — I might not be able to do that until tomorrow or Wednesday. I also have to get into another fight with UHaul.
I’m not going to get much writing done this week, but, provided I survive the week intact, things will get better starting next week.
Think good thoughts for me, okay?