Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The DIY In Me

By no means do I consider myself "very domestic." "Slightly domestic" doesn't fit either. But, I do have a creative side that likes to create things with my vision and hands. As I've mentioned before, I setup my sewing machine (Random Trivia: I read somewhere that there are more personal computers in American households than sewing machines) and haven't finished anything yet (I'm still having a challenge with zippers) but, here is a before and after photo of my latest project. I found these two tables at the local Goodwill and I re-did one of them. I had the glass beads hanging around and thought I'd put them to use. Haven't decided what to do with the other table.

Monday, September 26, 2005

UPDATED Nov. 6, 2005: New York in 1,860 Minutes

My quick trip to New York over the weekend was incredible! I probably walked about ten miles on Saturday, my legs are still sore. I like walking Manhattan streets, you never know what you'll stumble across , like a farmer's market, quirky little shop or a small dog!

Like a few of my other posts, there is so much to share that I'm gonna have to delay in posting the experience for another time. There are so many stories within the big story. In the meantime, enjoy a few images.

Updated: November 6, 2005

The opportunity to have a book personally signed by Stephen King was all I needed to make up my mind in going to New York for a quick weekend in September to enjoy some of the events of the New Yorker Festival. Usually my travels are tied to business and on previous trips to the New York City area, I have stayed in a castle and other plush accommodations.

Since I was flipping the bill on this brief trip, I opted for the YMCA Hotel near Central Park. Ironically, I cashed in some Delta SkyMiles to fly first class (flying on First Class SkySaver, which saved me 5,000 miles from Coach SkyChoice). To keep costs down even more, I looked into using my American Express Rewards to purchase tickets for the various events through TicketMaster, however, since I cashed in most of my points when I moved, I didn't have enough to redeem. But, $25 for most events was a decent price.

I arrived at the YMCA Hotel around 11:00 PM. My small, yet clean, single bedroom was perfect. Linens and towels were provided (no face cloth). The front desk clerk instructed me that my key-card let me into the bathrooms. When nature called, I followed the signs to the bathrooms and found an entire hallway of bathrooms. I tried the key-card on each door and each time, a red light denied me. I wondered if there was suppose to be a code, somehow tied to my room number. After eight tries, a green light gave me the go ahead to well, go.

I was half-expecting a communal bathroom: multiple toilets, showers and sinks. The bathrooms were labeled co-ed so I had no idea how that was going to work out. To my surprise, the golden key unlocked the door to a private (clean) bathroom with toilet, shower and sink.

The next day, I attended a panel discussion with CNN's Christian Amanpour and other journalists concerning advocacy journalism. The events and actions (or lack of) by the US government following Hurricane Katrina provided easy conversation. Following the discussion, I headed to the festival's headquarters to stand in line for Mr. King. To my horror (we're talking Stephen King), signs were posted on the bookstore stating that the tickets for the King book signing had been allocated.


No where in the literature was there mention that tickets were needed. I sobbed to one of the festival volunteers, "but I came from Florida. How were we supposed to know we needed tickets?"

She explained that "it's bookstore policy...only 150 tickets were allocated...the only people that would know are people who shop at the bookstore."

Lame excuse. Apparently, the bookstore didn't want thousands of fans mobbing the store and implemented this free ticket policy. Had I known that in advance, I would have lined up the night prior for tickets.

Instead, I hung around in the seating area, sucking on the Altoid samples, watching National Geographic Traveler on the plasma television and chatting up the Song Airlines sales folks. And then, the literary genius appeared.

Donning a white tee-shirt stating, "I Make Stuff Up" and blue jeans, Mr. King shook hands with the author signing next to him and his signing began. He seemed thinner and more fragile, than I had pictured. He also seemed sincere when meeting his fans.

I didn't get a book signed but I did get close enough to see him, so close I could spit on him - not that I would! The bookstore people didn't make it easy for those of us who wanted a close look at him. The professional photographers there on assignment and the bookstore staff got in a little huff about visibility.

I won't admit that I flew to New York for nothing, I had already turned something into it and decided to make some more. Outside was a fantastic farmer's market full of fall goodies associated with the cooler climates. Crisp apples, fresh squeezed grape juice, baked goods with pumpkin and cinnamon. I picked up lunch and a snack for the trip home. Wandering back to the hotel to freshen up for the evening, I wandered into what seemed like a 7-block festival. I weaved in and out of the street vendors, taking in the sights of different people and aromas of various foods. It was a magnificent fall day.

I spent the evening with Sleater-Kinney, the queens of punk rock, and 300 of my new friends. Not knowing what to expect, the three young ladies came out in boho tops, jeans and bob-cut hair. They discussed their evolution over the past decade and how the importance of independent bands. The band played on and I was caught-up in their beat.

On the way out, a woman of about 60 years old asked if their music was for sale at the festival's headquarters - "no, you'll have to get it at a record shop."

I headed to the Virgin Megastore for my copy of the "The Woods," their latest release.

And Sunday morning, my 6:00 AM flight took me home.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

First Year Anniversary Following "I Do"

One of the funniest things I recall from my divorce hearing was getting up and swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Why is this funny? Because the response is, "I do."

How ironic, I thought. A marriage begins with "I do" and ends with "I do." In an odd way, it reaches full circle.

With the anniversary of my divorce coming up, I've been thinking about the past year and all I've gone through. I moved out of my apartment, went to Japan for a month, moved in with a friend, condo purchase fell through, numbed my heart, moved in with my uncle and his family, moved to northern Fla. and began a new job and new life. I don't think I would have been able to get through all of the change and emotion I've experienced without the "anti-anxiety seeds." And I don't care what Tom Cruise says, these things are better than any exercise.

This past March, I reached an emotional low point in my life and questioned my self-worth and purpose. For three months I cried for no reason. I cried on the plane. I cried while walking down city streets. I cried sitting at my desk. The ultimate low point was spending 24-hours crying then telling my roommate (while crying) that I was going to check myself into a mental institution for a few days. She didn't let on that this freaked her out, but she called Zelda Mae, who convinced me not to do it because although I could probably check myself in, I probably couldn't check myself out.

I suffered from depression (and I think I always have and still am, but not to that degree) but after hitting that low point, I chose to live vs. the other and began an upswing to bring me out of the hole.

Parts of my life still have small shadows of darkness but for the most part, I now see the vibrancy of life. I still have wounds to heal, walls to mend and a heart to fill but I'll get there, eventually.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Reconnecting With a Certain Guy

Key West reminds me of a friend I used to work with in the Everglades. This past week was the first time I've visited there in about two years. It was also when I received a phone call from this guy I haven't heard from since March. (Good thing I haven't changed my cell phone!)

We chatted and got caught up with each of our lives. I was so happy to hear from him. He always made me smile with his contagious, positive outlook and radiance. I'm glad he's doing fine.

Being the SSSS Girl

Booking a flight less than 24 hours prior to departure, one-way gets you an intimate meeting with TSA officials. My work schedule had me in Key West for one night then returning to Tallahassee. Things changed and I now needed to fly between Key West and Miami, eventually returning to Tally later in the week.

Upon checking in at the Key West airport (don't know if it's international, I can tell you it's SMALL), I was told that I would have to watch as my check-in luggage was searched. "OK," I thought. So, I watched as the TSA man searched my bag, rubbing little white sheets of paper inside the pockets and sticking it in some sort of machine. While he waited for the results, he tossed his wand, like a baton. Don't know if that was for my entertainment or his.

After thoroughly molesting my bag, he tucked in the TSA sheet that supposedly explains why my bag had to be hand checked and offered hints on how to pack to avoid future hand searches - none of which said, "don't book a one-way ticket last minute."

Greeted by the friendly TSA officials at security, one of them calls out, "we got an SSSS Girl coming through." As I discovered, SSSS does not stand for: Sassy, Spectacular, Smashing and Silly. I'd rather be an "It Girl" than an "SSSS Girl," but at least I was something.

One official thoroughly examines my boarding pass, comparing it to my drivers license (which, contains a photo of me from 10 years ago, donning puffy hair and glasses) and me. She hands it to me and I step two feet to be greeted by another official who scrutinized my boarding pass, drivers license then me.

Well versed in the drill of TSA security, all of my possessions are placed on the belt, including my shoes, sunglasses and hair clips. I pass through to the other side, have my boarding pass, drivers license and me compared, again, and am told to take a seat while I watch my carry-on luggage being molested (half-assed, I must say). A female TSA agent is needed to search me and I chime in with my two cents that I don't mind having the tan, 20-something, with a secret tattoo peeping from his sleeve pat me down. All this earned me were icy glares and more time in the "penalty box."

Eventually, an agent comes over and I ask what an SSSS Girl is. She says, "oh, it's special people, like celebrities, VIPs..." I finish her sentence: "and people who book one-way flights last minute."

Upon realizing I was not hiding any explosives, weapons or lighters on body, I was free to go with a story to tell.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

John Crawford: The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell

The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell - An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in Iraq; by John Crawford, published by Riverhead Books, 2005.

"This is my first book signing and I thought I'd be sitting in a corner, sign a few books and 15 minutes later go home and take a nap," the former Florida National Guardsmen told the audience of about 150 at the local bookstore while the C-SPAN cameraman adjusted his tripod.

In the fall of 2002, Crawford was shy of 2 credits from graduating from Florida State University and on his honeymoon when he learned he was be shipped to Iraq. Once there, he wrote a story and a book publisher asked him if he could write a book. And thus, the book was born.

Crawford is a storyteller and almost overnight has become a spokesman for the soldiers who have and are currently serving in Iraq. His book offers grit and truth on what it's like to serve and live in conditions unimaginable to most Americans. His perspective is fresh, considering for the past few years we've been hearing the government's and journalists' perspectives. The stories are not in chronological order, however as he points out, the language becomes "stronger" as the conditions of deployment become more difficult.

Today marked his first book signing. He's been making the media rounds, including appearances on the Daily Show with John Stewart and National Public Radio. I heard his interview on NPR and read an interview with him in last Sunday's paper. Prior to the signing, I had not read the book. Many in the audience have already read it twice and even three times.

"The way you talk in war is different than what's appropriate for a family book store," he said as he explained how he liked to use and speak the dialogue in his book, but would modify it for today's G-rated audience.

When one of the audience participants thanked him for writing the book and serving the country, he joked that he never knows how to respond to people thanking him for serving. "It's not like I got an RSVP or was invited to go to Baghdad," he said.

I grant you an RSVP to read the book. It's especially a good read for those of you who wonder why soldiers return as different people. No matter what the rhetoric says, war hardens people. (But don't tell my father I'm reading it, he couldn't handle the profanity in "The Breakfast Club" and I can't imagine what he'd say about this.)

(Note: And if you catch the recording on C-SPAN, you'll get to see 10 seconds of my 15-minutes of fame ticked off).

Friday, September 09, 2005

Are We All That Different?

I visited Mission San Luis Apalachee in Tallahassee today, one of more than 100 mission settlements established in Spanish Florida between the 1560s and 1690s and a National Historic Landmark. As a mission, both Apalachee Indians and Spaniards lived here. In the early 1700s, the British settled into Charleston, SC and began making trips to Spanish Florida and destroyed the Spanish missions. Upon reaching Mission San Luis, they annihilated all buildings and it wasn't until 2000 when the first formal mass was held at the mission, since 1704. The rebuilding of the mission is credited to archeological who have been piecing together history through excavation.

In 1704, the Spanish turned Florida over to the Brits, forcing the Spaniards and all members of the Apalachee tribe to migrate to Cuba. It wasn't until 1996 that descendants of the Apalachee Indians, of the "Talimali Band" were discovered living in Louisiana. Various records indicate that following the dismantling of the mission in 1704, some fled to Mobile, AL vs. to Cuba and then eventually to Louisiana. It is estimated that about 250 - 300 members are alive today.

As usual, I became exhilarated from learning more about Florida's history. The whispering breeze rustled through the trees while insects buzzed with electrifying cracks to drown out 21st Century noises. Excavation plots dot the area along with costumed people playing the role of 16th century Christians (I was dressed as a 21st century heathen with my shorts, sandals and summer top).

One of the most fascinating discoveries I had, however, reminded me of Japan. The above photo is a replica of an Apalachee Indian community center, typical of the late 1600s and early 1700s. The photo here is of a Japanese house from Shijimizuka Ruins in Hamamatsu Prefecture, typical of 1,000 - 2,000 BC living quarters.

Thatch is thatch, but I saw similarities between the two. Certainly, the Apalachees of Florida had no way of going to Japan to study architecture and there really is only a few ways to build a shelter, but aren't the similarities something? As people, when it comes down to it, are we really different from each other?

Are We All That Different - 2

Shijimizuka Ruins, Hamamatsu City, Japan. Dates 1,000 - 2,000 BC, the Jomon Period. See the similarities to the Apalachee Indian building, which dates 1560s to early 1700s.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

It's Not a Black Thing But a Family Thang

I experienced the world of Tom Joyner this past weekend - and when my thoughts are composed, I'll share 'em. That's me picutred with him.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Meets the Everlgades

More images of Hurricane Katrina's visit to Flamingo Lodge & Marina in Everglades National Park.

Images of Katrina

Just a few images from Flamingo Lodge in Everglades National Park following Katrina.