Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Three Tired Women

Big conferences are tiring. Days start early and end late. You have to be (or appear to be) knowledgeable, friendly, and interested for 10-14 hours a day. You do a lot of sitting (if you're a workshop participant), standing (if you staff an exhibit hall booth), and walking (because whatever you need - food, ATM, sleep - will be miles away from wherever you are at the moment).

Then there are all the little unexpected surprises. Temperatures reaching the upper 80s with 70% humidity in a country that eschews air-conditioning. A computer that refuses to acknowledge your heretofore-acknowledged photo disk (aaargh!). Being consigned to two weeks' of cold breakfast because your particular lanyard is the wrong color (white, not purple or red).

Welcome to Lambeth Conference 2008.

But not all of the unexpected surprises are bad ones. The best kind are the impromptu conversations that crop up throughout the day. Some of the conversations are bridge-builders, allowing the people at either end of the bridge to at least meet in the middle. Some are laden with "isn't it a small world?" and the wonders of six degrees of separation. And some start out very ordinary and grow into conversations of amazing possibilities.

The other evening after a long day in the exhibit hall, friend Elizabeth and I met up with another friend, Hellen Wangusa, on our way back to our dorm. Hellen is the Anglican Observer at the United Nations and based in our offices in New York. We were three tired women, I tell ya', as this kind of conference wrings it out of a person. The main topic of conversation as we made our way to the dorm was where to eat dinner - go down to Canterbury or endure one more University of Kent meal. Hellen decided not to join us in Canterbury but opted to come to our rooms while we unloaded our laptops and put on comfortable shoes.

We didn't intend to get into deep conversation about anything. We were tired. We were hungry. But at some point our brains woke up and big things started happening. It started off with a mention that many voices weren't being heard during the Lambeth program time, even the time for spouses. American women (well, fine, we were expecting to be marginalized) and developing world women were virtually left out of the program presentations. We were particularly concerned that our sisters from remote areas of South India, Myanmar, Kenya, and many other areas didn't have a forum for their compelling stories. It was obvious to all of us that those stories weren't going to push through at this Lambeth Conference. How could that change in the future?

Hellen sat on my bed, while Elizabeth and I drew chairs closer into a tighter circle as the conversation progressed. Could Hellen's office not find a way to pull together all the powerful women's groups and networks across the Anglican Communion (and there are many) to make sure these incredible stories of triumph and need and despair and hope rise above the silly din of political posturing? Believe it or not, no such umbrella task force exists. These groups seem to work at cross-purposes most of the time, accomplishing not much of anything except baby-steps to affect change.

I loved Hellen's story about her daughter's explanation of music re-mix. "Mom, it's like your old familiar music in the background, while our new interpretation is layered on the top, giving the old song new life." In other words, we have the comfortable/familiar given a new spark.

Well, "re-mix" became our watchword. How could we re-mix, re-imagine a new way to work together? The old familiar, with the new/young/fresh? Specific goals and ways to reach them came out of nowhere (i.e., three tired women). Names of traditional stakeholders and fresh faces began to emerge from the three of us. Plans were made for Hellen's office to pull these women together to begin the conversation. We surprised ourselves with what we came up with in this moment at the end of a long day. We held hands, said a prayer, and were re-energized.

Such an ordinary slice of time - three tired women, a little conversation to pass the time. But that moment was ripe for big ideas to pop. Ideas that just might make a difference if we follow through and bring in more (and less tired!) minds. Just a little conversation.

Just three tired women.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

. . . until . . .

Here's something you may not know: the 11:43pm/23:43 train from Weybridge to Waterloo stops at almost every station between the two, even Vauxhall, and I don't think I've ever stopped at Vauxhall. (It's spittin' distance to Waterloo - what's the point?) So when the HRH Slow Boat To China pulled into the station at around 12:25am/00:25 after my fine visit with the Moore family, I made my way to the good old Bakerloo line for the straight shot to Paddington.

Imagine my chagrin (and that of other Bakerloo-wannabees) when I found the gate to the platform closed. En masse weary travelers ran to the Northern Line as the last train was about to leave. Whew! sez I to meself! Made it!

Ah, but my relief was short-lived. My Plan B was to hop off at Tottenham Court Road, then catch the Central Line to Lancaster Gate where I was staying. Plan B didn't work. Ours was the last train into/out of the station, and all were unceremoniously shoo-ed out the door and onto the street as the station gates slammed behind us.

Hmmm. Now what? It was a few minutes to 1am, and I'm on Tottenham Court Road trying to figure how to get back to my hotel. Cab, you suggest? On Friday night? Hardly. It was like Times Square after the theatre lets out - impossible. Bus, maybe? Sounds like a plan, but which way and to where?

I walked purposefully but aimlessly (can that be done?), going in the wrong direction for several blocks twice, eating up about 15 minutes. I asked a couple of people to point me in the right direction. One got me completely turned around (thus, wandering the wrong way for the second time). The second person did point me right, but suggested I get a cab or bus since I was so far away from my destination.

Again, I started walking, turned right when I got to Oxford Street and headed south. Such a busy, happ'nin' street, I figured I could easily get a cab or find the right bus. No to both. Every so often I'd stop and spend a couple of minutes trying to hail a taxi, but they were all otherwise engaged. Oxford Street is quite the party-place in the wee-small-hours of the morning, I've found out. It was knocking on 1:30, my feet were aching, and I was close to worn out.

OK, I'll just cut to the chase. I ended up walking all the way back to my hotel, arriving a little after 2am. I was tired, but not really uncomfortably scared (I'm a Noo-Yawka') until I got to Marble Arch and Edgeware Road. Suddenly, all the people disappeared. Guess no one takes early-early morning walks in Hyde Park, so the walk from the Arch to Lancaster Gate was a lonely one. I was hyper-aware of everything, walking as fast as I could without breaking into an actual run for the last 15 minutes or so.

Completely my fault. I certainly knew way back in the 1970s when I was living there that the London tube closed down around 12:30am, but I suppose after 24/7 New York, it never entered my mind that the tube still closed early. Or that I wouldn't be able to get a cab (and no Mr. Big offered to pick me up). Or that I couldn't figure out which bus to get on. I'll know next time.

And by the time I got back to the hotel, I'd walk off that wonderful Chinese meal I'd shared with the Moores. Ah, me!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It was a wonderful evening . . .

Things have been hoppin' the past few days, what with working my way down to Canterbury and getting used to my duties here at the Lambeth Conference. Also, I'm a bit bummed that for some weird reason, I can't upload photos to my computer, so I'm having to put them on a friend's computer and email them to myself. Aaargh!

Anyway, let's catch up, shall we? When last I posted I was on my way down to Weybridge to have dinner with Joanne and Chris (and David and Thomas). The good news is that I made it, was graciously met at the train station by Chris, and escorted to her home for tea and talk before going for a lovely dinner at a Chinese restaurant.

The food was grand and the company grander. We never ran out of things to say, noting several times how this whole blogging thing had lead to relationships that would've never happened otherwise. Alas, Pete couldn't join us, and we just missed Chux (next time?). And we did our best to embarrass young Thomas (nearly succeeding several times, I suspect!), but he put on a good game-face and suffered through.

I rolled out of Weybridge station at 11:43pm (er, 23:43), and then the adventure started.

Stay tuned.

Friday, July 18, 2008

God bless Albert, Pan, and Micky D's

Well, I made it. Got to London last evening around 7:30, almost 45 minutes early, if you can believe it. Made my way to my hotel at Lancaster Gate. Tiny room, big price tag. Everything here is sooooo expensive. Or maybe everything in the US is soooooo cheap. Even given the exchange rate (lousy), things cost twice what they do in Little Old New York. I don't need to eat whilst I'm here, really. This will be great for my diet!

Rolled out of bed, had breakfast (included in said big price tag), then crossed Edgeware Road and spent the morning boppin' around Hyde Park. Walked straight through to the Albert Memorial and Albert Hall. Ahhh, poor old Vickie! She did miss that guy when he died, eh? And the Proms are happening at Albert Hall - wish I had time to take in one or two. Been there, done that, though. Still.

Sauntered by the Serpentine and Princess Diana Fountain, though it's hardly a fountain. Then found Peter Pan and some lovely flowers. Exciting morning, eh? Then I went back to my room and crashed for a couple of hours - the time difference finally taking its toll.

Always the bargain hunter, I refuse to pay 6 pounds 99 for the hotel's internet service, when good old McDonald's is around the corner and offers free wifi. Why, I'm sitting in the big MD's right now. A salad. And just the meat (and I use that term loosely) from the burger, I promise. Coke tastes like Pepsi - way too sweet, but maybe the caffeine will wake me up.

Big plans tonight, friends. A meet-up with the Moores (Jo and Chris) in Weybridge for dinner. We'll take lots of pictures and talk about all of you, I promise! Wish Pete (the other Moore), Chux, and Liz could join us. Well, maybe next time. I'm scheduled to come back to UK the first part of November.

OK. I've finished my meat and salad, which tells me it's time to end this blog. Tonight Weybridge. Tomorrow, Canterbury.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Travel Insomnia

I always have a hard time getting to sleep the night before a morning journey. I'm sure part of it is the fear of sleeping through the 4:30am alarm and missing a flight. That, and the weird things that go round and round in my head like "What am I forgetting?" or "Did I remember to put the black dress shoes in the (already zipped) suitcase?"

As of now, the larger bag is packed and sitting by the door, while the smaller one is waiting for the morning's last-minute items like the laptop and curling iron. I wanted to get the main suitcase finished early to make sure I could, indeed, stuff two weeks' worth of gear into a carry-on bag. British Airways allows two carry-ons, and thankfully, both of mine seem to comply with size and weight. I'm flying into Heathrow's notorious Terminal 5 and don't like the odds regarding lost luggage. So, yeah, I'm carrying my bags with me, thank you very much.

Anyway. Back to getting a little sleep tonight. I'm thinking a hot bath and a little G&T might lull me to Slumberland. After all, the alarm is set (for AM, not PM - I double-checked) and my bags are ready to go. All travel/hotel documents are in order. Yes, the passport's with the travel docs. I printed my boarding pass earlier today. But somehow, I'm not feeling sleepy. Probably won't until, oh, say, 3:30am. Aargh!

And now for that bath and gin. Hmmm. Did I remember to pack my underwear? . . .

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sunset from my window

If it looks this good from a dinky little apartment in Spanish Harlem, imagine what it must look like from a penthouse on Fifth Avenue!
Nah. Couldn't have been any prettier from a penthouse.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Our Lady of Los Bravos

In honor of Tuesday's All-Star Game (that's baseball, if you're wondering) being played here in New York, mini-Statues of Liberty painted in team colors/logos dot the city. As a true-blue Atlanta Braves fan, I searched online to find our statue. The Braves have pride of place on the waterfront outside the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan.

Beautiful day that it was, I sauntered down to pay homage to Our Lady of Los Bravos. Ain't she lovely? Go Braves!

Snakes and the City

Evidently, excitement reigned supreme around here yesterday morning, but I was too busy sluggin' it to notice. I just learned from neighbor Allie, who lives one floor below me, that she and her hubby awoke to find a 4-foot anaconda curled up in their living room. Imagine their surprise!

They called Animal Control, only to find out Animal Control doesn't work on Saturday. (Hmmmm.) Next, 911. Allie said they had about 11 NYPD in their apartment at one point. It took a long time to wrangle the snake because it had crawled in back of the refrigerator and wrapped itself around the back coils. The police had to remove the back of the fridge and pull the snake off with one of those long poles.

Theory is that it must be someone's pet because it was clean and well cared for, but as far as anyone knows nobody in the building has a snake. The landlords Fred and George were unhappy to hear of it, I tell ya'. Only dogs and cats and birds in this building. Er. Or so we thought. No one's claiming it. Yet.

Also, the neighbors had no idea when or how the snake got into their apartment. Allie said it had been there long enough to leave a poop-trail. Aaargh! I'm not that afraid of snakes, but knowing one had been slithering around all night in my tiny rooms would've sent me screaming out the window. Yuck.

I'll report back when I get more details. Wonder if HBO would like to pick up an option on "Snakes and the City"?

PS - Does anyone else miss having Winston comment on his/her blogs? I know good and well he woulda' commented on this one. Sigh.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Manhattanhenge 2008

What? Never heard of Manhattanhenge? Well, a couple of times a year the sun perfectly aligns with Manhattan's east-west street grid, since the Comissioners' Plan of 1811 laid out the streets on a grid offset 28.9 degrees from true east-west. For the next two days Mr. Sun sinks into the west bouncing amber-colored beams off the glorious buildings on the Isle de Noo Yawk.

Having been a slug all day (see previous post), I roused myself up and elbowed a spot on the bridge crossing 42nd Street at Tudor City and the UN. I had company; about 200 other folks wanted a view, too.This is my first chance to see the sunset version (it happens at sunrise in December/January) since moving here. Glad I made the effort.

My camera just couldn't capture the spectacularness of the big orange sun sinking below the west side horizon. You'll have to take my word for it. It was lovely. You can see the Chrysler Building on the right in one of the shots. Maybe I'll have a better camera next time. Or maybe I'll just watch and leave the camera work to someone else.

It happens again tomorrow night. Get on up here so you can see it!

The Midsummer Slugs

I am a big old summer slug. I have the day off, and the weather's gorgeous. I should be out-and-about doing all sorts of things. Or, if not venturing outside, I have plenty of stuff to do inside - cleaning, packing for my trip to England next week, writing, reading - well, lots of things. All I seem to want to do is just veg in front of the TV today.

Work has been so busy lately. Still, that's no excuse. I should get out and make an effort. I'm going to blame it on the Midsummer Slugs. Thinking about everything I should be doing just causes me to burrow deeper into my easy chair.

Maybe tomorrow . . .

Monday, July 07, 2008

The real Lola

Good friend Carey reminded me that we have a real Lola in our family.

Though our Lola is one of daughter's four dogs, she is hands-down the Alpha Dog in the house. She's the tiniest canine of the brood - which consists of two chihuahuas (Lola and Little Man), one Australian shepherd (Tripps), and one border collie/lab mix (Zoe) - but that does not stop her from ruling the roost. Everyone (and every dog) knows she's boss, so it doesn't cause any problems. She thinks nothing of taking a toy away from the bigger dogs or sitting wherever she pleases.

I've never been a fan of small dogs, but Lola is hard to resist. She's just so matter-of-fact about her power to rule (plus she can be real cuddly), that she's a very appealing little thing.

And it's true: whatever Lola wants, Lola gets!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Whatever Lola wants . . .

. . . Lola got at Damn Yankees today. Such fun! Not as much heft as Gypsy the other night, but wonderful music, plus the original Fosse choreography. Sean Hayes from "Will & Grace" played the Devil, er, Applegate, and Jane Krakowski from "Ally McBeal" played Lola - both fabulous. And who can resist songs like "You Gotta Have Heart," "Whatever Lola Wants," "A Little Brains, A Little Talent," and "Who's Got the Pain (When They Do the Mambo)?" Good stuff.

Lest you think I've come into some money (I keep hoping . . .), this was another cheap seat deal. Evidently, ticket sellers don't think folks will pile into theatres over the 4th of July holiday so they deeply discount a batch of tix. I just took advantage of the incredible offers, that's all.

And now for a couple of theatre complaints. Ahem. And they have nothing to do with the performers; these are audience complaints:

1. People, this is theatre. Broadway theatre. This is not a weekend barbeque or bowling night. Show a little respect for the art form and dress appropriately. I'm not asking for furs and tuxedos here, but you certainly shouldn't be wearing shorts, denim, tube tops, or any other housecleaning attire. Simple business (and I mean professional office-type business, not street-cleaner business) clothes are appropriate. Lord a mercy! What folks wear nowadays! Do they even look in the mirror before they leave home? I'm embarrassed for them. You'd think they were chilling out in the Barcalounger in front of the TV instead of sitting in a lovely Broadway theatre.

2. People, this is theatre (Part 2). This is not your living room (see above). Running a conversation during any part of the performance - including the overture - is strictly a no-no. What? The orchestra isn't performing? It's background music? No, it is not. And reserve your side comments and questions for the intermission or for after the show. Sheesh! Where do these people come from? (Sounded like Queens or New Jersey.) Perhaps if they were dressed appropriately, they would act appropriately.

OK. Enough kvetching. Damn Yankees was damn fine (except for certain audience members).
All together now:

You've gotta have heart
Miles 'n' miles 'n' miles of heart,
Oh, it's fine to be a genius of course,
But keep that old horse before the cart,
First you've gotta have heart.

Friday, July 04, 2008

An Independence Day Reminder

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

So begins The Declaration of Independence. On this 4th of July, 2008, I invite you to read the whole thing. It's not long, but it is powerful, brave, and damn intelligent writing.

Whatever the black stains on our history, whatever our leadership and world image have become (and yes, that's our collective fault), the good folk of the United States of America have a lot to be proud of today. Hey, America, I love all y'all! Happy 4th!

Hold your hats and Hallelujah!

Gypsy. Wow. Patti LuPone. Wow. Hold your hats, indeed. It don't get no betta' than what I saw tonight at the St. James Theatre. I had cold chills at the end of "Rose's Turn." It was that spectacular. I mean, really, every song is a winner (OK, well maybe not "Little Lamb") - a big boffo fabulous winner. This is why God invented Broadway, I tell ya'.

LuPone was amazing; she doesn't use those silly head-set mics, she just sings to the back row like Merman. I'm not a huge LuPone fan (I know, I know - she's a big Broadway diva), but she blew me away as Mama Rose. Boyd Gaines as Herbie was endearing and wonderful, and Laura Benanti as Louise/Gypsy was excellent. Loved everything about it.

Great, great, great, great, great! Get to New York and see it. Ya' don't even gotta get a gimmick. Just a ticket. (And I got mine for $40, nanny-nanny-boo-boo.) What better way to celebrate the 4th of July than with Baby June, Louise, Miss Mazeppa, Mr. Goldstone, and Mama Rose?

Sing out, Louise! Happy 4th!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The 4th of July Vermonster Parade

A hundred years ago or so - 1970's/80s - we had a house in Waitsfield, Vermont, near the ski resort Sugarbush. It was a "family" house, a place for the Brennan clan to gather whenever it could break away from whatever it was doing, wherever it was doing it.

The 4th of July was a big occasion for the gathering - food, fun, laughter, food, Trivial Pursuit, food, etc. One highlight of the holiday was the annual parade over in Warren, VT. It was the quintessential 4th of July parade, cute as all git-out.

One year I arrived in Vermont to find out I'd been given the on-site parade coordinator job. Evidently, some in-fighting had occurred within the New Englander ranks and my husband volunteered me to handle the enormous task of lining up the parade participants and giving them the cue about when to march or drive out.

The rationale for chosing me was two-fold. First, I wasn't from around there. I only knew a handful of folks - mostly family members who lived in the area - and I wasn't burdened with a long, in-bred relationship with the parade-people. Second, as a senior television producer at Turner, the committee felt I had the organizational skills to pull it off. (Well, they were right about that.)

I was just a whippersnapper. Only 29, I think. But you know how young'uns are. Invincible. So there I was, this young Southern bossy gal giving marching orders (literally) to crusty Vermonsters - "Legion Post 5382, go NOW!" "Start that big red truck NOW!" "Podunk High School Band, line up NOW!" Funny thing was, they did as they were told. Such power in the hands of a Girl Raised In The South (GRITS)!

Well, the Warren parade is still a big deal, but I haven't been there since the last time I gathered with the clan in 1984. Kate was just over a year old. We all spent time having fun, food, Trivial Pursuit death matches, and, yes, attending the parade. I played a more relaxed role that year. I just watched. But I knew that somewhere a mile or so down the road was some poor person yelling "Start that big red truck NOW!"

Happy 4th o' July!