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Category Archives: Personal Dissection

Civil Rights by Flight

First White House of ConfederacyI am finishing up a three day business trip to Montgomery, Alabama, the birthplace of two events that could not be further apart. In 1861, Jefferson Davis, the president of the confederacy lived in this town and his home, featured above, became the first white house of the confederacy. The home smells as if it has not been cleaned since then either but is a fantastic remnant of a time long past in our country we often gloss over. The first white house of the confederacy has 11 rooms and 10 fireplace, no kitchen and no bathroom (no running water in 1861). The house was moved from its original location about 10 blocks away piece by piece in the early part of the 20th century and expertly put back together like a residential puzzle. From this home, the confederate army during the Civil War, or as the Southerners called it, “The war between the states”, was directed. As the battles were primarily in Virginia at that time, Jefferson Davis moved to Richmond for a variety of reasons, one of which was that he and his generals could process the war more effectively, as it was taking too long to relay information from Virginia all the way down to Montgomery, Alabama. Jefferson Davis’ legacy remains heavy in the south especially in Montgomery.

Rosa ParksThe second event, diametrically opposite the southern civil war president’s home, was the instant Rosa Parks decided to sit her ground and refuse to get up from her seat on the bus in the face of an extremely segregated city. In December 1955, Rosa Parks has been credited with igniting the start of the modern civil rights movement. While Rosa Parks lived to a ripe old age, many individuals protesting the treatment of minorities, did not live so long and gave their lives for a cause in which they believed. The Civil Rights Memorial and Museum tells their stories so others will not forget their sacrifices. I highly recommend the Rosa Parks Museum located at the exact site of where Ms. Parks refused to arise from her seat, as told by the historical marker above.

Dexter Avenue ChurchA few blocks from the Rosa Parks Museum is the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, now called the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. This church was the home base of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. While I was unable to go inside and view the church (Do not go on Mondays. It is closed), standing in the shadow of American heroes was a great experience. Learning about their lives, their struggles, their hopes, their letdowns, their fears, their sacrifices, and ultimately, their greatest successes, at the very sites in which they fought their demons, was a significant learning adventure for me.

Today, I fly out on a Delta flight back to the Boston-area but get to feel the sun, heat and humidity on my shoulders in Alabama just a few moments more as my flight is delayed by an hour. You’ve heard of “island time” I am sure, but there is also “southern time” or “Bama time” here, where life is a little slower and nobody is in a great rush to do most anything. This is a good thing. It allows us to stop and look around once in a while, and think about where we stand and where “we” have come from. From the birth of the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, Montgomery showcases it all.

Keep traveling!!

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Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Advice, Humor, Personal Dissection

 

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Locals vs. Tourists

What’s the difference between a tourist and a local? Not much it seems other than where they sleep at night and where they go to work during the day. Both put their pants on one leg at a time too. But really, that’s about all the similarities I can find or have found over the last three days here in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love.

PhillyPhanaticI’ve been to both typical tourist and typical local locations. Both are great for their own reasons. I spent my first night here at a Phillies game and got seats in the third row on the first baseline that would have cost $200+ back home in Boston at Fenway Pahk. Most of the folks sitting around me were locals, cheering on their home team who ended up winning in the 15th inning 2-1 over the near cellar-dwellers Houston Astros. Funny though, the guy sitting immediately to my right was from Boston. Small world. There was a lot of different types of food representational of the locals including Crab fries (I didn’t ask further), big Bavarian-style soft pretzels, and of course Yuengling beer, a favorite brew of Pennsylvanians for decades now. I even saw the Philly Phanatic whose costume has become iconic in the world of sports.

 Tony LukesI ate lunch yesterday at Tony Luke’s whose classic Philly cheesesteaks have made them a legend in the culinary world of street food. I got the cheesesteak with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone. Delicious! It wasn’t the cheesesteak that made my lunch, although it was excellent, it was the knowledge that the other customers were generally, to the best of my knowledge, locals. I saw construction workers, cops, guys in suits and ties, more guys with hard hats on, and mailmen (mail-persons, excuse me). I knew I had the best the local flavor could provide when I went to a place that has been featured on food shows and travel shows worldwide and where the locals continue to return day in and day out. Always trust a local for a food recommendation when you ask him or her where the locals go to get the best (insert your favorite cuisine here).

You may ask about the tourists…don’t trust them unless you’re discussing their home town. Walking through the Independence Hall and Liberty Bell area, all I saw was fannie packs, sun burns, strollers, cameras, backpacks, and I heard many foreign languages. I love that these folks come to see where my great country was founded but wouldn’t trust them as far as I could throw them for any advice about the best of the city in which I stand.

When visiting a city outside of my home territory, I prefer to be a traveler, and not a tourist. If you have to ask the difference, you’re a tourist. If you know already, you can be counted among the travelers. Travel on…

 

 
 

People People Everywhere!

I am finishing up a three day-er to Cleveland from my home base near Boston. I arrived in Cleveland yesterday morning via Charlotte (guess which airline I flew?). While I was walking through Charlotte-Douglas International Airport heading to my connecting gate, I realized why I like traveling so much. It may be a cliche, but seems to be true. It is not the destination, but the journey. And on my travels, I really enjoy meeting different people and watching people doing their thing as they move from here to there or there to here.

Let’s go through some of the interesting folks who have crossed my path on this trip.

1. Obese women waddling through Charlotte-Douglas with too short too tight shirt that did not cover up the muffin top. Obese woman was trailing three children, each of which was toting a small piece of child’s luggage. The woman turned around and saw me watching the scene and pulled her shirt down on one side, leaving the other side exposed. The struggles of flying are numerous and with three children, a parent must be stressed to the limit. I hope this lady found her way and did not suffer too much. I so wish I had a picture of this scene.

2. Here in downtown Cleveland there is a casino attached to the hotel at which I’m staying. I went over this evening to get some dinner and check out the scene. I did not, repeat, did not gamble a single dollar but saw way too many people who looked like they shouldn’t gamble either, putting more and more coins into the one-armed bandit or at least flashing their frequent gambler card against the machine that continued to take their money. The best part was that they were smiling and laughing and cheering as the wheel went round and round.

3. “I see dead people” – Today I got a behind the scenes tour of the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank. I saw the largest vault door in the world whose two hinges each weigh 72 tons but balanced to perfection so that two people have no problem moving the door. I saw two robots, named Laverne and Shirley, move around thousands or millions of dollars in the secure vault area. I also saw a $100,000 dollar bill. Guess who is on the bill? Woodrow Wilson, hence the dead people reference. 

Traveling provides lets me see folks from around the country. I cannot wait to fly home tomorrow night and see who crosses my path. Travel on…

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2014 in Humor, Personal Dissection

 

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So what is it worth?

moving flightI’m on my way back from Denver this week. Well, not quite Denver but Centennial, Colorado that is located about 30 miles southeast of downtown Denver. It is flat. Relatively dry. And very suburban. No offense to folks in Centennial, but there really isn’t much charm to life in this “city.”

So on to my question, “Is it worth it?”  What is “It” you may ask. “It” is the status many frequent flyers accrue for sitting butts in seats, nights in hotels, dollars spent, cars rented, etc… I think you get the hint.  What does Silver, Gold, Platinum, Pre-Check, Global. Premier, Executive status confer upon us and “What is it worth?” 

Is it worth getting on the plane first? Is it worth getting upgraded to a suite instead of a regular room, even though the traveler will only spend a few hours in the room? Is it worth getting a Dodge Charger muscle car instead of a Kia? Is it worth going through security at the airport and not having to take off your belt in the name of safety and security?  I’ve started to accrue a few of these perks myself and have tried to take advantage of them as much as possible but I always ask myself “Is it worth it?”  My only answer right now is “I don’t know” at least I haven’t figured it out yet.

Which brings me to my next point. Is it OK to say “I don’t know.”  Alas, someone smarter than I can chime in here as I don’t have a good answer except to say “depends.”  Until next trip….

 
 

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Benefits of Travel

It has been a while…over a year since my last post. I am going to rededicate myself to writing posts more often as I travel.

I’m on my third week in a row on the road. The wife isn’t happy about it. It is part of my job however. Traveling is only a part of my work not all of my work.  It has however, taken me away from home three weeks straight now.

My first stop two weeks ago was Seattle, WA. Last week was Anchorage, AK. And this week I’m in Baton Rouge, LA. I will have two weeks off before heading to Denver for three days in early July. I have been home (outside Boston), between each of these trips making my airline miles grow on one or two specific airlines.

What have I learned these past three weeks? Why do I like traveling so much? Why do we all visit places outside of our home towns or cities?  I’ve got some thoughts. We wait in security lines, take our shoes off, store our gear, shove bags in overhead compartments, deal with delays or cancellations, take buses, wake up early, get in late, rent cars, deal with traffic, multiple personalities, and multiple languages or dialects as we travel the nation or globe. Why do we do this?

We want to see how lucky we are compared to others. We want to find out if we are in a better, or worse, situation than others. We want to see how others live, and die. We want to ask ourselves, “could I live here?” “Would I want to live here?”

Some folks have other reasons; to put up with the grind of travel to see other people and places. We want to see our great country and see the unique sights and sounds of historically significant places. Some folks travel to see the people. Some folks travel to see the places. Some folks travel for educational reasons.

What do we find from our travels? People are strange. People are generous. People are distinctive. People are proud. People are stubborn. People are self-centered. In sum, people are different. Generalizations are no good when describing specific cultures, regions or areas of the country or of the world. Everyone is distinct but there are some generalizations to be made about people in general.

My travels have taken me to all four corners of our great country and around the world. I have found that most folks are trying to better their lives as best they can within the boundaries of their current environs. People are mostly helpful, if asked. People are inherently good but often need to be pushed or pulled or coaxed. I don’t know why this is but on my future travels, I will try to figure this out. Maybe we just don’t trust folks we don’t know or don’t feel a need to stick our necks out without expecting something in return. Who knows?

In sum however, cultures may be different and may seem foreign to us, languages may seem like gibberish and we may feel uncomfortable not understanding but jump in…learn the language. Learn the culture. Try the “exotic food.” See the local sites and take in the art, the history, the architecture. One can only enjoy traveling and deal with the hassles of getting there in order to see all of the various distinctions and similarities of people and places around our great country and around the world.

Now go travel somewhere!!

 
 

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A Kiss Blown My Way

Sitting in traffic stinks. It is no fun watching the same two red tail-lights blink on and off traveling at a snail’s pace toward home after a long day at work. It is frustrating, especially when there are no good songs on the radio.

Yesterday, as I was within a few miles of home, the traffic was backing up, forming a snake of red lights in front of me. I slowly approached a side street, I saw an elderly woman waiting to cross my lane and make a left turn. She waved at me, I pointed at her and flashed my high-beams allowing her to continue on her journey. Afterall, I had nowhere to go with the red lights in front of me waiting for the light to change. As she passed in front of me, she blew me a kiss thanking me for my patience. This was a first. I chuckled to myself and marveled at how this small act elicited such a response.

And the moral of the story is: Let old ladies pass…they may blow you a kiss.

By the way, I cut off a tractor-trailer one minute earlier to make the previous light.

 
 

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Saying No on a Plane

I travel a bit for work, maybe 4-8 flights a month, depending if I have non-stop flights or have to make a connection. That means that I have had dozens of seat neighbors of all shapes, sizes, colors, odors and states of sanity.

I recently took an early morning cross-country flight from Boston to LAX and maneuvered my seat assignment in coach to an aisle seat on the right side of the plane, half way back. In January, I had ACL surgery on my left knee and feel comforted when I can stretch my sometimes achy or stiff knee out into the aisle. I put my bag in the overhead compartment and pulled into my row, standing, waiting for my seat neighbors to arrive. Soon enough a middle-aged woman appeared and asked not so politely, if I would move to her assigned aisle seat on the left side of the plane, six rows back.

Here is where it gets tricky. Most people I have observed on a plane, who are asked to move a seat, half-heartedly agree and shuffle out-of-the-way to their new seat without complaint. Are we expected to say yes regardless?  Most people agree because they don’t want to raise a stink with a stranger. Afterall, we Americans fear confrontation on a personal level, generally speaking. If a new mom with an infant needs some extra room or a pregnant woman asks, my answer is “No problem. Can I help you with your bags?”

The issue I had was that the lady who requested that I relinquish my seat was neither pregnant, nor did she have toddler in tow. She did not have any discernible ailment that would prohibit her from sitting in her original seat. In fact, she told me that “THEY” (the airline) split up she and her partner and they wanted to sit together. I thought to myself that this was her problem and she should have booked the two tickets together on the same reservation almost assuring they would be able to sit next to each other.

I looked back to where the lady’s seat was and saw a cluster of 52 15 year olds who, I found out later, were traveling to LA for a conference. Their two chaperones were sitting just a couple of rows ahead of me. After having woken in the four o’clock hour to get to the airport in time, I was not in the mood to get little sleep on the nearly six-hour flight listening to the constant gab of teenagers, not that I have a problem with teenagers, just 52 of them in a cramped airplane cabin for six hours on little sleep, isn’t ideal.

I told the lady “No, I would not move at this time to her seat” and only felt a pang of guilt for two milliseconds. She returned a big harumph. Luckily for her, one of the teenagers, who was assigned the window seat, arrived. The lady asked her to switch to the aisle. Shockingly, the blond teenager flatly said no also stating she was comfortable in the window seat. It wasn’t until one of the chaperone’s encouraged the youth to move did she shuffle down the aisle to her new seat, leaving me with two middle-aged women as seat neighbors who were now upset at me, not that I cared much.

Some questions to think about: Do we have to move seats when asked assuming there is no physical ailment or mitigating circumstances? Should we feel uncomfortable saying no to a stranger? Should we feel guilty when we DO say no? Do I have to tell this stranger why I said no and provide a reason why I don’t want to spend six hours in her original seat?

Say NO and put on your noise-cancelling headphones and don’t think twice about refusing to move seats, unless you’re a cold-hearted bastard who won’t move for a pregnant woman or family with toddlers.

I know the day will come when I ask someone to move for some inane reason and they will have the personal strength to say no to me. Until then, just say no, unless they offer something better, or cash!

 
 

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