ON THE ROAD AGAIN

It’s time to hit the road, or maybe the road hit me.  After spending summer at sister Robin’s house in Westhampton, NY on beautiful Long Island; I drove east on the Long Island Expressway and got as far as Exit 56.  BLOW OUT!  Thanks to the NY Department of Transportation, and AFSCME members for repairing my 3rd tire incident.  NY finest came along and parked their big truck behind Scout to make sure we were all protected.  I am getting far too much experience with flat tires and pulling over to the side of the road from the middle lane at 60 miles an hour.

Four months on Long Island gave me time to install new MaxxAir fans, upholstery the dinette, made new curtains and cushion covers (see earlier posts).  

Long Island is beautiful, especially the North Fork where farm stands and wineries are popular attractions.  Sweet corn and heirloom tomatoes just can’t get enough, especially when making Caprese salad with fresh buffalo mozzarella made in Brooklyn. 

I didn’t play enough golf, but Maggie and I walked on Cupsogue beach most evenings.

I am ready to start moving around and exploring new places.  Scout (aka Airstream) is under repair at Colonial Airstream in Lakewood, NJ.  Repairs to hit-and-run damage from last spring.  Hopefully she will be road-ready in a week, with the addition of new tires!  I plan to drive along the Jersey coast to Cape May, take the ferry to Lewes, DE and visit Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.  My favorite book growing up was Misty of Chincoteague, I have downloaded the Audible version to listen to the book on my drive there.  I hope to add stamps to my National Park passport in 2018-19.  Anyone out there want to meet me along my road?  I hope so!

Mom, Erv, sister Becky and fiancee Chuck have survived hurricane Florence in North Carolina, they live west of 95 and far enough inland they only suffered rain and wind, and short electrical outages.   We have tickets to hear Joan Baez in concert in Durham on Sept. 29. 

I am currently visiting with Liz, Tim and Lola and enjoying Washington D.C.  It is always great to be back in “the Hood”, walking to Eastern Market and visiting our favorite dog park Congressional Cemetery.  I wish I had been financially able to retire in D.C., but like most American cities housing is astronomically expensive, so I am blessed with wonderful friends who live on Capitol Hill.  A week isn’t long enough to see all my great friends and former colleagues.  

Just call me Trailer Trash. The road beckons.

 

 

Some special memories of Long Island summer 2018.

Maggie at Cupsogue beach.

Robin’s pool and deck

Indian Island Golf Course, on the banks of the Peconic River.

Lavander farm stand.

Pikes Beach at sunset.

REMEMBERING 9/11

Last year on 9/11 I wrote this blog, I have updated it and wanted to share again my memories, and to commemorate my friends at 32BJ.  Peace.

17 years ago, I rose from the McPherson Square Metro to walk the 3 blocks to my office at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) office at 1313 L Street NW, Washington, D.C.  It was a beautiful Tuesday morning, no humidity and the air and sky were crisp and clear.  There was an announcement in the subway, which was garbled like all the announcements in the Metro.  All I heard was “blah, blah, blah…Pentagon”.  As I walked I realized there was an unusual amount of horns honking, traffic congestion and people streaming out of office buildings.

The city was in a panic, and the subway was now closed.  When I got to my building, a colleague told me the city was evacuating.  She offered me a ride home and we sat in traffic for an hour traveling only a few blocks.  Because she was trying desperately try to get home to her family in Maryland, I got out and walked home to Capitol Hill.   I am certain I got home before she did.

A few day later, I was sent to New York to assist SEIU 32BJ in navigating the federal, state and local government bureaucracy.  32BJ is the largest building services local union with membership of cleaners, property maintenance workers, doormen, security officers, building engineers, school and food service workers, and window cleaners.  24 union members died on 9/11. “Roko Camaj spent nearly half of his life suspended from ropes over 1,300 feet above ground working outside of the original World Trade Center. Born in the small Balkan country of Montenegro, he immigrated to the United States in 1969″.  Another window washer was instrumental in saving lives, “A man standing next to Jan Demczur reached into the window washer’s bucket and seized the Squeegee handle. It took them 90 minutes from the moment the elevator cab had halted in the shaft, but they reached safety only minutes before the tower collapsed—the second tower to do so. The tool that saved their lives, the Squeegee handle”  The handle is now part of the Smithsonian exhibit at National Museum of American History.

Why on earth was I being sent to New York, what could I possibly do to help?  I was a Legislative Advocate (Lobbyist).  But my experience representing public employees and understanding the unemployment compensation system and other government programs would come in handy.

In the mist of such tragedy, the benefits of union membership were paramount to the 1200 plus workers who lost their livelihood.  The buildings were gone and so were their jobs. 

32BJ offices were only a few blocks away from the World Trade Center.  Those blocks were filled with pages and pictures, “have you seen this person”.  I am haunted by those pages fluttering in the wind.

Yet I was incredibly proud and privileged to have met and helped union members in the days following 9/11.  I was concerned that some of the janitors might be undocumented, but the World Trade Center was the premiere building in New York City.  The least senior janitor had worked in the building over 10 years.  They weren’t undocumented, but there were major language barriers to overcome.

I remember one woman who had been a school teacher in Eastern Europe, because her English was not very good, she worked as a cleaner.  She had been cleaning the same floor of the World Trade Center over 15 years.  She was my age, single, while educated but worked as a janitor.  Her English was still not very good after years of being a U.S. citizen, because as a cleaner she didn’t converse with co-workers every day, she worked alone.  There by the grace of being born in the U.S. I really identified with her.  She was along, no family and her co-workers spoke many different languages.  But her union family took care of her.

The union officers and staff worked to get all the members onto unemployment as quickly as possible.  The NYC phone system had collapsed, because of the thousands of people who lost their jobs that day.  Also the unemployment system only offered translations services in Spanish and some Chinese.  32BJ workers were from all over the world, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia.  We helped them fill out paper applications giving each member personal assistance.

Each day a union meeting was held on the first floor of the union building.  32BJ leadership told all the displaced workers and their families the union was going to get everyone back to work.  In addition, the union extended health insurance and granted a supplement $100 unemployment benefit from the trust funds.  At those meetings workers cried and hugged each other, proud to be union members and treated as an extended family.  The union was able to negotiate an early retirement program so that older workers could retire and the 1200 displaced World Trade Center workers move to other buildings.  The union got everyone back to work in 6 months, without any government assistance.

I was incredibly privileged to attend those meetings and see firsthand the joy expressed by workers who had experienced such loss and tragedy.  I feel guilty that week was one of the best of my career.

Each anniversary of 9/11, I remember the wonderful 32BJ members, staff and officers.  Why I am proud to have been a union member, and now retiree.  

Interior Update, & Winter Plans

A year ago I purchased my 2014 Airstream in Nashua, NH.  Scout is a 20′ Flying Cloud Bambi C-class.  Like most RVs, the interior was a palette of browns.  Airstreams are classier than other RVs, but the interiors leave much to the imagination.  I like COLOR!

I have spent a significant part of summer making new curtains, a quilt for the bed, and re-upholstering the dinette benches.  Re-upholstry is a lost art.  It doesn’t require sewing.  I removed the benches from the trailer., which are mounted with simple screws, and hides the water heater and holding tank.

The fabric is attached to the benches with simple staples.  Pulling the staples is time-consuming and boring.  The original fabric was really ugly, in my opinion.

I purchased most of my supplies and fabric at the local JoAnn’s Fabric store, with the exception of the curtain fabric.  I found that at Calico Corners on a remnent table.  There are lots of choices out there, but Jo Ann’s was most convenient.

I used an inexpensive vinyl $11 per yard, and should bought the more expensive $20 per yard – live and learn.  Sometimes it doesn’t pay to save money.  But the fabric for the cushions is fantastic and colorful.  It changes the interior vibe and makes it pop.  I also found very cute and colorful rugs made by Jelly Bean (Amazon.com).

I hung a nice little shelf above the bed, for drinking tea in bed.  I moved the magazine rack that was at the head to the foot end of the bed.

Scout is almost ready to hit the road!  On 9/13 we will leave Westhampton, NY for Colonial Airstream in Lakewood, NJ for the repair of the body work from the hit and run this spring. 

I thought the damage was done by a Semi-truck backing into Scout in a rest area.  But truck drivers know what they are doing.   I now believe it was some idiot with a bicycle or motorcycle rack.  I hope it ruined their equipment, since they didn’t wait around to tell me they were sorry.   Colonial Airstream is a fantastic dealer and very responsive to all Airstream customers.   We should be road ready in 4-5 days.

Looking forward to seeing my pals in Washington, D.C.  We’ll be taking the Cape May Ferry from NJ to Lewes, DE, to avoid the NJ Turnpike and I-95.  

FALL: North & South Carolina until Thanksgiving.  Lots of GOLF!

WINTER: Palm Springs, CA

JUNE 2019 Niece Rachel’s wedding on Emerald Island, NC, and sister Becky’s wedding in Cary, NC.

Looking forward to lots of golf, and considering doing YouTube videos?

Hope to see you on the road.  Stay tuned.

ALASKA NEEDS A NEW AD HOC, AND SO DOES THE REST OF US.

West Anchorage High School

I slept through most of high school.  I failed Physical Education (PE) and most of my other classes, mostly for not showing up.  Classes started much too early, the sun did not come up until 10 a.m. and was down again by 3 p.m. for most of the school year.  Waking up in darkness and going home in darkness is how a person lives in Anchorage, Alaska.  Like most days I was asleep at my desk, when two people walked into the classroom and changed my life. 

Mary McKinnon and Bill Weimer had been invited by my senior civics teacher to speak to the class about, “taking over the Alaska State Democratic Party”.  It sounded like fun.  They called themselves Ad Hoc Democrats.  I was to graduate in the spring of 1972, but instead of going to my graduation ceremony, my sister Becky and I drove to Fairbanks as delegates to the Alaska Democratic Convention.  My Mother still has doubts I ever graduated from high school.

McKinnon and Weimer told us the fundamentals of the McGovern party rule changes that had been adopted by the National Democratic Committee (DNC), following the disastrous 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago that had erupted in riots and arrests; and the year Richard Nixon was elected President. The Party rule changes were intended to open Party participation from the boys in the back room, to women and people of color, with a few “Superdelegates” thrown in for protection of the status-quo. 

Following their appearance in my West Anchorage High School class, I began attending the weekly strategy meetings of the Ad Hoc Democrats.  Their plan was simple.   Go to precinct meetings, and get elected as delegates.   On a snowy night, 7 of us showed up for our neighborhood precinct  meeting at Mike and Bee Rose’s Turnagain home on the Bluff for coffee, cookies and precinct party politics.  We outnumbered the regulars 7 to 5, and elected ourselves delegates.   It was that easy.

As elected delegates we showed up at the district convention, where the Ad Hoc newbies were a new faction and voting block.  We elected ourselves as delegates to the State Convention.  By this time, however, the old party guard had realized what was happening.  Our delegates were challenged at the state convention.  It was there I learned the importance of a credential committee and Roberts Rules of Order.  At the State Convention we had a full-blown floor fight over the credentials and seating of delegates and adopting a progressive party platform.  The party regulars were mostly labor union bosses and rank-and-file members, especially Jesse Carr and his Teamsters.  This is one of the true ironies of my life.  Years later I would be one of those rank-and-file union members, and/or staff who would participate at every level of Democratic Party politics, mostly knocking on doors and getting out the vote (GOTV).  I have worked elections in Alaska, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.  But my introduction to the Democratic Party, was because of Ad Hoc.

Alaska (and other states) need a new Ad Hoc movement.  It is high time for a bunch of young insurgents to take over the party.  Going into classrooms and registering voters as Democrats and electing themselves as delegates, or better yet candidates.  Because of Ad Hoc, and after the 1972 Alaska Democratic Convention a whole new generation of candidates were elected to the state legislature, city councils and even as Governor.  I remember a very attractive couple attending the weekly Ad Hoc strategy meetings.  Susan often asked questions, and make very clear smart suggestions.   Her husband was very tall and handsome.  Tony would later become the mayor of Anchorage and Governor.  Susan would serve on the Alaska Utilities Commission.   

Alaska was a progressive state for 10 years after Ad Hoc Democrats took over the party.  There was a personal income tax, marijuana was legal for personal consumption, and the state was not facing a self-inflicted budget deficit because the entire population was on the dole’ (PFD) – dependent on the high price of oil.  It is perverse that Alaskans are happiest when everyone else is paying over $4 a gallon for gasoline.  Today, Alaskans complain about high taxes.  What a joke!  Alaska receives more in federal spending then they pay in taxes.  Alaskans pay NO personal income tax, no statewide sales taxes, and Anchorage the largest city with half the state’s population has NO sales tax.  Alaska ranks 33 of the 50 states in property tax rates, the average American household spends $2,197 on annual property taxes for their homes, Alaskans on average pay $2,901.  Alaska also has 17% veteran population and per-capita one of the highest government payrolls of local, state and federal employees.  I love the fact when public employees don’t make the connection their salaries are paid by taxes!  Trust me on this I worked for public sector labor unions.

Considering what they aren’t paying elsewhere, they shouldn’t complain.  But they do.

Alaska eliminated the personal income tax in 1980 against the wishes of Republican Governor, Jay Hammond, the father of the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD).   I am proud to say I voted for Jay when he ran for re-election.  The state was swimming in oil riches, and Hammond knew the politicians would spend every dime on stupid projects if he didn’t cut-off the trough.  Hammond thought if Alaskans all shared equally in the oil revenues, they would protect the Permanent Fund and practice fiscal responsibility.   HA!  He didn’t see the damage the PFD would cause to the Alaska psyche.  Alaskans all DESERVE their PFD.  They would rather schools, road and bridges fall into a huge hole of disrepair and underfunding, then pay taxes for services.  Alaska is TRUMP country and Red as Red can be.  Total voter registration is 567,403, Republicans 140,060, Dems 74,964.  You do the math.

I love my Alaskan friends, but they are delusional Democrats.   Maybe they have been smoking too much Pot.

Mary McKinnon was active in party politics until her death.  Her son Joe was elected to the Alaska Legislature as one of the Ad Hoc Dems.  Bill Weimer ran for the legislature three times, but never was elected.  Thankfully.  Weimer became a lobbyist and went over to the dark side, working for the private prison industry, and other shady causes.  He was indicted on illegal campaign contributions, jailed and I heard also had child molestation charges against him in Florida.  He was a creep then and later.  But Mary was the true believer, and the architect of Ad Hoc.

I left Alaska in 1995, because of the darkness: both lack of light and the state becoming so conservative.  Alaska’s GOP was taken over by the religious rightwing-nuts 20+ years ago.  Years later it produced Sarah Palin – enough said.  Most of my Alaskan friends no longer live there, and those that do visit the Lower-48 often, so I will never have to step foot in that crazy state again.

I wish there could be a new Ad Hoc in Alaska and elsewhere.  It was a great run while it lasted, and introduced a lot of people to politics, I for one.

Mary Ann

I met Mary Ann in prison in 1989.  She worked as a classification officer at the Palmer Correctional Center and I was the Master appointed by the Alaska Superior Court overseeing the State of Alaska compliance with the terms of a consent decree. Classification is the matrix that determines the level of security for individual prisoners, from minimum to maximum.  If you want to mess with a prisoner classification is a good place to start.  Mary Ann taught me the ends and outs of the classification matrix.

Alaska’s prison system was under Court supervision due to a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of prisoners.  In the 1970s Alaska’s prisons were more jail than prison, housing pre-trial detainees with sentenced prisoners.  After 10 years of construction and program development, the State had appealed to the Judge to be released from Court supervision.

I was appointed as Master by Superior Court Judge Douglas Serdahley to visit 13 prisons from Nome to Ketchikan and report on the State’s compliance with the terms and conditions of the consent decree.  I liked to say you can call me “Master”.  I served in that capacity for three years, until the consent decree was lifted.

Mary Ann and I became friends, and remain friends to this day.  Mary Ann and sister Melissa just came to Long Island and we had a wonderful visit, catching-up, bobbing in the pool and eating Alaska salmon and halibut caught my Melissa.

Mary Ann is the most traveled woman I know.  She has traveled to so many places including Syria (before the war) and Chernobyl – not the usual tourist destinations people dream of.  She and Melissa are going to Iran in December.  Iran, really!

My other common bond with Mary Ann is we share being fired from jobs we loved, and fought our way back.  Mary Ann was fired from her job at the Department of Corrections twice, but she retired from the DOC after 30-years’ service (with 2 involuntary interruptions).  Mary Ann was wrongfully terminated in both instances, which is why the union got her reinstated.  We are “Principled Bitches”.  Mary Ann blew the whistle on the DOC, got fired, and got her job back because she had the stupid bosses dead-to-rights.  Most people get fired and are so humiliated they just want to put it behind them.  Not us. It is the boss that is wrong, not you.  Being vindicated is a great feeling, walking back into the workplace you were summarily removed from is beyond words.

Mary Ann did that, and DOC learned not to mess with her, as much as they wanted too.  I love the fact Mary Ann retired as the Chief Classification Officer overseeing the entire population in classification matters. 

Mary Ann and I can laugh out loud when we talk about our careers, the ups and the downs – the stories we can tell.  We are enjoying retirement with pensions and lots of great stories.  But, most of all we share friendship then, now and forever.