Back in Washington D.C.

The other night I walked from downtown Washington, D.C. to Capitol Hill.  My walk reminded me of 9/11.  On that fateful day when the city was in full panic and evacuation mode, I walked from the SEIU Headquarters where I worked at 13th and L Street NW, to my home on Capitol Hill. 

Yard signs visible today on Capitol Hill

I love to walk in this city, especially on a clear day with low humidity.  On 9/11 after climbing into a colleague’s car and traveling one block in 30 minutes, I got out and said I would make better time on foot.  I am certain on that day, I got home before my colleague crossed the D.C. border into Maryland.  9/11 was a beautiful September day, not a cloud in the sky.  Thankfully, I had comfortable shoes on while dressed for a day of meetings on Capitol Hill – I was a lobbyist.  All my meetings where cancelled, because we were under attack from unknown enemies.  So much has happened since then.

But on this night in June 2017, I again enjoyed walking in this beautiful city.  A city where I feel very much at home.  Years ago, I had hoped to live here for many years.  That plan was cut short by career changes and finally my disgust at what Congress had become.  Dysfunctional and mired in partisan gridlock.

Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry now resides at Congressional Cemetery.

After a year on the road, Maggie and I are enjoying our old haunts, especially our favorite dog park – Congressional Cemetery.  Dogs have memories, demonstrated by Maggie’s joy in seeing her best friend Lola and visiting all her favorite squirrel trees.

Best of all we are in shorts and sandals in a city of suits.  Where people are walking along beautiful streets in view of national monuments looking at their cell phones.  I want to yell, “look-up” you are missing a beautiful city!

We are here for a week, before driving to Westhampton, NY.  Doctor’s appointments, Maggie’s annual shots, and visiting with friends. 

Seeing former Members of Congress (and unfortuately recognizing them) now working as lobbyist, my first night back on Capitol Hill reminded me of my best decision to ‘get out-of-town’.  Thanks to friends Barbara and Elliott for allowing me to stay in their beautiful Capitol Hill home, while they enjoy the wilds of Wisconsin woods and lakes.  We miss them and our dog pal Moose.

I, like the rest of the city is riveted by former FBI Director Comey’s and A.G. Sessions testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.  It is wonderful to be a retired person enjoying the city, parks, Congressional Cemetery and dog park, neighborhoods, and a Saturday morning at Eastern Market. 

I am heartened by the fact my former colleagues and friends want to see us.  A week is too little time, so I hope some will visit us on Long Island, and others will see us in late September when we return on our way to collect Scout in North Carolina to continue our journey on the road to reinvention.  We already miss Scout and the road!

Leaving Left Coast for East Coast – Summer 2017

Arriving in North Carolina, D.C. for a visit with Mom, sister Becky, nephew David, Camilla and new son Benjamin. I am so glad to be out of Vallejo.  I won’t bore everyone with all the logistics, but will end up at sister Robin’s Long Island house mid-June for the summer.  

Robin’s house will be great, unlike the house sitting gig in Vallejo.  The month of May was a bust, except for reconnecting with friends living in the Bay area.  Vallejo’s proximity to where my friends live, was the only reason I thought the house sitting made sense.  Live and learn.

I do not like clutter, and the Vallejo house was full of clutter.   Plus cats that shit on the floor, no functioning vacuum cleaner, and the location – suburbs.  Living in the suburbs has never been my ideal.   I am spoiled for the many years of living in Washington, D.C. and walking to restaurants, theaters and shopping.

Saying goodbye to Scout (aka Airstream) for the summer was sad.  John Sroufe came from Anchorage to learn the tricks of towing Scout, and help me move Scout into storage for the summer.  In September, John and wife Diane DiSanto will fly from Anchorage to Sacramento and drive Scout to North Carolina.  I am already looking forward to October when I will resume my Airstream odyssey.

Vallejo did allow me to reconnect two of my favorite woman and former colleagues.  Kick-ass Teamster organizer Kim Keller living in Sebastopol, CA and Carol Travis one of the first woman to be elected as a UAW local union president.  It was so great to spend time with both these fabulous women, (Damn I forgot to take our pictures together).

I am not sure when I will get back to the left coast.  I am certain it will be in Scout and not by airplane. Remember when flying was fun and exciting?  If I never step foot in an airport, it will be too soon.  Unfortunately, flying cross-country today is expeditious, but I would rather drive anywhere than board a commercial plane.  

D.C. and Long Island here we come, and at least there will be beaches and golf.






Wish the Car Guys Were still on NPR.

I am a huge fan of “Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers” on Car Talk.  For more than 30 years two Boston brothers took calls from people all over the country to get advice about their cars and need for repair.  The Boston brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi were hysterical.  The joy in their laughter, helped ease the pain of learning the cost of possible repair.

Where are you Tom and Ray today when I need to talk to you?  Well, Tom is dead.  I loved these guys, every week Tom would say he couldn’t remember the puzzler.  Ray commenting on his brother’s death, said I guess he really couldn’t remember the puzzler!  

Tom would have been wanted to remembered in laughter.

So, this week when I was told the engine in my 2005 Jeep Cherokee V8 was failing, I wanted to talk to Tom and Ray.  I could hear them telling their many customers about putting more money into a car that wasn’t worth to cost of repair.  But, my Jeep has less than 40,000 miles today, is in great shape, except for the engine.  I am rebuilding the Jeep part by part.

In 2016, I bought a 2005 Jeep Cherokee in Virginia with 25,000 miles.  It was a terrific buy, low mileage, great condition and able to tow 5,000 lbs.

So now I am being told because the vehicle sat, without being driven for a significant period of time, aka low mileage, the oil tube has a clogged tube from the oil pan and the cylinders are not firing.  Two options:

  1. Tear the engine apart and clean the oil tubes and cylinders, approximate $4,000; or
  2. New engine with a 100,000 warranty, approximately $8,000.

Contributions are accepted, look to your right.  I suppose option #3 would be to buy a new/used vehicle?  Where are you Tom and Ray?  I need to talk to you.

Friends and Family

The very best part of my road2reinvention is visiting friends and family along the way.    Beth Moten played an instrumental role in my picking up stakes from Washington, D.C. and hitting the road.

Beth was a colleague in D.C.  She served as the legislation director for the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).  Possibly the toughest job in the AFL-CIO.  Representing federal government workers in a time when they are a punching bag for everything wrong with government.  Beth has real style and class, and a truly gifted sense of humor.  So on the day she announced she was retiring and gave a thoughtful and beautiful farewell speech, I had to agree with her.  I was “done”, too.

My favorite part of Beth’s farewell was telling her personal story of being raised on a ranch in Texas, and how she and her brother worked hard and got good grades so they could escape the ranch.  Beth said, “now all we want to do is go back to the ranch”.   I completely understood.  I wanted to get the hell out of D.C., because Congress was so dysfunctional and it wasn’t any fun.  And, this was even before Trump was elected, or even announced for president.  

In 2016 the GOP members of Congress regardless of the issue had a few basic talking points: Small Business are job creators, government regulations are job killers, taxes are too high; and, Obama Care is collapasing and killing both small business and jobs.   A good read is: It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism by political analysis by Thomas E. Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman J. Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute.  Mann and Ornstein are not liberal or progressive, but they hit the nail on the head when they write about why Congress is gridlocked.  When moderate and compromise are bad words, nothing is going to get done.

It seemed right that Beth would be one of my first visits on my road.   We rode horses, drank wine and watch Poldark.  We didn’t talk about Washington, D.C., congress or politics.  It was a wonderful visit.  Just a year earlier we were important people, in the know.  Now we were happy woman doing what we wanted, thanks to our union pensions.

Now in California, I visited my cousin Karen and her husband Larry in Santa Cruz.  Karen and I traveled to China in 1985, just after China opened to foreign tourist.  Karen returned to China several times for work, and saw the dramatic changes occurring.  Our trip was about seeing China as it had been shut-off from the rest of the world.

Karen and I were both single at the time, she returned to Santa Cruz and several years later married Larry.  But our trip to China bonded us in a deeper way then just being family.  I hope soon Larry and Karen will join me somewhere on the road in their soon to be purchased camper and truck.

Now I am house-sitting in Vallejo, CA.  Vallejo, unlike Austin, Palm Springs, and Santa Cruz, is not a place I would want to live.  It has nothing of note, but for its proximity to San Francisco, Berkeley and the wine country.   Vallejo’s claim to fame may be going bankrupt in the financial crisis of 2008.  

I have friends in the area, so this month I will see Kim Keller and Carol Travis both labor union woman I had the pleasure of working with.  Kim is still fighting the good fight, organizing workers; and Carol is retired and enjoying her union pension.

It isnt the beach, but you can see SF from here.

On other days Maggie and I are exploring the local dog parks, thanks to a great app BringFido.  Point Isabel is our new favorite.  In addition to several miles of off-the-leash walking trails along the bay with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and SF, it has a cafe and doggie grooming shop.

Some people visit museums, we visit dog parks.

Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you strong

No air conditioning means no sleep.   This is the second house sitting gig, where the air conditioning failed during my first week.  The repair AC guy is due tomorrow at noon.  At least the air failed before Bruce and Jeanette left for Europe.  

So because I couldn’t get to sleep in an 89 degree bedroom, I binge watched 13 Reasons Why on Netflix.   Yes, I should have read a book.  “13 Reasons Why” is a controversial drama about high school, teenage angst and ultimately a girl’s tragic suicide.  It made me think about why I hated high school.   In 2002, I attended my 30-year reunion , only because I had moved from Anchorage in 1995.  Why go to a high school reunion if you still live in the same small town.   I walked in and thought to myself, “what was I thinking?”  I hated high school, and turned around and walked out.

West Anchorage High     

“13 Reasons Why” is a very dark look at how kids can be incredibly cruel to one another, bullying, spreading rumors, and telling lies — however, attractive they all are.  It could be an interesting instructional tool to teach self-confidence, maybe.  The show also depicts teachers, a counselor and administrators completely clueless.   I have great respect for anyone working in high schools today, especially teachers.  Kids and classrooms are so different now.  We didn’t have social media, cell phones, internet, or Donald Trump as President.  

My Dad was arrested in my sophomore year, and spent 6 months in jail.  If there were other kids with a parent in prison, I certainly wasn’t aware of it.  Dad was released and lived in a half-way house and then came home.  As part of his sentence for vehicular homicide, he was not allowed to drive. I spent my senior year as a chauffeur so he could work.  Taking my Mom to her job at Providence Hospital, and Dad to his office, before school.  Picking him up for lunch and after school taking him to appointments.  It wasn’t your typical high school experience.  I am not complaining.  “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”   My family’s adversity made me stronger, self-sufficient and a loner.  I never considered suicide.

I flunked physical education (PE) classes, and challenged my teachers.  The football coach was my civics teacher, and he didn’t know much.  When he told me I had to wear dresses, I walked out.  Civics was the only class I actually had an interest in.  At least we had better role models in elected office, but for President Nixon.   And he was a teachable moment.   It has to be a whole new challenge for civics teachers with Trump in the White House. Of course, Trump provides daily opportunities for fact checking research assignments.

The girls in “13 Reasons Why” were really cruel to one another, and the boys mostly jerks.  Not how I remember high school, but I am sure the show is an accurate depiction of many schools today.  I had a few friends at school, but their parents didn’t want them to come to my house, because of my Dad’s alcoholism.

I had no intention of going to college straight after high school.  I worked, traveled to Europe, and took a few classes at the community college.   Thanks to a friend of my Mom, I got a great job on the ground crew at Alaska Airlines loading food service equipment.  That job introduced me to unions, I was a member of the Machinist (IAM), and became a shop steward.

That job set me on my course to become an advocate, and join the labor movement.  I didn’t have a plan, the path found me.  Like the Grateful Dead “Box of Rain” lyric, “Someday I will find direction around some corner, where it has been waiting to meet me” .    Direction has always found me, even without a GPS.