“Over-tourism” or Opportunity?

If you have traveled outside the U.S. within the last five years, you may have realized that you need to develop some new travel skills. While this is particularly true of visits to more well-known places such as Paris, Vienna and New York (Yes – coming from California, I do consider New York a foreign country), those are not the only places where new skills can come in handy.

The skills? 1) Wait and stand and 2) Body Blocking 1A

I recently had the privilege of going on a fourteen-day tour of seven Baltic countries. The area has a long, rich, history and we thoroughly enjoyed the trip. There were three destinations where the new skills came in handy. We visited the Hermitage and the Summer Palace in St. Petersburg as well as the museum in Gdansk, Poland. This was my first experience with “over-tourism” on such a grand scale. We employed the “Wait and Stand” strategy as we waited for the long line at the entrance gate to snake its way through the entry and in to the building. Next, we employed “Body Blocking”.

I was reluctant to employ “Body Blocking” at first. After all, one should wait patiently, say excuse me, and above all take turns. But when I discovered that this strategy resulted in an elbow in my stomach and the inability to keep my feet under me, I reconsidered. My elbow came out, I stepped down even though someone else’s foot occupied the area, and I never said “excuse me”.

Although we toured these sites during national holidays in Poland and Russia, most of the people employing the ‘new skills’ were fellow tourists from countries all over the world.

The last few days, the press has been discussing “Over-tourism.” Plagued by tourists in Vienna who jump into the canals from the bridges and tourists who dress “inappropriately,” Vienna is considering levying a fine for such behavior. In an interview, an airline steward remarked that tourist seem to forget common courtesy when traveling. Another commentator blamed “Over-tourism” on the availability of “cheap flights.”

I don’t have a solution to this situation. It would be a great loss if people stopped traveling. Travel is an eye-opener. It can makes us more tolerant, more informed and better world citizens.

ST. Stephens in Riga, Latvia – it has been a Catholic church and is now a Lutheran Church.
Ruins at Visby, Sweden. Visby was part of the Hanseatic League, a powerful trade organization. When the Hanseatic League disintegrated, Visby lost its economic base. The Ruins remain because the town was too poor to rebuild. It is a rich source for understanding the past.

Peace

A Not-So Modest Proposal

(With apologies to Jonathon Swift 1667-1745)

Vigils, comforting words, support and speeches decrying the terrible loss of life have become common place in the United States. So much so, that they are in danger of losing meaning. What would be meaningful is taking action to stop the violence. In spite of the official claims of ‘helplessness’, there are steps that can be taken:

  1. Outlaw the hunting of people. Babies, mothers, fathers, grandparents, nieces, nephews, uncles and aunts; people of all kinds, should be put on a national endangered species list. What turns people into prey is the easy availability of weapons that are sold for the sole purpose of killing. A deer hunter would not use this type of weapon for hunting because it mangles the prey. The shooter in Gilroy, California, used a weapon purchased legally in neighboring Nevada. That weapon was outlawed in California. A federal law against the manufacture and selling of such weapons to the general public is necessary
  2. Stop electing people to public office who are warped and miss-informed, such as the state representative who blamed the horrific increase in mass shootings on gay marriage and drag queens. Unlike disaffected loners, these people are pretty easy to spot.
  3. Watch your mouth in public and private and demand your elected officials do the same. Recall those who don’t.

Perhaps we could have those officials who feel that freedom can be found at the end of a weapon, wear yellow vests with red targets painted on them as they shop at Walmart, attend concerts, go to a house of worship and otherwise go about their usual weekend affairs with the rest of us.

In memory of the latest mass shooting victims. Gilroy, California, El paso, Texas, Dayton, Ohio

Paradise – The Aftermath

This is second in the series People Who Inspire

Kathy is smart, pretty, talented and tough. She is also a genuine-dyed-in-the-wool heroine. She survived the infamous Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise. California. The  fire burned one hundred ninety-two acres and took the lives of eight-five people.

While driving her grand-daughter and her friend to school, Kathy noticed the black smoke moving in from the east. Wildfires are not uncommon in this rural area,  but even so, the smoke was alarming. The school was not being evacuated, but Kathy returned to her home, gathered a few papers, her dog, grand-daughter and friend, and began the drive down The Skyway toward Chico in the valley below.

She didn’t get far. By now, the smoke had turned day into night. The fire moved incredibly fast. After several years of drought, the dead trees provided ample fuel for the fire. Fire-generated winds and the rugged topography made fire-fighting impossible. The first responders focused on saving lives.

Kathy and her passengers follow the instructions of the fire-fighters. They parked the car and went to a parking area where almost one hundred people were gathered to shelter in place. They lay on the tarmac, covering themselves with blankets and clothing. They would not be able to leave the area for eight hours.

At one point, fire-fighters asked if anyone had food in their car. A man with diabetes needed help. Always prepared, my sister had cookies in the car in addition to the bottled water she had shared.

Paradise and Magalia often used propane to fuel their homes. The parking area they were in had propane tanks on the edge. At one point, the flames reached this area and exploded the tanks. Those on the tarmac were moved to a metal building to shelter from the fumes of the propane.

The evacuation plan was dependent upon bulldozers clearing the burned cars from the Skyway so that caravans of evacuees could moved out of the area and down to Chico. The bulldozers arrived and the caravans began.

The scenery was frightening. Local business were on fire. The hospital burned and all familiar landmarks were gone. Flames licked both sides of the road.

Eventually, Kathy and her passengers made it out of the area and to the home of a friend. All this time, Kathy focused on keeping her grand-daughter, her friend and her dog, calm and secure. It was not an easy task. Later, Kathy described the area as looking like a war zone.

Kathy’s story could have easily ended differently. She was one of the fortunate ones. Her car was not damaged and her family survived. When I asked her how she got through this experience, she said she did it by focusing on what she had to do at that moment to keep everyone safe.

The damage from the Camp Fire will not be repaired for many years to come. Some homes may never be rebuilt. The trauma suffered by many, including Kathy, is immeasureable.

 

 

 

 

People Who Inspire

This post is the first in a series about people who inspire others. They are not celebrities, just real people who make a difference in our communities every day, simply by being themselves.  

My friend, Bob Schneider, has been many things in his life: husband, father, restorer of vintage cars and one wonderful Victorian home, an antique dealer, and a world traveler, just to name a few.

He has always shown his concern for his country and community. He enlisted in the Navy just after high school and is justifiably proud of being a Navy Veteran.

Many years later, Bob retired from SMUD, the local utility district. Both he and his wife, Louise. continued their service to the community by volunteering at Kaiser hospital.  Bob volunteered for fourteen years.

He ‘retired’ as a Kaiser volunteer, but that wasn’t the end of his service to the community. For the past nine years, he has been on patrol as a volunteer for the Roseville Police Department. Recently, he announced he will retire as of April 23, 2019.

He has volunteered numerous hours over a twenty-three-year period. Thank you for being such an inspiration.

 

Looking For Love (Inspiration) In All The Wrong Places

In 1980, country singer Johnny Lee recorded Looking For Love. It became a hit. In fact, years later I find myself humming the tune, even though I don’t agree with the lyrics. I offer my apologies to Johnny Lee for borrowing the title for this post. The first line of the song is “Looking for love in all the wrong places…” (I’ve forgotten the rest.)

While writers may or may not be “looking for love,” (I’ve found it – not looking), all writers are always looking for inspiration. I thought I would share three photos of the places I have recently looked for inspiration, sadly not yet finding it.

in the great outdoors

gazing into the fireplace

in the ‘fridge (Although the Hagen Dazs was somewhat inspiring.)

REDISCOVERY – PERRI O’SHAUGHNESSY

In an effort to de-clutter my house, I’ve taken to reading more on my Kindle and buying fewer actual books. This has been a semi-successful strategy – after all, there are more things that form clutter-clusters than books.  There are some problems with E-readers. When you attempt to find a meaningful quote you read on an earlier page, or track a character’s first appearance in a book series, it is much more difficult on a Kindle than in a physical book.

Recently, I’ve started re-reading some of the books I own. In 2001,  I read Move to Strike, a newly published book by Perri O’Shaughnessy. The main character, Nina Reilly, is an attorney. The attraction, for me, besides being a really good, fast-moving, law-themed mystery, was the setting in nearby Lake Tahoe, with side trips to Monterey County. I lived in Monterey County for twenty years and it was delightful to revisit the area through the eyes of Nina Reilly

Life intervened, and unlike my usual habit of reading everything that particular author has written, I didn’t read any more of that series – until recently. I was delighted to find that the O’Shaughnessy sisters are still writing under their pen-name Perri O’Shaughnessy.  If you are a mystery fan, their books are a must-read. Their website is http://perrio.com.

Have you recently discovered or re-discovered an author you would recommend?

Peace

 

 

How Do I Write Thee? ( with apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, How Do I Love Thee, Sonnet 43)

Not too long ago, I saw an interview with a writer who claims to do his best writing in unique, beautiful settings or on a cruise ship. He claimed these venues inspired and informed his writing. They even had pictures of him actually writing while in one of those beautiful places!

I admire that quality. At one time, I found I could easily focus on a specific task (balancing my check-book, listening to my child, correcting student work, writing letters) while sitting on the living room floor with the television blaring. I literally did not hear what the television was broadcasting, so strong was my focus.

I imagine, with my ability to shut out the world and focus on a task, if I tried to actually write while in one of those beautiful settings, the beauty would be lost on me. That’s why we have photos – they allow for delayed inspiration.

I find I no longer can focus on one task in the face of chaos – or maybe it’s just that I’ve redefined “chaos”.  I need a quieter, less demanding environment in order to write. I recently completed a first draft of a picture book. After reading it aloud, I find I really don’t care for the story. I feel obligated to attempt to “fix” the draft, mostly because of time already spent on the task. Perhaps it’s time for a little “delayed inspiration.”

 

Orchids found in one of Hawaii’s botanical gardens. Now that’s inspiration!

Peace

 

 

 

 

Paradise Lost

I am a creature of habit. I like my routines. They make the small tasks easier and less time consuming. That allows me to focus on more important matters. I get cranky when those routines are disturbed for more than a few days.

when my sister and nephew’s family had to evacuate their homes during the Camp Fire in Butte County, I could not begin to imagine the disturbance and devastation that comes from such a disaster. My sister, her grand-daughter, grand-daughter’s friend and small dog, spent eight hours on a cement parking lot. They were waiting, along with first-res-ponders, for a way to break through the flames that enveloped one of the two main escape routes known as the Skyway. They were fortunate. The escaped without injury. The first-res-ponders were amazing.

If you have seen the videos or photos of the Camp Fire, my sister, and nephew assure me, they are not exaggerations. Flames, whipped by wind, towered over forty-foot tall pine and redwood. The thick black smoke changed the blue sky to black in minutes. The air was toxic. When the flames died down and moved away from Paradise and Magalia, the area looked as if a bomb had dropped. There were some surviving homes, but even those most likely suffered damage from the smoke and soot.

So what is next? No comforting routines or habits will help. Those are gone and will only be re-established in the future. The only thing that can be done is to take one step at a time.  Food, clothing and shelter first, and then consider long-term issues. Do you rebuild, or do you move? If you move, where to? How long will it take to rebuild the infrastructure to support homes and business?

There are groups tackling the long-range issues. Paradise School District had found buildings in nearby Chico to house their students. School will re-open on December 3, 2018. The schools are an important community center, particularly in a small town of 27,000.

Paradise, Magalia and the residents of Butte County will  need all the help they can get, both short-term and long-term. You can contribute to victims of the fire and first-responders  in several ways.  Cash and gift cards are always appreciated and offer the most flexibility. The Salvation Army and Red Cross are collecting donations and can be  found on-line. Firefighter support sites include Members, International Association of Firefighters Charitable Foundation, North Bay Fire Relief through the Redwood Credit Union and NVFC Volunteer Firefighter Support Fund, all found on-line.

Part of the history of Paradise. My BFWW won the prize for the Best Reconditioned Production Car – a 1922 Willys. The event, sponsored by the Horseless Carriage Association of America, took place in  the town of Paradise in the 1960’s.