Friday, April 25, 2008

Planes, Trains, Automobiles

When I was a young, shy thing, way back in high school, I studied French passionately (is there any other way to study that language? especially when you're a teenager?), dreamed of traveling far past the confines of my parents' uber-strict household to points overseas, and planned to major in International Business so that I could do so. I rarely traveled anywhere as a child (long drives to suburban havens like Tanforan or New Park Mall notwithstanding), so traveling for work seemed to me at the time glamorous, sophisticated and exciting.

Now that I actually do travel for work, I realize that business travel is not all it's cracked up to be. Granted, I'm not flying to Paris or Tokyo for my business trips--most of my travel is in-state--but even after being in the Big Apple (probably the most exciting place I get to travel to for work) this past week, I'm weary of even the idea of travel for my job. (Not to mention, my legs feel like spaghetti because I feel like I've been sitting in moving vehicles of some kind or another for most of the past week). It's tiring, takes a lot of time to prepare for, stressful and not always fun. I also have done a fair share of traveling for personal reasons recently, so I've just been on too many planes, trains and automobiles for my taste. I just don't think the human body was meant to travel at 500 mph in giant steel machines. (Of course, if I was just jetsetting all over the world with an unlimited budget and got to go to relaxing places like tropical countries and beach resorts, I might not mind). Actually, right now I'm blogging I think for the first time from an airport (Phoenix International, which thankfully has free wifi that's pretty fast, since my flight back home is delayed).

On the other hand, I get to go to new places, get to learn more about people from different parts of the country/world, visit my many relatives and friends who live outside the Bay Area, and hone my travel-writing skills with my reviews of hotels and such on TripAdvisor and Yelp.

This last trip was to New York City for funder visits (we really only had two, but that was cool because it meant I got to NOT be too stressed out in already overly-stressed Manhattan), and then to New Jersey by train to visit my sisters. And while New York is definitely a pedestrian / public transit kind of place, for some reason, people don't seem to walk much in Jersey, because I feel like all I did the past couple days was sit on my ass and eat.

I'm still perfecting my travel-prep skills, and I actually like reading that silly SkyMall magazine--did you know that you could buy something called the 'Kitty Litter Wizard' that actually cleans the soiled, non-disposable kitty litter 'granules' for you so that you never have to touch kitty litter again?--so maybe I'll someday get used to traveling. And I don't have to travel for work nearly as much as other folks in my organization. But suffice it to say that I'm tired, I'm cranky, and I want to sleep in my own bed, dammit!

Ahh, flight should be boarding soon.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Frightening Possibility of the Future

There is SO much work we need to do in this world--to change it, to change people's attitudes, to bring people together. No, I'm not going to go on an adulatory tangent about Obama, but I do think a huge reason why people are so behind him in this country is because he represents a more hopeful and bright future. The alternative future, which is to me the more possible future ahead of us, is fraught with danger, violence, uncertainty and changes to the so-called 'American lifestyle' that may take us back to a more 'primitive' time of feudalism and tribalism.

I don't have time to get into a lot of the details of my analysis on the future, but suffice it to say that a conversation that I had at dinner last night with a friend of a friend, who asked me why, as an education advocate, I thought that Black male enrollment in college was going down, dismissed my answer about rising incarceration rates and institutionalized racism as 'a conspiracy' theory. It was a response I've come to expect from white men in particular. They ask you your opinion about something that you clearly know something about, and then when you bring race in you are dismissed as naive, ignorant, a 'victim' or conspiracy theorist.

The other thing that has triggered my fatalism today is this sympathetic article on vigilantism in crime-ridden neighborhoods in Oakland scares the shit out of me. It reminds me a lot of the late, great Octavia Butler's Parable series, for which she won the Macarthur Genius award. The future world that she created in those books scared the shit out of me and depressed me for days, because I could see that world--one of mayhem, uncontrollable violence, vigilantism, total privatization and therefore decimation of all social services, human slavery and intense suffering--becoming our reality in this country one day.

I'm working on a fiction story right now that ties in some of these themes--not in as brutal a world as Butler's, but in a world that is definitely more harsh than the one many Americans live in today.

And that's why I am voting for Obama, because I need hope for a better future than the one we're currently creating, and because many of the white people (and people of color who think racism is dead) who otherwise couldn't listen for five minutes to someone like me, will listen to an Obama and his more diluted, palatable and articulate analysis of race and what this country needs to do to 'transcend' it. We need that voice and vision of hope now more than ever.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Found it! The Way I Often Feel: Positive Obsession

I'll blog soon about all the things that are going on in my life, which have been keeping me from blogging, but in the meantime you'll have to make do with a quote. I've been looking for a few months for one of those quotes that you can put at the bottom of your emails, on the wall in your office, one of those inspirational do-hickeys that epitomizes how you see the world, inspires you to do better. So I've been reading Octavia Butler's Bloodchild and Other Stories this morning, and, while reading Butler's autobiographical essay near the end of the book, stumbled across this gem:

"Positive obsession is about not being able to stop just because you're afraid and full of doubts. Positive obsession is a dangerous thing. It's about not being able to stop at all."

That about sums up--and folks who know me well know this--my personality, my approach to life. Folks are always amazed at the number of different interests (obsessions?) that I have. I guess I don't put them out there very often, so people at work, for example, know mostly about my positive obsession with fundraising, and a little bit about my interest in writing, and in science fiction. While my writer friends know more about my writing, and less about my work. Most people know that I love salsa dancing (and all dancing, really) with a passion, and that I'm an obsessive planner and coordinator, and that my wedding will be all the more fabulous because of it. But a lot of folks are surprised when they find out about my history as a martial artist (although that obsession has died down, replaced by a spiritual warrior sensibility towards life in general--life being the ultimate challenge).

So this quote's going into my email for now, as a reminder that positive obsession can manifest in the life of a woman of color in so many amazing and creative ways, as evidenced by Ms. Butler's own accomplishments. Something for me to remember when I can't sleep at 4 in the morning because I really want to research wedding reception dresses or want to knock out that meeting agenda that I can't get out of my brain. Positive obsession, it's dangerous, but not always a bad thing.

Friday, April 04, 2008

"What If?" The May-Have-Been Legacy of Dr. King

I think folks (including myself) tend to knock the Oakland Tribune for what they might call second-rate journalism, but I happen to like the paper because it covers local issues and politics from a perspective that combines on-the-ground community insider knowledge with a higher level of objectivity than smaller papers tend to (like the Guardian, ethnic press, etc.).

For example, on this 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death (may he rest in peace), the Tribune published this interesting article outlining different King experts and associates, including Black ministers', points of view on what might have happened in this country if Dr. King had lived.

Although I tend to not try to dwell in the 'What If's' of the past, this article was useful in helping to paint a picture of what our communities and our country could look like if we really listened to each other, worked through (not around) our race issues, and were inspired by our leaders to do so. Dr. King was by no means perfect, but his role as a strong moral compass for Americans of all races in the 1960s played a critical part in pushing forward the Civil Rights Movement. And I won't go so far as to compare Dr. King with our new Black leader, Barack Obama, but I will say that I believe many Americans want someone like a Dr. King to look up to, to emulate, and to inspire them.

Let's just hope that in looking for this leader and aspiring to this grand vision of equality and justice, we also recognize our own strengths, courage and power to manifest this vision for ourselves.