Saturday, September 01, 2018

road trip :: brobergs take the south 2018 :: part 3 :: the road


on our summer holiday, we drove 2,875 miles in our rented toyota sienna. that's 4,627 kilometers if those are what you relate to. no matter how you think of it, that's a lot of asphalt. luckily, the sienna was roomy, so it accommodated our suitcases and our snacks and a cooler of drinks and everyone was comfortable, so there wasn't any fighting or complaining about who was sitting where. we took turns driving, but husband did do the bulk of it.

i have found myself reflecting on the many roads we traveled and how that's true of life as well. and despite us all being in the same vehicle, traveling down the same roads, we undoubtedly each had our own experience of them. for my part, i told myself stories of the places we drove through and past.

in northeast alabama, i looked out the window at the countryside flying by. it was dotted with shabby, flimsy trailer houses with broken down vehicles and too many dogs in the yard. houses where it looked like people didn't have the energy to care about the junk on the falling-down, tacked-on porch. you could feel that life wasn't easy there, just driving past it. then there was a road in mississippi where the houses along the way were small, but built with care. they looked much more charming and kept up - with inviting porches that had chairs and plants, you could feel a sense of community and that people lived there, rooted in the place. then there was the gulf coast near mobile, alabama and on towards pensacola. the sandy beaches were beautiful, but ugly high rise buildings gave it an uninviting soulless quality.

the roads in the bywater neighborhood where we stayed in new orleans were in a very bad state of repair. but yet, i'm not sure i've ever seen a more charming place. colorful houses, long and narrow, but adorable - with shutters in contrasting colors and loads of gingerbread. each one unique, but somehow also harmonious - sort of like you would like to be as a person - your own individual style, but also playing a melodic chord - signifying belonging, yet room for individuality. what more could you ask in your road.

in savannah, we arrived in the evening at our airbnb and got turned around and started following the roads into a less prosperous neighborhood, where the main businesses seemed to be the liquor stores and greasy takeout joints on every corner. just a few blocks in the other direction was savannah's utterly charming downtown - filled with shops and cafés and restaurants. we managed to find our way to a most amazing chocolate café, where we ended our long day on the road with chocolate fondue, cheesecake and chocolate cocktails. such contrasts just a few blocks apart. the same road able to take you two very opposite directions, both literally (obviously) and metaphorically, all in the space of a just a few blocks.

all these road represent so many stories, it was a veritable cacophony, i want to go back and listen to each one. and make more of my own.


Monday, August 27, 2018

the end of the innocence


i had a discussion with my sister some weeks ago about don henley's 1989 classic the end of the innocence. go watch it, i'll wait here...

Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn't have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standing by

When "happily ever after" fails
And we've been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers dwell on small details
Since daddy had to fly

But i know a place where we can go
That's still untouched by man
We'll sit and watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass wave in the wind

You can lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence

O' beautiful, for spacious skies
But now those skies are threatening
They're beating plowshares into swords
For this tired old man that we elected king

Armchair warriors often fail
And we've been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers clean up all details
Since daddy had to lie

But i know a place where we can go
And wash away this sin
We'll sit and watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass wave in the wind
Just lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair spill all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence

Who knows how long this will last
Now we've come so far, so fast
But, somewhere back there in the dust
That same small town in each of us

I need to remember this
So baby give me just one kiss
And let me take a long last look
Before we say good-bye

Just lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence


what was interesting is how different our memories of the song were. she finds it very political, whereas the only politics i can find is the stanza about the tired old man that we elected king (has anyone ever described reagan more aptly?). for me, that summer was the one where i had a very painful broken engagement. i was devastated and lost 17 pounds in a week, mostly in tears shed. that felt like the end of my own innocence and a real transition into adulthood. it caused my life to change course...shifting from plans to attend u.c. irvine to iowa city and the university of iowa. looking back, i think it made me less trusting of potential boyfriends for years afterwards, really ending my own romantic innocence...poisoning my own fairy tale. in other words, i found the song very much about my own situation, even though reading the lyrics now, i can clearly see that it was about one's parents splitting up. my own happily ever after had failed (thank odin now, looking back), so i sang along at the top of my lungs as i drove my little gold pontiac fiero and felt like the song was written specifically for me. especially after i met a handsome summer fling who gave me back some confidence and made those lines about the tall grass in the wind and the small town in each of us ring true. it was really more or less the anthem of the summer of 1989 for me.

for my sister, her departure for college was on the horizon and she felt the pressure of that. i think we both thought that our parents wouldn't be able to survive the empty nest, having such separate interests. so the words about daddy having to fly spoke to my sister and she felt a heavy weight of responsibility for keeping them together. and watching the video, with its odd 50s feel (aside from the shots of tattered reagan posters and ollie north), it does seem much more political that it ever seemed to me at the time. and though i was home that summer, i definitely didn't feel the same pressure my sister did to be the glue holding our parents together. in the end, their marriage held, though some part of me still wonders why when they shared so little. i suppose staying together was just what you did in their generation (speaking of the 50s).

in these times, where our entire existence is smeared in the nasty politics of our post-truth era, it does seem that our innocence has ended once and for all.


* * *

today's lack of truth has its roots in postmodernism.
i heard about this piece here on T.O.E.
and i'll admit to feeling a little guilty for all that derrida, foucault and baudrilliard i read in college.

* * *

the problem is way deeper than trump. 




Friday, August 10, 2018

a new manifesto


when did my world and my thoughts become smaller? when did i replace deep conversations with gossip and snark? did the internet do this to me? was it all the cynical (but oh-so-amusing) gifs? is it my true nature? i don't think so. most decidedly it is not me. i love to think and discuss and share things that make me think and discuss. how did that stop? when did it stop? when was it taken over by pettiness and yes, small-minded nastiness? that's not who i am and more importantly, not what i want. i want to be open and share ideas and not have hidden agendas or look for them or assume they're there and drive myself crazy looking for them. i want to go through life expecting the best of others, not being bogged down by suspicions and doubt. i want to share ideas and have my ideas made better by those with whom i share. i want to laugh and joke lightheartedly. i want to make awesome things together with awesome people. i want to be inspired by those around me. i want them to push me to be better, more creative and funnier. i want to tread paths i haven't tread before. see new things, experience new things, look with openness and curiosity upon the world. to meet everyone i encounter with a light heart and curiosity. i want to skip through my days again, loving what i do and spending time with people who matter to me and give me energy. i want to be in touch with myself, bodily and spiritually. i want to open my heart and my mind. i want to be grateful and express it. i want to appreciate those around me who make me laugh and think and sing and who lighten my heart. and my heart will be lightened if i'm open and curious. i want to live and laugh and love. and feel light and buoyant and prosperous and generous of spirit. and i want to radiate all of that. i feel the glow from within already now...

Thursday, August 09, 2018

what if the water is fine?


my most recurring dream scenario over many, many years is of falling into dirty, brackish water that i fear greatly until i'm in it and discover it's not as bad as it looks. every time, i can swim, or touch bottom, or it's much more shallow than it appears and not nearly as muddy as it seems it will be and i don't get stuck and tangled up in those plants. it hit me today from something a colleague said, that we choose our path, balancing precariously on the edge of that nasty-looking water, worrying about falling in or we give ourselves over and jump in and see what it's really like. and there's a very good chance that it's not as bad as it appears. and maybe we make it worse ourselves, for ourselves, by imagining how bad it will be. and trying to make cynical, sarcastic jokes about it. and maybe we should stop that and look for the good. because there is a lot of good. and maybe, just maybe, it will all be ok if we just relax and be grateful and positive and give ourselves over instead of resisting with cynical sarcasm. and by we, i mean me. and it may not be easy, but i'm going to try. just maybe that water is fine.

* * *

linguistic delight - book reviews from prison.

* * *

why mall of america doesn't die.

* * *

please, dear odin, let him run.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

road trip :: brobergs take the south 2018 :: part 2 :: school bus graveyard


alongside a georgia highway, we were looking for a stand to buy peaches when we came across an amazing sight - a line of graffiti-clad old school buses.


it was part of an auto mechanic shop and we went up and asked if we could have a look. a rather crotchety man with a heavy southern drawl directed us back out to the highway and a path you could take to walk up along the row. he very sternly warned that we shouldn't try to go beyond the row of buses or climb on them in any way. we assured him we wouldn't.


it would have been impossible to do so anyway, as they're very well blocked-off in between. there are multiple warnings to stay off, so it's not the most welcoming place.


there are some cool old cars up on top as well - i suppose to add discouragement for climbing them.


i don't know the story of it, as i think it's primarily a working mechanic & junk yard and only incidentally a bus graveyard, but it seems like proper graffiti artists were involved in painting the buses. at least some of them.


the starkest warning was one about snakes. i'll admit that worked on me and i didn't want to get too close to the buses.


it's quite a large area and it would have been cool if they'd had an observation tower you could climb up to get a better view.


i couldn't help but include this shot of this really cute guy i saw there. gotta love that scruffy beard.

Friday, August 03, 2018

road trip :: brobergs take the south 2018 :: part 1


we had a family road trip in the southern united states this summer. we visited 6 states none of us had ever been in before - tennessee, alabama, mississippi, louisiana, florida and south carolina.  the others hadn't been in georgia before, but i had. and technically, i flew through miami in 1988, but that doesn't really count as being in the state. this time, we visited beaches and the state capital, so it must count. i expected to have heavy exposure to trumpanzees, but we didn't actually speak to a single one. that surprised me quite a bit, but then i saw this piece in the nytimes - it seems we followed that blue route through the south, perhaps guided by some subliminal survival instinct. or maybe we just didn't really talk to enough people along the gulf coast. but we also ran into a surprising amount who vocally volunteered their embarrassment at the mangled apricot hellbeast.


a quick list of impressions/lessons/thoughts:

~ two weeks was just the right amount of time, even tho' we did have our occasional flagging moments. at the end, i was both longing to go home and wishing we still had a few more days and that's exactly how it should be.

~ cheesecake for lunch is awesome in the moment, but come late afternoon, proves not to be such a good idea.

~ way-finding and map-reading were the biggest challenges, even in this day and age of ubiquitous gps. we didn't have a phone plan where we could roam, so we were constantly looking for wifi to help us do our route planning. in the morning, we would plan our route in google maps while on wifi and then the gps does actually follow where you are, but if you deviate from the route you planned while on wifi, the google maps app doesn't handle it well. also, husband was horrible at being the navigator if i was driving, which is weird, because he spent 18 years in the military and is otherwise good at maps. everyone stayed happier if i did the map-reading and husband did the driving. tho' even then there were a couple of kerfluffles. lesson was that maybe we should just know where we are in a general sorta way. and we did buy a big atlas of the united states. it helped out on the highways and byways, but not as much within cities.

~ several of the best things we found were quite random -  a cooling creek/waterfall (mardis mill falls) on a hot alabama day, windsor ruins off the natchez trace, which we found by talking to an older couple at another point of interest along the way, and the space museum just over the louisiana-mississippi border on the way towards biloxi.

~ we actually stuck to our budget and we didn't really deny ourselves much to do so.

~ since we were five more or less adults, we needed two hotel rooms, so we were looking for rooms on the budget end, since we were mostly looking for a good night's sleep and not a place to hang out. plus, we wanted to save our money for great coffee, fun experiences and shopping in goodwill! after a few days of disappointment in the mid-range ($65-$80/night) hotels, we looked to airbnb, and we felt much, much happier. there, we found quirky places with personality, a bit more luxury and charming hardwood floors, still in our price range. if you haven't tried it, i'd be very grateful if you used this link when you do.

~ you should stay off the interstates and get onto smaller highways and byways. we did some of this, but undoubtedly not enough. when you do hit the small highways and byways, make sure you have a full tank of gas, as gas stations can be surprisingly few and far between. we stopped at one in a small town in mississippi where it was clear we were the only white people who had passed through in a long time. that made for some amusing conversations while we waited to use the bathroom.

~ shopping at goodwill is awesome and our child is a wizard at finding the best stuff there, no matter the location. probably the best one we visited (and we tried to visit as many as we could) was the first one, south of atlanta. maybe our eyes were freshest, but i think it also had the best selection. i got an awesome t-shirt that says, "sorry i'm late, i didn't want to come." that makes me laugh.

~ there seems to be a disturbing trend in the states - one of which i was previously only peripherally aware - from barbara ehrenreichs' amazing nickle and dimed book, but never imagined i would actually encounter (which sounds more arrogant than i mean it to). when we were staying at the lower-priced hotels, it seemed like many of the other patrons were folks who seemed to be living with what they euphemistically call housing insecurity. it appeared that the hotels were full of people who probably had work, but not enough money for the deposit on an apartment, so they were forced to live on a weekly or even day-to-day basis in these hotels. i was waiting to ask for a wifi sign-in and i witnessed two young women paying their rent, peeling the fee off a roll of one dollar bills (perhaps from waitressing tips). initially, they gave the clerk, who was behind thick bullet-proof glass, since it was nearly dark, less and he said, "no, it's $63." the second girl reached down her cleavage and got a roll of her own bills out and peeled off the remainder, saying, "there goes my fun money," and rolling her eyes. i felt a little bit shocked. others stood in their doorways, smoking or chatting on the phone, obviously very at home in the hotel. it made me aware of a stark reality in my home country. and also acutely aware of my own privilege.

and on that note, i'll sign off for now. more about the trip, with actual photos, tomorrow. i'm still sorting through all of them.