Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Post-Election Blues

I should be used to this by now.  Over the years I have worked hard for many candidates who have lost, sometimes narrowly,  sometimes badly.  I think it’s hardest when they lose narrowly—all those ruminations about if we had just worked a little harder.
I'm trying to talk myself out of the post-election blues. I thought Patrick Murphy would have been an excellent Attorney General, but the winner Kathleen Kane is certainly a qualified candidate. There were some exciting young challengers-- Numa St. Louis and Charisma Presley-- who did not win this time but have a good chanced of wining next time around. I feel very sad for Babette Josephs but I am sure she will find some way to continue the to fight the good fight  as a private citizen
I have had some victories—or more accurately been part of a victorious army; the big one was Barack Obama’s 2008 primary and general election victories.  I sure hope I don’t wake up depressed the morning of November 7.
Doing politics is kind of like teaching—maybe one semester was a failure but there will soon be another one coming up, a fresh start and an opportunity to learn from past mistakes.  So we pick ourselves up and get ready for the next election. November 2012 is the battle of my political life. The disappointments of the primary are small indeed compared with the unimaginable disappointment of an Obama defeat to Mitt Romney.
And there is so much to work to do to preserve democratic rights—fighting to overturn the voter ID law, cynically designed to depress turn-out among the young, the poor and the elderly, while at same time struggling to adapt to and educate voters about the new law.  Will people become so angry about this that they will become determined to vote to deny victory to those determined to disenfranchise them? Is that too much to hope for???

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Barcelona was far more beautiful than I ever expected:The Barcelona Diaries Part I

In 1969, I was in Barcelona for one day. I was there to catch the overnight boat to Formentera in the Balearic Islands. Formentera was one of the major international hippie destinations in 1969. The Spanish Government was not happy about the throngs of long-haired hippies sleeping on the beaches, smoking dope, and otherwise offending the locals. I wasn’t sleeping on the beaches, but I was hanging around with some crazy people and I was lucky I didn’t wind up in one of Franco’s jails.

All I remember of Barcelona in 1969 –in addition to the omnipresent men in uniform-- was the beauty of the waterfront and the energy of the crowds on Barcelona’s main drag, Las Ramblas. I remember Barcelona then as a bit down at the heels, its best years apparently behind it. What a difference 43 years has made! Barcelona is now a rich, prosperous city—its architectural heritage largely restored.

And what was most amazing was how spotlessly clean the city is—and not just the major tourists centers. We took one of those city bus tours which covered most of the city; there was no litter anywhere (unusual for a southern European City) and hardly any graffiti—kind of like a Latin Switzerland.

Certainly one of the best things about Barcelona is the extent to which the Mediterranean is integrated with the city—miles of sandy beach, with easy access, no beach fees. The beach was a 45 minute walk from our hotel in the medieval old town. During Spain’s one day general strike when public transit was virtually shut down, we walked to the beach and spent a leisurely afternoon sipping sangria at a beachfront cafĂ©.

Hotel Neri in the medieval old town was probably the best (and unfortunately one of the most expensive) we’ve ever stayed in—but worth every penny. I love the medieval old towns of European cities and when I read about the Barrio Gotico(Barcelona’s medieval quarter), I was determined to stay here. Rick does most of the hotel research and Hotel Neri was one of his best finds ever.

It also had a wonderful restaurant-- unfortunately very expensive. We only intended to have dinner there one night, but during the general strike because of lack of transportation and the street disturbances, it made sense to stick to the hotel restaurant, so we had two wonderful dinners at the restaurant at the Hotel Neri. During the Spanish Civil War, Barcelona was a Loyalist stronghold and one of the last hold-outs against Franco. The citizens of Barcelona were upholding their left wing traditions as Barcelona was the site of the most serious disturbances during the general strike.

Spanish workers have protections U.S. workers can only dream of and the new right of center government, under pressure from the European Union, is trying to take them away. It looks like strikes (and learning how to adapt to them) will be more and more a part of European travel.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The best thing about travel—Coming home!

I enjoy traveling and Rick and I want to continuing doing so as long as we can, but maybe not so much as I once thought we would. Even though our trip was only for 2 weeks and we really enjoyed Barcelona and Southwest France (more on that later), I was so happy to be home.

Also, I’m finding that although I still very much enjoy planning for a trip—as the time gets closer I find my self increasingly reluctant to go. This year it was especially hard to leave my garden. With the unseasonably (or is this the new normal??) weather, my late March garden looked like a mid-April garden. I was overcome by a powerful urge to plant and I thought I’d really rather go to a garden center than go to Barcelona. I did not want to leave all those emerging bulbs and spring flowering shrubs and trees. My beloved redbud was just coming out and I was afraid its gorgeous purple blossoms would be gone by the time we returned.

I need not have worried; the temperatures cooled down somewhat during the time we were away and there are still flowering shrubs and trees and those incredibly beautiful pale green leaves which last for just a short period of time. And to my surprise redbuds were blooming all over Barcelona! I had thought of the redbud as a North American tree—after all, its botanical name is Cercis Canadensis--but it flourishes in Mediterranean climates as well as the temperate zones of North America. The early flowering shrubs and trees were blooming in Barcelona and Southwestern France, so I didn’t miss early Spring after all.