Friday, October 18, 2013

So happy to be back in Paris ! The 2013 France diaries, Part I

We were so happy to be back in Paris. The last time we were in Paris was during our sabbatical in 1999 and we never thought it would be almost 14 years before we returned. After the dollar tanked in relation to the Euro in the early 2,000’s, we started going to Latin America and had some great trips to Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, and Puerto Rico for a fraction of the cost of a European vacation.

But when we retired, we came face to face with the reality that there was no longer a seemingly infinite expanse of trips ahead of us. Some hard choices had to be made. We decided we were too old to put off going where we really wanted to go and so we started going back to Europe –-several trips to Portugal, Spain and Southern France.

This year we had planned to go to Istanbul. Rick wanted to see Hagia Sophia and we both thought that Istanbul was a city we should see, but somehow we couldn’t seem to focus on planning for the trip.

A few months ago a friend called and told us she was planning to go to the Dordogne in September. When I got off the phone, I said to Rick, “Joanne is going to the Dordogne.” He said wistfully, “I’d like to go back to the Dordogne.” I said, "I’ve always wanted to go back to the Dordogne.” (We were there in the mid- 1980’s.) We looked at each other and decided to forget Istanbul. We were going to France!

We no longer had trouble focusing on our trip and started happily making plans to go to France. The itinerary was: 3 days in Paris, 4 days in the Dordogne, 4 days in Bordeaux, and another 3 days in Paris at the end.

Our first day in Paris, we were deliriously happy just to be there. Despite being seriously jet-lagged, we walked all over Paris visiting familiar beloved places such as the courtyard of the Louvre. We had a glass of wine at a cafe right in front of the now iconic glass pyramid and watched the long lines at the entrance to the museum. (There is no such thing as off-season for the Louvre.) We decided this trip we'd take a pass on the Louvre. We went to Paris many times during our working years and have been to the Louvre many times. The crowds and the overwhelming size of the Louvre are just too much for these senior travelers.

We visited the d’Orsay Museum of 19th century art which is worth it for the building alone—a converted 19th century train station. All we managed to see was the very extensive impressionist and post-impressionist collection on the 5th floor, but we planned to go to the d’Orsay again on our return to Paris. The d’Orsay has what is surely one of the most spectacular museum restaurants in the world.
Those 19th century major city railroad stations where very elaborate affairs—with lavish waiting rooms and restaurants. The building,the restaurant, the views of Paris from the museum windows are worth a visit in and of themselves!!!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The War on Drugs: The shame of the baby-boom generation.

The movement to legalize marijuana is getting more attention of late. At the recent PA Democratic State Committee meeting, delegates were raising the issues with candidates for the 2014 gubernatorial and legislative races. The State Committee Black Caucus considered a resolution in favor of legalization but decided that it made more sense at this point to raise the issue with candidates.

In support of these efforts,I've decided to re cycle an op-ed piece, “War on drugs: Time for boomers to 'fess up” published in the Philadelphia Daily News in 2006. The Daily News editors are responsible for the silly title. My original title was "The War on Drugs: A War Against Women"; I was emphasizing the gender dimension as I was writing in my capacity as then president of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women.

The op-ed Is unfortunately still timely. Too many people are being locked up, too many lives ruined for low level drug offenses. From the op-ed:

The willingness to incarcerate large numbers of people for minor drug offenses is the shame of the baby-boom generation.

A generation of young people in the '60s and early '70s experimented with drugs and for the most part did so with impunity.

Many powerful and successful women and men in our society experimented with drugs in their youth. But their careers were not derailed; their families were not torn apart. Sadly, they are now willing to ignore the fact that another generation of women and men are being incarcerated in appalling numbers for drug-related crimes.

In 1972, Ms. Magazine published a petition headlined: "We have had abortions." Fifty-three well-known U.S. women declared that they had undergone abortions - despite state laws rendering the procedure illegal.

Perhaps we need a petition like this to address the issue of illegal drugs. (I'm not equating abortion with using illegal drugs, just suggesting a strategy to call attention to a problem.)

We need people who experimented with drugs and became productive citizens who are willing to say, "I used illegal drugs and went on to become a productive member of society. I and other members of my generation were not incarcerated for long periods of time for what would be considered low-level drug offenses. The current war on drug is having a devastating impact on low-income families (particularly low-income communities of color) and our current policy of mass incarceration must be stopped."

Such a petition might be what we need to get action on Pennsylvania House Bill HB 751, which seeks to address prison overcrowding by abolishing mandatory minimums for certain non-violent offenses. Any takers? *