Edith was hitting a wall. The local high school had come up with the idea of asking four senior citizens to speak at their graduation and she had been picked as the community representative. This was risky business since Edith was known as a loose cannon. The Sun Coast Retirement Center thought they could control her with some coaching because, when Edith hit the mark she could be witty and, yes, even brilliant.
So Edith had ideas cooking in her mind. The wall she had hit was to decide if it was worth the big risk of being revolutionary. She didn’t want to be that normal namby pamby speaker who droned on about integrity, truth, ambition, and creativity. No. She wanted to have GRIT, THE HARD KNOCKS, and HELPFUL ADVICE for the graduates of 2015.Was it worth the risk of cruel judgment, possible shunning, and even being expelled from her home? Yes! She decided.
She ran up against the typical supervision of the activity director at Sun Coast wanting to water down everything as usual. Well, Edith had that figured out ahead of time. She’d just make up two speeches.
The day arrived and Edith was dropped off at the High School Auditorium in plenty of time to visit the bathroom and fuss with her papers.
The class filed in and took their seats. The normal rituals of songs, class speeches, and other boring necessities were grinding away. Edith found herself getting eager to get on with it. She knew her speech would be talked about forever despite the 5 minute time limit. “No one ever remembers these things. I want mine to be different. I want mine to be important. I want mine to change lives,” she thought.
Finally, she was introduced and it was her turn to take the podium.
“Young people hear my words. I have lived eight decades. I have worked, raised children, kept a home, and seen changes. I’ve lived through the space age, the computer age and seen all these generations they call the X, and Me, and Millennial Age.
I have not been sheltered like you have been. I have dealt with snobs, and selfish and thoughtless bosses and co workers. I have had my butt pinched and been propositioned by neighbors and even relatives. I’ve had to listen to ignorant assess and corrupted officials and closed minded fools. I’ve had to work inside and outside the system to get things done. I’ve written letters, protested non violently and, yes, even participated in civil disobedience. I’ve chaired committees, written checks, and served on Boards. I’ve paid my dues. Now it is YOUR turn. Get out there. Stand on the picket line, protest in a rally, and work at making phone calls. “
Now a few administrators on the dais and in the back rows were beginning to wonder what Edith was up to. The seniors were eyeing each other and beginning to text their bewilderment. They thought they might like this old lady shaking up the ceremony.
Edith continued, “You are used to being protected and sheltered. But I know you better than your parents think they do. You know what is out there. You pay attention to the bad stuff around you. In fact, for some of you, that is all you pay attention to. You know that the world has nuclear weapons, the climate is warming up and the ice is melting. You know that life as you have known it will never be the same. There are drugs, poverty and racial tensions, inept lawmakers, corrupt and lying corporations, and bridges, trains, and airports falling apart. You know that, despite medical advances, exercise, and vegan diets, your lives will be shorter than your parents. So NOW is the time to move.”
A few parents were moving to the back of the room and calling in more help. This old gal was dangerous. She was preaching resistance, defying authority, and wrecking Graduation! Someone had to stop her.
“Take my lead. Leave here today with energy and purpose. Don’t put up with the same old nonsense. Leave your overprotective parents and teachers. Educate yourselves and make the world a better place.”
Some of the graduates were stirred to action. Whispers turned to talking. Students were leaning over each other and tapping their classmates on the back. No one was sure what to do, but they were ready to move. A few leaders near the front stood up, then more joined them.
Edith, seeing that she was encouraging them and that her words were being heard, continued even louder. “That’s right, get on your feet. Follow your class leaders. Head for the doors! Get a move on. Don’t be left behind!”
But on the edges, the administrators had finally decided to act. Two of them came on the stage in cap and gowns and started to move toward Edith. By now she had her hands around the microphone and had a sturdy grip on it and the podium. They came to her, one on each side, and unwrapped her fingers, held her by the elbows and armpits, and escorted her behind the curtain.
“What are you doing? Why are you doing this? Just what do you want to accomplish?” They asked.
But Edith was sitting on a folding chair with a blissful smile on her face.
“This is the finest day of my life,” she thought to herself, “I’ve inspired the youth of today to go out and be the workers of tomorrow.”
Little did she know the students were all out in the parking lot popping the corks out of the Champaign bottles. The “inspirational talk” and Edith’s call to action had only started an early celebration.Edith's Graduation Speech

Last week I was riding the bus home from an appointment at the Cleveland Clinic. There was an empty seat next to me. A black man with back pack boarded and sat on the edge of the seat next to me and quietly said, ”That’s okay” as I edged over an inch to make room for him to settle in. Meanwhile, another black man across the aisle saw all of this movement, looked at me, and shook his head. In our eye contact I’m not sure what I saw. What I felt, however, conveyed the impression that what I did was racist. It felt like he was saying I was afraid of my seat partner or deplored him or didn’t want any touching no matter how innocent.

I am a former history teacher and know that up until recent years a black man would have gotten in trouble sitting next to a white woman in some states. The idea of the races mixing was inviting the images of a black man and white women in a sexual relationship. Even without that, a person of color would be subject to exclusion and ridicule at best and physical harm at worst. But when you ride the bus in any large city these days, it is unavoidable; races and genders will mix. What I saw as polite bus etiquette someone else saw (I’m guessing here) as yet another example of a white person feeling elite and superior.

Cleveland is in the midst of a trial involving the police in a car chase that ended with an unarmed black man and women’s death. The city is alertly waiting for a verdict. Thirty one year old officer Michael Brelo is charged with voluntary manslaughter. A dozen officers will be testifying in support of Brelo. If Brelo is acquitted, the city may protest. What starts out as an appropriate response that starts out peacefully often ends with violence from young people, both inside and outside the community, looking for retaliation and revenge. This is the scenario that played out last week in Baltimore.-1a8d7f08269f8b45

The tide seems to be turning. Citizens around the country are taking a harder look at police departments. They want more accountability. After Ferguson Missouri people are becoming aware of the unfairness and inequities in our justice system. Investigations are showing that police often respond unfairly to “driving while black” and “felony running.” We are hearing so many stories of this in our personal lives and seeing more on TV. It is becoming more apparent that there is systemic racism in our police departments and that citizens want a “rush to judgment” in order to feel safe and comfortable. This rush has lead to over 300 sentences being overturned due to new DNA evidence and photo evidence from passing citizens. Years of imprisonment of innocent people have wasted countless lives not to mention millions of dollars.

We all know that police have a most difficult and dangerous job. We hire them to possibly give their lives for people they don’t know and sometimes even people who hate them. They have to make split second decisions without complete information. They have thankless jobs.

Yet, we can’t afford to rely on prejudices and stereotypes to rule our justice system. Standards must be raised for being hired as a police officer (in some places the only requirements are that you must be 18, graduated from high school and have no misdemeanors). Police need to tone down the overly heavy handed parts of their presence and get rid of guns and cars that are discarded from the military. Officers and their stations need to be part of the community with small satellite stations in each neighborhood. In one city they use gondolas for these easily visible safety zones. More training on sensitivity needs to be installed and more women officers need to be hired. Women have proven that tense situations diffuse more often because their more effective methods of communication. And last, like with teachers, citizens need to respect the job our police do for us. They are demoralized now and that can’t be good for anyone.

In the meantime, Dave and I are discussing what our personal plans are when the verdict comes down in the Michael Brelo case. I don’t expect violence under my window, but I do think I may not be riding the bus for awhile.

Airbnb has become a global name many people recognize but for those of you who do not know much about booking rooms this way here is a brief introduction. It started with some young guys who had a place to share for those needing a place to sleep when on the road. An air mattress would do for spare beds (thus the “air” part of the name). Now bookings include everything from sofa surfing to houseboats and tree houses. Mostly the places we look for are guest rooms, apartments, and cottages on the same property as where the host lives. We like to pick the brains of our hosts.

Our airbnb welcome at Tasman

Our airbnb welcome at Tasman

One of the attractive features about this type of booking is that you can not only check out where you are staying with lots of pictures, but you can check out the hosts as well. After you have stayed at a place, you are asked to write a review of your experience. The hosts also write reviews about YOU as a guest so everyone is vetted both ways. Your personal email address is not used and neither is theirs. Dave is the one doing the bookings for us and he is very thorough. He reads all the reviews and uses Google Earth to check out the town and neighborhood.
Staying with local people changes your whole perspective on travel. It makes your vacation a journey. Each host(ess) adds a layer of local color and depth that never would have been there had you stayed in a RV or in a motel.
Folks who are hosting in this way have to love people and trust them to come into their homes and their lives. Yet they are not “out there” the way a traditional B and Bs are. There are no signs in the yard, no advertisements of their accommodations and no attempt to make the living space “cute” with Victorian dolls and doilies.
Because we used airbnb in New Zealand, when we remember Auckland we will include in that memory our hostess and her dog Lucy. We will remember little daily notes to “sleep well” and the bottle of wine awaiting us when we arrived. Roturua will be thought of as experiencing a kind of family reunion with a lamb dinner and nice New Zealand beer. Our hosts there let us use their spacious guest room. We never would have discovered the local Blue Lake and redwood forest without them. And we got to teach them how to make a dirty martini. Napier had us sharing cocktail hour with our hosts and recounting our bucket lists. Our Wellington hostess drove us up a complex system of roads to views from Mt Victoria then dropped us and our luggage off at the ferry. Tasman had us sharing another dinner with our hosts and a writer friend of theirs and lots of tips about marketing, fund raising, and publishing. And at our last airbnb stay we lived with a couple and shared meals and TV viewing while cheering on South Africa against New Zealand in the ICC cricket tournament. (New Zealand won by a close margin and the cheers went up around the neighborhood.)

breakfast in our cottage

breakfast in our cottage

Most memorable was our stay in Fox Glacier where we had four days of sightseeing but also playtime with four year old Emma and two year old Thais. I got a little girl fix of coloring, playing with my earrings and bracelets, and a trip to the laundry. I got a big chuckle as I looked out my bedroom door and saw Thais giving me the special request of “Let me in” but licking the window!
Airbnb hosts are travelers themselves and seem to know what the traveler wants and what they like to talk about. The ones we met on this trip have been doing it for about a year or less. I think we benefited from that as they are still not jaded by any bad experiences. They all talk about the amazing people they have met. Hopefully, we give back a fraction of what they give to us in terms of travel needs, desires, and issues.
Our spaces have been varied both here and elsewhere in the world. We’ve stayed in guest rooms with a bathroom down the hall or guest rooms with bathroom en suite. We’ve often stayed in “in law” suites or little cottages on the property. Without fail, our places have been stocked with everything we need (except, a few times, without enough hangers). They are always clean and neat. (However, in New Zealand there are rarely screens on the windows so you will get bugs both living and dead). Many places offer their laundry facilities for us to use.
The host has a fridge full of breakfast items exclusively for us or we share the kitchen and help ourselves to what is there for breakfast. If no breakfast is provided that is mentioned in the description before booking.
After spending a few hours with these lovely folks you begin to love the way they talk, their ideas about all facets of life and what they think about Americans, Germans or Asians. You learn that there is a mild rivalry between Aussies and Kiwis and between the North Islanders and the South Islanders. And you get a big thrill when they say Maoris put wet “sex” (sacks) on top of their pit roasts. Would you really get that much information from other travelers over breakfast at the Hampton Inn?
Chain hotels are fine on road trips when you can’t know where you will be at the end of the afternoon. You can pull in, register at the office, and plop for the night. You don’t need or want an airbnb experience then.
When we had New Zealand on our bucket list I never pictured that getting to know people would be such an important part of my memories. Now I can’t separate any of the journey from the people who make it such a pleasure.

looking at the mountains

looking at the mountains