Friday, July 31, 2009

Leave only Footprints

In 1992 I was staying in the home of a family in Brigham City, Utah for a week while I lead a
day camp at their church. At the end of the week, I left my shampoo and conditioner in their shower. It was nothing of great expense, but it taught me to keep my things together when I am staying somewhere, and to check more carefully before I leave.

That same summer, I lead a few hikes in the Rocky Mountains. One of the basics of high wilderness hiking is "take only pictures, leave only footprints". In other words, in order to preserve the ecosystem do not leave trash, do not wander off trails and risk killing fragile plants, and just generally treat the natural space as though you are a guest. Because you are.

I bring that idea into my nomadic lifestyle as well. Keeping my things in one area not only helps me to not forget them when I leave, but also helps to not impose on the people already in the space. I do not want to throw off the "ecosystem" of the place by leaving my things in the bathroom or strewn about another room. I practice this even when I am staying in someone's home and they are not there. The only exception is the
refrigerator, although when I stay somewhere for weeks I bring a small fridge. Having everything I need and keeping it contained seems polite, practical, and contributes to a personal sense of control in an otherwise chaotic lifestyle. From that solid base, I am able to fully invest in my new surroundings with passion and purpose.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I find that I cannot be creative or productive if I have too many variables in a day. Since I do not choose to have the stability of one place to live, I create stability in my life by following a few practices. One of those is my combination of yoga, Pilates and general stretching that I do most mornings. I'd rather have a mat for this, but the traditional mats are so large and bulky that they must be packed diagonally in my bag, throwing off my packing in all sorts of other ways. I have seen travel yoga mats by Gaiam, but they were a version of a sticky towel, and not enough cushion for my back during Pilates.

Today, I found a much better solution, a foam mat by Savasa that folds into squares. As an unanticipated bonus, it folds in such a way that the part that touches the ground never touches the side I use, unlike a mat that you roll. This may catch on even for non-travel situations.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Sometimes, someone asks you to volunteer for something, and its a helpful but somewhat mindless job. Other times, you wonder how you were so lucky to ride a volunteer position right into the front row of a huge event.

I heard that they needed a couple extra people for the Safety Team in the Superdome in New Orleans during the national youth gathering. I was given a yellow shirt and quick instructions, and we were off, standing between 37,000 teenagers and the intensity of the stage on the right, which over the course of five evenings featured loud rock bands, jugglers, a New Orleans jazz combo, and pyrotechnics. Lots of pyrotechnics. Quite a safety risk in a situation that was being handled by amateurs such as myself. One begins to wonder how its all possible that noone was hurt. People jumped around, rushed toward the stage, but also managed to stay "in bounds". Then I remembered that these are 37,000 teenagers that someone believed in enough to help them get to New Orleans in the first place. These are youth who raised the money, solicited donations, and cared enough to show up. That is the difference.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Wichita Connection

I saw a lot of great friends while I was in New Orleans, but one that I was particularly excited about was a pastor from Wichita. We'd met years ago, but I reconnected with he and his family when I was in Wichita for eleven weeks performing in the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I attended his church throughout Lent, and actually contributed to the youth group's fundraiser to come on this trip to New Orleans.

A few weeks after I left, terrorism entered their church when a man came into the narthex and shot one of the ushers point blank. The usher was Dr. George Tiller, one of only three late term abortion doctors in the United States. I was quite shocked by the news of a murder during worship in the church I had been attending. I have had the congregation on my mind alot since then. Not everyone in the church agreed with what Dr. Tiller chose as a profession but they seemed to be able to provide a faith home for he and his family. One of his favorite phrases was "Attitude is Everything". The youth group chose to put that on their shirts for their trip to New Orleans. What an amazing tribute.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I am in New Orleans for a week, staying at the Holiday Inn French Quarter. One of the people with whom I am working here read in a guidebook that all chains in New Orleans are somewhat lower quality than their counterparts elsewhere. My roommate pointed out that there would be no reason to make the rooms nicer considering what usually goes on in them, particularly around Mardi Gras.

This is my third trip here, and the second time for the Lutheran national youth gathering. The last time the national youth gathering was in NoLa was 1997. This time, it is the biggest event that the city has hosted since Hurricane Katrina with 37,000 attendees. It is sobering to think that people lived (and died) in the convention center and dome where we are hosting activities.

I heard one post-hurricane perspective from the volunteer driver who brought me from the airport to the hotel. He'd come to New Orleans as part of the coast guard and stayed here after retirement because he and his family love the food, music, and people. He'd also worked for FEMA over the past three years, and had occasion to bring people from New Orleans to Grand Forks, ND to show them how the town had recovered after their equally devastating 1997 flood. I am somewhat more familiar with the flood recovery in North Dakota and commented on what a great example that must be as a beacon of hope. He said that North Dakota's type of recovery would never happen in New Orleans because in Grand Forks the people decided that if their town was to recover, they needed to do the work and they did. He said that in New Orleans, many people just wait for someone to come and help them and do not put in the effort themselves. This is one person's perspective, but it is not what you hear on television. Even in this day and age of communication, you still have to go to a place to really get both sides of a story. This is why I travel.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Locavore Living

I am not much of a restaurant critic, but I must mention the great meal that friends and I had at a new locavore restaurant on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, Brasa. Everything was offered either family style or in individual servings. Menu items also denoted the location of the farm where each item had been grown or raised. The pulled chicken was amazing, and I was told good things about the beef. Delicious and great for the earth!

Monday, July 13, 2009

St. Paul

Ah, Minnesota. It's where I often say I'm from (unless, of course, the conversation calls for one of the other places I have lived). It's where I reconnect with family and my urban tribe. It's where I go to shop tax free. And this time, it's where I went to get glass removed from my foot.

I stepped on glass last Thursday and got it checked at Urgent Care in Manhattan on Friday. The doctor said that "it might work itself out" even though there was already skin growing over it. I could still walk (carefully) but spent a weekend with occasional searing pain when I stepped on it the "wrong way."

Monday morning arrived and the glass was still definitely there. I planned to leave for Minnesota in the afternoon, so I called around to New York City podiatrists to get it removed before leaving. No one called me back, even from the place where the woman at the answering service said that she would page the doctor. Finally it was getting so late that I called my insurance to be sure that I was covered for such things out of state (I was) and then called a podiatrist in Lakeville, MN. A nice lady named Joanne answered. She was actually the nurse that worked with the podiatrist, not an answering service. She said that she'd ask the doctor if he could add me at the end of the day, and called right back with a yes. She said to be sure and call if my flight was delayed, because they would wait around for me. When I arrived and the doctor saw my foot, I recounted my story. He called last Friday's doctor "weak" for not taking out the glass right away. He suspects that he just didn't want to bother. It took this podiatrist only a couple minutes to remove the glass.

Another slam dunk for the Minnesota Health Care System. And for Minnesota Nice.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Homebase: Chelsea

Just moved my things to Brian's. I will be "based" there for a month. He and I both will be coming and going a lot, and only both there five nights out of the whole four weeks. I'd like to see him more, but it would be a long four weeks if we were really going to share a small space for that long.

It is extremely convenient to be able to have one homebase for such a long time. He has a great apartment in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. I am excited to explore more of what is nearby.

Friday, July 10, 2009


I consulted at a New York City ad agency in the morning before catching the Bolt Bus to Washington DC. Highly recommended, since it has reserved seating, free wifi and plugs at every seat for only $20 each way. I was glad to be back in DC at a less crowded time, since my last trip was for the inauguration. I love the transition from New York to DC because there is a completely different dress code with a different vibe around town. New York is about money and DC is about power. I met a high school classmate for dinner and we met another classmate after dessert. One works for a United States senator and the other works for the director of national security. He couldn't tell me what he does, but I did learn that in their business they always talk about methods and sources. Or more specifically, not revealing methods and sources.

After staying over at their apartment, a second home for both of them, I met yet another high school classmate for lunch the next day. She gave me directions to meet her in a park on Pennsylvania Avenue. It turned out to be across from the White House. The White House! To her it was just the park closest to her law office, but I kept turning around and reminding myself that I am eating in a park across from the home of the leader of the free world. I don't want to lose the awe and wonder of being around world famous sights.
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