September 17, 2015
The Magic of Mirror Lake's Reflections at Dawn
The loons are echoing in the background and I can hear their call much louder than I can on Caroga Lake’s waters for some reason, my old stomping ground.
I’m not sure if part of it is the fact that I’m a hundred feet higher than I normally am when the loons call to me or the fact that we’re further north in the Adirondacks – either way, as I sit here reflecting on Mirror Lake’s serenity and magic, the loons are part of it all and its a beautiful thing.
Small as it is, Mirror Lake is large enough to tire your arms as you paddle from one end to the other. The loons are in the middle and along the edge. Frogs too.
I never tire of lily pads and their slimy underpinnings that keep them connected to the lake’s murky black bottom. As I slide by them in my canoe, I hear nothing but the soft sound of the paddle jolting the still waters. I bring my paddle inside the canoe and then the real magic starts….I wait a moment or two and then....nothing but silence.
Silence gives more to humanity than almost anything else I know and yet so few of us have ever been shown the beauty that lies within its oh so solo echo chamber. Within that echo chamber is a kind of fearfulness; it’s about as tangible as it gets. When all the sound and clutter disappears, we are left with nothing but ourselves and that can be a frightening thing at times.
I bring my hand under the lily pad so I can scoop one up as I did as a child and in doing so, it brings a smile. It flops down onto the bottom of the canoe as I scoop up one more. As I do, I can’t help but notice that the sky is changing.
The sun isn't quite up yet but it is fighting to make its way through the mist, through the fog, through the clouds, through the murk of dusk before the sun finally breaks. As the minutes go by, the skylight changes, and as I look around, no one has yet joined me on this mysterious and blissful journey that brings in the tranquil Adirondack dawn.
Finally, the sun emerges as naturally as water flows down a river, falling into its rightful place at 6:25 am, and then to its new rightful place at 6:45 am, 7 am, 7:21 am and so on until the lake slowly but surely wakes up to a new day. Gratitude sweeps over my body for I realize there's simply nothing more perfect than this -- and, more importantly, no time and no other place I'd rather be.
On the other side of the lake, there's no color in the sky at all. Pure mist flows left to right evenly as I spot another couple on the lake paddling as quietly as I had been doing for the past hour. It's clear that morning has broken however and I think about what the afternoon will have in store.
Even when it's a clear day, the clouds are not as bouncy and fluffy as they are in America’s mid-west, the mountains are not as luminous as they are in the Rockies or as blue as they are in the Carolina's, but they are genuinely calm in that knowing sort of way that only natives truly appreciate and understand.
We all have a knowing of the soil that enriched our earliest days on this earth and for me, it was the Adirondacks. While my hood is further south than Mirror Lake and Lake Placid, which almost border each other, and were apparently even connected 5,000 years ago, I know them both as if there were my own native waters.
The lakes on the Adirondacks share so many of the same nuances, including the crunchiness of empty snail and clam shells below your feet as you walk in shallow waters, the endless lily pads, the glow that hits the lake as dusk approaches 7 pm on a late summer evening and of course, the magic of early morning dawn on the lake when you alone take her in and she you.
If you haven’t grown up on a lake or spent a significant amount of time on one, you may not realize that every voice echoes and you can hear conversations across the water. It was one of the ways we learned about our neighbor's lives and their neighbor's lives, just as we did on the Timberlane Blueberry Farm where our family picked cans of berries religiously every late August.
It is here where you learn not just about the community around you (your brethren) but nature’s wonders, which is what ultimately opens you up to life’s happiest moments. The key is to listen carefully and be present when the paddle is moving and more importantly to the silence when it’s not. And of course, the textures beneath that silence...
The dog’s fastidious bark.
The loon’s melodious call.
The eagle’s rustling nest.
The purring motor in the fisherman’s cove.
The child’s precious and innocent laugh.
The waves crashing upon shore after a boat passes.
The woman’s call to her loved ones as dinner is near.
The snore of the old woman who fell asleep in the chair across the way.
The hum in the background that becomes so familiar, we never question what is….
The little girl who asks ‘where’s Peter?’ curious about her brother’s whereabouts five minutes after he pokes fun of her for nothing at all.
The chatter of the boys at the fire with beers in their hands before the family arrives.
The sound of a soft splash as a small child jumps off a float nearby.
It’s the sound of pure Adirondacks but if you listen to what isn't being "played", you begin to experience the sound of silence for it is here where nature rules. Nature is honored. Nature is adorned. And, nature dictates the order of the day. It is a smooth order, like following the tune of a river and the direction it is naturally designed to flow. No fighting, no conflict, no friction…..just going. Just being. Just silence.
Then, a stirring. I was becoming aware that morning was emerging and faster than I wanted it to. The sky was beginning to grace us with her precious blues and the sun was shining upon the trees so their green could truly be seen as green.
Reflections on the lake remained as perfect as they were, but the mist had given way to a bright sun that would warm our bodies while we splashed and played on the lake for the day.
I turned the boat around, back to civilization, back to where camps, a couple of hotels and homes lie scattered around her edge.
Ducks, Adirondack chairs, canoes, the transition of trees, lily pads, loons echoing off in the distance and the soft sound of waves crashing upon the shore. Pure Adirondacks.
Dusk...another muted time of day worth observing - mist turns to a soft Victorian blue, but never luminous, always calming, at least to those who know these mountains and embrace these waters.
And, just when you think that the Adirondacks is all about pine trees and furs, you're blessed with the vibrancy of local summer flowers along the side of the road or in front of someone's camp and remember that nature is not just an integral part of her glory, it IS her glory!
Dear Mirror Lake, don't forget that you are an incredible part of an Adirondack treasure. In gratitude to the luscious days you gave us.
Be sure to read some of my other articles on the Adirondacks, including a loop we took last fall (Fall of 2014), a reflective piece on Caroga Lake, a trip to Lake George, the lure of an Adirondack summer, the heart of the Adirondacks (farmlands), the Adirondacks Trap Dike Hike, Timberlane Blueberry Farm, this year's Lake Placid to reference a few.
May 07, 2014
DLD Kicks Off Their First NYC Event in Chelsea
The DLD (Digital-Life-Design) Conference has been around for awhile albeit more well known in Europe than in the states. It makes sense since it started in Munich Germany in 2005 and only expanded in recent years, first in Israel and most recently to the states with their first official U.S. conference in New York City from April 30-May 1, 2014.
Their mission is to act as a global network on innovation, digitization, science and culture which connects business, creative and social leaders, opinion-formers and influencers for crossover conversation and inspiration.
DLD is organized by DLD Media, which is part of Burda Digital and originally founded by Steffi Czerny and Marcel Reichart. DLD has also hosted events in Beijing, San Francisco, London, Moscow, New Delhi, Rio, Hong Kong and Tel Aviv, where there is a growing community because of the efforts of Israeli-based Yossi Vardi who acts as Chairman of the conference together with Hubert Burda.
Who attends? The conference is invite only, but the categories and interests of those who make up the audience are aligned with the content. Think creative communities, international leaders, disruptors and thinkers from digital and consumer markets, as well as media, technologists, scientists, designers, politicians, artists and social scientists from around the globe.
The format is a combination of keynote style talks and panels.
I last attended the original DLD in 2010 and still remember the magic of Munich in January. Snow fell on me as I walked from my hotel to the venue every morning and back every night, the majority of my commute on pedestrian only streets. As cold as it was, I took plenty of shots of remarkable people and activites over the course of a few days.
I lived on salty pretzels, sausage, beer and coffee and recall having a fight with my new Google Nexus phone, brutal enough that I tossed it in a snowbank because it wouldn't work after umpteen attempts. DLD felt like early days of TED except without the celebrities and Monterey Beach nearby.
One of the things that make DLD so unique is the eclectic and rich curation of tantilizing voices and minds from around the globe by Steffi, Marcel, Hubert and Yossi. Like TED, Davos and Renaissance Weekend, the attendees could equally be speakers because they all have inspiring, compelling content to share.
When the audience is as engaging as the people on stage, but are also compassionate and eager to help make the world a better place, then you have a "creative global community with heart" in a business setting. It's a bit how I see and would describe DLD!
Imagine hearing and engaging in discussions on the future of investment, net neutrality, youth marketing, the future of art and design, urban planning, violence, social physics, failure and neuro science all within a 48 hour period.
Imagine in that same 48 hour period, having a chat with Deepak Chopra on spirituality in the workplace and then hearing about future plans for the Arctic Passage from Iceland's President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson. I originally met Grimsson at the Startup Iceland Conference in Reykjavik last summer (refer to my write up on the event including his talk). Below is a shot I took of him in the networking area at DLD during a tea break.
By now, you're pretty energized, which is great preparation for your visit to a nearby German biergarten for massive plates of sausage, pretzels, sauerkraut and pickled vegetables while listening to an authentic Bavarian band.
Imagine that sometime during your day, you discovered an interesting project or two by Victor Chan, the Founding Director of the Dalai Lama Center, who has also co-authored books with the Dali Lama. Below, he reflects in the courtyard while we took a session break after the rain finally cleared.
Then, later, you dive deep into a discussion about where beauty is missing in the world from architecture to schools and churches.This small group of really smart people you met over German beer care enough to think of solutions about where the world can start.
I chatted with right brain and left brain thinkers from Sweden, China, France, England, South Africa, Australia, Germany, Israel, Finland, Austria, India, Iran, Pakistan, Estonia, Russia, Singapore, Ireland, Denmark, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and Canada.
This is a sample of some of my warmest memories over the course of two days. Welcome to DLD! Their first New York event did not disappoint and held to the same top notch standards they're so known for at their main event in Munich every winter.
One of the other fabulous things about a European run event, is that they care about food. And, of course, presentation matters!
While the conversations in the lounge areas and the after parties could keep you engaged for hours, they also have an hourly agenda for conversations happening on the main stage. I'll start with one of my favorite talks by an Austrian designer I originally met at TED more than a decade ago.
Stefan Sagmeister kicked off his thoughtful and quietly provactive session on Beauty with stunning images of a medieval castle in Lisbon. He said, "Every aspect of this castle was informed by form."
He asks, "how did we manage to get from the darkest side of the middle ages into the 20th century and somehow along the way, lost our desire to make things beautiful?"
He points out that the end of the 19th century was obsessed with beauty and weaving in culture and history into architecture, art and design: the Parliament which is Greek, the Opera which is of Renaissance architecture and the Gothic-ness of Vienna's City Hall.
Yet today, Sagmeister asserts, "theres not a single high end designer who talks about beauty, which IS about being human."
Below is an image taken from his design website.
I had an interesting chat with Dutch-Brazilian visual artist Rafaël Rozendaal who uses the Internet as his canvas. His artistic practice consists of websites, installations, lenticulars, writings and lectures. Spread out over a vast network of domain names, he attracts a large online audience of over 30 million visits per year.
His work researches the screen as a pictorial space, reverse engineering reality into condensed bits, in a space somewhere between animated cartoons and paintings. Rafaël's installations involve moving light and reflections, taking online works and transforming them into spatial experiences.
The below digital image is a website called Room Warp. Note that the below screen capture is a still of a moving digital image that will make you a tad dizzy if you stare at it for too long. You need to go to roomwarp.com to see the live image in action.
He creates digital art that all have their own website name. Others fun examples include FutureIsUncertain.com and IfYesNo.com.
While we're on the topic of art, let's move to Kollabora founder Nora Abousteit who was on a panel entitled Creative Cities which Peter Hirshberg moderated. Says Nora on art as it relates to cities and technology, "Art helps us reframe things in the technology world." What's happening in Las Vegas with the Downtown Project is certainly an example of this.
Also in the discussion was Burning Man's Jenn Sander, Gidi Schmerling from the Tel Aviv Municipiality and CEA's Gary Shapiro.
This engaging discussion was about all the elements that make cities thrive. How do you turn a city/metro area into a creative technological hub like Silicon Valley?
If similar factors come together argues Shapiro then a similar ecosystem can evolve. He pointed out that Tel Aviv and Silicon Valley share a culture that allows failure and supports entrepreneurs taking risks which is necessary for a startup culture to succeed.
While I missed the Cracking the Code of the Art Business panel, Arty's Carter Cleveland, Artnet's Ben Genocchio, Christopher Vroom from ArtSpace, Aditya Julka from Paddle 8 and Michaela de Pury explored this topic in depth.
Digital Music was also part of the agenda, another game changing industry. Says Shazam's CEO Rich Riley, "the way people consume music is changing dramatically and it's important that the industry responds to how people want to listen to and share music." In other words, don't force a square hole into a circle!
Below, Blaise Belville and Torsten Schmidt discuss digital trends in music.
I'm a sucker for meeting a new musician regardless of what instrument they play or style they're passionate about. As a storyteller, I often find that musicians have the most interesting stories at conferences, particularly technology ones.
Given how many Israeli attendees there are, it was no surprise to see Israeli violinist Miri Ben-Ari perform on the main stage. She had me at hello; her energy is electric, her style vibrant and her music foot tapping.
I also attended the Wearables Panel because it's a hot topic right now and one I have a personal interest in because the design is crying for innovation. What was most refreshing is that of the four panelists, three were women.
The problem with wearables today for me as a woman, is that none of them are desirable enough to want to wear. Despite how functional and cool they are, the design behind the wearable is still being made by technologists for technologists.
Intel's Sandra Lopez, MIT's Amanda Parkes and Nike's Stefan Olander discussed the future of wearables and where it's heading. The session was moderated by the Financial Times' Vanessa Friedman.
Sandra and Amanda noted that while today, we might think of buying a wearable device or object of clothing on a technology site or online store, in the future, if it is a fashionable item we want to wear because of how it looks and makes us feel, then we'll expect to buy them at more traditional retail outlets.
I certainly don't need another technology infused bulky plastic black watch or geeky looking Fitbit-like arm band to clash with my outfits.
Another fabulous panel of all women was the Freedom of the Internet in the U.S. and Europe. Bloomberg's Diane Brady moderated a discussion between Miriam Meckel from the University of St. Gallen (solo shot below) and the European Commission's Viviane Reding.
As if suggesting that it rarely happens, Viviane says "a government should have power to do precisely what they want and need to do to make Internet safe and open." She was fabulous btw.
The "Building a Vertical Business for the Consumer Internet" Panel
Adding some humor and controversy to the DLD stage was Douglas Rushkoff, author of Present Shock. "A photo with $4.6 billion dollars printed under Evan William's face in the Wall Street Journal is NOT disruption," he asserts as he talks about humanism and how current economic and investment models are not necessarily supporting the best entrepreneurs and ideas.
If there's not a significant return on investment, then the idea and entrepreneur doesn't get funded, when in fact, it could return a small return on investment and perhaps offer something of great value to the world. The money guys around me seemed to have smoke coming out of their ears while he was talking. It would have been fun (and spicy) to have a debate after his talk!
On a media panel moderated by Jessica Lessin, John Markoff and Steven Levy discussed the state of technology journalism and how it has evolved over the past twenty years.
"The art of real investigative reporting has been lost to fast twitch journalism," says Levy who went on to share his opinion on the pitfalls of curation. He suggests that after content gets recycled umpteen times, no one knows who the original author is anymore since the primary source gets lost when it is replicated so frequently.
Below, the 20 Years of Funding panel included Landmark Ventures' Zeev Klein, Acton Capital Partners Christoph Braun, Time Warner Investments Scott Levine, Israel Growth Partners Moshe Lichtman and Greycroft's Alan Patricof.
The closing interview was originally slated to be a fireside chat between Richard Saul Wurman and Iceland's president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson but there was a change of plans. The final act was instead, a touching interview between Yossi Vardi and his former "boss" Steve Case.
Steve talked about his old days at AOL where he said he was less of a CEO and more of a mayor. In those days, he said the focus was on the 3 C's: context, content and community.
Other pressing issues he raised was the fact that we'll fall far behind the innovation ladder if we don't make it a priority. "Immigration reform necessary to make sure we attract the best people to Startup America," he said. Vardi agreed which led to the role of startups today and how people will succeed. "People are not interested in facts, they're interested in good stories," says Yossi.
Now, please join me on a visual journey to DLD NYC, starting with the DLD NYC Band Michael Aranella and his Dreamland Orchestra.
Ryan Rzepecki of Social Bicycles, David Rose with his new book Angel Investing, Brad Templeton and Dr. Amol Sarva.
Steve Case watching one of the presentations from the front row.
I went back in time when I ran into this trio -- a former dynamic team together so many years later minus Jerry Michalski of course. Below, Daphne Kis, Kevin Werbach and Esther Dyson.
Gino Yu, Renee Blodgett
Yossi on stage
Lakshmi Pratury, Steve Case, Renee Blodgett
Sunny Bates and Nate Mook
Dan Dubno and Gary Bolles
Don Dodge, Petra Vorsteher, Renee Blodgett, Shara Nechmad
Lakshmi Pratury, Asha and crew
Lara Stein and Yossi Vardi
Renee Blodgett, Burda's Olga Kammerer and ELLE Magazine U.S. Correspondent Nadine Sieger
The sax player gave me a closer look at his marvelous instrument.
Holly Harper Dodge & Don Dodge
Did I mention that they had live entertainment at the closing night after party?
Kudos and hats off to Steffi, Yossi and team for pulling off yet another perfectly crafted and curated event!
All photo credits: Renee Blodgett, except for the group shot of Creative Cities which was pulled from the DLD blog.
May 06, 2014
Reflecting on the 2014 Social Media Oscars!
It's been about a month since the Shorty Awards ceremony in New York, otherwise known as the Social Media Oscars! Now in its sixth year, it is an annual event which honors the best people and organizations on Twitter and social media.
This year, I was a finalist in the Business Influencer category, which is a great category to be in as a communicator of other people's magic, a talent that some simply toss in the generic publicist category.
Over the years, I have found that many executives don't think publicists understand business; they're merely there to communicate a CEO's vision.
As odd as that may sound, this mentality is what often leads to failed campaigns and when communications are not made a "strategic" priority of the company, it also leads to failed businesses. And so, business influencer is a great category as far as categories go yet the process had me on edge for days. Here's why!
Making it to finalist and staying in the top seven before the voting deadline required work, but not soulful work. It was a sales pitch, that kind of pushy ask that gave the used car salesman a bad name.
Once you've been nominated, you need to solicit people to vote for you just like you would if you were running for office. The ask wasn't a quick or easy one since it was confusing for many people to decipher what they had to do to cast a vote....some were miffed they had to give the awards site permission to access their Twitter account, while others were annoyed they couldn't vote from Facebook.
Supporters had to send a tweet from ShortyAwards.com or from Twitter that went something like this: I nominate @username for a Shorty Award in #category because...REASON!
While I realize that using social media is precisely the place you'd alert your community you're up for a "social media" award and ask for their support, bottom line, asking didn't feel good.
Here's what I learned in the process.
Social media for me is all about being social and the main reason it was that much easier for me to jump on board in the early days faster than some of my colleagues. I also dove into Twitter because I saw its inherent marketing value as well as it being a great source of news and insights from thought leaders and influencers I admired and respected. Social media also served as a platform to catch up with friends from around the world I rarely had a chance to see. It's clear that social media is a incredibly powerful tool for bridging cultural gaps and bringing the world closer together socially, politically and economically.
Third, I have always loved the engagement part of the social media experience. The thing I love most about social media was missing during the voting solitication process. That said, I understand and get the value of bringing community input to the table. After all, social media is all about community so the "ask" needs to be there in some way shape or form.
Having thousands of people from around the world cast votes through Twitter using the #ShortyAwards hashtag also does wonders for their brand, escalating the hype and perceived value of the honor. It's a brilliant marketing strategy -- let's not forget Will Farrell's hilarious acceptance speech for his Lifetime Achievement Award where he talked about the obscurity of an award no one has ever heard of...
And yet, those who are prolific on social media are aware of the Shorty Awards and year after year for the past five, people participate across countless categories from countless countries.
The award categories are diverse and run the gammit, from acting, humor, directing, fansites, campaigns, food, TV shows, tech & innovation, gaming, podcasting, sports team, art, fashion and celebrities to quirky categories like best Kickstarter campaign, weird, science, gif of the year (yes really) best fake accounts and non-humans (yes really).
I sat next to Bulk Wolf (@wolfb) in the fourth row during the ceremony who won in the WEIRD category; it made my category name sound a little lame, at the very least conservative.
Previous Shorty Awards ceremonies have welcomed The Daily Show's Samantha Bee and Jason Jones, Ricky Gervais, Aasif Mandvi, Tiffani Thiessen, Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara, Kiefer Sutherland, Jim Gaffigan, Amanda Palmer, Conan O'Brien, Cory Booker, Sesame Street's Grover, Ted Leo, Shaquille O'Neal, Stephen Fry, Suze Orman, Rachel Maddow, William Shatner, Carrie Keagan, Chris Hardwick, David Karp, Biz Stone, Coco Rocha, George Takei, Jimmy Kimmel and Felicia Day.
To give you an idea of how much traffic the Shorties generate, more than two million tweet-nominations were sent during last year's Shorty Awards nomination process. The Hollywood Reporter even covered the nominees.
From social causes and non-profit work to witty marketing campaigns, comedy and rare oddities, there was no shortage of great stories from Shorty finalists in other categories.
No surprise that Guy Kawasaki with over ten books under his belt and 1.4 million Twitter followers, took home the glass trophy in the Business Influencer category. I love Guy's sense of humor and the candid sarcasm he uses to drive his messages home. Hats off!
In addition to myself (@magicsaucemedia), other finalists in the Business Influencer category included Gemma Godfrey (@GCGodfrey), Marsha Collier (@MarshaCollier), Lolly Daskal (@LollyDaskal), Ted Coine (@tedcoine) and Scott Levy (@fuelonline). I have a lot of respect for their work and hopefully we can all drink a fabulous Bordeaux together in some foreign city at some juncture in the future.
Here's the upside to the solicitation process -- I learned a bit more about my business and myself as the tweets came pouring in and people asked me random questions about things I hadn't thought about in years.
Many people know that I wear two very active hats: Magic Sauce Media and We Blog the World -- two disparate worlds and yet I learned through the voting process that the audience overlaps much moreso than I thought.
I also reflected on personal branding alignment in the process. While I love identifying the "magic sauce" of companies, products and individuals, that Je ne sais quoi doesn't always hit me in the face when I first start working with a client.
As we all know, the hardest job is determining what your own magic is even if you're savvy on stage or in front of customers and have the most confidence in the world.
Time and time again, I talk to executives, celebrities, inventors and creators who think their greatest talent and gift to the world is something other than the recipients of that gift think it is. How we perceive ourselves is rarely how others perceive us, even for the most perceptive among us.
I'd encourage you to create your own submission process to solicit feedback, asking people to be as honest and raw as they can about your work and about you. I'm not talking about a testimonial, but perhaps a one or two liner that describes your magic sauce. Do you know what yours is?
I'd also ask you to pay attention to who shows up to the table. Who takes the time to give you their feedback? Sometimes you find that your supporters are those you may least expect and those you think will run miles for you, are suddenly too busy. It will help you distill down your community and focus on what and who matters!
Below are a some random shots from this year's Awards ceremony in the Big Apple on April 7, 2014 at The Times Center in Times Square.
In this group shot is Martin Jones of #Cox Business, who were the sponsors of our category, Business Influencer.
Learning from other category finalists.
Scott Beale from Laughing Squid on the left.
Below, Cox Media's Martin Jones, Renee Blodgett and Greg Galant (@gregory), CEO of Sawhorse Media, the producers of the Shorty Awards. Sawhorse also created and runs Muck Rack, a leading network to connect with journalists on social media.
Awards winner announcements from the main stage.
A somewhat blurry shot of on-stage entertainment in the main room.
Also, have a look at what England-based Dean Johnson aka Activ Right Brain wrote about his experience since the vote was centered around a specific campaign or product, so not the case with those in my category. He also flew across the Atlantic to be on the ground for the ceremony and in the end, sadly lost out to Digg.
Photo credits: tropies from blog.publicisna.com, Vote for Us from BakerStreetBabes.com, others taken on my Canon 7D and my iPhone.
February 05, 2014
To Matriarchs & Our Roots
I’ve always loved the word Roots. In English at least, the word always made so much sense to me since the word’s foundation is in fact, a foundation….Roots are the source of where things are formed and grow; they are the part of a plant which attaches to the ground and gives it support, just like a family does. It is also the basic cause and the source of origin of something, like our culture and “hood” provide us throughout our lives.
We are all born from a root, a strong thread of sorts that binds us to a known place, a known culture, a known color and a known value system and just like a maple tree knows its soil, we know our own. And, just like that tree grows and blossoms into something rich, pure and beautiful before it eventually withers and dies, we too go through a similar journey, passing through cycles just as nature does, calling on our “roots” to give us the support and strength we need to get to the next stage of our lives.
Somehow we have this notion as children that our parents and grandparents won’t ever die because they were the first source of strength, protection and support we ever knew; it doesn’t seem possible that the matriarch or patriarch everyone turned to for strength, would someday lose their own.
Having been raised by my grandparents, I’ve experienced the journey to death more often than most people my age and seen more people I care about and love slip away before I felt it was their time. We’ve all experienced death in some shape or form -- even as children, we have seen a family pet or bird we may have only nurtured for a week or two die before our eyes.
Amidst all of this tearing and pulling away from our strong albeit gnarly roots, a matriarch or patriarch was there to see us through. While we were fortunate to have a few in our extended family, it was hard to hold a candle to Aunt Jo, the feminine and graceful force behind so many functions and gatherings.
Above, she carries one of her five boys in the 1950s at a summer family outing. Below, four generations gather under one roof.
Traditionally a matriarch is a woman who rules or dominates a family, group, or state or a mother who is head and ruler of her family and descendants.
In some cultures, the matriarch holds more weight than it does in other societies. In the first half of this century, they often came from extended families in the states because the “extended family” was something we cared about and nurtured much more than we do today. The American culture if there is such a thing, was created from a mishmash of quirky customs, each generation struggling to extend the traditions they held most dear.
Aunt Jo who married into a family with customs stemming from Eastern Europe, Wales, England and French Huguenot culture, was one of those matriarch forces. Her roots came from Polish catholic descent and from those roots, I learned to polka, make a mean rice pudding, how to maintain dignity and grace under pressure (especially amidst a whole lotta male energy) and remain constant when things go south.
Together with my great grandmother and grandmother who raised me, these three matriarchs created a family thread for which our roots never strayed.
(The blurry photo below is made up of family members who were nearly all born in the 1800s, including my great grandmother who I lived with for awhile. Albeit short, she is the one who assertively stands in the front with the 'fake chicken' as if she's commander-in-chief...and oh btw, she always believed she was)
We always knew Aunt Jo would outlive every family member from her generation even as children, and so she did…I learned of her stroke not quite a week ago and this afternoon of her passing, the day after her 95th birthday.
Her passing is not just the passing of an amazing soulful woman but of an era, a time when extended family connections mattered, a time when we made time to cook homemade meals for our children and TV, PC and mobile screens didn’t preside over face-to-face talks. We partied together and also mourned together. We went to church together and fought when we got home. Passing the time pissing and moaning over martinis and gin and tonics were the order of the day and most of it was done through a thick cloud of smoke, something people did inside not out.
Adults swore but told us not to, boys would get whacked when they misbehaved and girls took piano and dance lessons. We washed our hair under the kitchen sink in the winter and used green Prell from floating plastic bottles in the lake during the summer. We had curfews but few followed them and if we missed a day of school to help our dad fix a car, it wasn’t considered truancy. We played poker and pitch with adults by the time we were ten and there was always plenty of music, dancing, vodka, sauerkraut, kabasi sausage on the grill and horseshoe matches on the lawn.
This was the small town New England working class America I knew. It was…and remains, my roots. Aunt Jo’s dignity, grace and strength were part of it, as was my grandfather’s “beat-the-system” attitude and my grandmother’s “don’t ever abandon your feminine self.”
Above is a group of women you should be equally scared and honored to know - a treasure, a joy, a lifetime of stories and an inner strength they wore so proudly. Had I not known them and seen life through their eyes, I would not be able to write these words today.
My three mentors sit in positions #2, 4 and 6 in the photo above -- very few women in my life since this miraculous generation I'm proud to call family have given me the courage and strength to move forward as I have, AND even more importantly, accepted me for who I was as a 'let's challenge the status quo child" and who I have now become, which merely extends that same child's dream and heart.
Like many Americans, I grew up learning to embrace four different ethnicities and three religions, even though there were fights between family members over more than one of them. The catholics in the family hung crosses in the dining rooms and bedrooms and the protestants went to boring Sunday morning services and raised their kids with a sense of honor and ethics, yet overdid it on weekends in rural Mad Men style.
At some point, we decide to leave our roots behind for awhile to explore and dabble. Along the way, we taste different kinds of candy, speak in different tongues, drape ourselves with different materials and shades, and discover that there are nearly 1,300 varieties of bananas and 17 species of penguins. Who knew?
Even though I’ve now lived in California for awhile, I still can’t call it home nor ever will. More than any other state, I consider California the most rootless state because its purpose historically hasn’t been to create roots but to sow them. Although immigrants first landed in the east, those with entrepreneurial spirits fled west when the Gold Rush hit in 1848 in hope of a better life.
Beyond the Gold Rush, the promise didn’t stop – from Hollywood and beach culture to America’s first sushi and award-winning wine, California led the way. Today, it’s technology and people now swarm to Silicon Valley for the promise of abundance or the opportunity to build their own thing.
California is a place of “roots” of things and inventions but not people; the melting pot of voices and ideas all stem from somewhere else. Skype was invented by Estonians, Google’s founders are from Russia and Yahoo’s founder is Taiwanese born.
These entrepreneur’s values and roots came from far away foreign lands and while mine came from a combination of five of them, they were all deeply planted in New England.
Some of us run from our roots forever and have good reasons to do so, whether it be a black cotton farmer who left the South in the 1950s because he had no choice, a Holocaust survivor who landed wherever a boat took them, the small town boy from a small European town whose dream was to produce Hollywood movies, or the Chinese girl who might have been killed in the early 1980’s had she not found a new country to call home.
As Ping Fu and Baratunde Thurston exemplify in their books “Bend Not Break” and “How to be Black”, our roots never escape us. In his book "Rescue America," Chris Salamone talks about his Italian roots as a first generation American and how today’s generation has abandoned the very thing that made this country the force it became.
Without our roots, America will look, sound and feel like a bland echo-chamber of brilliant minds without soul, without culture and without purpose. When we sleep most peacefully at night, it’s when our soul is aligned with our purpose and both are in alignment with our roots, even if we are not living on the soil which birthed us.
We’ve all been there.
Richard Russo who writes painfully at times about our shared hood, is so raw in his storytelling, I knew that if I were to meet him, we’d inherently understand each other without needing to exchange a word simply because we share the same roots.
After reading a few of his novels, I wondered if his Uncle Richard had ever sipped whiskey with my Uncle Alton or brought in the morning with a bad cuppa coffee at an old Main Street diner which no longer exists. Or, perhaps they labored in a leather mill together or one of his cousins had played cards with my Aunt Jo.
Nearly a decade into living in California, I don’t feel as if I truly “know” anyone or even worse, understand anyone. This is the truth. And yet, I have 5,120 blah blah whaaadevveerr friends on Facebook.
I write this on this longer than normal American Airlines flight from JFK to SFO, and to my right is a man from Turkey who moved to New York over twenty years ago and to my left is a woman whose mother was Syrian and father was British, yet she grew up in Canada. We talk about roots – their soil, their food, their religion.
When we stop talking and the movie is over, the plane is silent. I can’t stop thinking about my Aunt Jo, the glue who kept an otherwise dysfunctional family functional and strong. The wife of Ed, my grandfather’s closest brother who was blinded in the war, she raised five boys while maintaining elegance, fortitude, strong traditional family values, tradition and faith.
Fighting the tears knowing she could be gone by the time the plane landed, I thought about the countless family gatherings at their house and our summer camp, my grandparents singing at some alcohol-infused function and my Aunt Jo and Uncle Ed dancing in the driveway of their house where many a’ clam bake and barbecue took place.
Above, the early 1960's. Below, the mid-1990's.
When a family member we love dearly passes, we reflect on the beautiful memories of our childhood but in doing so, we also relive some of the painful ones too...the times when we weren’t understood or accepted by the family members we somehow felt we needed the most approval from -- sound familiar?
I’ve learned over the years that in order to fully embrace our roots in a healthy way, we need to absorb the stories and lessons learned from those who did accept and love us for who we were and are today, not those who didn’t and simply won’t. Secondly, roots isn’t just about the people, customs, religion and food, it’s also about the soil which nurtured us.
It’s important to embrace the nature and soil from our hood because what our hands and feet felt as a child is what our body knows and understands and even more importantly, “it” understands and knows us.
The Adirondack Mountains understand me and I them – there’s no judgment or need to be anyone or anything I am “not” around them. I walk among her trees and I swim in her lakes. And in doing so, it brings me more peace, serenity and acceptance than anything I’ve ever known.
Long walks in the snow, swims and canoe rides, red cardinals sitting on maple trees, lumpy mashed potatoes, corn on the cob at clam bakes, flower corsages on Easter Day, handpicked blueberries over French toast and parties with adults who drank more martinis and smoked more packs of cigarettes than days they went to school.
This is a Tribute to you my Dear Aunt Jo, one of the most precious women I have ever known and have had the honor and opportunity to love. Thank you for all that you were and the beautiful imprint you have left on all of us. It’s hard to imagine a life without you in it, so when you decide what bird you will present yourself to us in the months ahead, please let us know. I will look for you outside my kitchen window.
"Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Top photo credit: jtl.us. Red cardinal bird credit: quoteko.com. All other credits Renee Blodgett.
December 20, 2013
Happy Holidays & Reflections on 2013!
As I began reflecting on the 2013 year, I realized it has been a watershed year for me in so many ways. What an incredible year of personal growth and professional reflection, where projects and encounters I didn't think would be diverse and creative ended up being more powerful because of what they didn't offer more than what they did. I experienced calmer and more serene waters, and re-ignited with nature in a way I haven't since childhood. As the 2013 year begins to close to an end, here are some photo highlights from the year.
Happy Holidays & A Toast To An Incredibe 2014!
January 01, 2012
New Years Greetings!!
January 1, 2012 in America The Free, Europe, Holidays, Magic Sauce Media, New England, New York, On Africa, On Australia, On China, On Costa Rica, On East Africa, On Fiji, On France, On Germany, On India, On Italy, On Japan, On South Africa, On Spain, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
December 25, 2011
Christmas in Every Language & Customs Around the World
Language is one of the most powerful things we have and when we can't communicate with someone because we don't know their language, we rely on hand gestures, hugs, expressions and the most universal ones: smiles when we're happy, tears when we're not.
I've spend the holidays in several countries over the years including India, Thailand, Australia, Mexico, South Africa, England, the Netherlands, Israel, France and a few places I'm sure I'm forgetting. Celebrations obviously differ even when you're celebrating within the same culture or religion. Jewish friends in New York buy a Hannukah bush, others don't honor it at all. If you've grown up in New England or northern Europe, snow often comes with Christmas and it becomes an association for you. If you live in Australia or Africa, chances are you've never had a white christmas.
Brazilians have a tradition of creating a nativity scene or Presepio, whose origins come from the Hebrew word "presepium" which means the bed of straw upon which Jesus first slept in Bethlehem. The Presepio is common in northeastern Brazil (Bahi, Sergipe, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraiba, Maranhao, Ceara, Pernambuco, Piaui and Alagoas).
In Denmark, a christmas feast was traditionally celebrated at midnight, where a special rice pudding is served. In the pudding, a single almond is hidden and whoever finds it will have good luck for the coming year. The bringer of gifts is known as Julemanden and arrives in a sleigh drawn by reindeer, a sack over his back. Sound famliar? He is asissted by Yuletide chores by elves called Juul Nisse, who are said to live in attics.
In Iraq, Christian families light candles, light a bonfire of thorn bushes and sing. If the thorns burn to ashes, good luck will be granted. When the fire dies, each person jumps over the ashes three times and make a wish.
Like in many Latin American countries, Nicaragua retains many of the customs of old Spain. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, people stroll the streets where there are many things to buy: candles, Nativity pictures, toys and foods. Children carry fragrant bouquets to the alter of the Virgin and sing carols. On Christmas Eve, church bells beckon the people to Midnight Mass.
In South America, Venezuelans attend a daily early morning church service between December 16th and 24th called Misa de Aguinaldo ("Early Morning Mass.") In Caracas, the capital city, it is customary to roller-skate to this service and many neighborhoods close the streets to cars until 8 a.m. Before bedtime children tie one end of a piece of string to their big toe and hang the other out the window. The next morning, rollerskaters give a tug to any string they see hanging.
In Japan, Christmas was apparently brought over by Christian missionaries but today, it has become very commercialized largely because gift giving is something that appeals to the culture. This is an interesting and funny story if its true, but in the scene of the Nativity when it first came to Japan, was so foreign for them because Japanese babies don't sleep in cradles. Like the states, they eat turkey on Christmas Day (ham is also common with many families) and in some places, there are community Christmas trees. Houses even have evergreens and mistletoe. They also have a god or priest known as Hoteiosho, who closely resembles Santa Claus, often depicted as an old man carrying a huge pack. He is thought to have eyes in the back of his head.
And, you've gotta love the Scots since they have so many quirky customs considering how close they live to the English. Celebration around the holidays is much bigger for New Years Eve than it is for Christmas, something they refer to as Hogmanay. This word may derive from a kind of oat cake that was traditionally given to children on New Year's Eve. The first person to set foot in a residence in a New Year is thought to profoundly affect the fortunes of the inhabitants. Generally strangers are thought to bring good luck. Depending on the area, it may be better to have a dark-haired or fair-haired stranger set foot in the house. This tradition is widely known as "first footing."
In the Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia and before that known as Bohemia), they bring their traditions from the 10th century home of Good King Wenceslaus, the main character in the familiar English Christmas carol. It is said that English troops, fighting in Bohemia hundreds of years later, brought the song home with them. St. Nicholas is called Svaty Mikalas and is believed to climb to earth down from heaven on a golden rope with his companions, an angel and a whip-carrying devil.
An ancient tradition shared by the Czechs and in Poland involves cutting a branch from a cherry tree and putting it in water indoors to bloom. If the bloom opens in time for Christmas, it is considered good luck and also a sign that the winter may be short.
I'm amazed how many of these traditions involve some superficial physical ritual that somehow tells us whether good luck or bad luck will fall upon us, not unlike snapping a chicken wish bone in two I guess...or flipping a coin.
Below is a fabulous and fun list of Merry Christmas and Happy New Years in many languages from around the world. Obviously, we didn't capture them all but we did include a healthy list to get you started with practicing but you never know when you will come across someone from another culture around the holidays.
Alsatian: E güeti Wïnâchte un e gleckichs Nej Johr
Arabic: أجمل التهاني بمناسبة الميلاد و حلول السنة الجديدة (ajmil at-tihānī bimunāsabah al-mīlād wa ḥilūl as-sanah al-jadīdah)
Armenian: Շնորհաւոր Նոր Տարի եւ Սուրբ Ծնունդ: (Shnorhavor Nor Daree yev Soorp Dzuhnoont) Բարի կաղանդ և ամանոր (Paree gaghant yev amanor)
Bengali: শুভ বড়দিন (shubho bôṛodin)
Cherokee: ᏓᏂᏍᏔᏲᎯᎲ & ᎠᎵᎮᎵᏍᏗ ᎢᏤ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᎠᏌᏗᏒ - (Danistayohihv & Aliheli'sdi Itse Udetiyvasadisv)
Cheyenne: Hoesenestotse & Aa'eEmona'e
Cornish: Nadelik Lowen ha Blydhen Nowydh Da and Nadelik Looan ha Looan Blethen Noweth
Danish: Glædelig jul og godt nytår
English: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Estonian: Rõõmsaid Jõule ja Head Uut Aastat and Häid Jõule ja Head Uut Aastat
Fijian: Me Nomuni na marau ni siga ni sucu kei na tawase ni yabaki vou
Filipino: Maligayang pasko at manigong bagong taon!
Flemish: Zalig Kerstfeest en Gelukkig Nieuwjaar
French: Joyeux Noël et bonne année
German: Frohe/Fröhliche Weihnachten - und ein gutes neues Jahr / ein gutes Neues / und ein gesundes neues Jahr / und einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr
German (Swiss): Schöni Fäschttäg / Schöni Wienachte -- und e guets neus Jahr / en guete Rutsch is neue Johr -- Schöni Wiehnachte und es guets Neus -- Schöni Wiänachtä, äs guets Nöis
German (Bavarian): Froue Weihnåcht'n, und a guad's nei's Joah
Haitan Creole: Jwaye Nowèl e Bònn Ane
Hawaiian: Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou
Hebrew: חג מולד שמח ושנה טובה - Chag Molad Sameach v'Shanah Tovah
Hungarian: Kellemes karácsonyt és boldog új évet
Indonesian: Selamat hari natal dan tahun baru
Irish: Nollaig shona duit/daoibh (Happy Christmas to you). Beannachtaí na Nollag (Christmas Greetings). Beannachtaí an tSéasúir (Season's Greetings) and Athbhliain faoi mhaise duit/daoibh (Prosperous New Year). Also, Bliain úr faoi shéan is faoi mhaise duit/daoibh (Happy New Year to you)
Italian: Buon Natale e felice anno nuovo
Japanese: メリークリスマス (merī kurisumasu) -- New Year greeting - 'Western' style
新年おめでとうございます (shinnen omedetō gozaimasu)
New Year greetings - Japanese style
明けましておめでとうございます (akemashite omedetō gozaimasu)
旧年中大変お世話になりました (kyūnenjū taihen osewa ni narimashita)
本年もよろしくお願いいたします (honnen mo yoroshiku onegai itashimasu)
Klingon: QISmaS DatIvjaj 'ej DIS chu' DatIvjaj (sg) and QISmaS botIvjaj 'ej DIS chu' botIvjaj (pl)
Korean: 즐거운 성탄절 보내시고 새해 복 많이 받으세요 and (jeulgeoun seongtanjeol bonaesigo saehae bok manhi bateusaeyo)
Kurdish: Kirîsmes u ser sala we pîroz be (and) Kirîsmes u salî nwêtan lê pîroz bê
Lithuanian: Linksmų Kalėdų ir laimingų Naujųjų Metų
Maltese: Il-Milied Ħieni u s-Sena t-Tajba - Awguri għas-sena l-ġdida
Maori: Meri Kirihimete me ngā mihi o te tau hou ki a koutou katoa
Mongolian: Танд зул сарын баярын болон шинэ жилийн мэндийг хүргэе and (Tand zul sariin bayriin bolon shine jiliin mendiig hurgey)
Navajo: Ya'at'eeh Keshmish
Nepali: क्रस्मसको शुभकामना तथा नयाँ वर्षको शुभकामना - (krismas ko subhakamana tatha nayabarsha ko subhakamana)
Norweigan: God jul og godt nytt år (Bokmål) and God jol og godt nyttår (Nynorsk)
Old English: Glæd Geol and Gesælig Niw Gear
Punjabi: ਮੈਰੀ ਕ੍ਰਿਸਮਸ। / میری کرِسمس (merī krismas - not used) and ਨਵਾਂ ਸਾਲ/ਵਰਾ ਮੁਬਾਰਕ। / نواں سال، ورہا مبارک (navā̃ sāl/varā mubārak)
Raotongan: Kia orana e kia manuia rava i teia Kiritimeti e te Mataiti Ou
Romanian: Crăciun fericit şi un An Nou Fericit
Samoan: Ia manuia le Kerisimasi ma le Tausaga Fou
Sardinian: Bonu nadale e prosperu annu nou
Slovak: Veselé vianoce a Štastný nový rok
Spanish: ¡Feliz Navidad y próspero año nuevo!
Swahili: Krismasi Njema / Heri ya krismas -- Heri ya mwaka mpya
Swedish: God jul och gott nytt år
Tahitian: Ia orana no te noere and Ia orana i te matahiti api
Thai: สุขสันต์วันคริสต์มาส และสวัสดีปีใหม่ - (sùk săn wan-krít-mâat láe sà-wàt-dee bpee mài)
Tibetan: ༄༅།།ལོ་གསར་ལ་བཀྲ་ཤིས་བདེ་ལེགས་ཞུ། - (Losar La Tashi Delek - Happy New Year)
Tongan: Kilisimasi fiefia mo ha ta'u fo'ou monū'ia
Ukranian: Веселого Різдва і з Новим Роком
(Veseloho Rizdva i z Novym Rokom)
Xhosa: Siniqwenelela Ikrisimesi Emnandi Nonyaka Omtsha Ozele Iintsikelelo
Yiddish: אַ פֿרײליכע ניטל און אַ גוטער נײַער יאָר - (A freylikhe nitl un a guter nayer yor)
The above list was a sample of a longer list from Omniglot, a site dedicated to languages from around the world. Visit their site for more languages including pronunciations. They also made the following note: Christmas is not universally celebrated and there are a number of different dates for Christmas and New Year depending on which calendar is used. Orthodox Christians who use the Julian calendar, for example in Russia and Serbia, celebrate Christmas on January 7. Another collection of phrases for the holidays can be found here. Also check out this link on Christmas Around the World.
December 25, 2011 in America The Free, Belize, Europe, Fiji, Holidays, Israel, New England, New York, On Africa, On Australia, On China, On Costa Rica, On East Africa, On Fiji, On France, On Germany, On Guatemala, On India, On Italy, On Japan, On People & Life, On South Africa, On Spain, Reflections, San Francisco, South America, Travel, United Kingdom, WBTW | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
August 20, 2011
The Connecting Flight, The One Following the Mad Tearing Run…
The flight is delayed and you have to make that connection….or else.
It seems to happen to me more often these days and I’m not sure if that’s the result of airlines having less planes available resulting in fewer connecting flights or the fact that systems are just breaking down.
Certainly, most of the internal systems are antiquated or ridiculously absurd and don’t have a lot of logic.
For example, recently I was on an Air France flight to Paris and had to catch a connection to Budapest. I saw the connection time on the flight itinerary and in “theory” it seemed fine. After all, it was a connecting flight and for some odd reason despite how much I’ve traveled, I thought there’d be one of those “side lanes” where you could transfer to another flight within Europe. You know, arrive at gate C and just walk down a hallway to Gate D and board your plane. Logical right?
The flight was actually on time (ish) however it took awhile to settle at the gate delaying gate arrival by 15’ish minutes. Again, in theory, I didn’t think I’d have a problem making the connection. After all, I was arriving in Gate C and I was departing out of Gate D (Gate D2 that is) from Charles de Gaulle Airport.
Sure, I knew it was massive but as I was scurrying out, the Air France agent assured me it was close, repeating the C and D twice, which certainly seemed logical to me as well.
I started with a brisk walk but not a sprinting one until I realized that D was nowhere close to C since the signs for it kept reappearing after every corner turn and after yet another walking escalator disappeared behind me, there was another one on the horizon with D2 off in the distance.
We’ve all done a short sprint but this one seemed to never end until I finally stopped to ask an Air France staffer who was lingering in a busy hallway with a clipboard pressed up against her. “Budapest D2” I gasped short of breath. “Pardon,” she replied. “BUDAPEST, DAY-EH DEUX” I said, gasping even more dying for my bottle of water which had fallen from my carry-on backpack by this point.
“Tout de doit and sortie,” she motioned. “Sortie,” I thought, NO, I don’t want Sortie, I have a connecting flight. When I heard Sortie and realized she wanted me to exit, I said to her exasperated, “I have a connecting flight, une connection a Budapest. Je ne reste pas ici a Paris.” She pointed straight ahead and repeated Sortie.
So what does a seasoned traveler do with 15 minutes to go, knowing that their flight “in theory” was supposedly already boarding. She sprints of course.
Now, I’m not a marathon runner and nor am I in the best shape of my life, but having grown up as an athlete, the muscle remains. In other words, it re-emerges when it needs to, in cases of emergency or when you know you’ve spent far too much time in front a PC monitor and your body is desperate for a little oxygen.
I was wearing out and not getting a minute of sleep on my 10 hour flight didn’t help matters. When I saw the long line through passport control, I panicked as my heart raced. “Fuck,” I thought, I really don’t want to miss this flight. It’s not that I mind getting stuck in Paris, but getting stuck at an airport waiting for a small plane heading east after a half day of travel across 4 time zones wasn’t my idea of fun. Besides, Hungary was waiting.
In fact, Hungary was calling in a loud voice, saying, “Renee, you’ve been to Paris hundreds of times, I’ve been waiting for your Gypsy spirit to come taste my wine, come eat my beef medallions and my goose pate.”
I firmly but politely grabbed another Air France rep explaining the urgency, flashing my ticket and pointing to my watch which I had just changed five minutes before the plane landed. She took pity on me and ushered me through an empty line, obviously waiting for loud, late, ill-mannered Americans like me. (after all, aren’t we all?)
Passport control man was in no hurry despite seeing me out of breath and sweating and I knew it didn’t help when I hurriedly said in my pathetic French, “Je ne reste pas ici, Je suis en retard pour mon vol de Budapest.”
Quietly I was cursing, thinking, what the hell are they giving me a stamp for when I’m going to be here for 15 minutes? I also knew that the number of pages and blocks which could be stamped was running out and I still had a few years left on this passport. Slowly and smugly, I got my stamp and flew like a bird running from a cat who hadn’t eaten in days.
Sortie was ahead of me but when I re-entered, I noticed that I was somehow standing in the middle of F. Where the hell did D go I thought? It looked like arrivals and I started to move from exasperated to pissed. What kind of connection was this I thought? 45 minutes to get through Immigration’s long line and find your way half way (no, all the way) across what should be one terminal (C to D)?
Here I could speak the language (enough anyway) and was sprinting like a failed marathon runner but one who had a reason to win, and yet boarding had already begun according to my ticket 20 minutes ago and I had not even gone through a NEW security gate.
Security found me amusing no doubt as I whipped off my belt with fury like I was ready to have quick and passionate sex with a 23 year old lover. My boots came flying off as did my jewelry and I was sweating up a storm, as if the sex was already over and it was the best I ever had.
My hair was tossled, my brow was wet, my light cover up was off which showed that I wasn’t wearing a bra.
FINALLY, a sexy polite French security agent who wasn’t 23 came to my rescue. He smiled as he assured me I would make my flight and that I was in D2. but still had to get to D70 WITHIN D2. But, he added, “it’s just around the corner. I’m trying to help.”
Carry me I thought, that’s how you can help. Show up in one of those airport mini-trucks that shuttle the handicapped and seniors and make the damn thing go faster than you think its capable of going. Whisk me away. Call them and tell them to hold the plane for 30 minutes and let’s do a driveby the Air France First Class Lounge for a Parisian cappuccino & some pate for the road and then drop me off in front of my plane.
I imagined him kissing my hand bidding me Au Revoir after he completely turned my nightmare mad dashing run across the entire Charles de Gaulle airport into a nice sweet travel memory.
Cursing under my breath but remaining focused like a good seasoned traveler always does, I made a hard “gauche” after exiting security where they confiscated my mini-bottle of Merlot from my last flight. I looked up and saw the number 58. Of course I was at 58 and of course, the Budapest flight would be 70, at the EEEENNNNNNDDD of the hall. And, so I sprinted.
Nothing about arriving in Paris felt like Paris but thankfully I had so many positive memories of Paris that it would be easy to give this one amiss.
Even if the plane didn’t screw around at the gate for 15-20 minutes, anyone would be hard pressed to make this connection with the long immigration line, the distance they had to travel, and the likelihood that they didn’t speak French if they got lost on the way…easy to do at Charles de Gaulle and easy to do if you’re not a seasoned travel.
Puffing (and huffing) and puffing, I flicked my passport and ticket at the woman standing behind the gate who was about as calm, collected and type Z as you can get.
It was 12:39 and the flight was supposed to take off (up in the air, take off) by 12:45 pm. Obviously the flight was late, so while I was catching my breathe, I asked how late it was. “It’s not late,” the woman behind her said.
Hmmm, I thought. No one was on the plane yet, I was informed they were still cleaning it, yet 6 minutes before take-off and they didn’t classify it as late. Welcome to Hungary I thought, although both agents were clearly French.
I did one of those circular paces that people do when they need to think for a minute. (clearly that is). I circled around 3 or 4 times and then made a slow-paced walk over to the coffee stand where I learned that a bottle of water with the horrific U.S. dollar exchange rate would cost me $8. Had I ever been to Europe when the U.S. dollar was weaker than the Canadian one? At a time, when there are plays, comedians and talk show hosts talking about China as the new super power and America as a third world country?
I didn’t want to think about the exchange rate or the likely $10 beers and $500 shoes that lay ahead which was unlikely to be the case in Hungary since they weren’t on the Euro and I figured I’d lay low and avoid purchases in Paris to and from until Obama fixed SOMETHING, anything, so I could return and buy those $500 shoes for $200 again.
I opted against the $8 water and flopped down on a bright pink “kitch” plastic couch that wrapped around a plant sitting in a bright pink "kitch" plastic pot. It only then occurred to me that I made my flight and as I was looking for napkins at a nearby café to wipe my sweaty body down, a 15 year old Italian girl came down and sat next to me, bumping into me twice when she did so, despite the fact that there was a ton of space on the other side of her.
As we boarded, I stripped down even more since the mad tearing sprint caught up with me and not only was I sweaty but I was baking.
As I got close to the entrance to the plane, I could see the Paris day through the open crack and feel the August sunshine and feel the warm breeze coming through, hitting my face, blowing my hair back just slightly. AHHH yes, Paris in the summer I thought.
There’s nothing like boarding a plane from a place where the weather is fabulous knowing that you’re going to a place you really want to see and knowing that the weather is fabulous there too. The last time I had been to Budapest was in the mid-eighties. Yes, really.
I flopped in my seat, which had no one next to me and the seats were slightly wider than normal with an actual place to sit two drinks to my left. Recline worked. I was in the front. The Hungarian flight attendant handed me a bottle water when she saw the way I looked and I settled in for my 2+ hour flight on Malev, an airline I had never flown before.
Budapest, I reflected as my heart rate started to finally slow down. Gypsies, artists, dreamers, foodies, lovers of wine, musicians, old souls and historians. I remembered an “old world” dining experience I had with an ex-boyfriend so many years ago, where the violin players circled around us and I thought of how young I was. A kid really. What did I know of violin players and good red wine? Or duck, liver, pork, mousse, goulash and cured ham?
And then I smiled when I remembered I was coming to meet technologists not gypsies. From Silicon Valley to Hungary because there’s a wealth of incredible engineers in Budapest I was told and knew I would soon discover. As for my host?
Look for the bald man he had said. I thought, “would there really only be one bald Hungarian at the airport?” “Some say I’m as wide as I am tall,” he had added. A little more data I thought, certainly more than Air France provided me about my connecting flight.
I drifted off curled in an arch, my last visual memory of blue sky and powdery white clouds through my window, knowing that Germany was below us by that point. Hungary is waiting for me I thought as I drifted off into my thirty minute nap. Hungary is waiting for me.
August 20, 2011 in America The Free, Europe, New England, New York, On Africa, On Australia, On China, On Costa Rica, On East Africa, On France, On Geo-Location, On Guatemala, On India, On Italy, On Japan, On People & Life, On South Africa, On Spain, Reflections, South America, Travel, WBTW | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
June 21, 2011
Steve Rosenbaum on Curation: People Hunger For Not More Info but Clarity: #140Conf
Says Steve: "In a noisy world, people hunger for not more info, but less. They hunger for clarity!" Curation -- human curation brings that clarity. Below is a Webdoc created after his presentation which combines the video which I shot above as well as some background on Steve @magnify and his latest book: Curation Nation. It only took a couple of minutes to create and demonstrates how you can share a much richer experience of his talk by combining video with something else all in the same place. You embed the webdoc in the same way you do a YouTube video simply by copying and pasting the HTML code into your blog post.
June 17, 2011
ReadWriteWeb 2 Way Summit: LBS, Gamification, Kidgenuity & More
RWW2Way, an event by ReadWriteWeb at Columbia University this week, combined keynotes (Fred Wilson, Betaworks' John Borthwick) with one-off hour long presentations from folks like Dr. Jeffrey Jaffe of the World Wide Web Consortium, dana Boyd, Chris Dixon from Hunch, Flipboard's Mike McCue and a team of folks from The Onion, which seemed to amuse and entertain the audience.
Comedian Baratunde Thurston has tried to push the envelope of web platforms. Whether personifying The Swine Flu on Twitter or treating a Foursquare mayor battle as legitimate politics or live-blogging his experience clearing an exit ramp on Lakeshore Drive during Chicago's epic blizzard of 2011, he's found ways to do more than post photos and beg for followers. He shared this with humor to the RRW2Way crowd.
Other topics included gamification, location-based services, teen sexting and its impact on business (boyd), productivity tools for collaboration and sharing and building in more sharing and openness into the Enterprise. For example, will future employee recognition on collaborative platforms take the shape of badges, ratings, and leaderboards?
There was a session entitled: Kidgenuity - what we can learn from kids in business and how to apply it to building technology tools that get us out of our traditional (and linear ways) of thinking.
Foursquare’s head of products Alex Rainert and ABC News Radio’s Dan Patterson talked about the present and future place in the location game. Whenever I talk about check-ins or any of the players in the geo-loco space with anyone outside the technology industry, 95% of them give me a blank face. Others who have heard of it on the business side remind me how small the numbers are as a “real business,” yet these are the numbers that Facebook and Twitter started with too.
While checking in isn’t interesting in itself, and frankly for my generation, badges aren’t all that compelling either, new value-adds that brands and venues can offer may change the game within months not years. Their addition of leadership board and tips while you check in offer a little more value than the service did six months ago, particularly when you see where you sit among your friends on the leadership board. People love score cards – it’s something that motivates sales guys vis a vis each other and it’s the reason why tools like Klout are so popular among the early adopters. Game mechanics and location will continue to work together in more compelling ways to engage people with brands.
Speaking of gaming and other "popular apps," the ReadWriteWeb crew chose companies to participate in a Speed Geeking session where developers, creators and founders gave 5 minute pitches at tables and you rotated quickly over the course of an hour to get the scoop on each of them.
Social games are growing and there were at least two free apps I personally saw that have aspects of social gaming, social sharing and social viewing. PeopleHunt is an interactive people discovery game. The goal is to meet and bump phones with as many players as possible, to win points for some awesome prizes and to have interesting conversations with amazing people.
They then calculate your cartoon persona based on the a custom-built algorithms that measure the psychological traits of conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness, extraversion and stability.
Soup founder Christopher Clay showed us a demo of their latest “app,” still not quite ready for launch, but they expect to have something to show in more depth within a few weeks.
Storytelling is the Future: (it’s also our past)
Storify co-founder Xavier Damman showed a demo of their latest and game examples of how people are uniquely curating digital-rich stories in other parts of the world.
Enterprise Gamification isn’t a Fad:
Salesforce.com Chief Scientist JP Rangaswami says Enterprise gamification isn’t a fad and it’s not going away anytime soon. It will continue to increase with more integrations in multiple industries, bringing us out of our outdated lateral thinking and managing.
Social Media for Middle East News Coverage:
In the midst of political uprisings in the Middle East over the last several months, seasoned journalist and social media maven Andy Carvin has transformed himself into a near superhuman newswire, providing online audiences with a Twitter-fueled, real-time and harrowing glimpse into the heart of revolution.
Carvin's curatorial approach to real-time reporting is helping to transform how other news organizations report disruptive world events. Columbia University Director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism Emily Bell interviewed him on day one.
It was a great event and a welcome retreat to meet up with New Yorkers and other east coasters making things happen outside Silicon Valley. Kudos to Richard, Marshall, Shamus and the ReadWriteWeb team for pulling it together.