Charlottesville Pedestrian Mall

This four block downtown area rocks. It is brick, with brick buildings on both sides. Businesses are on the first stories, with apts. on the second and third. The middle of the mall includes outdoor tables for cafes and restaurants. Some, though not all of the businesses are upscale – there is a variety, including a homemade ice cream parlor, several book stores, a cinema, a children’s discovery museum, a free speech wall where people can write whatever is on their minds in chalk (it is erased daily), a carousal connected with the discovery museum. There is a pavilion on one end where live bands play, often for free – we heard a great reggae band last Friday. The town turned out, multi-cultural and multi-age, including a number of aging hippies. There are street performers, from classical violinists to acoustic guitar players to an accordionist singing “What do you do with a drunken sailor?” Photos left over from the recent photography festival remain on display – huge posters of wildlife photos, others focusing on the conflict in Syria, others showing the impact of climate change world wide.  The Paramount theatre hosts  many events; we heard a great wildlife photographer speak during the festival, and saw a festival of short films the other night. People flock to this place, anyone who says pedestrian malls do not attract people needs to visit it. There is even a fellow who wears a blindfold and offers indiscriminate hugs, his antidote to the conflicts and alienation in the world today. We are still exploring and considering options for our future lives.I will try to blog when we get to the library and I can use a real computer… travel pads work for email, but are a real pain for writing anything more than a sentence or two. This theme of displacement in the days of globalization, with all that implies, will continue on my blog.

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Oh Shenandoah..

Shenandoah National Park is a gorgeous place. It is considered America’s thinnest national park, it ranges from one to thirteen miles east to west, but stretches a long distance along the crest of the Appalachians. Here, the color green is divided into a huge number of shapes. I can identify maple, oak, and ash leaves, but many others are a mystery. The shade itself is green. Hidden birds call constantly; roses, daisies, and many other wildflowers cling to the ground. The silence roars at city ruined ears. We saw a bear moving quickly away from the trail. Kate caught a glimpse of a cub, I wasn’t so lucky.

We also visited the town of Staunton. This is a beautiful place that has preserved traditional architecture. It is a very artistic town, with many galleries, music venues, etc.A great place to visit when you are in the area.

 

We are very taken with this region in many ways. People are very friendly, culture and hiking areas abound. One issue is that many people, including many who can pay a lot for housing, are heading this way, with resulting sprawl, traffic, etc. This is one thing we are trying to get away from but it is worldwide.

People of a certain age will remember Ursala K. Leguin’s nonovel THE DISPOSESSED, where people at odds with a culture move en mass to a moon and create community. Anybody know any  available moons? I am dreaming, but you get the idea. More to come.

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Interesting town

This will be a quick entry since I am running out of time on a library computer. This is quite a town. The photography festival is amazing, wonderful nature photos and more. The trails around town are wonderful. I signed up for a writing workshop at a place called Writer’s House, it will happen tomorrow – Poetry and Solitude it is called. Last night we had a picnic with our friends Ben and Susan on a mountain top, live music and lots of folks, we watched a huge electrical storm blow in and left before it actually arrived. Susan recommended that we go to a discussion group today where immigrants practice English, it was quite fascinating. Tonight a band called Lord Nelson is playing on the Mall, I think they are an old hippie group, we’ll see if there is more to report. We also talked to a regional planning group today that focuses on local sustainable development. Many more thoughts and feelings to report, but time is about to go Boom!. We are alive and well, more later.

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Virginia days

Charlottesville, Va. is a beautiful town. We have been here a little less than 72 hours. There is a downtown pedestrian mall with ice cream parlors, a specialty tea store, bookstores, cafes, and other businesses. Today we hiked on the Rivana River Trail through Riverview Park, a delightful place with oaks, maples, cardinals, blue jays, turtles in the water, butterflies, dragonflies, and flowers of all colors. Neighborhoods here are very nice, many with porches where people hang out and socialize.

Sunday night we attended a potluck for a group called the Appalachian Trails Club. Nice, eclectic folks with a passion for exploration. Last night, we went to a vigil on the pedestrian mall for the victims of the massacre in Orlando. About 500 people were there, much of the local LGBT community and their allies. There were passionate speeches, and we walked up the mall quietly with candles. A very moving event indeed.

We are also finding that rents are higher than we realized, and salaries lower. We do not want to work forever but we would probably need to until we were established. This is the experience of people who have no concern with the American Dream, who just want simple, quiet lives without luxurious trappings, community, a feeling of usefulness and fun, closeness to nature, and inexpensive travel experiences. This is becoming a harder and harder lifestyle to keep in todays USA.

It makes no sense to me that the “needs” of people who live for super affluence and luxury become the frame of reference. It would be fair if we who are satisfied with simplicity could be left alone to live that way. Again, this is a first world problem, many people feel the negative impact of globalization far more powerfully than we do. But it is a reality. It very much goes along with the question I asked in the last post: what does it mean to be a bio-regionalist, someone who deeply connects with a place in the chaos of today’s economy? Displacement is real.

Another thing is that we just saw an exhibit of photos of Yosemite and realized how much we will miss it if we move here. But it is also easy to miss the east when we are in the west. This is another issue and problem, I am sure I will come back to it.

Good evening all.

 

 

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A different kind of trip

So we are on the road again in 38 hours. This will be an adventure based trip. Kate and I will visit my family in Pittsburgh for a few days, then go on to Charlottesville, Va. We will visit the Appalachians, and will look at life there from a lot of perspectives, and will consider if it can be a home for us one day.

The thing is, this will not just be a fun trip. Life in Oakland, Ca. is getting very difficult. Rents are erupting. We have a fairly reasonably priced apt., but when we do have to move for one reason or another, our rent will probably triple. Also, the culture here is really changing. I used to think of the Bay Area as a reasonably relaxed urban area. Now, you take your life in your hands when you cross the street in a crosswalk or try to drive onto a freeway from an onramp. People don’t want to stop for anything. When I encounter these situations, I always think of the more unhealthy kids I work with… “Teacher, he cut me! She pushed me! He walked where I wanted to run!” And yes – smartphones.

There are so many wonderful things here, places we love. Today we joined a group walk by Oakland’s Lake Merritt to observe nesting cormorants.

We met a friend afterwards and ate at an Israeli/Middle Eastern café. There are science enthusiasts, writers, musicians, travelers, etc. etc. etc. in the area. How can I describe our love for Pt. Reyes National Seashore, the Sierras, the redwood forests… need I go on?

Much environmental thought is based on the idea that people lack a sense of place. Many have seen love and connection with a place as an antidote to this angst and alienation. A deep relationship with a region connects people with humans and wildness around them, and helps us look beyond ourselves. I firmly believe in this perspective, but what happens when economic realities drive people from places they love?

Our situation, of course, is relatively mild. We do not begin to experience the horrors that refugees from Honduras or Syria encounter on a day to day basis. Still, this feeling of unsettlement, of undesired upheaval is a very real thing in the U.S.

Of course, this is happening in the midst of an electoral campaign that has pole vaulted over the boundary of rationality into the wonderful world of surrealism. I would never see Trump as someone who can stabilize our culture and society and bring us to a peaceful and stable condition, but many people do. What will this desperation lead to?

I am ranting; the thing is, I have neglected this blog because the reality of these issues has made it hard to concentrate on other important ideas. I will try to sort a lot of this out as we begin a process of figuring our what is next. There are many possibilities; stay tuned, and wish us luck. Lots of observations and thoughts will come during the next few weeks and beyond.

Good evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wrapping up the Ireland/Scotland trip

It’s been months, but I’m keeping my thoughts and feelings from the trip. One thing is that while it’s obvious that Europe was the dominant political force in the world for many years, and Europeans have had big advantages over people from the Developing World, and still do. That said, not all Europeans (and North Americans) are equal. The Scotch, and the Irish  have been treated very roughly; the same can be said for working class people from all countries. Europe is anything but stable right now. We were stunned that we heard so little about the recent secessionist movement in Scotland; people were talking more about hardships that would come from cuts the current British government is moving towards. We’ve seen some evidence of instability in Northern Ireland in recent days – it’s nothing like the times of the Troubles, and may it never go back to that! But it’s a situation to watch. And the Syrian refugee crisis is having an immense impact all over Europe. We hope to go to Turkey one day but have to watch the situation there carefully.

It’s so strange how travelers can find a mixture of beauty and sadness in the world. The Scottish Highlands are both gorgeous and deeply lonely; Ireland is tragic, and magical. This bitter sweetness is the way of the world, and experiencing it deepens travelers. We’ll keep traveling.  We’ll post here, and in the other blog at different times. And I will keep posting writing here, including poems from this trip.

To wrap things up, and show what kind of surprises are out in the world – here is a shot of a sculpture of bagels, the symbol of New York City (the artist says) that we saw at the very end of the trip. Keep on truckin’!

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Da Big Apple – end of the trip

We flew here from Dublin when the trip ended. What can I say about New Yahk that hasn’t been said? It’s a collage, magnified a thousand times over. There are the street gospel singers of Queens, the traffic jam of tourists with selfie sticks crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, the gargantuan skyscrapers that give you vertigo without even trying, the quiet walk along the Hudson from lower Manhattan to Christopher Street, the bagel sculptures – symbol of the City, the memorials to the Stonewall Uprising, the village, and Washington Square Park with its jazz bands/keyboardists/relaxing New Yorkers/performance artists among the trees and fountains, Times Square with its giant neon Batman signs and naked women painted red, white, and blue insisting that men be photographed with them (for money of course), and of course – Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge,which I describe in the first blog entry. We sure wouldn’t want to live there, but we do plan to return!

The first shot shows the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan. The second is Washington Square Park, and the third is Times Square.

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