Monday, March 19, 2018

19/31: Portrait of Waikiki

The weather: 80 degrees. Slight breeze. A few fluffy clouds drifting over Technicolor blue skies.

The people: chill. Aloha and mahalo. No shoes, no shirt, no problem. Drivers wave you across crosswalks with a smile. Wet footprints leading down the sidewalk to the beach. Worn surfboards held aloft like waiters hold heavy serving platters, offerings to the ocean.

The agenda: nonexistent. I abandon my "city walking" pace in favor of more of an amble. Wet sand, unstable footing, wet toes. I spread the beach towel, lie here for awhile and let the sun sweep its rays across my pale, pale body. No judgement here. The only requirement for a beach body is having a body.

The result: a sort of bliss that only a teacher knows, a teacher who is convinced January and February had approximately 124 days in them. Each.

I think I'm going to like it here.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

18/31: Transition

From 40 degrees to 81.
From MO to HI.
From “hi y’all” to “aloha.”
From barely budding trees to lush palms.
From industrial highways to winding, unpredictable roads.
From duty to relaxation.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

17/31: My Trusty Purple Backpack

Traveling is tiring. There's the hassle of packing, the rush of security, the boredom of waiting for your plane, the impatience of the flight, and, finally, you're spit unceremoniously out into the airport of your destination.

But I have a secret weapon, and that's my suitcase. Or, rather, my Un-Suitcase.

When I first traveled abroad, I purchased a travel backpack instead of a traditional suitcase with wheels. Since my husband and I were going to be "hardcore traveling," i.e. jumping from place to place quickly, the backpack made more sense when hoofing it from train station to hostel.

Little did I know that this bright purple bag with approximately 8 zillion pockets would turn out to be the best travel buddy ever.

Traveling for 2 days? 2 weeks? Doesn't matter. The backpack can fit all of your clothes with ease. Need a little more room? Unzip this zipper and presto: expansion.
Need to compress it down a little to fit into an overhead compartment? Four simple snaps, and everything's nicely bundled up.
Tired of waiting for your flight, but there's no seats available next to the gate? Sit on your backpack! It's actually quite comfortable.
Want to turn your backpack into a traditional suitcase? Tuck the straps in and grab the side's much easier to squeeze through narrow plane aisles that way.
Need to fight off a potential enemy? The backpack on your back becomes a powerful weapon when you plant your feet and swing it, perfect for knocking assailants off of their feet.

(Kidding about the last one...sort of. I've never had to try it, but I'm pretty sure it would work.)

I've had many trips with my purple backpack, and she looks as good as new. She's durable, practical and still maintains a slight modicum of stylishness.

I think I'll keep her.

Friday, March 16, 2018

16/31: A Hotel Interior Decorator's Memo

I am currently killing time before my flight back home to St. Louis. I'm a little obsessed with noticing hotel interior decorating choices, so I decided to imagine what a memo written by this hotel's designer would say.

Re: interior design of Washington Capitol Hotel lobby in DC

In the style of a minimalistic, tasteful artist. Bland enough to disappear into the background for harried businessmen. Interesting enough for the observant young teacher to appreciate. Intentional. Modern. Subdued yet intriguing. Let me paint you a picture...

A cool palette of slate, cream and dove gray should swirl across the carpet in a pattern reminiscent of static or pixelated fog. A pop of blue in the art hanging on the walls, a smudge of cerulean against darker abstract shapes. Light fixtures should be airy, circular, pendulous. If they're not, they must be recessed as far into the ceiling as possible. No middle ground.

Furniture: modern shapes take precedence over function. Sure, we want people to sit, but we don't want them to get comfortable enough to stay longer than they have to. Too many sitting patrons means we aren't efficient enough to have rooms ready promptly. Square leather cushions without backs in pure black, arranged in neat rows. Ground-grazing chaises in muted gray. A coffee table that's far too low to easily reach your cup...bright reflective aluminum, shaped like a tree stump. Booths lined with cushions that are merely suggestions of pillows. Comfort isn't our goal here.

A sculpture here, by the smooth marble tables. Mobius strips intersecting with each other, gentle twists, uncertain endings and beginnings. It's symbolic, of course. Where does your normal life end and your vacation begin? We make the transition seamless. White? No. Black is better. Black is always better.

Add greenery under the stairs. A lone pink orchid, stretching up to the steps above. Subtle, yet poignant. After all, we're not going for sterile.

These are all merely my thoughts, of course. But whatever you velvet, no '70s carpet patterns and, above all, no red. Red is too aggressive. Hotels are about suggestion. Consider taking mine into consideration when making final design decisions.

I So Don't Do Holiday Inns

Thursday, March 15, 2018

15/31: Capitol Hill Maze

Today, I spent time on Capitol Hill advocating for Title 2 and SEED funds for the National Writing Project. Let's just say the layout of some of the buildings wasn't intuitive...

I sighed and looked at Nancy and Julie, my colleagues. Another dead end. 
"I swear the sign said this way..."

My voice trailed off as men with ties flapping blew by us and women in impractical heels clunked past purposefully. I squinted my eyes and read the gold-embossed sign again. 

"Let's try this way," I said, clutching my folder with materials about the National Writing Project in my hand. We rounded another corner and began to see office doors decorated with state flags. Some congresspeople had their social media handles by their doors, which I found amusing. 

211. 215. We were getting closer.

Weak florescent lights reflected off the glossy floor as we approached our target. We readied our research briefs, rehearsed our stories and adjusted our name tags. We took a deep breath and pushed open the heavy wooden door. 

It was game time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

14/31: Row 15, Seat B

I stood on my tiptoes, trying to see beyond the squished line of strangers and the Jenga-puzzle packed overhead bins. Were there any seats left in the back of the plane? I fidgeted with the straps of my purse as we shuffled forward, inch by inch. I hadn't flown Southwest in a long time. What was this no assigned seats business? Those who know me might be surprised to hear this sentiment. After all, I let my students choose their own seats in my classroom.

But here, on this pressurized biscuit can of a plane, a bit of predictability sounded like a good idea. But as it stood, my seat was not preordained by some computer algorithm or benevolent airline worker. It was all up to chance at this point.

People started to peel off into seats as I scooted closer to the flight attendant directing traffic.
"There's a seat right here, hon," she said, smiling the smooth practiced smile of a someone who's no stranger to the service industry and its requirement for a bit of canned politeness.

I looked at where she pointed. A middle seat. Between two older men. Both had already nestled their elbows territorially on the armrests. I craned my neck, looking for other options. The stewardess snapped her gum and shook her head. I was stuck.

I hoisted my carry-on up and into the overhead bin. I wiggled myself into my seat, settled in and buckled up. Only then did I notice something strange. My legs weren't touching the seat in front of me. I looked up, confused. Was I...

"You're sitting in an exit row. Please listen carefully..."

I sighed and stretched my legs. Lucky me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

13:31: Pressure

Things I'm better at when under pressure:
  • Cutting corners in inventive ways (when running late, the lid to the cream cheese tub becomes a knife!)
  • Making outfit decisions (when you've got three minutes, everyone becomes a fashion expert)
  • Chopping vegetables quickly and dramatically (while keeping thumbs in tact)
  • Making dramatic sound effects to help keep myself motivated (a well-placed "whoosh" as I rush from room to room does wonders)
  • Carrying more bags per arm than one might think possible (if you balance it out, it's all good!)
And, of course...
  • Writing (when you have a late night at school and still have yet to slice at 9:30 PM, it's amazing what you can do under a little pressure!)