Friday, February 16, 2018

Solo Woman Cyclist=Packing for a Long-Distance Tour

My experience has been cycle touring with the intent to camp. I’ve utilized Warmshowers and Couchsurfing, but love the ability to camp gypsy-style whenever I get tired or see a great opportunity. It gives me more flexibility. Plus cheaper.

Thus, I pack a lot of stuff. Ultra-light, but still it adds up.

I have 2 Ortleib Back-Roller classics. Into each I put my squished (into a compression sack) sleeping bag, my cat-food can stove, pot, spork, drinking cup. Various candles, matches, etc. A sack where I’ve stuffed clothing. Fuel and basic food items. A microfiber travel towel, toiletries. Minimal first aid kit. Straddling the top is a SealLine Baja Dry 10L Bag which contains tent and sleeping pad. Wedged in between are some clogs in a plastic bread bag.

Extraneous stuff goes in the front handlebar bag, not the least my thermos of hot tea and snacks. Snapped to the bars also is pouch which holds my phone and Swiss Army knife. In case I have to defend myself.

Just kidding.  
too much of a good thing, can be too much
just remember: you have to carry it. I tend to go ultra-light

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Rethinking Incarceration: a book review

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Rethinking Incarceration
Dominique DuBois Gilliard
Intervarsity Press, 2018

I think a majority of us are familiar with Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow where she laid out the argument that the US penal system is in place to enslave and criminalize an underclass of the black population. She was very persuasive. The facts underscored her conclusions. Since the publication of that book we’ve seen the birth of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Issues of not just social justice but literally justice are/were starting to be addressed.

If anything the current administration and Attorney General have put unequal sentencing back into focus.

This is not an easy read. And, I read a lot. I reckoned I could whip through the book in plenty of time to review it before Dominique’s book launch this Friday, February 16 at 7:30 pm at Wilson Abbey, 935 W. Wilson, Chicago, IL 60640. FREE admission. But as I read certain questions began to sit with me. How much money are for-profit prisons making? Is it a coincidence that stocks in the two major prison corporations soared after Trump’s election? Why the high number of incarcerated women? The pipeline of high school to jail for black and brown children. The number of mentally ill inmates. It seems all of our social ills have coalesced around prisons.

And now add immigration. Deportation centers are full of people being rounded up and quickly pushed through immigration court without due process.

As I’ve mentioned before I wish authors of non-fiction could use that one voice, the one that says: Yo! This is messed up!

Gilliard pulls together a dystopian picture of a population regularly avoided and seemingly discarded by society. Virtually out of sight, out of mind. He asks: Why? For what purpose?

But instead of going into deep-state speculation, his conclusions are meant to propel us forward, not toward a silver lining, but toward quotidian action. A long, slow, hand-to-the-plow turning back of injustice. The second half of the book is where he seeks to empower the reader.

Gilliard is the director of racial righteousness and reconciliation for the Love Mercy Do Justice Initiative of the Evangelical Covenant Church and sits on the board of directors for CCDA. Christian Community Development was founded in 1989 by Dr. John Perkins to engage the church at large on issues of social justice. As someone picked by President Ronald Reagan’s Task Force on Hunger, Perkins employed revolutionary language to contemporary problems. When was the last time you heard someone speak truth to power about redistribution. A-huh. Yeah. Like, why do certain school districts get top-of-the-line million dollar technology and some schools can’t get heat in winter???? Yo! Like, why can’t a rich country such as ours spread some of its wealth around?

Well, we’re still here, says Gilliard. He doesn’t sugar-coat the approach of the church. He tells it like it is. Much of the evangelical church is in bed with power, with a system that continues to penalize without wearing a blindfold. He traces the history and demarks where the church made certain turns—especially in the philosophical view that crime/sin needs to be paid. That criminals get what they deserve. But what are these “just fruits”?

I’m particularly struck by how ICE rounds up people—under the pretense of law and order. It’s framed that they are “illegals” and “aliens.” But where is justice? Gilliard makes the case for a balance of mercy and righteousness when determining individual cases. Under the current administration Trump has imposed quotas that ICE agents are striving to make—using a wide net to capture often law-abiding, tax-paying individuals, mothers and fathers. For instance please read:
We are not that country. We should not be the people who stand by and watch as community members are subjected to police profiling/intimidation, unfair sentencing, fear tactics.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Solo Woman Cyclist=Bike Hire

If you’re like me, the idea of traveling with a bike and all your stuff seems overwhelming. In my armchair, in front of a computer there is no simple way to figure it out. Maybe a crystal ball. . . .

I first looked into the idea of an international bike trip when considering meeting up with friends/family in France. They weren’t going to be available the whole time and I may as well think about doing my own thing for a week. I knew I wanted to see Mount St. Michel, so spun an itinerary off of that. I found 2 or 3 places that offered bike hire for a week.

The trip ended up not taking place, but planted the idea in my head.

Then when going to Sweden in September 2015 I Googled the top 10 sights to see while in Sweden and up popped the Göta Canal. I then referenced places to hire a bike and, voila!, it seemed do-able.

I never once considered early September to be out-of-season. The whole town of Sjötorp was closed down or so it seemed. I eventually found a small grocery to rent me a bike for the day. Actually half a day as it was by this time way past noon. I saw my dream of cycling the canal dissipating. But, wait! This is Sweden and the sun doesn’t set as much as hang in the sky. It didn’t get dark until way part 8 pm, so I did about 40 miles. Enough to get a feel for the World Heritage site. That evening I spent the night in a room also offered through the grocery. Sjötorps Vandrarhem och Rum

Also on my trip to Sweden my friend Lotta talked me into going to Gotland. Actually I’d thought about doing it but thought it was simply a ferry ride. It turned into a much bigger thing where I ended up spending 4 nights. Before alighting in Visby (also a World Heritage site) I checked out bike hire and corresponded with a place. The next morning I hiked with my backpack and picked up a bike. Then shyly asked if I could leave some of my stuff. Yeah. Then asked—do you have a pannier I could borrow. Yay! All I needed next was a map and I was off.

The rate was super reasonable, maybe because it was out-of-season. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Smile! History repeats!

These days with a numbskull obtuse racist president in the White House it’s hard to find a silver lining. Maybe this will help, or not. But the US has made a lot of mistakes—and somehow we’ve kept going.

So I’ll let that sink in as good news. Our Supreme Court has made lousy decisions, Congress has passed some unjust laws that impinge on the rights of certain demographics, the citizens of these United States have collectively made unwise choices. It’s one reason to be afraid of but also believe in democracy. Or maybe it’s about having faith.

Faith that the universe will somehow right itself. That people will at some point in history go, My bad! And turn the ship around.

You might think I’m alluding to Dreamers and the end of DACA, to that stupid wall. But, no, I’m referring to the Dread Scott Decision. Sorry, Dred Scott. Also known as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Summarily: this meant that a runaway slave who had resettled in the North, perhaps for as long as 30 years, could now suddenly be fair game for the police. Neighbors, suspecting neighbors, could turn in a black skinned person upon suspicion of them being a runaway. Immediately they could be seized and returned to southern jails to be repatriated to their master.

Much like the Polish doctor who has been in the States legally since age 5, about 30 some odd years, now in custody waiting to be deported. He had a Green Card. And speaks no Polish. His wife and children miss him.

Dreamers and others who at least for now have papers can likely relate to the Fugitive Slave Act. Suddenly one’s whole life is turned inside out. You have a job, school, social network, and Poof!

I’m reading a biography of Henry David Thoreau and when the Dred Scott passed and the Fugitive Slave Act he and his friends ran to Boston to stand up for people much like we did when Trump tried to ban Muslim from entering the US, we ran to the airports. In Concord Thoreau and his friends who had already been instrumental in the Underground Railroad now assisted locals in moving on to Canada. A black person was no longer safe anywhere. Without provocation they would be stopped and ordered to show proof/documentation. (Remember they were not able to vote.)

Consider also the division this caused among law-abiding whites. They were simply following the law. Isn’t that what Sarah Huckabee-Sanders was trying to say the other day to the press corp. Except that one needs to stop and think: these laws are anathema to the Constitution.

I guess that’s why “On Civil Disobedience” resonated back then as it does now. Sometimes we simply have to follow our conscience and hope eventually the laws will change.

The case of Fred Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case concerning the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066, which ordered Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II regardless of citizenship.

We’ve dealt with shit, will continue to deal with shit, and work towards a shit-free world.
Image result for stepping in shit

Thursday, February 8, 2018

365 Affirmations for the Writer now out in paperback!

Order Today: 365 Affirmations for the Writer

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Democracy of a Pencil

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On weekends I have more time to read. Good thing because I began a doorstopper of a biography about Henry David Thoreau by Laura Dassow Walls. It might be more Thoreau than I bargained for.

There has always been something compelling about Walden and “On Civil Disobedience” that reminds me of my 20s. It was a good time to drop out or become a rebel. I’ve come back to Walden again and again and each time I feel anxious—there’s got to be more to this story. But, there isn’t. He lived by himself for a few years “off the grid” and then that was it. I guess I wanted it to be about something other than simplicity.

Anyway, the opening chapters of the biography explains that Thoreau’s parents, though modestly middleclass, made their money from—wait!: pencils.

I know, random. In today’s economy I cannot imagine someone making a fortune from the humble pencil. But that’s the beauty of it! It isn’t humble—the manufacturing of pencils revolutionized the worker, the intellectual, the thinker. It out the revolution into the Industrial Revolution. In today’s terms, it was like going from analog to digital.

The area was ripe for pencil manufacturing because 1) unlimited sources of timber, 2) deposits of graphite to be mined. Up until the 1800s the quality of pencils was spotty. Mostly the graphite was soft and indelible. The lead was always breaking. Some of the best pencils were imported, mostly from France and England. The process was slow and went through many phases . . . then [from Wiki: philosopher Henry David Thoreau discovered how to make a good pencil out of inferior graphite using clay as the binder; this invention was prompted by his father's pencil factory in Concord, which employed graphite found in New Hampshire.]

Just imagine: as a writer you were deskbound. You needed a quill pen and good India ink. The costs were often exorbitant as well as the paper. Even though there were pulp mills everywhere, paper was scarce; no one wasted it. A pencil freed the writer to get up and walk around. Take a notebook. It allowed the laborer to go out into the field, just as Thoreau the surveyor did, and scribble numbers. The costs were relatively cheap. Soon most people had pencils in order to record their thoughts, stories. In order to write essays—such as “On Civil Disobedience”—the predecessor of the blog.

Today the pencil is much overlooked, easily dismissed as we tap and text with our devices. Truly it is humble. We don’t give it a second-thought. Sometimes I feel like the lowly pencil—yet if I stop for a moment, I remember I have a lot to contribute. That not all things are as they first appear. 
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certainly not a "looker"

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Freeze Frame now in paperback!

Ready! Freeze Frame: How to Write Flash Memoir is out in paperback