Seriously: Pack These Five Things

“Skip the fancy travel gadgets,” the New York Times says. “Here are five simple things that will save you stress, money and hassle so you just enjoy your much-deserved getaway.”

And the first thing on the list? A pen. Wow.

I’m a writer and an organizational devotee, so I never go anywhere without a pen.* Like, ever. Since I was a tween, anyway. (Maybe because I was raised by a man who always had one in his breast pocket?) So it’s hard for me to imagine ever leaving the house without one. But … people do. No judgment here.

Sure made me curious about the rest of the list, though. And it’s a good one, so check it out.

For example, you know how I feel about my maps, and the suggestion here is so simple, so elementary, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t thought of it. I often custom-make maps when we travel—but on my laptop. Then I print and fold up into my purse. But I’m of the pre-smartphone generation and some old habits die hard.

Again, it’s a good list. We’ve already made accomodations for everything on it, but it’s a good reminder. Bon voyage!

* To that I would add: take some paper. Even a little 2×3 pad that you can slip in a pocket will do. That paper map I print off has plenty of room for scribbling notes too.


Home Away from Home: The Farmers Market

In Middletown, Rhode Island.

If we’re friends on Facebook, you know how much I love the local farmers market. I’ve been going there so long—my hair in full Bed Head—that I know these people and look forward to visiting with them. While my husband walks the dog in the little park outside, I work my way around the building collecting hugs and yummy things to eat. The farmers market is my happy place.

And if I find a farmers market when we are traveling, I cannot resist checking it out. I have visited them in more than one Irish town and definitely many American towns.

So you can imagine how delighted I was to stumble upon this article: How to Get the Most Out of Farmers’ Markets While Traveling. You should read the whole thing, but here are some quick tips:

  • Go early.
  • Buy what’s in season.
  • Consume it in the moment.
  • Food trucks? Yes!
  • Buy something to enjoy at home.

And if you can’t find an outdoor market—particularly in the winter—you can always look for upscale grocers to tempt your palate. Got a favorite market? I’d love to hear about it.

The Beauty of History, Large and Small

In poking around in old family photos I found a document with information I had completely forgotten: my father didn’t graduate from high school—he got what these days we call a GED. Jim Clarke grew up in two places simultaneously: St. Louis, Missouri, where he lived with his mother, and Edgefield District, South Carolina. (That’s what it was called then. It’s a town now, the county seat of Edgefield County. Twenty miles from Augusta, Georgia. Clarks/Clarkes go back to the 1600s in this area. His father’s people lived there, and still do.)

Jim was back and forth between the two locations, not always on school vacations, so it’s no surprise he failed to graduate from a St. Louis high school. (Also, he was a bit of a troublemaker in his youth. This should surprise no one who knew him, or who knows me.) Anyway, he has a “State High School Certificate” from South Carolina, signed 10 June 1949 (he was 20), signed (real signature, not a stamp) by Strom Thurmond, who was governor at the time.

Moving Humanity Forward (At the Oscars)

I got really worked up—inspired!—watching the Oscars this year. And I want to preserve that feeling.

This was the first thing I took notes on last night, this clip introducing the movie Roma, a nominee for Best Picture. Actor Diego Luna speaks in Spanish (and I loved all the Spanish spoken last night! Loved it!) and then chef Jose Andres makes some comments about the “recipe” that creates humanity never turns out the same—we’re each unique—altho the ingredients in that recipe are universally the same. So. Very. Special. You can just hear him say “are universal” where this clip begins. You’ll then see exactly where I leapt to my feet and started shouting …

Yes, immigrants and women move humanity forward. There are plenty of conservative old white men (say, my brother) who were probably annoyed by this little bit of politics, but piss on them. They are the past. The future is on the way, and some of it speaks Spanish.

Speaking of the future, I saw a one-minute version of this ad last night too. “Dear Tech.” Brilliant. And thank you. Let’s do make a difference in government. Let’s keep our voting data secure, for one thing. Conservatives probably hated this too.

And you know I’m an old softy when I can get inspired by a television ad. Looooooove this. You go, ladies. Show them what crazy can do, indeed.

It made me really happy to see Spike Lee get an Oscar after all these years. Some years ago (and yes, I’ve probably told this story before) Spike Lee and I were waiting for an early morning flight to New York from Nashville. He was studiously ignoring people who tried or even looked like they might try to talk to him by keeping himself buried in a Kindle. I’d noticed him as soon as I got to the gate, and I’m well-schooled in “Nashville Rules”: don’t bother celebrities, we say, let them have their privacy. And I sat there and fought with myself about it, because I have strong feelings about Spike Lee. But right before boarding, I broke the rule. I spoke really fast: “Mr. Lee. I just want you to know that Do the Right Thing is one of the best and most important movies I’ve ever seen in my life, and 25th Hour was pretty stunning too. Keep up the good work.” He looked up at this chubby middle-aged woman, set his book down, stood up, and shook my hand and thanked me for saying so. It made my day.

So I’m glad for Spike Lee, and I’m glad Americans saw Spanish spoken at the Oscars, and I hope maybe the hearts of other folks were touched too. Immigrants, women … crazy, man.


Germs on a Plane

People magazine is saying this week that yes, flying is hazardous to your health: “three different incoming flights at two U.S. airports were held on the tarmac [due to] sick passengers.” That’s pretty shocking, frankly.

This has been a bête noire of mine for years—if you’re sick, stay home, dagnabbit, don’t bring your cold onto an airplane and share it with me!—and I’m glad a popular national magazine is talking about it:

“It’s important to get your immune system in good shape before you travel,” the magazine’s expert says. “Rest up in advance so you don’t arrive to your flight exhausted and stressed, eat healthily and stay hydrated leading up to travel.”

This is important, and should not be underestimated. Start a slow-down before you leave so that you’re rested. It’s your best defense against an errant germ on the airplane—which could ruin a long-planned dream vacation if you run into that germ on your out-bound flight.