September 11th: reflecting on individual narratives

September 11th: reflecting on individual narratives

Over the past week, I’ve been listening to the personal stories of victims of the crash on the World Trade Center on the radio.  Although 9/11 nearly instantly became an event that connected New York with America and America with the rest of the world, albeit each briefly, local media coverage over the past few days reminded me that coming of age events, which characterize a generation, are actually personal moments that reverberate further. As expected, many of the stories I have heard have filled me with mournfulness and contemplation.  More importantly, though, the narratives have communicated a message of resilience, optimism and belief in the future.  Many children of those who were killed have been determined to right the injustice of 9/11 and fulfill their potential in varying ways.  Such qualities of passion, generosity and virtue mingled with rebellion are inherent in the American consciousness and uniquely characterize the American ideal of freedom. From nearly it’s inception, the US as a nation has felt a responsibility to play a role in human history.  Our founding fathers had a vision of offering people the possibility of equal self-esteem. Yet, over the past ten years, society and culture have become more contradictory and polarized rather than united.  As we grow more interconnected and codes of conduct are relinquished, we simultaneously seek to individuate, to leave our mark and stand out through the unique expression of our individual identities.  We join forces virtually to change things for the good of the community and the good of the world while at the same time our focus on developing self-esteem moves away from...
Vacation with amusement included, please.

Vacation with amusement included, please.

Labor Day.  The last day of summer vacation. Officially, yes.  But in practice, no more.  During the nine years we lived in the UK, Labor Day seems to have lost much of its meaning as the flow of summer changed in the US with shifting school calendars.  Whether you’re in university or first grade, other than a few exceptions, it’s highly likely you returned to school before Labor Day. And, the idea of summer vacation.  Does it even exist any more?  Leisurely days with no obligations. Nothing scheduled. Relaxing on the beach.  Running barefoot in a stream.  Leaving the worries of daily life and the world behind. Even before the recession this was hard.  Between the choices for summer camps and classes and wireless devices does anyone really leave all their cares behind any more?  Certainly not in the US.  And, although I have many English friends who would strongly argue the opposite, in Britain (and even more so Europe) the summer holidays, and school holidays year-round, seemed more sacred. For both children and their parents. Interestingly, the word each nation chooses to use to describe time off from work or school seems to capture some of this cultural difference. As many people know the word holiday comes from holy day - haliday (c.1200), from O.E. haligdæg “holy day; Sabbath”- and in the 14th Century came to mean both religious festival and, my favourite, day of amusement.  In the mid-1800‘s people started to holiday and the word became a verb. The roots of the word vacation are a bit more complex. It too stems from the 14th Century when...
Mini me

Mini me

I’m not a car person.  Well at least I don’t like to think of myself as one.  And, until about two or so years ago when I admitted there’s a little bit of a car person in each of us, I never put that much of a priority on the car I drove. As a city-girl, I viewed a car as a way to leave town, not something that defined me or even identified who I was to others.  In point of fact, I proudly drove my used Toyota Corolla from B-school for five or more years after I graduated.  After paying for the Corolla many times over in NYC garage fees, my husband and I gave in to our SUV envy.  We toyed with the idea of a Cherokee, but everyone we knew had one and, well, the Range Rover felt just a bit too luxurious to us, especially in contrast to our beloved Corolla. In the end, we opted for a Pathfinder because it spoke to us. Pathfinders were a bit smaller and far less prevalent then and Nissan embodied the idea of life being a journey to enjoy.  Chiat Day understood we were in that phase of taking life too seriously and desired to hold on to some of the freedom work and family obligations were stealing from us. Eventually, we moved to London and although Chelsea tractors, as SUVs are labelled, were appearing, my husband adopted more of a European attitude and chose a Saab 9.5 estate wagon.  Not quite a Renault or Smart Car but moderately better than an SUV.  I liked the Saab...
A dinner party, a focus group

A dinner party, a focus group

As far as I know, modern rules of etiquette still dictate that mobile phones, tablets, etc. should not be used at the dinner table. But more and more I’m finding that when the conversation becomes truly engaging, someone always reaches for an electronic device to look up the meaning of a word or history of something referenced or even find a YouTube video to illustrate a point. While Emily Post, Letitia Baldridge and my grandmother would likely be upset and I do believe it’s impolite to answer a call or text at the dinner table, I also now think that using an electronic device as a reference tool helps to keep conversation flowing and even makes it more fascinating. The other night was no exception to this. We were still in Marblehead and crew and friends had joined us for dinner. The party around the table ranged in age from 19 to 51. Well ranged is possibly the wrong word. It was more that we had two groups of dinner guests that hovered mostly around each of these end points. As is common after a day of racing, the conversation began with a debriefing of the events, who did what right and what wrong and the status of protests. With the wine flowing and the food flavourful and plentiful, the discussion somehow comfortably transitioned into social media and our varying attitudes toward it. I think one of the early twentysomethings created a segue when he mentioned he had tweeted about his boat’s performance and his “Captain,” a gentleman just teetering over 50, in turn made a follow up comment...
Witch name (or, leverage your brand’s heritage to increase financial value)

Witch name (or, leverage your brand’s heritage to increase financial value)

Today was overcast with a high probability of thunderstorms, so I decided to  take a break from our sailing holiday in Marblehead, MA, to visit the Witch Museum in Salem. The trip from Marblehead to Salem is a short one, only about 3 miles.  As I drove into town, I immediately noticed all the obligatory Witch  named businesses: Witches Brew Cafe, Witch Tees, Witch Way Gifts, etc.  More striking to me though were the businesses, including many unrelated to tourism, that used Witch City, a title I hadn’t heard before, as a  popular substitute for Salem: Witch City Taxi, Witch City Cycles, Witch City  Cleaning Co, Witch City Construction and Witch City Computers. I pulled into a parking space, got out of the car and immediately opened maps in my iPhone.  I must have looked directionally confused (which I often am) because a charming, elderly local woman about 5’ 3” tapped me on the  shoulder and asked me if I needed help.  Her name was Kathleen and when it comes to unexpectedly finding the perfect tour guide, I couldn’t have been luckier in meeting her.  She’s lived in Salem for more than 70 years and jokes  about the fact that she uses creamy white powder to hide the green complexion of her skin before she goes out in the daytime.  Kathleen quickly informed me that the term “Witch City” has been a nickname of sorts for Salem since  shortly after the 1692 trials.  And, that the name became popular some  time in the 70‘s when the town made a purposeful effort to embrace their  history, rather than run away...
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