A couple weeks ago, the Kravitz's mixed a little business with pleasure by taking our first ever family vacation. Five whole days in New York City.
But, as it turned out, my much-longed-for vacation quickly became an endurance test. Day after day, hour by hour I was required to cajole, beg and bribe the kids to leave Nintendos and hotel air-conditioning behind - merely for the opportunity to plod alongside me on hot crowded sidewalks, to endure mysterious and frightening world-class cuisine, and to spend long arduous hours discovering infintely tiresome museums, greenscapes, architecture and works of art.
So on our last day, I gave them a break. I took them to New York's version of Disney World - Times Square.
Toys-R-Us, Applebees, Ripley's, and a two and a half hour ride on the top deck of a tour bus salvaged what was left of my sanity and put smiles on my children's exhusted little faces. And heck, after the room-service pizza arrived for dinner, I think they decided that New York was an OK place after all.
Then, upon returning home to Bridgewater, I learned that my Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road blog had set off yet another gigabyte busting Topix tantrum, that the Governor's over-priced, rubber stamped "independent" casino-gambling study had been released and that I had over two hundred e-mails, a full answering machine, and my laundry list of meetings to attend, issues to address, and important deadlines to meet - all related to my anti-casino involvment - and my actual laundry - was still there waiting for me.
With the suitcase still unpacked, I dove back in. I answered the e-mails, read through the backlog of casino-related articles, blogged, and spent all day Friday pretty much like a shut-in, trying to get a newsletter out.
And then something made me realize - I was tired.
I was really tired. Somewhere along the line, casino fighting had become my full-time job. In addition to my full time job as a mom. In addtion to my now part-time job as a web designer.
So I did something pretty unusual for me. I stopped opening my e-mail.
Tomorrow it will be two weeks.
On my first e-mail free night, as Abner and I were enjoying some Chinese takeout by the firepit in the backyard, I tried to decide whether I felt guilty or gloriously unfettered by ignoring the inbox. A little of both, I decided.
I leaned back in the adirondack chair and took a deep breath of fresh night air. I'd decided to take the night off, too. It felt good not to have to get in the car and drive to a stuffy meeting in someone else's town for a change. How many meetings had I gone to? I can't even count. How often had I juggled kids and meals and schedules and homework and sports and blogging just so that I could get to a meeting.
And I hate sitting in on meetings. I still have a coffee mug from back in my corporate days which reads, "Meetings - the practical alternative to work."
Meetings... Last year an old friend from my bygone Middleboro days asked me to come to a meeting about the casino the Mashpee Wampanoags wanted to build in Middleboro. I admit, I was concerned, but I also remember thinking how it was going to be a nice warm night that night - just like this one. And the last thing I wanted to do was leave home to go sit in some stuffy room in another town.
Then I Googled some information on casinos. Hmmm. OK. I decided I'd go to the freaking meeting - but just to one - so I could feel like I'd made the effort. Besides, I figured, after all the things I'd read about these mega casinos, there was no way they'd let them build one in Middleboro...
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Mostly because it always seemed like there was something more that I could do to help. And I wanted to help.
"Um, I was wondering... would you like any help with the web site? I'm a web designer..."
And there were other ways. Writing editorials, slapping a bumper sticker on my car, putting a sign in the yard, attending more and more meetings, volunteering, holding signs, showing up and showing support, speaking up and speaking out. Designing, reading, researching, writing. Getting things printed, getting things signed, getting things done. There were always ways to help.
But after all those miles, after all the firestorms and urgency and drama, after all those nights getting home to find the kids already in bed, after so many long hours at the computer, after all the general meetings, CRAC meetings, selectman's meetings, board meetings, Casino Free Mass meetings, Task Force meetings, conferences, forums, hearings, fundraisers, rallies, and all the other places I felt I needed to be, and which always seemed to be in someone else's town, and after my Bataan death march of a vacation, I was sorely in need of a break.
Except for the blogs and blogging. Blogs really are a lifeline. I experience major withdrawl symptoms if I can't get to the blogs. Where else can you have other people tackle hundreds of articles, regulations, court cases, meetings, experiences and web sites, then squeeze them all down for you into a few easy-to-understand paragraphs, complete with links, video, graphics and a sense of humor. In fact, I've learned so much by trying to be a good blogger that once I was able to fire off a lengthy bullet list to a TV news reporter, complete with links, explaining why Kofi Jones was wrong (again) about Indian casinos, in the hopes that his evening news report wouldn't be as grossly misinformed and inaccurate as his late night report was the day before. It wasn't.
And blogs can be great motivators too - and motivation is an important aspect of any battle. And I speak from experience when I say that fighting casinos is a brutal battlefield.
But out by the firepit two weeks later, I am still feeling unmotivated to open my e-mail. Out here it's easy to ignore a request for help. And It's easy to imagine that someone else will take care of things that need to get done. It's easy to imagine a world without urgency, or a life that doesn't revolve around the latest crisis in the casino world. I try to imagine what it would be like blogging about something else for a change. Like movies, or being a mom. I tell myself I'll go to the beach, to the spa, that I'll get back in shape. I think, wouldn't it be nice if meetings on hot summer nights could be held outdoors where you could sip a margarita and sit under the stars?
I wonder what would have happened if I'd never gone to someone else's town last year to attend that meeting. I try to think of the good things that have happened because I did. I tell myself that maybe I've made a difference. I marvel at the richness of the experiences I've had, of the new skills I've aquired, of the fine people I've met. But then I realize, I also would have been spared a lot of bad experiences, a boatload of frustration, and certain unsavory egos, actions and agendas.
Oh well. It'll make a good book someday.
I don't know when I'll go back to the e-mail. The kids went back to school today, so it's possible that, eventually, all this blissful quiet will entice me back to the fray. Who knows. But I'm sure I will.
In the meantime, I'm confident that somewhere out there, vicious bloodbaths are still being raged on message boards, that Team Bond is making plans for a casino grand opening, that the media will persevere in their relentless efforts to misinform the public, that the the banner of inevitability continues being hoisted on high, and that breaking news is continuing to break all around.
Just not around me.
Abner tells me what I would have earned at his company for the work I've done this past year fighting casinos. It is a ridiculously high figure and it makes me laugh. There's no money in being an activist. I look down at my old red sequined ballet flats - worn, battered, and faded. I'd just be happy with a little more shoe leather.