New Orleans: Just about every year my family takes a vacation before the kids have to go back to the rigors of school which is just about family life – or in union organizing what we call a “captive audience” meeting – in other words all of us in one place and space having to learn to deal and communicate again before we are not able to do so for a while. These are not kids really but younger adults 22 and 19, and going to school is no longer a trip across town, but at long distances in some cases.
So, I am now at the tail end of just such a holiday around the house and therefore able to reflect and share what I’ve learned and done with these precious days.
- Washed and waxed the truck for the first time in 6 months and put it in the garage for repairs for 3 days.
- Trimmed the bushes in the yard, because natural selection was setting in.
- Read two books on South Africa in preparation for a trip there in six weeks. I need to share that one comes away from the 350 odd year history of this country profoundly impressed with the fact that apartheid was not an aberration but was part of the almost straight-line continuity of dysfunctionality that ruled the country and oppressed the majority virtually from the founding of the colony by the Dutch! Also read the Naomi Klein’s No Logo with some interest because it had been sitting on my stack too long.
- Watched a number of videos from Blockbuster that on the whole I could have probably lived without including Monster, which convinced me that Charlize Theron probably deserved an Academy Award for her willingness to look atrocious and scare hell out of people, but that I could probably use more escapism in a movie selection, and that brings me to the other two we watched – Kill Bill 1 and Kill Bill 2 – the recent Quentin Tarantino movies, which are nowhere near as bad as I had read, but like I said, that I could have also lived my whole life well and missed.
- In driving to Jackson, Mississippi one day saw in a single hour before leaving Louisiana six (6) Wal-Mart 18 wheelers as a footnote to our modern economy and what’s driving it.
- Ran a different route every morning and took a nap almost every afternoon.
- Saw a museum exhibit in Jackson from Dresden, Germany in order to remind all of us about the excesses of royalty, allow us to talk about civilian bombing and the intrinsic definitions of war crimes, ponder what one would keep in a dragoon vase, wonder what Vermeer had on his mind when painting, and generally think about something different for a short while.
- Took the canoe out, cooked on the grill a couple of times, traveled to the local snowball stand three times, and thought about how many more days it would take me to catch up on everything that I still needed to do.
- Wrote a good piece of a paper on “membership based organizations of the poor” for an international conference in India in 2005, outlined a chapter on organizing Wal-Mart, worked in the office both Saturdays, edited a proposal for $1.5 M that was due ASAP, kept up with the email traffic, and scheduled and snuck phone calls every time everyone else was out and left me a couple of minutes alone, but refused to do more than two hours any day that was just work. You have to set limits!
- Went to an open house for the school my son attended between 3-5 and looked at pictures of all of us from 20 years ago, when to a celebration at a local coffee house ACORN and Local 100 SEIU members involved in stopping privatization of the water and sewer system in New Orleans, and attended an open house for our candidate for criminal sheriff.
- Talked about and planned our next family vacation and how the children saw their futures.
The first couple of days were cool for New Orleans. I saw a kingfisher early in the season and the last of the pelicans flying over. I looked at where a marsh fire had burned near a bayou. I talked to my brother-in-law who was finishing a construction job on a guitar store in Baton Rouge and stored a pirogue for him for a while so he didn’t have to take it back to Arkansas.
I admit on a busman’s holiday, you still are drawn into the vortex of work and worry some. One can not hide fully and the escape is temporary. Perhaps it’s not for everyone, but you know, I really have no complaints. It’s still not work!