#boycottindiana What’s the individual traveler’s responsibility?

images-2What a week for the Hoosiers! Thanks to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which appears designed to allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT people, and the verbal bumbling of Governor Mike Pence, Indiana hasn’t had this much attention since Bobby Knight’s chair-throwing days at Indiana University. In fact, the issue prompted David Letterman to say he’d prefer to have Bobby Knight as Indiana governor. Unknown-3

I’ve watched with amusement as the right wingers in the Indiana state legislature and other areas of Hoosier life have back-pedaled and beeped like as garbage truck backing up, “Who us? No way do we mean to discriminate against the LGBT community. No, no, you misunderstand.”

Tell me what you think

And, in what is surely an April Fool’s joke, the Arkansas legislature has shown spectacular inability to learn from the mistakes of others by  passing a similar bill, despite the dustup in Indiana. Also amusing: cities and states are capitalizing on Indiana’s infamy, encouraging Indiana businesses to set up shop in their jurisdictions where they’re business- and gay-friendly. Similarly, many government entities have declared Indiana off limits for employee travel. Businesses and sports organizations are making it known that such attitudes are bad for business, business being a huge priority in Indiana— maybe even trumping “Christian” family values.

It’s funny to watch Indiana bureaucrats bumbling, but discrimination isn’t funny. For me it brings up a serious question: I’m planning to go to Indiana in a few weeks to visit friends. Should I go? Surely an individual should take a stand and be as moral as say, Emily’s List or the state of Virginia, or the mayor of Palm Beach and just say “no.” It makes me wonder what is the responsibility of individuals to protest discriminatory policies and “vote with their feet” by not going. I see I’m not the only one with this question as #banindiana and #boycottindiana are trending on Twitter.

I used to live in Indianapolis, a LONG time ago, so I know that everyone in Indiana isn’t a bigot. I have no doubt that the state will rectify its RFRA mistake by the time I get there, though Mike Pence can kiss any thought about a presidential run goodbye. Good. And the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Bureau folks are working overtime to recover from this PR fiasco. Their web site is covered with rainbows, “All Are Welcome in Indy” banners, and they’re rolling out the rainbow carpet with a guide to LGBT Indy. Still, I’m curious what you think is the individual traveler’s obligation to stand up for what’s right? Tell me what you think.

Fresh: NYU Graduation

This week’s photo challenge is “Fresh” which makes me think of college graduation, which is a fresh start, full of fresh young faces and enthusiasm for the future.

"I'll make a brand new start of it in old New York," from Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York." Part of the graduation festivities at New York University, which is held at Yankee Stadium.
“I’ll make a brand new start of it in old New York….” from Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” Part of the graduation festivities at New York University, held at Yankee Stadium.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Symmetry of the Brooklyn Bridge

SONY DSCIn response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Symmetry.”

Opened in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge is an engineering marvel, partly due to its system of suspension cables.  Its 3600 miles of steel wire weave a very symmetrical spider web around you as you cross.  See my previous post about A LITERARY AND CULINARY TRIP ACROSS THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE, NEW YORK CITY.

All is Not Grey in Seattle: Best Books Set in Seattle by Local Writers

Seattle isn’t always grey. When the clouds thin you just can’t beat the city’s combination of ocean and mountains.

Seattle is famous for its grey skies and currently, for another Unknown-4
grey, Fifty Shades of Grey, that is. Crowds of Shades fans are driving by the Escala condominiums in Seattle, the home of the fictional Christian Grey, among other sites in the books and movie. And, tour operators now offer travel packages that incorporate  Fifty Shades sites, hopefully with a little more romance and a little less S and M.

One writer called the trilogy “Fifty Shades of Bad Writing,” but darn, I wish I wrote those books; that woman has struck it rich.  The movie has received equally stinky reviews, but it will probably do well financially, too.

A little mommy porn can be fun if you’re into, um, pain and bondage, but I’m here to tell you that whether it’s weather or reading, Seattle isn’t just about Grey. If you’re looking for books with a little more literary merit to inform and inspire a trip to the Emerald City, the folks at one of my favorite bookstores, Elliott Bay Books in Seattle have a reading list for you. Here’s a list they sent with some great and pretty recent fiction and nonfiction books set in Seattle, by local authors.

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein (fiction). He also wrote the Art of Racing Unknown-1in the Rain

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (fiction)

The Lone Ranger & Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie (fiction) See my other post about Sherman Alexie and banned books.

Blueprints of the Afterlife by Ryan Boudinot (fiction)

Love, Water, Memory by Jennie Shortridge (fiction)

Ceremony for the Choking Ghost by Karen Finneyfrock (poetry)

The Good Rain by Timothy Egan (nonfiction)Unknown-5

Nisei Daughter by Monica Sone (nonfiction)

Pacific Northwest: Land of Light and Water by Art Wolfe (nonfiction – pictorial)

Mary Randlett Portraits by Frances McCue and Mary Randlett (nonfiction – pictorial)

Stay tuned for an upcoming post on Bainbridge Island.

Google Field Trip Now Features Travel Content From Off The Beaten Page Travel

This is what the information looks like the information from this blog looks like on the Google Field Trip app
This is what the information looks like the information from this blog looks like on the Google Field Trip app on your phone.

Everyone wants to get more out of their vacation dollar and their precious vacation time. And, more than ever, travelers are seeking meaningful experiences that elevate their vacations above the humdrum and typical. That’s why I’m delighted that people who designed Google Field Trip, an app for your smart phone, have chosen offthebeatenpagetravel.com as one of Field Trip’s content providers.

If you follow this blog or have read my book, Off The Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs and Girls on Getaways, you know the goal is to bring travel and literature together in a way that enrichs both experiences. Now, as you travel you can obtain “hyper-local” information from the  offthebeatenpagetravel.com blog that applies to various points of interest wherever you happen to be on your trip.

Field Trip runs in the background on your smart phone, grabs your location (via cell tower, Wi-Fi or GPS) and shows you nearby points of interest. When you get close to something significant, it pops up a card with details about the location. Or, you can use the map to navigate to a specific location you’re planning to go and view cards that describe everything there from history to restaurants to bargains in local shops. Cards are grouped into categories and offthebeatenpagetravel.com information appears under “Cool and Unique.” If you have a headset or bluetooth connected, it can even read the information to you, which Slate writer Seth Stevenson said is like “having a museum audio guide for the entire world.”

So, for example, if you’re in Salem, Massachusetts, you’ll see a card linked to this blog with information about The House of Seven Gables, made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Or, in Santa Monica, California, you can learn about how the famous noir crime writer Raymond Chandler gained inspiration in that town and how the famous pier is featured in his work.

I find myself more and more reliant on GPS and Google Maps as I travel because the technology makes it so much easier to find my way around new places, especially while I’m driving. Check out the Field Trip app to find another new way to make your travel easier and more interesting.

Check out the Field Trip video. You’ll want to take off.

Wonder Woman in Her Many Forms

 Wonder Woman Katy a super-size painting by artist Barbara Porwit on display at the University of Minnesota's Nash Gallery, part of the  WonderWomen exhibit. (photo by Doug Webb connectartists.com)
Wonder Woman Katy a super-size painting by artist Barbara Porwit on display at the University of Minnesota’s Nash Gallery, part of the “WonderWomen” exhibit. (photo by Doug Webb connectartists.com)

I love it when events and my reading coincide. WonderWomen, an art exhibit at the University of Minnesota’s Nash Gallery  in Minneapolis runs from now until February 14. Though they didn’t plan it that way, the exhibit came on the heels of the release of Harvard historian Jill Lapore’s new book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, which details the weird life of William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator and also the inventor of the lie detector test.

Wonder Woman—part superhero, part kinky-booted pinup girl—9780385354042flew into American culture in 1941 and has been part of our pop culture ever since. Along with the biography of Wonder Woman and her creator, Lepore’s book is analysis of women’s history and feminism. The WonderWomen exhibit examines that topic from the pop-art perspective. It features works by women artists inspired or influenced by comics, animation or popular culture, and related screenings of work by women filmmakers presented by the Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul. Read my article about the show in the Minnesota Women’s Press.

One of my favorite works in the show, “Wonder Woman Katy” dominates the room at the Nash Gallery. She wears a red cape and she’s seven feet tall. Don’t mess with her. That’s the image Minneapolis artist Barbara Porwit wants to convey in her Breast Cancer Superhero Portrait Project,  a series of larger-than-life paintings of real women battling the disease, of which “Wonder Woman Katy” is a part. Porwit’s works celebrate the heroic nature of women affected by breast cancer

Frenchy Lunning, a professor of liberal arts at Minneapolis College of Art and Design and an internationally known expert in manga, anime (Japanese comics and animation) and popular culture, is co-curator of the exhibit. She says, ”The takeaway for viewers is to become aware of the magnitude of feminine culture and how feminist art, with all of its potentially subversively qualities, is entering mainstream culture.”

Even if you can’t make it to the WonderWomen exhibit, you’ll want
to read The Secret History of Wonder Woman.    A New York Times review of the book called Wonder Woman’s creator “….a huckster, a polyamorist (one and sometimes two other women lived with him and his wife), a serial liar and a bondage super-enthusiast. As Wonder Woman would say, “Suffering Sappho!” How can we resist?

Graffiti at 5 Pointz New York City

The ultimate in self-expression: Graffiti in the Five Points section of New York City.
Vandalism or self expression? Graffiti in Queens, NYC

This week’s photo challenge is express yourself.  While some call it vandalism, there’s no more in-your-face, larger than life form of self-expression than graffiti.  For the past 20 years, the mecca of that gritty urban art form has been 5 Pointz, a dilapidated  factory complex in Queens, New York City.

Founded as the Phun Phactory in 1993, it was designed as a place for street artists to legally practice their craft. Here, aerosol-can Picassos made the derelict buildings beautiful and gained worldwide fame.

Sadly, the buildings were recently demolished to make way for yet more shiny high-rise apartment buildings.

Travel to the places you read about. Read about the places you travel.


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