Friday, December 12, 2008

Jane and Cordelia get published in the Greenwich Citizen! Read more!

Look Back, Move Forward

A Mother and Daughter Travel the Deep South After Obama's Victory
By Jane Milliken

Unfortunately the link has been taken down... Suffice it to say, my mom and I had a very interesting time exploring Alabama and Mississippi and you can read some of my thoughts connected to the photos in the slide show in the next post.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Photos from Alabama and Mississippi

My photos (Click here)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Shocking fact:

The top 1000 people in the world have assets greater than the lower 2.5 billion.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obama wins! Live in Times Square

Monday, September 29, 2008

Traveling the World in New York City

Now that I have a job its harder to get away for long trips to exotic locales. Not to worry, I will still be able to travel but just less frequently.

I often feel thankful for living in New York since it gives me a chance to experience the world at my doorstep. This week that was especially true. Each year the United Nations opens it's session with a full meeting of the General Assembly. This means that the leaders of almost all the nations in the world gather here in New York and bring international excitement on a whole different level.

For the last two years I have spent time sitting outside the UN watching delegations go in and out. A small interesting crowd of folks like me usually gather to watch the excitement.

Its amazing site to see some many different faces, colors, languages and forms of traditional dress. Then every so often the excitement rises when one of the leaders comes through with his delegation. I wish I knew all their faces, but I don't But here is a short list of the ones I am sure I saw:

The presidents of Turkey, Georgia, Senegal, and Bolivia (Yes, I saw Evo Morales for the second year in a row!) and the Premier of China. I also think I saw the President of Colombia, but can't be sure it was him.

The highlight of afternoon with A LOT of highlights, was when Georgian President Saakashvili jumped out of his motorcade to address a crowd of pro Georgian protesters who were shouting to get Russia out of their country. When the crowd saw him coming they started singing their national anthem at the top of their lungs. For me it was a moving sight. My knees shook for a few blocks after. The Georgia conflict has been all over the headlines, but this made it real.

Some of you will be mad to hear that I had a pretty strong patriotic reaction to seeing POTUS' motorcade. I know he has been a bad president for our overall position in the world, but watch 20 motorcycle cops stream in before a LONG motorcade and finally seeing the American flag and presidential seal stirred a little American pride in my soul. I might not like him, but he is the President, and like it or not my countrymen picked him. I can't wait till next year when President Obama is inside that limo.

After all that excitement I topped off the week with a trip to Little Senegal on 116th Street for an amazing African feeling. How cool is it that I could see their president one day and then go to a place crowded with his people on another and never be more than an hour from home!

I love that I can see the world in my city. I love New York.

**The photos are of Georgian President Saakashvili arriving at the rally.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Democratic Convention in Denver

Photos from the Convention (Click here)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Rocky Mountain High.... Colorado

Colorado Photos (Click here)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Campaigning in Philadelphia

Photos from Philadephia (Click here)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Mexico Trip - March 2008

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Birthday in Mexico

A few years ago I pledged to go somewhere interesting for my birthday every year and this year I chose Mexico. I spent most of my time in Mexico City. Lately, I feel like Mexico City is on the way to being one of the new “it” cities due to its mega city status and being a city girl I wanted to see it again. Way back when, in ninth grade, I took my very first international trip to Mexico with my Spanish class and although I have vague memories I felt it was time to see it again. I wanted to see the city through today’s lens.

So what did I think? It was a real surprise. Although I knew I’d see stuff I loved, I was expecting smog, traffic and crime. Instead I got pretty clear skies with views of the mountains from my hotel room, not much traffic and police EVERYWHERE. Honestly, there were police all over and I felt very safe and apparently they have instituted some controls on who can drive their cars into the city and it appears to be working.

So where did that leave me? It meant I could wander freely, discover old architecture, enjoy the kind of pulse that the second largest city in the world can bring, peruse markets, attend moving church services, listen to mariachi music and practice my Spanish. (I have to say the best part of the trip is that I am beginning to feel more confidence with my Spanish which makes me want to spend more time down south soon. Too bad they don’t speak Spanish in Africa!)

Mexico has such a diverse mix of rich and poor. I went out in neighborhoods in the evenings that rivaled New York, London and Paris. They were lined with bars and restaurants. Prosperity was in the air. The people were glamorous. And yet, the markets felt as foreign as any I’ve been to in the world with peppers and tortillas piled high. There is a real sense of history in the city with ruins found in the subway stations and in the middle of the city and old beautiful churches found on even the smallest streets. And yet, there are big modern glass skyscrapers towering in the sky.

The subway was amazing. Its marble floors and walls gleamed and as soon as one car pulled out of the station, another pulled in, and all that for only 20 cents a ride. Frankly it made me a little embarrassed about New York ’s public transportation.

I visited two other towns for one night each to get a better feeling for small town Mexico and enjoyed climbing up into the mountains and sitting in the town squares. These little towns had a lovely historic feel; Tepoztlan with its bright tropical colors and Taxco with its red tiled roofs and white stucco. I got to interact with indigenous people who still only speak their tribal languages even though they are living in medium sized towns that are very close to Mexico City. I also got to see bands parading through the streets playing fun music. Plus I got to try all different kinds of foods.

All in all, it’s a varied place, pretty close to home with plenty to see and do.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mexico Photos

Campaigning in Ohio

The first weekend in March I headed to Cleveland Ohio for another stop on this years Presidential Campaign. It was my first trip to Ohio, but after going to college in Pennsylvania, this end of the Rust Belt looked pretty familiar. Cleveland has a once grand downtown as a testament to the strength of its old industries. Its trying to polish up its image and renovations are visible all over. It has neighborhoods that are deeply suffering from the economic downturn with empty shops and plywood windows. And we campaigned in suburban neighborhoods with lovely small houses and a fresh coat of snow to make it all more picturesque.

All in all, it looked like I expected but I didn't get to see enough. After all I have really come to love industrial America and I bet Cleveland has more to show me. I'll see you in the Fall.

Ohio Photos

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Cordelia Hits the Heartland

With super duper Tuesday fast approaching, the Iowa Caucuses, for most of you, are but a distant memory on this years political campaign trail. But for me they will now be a big mark on the 2008 election cycle and my quest to find the real America. Yes, that is right, my last trip wasn't to some exotic third world country but instead I went deep into the heartland to mix my two favorite pastimes, politics and travel. I set on my journey right after Christmas knowing it was a dead time for my job search and that its a time I am usually restless at home. Each year I wish I was somewhere else for New Year's Eve and here was my opportunity. I planned to ring in 2008 from the streets of Des Moines, Iowa, because I knew this year it was at the place to be!

In 1992, I worked on my first Presidential campaign for Tom Harkin, a US Senator from Iowa. Since then, Iowa and all the Iowans I worked with have always had a place in my heart even though I had never actually been to the state. I yearned to eat loose meat sandwiches, travel through endless corn fields and to see a Hy-Vee (their super supermarket chain) up close and personal. Somehow I was going to get there, either while checking out the 4-H cows and eating corndogs at the Iowa State Fair or better yet, experiencing the kick-off to the much anticipated Presidential Race first hand. Seeing the country from a political canvasser's point of view turned out to be a wonderful way to hear America's heartbeat and see some of it's small towns.

So I set out, destination Ames, Iowa, pretty much in the dead center of the state. Its just 30 minutes north of Des Moines, Iowa's capital city, and home to Iowa State, a school with 26,000 students. Even though school wasn't in session, it was fun to be in the middle of a huge college town. Our campaign headquarters was tucked in the college downtown area, perfect for a quick walk to get a fresh cup of coffee, a glance in a shop selling more types of college paraphernalia than I've ever seen before and just a few steps away from plenty of college bars which were good places to go reflect on a hard days work. On the first day I canvassed in Ames, but being a small city (50,000 is big in Iowa terms) and built up at the same time as many of the New York suburbs, it was a little too close to what I see in New York. I wanted to get out and see the farm country so the next day I headed out to rural small towns outside the city. Towns of a few hundred to a few thousand people are connected by roads through miles and miles and miles of flat soybean or corn fields. At that time of year, Iowa was covered with snow, so there were great white expanses with the remains of harvested corns stalks sticking out and a barn or grain silo in the distance. Iowa is also the third largest pork producing state so huge hog farms can be seen by the road. I never saw a hog though because they are kept tightly inside while they are fattened up for slaughter. I wasn't in a meat packing area so I didn't really have to deal with the reality of the situation. Though in keeping with my "when in Rome" philosophy, I did have a delicious fried pork sandwich at the local DQ.

The towns were so quaint and reaked of the Americana that makes up the our country myth. There were beautiful old houses. American flags waved in the wind. Signs saying Velkommen reminded me of the strong Scandinavian influence. Garland and Christmas wreaths were draped out on big porches. Swings hung from the trees in the yards. No matter where you were in a town you weren't far from farmland, barns, silos and other huge farm storage facilities. Reminders of the Iraq War were never far, since yellow ribbons adorned trees and mailboxes and signs saying Support Our Troops with either Win the War or End the War, depending which house I passed, were very visible. Another notable sight were empty storefronts. Downtowns were lined with empty shops. Many towns had no retail at all. I can only deduce that most people must take the long drive to Ames to shop in big box retailers. Some towns, like Story City, have reinvented themselves and become destinations with a few touristy things to see. We visited a workshop that made furniture from the late 1700's using only the original tools from that time. On some days we were lucky to find a local restaurant to eat at. People were always curious and commented on our political buttons. I don't think they see that many new faces in some of these places. We quickly learned that every person was a potential caucus goer, so we spent plenty of time chatting there too.

The people I met were so wonderful. They were friendly and inviting, solid and articulate and they knew their political issues. They were all looking for the perfect candidate. They would say they like a candidate but were curious of their position on say, nuclear energy or laws regarding credit card companies... Something obscure that no canvaser could really be sure of their candidate's position on. My canvassing partner was Hillary's Little Rock pastor, who was also volunteering, and when one women said she felt Hillary was dishonest, I had him call her. We would do anything we could to switch a vote. Anything, that is, except going negative. We were strictly guided not to talk badly about any other candidate and instead spread Hillary's record to win her favor. (Its only weeks later and I here I go reminiscing about the tone of the campaign back then.) It seemed like almost everyone truly stayed undecided till the night of the caucuses and they factored in every single piece of information during the process. Iowans take this responsibility seriously. They know that the whole country is watching. Candidates come to every town and everyone has a chance to meet them in person. In fact, some people see them many times. They get photos taken with the candidates and then bring those same photos back for autographs at other meetings. In New York, we can only dream of this kind of access.

We didn't only talk about presidential issues. Sometimes I was invited into someone's living room to see pictures of their family or told about local politics or small town life. When I expressed how much I loved Iowa to one women, she said if I really wanted to stay she had two single grandsons and when she walked me out to my car she pointed across the valley to a farm house way off in the distance and said thats where I could find them. I had a few conversations about electing a women president and heard that in those parts some women didn't think their men would ever vote for a women. I was actually told it was because of their ethnic history. Of course that type of talk only fired me up more and when I stood on the corner in Ames on caucus day, with my Hillary sign, I was cheered by all the thumbs up from other women. I really felt like I was making history.

On Sunday, I went with Hillary's pastor to church in Nevada, the county seat of Story County, the county where I was working. (In Iowa, its all about your county.) At the beginning of the service the minister made the visitors stand up and introduce ourselves to the congregation. When I said I was Cordelia from New York City, there was a surprised gasp in the room. I found that often people would tell me about the one or two people from their town that had moved to New York. They also would wonder why I had come so far and beam as I showered Iowa with kind words.

I spent New Years Eve in Des Moines with what seemed like every political reporter and many political operatives. I met and talked politics for a second with Tim Russert. I saw Dana Bash from CNN. I got to overhear much of the hubbub and get a feeling for the drama of the campaign. Hillary had a party so we got to see her and Bill along with some other notables then we were off to ring in the new year at a Hillary Clinton operative gathering. All of it felt very insider and vastly different from the streets of places like Roland, Zearing or Slater, Iowa, where I was spending my days. It was all part of the campaign though. They said that this year there were twice as many reporters in Iowa then in years past. Huge satellite trucks lined the streets of Des Moines eager to catch the latest story or speech.

For any of you political junkies, I also saw Candy Crowley, Jeff Greenfield, Andrea Mitchell as well as meeting LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Chelsea Clinton, Terry McAuliffe, Ron Howard, Madeline Albright and more... Nightly the campaign sent people to our office to motivate us. I was a skeptic, but it did feel good and Chelsea was very impressive in a totally low key, self confident kind of way.

Finally after a hard week of canvassing and phone calling, it was caucus day. Most of us were assigned to drive people to their caucus sites. I was assigned 7 different people who all canceled. Its no easy task getting people out at night in cold, icy Iowa. I was sitting in the HQ without an assignment until suddenly they heard that the precinct captain for McCallsburg and Warren Township couldn't make it and I was quickly assigned to the job. I had spent two days canvassing in this county (pop. 318) and was excited to caucus there. Hopefully I had convinced few people to show up and stand up for Hillary.

The way the caucuses worked is that people had to go to their town caucus site (a church basement, school cafeteria or for me, Colo/NESCO Elementary School) and state publicly who they were supporting. If a candidate didn't get 15%, people had to pick another choice and then move to that group. Relationships figured in strongly, though in my caucus site some families were split. A mother for Hillary. Her daughter for Edwards. Husband and wife split Obama/Clinton. A few husbands downstairs at the Republican caucus. In a big room, an undecided voter could be swayed by the energy and enthusiasm of one candidate's caucus goers. I never really figured out what made the undecideds decide as they walked in the door. I most definitely tried to show excitement in my campaign t-shirt and with my rolls of stickers and pockets of buttons. Beyond the Presidential race, the caucus is also the place that people discuss other local issues, which is why it was set up in the first place. One women told us it was the first place she talked politics with any of her neighbors when she moved to the neighborhood.

After some fancy maneuvering, that I didn't exactly understand, our site and its 27 caucus goers went one delegate for Clinton and one for Obama, leaving the Edwards people feeling sad and the Richardson folks with enough power to be king makers by establishing viability for Clinton and Obama. I kept an eye on the Republican caucus happening downstairs. I had befriended the Mayor of the town during canvassing. He is a life long Republican and said his parents would roll over in their graves if he ever voted Democrat. I made some comments about doing the right thing and God being on the Democratic side, but I got only laughs and he was very happy when his man, Huckabee, went 36 of 41 at the caucus. His wife was one of my Hillary converts though. Yay for women!

As I drove down to Des Moines after the caucus and listened to the results, I was a bit stunned. This type of micro targeted campaign where so few people participated was hard to read. Each campaign attempted to get out their caucus goers by making multiple house visits and daily phone calls and I believe everyone probably made their numbers and then some, but Obama did better and the numbers far exceeded any expectation. I think we are seeing over and over that conventional wisdom might not mean anything when you have the first women and the first black man and so much anger at the current president.

In the end though, I enjoyed every minute of my introduction to Iowa's people and politics. Traveling within the United States had never been as personally satisfying before. It was a privilege to meet the people and see the towns. I loved driving on the long empty roads. Sometimes I'd just u turn in the streets, because I could, since I rarely saw other cars on the smaller roads. I loved the friendliness. I loved the snow drifts that blew across the roads creating a white floating mist and the ice that covered every leaf and blade of grass in the mornings as the night time fog burned off. I loved seeing first hand that the myth of red barns and corn fields is real. I loved the wide open spaces. I can't really say what makes Iowans different or like New Yorkers, but I left feeling glad we were all Americans.


Don't forget to vote when its your state's turn. Its our duty and privilege. Honor the Iowans and take some time to study the candidates and pick the one that fits you best.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Scenes from the Heartland