February 17th, 2017

_My Life on the Road_, Gloria Steinem

Steinem has been such an important figure in the world for my entire life, it is a little odd reading her memoir. It's a great memoir. She has a friendly voice, without being verbose or overly chatty. She touches upon the meta-decisions of what to put in a/this memoir and why, without it feeling like she's avoiding engaging with the material.

It is easy to fill in the parts of another person's life that we have no knowledge, direct or otherwise, of with assumptions based on our own experience and the experience of other people we know well. I think anyone who has a decent smattering of experience through time and/or travel or a wide network of diverse kin knows this is a mistake, often a serious mistake, but it is how our brains work. So the book presents many layers of shock right from the beginning. It's hard to imagine growing up driving around in a car with one's parents and sister. The reader might think, but what about school? And that question is answered, but not really in the way you might expect. This was unschooling at its more extreme end. It does put a whole new spin on statements she later makes about how she didn't learn about something-or-other or they don't teach that in school. Well, over and above the fact that every school in this country does things a little differently, and then that changes from year to year and Steinem can't be considered a youthful person by any stretch any more -- she didn't really go to school. So how would she know? I assume it is an expression that she picked up.

She doesn't feel sorry for herself for having parents who clearly suffered from significant mental health issues. It's not clear she really grasps that her father did -- she may still be filing his oddities under that catchall heading, "eccentricity". When she expresses her anguish over not being with him when he dies, it's also completely unclear how much of that experience she has unpacked (my answer? Probably not a lot, either that or she declined to share, which is her prerogative).

She also tends not to blame anyone for, really, much of anything. She gets in her digs -- and more power to her! -- but she delivers the payload and moves on. Reading this book helps answer a basic question I've had about people who engage in community organizing on a national scale. How on earth do these people maintain a home life? In Steinem's case, she didn't bother for a really long time.

In answer to related questions you might have, nope, didn't file taxes for a long time, either, didn't save for retirement, etc. She's a really representative character of the mid 20th century in a lot of ways.

All that said, I really loved the book and the book did nothing to tarnish my sense of her as one of my heroes. It gave me a lot of detail on what her life had been like, and her perspective on the many, many, many other activists and organizers she has worked with. That was really wonderful actually -- even if you have no interest in Steinem, Steinem's connectedness to the larger community of activism and organizing is just amazing.

We had to delay book group discussion due to weather, so I may come back next month and edit this.

Friday's Activities Include: picking the kids up early and flight leaves late

Today we left for California! We picked the kids up at school (well, I picked up T. at Thoreau Club) early. Then we got a ride to the airport. Had we but known, we could have left them in school and let them ride home on the bus, even, because our flight was delayed for over two hours. We checked our bags. We had a leisurely meal at Johnny Rockets, where I panicked because we left the bag of food at security (R. retrieved it; it was all swabbed, apparently). And then we waited at the gate through multiple delays before ultimately departing.

I bought A. a scooter bag (the one I got was by Z Flyte, on Amazon). This is a legit carryon item, which folds down a scooter deck, and the handle for the bag serves as the handle for the scooter. It caused A. to speed up enough so that she could keep up with the rest of us walking fast, but didn't get her or us into any trouble. Lots of double takes, including from airport employees. We heard other passengers saying things like, "Did you see that? It's a scooter!" "The boys would love that!" Etc. Upon arrival, bell services had seen the category of bags online but not yet met anyone with one and they wanted to know whether the airport had any issues with it. No one said anything to us about it, not even at security. I had packed myself carryon only, but the other three had bags, so we did do the checked bag dance on both sides. We did not need a luggage cart, however.

I paid extra for mint, because the flight was a transcon (BOS to LAX). We had the two seat rows, not the "suite". Service was great. A. kept waking up and asking if we were almost there, which was my biggest complaint, but she was really excited. T. wouldn't sleep at all, and kept waking R. up, which was his biggest complaint. They had food choices that I could eat. They had a nice honey infused mint non alcoholic beverage that they were happy to add alcohol to -- I got the bourbon, which was excellent; it was also good with vodka, which R. asked for.

The reason for the delay was weather in LA. Thunderstorms and lots and lots of rain. There were office waste bins being used to catch drips in the jetway when we got off the flight.

The rental car from National was uneventful; I got another white impala, just like in Virginia in December.

By the time we got to the Grand Californian, it was around midnight (local time, so 3 a.m. to us) and we were pretty zombie-tired. The room was refurbished, but next to the refurbishment construction.

I feel like I didn't plan very well. I haven't figured out about PhotoPass in Disneyland; I haven't even bought tickets yet to the parks (altho I do have two days of Universal tickets with Front of the Line).