Monthly Archives: February 2008

Days 360-365: MLwC hits the Year End Mark

 So, I thought in honor of the project that has changed the way I think about driving–this grew-up-in-Southern-California-you’ll -take-my-car-from-my-cold-dead-hands girl–I thought I’d review some of the high points along the way.

bianchi bike

First, recollection of the project’s goal as I’ve stated it on the blog:

MLwC stands for My Life w Car, a year long project to think differently about alternate transportation options and related issues…like, jeez, I never knew how angry driving made me until I stopped. Nowdays, I mix it up: bike, bus, ped, and yes, I still drive…though nowhere near as much as I used to. I may ditch my car at the end of the year–I like to think it’s possible. But I’m spending the year figuring that question out. For now, it’s enough that I’ve changed my habits in a big way.

For the big question, will I ditch my car? No, it became clear about midway that it made no sense to ditch a perfectly good, fully paid for car that works fine and is not sooo old that it’s a polluting disaster. Flexcar is good if you don’t have a car. But I’ve managed to completely change my transportation habits to include bike, bus, walking, ride sharing in my normal activities, and drastically reduce my car use period. Good enough.

sr520.jpg

And now for some of the high points along the year where I had some clear and habit changing insights. Here are the posts I would send the interested reader to:

Day 95: Walking! The subject of walking instead of driving brought up a lot of feelings for readers and myself. Walking takes longer, but the calm and enjoyment one gets from it really resonated with people. I started walking more and found I loved the parenthetical space it created–when you’re walking, you’re just walking. Looking around, hearing birds, being part of your town–and slowing things down a lot. Maybe some can’t imagine slowing things down and to them I just say: too bad, your loss. You should try it, you might like it.

Day 99: I really started to understand how things would change if I changed my habitual approach to transportation. Also, I found that discussing the project with others opened up a lot of questions and interest with my circle of friends. I didn’t expect the kind of interest the MLwC project engendered.

Day 116-118: In the process of removing habitual driving from my life, I became aware of the connection between driving and CONSUMING! You get in the car and you go…to get stuff. The two–the need for stuff and the trek to get the stuff–are so intertwined it takes a real effort to untangle them. This realization led me to discover the San Francisco Compact–a group that is dedicated to not buying anything for a year. Amazing.

seattle071.jpg

Day 160: Continuing on the issue of consuming, I truly get it! Moving quickly, hopping in the car, is the quickest route to impulse buying possible. Making things easy is truly making things a lot worse in the whole big picture. Fast food, fast cars, fast this and fast that–I’m just not sure we’ve got the right goals in mind. I know this perspective makes me a bad capitalist, but hey.

Day 191-194: I’m starting to really understand how things have changed from the 50’s to now. Unbridled populations growth as a machine for consuming and using every resource that’s not nailed down. No wait, we’ll use the ones that are nailed down, too.

station wagon promo pic

Days 213-214: Considerations about the older car, the urge to have something new, new, new! And plus, I just love the title of the post: The discreet charm of the older car.

Days 218-221: this is an important post, one of those posts where I really get an insight into my mind. Bill McKibbon hits the nail on the head when he points out that more has not made us happier, it’s just made us anxious for More. And that mirrors my experience with driving precisely. And my driving is inextricably linked to my consuming.

Day 233-237: The Puget Sound region rejects a proposal to build more roads! This is a watershed moment in more than one way!

urbanforest.jpg

Days 273-277: I took my car on a road trip, a rare experience. How rare? Well, I was completely unaware how expensive gas was, and I had a rude awakening that cars actually need oil now and then.

Days 241-243: One of my most favorite posts of all. This chronicles a trip I made to a day long meditation…and how crazy I made myself trying to get there on time in a traffic jam. I learned well the concept of “No Escape.” And I’ve thought of it often since this day. There a follow-up of this post here. This period was a real turning point in understanding the habit of driving, the real deep down problem of it.

Days 287-290: a plea to change your life and change the world. We can all make a difference. We must all make a difference.

Days 332-338: a video about the Story of Stuff. I just want to call this out because it’s excellent and Annie Leonard deserves traffic!

So this year comes to a close. I know not many folks will want to read all the stuff I’ve chronicled over the course of this year, but the upshot is: I’ve learned how to live differently. I’ve learned that I can learn to live differently.

The crowd roars

And because of this, my next target has already been selected: plastic bags and plastic containers. I’ll begin this project soon and have a killer kick-off post planned. Of course, the new post series title? MLwP.

Daily Stats: (Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri)
Car: 63 miles
Bike:5.0
Ped: 5.5 miles
Bus:

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Hillary speaks for me.

I really like Obama. If he gets the nomination, I will work for him because what I’m passionate about is taking back our country.

But I remain steadfast in believing that Hillary is talking about things that matter to me. I really believe she is the stronger candidate.

But besides all that, here’s a vid site that is worth looking at. Inspiring kids and adults and students and workers and computer geeks–anybody who wants to is sharing their stuff: Hillary Speaks For Me.

Day 353-359: MLwC and Just Days Away From My One Year End Date!

I’ve been racing around so much lately that I haven’t been able to post much, but I’ve got a lot on my mind–lack of posts doesn’t equal lack of thoughts.

First, this project over in Poulsbo is still keeping me tied to my car in a way I thought I’d gotten away from. But I do understand that the use of my car to get to work doesn’t really mean I should change any of the other rules and parameters I set in place over the course of a year:

  1. Combine as many tasks into a trip as possible; keep task oriented trips to a minimum
  2. Use bike, bus or ped as much as possible to do tasks or meet people
  3. Plan time accordingly (that’s where I’m running into problems now)
  4. Keep car usage limited to must-use or special use whenever possible
  5. Enjoy a calmer state of mind by avoiding traffic and the need-for-speed automatic thinking that happens “behind the wheel.”

I felt last week a familiar sensation that I’ve associated with quitting any addictive habit. It goes like this: I’m driving more than I want to and because of that, I should just give up and drive all the time.

I know that sounds inane. I know. But tell the truth: have you not told yourself the same thing about habits you’re trying to change before? For example, say you’re trying to quit eating so many sweets. And so you set a rule–no more sweets. The next day you go to work and it’s someone’s birthday or it’s a holiday or something special, and there are sweets. You don’t want to be rude so you have some…

let them eat cake

Ughh. And then later, you just go, oh hell, now that I’ve had a small piece of cake, I should just forget about trying to not eat sweets and Bam! you’re back in the habit.

But it doesn’t have to work like that. You can flex, you can begin again, you can stay on course for the longer haul. And that’s what I’m trying to do now. Not giving up on the usual things like tasks and such, and in that way, I create space around the issue of my current commute. Without space, I can’t think creatively.

Next week: a review of turning point moments in my year long project.

Daily Stats:
Car: 82 miles (about 10 tasks, thank goodness)
Bike: 5.5 miles
Ped: approx 3 miles
Bus: zero: I’m missing the bus!!

Days 346-352: MLwC and some caucus thoughts

Here in Washington, the state with the most bizarre electoral processes imaginable (I’m convinced it’s because by February in Washington, at least in Western Washington, we’ve all got cabin fever and have lost it big time), we had our caucuses on Saturday. I loved it, I loved it last time around as well, although I wasn’t at all interested in the candidates. It was a total Anyone-But-Bush vote and literally, I don’t think anyone at the caucus back in 2004 gave a rat’s ass which Dem ran. We chose poorly as a result, and to this day I can’t even hear John Kerry speak without wanting to scream.

But I digress. This year the energy was phenomenal, and meeting up with neighbors and new friends was better than ever. I hope people make this an every-four-year event–I think we all had a good time. Of course, as is known now, the vote went heavily to Obama, and that’s cool. I just want our country back, I don’t really care which candidate does it–and I firmly believe both could do it.

Which brings me to an interesting question I’ve been mulling over. Is it possible to stay with one’s choice without “splitting?” By splitting, I’m referring to that emotional way we tend to find negative reasons to support our positive choices. That is, I am for Person X because Person Y is terrible. Is it possible for us, or even desirable, to put the period in the sentence after the first clause: I am for Person X.

Case in point: I am for Hillary. I am not for Hillary because I’m afraid Obama can’t win, or because I think he’s a worse candidate, or because of any of the other reasons one might come up with. I’m for Hillary because I think she’s super smart, she’s tough, she single handedly moved the conversation about national health care out into the public dialogue (and took numerous body blows in the process), she’s not afraid of difficult issues and she’s passionate about things I care about.

Now here’s the rub: because I say those things, does that mean Obama doesn’t share some of those qualities, or even all of them–who knows? No it doesn’t. It actually doesn’t mean anything about Obama. I’m only talking about Hillary.

I found myself in a peculiar position at the caucus because I really didn’t want to–in fact felt strongly about it–say anything against Obama. I just don’t want to. I think he’s got sterling qualities and he’s enormously talented and gifted. I can’t bring myself to say anything bad about him, yet the expectation was built into the process–try and convince the undecideds to vote for your candidate.

Listen: both of these candidates are superb. One of them will speak to you for specific reasons, and you will be drawn to follow that candidate. This isn’t 2004, for god’s sake, with John Kerry as our candidate. It’s not Dukakis! We have two excellent candidates. Two awesome candidates! Only one will win the nomination and then we’ll have one awesome candidate, and we’ll take back the white house and the country. Period.

Daily Stats: (Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun)

Car: 81 miles (so many storms this week, I fairly gave up trying to get anywhere with anything but a car)
Bike: 5 miles (finally on Saturday, I took a tentative ride to run errands)
Ped: 3 miles
Bus: 0

Days 339-345: MLwC, a Can-Do Attitude and Hope

We democrats are lucky this time around: we’ve got two awesome candidates and I’ll be happy when either one of them wins in November–as I’m certain one of them will. Whoever gets the nod in the run-up, I just hope they have the good sense to step back and let the Repugnicans tear each other apart–I’m also pretty sure that will happen. What goes around comes around.

I’m disappointed that Edwards dropped out. I had my enviro and anti-big-corpo-madness hopes pinned on him, but I wasn’t heart sick to see him leave the race…we have such an excellent choice with Hillary and Barack. Except for one thing…that environment issue. Oh, and the big-corpo-madness issue. I don’t think either of the candidates raises my pulse on those issues and for that, I’m truly hoping for a miracle once they get in office. I’m hoping for some enlightenment, as neither one has a strong track record or seems a strong champion for issues that are big for me. Still and all, as a country, we can only do better, and we have only to put the past eight years where they belong–behind us–and move on in a better direction.

Rosie the Riveter and Hillary Clinton

I’m rooting for Hillary because I think she’s a woman with a can-do attitude. She’s an incredibly hard worker–and like so many women who have had to fight hard to get half the respect they deserve, she’s got some rough edges. I understand that, and I even appreciate that. I understand her demeanor, which at times can be brusk–it doesn’t sway my sense that she has the experience, knowledge and passion to lead us in a direction I wholeheartedly support. I would love Hillary to be a resoundingly successful first woman president of the United States.

But this morning I was thinking about something. I was thinking about how hopeful I was when Bill Clinton was first running for office back in ’92. 15 freaking years ago–I can hardly believe it. Bill Clinton was incredibly hopeful and inspiring and he came from virtually nowhere to win the nomination, and he played music I could relate to, and he was simply the voice of the same section of my generation that wanted a progressive force in the white house after so many dismal years of Bush 1 and Reagan (no, I don’t think Reagan walked on water–I’m from California and witnessed his cold-hearted elitist governing style first hand).

Bill Clinton offered hope that things could be different, and I was swept along with it. All in all I think it was a good presidency, though there are some things I still wish he’d done differently (that’s an understatement). Clinton, both Hillary and Bill, wear the scars of that time.

If Barack gets the nomination, I know he’ll win the presidency, and I’ll help. He’s not my first choice, not even my second choice–but I get the draw. I get the pull of hope, the resonance of a generation chomping at the bit to do things differently, and I hope he’s able to change things, if that’s how the nomination shakes out. More than anything, I’m looking forward to a healing, forward looking president. I remember the allure of hope–it can move mountains.

Daily Stats: Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun
Car: 88 miles (a lot of biz and 14 tasks)
Bike: 0
Ped: 5
Bus: 0