Alex in Transit(ion)

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taking the good with the bad

Well faithful readers, I’m going to give you some sound advice. If you all of a sudden pack up, move to Florida, live there for almost a year, and return back to the cold and snowy Northeast, you may find your immune system to be uncooperative.

I’m pretty sure this is the 4th time I’ve been sick since I moved back to the Northeast in December. When I was down in the Sunshine State, I think my immune system was the best it had been in years. Except for two colds that I was able to fight off within hours (I can thank the adrenaline from my job assignment for that), I barely got sick. It makes sense because in Florida, you spent quite a bit of time outside everyday whereas in the Northeast during the wintertime, you want to stay indoors and moving to a residence hall  probably hasn’t helped the situation.

But yay! I’m so happy that I got sick during the weekend! I’ve been able to nap and rest up to my heart’s content. I also got back into the cooking swing of things, which is probably another reason I got sick because I was only eating one meal a day. Why would I do that to myself?  At Rutgers, the ShopRite/WalMart shuttle only comes on Sundays and Wednesdays. On the Sunday that I moved in, there was only enough time to go to WalMart and I found out on Thursday that the ShopRite shuttle also visits on Wednesdays. Thank God for $5 footlongs. I was finally able to go grocery shopping yesterday and it couldn’t of come at a better time because I was able to finally make the Sweet Potato, Kale, and Chickpea soup that I’m always raving about. It is the best thing to eat when you are sick.

Image

Well, it’s time to get ready for the day and do some research! I think I’ll be healthy again by tomorrow =D


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Remember the time my car was stolen and later recovered?

Oh snap! The blog is back and boy, do I have a story to tell. I figured this would be a better way to address the situation because it will have all the details in one place.

If there is anything anyone knows about me, it’s that my 2006 Toyota Rav4 is the apple of my eye. I received her after my 2005 Toyota Matrix, which my grandparents gave me after my high school graduation, was totaled in the Flood of 2006 that devastated many parts of Sullivan and Delaware. The damage was so bad that even now, businesses and families are now beginning to get back to normal yet some towns never fully recovered.

The Rav4 symbolizes my first grown up decision. After my Matrix was totaled, I was given a check for the full value of the vehicle and since it was probably the first and last time I’d ever receive a check for a car that would be fully financed, I decided to run with it and put down a payment on one of the best compact SUVs on the market. 

She lived up to her reputation- I’ve never had a problem with her. She can go through 18 inches of snow without any problems and truly was my home away from home. Even while I jumped from one campaign far away from home to another, she was the one true constant and I took such good care of her. I’ve had her for six years and she only has 85,000 miles on her. Although other cars have caught my eyes and I considered trading her in for something newer and sexier, reality always sunk in and I realized that she is still a great investment. I always said  I would drive her until the day that I couldn’t anymore.

On November 2nd, some poor souls wanted to make that day come earlier than I anticipated. I remember starting that morning with such high hopes. I was coming off of such an amazing week and a half- my friends from back home came down to help me on the campaign and we were on the brink of sealing the deal and turning out more Democrats than Republicans at our polling site for Early Vote, which was incredible because we were working in the most rural portion of the county. I was so proud of our neighborhood teams and we were getting ready to prepare for an awesome Election Day. 

I walked down to the driveway, with my door hangers in my hands, and I saw my host dad walking to his car and he looked at me and said “Alex, where is your vehicle?” 

A lot of people have asked me “how does it feel when you realize your car is stolen from your driveway?” I’ll tell you that is something I would never want to wish on anyone. There were so many places that I could expect this from; I used to live in Washington, DC and Albany, NY where break ins were the norm and I never had a problem. But here we are, four days before Election Day, and my car is missing from my rural driveway at the end of a cul de sac. 

This part is the hardest to write. Over the last two years, I’ve gone around the country working political campaigns far away from home and the one thing I could always look forward to was going home to my car. I panicked and my host dad, true to his kind and understanding nature, put his arm around me and said “we’re going to go inside and call the Sheriff.” 

So many thoughts were going through my head. I wondered how could this happen and I was in such a state of shock that I made up this story in my head that I must have either left the keys in my vehicle or I must have left the vehicle open, which my host families can all attest to, is very unlike me because I’m that kind of person who will literally get up in the middle of the night to make sure that either my car is locked or the house is locked. I didn’t think to check in my bag, I just assumed that if the keys weren’t in my hands, that they must have been in the vehicle.

I was also starting to fear for my life because this wasn’t the first incident that happened to me since I came to Titusville. In September, the day before a very big event in our county, my car was keyed up and the tire was slashed, and it wasn’t like that the night before. I kept saying to everyone that it must have happened in my host family’s driveway, but the town residents always said that it was the kind of neighborhood where that would never happen, so it probably occurred while my car was parked at the office. It turns out that I had good reason to feel like someone was after me because I went into my vehicle at 1:30 to see if we had anymore door hangers to put labels on and came back into the house around 1:36. The surveillance camera shows the thieves entering the driveway at 1:39. We were literally minutes apart from a confrontation. When I spoke to the police, they told me that they didn’t even want to imagine the scenario that could have taken place. 

When my best friend and I got to the office, we received a call from the police that they found my stuff. We were so shocked because we would have thought that if you’re going to steal a car, with New York tags and Democratic stickers all throughout the place, and not to mention with the low fuel light on, why in the world would you take the time to dump most of my stuff out in a parking lot? I was grateful that they did at least do that but it just seemed so odd. There it all was though, all strewn across the parking lot. My heart dropped when I saw one of the apartment’s residents pick up a 2012 sign and gave it to me. Together, we picked up the pieces and put my belongings in my friend’s car. However, what stood out to me was that they took most of our door hangers, except for one particular precinct. We had labeled around 10 or 11 precincts and had them stored in my car and we were only left with one. It was then and there that I determined that we were going to knock the hell out of that precinct and that we were going to win it.  

I beat myself up though. Remember when I said that I thought I left the keys the car? I made myself believe that story that whole day because I was in such a state of shock. “How could someone so smart be so stupid?” were the thoughts that went through my head and I felt like an idiot everytime someone asked me “how did they steal the car?” I replied with what I thought was the truth.

It was even worse when I received my rental car. I hated driving for the first couple of days because it was nothing but a painful reminder that yes. This happened. This happened because I left the keys in the car. I could have prevented this. 

Yet the next day was my Grandpa’s birthday. He passed away in 2006 but I’ve always been a person that believes in signs. After I came back from a meeting with my canvass captain, I sat in my car, praying for a sign for something good to happen and then, I did something that I didn’t do since the car was stolen: I went through my purse. Lo and behold, the keys were there. I had them the whole entire time. It wasn’t my fault. As I type these words out now, I still feel the rush of relief knowing that this wasn’t anything I could have prevented. 

What made me even angrier about the situation was because in college, I took a Prison and Prisoners in American Society class which required us to visit maximum and medium prisons multiple times throughout the semester and I got to know the reasons why folks turn to a life of crime. Here is an excerpt to one of my old blog posts of what I experienced there: 

Another misconception I had was that I would be meeting cold blooded killers. I thought that I would be meeting men that planned out these murders. I was also wrong about that as well. These men grew up in a neighborhood unlike one I could ever fathom. They referred to their neighborhoods as war zones and that it was a kill or be killed lifestyle. They loved school, school was a haven for them. But after school, they had to come back to a home where things weren’t always stable. They were worried about if they were going to get jumped. They were worried about fitting in. And most of the men I met committed murder when they were about 16 or 17 as a result of a drug deal gone bad. They said that they did not mean to kill- they were caught up in the moment and next thing you know- the other guy is dead.

Looking back at that, it makes me ache to have these folks brought to justice because I want to say to them: “I get it. I understand why you did this and that’s the reason why, even in the smallest communities, there needs to be more outreach to the youth so they don’t have to turn to a life like this. You are probably a very smart person and are using your gifts in the wrong way. Things can be better.”

Even with all of that, there was a job to be done. Election Day wasn’t going anywhere and it literally took everything in me to pick up the pieces and say to myself: “Am I really going to let this situation hurt the campaign? Or are we going to win this thing?” I chose the latter and I do not know if I could have done it without the help of my best friend, who was supposed to leave the next morning and told me “So, Alex, if there was any excuse to stay with you until EDay, I think we found it,” my host family, my own family, my colleagues, and our beautiful volunteers. 

The volunteers were incredible. When I needed to break down and cry, they held me. When I needed to work through the panic, they sat down with me and helped me drew up checklists of my responsibilities. When I was alone in the office at night, they rushed over with their dog and stayed with me until I needed to close up shop. When one of them found out that I wasn’t eating, she went out and bought me Ensure and flowers. Words will never, ever, ever, describe how grateful I will always be for their constant support and I guess if there’s anything I’ve learned from this situation, it’s brotherhood. It taught me how to treat people and you can bet that I will always pay it forward.

Another question I get was “couldn’t you just take a break from work?” The answer is no. I mean, I’m sure if I really wanted to, I probably could of, but it’s always hard to explain the mentality you need to win a campaign to folks outside of it because to be a campaign staffer, it is required of you to have a “whatever it takes” attitude. Think of it this way: During the Super Bowl, do you say “eh, my ankle hurts and I’m the starting QB, I’m sure everyone is going to understand if I just take it easy, it’s alright, we’ll still win and the fans will sympathize with me that I’m tired.” No. You don’t do that. I just kept replaying Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” to psych me up because:

Success is my only (insert choice word here) option. Failure’s not.

With the help of my amazing, amazing, ahhh I miss them soooooo much right now, colleagues and volunteers, we did it. And it was an Election Day to be proud of and I still smile about. All of the pain and panic I experienced melted away when my colleague and I were rolling on the floor and hugging each other when we found out that we won and that for four more years, President Barack Obama is going to take care of this country and we worked our butts off to make it happen. 

I eventually got over the material things, especially after finding out that I was literally minutes away from the unspeakable. We won. We won during the craziest situation ever. We weren’t just on the brink of winning Early Vote at our polling site, we DID turn out more Dems than Rs out. And that precinct we recovered? We won that precinct by an overwhelming percent and another one too. The rest of my days in Florida, I didn’t worry about the car or the other things I lost, I was more concerned about spending time with my beloved colleagues and volunteers and seeing the things I always wanted to see but never had time for. 

John Lennon said “life is what happens when you’re out making other plans” and that rang true on Friday. I came back from Black Friday shopping with my cousin, who I haven’t seen since I left for Florida in March, and took a nap after a very fun day. When I woke up, I saw a ton of missed calls from the Brevard County Sheriff’s department.

My car was found. In fact, it was in Mims, which is the next town over, this whole time. Everyone assumed it was taken to Miami, taken apart at a chop shop, torched, or at the bottom of the Indian River. Basically, they told me that a cop noticed my car and went back to run the VIN number. Then the thieves noticed the cop, ran into the car and started a car chase. When they realized it wasn’t worth it anymore, they dumped the car into the woods, and ran into a safe house. 

Yep. Pretty crazy, right? Of course, there’s all sorts of things. Oddly, what makes me feel good is that there really wasn’t a way for me to prevent this situation from happening because I did lock the vehicle. They broke in through the rear window, took apart the ignition, and started the car with a screwdriver. Good times, great oldies on that one. But there were condom wrappers and other lovely things found in the car and one of the things I need to do is get over whatever happened in my vehicle during its short lifestyle as a deviant renegade.

Well, you made it throughout this crazy, crazy story. In closing, I guess the motto of the story is not to sweat the small stuff, especially when there is a bigger goal at hand because eventually, everything takes care of itself. If you have a great support system, be thankful for it, and let them know how grateful and appreciative you are for their kindness. 

Thank you everyone ❤ Stay tuned, because there’s more adventures pertaining to this situation coming soon! 

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If there is anything that I don’t want to leave Florida without seeing, it’s a manatee. Floridians love their manatees, especially beachside residents- they tend to have manatee mailboxes.

worldlyanimals:

Manatee (BrianWpic)

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truth

jedinosaurmasterpalaeonprime:

indeed


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the ice cream stands are in business all year here

One of the defining moments of my life was when I was watching The Little Rascals and I was introduced to Randy Newman’s song, Short People. The opening line goes “short people don’t got no reason to live.”

As I’ve mentioned before, bike sizing is always a challenge with me because of my height. Even though I have the smallest bike frame you can get (49cm) for a Raleigh, I’m still a little uncomfortable with how high the seat is, and I have it down to the max. I think I may need a new seat post. I decided that I would practice dismounting because maybe it’s an issue of me getting comfortable with the bike.  I’m sure the neighbors got a good laugh at me today with me practicing dismounting but I think I have it down. The whole thing made me laugh because I thought about last summer when my friend got me off of my bike and told me I was riding too low, and raised my seat to my handlebars. I thought he was crazy but he was right. It’s funny, even though I put miles upon miles on my bikes over the years, I never took the time to learn about them until last year.

Riding around my suburban neighborhood is starting to bore me. I did get to see an armadillo today, so that was a win. It’s stunning because I live next to such a beautiful river and I think it would be wonderful if it had a trail alongside it like the Corning Trail in Albany. However, it’s not to say Florida doesn’t have interesting bike trails. Today, my stepdad sent me a link to bikeflorida.net and in the Everglades there is the Shark Valley Trail where alligators nap alongside the trail!

I really don’t know what I would do if I saw a gator straight chilling on the trail. Actually, where I live, there are three alligators in our canal, so I guess I will have an encounter with them sooner or later. Hopefully it will be a friendly one. On my ride today, I did see the bear that my host family kept talking about the other day and I found out how fast my bike really is.

I’m noticing a sharp transition in my style. I see that I am dressing sportier now than ever before. For the past couple of years, I’ve been all about dresses and tights, but now that I live in Florida, tights are a no go, and as for dresses, I find that I’m wearing less of them. I think it’s because I’m on either on the go or in an office all of the time and leggings, a tshirt, and my beloved Vibrams are just easier because I don’t have to be conscious about how I’m sitting and what not but I feel that once I get to Newark, I will go back to the skirts and tights again. I’m trying really hard to not go crazy on summer wear and shorts. Ever since I came to Florida in March, it’s been a steady 70 degrees and up and everyone is telling me that it’s going to get hotter.

The other night, I was talking with my new host mom and she was asking me where I went to college, so I showed her the website of my undergrad and memories came shooting back. I am so guilty of saying this, but if there is anything I could relive, it would be my college years.

Arcade Fire- Wasted Hours

All those wasted hours we used to know
Spent the summers staring out the window
The wind it takes you where it wants to go

At first they built the road then they built the town
That’s why we’re still driving around and around
And all we see are kids in the buses longing to be free

Wasted hours before we knew
Where to go and what to do
Wasted hours that you make new
Turn into a life that we could live

Some cities make you lose your head
In this suburb stretched out thin and dead
What was that line you said?
Wishing you were anywhere but here
You watched the life you’re living disappear
and now I see, we’re still kids in the buses longing to be free

Wasted hours before we knew
Where to go and what to do
Wasted hours that you make new
Turn into a life that we could live


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moving to Montreal

No. I’m not doing it. Although something tells me it wouldn’t surprise anyone if I said “Hey, guess what I’m doing now?”

I just hate how as much as I love the city and would love to settle my roots there, it is something that will never happen because of visas, dealing with immigration, and all that jazz. But I guess, where there is a will, there is a way. I really want to get up there to visit in the next year and take a bike tour of the city again. 

Today is one of those days where I miss my family and friends like crazy. I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and my cousin posted pictures of my father and my nonno. I then saw that my mother posted pictures of my little brother and I couldn’t believe how tall he is getting. It hit me that no longer is he a toddler but he’s now a young boy who’s getting ready to go to kindergarten soon. Isn’t it crazy how they grow up so fast? 

A couple of days ago, I stumbled upon this post by Elizabeth from Delightfully Tacky, and it touched upon feelings that I related to. She wrote about how grounding it is when you get to talk to a loved one who is far away from you, especially when you don’t know many people in your town. Don’t get me wrong, I love meeting new friends, and one of the things I love about my lifestyle is that it has given me the opportunity to attain lifelong friendships but it gets hard when you’re the only person you know in your new town. However, this feeling isn’t foreign and no matter what, I always get through it and have the best stories to share afterwards. 


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life on the new wheels and some things I’d like to accomplish

World, meet Pie-O-My, my new Raleigh Alysa FT2. The Alysa is the female version of the Cadent and oh boy, if there’s anything I’m looking forward to, it’s taking this to the Northeast. I named it Pie-O-My after Tony Soprano’s horse…yes, I know the horse dies in the stable fire that Ralphie set up but whatever, it’s one of my favorite storylines in the series and I think it’s a fitting name considering I will be riding it for two years on the streets of New Jersey. And Brooklyn. Ohhh man, I can see the rides in Prospect Park right now.

But I’m getting way too ahead of myself. 

She is fast and zippy. The shifting is EFFORTLESS! This is my first time using button shifters and I cannot believe how quick the bike is to shift in and out of gears. It is also very nimble as well, I love turning corners with it! She is going to be one hell of an efficient commuter bike when she is put to task. 

The only things that I need to change are the toe clip pedals- I can see using them in races and tours but for commuter riding like I usually do when I’m not on a work assignment, it’s hazardous. My hands are also getting used to the flat handlebars and I’m debating getting cushioning grips or tape for them for a comfier ride. 

This bicycle does make me long for the Northeast. One of the things I’m still getting used to about Florida is how flat it is. I grew up in the Catskill Mountains so adjusting to a state where the highest mountain peak is 345 feet has been interesting. There aren’t any hills to race down and believe it or not, even though I live in a very suburban area which has bike lanes for traffic, there aren’t any bike paths for recreational use which I find very surprising. I guess living next to the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail, which extends 40 miles, has spoiled me. I hope it isn’t that snowy when I get back to New York around late November because there is nothing more I want to do than take this down the hills around where my parents live. 

One of my friends is living my dream and is currently driving across the country. I give him so many props for that. Finally, someone is doing the one thing everyone says they’re going to do but never do it. He’s inspiring me to make some serious plans and do it within the next year or two. 

I plan to make next summer action packed. I was planning to do the Erie Canal bike tour from Albany to Buffalo this year but that will be on hold until next year. I also want to finally make good on this and climb Mount Marcy, which is the highest point in New York. With all of that said, when I get to Newark, I plan to make life simpler. I hope to meet folks (yep, living in the South is getting to me) who share the same passions as I do: cooking meals together, listening to music and going to concerts, reading books, volunteering, riding bikes, planning all sorts of outdoor adventures, garden, and build and repair things. I smile every time I think about it.

Yet, although I am looking to the future, it would be a shame to neglect my present. I read this post from Simply Bike about learning how to appreciate the journey, instead of focusing on the end-point. And then, when the ending does come, to welcome the new beginnings. It made me think a lot about what I do for a living. And you know, even though the end points that I work towards feel AWESOME when we get there…very rarely I look back and yearn for how it felt that day. Honestly, the moments I look back to is how it felt to come home every night during my first assignment, listening the Ottawa radio because I was so close to Canada, smelling the mountain air, meeting all of those wonderful people that I still keep in touch with, sending letters to my friends, when Brian helped me towards the end point and all of the adventures that ensued, driving through the Adirondack State Park and seeing all of those beautiful towns that I never got to visit, laughing at the 2010 Gubernatorial Debate, Big Pony and…

these ridiculously large and delicious cups of coffee at Scoopacino’s where there were so many awesome meals and where I learned that cream cheese is an awesome addition to a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich and…

these fabulous North Country sunsets.

Yes, it is all about the journey. Here’s to in medias res


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…and just go.

A good friend and I were talking on my day off. Although we see each other every day, we rarely get the time to really chat but when we do get to talk, I always feel so inspired by her. If there’s anything I love about these experiences I’ve had these last couple of years, it’s learning about how caring people can be and she truly epitomizes that. 

We were sitting down and talking about me going to graduate school next year. She asked me if I had plans to study abroad and I told her that even though I would love to, I was afraid that if I studied abroad, that I would be missing out on job and internship opportunities. She understood, but said this:

“Alex, if there’s anything you do before you graduate, just go to Europe with a friend who is as curious as you and backpack. Have some direction with where you’re going but do what you want.”

I smiled when she said that because I always fall for that kind of wanderlust. That is my dream- to save up whatever money I can and just go from destination to destination. Ireland. England. Denmark. The Netherlands. France. Germany. Turkey. Greece and then spend as much time as humanly possible in Italy and finally see where I come from. 

I can’t help but to close my eyes and smile every time I think about that. It’s going to happen one day. 

For some reason, Pearl Jam is the perfect music to listen to late at night. Vedder is truth. 


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veg out.

On any given day, whenever I’m on a work assignment you will hear me say one of three things:

1. I need to eat better

2. I need to exercise more

3. I should get out and see more of this area

This was my first day off in a couple of weeks and I’m actually happy to report that I did none of those things. It was a glorious day of camping out on the couch, watching TV, eating more Nerds Rope than I ever thought was possible, and a nap or two. It was exactly what I needed. Usually, my day offs are my ocean days, but you know, I haven’t spent a day at “home,” that didn’t include me recovering from my wisdom teeth being removed since…wow. I don’t think I’ve done that since I came to Florida and I’ve been here for almost three months now. 

My bike will be ready to pick up on Wednesday! Ahh, I’m looking forward to waking up at 7:00AM and cruising around the neighborhood on my new Raleigh. One of the things I’m looking forward to is getting back involved in the cycling community when I get to Newark next year.

I cannot wait to get involved with academia again. Florida has been very soul searching for me. I used to talk with my political science adviser a lot about my career plans and I said to her that I want to get as much field experience as I can because I do plan to be a professor one day. I feel that when it comes to the world of political science, that students will be more successful if they are exposed to the field and I want to show them as much of the real poli sci world as I can. This is what keeps me motivated. 

I realize I am living in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I do need to explore Florida more and I hope to chronicle those adventures here. If there’s anything I saw in my last post, it’s that I miss writing like crazy and I need to make time for it. I’ve tried to use Twitter, but ah- it’s just not the appropriate medium for me, I think. I like telling stories and nothing will ever compare to how natural it feels to blog. 

Because you can roll on to tangents, like this!

Next week, I will have another day off and I know exactly where I’m going to spend it. Universal Studios. It’s going to be on a weekday which means the lines won’t be as crazy as they normally would be on the weekends which will be great because I haven’t been on a roller coaster since…2007? Gah. That’s way too long. I eventually want to get down to Sea World but I don’t know why, but I’m not very excited about visiting Disney. I feel it’s something great when you’re a kid but I’ve always been more of a roller coaster fiend and Universal delivers on that aspect.

Until next time, America.


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The Southern Bucket List

Man, I can’t even tell you how excited I am to find out what life down south is like. With the way life has been, I haven’t really had the chance to go out and travel. Not because I don’t want to- anyone who has taken a trip with me can tell you that I don’t mess around- but since money was a little tight these last couple of years after graduation, I mostly stayed in my little niche in the Northeast.

But yay! New places and new culture! I don’t know exactly how much I’ll really get to take in but I’m really looking forward to it. 

By the end of this year I want to experience…(heavy emphasis on “the end of this year”)

1. The Everglades

2. Savannah, GA 

3. Traveling through Alabama and Mississippi

4. Spending some time in New Orleans

5. Everyone talks about grits. I want some. 

6. I want to eat gator. 

7. Same thing goes with real Southern fried Chicken. I’m convinced they probably do it better down there than we do up here. 

Note: You may wonder, what happened to me being a pescatarian? I’ll get back to it next year- I really can’t be choosy as to what I eat now.

8. I want to eat at as many greasy-spoons as I possibly can.

Note: A lot of this list has to do with eating

9. Swim in the ocean! I haven’t seen ocean since 2008! 

10. My friend got to swim with a dolphin. I want to swim with one too!

11. Eat crawfish. 

12. Meet Paula Deen. It will happen.