Monday, September 24, 2007

Kansas City welcomes Veeka

One may read this and say, "Kansas City?!" Yes, I am writing from KC, having spent the past 11 days in Seattle or LA chasing down the series I am doing on the new sanctuary movement. Those were 3 adventurous days in LA, interviewing all sorts of immigrants; each one of them a compelling story, who are on the threshold of deportation; who have lots of family here and who want to stay but who, for various reasons, are about to be thrown out of the country. Probably the most dramatic visit was our last one to Liliana, a very telegenic immigrant camping out at a church in Simi Valley, just down the road from the Ronald Reagan library. Just 8 days ago on a Sunday, about 100 Minutemen surrounded this church and tried drowning out the service by shouting on bull horns. A group of counter-demonstrators added to the noise and confusion, bringing police by the truckload to the church.
The following Wednesday when Allison-the-photographer and I pulled up to the church, we found everything in much confusion there as the local paper had that morning announced that the city was going to bill *the church* for 100s of hours of manpower (they said) were spent on defending the church from the Minutemen. You'd think they'd bill the folks who started the demonstration but no, the city blamed the church and was about to send them a bill for 40K. It's sort of like billing President Bush for police costs associated with demonstrations across the street at Lafayette Park.
So the poor pastor and several other people were tearing out their hair about this; meanwhile Allison and I finally found Liliana and had a great interview. Then it was back down the freeway to LA, a city where the drivers NEVER use turn signals, never let you in and are utter slobs - the freeways were filthy. Interspersed with my work duties, I managed to see a few friends, fortunately. All while I was down there, Oma and Opa were babysitting Miss Veeka and enjoying it, as far as I can tell. In fact, she behaved far better with them than with me. Guess it's that deep voice Opa has.
Then over the weekend came a surprise visit from Gail, a longtime Portland friend who at the last minute took the train up to see Veeka. She is pictured reading to Our Little Girl. And of course we had to take her on a Washington state ferry. Gail and I spent Saturday taking her to see a friend in Bremerton, so that's Seattle you see in the background of the window in which Veeka is sitting.
But all good times must end, so after a family gathering Sunday night, I was up at 4:20 a.m. to get Veeka and I to the airport. Fortunately there were lots of nice people who helped me with the suitcases and stroller, as I was overwhelmed. And, from the front, here's my assessment of plane rides with Veeka - ugh. It was pretty miserable. She was very noisy on the flight to Salt Lake, then dropped off to sleep just as the plane was landing! The flight to KC was far worse; she shrieked nearly the whole time and I just ran out of things to do to amuse her. I could not shut her up; so I threw a blanket over her at least to muffle the sound.
Well..I finally got here and now we are staying at a super nice hotel and she is blessedly asleep. We went out to dinner with one of my sources in the Plaza area of KC - a very decent district with cutsie Spanish/Mediterranean decor, like a poor man's West Palm Beach - and Veeka behaved most of the time until the exhaustion set in and she began to wail. *not* recommend taking kids on business trips. Tomorrow a babysitter will show up - for a very pricey fee - to take care of the munchkin while I cover a vigil and demonstration. Then - home!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sleepless in Seattle

The jet lag has been really tough to beat this time around, plus Our Little Pumpkin has been rising bright and early cerca 5:30 a.m. This morning she slept in til 7, so slowly we are adjusting although she was waking me up the first two nights or so.
She has, of course, charmed everyone, beginning with Oma and Opa, of whom I've included a photo of Veeka watching open-mouthed as Opa demonstrates his shaving abilities with Oma reflected in the mirror. Must say she doesn't get that at home. Plus the yummy food - we have eaten our way through 2 of Oma's pies and today we visited St. Mark's Cathedral where Miss Veeka charmed everyone in sight. Unfortunately the weather has not been cooperative; mid-60s at best so yours truly has been cold and has had to borrow Oma's clothes. But Veeka has been in her element, sniffing Opa's roses (2nd photo) and taking possession of Opa's stuffed kitty cat.
I've had an interesting time of it interviewing folks in Seattle and south King County on the sanctuary movement and tomorrow I fly to California for 3 days of non-stop interviews plus a few quick meetings with friends in the area. Am trusting that California will be a LOT warmer than here. The plane ride here, btw, was not too bad; Veeka napped part of the way between Baltimore and Minneapolis; but she was awake the entire time between Minneapolis and Seattle and she let me know how bored she was many times. While I am zipping around LA, she will be happily esconced with Oma and Opa who believe me, will be more than pooped after 3 days.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Veeka heads for Seattle

Yes, folks, her mom snagged a business trip to Seattle and the LA area so the relatives will help look after Olivia Veronika while I run around and interview folks involved in the "new sanctuary" movement. That's churches that are sheltering illegal immigrants - a descendant of the 1980s sanctuary movement that moved lots of Central American refugees around the States just head of "la Migra." So by the time you are reading this on Thursday the 13th, we'll be in the air hopefully enjoying an event-free flight. Am praying the little one does not throw a fit on both flights (we change in Minneapolis) and I am taking the car seat along to make sure she stays put. She does love to wander...
The photo shows Veeka on a dawn walk to the beach at Bethany Beach in Delaware. We just had a great weekend there - fantastic weather - and THEN, at 5:45 a.m. Monday, my phone rang. My daycare provider told me she was desperately sick and had no backup. So I was on my own regarding my little 28-month-old. I called 1-2 folks but no one can babysit on only 4 hours notice, I learned. I did get one friend to watch her for about 90 minutes while I fulfilled a doctor's appointment, but then Veeka was back in my car headed off to the Washington Times newsroom.
She pretty much charmed everyone there, took a 2-hour nap and was fine til about 4:30 when she began getting a bit fussy. I managed to quiet her down pretty much. And wouldn't you know it, some doofus across the newsroom who wanted to stay anonymous complained to the features editor who came to my boss and so at 5 p.m. I was told I needed to take Veeka home. How sad - the TWT newsroom has TVs blaring, people swearing and loudly ranting and someone is bugged by a kid?!
That killjoy coworker should be glad he/she didn't have my assignment today which was to show up at a press conference on Capitol Hill filled with Latino families with tons of kids all asking for decent immigration law. You've never seen such a raucous press conference filled with chants in Spanish and catcalls of one type or another. Plus nearly everyone there dressed *down* for some reason; a lot of folks looked one step from being homeless, which is not the kind of dress code one usually sees in the Rayburn building.
The high point of that gathering was when Saul Arellano, 8, led about 200 of us through the hallways to Nancy Pelosi's office. It was near-riot conditions; lots of folks shouting slogans in Spanish; kids hoisting signs saying "Born in the USA - Don't take my mommy and daddy away" and the like. Saul's mom, Elvira Arellano, got deported Aug. 19 after she hid in a church for a year claiming sanctuary, so Saul is the new immigration icon. The idea was to take a large letter and make out like the Wittenburg Door of 1531 - nail it to Nancy Pelosi's office door. The missive demanded the Democrats do better on immigration reform.
However, when this ragtag army showed up at Nancy's place at the Cannon House Office Building, there were already 40 anti-war protestors having a sit-in inside the Pelosi palace so the Hispanics had to be content with standing outside in the hallway and shouting slogans at earsplitting levels. Poor little Saul just stood there, unable to get through to the door (which a security guard slammed shut on us all). I was crammed against the door with several other journos wedged between it and the TV cameras. Finally someone *taped* the letter (this is after all the 21st century) to the door at which everyone let out mammoth cheers. At the same time, 6 Capitol Hill police showed up, ready to arrest everyone.
Well, my story on it all is in the Sept. 13 TWT if you want to read more of this drama. But I stayed late at work putting that together, then coming home to PACK. And now we are off early Thursday and soon I will post answers to your questions. Like, how will Veeka survive 12 days without a kitty? How will Oma and Opa survive multi hours with a 2-year-old? Which one of Oma's treasures will Veeka break first? Stay tuned to our adventures in this newest episode of "Veeka Does Seattle."

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Veeka gets a 529

Well, we finally decided on a college plan for Veeka and will be signing all the papers on Wednesday. Yes, it took awhile for me to decide where to put the money, but finally I just downloaded some advice from Morningstar and went with one of the Virginia state plans. So if any of you want to help send Veeka to Harvard, Yale or Duke, let me know! People have already donated some, so I'll be depositing $1,000 for starters.
We've been to the beach twice so far this summer and are heading back there soon before the weather turns cool. I had a quick business trip to Chicago and loved just lazing about at the hotel for a few hours and wandering about Millennium Park. My newspaper has assigned me to research a piece on illegal immigrants and the "new sanctuary" movement where churches are attempting to shelter these folks and keep them from being arrested. The Chicago trip was part of that; a photographer and I were trying to track down Elvira Arrellano, a woman who was well known for camping out at a Chicago church in the western part of town. We showed up at the church, which was in a Puerto Rican area, but she had already left - and gotten arrested in California and deported! We missed her by only a few days.