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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Laura Powell
PO Box 9444
Washington, DC 20016
(202) 415-6455  (202) 248-4622
Career Summary To Date: 20 years covering travel and the environment for a range of media outlets. Work has included television and video management and production, writing for print and online outlets, strategic consulting, speechwriting, and spokesperson work.

Current Freelance Outlets: The Washington Post; NewsChannel 8/WUSA (Washington, DC); Around the World Radio (Santa Barbara, CA); Emirates Open Skies Magazine (Dubai)
Current Positions:
Executive Producer, LP Productions/DailySuitcase Washington, DC
Produce, host and write travel-related programming and videos. Also report on travel trends for www.dailysuitcase.com and other media outlets.
Special Supplements Writer, The Washington Post
Write special sections on travel, lifestyle, and the environment.
Travel Correspondent, Around the World Radio Santa Barbara, CA
Contributing Editor, Hotel F & B
Contributing Travel Expert, NewsChannel 8, Washington, DC
Professional Journalism Experience:
1998-2002; 2007-2009
Contributing Editor, Lodging, Washington, DC

Writer, Advertorial Travel Supplements
Special supplements have appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Reader's Digest, The Sunday Times (UK), Conde Nast Traveller (UK).
Contributing Writer, Good Housekeeping New York, New York
Writer, Travel Supplements, USA Today

Writer, TV Food Network New York, New York
Travel Editor, Government Executive Magazine Washington, DC
Producer, CNN TravelGuide Atlanta, Georgia
  • Created and produced CNN TravelGuide.
  • Provided management direction to production of CNN's travel coverage, including daily segments on business and leisure travel.
  • Coordinated and planned field production at domestic and international locations, and wrote and produced daily packages and weekly programs.
Producer, CNN International Atlanta, Georgia
Helped design and launch CNN International newscasts.
Selected Television and Radio Appearances:
ABC World News This Morning, ABC News Now, CNBC, CNN Headline News, CNN Airport, WUSA (Washington, DC), Fox News Channel, Good Day New York, Today Show/New York, WABC (Los Angeles), CBS 2 News This Morning (Los Angeles), AM-Philadelphia, WTOP-AM (Washington, DC), WOR-AM (New York), WGN-AM (Chicago), NPR
Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York B.S., Broadcast Journalism
Distinction: Summa Cum Laude and Class Marshal-Newhouse School of Public Communications

University of Essex, Colchester, England M.A. International Relations
Distinction: Rotary Foundation Scholar
European University Institute, Fiesole, Italy  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Laura Plays Christmas Elf...

...without the jaunty cap. Here are a few last-minute ideas for those shopping for the travelers in their lives.

The Power of Potatoes

Given my love of the state of Idaho, I am always keeping my eye out, so to speak, for potato-related stories. So, I yam pleased to share this story with you, which details how tubers are contributing to airline safety.

To briefly summarize, Boeing says it has been testing ways to "make it possible for passengers to enjoy more reliable connectivity using networked personal electronic devices in the air." (Boeing's press release writers must learn to pen prose in understandable English.)

At any rate, the new procedures Boeing has developed come, in part, via the humble potato. Just like Mr. Potato Head here, spuds mimic the human body in the manner they respond to electronic signals. So, the company's crack team of scientists bought 10 tons of potatoes, stuffed them into airline seats (no leg room required), and, in essence, microwaved them. When the potatoes didn't bubble and squeak after being pelted with electronic signals, all was deemed a success. Seems half-baked, but somehow this testing, according to a Boeing spokesman, allowed engineers to make sure that cabin-based signals are safe for the cockpit's communication and navigation systems. At the same time, the results are expected to ensure passengers using wireless devices on planes get (s)mashing reception.

As for the brave potatoes that chipped in for the experiment--they were donated to a food bank.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Laura on TV: More Travel Gifts for the Holidays

For the procrastinators among us, here are some last-minute gift ideas I am profiling on NewsChannel 8 on Thursday. Be sure to check out this previous blog post for more inspiration.

Dress up your suitcase with a CoverLugg. Fashionable coverlets made of form-fitting, hand-washable neoprene allow you to secure your bag, while making it stand out on the luggage carousel. What's more, you can choose from a whole wardrobe of patterns; opt for a CoverLugg featuring the logos of your favorite NFL, MLB, or NCAA team; or showcase your own monogram. $24.99 www.coverlugg.com

They say that the Aussie-designed Arvo iPhone 5 Case is inspired by the Sydney Opera House. The inside lining supposedly replicates the tiles of the iconic landmark. It don't know about that, but the design feature that does sing to me is the itsy-bitsy kickstand for easy viewing. And there's more. Arvo's satin matte finish is made to repel fingerprints and scratches. Aria convinced to purchase this stocking stuffer? It's $29.99 or less on Amazon.  www.stmbags.com

Have a little snorer in the back seat? Kalencom's Seat Belt Snoozer easily attaches to a seat belt shoulder strap to provide a cozy and secure comfort spot. $20-$30  www.kalencom.com

For adults feeling in need of a little support themselves, the portable BackJoy Posture Seat will help you sit up straight as you commute by car or airplane. $40            

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

6 Days. 32 Degrees. 1 Carry-On.

Biaggi Foldable

As a travel expert, one of the questions I get asked most frequently is "how do I pack?"  And now that airlines are charging for checked bags, the follow-up is "how do I stuff everything into a carry-on?" Now, if you are a woman with a shoe fetish traveling to the Great White North in December for 6 days, you likely believe the latter feat is impossible. But, if you read my answer to the first question posed, you will learn that you can travel to Canada for 6 days in the winter solely with a carry-on bag (plus a purse/tote).

To show that I walk the walk, let me detail what I am taking this week to the freezing cold (literally) city of Toronto. Above is my 22" Biaggi Foldable Carry-On ($229). Let's see what's inside.

It starts with my three pairs of shoes rule. You rarely need to have more than three pairs of shoes for any trip, and if you are a guy, you can probably get away with two. For women, my rule of toe is one pair of heels, one pair of comfortable flats (for walking) and one pair of sneakers (for working out). However, on this trip, I am flip-flopping from the norm. I am bringing a pair of Cole-Haan loafers, one pair of knee-high  flat boots, high-heeled ankle booties, and one extra item to boot (details in paragraph below). Normally, I would wear the bulkiest footwear on the plane, but in this case, I am packing both pairs of boots, and wearing the loafers on board.

In case I want to work out, I am bringing yoga pants and a built-in-bra athletic top. If I opt to go to the gym instead of using my iPad yoga app, I figure I can just do it in socks...or thongs (as in flip-flops, friends--yes, I know--breaking the three-shoe rule, but they are oh-so-tiny). Speaking of socks and lingerie--here's an accounting of what's packed in the suitcase. One bra, five pairs of socks, two pairs of tights, and six pairs of underwear. For sleeping, a pair of flannel pajama pants and a t-shirt.

During the day and into the night, my outerwear wardrobe, which is highly mix-and-matchable, will consist of the following:

1 dress
1 wool skirt
4 sweaters 
2 pairs of pants
One short-sleeve shirt
One tiny purse
One pair of wool mittens and a hat
As aforementioned, two pairs of boots....

and a partridge in a pear tree.

Actually, no partridge, but other little odds and ends that every woman needs (sunglasses, vitamins, energy bars, etc.)  And that's the Biaggi bag.

Instead of a purse, I am carrying on a nylon expandable tote. The reason for the tote--I will need the extra room to stow the Canadian version of Monopoly I plan to purchase (thus adding to my 30-plus game international collection). Plus, I may purchase a few other odds and ends. For the outbound trip, though, the bag will be nearly empty. It will contain items that need to be whipped out at security, along with valuables (camera, iPad, phone) I don't want to stow in the overhead compartment. I will also toss in seeds and reads.

Rodechi Hazelton
Hybrid Scarf ($185)
Because I will need a winter coat, I will wear that on board to save massive space (even though it is currently 70 degrees in Washington, DC). I will don my loafers (with socks so that I don't pick up yucky germs when I go all Shoeless Joe through security); a pair of jeans (with which I have to wear a normally-not-recommended belt, as these are low riders and ride low they will without some form of suspension); a lightweight shirt; and a fashionable Ralph Lauren sweater hoodie. I am also testing out the Robdechi hybrid scarf, which does septuple duty as a hat, a money belt, a passport holder, an eye mask, a neck pillow and a micro-fiber cloth to clean your iPad and iPhone (the latter of which you can conveniently store in one of the scarf's many hidden compartments).

Voila, my six-day Canadian wardrobe. Canuck believe it?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

9 Things to Know About Visiting Burma

The temples of Bagan

I traveled to Myanmar/Burma* in the 1990s, thus preceding President Obama by 15 years. But the country I experienced in 1997 is likely quite different from the one the President will be experiencing today.  Back then, a military dictatorship known as the SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) was at the height of its power. The country was completely cut off from the West, and ubiquitous billboards  headlined "The People's Desire" warned citizens to:

--oppose those relying on external elements, acting as stooges, holding negative views 
--oppose those trying to jeopardize stability of the state and progress of the nation 
--oppose foreign nations interfering in internal affairs of the state and 
--crush all internal and external destructive elements as the common enemy.

Needless to say, journalists entering the country were well-advised to list another profession on their visa applications.

The only English news came in the form of "The New Light of Myanmar", a government propaganda rag highlighting the various accomplishments of the generals illegitimately in charge. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was in the midst of a long-term house arrest, punishment for her party's win in a 1990 national election. The locals were extremely paranoid, with reason, as the government encouraged spying on thy neighbor (shades of Communist Europe). Talking politics with the Burmese meant first gaining their trust and then finding a quiet corner where one was not likely to be overheard.

Despite the intrigue and the political turmoil (or maybe because of it), I found Myanmar/Burma to be one of the most fascinating and complex places I had ever been. The people were gentle, the roads to Mandalay and Yangon and Bagan were captivating, and the countryside felt like something out of a Zen painting, complete with monks clad in orange, walking in front of hazy, watery horizons.

Thanks to new government policies, most travel publications are naming Myanmar/Burma* as one of next year's hot destinations. If you decide to go, remember, this is a country that has been closed off  to modernity for some time. Khiri Travel, which specializes in Asia, offers some helpful tips for those considering a visit.

*For an explanation of what to call the country, click here.

These tips courtesy of Khiri Travel Myanmar, with minor edits courtesy of Daily Suitcase.

Get Your Visa and Book Accommodation Before Arrival 
Get your Myanmar visa before arrival in the country.  It takes (at least) two weeks advance application. Demand for Myanmar hotel rooms during high season (November to March) outstrips supply. Rooms are not cheap. If you don't pre-book, you'll end up paying over the odds for a mediocre room -- if you can find one.

Bring Cash 
There are no ATM cash points in Myanmar. Bring dollars -- preferably hundred dollar bills. But not old ones, as vendors won't accept notes that are torn, shabby, have a stamp on it, or a fold in the middle. They may not accept ones with "CB" in the serial number either.

Forget Your Mobile Phone 
There are no roaming mobile phone agreements with other countries. Daily Suitcase adds: So go old school and just enjoy your holiday. Instead of being distracted by incoming messages, or constantly fidgeting with your phone cam, look around you for a change.

Your Credit Card is Useless
Fewer than five places accept credit cards in Myanmar. It will take a while before credit card acceptance and ATM access is possible. Until then, avoid hassles by pre-paying for accommodation, tours and transfers before you go.

Behave Like a House Guest 
In Myanmar, there is no word for tourist, only for guest. So behave like a guest when visiting. Be polite, smile, and don't yell when things don't go according to plan. 

Shwe Dagon Pagoda, Yangon

Dress Appropriately 
When you visit places like Shwedagon Pagoda or Bagan, dress appropriately. You are, after all, entering places of Buddhist worship. 
 Modesty is key for both women and men.  Ladies, despite the heat, no plunging necklines or uncovered shoulders. Best to wear a long sarong and a lightweight shawl. 

Know a Few Words 
Mingalaba -- hello/greetings! (used any time of the day); nà-mǎleh-ba-bù - I don't understand; diha balao leh?-- how much is this? cè-zù tin-ba-deh -- thank you.Ta-ta -- goodbye!

Barter When Shopping 
The objective is not to relentlessly chase the cheapest price, but to secure a fair price. A bit of good-natured back and forth on the price of lacquerware, marionettes, or a longyi in a market is certainly acceptable, indeed expected -- but always with a smile. Both parties should finish the transaction happy and grateful.

Mohingar, Not McDonalds 
There are no McDonalds, Starbucks, or other international fast food or drink outlets in Myanmar (Daily Suitcase adds--for now). Go local. Support local vendors. Try mohingar (delicious thick fish soup often eaten for breakfast), ohne kyaukswe (coconut noodle soup), or leh pet thauk (pickled tea leaf salad).
Daily Suitcase Reading List: For a good historical perspective of post-colonial Burma, read Aung San Suu Kyi's Freedom from Fear. For a feel of Burma under British rule, read George Orwell's Burmese Days.

Friday, November 16, 2012

9 Things to Know About Holiday Travel

It's holiday time and everyone is asking, "How can I avoid travel headaches?" Well, here's a little Top 9 List you can use, whether you've been naughty or nice this year.

1. Try to book off-peak. That means avoiding the day before the holiday, the Sunday after the holiday, etc. If you fly on the holiday itself, you will find smaller crowds at the airport, lighter loads on the plane, and better rates.

2. Send gifts ahead of time or order them on-line and have them sent directly to your holiday destination. If you must bring gifts with you and stuff them in your carry-on, don't bother wrapping them. If you do so, TSA will unwrap them for you.

3. Get yourself organized to expedite getting through security. Watch what you wear--avoid clunky belt buckles, heavy-duty jewelry, under-wire bras, or other items that might set off alarms. Have your plastic bag filled with liquids stuffed into an outside compartment of your carry-on.  Have your laptop or tablet easily accessible.  

4. Find an airline-branded credit card that allows you to check a bag for free if you purchase your ticket with self-same card. Some of those credit cards also provide holders the opportunity to jump ahead in the boarding line. 

5. To save luggage space, wear your heaviest items on board. Layer that cozy cardigan over a bulky turtleneck and then complete the outfit with a winter coat and boots. 

6. Check in ahead of time, either on-line or on a mobile device. Paying for your checked bag ahead of time will also save you a little time and a few bucks.

7. Going overseas? Check on advisories for dicey areas at travel.state.gov.  
But don't just check out the U.S. government site, as travel warnings can have an American political bent. Visit www.voyage.gc.ca/countries_pays/updates_mise-a-jour-eng.asp, the website of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada and www.fco.gov.uk, the home of the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

8. Even if you are staying close to home, you have to prepare for the trip. If you are driving to your destination, get your car checked out ahead of time, leave yourself plenty of time to get from Point A to Point B, and, if the kids are along for the ride, bring healthy snacks, bring plenty of entertainment, and remember to make frequent stops.

9. And if you are looking for a totally carefree holiday travel experience, stay home and host visitors from far and wide. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

On Dasher: GIfts for Travelers

If you are paying attention to TV ads, store decor and weather reports (here's looking at you, Athena and et tu Brutus), it must be time for the holidays.  As you start pondering who's been naughty and who's been nice,  consider some nifty items that will please any traveler on your list.

Who doesn't want a super-cool suitcase?  I've been getting mad props and a lot of  "Heys, Girl" shout-outs at airports this year, in large part due to my updated collection of carry-on luggage. One of my favorites is from the Heys Britto Collection. Based on the designs of pop artist Romero Britto, my lightweight 22-inch polycarbonate case (right) retails for $250. If you prefer something a little less flashy and a little less expensive, the Heys xCase  (left) at $150 may be just the ticket.

If your favorite travel geeks are also computer and yoga freaks, they're going to be head over heels…or heels over head…for this Gorilla Mobile Yogi for iPad by Joby. The Yogi stabilizes the iPad on any surface and offers adjustable viewing angles, including Downward Dog (left), Half Lotus (below) and Spinal Twist. If your exercise of choice is ballet or pole dancing, you can hang the Yogi from a bar. It retails for $39.95, although I found it cheaper on Amazon.

Joby also makes the Gorilla Mobile Ori for iPad for your favorite Zen master. Inspired by the art of origami, it’s a iPad case that bends and folds in multiple ways. Best yet--it has a swiveling hinge. It costs $59.95 at http://www.joby.com/

Watch this space as I post more travel gift ideas every week through December 25.

Laura on TV

One of my infamous spokesperson gigs. This interview, done with NYC's It's a Glam Thing blog, was #23 of 23 completed in a five-hour satellite/studio window. Vanity Alert: Between the camera adding 10 pounds  and the compression of the video to fit the web format, I look more beefier than I am. That beautiful David Meister dress is a Size 2, people.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pun Day

Loyal readers know that I cannot resist a pun. And so, when a out-of-town friend posted a picture of his family posing in front of the Department of Energy on Facebook, I queried:

You come to Washington post-electron and subject your nuclear family to the Department of Energy? Watt's up with that? Next time you wander down the A(tlantic) C(oast) to DC, let me enlighten you to more au current (sic)  power places off the tourism grid. Chu on that, okay?
I am winging off to Toronto next week, which means I am somewhat in a rush to compile a notebook of Canadian puns. Hopefully, I will not be skating on thin ice when I share them with you. I don't want to drive anyone loony.

O, if only I got a nickelback for every groan elicited by my wordplay, I would be a very rich woman. Yukon take that to the bank. On the other hand, if said coinage was taken away, I might end up one of the Bare Naked Ladies. But worry not, when it comes to nudity, I'll have Nunavut.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Horsing Around

As my loyal readers know, I like nothing better than a good pun. The following conversation took place on my Facebook page this week. It should leave you with your filly of horseplay.

A secretariat my office
So, I am in downtown Washington, wearing, quite appropriately as it develops, cowboy boots and jeans. Heading to a 'do hosted by the Austin CVB when suddenly, I find myself amidst a sea of horse's asses. Neigh, not the standard-issue DC night-mares...but literally horse's asses, complete with thoroughbreds attached. Lo and behold, the International Horse Show is here. I believe the event's patron saint is Saint Thomas Equinas.

PB: Clever, Laura!
KR: And you have the horse sense to have unbridled joy over this.
Me: I'm furlong unstable, today. C'mon, people, make me feel better and shower me with horse puns. Let it rein. 
DM: So, there really is a pun gene and I am missing that part of the helix...I cantor think of a single one.
Me: There's a flicka of hope for you.
CM: I'm so glad your dressage was appropriate for the occasion. But don't get carriaged away now.
Me: Thank you, everyone, for your feedbag.  

Want to jump into the ring? Be a palomino and pony up some of your equinist punditry here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Laura on TV

My most recent appearance on NewsChannel 8 features fall getaways and odd election travel tie-ins.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Outrunning the Presidents Race

This time, I am talking about the real one, and not the one recently won by Teddy Roosevelt at Nationals Park. If you live anywhere in the United States, it is difficult to get away from the race between Obama and Romney, especially with less than a month to go before election day. But imagine the plight of those who live in and around Washington, DC. Politics is always ubiquitous, and if it's possible, even more so during the month before a presidential election. To boot, Virginia is in play, which means that even in deep blue DC, we are being pelted with ads from the right, from the left, and from those central players involved in the game thanks to Citizens United.

So, what's a Washingtonian to do? My advice is to get away and avoid TV. Fortunately, in these Mid-Atlantic parts, October is the perfect time to do just that. After all, it's fall foliage season and Virginia Wine Month, all in one stellar month.

During the past decade, Virginia has become purple in more ways than one. In addition to swinging Obama in 2008 (despite having a state leader Rachel Maddow dubs as "Governor Ultrasound"), the state has mauved to the center of the East Coast wine movement. With more than 200 wineries, the Old Dominion is #5 on the state list of wine production, a statistic that would make one Thomas Jefferson very proud. Throughout October, Virginia wineries and vineyards celebrate the grape every weekend with tastings, harvest festivals, live music, and art shows. Check out www.virginiawine.org for a full calendar of events from around the state.

Next up--leaf peeping. October is the month for fall color in Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. The best color starts mid-month in the mountainous regions of this stately trifecta. For a status report on  Virginia's non-partisan colors, call (800) 424-LOVE. For West Virginia updates, call (800) CALL-WVA.  Maryland's number is (800) 532-8371.  Finally, if you want to venture even farther, the U.S. Forest Service hotline reports on foliage throughout the country at (800) 354-4595.

Fully sated by nature's bounty, head back to home in November and remember to vote.


Monday, October 1, 2012

A Farewell to Yarns: A Sheep's Tale in the Land of Hemingway

When I attended The Trailing of the Sheep Festival in Idaho last year, I admit that I was a woolly virgin. But after spending three days with my friends of the Ovis Aries stock, I became a sheep feta-shist. As this year's festival looms, I reminisce about attending what has become my favorite American festival. Please enjoy, my little lamb chops.

Ever since I caught wind of its existence, I have been fixated on attending The Trailing of the Sheep Festival, which takes place in Hailey and Ketchum, Idaho every October. Perhaps it was the sheep poetry sessions that roped me in....after all, who could resist a sheep bleating Keats.

At any rate, as my obsession grew, I knit together a fantasy about becoming Queen of the Sheep. My dream was to show off my good breeding by donning a tiara and walking amongst my little lambs as we strode in unison down the streets of Ketchum. In order to blend in (somewhat) with the flock, I would enrobe myself in a virgin wool fleece frock.

And so, in order to get out of a rut and make my dream come true, I booked a trip to the Sun Valley area for the autumn of 2011. Hailing from Washington, DC, I decided the best way to win the title was to start lobbying Hailey town elders and the festival organizers. But as I grazed the landscape, I realized there might be a few hitches in my plan. First, I discovered that "The Trailing of the Sheep" took place during Yom Kippur weekend. Now, if this festival were to be renamed "Jews and Ewes" or "Hey, Ewe Jew", I would be a lock for the title. But alas, it was not, and I started to fear that the parade would be taking place on the Holy Day itself. Even though I planned to maintain my fast, I wondered if it would be kosher in God's eyes to be parading amongst sheep while atoning. On one hand, Moses was a shepherd. Still, he led his most important flock around Passover and not the High Holidays.

Courtesy: TravelAge West

As I ruminated over this ruminant dilemma, I discovered that the parade was delayed until the day after Yom Kippur. Thus, I was back on the non-fast track to becoming sheep royalty. But soon enough, I was brought to the realization that my lovely dream could become a wolf in sheep's clothing. While having a moveable feast at the home of the lovely owners of a Ketchum art gallery, the husband started raining a bit on my parade. (Said husband, parenthetically, hence the parentheses, resembled a hip version of Mr. Keaton, the dad on "Family Ties"). Mr. Bleatin' advised me that, at times, the parading sheep have been known to run amok. One sheep wanders off in a different direction and the entire flock ends up pulling a big ewe-turn. Or, Mr. Baa Humbug noted, as the hills at the end of the parade route come into sight, the sheep sometimes start stampeding to quicken the journey to their winter digs.

At any rate, instead of ending the parade in a path of glory, I suddenly envisioned myself in my own private Pamplona, overtaken by a mad mob of sheep goring me with their puffballs of wool and leaving me with tiara askew and my garb transformed into the world's largest livery of lint.

Of course, the citizens of Ketchum might not take kindly to this intruder amongst their ranks, no matter how stunning said intruder was. In fact, the stunt might even get their collective goat. Therefore, after rising up, dusting myself off, and repositioning my tiara, I realized I might have to go on the lamb (sic) or risk being pelted. However, I knew it was likely that I would be quickly found, as after the sheep were long gone, I would be the only one in the valley for whom the smell lolled.

Thank ewe very much.

The 2012 rendition of the festival takes place October 11-14. Details are available at www.trailingofthesheep.org. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Real Presidents Race


I suppose my love affair with Teddy Roosevelt started when USA Today assigned me to write about the best place to see wildlife in Washington, DC (excluding Capitol Hill). Not wanting to take the easy way out and yak about The National Zoo, I opted instead to cover Theodore Roosevelt Island, which, although located on the Virginia side of Potomac, is actually part of DC.

This little-known homage to our nation's 26th president was quite a find. The pristine island combines Teddy's love of nature with a statue you would swear came out of the Soviet Union. Even though said statue was a bit reminiscent of Stalin, I still left the island tsarry-eyed. 

Yet, my love affair with Teddy lay dormant for more than a year. But suddenly, watching an ESPN segment about the Presidents Races at Washington Nationals Park made me fall head over heels all over again.

The eight-minute piece, narrated by Ken Burns, highlights Teddy's travails during these races, which feature the four presidents depicted on Mount Rushmore. The quartet is made up of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and one Theodore Roosevelt. The race takes place once during each Nationals home game and Teddy always loses. 

Yes, during the course of five years, Teddy has won nary a race. The Let Teddy Win blog famously outlines many close but no cigar finishes. There was, for example, the time Teddy was tripped up by Martha Washington. Another time, the Kool-Aid mascot made him pitch over. Adding insult to injury, he has lost, in team mascot races, to stuffed pierogis, sausages, and beer steins.

The ESPN piece outlines this sad story, and poetically ends with the mascot of Teddy sitting in front of his statue on his island in the middle of the Potomac. 

The story tugged at my heart strings. And I was not alone. For on September 20, President Obama himself threw his support behind the Let Teddy Win movement, agreeing with Senator John McCain that a congressional inquiry might be needed
to look into Teddy-Gate..
But I digress. After watching the ESPN story, I knew I needed to immediately make a beeline to Nationals Park to watch the race (thank you, Destination DC, for the ticket) and cheer Teddy on. Surely, with my  loving support urging him home, finally, this time, Teddy would win.

I left my seat just once during the entire game, which is a world record for my bladder. It was after the third inning. But the top of the fourth was a quick one-two-three-out inning, and unbeknownst to me, the race always take place in the middle of the fourth. Thus, when I got back to my seat, I discovered I missed the show. I was crushed. That night when I got back home, I could only console myself by viewing Presidents Races past on YouTube and catching up on the Let Teddy Win blog. Thus did Teddy become my Saturday night squeeze. We spent a lovely evening together.

As this baseball season is drawing to a close, I will not likely be able to get to the stadium again in 2012...unless I somehow manage to wrangle playoff tickets. And I do have a good feeling about  Teddy's chances this post-season--he now has bi-partisan backing and this is, after all, the first time the Nationals have even made the playoffs. So, it could be Teddy's time.

And if not, I guess I will simply repeat the mantra that plays in my head every October as a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan. Wait until next year, my dear Teddy bear. 

By the way, rumor has it the Nats will be adding another president to take part in next year's races. Who do you think should be the fifth Beatle? 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Top 9 Childhood Toys

In a previous post, I discussed a Top 20 list of toys circa 1910-2010 that was compiled as part of a poll conducted by the Children's Museum of Indianapolis (CMI). I vehemently quibbled with the results. But instead of trying to correct the errors of 24,000 poll takers, I will compile my own list--this one, as is my wont, a Top 9 roster. It excludes board games, as that seems to me to be a separate subject.

Laura's Top 9 List of Toys from her Childhood :

   1. Barbie: 'Nuf said.  

2. Canadian Hockey Table Top Game: I'm not talking Air Hockey, nor a table masquerading as a hockey game. Instead, what my older brother and I lovingly called "Game-da-Plink" measured about two and a half feet long and 18 inches across. The skaters were tin Flat Stanley Mikitas, posted on metal sticks that slid between specific slits in the "ice" (allowing for limited, albeit 360 degree, movement). Players had to maneuver each skater by hand-operated rods. Therefore, the game took a great deal of manual dexterity, as each person was responsible for five skaters, plus the goalie. This game was old school--no  newfangled innovations (at the time) like the overhead puck dropper or an electronic scoreboard. Although our little tin men were Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, most were anonymous, except for the wing man we called Badly Injured. Poor Badly Injured--he was constantly toppling off his post. The play-by-play from the era  (narrated by whoever didn't have Badly Injured that day) went like this: "Badly Injured gets the pass, he turns, he shoots, he topples over."  (I should mention that perhaps it was this early experience that propelled me toward a college sportscasting career doing play-by-play for minor league baseball, women's basketball, and synchronized swimming).

Oh shoot the puck, fond memories of Badly Injured and multiple victories over my older brother have caused me to drastically digress. Let's get back to my Top 9 list.

3. Ping-Pong Basketball: By which I mean the one complete with spring-loaded levers to pop the ball out of the hole and into the hoop. Not to be confused with the Thai version. And, parenthetically, if these sporting games sound archaic, please note they belonged to my much, much older sibling.

4. Skate Boards
5. Model Trains
6. Little Kiddles
7. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head
   8. Etch-a-Sketch

   And last, but not least:
9. Ken. Poor Ken. Such a second fiddle, yet such a trailblazer. Back in my childhood days, he was simply before his time. Now, my particular Ken had bendable (and shaved) legs, so I could never get his pants on. Still, this didn't cause major problems in the Barbie bedroom, as the couple slept on bunk beds formed by placing the Barbie wardrobe case on its side at night. By day, Ken perused said wardrobe, and was particularly fond of Barbie's Trans World outfit.  (Apologies for the different type--apparently, Blogger thinks Ken requires an alternative font style.) 

Which toys make your list? And if you were to choose among board games, how would Candy Land and MONOPOLY, as named in the CMI poll, stack up against Operation, Trivial Pursuit, or the Game of Life? Don't toy with me. Just leave your thoughts.