Nightmare on Craig’s List

by Judith Fein

 

I love Craig’s List. I really do. It has transformed the way we advertise, buy, sell and think about transactions. It’s beautiful. It’s free. I have used it so many times that I refer to the founder as Craigie. But, like the little girl with the curl, when the list is good, it is very very good, and when it is bad…well, you know.

My Craigie episode started a few months ago when my husband and I decided we desperately needed a vacation. Truth be told, I am not sure we’ve ever taken a vacation. As travel journalists and photographers, we’re always writing, shooting, taking notes and stumbling over stories, even when we don’t mean to.

But this time it was different. We were burned out from having our eyeballs glued to our computers l5 hours a day, meeting deadlines, emailing, researching. We looked at each other, and, in that silent way we sometimes communicate when we are not yakking or yukking, we knew we had to stop. For a full month.

I went to Craigie, of course, and typed in the name of a beach community in California.

There it was: the little bungalow that was waiting for us, half a block from the ocean.

It was, according to the owner, small, clean, with a spacious backyard where we could hang, escape the winter, and drink margaritas. For me, it was a done deal.

It took several weeks to get a contract. Turns out the dude who advertised with Craigie wasn’t the owner, but the renter, and this was a sublease. Fine. Also, he was doing some mysterious work or traveling in Asia and was hard to contact. Okay. His friend was handling the rental. Fine. When you have the prospect of being half a block from the ocean, you’re willing to put up with a lot. At least I am.

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VACATIONS ARE A NECESSITY, NOT A LUXURY

by Judith Fein

Some people I know, when they are really stressed out, take an afternoon, evening or full day off. The next day, they are back to work. Others kick it for a weekend, and then dive back into the daily routine on Monday morning. I’m flipping through my mental rolodex of friends, associates and family and, to my horror, I realize that I don’t know anyone who really takes vacations.

“What?” you say. “I take vacations. I went white water rafting on the Snake River in Idaho for five days. And last year I spent six in Kauai, hiking and snorkeling.”

I am sorry, amigos, but five or six days are a break, an experience, a change of scene and pace, but not a real vacation.

A real vacation is at least two weeks. And even better is a month. This is a startling idea in the U.S.A., where most people are afraid to take off more than a long weekend because they may lose their jobs. This means we are certifiably nuts in the U.S.A.  Are we born to work, stress, eat, shop, have sex and then croak? Will we actually take our cell phones and laptops with us to the grave, so we can check the headlines on After Life News or shoot off one last post-mortem tweet?

Talk to people from Europe (they will call it “holidays” and not “vacation” in Britain, but I swear it means the same thing).  Ask folks from South America. They get time off from work. Off from work. Not a few days here and there where their nervous systems hardly have a chance for a good yawn, and certainly not a real rest.

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A Year On The Ground: Riding the Rails

by Sallie Bingham

Train travel is becoming, rapidly, as comfortable as an old shoe, and it takes the elegance of Union Station in Washington to remind me of the miracle of this way of moving along the ground.

But first, we stand for a long time in freezing drizzle in the Amtrak station in Richmond, modernized to dreariness, although the old photographs on the walls of the waiting room attest to the day when this was a major terminus. In those decades, eighty or more years ago, three train tracks crossed here, bearing engines and their massive loads, human and material, north, south and west. During the War, as my a historical Richmond grandmother called it, a major Union objective was to choke off these rail lines that were carrying supplies to the beleaguered Confederacy. All that is reduced to a shadow, now; only a few travelers wait to board when the train crawls in from Newport News.

The roommate and I are growing particular. The bedroom I reserved, which seemed so well appointed on the leg from Florida to Richmond, now promises to be horribly cramped. We try, at the ticket window in Union Station, to upgrade—in airline lingo—to a bedroom, which has actual beds and a bathroom, but the additional cost would be almost a thousand dollars, out of reach for nearly everyone traveling by rail. These bedrooms remain mostly empty, and it seems to me that Amtrak might reconsider what they are charging.

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