4342 miles for freedom

Sunday, February 26, 2006

launch of the free state observer

I'm relocating this blog to http://www.freestateobserver.com , a new website providing an insiders' view of liberty activism in the Free State of New Hampshire. Please update your bookmarks and follow me there!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

when it rains, it pours

It's been a rough week for your intrepid reporter. Last Sunday I was snowbound by the biggest snowstorm of the season, lasting from before I woke up until well past dark. The next day, the weather reverted to unseasonably warm, so that the 16.5 inches of beautiful snow we got disappeared quite rapidly. On Friday it poured, which destroyed what little snow was left. Meanwhile, I've had the worst toothache of my life, on and off (mostly on), all week. It was the first Valentine's Day since splitting up with my husband. I had to work overtime every day. And the biggest project I'm assigned to at work is rapidly turning into a shitstorm of legendary proportions. Meanwhile, a friend sent me an angry, expletive-laced email commenting on a few of my personality flaws. I think I set a new personal record for quantity of alcohol consumed; if only drinking were an Olympic sport, "I mighta been a contendah!" Despite all that, I found time to speak with a PR consultant about a possible magazine interview on women and guns, which would get the FSP some much-needed publicity. And I have been working feverishly on the next incarnation of this blog, which should be ready for launch within the next week; stay tuned! On a more positive note, I was gruntled to be elected to the FSP's Board of Directors. Crafty strategic move on the part of the voters, or blatant example of the tyranny of the majority and democracy run amok? Guess you'll have to decide that for yourself.

"What an incredible Cinderella story, this unknown comes outta no where to lead the pack, at Augusta. He's on his final hole, he's about 455 yards away -- he's gonna hit about a 2-iron, I think. Oh he got all of that one! ... This crowd has gone deathly silent, the Cinderella story, outta nowhere, a former greenskeeper now -- about to become The Masters champion. It looks like a mirac -- It's in the hole!" - Bill Murray, in a manically brilliant improvisational moment

Sunday, February 12, 2006

only fools rush in

There have been numerous attempts to form libertarian "intentional communities" i.e. getting a group of libertarians to move to the same general area, whether it be a town, a county, an island, a state, a floating structure, etc. Some failed before they even got started; some went down in flames; and some are just getting going. The Free State Project is definitely in the third category, and in my opinion has already resulted in the formation of a legitimate libertarian community in New Hampshire. The wedding I attended this weekend demonstrates this beautifully. Background info: About a year ago JR, an FSP participant, early mover, tireless liberty activist, and all-around cool guy, hooked up with AB, a lifelong native of NH, a total sweetheart who works with disadvantaged youth, loves to cook, is always willing to lend a hand, but please don't try telling her what to do because she is a Yankee through and through and it's just not gonna happen. (She can also handle a deck of cards like a Vegas dealer.) I met JR before I even moved to New Hampshire; when I made a scouting trip here, he drove 60 miles to attend a Monadnock Porcupines meeting that he knew I would be attending, to "lobby" on behalf of Manchester. The Monadnock group lobbied on behalf of the Keene region; the Seacoast Porcupines group leader lobbied on behalf of the Seacoast. It was like the Dating Game: three men I had never met before all urging me to move to THEIR town! I wound up moving to Manchester, and through a combination of joint political activism, a shared love of sci fi, and an inability to defeat AB at poker, came to consider JR a friend. Even so, when I received an invitation to his wedding, I was surprised; I haven't been to that many weddings. Actually, since moving to New Hampshire, I now have a far bigger and more active "social circle" than I've ever had in my life; not a month goes by that there isn't a party, a BBQ, a dinner party, a poker game, a group outing to the movies... It's really nice. And I got all this without having to get up early on Sunday morning, pay membership dues or wear a fez. Prior to the wedding, I had many unanswered questions: who else was invited? Would I be fed? Was it going to be a religious ceremony, a civil ceremony, or neither? I had no idea about the religious leanings of the bride and groom. I knew that some libertarians are opposed to government sanctioned marriage. The ceremony was to take place in an Elks Club, but I had no idea what that means; I have a vague sense that an Elks Club is a fraternal organization where guys sit around wearing antlers. The day arrived. I carpooled with another guest, a Free Stater who was lucky enough to have already been living in NH when it won the state vote, so no move was required. He has been a libertarian activist in NH for a good 25 years now, and has many stories to tell. Arriving at the Elks Club, it immediately looked like it was going to be a fun evening: there was food, a bar (which guests were visiting before the ceremony even took place), a dance floor, and libertarians everywhere you looked. Seriously, there were probably more libertarians at that wedding than at most state LP conventions. Some people were formally dressed; others weren't. The ubiquitous cute little kids scampered around. The ceremony, which turned out to be civil (i.e. legally binding) but not religious, was short and sweet. JR's coolness quotient escalated in my book when I realized that the man performing the ceremony was the chair of the New Hampshire Libertarian Party (apparently he's a justice of the peace)! The best man, another FSP early mover, toasted the bride and groom. The newlyweds danced their first dance (to Elvis' Can't Help Falling in Love). All official business then out of the way, we were free to eat, drink, dance and make merry, which we most certainly did. A DJ spun popular tunes and coordinated various games, and everyone was a good sport about participating. Male relatives of the bride performed a surprisingly realistic Chippendales-style strip-tease. The highlight of the evening had to be the command performance of the Village People's YMCA by four high profile FSP early movers: SC as the construction worker; VS as the Indian chief; CP as the traffic cop (and can that guy dance! who knew??); and most comically, RK as the cop. It was hilarious. All in all, a wonderful evening.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

schoolhouse rock

When I was a kid, Saturday morning was one of the highlights of my week. My mom would usually buy something sugar-laden and unhealthy like cinnamon rolls or fruit-filled Danish pastries, and I'd wake up extra early to get in a good solid morning of sugar buzz and cartoons. Bugs Bunny was my favorite, always sticking it to the man and delivering a well-timed smartass remark. I also enjoyed Schoolhouse Rock episodes, which were little musical cartoons designed to be educational. And they actually worked! I still know all the words to the Preamble of the Constitution, although I have an embarrassing tendency to sing them. I know the purpose of a conjunction, as well as several other grammatical constructs. And I remember the sad little bill stuck in committee, hoping to one day become a real live law. I've been thinking about that little bill a lot lately, because I've been participating in the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance's bill triage team and reading bills 'til my eyes bleed. Basically, the team reads every single bill going through the New Hampshire legislature, rates each one as to its pro- or anti-liberty qualities, and tries to mobilize activists to lobby for or against particularly noteworthy ones. There are 1031 bills this session, so you can imagine the effort involved. There are about 30 of us working on this, most of us recent transplants to the state as members of the Free State Project. After a day at the office, my coworkers go home and watch Friends reruns or American Idol. I go home and read the latest "masterpieces" coming out of the House Committee on Environment and Agriculture, as well as the Senate Committee on Environment and Wildlife. Frankly, it's a bit demoralizing; there are so many bad (by "bad" I mean anti-liberty, pro-big government) bills, and a few laughably stupid ones, not to mention the ones that make me want to pound my head against my keyboard in frustration. And this is in New Hampshire; I shudder to even think about what's going through the California legislature right now. We are so few in number here; we can't fight them all. In fact, we can't fight more than a fraction of them, hence the use of the term "triage", which means sorting the ones who can be saved from those who are goners. I console myself by imagining myself in my favorite David vs Goliath scenarios from various books and movies (the ones in which David WINS, obviously!): Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance vs Darth Vader and the Galactic Empire... Malcolm Reynolds and the crew of Serenity vs the Alliance and the men with blue hands... Mad Max vs western Australia... Harry Potter vs Lord Voldemort (ok, it remains to be seen who's going to win that one, but my money's on the Boy who Lived). At any rate, my point is that, while it sometimes looks grim, it's not hopeless. That's not the fat lady singing; it's just a bill, only a bill, sitting there on Capitol Hill....

Saturday, January 28, 2006

seasick

People sometimes ask me if I miss California, and my response is generally "no, not at all". That's not entirely true; there are things I miss, or remember fondly. But it doesn't really make me sad, because there are an equal or greater number of things in New Hampshire that I have come to love. So far I have run into very few things I enjoyed in California that I haven't found a decent surrogate for here. First on my list would have to be Carl's Jr., my favorite fast food burger chain. Apparently there used to be one (just one!) in NH, but it must have closed down in the not too distant past; one month it was listed on the corporate website, and the next month it wasn't. I'm embarrassed to admit how many times I drove all the way out to the seacoast and cruised the streets of a particular town, desperately seeking a Bacon Guacamole $6 Burger, before figuring this out. The closest Carl's Jr (or Hardee's, as they call it on this side of the Continental Divide) is now in New York State. Woe is me! Burritos. God told Jose he would "rain bread from heaven". He provided Burritos, a new food that appeared with the dew each morning as large, white, round pieces of flat bread, filled with a variety of spicy, succulent fillings and rolled into a convenient, easy-to-carry log shape. The Californians were to gather each day the amount of Burritos they needed for that day. No more, no less. Each day God would give them that day's burritos. They were to trust Him each day for the very food they ate. On the sixth day, He would provide two day's burritos, so no one would work to gather them on the Sabbath. If one of them was mistrustful, and tried to stock up, their burrito would melt or rot away, or the salsa would lose its picante quality, or the tortilla would tear and spill out the contents, making an inconvenient mess. The Californians steamed, grilled and prepared the burritos several ways. They tasted sweet, like bread stuffed with marinated pork and grilled peppers. Exodus 16 3/4 San Francisco Bay, as viewed from the Marin Headlands, or the peak of Angel Island, or the 22 Fillmore cresting the hill. Provides all of a soul's daily beauty requirements. The sea. The other day, while sitting at my desk at work, I was inexplicably overcome by a wave of longing to go to the beach. When I lived in San Francisco, this could be accomplished quite easily by either hopping on a 5 Fulton or my bicycle (San Francisco is only 7 miles wide). Or if I was feeling really spunky, I could hop in the car and drive down to Santa Barbara, Los Angeles or San Diego for a WARM beach. New Hampshire does have an ocean front, 18 whole miles of it. I had hoped to live near it when I relocated. While I have lived in a lot of different places, most of them have been close to the ocean. I was even born on a U.S. Naval Air Station; I credit the fact that I am the child of not one, but two, naval officers, and grew up in a household so clean you could serve soup out of the toilet bowl, with making me the reactionary Madisonian I am today (I refer to Oscar, not James). But since I found a great job in Nashua, I didn't wind up living in the Seacoast region after all. Must make the trek out there soon; I am dying to see a beach covered with snow.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

girls will be girls

Female members of the Free State Project are just like other American girls: we talk about our relationships, bitch about our weight, fall in love, break up, get married, get divorced, have babies, go shopping, go to the gym/yoga class, nurse broken hearts, despair over our credit card bills. Some of us are married, some have kids, some have close personal relationships with Jesus, and some of us aren't/don't. In addition to all of that, we write legislation, campaign for our friends, run for public office, lead liberty-oriented organizations ranging from dozens to thousands of members, stage public acts of civil disobedience, serve time in jail for standing up for our beliefs, run liberty-oriented websites, and organize freedom-themed events ranging from 1 to 7 days in length. Yesterday I spent the entire day with some of my fellow female early-movers to New Hampshire. It was a prototypical female Porcupine day: first seven of us went to the Wilson Hill Pistol Club in Manchester to take an NRA Basic Pistol course, taught by another FSP member. Then we peeled off our dirty T-shirts, slipped on feminine tops, and headed over to the Derryfield Country Club to hook up with several more female Porcupines to throw a combined bridal shower/bachlorette party for the fiancee of another FSP member. Here are some of the topics discussed:

  • my new boyfriend is awesome
  • my old boyfriend is driving me crazy
  • I have *got* to lose this weight
  • I wish my boyfriend would lose weight
  • I can't believe how much weight I have gained!!
  • I love the teachers (FSP members) at the Montessori school my kids attend
  • I got married last month!
  • my daughter is getting married!
  • I'm getting married next month!!
  • renovations on my house are *not* going according to schedule
  • we're going to let the gender of our new baby be a surprise
  • my low-carb diet
  • can I address the state House of Representatives with my four young kids in tow?
  • I'm the state coordinator of the Second Amendment Sisters, and we need more strong women leaders
  • I'm working on the schedule for PorcFest, the largest annual gathering of libertarians in the world
  • my homeschool bill is currently sitting on the Governor's desk, waiting to be signed into law

Yep, that about covers it.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

no sleep 'til manchester (Day 9)

Free State Project migration Day 9 - Thurs. 5/26/05 At every other motel I'd stayed at, I appeared to be the last one to leave in the morning; but in Niagara Falls, the parking lot was still full when I left at around 9:00AM. I'd read about a place that offered a hot breakfast for only 99 cents, but I got a little lost downtown and never found it, so I settled for Starbucks. Holy Toledo. It cost $9.00 for a mocha and a pastry!! And since I hadn't bothered to convert any currency, I just gave the clerk a ten and let her keep the change. That has got to be the most expensive mocha of my life. The town of Niagara Falls is very touristy, but not nearly as gross as Keystone, South Dakota. I checked out the Hershey store, just for the heck of it. I was very excited about riding the Maid of the Mist by the waterfalls, and it was worth every penny. It was an incredible experience. Going by the American Falls (which are smaller), I was giggling uncontrollably. But going by the Bridal Veil (the more impressive, Canadian falls), I had difficulty breathing. I may even have suffered a minor heart attack; I had a pain in my chest afterwards. It was epic. I have recurring nightmares about tidal waves, so it was kind of freaky being at the foot of an enormous wall of water. Crossing the border back into the U.S. was significantly easier than crossing into Canada, oddly enough! I showed the guard my passport. He said "What is all this STUFF?" I said I was moving. He asked from where and to where. Then he said "OK!" I half wish I'd worn an Arab headdress, just to cause trouble. Crossing New York took a good chunk of the day. I cannot believe how much the toll road cost: over $12.00!! Escape from New York: At one point I was running low on gas, but I figured it was no problem, I'd wait a while so I could combine stopping for gas with a bathroom trip. But I misjudged how far apart the rest stops are on the Interstate. My warning light for no gas came on, and I was nowhere near a rest stop. That woke me up. I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and exited at the first opportunity, right before making it to the Massachusetts Turnpike, which wound up taking me into the village of Chatham. I stopped at a gas station, started to fill my tank, and the pump cut off after giving me a mere $0.47 worth of gas. What the hell?! I hung up the gas nozzle and spoke to the clerk, who said I could try again. But the second time, my credit card didn't work at all. The clerk said I could fill my tank, and then come into the office to pay. So I did that, and in the office, when he tried to run my credit card, it said I was over my limit. I was embarrassed and confused; I didn't think I was at my limit. Later on, when I had time to tally up my trip expenses, I found that I was NOT over my limit, not even close; I still don't know why the bank refused the charge. Bastards! Fortunately I had enough cash on me to cover it. I crossed the border into Massachusetts. Hooray! I could almost taste the free air of New Hampshire! But it started to rain for the first time in days. The traffic became terrible, the worst of the entire trip. At one point it was at a standstill. There was road construction; there were breakdowns; there was standing water on the freeway (which was very frightening). And there were a hell of a lot of Dunkin' Donuts at the rest stops; I was clearly approaching New Hampshire! I exited at what I thought was the rest stop at the border, hoping to take a photo of the "Welcome to New Hampshire" sign, but either there wasn't one or I just couldn't spot it in the dark and the rain. I remember very clearly the song that was playing on the radio, though: "Kickstart My Heart" by Motley Crue. Ah, the music of my youth! I was listening to Rock 101.1, a New Hampshire hard rock station, and they were talking about how they were having a big outdoor rock concert, with fireworks, for free, in Manchester that very weekend. My own personal Welcome party! I had forgotten to charge my cell phone the night before and its battery had died, so I didn't know if anyone was trying to check up on me and I couldn't let anyone know that I'd finally made it to New Hampshire. I made it to Manchester, and it was a good thing I'd visited the city recently because I got off course in the dark and the rain but knew how to get to my final destination. I stopped at one of the many, many Dunkin' Donuts in town for a celebratory Boston Creme, then continued on to my new home.