Thursday, August 16, 2018

When exploring a new city, always detour for "fresh, hot donuts."

While wandering around Philadelphia, I saw some signs promising "fresh, hot doughnuts." 
I'm sad now I only tried the doughnuts, actually.
Of course I followed them, and they led me to a cheerful young woman cooking up those promised doughnuts and many other treats in her historic home.

That was cool. 

I bought a doughnut and sat down to chat with the baker, who told me her plan. She was selling cookies, brownies and other desserts out of her cozy home in Elfreth's Alley (described as the "oldest continually inhabited street in the United States" by my handy guidebook, Frommer's Philadelphia: Day by Day) with the intent of raising enough money to lease a storefront. When we spoke, she was excited to report that a spot in a building she thought was perfect was opening up soon.

I wished her luck in landing that spot and thanked her, only half-jokingly, for not being a witch leading me to a trap like poor Hansel and Gretel. More than one person had poked their head in her home while we chatted to see what this place promising "fresh, hot doughnuts" looked like, but none of them stepped inside to try them.

I could not have been happier that I did, though, as that detour is one of my favorite memories of Philadelphia. It had nearly all the joys of travel in one bite: meeting new people, wandering down charming little streets, and eating food made right in front of you by a local.
I only hesitated for a second before following this sign.


Friday, August 3, 2018

When his fire-ravaged constituents lost power, local senator becomes rare source of information

McGuire, left, and Allman in Ukiah last October. (Chris Pugh)
California State Sen. Mike McGuire is not a spokesman for Pacific Gas and Electric. But late Saturday night when much of Mendocino and Lake counties lost their electricity after watching two fires rage out of control near them in triple-digit heat, McGuire was immediately trying to figure out what had happened so he could let his worried constituents know.

That was cool.

As a state senator, it is not McGuire's job to be giving reporters and residents updates on fires and power outages at any time, let alone near midnight on a weekend. But he knew much of his district had spent the day under huge plumes of smoke filling the skies as if two nuclear bombs had been dropped on the mountains east of Ukiah.
And perhaps the only thing scarier than seeing that is not being able to see anything at all  because your power went out, stranding you in the heat and darkness with no information. One resident said her family was just outside the mandatory evacuation zones and without electricity they "were blind" and helpless, with no water to keep their property safe and no way to know if the fire was getting closer.
After I lost power at 10:30 p.m. July 28 and realized how widespread the outage was, I started contacting anyone already saved in my phone who might have information, including Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman. At first Allman didn't have anything to tell me, but soon he did because McGuire called him after learning from PG&E that smoke from the fires was affecting their transmission lines. 
Then McGuire posted what he found out on social media sites such as Twitter, letting me and the rest of his followers know that the problem had been identified and was being resolved as quickly as possible.
Few other people were sharing official information about the outage around 11:30 p.m. on a Saturday night. So why was McGuire?
I think Allman had the answer: "He's a good dude."