Pays Basque, Here We Come

So I was preparing our itinerary for our imminent trip to the Basque country and I thought I’d check in to this blog, my escape blog, where I post about my incredibly lucky travel-life. I am blessed, hallelujah.

So here’s the plan, I hope that you follow along and I really hope that my pictures are halfway as good as these.

We start in San Sebastian Spain



We are most excited for the pinxtos, or tapas…


After eating ourselves silly in Spain, it’s off to a little side trip to a little visited by my fellow countrymen and women part of France, the Béarn,


And the reason? See that town called  Jurançon? They make some of our favorite white wine in the whole wide world.



So we’re going to walk and hike and relax and drink wine and take in this view (Below is the actual view from our b and b)


And we’re going to explore the vicinity


As we make our way from  Jurançon to the coast, This is Basque country…


We will most definitely stop by Espelette, home of the infamous pepper

9 10

On our way to our seaside home for a week, Ciboure.



Ciboure Street

so lovely. Right next door to the equally lovely St Jean de Luz


Where we plan to eat lots of the sea’s bounty


and hopefully have some nice beach weather


And there will be a festival happening when we’re there. Don’t you hate when that happens?


And we may explore the vicinity. My landlord lives here:


And we may check out Bayonne


And Biarritz


And who knows? I return to where I started. Feeling blessed, and wishing I could take everyone I love along. xo


From LA to NOLA, Tales of Life

Just checking in to record for my own posterity tales of my recent travels (as that is the noted purpose of my blog). What a whirlwind couple of weeks this has been!  Preparing for the first ever CEPR Hollywood shin dig. Crazy, how did I ever find myself at the home of Oliver Stone, at a party in honor of my humble little think tank that could, the Center for Economic and Policy Research? I am in awesome debt to everyone at CEPR for the opportunity, especially since I had never been to LA. I dug it.

Santa Monica beach at sunset

Santa Monica beach at sunset

Until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard (h/t Jo)

Until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard (h/t Jo)

I was surprised at how much I liked LA, so much so that I  had to leave my east coast snobbism on Santa Monica Boulevard…the weather was perfect, and LA is just beautiful, and yes, chill in a good way, yes Ms. Sara you are right. She’s my colleague from the west side whose apartment I stayed in and whose mother was such a gracious host, in addition to being a fabulous novelist, and a beautiful woman to boot. Thanks Alicia. You are awesome. And Sara, you are the best co-worker ever and I’m not even going to think of you going off to NYU this fall.

And, ACK! The party was an experience I will not soon forget. Lots of famous people there. I just hope it eventually brings CEPR many riches along with our proud memories.

Oliver singing CEPR's praises to the crowd...

Oliver singing CEPR’s praises to the crowd…can you guess who that is in the leather jacket?

And when I miss Ms. Sara I will look at this picture and smile…Sara and her HS musical muse. Rage on sister…

Sara and Tom MorelloSara and Tom Morello

The MOST famous attendees...:)

The MOST famous attendees…:)

And it made me think a lot about celebrity, and people. I went to a similar kind of shin dig just a few days ago, a fundraiser in DC for a “progressive” PAC (the word being relative when you talk DC kind of politics), and that party was not so much fun (except for my co-party comrade of course). Really DC vibe, with the conversation 100% focused on polls and who was up and who was down, and it was all about who you are and who you are connected to. Whereas the LA shindig was more real, if you can believe that. Hollywood talking more about reality and DC all up in the noise. Or perhaps it’s just that I am tiring of the DC scene? I want to talk issues, not poll numbers. And a big aside, I want to lift up people like my girl Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, who spoke the truth to power the other day. You rock Medea.

Yes, perhaps I just need to get out of the DC cesspool more frequently. Cause I also had a fabulous time in NOLA, just one short week after LA. Whew! Whirlwind craziness. But I had to go to see my boy Tom T Follz Lobell graduate from Tulane.

Me and the graduate

Me and the graduate

So, so proud of him! Neuroscience! Such a great graduation too…who  could ever argue with NOLA jazz and the Dali Lama and Dr. John and Alain Toussaint, all rockin the Superdome where the Ravens just won the Superbowl not too long ago.

Tulane graduation

It was nice to share all of that with my boys (and their girls)

My people and their Po BoysMy people and their Po Boys

New Orleans is a very friendly city, unique and fun.

Voo DooVoo Doo

And beautiful.

New Orleans

And H-O-T, or more to the point humid. That might be hard to get used to. But the vibe is great. I loved where we stayed, the Royal Street Courtyard in the funky Bywater hood.

Royal Street Courtyard

Royal Street Courtyard

We had lots of good NOLA food and drinks, bien sur,

Shrimp Po Boy

Shrimp Po Boy

and we went out for a walk on the bayou where I saw several alligators, for reals, and that was real crazy y’all.

look closely....

look closely….

And me being me, we also took a drive to the Lower 9th Ward, so that we could be reminded of Katrina. And of the vast gulf in race and class that we have to endure in this country. I wondered what would have happened if the levee had broken and the French Quarter would have been under water and all of the elites had been forced to live in the (redone) Superdome? I do ponder these things. I felt bad taking these pictures with my phone, but I wanted to testify. So much empty space, where houses used to be. Note, an X means that someone died in the house that’s no longer there. We saw lots of those. So sad. We can do better as a country! We must…

Lower 9th 1

Lower 9th ward

lower 9th ward

This is life, the sunshine and fun and the proud and the beautiful and the sublime, and the dark underside, and the ugly and the serious. All wrapped up in a trip across the US of A…next up, BASQUE country, hons. Please stay tuned (and for anyone who reads my blog and is wondering about those babies in Fallujah. I am going to work with Ross, the amazing ex-marine founder of the Justice for Fallujah Project. He’s making a documentary on the siege and the aftermath, and I hope to help him to raise some funds for that, and eventually some of the money from that will go to the babies. Stay tuned as I hope to have another blog dedicated to those efforts.  I would be humbly grateful if you read both )

Tales of Travel and Babies Not Forgotten

Hello dear friends and fellow travelers and seekers,

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I posted in my blog. So many chores and trying things and stressful things and adventures and happy times and excitement and LIFE in between. Breathe sister! I’m just checking in to state, on the record, that I am still trying to find a way to help those babies in Iraq, and have some good irons in the fire. I hope to start a new blog devoted to that really, hopefully really, soon, just working things out. But I can say that I will never give up on those babies. I won’t.

Because I decided to TRY separate my complicated lives once again; to focus in my other side in this blog, the travelin side, the side who needs to step away from the work every now and again and go to France and eat some damn good food and drink some damn good wine, and dance, that side. And that other side? The one who rails and rants against all the injustices in the world, the one who wants to save those babies and who wants to save Social Security and the one who is pro-union and pro-LGBT and anti corporate anything, well that one will devote her energies to Twitter (once she figures it out) and sometimes facebook and her new yet-to-be-created-but-will-be blog.

Sometimes the twain shall meet and there may be crossover, like next week when I travel to LA for the big CEPR fundraiser, well there may be some social commentary seeping in – please tune in to see what transpires.

And thanks for coming along on all of my journeys. I can’t wait to see where we go next…

PS: Please watch this clip if you haven’t already. I am hoping that I get to have the honor of working with the ex-marine featured in the post. I think he is amazing…

More on the Babies of Fallujah and Basra

So, here’s where I am with my latest obsession, those babies in Fallujah and Basra:

Alone, not sure where to go, but still determined to try to find a way to help.

Pictures and images like this are imprinted on my brain:


I’ve been exchanging emails with the courageous doctor mentioned in the Democracy Now piece, below. Here’s a link if you want the full story

And here’s a portion of the  transcript, emphasis mine. It helps to give some background to my efforts.

DAHR JAMAIL:  And going on to Fallujah, because I wrote about this a year ago, and then I returned to the city again this trip, we are seeing an absolute crisis of congenital malformations of newborn. There is one doctor, a pediatrician named Dr. Samira Alani, working on this crisis in the city. She’s the only person there registering cases. And she’s seeing horrific birth defects. I mean, these are extremely hard to look at. They’re extremely hard to bear witness to. But it’s something that we all need to pay attention to, because of the amount of depleted uranium used by the U.S. military during both of their brutal attacks on the city of 2004, as well as other toxic munitions like white phosphorus, among other things.

And so, what this has generated is, from 2004 up to this day, we are seeing a rate of congenital malformations in the city of Fallujah that has surpassed even that in the aftermath of—in the wake of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that were—that nuclear bombs were dropped on at the end of World War II. So, Dr. Samira Alani actually visited with doctors in Japan, comparing statistics, and found that the amount of congenital malformations in Fallujah is 14 times greater than the same rate measured in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in the aftermath of the nuclear bombings. These types of birth defects, she said—there are types of congenital malformations that she said they don’t even have medical terms for, that some of the things they’re seeing, they’ve never seen before. They’re not in any of the books or any of the scientific literature that they have access to. She said it’s common now in Fallujah for newborns to come out with massive multiple systemic defects, immune problems, massive central nervous system problems, massive heart problems, skeletal disorders, baby’s being born with two heads, babies being born with half of their internal organs outside of their bodies, cyclops babies literally with one eye—really, really, really horrific nightmarish types of birth defects. And it is ongoing.

And she—lastly, to really give you an idea of the scope of the problem, is that this is happening now at a massive rate. And she said her being the only person cataloging and registering cases, with no help from Baghdad, who is denying that there’s some sort of problem like this in Fallujah—she said that she could probably safely estimate that the number of cases, as high as the rate that she’s seeing, could probably be doubled, because so many people are having their babies at home and just taking care of it. You know, most of these babies are being born dead, and then they’re not reporting it whatsoever. So, this is an ongoing crisis. And the rate has not increased since last year, but it’s not decreased, either. It was still—when I talked to her last year, it was 14 times greater rate of malformations in newborns as compared to the aftermath areas of the nuclear bombings in Japan, and it’s the same when I spoke with her about this one week ago.

I’m back. Dr Alaani told me that she is in dire need of diagnostic equipment. She doesn’t have any. And if you read the transcript I’m sure you can figure out why. The Iraqi government doesn’t want to know. And what do you think the U.S. government thinks? More on that in a minute…

First, this BBC (note, the BBC) clip that features the hospital in Basra, and the other doctor who asked me to help him to raise money for the families, the one who takes up a collection among the doctors for the families every month. I promised him that I would find a way to help. I need to live up to that promise.

As an American citizen, I am ashamed and disgusted and dismayed by the NON-response by our government. As the reporter says in the clip: “When we contacted the America Defense Department. They didn’t respond”. Well, isn’t that nice.

This piece was on Sky News in 2009.

2009! Where is CBS? NBC? Save the Children? Where in the hell is the US government?

I just can not let this go. I can’t. I got involved because those pictures moved me to tears and I naively thought that I would find all kinds of aid groups working with the families and raising money and helping the families and the doctors. I had no idea of the complete and utter abandonment that these people, the doctors and the families, are experiencing. This is a nightmare, caused by Bush and Cheney’s folly, and these babies are just the latest victims in a long line of victims. But they have no one to speak for them.

And now that the “10 year anniversary of the Iraq War is over”. the media will move on as well. Not that they noticed in the first place.

I want to speak for these babies. I need a name for my project. Nothing I can come up with does the project any justice. So I am thinking of calling it simply The Children of Fallujah and Basra Fund. (unless someone reading this blog can help me think of something better). I want to start a crowdfunding campaign like indiegogo. I need to figure out how to get the equipment and the money to Iraq. I need help and support. Please join me: those families need our help and support.



We Interrupt this Regularly Scheduled Program for an Important Message

This blog post is really different from any other I’ve written, well, except for the one on Thanksgiving, and maybe the one after the election, but not really. It’s ok, I totally understand and accept and am ok with the fact that many of my friends who happen upon my blog are mostly interested in my ramblings about my love of Paris and France and my trips there, and that’s really OK. I will always love Paris and France and will definitely blog about our upcoming June hopefully totally awesome vacation in the Basque country. So if you leave please come back!

Because this post is about my current passion, and it’s not so fun, but I’m driven and have been working hard and I need some help. So to those of you who want to continue to read please do, because I really need your help and support.  And if not, it’s ok, I will look forward to your thoughts on my Basque adventure.

But for now my mind is far away from Paris, it’s in Fallujah and it’s in Basra. My head is full of images of the babies. It has been this way ever since I saw this picture.


Here is the link to the story that grabbed me.

And then there are these.

fallujah 4

fallujah 2

Here is an additional link if you want to get the full story

The short story is that there has been a spike in birth defects and cancers in the cities in Iraq where there was the most intense fighting, Fallujah and Basra.  They’ve been seeing some really horrific, never before seen birth defects.  When I read that the current rate of birth defects for the city of Fallujah “has surpassed those of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the nuclear attacks at the end of World War II.”, I was speechless. What can you say? This was news to me – no mainstream media has ever covered this. Do you remember seeing these pictures on the NBC/ABC/CBS News? No, me neither.

OK, so I saw this and heard this and cried, and thought ok, there has to be something that I can do, there has to be some group here in the US who is raising money to help these children and their families. Wouldn’t you think?  So I was all ready to offer my fundraising services to some really great group who was raising funds for these families. But, hours of research later, I was dismayed to find, well, very little.

One group I did find was the Justice for Fallujah Project. Started by a vet who was in Fallujah. What can I say to that? He’s awesome and gave me lots of information. Like, I’m correct in thinking that there’s very little being done for these families.  Politics. Cause you know, if the U.S. or Iraqi governments addressed the issue then they would have to admit that there’s a problem. Admission = responsibility. We’re not going there.

I’ve also been in touch with the journalist who was featured on the Democracy Now piece.  He put me in touch with the Doctor in Fallujah who is featured in the Al Jazeera piece above. This is what she wrote to me:

Thank you so much. The most important of our needs is the Ultrasound machine & the Karyotic system that help detecting congenital malformations  Chromosomal abnormalities in early fetal life,  in addition to the need to check the DNA , we have asked the help of many authorities , organizations & persons & didn’t yet get any response other than some few false promises … we appreciate all efforts to help our mothers & children….

OK, yeah. And then there’s the other doctor here in the states. She is an Environmental Toxicologist, based in MI. Here’s what she said to me:

Dear Dawn:

Thank you for your kind letter. My work is research and I have been trying to get funding to continue my work in Iraq. But I also know medical doctors in Iraq. Let me consult with them and reply to you. I know that the medical infrastructure is weak in Iraq in general. So, I will talk to my colleagues in Iraq and see what they say.

I received a reply from a doctor in Basra, who said this:

we are group of doctors related ro the general medical council non govermental.nonrelegios and we had nothing to with business and we collect 50 $ monthply from doctors to help these families.

That’s pretty much it, my people. This is where we stand. Ross, the guy from Justice for Fallujah Project, sent me some links to a few other organizations. There’s one that is doing some work raising some money for, from what I can tell, the hospital in Fallujah? But they’re really Christian-based, and I don’t want to be involved in a religious mission.

There’s also a group called No More Victims that has a model where communities “adopt” an Iraqi child and fly them over to the US for treatment. While I think that this is a noble effort, I also think that you can’t possibly fly every child out of Iraq. I want the money to go directly to the children’s families and to the doctors on the ground.

And finally, there’s a great group in the UK called the The Cancer and Birth Defects Foundation that has done some brave work for Fallujah. ( But they are more about funding (much needed!!! ) research.  I asked Ross about the NGOs. And, as I suspected, not much happening for the families. And too much shady stuff.

I think I may need to create an organization. If I can’t find anyone out there that’s doing the work, then I will. I am thinking of doing some crowdfunding campaign, and a facebook page. I need a name for this. We did this,  all of us here in the US. With our tax dollars. I can’t accept it. I won’t.

So, there we are mes amis Pretty much square one. I need help – Ideas. Thoughts. Suggestions. Inspiration. Prayers. Help. Please. All ideas, suggestions, all welcome.

In gratitude. Dawn

UPDATE: Seems that the mainstream media may be clocking on. Here’s a link to

that mentions the Dr I heard from and her study (Mozhgan Savabieasfahani). But  note this telling quote from our friendly Department of Defense:

However, the U.S. Department of Defense believes the evidence is insufficient to determine whether war pollutants caused a rise in birth defects, said department spokeswoman Cynthia Smith. For example, researchers did not account for whether mothers had adequate nutrition or access to medical care during pregnancy, and they did not always consider whether the parents were cousins, she said.

“The studies have instead relied on the occurrence of conflict during specified years, and then presumed exposure of individuals to specific munitions,” Smith told “The studies have also presumed specific health effects from the claimed exposures without benefit of any scientific evidence proving the association of health effects with those exposures.”

Stay tuned.

Slow Down You’re Moving Too Fast

I haven’t been here in a while. I’ve been busy getting over my Paris depression by planning a bathroom renovation and our trip to the Basque country in June. (First world problems!) Always thinking ahead, and planning and planning and plotting. That’s what I do best. That and reminisce about the past, oh I am really good at that as well.

So this post is about how I think the Universe is trying to teach me a lesson. Slow down, sister. Be present. Plant your seed where you are, and nourish the young sprouts. Breathe.

There have been signs all around me lately. Like this picture that I posted on Facebook.


It made me think of Jordan, and a lesson I keep forgetting. She was 7 and we had just moved back to Maryland. It was a beautiful morning as I recall…I was in my single mother rush mode, trying to get her out the door for before school care so I could get to work, and Jordan was totally not cooperating. She kept staring out the window instead of eating her breakfast and I was growing increasingly frustrated. ”Hurry UP!!” I yelled. “We’re going to be late!!” But Jordan, oblivious to my stress, just kept looking out the window. “Look Mommy, that tree looks just like a dinosaur. A T Rex”. Argh, I was late and she was wasting my time looking at a tree! But then I looked, and, well, it really did look like a dinosaur! A perfect T Rex. And I’d never noticed – I had never taken the time to look, and I know that I never would have noticed if my darling girl hadn’t made me stop and look. So we both went out on our porch and just looked at the tree for a long time, something I did many times after that morning, to remind myself to take the time, to breathe…

Not our tree, but you get the idea...

Not our tree, but you get the idea…

So I need to remember that lesson, and look for the little things. Like that cute boy I saw while riding the Washington metro yesterday. We were both standing by the door with our earbuds in, lost in our own musical worlds. Then I noticed that he was pointing his toes and circling his ankles. Well, OK, whatever. Then suddenly he stood on his toes (he either had toe shoe tennis shoes on or some really strong toes!). He proceeded to “perform” various ballet movements with his feet, lost in his own world and oblivious to the fact that others were on the train. It was beautiful, and it made my heart light. Look around sister, and revel in the small things. Breathe.

I bought Jim some Riesling and Pinot Noir grape vines for Valentine’s Day. I thought it would be nice to plant the vines together, and cultivate the grapes, and then (most importantly, and my ulterior motive), make some wine together. The other night I was reading to him from the book on growing grapes and making wine that I also gave him for Valentine’s Day, and I came across a sentence that said “It will take at least two years before you will be able to make wine from your grape vines”. WTF? Two YEARS!!?? I can’t wait for 2 years. That’s TERRIBLE! I have to take care of the grapes for 2 YEARS before I can get my wine?” I whined. Jim just listened and said: “maybe grapes aren’t the best thing for you to grow. They take patience”. And as he knows, patience is, um, not my strong suit. A lesson wrapped up in a grape vine. Patience. Learn it sister. I hear that the 2015 vintage is expected to be awesome…



My final sign was this column by my favorite bad boy writer and yoga instructor Mark Morford. This is how it begins:
“Not long ago or maybe it was just last week, my friend had an epiphany.
She said, in a surprised and exasperated voice, in that tone you normally reserve for discovering you have obscenely bad breath or a third nipple or maybe a clump of shiny black hairs sticking out of your nose and no one bothered to tell you, she said, “Oh my God! Do you know what I just realized? I talk way too much.”

OMG, me TOO! I know it’s true. I so related to the woman in the article when she said that her mind starts racing, forming thoughts and responses way before someone is finished speaking. I don’t think I do it for the reason that Mark Morford’s friend realized she did, to keep people away, as a defense for getting close. But I do know that I need to slow down, to REALLY listen, without jumping in with my own 2 cents. It’s hard, because, well, anyone who knows me knows that I like to talk talk talk. And I try to be a good listener! But I know that I can do better. I need to do better. I can’t imagine meditating in silence for hours – but maybe that’s precisely why I should learn how to do it…

As RB says: “I should save my breath. I should bite my tongue. Cause the same sun shines on everyone. I should bite my lip. Let my big mouth sleep. Cause the whole damn world don’t turn on me.”

Slow down sister. Breathe…

Where I Try to Talk Myself Out of Missing Paris…

I probably shouldn’t be writing this post because I’m in the middle of a big ole missing-Paris big time funk. Post-Paris Depression, or PPD as my merry band of fellow Paris addicts calls it. (how’s your PPD? Oh really bad this time, how bout you?) Even after I had to “sleep” in the basement of Charles de Gaulle, on THIS

CDG hell

next to some guy who snored louder than a jet-plane engine – yes, even after that recent nasty experience, I still yearn for my favorite city.  I got it real bad.

Big sigh. I miss it all, the cafes


and the markets

marche d;aligre

and the art


and the light

montmarte light

and the bridges

bridge of sighs

and the bars


and the food

jacques melac

and the wine

and my friends

me and Queen Murielle

me and Loic, drinking wine

(and me drinking wine with my friends)

and the lifestyle – the life. I know, I know, I’ve waxed (hopefully just a teeny tiny bit eloquently) about what made me fall in love with Paris in the previous pages of my blog. So what’s a Paris lovin girl to do when she’s not there? It’s SO hard. Especially in cold, gray Februrary. Oh I know it was cold and gray when I was in Paris, but, hello, I was in PARIS! It’s totally different! SIGH.

Hmmm, maybe I can think of the things I’m not that crazy about! Yeah, maybe that will work. Perhaps if I pretend that I am on my cozy little cot in CDG, it might all come back to me…

I’m thinking! zzzzzzz

OK, there was this one time when I was in a shop in the Marais, and I asked the salesclerk, in French: “Cette robe, c’est combien ?” POINTING to the article of clothing that was hanging on the wall. Now, I know that my French accent needs some work, but I’ve managed to make myself understood in similar situations just fine, merci. Of course that was before encountering THE rudest salesclerk in all of Paris, who turned to me and said in the snootiest voice I’ve ever heard: “I’m going to speak to you in English because I didn’t understand your French”. Whooooeee. I was floored, and too bad I didn’t think of the perfect comeback (which was suggested to me by a French woman, which made it even better): “Et je vais vous parler en français parce que je n’ai pas compris votre anglais ” (And I’m going to speak to you in French because I didn’t understand your English”)

Touché!  Hell yeah!

But, that is really the only in-your-face-rude experience I’ve ever had. Some coldness from time to time, but most of the time people have been warm and forgiving of my struggles with their beautiful language. AAAHH, focus sister, you’re supposed to be thinking of the negative. OK – it can be frustrating and tiring, navigating the language. I wonder if I’ll ever get to the point where I’m not frustrated because I can’t express myself in the language of my city. I wonder. And who knows?

What else? Hmm. OK, I admit to missing the take-out coffee. I HATE Starbucks and everything it stands for, but sometimes I DO want it to go. That can be frustrating, having to sit and sit when I want to GO.

Starbucks takes over!

And if I think about it, there’s something about the uniquely American habit of chatting it up with strangers that I might possibly miss if I lived in Paris. It’s taken me a while to learn that nuance. In America, you most likely wouldn’t smile and give a big good day to the clerk at the 7-11, and they most likely wouldn’t look up from their tabloid to wish you a good day, with feeling. I like that about France. I like it that you say bonjour or bonsoir when you enter a shop, and bonne journée or bonne soirée when you leave, whether you buy something or not. Even in rental apartment buildings, people ALWAYS greet you when they pass by, because you have a defined relationship. I’ve become accustomed to that, and in the true meaning of that word, become ac”customed”, and it’s a custom I really appreciate.

But I wonder if I’d miss the easy way that we Americans have with strangers? We can strike up a friendly conversation anywhere, with anyone, and not give it any mind. We can become your best friend in 10 minutes! I know that it’s different in France, that people definitely keep to themselves more. Someone once remarked to me that in general, we Americans make lots of friends very quickly and easily, but a lot of it is on the surface. Whereas the French, in general, only make friends with a few, but the friendships tend to be deeper, in a way. Hmmm. Lots to ponder on that one.

I think it might take me just a few more trips to Paris to figure it all out, if I’m lucky. Because try as I might to dissuade myself from feeling so, even with everything, I still miss it, my most favorite place in the world. Paris,

je t’aime, the good, and the mauvaise…


me heart paris