Thursday, February 1, 2018

Puerto Rico Jan 2018

A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I were in Puerto Rico for my cousin’s wedding. And everyone has been asking me the same questions I was asking her, prior to our going.
Is PR still there?
Can they still have a wedding?
How is the island doing?

Hearing reports on the news is not the same as going there and talking to the people to hear their stories. We were in Puerto Rico for 4 nights. We talked to every cab and Uber driver, and every person we met along the way. And let me start by saying that everyone was incredibly nice, generous, strong, resilient, and hopeful. All qualities that I can’t imagine I would have in the same situation as them. They were all inspiring.

Flying in, you can see tons of homes covered in blue FEMA tarps where the roofs are very damaged. So you start to see the effects of the hurricanes before you even land.

As of Jan 11th, 30-40% of the island still didn’t have power. But what the news doesn’t say, is that even the parts that have power, don’t have it consistently. The power grids become overloaded very quickly as they are repairing them. So people would get power for a few days, then off a few days, or hours, etc. So they couldn’t depend on it.

Evidently, the US government approved the rebuilding of the original infrastructure, but not improvements. So instead of making a more stable power grid, or burying the power lines, they can only put them back up the way they were, which seems counter-intuitive for the future.

The rain forest is still not open for tourism. But the wedding was in the rain forest (and yes, we got rained out of having the ceremony outdoors) and driving through the hills, you see that all the houses have no power, and all the power lines are falling down. I was actually shocked that we, in large busses, were allowed to drive through at all. The place where the wedding was, Hacienda Siesta Alegre was running on a generator. It’s a beautiful place, high upon the hill. I don’t know what it was like before the hurricanes, but the roof was so damaged (not enough for a FEMA blue tarp though) that shelter from the rain was challenging, since it was still raining on us inside.

Tourism is still up and flourishing. The cruise ships never stopped coming, which was a big blessing to PR. However, the increase in the number of ships has been a challenge for the tiny island, already crowded in the Old San Juan area. We were told that normally, there are always 3 cruise ships there. The max was 6. And the week after we left, Marti Gras there, they were expecting 12. We could not MOVE in our Uber in the area, so I can’t imagine there being 9 more ships there at once. But they’re very grateful for the business, because it’s the only thing keeping them going. One driver said that right after the hurricane, drivers would sit at the airport for sometimes 12 hours just hoping to get even one ride during the day.

Driving around the island was definitely a challenge. Almost all of the stop lights were out. So cars have to use the honor system to merge and turn. Very slow process, but they’re certainly used to it after 4 months. I will say, Uber is not welcomed there by cab drivers (understandable) and since the hotels have agreements with the cab companies, you can’t call an Uber at the hotel. You have to walk a few blocks away. And if you’re too close, the cab drivers start screaming at you. Our Uber got EGGED by a cab driver. And our driver didn’t even flinch. And, how’s this for synchronicity, when we called an Uber home maybe 6 hours later…we had the same driver.

We had a discussion with people about Puerto Rico becoming a state. They said it might have been more likely before the hurricanes. But with most of the natural resources being destroyed, it wouldn’t be financially beneficial to mainland USA for PR to be accepted as a state. So their chances lessened, just when they needed it the most. A huge percentage of pharmaceuticals and IV drips are produced in PR. And now that the plants have been damaged, the US is running extremely low on necessary supplies. Ask any hospital. And yet, our government doesn’t seem to understand the value, or basic decency of helping our territory. They think they’re doing a great job of getting things back to normal. But there will never be a return to normal. Only a new normal. And think about how YOU would feel without phone, TV, a computer, internet, or a refrigerator for 4 months or more. I don’t think anyone could work fast enough.

My hats and heart go out to you Puerto Rico. Thank you for letting me visit. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Massage Safety advice

This week over 100 allegations of sexual misconduct came to light at Massage Envy, a national chain of massage locations. They kept all the allegations quiet, instead of reporting to the police. I’m not going to comment on what Massage Envy should or should not have done, and I’ve never worked at a Massage Envy. 

But it does bring me to contemplate any past experiences I’ve had getting massages, or that I’ve heard about from others, and some advice to give people wanting to get a massage. 

I’m extremely saddened and worried about the number of suits brought against Massage Envy, and about how ME handled it. There is already tremendous discrepancy between what people think about massage, or think they know about massage all over the country, and the world. Licensing and certification for massage therapy is different from US state to state, and from country to country. In the US, currently 43 states have some sort of regulation. But states like Vermont, still have NO regulation at all. Meaning you could simply call yourself a massage therapist and start practicing, with zero training. Compare that to states like NY that have over 1000 hours of training requirement before taking the state exam. And NY also require a certain amount of continuing education every 3 years (including Ethics) just like any other medical license. No wonder massage is respected in some areas, but not in others. No wonder most insurances don’t cover massage therapy, even though sometimes it’s THE BEST treatment for certain muscle conditions. And no wonder that massage has always been the butt of many jokes that cross lines about ethics, decency, morality, and sexuality. Until we have a national basis of training requirements and ethics, those lines will always be blurred. 

That said, if you’re in a state that has licensing or certification for massage therapy. I highly recommend that you go to licensed massage therapists. I’d say 100% of my clients have never asked if I’m licensed, although it clearly shows all my certifications on my website and business card. There are plenty of massage therapists that are talented bodyworkers, intuitive and considerate without being licensed. But I would not go to them. Ask them, before you book a massage, where they trained, what their specialties are, etc. Because you want to know that they know when to NOT give you a massage. That they know how to drape you to protect your privacy. That they speak your language and can communicate well with you about your comfort level and what you want to focus on. And if, God forbid, there was an inappropriate incident, you can report them to police, the American Massage Therapy Association, or with any other massage union which they might be affiliated. 

If you go to get a massage. The therapist should go over health history and current complaints with you first. They should make sure you don’t have open wounds, broken bones, contagious conditions, a fever, or a whole host of other conditions that would prevent you from having a massage. They should NEVER undrape private parts or breasts (unless you have specifically discussed this ahead of time for special conditions). If they brush against something they should not have (and I think in over 20 years of working this has NEVER happened by me), they should immediately acknowledge and apologize. Because if they don’t, they’re either clueless, or inappropriate. And either way, say you’d like to STOP the massage and GET OUT. 

I believe massage should feel GOOD. I believe you should feel cared for, relaxed, and safe. You should not be in real pain at any point. Not physically, and certainly not emotionally. So many clients say, “just do what you do. I trust you. You work as hard as you need to.” Etc. But it’s YOUR body, YOUR massage, YOUR money, YOUR time. You should walk out feeling better. You might be a little sore for a day or 2 depending on the treatment. But you should absolutely not feel worse. 

Even I have received bad massages. Massages where I was touched inappropriately. Massage where I was undraped inappropriately. Massages where I was massaged too hard, for too long. And it’s definitely challenging to say, “STOP.” You want to trust your therapist. You want to not be thinking, “Wow, that’s weird/uncomfortable/unnerving.” If you do. GET OUT. And tell someone. Anyone and everyone. Because if they’re doing it to you, they’re doing it to others. And they need to be held accountable. 

I feel badly that I never complained, or reported people that I probably should have. You want to be, “nice” you second guess yourself. You convince yourself that it’s not a big deal. And you don’t want to over react. Especially as women, I think we have a people-pleaser personality a lot. And I think many people prey on that and use it against us. Don’t let that happen. Stand up for yourself. Walk out. 
But please don’t stop getting massages. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Cannes, Final Day and merci!

Wed May 18, Day 3 of Cannes

Read travel, day 1 and day 2  first!

Wed morning I thought, screw it, we brought a bunch of dressy outfits here and haven’t used them. We CAN walk around in jeans all day. But we can just as easily wear a ball gown and tiara and fit in. So we picked something fun to wear and headed right to the red carpet. Well, the street in FRONT of the red carpet, and took a few photos. Here’s the secret about Cannes, you have to apply to attend the biggest screenings. We tried to apply, but probably did it wrong, and/or didn’t get any tickets. So we didn’t get to go. And, other than our own film, we hadn’t seen any other films. And so we tried to go to a screening of an upcoming American film, and didn’t get in. So we tried plan B and got into a collection of short films. I won’t say which ones. But as I’ve always said, seeing horrible films or performances inspire me more than brilliant ones. I certainly don’t seek them out, but when it happens that I see something dreadful, I KNOW I can do better. And these shorts were…inspiring.

After that, we had the weirdest dining experience of the week. A kebab shop on the side street, totally packed. And reminded me of the restaurants on restaurant row in NYC where the guys stand outside and practically wrestle you into their business to keep you away from the other places. The service was startling. I watched them move a pair of women, in the MIDDLE of their eating, to a smaller table to be able to seat a trio. I had food served to me OVER another table (because the tables all abutted each other). I asked for more sauce, and they brought a giant squeeze bottle out, leaned over someone else, and just squirted a whole ½ cup of it onto my plate. Not gently. No asking. And they were NICE about it, but it scared the crap out of me and made me laugh very hard.

In the afternoon, we took in 2 more panels. A live podcast of Screen Talk, and a panel on fundraising for short films. Which didn’t really talk about fundraising, but did talk about producing short films and was interesting.

Our last meal, we met up with Karolina again and slowly walked home wandering through streets of shops we never saw open. Tomorrow morning we eat breakfast and leave Cannes.

Did I achieve everything I’d hoped? Nope. Not even close. My favorite lecture (David Lyman) always talked about how to set goals at the start of a week such as this. That before you come, you set goals. Day 1 you realize half those goals won’t be achieved, and you create new ones. But really, the best weeks are ones that inspire you to make a list of what to do AFTER that week. I came home with a stack of business cards, new contacts. A stack of flyers of my film to send to people. And enough inspiration to create more films and get to go back to Cannes, bigger and better. I’m glad I went. I’m proud of myself for all the French I spoke. I didn’t have nearly as bad luck with eating as I did last summer. 

It was an honor to be invited. Thank you all for the tips, the support, and reading my travel log!
for more photos and posts, please see our Thank You Lisa Facebook page

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Day 2 of Cannes Anyone Want a Flyer?

Tues May 17, Day 2 at Cannes
 If you missed the Travel Day or Day 1, check that out! 

 Happy Norwegian Independence Day! Marthe’s from Norway and trying to make connections there. And she spent a lot of time today celebrating the holiday as best as possible. And I’m sporting 2 tiny Norwegian flags in support.

Today we went to one of my bookmarked breakfast places. Much cheaper, equally lovely. We also stumbled upon a flea/farmer’s market, which is my favorite thing. And I picked up 2 tiny souvenirs, although our last day I went back and bought shoes! We walked through the shopping area of town and I found the coolest chocolate shop. I know I can’t really eat chocolate, but I had to try a million things. So beautiful and yummy. And yes, THAT was one of my favorite parts of today.

The rest of the afternoon was pretty frustrating. We ran between Short Film Corner, The American Pavillion, the Documentary Corner, and town. Here’s the thing, the festival is HUGE. None of the above are in within 100 or 500 ft of each other. So it takes time to run around. I think we did 25,000 steps today (wearing my garmin pedometer!) and it’s tiring! Especially since we’re basically still carrying all the flyers we ordered, and we cannot find places to put them. We hand them to people we’re meeting, along with our business cards, but I would not order flyers again. Every stack we’ve put down has mysteriously disappeared shortly after. Also, there are many people to meet with at the Documentary Corner, but they’re almost 100% international type buyers. No one really is connected to the US (at least that I could find) and so there wasn’t anyone I wanted to meet with. I had gone on Cinando (the festival website to connect all industry people at several major festivals) and contacted many people ahead of time, but nothing came through. So we’re winging it all. As some of you know, I’m ridiculously freakin’ shy when it comes to approaching people or walking into a crowd. So Martha started walking up to people she didn’t know and introducing me. Or daring me. Whatever she could so I’d actually talk to some documentary filmmakers, which I so desperately wanted to do. Thank you Martha. And when I say there’s a crowd, I mean, we went to the SFC happy hour and there were probably 400 people crammed into a 70 foot space. I started hyperventilating. Texted Marthe (thank you Verizon, money well spent) that I was hiding all the way in the back), she found me and we skedaddled somewhere I could breathe.

Also today, I went to a documentary panel and keynote address. But although I love watching documentaries, I’m just not into that 99% of them seem to be about horrible, depressing topics. There are fun stories too people! It started late. I’m jetlagged. Comfy seats. You get the picture. Good nap.

Also the nice part of today was Martha and me having dinner right on the water, but away from the festival. And again I’ll say that I find everyone in France to be incredibly lovely. I’m a New Yorker. I’m used to people bullet pointing everything they say and do and not giving a damn about me. But when I ask for directions, or help with ordering food, etc, I think everyone could NOT be any nicer or more helpful. Although I will say, I’ve worked my butt off learning French this time and it has REALLY helped. So I approach in pretty good French and maybe that’s a better jumping off point.

It should also be noted that while Marthe and I spent time at dinner talking about life, and the festival, we also discussed business and our future together. So we networked with each other. We cultivated our relationship. And we confirmed that we like working together. And THAT is what this business, and networking, is really about. You meet people. You like some of them. You work together. It goes well. You want to do it again. That’s not just how films are made, that’s how ALL work is made. So when someone snarky says, “It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know.” Well maybe they already met that person and didn’t like them. And who wants to work with people they don’t like?! If you’re a pain in the neck, no one wants to work with you again. And word gets out fast. I’m pretty demanding. I expect professionalism on set. I expect people to be organized and respect my time and effort. I expect them to be talented and have vision. I have no patience for anything other than that. I expect a film set to feel like a team, or a family. A functional, kind family. And if it doesn’t…I’m moving on and not looking back. It’s a 2 way street. And today’s street’s in French.

Speaking of streets. I said we brought flyers. Waste of money. Not only are they heavy, and we couldn’t find places to leave any, but eventually, Marthe started handing people on the street, on the way home, a flyer. I laughed hysterically the whole time she did it. She even put some on motorcycle seats that were parked. So yes, I’m afraid we may have littered in Cannes. Desole.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Cannes Day one, getting our barings.

Monday May 16th, 2016. Day 1 of Cannes.

Seriously, thank goodness Marthe has such a great sense of direction and has been to the city of Cannes before, or I’d be lost every minute. She marvels at me several times a day and says, “really? You don’t know where you are?” But together we make a good team.

We started with a wild goose chase for the elusive breakfast. We wanted to pick up our passes for the Short Film Corner, and then to the American Pavillion, where we also have passes (BTW, that’s the only country’s pavilion that charges an entry fee). There are breakfasts at the SFC, but you have to sign up for them. And we got confused. We just kept asking people where the breakfast was, and was sent to a producer’s breakfast where we were not invited. So we roamed around side streets until we found a great, but unbelievably expensive place to eat. It was really good, but wow. I accidently ordered 2 orange juices and so I drank a 6 Euro juice I didn’t want.

The rest of the day was mostly exploring the festival. They gave us welcome bags with a LOT of catalogs and schedules. And it weighed 20 lbs. So I tossed most of it at breakfast while Marthe unbelievably carried it all around all day. I had brought 6 lbs of flyers and cards about our film, “Thank You Lisa” and I had to put them in a separate bag so I wouldn’t be over the weight limit. So I was not about to repack my bag with more weight to go home.

There were only 2 good things about having passes to the American Pavillion (AmPav), and FYI if you are only going to the festival for a few days, you can buy day passes for 20 Euros, which we did not know. 1: charging stations and wifi. But honestly, I bet almost every pavilion has that. We did at the Norwegian one too. And 2: panel discussions. And AmPav might be the only Pavillion to have those. Today we went to 2 panels, one on the state of documentaries and one on women in film. Both interesting. Although jetlag was not helping me. There’s also a mini restaurant at AmPav where you can get American food. But really? I’m in France. Why would I want American food? They also have a bizarre company supplying coffee type drinks, power bars and other supplements called, Bullet Proof. Mr. Bullet Proof was there talking and signing autographs. It’s supposedly all natural. But the stuff in it, was not stuff I wanted. Every cup of coffee has about a 1/3 a stick of butter in it. I’m dairy free. And I don’t drink coffee. But even if I did. I don’t want it in the same cup.

The best thing today was our meeting of a group of women from LA. It’s a secret group. I can’t tell you who they are, or I have to kill you. But we connected prior to Cannes and then had a little drink hour. We expected 8 or more, but it was a tight 7 here, Marthe Einseth, Jane Clark, Reena Dutt, Karolina Mikolajczak, Fawzia Mirza, Alisson Fhal, and me. They’re awesome women. So I was really happy to sit and chat with Americans in a relaxing atmosphere and hear about other people’s experiences here and in media in general. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Cannes Film Festival, 24 hours to get there.

Cannes Film Festival, Short Film Corner
Sat 5/14 to 5/15/16
 So a great short film I'm in, "Thank You Lisa" about end of life choices (I play the counselor/friend assisting the daughter to help her mom end her life) was accepted at the Cannes Short Film Festival's Short Film Corner in France. It's basically the biggest, most overwhelming film festival in the world, and the SFC is a tiny fest within the fest where young filmmakers (no laughing at the word "young") go and get to mingle with the higher ups. Marthe Einseth is the amazing writer/actress/producer who put together this film, along with director, Roy Arwas and his production team. And I'm really proud to be a part of it. Marthe and I decided to attend the festival together. This is her first festival. And she doesn't speak French. This is NOT my first festival, and I've been working intently on French so I won't get lost. Marthe has a great sense of direction. I do not. And she's the perfect companion/compliment to my travel tendencies. 
 I had a sense of impending doom instead of excitement as I left my NYC apartment at 7pm on Saturday, knowing I wouldn’t reach my next residence in Cannes, France until about 7pm the next day…for a 3 ½ day trip. Crazy.
  I travel a lot. And mostly on my own. But since I don’t have terribly good luck traveling in foreign countries on my own, I was a bit nervous. Or freaking out. But quietly. Inside my head.
 Leg 1: JFK to London Gatwick. No problem. Sean (my boyfriend) helped me roll my suitcase to the subway and I knew it’d be fairly easy the rest of the way. I hate overnight flights. But I am a fairly good sleeper, and I got some REM in, during the 7 hour flight.
 London Gatwick. OK. I choose this connection. I wanted English speaking, “smaller” airport. But because I booked on (which I’d never heard of), I had 2 different airlines. And that meant, I had to completely exit, going through customs (I have Global Entry and TSA Pre Check, but Gatwick doesn’t have that yet), getting my luggage, go back through security, and re-check in for my next flight. The airport lounge/shops/restaurants are great. I found my favorite, a revolving sushi bar. Super fast and I know I can eat there. The unique thing is that people stand around the sign that posts the gate, just like Penn Station or Port Authority. I checked my flight, and it would be another 30 minutes until the gate was posted. Really? I hadn’t changed my watch, and I’m not used to a 24 hour clock, but that was the only flight to Nice, British Airways. So I ate my sushi and then checked again. Now they’re announcing it on the loud speaker, and I can see on the board, as I run by, gate 104. Shoot. I’m at the completely wrong end of the terminal. So I giddyup. Get to gate 104 and it’s EasyJet, not British Airways. Weird. But I get in line. Dumb. Once I reach the gate person, she says I’m at the wrong place. Go find a BA person (no boards nearby). I find one, she looks it up…gate 574. Yup. That’s exactly where I was, 15 minutes ago. The exact opposite end, last gate. She says, “RUN!” So I run.
 Here’s the only lucky part. Because I checked baggage, they really didn’t want to leave without me. OR, they’d have to remove my bag from underneath for safety. So I come running. And they see me. The plane’s closed. The gate’s closed. BUT, they yell, “what’s your name?” “Kummel! 28A!” (they turn to their co-workers outside) “It’s her!” DAMN are you lucky. Open the door!”
 So that means, anyone on my plane that’s continuing to Cannes, is going to recognize me as THAT WOMAN that held their plane up and went to the wrong gate.
 I did have a whole row to myself, and did NOT burst into tears upon reaching my seat. Or throw up. But I would have, should I have missed my flight.

 The rest of the evening was mostly uneventful. Got the bus from Nice to Cannes. Got a cab to my Airbnb. Great apartment that straight up the hill from town. With a beautiful pool I’ll probably never get to use. I sat in the lovely back patio just to say I did. And I didn’t get too lost looking for a place, any place, to grab food for the evening. Martha, my filmmaking partner for this venture, joined me later on and we made a plan for Monday. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

France this Summer, sans gluten et lait.

I said, “I’m going to France!”
And everyone said, “Oh, wait til you taste the bread, the cheese, the wine!”
I said, “I can’t. I’m gluten free and dairy free. I can’t drink alcohol. And a whole bunch of other things.”
They pause for reflection, then say, “Why are you going to France?”
Good question. I had a vision of my boyfriend and me driving through the French countryside, through the gorgeous vineyards (with wine I can’t drink, and he doesn’t either), stopping at amazing places to eat along the way. I heard a rumor that things were changing and there’d be gluten free options for bread. Maybe dairy free options for cheese. But what about everything cooked in butter? Cooked in cream? I’m living on the edge. I booked the trip. 9 nights, 3 in Paris, 2 in Strasbourg, 2 in Beaune, and 2 in Annecy. Along the way, we hit Colmar, Dijon and Lyon too. THEN I did my research. I found about a dozen places in Paris that have gluten free options, or things well marked, you know the kind, destination stops for people like us, people who have to ask a million questions before we eat anything.
And oh yeah, I don’t speak French. At all.
So, add learning French to my preparation for an already lengthy preparation for this trip. I memorized the most important thing first, “Je suis allergic a gluten et lait.” I wasn’t emotionally prepared for the looks I got from every candy store worker, waiter, dining room attendant. They looked at me so sadly as if they’re thinking, “You poor girl. Why’d you come to France? There’s nothing to eat in this whole country for you.”
The good news is everyone knew what I said and they knew what it meant. The bad news is, only about ½ the waiters could actually figure out that cheese has milk in it. Butter is milk. Fried things encased in batter is gluten, and oh yeah, I can’t just peel that layer off. Occasionally I would find the nicest restaurant staff who would try their very best to make sure I could eat. But it was heartbreakingly few and far between.
The good news is, since July 1st, 2015, (we went July 2nd) every restaurant in France is required to have a list for the customers of all allergens in every dish. The bad news is, in about 20 meals, only 2 times was this offered to me. A waiter told me most restaurants are lazy and don’t have it yet.
The good news is, if you’re going to Paris, there are those dozen bakeries with gluten free options. But, unless you know the French schedule, everything’s always seemingly closed when you want to get there. Lunch is generally over by 2, and most places don’t reopen til 7pm for 2 to 3 hours. 3 of 5 places I bookmarked were closed when we tried to go. I was happily beside myself to find an Exki (a chain with really well marked food and several options, including the ONLY gluten free pastry I found, a tiny chocolate brownie) at the Paris airport when we flew home. So I ended up having lots of food stash in my carryon bag for the 8 hour flight back to New York City.
If you’re venturing past Paris, you’re going to have very few options depending on your food restrictions. There are plenty of macarons, but one person can only eat so many of those. And even a woman running a macaron stand (the American kind, not the French kind) told me to not eat anything there. At our 4 hotels, I had various reactions from my servers to my breakfast (breakfast is always included) requests. I had some amazing breads, but I also was brought a 1980’s rice cake. Some places had soy milk, some didn’t. No one went through the buffet telling me what I could eat safely.

If you speak French well, you might have a much better time finding food and communicating with the servers. I was told at the gorgeous, massive, candy store filled with 100% nothing I can eat, that the country’s definitely going in the direction of being more aware and creating more options. And that perhaps, in another 10 years, it will be easier for someone like me to travel in France. It was still beautiful. We still drove around. We met lovely French people every day who were only too happy to help us find our way, and then apologize for how bad their English is. Really? Lovely people. It’s all incredibly rich and yummy, and then makes me feel awful, lethargic and depressed. Not ever worth it. All my reviews of hotels and restaurants are on yelp. Many more photos are on facebook in folders of the town names. Bon voyage!