PNW Part II

Learning is just plain easier here.  There isn’t a growing frustration when a student isn’t ‘getting it’.  The instructor takes full responsibility.  I’m sure this correlates with Seattle ranking #1 as the most literate city in the United States.  That and annoying weather (It finally got to me after enough bicycle rides and lack of visibility.  It has been unseasonably dry, which explains my initial bias.) 5 months out of the year.  These people are not only kind in demeanor, they also genuinely encourage personal growth.  It’s inherent in the culture.

I’m back in the job market with one warm lead on a pizza bar I’ve been eyeing since I arrived in Tacoma.  Along with my favorite coffee shop, Cosmonaut (only three employees, each working there for 2 years and not planning on leaving), Medi’s Pizza is the only place I fully desire to spend hours of my time laboring at.  I’ve been in there every two weeks for the last 12 weeks to check on my resume (resume, right? yeah, the service industry receives a bit more esteem on this edge of the continent).  The owner tells me to come back after my trip to Vegas.

I spent all of my money in Vegas and won $73 on a $20 investment loaned to me by an inebriated Big A after 5 minutes of playing slots.  We split the winnings and I now have cash to get the buses back from SEA-TAC Int’l to the apartment.  Oatmeal and potatoes will provide for my cells until I can unworriedly come across the next solution.

The second day back, fully recovered, I walk into the antique arcade adorned pizza bar and walk out with a schedule of training days.  The Aussie’s I’ve met traveling wouldn’t be surprised that it worked out.

 —

A friend who makes no mistakes is not a friend at all.  Someone who is a total mess, makes your life awkward and uncomfortable, and never stops watching for that rare opportunity to be there when you slip, that is a friend.

Bryce asks me to make a large custom pizza for a particular customer.  I put a good bit of love into the order and garnish it with a seven-leafed basil ornament over the intersection of the 4 wheel-cuts for no pre-determined reason other than it felt like a good idea at the time.  The older gentlemen, receiving the order, tips the bartender with a bag of eight delicious smelling cookies.  The final 3 hours were nearly dead, so I had the opportunity to enjoy Saturday Night Live, which is played throughout the restaurant’s speaker system.  Bryce and I get out at a very reasonable hour and lock up the store after a couple of shots and jamming out some Pogo Pulp Fiction through the system via my smartphone.  Feeling right with 4 cookies in my hoodie pouch, a wad built of 4 Jacksons, 3 Lincolns, 5 soft Wash’es, and 12 hard Wash’es, I tote my lady’s cartoon alligator colored, large, shiny purse and walk my bicycle to Papa Smurf a block and a half away.

A girl from the 2nd story balcony adjacent the half-way house behind Ubi’s asks if I play guitar.  It’s now close to 3:00am and I wonder if I am being solicited.  I swallow judgment and invite mas comunicación.  “You want a slightly broken guitar for parts before I throw it away?  I don’t know what kind it is.”  I reply with a chuckle of polite enthusiasm, “Hell yeah!”  Standing on a pile of concrete masonry units, I receive the base of a classical guitar, strung with the classic mistake, which over tensioned the truss-rod-less neck and caused the instrument ending injury.  To keep the kindness rolling, I inquire if she partakes and volley her response with a cookie.  Good old fashioned Tacoma transaction.

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Leaving Comfort

If you went through everything that I went through, and I went through everything that you went through, then we would both agree that we both make sense.

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The subways in Mexico City are cleaner than any I’ve seen in the U.S.

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Julie and I hang out with our Mexican family for a few days and see the capital city during the country’s independence celebration.  Julie gets bed sick and the city is much calmer than I anticipated.  I get a good vibe walking around downtown after dark and see why it is my third mentor’s 3rd favorite city behind San Francisco and Paris.  The feeling I remember is similar to the 10 hours I spent in downtown Chicago.  Clean, free streets.  We go to a restaurant that has specialized in churros for the past 60 or 70 years and enjoy the tasty dessert and fine chocolate milk.  I feel incredibly safe against all of my prescribed, hear-say knowledge.

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Back in the air

Emotion catcher on the purple drug-rug (poncho-hoodie I bought from Julie that she bought at the artisan market outside of San Cristobal de las Casas) which is in my lap.  Scribe in hand: currently doing work.  Seat belt fastened, traveling from Mexico City, Houston bound via pressure differentials and thrust.

Heading “home” is a trusty generator of new, strong, and confused thoughts.  Making sense of them is easier months after they are documented or after a couple of drinks.  Right now, my resources are memory and the inside of this plane.  Coming back from vacation isn’t all that difficult.  Sort the mail, check the plants, say ‘Hi’ to the neighbors.  But I have no neighbors yet because I’ve never been to Seattle.  I don’t know which coffee shop or bar I’m going to work at.  The old engineering career floats up from the opportunity vat in my skull.  I feel out of place and awkward, unsure for 15-20 seconds if I’m moving my metaphorical checkers piece into an advantageous square.

The plane is going nuts right now!  I mean really, really nuts!  This would be a hell of an attraction at Six-Flags.  Imagine being strapped to a pissed off bull on a trampoline.  The turbulence ceases and I am able to listen to the trailer playing on the back of the headrest 20 inches in front of my face for The Great Gatsby with Leonardo DiCaprio and I remember that if I want money and time and to experience true value, it must be done with bold moves, razor analytics, and sacrifice.  Which leads me to the revalidation that the only thing that matters is being me while I can.  All of the rest falls into place.  The mist settles and glowing invisible rays return to my dorsal.  ‘Ahhh!’ echoes after my exhale.  Relaxed, I move my pen to the customs form handed to me prior to takeoff.

We are all lost.  We try not to let anyone else know how lost we are, try to maintain a confident, focused appearance.  I just finished a book on automated income called Four Hour Work Week (thanks Finnegan) written by a guy who made “the life” for himself.  He developed a product, sells it online, and has removed himself from the process so that he only has to monitor it occasionally.  Lots of people have done it.  He’s not a billionaire and doesn’t really care because he lives pretty minimalistic (excepting an Aston Martin, full Kendo armor, a luxury treehouse, and some other toys).  He speaks 6 languages, lives all over the world, won the national kickboxing tournament in China, held a world record in Argentine Tango, and the list goes on.  Cool dude, 30 years old, knows it all.  At the end of the book he includes tips for when he’s feeling confused and cites methods of how a person like Steve Jobs kept his course through life.  For 30 years, the CEO of Apple looked in the mirror every morning and asked, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today.”  Brad Pitt, Bill Gates, Mick Jagger, and Michael Jordan all have bad days and times of doubt.  We all have architecturally the same human brains and are all equipped with emotions.  The difference between those deemed “successful” and the rest (in the grand scheme of things, I think the ones who smile genuinely the most are the most successful) is they develop and use some sort of lifestyle compass.

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Mt. Ranier is (rarely) visible in the background

Judgment is a two-way street

When I came back from Central America, I felt a heavy disapproval from my fellow US citizens.  The signal I was picking up was actually on the same frequency of that which I was broadcasting.  In my newfound snobbery, I thought the complete strangers were “doing it all wrong” and “just don’t get it.”  I felt informed and entitled.

Confucius said, “To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.”

Getting off the airplane in Seattle, I started experiencing the same quiet anxiety.  I was mixing back in with those who don’t leave the country.  Outside of the airport, I was with those who don’t leave Seattle.  But that was just a blind assumption.  I caught myself generalizing each and every person that appeared in my scope of vision.  The arrogant self-superior outlook was reflecting my inner, defensive inferiority of being criticized.  For some reason, when I am in the midst of a foreign population, I have respectful feelings of equality.  Respect comes naturally because, after all, I’m in their country (a concept that many Americans don’t acknowledge ((2-weeks of annual vacation keeps the blinders centered on the to-do list)), which gives us the honor of being the #1 most despised tourists in the world), and because respect breeds appreciation, I often develop kind relationships with natives.  Back home I get two-way disrespect, which becomes two-way dubiousness, hence the desire to avoid eye contact.

Once I realized that the frequency of interfering waves were emanating from me, I looked at the facts.  I don’t know a thing about any of these people.  I’ve been surprised as hell after having a fascinating 3-hour conversation with a bland-looking Denny’s waitress at 2 in the morning in the middle of Nowhere, Indiana.  At one point this middle-aged, unkempt, Caucasian coffee pourer wrote the most viewed blog on the continent of Africa.  I don’t know them, and they don’t know me.  I told myself, “Stop analyzing people!”  This inner tendency struggle is non-existent when my energy is through the roof and I’m full of optimism.  On off-days or when feeling unconfident due to uncertain surroundings, a defense mechanism overpowers my character reception.  I get suspicious of all people unknown.  While this is a reasonable instinct, education proves it to be morally and statistically weak.  Keep your eyes open, but don’t be a categorizing bigot.  People are the same all over.  How many evildoers do you know in your hometown?

 Don’t let someone label you by first not labeling them.

Through my habit of “just wing it”, I didn’t fully research how to get to Storey’s apartment.  He is out of town on business for the next two days, but left the key on the fire extinguisher out front.  An evening landing means I am catching the last bus to Tacoma.  The route ends six miles shy of the address I have marked down.  No cabs in sight so I walk across the foggy hills, get map directions and a candy bar at 7Eleven, and arrive at a HUGE apartment complex.  There must be 600 front doors.  I only have the street address, no unit number.  It’s after 2AM when I finish my tour, hoping to find a 1997 Toyota Camry with Georgia plates.  No luck, so I bundle up behind a garage with my poncho and watch some Flight of the Concords on my laptop.  If I try every fire extinguisher, A: it will take until daybreak to reach every one, and B: I’ll probably get the cops called.  Around 4AM, I start thinking about a warm jail cell.  At 5, I start walking into town to warm up and find coffee and Wi-Fi.   Storey is up early, and I am passed out on his warm, memory foam mattress by 7AM.  I woke up at 6:45AM, Mexico City time, the day before.  Getting to sleep isn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Sleep is healing as we evolve.   Our nervous system looks primitive compared to the aesthetically divine circulatory system.  This is my observational memory from the Bodies exhibit in Denver a few years ago.

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Tacoma’s quintessential ‘small town America’ charm

Waiting for my first paycheck from my new cooking job, I am pleasantly forced to enjoy the simple and free things: music, breezes, sunshine, and time with others.  Breezes are seriously underrated.  Sensational evidence of moving, uncountable, invisible particles floating for miles in front and above is pretty freaking cool.  Only in hot regions do they get the credit they deserve, but even then, the amazement is incomplete.

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The famous Tacoma Narrows.  These bridges do a little better than the first one.

Downs

Gasping inhale and the last thing I hear is a resonating, “So what’s up Gregory?”  Just an intense dream.  I look around the apartment blurrily, still half asleep, at a shiny, black armored dragon looking at me sideways.  I straighten my vision and it’s the bulbing segmented legs and cornice of the table.  I turn around on my other side to move some blood around in my brain (a trick I taught myself as an early adolescent to change my visuals). In the reflection of the fireplace doors are two sets of symmetrical eyes, white and red.  The lights of our modem reflecting off the black glass.  Man, I can’t get a break.  I get up and take a leak.  Curious to see if I have to get up for work , I check the laptop. 2:22.  I walk in the kitchen to grab some water before going back to sleep.

This, for me, is a low, just like any addict has downs after extreme highs.  It’s a lot of fun to be at the top of a rollercoaster, but the feeling that has come and gone since I stopped backpacking a couple of weeks ago is enough make me never want to try heroin.  Bad feelings.  Luckily, I only went a little ways down the traveling rabbit hole.

I watch Requiem For A Dream the other day to attempt to learn more about heroin addiction, and instead light is shone on my own.  The movie also displays television and food addiction of the junkie’s mother, which leads to a diet pill addiction.  It shows the deadly similarity between all addictions and unmonitored behavior.  In college, a friend told me never to do blow because I have an addictive personality.  But, what if I found a drug with a similar potency that was perfectly condoned by everybody.  Then I’d be free to pump as big a dose through my life-stream as I wanted.  I could truly get deep into my own addiction.  Traveling is great.  It expands the mind, soul, creativity, and showers you with the most pure feelings of ecstasy I’ve ever felt.

This can have certain aftereffects on your psyche.  First, it makes you a snob right off the bat.  You feel important, entitled, and you should.  You are accomplishing an amazing human feat.  But Lance Armstrong wasn’t exactly right when he posted gloating tweets of him and his 7 Tour de France shirts.  He was found out to be a total dickhead.  Just because you are doing something out of the ordinary, something that maybe other people want to do, but can’t right now, doesn’t make you superior to them.  It’s all about circumstance and fluctuating levels of courage.  Maybe you were extremely traveled in a past life, and that is why you may not have the “need”. Who knows?  The point is that traveling doesn’t mean anything other than you had 150 bucks lying around and grabbed a flying bus to another city.  With a hundred other strangers, nonchalantly doing the same thing.  A million people travel everyday.  Nothing new.

Aside from negative effects it may have on your character, traveling can be hard to turn off.  Like any junkie, getting used to something that makes you feel a certain way generally makes you want to keep feeling that way.  Making an addict out of yourself is deep in your subconscious and tends to come out in an independent striving for freedom.  It’s false freedom because you are hooked on the catalyst.  You can’t feel those good positive, self-assuring vibes without it.  This is the problem.  Our psyche adapts and all of a sudden a 5-day vacation isn’t enough anymore.  Two weeks becomes two months, and you finally are in a constant state of: I need more.  This may sound silly, but I assure you it isn’t.  Becoming rooted is a scary defeat in your mind and takes some psychological rehabilitation (priority un-structuring isn’t fun) to clear your outlook.

I’m reading Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People right now, deliberately working through exercises with diligence, as an attempt to realign my life values.  The book is brilliant and very thorough.  Its blunt insight surprises me; it’s based on books written by the most successful people of the United States over the last 200 years.  ‘Successful’ people by and large lead lives with balance and integrity.  There are strong trends linking a good future and good mental health.  Before I get on any more wild rides, I think it is very important to re-examine what is really important.

 

A lot of people tell me I’m smart now, which I feel isn’t a very accurate descriptor, and any differences in the way I think are simply from giving myself a couple of years to develop and reorganize my observations, and I’ve still got a long, long way to go.  I’ve noticed more and more how fascinatingly similar we people are.  I mean we are all pretty much the exact same.  The only difference is the experiences that hang around our outsides.  They don’t even stay that long and don’t go too deep either.

I feel like I’m getting more and more confused since I got back.  That was kind of the idea, though.  People are great.  I like looking at them in the same light.  It’s too common in the culture of US citizens that we look up and down to people.  I believe that is the unnecessary root cause for lots of problems in our population and even more in our frustrated spirit.

We rarely go through an event more difficult than our perception of it.  When we do, it’s a good thing because it’s proof that we are alive and gives reason to celebrate when it’s over.

Today I disagree with the crazy king of the universe theory (Steve introduced me to this perception analogous debate of whether an insane person has it good or bad) because you are alone.  When I am soaring, using only my wings and air, I will again agree.

First Glimpse of NorthWest Persons

I’m gonna guess around half of people I have encountered here are passive aggressive Negative Nancies.  I am using this time of my life to work on my armor.  I want to feel the way I do because of me.  It’s time to stop being so damned impressionable.  I’ve been close enough to dangerous situations to appreciate the fact that when the game is over, it’s over in a hurry.  There are no warning signs, no gradual dimming of the lights or cast in order of appearance.  Life takes place as usual and then out of the freaking blue, the lights cut off.  There isn’t even time to say, “Hey, what the hell?!”

So, I enjoy the hell out of being alive, breathing, walking around, and all of the blue flies and butterskies that I can.  When I am surrounded by herds of individuals who perpetuate the downside of everything around them throughout every half hour of every day, it affects my demeanor or at least my temperament.  I have educated myself enough at least to know when my instincts are telling me to get out of an environment.  Unfortunately, especially in this “greatest country in the world”, blissful free spirits are the exception.  That has been the case with many people I talk to at bus stops, at my cooking job, and at bars where I go to socialize every week or two.

Perhaps it is a matter of perception.  If you are in a room with 8 nice people and 2 assholes, you will remember “those people” being very unpleasant, though 80% weren’t.  My boss at my coffee house / spice store is cool as shit.  People running thrift stores, high-end grocery stores, and other hippie establishments tend to have employees who are overwhelmingly and authentically happy about any and everything.  As a public school going, country fun having, non-reading, just looking to see how drunk I can get weekend teenager, I just did what ever I thought everyone else thought (with the exception of working diligently and fervently on the task at hand) I should be doing.  I don’t remember voicing a real opinion or having the inclination to make up my own mind about an issue.  There were always at least a few people through which I could process or adopt an opinion.

I had a habit of starting a conversation by pointing out something bad.  Yesterday, at the bus stop, a typical “the weather sucks doesn’t it?” conversation was brought on to me by a stranger at the bus stop.  I entertained the challenge for a moment with a rebuttal about how Seattle is ranked 44th in the nation as the rainiest city.  In other words, almost any city you can name gets more rain than “the rainy part of the country.”  The automaton continued as if I gave zero information and pointed out how freezing cold it was (about 50 degrees Fahrenheit) and how the bus stop should have a heater (we were in a roofed structure complete with chairs and four glass walls to protect us from the barely misting elements).  I smiled and walked outside to stand in the rain and read.  The pages of my book remained dry and the fresh air tasted better in my lungs out in the open parking lot.

I’ve decided that I will continue working as a cook for three reasons: 1) the knowledge I am getting would be kind of expensive to obtain at a culinary institute, 2) it is good practice for not letting whiny people bring me down, and 3) we do have a pretty good time at work aside from the demoralizing interjections from upper management.

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Top of Mt. Si

Climbing Package

The last couple of days I have been feeling worse and worse.  It started unnoticeably slow and I didn’t even know I was bummed out until it was over.  The following are details on steps deemed necessary to ascend from the valley of a mini depression.  For understanding and internalization purposes, an example of my latest resurface is used.

Date: November 11, 2011.  I am working on my day off – perceived at the time of writing to be irrelevant.  I just slept 10 hours – factor, of what significance – unknown.

The morning gym routine is shrunk from the usual hour-long process to 15 minutes and is coupled with eating a bowl of oatmeal and getting ready for work.  I am not looking forward to 1 ½ mile walk to the main bus station, but the sky and land are dry (plus 1).  I slide open the sliding glass door to the back patio and notice the air isn’t uncomfortably cold (plus 1).  During my workout, I hear the beeping of a kneeling bus picking up passengers at the side of my apartment building.  This answers my question about the bus schedule on a holiday, I don’t have to walk to the main stop after all (plus 2).  Now my blood is flowing from the warm-up and stretching and I get to read on the way to work.  My attitude for the morning is under control.  It all started with two proactive steps: get up before the last possible minute and do something that will make me feel better.  In other words, stop passively waiting for good emotions to come pick me up.  Instead, pick myself up.  The only question I have: Would I have noticed the humidity, temperature, or bus if I had snoozed until the last possible minute and been in a complete rush to get out the door?

Every single time I have felt sad, lonely, bored, abandoned, helpless, or unable to achieve something, it was always 100% my fault.  Not a person on this Earth can make you feel a certain way except by causing physical sensation.  At the very most, you have set expectations of a person and then their actions did not meet your prediction.  This is similar to predicting which way a bird will fly and then getting upset when it turns around and heads a different direction.  Most of the time, it isn’t even a conflict of hypothesis/results.  Even when things go our way, we still choose to focus on the negative shading that gives us depth and contrast.

The moment we put forth the smallest effort to acknowledge a detail which we admire, our brainwaves flip and the first positive step is not far after this moment.  The “What is happening?” becomes the ”What can I do?”  We take back the reigns of our reality.  Being in control of our destiny is a better feeling than being a victim of fate.

It’s that simple and I am writing this in hopes to remember it faster next time I get bummed out.  I say this with intent to brand it to the inside of my skull: The next time I am down, admit, “I’m kinda feeling down right now.”  Then look closely at something for a moment and notice a characteristic that is entertaining.  It can be anything: the array of evenly spaced hairs on your hand, the gradual shade-fade of paint as it reaches the corner of the room, the greenness of the grass or fiery orange autumn leaves across the street.  Making a positive observation changes the chemical draw in your brainstem and kick-starts that mentality that you are enjoying this game.  Zeroing in on a detail in your immediate surrounding gives perspective of your current place in the big picture.  It sounds goofy, but try it right now.  Pick something near you to examine closely and you’ll see.  I attribute slowing down to observe minute detail as a proactive step.  In my example, this step followed carrying out the decision to exercise, which can be skipped.  Direction is irrelevant; all that matters is taking a conscious, decisive step.

In summary: If you are feeling bad, stop (be proactive) and really look around.

There is no middle class.

There are people who make excuses and people who get stuff done (and some people who know someone who gets stuff done).  It’s not hard to work 20 hours a week and save $200/month.  That’s $2400/year, which invested with the least bit of research, gut feeling, and discipline will grow at an ever-increasing rate.  The next year, you are investing more like $7,000 and then $12,000 and so on.  If you maintain this stress-reversed discipline for 4 years straight without spending it all on new cars and houses (in my case travel) then you are climbing the parabolic curve and jumping economic “classes” like Frogger.  If you are unfortunate enough to have a medical emergency (jump in an alligator’s mouth) you have to start over.  If this happens too often, the game may come to an end.

What we lack is not intelligence or some gift.   It’s all about accepting reality and then rolling with it.  Focusing on what you can do to improve something you don’t like is a bit more productive than complaining about it to anyone who will listen.  And that, my friends, is the separation.  The lower “class” leaves their spirits on the ground and hope someone will trample on it and then apologize.  The upper “class” realizes it’s not easy to get up to the desired level, take a deep breath, and roll up their sleeves.

Success is a function of consistency.  I talk with my uncle today about prosperity and happiness and he references several well-known successes including Henry Ford, Rockefeller, and Bill Gates.  None of them, he points out, were the smartest guys in the room.  They managed to find a tolerable way of life that allowed them to maintain focus for years and years.  They stayed interested and it wasn’t about making money.  It was about making something worthwhile happen.  Michael Jordan says: follow your heart and the rest will develop.

People are enthralled temporarily by chaos and exotic, but are drawn to stability and consistency.  I notice this in conversation with old friends.  As soon as I mention discontentment and initiation of changes in my current life pursuits, there is a drop of spirit, of luster in the conversation.  It’s as if they are saying, “Damn, I thought you were moving in the right direction, but I can see you haven’t found your way yet.”

As a prevailing species, we must adapt.  In one method to adapt, we build and function as a large organism, hive, colony, whatever you want to call it.  Nomads can make it on the outside, but it isn’t easy and they are not expected to have enduring relationships.  To each individual his own methods and preferences.  I’ve been hearing a lot about purpose as an order above balance.  As always, anything can be achieved but you have to stay on the path long enough to actually arrive at the desired destination.  Otherwise, you are just making a big squiggly line.  Life is a big squiggle for most and most make little impact.  It requires less effort and sacrifice.  Water is smooth and sunrays are straight.  That’s where people come from, and we are all a collection of weird shapes and movements.

NW Glimpse Continued

We all have heard that the weather is bad in Seattle.  Not true.  Not true at all.  I’ve only been here for two months, but the trends have been obvious and I will confirm in the spring, if I am here that long.  When people say it rains everyday, they are referring to the barely visible mist that doesn’t even get your skin wet.  By those standards, Savannah, GA rains everyday because of the 90% humidity.  It mists here almost everyday for the duration of an hour.  That does not constitute rain in my book.  Go to Panama in the wet season if you want to see rain.  As I said earlier, Seattle ranks 44th on the list of most rain, in just the United States.  That is remarkably pathetic for being self-named “The Rainy City”.  And the winters, I hear are brutal.  Let’s look at the almanac real quick.  The lowest average minimum temperature between 1931 and 2005 is 35°F and the highest 44.9°F.  That means close to morning, when everyone is passed out it is pretty chilly.  In the afternoon, it’s a little chilly.  Because of the consistency of temperatures on the West Coast, the human body has such an advantageous opportunity to acclimate, we’ll be wearing t-shirts.

The reason for the relentless, continuous, and unstoppable bitching and moaning is due to, what I have deduced, a combination of four things:

  1. The weather on this edge of the continent proves to be extremely mild (is that an oxymoron?), year after year.
  2. Keeping up with the Joneses is our national pastime, which is played by being as miserable a four-letter-word as you can.  (Note: this is not everyone’s behavioral choice, just 80-85% of the civilized human species.)  Since California has all of the “good weather”, naturally Oregon and Washington have a way to start a whiny conversation.
  3. Not a lot of people transcend the continental divide.  As people have been separated by natural barriers since we evolved from pinecones or whatever, cultures inherently follow.  This is great for a traveler, because a homogenous race would be boring and would not incent curiosity.  (The secret is there are silver birds that can carry you over the mountain tops. Shhhhhh!).  Or take a skateboard like a guy I met in San Diego who rode from NYC to Savannah to CA to enter and win the Adrenalina Skateboard Marathon.
  4. There’s nothing else to talk about.

This whiny observation (if you can call being suffocated by negative conversation every time you are around 3 or more people like a swarm of African bees an observation) reminds me of Baz Luhrmann’s Wear Sunscreen, which was originally an article entitled “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young” found here http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/chi-schmich-sunscreen-column,0,4054576.column  – READ IT.  If you’ve already read it, READ IT.   The line I was reminded of was about living in Northern California and leaving before you get too soft.

These people are unbelievably soft.  Up here, where the rough and tough West Coasters are (because they have more grungy music and tattoos) I have felt completely unthreatened in all situations.  Anyone, who knows me well, knows that I will avoid a fight 9 out of 10 times, which I can attribute to lack of security and the time it takes to determine if I am correct in an argument before using force.  (Maybe now it’s 6 out of 10 after all of the traveling and scary stuff).  Here, I stand my ground 9 out of 10 times, just for the sport of it.  This is not good.  This means when I go back to a part of the world with actual tough people, I will be a complete pansy.

The beauty is definitely rarified from the consistent blue skies of Key West, the trees are incredible, and I haven’t even seen the coastline, which is sure to blow my mind, but I don’t think I want to sink into this culture too deep.  Just as I wanted to leave NY/NJ before I became more of a New Yorker (anyone that had the pleasure of letting me drive them around Manhattan or Jersey knows about this), becoming a complete pussbag is not on my top-ten life achievements list.

The trees and natural beauty are as fantastic as their reputation
Cat Naps

I go to sle vcep at 2:31AM after watching a few instructional YouTube videos on how to draw a right eye, lips, curly French letters, and MOM in bubble-graffiti letters.  I hear my name being called in a dream and wake up to a soft “Mike.  Mike!  Mike!”  I open the door and Lucy, Melissa’s fat, Garfield-looking cat is looking up at me.  Lucy flops on the floor and calls my name again in cat.  What?  I lay down to try to decipher what this beast is telling me.  It’s still dark outside.  After 40 seconds or so on the hall runner rug, I go to check vital supplements in the kitchen.  Maybe she’s lonely.  She follows me in and eats some dry food.  I set the clock on the coffee maker to 6:07AM.  I remember I left Ganesh out all night.  No bigs, they’re half street.  He comes to the front door after 20 seconds of letting warm air and light into a sliver of the dark front lawn.  I got a full sleep cycle and feel wide awake, so I grab the guitar and notebook, but decide typing this would be more useful.  Ganesh walks next to the bed with a rumbling throat and high hopes.  I do my best cat dialect to invite.  He finally hops up and begins tormenting my hands and chest.  Sharp little bones.  I do my best to figure out where he wants to be loved.  I guess Lucy told him the whole story.  See, I’ve never been a cat person.  I grew up with big dogs and even thought little dogs were inferior and possessed a proportionately sized personality.  A girlfriend in college had two Pomeranians that showed how wrong I was.  Now I’m getting to know a couple cool cats in Tacoma that are schooling me on interactions with a new species.   I’m all ears after the bird in Nicaragua.  I still think about flying back down there for the sole purpose odxßåf o   ffering that family at the cigar factory fifty bucks for their parrot.  I’ve never felt such bone-chilling anguish as I did from that pissed off, caged squawk.  I remember the bird and so now I take a closer listen to new animal encounters so I don’t have to repeat this memory.  I assume most people have these moments in life whether they choose to acknowledge them or pretend their inherited collection of homeostasis preforming cells sustain life more efficiently than other living organisms.  Excuse the typos, that was the cats.  I kept them to see if I missed something.

I almost had it (I might have it)

I’ve been waiting the last couple of years to find the ending to my booklet on the simple philosophy: do what you want.  I almost had it a few nights ago.  I was tired and decided that I did not have the level of clarity to justify getting to my pen and paper.  It was something around the notion that once you have spent all of your resources and no longer have the means to follow every whim and needless want, you enter a new realm of simple survival which involves ups and downs, lefts and rights on the seesaw of an unsatisfied soul.  As the layers of superfluous belongings and behavior are stripped away both voluntarily and involuntarily, it becomes curiously easy to balance temperament, character, and focus.  You discover what you want to do, how to do it, and unflinchingly begin doing it.  It’s pretty fun.  In summation, if you do what you want until you no longer can, and then persist in this desire and belief, you will, out of disciplined choice rather than rationalization, align your functional being with your current vocational path.  The weight of “should” drops from your shoulders like a damp leather trench coat and formerly feared scolding and disdain only elicit a warm smirk and closed, laughing eyes.

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An example of living out of necessity.  These veggies from a neighborhood store called Veggies cost me $17 and will keep my belly full for a week.  This includes the honey, which was $5.  Anyone who says eating healthy is expensive is being lazy.

Kids are asked, in finding a career path, “What are you good at?” instead of “What do you like to do?”

Satisfied needs do not motivate.  This notion I received from the 7 Habits book.  We constantly seek motivation.  A ‘lazy person’ has rescripted himself to exempt himself from a call of nature and/or society.  In a way he has discovered a powerful key to freedom of will.  This is a trait of admiration highlighted in The Big Lebowski’s hero, The Dude.  Physical survival is achieved.  This is undeniably important.  ‘Psychological survival’, the need to be validated, understood, affirmed, appreciated by others is ignored because it isn’t actually crucial.  This has been proved through true accounts of cast-aways and solitary confinement.  Permanent damage to the mind may be suffered, but the body can live for years.

A wholesome, strong individual will not require ‘psychological air’ (defined by Covey as comfort required to willingly share deep emotions with another human).  Those rare people don’t need communication or interdependence.  Whether this is correct is the question I ask when comparing Ayn Rand to ‘reality’.

Never Once

There’s been a couple of times

When I could feel the peace

Of a settled score

Closing the sore

And tension was released

But it was just giving my heart a break

From this weary race

Still I chase

Through time and space

That once enjoyed place

The sun came through and warmed my neck and shirt

My lungs tugged on my shoulders and my center didn’t hurt

I told myself it isn’t real and smiled for a little moment

But deep in the mine

Below my spine

A wise voice did chuckle

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Ubi’s, my Tacoma coffee shop

Central American States of Lebanon

In a gentle pursuit of persuasion with my friend and owner of the coffee/tea/spice store where I intern (work for great lattes and a chill place to relax), I sought to research what I thought are describable traits of an unknown, often media-slandered nation called Lebanon.  My friend who is very thoughtful, understanding, and intelligent brought up some interesting points about how being ‘different’ in this country can get you in trouble (i.e. a more extreme anti-societal conflict than the one we face in the U.S.)  She quotes a Lebanese friend who commented on her blue hair and said it would get you killed in Lebanon.  Reason: societal homogeneity as a means of surviving ever-present wartime.

So we start talking about a country neither of us have been to or know anything about besides information shared by the news.  I have already shared experience led discoveries of ‘dangerous’ cities I visited and relabled in my preconditioned mind as ‘Nice as well as cozy.’

She says it is just a desert.  I also hold this preconceived notion of any nation I haven’t visited.  Everywhere is just flat and grey in my mind before going there and riding trolleys, passing Starbucks, taking in the lush mountains, and laughing tender eyes of people who act daily in the best interest of their families.  People are people everywhere.  So we look at the green, rugged terrain on the Western half of the country and the beautiful blue water ports of bustling aqua metropolises using Google Maps and Images.

The next question is about average income, which Wikipedia doesn’t quantify and it would be difficult to equate purchase power vs. tax structure vs. other variables.  What it did have is a HPI (Happy Planet Index) maintained by a 50-person think-tank out of London.  Out of 178 countries, Lebanon ranks 83rd and the U.S. at 150th.  All 7 Central American countries rank in the top 15.  Legatum Institute (United Arab Emirates think-tank) puts the U.S. at #11 and Lebanon at #98.  It matters what your criteria is.  Instead of complaining about how much the United States of America sucks, I’m going to leave sometime and go look for a place that more commonly embraces my desired lifestyle and values like the #1 ranked Costa Rica, where the locals thought I was a local and my gut told me I was close to my roots.

One day I’m gonna wake up dead and think nothing of this time in my life.  So why stress out?

We are eliminating the social separation between child and adult.  There used to be a distant language belonging to the youth with a vocabulary virtually untouched by ‘grownups’.  Occasionally, there was a parent holding on desperately to their teens by letting their high school children have parties at their homes.  These ‘cool parents’ had enough experience interacting with relaxed, sometimes inebriated, adolescents, that they could pick up modern slang and sayings.

The time of the ‘cool parent’ is changing.  Plugged in with social networking appliances, adults of any age have accurate, working knowledge of all things trendy.  What this will do to the next generation will probably mature them much faster.  It’s a dual infringement as the youth has access to an abundance of porn, urban dictionary, and news at a much younger age.  I’ve seen neighborhood kids taunting their pre-teen classmate with words I didn’t own until high school.

I’ve often thought it embarrassing that a human is not fully-grown until after a quarter of a century.  This is a shift in the right direction, I think.

 Vegas #4

I lie cross-ways on the 4-seat bench at SEA-TAC Int’l Gate C14.  Now my ankles are wrapped with clean, blue boxer briefs, hopefully to keep me from waking up again.  Last night I was tired from Jack Keroac’s On the Road, but only slept from 10PM to half past midnight because of the air being cooled so quickly by the glass window overlooking the frosty runway.  Unwilling to wait for fatique, I hurled through another 30 pages before insulating my ankles.  I change my alarm to 4:30AM.  Plane boards at 5:30.  I’ve got to stick to my morning routine.  As I begin a long procrastinating recap of European travel, the alarm goes off.  Not much sleep before Vegas.

FFWD: Day 2

I just reached a validation realization for capitalism, which I have had and read before, but reinforce with insight of additional exposure to the other side of the argument.  Bare with me; I will explain.  In the days of my youth I was taught what it means to be a man (Jimmy Page walk up), I grew with ideas and an environment of progress, development, and increased comfort.  My town grew from <20,000 to >30,000 in the 11 years that I lived there.  I went from being the kid who enjoyed cable TV and new video game systems at my friends’ houses to living in the #1 afterschool hangout spot, complete with pool table, home-theater setup, multiple X-BOX capability, etc.  It wasn’t just the small town conservative atmosphere that OKed increased _____ (insert hippie concern of the year), it was my personal, core happiness evolving as a result of having more stuff as a witnessed result of my parent’s hard work.  I worked hard enough to sustain and enjoy myself.  My senior yearbook quote: “Work twice as hard as you play, and you can play as hard as you want.”  We partied pretty damn hard for a bunch of kids with no drugs.

This philosophy of manifesting prosperity through building weath and extrinsically (externally stimulated) accruing happiness was optimized with completion of engineering education, willful Ayn Rand reinforcement, and news of landing my then-it-was dream job.

The rhythm of that philosophy, a smooth, streaming flow of curvy pastel colors and tones, hiccupped about 2 months later.  After the excitement of a salary phonecall, the initial wait period, moving 700 miles north for 6 weeks of training, and the second actual, on-the-job day, I felt an ever so small pit begin tugging behind my lower ribs, slightly to the left of center.  At this moment, the rationalizing began and would continue until the 4th day of a vacation in Scandinavia, when I realized what I could do to heal the hole, small, but chronically consuming my life fire. Nearly negligible the way most admit wearing shoes is bad for feet, this terminal illness of lifestyle ‘that just is the way it is’ I would not accept.

Since I walked off of this tidy, well lit road, I have been digging through a less maintained wilderness of variable vines and bushes for another path that better suits my natural gait.

***

Before delving into the next layer of experimental submergence, I would like to formalize the only consistent difference in human behavior around the globe.  It’s not external appearance, sounds made, sexual tendencies, geographic location, or surrounding topography.  It is not the people themselves either, they adjust to their surroundings.  The only easily categorical difference between people around the world (are you ready?) is the population density-time paradigm governing the tempo of their home.  The size of their city.  Mild differences in cultural behavior and mannerisms change from place to place, but beliefs are based on the priority of time observed in performing tasks.  In North Jersey. People are curt and expect quick answers and movement to keep processes flowing.  Lots of people in line at Dairy Queen on a Sunday night.  Gotta order fast and get out of the way as courtesy to the guy at the end of the line.  This ensures that Dairy Queen will get the # of customers needed to stay in business.  In the country, with few customers, it’s important to please to insure repeat business.  It always comes down to $.  That’s it.  City people and country people.  Forget North-South, Black-White, Asian-European.  None of those compare to urban-rural.

***

While lifestyle tempo matches city size, discussion topics trend in different regions.  Living in the urban West Coast exposes the mind to the epitome of anti-capitolistic theologies.  I’ve capitalized on this opportunity by interning at an all organic, natural tea / spice store.  Growth is seen to be bad.  Technology is viewed as corrosive, unhealthy, and excessive.  There is no need for people to have Ferrarris and mansions because they are purely extrinsic sources of satisfaction.  Because the human nervous system is simply a differential thermometer, it doesn’t register stagnant or consistent information.  You cannot feel the temperature of the air, you can only feel if it is going to make your core temperature warmer or colder.  You can feel if it is cooler outside than in your foyer and decide to grab a jacket.  When you have a Dodge Viper, you can anticipate the potential differences of comfort that would be associated with owning a Porche Cayman.  In this example, the stereotypical zen scholars I am truly honored to know, are correct.  This is only part of the picture.  Along with extrinsic sources of contentment (valid in fundamental quantities: shelter, food, clothing) there are intrinsic sources as explained by Covey such integrity, excellence, potential, patience, etc.

I am still indulging in hipster and other discoveries, using them to add life value.  Along with coffee, tea, history, simple dietary ingredients, I agree with some population funded systems.  The U.S. Coast Guard saved our ass off the coast of New Jersey.  I’ve taken many a hospital ride as has Boompa.  Public education, has generally improved the human species in the last hundred and fifty years.

Too much collective initiative (or singular as history has shown) can lead to one trait from the repertoire of human aspirations, which I do not dig: control.  Making decisions for other beings.  There is some grey area I don’t pretend to understand with regard to nurturing a new inhabitant of the human race (kids), and I’m not talking about that.  I’m talking about deciding for another able, independent person what is in their best interest.  You can offer them information and let them form their own conclusion.

I also believe in the abundance of resourcs on our planet which is most easily perceived by our immediate surrounding.  In the open country where the air is clean (if curious of the quantity of  ‘open country’, Google a map of city lights in the world.  The dark places are ‘open country’.  Some maps are skewed and show obvious brightness adjustment.), residents see the earth as a thriving, healthy, clean organism.  In the city (in which I really like living for variety and purchase power), the encapsulated tunnel vision suggests a crumbling, failing planet; human growth being the carcinogen.  It is 100% true that human growth is failing and Earth is carrying on without a moment’s hesitation.  We are not as powerful (our mass and the sum of our reactions are far outweighed) or advanced (200,000 years vs. 4.5 billion) as Mother Earth.  The idea that people are gonna win in the race to destroy the world is hard to believe.  Even if we are supposed to as Joe Rogan states, it will be unlikely before a cataclysmic natural disaster wipes us out such as an impact by a meteor with a diameter greater than 5km, which happens with a period of 22 million years.  The last one hit us 66 million years ago,cx so we are overdue.  The good ol’ days will never persist, so let’s move forward with chins up.  If we are mold eating this sandwich, let’s enjoy it.  We aren’t going to stop reproducing.  Even after we consume most of the resources on the surface, which will continuously reveal themselves, we’ll have synthetics to subsist on.  Ok, we might have plastic faces in the year 2330, but it will seem normal in that time period.  As long as we can survive, other living things can survive.  Weeds will always sprout between the cracks.  If we die like those on Rapa Nui, then the Earth will really have time to recover.  Either we are gonna kill ourselves or we aren’t, but the planet will keep on keepin’ on.  So the real issue is not about saving the planet, it’s about people having pretty things to look at.

While it is prudent in the self-interest of urban inhabitants to maintain healthy living conditions, it is not principally sound to shift the blame to those not affected or contributing.  Don’t tax the whole state to fix a city’s problems.  Don’t get angry because someone is exploiting poor people who are too lazy to take care of themselves.  If you really care, go make some money, buy land, plant trees, buy property and rent it ‘fairly’, sell quality food at costs that poor people can afford.  But don’t steal from the rich and give to the wanting.  People hold themselves to their own standards.  The idea that residents are responsible and capable for maintaining their habitat is true.  If they don’t want to be healthy, it’s their choice.  The vast majority of environmentally conscious folks I have met live in concrete abscesses which inhibit sunlight, wind, water, plants, and animals from interacting.  Going to the park or on a seasonal hike doesn’t absolve you from your detachment.

The main point I will make is there is enough.  Look at a map.  Go to the dollar store and pick up a globe pencil sharpener.  All of the blue stuff is water.  If you go 30 miles out in the ocean, you will see all of the marine life we have “seen disappearing” on the news.  Species come and go and the real balance of life comes when death meets survival.  While the guy in the Ferrarri may not be ever satisfied, that’s his personal decision to be unsatisfied.  He obviously finds some sort of enjoyment in the challenge.

No matter how much the world develops, there will always be a desire for more and those who see value in less.  This is why we progress through sequential ages.  If a person wants less, they are free to go live in the woods.  By the time the woods are gone, I’m confident the power hungry will have regular transportation to distant planets with forests of their own.  This is a plus one in the capitalist column.

Storey enjoying a bit of Mexican comfort

Storey enjoying a bit of Mexican comfort under the closest thing I could find to a Clint Eastwood poncho