if i had one wish

i’d tear it all down…

i’ve been given cause to reflect on my time in tijuana this past week, well the past several months actually. with the caravans to the border then the death of bush sr just exacerbated it.

as the people of central america have been coming in caravans and waves i can’t help but think of the centuries of violence and manipulation that the northern hemisphere has, and continues to inflict on those in the south. when refugees move north in the hope of safety for their family and experience massive amounts of violence in various forms i wonder how people can react without empathy. how difficult a decision it must be to leave all one knows behind for the unknown.

my time on the other side of the wall last fall only reinforced all the work we all did to close down the school of the americas, to refuse to support corporations that benefit from the fascist regimes installed by the united states, the wto, the imf…

last october i spent several days walking along the wall that continues into the ocean. i watched the border patrol in their vehicles. i watched families walk to the wall and look through the fence, able to see san diego’s skyline so clear.

when i got to steamboat, i found this book called coyote’s bicycle. it is about a young man from a small northern village who was left behind to take care of his grandfather when his whole family migrated north to find work. upon his grandfather’s death, he made the journey north, arriving in tijuana. he walked the wall and learned a great deal from others who are paid to get people across the border, known as coyotes. he learned what triggered the border patrol’s response (seismic devices go off when people start walking/running in certain areas, not so with bikes), he learned who and how to pay off the people who patrol so that he could get his clients across. spoiler, he used bikes and created a very lucrative business. it is a very good story, a true story that made me feel maybe not so bad about a couple of stolen bikes. the story ends with the u.s. doubling the number of border patrol personnel. it didn’t seem to bother those who move people over the line. they have learned that about half of the people who patrol are willing to take a bribe. increase the numbers patrolling, increase the number of people to bribe…its all the same to them.

here are some of the images i took when walking by the wall. i didn’t take pictures around the actual crossing area. there are armed guards…also i was pushing a loaded bike…so my hands weren’t that free.

some things i’d like to point out about when “they” close the “border”. it is closed to all people who travel back and forth. many of them do it for jobs, school, and medication. i talked to many people who work on one side and live on the other. i also met people on both sides who require medication from one side or the other. when the border is closed, no one can access these basic needs.

 

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borders and boundries

i have been so super grumpy these past couple weeks. grumpy like answering questions with grunts and silent head shakes. i’d like to say i don’t know why. maybe it is the moon, eclipse. but the world is on fire, again, or maybe still. each time there is another fire or shooting or idiotic political ruler says/does something stupid and people continue to act surprised. then a 3d printer gun….naw i have no idea why i’ve been grumpy.

then i started reading the book overstory by richard powers and the connections started gathering forces inside me.

i’ve been thinking a great deal lately about borders and boundaries, i kind of always have. as a kid, i use to wonder how water, rain, streams, ocean, birds, fish, bears, dear…knew when they crossed over to another state, country. but then i read about the bison massacres when they roam outside the national parks looking for food…migration doesn’t give a flip about borders or boundaries, but meat farmers don’t like competition for grazing on blm land….

then one day i saw a map of the united states without any state lines or national borders drawn on it or even time zone changes for that matter. that map looked so free to me, so wide open. it looked like such a wonderful place to explore and move about. but to be honest, it is not the imaginary lines that bother me, it is the internal struggles that crossing over into another state can have on my psyche. and this is what leads me to think that all these imaginary lines and borders and boundaries are not meant to provide a safe area for people, but to create a state of fear and thereby control people on one side and a false sense of security on the other.

as a queer woman, i use to get really nervous and anxious if i needed to drive through mississippi, lousianna, alabama on my way to florida to see my grandma. i would get in and out of the gas stations as fast as possible with as limited interaction with other humans…especially white men. later i reflected that at least in the “south” i knew how people felt about me. in the liberal “north” of pc country, it was said behind my back and supported by legislature and propaganda…aka a false sense of security.

but last week i went through the rocky mountain national park and my thoughts bubbled up again, mostly because of what people in the united(?) states are doing to people, refugees, from the global south. i see and hear the fear in the voices of my co-workers who have their “papers” but are afraid to visit family for fear of well so much fear. and i actually hear the arguments of people born and raised here that their family came over legally. really? reeeally? who stamped their papers? crazy horse? geronimo? chief joseph?

this resurrection of this particular fear is happening at a time when farm workers and domestic servants (damn what a horrible word) have been organizing and gaining momentum in their demands for fair wages and treatment for themselves and their children, especially farm workers. if you do not think these issues are connected, you are forgetting history: ceasar chavez, the bracaro project, the Immokalee workers

anyway, approaching the boundaries and entry gate to the rmnp stirred up these old feelings, but really what i want to know is why. why all these boundaries and borders? i believe deeply, that it is to keep people in and not talk to others. to keep the manipulation alive and well. to keep people in fear and control.

what i have noticed is that every time the global north enforces their boundaries, it intensifies the need for people to assert their individual bounderies and identities, which then reinforces the us/them fear and defensiveness.

margaret thatcher is known for saying “there is no society, there are only individuals”. this individualism fuels some of what is keeping us from making the changes we most need to make in this world, from climate change to foreign policy. it has fueled the fire of identity politics in an unhealthy way and i have been trying to figure out how we have gotten in our own ways soooofuckingmuch. so here is my theory.

identity politics is important. as gloria anzandula taught so many years ago at an international queer studies conference in iowa, to imagine one’s self as a tree and all our identities, all the parts of us that make us unique are our roots. if we don’t know all the different roots, and accept them and integrate them into ourselves as a whole, when the cultural winds come by, we will be knocked over. i’m not sure that anzandula knew about the intricate network of communication that the root systems of trees in a healthy forest provide all beings in a forest. the network of communication, of shared resources, of protection, for all, and that is all before they become nurse logs.  if she had, well this analogy gets even stronger. a whole intact forest stands together in all its colors and shapes from the microscopic to the giant trees. yet, as lone individual trees, without interconnected root systems, we topple in one fell swoop, taking out our neighbors.

so what troubles me is that the more we identify with OUR individual identities, the more we isolate ourselves and others. the more we get offended when someone steps on our individual toes. and then more fear is fueled and the more isolated we all become. on top of it, we kind of refuse to be uncomfortable. we are told that these boundaries and identities will keep us safe. but i believe we need discomfort on some levels to push our limits, to go past these boundaries and commune with others not like us, to learn what the other side of the line needs so that we can all do this together. and perhaps grow over the lines and past the barriers. but western capitalism is what fuels the walls. it tells us that we can relieve any discomfort with a pill or a game or a new device. it keeps us in the cycle that makes reading howard zinne so frustrating, and important…and we are at it again. and we are more alienated and isolated no matter our number of social media friends we have.

capitalism”s magic bullet, if you will: naming. we love to name things. if we have named it, we know how we are supposed to feel about something or act towards it, and this includes gender pronouns. (doubt this? talk to someone who has been both he and she at some point in their lives, or someone who is intersex, someone who is willing to talk about the differences in their treatment based on perceived gender and self-identification…this is a life/death situation often). but if we “named” based on relationship instead of ownership, well that is different. a mountain “named” based on a cosmology of a creation myth will be treated differently than one named by conquest and ownership. the responsibility we feel for a place or person changes if we see it as sacred and part of all of who we are.

and that is the crux, right? maybe? that by creating these name/labeled boundaries and borders, we mark off ownership of areas and control of those areas and all that happens to be there: animals, water, minerals…people. but if things are “named” based on relationship, that is a whole new level of freedom and movement….and responsibility.  you can’t control, manipulate, mine, and harvest what you do not own in one way or another. however, you are responsible for all that you hold some relationship to, and that is everything in this word: food, water, air, what you use for shelter, clothing, one another.

what if we were able to drop just a little of this border-mindset? what if we saw the people that were coming across the border for what they are: people. people who are in danger due to the violations and unequal trade/economic situations that “we” created. that turned these families into refugees, not immigrants. no one really and truly wants to leave their “home” for the unknown…to a country that is openly hostile and violent to one’s culture and people. no one wants to do this. and we as mobile amaricans don’t understand this. i’ve actually had arguments with (former) friends of mine on this issue. when your family has lived in a certain place for so so many generations leaving is not going to be your first choice. people and places we have denied our relationship to are in danger, and this is how we treat them? back to the tree/forest analogy, our survivals are interdependent.

so i ask, “what is more important? what someone’s label is or how they participate in community.”

i know my stance. and i believe that the only way we will survive as a species is if we return to relationship-based communities instead of isolationalist/nationalist idealism.

we need to make a choice, as a species. i have no doubt this world will continue, but most likely, without humans. unless we can make some changes really fast. and these will have to be internal, non-governmental. we can’t wait for the “leaders” to make the changes. we will be uncomfortable for a little while, but eventually, more quickly than we might think, we will find actual joy and happiness at leaving so much misery for so many behind us.

i know that this sounds a lot like preaching and pointing fingers, and it is. mostly at myself for sure. we all have a great deal to unlearn and re-educate ourselves. before we end up like this:

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this week, 2 years ago, i would have probably given up hope for the humans, but talking to strangers…making connections with people i have no reason to except that we are sitting next to one another on the bus, bar stool, bike ride, campsite, sandy beach, at the wall, in line at the border…we all have stories to share if we are willing to listen…but like i said, its just a little theory i’m working on.

 

a year ago

wow! has it really been a year since i, literally, walked away from my life in portland? it seems like i’ve lived a couple lives since then. i’m going to try and summarize what i’ve gone through and where i think i have set my compass bearings…but who am i kidding, i carry a compass, but use the direction the wind takes me more than my compass.

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so a year ago i was getting soaked through and through on the oregon coast trail. a trail i don’t really recommend doing in its entirety. sure it has some of the most amazing views on the pacific coast. however…there is so much road walking, which sure shuttles can take you around, so it’s not too bad. if you are wanting to do it, do it for sure, but do it in the full-on summer time. let the spring storms pass. have a way to know the tides. be prepared for sandblasting your skin (and tent in the middle of the night), and being amazed at every moment you remember to look up and pay attention.

when i got to the oregon/cali border, i ran out of walking ideas. well, i had ideas, but water levels and snow levels were beyond my skill set. years and years of low winter snow levels meant that a “normal” year felt high. maybe this is why so many people the past several years have taken on the pct. if one was willing to push beyond some levels of pain and discomfort, mostly mental, one could persevere without a huge skill set, but not this year.

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so i did what i do when i don’t know what else to do, i got a job. i went inland to explore a town and area i had never been to. i sat at the chetco brewery and booked a shuttle to ashland, lived at a hostel while i looked both for a place to live and a place to work. (p.s. this is actually pretty common. when i i stayed in any hostel from slo (san luise obispo) to tijuana, there were people living at the hostel looking for housing.) i quickly found both and settled in. my pals would come into town and take me out for swimming adventures at rivers and lakes. we went to experience the eclipse. i had a wonderful summer.

my mom came out to visit. and then we visited my grandpa’s sister and i loaded up a bike and headed south once again. i have to say, this lady, ellen, is a spark. her and my grandfather were best pals. i can remember her and her husband carl visiting when i was a kid. in my child’s memory i don’t remember what muscular disease he had, i just remember her pushing him around in a big wheelchair. i remember whatever was happening, she pushed him, she smiled, she laughed like there was no issue, no problem, no inconvenience. it was just what was. she still lives in the house that she raised her kids in. she lives alone. she knows her neighbors and they assist her with whatever she asks for. she….she…well she amazes me. not with the grand and great actions, but like my grandparents, the simple enjoyments of everyday life.

at some point in the evening, she turned to me and said,

i remember once when i was visiting your grandfather, we went to your work and you made me a fantastic margarita.

yes, i remember too. it was fun.

would you make us a round?

i’d love to.

so we had “happy hour”

then she told us stories of dancing at the hall, of being a dance instructor, of love, of family….93 years of living (i think it’s 93 maybe it’s 87 it doesn’t matter really). we had moved to the enclosed patio so that i could sort and separate gear for my transition from walking to biking, but at some point, i stopped so that i could sit and listen to her. it just seemed so important to listen. to capture this moment somewhere in my body and mind. to absorb her words. i don’t remember them, but i can feel them, and it is a feeling i continue to move with. maybe in a selfish way, it was like having my grandparents with me in space and time again for a moment, and i wasn’t going to sort packages of ramen and t-shirts and forgo this moment.

that first day i didn’t get far. maybe 15, 20 miles. i needed some time to switch gears.

when my mom dropped me off at some empty parking lot that i pick as fine, and i was loaded up and she pulled out and i pulled out, i road to the beach and just kind of what the fucked for a moment. really, what am i doing? i could have stayed at that job, probably found a place i could afford to live. i could have gone back to portland or kansas… eventually, i calmed down, got my bearings and pointed the bike south and started cranking on the pedals.

i got through santa cruz and found a campground with a hiker-biker site, set up camp and watched the sunset. in the morning i chatted with some fellow bike tour folks, and the pace was set. this is what i wanted. to travel by my own power. to see…what? everything, whatever came my way. to stop and chat with people. to see the world outside of the bubble i had been living in for the past 10 years. i would say i have been successful so far.

i have met people from all over: from homeless to the very wealthy and lots of people who gave up the grind for the love of life (especially the “homeless” living in the parks). i met the owner of a brewery (who opened his doors for me to have a cold one on a hot day) who told me about the ridiculous codes he had to deal with. the couple who worked in l.a. in various projects for alternative transportation. my friends who opened their doors to me so many times as i passed through the big cities. and the wonderful folks i met in mexico. and so many people looking for something besides the prescribes socially acceptable life choices.

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the ocean as a companion just cannot be underestimated. she is wonderful. and all those who call her home: the sea otters, lions, gulls, crustaceans, birds of all kinds. the trees and plants of the shorelines that changed the scents and quality of the air i was breathing.

the landslides and wildfires that affected where and how i passed through. these are the events that shifted and changed the way i see climate change. it was a year where i not just knew climate change through numbers, statistics, lectures, and subtle shifts. this year i felt it even more than ever. and not in just that yes, the climate is changing as a part of natural evolutional shifts and changes, but as a force humans are changing faster than nature can keep up with.

and not just that we are unbalancing the balance of nature, but that nature will restore her balance even if it means the demise of the human species. this planet is not as fragile as people seem to poetically like to consider her. maybe it is because we view nature as feminine and we like females to be fragile. however, any being who brings forth life, cannot be fragile. she is strong and she will fight for life, the life she has created. if we don’t drastically shift and change our individual lives, we are the ones who will die…currently, it is something like 600,000 people a year die from climate-related deaths-at least i believe that is close to the number i read recently.

this journey so far has opened up my life in ways i could never imagine. it has helped me realize the vision of my life as a kind of loner and rebel that i have always felt that i am. i’m so thankful for my pals and family in all its shapes and sizes so that i don’t have to be a true loner and who celebrate and inspire my kind of rebellion…so far. i couldn’t be me without them.

so i sit here in a small moutain town in colorado setting a foundation for this vision. a vision that doesn’t see me really attatched to any specific place except for this planet and where i am resting my head for the time being, but more attatched to the people who’s path i cross in the process. i am also taking more of an interest in the health of this big blue rock that, no matter that science fiction finds other planets for us to inhabit, is our only home.

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so yup, this year has pushed and stretched me. it has afirmed that i made the right choice. it has caused me to question my life choices and ethics that have only reaffirmed them and made them stronger. i’ve listened to so many people’s stories that only makes me want to hear more.

i have renewed respect for humanity and disgust for capitalism. i truly believe that capitalism is the root of so much disharmony and disease in the northern hemisphere. the root cause for increasing use of opiates and anti-depression drugs in n. america.

i have renewed faith in local communities. in fact, i believe that it is the direct actions and how local communities respond to the various crisis where we will find solutions. i don’t mean in large city councils and such, but eventually maybe. i mean in our neighborhoods. in conversation with our neighbors…who were once strangers. getting to know that person who picks up the bottles we leave out for others to take for their deposits…their income. going for walks with people. know the trees and birds who come through the alleyways. do you have birds and bees in the gardens? what do your neighbors grow? cook? have tea on the front porch.

so what is my vision?

well. i plan on staying in this little mountain town for a year to save money and work on that foundation i was talking about. i want to find my voice as a writer and figure out how to use it for good. to face my fears that keep me from stretching and pushing myself and risk failure on all levels. and then i want to point the bike in a direction and see where it takes me. to visit my friends, some of which i haven’t met yet, but deeply looking forward to meeting.

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where are they now-an update

i totally and completely fell in love with baja: the place, the people, the ocean, and even the heat. however, the one thing that i thought i could work around was kind of my downfall. and by downfall, i don’t mean physical or health or any of those things that tend to end adventures. it was language.

you may be asking yourself, language? how could that be? you have talked at length about many of the conversations you have had.

yes, but you may notice that, with the exception of some american women, these have all been conversations with men. so my whole perspective thus has been by men. there were women present in the area of these conversations. many of them looking at me, smiling, nodding their heads, smiling some more. if i learned anything at all from all the strong-minded latinx folks i’ve met and have actually talked to throughout my life, those smiles and nods are not necessarily about agreement or consent or even a friendly acknowledgment of one’s acceptance in the social situation. in fact it could mean the exact opposite.

it was after i left the cool bike cafe south of rosarito that it hit me, and my desire and need to return to kansas via texas, emerged to give a slight glimpse in helping me make sense of it all…p.s. i’m still sorting that all out.

i’ve hinted that as i approached, crossed, and descended into mexico i got the sense that i should return to kansas. as this became more and more of an internal drive, i knew that i should go via texas and get my dad and his partner involved. all this time i still felt the pull to keep going south, just a little bit more. go at least to k58.

for a while, i thought that this was just because i needed to camp at least one night on the baja beach. and this was somewhat true. i needed a couple more nights in my tent and on the ground. and i am glad i did. but there is a moment i cannot get out of my mind.

at that super cool bike shop cafe with all those great conversations going on around me in spanish, there were two women there. one the girlfriend/wife maybe co-owner who was also definitely a biker too. the other the girlfriend/wife’s mother. the one who closes up when he goes to work in san diego for his night job.

the girlfriend/wife (sorry, he said one or the other but i can’t remember and maybe it doesn’t matter and i should just pick one because who cares, but i care and don’t want to just make something up. this woman seemed strong and independent and well i’m ashamed of missing this piece in my excitement of all the other things going on), and i had some friendly conversation. when everyone was shaking my hand and giving salutations, she joined in….she was certainly one-of-the-guys and wanted me to know it.

the mother….

she sat in the comfy chair in the corner. we made eye contact several times with smiles. i wanted to ask her so many questions…really i wanted to listen to whatever story she had to tell me, but i knew that english was not going to be the vehicle for that and if i wanted her story, it was going to have to be in spanish, and my spanish is just not that strong! curse words!

the final time i looked her in the eyes and smiled and thanked her for the hospitality, in spainsh, i knew that i would have to improve my skills and that i wouldn’t return until i did. could i continue on down the coast and make things happen? yes. i could have kept riding, gotten some side jobs to keep myself fed and nourished. most people spoke english where i went. even when i went to get coffee (instant with snagged sugar packets from the oxxo store it was in front of while closed) from the women setting up stands on the side of the road. we made it work, but i didn’t want to make it work. i was in their country and i wanted to know them better. i wanted to share stories and i’ve been able to do that, but i want to be better. i should and need to be better. i’m willing to fall back on english when i need to, but i need to be able to lead with spanish.

so as you know, i caught a ride back up to playas with that surfer, rode up to san diego. while there i stayed with my amazing friends again…. their hospitality goes way beyond anything i can imagine.

so while in san diego for the 2nd time i had an interesting experience….i’ll make a separate post for. but i had some fun and some insight on still being bothered by gay/lesbian mainstream culture.

so i stayed with my vegan/activist/writing friends then caught the train up to los angelas. hung out with the union station homeless folks until the train that would take me to ft. worth, tx arrived.

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train sunset view

the days and the people who traveled with me to texas were fascinating. i met so many people in so many different situations, traveling for a wide range of reason…all of which also deserves another post of their own. but i arrived in texas. my dad picked me up. we dropped off my bike and bags and picked up his partner and headed off to a vegan diner. that is right! ft. worth has a vegan diner, and not just any old vegan diner, but a well-known one. it is the spiral diner. oh it was soooo good! we all got the meatloaf special with mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts!

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i stayed with them for two weeks. we caught up. worked on one of the hardest puzzles i’ve ever tried, and we got their house sold so that they could move to new mexico and start their for realz retirement. i’m so excited for them. i also got to really have some great one-on-one conversations with the person my dad has been with for 30 years now. i’ve always thought the world of her, but we’ve never really had the time to have some deeper conversations. gosh she is great! i can’t wait till my bike adventures take me to las cruces, nm to visit them.

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fall bike ride

my dad then drove me up to wichita so that i can winter, save money, and plan some more adventures. i’m staying with my mom, catching up with my sister, trying to catch up with my niece and nephews who are growing up so fast, and into such amazing humans that i can’t believe we are related.

so here i am. in kansas. i place i never thought i would return to for more than a week. i’m trying to write. i joined the national novel writing month hoping to get more of a story done, but trying to find a job and catching up has thwarted some of my momentum…also i have very little discipline.

however, i am outlining the next phase of an adventure that i hope helps me bring together the multiple ideas i have for connecting all the parts of me: vegan, queer, a person concerned about what we are doing to this planet, an adventurer, food lover, pro-craft/antigentrifracation /artisianalism /hipster bullshit person. wish me luck….

in the meantime, i will try to tell some good stories.

 

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chilin like a surfer

i left the super cute bike shop and did seriously consider camping close by. the views of the ocean where certainly worthy of good nights stay, but i really felt like i wanted to get down to this campground that i had heard so much about. i had already skipped a couple places that people had suggested i go to, like papas and beer. to be fair, i probably would have stopped if it were called papas y cervesa. i do love potatoes and i do love beer and i believe that they are fantastic when paired together. but it was just too much of a tourist place and not much of a visitors place.

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so i kept on peddling up hills and coasting down hills. i only had about 30 km to ride today, so i decided to take all the time that i wanted. there was a graciously wide shoulder to ride on and some damn fine nice people to return waves to. the road was hilly all the way.

hills were not the tricky part here. the tricky part was the way the highways merged traffic entering and exiting the highway. fortunately, there were signs for cyclists to watch for traffic before crossing the merging lanes. i was usually accompanied by a pedestrian or two, and i still don’t know why but i think it was to catch the bus/vans that would be packed with people going to and from the towns. this version of public transportation fascinates me! for real! it did in peru as well. there are these minivans that people can flag down, and if there is room or someone is getting off there, they stop and you get on. i have no idea how much they cost, nor where/how you get off. i wanted to test it out, but no room for a bike…also i think i need more language skills, well actually i know i need to up my spanish game.

i eventually rolled into the the little village that held the k58 campground…so many things in this area are named for their location down the coast. so k58 is at the 58-kilometer marker.  this little area also goes by the name alisitos.

alistitos holds around 4 hotels, pretty nice hotels, all of which have a restaurant and/or bar of some kind. there is also a couple convenience stores and one sells beer/wine/alcohol. somehow this little way stop has 2 thai restaurants! it also has a shit-ton of americans! more on that soon.

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there weren’t too many people in the campgrounds when i arrived, it was friday afternoon, so i didn’t think much about it, but as i walked my bike up the coastline looking for a grassy area to pitch my tent, i met a few people living out of their vans or trucks that had set up camp….all with american accents. i eventually found the smallest of small patches of grass close to the edge of the cliff overlooking the beach (this whole area overlooks the ocean with paths down to the beach. so i set up camp and then took the unloaded bike for a ride “around town”.

first thing i did was grab a cold beverage! in those 30 km i drank 2 full liters of water and was still thirsty, so i grabbed a mexican version of powerade. i was still having a hard time with the idea of buying bottled water and so far had avoided it. i was able to fill up at the hostel with “purified” water out of a refilled jug type thing. and i knew that if i kept going south i was going to have to get a couple “gallon” jugs to refill at water stations as if found them. the other option was to buy liters of bottled water to fill my vessels.

eventually, i found my way over to a courtyard and grabbed a cold tecate and sat to do some writing. i had some feelings and emotions to get out, and at some point, my phone was in just the right place to get a couple text messages! in playas i got some because, i was close to the border, but here i wasn’t expecting to get anything. so i bounced some ideas off some people about what i was thinking of doing and going. it always feels good to get some reassurance.

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i then walked across the courtyard just to see what was there, and it was a cute place with about 6 people sitting up at the bar…all americans who have been living in the area for a great deal of time. they didn’t talk to me much, just kind of looked at me funny (i had leaned my bike against a big pole in the courtyard. i don’t know that they liked seeing people that they didn’t know. also, they were all fairly intoxicated. they were talking about property, businesses going in and who owned them and who was doing the work. then this other guy came in.

the first thing i noticed about this guy was not what he looked like, but the noises he made. his first stop was at the drum kit set up on the stage. he was a pretty good. come to find out, he would be playing in the band lined up for the night. they were playing in support of an organization that he ran in the area and with just a few questions i found out a little more information.

this guy was born in the area but went to university in the u.s. and worked there until retirement and then returned to the area and eventually started this organization to help keep kids with their parents. there were a great number of “orphans” in this region, not because of death but what they called economic orphans – kids abandoned or dropped off at orphanages because the parents couldn’t, or didn’t think that they could afford to raise the kids themselves.

so this organization has a center where the parents drop the kids off on their way to work super early in the morning. they feed the kids breakfast and takes them all on a bus to school, then pick them up and brings them back to the center where they can do homework, be fed again, and also get introduced to people who can teach them various trades in a type of mentor-type program. then the parents pick them up in the evening and take them home. i believe that the organization also takes them to church on the weekends when there isn’t school. it seems that it is pretty tied to the church and his connections with various people in the united states for funding. the church isn’t you know my kind of gig. historically, i believe that “the church” has been one of the major colonizers of the americas. that being said, this projects seems to have really been effective in keeping families together and for giving young people the belief that they can do more than just run around town causing un-necessary trouble and just stealing to get what they want/need. the things this guy seemed really excited about was: keeping families together, educating and feeding young people, and helping young folks find skills so that they could work in a field that was beneficial to their community.

the other thing this guy and i got to talk about was a number of american ex-pats that lived in the area (the other americans had left by this time). i had asked him how people felt about the type of potential hypocrisy of the border issues with so many americans living cheaply in mexico. especially considering the proximity to the border (60 km is only 37 miles). he took a deep breath first.

the local people actually like it, they don’t mind it. it is good for the local economy. the local mexican people are able to get jobs in the businesses started by americans, or in their houses as cleaning or construction/repair. americans spend money here which is also good for the economy. so the locals they don’t mind, they like it. but the government. that is a different story. they don’t like it at all.

the way he talked about the government’s feelings i knew that i shouldn’t push it, so i didn’t. but it made me think some about all these things. i genuinely believe this to be true. though he is the only person from mexico that i specifically talked to about this, others i talked to encouraged me to come back, to consider moving there, and at the very least spend much more time in the area.

he told me to come back for the band later, and really i did plan on it, but then the sun went down….

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i got back to my campsite with a full belly of thai food and a soul full of good conversation, that after a wonderful sunset, i passed out…well i wanted to pass out.

the sunset was spectacular, but soon i was ready to lay down and read until i fell asleep. it only took a couple of paragraphs for me to be ready for headlamps out. then all the warnings and fears for my safety rushed into my mind, plus the ocean’s roar kept me from being able to hear anything else. normally i know that i will be able to hear some creature sneaking up on my little world, which is really only squirrels. but what really hit me was all the stories about thieve, which was only about 2% of the stories i’d read or heard of this area of the world, just came rushing into my mind.

then i would find headlights coming for me, well it felt like it anyway, but it was just people coming in late to the campground and they were clear on the other side of the park. it was making me feel like i’d completely lost myself because i never ever feel like this. the fear and anger was rising up in me in a strange storm of confusion  and bewilderment. so i took a deep breath.

in this breath i asked myself, is this my fear or other peoples’?

do i really feel unsafe?

what is the worst that could happen and then what would i do about that?

and eventually, i asked if i truly felt fear or is this just me taking on other people’s shit?

and really? i felt completely safe. everything that was playing in my head was other people’s stuff and not based at all on my personal experience. i knew my surroundings. people knew who i was and i had made myself known, in a good way, to those around me. the lot was closed off to anyone not camping there. this fear is not my own.

then i drifted off into a sound sleep.

when i woke to a wonderfully sunny but slightly cool morning, i noticed new vehicles had shown up overnight, so i stretched and headed off to get a cup of coffee and meet my new neighbors

as i walked up to the shop, i passed a guy who was getting ready to go on an early morning surf run. we chatted a bit. he was so excited to have the weekend to just surf and rest and eat and surf some more. i said that was trying to decide if i wanted to hang out here for two days, or start my way back up the coast that day, or just haul ass to be up in playas by sunday night.

he said, well stay and i’ll drop you off on my way back up to orange county. well ok sounds like a plan! and he went surfing and i grabbed some coffee and my book and that is how we spent the day. his plan was to surf all day saturday and then sunday get up early, surf some more, and then we could head out.

saturday was fantastic. i just sat and read and watched the surfers show up and head out to the beach. now to watch surfers get excited is something to see. as they changed into their wetsuits they would watch other surfers catch some waves and they got excited about what they witnessed which made them want to get out there even faster. so the campground filled with people there just to surf and have a good time.

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the surfers had some great setups. they had vans or trucks with all their cooking gear, camp chairs, food, beverages, hoodies for the cool evenings. i spent this time watching these folks and i came to understand surfers in a new way. and it wasn’t until waking sunday morning to a cold and foggy day that i really started putting it all together.

the months that i had been traveling down the pacific coast, i’d been watching surfers and the way they watched the waves. when the waves rose they ran out to catch them. when the ocean became smooth as glass, the surfers sat on their boards and chatted with one another until the swell returned.

but when i woke on sunday morning with a fog all around, i wondered what the day would hold for them, especially when i noticed that the fog was rolling down from the hills and out to the ocean, vs rolling inland from the sea, and it was beautiful. when the sun finally came up over the hills to burn off the fog, the surfers finally started stirring and walking around. what really shocked me was the fog rainbow. as the skies blued up and the fog was still hanging in the ocean, we witnessed a full rainbow from the coastline over into the ocean.

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then the fog returned and the surfers disappeared.

i walked around with a cup of tea watching the shifts and changes of the environment. and i caught up with my ride back up the coast. we set up a timeframe to leave our little paradise at a leisurely pace, but so that he wouldn’t be caught in a long line at the border.

as i walked around i noticed that there were people in the ocean surfing in the fog. which shouldn’t have suprised me. i watched people surf well into the end of the sunset the last couple nights, and what i way to watch the sunset…i can only imagine.

so why did i gain a new appreciation for surfers and surf culture? well there was no one out there maintaining the ocean wave so that they could have a perfect run. there wasn’t someone with an anti-fog machine to make it a perfect day, nor even a warming or cooling hut for when the water or weather was too cold or hot. you just take what you get and make the most of it. if the swell is rising, you run out and forget whatever else you had planned. if the waves disappear, you wait it out and enjoy the people around you.

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sure this is not unniversal. i’ve talked to some seriously type a people who ran people out of the way to get a specific wave, but down here, it ws so chill. they aslo sharred tips and ways that work for them, or wax that they perfered. if people gained trust, there might even be a sharing of special surf spots. and when someone else had a really nice ride, they were cheered them on.

so surfing is something that is going on the need to do list. this whole area had places to rent boards and wetsuits, and get some instruction. Next time i am sure to do this.

it didn’t take long to get back to playas (i was surprised at my ability to give directions that took us right to the hostel), but we managed to have some great conversations around mid-life and quarter-life crisis, and all the ways and reasons to step away from the race of capitalism. by the time he dropped me off, i felt like i had met a kindred spirit. who knows, maybe our waves will cross again.

 

so much kindness

i finally packed up and headed of playas de tijuana. my plan was to get down to rosarito, about 30 km south of playas. i knew for sure that there was this bike shop down there and i wanted to get my bent wheel fixed. i figured if i got it fixed early enough i could just keep going south and find a place to camp. however, coming out of playas was straight up! there was no easing into it. i had looked at the elavation profile before leaving, and figured it was just a few hundred meters, should be ok, but wow! within minutes i was sucking air and drenched in sweat and my legs were burning. and as for the long tunnel? it was frightening. not because of the traffic flying by. there was plenty of room. but because it was still going straight up and now curving and the just kept building. i jumped off the bike and started pushing. it gave me time to catch my breath, drink some water, and take inventory of my situation.

this wasn’t really anything new. i’ve been through this at some level almost every day. its called bike tour, and anyone who ever thought that the world is flat has never backpacked nor gone on a bike tour. something else was happening to me. i just wanted to go home, and not just home as in back to portland or oregon, but kansas. it was a little disturbing. i have never really wanted to go back to kansas except to see friends and family. so as i climbed hill after hill alongside traffic that was flying by me i was more than a little flustered.

one thing i count on when hiking or biking is the general rule of what goes up must come down. eventually, i was able to roll downhill and into rosarito. i couldn’t decide between getting a hotel room, not something i had planned on doing until i started to get so flustered, then head over to the bike shop. however, as i rolled into town, i started to feel better so i went bike shop first, figuring that if it got fixed quickly, i would head on down the road to a camp spot.

so i rolled into the bike shop…super small and in a residential area. well i rolled my loaded up bike into the shop and started to explain what was going on. turns out, he spoke less english than i spanish! eventually, we worked it out and he stopped what he was doing and fixed my wheel. we did use his computer for a little translating. when we put the wheel back on, i asked him what i owed him and he wouldn’t let me pay. he also wouldn’t except a tip. i left with a good wheel and a hotel suggestion, and yet one more story of kindness.

it didn’t take him long to fix the wheel, but i was emotionally exhausted, so i opted for a hotel and a swim and a shower. that evening i walked down to a taqueria recommended by “happy cow” app. however, the smell of all the cooking cow turned me to this cute little cafe with an outdoor patio. it was so delightful, that i went back for breakfast. that night, i turned on some movie and started making plans to turn towards the mid-west. this wasn’t an easy decision and one i will talk about more later. but with the pressure of how to make it further south with a record heat wave off my mind, i made some playful plans.

after breakfast, i started south again. i knew that i wanted to make it down to k58 campsite. it is a fairly well-known spot for surfers to come from all over baja and southern california, and well, the more time i’ve spent around surfers, the more i like them and their relaxed laidback attitude. yet, just a few kilometers down the road, i made a little stop.

i had seen that there was a bike cafe about 15 minutes south of rosarito, but it didn’t look like anything was there via google maps. still, i kept an eye out anyway. i’d been told about this amazing bike culture in this area and that there were a few organized big rides between rosarito and ensenada. so when i saw the signs for it, i jumped six lanes of traffic and rolled up to the back porch.

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i leaned my bike up against the patio’s fence and walked by these fancy pants road bikes. inside i found 3 guys of various ages in their fancy cycling gear, two women off to the side, and a young guy behind the counter. all heads turned towards me with full friendly smiles. i was asked where i was going/coming, and where was my bike? eventually they asked if they could get me anything. soon i was holding a huge cup of hot coffee and our conversations continued. it was lively and fun. eventually, the “older” guy sitting at the counter turned to me as he was going through his little seat/tool pouch and pulled out a pocket knife.

you have one of these?

yup, two. one for food and one for other things.

hmmm, you have a gun?

ha! no! i’d probably get shot.

hmmm well, your president thinks we are dangerous and bad people

fuck that guy (oh shit gotta watch that knee-jerk reaction). i mean he’s not my president. i can’t stand how he talks about or treats people. as for border imperialism…..

well. i bought your coffee.

no no no

already did.

i’m standing next to him now and reach out my hand to shake his as we continue with conversations about biking and such. when he is about 1/2 way to his bike he turns and comes back to me, now with his bike glove off.

that was a very friendly shake and i want to do it right.

so we shake again.

soon it is just me and the owner and my still very hot cup of coffee, and we continue to talk for about an hour. he was born in san diego, went to school and college in that area. moved to rosarito to be with family. his wife and her family (his wife and her mother were the two women at the shop) live in the area. he opens the shop at either 6 or 7 in the morning. leaves for san diego around 3 or 4 to work nights (the mother of his wife closes the shop). he has some kind of special pass to get back and forth quickly over the border. i actually talked with many people who do this. so if you think the people from mexico are lazy and such….come talk to me.

 

i didn’t want to leave this area. everyone i talked to was so kind and shared so much with me. the owner of the bike shop gave me a few suggestions of places to camp. he even said “hell, camp across the street. i open early tomorrow. come in for breakfast!”

i was so tempted.

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finally, i climbed back on my trusty stead (i should come up with a name for by wheeled friend). i had around 30 km to ride for the day before i could rest, and i was pretty sure it was going to be one rolly ride.

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i took a leisurely morning leaving san diego, which could have been a mistake. it was only supposed to take a few hours to get over the border and then to the hostel i decided to stay at. also, i decided to go ahead and take the coronado ferry instead of  riding down the industrial coast. that was not a mistake. it was a wonderful ride, but i had to wait 30 minutes or so for the ferry. the bike ride was all on bike path along the bay and some protected marsh land until the very end.

my first challenge was trying to find the way to cross the border. there was construction and whatnot, so it took me a minute to find the way behind and around the various little buildings. then…trying to find my way around tijauana…wow! i had directions down loaded and ready to go, but when i crossed the boarder it all was gone. i had my start point and my end point and no way to connect….aaaaaand finding street names was not all that easy. i asked a few people for directions, but it was starting to get late and dark and the roads were soooo busy with no bike lane or shoulder. finally i gave in a hailed a cab.

i also realized that somehow, while on the ferry, my front wheel got bent. fuck! i’ve been trying to find a bike shop, but there is nothing around, but i found one in the next town.

today’s plan was to get up early and head to the next town, but with yesterday being the way it was, and not really having time to get to know this little area, i decided to stay another night here. everything just felt rushed and my stomach was feeling goofy and i felt out of rhythm, so i spent a full day here in tijauana.

i found a little breakfast place and then walked the boardwalk. things look a bit different on the other side of the street. i found a vegan restaurant, some coffee shops, a tea shop, and “the wall”.  it’s the opposite side of the supposed “international friendship park”. i didn’t find it terribly friendly, but the political art on this (the mexican) side of the wall is moving. i left holding back emotions as i walked away from the border patrol trucks on the american side, and the policia on this side.

i didn’t really leave this neighborhood much, but i feel like i’m getting a feel for the surroundings.  my level of privilege, my whiteness here, and so many things are coming up….like being a queer woman and vegan in this area of the world. i’m feeling better and excited for the next couple weeks. i hope to eventually make it down to the middle of the peninsula and then head east and check out the sea of cortez for some warm water to swim in.

there is art all over the place here…literally! i’ll let the pics speak for themselves.

 

final days in california…for now

in the morning i take off again and go to baja, mexico. i am so excited i can hardly stand myself! i feel like, in some ways, i’m stepping off into a complete unknown. i’ve read all kinds of journals about other bike tours on the fantastic website crazy guy on a bike. if you are curious at all about bike tour in any way, i highly recommend people check it out! so many good journals. so i thought i should catch everyone up before i head out.

i decided to take a train from los. angeles to san diego. the pacific surfliner makes it easy to just roll your bike onto the train. this however, was not my experience. i got to the end of the platform where the bike car would be, very nice conductors pointed me in the direction. when it arrived, though, they were using an old cargo car. i was kinda pissed. so instead of just rolling the bike on and then i could take the panniers off, i had to quickly unload everything so that we could lift the bike up over our heads to the people in the cargo area, and then the bikes were just laying on the floor of the car. it doesn’t look like there was much damage, but my seat was all askew when i jumped on it later.

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view from amtrak

that being said, it was nice to just kick back and enjoy the ride without expensive campsites, since they have removed most of the hiker/biker sites, or crazy southern california traffic and industrial nonsense. the ride took about 3 hours, so i was able to get some writing and reflections done.

the person i stayed with in l.a. i had met while walking the oregon coast. he was biking form portland back to l.a. we had shared a shuttle ride and campsite…and beers during a ridiculous rain storm. it was nice to catch up a little, but he was busy and just gave me free reign of his house in the hills. i was able to finally wash some cloths and then walk the streets of l.a. i’m glad i decided to take a day here.

i found a queer coffee shop that i really enjoyed being at, cuties coffee bar. it was fantastic being around a bunch of queers that are strangers. i heard all kinds of fantastic conversations about people trying to figure out when to disclose certain aspects of themselves, or how to talk and work through consent, experiences of people trying to navigate the binary world as a non-binary person…it was good for my soul.

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on the way there i also got to pass by the meditation center run by against the stream. i’ve read the books and listen to the podcast, so it was nice to actually see one of their centers. i hoped i would be able to join in on a meditation with them, but there wasn’t going to be one i could make, so i just smiled tucked the view into my memory for next time i tune in.

as nice as all the experiences and such i had in l.a. i was happy when it was time to catch the train and head to san diego.

the week i’ve spent here in san diego has been super! i really like it here. the friends i’m staying with are so amazing in all the things they do. they live in the gayberhood and i’ve become a staple at one of the coffee shops. i even went to, not one, but 2 bars for women. i don’t know what it is about gay bars and neighborhoods, but i don’t think they have changed since the mid/late 80s! it is ridiculous! the music. the hair. the outfits…..all of it! i have in some ways really missed going to the gay hoods, but they are just too conservative for me. i’m glad they are there. it’s still good to have a place to feel somewhat safer for a second, but the assimilation is so palpable that it unnerves me after a minute of time (is rainbow washing a thing?)….defiantly the gay hood and not very queer at all!

i got to spend some fantastic time in balboa park. one of the people i’m staying with borrowed a pass so that i could get into the museums there for free! there were some super exhibits too! but museums, after a time, creep me out too. especially if they have relics from ancient indigenous peoples. the museums had notices up everywhere that they had certified that all of them were attained legally and ethically. i’m sure they were, as much as possible, but how is that ever really going to be true on/in occupied land? i don’t have the answers, but i do enjoy reflecting on how we acquire things in our lives, what and why we choose to display/share them. i believe that art and creativity is a basic need and how do we make time and space for participating in one way or another is important.

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don’t worry! i gotcha!
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amazing
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actually the first thing at the “museum of man”

with all that being said, one of the reasons i stayed longer was to attend the san diego zine fest! it was super! it was in the cento cultural de raza on the edge of balboa park. now, i haven’t been to many zine fest outside of portland, but i really liked this one! there were so many people of color, women, and some of the zines were even in other languages. plus, i finally got to meet some folks i’ve been wanting to meet for a long time. more than anything, i was inspired to just create and put my ideas out there, and encourage others to do the same! there are all these ideas about being good enough, articulate enough, just enough in general. i have friends encouraging me to just start submitting things; can’t get something accepted if i’m not first prepared to get work rejected, so might as well start.

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alice bag at the san diego zine fest

one thing i’ve been hoping to do out here is take time to clean stuff up and start sending work out, but its funny, with all the time in the world to do what i want, i just keep staring off into the deep-sea. something about it just erases my ability to do anything but take it in. when i finally pull myself away, i feel refreshed and renewed, but blank too. then when i arrive some place, i end up in conversations with someone. how does this happen? as a pretty solid introvert, i have become a chatter. i can stop in someplace just to use the wifi, or get a snack, and end up in hours long conversation with someone i just met. then i have to get back to my day.

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so long san diego (from the japanese traditional sign exhibit.

 

so here i go, off to another country. one i have been to before, but not for a very long time. i look forward to getting into a new rhythm, a new language, new monetary exchange, and in the spirit of such, i have switched all my measurements to the metric system. so if i share my “mileage” it will be in kilometers. i also want to start working with robin wall kimmerer’s pronoun usage for nature that she writes about. i want to test it out and see how it feels. i will probably mess up a lot, but i do believe that nature is not an it. and though i am not into the binary usage that we deal with for humans, i want to personalize nature a little more. so the singular is ki and plural is kin.

cheers to the next section.

new way to support this queer vegan

money is funny and awkward for some of us. social funding platforms can feel even more so, as in so who are you truly funding. anyway, people have asked how they can support me, and to be honest, knowing you are out there reading this and cheering for me to have an amazing adventure is key. however, i found this newish platform called patreon and it allows you to financially support me and for me to share more than just the blog. THE BLOG WILL FOREVER AND ALWAYS BE FREE! but i don’t always get to fit in all the pics i take, or some of the pics don’t really work for certain posts, so as a patron you will get access to more photos.

however, more than just sharing this adventure, i want to share some of the other fiction and non-fiction that i have realized i want to write since i’ve been riding with out mainstream distractions. so you will have access to snippets of those articles and stories as well. but wait that’s not all! you will also be able to give me feedback and help shape the direction of some of those ideas….like is it time to redefine what it means to be an ethical vegan? is it time to ditch “don’t talk to strangers” to build a more safe and open world?

so if you are into it here is the link to my patreon page. feel free to share it with anyone and everyone. today i head off to baja with an open-ended agenda. i have no idea where i how long i will be down there, a general idea of where i am going, an outline of what will happen when i move on from this section of the adventure.

i hope to continue to keep the blog going while i’m on the road, but we’ll see how the connections go.

thanks everyone! i truly hope that some of these posts inspire you to find your adventure and ways you like to shape the world around you!

thanks scientology…i’m feeling much better about myself now!

in a psychology class i took in high school, my teacher (who was also my basketball coach) called me out in the middle of class one day as the one least likely to join a cult. the cool kids in class, who each thought they would be named, were trying to figure out who i was. i was the board one in the back doodling. i was actually surprised too. i didn’t know coach thought of me in that way. we had our battles, especially when i wouldn’t play his bribing games to get us to do certain things, and in fact, with me they had the opposite effect. my least favorite thing in the world  (probably) is to feel manipulated.

anyway, we had a couple of people from this odd little college come talk to our class about their background and beliefs. the school was mired with secrecy and myths. we were told it was a dangerous cult that posted guards to protect the snowmen in the winter. we were told it was some kind of strange religious cult. people had all kinds of ideas that guns and other odd objects were on their list of things all students had to get.

i often walked by this school for some reason. maybe going to and from my grandparents’ house? they had a pretty landscape with lots of trees and old buildings. i like walking across old campuses. the school had been a couple different colleges at different times. anyway, i never really believed the stories. mostly because i had actually talked to some of the students. at the least we smiled and waved to one another.

so anyway, after the two students left, some of the cool kids still wanted to laugh and make fun of them….they were always spoiled little assholes and probably still are. and that is when coach made the announcement. i don’t know why i remember it so strongly. i mean its been over 30 years, but it came rushing back to me a couple of days ago when i got ambushed by the scientology compound in L.A.

as i walk walking down the street to go to a bookstore i was told real life queer people go to, i noticed their giant building….i mean its huge and very blue! and i was like, right! hollywood and scientology. then i came to this intersection and a woman stopped me and said, hey want a free personality test. no, i like my personality just fine. and she pushed and said the magic words, aren’t you curious? well, yes, i am. so i went.

and she took me to that big blue building. it was sooo creepy. and everyone looked like they worked in a mid-nice hotel – black slacks, white shirts, black vest, and name tags.

she took me to this room where i met someone who told be there would be 3 tests (alarms went up), but i sat down to take the first test. i finished it quickly…by the way, standardized test where you only have 3 answers (yes, middle, no) is very manipulative. when i finished, the woman was right over with the next test before i could even stand up….more creepy. this one was going to be an i.q. test that was going to take 30 minutes. nonononono. i do not have the time for this. she said why not what do you have to do? i have to meet my friends. well when? what time? so i made some shit up.

then there was this, here hold these two silver things, and i got more nervous. a couple minutes later the original woman from the street corner came back to give me my results. naturally it showed that i am a mess. that i am depressed and unhappy and really fucked up, but scientology has all these classes that can help me find my purpose and direction. for every thing i said, she responded with i understand that, but….

finally, maybe 5 minutes of this, i had enough! i said i’m sorry, i’m not going to continue this line of questioning. i have to go now. she got defensive and asked what she said that upset me. i went into the failings of standardized tests and then just stopped. she didn’t care. she was trying to get me to stay, so i just stood up and walked out.

as i entered the lobby, without an escort, i saw all the eyes turn to me. this was the first time i kind of actually felt afraid on this trip. what if they locked the doors on me? what if they called security? what if i can’t get out?!

i didn’t stop until i was well down the street, and then i let myself get pissed! i was pissed off! first at myself for having wasted a half hour at this crack-pot place. then the longer i walked the anger turned to laughter. turns out the joke is on them.

as i reflected on what happened and why i answered the way i did and why they feel like my answers were causing me to have an unhappy life, i realized i am doing ok.

yes, i am having a mid-life/what the hell am i doing with my life crisis, but at least i am letting myself have it. in fact, i have given myself permission to go out into the world and figure it out. i don’t have to buy a fancy sports car. i don’t have to try to prove that i am still as young as i want the world to see me. i just want to find a way to live in this world with my values in tact and experience all the experiences that come my way.

so thanks scientology! thanks coach! thanks world of infinite possibilities!