eugene one more time

i returned to eugene just a couple days before the uber-popular holiday of thanksgiving, a holiday that for as long as i can remember has always troubled me. it doesn’t take a genius historian to recognize the lies, the fallacies, the roust of the story we have been told since we were wee ones. yet and but it seems so benign as far as american celebrations go…wanting to gather friends and family to give thanks. if that is the reason for the gathering, why was it always so damn stressful? why do grocery stores and markets depend so heavily on the capitalism that week and especially that wednesday before? and then there is black friday the day after…all so consumer and money driven. gather the crew and spend spend spend and the capitalists give thanks.

i feel like if i made this post during the depths of “the holiday season” people would shut down or get defensive, and there would be no discussion or giving of space to question why and how we celebrate what during this time of year, and as we are doing more questioning in this country about how and why we celabrate events such as columbus day and moving it to indigenous peoples day, we can do the same with the last thursday of november (a month to celebrate the people native to this land). and i have to say, my favorite moments for this time have been the many friends-givings i’ve gone to or hosted over the years.

this year, in eugen, was a pretty special one. i spent it with 2 people who have also been questioning how to mark this time of year; a time that has been marked by countless cultures through the ages for many reasons. it is also marking the ending of the adventure that started two and a half years ago when i left oregon, along the coast, sent off by these same 2 humans. this wasn’t planned, but that is how great moments come to be when i just let them, and it is in retrospect that i realize just how right it was for us to be together during this time.

we decided that we would try and go camp somewhere, make it just a simple celebration of all we have to be grateful for individually and collectively. one buddy found the last remaining cabin on the coast and they snagged it! yahoo! we just needed to make it over the coastal range where snow was called for. it was a cold morning, and we did see snow up on the peaks through the whole journey, but when we got over the costal range we came across a managed herd of elk in a meadow, a cleared space from ranchers come to settle the area back in the 1800s. we had a snack as we watched the herd graze, then it was off to the dunes and the ocean. it was sunny and that kind of warm/cold one can find along the shores of oregon. so we wondered in the sunshine, ate more snacks, watched the surfers, and smiled as the sun began to decend on the horizen indicated it was time to go check into the cabin and set up, start a fire of our own, before the sun moved across the horizon and out of sight. but not out of mind.

one of things i’ve been learning more about as i spent more time with these wonderful humans is about the sun and the moon, its movement and how different cultures have marked time, space, and ceremony by its phases and placement in the sky in relation to life on this planet. the solstice is one event that we all agree is meant to be acknowledged in some way, but what is it really marking? something we had been thinking was that both summer and winter solstice, in the western world mark the first of summer or winter, but really, when one considers the way the sun travels, it is the mid point of summer and winter. for example, the first day of winter marks the time the sun starts winning the battle over darkness and we get longer “days”. in the pacific northwest, this was vital to our mental health. so much to unlearn and re-educate myself on, for “traditional” cultures have acknowledged this movement of the sun and seasons differently, and i feel deeply moved to learn the ways of people who lived based on the land/place.

~~~

once our abode for the night was set up, we poured some wine and we all kind of went into ourselves. i contemplated all the ways i’ve concidered celebrating thanksgiving. once, i heard that it had been suggested that it be a fasting holiday instead of feasting, so i’ve considered that. i’ve read the thanksgiving “prayer” of the haudenosaunee (iroquois nation) while preparing food for folks to come over. i’ve spent the day in solitude, meditating. but how do i want to keep moving forward in how i mark the movements of time and of the seasons, for lately i have been considering that the only constant is movement not change, but that is another discussion for another time.

we did make a lovely simple meal together that night. we gathered around the heater in the cabin. we read (one worked on school projects), and we chatted until it was time to snuggle into our sleeping time. and i slept, i believe we all slept and dreamt deeply .

the morning brought a slow walk around the lake our cabin overlooked, staying in the sun as much as possible with our mugs of coffee. watching the sun hit the cold air as ducks swam out of the rising fog. we made it back just in time to pack up for check out, and it was off to find a sunny picnic table to make the pancakes and snausages (vegan sausage). we all took turns flipping flapjacks for ourself or one another, basking in the warmth and the view of another lake amongst the sandunes separating us from the pacific. and then it was time to point roscoe (the latest adventure vehicle in their lives) back to eugene for a(n) (anti) black friday party. it was a perfect celebration for us, for me. old friends. new friends. good times.

this was just so damn perfect on so many levels. i have taken this gift i have given myself, of walking away from one life, to contemplate how i really want to be in this world. i turned 50 during this time (a cold winter night alone in colorado before i made the wonderful friends i would soon know). i’ve visited the friends and family that have helped me and encouraged me to be me as long as i’ve known them. i have made so many new friends and gained a faith in so much beyond myself, but not in any organized faith. all things i will talk more about as i keep unpacking what these past 2-1/2 years have meant to me, the foundation this time has created for how i want to move in my life.

today i am finding a new place in the desert southwest in a small city on a few boarders with such open expansiveness that there is room to contemplate so much. and everywhere i go there is proof of all the people who have moved through these lands for centuries. i couldn’t be happier. what a wonderful place to keep working on decolonizing my life. one of the many ways i am doing this is by trying to read as many people of color as possible, mostly women and queer folks. same for the music i listen to, movies, and food too. one truth i have come to recognize, and am willing to talk “come out as” now is i am calling myself a writer, finally. one partner i had decades ago told me a would write a book one day. i though she was had no idea who i was. sure i could write little article to go with photos if no one else was available for the paper. now here i am working on a book, a story, that keeps getting bigger and bigger. than i can actually see as becoming a series. and there is more, another big big project, but i will wait to release that when it has more form.

some resources for ya, if you are considering the disconcerting feelings that come up specifically around thanksgiving (also known as thankstaking or the deeper truth of thankskilling, i’ll post some at the end. i am not saying we need to stop celebrating thanksgiving. i do think the roots are beautiful; to give thanks for all we have done to prepare for the cold months of limited resources that allows us to go in and repair, heal, create…it is a gift. even if we change nothing in how we gather, it is important to know what and why we are gathering…i think.

thanksgiving toolbox

anything by the tierra incognita media

read indigenous peoples history

follow indigenous people hike

these are just a few that can lead you down the interwebs to so much more. and if you have favorites, share them. let’s lift up their voices!

eugene

so much has happened. eugene, surprisingly inspiring for me. i spent 3 months here, and once i gave up on the idea that i would or should get a job, i welled up with creative ideas. plus, PLUS, i arrived to adventure buddies, and adventure we did!

first off, i don’t want you think i barged into my friends’ lives for 3 whole months. i have my faults, but that i did not do. i did reach out to the local hostel and did some work-trade for a bunk, so i guess i did sort of get a job, but it was 4 hour shifts 5 days a week, so not so bad. and it was super easy for me to request to work/not work certain times to go adventure. also, i met even more people moving around this world in different ways for so many reasons, reasons i will be exploring in many ways.

as for the creativity that opened up in me once i recovered from logistics hangover, i am still amazed at how much i am giving in to it. it could be the space i am creating and plans i am laying out so that i don’t spend precious mental space worrying and fretting. but i have started having dreams at least once a month about ideas and directions that i want the book/story/potential series i am working on. things i haven’t been able to work out during waking hours.

i have also taken the time to teach myself how to draw, or should i say let youtube videos teach me to open up to the possibilities that i can create with pencils and pens..maybe water colors. i have never let myself do this. art supply stores intimidate me. i have looked at art classes, but was shy and afraid of not being good enough to share, and they always make you share.

so i have taken one of my dry bags and filled it with my journal, sketch pad, and a pen and pencils…my little art bag. it is so fun. sometimes when i am on a hike or some such fun activity, i don’t always want to write, or the words won’t come to describe my thoughts and feelings, so i draw it. i has effected all aspects of my expressive outlets. my photography benefits as i adjust for lighting or looking for the small details. same for my writing. if i am imagining a scene to write about, i can sketch out not just what i see, but people, lighting, feeling tones for the place come to life sort of speak and fill in what i’ve been missing. its great! also, it is yet one more thing that i can use to procrastinate what i am “suppose” to be doing now. so win win!

adventures! so many!

first, i got there and eugene was having a late summer pride event! it reminded those of us who came out in the 80s and 90s of those smaller community prides we use to have. ones that were free instead of 20 bucks or more and use local area entertainers instead of big names that blow the community’s budget for other things. i do appreciate both for different reason, but definitely love the smaller community feel.

my fellow bike adventure friend took me on a bike path tour one day. showing me how to get to the river trails, what streets are good for getting to favorite breweries and bike spaces. then he left to visit family and left the two of us alone to mischief. the other pal in this crew is more of a walker, so we walked all over the town. he showed me how to get around to the parks and buttes to walk and wonder. we went to the museum, heard some music, and he introduced me to some of the friends the two of them had made since being in eugene. this was the first time the 2 of us had so much time with just the 2 of us, that we really got to know one another even deeper. such a special time i can’t even express.

the adventures i had in eugene were mixed with solo and buddies. it has been so long since i had an adventure buddy, i forgot how much fun it could be. the adventures i had with my friend in kansas city was remarkable, but it was piece of my longer plans. also, with all the flooding, the planing was different. so planning micro-adventures with someone was just so fun.

eugene does have a wonderful public transit system that reaches out to nearby communities, including the mckenzie river ranger district, so i took a couple trips out there to wonder the river woods and hot springs. we took the bus down to cottage grove to bike the covered bridge route and play around those little towns. all for the cost of a regular bus ride of $1.75 or $3.50 for a day. i also rode my bike out to springfield fairly often for the fun of riding the river trail out to have a beer or for big queer yoga on friday nights.

i can’t say enough just how beautiful this valley is. how easy it is to so any different unique nature places from ancient forest to high deserts and mountains. hot springs and ice cold rivers.

i do have to say getting back to the trails up and around the sisters wilderness was pretty great. my buddies had decided to get in a backpacking trip before school kicked back into gear for the year. so we decided to rent a car and i would drop them off and we’d camp out together for a night. then i would get another car and pick them up and we’d have a little hike and adventure on the way back. there had been a fire recently where i walked them into the start of the loop they were doing. it was eery for sure, but still so beautiful. i feel fortunate to have experienced this forest in both situations, and to see the freshness of the fire mixed with the growth already returning. it was so soothing to be back up there smelling those piney forests and absorbing high altitude sunshine. catching the views of the first snow setteling on the peaks of the sisters’ peaks.

sitting by those high altitude lakes i was able to do more internal exploration of what is my responsibility to these areas that i both recreate in, and have reverence for. it is where i am refreshed, renewed, and fills me spiritually. it is a deep relationship that i feel whatever “wilderness” i am in, and it should be, needs to be a reciprocal relationship. so what is my responsibility? what do i have to give back to these forms of kin?

settleing in eugene for the winter is certainly a tempting thought, but there are many dark sides to this little city, besides nike. certainly here was the first time on this trip i truly felt unsafe. it was the topic of many conversations i had here. it was a tough topic to talk about because it could go in many ways and we wanted to make sure that people knew that we weren’t talking about the fear of the high rates of houseless folks living on the streets and in tents by the river. it is mostly in white men and not just the drunken frat boys. there is a high rate of people on meth and other drugs that are unpredictable who will do about anything for their next fix. it is a complicated topic that goes deeper into a myriad thread of our social ills in this country.

on the flip side, i think that being in eugene was more of a coming home than being in portland for a few weeks, but we’ll talk about that when i do a portland adventure wrap up. but that will be after our overnight to the coast #optoutside!

philly

where to start.

i could go the linear way…today and the next…i could group it into activities…my thoughts i had there…humm

well let’s start with getting oriented and see what happens.

i left off with the arrival to philly, getting the basic rulelessness of philly and eating dive take-out chinese food that really hit the spot. i met the roommate and the house doggo. we caught up a bit before it was passed time to get some sleep.

i woke and listened to the city around me, then i got a text from with-in the house. it surprised me at first, but eventually i came to enjoy the quiet interactions from the comfort of soft clothes. usually it was an update on work schedules, ideas for the daily activities…

everyone went to work and it was just me and mr. dog. to get my bearings i went for a walk around the neighborhood. i found the local punk coffeeshop/cafe with lots o’vegan options (p.s. i really enjoyed this place and it was below a super cool bike shop that mostly i watched people of color go up and down the stairs with every day bikes and wearing regular clothes). i also found the all vegan donut shop, (yum), and the local co-op that i had heard a great deal about (not all good not all bad).

at some point i texted another friend of mine that i lived with for a minute back in the portland years who had moved to philly. we made plans to get together while i was in town. we had a good catch-up and they let me know about a couple of actions happening around the city that i would end up going to.

this first day (and most days i was there) the sun was shining. it was hot, but not humid and super hot. this part of west philly reminded me of portland 10 to 15 years ago. especially north portland. perhaps it is because of the cusp of rapidly encroaching gentrification of a historically black neighborhood. i could see myself trying to find a way to spend the summer here. these first few days it was super tempting to look at job and housing options for the season.

that night we met some of my friends’ friends for happy hour at the taco place and chowed on vegan nachos and margaritas…yum. the conversations were fun and lively with lots of laughter and smiles. it is always nice to get to know my friends other friends, especially friends who don’t live in the same place i do…to know friends are well cared for and loved is a wonderful feeling to me. also, one of the women hails from russia. while in n.c. i read part of a book on the oral history of punk music in russia that my friend did the cover art for. she actually knew some of the bars and places in the book. it was a super cool connection.

our days together were spent in lovely relaxed (to me anyway) ways. we went to the museum. saw a wonderfully disturbing exhibit as well as the rocky statue and footprints. it was remarkable to me how many people come to the museum just to see the rocky statue, so much so they moved the statue from the top of the stairs (you know where he ran up in the first rocky) to down and off to the side of the stairs. we walked the historic streets of philly (once crashing the filming of some t.v. show we had never heard of). we talked and caught up on what’s been happening in our lives, our minds, our hearts. we ate good food, consumed good beverages, and had lots of fun.

the moments we were off doing our own things, i walked the streets of philly, explored so many varied parts of histories that philly holds from pre-revolution to social justice actions, including an action against ICE that i went to with the other friend i have here. all the walking and wondering, the pouring over maps that listed important names as the names of parks or centers: malcolm x, paul robeson, du bois, MOVE, and mumia just to name a few. i tried to get to the edgar allen poe house, but just couldn’t get make the time for all the things.

one day i was walking around the historic area where independence hall is and the liberty bell, historic homes that had “servants quarters” i.e. slaves. i rounded a corner and spotted the “first bank” of the u.s. it stopped me in my tracks and i read the plaque. it talked about how it was proposed as a way to pay of the huge debt that this new founded country now had due to the war for “independence.” within just a few blocks i would run into at least the first 5 banks in the country. the last couple i ran into trying to escape the area. i was overwhelmed by the obviousness of the connection between war and banks and the merchant class and just how much we have not changed at all, the cycle this country spins to keep the capitalists of capitalism in control of the labor class. i needed to get away and clear my head.

there is a park by the house of the statue of liberty so i found a shady place and sat and calmed my thoughts and did a favorite activity of mine, people watch. there were people of all backgrounds speaking many languages, and i could not calm down. it was much more like a punch. normally this is a scene that warms me from the inside, but with the fascist want-to-be dictator that the u.s. has as a president right now, i was embarrassed (?), saddened (?), pissed for sure. that we as a country of immigrants (unless you are native american), that we would do any less than welcome those seeking refuge with open arms, is outrageous to me. granted these were tourists with some level of privilege ($$ everything in independence area cost money to enter except the liberty bell), and most likely would not have border issues when trying to return “home”, but i held some doubts for sure.

it was decided that we would take a day to go to the roommate’s parents house in jersey to swim, and break the city’s heat, so refreshing. what a great idea, go play and splash in a pool during the heatwave. it was a super fun day. we swam. we drank. we ate. we played games. we watched a couple thunderstorms roll by. we drove back to philly during another storm, tuckered out. i fell into a deep sleep.

i woke with the urgency of needing to make plans to get moving again. i couldn’t stay in philly. maybe i will return one day. there was a deep part of me that wanted to stay and see what i could get involved in, but i had a deeper need to get back west of the rockies. no matter how hard i try, i am not an east side of the country kind of kid. also, i could tell by the conversation i had with many people that i would most likely fall in to the cycle of working too much to make ends meet and consume things i don’t want to in the long run, and not make the time and space for the creative ventures i am trying to get started and move ever more forward.

eventually i found the route that would take me west. i chatted with my pals in oregon to make plans for my landing. and then i relaxed into my final few days in philly, and this led me to some great conversations that helped me work out some of my thoughts i’d been having while there.

my friend and i had a conversation one night about whether living so close to the deep history of the neighborhood, and racist history of philly, lent to having a sense of responsibility to that history? it is related, i think, to how i feel about living so close to nature and feeling a responsibility to protecting and making responsible choices in how i move around in my life. i mean, i can’t imagine white people calling the cops on black folks while having a picnic in malcom x park…just sayin’ but if gentrification keeps happening…

another night, at the first micro-brewery in philly that is right next to the punk cafe, i chatted with the bartender. he had recently returned to philly after going to school on the west coast. he was able to give himself the time and space to return and and come out to his family and the challenges of being a young gay black man in west philly (and the world). we talked about many things, including the similarities he is witnessing from his time in oakland and being back in philly around gentrification, housing, and wages.

but make no mistake, my last days weren’t all politics and heavy conversations. i ate a lot of vegan foods…went to the straight edge pizza place for amazing vegan “wings”. i had all the vegan treats i could get in my mouth. we went to an irish punk bar for some tasty vegan snacks and good beers. p.s. i do love me a good irish punk bar.

the morning of my departure was to be early, so we said our so longs the night before. i had decided to bike to amtrak instead of waking my friend and loading up the car for a ride to the station. this would be the only time i would bike in philly, and i am glad i did. i had been wanting to ride, but touring bikes are not really city prepared as everything is quick-release aka easy to steal. i rode away in the early morning during rush-hour traffic in busy bike lanes. it was a beautiful morning and a nice ride.

while waiting at the red cap post to be directed to where to load my bike i met a nun from a west philly church who encouraged me to get confirmed or something like that, just to be safe, like an insurance policy for my soul i guess. she was very nice about it. i told her i’m more along the lines of buddhist. she assured me that was ok, but i should still get to a catholic church. she reminded me of what dorothy day of the catholic worker movement might have been a little like. i also met a couple that would be on the train with me all the way to sacramento. little did we know what was in store for us in the coming days.

a couple of side notes. after getting into eugene, i read that the chinese restaurant we went to closed it’s doors the end of that month. rent was getting too high. the owner told the story of his family coming to the united states, and the support he has had since arriving in philly.

i also learned why a pizza shop i had tried to go to a couple times, but had a paper note that they were closed. seems that the staff believed the owners had fired a black employee for racially motivated reasons, so the staff locked up shop. the sister bar/restaurant did the same a couple days later in support. well that explained my confusion, and also reinforced my feelings that people were taking actions and not just sitting in meetings talking about the theory of racist management practices.

i can’t express just how much i am grateful for this friend, and this visit. we’ve known each other for over 20 years now i guess. we met when i lived in syracuse, and this is the second time we visited in person since i left ny. there are for sure gaps in our knowledge of the others’ experiences in those years, yet our friendship has stayed important and strong to us both. who knows where we will meet next.

i can’t wait to tell you about the adventures i’ve been having in oregon!

and the mountains came a callin’

so

there i was

in wichita

ks

again

excited to spend the winter with friends and family and friends who are family.

i looked for work, i looked everywhere. i even looked into returning to food service and bartending. was actually a little excited by the idea of bartending again, but not food service. it is fucking hard, no joking around. and it is possibly, at times, the most demeaning job i have ever had. [so side note, tip = to insure promptness aka tip first service is according to tip not the other way around]. the bummer of it all is, i like to provide an atmosphere for folks to have a great social outing, but my income should not be determined but your mood. bartenders tend to get a little more “respect” socially but probably because it is seen as a male-dominated field. i could go on and on about this and i probably will one day, but not this day.

anyway, the jobs that i was able to find in wichita were low paying with limited available hours. not a great way to save for the next phase of the adventure. so one day i was searching for a possible active adventure summer job, and found a resort hiring in one of my favorite towns in colorado. so on a whim, i applied and got hired within the week….so much faster than anything i was experiencing in wichita.

so, soon i was headed to the bus station to denver, overnight in a hostel around the corner, and another bus to my new location.

i should linger a bit on the hipster hostel in denver. i really liked it, and most likely will stay there again if i need a city getaway…hey its possible. hostel fish is a converted brothel downtown. it is just a couple blocks from the greyhound station. downstairs there is a restaurant and bar, upstairs it hosts its own bar alongside the community kitchen. across the street is a fine brewery that often has a food cart next to it. both the brewery and the food cart are overpriced. however, this is all just a block or so away from a main street full of options from slices of pizza (advertising vegan slices) with live music to an irish pub. so i had one beer at the brewery post long fucking bus ride, grabbed a couple of slices, listened to some music, and night-capped it at the hostel.

at first the bartender at the hostel was kind of an ass to me, but then i mentioned something about the music he was playing, he was playing chastity belt, and he lit up! finally i found a venue to get past his fascade. he is a budding singer/songwriter who hosts an open mike there at the hostel. so we were able to chat about music and small stages and such.

 

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piano in the bar of the hostel

 

i was so excited about my new adventure that i couldn’t sleep, so i took another shower, the first was to get the grime of bus travel off me, (i like bus and train travel, but that last leg between pueblo and denver was extra grimmy for lots and lots of reasons). so my second shower was to relax my mind and muscles. i settled in to a meditation and finally slept…and dreamed so many dreams.

for the last month, my dreams have been full to overflowing of symbolism and metaphors. my snake dreams have returned, but have shifted. in one dream i sliced an amazingly wide snake, like so wide and dense it was similar in size to a tree trunk, the kind of trees you find in the pacific northwest….freaking wide! and i just sliced it so cleanly so smoothly with some sword…i could see its internal rings and workings…i can still see it, like right now while i reflect on it.

the next snake dream was more intense. i was wrestling or something with two snakes who were more rattlesnake/viper like. i finally got a grasp of them both, one in each hand, close to their heads. yet, not close enough to keep them from biting my hands in that special place between the thumb and index finger…that place used so much in chinese medicine. i was finally able to strangle them.

but this night, the dreams were of people i have intimately loved in the past. people i haven’t seen in years. each one i stayed friends with after the break-up, but our paths have taken us in different directions and we don’t cross paths much anymore. a facebook like or instagram check-in, maybe a random text message, but otherwise we have drifted in the sea of former loves. the dreams this night were so vivid. i could smell each person’s unique scent again, and remember all the curves and scars that told their stories, the tastes and textures…i awoke warm and happy and thankful for each one of those amazing people who have graced my life. as i venture to a town where i know no one at all. where i will be doing work i have never done before, for i don’t know how long, with so many unknowns… the reminder of being loved by people i never expected to have loved me in the first place, was a most excellent send off.

 

and that, my friends is how i ended up in this little mountain town. population roughly 12,000. elevation in the valley is 6700’+. there are hot springs all around, and the people are so nice. i work as a housekeeper for a property management/vacation resort company. i am the only white person who is not a manager. my coworkers are from mexico, ecuador, jamaica, haiti… i make nearly double what any job was offering in wichita, and more than what most jobs offered in portland when i left. and i am in a small mountain town. one of the few that is actually having snow right now. and i cannot believe how happy i am.

everyday i wake up, look out the window and smile. the view is always spectacular. one super cold morning i woke up (i live up on the mountain with a slight view of the valley) and as i gazed from ridgeline to ridgeline, the central valley was full of fog. it looked like a snow cover lake filled the valley. other days the snow and super blue sky, the aspen trees, the warmth of the cold…it fills me in ways i cannot describe.

 

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reminder that changes happen on the edges

meanwhile, i’ve been reading books like half a yellow sun and you don’t have to say you love me. to say they have had an effect on me is to say the sun is warm. i have been moved and changed by these books. i am having so many thoughts these days about how we treat one another. about the ideas we believe just because it has been passed down to us. what is it that creates so much passive hatred that we think is benign because we think it is just true? these are the things that grow systemic racism, bigots, and trumps. we can do better. we are known to do better. it is why our best sides can come out in times of crisis. we want to be empathetic, but our fear, our ignorance, our inability to listen openly keeps us from our better selves. what kind of people have we become? who do we want to be? who do i want to be? that is the question that i return to and ask myself on a daily basis.

 

what do i like about this work that i am doing? because it is hard physical work. i like that 98% of the people i work with, english is not their primary language. i get to hear other languages all day long. and not just the languages, the beautiful songs that they create, but i listen to the way they talk. it is not the same as english. the emphasis, the concerns, the history… the person i work with the most, when i don’t work by myself, speaks no english at all….and i love it. i love the way i have to really think about what i am saying and how…something i need to do better all day every day with every being i converse with. that and we work really well together, we laugh (mostly at me), and we actually communicate really well. [this is not just my ego and imagination. i found out that she is the one who requested to work with me on our busy days].

i have learned that many of the people i work with (pretty much all women), especially the one’s from jimaca, have families back “home” or working in some other part of the u.s. in the summer they go back to where their kids are. i know that at least one of them is a tour guide back home. most of the ones i work with have been coming back in the winters for the past 6 years. i am fascinated by this migration pattern. in many ways this is a major advantage to the mobile communication technology. one day i worked with one woman who talked with her mom back home for the 3 hours we were cleaning one condo.

 

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a river runs through town

speaking of beings i converse with…i have a 5-minute walk to work. every morning i pass the same person on a walk with a beautiful older dog (maybe a chocolate lab type canine), the dog and i recognize one another and run towards each other in excited greetings every morning…those 45 seconds are better than a cup of the best morning stimulating beverage. i smile the rest of the way to work looking at the sunrise reflected in the western mountains. not a bad way to start the day!

 

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.

tijauna

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!

drying out again

I’m here in lovely coos bay. it’s been raining and raining, again. one joke I’ve heard many times is “it’s only rained twice, both lasting 48 days”  tonight I found my self in search of some green food, I walked by a brewery and heard some good music (they described them selves as surf country and I still don’t really know what that is), so  I stopped to drip dry a little. 
I ended up talking to two different fascinating groups of people. the first I had an unexpected conversation about being vegan and hunting. I had just missed a woman who is part of a vegan group in town and has almost convinced one of my companions for the night, to go vegan. 

the other companion at this group and I had a wonderful chat about how we are truly related to every thing as just another species, another animal on this planet. I was warmed and filled and ready to leave, but first a trip to the bathroom. 

upon my return was a fresh beer and an invitation to table where some friends of my companions were sitting. here I found out that the lead singer and guitarist is also the middle school principal. the stand-up bass player is the owner of the brewery. it seems the brewer has kind of been some what responsible for the uptick of musicians in the area. there was a kind of membership that gave one a free beer a month and funded bringing in music to the pub. people have seemed very excited by this. 

the guy sitting across from me had been up dancing and decided to pull off his sweatshirt to reveal those really thick suspenders  with the name of a saw company on them. he was an older man who has mostly worked at the timber/lumber industry. we started talking about this mandolin that someone he knows built out of different woods. he described the curves and the artistry and challenges of working with different woods by the way they twist and unwind in drying processes. he said the instrament sounds wonderful. 

he then talked about a man up around grants pass who designs and builds complete sets of violin, cello, bass, and maybe viola. to buy these sets, for a large chunk of change, you have to be approved by the builder first. it was a wonderfully delightful conversation about wood and music and art and craft. all with a fine band in the background. 

I walked back to where I was to find rest this night with a large moon showing it’self through the clouds. the rains stopped until I was about halfway “home”. I love these kinds of moments. there were so many other conversations about travel and adventure, about what it means to live and places we have loved. we laughed and tears welled up in my chest in finding such connections all day today. a day where I found myself sck of the oregon coast. 

I yurn for something else. the walking is wonderful, when I find myself on a trail. the road walking is rough especially in the rain. I needed this night for some renewed energy.

I will keep walking down the coast until I find another direction. the thing that is hard to remember sometimes is that every thing, even and especially the challenging times, are impermanent. that the best times do out weight the cold wet days. i just need to wait it out.
one thing that is a challenge on this particular trail is the cost. so if you have enjoyed these post, please consider donating to my go fund me campaign. it’ll give me a little more time out here before I stop and get some work somewhere.

and thanks for reading! it is nice to know there are people on the other side of this!

checking some privilege 

I guess checking one’s privilege is a lot like rain on the oregon coast, it never stops. however, today was, and still is, a wonderful day. it didn’t start that way. i woke early thinking great! I won’t have to pack a wet tent. then then pit pit pitter-patter began. I held my breath hoping it would pass  nope! a deluge poured down.  I started to read but opted to set a timer for 30 minutes and buried my head!

I eventually got on my way, and by the time I finished a lunch break it was a glorious day! a rounded the bay at Waldport and across the way, the whole shoreline was full of sunbathing sea lions! maybe this is what they were barking about all morning! not only was the sun out but the wind was at my back! 

The view! spectacular! today the ocean was such an amazing color! maybe what some would call aquamarine? a deeper but also lighter colors of blue layered with greens tinged with more blue. and the whites of the crashing waves blowing across the tops in a strong wind. all this under a clear blue sky! I needed today. it has been nice some, but the rain has just worn me out. even when I thought I was getting a break of sunshine, it started to rain. normally I like then sunshine and rain combo. but really I just want 24-48 hours with a dry tent and dry feet. 

to celebrate I may actually stay up long enough to watch the sunset! maybe. 

the view as I started this thought

anyway, that is not what I wanted to write about today; just needed to get that off my chest. today I want to just take a moment to acknowledge and recognize not just the privilege I have just to do this adventure, but also how privilege  effects how I’m treated out here. 

for those of you who don’t know me, I’m a white, cis gendered woman/gender – queer person. I come from a mostly working-class background. I have participated in a few forms of institutionalized higher education (a debt that I most likely will never be able to pay off), I am a healthy able-bodied, fairly mentally stable, and for lack of better words right now, legal citizen of the country I’m currently in.

some other privileges I would add: I am single, queer (in more than just gender/sexual orientation, but also so many ways I move through the world), I have no children or animals that need my care. my parents and other family members are healthy, my grandparents have all passed on (I don’t think is a privilege really, but I do think I didn’t start this until the last one passed so that I could be reached if needed). I was able to acquire respectably good gear that fits me. and I’m sure I will discover more as I continue this venture. 

why does it seem important to me to recognize this here and now? one of my very first conversations with someone (a middle-aged white male from the seat of his mini-van as he was headed to the same state park as I so that he could take a shower while his bathroom ws being remodeled) approached me because I “looked like a legitimate backpacker and not just some homeless person”. .  didn’t know how to respond so I said something to the effects of yes I am backpacking. 

however, I am also basically homeless. I don’t have a job. maybe I could consider myself self employed since I hope to maybe make some money eventually from these shenanigans. but because he categorized me as someone he could maybe relate to, he decided to stop and have a conversation with me. so, yes, for now I can afford a hiker/biker camp site, some of wich have allowed me to take a hot shower and I’ve rested up in a hostel a couple times.

I think, also because of how I present myelf, I have been able to talk more openly to other queerdos, even if that’s not how they would identify. 

I think some of this hit me as I crossed the newport bridge because I had had some really great talks with some folks at the lost buoy hostel. we talked about so many things, but one thing that sticks with me is how people using airbnb are changing the ways people travel and it is making it more challenging for folks to travel simply and cheaply. to the point that people are starting to charge for couch surfing. this is a whole other tangent around a kind of exchange economy that made up couch surfing. 

anyway….I know that there are just as many things about who I am that can put me in danger, especially in certain homophobic, sexist, pro-gun, hunting /animal agriculture communities. but I wanted to take a minute to reflect and remember to remember just how different I am treated than some of the other folks walking around these coastal towns with carrying all their possessions on their backs. are there ways for me to bridge these gaps? to make connections? I know I have so many more questions, I just don’t know how to work with them.

so now I will stare off into the sunset and see if I can sort some of this out! also, if you have any thoughts on these thoughts, please do share! 

p.s. it’s been a few days now since I wrote this and I’ve had a couple other experience that reinforces my points. it comes in getting 3 lifts from people while I was stuck road walking. all 3 people stopped and offered rides and I wasn’t even trying. i thought about it, sticking my thumb out and all, but I didn’t. I’m very grateful for the rides. they all showed up just when I needed them! yes, mom, they were all very nice people trying to repay for rides they had gotten.