Homespun


September 2009

I return to Charlotte from Mexico on August 31st sunburned and burnt out. With nothing left to give my firm I struggle with the severity of the consequences that will arise from running away from almost eighty thousand dollars of debt.

“You’re being ridiculous, Kay! You can’t just up and move to a city when you have no idea how you are going to pay your credit cards off. What if you can’t make the payments? You think that’s OK? To be part of the massive problem infecting the American economy? More defaults, higher rates for those that paid their bills on time. Do you realize almost all of my rates have been jacked up to twenty-five percent because of other people defaulting? I pay my fucking bills on time. You can’t just walk away from your responsibilities like that. Do you want to destroy your credit forever?”

My past warning to my best and least responsible friend is laughable and a resigned humpf of a laugh escapes my chest as I think back to how much everything has changed in the last year. And now it is she on the other end of the line, reminding me about the responsibilities I am throwing to the wind. The next seven years flip slowly through my head. I will not buy a house. I will not buy a car. I will not move into a fancy apartment building or get any job that requires a credit check. But I don’t care. And it liberates me. That flip book isn’t my life, it is someone else’s, and the more I think about all of the things I am supposed to want, the less I want them. Suddenly the three thousand dollar bag on my arm and the seven hundred dollar shoes on my feet that I once coveted and adored metamorphose into the dull, greyed steel of infallible chains. I am going mad with a desire for freedom. Nothing can possibly stop the inevitable string of events that one sunset somehow set into motion. This massive decision that has only frustrated and petrified me in the past suddenly makes me dizzy with excitement. I could be free. But what will I do? I don’t want a mortgage or a car payment. I don’t want to sit behind another corporate desk for the rest of my life, and every molecule in my being knows this. As with every action and reaction in life, there are reactants, catalysts, and conditions required to yield the final product. After four years in a city I ended up living in by an inexplicably fucked up string of unpredictable events, I now find myself leaving in the same fashion. The dominoes of the universe that will inevitably tumble, that I cannot, or will not fight. It no longer feels like a choice, but a fate to which I have submitted. And with each day that passes I search only for the excuse, for the catalyst, for the way out. I am coming into work an hour or two late almost each day. I do as little work as possible. I am hungover every day. Wine and bourbon seep from my pores into the tautly conservative air of the War Room. But they will not fire me. Nothing I do will ever lead them to risk the lawsuit with which I could possibly destroy them. An illicit affair with a superior. Threatened bonuses, a notebook full of sexually harassing comments. They don’t pay me enough to make laying me off worthwhile. I’m cheaper to keep on than to risk as a liability.

I am scared. Or, maybe, I should be. I am not. All I know is that everything I thought was right for the last four years has been wrong. Perhaps the dreamed stereotype of a well-manicured lawn, and a nice car, and a few properly educated kids will bring happiness to most. Perhaps my lust is an anomaly in a sea of people that fit a bill I was never meant to pay. Regardless, as it is yet again, I don’t know what I want, but I know without a doubt what I don’t. It is crazy, I am crazy, so they tell me. But not a second of these four years has been wasted if it took all four of them to cement in me the knowledge that none of this is anything I want for myself. The large majority of people, including my friends, especially my family, think this is the most wildly irresponsible decision I have made in an absurdly long string of wildly irresponsible decisions. Despite this, and surprisingly, most of them understand. This is not for me.

The moment it happens, despite every wild unwoven thread of my poorly sewn plan, I know there isn’t any other way. I don’t have time to bide reason or responsibility. Responsibility will cost me a decade. And so, with seventy-five thousand dollars in unpayable debts, I cash in the last five thousand dollars of someone else’s money I will ever be able to, and flee from the Cackalack like the fugitive I am.

There are many choices in life you can’t unchoose, but few to which are given the grace of a second thought, the respect of a shred of a regret. This is the all the former, and none of the latter. I am finally free.

Journal – August 2009

I sit in the airport on the floor, my back resting on the window with the suffocating Cancun humidity fighting back, unsuccessfully, against the thick plate glass. Hoards of obnoxious Americans with neon t-shirts announcing they had been in Mexico mill through the enormous duty free market. My hands shake as I attempt to open the packet of Pringles I picked up, not having eaten all day. Weak and exhausted, the maudlin tones of Heypenny’s Use These Spoons serve only to exacerbate the deep sense of regret that sits like a brick in my belly. Such a small and silly regret: just for not having followed that stranger on the beach in Tulum. And the sick sadness at the thought of returning to my life in Charlotte only weights me further. There is something alive in me that I am scared will die if I stay any longer in this materialistic, bullshit job pretending to be something I am not every day. Being in Mexico with Carlos opened my eyes and made me believe it really is possible to pick up and go. My student loans and credit card debt have been a prison from which I know I cannot escape in my twenties, or even my thirties. I don’t have that much time. None of us do. The weight of the life I am living is suffocating me like the humid August heat and I have got to get out from under it. I have made a decision. Instead of paying off as much debt as possible, I am going to save as much as possible. Once I have enough I am leaving. I don’t know where yet, but it will be somewhere beautiful, somewhere cheap, and somewhere new. Perhaps I will take my car and drive through Central and South America. Perhaps I will move to Playa del Carmen and find a job tending bar, learning the language as I go, become a part of something unfamiliar. Sitting in seat 17E I stare longingly at the azure sea as we leave the vast turquoise behind. Tears sit waiting behind my eyes as I try to reconcile the life I want with the one I have, growing ever harder the more I understand who I am. I am applying to school in November. If I can get into Adelaide or Vancouver I will find a way to get financing and my student loans will defer. If I don’t get in or I can’t afford to go, I will take as many cash advances on credit cards as possible, get in my car, and hit the road. Drive through the country, head out west, see what happens. Hopefully I can find odd jobs as I go, maybe settle somewhere for a few weeks at a time. I could follow the road across Tennessee, then out through the fly-over states, then up towards Vancouver and back down the coast to Mexico, down to the winding tip of Central America into South America. I would stop and stay in any place I wanted to explore and get a new tattoo from every place that feels like a home to me. Anything but this.

After six days on the Yucatan, I know I could live there for years and the Mayan sun inked on my ankle will remind me of that every day. The pilot has just announced that we are flying over the East Coast of Florida. At thirty thousand feet I am back in America. The thought that I may be able to follow the incessant pull in my belly to run away calms some of the sadness that Mexico is in my rearview mirror, and I will have to sink back into the hurried and soulless world of finance like jumping on a merry-go-round as it whips quickly past you. I don’t know what my plan is, I don’t know what will calm this ever-rising pressure from my soul, I only know that I have got to get out of this place, and I’ve gotta do it fast.

February 2008

He picks me up by my waist, roughly, recklessly, and sets me on top of the copier. My tweed pencil skirt tightens against my thighs as he hurriedly pushes it up my legs. The plastic of the copier creaks with my shifting weight. We laugh with abandon. I unbutton his shirt deftly, though one-handed and blindly as our mouths can’t find enough of one another. With his chest bare I run my hands over his broad shoulders, down the contours of his back. He is a runner. I momentarily stop only so he can lift my blouse over my head, thoughtlessly tossing it into the recycling bin next to the fax machine.
“Taylor, do you have that model finished for the investment committee meeting?” I am snapped faster than a falling dream from my almost painful reverie. Fuck.
“Yeah, it’s almost done.” I lie. “I’m still working on it, but I’ll email it out as soon as I’m finished.” I am nowhere near finished. I hate this job.
I glance over to the man about whom I had been dreaming, sitting engaged and focused at his desk. He looks up, as if able to feel my stare on him, and the familiar glimmer of our eyes meeting pulses a quick shiver through me. He is married. He has left his wife. No one knows. We are in love.

I struggle through the model to the last minute, frustrated with the same errors time and again. I have never been trained in the work I am doing and wonder on a daily basis why I was ever hired. What the fuck is a sociology major doing working in a major asset management firm anyway? I still don’t have the answer to that question. I hurriedly paste the model into the presentation and wait while the copier dutifully spits out my thirty copies. I like my idea for the copier much better than this. From my place across the office I can see the entire team is already sat at the long, formidable table. I am late for my own presentation, yet again.

I stumble through my investment recommendation with the sole hope of not sounding like an idiot at any point in time. I have worked for this firm for over a year now, and am only just beginning to understand what I am doing. I come out of the meeting to several comments from colleagues congratulating me. It is not that I have done such a great job, just that I didn’t fuck anything up, which I assume is expected from me at this point. I sit back down at my desk, a sigh of relief releasing itself from my chest. Back to trying to figure out what I am actually going to do with my life.

I am twenty-five years old. I have just shy of fifty-thousand dollars of student loans from my bachelor’s degree. In addition to that I have anywhere between twenty and thirty thousand dollars of credit card debt, depending on how good I have been. I live in Charlotte, North Carolina, and other than a few close friends, and my sister, I hate this city. Hate it like getting lost down a dead-end. Like waking up in a stranger’s bed. The large majority of my good friends live in Washington, D.C. and despite my desire to join them I know I won’t be able to find a job to support myself and my debt in a more expensive city and Charlotte happens to be one of the cheapest in the country. I sigh the sigh of futility knowing that even here, I can barely afford to pay my bills, and my only comforts lie in the one room crack den that is my apartment, and the three bottles of wine I know I have waiting for me at home. Every day of my life is the same.

Despite the massive amount of work I know I have to be doing, I leave the office at six thirty, most people still toiling away at their desks. My twenty minute walk home through uptown is spent with headphones in my ears and lets the work day slip away slowly from my mind. It is the exact antithesis of driving home in rush hour traffic. Opening the door to my four-walled first-floor efficiency I kick off my shoes and immediately remove the shackles of my business casual attire. In my underwear I head straight to the kitchen and pour a large glass of cheap red wine and let the remainder of the day wash through me with the bitter crimson. Despite the books pouring from my bookcase and stacked in careless piles around my bed, I never have the energy to read for pleasure after spending ten hours reading credit documents and legal contracts. I turn on the TV and flop onto my bed/couch. I spend the remainder of the night in this position. My boyfriend is at home. With his wife.

Before I know it I am drunk. I am drunk every night. My sleep is sporadic and fitful, waking up each hour on the hour until I see the number starts with a seven and it is time to get up again. My Groundhog Day nightmare, my broken record existence, my lifeless life.

At eight thirty our morning investment committee meeting begins yet again, the same meeting, every morning, and I immediately begin sending dirty texts to my paramour on my blackberry. He is the only thing that makes coming to work worthwhile. We go on this way for ages. I feel a decade has passed. It has been another year. He gives his wife the house. He puts me up in a fancy apartment. I am his love. I look like his whore. Eventually we are found out and he is inexplicably fired for unrelated reasons. There is now nothing getting me up in the morning. But what choice do I have? Two hundred dollars to my Stafford, three hundred and twelve on the AMEX, a hundred and fifty to Capital One, two hundred to Citibank, three hundred to Sallie Mae, six hundred to rent, a hundred a fifty to Time Warner Cable, seventy-five to Sprint, and barely enough left to get drunk. My life is swallowed by the debt I am in. The debt I cannot control because as soon as I pay my bills, I have no money, and so I run up more debt. I am making sixty thousand dollars a year and I can barely afford to live. It will take me fifteen years in this job to pay off my debt at this rate. I do not sleep. I am a shadow of a woman. My only hope lies in the possibility of going to graduate school for my writing. My student loans will be deferred. I will come out with sixty thousand more dollars of debt and a masters in something that will make me no money. I toil over applications regardless, finding that even browsing the programs and dreaming of another life offers me quick breaths of relief from this career I never wanted. There has to be another way.

Journal – March 2009

It is the second day of our safari into the Serengeti and amazement is painted on the faces of everyone in our oversized crew. After four flat tires in one day, we are finally headed towards the Ngorongoro Crater. The sun is setting behind the crater rim, its golden rays piercing, unfalteringly true in every direction, a glimpse of something beyond the temporal. The plains stretch in infinite freedom beyond us. We are standing in the pop-top Jeep and suddenly I am overwhelmed. Tears fill my eyes and my breath is both shallow and great. At twenty-five years old I feel something I have never felt before. Everything inside me rises; my wide smile will bridge the hemispheres. I will swallow the world. I will absorb these lands, my skin is a billion cells, everything is possibility. So much beauty will suffocate me. The yellow of the sun brushes the crater rim’s horizon and I have no words, no voice, I am nothing in the vastness of this planet. I will devour it all. I am a human again. I am a human for the first time in my life. The purpose of life surges through me in one instant, electricity, a tangible change, the weight of a knowledge that levitates. I can never go back to the life I lived before. She no longer exists. I am born.

Back in Charlotte the change is imperceptible. Eight a.m., another meeting, another daydream. I have nothing left to give to them. The meeting is over and I head back to my desk to begin another day of doing as little work as possible. The man I loved moved to the other side of the country. We believe he was fired for fucking me. They never knew he loved me. I spend my days trying to get laid off. I have nothing left for the company that told me my apartment wasn’t nice enough. I have nothing left for the boss who told me my bonus would be bigger if I stopped wearing crazy jewelry with that grey tweed pencil skirt. I read the New York Times. I sit on Facebook. I plan trips to anywhere, to everywhere. This will not be my life for long.

August 2009

I am traveling for the first time on my own. I have no idea what I am doing. I have a cheap ticket to the Yucatan Peninsula, my backpack, and a few hundred dollars. I spend a week reveling in all the possibility there is in the world. In a strange twist I find an acquaintance who has quit his job and moved to Playa del Carmen, a city on the way to my destination. He invites me to come and stay with him and I know there is no such thing as coincidence. He lives here now on almost nothing, on money he had saved. He and his brother own only two forks. No one wears shirts in the streets. He smiles with the ease of a man who knows what he wants. I fuck him maybe hoping he will give me whatever it was that got him. I think he does.

Despite the ease of his place in Playa, I venture alone to the beaches of Tulum. I don’t know how to travel yet, but I am learning. Find the cheapest hostel. Be willing to accept kindnesses from absolute strangers. Be spontaneous. Be open-minded. Be careful. I spend these days walking the beaches in a solitude that somehow comforts me. I am alone, I am not lonely. I watch a couple raise their glasses over the candlelight, in front of the moonlight, with a soft clink. They laugh. I smile. I will never know them. The ocean has always held a strong influence over me, and with the days the quiet turquoise of this ancient place pulls me deeper into it. I need it. But I know this is not my life. Waiting at the bus stop back to Playa I meet a fellow traveler. An American boy, ripe with the dirt and grime of the sweaty country that we share, open to everything else we might. I will never know why, but when he asks me to return to the beach with him, I turn him down. I have just trekked the four miles with my pack. I can barely stand I am so dehydrated. I have just purchased my ticket back. A million reasons why not. Sitting on the air conditioned bus on the way back to Playa I think of only him. I want to tell the bus driver to stop. To run back to the beach through the stifling heat with my heavy pack on my weary shoulders just to have a beer with him. Just to learn his name. As soon as I make it back to Playa del Carmen, I turn back to go find him. I learn how to ask for the American traveler with a red pack and curly hair in Spanish. We are vanished. I never say no, but this time, I did. Whatever path that boy represented gasped its last breath as the unfamiliar words fell exhausted from my thirsty lips against his protesting invitations. I will never let caution, exhaustion, or apprehension overwhelm desire. I will only ever regret the things I don’t do.

Two months later, I quit.

I wake in the familiar haze of hangover. I have been back in D.C. for less than two months. In two more months I am moving to South Korea. And two weeks from today I am leaving D.C. to head to Charlotte. I let the next two years flicker through my head, a series of still frames in which I am always alone. I roll over sleepy in his silent bed. He is an old friend. We have been fucking since I got back from New Zealand. It is new and fun and perfect. We are both leaving. It is always only sex and we know this. He tells me about all the horrible things he does to his girlfriends. We laugh. I am attracted to him. I am fucked up. I slide my panties back on realizing he is going to break his promise to fuck me again in the morning. I didn’t get to come. He is late for work. We sit in strange silence on the way to the metro, everything still, we are paused, suspended. The same stoned silence the night before. Something feels different. What is different? Why is he being so strange? He didn’t touch me the same way, I know it. I am crazy. Everything is fine. I am positive he doesn’t want me anymore. Or maybe it is the other way around. My eyelids drop and flutter with the hum of the beat-up van and the breeze swings warm and soft on my face. Something has changed. I can feel it in every piece of me. I am often wrong.

“I have a strange feeling that was the last time I’m ever going to fuck you.” I shatter into the silence. Only silence follows.

We arrive at the metro and he kisses me on the cheek chiming, “Have a nice day, honey!” some sick twist on the domestication our once weekly sex sessions so flippantly mock. We were always friends. We are only friends. “Have a good day at work, dear” is my usual response. Today I mutter “see ya” and hop out of the van. What is wrong with me? I do not look back.

I push headphones immediately into my ears and let the weight of whatever it is push me deep into the ground. Was he really the one being so strange? For over a year this is all I have known. An endless string of boys who I leave or who leave me. Always running, keep moving, don’t get stuck, don’t let them get you cause you know you have to go. Two weeks here, six more in Charlotte, one in Denver with the boy I know I could fall in love with. Maybe. I think I could. But I won’t. He thinks I am perfect. He is wrong. I won’t let him find out. Gone again. What happened to the girl that threw herself on the tracks at every chance, begging for a train wreck? Since when do I push them all away? Now cautious, cold, and calculating. I say cruel things to remind him I don’t really care. Our affections are only for the sex, for the show we are putting on. I like kissing him. We do not care. He will never get to me, no one can catch a girl running so fast. But he is perfect because he will not try. He’s a runner too. We laugh broad and free at how little we care. We are invincible. It is perfect. No strings, no emotion, fuck whoever you want, play house when you like and never call. I want him to call. It is just sex. It is all I want.

But now I am sinking stones. The ground breathes and heaves beneath me. It is swallowing me whole. I let the maudlin strums of Nico Stai drown me. I am enveloped. I am invisible. I am suddenly made of sorrow.

He is not the only one I will throw away. Not the first, not the last. Another name, another month, another dick, another run. Another year of garbage to collect, of hearts to discard, of self-inflicted wounds. I will tell him when I fuck other men so he knows he is not the only one. He tells me when he fucks another woman and I don’t care. Fuck her the same day you fuck me. Give her the tights I leave on your floor by mistake. I do not care. I remind him what we are. I remind me what we are. He is not the one that needs it. I can’t get stuck, can’t let anyone change my plans. Not this girl, I am stronger than that, I am independent, I am utterly alone. I will tell myself this is what I want. I will travel the world. I will meet boys and kiss them and fuck them and love them and leave them and hate them for leaving me. I will run until my bones are dust, until I am the only one left alone. Because that is the only thing I know how to do anymore. Leave.

After the boisterous whirlwind of Christmas was through, nine of us headed up to Anwar’s cabin on Deep Creek Lake where we continued the holiday binge for five days straight. We celebrated the New Year (and my twenty-sixth birthday) in raucous style at the relatively secluded cabin. Anwar, Faye, and the teddy bear spun fire poi atop the tables on the porch, burning fervent trails against the stark darkness of the frozen lake, the lake from which the boys fashioned a home-made ice luge. We even had a ball drop. The party was happy, and sloppy, and bingy just as any proper New Year should be. Though as the first minute of the new decade rolled in, and I was a year older, I couldn’t help but feel that silent sting of December slowly return as the poet remained out of touch. Despite this, I hid the last remnants of my longing well, and devoted the entirety of my energy to the teddy bear, and enjoying the constant entertainment that my tight-knit group of friends never fails to offer. On the first night of the new decade we ate the last of the chocolates I had brought with me from Charlotte and the Autumn of Mushrooms officially came to an end. We watched the Princess Bride, we danced to Sam Cooke around the living room, we read fairy tales, and we laughed in careless enjoyment of the company we kept. Through bottle after bottle of booze and meal after delicious homemade meal we continued the streak of the best holiday season we had ever had.

Ridiculous Bloody Marys

The Midnight Ball Drop

Homemade Ice Luge

Cozied up watching The Princess Bride

Black Light Fairy Tale Night Cap

By the time we got back from the cabin, two-thousand-and-ten was already underway and though my original plan was to start looking for a job in the new year, I thought it would be infinitely more fun to take a little unemployment romp over to the Left Coast. I had recently discovered that two good friends of mine, one who was my fuck-buddy in undergrad, and one who I met randomly through my sister in Newport News some six years ago, somehow found each other in San Francisco and moved in together. The surfer was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed dream boat with an impeccable body; a relaxed and easy man who knew his charms too well. Though he tended to fuck three or four girls at a time (without their knowledge, of course) he and I had always had a unique relationship as the girl that knew about his boundless ways, and usually every few years we would find each other for a weekend of booze and meaningless sex. Great meaningless sex, but meaningless nonetheless. This was not one of those weekends, but I was glad for it with the number of boys I felt had been occupying my mind of late. The skater I had met only a handful of times, but we had stayed in touch sporadically over the years. He was shy and sweet, and his demeanor belied his towering stature. He was a nice guy who stayed true to his stereotype and always finished last. The second time I met him we made out like high schoolers in a warm summer downpour, perched on the edge of his balcony, but that was as far as it ever went. Despite the fact that both boys were former queue members, they were my friends, and I decided to ignore whatever latent sexual tensions there might be and booked a ticket for a five day weekend to the City by the Bay. Not a day or two after I booked this ticket, Nate, a close friend and big brother figure, who would kill someone for looking at me the wrong way, asked me to come to Seattle, where he had just moved from Charlotte. Nate had been in prison for two years for habitual DUI until just a few weeks before I moved away, and as he was one of my closest friends (despite the violent and belligerent tendencies I have always tried to calm in him), I was upset that I couldn’t afford to go. And then he changed the game. He offered to pay for my ticket from San Francisco to Seattle and back home. Of course my peripatetic mind started churning out ideas at the mention of complimentary airfare. The teddy bear lived in Santa Fe and had been asking me to come see him. Though the flame I felt for him settled to embers as quickly as it sparked, I still believed I wanted to go. Or maybe I just wanted to get somewhere new (something for which I have been known to have a weakness). I could fly from San Francisco to Seattle, then to Santa Fe, and then back home, and all I would have to pay for was the one-way ticket back. I could spend three weeks out west catching up and bumming around with some of my favorite boys, come back to DC, and worry about getting a job then! It was perfect. Of course, as every story regarding travel in my life goes, it didn’t work out as planned.

The day before I was to leave for San Francisco, Nate informed me he had to travel to Georgia for work and wouldn’t be able to fly me out there. Now the one-hundred dollar one-way ticket home turned into a three-hundred dollar multi-city fare and I had to find an alternative city to visit between San Francisco and Santa Fe. Of course I could have just stuck with my original five day San Francisco trip and skipped Santa Fe, but once my little head got used to the idea of a three week romp around the West Coast, there was no turning back. I decided to stop in Venice Beach for a few days to see Iva before I made my way to Santa Fe, and I would be back in DC by the twenty-seventh. As you may or may not know, In addition to this little excursion, Faye, Anwar and I had been planning a trip to New Zealand. We bought guide books and had been excitedly talking for weeks until, on my second day in San Francisco, Anwar broke the news that he couldn’t get the time off work. Knowing that going to New Zealand and spending the last of the money I had to bum around with was wildly irresponsible wasn’t enough to overwhelm the knowledge that I probably wouldn’t have the money to do it ever again. Rambling to the surfer about my travel plans gone awry he uttered a few simple words that proceeded to change my life: “Why don’t you just move there?” It was so simple. I had no job, no car, no lease, and nothing but the people I love keeping me in DC. I had a few grand that I was using to bum around the District, why not use it to bum around New Zealand? As the next few days passed and I found myself exploring San Francisco, a city with which I instantly fell in love, and slowly trying to find reasons stopping me from moving to New Zealand. I couldn’t. Within three days I applied for a twelve month working holiday visa, and by the time I got to LA it was already approved. There is a certain feeling that accompanies making decisions you know are right, and a way that they come easy to your soul. And my latest decision, probably the biggest I have ever made in my life, still overflows me daily with that very feeling.

San Francisco was amazing (I will post those tales, I promise, I left my possessions irresponsibly strewn down the coast of California and one of those possessions was my journal of the trip) and I made my way to LA with nothing but New Zealand on my mind, spending the large majority of my trip lounging at Iva’s place making plans. While we had wanted to explore the city, my curious luck with Los Angeles weather continued, and cold winter rain fell on each of my six days there. Regardless, we ate well, got drunk, and enjoyed the rare company you find with old friends you don’t often see. I was to fly out of LAX to Santa Fe on Thursday and as the day approached my stomach turned for the teddy bear. Knowing that my feelings for him had waned, and understanding what he was expecting from me when I arrived, my guts boiled searching to find the right answer. Finally, on the day I was to depart, I couldn’t ignore the uneasiness that had plagued me for days and I made the decision not to go. I knew he was going to be crushed, and letting my cowardliness overwhelm my sense of obligation to his heart, I waited until the last minute to tell him so. To my surprise, he took the news in stride. He agreed that he would not have wanted me there if I couldn’t have shown him the same affection as before, and he may not have known that my heart and body have never been capable, nor willing, of faking it. We talked about life and heartache for a while, about the endless cycle of hurting and being hurt that we all continually endure for that chance at happiness and agreed that the time we had together was still worth the shit that inevitably follows. When we got off the phone I felt I had done right by him, and reminded myself why honesty has always been the one thing I hold in the highest regard.

As it was, I stayed in LA an extra few days, dropped another hundred and ten bucks on a third ticket, and wasted two more flights in the process. While in LA I purchased a one-way ticket from DC back to LA, another one-way ticket from LA to Fiji, and a third from Fiji to New Zealand. All-in-all I had dropped more than two grand on tickets in less than a month. Even I felt idiotically reckless, what’s done could not be undone. Departing from Washington on the sixteenth I gave myself three weeks to get my totaled car out of the impound, sell it, give away the large majority of the last of my belongings, pack a bag and head westward. Way westward.

As I sit here tonight, unsatisfied with the words I am about to post, I know they must be said. For in less than two weeks the page will turn and the next door will open and I will have a new story to tell. I have just five days left in DC and though I will miss the familiar comfort of close friends, the rush of endless possibility that courses through my arms and eyes every time I think of what the next year holds is as much of a drug to me as the myriad other addictions I possess. Wish me luck.

The last few months since I moved to DC have spun me inside-out. And the bender that started sometime around August of last year in Charlotte has only increased its frenetic pace. This Christmas season was no exception and we seemed to stumble from one party to the next, endlessly tearing through handles of bourbon and tripping more frequently than ever in our lives. We prepared for twenty inches of snow by stocking up with a handle of Beam, a handle of vodka, another fifth of Beam, three cases of beer, and a fifth of Kahlua. And it wasn’t enough. We awoke groggily that Saturday morning, with hungover bodies littered around the living room, to a thick slab of snow covering everything in sight. Easily already ten inches had fallen and the less-than-delicate flakes came down hard and angry from the sky like wasps. Despite the formidable wind and frigid temperature, it was breakfast time, and I needed bacon. A couple of boys I had recently met during my brief stint waiting tables had made their way to the party at around four that morning and they agreed to accompany me into the blindingly colorless void that had become Columbia Heights in order to search out my beloved bacon. An odd couple they were: one a lanky and easily excitable ham, the other a short, relaxed personality with dreads that swung down his back in thin black ropes. With the sidewalks impassable, we trudged our way down the middle of the half-plowed street, the sharp wind chewing our faces, searching any convenience store that had the balls to be open in this torrent of snow. Despite the boys’ seemingly conflicting attitudes, they shared the same off-the-wall sense of humor as I do, and the frigid biting of the snow was eased by the raunchy laughter we shared. As we made our way onwards, one establishment after the next disappointed on the bacon front and we eventually had to settle for a package of turkey bacon and another fifth of bourbon before making our way back to the toasty comfort of home.

As we ate the satiating feast with Christmas approaching the conversation naturally wandered to the story of the Nutcracker. Between the six of us that remained in refuge from the storm, not one could remember the plot. Struggling to recall details of rats and sugar plum fairies, we eventually decided to turn to Google. And so was the birth of the fairy tale trip. As we read the story of the Nutcracker aloud to the group, the heinous details of the original story appalled and entertained us. Clearly none of us had ever heard the real story before as we learned that in order for the king’s daughter to have the curse of her nutcracker-head broken, she had to find a man who had never been shaven, and never worn boots, to walk seven steps backwards without falling down. Seriously? We sat rapt as my delightfully intense new friend continued on through the engrossing tale. And when the girl finally fell in love with the nutcracker and the curse was broken, we only wanted to hear more. Considering we had nothing but time, booze, and a bag of mushrooms, we passed those snowed-in hours hiding from the arctic air, reading stories aloud from a book of Grimm’s fairy tales, and discussing with horror the terrifying choices made by these beloved and loathed characters. For twelve hours we stayed cuddled cozy in the living room through the last bottle of bourbon as the snow continued to fall silently onto the cold, white streets.

Despite all the fun we were having, the poet was still on my mind as I struggled to find what I needed from him. Something had changed since I left Charlotte behind, and I found myself fighting for even the smallest shreds of the affection he used to offer me freely. His warm, cloudy eyes turned to steel, and his soft words sharpened, slicing my shallow skin as I continued to hope for the return of the man I knew before. Snaking my way through the bar on Christmas Eve’s eve, pushing past hoards of drunken hipsters, I saw him in his familiar posture, seated where he always sits. Though he had yet to answer the questions that had been clawing my chest from the inside out, my eyes still alighted incandescent at the sight of his quiet face. But as I approached, and sweetly greeted this mystery of a man, his eyes met mine with an apathetic disdain that pulled the air from my chest like smoke. His arctic, silent reaction to my eager, earnest face left me hollow. It was the last straw my weary back could take and, dejected, I walked away without another word. I headed straight to the upstairs bar to the easy comfort of my friends, and the sweet burn of bourbon. Their frank and raucous company was a welcome distraction from the disappointment I was trying pitifully to hide. As I drowned my belly in bourbon I slipped into the lilting rhythms of flirtation with a boy to whom I had just been introduced. A long ago face from my friends’ collective past had come to town this Christmas Eve, and Anwar was quick to push me in the direction of the man that will be known as the teddy bear. I probably should have considered the significance of walking away from one man and instantly falling into another, but at the time I was simply grateful for his gentle demeanor and candid eyes. He veiled me in the warmth of being wanted and it was effortless from the start. For the next two weeks we were inseparable. He made me laugh and kissed me often and on Christmas night, the lot of us tripped in the comfort of our wonderfully familiar living room yet again, and felt like a family in round agreement that it was the best Christmas we had ever had. Though the poet had fallen from my favor and bruised me in the process, the teddy bear held me in the way I had been missing, from Christmas through my birthday, and unknowingly bandaged the wounds I was quietly nursing before his arrival. We were a fast flame, I was content, and thoughts of the last burn had fled my tired mind, at least for a moment.

The morning was bright and brisk as Faye, Anwar, and I began to prepare for our trip to Fityfo’s farm for his twenty-seventh birthday celebration. We were three of among around fifteen people making the forty-five minute drive out to his grandparent’s farm in the rolling hills of Virginia and we had all been excitedly anticipating this for weeks. We neglected to pick up the supplies we needed and as we passed a small general store on the way we busted a U-ie and picked up some last minute beer and Oreos. Unfortunately the tiny establishment did not carry bacon. You can imagine how distraught I was, but I managed to power through the disappointment. Continuing on our way we passed a sign advertising farm fresh eggs, apples and pears. Another U-ie was certainly in order for this. As we pulled up to the sprawling farm, a young boy greeted us out of the car and sold us two dozen eggs and a bag of apples. The tiny seven or eight year old boy formally regretted to inform us that they were out of fresh pears and with apples and eggs in hand, onwards we went.

As we arrived on the expansive property we walked up to the old house, quaint in its white painted brick exterior but inside a massive, winding domain, every surface in every room littered with hundreds of years of Americana and kooky antiques. The long formal dining table was set with twelve chairs and a smaller table with six sat adjacent, and a cornucopia of autumnal pumpkins and squash adorned the center. KK and Lili were making their way around the table folding napkins into bishop hats and setting the table. This place was incredible.

Silverbrook Farm


Schmancy Table Setting


Fityfo proceeded to give us a tour through the steep, narrow staircases and into each of the numerous bedrooms, all decorated in the same quirky country style. On almost every inch of every wall were plates, clocks, mirrors, and faded, cracked American artwork. We each claimed our beds with our suitcases and continued outside into the crisp early afternoon. Walking on the left of the house past the gravel driveway we approached what appeared to be some kind of nest. Up a six foot ladder made of branches was a round wooden platform covered in pillows and wrapped in several feet of twisting bushes. It didn’t just look like a nest, it was.

Me in the People Nest


That's right...a people nest


We decided instantly to head back there and smoke a joint the next chance we got. Fityfo showed us the outdoor bathroom with a rustic white bathtub exposed to the sky to enjoy the stars and everywhere we turned were wooden platforms and benches, most covered in pillows, overlooking the hills of Virginia disappearing into the horizon. The crepuscular colors of autumn shouted against the grassy green of the fields and we all took a minute to breathe and appreciate just how beautiful this place really was. We walked past the life size chess set outside of the original kitchen in the back and cracked open beers on one of the many porches as Fityfo finished explaining the long history of his grandmother’s farm and the way it had grown and evolved over the years.

Why is that one dude staring him down?

Though most of the crew had yet to arrive, the seven of us there made our way to Hillsborough Vineyeards, the first winery on our itinerary. After several U-turns and mistakenly driving up someone’s driveway while they were gardening with the thought that their massive house actually was the winery, we finally made it to the right place. When we walked in the place was quiet and nearly empty and our boisterous group of seven surely didn’t go unnoticed. Still they were happy to have us there and the warm staff charmed and accommodated us.
Once we finished the tasting we headed outside to enjoy our selections overlooking the vineyard. The sky had turned from bright to bleak but the conversation was easy and laughter lilted from our mouths as we filled and emptied our glasses again and again.

Hillsborough Vineyards


Skipping.


Winery #2


On the way to the next stop again we passed the entrance and were cursed with several more U-turns, an ongoing joke of the weekend at this point. We rambled drunk around the farmlands filling our bellies with bread and cheese and wine in the brisk autumn afternoon. We found a place on a dock overlooking a small duck pond and packed up the one-hitter watching as the sun broke through the grey, silhouetting the wiry branches of bare trees lining the edge of the pond. At the third and final winery, Sunset Hills, the remainder of our crew arrived, including Eve and BoBo, sisters back home from New York and Los Angeles for the Thanksgiving holiday and we sat in happy, raucous company enjoying the steady friendships we shared with one another.

The Crew.


Perfect.


We headed back to the farm before sunset to begin preparations for dinner and the bonfire. Fityfo’s sister was already busy in the kitchen making the chili and the rest of the girls began work on the appetizers. While the boys took the tractor down to the burn pile to get set up, Eve, Faye, BoBo, and I climbed up into the people nest to smoke a joint under the scattering of stars in the sky. In the idyllic moment we spoke of friendship and love and in that moment I felt that everything was finally right. After years of feeling tortured and out of place, of making shitty decisions and drinking my regrets from my mind each night, I finally felt true and free. The friends I have loved for years, but from whom I have been apart, are all that really matter in this world, and sitting with them under the stars I smiled a furtive smile believing I was finally beginning to figure it all out.

Closest of Friends.


Seeing Red.


While dinner was cooking and the booze turned voices and faces red, a few of us went to take a ride across the acres in the back of the truck. With Fityfo in the driver’s seat and the four of us standing in the back with cocktails in hand, the old rusted, red and grey pick-up jerked forward into the darkness and we were off. The air stung the dry skin on my face as we skipped and jumped over the bumpy gravel road. As we squeezed our ghostly knuckles around the metal frame surrounding the bed of the pick-up, Max lost his balance and fell into me, pouring his whiskey on my legs and feet, his glass shattering to pieces that clinked around the bottom of the truck as we went on. Fityfo pressed his foot to the gas in the enveloping darkness, the headlights illuminating but a few feet of the vast landscape ahead. Entering into the muddy field Fityfo turned the wheel hard into and sudden into donuts and Sylvia tumbled into Matsui, her wine tossing itself into the air and all over each and every one of us. In the back of the jostling truck the four of us howled in drunken, uproarious laughter all the way back to the house.

By the time we got back dinner was almost ready and we made our way into the formal yet cozy dining room for Fityfo’s birthday dinner. The table was full of booze and food and friends and we filled our plates and glasses and bellies in easy fashion.

Happy Birthday Fityfo


Fityfo and the Birthday Spread


As the meal wound down and we cleared our plates, it was time for dessert. I ran quickly upstairs to my suitcase and came back down with several handfuls of psychedelic chocolates to trip while we lay in front of the bonfire. Some decided to stick to liquor and once we ate our candy we began to gather what we needed to bring to the burn pile. The tractor sat out front of the house and we loaded into the back with our blankets, bongo drums, iPods, speakers, booze, cider, cigarettes, lighters, and anything else we could think of. Matsui sat across from me next to Sylvia and I couldn’t help but think I sensed something between them. I had been nervous about Matsui coming on this trip, and whether the awkward remnants of our failed relationship would continue to hinder the friendship I was trying to foster with him, but instead the opposite happened. We floated back into familiar rhythms without a problem and by the end of the night I would think that I almost preferred an awkward distance between the two of us. Knowing that nothing good could come from getting too close to the man who tore my heart out and to whom I reciprocated in the same callous manner made me hold my breath and keep my distance. We were always doomed, the two of us, and I won’t be a silly enough girl to make that same mistake again. Besides, there was another man on my mind more often than not that day; and there wasn’t room enough for the both of them.
As the hayride came to an end, Sylvia’s dog Serena jumped off the tractor and ran to chase the cows and bulls mulling about the fire site. Worried for her dog, Sylvia chased after her into the darkness and as the sound of ton-heavy bulls trampled against the wet ground we sat entrenched with worry for both Sylvia and her dog as we heard her cries for Serena echo unto the great emptiness. Luckily after fewer minutes than what it felt, both Sylvia and Serena returned unscathed. As Sylvia and Serena found their way back to us, the boys and KK hopped off the back of the tractor and went to start the fire. In the cold November night, most of the girls stayed in the trailer, sitting on the bales of hay drinking whiskey and hot cider and rum under blankets to keep us warm as we felt the slow tingling of the chocolates begin to invade our bodies. The boys struggled to ignite the pile of damp wood on the windless night until after more than thirty minutes, the flames finally rose from the burn pile and in the light of the first flare of fire the hallucinations began. The rest of the girls and I climbed out of the tractor and down towards the bonfire, laying out blankets on the cold ground around the intense heat. We laid our bodies on shukas and passed bottles of whiskey around to warm our insides with the slow growing burn of fire water in our throats and stomachs.

Fire and Blankets


Bonfire.

As the night and the trip rolled on, the beat of the bongo and the smooth wavering of jazz clarinet wafted into the air around us. We lay upon one another laughing and watching the orange embers of the fire twist towards the stars like fireflies, overwhelmed with all the beauty in the world. As our trips grew in intensity, so did the drunkenness of those around us and soon the peaceful beauty of the night erupted into belligerence. Friel (our resident Irish alcoholic) decided to be a dick for no good reason and toss a cow paddy into the face of another drunken friend. Within moments there was shit flying everywhere and Aman, the victim of the attack, ran at Friel with his fists flying, pushing him into the shit-covered mud and pounding his hard, angry knuckles into his head until he was finally pried off of him. Not five minutes later, an obnoxiously drunk Max Power ran full speed into the towering flames of the burn pile and immediately ran back out amidst a cacophony of screaming pleas for him to stop being such a fucking idiot. In my opinion this is just one more argument that alcohol is far more dangerous than pot and mushrooms.

As the fire wound down we found ourselves inching closer to the initially overwhelming heat and as the bottles of bourbon found their bottoms we loaded ourselves back into the tractor and found our way back to the house. Sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace we drank wine and played games into the hours of early morning. Slowly the large group thinned out as one by one the long day of drinking took people to their beds. Suddenly, as the last few of us still awake sat quietly talking and drinking on the same warm rug, a thunderous crash split through the house from the upper floors. Sure someone had been hurt we ran to find what had happened, and help whomever it had happened to. As we came up the stairs to the second floor we saw a dresser lodged against the wall at the bottom of the flight to the third. The dresser, filled with linens must have weighed at least two-hundred pounds and was topped with several pieces of pottery, which now lay shattered in pieces strewn across the old wooden floor. Upon turning up the steep staircase, we saw Ben pulling himself from the top of the dresser, he and Max Power in a heated argument over some ridiculous bullshit, the details of which I am still not sure but which ended with him pushing Ben into the dresser and the two of them tumbling down the treacherously steep staircase. Thankful that Ben landed on top of the dresser and not the other way around. We cleaned up the thick shards of clay-colored pottery and sent the drunken boys to bed, Max now officially crowned as the biggest idiot/douchebag of the weekend. There’s always gotta be at least one.

As the hours wound on, the last five or six of us Mohicans smoked one last joint out in the shivering cold and headed to what we had named the orgy room, each finding warmth under covers on one of the seven beds that wrapped themselves around the wall of the icy basement cove. As I lay on my back with Matsui in the bed next to me, the room continued to shift and breathe to the beat of music in my mind and I knew I would not find sleep yet. Barefoot in the dark I took my journal and a pen to a random couch next to the laundry room and began to write of the boy who would not leave my mind as the house slept in silence. After an hour or so, as the twisting colors of hallucination gave way to slow shifting, I made my way into bed and let my mind find its way to sleep.

The noise of pots and pans roused us from sleep in too early morning and we slowly awakened and made our way upstairs. The house was littered with solo cups, wine glasses, half-eaten pies, and the rest of the scattered remnants of the ineffable night. As we worked on washing the massive amount of dirty dishes we had created we reminisced on the best (and worst) events of the evening and unanimously decided that it was an unparalleled success, especially considering that no one was seriously injured between running into a bonfire and being pushed down a flight of stairs with a two-hundred pound dresser for company. I gave a piece of my mind to Max for his extreme idiocy as we drank mimosas outside on the beautiful day we had been given after the most beautiful night. People started leaving the farm early to get back to wherever it was they needed to go and Faye, Anwar and I, who had become an inseparable threesome of late, sat on the wooden platform surrounding a towering oak, drawing, reading, and writing. We were in no hurry to leave this miraculous place. As the time wore on and our appetites grew we decided to head back to Hillsborough for a bottle of wine and some chili, bread, and cheese before we finally made our way back home. We sat, occasionally chatting with the sun warm on our faces, and felt utterly blessed for the incredible lives we lead. Truly, la vita è bella.

The Creativity Tree

Much like any other day, it began as I awoke unassisted by an alarm into the dark and early morning. Unlike most other mornings, the bed against which I rolled and stretched was in Southern California. I was to attend a business meeting at a swimwear manufacturer that morning at 8:30. The high pressured shower at the Embassy Suites pounded the jetlag from me with each steaming hot drop and twenty minutes later I met my colleague in the lobby ready to head out to the meeting. As you may or may not be aware, I currently work in finance. As you also may be aware, I loathe my job more than any words of mine could ever express. And as I am certain you are not yet aware, it is largely related to the person for whom I directly work (as well as to the pressure to want to be as rich as possible, hate social welfare programs, and love the Fox news network). Not only is he generally incompetent, he also resembles a horrifying coupling of Skeletor, Frankenstein, and Christopher Reeves. He is 6’5”, slightly hunched, has a lisp that sounds like he is chewing on cotton balls, and spits near constantly when he speaks. After two years of working for him, I have trouble even making eye contact with the man. This is the man who keeps a spreadsheet of what time I come in and how often I am late. This is the man that presents my work as his own. And this is the man who accompanied me on this trip. Considering this, it is understandable why I was reluctant to fly out to LA on Monday evening, drive an hour from LAX to Tustin, attend the meeting, and then head back to the airport for two connecting flights back to Charlotte with him. As an appealing alternative, I booked myself on the 10:45 P.M. non-stop redeye back to Charlotte out of LAX, and dropped him off at Orange County airport immediately following the meeting. By 11 A.M. I was speeding solo up the four-oh-five back towards Venice Beach with not but twelve sweet hours to spend with one of my very best friends, Eve.

After the hour long drive up the crowded speeding freeway, the quaint side streets of Venice welcomed me to California in vibrant flowered vines crawling over distinctly Californian houses from modern to classic stucco. I parked my rented Rav-4 down Flower Ave. and walked up to meet Eve and see her new life in Venice. The long-haired, olive skinned beauty welcomed me with a long and over-due squeeze and we headed up to her apartment. She gave me the quick tour of her small flat and we stood in the kitchen chatting as she made us some fresh tomato avocado turkey sandwiches on delicious Hawaiian sweet rolls. California had decided to give us a perfect day and we accompanied our sandwiches on the balcony with a glass of cool white wine and sparkling water. Eve and I both assiduously single; we spent the first hour recounting tales to one another of our most recent prospects and how incredible it is to be independent again after so many years we both spent in long and hard relationships. Just while sitting out on the balcony, Eve introduced to me four of her neighbors, all funky, chill, seemingly interesting characters, who all shared the same immediate and unquestioning warmth. At this point I am already in love with Venice. Once we finished our refreshing sandwiches and wine, we stopped for an amazing cup of coffee at the local favorite Groundworks, and headed out towards the boardwalk in the warm and early afternoon.

The Venice Beach strip is an organism, growing and contracting with each pulse of humanity that surges through its brick veins. The boardwalk is lined with merchants and artists pedaling their rainbow of fares, from standard t-shirts and incense to local art, and I found myself pleasingly overwhelmed with the wealth of characters and sounds swimming through us as we walked. Everything in Venice seems to be designed to please the eye and the colors tumble forth from each and every shop in attempts to attract its myriad locals and curious visitors. Medicinal marijuana appears to be sold in almost every store, whether it be a head shop or a massage parlor and Eve and I rambled down the boardwalk, stopping to browse the local art, or buy a t-shirt, or a pair of sunglasses, for an hour or so until we reached the end of the strip. We decided to have a cocktail on the beach and stopped to get a couple of styrofoam cups, two Miller Lite twenty-fours and a bottle of Mountain Dew. A curious treat by which Eve swears, I settled for it, and we spread out her Kenyan shuka on the sand and watched the sun glinting against the cobalt sea.

Colors of Venice Beach

Colors of Venice Beach


Coolest T-Shirt Stand

Coolest T-Shirt Stand


Los Angeles Art

Los Angeles Art


Bum Pissing

Bum Pissing


Beltssssss

Beltssssss


The Strip

The Strip


I want to go to there.

I want to go to there.


After relaxing on the sand with our beer and Mountain Dew, it was time to continue on our tour of Venice Beach. As we walked away from the beach, Iva began to tell the story of the history of this town and its grand plans to be the “Venice of America,” the colorful boardwalk, amusement park, and few remaining canals a testament to Abbot Kinney’s early 20th century dream. We strolled along the canals, drifting between talks of boys and friends, and admiring the continually eclectic architecture lining the shallow waterways. Bridges cross the water periodically and as we walked I realized that our day had been all journey so far, and so little destination, a fact which made me smile from the inside out. Our adventure continued as we left the canals and crossed into yet another fascinating piece of Venice. We walked along the sidewalk in our summer dresses and watched as bicyclists weaved in and out from the sidewalk and the street. The roads in Venice are different, as they belong equally to the bikes and the cars; the sidewalks different as both trash and recycling are provided on every corner; and the people different in a way I haven’t yet been able to describe.

Beach Cruisers

Beach Cruisers


Iva admiring the canals

Iva admiring the canals


I want your house.

I want your house.


Bridges

Bridges


After forty-eight ounces of Miller Lite and sixteen of Mountain Dew, Iva and I were both in desperate need of a bathroom. Stopping into a small and intriguing furniture gallery on the street named for the father of Venice, we asked to use the restroom. As it turned out, the man sitting in the shop was the twin brother of a man from whom Iva bought her vintage Schwinn. Though I am still not sure how, after exploring the shop for a minute or two, this man offered to smoke us out on the vintage purple suede day bench Iva had been eyeing on the back patio. He meticulously rolled a joint in those clear papers made of plant cellulose as he bitched about all the hours he had been working lately, and as he rolled, he passed around a great green and orange bud, as dense and fragrant as anything I had seen before. Once the joint was ready and we settled outside to enjoy the sweet, sticky herb he began explaining to us that he was licensed to grow up to six plants, and this was his own untreated outdoor bud. While smoking, two girls walked into the store and I carefully tucked the joint into my hand and held it behind my back, nervous for them to discover our little secret. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when, after a few minutes, the girls were seated out on the back patio getting high with us as well. I’m not sure I could have asked for Venice to get any better.

Love this store.

Love this store.


Roosterfish

Roosterfish


As we made our way on down Abbot Kinney, we passed a turquoise establishment bearing the enigmatic moniker: Roosterfish. Eve suggested we head in for a drink and began to tell me a story of the time she took her parents here. Looking around the bar, I couldn’t tell exactly why it was such an inappropriate place for a parental cocktail, until I caught the series of early twentieth century penis drawings on the wall. Apparently, Eve had inadvertently taken her parents to Venice’s most famous gay bar. Regardless, the bar had a nice energy and we grabbed a couple of Heinekens and drank them on the back patio. The conversation lulled a bit as the long afternoon of beers and walking settled into stoned and hungry. Now a little high, a little more buzzed, and famished, we continued on to our next destination: Jin Patisserie. We entered through the gate into a small Asian-inspired garden terrace and took a seat in the shade of a tree, the sunlight filtering down to the table as the breeze soughed through the leaves. After several minutes of perusing a delectable selection of cakes and pastries, Eve and I settled on the afternoon tea, which came with an assortment of finger sandwiches, quiche, and unfathomably delicious cakes. The delicate treats and hot tea with milk was exactly what both of us needed to shake us out of the beer/joint coma that almost swallowed the rest of our afternoon. At it were, we left Jin refreshed and headed back towards Eve’s as the sun hung low in the late afternoon sky.

Afternoon Tea at Jin

Can't  remember the name of this delicious tea

Can't remember the name of this delicious tea


We gonna rock down to - Electric Avenue

We gonna rock down to - Electric Avenue


Sadly, we knew the day was winding down, and our walk back to Eve’s after lunch was mostly silent as we strolled, and as I contemplated quitting my job and hitting the road to California with nothing but my Jeep. As the sun began to set, autumn crept into the air like a thief and we arrived back at Eve’s apartment just in time to change into some warmer clothes, grab the bikes, and head back down to the beach before nightfall. The now chilly night whisked through my hair and on my skin as we sped towards the Pacific Ocean. As we finally approached the beach, we turned onto the bike path, sinuously stretched along the coast and rode on as we watched in awe, the sun screaming fiery in the crepuscular sky. We laid our bikes on the sand and looked out over the never-ending ocean as it swallowed the great orb in hazy clouds of vibrant orange, silently overwhelmed with all the beauty in the world.

Palms over Pacific Sunset

Palms over Pacific Sunset


It was now just after seven, and in the cool late-September night in Southern California, Eve and I stopped for some German beers and a truly giant pretzel with a perfect Bavarian mustard. This was the last stop we made before heading back to her apartment, and I headed on to the airport. We talked about Venice, about the West Coast, and about life. Eve begged me to move out there with her, and even offered a place for me to crash for a bit. The night grew colder as it wore on, the warm bread pretzel a saving grace in a night that belied the warmth of the afternoon. Eve and I ate as much of the pretzel as we could manage, finished our beers, and made the quick ride back through the brisk night air. The familiar sorrow that envelopes me at the end of every trip began to sink in once we got back to Eve’s place and I placed my packed bags by the door. At the end of the most perfect day I knew I was only a four hour flight and three time zones away from being back at my desk, and wondering when my next adventure would take place, and where. Well, here I am. Sitting at that very desk, ignoring the work I have to do, about which I have lost the ability to care, and telling this story: the story of my wanderlust, the story of my best friend, the story of Venice Beach, and the story of my life.

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