Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Cycle Comes to a Close

        Things change. A lot. Especially my view about how I should be living my life. So, America, I'm sorry, but it's time to take a break. I'm heading back to New York State - another new town, but secure, stable, and certainly not stressful. I've decided that I need to refocus, recenter, and release. And although, I have opportunities to go elsewhere, like Hawaii, I think the best place for me is my mother's house.
        I can't wait to show her how I've changed since I first left my home two years ago. I've gained a lot of experience interacting with people of all kinds from different parts of America, and what I've realized is that ultimately, everywhere I go, I love, I lose, and I leave. Now, I want to start thinking about staying in a place for longer than a quarter of a year at a time.
        Living under Loreon's roof taught me many things, like how to keep my integrity even if others' fails. I almost slipped up, however. I had wanted a break (a well-deserved one), since I knew I was always pursuing Loreon's passions, instead of creating my own. I stopped counting my hours, hid in my room for a while, and then realized that it was time to go. I don't want to go back to work. I want to gain new skills and become more creative.
        Instead of running out unnoticed, I left on a positive note. Last night, I celebrated with the Isis Oasis crew, thanking everyone for all the blessings I've received. I created a new family here, but now it's time to create better relations with the family I came from.
        When I go back, I have many things to take with me, like new knowledge about physical and mental health that I've been able to put into practice so that I can continue such a lifestyle. I've learned how to be more careful when dealing with other people and their feelings. I've also learned that I am capable of giving my time to others, but I still need to balance it with time for myself.
        I even received my first pair of wings, so no matter where I am, I don't have to feel restricted. I can take flight through dance. Regardless of how old I become, the child inside will always be able to come out and play!
        And now I continue on my journey with my backpack, but with a new perspective. I will be looking for a place to settle, a place that suits me during all seasons, a place where I can form relationships that last. It seems I've been called to Israel, since that is where my roots are, so in January of 2012, I should be in the Middle East. I will see what that land has to offer me, and perhaps I will create a home. While at my mom's, I'll become certified to teach English as a foreign language, so I can pursue a cultural exchange with others from around the world to ultimately bring peace through understanding.
        Incidentally, this upcoming year will also be that of the Mayan calendar's end of time prophecy. What this means, I do not know. All I know is that I am now ending one cycle in my life to begin another, and it's all very exciting! This also means that I will be discontinuing my writing in this blog. But you can surely count on me ever-evolving and enjoying the life that I am leading so that I can inspire others to do the same. I've learned, most of all, that this is a beautiful world regardless of what the system is like. It's not about the system; it's about the people therein. Much love to all.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Suspicion of Spirituality

        I call it "campus." From my new room where trees and sunlight decorate the outside of my windows, I put my backpack on and venture outside for another beautiful day at Isis Oasis, a very educational setting. I've got my laptop, wallet, phone, water, and a book of my choice. It's not that I have to head over to the pavilion right now, but after a morning of meditation, yoga, and dance on my porch, I'm ready to meet and greet others so that I can help accomplish something. That something is mostly in line with Loreon's ideals, since she is the owner of the property, but I'm much more fond of what she offers to the world than that by mainstream academia or previous employers. Here, I admire the person that I work for, a woman who, at age 79, is still owning and operating a business, is without debt, and has outlived three men. I see that I can learn a lot from her - both her successes and failures.
        I also enjoy the company of all the people that I work with. Most are fairly laid-back, but even those that get huffy make for a good show. Each person has something unique to offer, and it is my pleasure to be able to see and interact with the growth and change of the community because of the intermingling personalities. Everyone here is older than me, most by at least twenty years. I think it's easier to have a more introspective and meaningful existence when I'm not surrounded by my own age-group, which seems (to me) to be full of people looking to prove themselves and seek approval in a shallow manner.

        I did have plans to live with an attractive Argentinian man in his mid-20s by this time. He's actually a big part of the reason I came out to Isis Oasis in the first place. We skyped often, and once he professed his desire for me to be his, I couldn't wait to hop on a plane and enjoy the comforts of a warm man and a cute apartment in Buenos Aires. I'd learn his tongue, although he already knew mine from studying abroad in Australia, and then perhaps, as he helped me establish an online income, we'd be able to travel together. Perfect. I still had to wait, however, for him to work out some financial matters and get the apartment, so I hopped a plane to northern California, where I'd be able to see the Redwoods before I leave the States. I knew some novelty would ease the anticipation, and a two-month workaway at a retreat center would do the trick.
        Well, the two months have come and passed. Within this time, Carlos and I decided not to live together. He would like to focus on himself and his work, and I should do the same before I get trapped into marriage with someone. But also within this time, a programmer from the Netherlands has contacted me, and we have been collaborating on some applications that will revolutionize education, as well as provide the location-independent income that I was seeking.
        So, it seems, things work out. Plans change, but as I go with the flow, rather than focus on expectations not being met, I find myself living a life that I'm not able to imagine before it happens. I have already known relationships with men, and I have already known city life with young people; I was able to daydream Carlos and Buenos Aires to the point where I fell out of love before I even arrived.

        But now, I was left with what felt like a predicament. "Well, what am I going to do with my life, then? I gotta go somewhere...continue on the journey that I have set for myself, yah know, traveling and stuff...that's what I made this blog for, right?"
        What I didn't realize was that establishing oneself in a routine for more than two to three months is okay, and can also be very rewarding! (Go figure, huh?) I'm entirely welcomed at Isis Oasis, and Loreon is very fond of me. Everyone seems to enjoy the energy and effort that I contribute, and I enjoy it as well. It's simple, really - cooking, cleaning, and other miscellaneous things that Loreon needs help with, like buying green folders online for our Heqet-themed Convocation. Oh, and also playing with and training Magic, Loreon's baby ocelot/serval mix. I'm able to understand the complexities of owning a retreat center and animal sanctuary, and I can empathize with and calm Loreon when she is stressed out from it all, yet not get too emotionally involved since it is not my business. For a little extra cash, though, I've also been selling books online that the neighbor, Dan, finds at Salvation Army for a buck or so.
        There were a couple things, though, that bothered me about Isis Oasis. The noon ritual in the little temple everyday gave me an uninspired dogmatic feel to it all. I also see hypocrisy when there exists the vision of peace, but the consumption of products that cause war (like oil). So, I wonder, what's up with all this talk of "spirituality?" Is it helping or hurting?

        I picked up Melvin Power's A Practical Guide to Self-Hypnosis from one of the book shelves in the lodge. The introductory chapters commented that we actually use self-hypnosis all the time; we use the power of suggestion to convince ourselves of anything, from our public speaking abilities to the existence of God.
        I've always been interested in understanding why people think the way they do. In an English class at Hudson Valley Community College, I had to do a research paper, and I was able to pick any topic I wanted. What did I choose? "Cults."
        From my research I saw that textbooks define the word cult as basically a startup religion, merely another belief system, but of smaller size. Okay, that's great, but why does it start in the first place? I came to understand that our mind is our own little cult, and when multiple minds connect and agree on ideologies, a bigger cult forms.
        I continue to be interested in the powers of the mind, which is why I love to be surrounded by environments like Isis Oasis, where some minds begin to agree on a concept which is very loosely defined in our society - spirit. I then choose to interact with these minds openly, but skeptically. I participate in rituals and ask many questions in order to gain insight as to what exactly one believes and why s/he believes it.
        Some will say that most are fakers, that they just go along with the show because it makes them feel good, but I hold a different stance. When someone tells me that they have used past-life regression to come to the conclusion that she was once a high priestess to the Goddess Isis in ancient Rome, I believe her, but it doesn't mean it is objectively true. It means that her mind has indeed experienced said event. However, perhaps it came about solely through the use of suggestion.
        When we suggest that there is something even called "spirit," then we open up a whole new can of worms. We begin to explore spirit, without really knowing what it means.
        To clarify things in my own mind, I began to separate everything I experience and everything I've heard others experience into three categories - the working cliché of 1) mind, 2) body, and 3) spirit. When it came down to it, I couldn't find anything to put into the spirit category. When someone says that they have a "spiritual" experience, like being visited by a ghost, it sounds to me like that experience would still only be one of body or mind; the visited is experiencing this event physically with the senses of the body and mentally with the awareness of the mind. 
        Next, I chose the operation of intuition - the sense of knowing something without reasoning. For example, when a stranger walks into a room, I may be receiving a certain "vibe" from him. Is this spiritual? Malcolm Gladwell discusses this concept in his book, Blink. Intuition is very real, but it is not so much of a mystery. He states that we use pattern recognition to make decisions in an instant. If you've had a lot of experience with people, you will use the prejudices you've gained in order to draw a conclusion. So again, this is only mind, maybe with a hint of bodily sensation if you react psychosomatically.
        So, where did all this talk about spirit come from? My dictionary tells me that the origin of the word is from the Latin term, "spirare," or "breathe," which then turned into "spiritus" for "breath" or "spirit." Does this mean that when we get rid of body and mind, we are breath? A pretty metaphor, but still not exactly what I'm looking for.

        After crystal bowl meditation one morning, I spoke with Aryshta, Jerome, and Kim about spirit. From their perspectives, when we use deities, we are personifying energies that can aid us, making it easier for us to connect. That led me to question whether these energies are from the mind or would exist even without mind and fall into the mysterious category of spirit.
        Jerome and Kim are clairaudient mediums, and they said that when channeling, they must first quiet their minds, or at least not be distracted by their own little voices. Only then can they hear the other voices that are trying to give them information. This would make it seem that there is indeed something separate from mind, but it still needs the mind to get the message through; the mind must translate the message into a comprehensible language for the receiver.

        Aryshta held a guided meditation a few weeks later. I didn't go. Sometimes it's worrisome to let others direct my mind in a vulnerable meditative state. Instead, I finished watching a movie that kept me up late the night before called Holy Smoke. Kate Winslet plays a young Australian woman who is hijacked by an exit counselor after living in an ashram in India and refusing to return home. I thought about how this relates to my life. It seems that I also left my biological family in search of a new family, where I can be loved. Sometimes I feel loved, but is it love? Can I even define love? I can say that it is appreciation for the work I do. Any relationship seems to come down to appreciation. How much do you appreciate this person in your life? When I was living with my family, I did not appreciate them, and I felt unappreciated because I did not contribute. But here, I use my big heart, and my work benefit others. I worry, though, what happens if I can no longer benefit others? That's when you are banished from society, and the forest eats you alive, right? But even after 79 years, I see, Loreon is benefiting others, so it looks like there's hope for me too.

        Recently, I discovered a practice that uplifts my spirit. Loreon has gifted me wings, and now I use my body, my mind, as well as that something else deep within me. I dance, and it flows out according to the beat, the music, or maybe the silence. The dance comes in all forms. Sometimes, I am sitting, and my body rocks back and forth to give my spine a massage. Or other times, I have my wings on, and I spin around in the sun. Maybe that's the spirit coming through, within those moments where I don't know why my body decides to do what it does, or how my mind comes to think what it thinks. I have an opportunity to explore that part of me, without worrying about paying bills or meeting others' expectations. I have found an oasis, as if by chance, where I can nurture myself before my next venture. I hear the winters here are chilly and rainy, so I do have plans to leave for Israel during that time, but for now, I like giving a part of myself to this property that gives so much back to me.

         And maybe you'll see these wings fly into your part of town! I may have a home and family at Isis Oasis, but I am still doing little trips here and there, where perhaps I will practice my street performing. :) 

        For more information on spirituality and science, I was recommended this great NPR piece

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Geyserville, CA

        If you look out the airplane window before arriving in San Francisco, you will see tan mountains with bushy, dark-green trees scattered throughout. I wasn't too fond of the brown feeling. Being from Upstate New York, I'm a green girl by nature, so I was hoping Geyserville would be more forest-like. Yet, when I rode the bus from San Fran up to Santa Rosa, the tan looked more like a gold, and the grass looked more like hair that the wind brushed into place. I began to gain a liken for the landscape.
        When I arrived at Isis Oasis, I was immediately impressed, especially because the birds would give me the "you look good" whistle. They perked up their feathers to attract me and said, "hello!" and "hi!"
        Melissa, one of the priestesses, introduced me to
my room in the lodge. The theme is for Goddess Wadjet, the sovereign cobra Goddess of magic, so the snakeskin design and earthy greens and greys are prevalent. I have a queen size bed with a canopy, which makes it feel even more royal.
        I feel just like a guest, except that I'll be living here for two months rather than two days, and I commit myself to at least twenty hours of work per week, which will mostly include being front of house at the restaurant, Mummy's Kitchen, which is open on the weekends and serves Egyptian and Asian cuisine - mmm.
        Outside the lodge is the pool and spa, which is wonderful for the hot days and then the cool nights. It's not humid out here and when the sun is gone, I actually need a sweatshirt and socks.
         The property can be walked in about fifteen minutes. It includes multiple animal sanctuaries, housing
endangered felines, like ocelots, and exotic birds, like colorful pheasants and peacocks. Also on the grounds is a vivarium with reptiles, like bearded dragons, and insects, such as hissing cockroaches and walking sticks. If I walk further, I find the community garden with lots of veggies, and all throughout the property are plum trees. I cook in the restaurant kitchen, located in the pavilion building. Inside the dining room are board games, tea, books, a piano, and lounge furniture.
        There is a small temple that is always open for meditation and prayer and a larger temple, which serves as a theater open for special events. This center was originally ceremonial grounds for the Pomo Indians, then became a Bahai school. Loreon then bought it to create an Egyptian-style bed and breakfast. The temple of Isis became a legally recognized church in 1996, but the spiritual side of it has only recently been replenished by the arrival of Reverend Aryshta six weeks ago. There isn't a set dogma, but instead a kind of freedom and independence in thought stemming from the ancient wisdom of Egypt. There is also a 600 year old fir tree that many can hang around in order to gain a bit of wisdom as well.

        There have been a few coincidences here. I was thinking about taking some aerial ribbon dancing classes near San Fran this summer, but Melissa told me she knows an instructor in Sonoma that may be able to do a workshop here. Also, I was very happy to meet Liz, a yogi. Before I left Jersey, I took five yoga classes and decided I'd create my own routine to continue. It's good to have someone around that knows her stuff so I can perfect my technique. Plus, the piano in the pavilion has an instruction booklet. I took a couple lessons in Jersey but had no piano. Now I can spend some more time with it. 
        I shadowed Liz, who does a lot of the housekeeping, so I saw the Nesu house, a building that big groups can rent out. Outside of the kitchen, I saw a clay structure. I thought it was a sweat lodge; it turns out to be a pizza oven. I love seeing all these things that are not of the norm, especially the decor. Everything is colorful, and one can find anything from stained glass to palm trees to animal prints.
        Isis Oasis begins the main road of shops and restaurants. Geyserville is a small tourist town in Sonoma's wine country, so the storefronts only stretch what would be two blocks in Jersey. I can walk to the end and find Dan and Liz's home; they keep chickens and sell free range eggs. Other than that, there are two delis (one on each end), a vintage shop (with bicycles!), a feed/farm supply store, a couple wineries, a fancy pizzeria, a coffee shop, and a hair salon. The buildings have that old west feel with a little bit of adobe. Zahir told me there is a river about a mile away and the closest state park is a bike or car ride. In front of Isis is a bus stop, which I wasn't expecting since we aren't in a city, but it turns out that Sonoma County has public transportation (win!).
        Overall, I've been having a lovely time relaxing, meeting the staff (about a dozen people), and helping out in various ways. This looks like another great vacation on my lifelong vacation. Leaving Jersey was a bit sad, since I met so many wonderful people, but the last week was full of celebration, and even when I arrived here, there was a fourth of July barbeque and fireworks to kick-start the new.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Time for the Taking

        I just got a new battery for my watch today, yet the only time I need to look at my watch is to get ready for work and count the minutes until work is over. Otherwise, I don't care much for the numbers that set boundaries throughout the day. It's tyranny, according to Mr. Woodcock.
        After Eliott sent me that article, I was inspired to read "Repent Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman by Harlan Ellison. The first time I was introduced to this short story was in my English class at Hudson Valley Community College, but I didn't read it; I merely showed up for the class discussion to get my A. It turns out to actually be a very fun read! Kudos to Carlos for letting me read it to him via Skype - nothing better than onomatopoeia and made-up words animated out loud.
        Now I find myself measuring the time until I leave for Buenos Aires. Originally, the time would be approximately half a year, but sooner and sooner it became. I am now much too anxious. I'm ready to begin a new routine and stop watching the time so much. I've begun to seek opportunities where I am no longer a slave to the clock. I will work when I want to, so progress can be measured by completed projects rather than an hourly wage.
        Time is my most valuable asset. And the most important thing that I've realized is that it's here, now, for the taking. I can spend it however I wish. Oftentimes, many spend their time in ways to ensure they continue to have time, even if that means they must make sacrifices, by spending the time in a way that they normally wouldn't have, like getting a college degree, to ensure a steady job with good pay that will keep them well-fed, sheltered, and healthy (although one can and will argue that this isn't the case nowadays).

        I think an important lesson can be learned through "The Parable of the Mexican Fisher and the Investment Banker," which my older brother kindly shared with me today. It goes something like this:

An American investment banker was taking a much-needed vacation in a small, coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. The boat had several large, fresh fish in it.

The investment banker was impressed by the quality of the fish and asked the Mexican how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied, "Only a little while."

The banker then asked, "Why don't you stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican fisherman replied, "I have enough to support my family's immediate needs."

The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

The Mexican fisherman replied, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos; I have a full and busy life, señor."

The investment banker scoffed, "I am an Ivy League MBA, and I could help you. You could spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats until eventually you would have a whole fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to the middleman, you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You could control the product, processing and distribution."

Then he added, "Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City where you would run your growing enterprise."

The Mexican fisherman asked, "But señor, how long will this all take?"

To which the American replied, "15-20 years."

"But what then?" asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, "That's the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You could make millions."

"Millions, señor? Then what?"

To which the investment banker replied, "Then you would retire. You could move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."

        This, señor(a), is why I walk to work. So much hustle and bustle around me as people drive their cars all over in order to keep to their tight schedules, in order to achieve more than their families' immediate needs. But not me. I, señor(a), take my time. I literally stop to smell the roses and, sometimes, pick them for my friends. I then make enough money to enjoy a minimalist lifestyle, full of novelty and love. A cliché, but one I have much belief in - the best things in life are free.
        I prefer to enjoy the time I have now. Planning is necessary in order to continue the delight, but I don't let it stress me out too much; it's not my main focus. I've come to understand how little I can have and still be happy, as well as the notion that anything can happen to end my time. I've come to terms with death. It will happen, and I have no idea when. Therefore, it makes more sense (to me) to labor a little here and there to enjoy the fruits regularly, rather than work wearily from seed to factory farm, to then, at the end, rest and enjoy the little time left in my life.
        I once had a professor tell me that most waste their youth, but surely not me. I have the health, the energy, and the lust for life NOW and I can't waste another minute *trying* to make something that's already wonderful somehow better. I have sorrow for those always looking for something more or, worse, those who do not understand the reasoning behind why they continue to sustain themselves.
        I hope this inspires you to lay in the grass and watch the clouds pass by tomorrow.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Philadelphia, PA

        I thought, "Golley gee...Memorial Day Weekend is coming up, and I don't have to work. Thank you, Civil War soldiers! So...where should I go?"
        I met John in New Hampshire at a Young Americans for Liberty campaigning event. He lives in Philadelphia and told me to visit anytime. It also turns out that Philly is only a $10, 2-hour bus ride from New York City. "Perfect," I thought.
        Once John found out I was coming, he called his liberty-minded and organizational activity planner friend to set up a little get together between me and all the other Philadelphia tread-free folk. Needless to say, I was excited to meet a bunch of new people.
       I got there just in time to grab a taxi and speed to the venue. I ended up in a creative space of Northern Liberties, mostly used for film screenings and as an acting/yoga studio. Murals decorated the walls, and old comfy couches filled the rooms.
        I mingled with various characters and then sat down to do a question and answer session for about an hour. I didn't have anything pre-planned because of such short notice and since I hate speaking from some sort of phony objective standpoint. However, I did read a quote from Frédéric Bastiat's What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen:
"I confess that I am one of those who think that the choice, the impulse, should come from below, not from above, from the citizens, not from the legislator; and the contrary doctrine seems to me to lead to the annihilation of liberty and of human dignity.
But, by an inference as false as it is unjust, do you know what the economists are now accused of? When we oppose subsidies, we are charged with opposing the very thing that it was proposed to subsidize and of being the enemies of all kinds of activity, because we want these activities to be voluntary and to seek their proper reward in themselves. Thus, if we ask that the state not intervene, by taxation, in religious matters, we are atheists. If we ask that the state not intervene, by taxation, in education, then we hate enlightenment. If we say that the state should not give, by taxation, an artificial value to land or to some branch of industry, then we are the enemies of property and of labor. If we think that the state should not subsidize artists, we are barbarians who judge the arts useless.
I protest with all my power against these inferences. Far from entertaining the absurd thought of abolishing religion, education, property, labor, and the arts when we ask the state to protect the free development of all these types of human activity without keeping them on the payroll at one another's expense, we believe, on the contrary, that all these vital forces of society should develop harmoniously under the influence of liberty and that none of them should become, as we see has happened today, a source of trouble, abuses, tyranny, and disorder.
Our adversaries believe that an activity that is neither subsidized nor regulated is abolished. We believe the contrary. Their faith is in the legislator, not in mankind. Ours is in mankind, not in the legislator."
        After the session, John, I, and two new friends, Stacy and Chad, went out for tea. Stacy had read my blog and noticed I've started working with essential oils, so she gifted me lavender and peppermint. (Later in the weekend the lavender fell out of my bag and broke on the ground, but I looked on the bright side by saying that the bus stop would now smell good for a few days.) I learned more about Stacy. She is a college student, concerned about all the debt that she has amassed and wondering what to do with her life after graduation. I feel bad for her, especially after watching the new documentary entitled College Conspiracy, now out on YouTube.
        We met up with a few others and went out for vegetarian Chinese food at New Harmony. We ordered plenty of food, all of which was heaven. Sure, the duck didn't taste like duck...but it was better! I was also surrounded by good conversation, entertaining ideas of how to act in a society that limits freedoms. I was introduced to a new form of currency called "bitcoin," which I'm currently still researching.
        The next day, Chad brought us out for some urban exploring. We hiked throughout the old Philadelphia Electric Company, which has been used as a movie studio multiple times since its abandonment. Although technically illegal, these are the kinds of things that make life lively.


        Here, I also met Vince, who, when I pondered climbing up a tower and asked if it was worth death, replied, "Of course it's worth death. I'd much rather die doing this than die sitting in an office, or die crossing the street." I was very glad that he reminded me of that and then went to enjoy the top of the tower.
        It disappoints me, though, that no photograph could ever capture the beauty that I saw. On the rooftop, I found what looked like rust on broken windows, but when I touched it, gold glitter covered my finger. Later in the adventure, in the control room where old scattered papers lie, I found one with marker on it reading "shadowsand rust." I think that's a good layman's term for whatever chemical compound I just got on my hand.
        We sat and looked across the river as a storm came in from Jersey. I guess it isn't always sunny in Philadelphia. But without the rain, there are no rainbows. So after it passed, we went out for ice cream, with a rainbow in the sky.
        Then, we headed to South Street for some drinks and organic burgers. I'm happy to see how prevalent the organic/vegan scene is in Philadelphia.
        On Sunday, John brought me to see the area where our founding father conspired. Ironically, Independence Hall is surrounded by big banks, the Federal Reserve, and the US Mint. Wait a minute...I don't think this is what Jefferson had in mind...Regardless, I enjoyed the sun and watching all the tourists  buy into the commercialization of history.
        Later, we visited Rittenhouse Square, one of the nicer parks in Philadelphia, where one can find people doing the lindy hop, singing songs, or playing with children. I sat down to discover Ron Paul's version of liberty.

        Arthur and Becky (who I met at the speaking gig) happened to be in the park as well, so we met up. Arthur, who does past life regression, gave me a preview as to how it works. I'm always looking for opportunities to have an OBE, but unfortunately, this just turned out to be an exercise in imagination. It then turned into a conversation about my lucid dreaming and the recent lucid dream about my grandfather. He is currently in a nursing home, dealing with cancer, so Arthur also introduced me to remote reiki. I was planning on seeing him today and see if he's had any dreams lately, but I stayed up too late to have the energy to make it out to Queens. How funny that it's only about ten miles away, but takes me three hours to get there.
        Arthur also showed me a website he created called the Electronic Fortune Cookie. Arthur has inputed 6,000 random words into a system, and when asked a question, it will spit back a few of those words which can be interpreted as an answer. For example, I accidentally didn't type in any question, but got back "GENTLE LETTING SUPPRESS." I think that actually describes part of personality quite well. Instead of fighting, I decide to accept circumstances and make the best of it. Then, I typed in "When will the dollar collapse?" and got back, "THE WAY OF EFFICIENT POINT NOSTALGIC." What could it mean? Well, anything really. I'm still trying to figure it out. John typed in "Am I free to dance?" after the arrest episode at Jefferson Memorial (see here) and got back "HOW TIMES OF RESTRICTION INSURE ALTOGETHER." I really liked that one. So, is technology capable of a supreme intelligence beyond human capability? If you think so, click here.
        Monday, I decided to explore bits of the city by myself. I was intrigued by all the murals Philadelphia has to offer, so I began a free walking tour of the Mural Mile, where I could use my cellphone to call the Mural Arts service with free automated information about each mural. It was a blazingly hot day, so I cooled off at Franklin Square, shaded by trees, and surrounded by laughing children. Later, I met up with Bernard (an actor who was in charge of the film screening on a different floor at the venue Friday night, but also wanted to meet me). We checked out Fairmount, the newly renovated area by the Art Museum and Schuykill River, went out for iced drinks and fresh food, then headed back to the studio at Northern Liberties to cool off and talk life.
        When I went to catch my bus back home, I was excited to get a famed roast pork sandwich at DiNic's that I had seen on Man vs Food only days earlier. Unfortunately, thanks to our Civil War soldiers, they were closed.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Birthday Bicycling

        I made a little list of a few things I wanted to buy, such as essential oils and empty containers to start making my own homemade products, like bug spray and deodorant. I couldn't think of where to get the containers but Wal-Mart, so I took a bike ride out to North Bergen. It was a beautiful day and a lovely ride until I got to the road where Wal-Mart lay. What else should I have expected but a beaten-up, under construction, 55mph mini-highway? I stopped at the graveyard first to have a couple brownies that would give my day a little extra gaiety. Then, I popped into Wal-Mart, mozied around a bit, and popped out, with supplies still remaining on my list.
        I didn't know where I'd find these items, but since I had checked out the area with Google Maps prior, I headed up the hill to Hudson County Park and assumed I'd pass some shops. I noticed Easy Street coming up on my right. I didn't have a definite path, so I asked myself, "Do I take the easy street?" Once I looked down that street, I saw a "DEAD END" sign, as well as lots of other signs that read things like, "$1,000 FINE," "CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR DOG," and "NO PARKING." It made me chuckle since the street was only long enough for four houses. I couldn't believe such a short road had so many rules. Looking uphill, I saw broken-up pavement in the right lane and a graveyard at the top. With only one no parking sign, it looked like one would not be as easily guided by society's rules on this path. This giant metaphor, appearing as a palpable experience, made me realize that no matter which road I choose to take, both end up in death; however, the truly rewarding one is the one in which you can see that you've accomplished something at the end. I certainly did feel good about making it up that steep hill.
        Hudson County Park was a wonderful bike ride. Plenty of green and people-watching smooshed in between the tightly-packed towns of Jersey. I ended up in Guttenberg at the end of the park toward the Hudson River, which was coincidental since my father had recently told me about his midtown Manhattan view when he lived in Guttenberg. Now, I was able to see that view too.
        On my way back to Palisades Park, I explored the streets of Fairview and Cliffside Park. I stopped into a small health store and picked up the rest of supplies. I was a bit shocked by the expense of the bill, but that inspired me to ask the storeowner if he would consider buying a line of natural products off of me. He told me he'd be happy to, so I'm currently playing with business ideas in my head to stir in some extra cash.
        I stopped into a couple Korean-owned shops so I could practice my expressions and learn new words. One establishment was the Bergen Spa, where I met 순니 (Sunny). I bought a spa day for Eliott since I knew he needed/wanted one. He was going to give me a birthday gift later in the day, so I wanted to get him something as well (I wasn't around for his birthday in February).
        In Fairview, I was getting a lot of attention. It's a largely Hispanic town and the curves of my body tend to attract men in that category. Sometimes, I get annoyed by whistles, beeps, and the casual "Hey mami" with elevator eyes, but on this day, I was feeling so good that I was soaking in the compliments like it was sunshine. At a red light, one man opened his bus door and yelled some words in Spanish to me that I didn't understand, but of course knew what he was implying. I replied, "No comprendo!" so he then began to tell me how nice my figure was in English. He pulled out his phone and tried to get my number. I was so happy to be able to use the Argentinean phrase that mi amigo, Carlos, taught me the night before during our skype call. "Segi remando!" I yelled back with a flirty smile and walked away.
        I couldn't have asked for more joy in my day. That night, I had the friends over that I've become closest with in these past two months. I felt so much love and positivity in my room as we all talked, drank, and sang the night away. I can hardly believe it. I'm one lucky duck.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Palisades Park, NJ

        I moved. I was informed that I couldn't be around while El's dad goes through treatment. I took the news lightly at first since I know have many living options at my disposal, but slowly I realized how much I loved the situation I was in and how much it would suck to be away from El and the comfort of Leonia. Fortunately, although in mid-freak-out, I found out that Bobby's mom was renting out a room. Now, I have my own space, a lot of light from a few big windows, and three cats to get to know. El fell in love with Mambo, so he decided he'd take care of her. Lucky for me. Now I won't have to deal with any chaos from the felines. I stop by to visit and I'll take her back when I leave the area, but for now I'm living only a town away. "Pal Park," I like to call it.
        About three blocks down is Broad Avenue. The Koreans own that strip. Hair salons, restaurants, ooh, and karaoke bars. A little nightlife in my backyard. It's bigger than Leonia, so I'll have more opportunity to converse in Korean. I've been taking lessons online, and now I have a textbook in the mail. Autodidactic learning rocks.
        I got my hair cut. Bobby told me that I should get a white girl fro. I loved the idea, but realized I'd need to get rid of the dreads and grow my hair out a bit for a perm. So, I made sure to enjoy and appreciate my hair until 4/20. Then, I had Bobby hack it all off. Of course, now my hair was all different lengths, so I went down to Broad Ave and stopped into the first salon I saw (there are many to choose from). They wanted forty bucks to even out my hair. I said I'd go to the ATM, but really I meant I'd go check out the deal down the street. The next salon I walked into was empty, but a middle-aged Korean woman who spoke little English assured me they were
open. She said she'd do my hair for twenty-five. She thought she finished, but there was a section of my hair that was shorter than the rest. I tried to tell her I needed it all the same length She then made me question myself. "Very, very short," she said with a concerned look on her face. I told her to go for it. At the end of the whole ordeal, I was pleased. It felt good to start fresh. I haven't had short hair since I was a baby, so I'm happy these dread gave me a reason to try it out. I handed the woman forty bucks since I was so satisfied. She was very grateful, and I left with an "Annyeonghi gyeseo!" This literally translated to "stay in peace" and is the common goodbye when one is leaving somewhere.
        I got a job. All I have to do is walk up the hill to the Italian neighborhood to start my shift at Hanky's Pizzeria and Deli as the counter gal/waitress. Charlie's the boss. His son, Charlie, is boss too. Lou has been there since they renovated the place three years ago, when Charlie took over the business. Hanky was Charlie's grandfather. He started Hanky's circa 1900. It was like a 7/11 for those days. The family is huge. I'm always meeting new cousins or brothers/sisters-in-law. Aunt Loretta lives upstairs and comes down to help every now and then. She's such a sweetheart and tells me fun stories from the past. There are some old fellas that live and have lived in the neighborhood all their lives who come in and talk about how things used to be. Old photos of the family decorate the walls. One depicts a wedding at the Catholic church across the street. I think about how perfect this job is. I don't have to work for a huge corporation. I get to work at a small place with great people. Even before coming down here, I had imagined that I'd work at a pizzeria. Serving is my thing. I like tip jobs and I like people. I learn tips along the way about making great food and, as a plus, I get to take some of that great food home at the end of the night. I was talking to Ollie the other day about this job. He told me about his friends coming out of college now that are like, "What, I can't make 60 tho with my college degree, and, instead, I'm getting a job that I could've gotten out of high school?! Shit." According to this article, "[i]n the United States today, 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees." It looks like I can be just like them except without the average of $25,000 in student loan debt. Among the statistics was also "[a]ccording to very extensive research detailed in a new book entitled Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, 45 percent of U.S. college students exhibit 'no significant gains in learning after two years in college." Of course we all learn everyday, but it looks like any type of measurable academic progress was absent. Even at this new job, I try to learn as much as possible about being the best server I can. I suppose some might find it bizarre, but traveling waitress might just become my career path. It's flexible, lucrative (enough for me), and work that I can be proud of. I basically get paid to make people smile. What could be better? I envisioned finding a passion that I can make money off of, but I think the simplicity and cheer found in this line of work is good enough for me.
        So, here I am, going day in and day out with a "normal" American life. I'm not doing anything extraordinary. I'm existing like an average nineteen-year-old, but with a twist. I move around a lot. If I don't save up enough money before winter, I think I'll head down to Boca Raton to stay with my aunt. I'll find a new server position during Florida's busy season and get to know a new place. Yeah, sure, it's the land of the retired, but if I'm aiming for wisdom, I guess the elderly are the people to talk to. I don't know much about the ethnic diversity of the area, but perhaps I can practice my Spanish at the good ol' Rat's Mouth.
        My mind likes to daydream about all of the other places I could be right now. I could stick my thumb out on the side of the road and head west...or south...or northeast. Anywhere. I could be impulsive with my savings and head overseas. But, no. Here is good. Summertime in the city is something I've dreamed of since I was little. I'll experience what the big apple has to offer and then be on my way. I remember looking at colleges and becoming frustrated that they all seemed the same. The only difference that I cared about was location. I wanted to be in the big city, but I'm realizing that college wasn't my only shot at living there, and certainly four years time was more than wanted.
        I go upstate every now and then. I visited my dad to grab some things, including my bicycle. It makes not having a car so much more enjoyable. Walking is nice. One can smell the roses during a walk, but if I need a quick commute, my bike does the job. I also picked up some more clothes. I decided a new look was in order for this new hairstyle. It's always fun to change personas. "Erica Goldson" is a blank slate. My dorm hall may know me as a hippie, but Pal Park will see something new.