Tag Archive : blog

Tucson, Arizona; Undated 

People are so much more than their body language suggests. He barely looked me in the eyes. It’s a shame…because his eyes were so beautiful.  I try not to come across as intimidating but I can only do my best. “Bye Rachelle,” he whispered, as we went our separate ways. It’s ironic that he was darting eye-contact so frequently– and yet was attentive enough to remember my name.

On the way to L.A (last night) I sat next to an older man. My guess is late 50’s. Black. Wearing a top hat. Fixes airplanes. Several years in the Navy. His life was engaging, and his personality was gentle and humorous. Laugh was incredible. I loved that he laughed so hard at his own jokes. Like he waited to see if I thought it was funny and then full-fledgedly joined in, his deep tone echoing throughout the train.

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He listens better than anyone I’ve ever met. So attentive to each word I spoke– as if he entered my thoughts and felt them before he heard them. He talked a lot about himself, but when the conversation turned back to me, he was like a switch: Now, now it’s about you, and I am listening, and I want to know what you have to say. I want to be there with you.  That’s what I heard while I was talking.

His wife died. He re-married. Was on the train headed to meet his 2nd wife, who was in the hospital dying as well. This man made my heart light up and my smile brighten. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his laugh, for a reason I can’t explain. He spoke a lot about how his wife uses all his money for “art.” I could sense he resented her for this. He is a good guy and was being taken advantage of. I understood. And it’s a tough job–masking bitterness. I struggle as well.

 

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Chicago; from the top of a church at the University of Chicago

Today, February 20,  I stepped out of the shower and wrapped a soft, warm towel around my wet body. I lifted the towel up to my face and stood still, as I became enveloped by a memory, bringing me back to a life of simple wants and few needs. For a moment, I rose up, floated away, and was back on the train…washing my face in a tiny bathroom, absorbing my wet skin with inefficient paper towels. I was in the bathroom of Union Station, patting down my face with a T-shirt. I was in the bathroom of countless strangers’ apartments, removing water with whatever I could find–toilet paper, dirty towels, hairy cat-infested cloth, my own two-week-worn sweater. I rose up, soared away to drying my body with a 5-square-inch camping towel– not knowing if the prior dampness was semen or water.

And now I am here, motionless, buried within the warmth and softness of a clean, sweat-smelling towel. I laugh without restraint, without wondering why.  I’ve been home for three days now.

Pulling my body upright, I turn to analyze myself in an unblemished mirror. So many mirrors across the country have shown the same reflection. I close my eyes and open them once again and I’m gone– I’ve risen up, floated away. The mirror I turn towards is clouded, scratched, vandalized and I see a vague reflection which resembles my own. I’m on the train, being casually thrown side-to-side by the unpredictable motion of the platform beneath me. The image I see is smiling, slightly, in good humor.

I close my eyes and reopen them to see my shell, my cover, my preamble. My mask. I am in joy, in gratitude. I am hungry, I am thirsty, I am lost, I have finally found.  I am tired, I am–at last, rested. I, at last, am warm. My face is pale and sleep-deprived as I see my reflection in Chicago. Rosy, alert, clear of acne in NY. Smooth skin, restless eyes in D.C. Sticky hair, glasses, and a spotted face stare back at me through Colorado.

A forced smile, an eager smile, an optimistic smile, a genuine smile… an effortless smile I flash in the mirrors of private restrooms. Bathroom of Japanese food in NY, the deli of Time Square, Thai food in D.C, of a bar in Manhattan, lunch in Sacramento, in the mirrors of countless train stations. And now I’m here,in my own…space. I smile, not knowing what kind.

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It’s Valentines Day. I’m alone, and yet I’ve never felt more alive. Never felt more loved. Been on the train for almost 6 weeks now. If I turned back after Minneapolis, out of fear, I would’ve never met all these people.

. . .

The train is riding about 50 yards away from the Pacific Ocean shore. Today I’m making the trek from L.A  to San Luis Obispo– one of the most visibly stunning rides I’ve been on thus far. The sun is gleaming through the train windows and allowing me to witness indescribable beauty. But I will try:

The ocean far and wide, dark blue waters illuminated by sunlight pouring, enveloping a cloudless sky and highlighting the crests of waves as they break, glazing over the light brown sand, which is sparkling just as bright as the reflective water above.

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On the bus to Los Angeles, sunset

Few things I know for sure. Few things I think I know for sure. I know that, to me, there is nothing more important than showing love to other people. This takes priority. And the result is that I’m not depriving myself of anything. By putting others first, I’m actually receiving the ultimate joy of providing love and support to someone who deserves it. Every single person on the planet deserves it. We didn’t choose this life.

This is what is what deserves attention…what is easy to discern as a path worth pursuing… and what is most meaningful to me. Treating people lovingly is not only the right thing to do tomorrow, or in 6 months, but is also the right decision in this moment, this very second.  The right decision is timeless.

 

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On the train, through the Rocky Mountains; Colorado

There are so many people we deem “crazy”–but what is  “normal”? Just a word that segregates us…and put us at opposite ends of an imaginary, inaccurate spectrum. Terms like “normal” and “weird” create distance between us and the unknown, between the familiar and the unfamiliar. This distance is scary until I realize the person I’m talking to has felt all the same emotions I have–until I realize that we all endure hell every day and struggle to find means to cope. What am I afraid of? The ways we are similar outnumber the ways we are different.

Talking to strangers has allowed me to appreciate human nature in all its forms. There is no one single form that is most beautiful. The fact that every person I meet has an entirely different tone, different laugh, different talent, different perspective–this is where beauty is found. Human nature unifies us–and the ways we differ don’t necessarily have to divide us.

So much I do not know. So much I’ll never know and never become aware of. My own interests are limited to the sliver of experiences I’ve had in merely 20 years. I have to accept that there is no absolute right way to live, no right passion to pursue because absolute knowledge does not exist. How do I expect to make the perfect decision if I’ll never have a perfect awareness stretching over the entire world and all the seven billion people populating it–each individual’s life, each individual’s past experiences?

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The Rock& Gem show in Tucson, Arizona

I can’t and will never have a flawless assessment of a worthy lifestyle. What is worth pursuing? There is no way to tell. You can only pursue something apparently. If something becomes more worthy than studying physics, than living near my family, then I will make the appropriate decision and correct my path.

After Portland, I headed for Tucson, Arizona to attend the Rock&Gem Show. In Eugene I met the sweetest homeless guy– I let him use my phone and gave him warm, dry socks after the city got hit by a massive snow/ice storm. We had a good conversation, revolving around the conditions of his homeless life. He had a heart-warming smile. Two things people can’t come to terms with when I speak of my trip: that I’m alone, and that I only have my backpack. He was surprised mainly that I was alone. “Don’t talk to people like me,” he joked as we smiled and said goodbye.

If anything, I want people to know that fear is obtrusive. It also serves no beneficial purpose unless we are running from mountain lion. Alertness had aided me. But flinching away from a conversation just because what we are looking at is unfamiliar to us, this..this cuts us off from potentially enriching life experiences. Later that night, the homeless man (Gary) used his friends phone to text me. “We should hang out before you leave.”

There are so many types of people. Holy shit. Such variety in tone, behavior, appearance, outlook. How could I ever seriously believe I won’t find someone to spend my life with?

Some people put me at ease almost instantly; while it takes me much longer to feel relaxed around someone I don’t identify with. Whenever I’m around my host, I can’t help but feel incredibly engaged and expectant. I knew there was so much potential if only we asked the right questions about each other. The third night, we asked the right questions–questions that revealed a rare and beautiful connection between us. I laughed harder than I had in weeks– a genuine laugh–and I had never been able to relate with a guy, concerning so much, until meeting him.

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View from the top of the Rockefeller Center

We were lying there and for a brief, powerful moment, we stared at each other fully aware of what was to happen next. I broke away my gaze and went to the bathroom. I returned to find him closer to my side of the bed. I got under the covers as he inched further towards me. For a second he gave me this intense, sexy look and a quick smile. After a few moments of silence and a few deep breaths, he placed his head closer to my pillow and told me how attracted he was to me and how our conversation only intensified that attraction. I felt my heart race instantly and blood rushed to my face. He positioned his face so that our noses brushed up against each others as he exhaled loudly. He said he really wanted to kiss me. I took a few moments to respond. No words came out though. I just gave him an anxious smile. He knew I felt exactly how I did: In complete awe of one another and that chaos had brought us together. He kissed me and then..you know..

Little did I know that this would be the third guy that would kiss me on my trip. I did not plan for this…

The next night:  I didn’t allow much to happen. I liked him but I also told my host from a different city( D.C) that I liked him too. I had crazy mixed feeling and I couldn’t wrap my reasoning around my choices. I felt so uneasy. I also like my NY host so much that when he wanted to touch my body more than talk, I took offense. I wanted to continue talking, laughing, and getting to know him. By his behavior, I couldn’t tell if he only liked my body. I was getting frustrated with being treated as a shell of a person, empty beyond my “sexy” body as I kept being told. If I hear that word one more time…

Coming from my last host, I already felt materialized. My present one had the same tendencies. He would change the topic of conversation and inch towards me convincing me to consent. I was angry and a little hurt. I turned over and let my mind wander until sleep cradled me.

Being away from my belongings and distancing myself from materialism shows me just how valuable clothes, jewelry, and “statuses” are. Like what…?  I’ve been wearing the same outfit for over three weeks (washing whenever possible). I walk into Macy’s in downtown NY  and the truth could not be any clearer. So many people long for costumes so that they might be defined in a positive, superficial light. I haven’t worn make-up in over 3 months. Nor have I worn something “stylish”, or even changed my hair. And yet I’ve gotten more attention from guys than I ever have before. Need I say more about the pointlessness of masking ourselves?

No one would believe me straight up though. If you told me five years ago that, if I stop wearing make-up, it won’t change how guys see me, I wouldn’t believe you. These types of things people only discover on their own. Having confidence feels so much better than feeling inferior and embarrassed. I would like others to believe in themselves. The least I could do is set a good example. What do I have to lose, exactly?

My Couchsurfing host took me to see Isabella Rosolini and then out to an Italian Restaurant at 11:00 p.m. We drank a few glasses of wine over a candle lit dinner. The dim light flickered on the table and created shadows on his face, accentuating the friendliness in his eyes. We talked about his divorce, his kids, his doubts over finding someone else to marry. His delicate tone and hesitant word choice had me sympathizing with him from the first sentence to the very last. How did you deal with such heartbreak? I asked and he answered as if it had happened yesterday. He told me the divorce was not mutual. She left him. This guy is one of those rare characters who is incessantly nice to people without asking for anything in return. He said his marriage was going well and was essentially blind-sided. Good people get treat like shit and there’s nothing else to it. There are no mean of prevention. As much as it hurts to endure mistreatment, it’s ridiculous to try and prevent mistreatment.  It is simply a condition of life. As Marcus Aurelius says, it’s assigned to everyone.

The Holocaust Museum makes a horror story more vivid than history books. One thing stands out: After the concentration camps were cleaned, after the war, shoes of prisoners were collected. In one room of the museum, there lies about 2ft of raddy shoes (if you can ever call them shoes), all identical in style and in quality. The room is approximately 30ft x 15ft I’d say. They represent a small portion of people murdered for their belief in a certain god. The Germans killed those who were not even Jews— those who simply had Jewish parents or grandparents. A Jewish name or Jewish wife.  Like what?? Also: those with handicaps– such as deafness, blindness, autism…etc. These people were killed too…as means of “cleansing” the population.

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Lincoln Memorial

If my mom happened to live in Germany around 75 years ago, they would have sent her to a concentration camp to be killed not based on how she treats other people but because certain nerve cells are damaged in her ear. Oh ya, only logical. Some nerve cells die–>can’t hear–> deserves to be shot. It disgusts me that so many people managed to deify a horrific idea, an ideal based on such obvious inaccuracies of judgment.

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Standing on the step of Lincoln Memorial, facing the Washington Monument. This is were MLK gave his famous speech.

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The Capital

 

But then I had this dream last night: I was watching the Laker game and simultaneously explaining to someone why I like Kobe Bryant. I woke up and in an intense moment of clarity, at 3 a.m, I asked myself if I would continue to idolize Kobe if he did something that went against my beliefs of right/ wrong. Then I realized he already has: he cheated on his wife and blah blah blah. But I choose to ignore this, and almost excuse this, because I like the way he plays basketball. Everything that he says or does is filtered by my admiration  of him– and I put him on a pedestal because watching him makes me feel empowered and inspired. He could kill someone and I’d still make an argument for his kindness. How crazy is that? Almost as crazy as the Germans’ loyalty towards a man who slaughters innocent people but who also makes the citizens of Germany feel empowered and hopeful. It’s easy to demarcate good and bad behavior when you’ve never been forced to redefine morality.  So that was in Washington D.C.

Also went to: White house, all Smithsonian Museums (amazing, AND free), Lincoln Memorial (more epic in person than in photographs), Washington Monument, World War 2 Memorial.

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Smithsonian Museum of Natural History