1) Mel’s Cafe- Charlottesville, Virginia. Well-priced, southern soul food that has my mouth watering at the thought of going back there.
2) Badou- Chicago, Illinios. Amazing Seneglese dishes that are delicious and affordable. The owners are from Senegal and are genuinely nice people who work EXtremely hard. They deserve every penny I paid for my meal.
4) Goodfella’s- Atlanta, Georgia. Philly Cheesesteak. That is all.
5) The Chatterbox- Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’d go again just for the atmosphere. There’s every board game imaginable there- and you can play while you eat.
6) Lil’ Frankies- Manhattan, New York. The best Italian food/ bar atmosphere combination I’ve ever witnessed.
8) al di la Trattoria- Brooklyn, New York. A delicate, romantic setting matched with perfect Italian food. The risotto was my favorite. This may be the most expensive restaurant I dined at (considering I was a homeless person wandering the states), but the prices were still not too bad.
I’m currently on the train, headed towards Atlanta. In New York, I met up with a Couchsurfer from Dubai. His name was Ahmed. He moved to Manhattan two days prior to get his masters in Business.
The first day we met, we walked throughout Central Park. After an hour or so of walking, we sat down on the cold concrete steps in front of a fountain surrounded by ice sculptures. I began explaining to him why I wanted to visit Tucson- for the Rock and Gem Show. I told him a street fair came to Eugene last year and I bought an amethyst for the hell of it. I had an inspiring conversation with the owner of the gem booth. The owner had informed me of the Rock and Gem Show; he swore I should attend before I die. I told the owner, “I’ll see you there!” in the same way I tell my sister, in Italy, that I’ll see her tomorrow. Just a silly promise, an empty promise. But I have the choice to act on it, and that’s what I’m doing.
From the top of the Rockefeller Center
Mid sentence, Ahmed interrupted me. “I”m sorry,” he said, “I can’t help myself,” and suddenly brought his face towards mine to kiss me deeply. This stranger… on couchsurfing…who I just met an hour ago. I thought our conversation was going well but that was the last thing on my mind. I didn’t even get the vibe that he liked me. Life is unpredictable. I broke away and offered a confused smile.”Wow,” I said.
I get mixed feelings about Ahmed because he has a default form of expression. It doesn’t fluctuate much. It’s hard to know what he’s thinking when there is a lack of emotion behind his words. I don’t know how much I like him because I don’t know how much I understand him. But apparently he’s my boyfriend right now- ha! When I went with my last host to see Isabella’s comedy show, she spoke about how important it is to choose the correct tone and emotion behind what we say.
“Where are you?” and “WHERE ARE YOU?!” make me feel two entirely different ways.
JP Morgan Museum
I may have an inclination that we’re not compatible with each other- but it is really nice to, for once, attempt to maintain a relationship. And when the other person has such strong, intense feeling for me… Why enter into a relationships I’m unsure about? Why not? I guess I don’t know why not yet.
An additional angle, a new lens, an intensification of passions. This is what I receive from listening to others. And it’s also what I can give back.
I headed for Chicago around 2 p.m. a few days ago. Took me all day and all night to get there from Minneapolis. I sat next to an incredible person–Mark–who recounted to me every.single.job. he’s had in 36 years. He was hilarious. We sat behind (and in front of) Amish people who smelled like a walking dumpster. On a train. They believe in using trains but not in using showers/deodorant? I need to be enlightened.
Near the Colorado, Utah border
A few pages back, I recorded all of Mark’s past employment. Swing dance instructor, ski resort worker, bartender, horse groomer, website builder, photographer, stage manager, singer, usher, barista… the list goes on and on.
I think what really resonated with me is that there is no perfect job for someone–we are not “destined” to serve a purpose…we aren’t destined to do anything. And we aren’t fitted to a single kind of job. I do believe that we are naturally inclined to be better at some things. I might have a natural disposition for sports. But I choose to pursue or avoid this talent. And I’m not obligated by fate to do so. I told him about my trip and his eyes instantly lit up. He told me he’s always wanted to do something similar, but couldn’t bring himself to make such a leap.
“I’ve been thinking about it for so long, and you know what? After meeting you, I’m going to do it. I’m finally going to do it. Thank you.”
Direct evidence that by meeting people, you begin to look at your own life differently.
Back in Chicago, I showered–YES– ahhh felt beautiful… and I took a nap. Then my host and I experimented with Romanian Food..was soo yummy. I’ve had a cold for the past five days, and menstrual cramps for the last three. This, paired with the cold, snowy weather has been brutal. Lack of sleep on a train doesn’t help. Having a place to sleep, shower, and feel at home in is something to be savored. In the morning, I went to a corner market and got all the ingredients for pancakes from scratch. I made them for my host as a thank you…because I am honestly so grateful.
I love that he’s always eager to try new things with me. It’s exciting. Having company while exercising my interests is rewarding. Especially when that person is just as curious about life. Right now I’m on the train meandering through the snow-covered Rocky Mountains…and wow, this sight is worth every penny.
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.
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.
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.
I can’t remember her name…but does it even matter? She is identified though her actions, her words. She was so interested in my life, in my trip.. asking me where I’ve been, where I’m going, who I’ve met. This soul sitting next to me fully entered my thoughts, absorbing each word as I spoke it. When someone is really listening to you, you can see it in their eyes. She told me where to go once I get off the train–take the metro to Market East station, which is where old town and historical monuments are. Once we arrived, she led me to the metro area and wished me good luck–the most genuine good luck I’ve ever heard.
IN Philly I spent the day mostly walking. No host. But feeling free. Entirely aimless. I truly loved the lay-out of the city–simple to navigate and the streets looked similar to Charlottesville. I took a train back to D.C to stay with Braden, my old host for a few days. I need to write about the conversation we had one night: him talking about his passions…what classifies a passion.. and also of how he judges someone–not based on their job/contacts/likes/dislikes but based on how they treat other people. He referenced the purposelessness and misunderstandings involved in war. People are so much more than their religious beliefs or the labels society creates for them. He said the only part he’s concerned with is the treatment of others, pointing out that couchsurfers invite me to stay with them without knowing what I believe in or without having similar interests. I’m still treated with kindness– and this treatment takes priority.
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.
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.
Standing on the step of Lincoln Memorial, facing the Washington Monument. This is were MLK gave his famous speech.
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.
Today: John Hancock Observatory. Beyond beautiful. It’s weird to think about all the different forms of beauty–and the countless ways in which we can discover beautiful things…things that make my heart smile and bring my soul peace…things that essentially breathe life into me and spark passion, wonder, and gratitude. What could be more beautiful than this moment I am in? A completely spotless portion of existence with endless possibilities. Society can tell me whatever it wants, but I’m in control–and I live with my decisions. I suffer the consequences of listening an abiding by what others tell me is right. I’m learning how to be nice to myself so that I might be able to give the world all that I have. I don’t search for good feeling; I create it right now and allow it to sweep over me.
Also in Chicago:
Museum of Science and Industry = amazing.
Watched Arrested Development three nights in a row with my Couchsurfing host, Adam.
Went to a yummy Senegalese restaurant, came home and had an awesome talk about philosophy and relationships. He speaks with so much intelligence and fore-though. I hope we are friends for a long time. A book on Adam’s coffee table: Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Lincoln Park, Millennium Park, Lincoln Park Zoo, Hyde Park, Chapel Tour, Little Italy, Greek Town, Lake Michigan, Obama’s house, Michigan Ave., Water Tower ( wasn’t destroyed by Chicago fire), Tribune Building, Cultural Center, Chicago Temple, Chicago Theater, Rock& Roll McDonalds (mansion looking), Comedy show at IO Theater
My host, Adam, is 25 years old and has a graduate degree in music. He’s been to Tanzania ( pictures= amazing). Such a great person to talk to. So considerate and nice. Something about him is very pleasant to be around. I feel relaxed and confident when I’m with him. I felt rewarded for my efforts in blindingly trusting a stranger. It’s a good feeling– knowing my host won’t come up and stab me in the middle of the night–and, instead, will enrich my life, will breathe life into me. I haven’t been raped, mugged, or attacked yet. Never been so happy to say that. The world is a beautiful place if I choose to acknowledge its generosity. It will give me everything I want if I choose to accept it, if I choose to work for it. Adam makes me want to work for it.
Still to do: dye part of my hair a different color, buy a homeless person a meal, play soccer with strangers, leave # on check at restaurant, fall in love (ha), look through a telescope, ride on a motorcycle.
I’m noticing that goals like “pay 5 people compliments in every city” are things I do without thinking about it. I’m here. And my attitude is already “balls out.” I don’t need to remind myself to be adventurous and impulsive and giving. My approach to life in this moment is nothing but adventurous, impulsive and giving. Forgive people who treat me worst on the trip? I’m required to do that. Otherwise I beat myself up and take a train back home. It’s confidence and optimism or it’s nothing.