America, Day 7

America, Day 7

Woke up to P asking me whether I would care to watch some lectures on cosmology with him. Would I ever! Or rather that was my intention but the combination of the lack of sleep and the announcer’s voice (who would have thought that a British accent could be quite so…soporific?) sent me back into a drowsy state in which I missed the finer points of the neutrinos, photons, atoms and the birth of the Universe. Oh well. We can’t do everything.

I went back to sleep and did some work. Then it was time for another outing, this time to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum.

Here are some pics of the place :

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I got some nice shots of the animals but they are too many to post here. Check Flickr if you want.

I must say, it’s heartening to see so many people give of their time, money and effort to help with animal rescue. There IS hope for humans after all. Keep up the good fight people. Gaia needs more like you.

There were 2 school buses outside, and I had some more emotional experiences while seeing the children run around. A Chinese girl with the cutest pigtails you ever did see ran right past me while I was looking at some of the eagles. 21 years ago, that could have been my little sister.

Besides the use of mobile phones, everything looked the same. It was like time never passed…but I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirrored door and I was twice the size that I was when I first lived in the US. Not to mention almost thrice the age.

The warm, caring people, the offhand jokes and chance remarks…this is the California that I remember. And I think I’m a lot better equipped to appreciate it now.
It’s at times like these that I feel that I want to drop everything and move back to the US…but then I return to myself once more and ask an important question. Who’s saying that? My mother’s past fear that says that I have to decide and decide NOW and the cost be damned? My poor, lost and lonely self of many years before?

I don’t need to answer. I don’t, not when it will come to me. The Dharma returns to me once more and I move my consciousness back to the present. Breathe. Breathe. Go over to the car door. Turn the handle. Breathe. Get into the seat, and let the sunshine in.

Had lunch with P and learnt a bit about his life story as well. Turns out he worked in a nuclear submarine at one point! That’s not something you hear every day.

Had lunch at a nice restaurant with a great menu which I have to share :

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Peace, love and sushi. I can get behind that.

Went home to deal with such mundane affairs as laundry and grocery shopping. Guests were coming for dinner and I was tapped to bring out my Szechan Surprise…it’s actually not really Szechuan anything, just chillies and other assorted goodies. Don’t tell anyone though.

Planned menu with A and starting defrosted food. God I love cooking. Did I ever tell you that I wanted to be a chef when I was in my mid 20s? Probably good I didn’t though. Chefs lead hard lives…just watch Ratatouille and you’ll know whereof I speak.

Wrote blog post and other stories while waiting for dinnertime. I’m not a bad cook (just ask anyone who’s eaten my food) but I think writing is more my metier.

Oh yes, and also called my old schools, trying to find my teachers. No luck…I got to the schools alright but none of them worked there anymore. Which given the fact that it had been 21 years is not unsurprisingly. The nice black lady on the other line recommended I use Facespace or something. Good idea but that was my first port of call and I still turned up empty.
I went so far as to call the Los Angeles Unified School District but they told me the same thing – that they couldn’t give out confidential employee information. Which made perfect sense. I thanked them and put the phone down, feeling confused and a little lost.

What was I expecting? To be able to find all of them again? Wise Mrs Randle, no-nonsense Mr Weiss, gentle Jeff Felz, and everyone else besides. Yes…yes I was actually. But maybe it was not fated to be. That generation isn’t actually known for their use of Facespace.

I will be able to take tours of the schools though, which is great. I hope I won’t break down in tears when I actually do get to LA. If I do, though, well…whatever happens, happens.
More of A’s art :

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Wrote somemore. Finished up a story or two as well. This trip has been fantastic for me…it’s accelerating my creativity by leaps and bounds. Could there also perhaps be some time for more Gundam Unicorn?

There was. Got to about halfway through Episode 5. Had to stop before the big fight. Didn’t want so much feels before I had to cook.

Speaking of cooking…using another’s kitchen is always kind of new and exciting. You don’t know where everything is. You don’t know what condiments and seasonings they have. You don’t even know HOW they cook.

You know the adage “too many cooks spoil the broth?” It should be more aptly named “get the fuck out of my way when I’m in the kitchen.” There’s a reason why there’s only one chef and one sous-chef in any given restaurant…you can’t have TWO commanders in chief!

Anyway, for today’s dinner I was the guy in charge because I was making most of the dishes. I needed to debone a chicken in double-quick time because a) they apparently didn’t sell chopped chicken in the US and b) A had no cleaver. Thankfully I had done that before. So I did it the ghetto way – use a kitchen knife for what I could do, and then rip the rest in half with my bare hands. Caveman cooking, there’s nothing quite like it.

A remarked that my cooking was very Japanese style, with everything being cut into little pieces that could be picked up easily with chopsticks. She’s…actually right. I’ve never thought of it being that way before, but yeah, I do tend to cut everything kind of small. Shortens cooking time, for one.

More pics of the food! Looks good don’t it? It tasted even better.

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Everyone liked it. I keep on forgetting that as Mei An once remarked, no one who has ever eaten my food has complained. Some of the people I had dinner with earlier came over. Richard (who is no slouch at cooking himself!) liked it, and that was a compliment of the highest order.

The bathroom mat got soaking wet because I forgot that you put the shower curtain on the INSIDE rather than on the OUTSIDE. Everyone at dinner got a good laugh about that. Sometimes it’s the small differences between countries that matter the most…bathroom mats, shower curtains, when dinnertime is, no deboned chicken or choppers. As I often remind myself, not everything needs to be some Incredibly Emotional Life-Changing Event. Life is often just…life, wherever in the world it may be.

Kind of excited about tomorrow. I’ll be seeing D and P again for the first time in months. They are very dear friends of mine and have taught and given me much. Also, we’re going to sing, and everyone who knows me knows how much I love singing!

So many things to learn about blogging and video editing and God knows what else…I’ve got my work cut out for me in the foreseeable future.

Went to watch more Gundam Unicorn. It’s as powerful as ever, and best taken in small doses. Halfway through Episode 5. It’s good therapy actually, in many different ways…learning that emotional things can be good but don’t need to be SO GODDAMN EMOTIONAL.

Banagher may end up being my favorite Gundam pilot, after like 17 years of watching Gundam.

He has Domon’s fury, Setsuna’s resolve, Amuro’s intution, Camille’s resistance, and Usso’s innocence. As well as a kindness all of his own. And his hair…gotta love that fluffy fluffy hair!
And the Unicorn! What a mobile suit. I don’t think it will beat the Type-2 Quanta (the only Gundam ever designed for peace instead of war…it literally HAS NO WEAPONS) but it’s fucking awesome. It’s only possibly the only mobile suit that has fought on both Federation and Zeon lines.

More random scenery pics :

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Had more to write but in the spirit of new things decided to just end things here for today. It’s been a long post and a long day in any case.

では、次の機会にマジンゴーーーー!(Alright then, until the next time, Mazin Gooooooooooooooooo!)
ずっと言ったかった、あのセリフ。。。(I’ve always wanted to say that line.)

America, Day 6

America, Day 6
Woke up at 4:30, having slept at 10 or so the night before. I sense this is going to be a pattern in the USA for me. But it at least allows me to write my blog so it’s all good.
Nothing much planned for today, which is a change. May decide to take it easy.
Or so I said but after finishing up some work I decided to watch more Gundam Unicorn.
我が愛しい妹と鋼鉄の兄弟の同じ物を見せてくれいないか。。。ガンダム。ウニコーンノの証を!(What my beloved sister and brother of steel both see…won’t you show it to me, Gundam? The sign of the Unicorn!) I asked, and it was given, like so many other things.
What lies beyond the NDS…no mere system or contrivance of human hands, but compassion itself. When Banagher screamed 打てません!(I can’t shoot!) I broke down and cried (which happens a lot these days) As Advanced Wind, the Wild Arms 3 opening says…本当の強さは引き金を引くことではないから。(True strength does not lie in pulling the trigger.)
Which is what I love about Gundam – the constant message that though humanity constantly wars with itself, through kindness and understanding we can surpass even cursed destiny. With giant robots of course.
Still have to do that full writeup on Unicorn. I’ll get to it, I promise!
Went and walked around a bit more. Still have a tendency to get caught up in my thoughts. Have to remind myself that it’s by being in the present moment that I will get to the future. After all, the future hasn’t happened yet.

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Isn’t it a beautiful city though?
二十年前の面影はまだ残っている。(The traces of twenty years past still remain.) The sunlight – the warm, golden glow of California – sparks so many memories. I remember my child self steadfastly wearing the same things to school every day, searching the libraries for fantasy novels and reading them everywhere, blind to the greater realities around him. In some ways I was a hikkokomori (shut-in) before my time.
How could my younger self have known what plagued my parents? He couldn’t have. He did the best he could and he took the grizzly back with him even without knowing he did.
Going to stop here before I get too nostalgic. There’s the life to be lived in the now.
Met a Spanish lady who commented that my English was very good…I get that a lot, almost as much as I get comments on my Japanese. Thanked her and I remembered my other past as well, the angry 20-something year old who was dying to let everyone know he came from everywhere EXCEPT Singapore, when mental issues and cultural identity raged through me.
It all doesn’t matter anymore. People are people. In the end, there is only pain, and the means to end that pain, whether with compassion or other means. The sunshine does more than just bring back the past…it opens the way to the future.
Whew, heavy stuff for a morning stroll. That’s what you get from Gundam in the morning.
But I can feel the past dying. Everything that I thought and felt was right at that point in time, but now it has little to no relevance. I shall let myself be prisoner no more to hatred and envy that perhaps was not even mine, but was passed down to me. 日差しとウニコーンを一つになろう、前に導いてくれ。(Let the sunshine and unicorn both become one, and guide me ever onwards.)
I said earlier that you’d get some poetry, so here you are.

If we are to grow
And go forwards, then
We must die to ourselves
To our past reality
Everything that we once desired and held so dear

It’s both easier and harder than it looks
Easier because all we need to do it to just let go
But at the same time harder because we cling it to
Without knowing how much it can hurt us.

Let go
Let go, I whisper
I shout
I howl and I scream
Only to have my voice rasp emptily
Until my throat is dry and cracked and bleeding.

I look up to see how
it comes back to me
wreathed in beauty
A benediction in sound.

The past may pain us, yes
But it is our choice were we look
And I choose to fix my gaze not upon
The rusted detritus of yesterday, but
A swiftly unfolding future.

Spontaneous poetry, WITHOUT EDITING. I may edit at some point, I may not.

Also, NorCal is colder than I thought. May need to get another sweater or something for the mornings.
More phone trouble later in the day. Went to an AT&T store and they STILL couldn’t fix it. This means that over 10 people in 2 from nationalities ranging from Filipino to Indian to German to Spanish couldn’t get the damn thing working. Because why? Because Xiaomi, that’s why. Argh.
Spent some time walking around the city just because. It looks just like when I was younger.
Tried not to board the feels train but ending up buying an express ticket on it. My past self awakened once more, the young boy/man who loved America and hated Singapore with a passion. I let him just cry out in rage for a while. Heaven knows he had wanted to say so many things 10 years ago which he couldn’t, because his mother was always there with the constant refrain of “but the US is different now”

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Boy, don’t I know it! I wasn’t trying to go back so much as I was trying to go forwards. But each time I spoke of it my mother would take about how I was only there for 2 years (2 years and 9 months to be exact) like it was some a mantra or warding charm that would keep George Washington and his hordes of white men away.
Sigh. Such was life back in those days. I took my thoughts out of the past and into the present once more – the trees and highways and blue, blue skies. Little kids out with their families, young people fiddling with their mobiles (they didn’t have THOSE 20 years ago…) and the wide open streets.
The helpful sales assistant at the Verizon shop with the Spanish accent and short, short hair…would this who my Spanish friend, Vidal, would have been like now? The older woman I met on the slopes of Walnut Creek, walking her dog…could that have been his mother? Or aunt?
We can so often be our worst enemies, and get in our own way. This time I just stepped back, out of the mind, and let the sunshine do its work.
As is so often when I’m lost in reverie, lost track of the time and got of semi-lost on the way back. So I was late for dinner…I keep forgetting that these are proper dinners (where the table is set and everything) not the slap-dash affairs that my sis and I have back home. P even went out to find me! Apologized profusely, complete with bowing. My Japanese side comes out pretty strongly in times like these.
Got the recipe for A’s somen salad, which was wonderful. I swear I am being spoiled ROTTEN on this trip by all the good food I’ve been eating. Every meal has been delicious!
P wanted to play some songs that he had written after dinner. They were beautiful songs – simple and brimming with love, kindness and affection. Very 60s. I asked him if he had ever recorded them and he said no…I forget that not everyone wants to be a superstar like yours truly.
I can’t read music (at least not that well) so he had to sing them first and I followed. We had a great time.
It was such a privilege and honor to be taken into the home and confidence of this person, a quiet, gentle man full of concern and love for his friends, his wife and his planet. I’d like to take anyone who speaks about white privilege to meet this guy…he’s proof positive that you can have things but feel keenly the plight of those who do not.
P also told me that he wrote most of his music from the ages of 30 too 50. It got me thinking…I’ve been in mourning for my lost teenage and young adulthood for so long now, in part because of the (probably mistaken) belief that they are supposed to be the “best years of your life.” But what if that just isn’t true? Like a friend’s wife told me recently – everyone’s blossoming period is different. She’s probably right.
If you have old friends, treasure them. Their wealth of experience and broad perspective is truly helpful. They’ve lived longer than you, and those extra years can be a powerful resource indeed. I think back to the days of my youth where I was alternately exhorted, browbeaten and blackmailed into respect for my elders…if I had known these good people then, there wouldn’t have a need to have been any of that.
Turned in for the night, wrote blog post. Ended the day without thinking up a reference. More newness!

America, Day 5

As a stopgap measure for photos, you can check out most of them here while I learn to use WordPress more effectively.

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I’ll begin today’s entry with the observation that most of my meetings have been very multicultural. Poker Night had 2 Singaporeans, 1 Russian, a Scottish lady and I think 1 British woman? Yesterday’s excursion was 1 American, 1 Japanese, 1 Singaporean, 1 German and an Austrian.

Transculturalism, spirituality, LGBT rights, oh yes, and don’t forget anime! Hmm, yeah, this is my life alright.

Morning was a trip with P to meet a bunch of learned gentlemen discuss psychology, neuroscience and the brain. Sounds like my idea of heaven!

And yes the company was very learned indeed. 2 professors (maybe more!) at least 2 doctors and well…I’m not counting titles, but it was high-quality intellectual discourse. The host took me to see his library, which was quite a sight.

Look at all these books. Just look at them. Quite a sight, no? A scene from Read or Die comes to mind here :

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We watched a DVD where there was some guest lecturing, followed by conversation and discussion of the presented matter. Just like our services back home! (but without the hymns)

I was asked a variety of questions by all the gentlemen present. I felt like a bright young inquisitive student being peered over by his professors on his first day of school. All the college experience without going to college.

I got very good advice from everyone there, especially regarding the possible shortening of any university courses I might take. If I ever do go back to school, it would be good to know that I can spend less instead of more time there…it’s really different when you’re spending your money instead of your parents’, that’s for sure.

Also, I’ve gotten my life story down to 2 minutes, the short version. We’ll see if I can’t whittle it down further.

It was another really fun and educational experience. I think what was the best for me was not feeling the urge to jump out and dominate the conversation, but instead remind myself to sit and listen. It’s getting easier and easier to do that. It’s easier to do that when everyone there knows so much. Then you’re just in awe and you don’t feel like showing off because you can’t.

Everyone was so learned and polite! I felt like I was in ancient Greece or something, debating philosophy in the agora. All we needed was a vomitorium and some slaves to complete the picture…ok maybe not that.

Came home to write more blog posts and discover that WordPress is harder to use than I thought, even with Google. I’m discovering the limitations of Google more and more.

We went for a nice walk to the upper ridges of Walnut Creek. Pictures!

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Soon enough it was time for dinner, in which it was time to cook the same meal that I’ve cooked for guests more than 10 times…none of them better read this blog or I’m sunk! Actually that just means I’ve gotten that much better at preparing it. Always look on the bright side of life.

I suppose I shall have to post some pictures of the food like a normal denizen of the 21th century. So here you are.

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I’ve forgotten how much I like cooking. It’s just too much trouble to do so most of the time, but I love it! From cutting to preparation to putting it all together – it’s really fun. A seemed impressed with my cutting skills. To which I can only reply…見よう!子の華麗なる包丁裁きを!(Gaze upon the most beautiful use of my kitchen knife!)

Things turned out too watery at first but we had cornstarch to the rescue. I always forget that you don’t need to rewash meat from a plastic container. And that you can pat the meat dry.

Everyone finished all the food, and there was a lot of it. That is the ultimate compliment anyone can pay a chef. Thanks all!

A friend of P and A’s, M (an older Japanese lady), came over. She seemed amazed that I learnt Japanese just from anime and games. I refrained from telling her that it’s not exactly uncommon…not common, but not THAT uncommon among otaku. I guess it must be pretty wow for their generation.

She also told me that I looked and spoke like a Japanese person. I get that all the time. It’s a compliment though!

Bed beckons. I’ll see you tomorrow the same Tomato time, same Justice channel.

America, Day 4

Woke up early, but didn’t feel tired. That seems to be the normal state of affairs for me these days. It’s pretty amazing, I must say. I technically have a sleep deficit of about…6-7 hours at this point but technically smechnically.

Mindful of the injunction not to work too much on my vacation, I didn’t. There were still things to be done but…I did them. Yay. Less thought, more action.

What feels the weirdest is perhaps writing all these posts with little to no editing whatsoever. Yeah, what you see is what you get. I actually feel I write BETTER without the editing getting the way.

Goddamn phone issue still isn’t resolved. Sigh. I hereby solemnly swear never to buy a Xiaomi ever again.

Took some pictures of the house in the early morning light. I always think that it gives everything a special glow.

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If you haven’t already noticed, A is quite the painter.

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Got ready to go to UU service. Not memorial service, a normal church service. Like I said, this trip has very spiritual beginnings. Which is pretty cool. I always thought the next time I went to the US it would be for school or to attend a gaming event or something, but no, it’s service after service…I’m not complaining! It’s been very good for the soul. My first ever church service! I feel like a Real Boy now. Or something like that.

The speaker gave an incredibly good sermon which I will just put the YT link up to when it’s done. It was so good that I went up to him personally to thank him. Turns out this was his last sermon before he had to leave.

Meetings and partings and meetings and partings again. Signs upon signs. I feel like I’m in a Neil Gaiman comic or something.

We spent the day touring the city with two au pairs, L (no relation to our favorite notebook writing psychopath) and S from Austria and Germany respectively. I had fun chatting with them. Once again I have to mention anime and our conversation turned in that direction.

What is it with young people and One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach? At least there was Dragonball. That shit never gets old. What was HE watching? Attack on Titan, which made sense because a) he’s young and b) it’s in German.

Talked a bit about Avatar the Last Airbender as well (I prefer Korra because well…she’s female. And hot.) and Game of Thrones, which I don’t watch. L then asked me what I DID watch? Not the contemporary stuff, that’s for sure. I mentioned EVA and Gundam Unicorn but those didn’t ring any bells. (I would have been VERY surprised if they did…)

S was a more reserved sort, but did join in at certain points. Must be the German blood…ok, ok, I’ll stop it with the racial stereotypes now.

It’s kind of strange being around young people, especially as I consider myself young as well. Despite not watching exactly the same things, I know what they are talking about. Like P said, it’s all relative. To people past 60 I guess ALL of us look young.

Also L despite his youthful skill with the mobile phone, STILL couldn’t fix it. Which just goes to show that Xiaomi is the tool of the Devil.

Oh yeah, and the title of the sermon was “Go to the Sea” And so I went. Beautiful isn’t it? I wish I could stay forever, or at least a little longer.

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Went up to Twin Peaks. Incredible view huh? The wind was so intense that it threatened to sweep me off the top. I felt like I was in one of those kung-fu movies where the master is all like “young one, you must go to top of mountain and take many pictures while not fall off. Only when you post them to Instagram with no filter or lame captions can your training be considered complete.”

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A cave in the middle of the cliffs that looks like it leads to another world :

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Also went to the Castro District, where there are more gays than you can shake a stick at. I mean it, almost EVERYONE on the street was gay. This is SF after all. It’s nice that they have a place to hang out and be completely accepted. I wish I had that kind of place when I was younger, that’s for sure.

Had dim sum for lunch where I became the de facto translator for my group due my knowledge of Chinese. L and S were a bit ambivalent at first (first experience with Chinese food) but I think they enjoyed themselves in the end.

Somewhere before the trip I bit my lip and got a canker sore. I used to need copious amounts of medication for my canker sores but now they are going away all by themselves. I’m healing inside and out, it seems. My need for sleep also diminishes each day…which explains why I am up at 5 writing a blog post.IMG_20160424_164523_HDR IMG_20160424_164528_HDR IMG_20160424_164845_HDR IMG_20160424_164837_HDR

The last stop of the day? Another church, but non-UU this time. Still very beautiful. I am beginning to appreciate churches more and more.

Thanked the organ player for his beautiful music. It’s nice to be able to go up and say hi to people just like that. That may be the thing that I like best about the USA.

After a long day we bade farewell to our 2 young friends (relatively speaking!) and went to have dinner with other friends of P and A.

They had a really nice place – perhaps one of the nicest houses I have ever had the privilege of being invited to. Wonderful children. The wounded part of my mind and heart expected to feel the familiar pangs of envy clutch at my heart but…no, they weren’t there, the constant refrain of “why isn’t my life like this?” Which is a relief and a half.

There’s no point in wishing for what we can’t have. And I can accept that now. It’s just that in the past the grief got in the way. Things are still ok – they’re great, in fact. Something which I am still also coming to accept.

In the course of relating my life story (which thanks to my recent activities I have gotten down to 4 versions – short (less than a minute) longer (5 minutes) half an hour (for close friends) and Super Ultra Long (my autobiography) I mentioned my singing teacher. So of course everyone asked me to sing. I aim to please, so I sang Memories of Life, which has become my go-to piece performance piece because it’s actually in English.

It went over well. Noticed my hand trembling quite intensely. But now instead of suppressing it I just let it happen. It’s ok to be nervous while singing! It just shows how much I want to sing well. There’s also the fact that at this point singing has a therapeutic element to me. As the late great Maestro himself (I speak of Pavarotti of course) once said, being nervous just means that you care about the audience.

Our host (who is also an excellent cook) was a no-nonsense, warm and learned lady who left me with a benediction “may you find what you are looking for, and not just the people.” Thank you. I have a feeling that I will find it, in whatever shape it may take.

A bit of musing before bedtime. As we drove back to the house memories arose once again. I found myself thinking of my dear friends sitting right next to me, of my other American friends. They love their country, I’m sure, but not as I do. Do the long green signs and swaying grasses elicit quite the same reactions in them? I think not. The freeways that span road after road, the lone lights on the street corner…not quite Nighthawks, but close.

I will leave in a month or so, but to them this is home.  Will I come here? Live and settle as 10 years ago I so dearly wanted to? It is once again too premature to say. But the demon that wants to know at all costs, the part that equates decision with security, lessens its grip. Something in changing inside me every day, and without tears this time. It’s not like Japan where I was bawling my eyes out! I just have to keep on walking.

And time…always the question of time. 2 decades since I left. Anime of today and in the past. Old friends and new ones – both in age and duration. Everything I left behind and all that I am picking up again, in new and more beautiful ways. The masters of old say that time is an illusion and we can only live in the now. That is perhaps truer than I ever knew.

Some other pictures of the scenery that I like :

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You’ll see a lot of “normal” photos here. A asked me why I was taking so many of them. I said I find normal scenery interesting and she replied with 普通の景色は面白くない (Normal scenery isn’t interesting at all) to which with all due respect I beg to differ. My response is more along the lines of 普通の景色には独特の魅力がある。(Normal scenery has a unique appeal.)

I seem to have forgotten to mention at this juncture that A is Japanese? She’s been married to P for 30 years and has lived in the States for that amount of time.

I had three really busy days! I leave them now and see what tomorrow brings. More blog posts, no doubt.

I’ve taken so many pictures that I actually want to display them in a gallery of some sort, but WordPress is proving harder to use than I thought. I’m going to do everything manually for now until I figure out something better.

Also, I doubt everyone can get every reference in my posts, but they are welcome to try. I’ll buy dinner for anyone who manages to do so WITHOUT THE HELP OF GOOGLE.

America, Day 3

Woke up thinking again. Got fed up with myself for thinking so much. Went for a walk instead.

Also going to have to tidy up the blog from its barebones approach SOMETIME. Which given my busy schedule is likely to be later rather than sooner.

I managed to take some pictures instead of having everything bounce around in my skull for a change. It’s a very very pretty area that P and A live in! Here, I’ll show you.

IMG_20160425_055438_HDR IMG_20160424_015248_HDR IMG_20160423_101839_HDR IMG_20160423_102143_HDR IMG_20160424_064307_HDRAnd as I walked and thought (hard to shut that off completely) I felt more of the flickering ghosts of the past seem to dissipate one by one. Perhaps contemplation has a point after all. I still think, but somehow very differently that I have ever done. More changes, all of them good.

Some pictures of the house :

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So we began the day with a memorial service. I’ve never actually been to a UU church before. It’s nice, really nice actually.

The sanctuary :

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I never knew this woman at all but seeing all her friends and family gathered here, she must have been quite somebody and have led quite a life. 5 kids by 25! That was life in the old days I guess. It was quite an honor to be present at the reception. There were cookies and discussions and I met many nice new people.

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At this point I must relate that I am resisting the urge to go back and fine-tune and polish and edit each post so that it’s sparkling clean and Reads Beautifully. I’m trying to do this off-the-cuff and off-the-cuff it will stay. As a friend of mine told me, blog posts are not academic papers and I’m trying to write in the spirit of the former and not the latter.

Paul took me on a tour of the church. There was a lot to like about it. I’ll show you some of the highlights.

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Phoenix robes! Like some kind of D&D thing. These are definitely one reason to become a UU minister. They give you like +3 to Cool.

I especially like the restrooms. They delight my pro-LGBT heart immensely.

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It’s a very spiritual beginning to my journey of exploration. We go from death and rebirth to rebirth and death. It’s going great. I can feel my always inwardly turning thoughts facing outwards more. It’s nice to be able to do things instead of constantly just THINKING about them.

It’s also interesting to always be the youngest person in the room – with most of the others being at nice twice my age if not more! Perhaps it is my fate in life to be constantly clapped on the back by older gentlemen. It feels really nice actually, and there are far worse things to be subjected to.

What was next on the agenda? Poker, apparently. Texas Hold’Em to be precise.

We had dinner at the house of a longtime friend of P and A. It was great. All the dinners I’ve had on this trip have been incredibly good. I feel soooooooooooo spoiled. Companionship, great food, healing, beautiful scenery, what else could a man ask for? (The phone number of the wildflower of yesterday, actually…)

You have never met such a bunch of delightful, fun and amazing old people. I guess the adage is true – young at heart. One of them made a poignant observation that old people tend to be less inhibited than young ones because they’ve seen and done it all already. Very true! Young people need alcohol. I guess that makes me old then because I don’t.

So we actually got to play without money, just chips, which was a welcome relief from Singapore in which NO ONE GAMBLES WITHOUT MONEY EVER. Sorry, that was just me venting my spleen of 20+ years. What’s wrong with just gambling for FUN now and then, people?

So I just have to relate this anecdote that sent the lady in question into gales of laughter. She was texting someone on the phone and this was the exchange.

“Where can this guy go clubbing?”

“Well if he’s gay, he can go here…”

“HE’S NOT GAY!”

No I’m not, so that destination (whatever it was) was clearly out. It was apparently cop humor. She and her partner were cops in SF for 35 years.

They tried their best to corrupt an impressionable young man (ha, ha, who am I kidding?) and very nearly succeeded. There were stories shared and many laughs besides. I said it and I meant it – SF will have to try hard to top this!

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It was a fantastic day, and the best poker night ever. Thanks to everyone who was a part of it. Richard for the food, Annie for the hospitality, Rosemary for her humor, and everyone else for their advice, wit and vivacity.

Oh yes, and I met the most best-behaved dog I have ever seen in my life. I forgot to take a picture of her but Koko is a beauty. She’s really friendly, licks your face and actually sits down on the couch at 9 sharp and goes to bed. What about that?

Random picture of clouds I think is pretty nice :

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As Mr Saturn might say “DO YOU WANT SLUMBER?” As it came time for bed I certainly did.

I’m going to have to think up a different reference to end each day here, a task which both fills me with anticipation and dread.

America Day 2

Well I didn’t break down. I felt rather good in fact. First thoughts on touchdown? America is…the same, but different. Much like everything else in my life right now.

There was some confusion at the baggage claim but I’ll spare you the boring details. My good friend P picked me up at the airport and we made our way via BART to his house.

I expected it to be more emotional but it wasn’t. It was…how shall I put it? I felt myself changing deep inside as I saw the familiar freeways and green valleys of California. It was healing, but in a way that is hard to put into words. I sense poetry incoming sometime in the future.

It’s good to be here…to be back? Hard to say.

It was a long day so I took a nap. Got up later to prepare for an art exhibition that we were invited to.

Issues with my phone abounded (goddamn you Xiaomi!) and I had forgotten to get the right adapter for my devices. So there was some housekeeping involved – which again I won’t mention as its not very interesting. Note to self – buy and place note clippers in suitcase, not carry on luggage.

The exhibition itself was pretty amazing. Our host shared much of herself with us – her life, her words, her art.

I was so moved I wrote a poem in return. Once again, trying to write it without Editing to Make it Nicer. I can always do that later anyway.

Becoming Free

I did not know you before this day,
but you invited me into your home,
your house and your heart, and I
was touched beyond belief.

Sitting there among kindred spirits
who were all still in many many unknown to me
I felt a healing take place – deep and profound
beyond simply what was shared there
amazing though it was.

I saw a lady, young and old
wise and learned
amdist friends and family
gifted with hands, with words and with song
a room full of memories and creation
a wonder to be in
a benediction to experience.

How could you know that that was
what I had most sought for many years – freedom?
The Universe knows better than any one of us,
and it was maybe more than simple chance
that let me to your door on this,
the first day of my new journey.

Moving from darkness to light,
from the chains of the past to wings of liberation
truly a joyous coincidence.

Thank you once again for your sharing,
for your depth of love and spirit.
I salute you and your works,
your friends and your kin.
May you (and I, and all who walk upon this Earth)
go on to greater health, prosperity
and above all,
love.

The title of the exhibition – Becoming Free. Perhaps not a coincidence again.

Pics or it didn’t happen? Here you go.

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As the guests filed out I had a chance meeting with very nice people, once of which was a pretty and artistic girl with a name like a fairy princess (it was over 30 syllables!)

So…once again I am placed in the uneviable position of talking to a girl who I would most dearly like to hit on and get to know better leaving while I will likely never see her again. There has to be a way to deal with these kinds of situations better! Any ideas?

But her parting echoes in my heart even now. ”Happy healing.” Truer words were never spoken. This IS supposed to be a vacation, and there is nothing that says that joy cannot be the most potent of balms. Thank you, young wildflower, and may you blossom well in all ways.

And so another day in the land of the brave and free comes to an end.

America, Day 1

So here I am off on my journey of exploration and discovery, part 2. Thanks to everyone for their kind messages and prayers on Facebook.

In the spirit of trying new things I’m going to make a blog post every day as a record of what l see, do, feel and think. That way you can follow my travels and Zuckerberg won’t steal anything. It’ll be like my Japan trip about 8-9 years ago, just written in real-time this time.

Had a simple dinner with my Dad before leaving on a jetplane. (aha, reference!) He’s…the same as always I guess. I always feel a little conflicted when I meet with him these days. Everything he knows and feels is frozen in time, and that used to drive me up the wall because…well, we live in the now, not in the past! But what was frustration and anger before has changed largely to compassion. Thanks for seeing me off Dad.

Sat next to a nice couple of the way to Abu Dhabi. Mentioned anime (because I mention anime to everyone I travel with) and the girl doesn’t watch it (what a pity!) but the guy watches Naruto, Bleach and Fairy Tail. Sigh. What’s the world coming to? Whatever happened to watching DBZ and Sailor Moon and …ok I’m going to stop the Old Grumpy Anime fan act now. He can  watch whatever the fuck he wants. And they were really nice and shared half a cookie with me. I also learned that Etihad means “union.” Learn something new every day.

Things get pretty cramped in Economy and there’s a lot of accidental bumping and pushing and shoving. But simple apologies work wonders. As I come out of the darkness I appreciate the little things a lot more.  Imagine – what a wonderful world in which we can say sorry to each other when we bump into each other or there isn’t enough space!

There are no pictures in this post because it will be just be boring pictures of airport after airport. And also because I forgot to take them.

In the middle of each flight I engaged myself in my favorite mid-flight activity – entertaining young children. They look at me, I look back at them. I smile, they smile. I play  peek-a-boo, and after a few moments of bewilderment (WTF is this guy doing? they seem to do say) they play along. They wave their hands around, and so do I. I get grateful smiles from the parents (after a few moments of “WTF is this guy doing?”) Works every time, and it’s a fun way to pass the time.

 

Got held up at Abu Dhabi immigration because I had no return ticket – perfectly understandable. Got asked a bunch of tough questions because it’s their job to do so. In the past I would have been all you DON’T UNDERSTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND but thank God those days days are past me. I just smiled and answered and honestly and as best as I was able. It’s good to know that Uncle Sam has such reliable and honest guardians.

I like the last part of my exchange with the officer :

“So you won’t call the cops if I stay for a month and 10 days?”

“You stay for 4 months and I’ll call the cops.”

“If I stay for 4 months I’ll turn myself in.”

I got a smile out of that one. But I mean it. A month (and a half or so on top of that, tops) should be more than enough. I have no intention of making trouble for these good people.

Back on the plane, I remembered how much I love flying. Apologies to my beloved sister and mother but having to take care of their panic attacks on planes really killed the experience for me before. I wonder what it is about being 3000 miles above the earth in a flying box with nothing but recycled air and reheated food for company that appeals to me. (Now I’ve gone and killed it for you haven’t I?)

I think if there was a job that allowed me to fly here and there, testing airlines, I would take it. But I don’t think I would want to work as an airline steward. Too stressful.

Flying was nice. In the past it was all I HATE SINGAPORE AND I’M SO GLAD I’M GOING AWAY but now…now it’s different, as is almost everything else. I like the romance of being in the air. I like the pretty airline stewardesses. I even like the airline food, reheated though it may be (it’s actually pretty good on some airlines, like Etihad)

I used to be so afraid of take-off and landing and turbulence, but now I can just close my eyes and get past all of that. It’s almost pleasant. More wounds being healed by the simple fact of existence. Ain’t life grand?

Woke up before everyone else did on the plane, decided to write blog post with no editing whatsoever. This journey is full of new experiences.

Strangely enough still very calm. I don’t feel this “OMG I’M FINALLY GOING TO AMERICA” that I thought that I would feel. I guess all that meditation and Zen is really paying off? Maybe I’ll break down when I hit the tarmac. No way to tell.

Watched some Gundam Unicorn on the plane but when I got to the scene where Banagher faces off against Loni in Episode 4 I had to stop. WAY too emotionally intense. I’ll watch it another time.

Unicorn is powerful…beyond powerful. I am reminded of a comment that my sister made when she watched it. “Is this what my brother sees when he watches Evangelion?” All that and more, dear sister. It’s not like I don’t like Gundam either! (after all, my beloved EVA would never exist without it!)

When I first saw the NDS activate, and the red lines permeate every inch of the mobile suit…whew, I had to breathe deeply. It’s truly the successor to UC in more ways than one. A paragraph here and there doesn’t do it justice, I’ll do a full writeup eventually.

To be continued tomorrow.