America, Day 16

Had a really good talk with my close friend last night, in which we discussed many things, some unprintable. It was humbling to discover that we humans, despite our many shields and illusions, are actually really much the same at heart. We have our differences, our hangups, our pains, but we’re all here on the same planet, and we often forget that.

I often fall into the trap of thinking – “with all the therapy I’ve done, shouldn’t I be free of this stuff ALREADY?” until I realize that all the therapy is so that I can live with my hangups in a healthy manner, not excise them completely. That is firstly impossible, and secondly would put me back on the slippery slope to OCD.

When we are open and honest with ourselves, I find that hangups tend to dissipate on their own. There’s a blog article in there somewhere, but I think I’ll write this one first.

Checked my mail. Resume was accepted, partially, and now I take a translation test, just like old times. I’m kind of looking forwards to it! I’ve forgotten (like so many other things) how much I actually like taking tests (OMG, so Asian) and how much I like translating.

So yeah I’ve totally and completely ended up working while on vacation. But like my old friend (the one I called, not the one I’m staying with) said, part of having a vacation is doing whatever you want to. So if you want to work, work.

So today I’m doing an experiment and seeing how much I can get written in a day…or I so I thought until I went out for a walk and forgot to bring the mobile with the data plan. Which led to my getting lost. At least I got some pictures out of it!

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Random snail.

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Nice view.

Had to ask a few friendly folk how to get back, but I successfully retraced my steps. It was wet and rainy which was kind of nice actually.

Tried to mess around with my blog somemore to get things into shape. I picked WordPress because of it’s plugins but boy is the thing hard to use or what! Maybe I’m just not used to it is all. Decided not to try anything funky and settled for super-simple layout.

More past appeared to bug me, but today I thought that I would try to ignore it and focus on other things instead. Blogging, for one. Writing for another. And completing the translation test.

Or so I said but as evening neared I felt more flashes of pain go through my mind and I thought that I should attend to them instead. And I did, by doing things and not thinking about them.

One thing I’m learning though…just taking a fucking break sometimes. I’m moving at a good clip (even the critic in myself knows this) and there’s no need to push myself too hard.

My friend came home early and we went out to In-N-Out Burger, another Californian staple. I remember a long time ago wanting to eat at it all the time and my parents doing so only rarely. Another opportunity for nostalgia.

So…In-N-Out is definitely NOT as good as I remember. I don’t recall them being quite so…greasy. But they are definitely much better than McDonalds. (Then again, ANYTHING is better than McDonalds.)

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Went to a gaming arcade after dinner. It was pretty fun and filled with all sorts of good stuff.

There was a rhythm game which had a Cruel Angel’s Thesis as one of the song selections, so of course I had to play it.

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Fifth down.

Then we played the lamest game in the universe…Sailor Zombie.

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I don’t think I will ever get the appeal of idol groups and AKBK48. I mean, I understand why people like them, but they personally don’t do anything for me. Give me a live girl anytime! But I don’t judge. The world has to get past this ridiculous conception of real always being better than virtual. There’s a time and a place for each one.

Also, Kirby and friends :

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Had another semi-attack of nostalgia…but I think it was a good one. I can remember my 15 and 18 year old self wandering through video arcades, thinking of stories and possible games and so much else besides. Trying his best to survive amidst everything that was happening in and around him.

I think that’s the thing about working through the past. There are so many good memories mixed in with the pain that it can be hard to tell them apart. But I remind myself that I just have to keep walking.

I love gaming arcades. There’s something about them, their sounds, the cacophony and the sheer energy of people playing their hearts out. Long ago I wrote a poem about them, which I think is perhaps worth dragging out now :

Video Game Arcade

loud noises, stale smoke
sound of blip-blip-blips and cha-chings
frenzied teenage yells
a bored old woman sits at a desk,
doling out silver bits of amusement

the driving machines are off at one side
people facing off in a furious race
down virtual streets and alleys

next is the UFO catcher machines
a couple wanders by
the girl points at the glass casing
she wants something

the boy doesn’t look so pleased, but he gives in
grimaces
fishes out a coin and puts in it
suddenly there is cheery music and flashing lights
he takes the controls

they both wait with bated breath
the world seems to stop as
down comes the metal hand with a clank clank clank

it scoops

almost misses
the girl lets out a stifled shriek
but then the claws – clankclankclank – find purchase on something furry
and a stuffed bear is the prize
smiles all around!
the boy looks relieved

right next to that a balding man faces down hordes of zombies
a gun in each hand
he’s playing a 1-player game in 2-player mode
wow so macho! or maybe he’s just showing off
maybe both?
a crowd gathers to watch as he starts mowing the undead down
bangbangbangbangbangbangbang
he picks them off with ruthless efficiency
a creepy-crawly here, a snarling ghoul there, abatcomesdownfromtherightside
but he sees it, it’s gone
but then
OHNOazombieclawshim

lurid red words appear on screen
YOU ARE DEAD, GAME OVER

INSERT COIN?

I guess I’ll never really get gaming and anime out of my system, ever. As my friend remarked, my bond with the latter is really deep. I mean, it fucking saved my life. It doesn’t get any deeper than that.

How some things change, and how some don’t…arcades are somehow much the same as they were 10, 20 years ago. There’s still Pac-Man and Street Fighter and lightgun games. I’m still talking with my friend about the same things we discussed when I first knew him.

Speaking of which, we had another long talk with my friend at night, about everything from relationships, the nature of the Divine and what anime and game girls were the hottest. It’s really difficult to have frank discussions about any of them, and I am immensely grateful to him for sharing with me his thoughts.

Gratefulness…I think it’s about past time for me to reclaim the meaning of that word. I still sometimes feel a twinge in myself when people remark how lucky I am to have this opportunity for travel and to look at everything again. How can you be so ungrateful? Other people have jobs they have to do, and children they have to feed…and then I try and fight back by recounting how much I suffered during those years. I would have that steady job and those other things if I didn’t need to be a parent for most of my life.

It doesn’t work that way, mother mine. There is no sliding scale, no give and take or quid pro quo. One plus doesn’t erase one minus. I am in grief for my loss and grateful for my opportunities at the same time.

It’s just the past again. My mother’s words which aren’t even actually hers…passed down through the ages unthinkingly, tearing barbs and wounds and tears in generation after generation. The buck stops here. I open my heart and mind and receive all light, letting it cleanse the darkness.

But as I remarked to my friend, it’s one thing to comprehend this in your mind and another to integrate it fully into everything else. Some things just take time, whatever they may be. Day by day the awakening beckons…because it has already happened.

And as time and space and memory whirl within me, another day comes to an end. Goodnight everyone.

America, Day 15

Woke up early again. I know why I sleep less everyday now… no one’s trying to kill me anymore! Whoo-hoo, score one for Captain Obvious!

But honestly, though, it’s a great feeling to have less energy with less sleep. More time for blogging, for one.

Pizza for breakfast! It doesn’t get more American than that.

Something my cousin says comes to me…two months is a long time. I hadn’t thought it that way before. I was always so trapped by the conceptions of time. But day by day I feel the patterns of the past breaking up. This trip is worth its weight in gold!

Decided to go update and send out some resumes today. Yes I know, I’m still technically on vacation…though I’m like 300% more productive here than I am back in SG. Must be the air and the sunshine.

Went out with a nice gentleman through my church connections for lunch. Persian food, pretty interesting! Pics.

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I realize that I am going to have to tell people what this church thing is all about, lest they assume I am Christian, which I’m not. (Well, not TECHNICALLY but it’s a long story…I guess I’m technically Christian the way I’m technically on vacation?)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitarian_Universalism

Wikipedia to the rescue!

Took a nap later and walked around a bit. No pics this time.

It’s easier to just admit to myself that I still love the USA and that yes, I wished I could have been back here 10 or more years before. There, I said it. My child’s heart still cries out in love for those streets and cars and bushes. I hold his hand and stroke his hair. It’s ok. It’s alright.

Reflected once again on the fact that I really shouldn’t be alive and writing this considering the sheer amount of trauma I was subjected to while younger, including breaking my head at 4 and suffering multiple blows to it later. Not to mention the depression. And OCD. And suicide attempts. It’s truly a miracle I am here at all.

Still learning more about blogging and getting this whole damn thing into order. Whoever’s reading this please bear with me.

Social media is pretty wow. Just yesterday I coined the phrase “moonies” to describe Sailor Moon fans in a random Facebook post. Today it’s all over my newsfeed and Twitter. Did I really do that?

Chatted with another old friend, and her advice is worth sharing, I think. If I feel like working on vacation, then I should go ahead and work! I should’t “should” all over myself.
Leftover pizza for dinner. It was delicious.

Went out to meet some of my hosts’ friends. As expected, they are completely different from the people I met 10 days before. 18 year old cosplayers who use mobile devices like a pro and whose lives revolve around the latest anime, as opposed to people over 70 who wouldn’t know Rei Ayanami was if she bit them in the face and to whom using mobile devices at the table is a form of blasphemy.

It’s like being in two completely different worlds. I must say though, it’s quite a priviledge to be able to move through both so easily.

Still in a kind of a tailspin of sorts. Time, distance, money, relationships, ideas, school, work…I can’t make sense of any of these things now. It’s all in flux once again. I don’t even know who I’ll be at the end of this trip, but I’m looking forwards to it.

And so we come to the end of another day.

America, Day 14

Woke up to…another attack of the past. I guess I should be happy it’s coming up to be healed but at the same time it’s kind of a drag.

I’m getting more and more familiar with the sensations of them now though. Much of what I am experiencing are things from my post-suicidal period in my late teenage that I did not get to fully comprehend or process. Life back then felt like a perpetual low-level panic attack was being diffused throughout my body. I probably would have been diagnosed with GAD had I not already had the diagnosis of depression.

But that was in the past. In the now I am far stronger than I was before then, and a combination of prayer and well wishes dispel it well enough. Also the realization that well, sometimes it doesn’t go away immediately and that’s ok. We can live the day without needing to handle everything. There will be time aplenty to heal.

For some reason went to listen to this :

sang a bit and ended up crying a lot. The English version really didn’t do anything for me but the Japanese one opened up a lot…well that should come as no surprise now should it? Also, I vastly prefer the Japanese lyrics. Music therapy is pretty helpful.

My friend was actually still home when all this was going on and so I felt abashed when he came out of his room. Still more than a bit embarrassed when I’m crying my heart out and there’s someone in the house. Which is pretty normal I guess.

I contacted another close friend of mine from the past and at the end of my introduction he was a bit like “whoa that’s a lot to take in at once.” I have to remind myself other people are living more comparatively normal lives and to go easy on them (and myself!)

I sometimes also wish this was a normal travelogue and I’d, you know, actually go out and see sights and take pictures of them. Nope, you get lots of internal images instead. But like I said travels can take place both inside and out.

Decided to go take a rest after all that emotionalism. Probably the right course of action. After that a short walk, and then I called another old friend.

She shared something that I feel is worth blogging about. “A lot of people think that shared trauma is the basis for a relationship, but I think giggling together is probably better.” Wise words!

Then it was time to go to my cousin’s house, which interestingly enough had the exact same street name as my friend’s.

I played with her kid a bit while dinner was being delivered. Kids always make a feel a little complicated. I love kids so I’m generally glad to be around them, but I also wish that I had the happy, loving childhood that they are having right now.

But then at the same time I also reflect with compassion that how my parents treated me was probably how they were treated when they were younger…actually they were probably treated worse. I get angry and then I feel compassion and then I get envious and then angry and then…all part of being human I guess. I’m pleased to report that usually compassion predominates. Guess all that therapy really helps!

Time for dinner…burgers! This is the first time I’ve had American food on my trip…oh wait no I had a pizza for lunch earlier.

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Gave the elevator speech about my life story again and I let them weigh in a little bit on what was going on. Lots of good comments and question, no space to relate them all, but my aunt also concurred that there was no danger of burnout. If you like something, and you’re good at it, you’ll do well. It often energizes instead of enervates.

She’s also all about concrete things. She once told me “I don’t understand you psychological people, you’re always talking about things that don’t exist.” I must admit I can’t quite agree with that, but I can see the point of having something real to hang your hat on, so speak.

She also mentioned that it was pretty miraculous that I managed to derive such strength from video games and anime, It was. It still is. That’s why I wrote a whole fucking book about it. Caught up in my past battles as I sometimes am (also nothing to feel ashamed of) I sometimes forget that it’s a miracle that I am even here. That indeed, everything is a miracle and we often don’t realize it.

A quote from Albert Einstein seems appropriate here :

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

As you can tell I love my aunt a lot. I really, really do. She’s helped me a lot more than I even ever realized.

Got to catch up with my cousin some more, which was really good. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to speak to her at length about personal matters, which I did some of.

The visit yielded more prereaders for the book, for which I am most grateful for. My most valuable prereaders are those without any knowledge of games or anime, so I know what a non-fan thinks.

I had some delicious cookies courtesy of my cousin, which I forgot to take pictures of because they were too delicious. I don’t have the recipe but I’ll share that when you have really sweet cookies like these, some sea salt sprinkled over it (not too much!) brings out the flavor a lot more. It’s the same principle as why people in Japan sometimes put salt on watermelons.
More memories as they drove me home. The green road signs and the long freeways still elicit powerful emotions from me. The motels across the roads with names like “America’s Best” and the fir trees that dot the sides of the roads.

Still, it’s good to be here. I thank my friend once more for her advice. The child within is healing even as my adult self comes to grips with reality…only to discover that reality isn’t so bad after all. There’s no need to escape when there are no enemies to run from.

I also no longer feel so horrible when someone doesn’t listen to what I have to say or interrupts. That is another old wound from when I was much younger and NO ONE listened to the important stuff, which I had the right to speak and be heard by. It’s also nice to not feel that I have to share everything with everybody…which is of course impossible to do in the first place.

Family is always important. It’s good to have close relations whom you can trust and be trusted by. There is a certain intimacy between family members which you can’t find elsewhere.

And like I told my aunt, no matter what else has happened in my life, I have also always been blessed by having many good and true friends, who have given me a lot in many different ways. I mean take this trip, for instance…I’ll be staying with friends almost the whole time! That’s a lot of savings right there, not to mention shared experiences.

Came back to watch some new anime with my friend (that’s basically all he does, besides work…BQ you know that’s true, don’t deny it) I was pretty cold to Rainbow Days and Re: Zero but Kiznaiver looked really interesting. Wanted to watch more but I was sleepy and also not 19 anymore so I couldn’t fight off sleep and just watch anime the whole night. I also have blogs to write and appointments to keep and all of that Real Life ™ stuff to do. Such is life.

More musings about anime in general :

I can’t quite turn off my translation sensors whenever I watch subtitled anime. I noticed that Funanimation and Crunchyroll have differing quality of translations…Osomatsu-san had a REALLY GOOD ONE (I don’t think I could do as good a job!) but most of the others were weaker.
I spotted the old kludge of multiple commas in a sentence more than a few times, a sure sign of weak translation. There were some errors in definition as well. But generally I doubt the audience really cares or knows because meaning gets across okay most of the time. Professionally though, I can’t help but pick apart the sentences that bother me. 仕事の癖はそう簡単に治りそうもない. (Not so easy to fix work habits.)

Trying to level up my E to J as well, and not just my J to E. As with everything else on this trip, we’ll see how it goes.

I still can’t find it in myself to watch the majority of newer anime…for one, I don’t like the flat colors and thin lines. Though I have another cousin who has the exact opposite reaction – she can’t stand the thicker lines of old anime. I guess it boils down to tastes and what you grew up with. A chance Facebook comment comes to me “don’t be an anime snob/elitist.” Also very true. I would be the last person in the world to rain on anyone’s parade.

A lot of my resistance I guess comes from my past (like so many other things) in that I wished for the world to stop moving until I could get back on my feet and participate properly. But there’s no time like the present, and no trains to catch.

Still not going to watch Love Live though. Ever. Okay maybe just one episode, for analysis and research purposes.

Another long day. Sweet dreams everyone.

America, Day 13

America, Day 13

I foresee a long day of blogging and working on my site ahead. Also I may actually finishing watching Gundam Unicorn, especially as BQ has a nice TV on which to watch it.
No car in the US can be quite a downer. There’s a bike but it’s not yet travel-ready. Tomorrow perhaps.

And for the first time in 10 days no one’s around and I can sing to my heart’s content! Yay!

May just take a walk around the neighbourhood and call old friends, just for the heck of it. In fact I think I will.

Getting more in touch with the enormity of what actually happened to me. The thing about mental illness is that you can’t see it on the outside. I took the equivalent of multiple shotgun blasts to the chest over the years but if I actually look at my own body…I don’t see any bleeding wounds. They’re all on the inside. Or at least, they were.
The comparison to people that I’ve done all my life…it’s so riduculous if I think about it now. Do you look at a war veteran without legs and think “oh my God, why hasn’t he gone to school or gotten a job?” No. But I did for many years, because my mother and society seemed to think that way. And the relentless comparison to my friends and people whom I knew…none of whom I know (personally at least) had more than a hundred nervous breakdowns.

It’s easy to hate, far harder to love. But love we must, for it is the surest way to cleanse evil that I know. And I’ve walked the path of thorns for so long that what used to score my flesh now simply bounces off. There is still further to walk on this flower-strewn path of life.

What comes next? I still don’t know, but I know a hell lot more than 5 months ago.

Always makes me think of this song.

I think back to my younger self and his childish notions of how if I just moved back to the USA everything would Be Ok. But I think letting him out to simply imagine was the right course of action. As an adult there are so many other things that we don’t think of when we’re younger – taxes, healthcare, housing, the cost of living. Visas. Immigration permits. All that kind of stuff.

But he still cries to return, because he knew none of that when he was younger. I’ll let him, for as long as it takes.

Actually let myself laze around in bed for like 2 hours because well, it’s been a rollercoaster of a trip so far and I need some kind of rest. I don’t want to go home and have to take a holiday from my holiday.

Another contrast – the older people on my trip all ate really healthily and had their houses arranged neatly and in order, whereas the younger ones…not so much. Comes with being a programmer in the Valley I guess.

Back to psychoanalysis for a bit. Guess we can’t really escape for it after all huh?

Realized that much of the mental pain and anguish I experience isn’t really mine and may instead have been displaced from my mother. My sister talks about how she experiences physical sensations that she has no record of ever having – I probably got the mental end of stick. Not pleasant but something that I can work through.
Went for a walk around the neighbourhood. It’s interesting. Seems like a very nice place to live. Took pictures!

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Worked throughout the afternoon despite technically being on vacation. 相変わらず仕事熱心だな、俺。 (Guess I’m as keen on work as always.) Sigh. Perhaps it’s my inner Asian talking.

Watched lots of anime at night with BQ and C as expected. I still can’t get completely used to new anime. Probably due to watching way too much old anime when I was younger. Ah whatever, it’s all good.

Had a really good conversation with my old friend. It’s good to find people whom you can share almost everything with. No matter what pain I’ve had in my life (and I’ve had considerable) I have always been blessed with many, many close friends, and for that I am grateful. To myself as well as to others.

He commented that it seemed like our past selves were other people entirely, and I think that’s only as it should be. There is so much that I clung to unconsciously and that held me back even as I wanted to go forwards.

Who was that person before?
So angry and hateful
lashing out not only
at the world around him
but at himself.

Were his chains truly his
or fashioned from the pain of others?
it doesn’t matter now
everything is left go of
one by one
until nothing remains and we can
start anew.

It is like waking up from a long sleep
Or rather a nightmare
to see that the world has changed in some ways
much more than I thought
but in others so much less.

I had better not overwork myself. Going to meet my cousin tomorrow, should be interesting! I’ve never seen her younger son before.

Wrote a bit more and went to sleep,

America, Day 12

America, Day 12

Woke up early because I slept early, starting writing more blog posts. These things don’t write themselves!

FInding it easier and easier to write now I’m getting into a habit of doing it practically every day at regular times. There is something to be said for internalization.

Still sometimes haunted, still wish it would all just go away. I guess I’m only human.

Even as someone who is given to introspection, I sometimes wish I WASN’T. I definitely stay inside my skull too much sometimes. I have to remind myself of two things 1) I can actually DO things now and 2) I’m doing ok. I sit around and think a lot less than I normally did. Time to get out there and write and well, do more things.

Going to see my good friend BQ in Santa Clara today. The first leg of my trip is over, it’s all younger people from here on out. We’ll see what that brings.

I need to finish Gundam Unicorn at some point. Maybe in the train.

Took some pictures of this house in the early morning. I don’t think I will ever get tired of how everything that looked so ordinary can look so magical before the day starts.

Another friend of my hosts came over, a lady named C. A more talkative, vivacious, energetic and sharp lady you’ll never meet. She talked a mile a minute but somehow I didn’t really mind. Maybe it was the interesting stories she had to relate.

We took another last walk around the area. Goodbye Sacramento! It was nice knowing you. Maybe I’ll see you again, maybe I won’t.

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Goodbye, Overly Aggressive Ducks. These guys want your bread and they want it BAD.

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I asked for her advice after giving the short version of my life story, which I always do. She told me “Stay open, stay connected. Keep up with the writing.” I shall do that. 8 years in the Cave was far too long for my comfort. It was perhaps necessary but terribly painful. I’m finally alive and Heavens willing, I’m going to stay with way!

Had a super multicultural lunch, composed of leftovers from the last few days. I can’t think of a better way to end my multicultural adventures with multicultural hosts. We had the lethal oranges again but in my case I think discretion was the better part of valor and I opted out. C seemed to like them though – she even told her husband about them on the phone.

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I may try some variations of them, (or another dessert entirely) in future, maybe on the trip. We’ll see how it all works out.

I wanted to try to get some music instigation going but it didn’t look like it was in the cards. D brought out this song called Swimming to the Other Side, though, which was good. And so I thought it appropriate to share the song that brought me to UU in the first place (C is also a UU) Everything Possible. It went over well, and she thanked me for sharing the song with her
Here’s a link if you are interested. It’s one of the most beautiful and meaning songs I’ve ever heard in my life, in any language.

Still experimenting with things. I could have pushed to sing Melodies of Life, which might have made me happy…but we might not have had enough time to do it. Does that upset me? Maybe not. My life is not dependent on singing one song for friends, no matter how dear they are. Maybe it’s because that they are dear that I can say this.

Now that I can have what I want, maybe I don’t even need what I want. It’s so weird. There’s no right answer, and I’m just feeling things out as I go along. That’s called life, I guess.
So many old ghosts to put away. Sometimes I still feel the old fears – no one likes me, no one’s listening to my music, I should be over this by now (thanks Mum, for saying that like a thousand times when it was never true…) etc etc etc. But the volume is turned down real low now.

It still hurts more than I would like it to. You know how it is – or maybe you don’t know how it is, so I’ll tell you. You’re doing something completely mundane like folding your clothes or making the bed and then it hits you anew…21 years. 21 fucking years of pain and anguish. Envy and time and all that was I fought rips through me once more, and I remember when I could not NOTHING but fight, in which surviving till tomorrow was the only goal that I had.

Breathe, breathe, breathe. It will pass. I close my eyes and tears leak out…I summon all the lightning and flame I wielded into me once and it burns and streaks across the darkness. If I draw the blade, if I transform into that incarnation of strength, the shadow WILL be banished. But maybe at this point I don’t need to that anymore. Put it away, let yourself hurt, let the pain itself be the healing. It’s possible.

What do I need? The child cries out in longing and hatred both. At this point I may need succor more than fulmination, temperance more than fury. What does HE need? Let go, let go. Whatever happens, I am held in the embrace of the Light, clad in heaven without blemish.

Time to attend to mundane matters once more and head to the station. Along the way D asked me what I thought of our time with them and I mentioned that not 30 minutes before I left a water glass on a wooden table without knowing about water spots. And when that happened I felt SO BAD ABOUT IT.

But she reassured me that it was ok because I didn’t know. Whew. What a relief. My sister is once again right – it helps the most to be able to told in the present moment by someone you trust that it’s ok. Another old wound healed. Thank you, my friends, for your many gifts to me – your advice, your house, your meals, your friends. May the Divine bless you in all its presence and power both.

Got a reply from one of my old friends in the USA. I was happy but sad at the same time…sad because whenever they ask me how I’ve been and what I’ve been doing all this time, I have to tell them the bad news. “No, I’m not a computer programmer/game designer/academic/teacher like you thought I would become, I’ve actually spent the last 21 years being abused and taking care of 4 kids.” I mean, it makes ME sad to have to write this, and tell them that.

I know, I know, I could be dead, it could be worse etc. But in the face of the facts those often sound like platitudes.

Argh, enough of this. Out of mind and into the world once more. I’m writing this on the train and I can see a horse farm on my left and well…that’s well enough.

Yes, I boarded the train with no difficulties. The Capitol Corridor train to San Jose, to be precise, though I’ll be stopping at Santa Clara.

More introspection and reflection onboard, along with pictures.

I tried to not go within overmuch but…what the heck. If it happens, it happens. The journey is not something outwards but inwards as well, after all. Don’t fight what comes.

But in the spirit of newness once again I’m not editing it and just writing whatever comes into my mind, James Joyce style. Apologies for the rambling. Skip if you wish, but I’m just going to let myself go here.

I wish I knew what it was in another life, not to have to be a parent at 12, or even earlier.

In the past I had to dredge up that strength, but now it’s simply here. I mind not what foes come because I have the power to defeat them. I don’t need to tear at myself for it.
What the child needs may be to go within, to heal instead of fight.

It’s another old ghost that tells me to settle down, to just get a steady job and go somewhere nice and easy. I have never desired that. That is not my dream, has never been my dream.

What my therapist says comes back once more…this IS the first time in 33 years that I have been free of her influence. I have to let the poison drain slowly. There will be times in which my mother’s issues still live on in me…accepting that and letting them go is part of my healing too.

Such a relief to realize that what pains me so is not mine in the first place, has never been mine.

It’s ok to yourself feel the deep pain, for it was a long time and it was truly hurtful. But not to swim in it and wallow. Let it go, for that burden is not yours to bear any longer.

There are yet more memories of California in the scenery, from things that I once saw to movies and books and games that bring up images of the sun-kissed earth. I think of letting the child have his way and just imagining what it might be like to move back here, at 33 instead of 12. Why not? There’s no harm in imagination. It’s one of our most powerful tools.

I know what I’m about! I know! Free from the curse of constantly second-guessing myself, some courses, at least, are very clear. But I don’t make the mistake as I did in the past of thinking that knowing once means knowing forever. Lanterns are lit, and we walk forwards, but things blur again and we search once more. The important thing is to keep on moving.

There will always be those that have less, and am I never ungrateful for what fortune I may have received. But one doesn’t blank out the other. To be fortunate is to be grateful, and to raise our hands in supplication to that which gives – human, earth or heaven – and not to hang our heads in shame over what we have, or have been granted.

This is my trip and no one else’s. These are my viewpoints, my songs, and what I think is my own business. My life, basically. I’m still getting used to that. I’ve never been able to ever do that before.

Don’t enjoy being overemotional…enjoy being correctly emotional. There is that something within which calls to me, and purged of the past, will return to what it should have been many many years before.

I know there are certain things that will stay, and certain things that will flow. It has already been that way, in many ways. Motion in stillness, and stillness in motion. Yin and yang in perfect balance.

Why not have a day filled with many things? That is, after all, what I wished for myself when I was younger. To create my own curriculum with my own discipline and own studies. To learn everything – though not all at once! Be like the Greeks who I so admired, mix emotional and physical and mental in correct proportions. Even cook sometimes. If I do burn out I’ll just take a fucking vacation or something.

I actually feel a lot better after writing all that down. The blade and the reflection both have their place. I do want to get out of my mind a lot more, but that doesn’t mean that the latter has no purpose…far from it.

Pictures of the scenery :

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Managed to get some other writing done as well. I feel the past course through me as I write – some bad, mostly good. There’s a lot of the same nausea that I felt in last year November and December, in the midst of the death and rebirth, a grey miasma that has to be purged. I’m going to keep on writing no matter what distractions may come. There’s something on the other side – I can feel it. And by God I’m going to get there. If attempted suicide didn’t stop me 18 years ago I’ll be damned if anything is going to do so now.

But…there’s no need to try so hard. The bell has rung and the gates are open and all I really need to do is the let the waters flow. Let it happen. Effort isn’t the same as strain. It’s getting used to a new kind of writing, one that isn’t hampered overmuch by what has come before, but uses it as a fuel for creation.

Whew. Holy wall of text Batman! For once I’m not going to apologize for writing it…my Japanese side can go stuff itself for a while for once. I do hope that it helps someone out there, though, and that writing it wasn’t just cathartic for me but was of assistance to anyone who might read it.

Got out of the train and waited for my good friend BQ to pick me up. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen him. He’s someone that I have known for a long time but that I have never come clean about my issues with. So I told them the edited version of my life story again. Achievement Unlocked – life story complete with abuse in less than 10 minutes!

Met his fiancee as well, who a very nice lady indeed and a very good fit for him. Some of my friends have expressed concern that at the rate I’m going I might burn out, but she told me not to worry about that. She’s probably right, and I thanked her for her advice. After all, I’m finally getting to do what I’ve waited 33 years to do…burnout? What’s that?

Got to BQ’s house, which is nice, is messy…actually it’s not that messy. I have no idea why people have such hangups with messiness. I’m not going to judge you or your house in any way. ANd believe me, I have seen MESSY. This is not messy.

It is, however, Plushie City.

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Aren’t they just adorable!

It’s been interesting to meet him again. He and I have actually impacted each other’s lives in pretty deep ways, though neither of us really realized it. He’s the only person on my journey of reconnection that actually remembers things that I don’t, for one!

Such a change of pace from the older people that have made up the first part of the trip. They were all a) retirees b) walked a lot c) were cooks and d) knew next to nothing about anime and games. The latter are almost the exact reverse in every regard. It looks like I will have to spend most of my time here inside the house instead of gallivanting around every single minute of the day…which is fine by me.

The past and the world continue to change at a rapid rate. Everything looks different, feels different, even smells different. I understand what the new-age Buddhists mean now, that each person can be in their own world and inhabit a completely different place, despite sharing space with others. I can see myself looking onwards on myself when I am here, whatever I am doing, even when I am typing. I know that I am awareness looking out through a human shell, a true ghost in the machine. Deus Ex Humina instead of Deux Ex Machina. It’s surreal and yet enlightening.

Also, I realize that everyone I have been staying with on this trip has been married. I think that I feel my…singleness, for lack of a better word, when I’m around married people. When you’re with somebody you have to consider their thoughts and feelings and how they integrate into your life. You can’t always do whatever you please and you have to mindful of the other person in many different ways. It’s interesting to observe and I really can’t say which is better than the other…since none of my relationships have lasted for more than a few months.

As a side note – my friend has worked at FB and Google and still doesn’t know how to use messages on his new mobile phone. I feel much better about my technologically-challenged ways now.

Oh yes, and his house also has this :

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It’s a sign, I tell you.

Very very long day. Gotta sleep. See you all tomorrow with fresh revelations, more pictures and a whole lot of justice.

America, Day 11

Another fortuituous day, May Day. Time for church, which I was quite looking forwards to. I never thought the day would come that I would actually be LOOKING FORWARDS TO GOING TO CHURCH. But then again that was before I discovered a church like this.

The sermon was on pornography. I really admire the minister for not shirking such a difficult and potentially controversial topic. She went through the S word, the G word, and the P word without so much as a blush.

I went up to her later and thanked her. As I said to her, as someone who has both used and abused porn, I can see it’s great potential for both good and evil. Like most things. I’ve needed it in my most darkest of days to stay alive, but it’s also been pretty destructive to both my mind and body. Another thing I’m happy to give up and have a healthier relationship with.
Getting used to the difference between church services…for instance, they don’t clap in this church. Also, they link hands at the end.

Look, a festival! Not really. This is that time of the year that the special interest groups try to get recruit. Turns out the church doesn’t often do this, only once a year to be exact. Must be because I was here. I feel so special.

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More pictures of stuff :

I like the flags. Why water, though? (水)I guess it’s the most neutral of the 4 (or 5, if you’re Oriental) elements.

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Chatted with many friendly people, some of who came up to me, and told some of them about my book and my blog. I learnt that Sacramento is famous for tomatoes and is also called Sacratomato. It’s a sign, I tell you. Good time for me to blog more!

One of the booths was the labyrinth, a time-honored tradition in which someone walks through the twisting walls in order to gain perspective, clarity and other things besides. Sounds like exactly what I need at this time. I walked it and while doing so I was reminded of the books of Amber and Corwin’s walking of the Pattern…which not-so-coincidentally I read while I was in California, 21 years ago.

I could find my way to the center but I couldn’t find my way back, so I just walked in a straight line past everything – cutting the Gordian knot, as it were. That’s how I got to this point, after all.

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Also, vikings. It was for a camping trip. Any camping trip with vikings gets my vote.

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My best viking impression. Pillage their women, rape their villa…wait. I’ve gotten it the wrong way around.

I must say, I really really like this church. I liked the Mount Diablo one as well but this feels…friendlier? If I stayed there I would totally come to this church all the time.

Time for lunch. My hosts brought me to an Ethiopian restaurant. My first time eating Ethiopian food! Which is more than a little Indian in taste and texture. Delicious though.

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Was aware of a slight pounding in my temples while eating which I recognize as…a hangover. Whaddya know! More new experiences. It wasn’t as unpleasant as I initially thought.

More attacks of the past while in the car. But I think it’s getting better. Slowly, I think, the whys start to fade. Why am I not here yet? Why is it taking so long? Why did I have to suffer so much?

So many, many old patterns. I think back to one of my most reliable of blades, the mighty Occam’s Razor. Why does it take so long to heal, why do the scars run so deep? Because neurobiologically speaking, I’ve thought these things and my mind has run on these tracks for 2 decades. As my therapist often tells me, that is enough time for highways of neurons to form, layers and layers of connective tissue that I can’t expect to go away overnight. In recovery there is the physical brain to be aware of as well.

One step at a time. We’re getting there. 前へ進め、あるくのような速さで。(Move forwards, as if at the speed of walking.)

Walked into a random video store and my God, it looks EXACTLY like 21 years ago. The games have all changed but they’re arranged in exactly the same way. There are still VHS tapes! Wut. Expected more nostalgia and feels but there wasn’t that much. Which I’m actually kind of grateful for. Excesses of emotion can be very, very draining. And I think I’m past the OMGWTF stage of my healing.

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A nice garden I saw. And some pictures of the town.

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Went for a scroll down Sacramento River. Isn’t it beautiful? Everything I’ve seen so far has been nice.

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Beautiful clouds. I have like 20 pictures of them but I can’t post them all here. Here are my chosen best picks.

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Oh look, long grass. Doesn’t it look like you could find a Pokemon or two in them?

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There was a little grassy path that I walked down to see what was at the other side. It’s the kind of place you’d expect to make a sharp left and find a chest with 2 potions and 500 gold.
I always remind myself that everything I see in games usually has some basis in real life.

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We came back and had a snack and had more philosophical discussion, and then…we went on another walk.

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I love sunsets.

Sunsets…they sometimes make me think of this.

probably my favorite sunset in a video game, in a lifetime spent playing video games. One of the last games I played before leaving California. It’s no wonder I am remembering it now.
Once again we talked about many things. Transcultural issues and jobs, mainly. How some jobs (finance and psychology sprang to mind) required degrees and some others often didn’t. How some things could be done remotely and others couldn’t. The demon inside still wishes me to decide, but I don’t think I can do that yet. I remind myself once again that decisions do not equal security.

The issue of money. For more than a decade I spent less than 500-700 dollars a month to pay for everything – food, clothes, bills, therapy. Not quite poverty, but not exactly a millionaire’s lifestyle either.

I’ve lived that economical existence for so long that it’s like I don’t know any other way to live. But if you were to ask me what I’d like to buy I don’t think I would be able to tell you. I also remember when I was younger and so anti-consumerist I actually wanted to join an antitrust organization at some point. All that I wanted – freedom, love, healing – couldn’t truly be bought with money. I’m not even sure what it means to me now. More things to redefine slowly I guess.

Also the issue of insurance, so different in Singapore and the USA. I remember people exhorting me to buy it in the former and how it is well-nigh essential in the latter (even with Obamacare) Wow, if insurance could pay for mental illness I would have taken out 6 policies ages ago.

How different it is to be considering things at 33, at 19, at 65. Coming from different worlds and with different goals. So much else to say but I don’t want to have 2 more pages of musings. (there is enough in this blog as it is!)

What a privilege it is to do our taxes, to pay our bills, to have to worry about such mundanities as parking and groceries. I remind myself every day – at least no one is trying to kill me anymore! All this time everyone lived in the real world, and I lived in Afganistan (or at least somewhere very similar)

No matter what happens, no matter what obstacles there are, at least it is not the great pain that threatens to overwhelm and consume and destroy me utterly. Life isn’t fighting anymore…it’s life. And for that realization I have endless gratitude.

Went to bed early. It’s been a long day and I have a train trip tomorrow.

America, Day 10

America, Day 10

Woke up to a beautiful morning and…more problems with the Internet. Sigh. Perhaps Wi-Fi really IS the bottom rung of Maslow’s pyramid. It seems we can get little done without it.
More reflection, of the good kind this time. Much deep pain is being cleansed on this trip and I can feel it both spirit and body. I did not know that the shadows cast were this long, but I have faith – as I have had since forever – that no matter how great the darkness, the light is greater.

Resisted the urge to go back too much into reverie and past memory. My sense is now that it is the future that will illumine what came before. We need to go forwards to go back, and back to go forwards.

Balance, balance, always balance. 静あり,動あり。(stillness in motion、motion in stillness)

( 闇あるところ光あり、悪あるところ正義あり。)

Where there is darkness, there is light, and where there is evil, there is justice. Whoever would have thought that Rom Stol’s words would be such succor to me, a full 15 years after I first heard them. Well, I’ve lived a life full of anime and games, and I do believe it shows.

More poetry.

I have come to another river, it seems
and this time I ford it in joy and gratitude
rather than tarry overlong in waters of
anguish past.

My sword which has served me so long and so well
is beaten into not into any plowshare
but instead turned to reflect that eternal light that shines
a golden beam strikes the edge and splits into
a cascade of rainbows that shines on all Creation.

What pain still remains
I offer up in supplication
It has taught me all it can
may the Universe make better use of it
than I ever could.

This no editing thing is real. I think I’ll keep with it.

Another attack of the past in the morning. This has happened so many times I am well aware of what it is now…古傷の残像 (the afterimages of old wounds)

Let it ride, let it go. Resist to urge to tell everyone and everything about it. You know you can handle it on your own. The difference between the true sharing between friends, and the pathological desire to be rid of whatever is troubling you NOW.

Had a good talk with D about psychotherapy in general. We touched on a lot of issues, but most specifically psychology’s past focus on pathology. Though that is changing – especially with Martin P Seligman’s positive psychology and other practitioners’ differing perspectives. What we focus on becomes us. There has been too much been said about the bad, and not enough about the good.

Though that being said, I still remember more than 10 years of my life in which pathology was the mainstay and the centerpiece of everything. As Shakespeare might say, how it doth raven up and consume your soul. It had to be dealt with because if not it would have destroyed me. Now is the time in which attention can be given to the positive and not just the negative.
Therapy isn’t life…therapy is what we go through in order to GET to life. Therapy has been part of my daily life for as long as I can remember, but it shouldn’t be the main focus. I’m happy that I’ve reached a point where it isn’t! Yes, you can have too much of a good thing.

Also the issue of diagnosis. I was quite surprised to learn that in the UK the DSM is NOT treated as the Holy Bible. For the less psychological of my readers :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DSM-5

I wiki, so you don’t have to!

I guess it stands to reason because they have the National Health Service and as such don’t need the diagnostic criteria as much for insurance reasons. The world is made up of so many things, don’t you think?

Diagnosis only goes so far, it doesn’t present the full picture. What the world calls depression or anxiety has so many factors and permutations. I’d like to talk more about it here but actually, most of what I want to say about that is in other upcoming blog posts, in my book and my poetry. So I’ll at least attempt to keep this travel-centred for now.
Went on a tour of old Sacramento and the Crocker Art Museum. And many good pictures were taken.

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The Universe, and everything in it.

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Looks like some kind of boss monster doesn’t it?

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Ah, time. Since I’m dealing with it, I thought I’d take a picture of it.

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The plaque on the wall spoke about children caught in war. I know all about that, in a different way than most perhaps. It’s a good picture.

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D remarked that it reminded her of The Scream. Obviously someone didn’t like rush-hour traffic.

Many references in this picture. Gotta catch’em all!

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Biohazard switch as art. Ultra post-modern.

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These are made out of clay. Amazing ain’t it?

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Very Nighthawks. I like it.

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Mexican plate used for the Day of the Dead.

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More Mexican art. What do you expect, it’s California!

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Inspired by children’s books. I like it.

I like this sign.

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I particularly like this piece. It looks different from every angle. Here’s a video which I hope captures it.

All this museum going reminds me of my last travelogue to Japan, in which I spent plenty of time in museums. I’m going to have to drag that out and reblog it sometime.

Ai Wei Wei’s bronze heads were the highlight of the moment, and so we went there to see them. They’re quite a spectacle.

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My sign, the Dog.

Though I must say that a rather unkind thought popped into my head – well, I could totally make these bronze heads if my father was one of China’s most celebrated poets!

We can’t pick our parents. I’m reminded of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, in which he makes the point quite clear that behind seeming success is actually often a LOT of advantages. Parents, money, connections, being in the right place at the right time…and sometimes just being plain lucky (or unlucky)

So I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. None of us should be. We just play the hand we’re dealt the best we can, and I’m determined to turn jokers into aces at any given opportunity.

More pics of old Sacramento, which my hosts were gracious enough to take me around.

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An architectural marvel know as…Big Pink. A rather apt name.

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The store known only as Bagel. What a name.

It was time to go back and prepare dinner. 2 and a half hours of cooking madness.

The knife I used was a real beauty. I spent like a full minute simply slicing something, marvelling at the sharpness of the edge, slicing it again and sighing in pleasure. If I had knives like these I’d cook everyday! They also cost a few hundred bucks, so I’ll stick with the one at home which is like…9?

I’ve prepared everything before so it was pretty easy to do. Pics of the food because, well, isn’t that what everyone does these days?

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Everyone liked the beef, including me. One of my oldest recipes which has gone through a few revisions.

Then it was time for dessert, which I don’t have a picture of.

I’m going to relate with some embarrassment that I got a bit tipsy at my own dessert. They are oranges soaked in cointreau with sugar, and they really pack a punch, even if they are soaked for only half a day as opposed to a full day.

It was just when D was commenting that the fruit masks the impact of the liquor, which can really sneak up on you, that it hit…speak of the devil, as they say. I had to go lie down.

I may just relate a bit of what it felt like.

I feel fear. I’m scared that I will have a panic attack, but I know that isn’t me. Thoughts arise – so many thoughts. Should I hang on? Should I focus on something and block everything else out? What if I get sick? Will I cause trouble to others? I want to talk, to participate, but I don’t exactly feel that good…

I know where this is coming from – the past, and my mind. It doesn’t wish to feel and so it shunts off everything into. I’m scared that I will throw up, or that I will pass out…but frankly I won’t, and if those things happen it’s not the end of the world. So I simply let myself ride it through…slowly does it.

I really REALLY don’t enjoy feeling this disoriented. And people do this for fun? Though I guess most people don’t have my traumatic past to contend with when they get drunk. My mother got terribly drunk more than once and I had to deal with it, which put me off drinking.

So I went to sit on the couch. D was pretty conscientious and knew exactly what to do – which was to leave my alone, refuse my request to hold my hand (probably a good idea) and give me water to drink. She’s probably seen tipsy people before.

As new experiences go this was pretty interesting though. I also got a better gauge of my post-dissociative, post-medication, post-rebirth tolerance for alcohol…which is kind of low. Something to remember. I guess I’ll just go back to drinking water for now.

My hosts had 2 guests over and they talked a bit about their son, who is incredibly talented and successful. Amazingly enough did not get super envy attack. I guess my healing is pretty on track.

The end of another long day. See you all tomorrow.

America, Day 9

Woke up early to some connectivity problems with the wi-fi. I guess I shouldn’t assume it will work everywhere. Decided to continue writing in the absence of the Internet.

More of the past distintegrates. The envy that used to hound me, the constant feeling of being “late”, the money worries…all that seems so faraway now. The sword, the spear and the scythe spake true…this IS the new world, even if I trouble believing it sometimes.

All the refutations and excuses that I used to go up and down with for hours on end. Why aren’t where I want to be in life at this moment? Well, it’s because I was abused. It all seems obvious to be now. What were once excuses and rationalizations turn into strength. What seemed like it was on Mars in the past now is so easy to do it’s almost frightening.

Why do I ever care about this time thing that goddamn much anyway? So I lost some time. Who doesn’t? I can take it on the chin and get on with life, as it were. There IS a point to mourning yesterday, but I think I’ve long since passed it.

It’s…complicated, as most things are. And also simple, as even more things are. Once again I’m putting aside the desire to go deep inside the mind, to figure things out, to explicate endlessly and write it out in a clear and conside manner – because these things are anything BUT clear and concise.

I went back to read a little of my previous writing. It wasn’t bad…raw in several places, but that’s only to be expected. I can feel the criticism inherent in it, and I remember how I would spend my time tearing myself to bits over every each line, instead of well…just writing!

I thought and rested and wrote in the dawn light, and it was good. Sometimes there is nothing more to say.

Not having Internet is a pain. No matter how much I like writing. Will eventually have to learn to get this blog thing set up properly as well.

D came down and I asked her to reset the router. And then like magic, it worked! Resetting things should always be your first port of call in the case of any technological malfunction.
Went out with my hosts and had a wonderful brunch at a nearby cafe. It was really really good. No pictures though.

Walked slowly back near through the river and saw a gaggle of geese who wanted food and a small snake, both of which I also did not take pictures of. Sometimes it’s good to just be with nature and not feel you have to capture it.

Had more wonderful and stimulating conversations with D about a variety of issues, including socioeconomics, human history and LGBT issues. She remarked and I agreed that this increased interest in LGBT and human sexuality seemed to have exploded in recent years – what was the cause?

Well, Ellen, for one. Caitlin Jenner, for another. And even way back, most probably Melissa Etheridge…Ricky Martin? One of the Wachoski brothers isn’t a Wachowski brother anymore. That’s just in popular culture. They’ve been signs that go back a ways, and not just in film and media either.

Which led to another interesting discussion about cycles and ebbs and flows in human society. Sometimes the signs are there but we can’t see them from where we are at the moment. That’s definitely been the case in my life. Hindsight is 20-20 applies to everything from country to county to our personal lives.

Makes you feel kind of small doesn’t it? In the grand scheme of things all our petty concerns like not being able to find the right kind of orange juice in the store seem paltry and insignificant. And yet each human life is precious, and our daily lives – no matter how small they may seem – all indeed have great meaning, if not to ourselves, but to the rest of the Universe as well. Everything is connected.

For so much of my life I was taught to put aside the small in favor of the large, and told also how my own struggles and sorrows meant nothing in the face of greater ones. It has taken me many many years to realize that those words were simply a false shield against great pain and sorrow that the speaker had no defense against.

Now it is a relief to realize that thought it may not seem like it at first, the simple act of putting on my shoes is also sacred, and that it should be attended to with the same spirit I give to prayer and well…everything else. That is a goal that may take some time to form in my life, but I believe it is one that is well worth aspiring to.

Mentioned that I like to cook and then suddenly in the matter of minutes it seems that I’ll be cooking for a party of 5 tomorrow. Bring it on! I volunteered anyway. We went out to buy groceries and I could actually find most of what I needed – this is California anyway, so their Asian selection is pretty good. Found a lot of the same stuff as I use in SG.

Went to a very nice open-air jazz concert which I do have one or two pictures of. Also ate tacos. Remembered that I didn’t much like tacos when I was younger but now I find them quite tasty.

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Was too far away to take good pics.

Also random scenery :

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Completely had no time to watch Gundam Unicorn, but I’m sure I will have time later.

Thought about gardening either tomorrow or the day after. That’s something I have never done before and so it would be interesting to try! The seeds aren’t ready though, so all I could do at the moment would be to till the soil…very John Steinbeck.

Chatted more in the car, especially about my favorite subject these days – What I Am Going To Do With My Life. Though I’m also realizing that everyone that I meet doesn’t really have a clue either. It’s a process! And like a friend of mine said, we should enjoy the process.

I still feel kind of embarrassed at times for talking so much about myself. Though I do realize that that stems from a prior (and invalid) injunction to shut myself up in a hole and not bother anyone. Coming more to the slow realization that I’m a human being and that I have the right both to listen and to be heard, especially about really important issues such as what I’m going through right now.

I don’t think I ramble overlong but something inside always tells me so…shut up, past, I know you’re up to not good. Get yourself gone. These are my friends whom I love dearly, and who I’m sure are as happy to offer their perspectives and advice as I am to receive it. That belief grows stronger and stronger every day.

California is…still nostalgic, though not overwhelmingly so. I haven’t cried on this trip so far! I would be lying if I said that the scenery does not evoke powerful emotion though. If you asked me at this precise moment what I would do, it would be to go to university or work here. But that may just be the nostalgia talking. It’s too early to say.

Had another nice dinner. Also no pictures. This food picture taking thing has gone too far, and the buck stops here. So…much…good…food. The first leg of my trip seems to be a lot of a) talking to much older people b) spirituality and c) cooking. I wonder what the second will be?

More deep and philsophical conversations with my hosts, ranging from…well, everything, it seemed. Culture, society, human civilization etc. I’d love to relate all that we discussed but I have a schedule to keep!

D was very interested in the history of Singapore, which is actually very interesting indeed…and unknown to a great many people. The national rhetoric is that Singapore is 50 years ago, which is quite frankly untrue. It’s history goes back a full two hundred years and is filled with events that are beyond the scope of one blog post to address.
We had wine and chocolates to go with it, which were fantastic and also proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that I Was All Grown Up Now. 21 years before I would have found all that deadly boring (maybe not the chocolates) and went off to play video games or read a book.

For the first time in my life I broke off the philosophical discussions early so I could get some sleep…busy day tomorrow! More evidence of maturity, I guess. Also, the assurance that there will be more in the future helps. Moving from scarcity to abundance has many forms.

It has been a day of deep thought and reflection, and it is indeed a blessing to share it with others, instead of sitting in my room all alone thinking my heart and head out, which was never the healthiest of activities. For the longest of times all those parts of my nature remained separate – anime, spirituality, philosophy, psychology, social justice…I can see at least some connections being formed now. I don’t believe I could choose between any one of them, and I don’t think I need to.

How does it all fit together? I still don’t know. There is but the path, and the willingness to walk it.

Goodnight all. And face front, true believers!

America, Day 8

Woke up early again. So many things to doooooooooooooooo…ok, slow down, focus. One thing at a time. No Unicorn today, I have a long day ahead of me. Maybe like…half an episode later. Maaaaaaaaaybe.

Bid farewell to everyone and settled in for the night. Had some time for self-reflection. As one of the older gentlemen said on Monday, I seem given to introspection – and he would be right. Sometimes too much so.

So many of the people I’ve met recently are actually of my parents’ generation. They listen to the same songs, read the same books (well, not all of them) and have at least some of the same viewpoints and frames of reference. Yet they are so different in many ways.

It’s not without some chuckling at myself that I realize I am doing many of the things that my parents once exhorted me to do unsuccessfully – make the beds properly, buy nice gifts (at least I hope they are nice!) offer to help, and even go to school. Of course when people are pressuring you to do them they are the last things you want to do, at any age.
I’m actually around the same age as the children of many the people that I meet. But yet they are my friends and not parent surrogates. It’s an interesting feeling, and one that I cherish greatly.

Wrote a bunch of stuff and ate some dim sum for lunch. Once again A seemed very intrigued by my dim sum sauce, which was a simple combination of vineger, ginger and soy sauce. I don’t think they get that here in the US.

Dim sum tastes the same as back in SG, at least to my untrained tongue. I’ve had so many friends howl about “nooooooooooooooo the Americans get it wrong!” but frankly I think it’s about the same in quality…perhaps a little meatier. Could be the high Asian population of California, could be my preference for Western food over Chinese in general. Whatever.

Drove up to P and D’s house in the afternoon. It took about an hour and a half, most of which I spent asleep in the car. More nostalgia…sleeping in the car! The warm sun has a way of making you doze off despite yourself.

Spent a lot of time looking out the window. California’s physical environment doesn’t seem to have changed at al. There are still the same fields of long grass, stuccoed walls in need of repair, and of course, the long and wide grey roads that stretch out everywhere. I felt the child in me respond, and I held his hand as we entered Sacramento.

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We turned a corner and there they were – IHOP! In-And-Out Burger! How I loved those places and wanted to go more, but my parents wouldn’t take me and I didn’t know how to ask. How I longed for them in the interim and denied it to myself. So many memories. But they don’t overwhelm me as they used to. It’s good to remember.

I am mindful of my promise to Mei An to eat at IHOP at least once, but there is IHOP all over the States. We’ll get there.

Took pictures. They look like pretty normal freeways, and they are, but they have different meanings to me.

Had a great talk with all my friends. There was a lot of conversation about tithes, pledge drives, congregations and other church related activities, which still surprises me sometimes. After all, when I was younger I balked at ANY mention of religion. I’m still not fully accustomed to praying…or having my prayers answered!

We shared stories from all over the world and had a very nice dinner besides, courtesy of D’s cooking. I helped out where I could.

I sense too that this trip will be very culinary, as well as spiritual. I couldn’t be happier! Finally I have a chance to cook and have people appreciate my cooking. I don’t get to do that half as much as I should in SG.

Mandatory pictures of delicious food :

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After dinner activity was singing. P is quite a songwriter (as I’ve detailed before) and I got the distinct impression that he doesn’t get to play his music as much he would like to. So D and I accompanied him on a few pieces. What are friends for, anyway? In any case it’s a pleasure to sing good songs, no matter where they might come from.

Come to think of it this is the very first time in my life I have actually sung a friend’s composition. It’s a good feeling. And I should really learn to read music at some point.

I’m what you might call a music instigator. As most of my friends know, if there is the slightest inclination or aptitude of singing in anyone, I go up to them and ask “do you want to karaoke?” And then I repeat it with the next person, and point fingers at both, and after say that “I know a good place we can go karaoke!”

After some time spent in these activities I can sort of sense it, it calls to me. It’s like a smell in the air, leading me to – I’m just kidding. It’s kind of obvious when people want to sing actually. Usually what happens is that I start singing and then other musical people come out of the woodwork and join in some fashion at some point, whether it’s karaoke or otherwise.

Bid a fond farewell to P and A. It was a wonderful time that I spent with them at their place, and a great beginning to my travels here in the US. I’ll never forget it, nor all the kind folk who shared their houses and hearts with me.

Will also change the name to Ph so he doesn’t get confused with P.

Took a long walk with Ph and D after dinner. Managed to get my entire life story out in under an hour…I’ve got this down to an artform now. Talked about what seemed like everything under the sun and more.

Sacramento in the evening is truly beautiful, so beautiful I forgot to take pictures, also because I was wrapped up in my life story. Sorry guys. There’s always tomorrow though!

Continued talking until it was bedtime. It was a long day and sleep beckoned. I’ll probably abandon this idea of having to end each night with a reference. I’m not THAT much of a glutton for punishment.

Night guys. (and girls)

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.)