Why (Me)xico?

I have spent ten months running from my new reality.  While barely keeping my world intact as a recent college graduate finding my place in the world and paying bills while following a creative passion, my entire world was shattered, literally.  I was biking on a clear, sunny afternoon, feeling more alive and engaged in the world than I had in a long time.  I had just arrived back in the city from three weeks in Paris where I had established a this travel blog, outlined a clear plan for how to approach my art, and how to change my life in the city in order to achieve a higher level of happiness in my day to day.  One part of that plan was to mimic the Europeans and their joie de vivre lifestyle of biking and life experiencing on their commute.

So when I was hit by a 5,000lb SUV, I literally and figuratively had the wind knocked out of me.  My sails deflated, I can recall the seconds that seemed like eons, rotating through the air, as I heard my mind exclaim, “Why now!?”  For some, memories of trauma feel like gazing at a scene on a screen with petroleum jelly spread over it.  For me, though, everything is crisp and clear, and I was aware in that very moment that my life was going to change irrevocably.  I wasn’t capable of knowing how bad my injuries would be, and what life-altering physical disabilities I would suffer, until my body fell from the sky, impacting on the dark road beneath me.  “This is going to hurt.  Just don’t die.” I heard my mind desperately warning and pleading with itself.  Add insult to injury?  The man who hit me left me in the street, injured, questioning whether I would live or die.  

Three days in the hospital, four pelvic fractures, a separated shoulder, two months in a wheelchair, multiple x-rays, MRIs and torn cartilage demanding hip surgery, ten months of physical therapy re-learning to walk and therapy re-learning to feel later, I was about to turn twenty-six.  Where did twenty-five go?  Oh, yea.  I just covered that.  Feeling a piece of my life had been stolen, I set a goal to travel to a new country before I had to say goodbye to my quarter-century milestone.  

In my new reality, I’m trying hard to let go of fear.  Rationality is one thing, but fear is a monster that consumes your life and prevents you from living fully.  Even though I had lived for years within hours of the border, I had never traveled to Mexico.  Growing up on the East Coast, Mexico was a distant country, with a bad reputation (putting it mildly).  We saw news stories about tourists who had been arrested and subjected to human rights violations, or people who had been scalped by drug cartel members.  After thorough research, listening to multiple personal anecdotes (some again deterring me from Mexico), I decided that symbolically this trip was too important for my life.  I needed to escape the confines of medical appointments, bills, criminal court proceedings, and civil attorneys.  Mexico was my ticket to freedom and renewal, and I was not about to let twenty-six pass without an epic welcoming.  Goodbye, twenty-five! 

(Written June, 2014)

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A Paris, Dans Mes Rêves

I greatly miss the City of Light.  I miss being able to go to someone who is an expert in every piece of food you could desire.  I suppose it seems tedious to Americans, but I saw a great quaintness to the practice of going to la fromagerie for my cheese, la boulangerie for my bread, le magasin de fruit et légumes for my fruit and vegetables, le marchand de vins for my wine, et la pâtisserie for my sweets.  It’s those simple things that stay with me after I travel.  Of course, I remember La Tour Eiffel and La Notre Dame in all their gargantuan grace, but it is the little things that are nearly intangible and define a culture that left the greatest imprint on me.     

So, this is how I find myself in my small, private side yard, so reminiscent of a European patio that it convinced me to take the apartment, with a glass of Bordeaux in my hand, a plate of brie, a baguette, and a cigarette, so desperate to reconnect with my literary self reborn a year ago in Paris.  It was in Paris that I learned how to write without pressure.  To write for me.  My degree in English Literature forced me to always be writing for something or someone.  While I felt myself occasionally getting lost in my assignments, and at times finding pride in my words, I was mostly on a mission to complete an assignment, bank the grade, and get outside, or to a party.  

I would never dream of writing with a glass of wine for an assignment that needed to be turned in, but in Paris I learned that sipping and savoring a Bordeaux was a gateway to letting the words flow.  It was Paris that taught me discipline and creativity can coincide, that one does not have to squelch the other.  I learned to write nightly, with abandon, and yet the lack of care proffered superior writing.  Over a nice Bordeaux and my latest cheese trial, I found my inner self.  I am one who thrives in solitude and reflection, especially in the wee hours of the morning.  

I see the world in colors and swirls of movement, like a Monet painting in which everything bleeds together, and yet is one.  My words come from me in some combination of a flowing waltz and a pop and lock street dance, like halting hiccups in which I can see what I feel, and search for the letters to string together into words, into sentences, into meaning, for everyone else.  I hope I am succeeding.    

 

Cheers,

QuarterCentenarianAbroad

 

Back to the Abroad!

Heylo everyone!

Wow.  What a long strange trip it has been, as the Grateful Dead said.  I actually have been up and writing for a month or so now, but I haven’t been able to log into my account here.  Magically, I tried again a moment ago, using the same password I had previously tried, and this time, it worked.  Whaddya know!?

I have been craving an update like you would not believe!  Firstly, during my absence, my blog turned ONE YEARS OLD! Wahoo!  I would come down on myself more for not maintaining a constant presence on here, and not having more followers, but I can’t very well blame myself for being the victim of an accident, and recovering from surgery.  The ONE YEAR mark for the accident has passed as well.  Believe me, that day was well remembered through a celebration of life party amongst the friends who have supported me through all my challenges.  But, I do apologize to my readers for the silence, and hope that you will continue to be interested in my blog.

In the past month, I have been fortunate to travel to multiple destinations.  I traveled to Mexico (where I celebrated my birthday!), the U.S. and British Virgin Islands (which had served as my light and dream at the end of the dark tunnel of pain post-accident), and took a short jaunt to Mammoth Lakes and Yosemite, CA. 

My travel pieces have all been written, so that I could take part in Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in July, which means my readers can look forward to consistent posts!  Each piece has a different tone.  Some are more geared towards a hotel or destination review, some are more lifestyle pieces, and some have a more narrative flow to them.

I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I have.  I am so grateful to be alive, and to have the continued opportunity to create, love and explore!

photo-13

(The closest thing you will get to a picture “of” me. Yosemite, Summer, 2014).

Cheers!

QuarterCentenarianAbroad

 

Christmas Off the Beaten (Showshoe) Path

Nakiska Ranch is a hidden gem of solitude and friendship five and a half hours northeast of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It is the perfect getaway for the pavement-pounding city residents, but we even met a few locals from neighboring … Continue reading

Canadian Christmas!

My partner and I needed to get away after these past 4 grueling months of healing, pain and suffering following the hit and run.  We rented a cabin deep in the Canadian Rockies, and have been living in bliss for … Continue reading

Back on the Horse

I’ve been hearing the phrase “get back on the horse” for months now since my accident.  When the opportunity to travel to San Francisco came up, I was wary that I might not be physically fit for a solo journey up the coast, but also, that I wasn’t ready mentally.  Now, sitting on the bus to return home after my busy, but fun-filled weekend riding the hills of San Francisco, I can’t believe I questioned my spur of the moment trip.  The bumpy bus ride reminds me of our boat riding the waves in the San Francisco Bay just a few hours ago.  I should have known that this trip could only help to restore my soul, the way travel always does.  Getting out of the city where my accident happened is healthy.  I achieve a respite that is impossible in my city-where I look at every car wondering if the driver is the man who hit me and left me in the road.

San Francisco has a nice energy to it and weather that keeps you on your toes.  When I arrived, it was warm and sunny.  Once inside my hotel room, I looked out the window over the city and the fog rolling over the hills and the Bay was so thick that I thought there must be a fire nearby, but I was told that was normal.  The fog was beautiful, and watching it flow over the mountains made my soul feel free.

I love how many trees are in the city.  They have trees in planters on the sidewalks, and parks in between some streets, as well as meridians with trees.  The city has not forgotten nature.  The large bay windows call to the writer within me.  I love cozy writing nooks, and have always wanted a bay window with a view and sofa cushion in which to write.  There are signs around the city spreading “compassion,” “love,” “and “family.”  I love the open-mindedness of San Francisco, and the way it affects its residents.

A friend took me on a night-time adventure down Lombardi street in his car.  Lombardi street is famous because it has multiple turns in one city block, on a steep hill.  The houses were stunning, but I would think the residents would get bored of all the tourists riding down their street.  We went to a forty-year old restaurant tucked away behind other restaurants, at the end of the wharf.  The fish are literally delivered fresh from the bay a few feet from the restaurant.  I don’t eat fish, but I can appreciate the uniqueness and the quality of fish that the restaurant has.  That attention to food carried over into their vegetarian dishes as well.  We had several glasses of wine, and I laughed the night away with good company.  You know you’re in a good restaurant when all of the waiters are older than fifty years old.  They’re pros, and they respect the patron, which in turn garners respect for their skills as a server.  Even the bartender who was half the age of the waiters, would be sure to address the waiters as “sir” or “madam” when asking them to check on an order for him.

Today I went to Fisherman’s wharf for the second time in my life.  I was a teenager when I went the last time ,and it was for only a few hours.  My experience this time was quite different because it wasn’t the Summer, so it was far less crowded.  Unfortunately, because it is not the high season, there weren’t many street-performers, which is one of my favorite memories from my last visit.  We did see the man spray-painted silver and acting like a robot, which is one of my favorites, as well as a drummer, a smooth-jazz pianist, and a guitarist/singer.

My friend asked what I wanted to do, and I saw that there were boat rides in the Bay.  We bought two tickets for the boat, boarded, ordered cocktails, and went to the top deck.  It was a great experience in the open-air.  We went under the Golden Gate Bridge, and swung around Alcatraz before returning back to the harbor.  On the way back into the harbor, we spotted a replica Pirate ship.  It was epic.  The wood-work, and the sails were majestic, and as I turned around to take my picture, I saw that the sails were backlit by the sunset.  I got magnificent photos of the ship, the Golden Gate, and the sunset.

Driving in San Fran can be a real adventure.  So many of the streets are one-way streets, and the hills make it difficult to see if anyone is stopping at the intersection.  At night we went to Haight-Ashbury, where the Grateful Dead played their first concerts out of their house.  It was the Hippie Mecca during the Sixties, where people from all over the country came and lived in the parks, and smoked weed, made music and love.  It was fun to imagine what the area must have looked like in its Hippie days.  Now it is mostly Hippie-themed shops and cafes-an soft echo of what it once was.

I am already seeking my next travel adventure!

(To maintain the integrity of my blog, please note that this was written 11/4/13 right after my trip, and posted today, 12/26/13. My apologies for the late post.)

Finding my Self, Again

It has been a very long time since I have posted.  It has been a long time since I have felt like myself.  In the instant I was hit by the SUV and sent flying high into the air, I recall feeling ripped away from my Self.

My second day in the hospital, an occupational therapist came in and told me that he was going to get me onto a portable toilet.  I was told him he was crazy, because I could hardly lift my legs.  I struggled for what seemed like hours, but was actually twenty minutes, to sit up, turn my legs so they were dangling off the bed, and half-stand the best I could before sitting on the commode.  A sudden rush of sweat washed over me, and I felt nauseous.  I looked up through bleary, tear-filled eyes and said, “Now this is a real Quarter-Century Life Crisis.”  I had just turned 25, and I felt like I was 98.

The majority of my days have been spent doing little more than healing.  That is all I have had the energy to do.  For nearly two months I felt numb from pain and medication designed to keep my muscles relaxed and allow my body to knit back together.  I felt far away from the world, yet I had a deep yearning to connect and absorb my predicament.  It was daunting.

Now, I feel that I am coming to grips with what happened.  Some days are better than others.  I am an artist.  A creator.  I have felt so overwhelmed by my life, and my physical pain, that I was not able to take to the stage as I would normally to express my emotions.  So, I wrote.  I wrote and wrote, and it was beautiful.  I felt like a swollen raincloud that out of necessity, finally lets go of its moisture, and finds relief.  I needed to express, but my mind was not clear enough to form cohesive pieces, so I didn’t feel ready to post here.

I have made today a special day:  I happened upon the same bottle of Bordeaux that I drank from the local cheese shop steps away from my small Parisian appartemente, in a local grocery.  So, I am channeling my discipline from Paris, and writing nightly with a glass of Bordeaux.  It is the perfect challenge to help me reconnect with the world.

It has been months since something has lit a spark in my chest.  The first month after reaching the Quarter-Century mark was nothing short of phenomenal.  A true gift in many ways.  Some gifts I could not even fully appreciate until now, looking back at what has gotten me through my struggles since the accident.  In Paris, I was a self-reliant, balanced, fit, achieving, kind person who fell in love with culture, and rediscovered the beauty in the difference between being alone, not lonely. I was on top of the world before my accident, and after, at times, I was overwhelmed by a melancholic darkness that assured me I would never feel that way again.  Sometimes, though, I could glimpse a shaft of light cutting through the darkness, promising that I would one day reconnect with the light and beauty of the world.

I often felt like Peter Pan searching for his shadow-the part that has been severed and made him incomplete.  I felt not whole.  As I gain physical strength, I gain mental and emotional strength, and I am reminding myself to keep my eyes open.  To look for the good, and be open to the positive.

As I was writing this post, a travel opportunity came to me: I am going to San Francisco!  I ignited the fire, and the travels will continue here on Quarter-Centenarian ABROAD!

Stay tuned.

Hit and Run: “Living Well is the Best Revenge”

I apologize for the lag in updates.  The quote above is from George Herbert, and has become my mantra after being the victim of a hit and run.

Talk about a quarter-life crisis.  A day or two after my return from abroad, I was a victim of a hit and run while I was crossing in a crosswalk, and have been recovering for almost a month.

When I arrived by ambulance to the Emergency Room, not knowing whether I was going to live or die, I am proud to say that I had the presence of mind to remind myself:  If you are going to die, go knowing that you have lived a fuller, more blessed life than many, even at the age of 25, and that you are very fortunate.

My blog, here, is a testament to that.  Looking back at only a few weeks of my life, I’ve lived an amazing life, and experienced amazing adventures.  I am so grateful.

I cannot type for long periods of time, so my updates will be slow, but I would like to reignite my blog.

I will start by posting some final experiences during my time in Paris this Summer.

Cathartic Rain

I awoke feeling incredibly repressed and bottled up.  My chest was tight, and I had the feeling that I needed to let go in order to take on the world, but I found every reason to not get out of bed.  I had to check my phone, or read some chapters in my book, or think about what I had to get done without actually doing it.  Then the sun began to fade, and through the skylight I could see an encroaching gray.  I had read that July is the rainiest month in Paris, but so far, I enjoyed over two weeks of sun.

I allowed my nights to blend into my days, and going to bed at four or five in the morning wasn’t a problem because I could just get up and start my day at noon, enjoy a cafe with my cousin or a friend, and then enjoy the occasional bar or a glass of wine at my apartment while writing in the stillness of the night.  Most people, then, would probably be disappointed to wake up and find the gray, and feel they lost their day.  However, it is as if the world felt the same urgent need to acquiesce.  There is a beauty in the act of letting go.  It is cathartic.  I feel like I am crying with the earth, but it a pure moment of clarity.  I feel cleansed by the rain.  I came to terms with the fact that somehow I have fallen for this place, or this time in my life, and I am terrified to have it end.

But for now, like the Earth and the rain, I am going to let go.  Today is the day I am going to explore Paris in the rain and see how the locals deal with weather.  I might even get on a bike here for the first time.  Playing in the rain makes me feel alive.  I’m like the birds in the trees singing through the rain.

I just had a de ja vu while proofreading this piece.  I know I’m in the right place.

Strangers and Social Norms

My Dutch friends came to town, and we only had one day together.  It took a while to coordinate, and we finally met at a cafe, shared some wine, and decided that instead of sightseeing, we wanted to relax together in a park.  We got provisions for a picnic, and went to a more residential area.  We found a spot in the grass and joined the locals in soaking up the sun, and watching the birds fly.

After enjoying a languid afternoon, we decided to head to a cafe for some dinner and a drink.  Just as we were about to leave, a man entered the park.  He was about forty-five, well dressed with Khakis, a long sleeve button shirt, and canvas loafers.  He paused as he entered the gate, and looked at our group with deep interest.  I noticed him, and he circled slightly around our group.  There was a mix of intensity and childish interest in his eyes.  He didn’t seem threatening, but he certainly was stepping on some social boundaries.

He was staring intently at my friend who has very unique, gorgeous fiery orange and red hair.  The sunset was behind her, illuminating her hair in a very stunning manner.  I had already commented on it myself.  He came over, and immediately in English said, “Please, please, I must see your face. I must look at your.  You are so…so…” and he searched our faces to see if anyone knew French, because he could not find the word.  He made eye contact with me and said, “jolie?” and I said, “beautiful.” He turned to my friend and said, “you are so beautiful.”

Why did I engage with him?  Well, I have experience working in the field of medicine with psychiatric patients.  This man seemed more the type to respond to being “yessed” away, then ignored, or asked to leave.  And, he didn’t seem like a threat.  He was staring at my friend like an artist with a deep appreciation for a piece.

The man went on to ask, “can I just, sit for a moment with you?” and he began to crouch on the ground. Someone said something about the fact that we were about to go to dinner and he got up quickly and said, “No! Please, don’t let me bother you.  Please, you could just sit here for another half hour, and look like that with the sun behind you.”  He began to back away, as if he would rather leave this art, and miss seeing it, than be the cause of its demise. Then he tried to explain himself to us, saying, “you see, I am…I am losing my mind.  I am not right up here.”  I felt so bad for this man-caught between two worlds, between his mind and the world we were in.  I could see a deep sadness in his eyes.  He was at the point where he was aware of the fact that he is slipping away, and yet there is nothing he can do to stay.

I looked him in the eyes, and said “okay” because I wanted him to know someone was listening.  He said, “sometimes I feel like I am dancing, but I am not.”  I thought to myself, at least he has positive hallucinations!  Then he looked at me and asked, “why does this happen?  Why do we have to age? Why do our bodies have to get old? Yours is too.” “I know,” I said. He was looking at me, searching me for answers.  The only thing I could come up with was, “C’est la vie.”  It seemed like a trite platitude and I felt bad that was all I could offer. However, he looked at me as if I was enlightened, and had given him a new way of thinking of life.  “C’est la vie. Thank you.  Thank you. You are right.”

At this point, one girl was shifting uncomfortably because he was next to her, the other girl felt objectified by him,  her brother was silently sizing the man up, and my cousin was looking down trying to ignore the whole matter.  So, I was the only one that would make eye contact with him.  He looked at me, and with urgency he asked, “do you love?”  Again, I had the inclination to say something broad such as “I try to love everyone,” and he must have seen this because he corrected, “are you in love?”  I gave a very emphatic “yes” and he continued, “does he know it?” Again, I responded emphatically, “yes, definitely.”  “Good! That is good!”

Someone mentioned that we should get going to dinner, and he said, “yes, I will leave you.”  Then he looked us all firmly in the eyes, and he pleaded, “make sure you do what makes you happy.  Make sure you do what you like to do.  Do what you like.”  The space around his head seemed to be filled with unspoken thoughts.  Maybe he didn’t do everything he wanted to. Perhaps he made choices for money, and not happiness.  Now that he was losing his mind, he felt he no longer had time.  The regrets hung thick in the air around his face as he pleaded with us to live happy, fulfilling lives.

I don’t really care if he was losing his mind.  His advice was sound.  He was a paradox.  He spoke the sage words of an adult, and yet had the glint and gleam in his eyes of an earnest six-year old.

At that moment, a couple asked him to take their picture, and he seemed torn.  He didn’t want to leave us, but he knew that in polite society, he should.  It made me think about societal norms, because if we were all a bunch of six-year olds in a sandbox, it would be okay for a curious child to come over and talk about what is pretty, and what is scary, and what is happy and important to them.  We have been so trained in society to be wary, because there are malicious people who can take advantage of kindness.  However, this man just wanted to appreciate the basic beauty of everyday life, and impart wisdom before he slips away from reality, and is unable to connect with others.

I felt terrible sorrow for this man.  On the one hand he has a good perspective on life, but on another, I could see his despair and fear of slipping away from reality-afraid he would not be able to enjoy this world much longer.  I know that my cousin and my friends found it easier to shrug him off as a person with mental health issues.  However, at times I wondered if he wasn’t an angel-some sort of guardian or messenger, or even a regular human being used to channel a higher message.
We are all on a journey, and we are all traveling.  I learn the most about life and myself when I travel, so it would be a fitting time.  It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if we never saw that man again, and if he never even existed at all.