Norway Tomorrow!

My first time in Norway in 2012.

Part 1

I left The General in La Push. He was pissed. He ran after the car when he realized what was going on, swearing, and then at the last second stopped short and smoothed his hand through his hair like he’d never been running in the first place. Like it was his idea. Something tells me I haven’t seen the last of The General on this trip, though. Like I’ve left him in the dust only to find him hitchhiking later, somehow further along down the road than me. Today I feel like he might be waiting outside a gas station in Hoquiam.

The surf last night in La Push was glorious. Actually, it was tiny, and really crappy at the beginning, but then I found a nice little right wedge that I tucked into repeatedly, and started, finally, to commune with La Mala. Every time anyone’s asked me how my new board is I say, “I don’t really know. I haven’t really gotten to surf it yet.” And this is true. The first time I surfed it was at lackluster Crescent, then gnarly, wonky conditions out by Cape Flattery, then massive Westport, and then yesterday, finally, small, punchy La Push. La Mala needs punchy waves. She needs a bit of force. A bit of danger. If the waves are mushy she’ll just get out of the water. Or refuse to perform. Which is what she was doing yesterday until I finally found a peak worth surfing.

After surfing I didn’t make a fire. I hung out with The General on the beach, looking out at the stars, and the crescent moon that dangled above the horizon.

“Fuck, that’s beautiful,” The General said, taking a drag off one of his Gauloises.

I looked over at him and raised an eyebrow. Was The General getting sentimental?

“Reminds me of this one time we were in Algiers. Mortars coming at us from all angles. Real shit storm. But then all of the sudden things cleared up for just 10, 15 minutes. The stars were beautiful.”

“You were in Algiers?” I asked, and immediately the mood changed. The General continued smoking and finally said, “I’m turning in for the night.”

But he hadn’t gone to sleep. When I got back to the car The General was standing next to La Mala, whispering in her ear. She looked uncomfortable/excited. I heard him whispering the words, “Clever little munchkin…” when I pulled him back and asked if he wanted to have a smoke.

If there’s one thing The General’s always down for, it’s to have a smoke.

Now I’m a city called Amanda Park, somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula, at the Timberland Regional Library. This place was a godsend. I needed a place with WiFi to watch the Chelsea vs. Watford game, and just as it was starting the Timberland Regional Library came into view, and it had just opened. The facilities are wonderful. The woman working the front desk is insanely helpful, going out of her way to track me down and ask if I needed headphones. And so here I am, watching English Premier League football, happy as a razor clam, listening to Chelsea fans chant, “Jorginho” over and over, and even watching Christian Pulisic score. After the game I’ll keep going down to Hoquiam, and then through Aberdeen, and then on to Westport for a cheeky early afternoon surf.

Is it weird to say that I kind of miss The General? I mean, he’s a huge asshole, but he tells it like it is. I need his no-nonsense approach in my life. I weirdly hope he’s somehow in Hoquiam.

Part 2 (a day and a half later)

So yes, just as I suspected, The General was waiting for me in Hoquiam, outside a Shell station. This has happened countless times between The General and I. I leave him in some or another town, and then find him down the road, him having somehow hitchhiked his way ahead of me (I drive kind of slow). The funny thing is whenever this happens we never talk about it. I just say something like, “What’s up,” and he stubs his cigarette out on the ground, and we continue on as if nothing happened. He gets in the front seat of Panchita, makes some lewd comment about a passing girl, and off we go. The thing is I was GLAD The General was waiting for me in Hoquiam. I kind of missed him. He provides such a fresh perspective on things. Taoism is all about not forcing things, but The General always says, “Fuck that shit, mate. How do you think geezers ever get stuff done?”

Camping at Westport was great. We stayed up past 1am talking about random shit, the whole time justifying it by saying, “Well, we get to sleep an hour more tomorrow, so we can go to bed whenever we want.” I still slept about seven hours. I slept in Panchita. I slept WELL in Panchita on this trip. I think it’s all about having the window cracked a bit. Get some fresh air in there. If you think about it, in our cave-dwelling days we were always getting fresh air, because we could never seal the cave properly. So I think it’s essential when you’re sleeping to have a little fresh air. This is not a problem on Full, because she’s super porous. The hatch has a vent on it. There’s a vent in the bathroom. In the summer I sleep with the front hatch cracked, too.

One thing I realized today is that when writing this blog I’m going to talk about people in my life, and they’re not always going to agree with everything I say. In fact, sometimes I’m going to interpret things people have said to me in the completely wrong way. Sometimes I’m going to offend people. But I guess that’s natural anytime you write about your life. The General is always telling me I need to be MORE offensive, that I need to speak my mind more. This was never a problem when I was younger. When I was younger I had no filter.

Tomorrow, at 1:23pm, I leave for Norway. I am over the moon excited. I only wish I had noise-cancelling headphones. I totally bricked it on getting that taken care of. I also need to move heaven and earth to make sure I get an aisle seat. When you fly Delta Basic Economy, you don’t get your seat assigned until you actually check in. I still haven’t checked in. So maybe I can do that now and go kamikaze (poor choice of words) on an aisle seat. The best thing? I won’t be making the trip alone. The General is coming with me. Except he’ll be in Business Class.

OK, I got an aisle seat. I was originally in 22D, which seemed like an aisle seat because I figured it would be a 3-4-3 configuration, but maybe 3-4-3 configs don’t even exist, it’s a 2-4-2 configuration, which means 22D is middle. So I changed to 40H. The fact that you can even change upon check in with Delta Basic Economy is awesome. The only problem is I’m like three rows from the bathroom. This will be awesome if I have diarrhea, but otherwise it’ll just be a nuisance. God, I need noise-cancelling headphones. A long flight like this is almost guaranteed crying baby. I might even be crying. I’ll certainly watch several movies.

Daylight Savings time has just gone out of effect, which means, even thought it’s only 4:30pm, the sun will be setting soon. In fact, it sets at 4:49pm. I still have to pack for my trip. I still have to figure out how to get from the airport in Bergen to my Airbnb. I still have to figure out why the girl I’m staying with somehow hasn’t read a single book by Karl Ove Knausgaard.

I’m also going to take it easy this afternoon. Hang out with my parents a bit. The reason I didn’t write sooner was because I was being social and being active. It’s good to talk to people other than La Mala and The General. So tonight I’ll drink some black tea and hopefully spend some nice time with my parents. And then tomorrow…NORWAY!

The General

The General

Part 1

My good God, I’ve struck metaphysical gold. I’m at the Poulsbo Library in Poulsbo, Washington, and the reason I’m here is because I’m on my way out to the coast to pick up The Fish, which has just been repaired by Bauer Surfboards in Port Angeles, and from there to La Push to go surfing tonight and then on to Westport tomorrow. I had to drop off a couple CD’s I’d checked out, and out of curiosity checked to see if there was anything by Carlo Rovelli or anything about Taoism. There was Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, by Carlo Rovelli, (hopefully) everyone’s favorite primer on the quantum world, and also, and this was entirely unexpected, Stephen Mitchell’s The Second Book of the Tao. I am more than a pig in mud right now. I’m like a pig with its head buried in the feed trough.

And yet. And yet. When I left my parents’ house this morning I had a strange feeling in my chest, a bit of a sad feeling. I’m not sure why this was. Maybe it was just the simple act of saying goodbye. Saying goodbye is always a little bit sad, even if it’s only going to be for a few weeks. But I think one of the reasons it was sad is because my mother didn’t realize she wouldn’t see me before I left for Norway, so it all felt a bit abrupt.

“OK, I’m gonna head out now. See you in a few weeks.”

Upon which I got into Panchita, where, unbeknownst to me, The General was waiting for me. The General, I will explain now and only now, is Swedish snus. Snus, and here again I will only explain now, is smokeless tobacco. Basically it’s little sacks of water, tobacco, and nothing else (I think there’s one relatively benign preservative, too). I’ve been hanging out with The General a lot lately, training, some might call it. The General is a no-nonsense fellow. When I got in the car this morning he said, “Sup, pussy.”

The General can always be called upon for moral support.

“Little late leaving today, aren’t we?” he said. “What were you up to in there? Drinking tea? Sucking your thumb?”

I said nothing but rather put Panchita in gear, rolled out of the driveway, and then out of the cul-de-sac toward the main road. Took a right on 305 and was off toward Poulsbo, off toward the library, off toward a weekend of surfing. Tonight, though, I’ll be camping alone. This isn’t entirely terrible. I’m used to spending time alone. To a certain extent I like spending time alone. And of course I won’t be alone at all, because Panchita, The General, The Fish, and La Mala will be there. In fact, The General is looking over my shoulder as I type these very words, snorting and shaking his head.

“Jesus,” he says, “Aren’t you an emotional one? What are we doing in a fucking library, anyway? Aren’t you supposed to be surfing?”

The General, despite being Swedish, speaks perfect English. If anything he has a bit of a British accent, and some British mannerisms. He’s always smoking and wearing aviators. I’ve never seen him in anything but the same black, leather jacket. He’s in tremendous physical shape, mostly owing to the hundreds of push-ups he does every morning. In fact, I recently got an invitation from the Seattle Fire Department to apply for a job as a firefighter, and The General laughed when he saw the physical fitness test you have to take.

“You can’t do 35 push-ups,” he said. “I’ve seen you do push-ups. You don’t even do them right.”

“That’s because my wrist is messed up,” I said.

“Your mind is messed up,” he countered. “You can’t do 35 push-ups because you’re not a 35 push-up kind of guy. You know who’s a 35 push-up kind of guy?”

“You?”

“Fuck no. I’m a 100 push-up kind of guy. Have you seen my pecs? No, your dad’s a 35 push-up kind of guy. Some of your friends are 35 push-up kinds of guys, though maybe not because you have soft friends. Actually, now that I think about it, I doubt any of your friends can do 35 push-ups. Get down and give me 20 right now.”

The General is always demanding that I “get down and give him x number of push-ups.” I never do it. I just look at him, and he takes a drag off his cigarette, and then walks away, disgusted.

The General doesn’t completely approve of my lifestyle, but he’s always down to hang out. He was stoked we were going on a road-trip today. Panchita was also stoked, though she shows it in her own little way. A coy smile here and there.

On a completely unrelated note, the hotel I was hoping to stay at on Friday in Bergen has just gone up $30 dollars. Last night I checked it, it was $91 dollars including tax, including an “evening meal” and also breakfast, and I didn’t book it because I couldn’t decide between a room with two twin beds or one double bed. And now the price has gone up $30. Woe is me.

But now it’s time to leave the Poulsbo library with my trove of books on physics and Taoism. The coast beckons. Plus, The General keeps kicking the legs of my chair.

Part 2

What to say about the city of Port Angeles. There’s a grocery store I love here called Country Aire. I also like the library. It’s weirdly nice for a town known mostly for hunting and meth addiction. But Port Angeles is also where you get the ferry to Victoria, BC, Canada, a place where I’ve spent some of the happiest days of my life, so I will always have a soft spot for Port Angeles. But I don’t think I would ever live here. Why live here when one of the coolest, most livable cities is just across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I will live in Victoria someday, or Vancouver. This is something I’ve been talking about for a long time. I must manifest this reality.

Country Aire is a fabulous grocery store, and it’s where I’m currently drinking an English breakfast. Panchita is outside resting, aka yawning, itching to get back on the road. But first I need to do a little grocery shopping.

The drive out here was uneventful. The General fell asleep in the back seat just as we were leaving Poulsbo. It looked like he was having nightmares. He kept saying, “No, no, no! Put it down! There’s kids in there!” followed by rapid fire Swedish and his eyelids fluttering upward. I asked him one time if he had flashbacks and he said, “What do you know about death?” and that was the last we ever spoke of it. I think he might’ve been stationed in North Africa, but I’m not entirely sure. He has a scar on his arm that I’m 96% sure is from shrapnel, and if you accidentally sneak up on him he’s been known to wheel around and get you in a choke hold.

Why did I buy a tea when I have an entire thermos of tea in Panchita?

I’ll probably wake The General up for the rest of the ride to La Push. God, I hope there’s a campsite there. La Push is simultaneously the best and worst place to camp I’m Washington. Best because it’s gorgeous and the surf is good, worst because it’s expensive and they have all kinds of arcane rules, like “one sleeping arrangement” per campsite. There’s no way The General is sleeping in the car with me. I won’t even let La Mala sleep in the car with me, even though she’s sexy as fuck. And of course I have to keep The General apart from La Mala because every time he gets close to her he starts making obscene gestures. How will The Fish fit into all this? The Fish is so passive, I doubt he’ll even notice. I would be blown away if The Fish and La Mala became a thing.

The surf should be good today. My wetsuit is dry. I’m going to buy a sandwich now and some stuff for dinner and head over to the ding repair shop to pick up my board. And then the beautiful drive around Lake Crescent, the beautiful drive to the coast.

Part 3

A slough of dates. Get to the surf shop and the board isn’t ready yet. I play with the pitbull/boxer the guy has who owns the shop. His daughter is still wearing facepaint from Halloween. I sit in the parking lot listening to the cars go by and checking out The Unknown Teachings of Lao Tzu, by Brian Walker. It’s like the Tao but different ways of saying the same stuff. Most of the verses of the Tao are different ways of saying each other. Don’t force things. Don’t rush things. Listen to the Tao. Don’t compete. Don’t look for recognition. Be like water, content to occupy the low places. You can interpret the Tao’s verses any way you want. But the general idea is clear: non-action. Which basically means, “Don’t force things.” And also, “Rejoice in the way things are.”

The General hates when I talk about shit like this.

Panchita doesn’t care.

The drive around Lake Crescent is one of my favorite drives in Washington. Lake Crescent’s water is blue and deep. If you go swimming and open your eyes you are confronted with the abyss, and unless you’re some kind of sea creatures your first instinct is to either close your eyes again or get out of there. The water is cold and surrounded on all sides by steep mountains, covered in pine trees. This is hot spring territory. Indeed there are hot springs just a few miles away. I went there once with a girlfriend and was interested to note almost all of the clientele was Russian. Russians, for whatever reason, love dipping their bodies in scalding hot water.

The road twists and turns around Lake Crescent like a gazelles running from a hyena. And then you’re spit out into the planes just before Forks and the spell is broken. When you’re around Lake Crescent you feel like the outside world doesn’t exist and anything is possible. But then, back to reality.

Luckily, I still have a thermos full of tea. So reality is pretty sweet. And if all goes well in about two hours I should be surfing.

I’m getting kind of bored waiting for this board. I’m going to see what The General is up to.

Dance Therapy

Dance Therapy

Part 1

Panchita’s limp is fixed and so everything should be right in the world. And indeed it pretty much is. This morning I woke up at 6:16am to text friends and tell them I wouldn’t be going surfing. Now, why on Earth would I do that? Why would I pass up an opportunity to do the one thing I love with two people I love? Short answer: it didn’t feel right. Long answer: it didn’t feel right. Plus, to a certain extent, I probably just wanted to sleep in. And also didn’t want to sit in the car for six hours. Granted, the company would be great. The two friends I would’ve been surfing with are kindred spirits. But lately I’ve been trying to listen to my intuition, or the Tao, or the Logos, or whatever you want to call it, and today it was telling me, in a gentle but insistent voice, “Today’s not the day to go surfing. You’ve got other shit to do. Like read that one Carlo Rovelli book. And maybe drink some mate. And maybe do some laundry. Don’t worry: you’ll go surfing this weekend.” And indeed, that is the plan, to go surfing this weekend, possibly at Westport, possibly at La Push. And then Monday off to Norway. Yesterday I researched how much it would be to take the train from Bergen to Oslo after my few days in Bergen. About 40 bucks. And supposedly it’s a gorgeous train ride. So that’s an option. And then from there are cheap flights anywhere. A ferry to Kiel, Germany. Or just hang out in Oslo, going from cafe to cafe in search of Magnus Carlsen.

My morning routine is getting pretty dialed, and indeed today was no different. Wake up at 7:30am, feel groggy as hell for a few minutes, stretch and groan and contemplate going back to sleep, and then finally launch myself out of bed, not unlike a young Romanian gymnast. Then I put the kettle on, always the most critical part of any morning. Lately I’ve been drinking English breakfast tea, which is wonderful but also requires eating something. If I drink it on an empty stomach the nausea is real. So there’s the tea and then all the shit I add to it, like Lion’s Mane, golden tea mixture, and today and today only, Bulletproof collagen along with Kerrygold butter. If I’m not superhuman in the next 30 minutes then something’s wrong. All these good things I’ve put in my body, though to be fair the mixture smelled like refuse, mostly because of the collagen powder, which is essentially ground-up cow. Mildly disgusting.

After the tea I move onto the dancing and the staring out the window. Both of these are pretty self-explanatory. For the dancing I put on music and gyrate to it, softly, shaking the boat, and for the looking out the window I swap out the wood planks of the hatch with clear plexiglass ones. And then I stand there looking out. Today I watched a group of geese swim by. And then a juvenile seagull landed about ten feet from my boat, looking like it was looking for something. I opened the hatch.

“Can I help you?” I said.

“Hungry as balls,” the young seabird said. “Need eat.”

“Your grammar is atrocious,” I said. “Subject, predicate, noun!”

At which point the seagull turned its back to me and defecated.

It’s cold and I’m afraid Billy is dying. Billy is the succulent who, you’ll remember, I recently decided was an “outside plant,” aka “dead plant.” His leaves, or whatever you call them, are turning brown. And yet I feel he’s happier up top on deck, in the world, with at least a fighting chance, than down here in the boat getting overwatered by me and watching me dance. No one, as far as I know, observe these little private dance sessions. They’re absolutely critical to my mental health. When I’m in Seattle I don’t dance very much, and it’s a shame. When I’m in Latin America I dance constantly. But in Seattle almost never. So I’ve decided to fix that with a little dance therapy every morning. I suggest you try it.

Part 2

The other part of my morning routine, also critical, is the meditation. Let me make something abundantly clear: meditation for me is not some trance-like state (except when it is). It’s basically me just observing my breathing. Resting my mind on my breathing, some might call it. It’s a chance for the mind to stop its constant rumination on the last or projection towards the future. It’s a chance for my brain to slip into alpha waves instead of its usual beta. Maybe even theta. Maybe even Delta? I have noticed that it’s much easier to meditate in a quiet place, like a church. I have also noticed that the effects become more apparent with regular practice, preferably at least twice a day. Thrice might even be preferable. I’ve noticed that in the afternoon my mind tends to become restless, probably a product of fatigue. Meditation is a good way to kind of reset the mind. Coax it from its wandering. But I don’t expect anything of meditation, and I think that’s critical. I don’t expect to have some amazing experience. I don’t expect to have visions. I don’t expect everything in the world to instantly be perfect.

It’s Halloween, and I’m reminded of this every time I look up and see an unexpected ghoul. The cashier at Whole Foods looks like she just wandered out of a cemetery. My costume today is lacking. I’m dressed like a hipster fisherman, with skinny pants and a wool sweater. Will Full get any trick or treaters tonight? I doubt it. The liveaboard community isn’t exactly rife with children. Plus the big no trespassing signs at the beginning of the dock might ward off any potential trick or treaters.

It’s sunny in Seattle once again. There’s no rain in the forecast. A week of rain and now who knows when it will rain again. It’s sun and cold for the moment. But at night with the space heater turned up full blast and a down comforter draped on my person, I’m quite comfortable. My living situation is simple. A 27-foot sailboat. A small sink. A table. An electric tea kettle. And a dying plant on the deck above me. Panchita in the parking lot. La Mala, who I haven’t talked about, wedged in between the side of the boat and the fridge. I haven’t talked about La Mala yet. La Mala is my surfboard. Or one of my surfboards. She’s 6’1″ and boasts (loudly) 32 liters of volume. She’s fast and responsive and kind of hard to ride. The other day at Westport I rode her in well overhead conditions. On the bigger waves she was content to just go straight. She likes speed and plenty of it. Our relationship is only budding now, but I feel like by spring it’ll blossom. Sometimes the best relationships are the ones that develop the slowest. So those are the inanimate objects in my life: Panchita, Full, Billy and La Mala. Add my neighbors and the constant array of waterfowl plying the waters near the boat, and you have yourself a vibrant ecosystem of conviviality. For now though I better go. Carlo Rovelli beckons.

Part 3

I feel like I fucked up. Maybe I should’ve gone surfing today. I wish I were surfing right now.

Instead I’m in the U-Bookstore cafe drinking an English breakfast and thinking and about how most of us spend our lives striving. Constantly striving. Can you think of anyone who’s content with their life as it is? You might be able to. I certainly can’t. Well, I can think of one person, but she’s very far away in southern Chile. She’s content to listen to Chopin in the afternoon and talk to geese and pet her cats. And drink the occasional cup of coffee and smoke the occasional cigarette. Her striving is limited to finite tasks she’s more than capable of fulfilling, like painting a sign for the cabins they rent or drawing a picture of a goat. She doesn’t waste time yearning for her life to be wildly different. She doesn’t waste time lamenting things she can’t control. She’s always talking about how she feels intensely happy but if someone from the “outside world” were to scrutinize her life they’d see an old woman taking walks, listening to music, and petting cats. You might think this would be lonely. But she’s built her own little paradise in southern Chile, and it’s one of enjoying the smaller, intangible things in life. It’s one of enjoying the fruits of one’s labor (in the case of painting the signs), but without desire for recognition or monetary renumeration. I’ve had the fortune of spending many an afternoon with this woman, talking, sharing a mate, smoking a cigarette, listening to music. I’m fortunate to call her a friend and, though she would dread this word but not understand it because it’s in English, a mentor. How lucky I am to have a mentor! Someone who wants my happiness and nothing more. I trust the advice of very few people in this world, because very few people in the world are me and thus, in the immortal words of the movie Sideways, “don’t know my plight.” But I trust this wonderful Chilean woman who spent much of her life exiled in France and then in northern Mexico, this kindred spirit who I met only because I was hitchhiking and her also wonderful daughter in law deigned to pick me up, this sage who even in her 80s is strong enough to slam doors with a swift kick.

But back to the University Bookstore. Back to reality. I’m going to finish this tea and then stroll across campus, lapping up the sun. Not thinking about how I wish I was surfing because I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice the time required for the drive and if you’re not prepared for the rain you shouldn’t complain about not having the green.

You know what I’m saying?

A Postcard for Panchita

I spoke with Panchita today, and she was furious. “You left me out here in the cold to die,” she said.

“Panchita, you don’t fit in the boat.”

This made her doubly furious, one because I’d called her Panchita (her full name is Francisca Rivera Casas Sobrepuentes and if it were up to her I’d call her this and only this), and two because I’d implied she was fat. But she’s a Subaru Outback. She doesn’t fit in a 27 foot sailboat. Plus she’d make it dirty, though of course I don’t dare mention that. She sulked off and I noticed she was limping a bit, so I checked the pressure in her tires and noticed the back left was below 20. Panchita! Mi amor! Que te han hecho?

Putting air in Panchita’s tires is something I’ve been meaning to do for awhile, one of those things you know you should do but is kind of a hassle, like laundry or taking a shower. When you do those things you feel good about them, and feel a sense of accomplishment. The more odious the task presumably the greater sense of accomplishment. This might be why I vacuuum the area rug on Full (the short name of my boat) quite often. Constant accomplishment. And then three minutes later it’s filthy. I guess that’s what happens when you basically live out of doors.

Yesterday evening I went on a bit of a ramble by myself, over to the U-District and then into Capitol Hill. I went to St. Mark’s cathedral for a bit, where I sat observing my breath and the depths of my soul. It turns out my soul is pretty damn deep. Like 50 plus fathoms, depending on the tides. I tried to throw an anchor because I felt like I was drifting away toward the narthex and in danger of becoming an Episcopalian, but luckily just at the right moment a woman opened the door and my trance was shattered like a bottle of Olde English falling to the pavement. Thank God? Thank someone. Thank Jehoveh, or Yaweh, or Bernie Sanders. Then I kept walking, further into the heart of Capitol Hill, and suddenly there were all kinds of people walking around me and it was bustling and beautiful, and then I was in Cal Anderson, where it was peaceful and fall-like, the light from the street lamps dripping onto the paths, the leaves rustling with every faint breeze. Ahhh, fall in Seattle. I kept walking to Elliott Bay Books, where I go quite often. Funny thing about that: the last girl I dated used my frequent outings to Elliott Bay Books as sort of a metric for how much of a bum I was. Like, if you go to a bookstore everyday, you’re kind of a bum. But I just want to learn! Plus, Elliott Bay is one of the best bookstores on the planet. I prefer it even to Powell’s Books in Portland, despite the latter’s superior selection. Being in Elliott Bay feels a bit like being in a temple. So yeah, maybe I’m a bum, but I’m not going to stop going there.

I leave for Norway in less than a week. I’m staying the first three nights in an Airbnb with a girl named Marie. I will be hot on the trail of Karl Over Knausgaard, probably spending protracted afternoons at Cafe Opera. And then I’ll either take the train to Oslo and fly somewhere, or fly somewhere from Bergen. I might go to Paris to see a friend.

Panchita is outside in the parking lot waiting for me, undoubtedly seething. Why do relationships have to be so tough? Or maybe they’re not that tough. Maybe I just make them tough. The only thing I know is that it’s gloriously sunny in Seattle and a great day to be alive, certainly as good as any other. And I’m going to Europe soon.

Maybe I’ll even send Panchita a postcard.

A Fall Day in Seattle

Just as many of you probably did this morning, I woke up and asked myself the question: what would it be like to spend an entire morning at the U-Bookstore?

So then of course I set out to do it. I piled into my ’97 Subaru Outback, also known as Francisca, or Panchita (though she hates being called that), and drove the several miles into the U-District.

First however I had to make a mandatory Whole Foods stop. Yerba mate. I sat down next to a girl with an MIT headband on and contemplated asking her, “You think you’re better than me?” but instead opted to do a little journaling followed by a long journey to the bathroom for thinking time. I left my stuff on the counter when I went to the bathroom. I trust people, almost to a fault. Well that’s not completely true. I also trust my instincts when it comes to sketchy people. If I’m walking at night and get a bad feeling about the person coming toward me, I’ve been known to cross the street.

After the mate I finally made it to the bookstore, where intelectual and spiritual riches abound. Is there anything better than sitting in a bookstore with a book you don’t own and have no intention of buying, learning and reading for free? Actually, I can think of a host of things. But this morning it was pretty great. I read a book by Carlo Rovelli, and also Ursula le Guin’s interpretation of the Tao Te Ching. The Rovelli book is called Reality is Not What it Seems and is about quantum gravity, a subject I knew, and still know, nothing about. The problem with reading at a bookstore is you always get tired. It’s too damn peaceful. Plus at the U-Bookstore they always have good classical music playing, so all you want to do is curl up on the floor and descend into dreamworld. And this considering I slept well last night.

After the U-Bookstore I went to PCC to contemplate the lunch crowd, and then sat by the cut by the Google offices, basking in the sun not unlike a juvenile Komodo Dragon. The closer you are to the water the warmer it gets, due to the reflecting rays. But then I was seized by sudden inspiration, and trotted up the hill, past all the Googlers working their asses off for better email, better maps, better search engines, all the stuff that matters in the world, and made my way back to where Francisca was parked. She looked pissed. For some reason she doesn’t like two-hour parking. Says it makes her feel “emasculated,” which is strange considering she’s female. But I know better than to argue with Francisca. When she gets mad she burns oil. One time at the Canadian border in August she got so pissed at the line that she started to overheat. She punished us (I was with a friend) by making us turn up the heat full blast to cool her down. Francisca is nothing if not temperamental.

Finally I got back to my boat where I have left the succulent plant I purchased from Trader Joe’s on the deck of my boat to die. Or live. It wasn’t doing well inside so I’ve decided it’s now an outside plant. I think it enjoys being in the sun. What plant wouldn’t? The cold might kill it. Or it might thrive. So far I have killed plants by paying too much attention to them, so I’m trying to put this one out of mind by keeping it more out of sight. True love seems indifferent, or so the Tao says. Unless it’s a car. Then you sort of have to pay attention to it.

The Ultimate Seattle to LA Amtrak Blog Post (part deux)

We pull into the railyard between Emeryville, California, and Oakland and stoicism is taken to new levels. I quickly check how much it would be to rent a car from SFO to LAX. A hundred bucks. Plus gas. But that’s not what I’m here to do. I’m here to ride this damn train.

Last night I slept fitfully. When I woke up in Sacramento it took me a good five seconds to realize I was on a train, then a good half hour to figure out we were in Sacramento. Sacramento. Who wants to go to Sacramento?

This morning I had breakfast with a girl from Bakersfield, the town my dad’s from, who goes to school at Chico State. We pounded coffee. We talked about history and Brazil and the relative merits of 3D design. I waxed philosophical about how whatever you do in your spare time is what you should do for a living, and immediately questioned my words as I said them. Then I heard Sakhovy telling Katrin that there was going to be a “problem.” Apparently there’s something wrong with the lounge car, my favorite car, and we have to stop at the yard to fix it. Estimated repair time one to two hours. Hence me checking rental cars.

The woman behind is essentially screaming into her phone. I’m contemplating taking a shower. I feel disgusting. There’s something about sleeping fitfully that makes you feel gross the next day. People are milling around outside my car and now I kind of regret drinking coffee because going back to sleep right now wouldn’t be half bad. It wouldn’t be full good, but it would be at least half good. It’s a beautiful sunny day in California. Hopefully we can make up some time on the way.

Update: I’m still on this damn train. We’re nearing San Luis Obispo, aka SLO, aka home of Cal Poly. Another update is that the friend I was going to stay with on night one can no longer host me. This is actually kind of a blessing in disguise because I love staying in hotels and since tomorrow I’m celebrating 14 months of sobriety I’m treating myself to a hotel on the nicer end. I’m staying at Hotel Indigo, which is by the Staples Center and apparently four stars. On Booking the rooms cost $200 plus tax. Through Hotwire I was able to get a deal for just under $150, after tax. My elation knows no bounds. The best part? It has a pool.

It’s 5:12pm and dinner service will happen just after San Luis Obispo. I’m not going to make the same mistake I did last night and go all out on dinner, ravaging my digestive system. I will keep it simple with some chicken, potatoes, and veggies. Maybe a side salad. The rolling hills of the Central coast are golden from the heat and the dryness. Cattle dot the landscape, black dots on an otherwise sea of gold. Sakhovy said as of now we should get in between 10pm and 1030pm, but quickly rushed to say, “As of now.” Anything can happen on Amtrak. I booked the hotel room not without some trepidation thinking how terrible it would be if we got delayed again and I didn’t even get to stay there. But must remain positive. A deer prances towards a wooden area, evidently spooked by the train. A vulture glides overhead and we pass three tan colored cows who are staring directly ahead as if frozen in time.

As we pull into Santa Barbara, a midnight arrival time to LA looking probable, my main reflection on the trip is this: I’m not desperate to get off this train. I could easily (well, maybe not easily) do another night. Every other long haul transportation, including flying business class on an airplane, I’ve been pretty ready to get off whenever we arrive. And granted I am ready to get off this damn train. Thirty eight hours is a long time. But I’ve got my little room here. I’ve got my bed. I’ve got my entertainment. I’ve got my food.

What am I saying. Get me out of here.

Epilogue:

At approximately 11:26pm we finally trundled into Union Station, Los Angeles. I had been on the train just under 38 hours. I rode a scooter to my hotel, checked into my room, and inspected it. I stood in front of the glass window looking out at LA. Then I took a bit of a walking tour of the hotel, where I ran into a girl who was there supposedly for some kind of insurance function. She was wasted. I asked if I could help her, or what she was trying to do. She was swaying. Eventually I ran into her downstairs in the lobby and she still seemed confused about my presence, as if I were part of the party when I assured her I was just a random hotel guest. When I asked her where she was from she said, “Kinda here, and kinda another country.” “What other country,” I said. She gave me three guesses. I said Russia, Colombia, and Sweden. All wrong. I fired off a few more. Ukraine. Germany. Mexico. She seemed offended by all of them. Was she Hungarian? Canadian?

After I said Argentina she disappeared into the night.

The Ultimate Seattle to LA Amtrak Blog Post (part eins)

In an effort to fight the stereotype that train service in the US is awful, I have decided to embark on a 35+ hour scenic jaunt down to Los Angeles from Seattle on the Amtrak Coastal Starlight. It is 9:38am. The train is scheduled to leave at 9:45am. I’m already drinking my first coffee. There’s a thermos upstairs from which one can presumably take multiple refills. I have met the sleeper car attendant, whose name is Sokhavy. She said, “Do you have any questions?” and I precoeeded to batter her with questions for the next five minutes, though my thirst for Amtrak knowledge, and this route in general, was not even close to satiated. Apparently the observation car — with glass ceilings — is a good place to make friends. I shall go there soon.

My sleeping berth is slightly more spacious than I thought. It’s also laid out differently. I thought you would open a door to a narrow corridor flanked by a bed and culminating in a window. But instead it’s more like the first class you see on airplanes. Two seats facing each other that fold into a bed. Unlimited coffee. Have I mentioned this? But Jesus, what am I going to do for 35 hours. Sokhavy has just informed me there’s no wifi. I have an uplifting book about Afghanistan, the CIA, and the leadup to 9/11.

I better make friends.

As things currently stand were hauling ass. I have no idea how this takes 35+ hours. We must make some long stops. And also go slow through the mountains.

Halftime of the Ajax Chelsea game has coincided nicely with sweeping views of south Puget Sound. I’ve made my way to the lounge car where two couples from the south are gabbing excitedly about the views. One woman is Facetiming and the audio is, well, audible. Her southern accent is like honey that has fermented to my northern ears.

The passenger across from me is named Shay and will apparently be boarding at PDX. Will Shay and I be besties? Also, lunch is scheduled for 1:00pm and dinner for 7:30pm. I wanted a later dinner time. I imagine dining alone at night, the countryside racing by. I imagine most of these people are just taking this train to Portland. Maybe some to the Bay Area. Even fewer to LA. I would like to become friends with Sakhovy, the sleeping car train attendant. She’s been working for Amtrak for 15 years.

Practical notes: the bathrooms are more than serviceable. The existence of the lounge car with its floor to ceiling windows is welcome. I’m in a sleeper on the first floor which smells more than faintly of disinfectant. But apparently the first floor is actually kind of nice because there’s much less traffic. All foot transit takes place on the second floor. The first floor is a bastion of tranquility. We’re nearing the place where an Amtrak train derailed last year. We’re also nearing the very tip of south Puget Sound.

The best part of taking the train so far: you’re not going along the highway so you’re seeing parts of the country you’d never otherwise see.

First impressions: Everything is better so far than I expected. The scenery is gorgeous. We might actually roll into LA more or less on schedule. The food sounds pretty good. I love having my own little compartment.

So far this could compete with many European train services. It’s a gorgeous fall day and the track is lined with deciduous trees shedding their leaves and preparing to hunker down for winter.

There are people playing dominos in the lounge car. I’m drinking orange juice. Portland was beautiful. A sea of fall leaves and people walking around as if Portland were the only city on earth. I took a power walk and made it as far as the Whole Foods and Powell’s Books in the Pearl District. My knowledge of Portland is poor and my desire to increase it poorer. I will never live south of Seattle again unless it’s Mexico or Chile or Italy or maybe (maybe) New Zealand.

I would estimate our top speed so far around 70mph. Possibly 80mph. Not bad but a far cry from the gazelles that zip across the European or Asian countrysides. Apparently long haul train travel in the US is on its way out. Could the Coast Starlight be the end of an era? Will everyone by driving self driven electric cars in 10 years, even more glued to their phones than they are now?

Lunch was a lively affair consisting of an Angus burger and sitting with a couple from North Carolina and a German masqaurading as an Englishman. If you’re traveling alone on Amtrak you will probably sit with strangers for meals. It was nice to have a bit of social interaction. The German guy was happy with the train, especially the scenery and the amenities despite it being “obviously an old train.” I noticed he tipped well despite coming from two countries not known for tipping. As for dinner I’m already excited. My reservation, as I mentioned, is for 7:30pm. I’m hoping to get the Land & Sea Combo accompanied by a garden salad. It retails for $39 and has a steak and a crab cake. Will they allow me such decadence? Meals are included with the sleepers but I’m not sure if all the meals are. Suburban Portland is a prison of convenience stores and overly temperate weather. I’m thinking about having another coffee. The girl across the hall finally showed up but doesn’t seem particularly keen on making friends. It might be time to meditate or even take a nap. We’re crossing rivers and going by lakes and the sun feels like it’s already setting. It’s a beautiful day.

I can now officially say I’ve made a friend on the train. Her name is Katrin and she’s wonderful. She’s from Germany, Chemnitz to be exact, which is near Dresden. In the past few months I’ve met three people from Dresden. What is the universe trying to tell me? I’m not sure, but I’m listening. The universe is speaking to me in German.

I’m in my sleeper now preparing for bed. We’re winding through the mountains toward Mt. Shasta, aka Dunsmuir, aka Redding. Aka the Bay Area. Aka were in California and still have approximately 24 hours to go. How is this possible. How is this state so massive or this train so slow or both. I’m already looking forward to hopefully breakfasting with Katrin tomorrow and talking about the Camino de Santiago and spiritual shit. She told me she’s reading a book by Osho. I told her I fall asleep to Eckhart Tolle videos. The thing about Amtrak is they make you eat meals with other people, so you have to meet people. It’s like a forced blind date with someone regardless of gender or age. I had dinner with a woman in her 70’s from Klamath Falls. We talked at length about healthcare. I shoveled down rolls and strained to hear the conversation of the (different) German girl next to me who appeared to be taking about Kombucha. And then when I got back to the sleep car Sokhavy, bless her beating heart, said, “I’m gonna go downstairs and make up your bed.” Am I in paradise? Is Amtrak actually the future?

(to be continued…)

A Ferocious Awakening (#16)

There’s a guy looking at porn behind me in the library. If he didn’t look semi-dangerous (and he doesn’t), I would probably say something. But I mean, come on, the guy is obviously lonely as fuck. Who am I to screw up his afternoon. And it’s not like we’re in the children’s section. Could a child walk by and see what he’s looking at? Obviously. Which is probably why I should say something.

I have booked a flight to Norway and told almost no one. I’m finally realizing what has become a dream of adulthood: going to Svalbard. Svalbard is an archipelago located north of Norway between the Greenland and the Barents Sea. It’s not exactly tropical. The idea of Spring Break Svalbard was something my friend and I joked about for a long time. It won’t be spring when I’m there. In fact, the sun won’t rise the entire time I’m there. I just talked to a guy who guided there (I think) last summer. He said by buying caviar in tubes and bread you can more than subsist. And plus, since it’s not summer, lodging won’t be THAT expensive. Like, around $50 bucks a night. Which isn’t that bad. But what do people do in Svalbard?

That’s what I intend to find out.

I’m also thinking about going to California this Wednesday. Taking the Amtrak down. A sleeper car. Maybe surfing a bit, bumming around, soaking up some sun, and then flying back for Halloween.

Coming back from Mexico a couple days ago was a ferocious awakening. Ten days in Mexico, temperatures in the 90’s, constant sun, and then back to Seattle where it’s basically rained ever since I got back. Living on a boat. If I didn’t have a space heater, I’d probably be dead right now. But it was also intense because we lived what felt like a year’s worth of experiences in 10 days, and then coming back to Seattle, feeling listless, rudderless, not really knowing what I’m doing, well that added to the effect of the rain and the cold and the increased darkness.

Has the experience with the dude watching porn tipped me over to the edge to the point where I’ll actually buy a laptop? God, I hope so. I don’t think I’d miss my little forays into the Seattle libraries. I think I’d do just fine without them. I like working at cafes better, anyways. I like the din. The din of a cafe is very neutral, where the sounds of a library are silence usually interspersed with a child screaming or one of the adults at the computers yelling something inappropriate.

The leaves in Seattle are brilliant shades or orange and red. I saw a tree today that looked like it was on fire. And even the rain wasn’t that bad today, since then the sun came out and I went to Volunteer Park where I did a lap, dodged a squadron of squirrels, and then scaled the water tower.

Two steps at a time.

Ok maybe mostly one.

Throat Coat (#15)

Do me a favor as we ease into today’s post, as I sit here drinking my Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat, trying to ward off the cold that has taken me by storm, possessing my throat, possessing much of my energy, and making me only want to lie horizontally and watch YouTube videos.

I’m speculating as to how I got “sick.” It was either when I exited the shower the other night and had wet hair and didn’t cover it. Everyone knows that makes you sick. But when I was younger and lived in Minnesota we used to go swimming at the community center and I remember walking to the car in the parking lot afterward and our hair would freeze, forming little icicles right on our heads. And I loved it. And when I was younger I never got sick. Or at least very rarely, from what I can remember.

What being sick has made me not want to do today is meditate. Why would I want to sit there and contemplate my own misery? Ah, but you see there, sonny, you’re not contemplating your own misery. You’re contemplating your breath. You’re contemplating the general IQ of Seahawks fans, which probably hovers around the 60’s, which, according to Wikipedia, means they’re capable “harvesting vegetables and repairing furniture.” Though I think both of those activities are pushing it a little bit. I don’t know too many Seahawks fans who could properly harvest a tomato.

I don’t know exactly what it is I have against Seahawks fan, and football fans in general. For starters, why do they wear the damn jerseys? I think you should only wear sports jerseys in the following situations: When you’re actually playing sports, and maybe, MAYBE, in the privacy of your own home. In your own home you’re permitted to dress like a cretin, but when you go out in the street you shouldn’t be wearing something a four-year-old would wear.

But I know Seahawks fans are super special, because they make so much noise and cause the opposing team to false start. The 12th man! So much so that they get it painted on the sides of their houses, or on their cars, or –even more regrettably — on the sides of their cheeks.

God, to be a Seahawks fan.

What misery.

That said, I probably will watch part of the game today.

Fall has officially come to the greater Seattle area, and with it a preponderance of beanies, or tuques, as our wacky neighbors to the north call them. Now that I have my 40,000 Amtrak points I plan to make frequent trips up north of the border to Vancouver, Victoria, and points beyond. My quest to one day live in Canada still continues. I’ve made some inroads. For example, I now have a library card for the Vancouver libraries that allows me to use the computers for an hour and a half per day. Most of the time I’m at the library I feel like at any moment someone is going to stab me, but that’s how I usually feel at the Seattle Public Libraries. I don’t know why I don’t buy a computer. I really don’t. For example, on this upcoming Mexico trip, aka tomorrow night, I’m going to have to type all the blog entries from my phone. Can you imagine that? I mean, can you actually fathom that? Because I can. It won’t be that bad. In fact, I used to love writing on my phone, because it made me go slower. But now I’m back to liking writing on a computer. ‘Cause I can go fast AF.

Mexico for ten days. And I might extend the trip and stay another week, or another two weeks. Or the rest of my life.

And then Vietnam in November/December. At some point, look for a job.

At some point.

I feel semi-awful.

I’m going to lie down.

-W

What Happened? (#14)

There is a time and a place for going to the little fishing hamlet of Westport, Washington. The time is almost never. But today was one of the days in which it was appropriate to go. The waves looked to be wondrous, and they were. A friend and I had one of the best surf sessions we’d had in awhile. I felt like a taller, less capable version of Kelly Slater. The waves were consistent and the wind was offshore. The traffic was light going through Tacoma and Olympia, which almost never happens. If I were religious I would say that the gods (plural) were smiling at us from their perches up on high. But I am not religious. I believe in Chopin Nocturnes and saying goodnight to the stars every night.

But that is neither here nor there.

What is here (and there)? I’m not quite sure. I’m going to Mexico on Saturday, and I’m excited about that. The flight leaves at 5am from Seattle which means we have to be to the airport around 3am, which means I’m basically not sleeping Friday night. Which is fine, because it means I’ll probably sleep more on the plane. I have aisle seats all the way there. At least on the first flight to LAX, home to Shake Shack, a company I have stock in which has been tanking recently.

Our AirBnb the first two nights in Mexico is spectacular.

Excuse the ghetto-ass embed above. But I wanted to show you how incredible this place looks. It doesn’t cost $273 a night.

Also excuse this paltry blog post today. I’m exhausted. After surfing I went to my friend’s house and drank coffee, and coffee is pretty much a life ruiner for me. It picks me up for a few moments, and then drops me like a sack of yams. Which basically meant that as I was driving back from Westport I began to slip into a state of malaise. As we were going by Sea-Tac I was ready to open the door, shove myself out, and roll. But I stayed strong. And now I’m at my friend’s house desperately blogging and getting ready to eat pozole.

The universe provides.

Speaking of the universe providing, I wonder if it will provide me with a massage in the next couple days. I desperately need one ( see: it would be a welcome luxury) and have always thought that when you really need something, the universe provides it. Like the time I went to Chile with $300 bucks and got a job at a bed ‘n’ breakfast and then at an Italian restaurant. Or the time I needed to get the metal out of my wrist and the surgeon walked into the triage room and said, “So, we’re taking all the metal out today?”

You know exactly what I’m talking about.

Or maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about. I feel miles apart from you today. What happened?

-W