Archive for the ‘Journeys Remembered’ Category

I wrote this last april during my last series of journeys through this city but so much of it still rings true to a sense. It is the beginning of what was to be a larger piece about my times in the city in 2007/2008, but it was never finished and thus not put out and it seems that i have come back to it again.

I wrote recently about San Francisco as an imaginery place. It was a place of dreams, of living out new lives, a place you could start over and be transformed. Like much of american culture, a place to start fresh and anew. A place to grow and to explore. It was a place of my dreams, and those that i have felt die. Is it just me, is it this place, or is it the times we are living in?

I think my dreams died two years ago, on those two visits here. But maybe i was blocked, and even before i think i knew. Still i tried to engage with what was here, but like so many through a tourist lens, I went on walking tours, and learned the town, its glorious history, the stories of those who came and discovered the place, and those who made it grow. But part of me was resisting the time here, the part of me who dreamed of elsewhere, the pilgrimage to santiago de constantaoble a pligrimage walking towards god, one with a direction and purpose, which here i felt was lost.

And the people who came to live out their lives, the movements remembered, now part of walking tours. City emptied out, for life is lived all around, what remains at the core is people passing through Not as true as many places, for culture is alive. But so much is merely people passing through, come to see and much caters to it.

And the walking tours of town by City Guides, reliving the history, the stories of the famous quake of 1906, of the goldrush and more, chinatown, the hippies and the beats. I never made it to the tour of the Castro and gay liberation, but what were the significant moments by which a place defines itself, from which it grew. I have journals of scribbling from some of this time but now the memories are not as fresh, the discoveries no longer new,

The gold rush, a time i had been facinated with, my time in Victoria for another, and to the north to Yukon, Seattle seeing the history of the place. A journey here from around the world, in hopes that you would get rich.A dream of the west, of a new life to be found, an energy to the place on the passage through to the gold fields and towns, But it was the glitter of gold that often proved to be false. A quick fix and a shortcut to your dreams – though often more work in the end, and the riches were often not there, the gold that came often mispent, and the riches of a life in another way. Those who stand are those who set up an institution to profit, the legacy of wells fargo and more. And how much of my journey, not only to the locales of the gold rush, has been in search of that false gold.

And walking downtown how i began to feel that this place had been built to money and more. Not the spiritual sense – grace cathedral walk the labryith

And maybe it was the tourist lens that led me astray, a looking and seeing of what was here, not truly engaging in any way. but as i look around the core that is what i see, camera toting tourists, really not that different than me. And maybe that is what the centre has become, maybe it is what it always was. Sit at the ferry building today as i edit this, look at the dark buildings in the centre and see why maybe i felt that way then – a place where no one lives, passing through buying happiness off a shelf, and remembering lives that once were lived, the barbary coast trail of the gold rush years, the building constructed after the earthquake, fisherman’s wharf where no one has fished for years, and the area of the beats and more. chinatown still populated aand bus rolls in crowded on a saturday, but do not live there.

I am bored with San Francisco or is it that i just see no more. Or that the activities that once claimed are now diversions, maybe they really were – activities to be done once or twice but that is it. Or is it that my eyes have merely become clouded over and i no longer see, didn’t really want to come here so i no longer engage. Once upon a time i explored this town, engaged with what was here, dicovering so much about the place. Has it shifted because i no longer define myself as a traveller, have given into fatique.
I think of those i’ve met who live in the bay, and so few actually lead out their lives in the centre in a great way. A few days ago i went to Hayes Valley and the inner haight, areas i discovered then, and felt alive, for that is a place where people truly live. I remember sitting on day outside at a coffee shop on the busy corner of hayes and divisidero, where traffic flowed by and people walked along and feeling incredibly at peace. It was a sunny day, and i had walked out of the tenderloin to Alamo Square, was on my way to Golden Gate Park and found myself there. And it is a place, i still go back to.

And while on those times i discovered the museums, sights and more, the greatest that came to me was stumbling on different neighborhoods.
But those times seem to no longer be here, maybe it has expanded to the Bay, outside the centre and what it once was, or maybe it is gone altoghter.
See the lives of those left down sleeping on the street.

The two visits here in Oct’07 and jan/Feb’08 blur together though there was only three months in between but so much that seperated them. I know that certain events or discoveries took place in one or the other, but often i do not remember what i discovered when. for it was in those visits that i explored the city, but still through the eyes of a tourist and was much more engaged than in later times through, it is just because i feel that i have seen it all before, that i retrace my steps that there is nothing new, or is it because i have become fatiqued and tired myself. ennui
Was it in the fall or the winter that i first discovered the N-train out along Judah that took me to the beach? And when did i become bored of the ride? but it was then i found areas off the map.

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I had forgotten about the depression i had felt in this zone – the memory of its intensity slipped away and now it has come crushing back, holding on deep. I remember the way I often felt here before, not only the deep spiraled down weeks, but how low my base mood often was. As i write this i know that it is not only here that i have felt this way, but the grey and the chill hang onto me and i wonder if this region was really any good for me. I know i have come back time and time again, but i have also left just as many times as i had arrived.

There are so many thoughts and emotions caught up in this place, feelings that i had forgotten about. The details are still blank to me, but this deep feeling has returned. when i got to harbin about a month ago i know people said my face had changed, and now i feel it changing again, and i do not like what i see.

And that is part of the problem; i do not like what i see. But how much of it is the place, and how much is it me. Seattle has never been my favorite place, i down right disliked for a long while. Slowly i warmed up to it, but those were the last two times where i only planned to pass on through. And that is what i am doing this time.

I ’m no longer sure why I came up here, except as a stepping off point. Port Townsend and Alaska had both been in my mind, and i head off to the former tomorrow a destination planned long before i arrived.

I didn’t come back up to Seattle per se, and I’m not sure why I stay here so long. Part of it always is with what I wish to avoid. And it’s funny that i find myself in exactly the element i did not want to return to in San Francisco in the downtown hostel and i am now many miles away. I am in a hostel, one that i liked before, but in the centre of town with the noise and buzz. The hostel too, is somewhat depressing, but there is more interaction here, i have chatted with a few of my dorm mates, a long conversation yesterday, and with some at dinner the other night. But i have met more in the smoking room, the underbelly of this place for it is dark in there, not only with cigarette smoke but with alcohol and drugs and people who seem to be wasting their lives. And maybe that is why i find myself there, and why i pull away – so many fascinating stories of lives and dreams, some similar to my own. And so many seemingly broken down. I am not as lonely here, but i don’t always like who i see in the mirror. I imagine i am on a ship in my bed, with its curtains around. The vibrations of the city get to me.

Part of me came on the way to Port Townsend, the place where i will go tomorrow. It has called back and forth over the years, so i cannot judge this process until i see what happens there. It has been a place of dreams, a nice small town that seems to work, with arts and culture and nature too, but a place i never felt i could stay.

And i also thought of Alaska, that mysterious inside passage up the coast which I’m certain is in a world of its own. But the more i see Alaska is not where to go, but with the amount of energy invested in it, it is still a place that i might end up. Several are here in the hostel on their ways up there, poor uneducated southerners going to work on the fish processing boats, 14-16 hours a day, 7 days a week, for cents more an hour than minimum wage. The overtime and living on the ship is how they can take their earnings home with them. And when i think of Alaska i think of selling poison at the convenience store and living in my tent in the rain and blow drying socks and shoes in the public bathroom. It too has beauty, and at times i was alive, but i know that summer, something in me died. i learned many lessons i still value and hang on to a few casual friends, but i do not believe it is something i want to experience again

On my way up here, and as i was writing before, i realized that the north is where i have more often gone when i have felt the need to run and hide and given up on other dreams. And come to think of it, this area in general is where i gave up on many dreams, and ran back to when i did not know where to go. Its beauty seductive in a nurturing way, but it is also a place that closed on in and a place where i spent much time wandering lost. And maybe that is why this depression comes on, an emotion i have felt here so many times before, and while I am not conscious of it when i plan to come, buried inside it is the most profound memory.

And that voice comes back, just give up on your dreams, who were you to imagine that you ever could. Tears run down my face and snot drips onto the keyboard, and i can’t help feeling that maybe they were right. I have died inside so many times, and i have survived all right, but the body is more worn and all is ragged, and do i just give up the fight, for that is how it has felt so much of my life, a fight to preserve the integrity of that light inside.

i now remember saying i was a survivor as i sat doing phone surveys in Vancouver so many years ago, my university diploma and dreams set aside, and i walking in the rain with teary vacant eyes. i remember sitting looking at the want ads and trying so desperately to find something that called to me, and doing temp office jobs oh so badly. And i think of Victoria, going back there, finally working for minimum wage, the roommate who told me not to dream, and going into that employment office day after day staring blankly at the screen.

And i think of all those broken dreams and i wonder what brought me back here again. is it because my situation is so desperate, that it is time to give up on the dream, but i see all those empty and cracked shells of people on the street and i can let it go again. For i am empty now, and though this is self indulgent crap, for the moment it is all that i have. Is it the throwing away the dream time after time, or is the clinging on to what thin threads that remained, that has brought me to this place once again. And i feel the sadness and i feel the tears, and the heaviness and emptiness i carried with me all these years. I said that my memories of these places were gone, but as i write they come up again. And can i write them through.

Am i like one of those who passed through this place on the way to the gold rush trail? I say to myself my dreams are not of gold, but they are of somehow doing something in the world. but the truth be told, the way i have lived, i would have never made it up there. I would have been one of the many who turned back disappointed and broke. And is it false gold that i chase, and why do i have to venture so far o fail to find what i am looking for and to find that the true gold is contained within.

And maybe it is the rain that brings these memories up, and maybe it is the denseness of energy here that keeps them in place. At first i thought that it was this city itself, but now i see that it is so much more. But while my memories of this place are few,

The first time i arrived here in 1986 was on the Green Tortoise bus though there was no hostel here at the time. It was late night, after dark and we arrived in a deserted parking lot. I went to the YMCA/YWCA downtown in the office building zone. The streets were deserted beneath the closed tall buildings, only a few sleeping on the street, and i felt alone and a bit afraid, feeling that no one would be around if i needed to yell for help. It was the first time i had been in an empty core of a city, and i wanted to get out. I know i only stayed a day or two and then made my way up to Victoria or Vancouver for the first time and come to think of it, i saw the beauty and felt out of place and hurried on away from there.

I returned again in 1988, and hostelling international had opened a hostel down the steps right near here in pikes place market. I had been in Victoria after a summer in Banff and had wandered a bit on Vancouver island, in the rain in Nanaimo, and felt depressed and lost. I wanted to return to the east on the green tortoise bus, but i had my dates mixed up and found that the last bus out had left a few days before. The stairs down to the hostel were narrow and dark and i wondered who might be lurking there. Went on a tour to mount rainier, but never saw the mountain beneath the clouds. Went out and saw a film on Da Vinci in the university district, felt the neighborhoods here in the west so spread out. Made my way back up to Victoria and headed back east via prince Rupert and PEI, only to return to Vancouver several months later even sadder than before. the dreams of my university days and writing a book were long gone by then.

I did not come to this coast for years, but passed through the city on my way up to Vancouver in 2001. I was running back north after 9/11 and had a few hours after a 24-hour greyhound ride up from san Francisco on a completely full bus. i stepped outside to get a coffee and did not know where to go. I saw some people on the way to work with starbucks cups in their hands, i tried to ask where the starbucks was, but seeing the pack on my back no one would respond. i was much more clean cut then and my travel clothes were new, but i will never forget the looks of horror, contempt and fear that were directed at me that day.

I stayed here for a week or two a couple years ago. But then again by the time i arrived i had given up on my dreams, of writing, of walking a pilgrimage towards god, of finding a place where i could be. I was so lost then, that i no longer knew what they were. I had told myself the previous fall that i would go up to Alaska, which had once been a forbidden dream (another version of the story yet to be told), if i still was wandering by spring. Spring came around and up there i went, though in my time here in Seattle i discovered many museums on free days, and walked around the different neighborhoods, and found that this place was not all gloom – but it did not leave a positive impression on me.

But it is not Seattle i came back to, but this area in general. For the northwest has called me back time and time again, and each time i have found the heaviness waiting here for me. And have i clung to it, or has it clung to me, and it is time to leave the clinging behind. And it’s funny I no longer have any desire to return to Canada. Seattle is more on the BC back packer trail and leaflets and signs for hostels on Vancouver Island and the mainland abound. Though I have been to many of them, the memories have faded away. Perhaps not the memories but the clinging that held me on. For except when i sit and write, i have not felt a strong emotion towards the place, though i have visualized Vancouver in the sun, And maybe, just maybe, i have let that phase of my life go – not with anger, not with remorse, but just as something that was. For all my experiences there, the happy and the sad, the connections made and those let go, have helped make me who i am today. And if nothing else, i came to appreciate the nature around – the forests, mountains and the seas, and the powerful spirits that live there.

And did i need to come back here to tell the story that i wished to tell, and being here i tell a very different story than if i had written it from away. For often i remember the sun and forget the grey. And the grey was so real for me, and i know i cannot just push it away, but i can be like the colour no more.

I was tempted to go for a moment to Seaside on my way back up here, but did not want to bring forth the energies of that place, for they were heavy too. I hesitated and then said to myself, i do not need to relive the memories there, and I can leave them behind. But as i have sunk into this rainy zone i thought of one story that i wish to share.

I think though of a woman i met last time i was there, i was still feeling the high of harbin through i had been brought down some in Eugene. She was lonely and began to tell me her story, how she had stopped drinking a year before and then her life basically went to hell. She had an accident broke her hip, never really fixed and lost her place in the process. I let her go on and on at first, feeling that she just needed to let it out. but on and on and on it went until i could be around her no more, my energy drained away. For the story became one long constant whine and more self-pitying ever day. And for a while, that story became her life.

it got me to thinking while we need to speak out to let the energy process through, not hold it within and let it stagnate and grow (like the energy does in the northwest) and at what point does that story become itself, and feeds the negative energy within.. And in my telling of my sadness here, what process am i feeding through. And can we transmute that energy within or do we need a light to shine on us. And i think that is here on the coast, that the cycle becomes intensified, fewer places for it to sweep out. And as I write this story, I think I feed it too. For this is part of my story, and one of the lens i filter much through but i must remember it is only a part and there are other lens with which to see. And i realize the story effects what i see and helps perpetuate itself.

The last time i was here was but for a day, in late May on my way from Indralaya on Orcas Island down to Harbin in California. The gloom and rain and all so much more had brought me down up there, or maybe it was in the thickness of the air; energies returned to me and could not be shaken off and i knew i had to return down south. I had come from port townsend, a place that i love but i had to journey on. It was a hot sunny time at the end of May, and i felt the joy in this place. I had been out in the country for such a long time, and the diversity of the place sung to me, I went up to the area around capitol hill, to find groceries and a bite to eat. the sun was shining and all felt alive, sitting in a park where people and dogs played and the streets were full of life. And it is funny, because that was the main memory i had when i came back up here this time.

And i listen to the rain outside.

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“Why are some afraid of bliss?” she asked as she sat on the centre carpet in the temple before the yoga class. Her face was serene and filled with joy, and she had told of how the winter had transformed her, and now she was able to see and feel the bliss even more. Gone home, prepared to engage, and for a few hours just let herself be, feeling the joy and connection of eternity. I was groggy, a cool damp morning, having just awoken from a long deep nights sleep, the day still coming to me. I smiled inside as she read some quotes and sang, feeling joy and peace inside, but when she said that i thought of some moments where my bliss had turned, like the calm before the storm. For those moments are fleeting, and we can not hang on to the highs they bring, and i remembered times where they had been the calm before the storm, if they were just preparation for me.

Calm falls over, i feel connected to the universe. And for a moment, i feel truly at bliss transported to another world. I have glimpses of god, and faith. I have been feeling that more and more, in waves over that past week or two. And during my last few days at fisherman’s wharf a sense of inner peace. In Yosemite i catch sight of the divine. But then suddenly it shifts.

A feeling of dread and unease rushes up. As if all is to coming crashing down, if this is but a moment that cannot last, for nothing ever does. But i felt a shattering, as if something is about to break. And i wait, hoping it is not is real..little thoughts in the park, conflict, my stuff, my food eaten – remembering an experience that happened at Yosemite Bug two years ago and several others with greater implications for my life. I go back all is fine, but the feeling that this bubble i am in is about to explode, continues to grow and grow, as if all will be swept away from under my feet.

Two years ago i spent almost a week at the Yosemite Bug and went into the park several times. I had been up in the park, a cool winter day, and walked along the river bank by the campground, a path where few were to be seen. The sun came out and i sat down, some areas free of snow, and watched and listened to the river and looked out to the granite mountains and felt a peace inside, something greater possessing me. i felt so still and there i sat with the peace and calm i had been seeking for a while. For i had come up there a nervous wreck, thrown off-balance and disconnected, anxious  not knowing what was next. I had been to the park a few days before i know and walked the grounds of the bug, some of that stress had dropped, but i knew that i needed calm and quiet and peace. And for a little while i was feeling bliss and connected to the world.

Then out of nowhere thoughts came through, fears about returning to the hostel, an agitation, a fight in hand, others partying and pushing me out or taking my food. now the hostel had been quite, it was a weekday and i had a dorm room with one other and to myself the night before, and i did not know why i felt this way. But the thoughts held on, the images and agitation, and though i got up to walk i could not shake them off. They fleeted in and out but i lost that bliss and that peace of mind.

I got back to the hostel that night, feeling nervous and unsure. Imaginary fights battled my mind as i rode back on the bus. I ate dinner, and then went to my bed as if guarding the place. I read for a while, only partially caught in my book, and as 10:30 rolled around, and i was still alone, and i wondered what those thoughts had been all about. I turned off the light and went to bed.

Just after 11pm, the final check in time, the door opened wide, the lights turned on, and a group of people walked inside. I kept my head under the covers, trying to sleep, saying ok i do have roommates, and they will soon be done. the door opened and closed, slamming shut each time, someone stomped their feet, and the voices were both animated and agitated and did not stop, “who is that person?” i heard one say. they left the room, turned out the lights and i got up to take a pee, and fell over several suitcases blocking the bathroom door. I turned on the light and what did i see except bags filled with large bottles of cheap alcohol and high-heeled shoes strewn on the floor. Still i went back to my bed for a while. they came back in one sat on a bed, opened the large bottle and started to joke around. I asked them to be quiet, long after the quiet hours posted on the door, and beside no alcohol allowed in the dorm rooms. One girls said to me its our room and we didn’t expect you here. The office was long closed by that time. We argued back and forth and her friends decided to take the party elsewhere slamming the door hard as they left.

A few hours later, after 1am, the door opened and shut, lights turned off and on, voices were louder, the bottles emptier and i stirred in my bed. Two sat down, drinks in hand and unpacked and poured a drink. i asked them to be quiet. You be quiet the one girl said, i really don’t want you in here. and that set me off . I don’t really remember exactly what transpired except that we ended up in a screaming match. i know i blew, i know i yelled until nothing could be fixed anymore.

The next day i was able to change rooms, to the other that was just the other side of a thin wall, i heard them talking about me, how i was a psychopath and telling all i was crazy and the people in the room i talked to muttered about the noise next door and then the person who screamed aloud and was to be condemned. It had gotten so out of hand.

It sounds like nothing now that i write it, but was one of those moments i carried with me. Did i cause the events to happen because of my thoughts, or had a premonition been granted to me? Was the calm but a temporary reprieve? for the calm and the storm have happened many other times, with much greater implications.

I remember now having the calm and then the internal storm before the journey with my father that would lead me here that time, the journey that left us both ragged and run down. It happened at the end of the journey with Robert, which took us through here. During that last week along the coast i took walks alone, appreciated god’s beauty in the world, felt the clouds lifting from my eyes and the calm returning and caught a glimpse of the devine….and then it all exploded and he was gone. And it happened as well in sierraville, that other place in this mountain range where i spent some time. It was after the Burning Man rush, and i think i had proven my worth, the debates about what i would do and if i were to stay were gone. I felt calm and liked i belonged, but there was still something in the air. One morning i took a walk up the hill behind the baths, and felt a sense of connection come over me, an angel who was there. I hiked to the top of the pools, and the land became eerie and heard another voice, felt a presence of another life, telling me to go away and a shiver ran up my spine. Three days later i left the place. Those stories are long and complicated, but each time i felt a bliss and then a coming storm.

I often wondered if it were a warning of something that was going to occur or if my thoughts created the actions that were to ensue. Still all the times here i had previously been uneasy, off kilter with my mind nervously chattering away. Those moments of clarity that preceded the storms were perhaps a gift to me, a chance to rest, for in those moments i had the answers. the glimpses of the disorder were foreshadowing so that i might prepare how i would respond. In all cases i tried to push the uneasy thoughts away at the same time as feeding on them. not choosing how i would respond, so i was swept away in the storm. But as i write i see how some of the storms were necessary, forcing changes that needed to happen, and sweeping away debris.

And i feel like i have not heard the messages of the stillness or the discord of late. I finish this entry many miles away, and feel like i have made another mistake. A mistake i have made before, a lesson i have not learned and feel that the storm has not yet begun. Or can i trust the bliss, knowing that it will come and go, and listen to all that is being said.

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I journeyed up and through Yosemite National Park . I have been here before, so what i experienced was not with fresh eyes. i was not only brought to this time and place, but had memories come up of my visits before and was taken to lands far away with thoughts that floated on through.

And i know this is the monkey mind that is refered to in meditation and other practices of consciousness, the mind that jumps around, from branch to branch and tree to tree. And as i experienced the wonder and all else around, i could watch this monkey of mine from a distance, let the thoughts pass on through, come in and out of consciousness. I began to wonder what we bring into our experience when we come to a place? Can we view anything pure? And what does experiencing a place bring up in us? So the story of my visit to Yosemite in April 2010 covers many years and miles and this is some of it.

My journey here really began when the bus pulled out of the train station in Merced. There i was leaving the flatlands behind and going to the mountains. The bus drove through town past older houses, some of wood, with porches and yards and trees, on streets with sidewalks, different from the new developments i had passed by (and which i remembered) and i thought of small towns with pedestrian friendly tree lined streets, towns up the coast and across the county where i have been. The streets were empty, a few cars on the road but devoid of people, a woman carrying a bag from a house to a car, a man cycling down a street, and then finally as we edged near the end of town, a lone figure sitting out on his porch on a warm sunday morning just after 11am – and i thought of suburbia and all those empty communities, housing people but devoid of life.

Outside of Merced strawberry fields dotted the road, baskets beside the rows of the low-lying plants waiting to be picked and i thought my times picking strawberries and how my back hurt. As we road towards Mariposa, past the flatlands into the foothills where black cows grazed on green hills, no trees to be found, i thought of Ireland, where cows grazed on similar terrain. When the grass and fields turned to majestic oak trees, i thought about driving up to Clear Lake with Robert on the way here in 2008. and the first time i saw these trees. And i thought of our drive here on route 49 where colored leaves still hung onto trees, feeling like fall in December.

As the oaks made way to pines i thought of the Sierras, not only here but further north, Sierraville – my time spent there, Lake Tahoe (though that does not look the same), and a hike near Armstong BC where there were a lot of pine trees, and other places with pines, and the way they blew in the wind when i camped at Sierra Hot Springs and other drier mountain ranges in general. We came to Mariposa, a gateway town with hotels, services and shops, and i thought of other mountain tourist towns. Fernie, BC and Canmore, Alberta – the gateway to Banff, came to mind though they are larger and much more developed near higher mountains and ski hills. And the landscape is harsher here than on the coast and i thought about places i had been in the Canadian Rockies. And i thought about Canada, and the north – places where the land is not always so kind.

I got to the Yosemite Bug Resort in Midpines, the place i was to stay. I got off the bus and remembered my previous time here, and getting off the bus then, and the month spent driving around California with my father and how frazzled i was when i had arrived. I had to lug my bag up the hill, and felt a tug in my back , and i remembered carrying it across Fishermans Wharf that morning – how heavy it felt, and how the strap on the back had snapped leaving Monterey so it was even less ergonomic than before, and how i carried extra food and the times i had done that before. I stopped to look at an orange flower that grew by the road, and thought of the California poppies along the harbour in Victoria. I looked at the view, the road below and remembered coming up here before and i felt the weight i and the heat of the sun, and i thought of longer uphill walks with my bag and how it seemed easier then – the four km walk up mountain roads by Kootenay Lake when i was hitching up from Nelson BC from Ainsworth Hotsprings to the campsite back in 2005, and then of my walk down 20 miles of the Oregon coast less than two years ago.

And when i got into the Bug Backpacker resort with the cabins and dorms, restaurant and “spa”, and saw their own tour bus, i thought of other places like this, in the Iguana Perida in Santa Cruz Guatemala and El Retiro in Lanquin, self-contained backpacker resorts, and i looked at the private rooms and fancier cars, and thought about Harbin. I walked a small trail down to the creek, and then up to the upper parking lot which provided a view, and it did not seem as clear, and i remembered there had been no leaves before.

The next day, i rode the YARTS bus up to the park, and remembered much of my journeys there before. The sun shone into the valley and lit up the mountains. Wildflowers of yellow and purple covered the sides of the hills and i thought about wildflowers in alpine meadows and realized i did not know any of their names and remembered walking by the shore in Monterey where the flowers had been as abundant but different, and i was frustrated because i did not know their names either. As i watched the rushing Merced river, tumbling over boulders with the spring thaw, i thought of other rivers, across Vancouver Island, and times on buses i wished we could stop and get out to look at them. And then as we passed the juncture where highway 120 merges in, i remembered i had been able to get out of the bus one cold morning at look at the river as the bus stopped, road construction or plowing up ahead. And i thought of how Robert and I drove in along the other route, and i thought about him.

Finally, i got into the park and Yosemite Valley. I looked at the views, and wondered if my eyes were jaded for i had seen it all before – but every time is different, and i saw some anew, still i know that i compared and contrasted much to my previous visits there. The sun was at a different angle as i made a hike – days much longer at this time of year. Snow was absent from the valley floor. Waterfalls ran full, powerful and mighty, and some appeared where they had not been before in the early winter before the snows after the summer had dried all up, or earlier in march when all was still frozen and snow packs up top had barely begun to melt. And i thought of the power of water and how it carved out the land. Of course it was much busier than before, and i remembered emptier trails and camping with Robert in the almost deserted campground. My mind flung forward, and i wondered what this place was like at its peak, overcrowded and more and was thankful that i was here on this perfect spring weekday.

But my mind not only wandered in time, but in space as it had on my journey here. As i passed through the village and saw the rangers in uniform, i thought of national parks in general and other places i had been. On the crowded shuttle bus where the driver stopped and paused for a while, i remember the free busses in Acadia National Park and how i had to show one driver his route, and how the buses were so empty in the Grand Canyon in February 2002. The bus was full with women from a seniors group in Roseburg Oregon, and i thought of the retired communities on the Oregon coast.

I was hot, still hadn’t taken off my coat, saw the dry landscape and for a moment i was transported to a hike outside of Radium hotsprings, the day much hotter, the grass crackled, and grasshoppers made their special sound. I looked at the falls streaming down cliffs, and thought of other that i had seen – and a ride near Hope BC (i think) where water fell down the mountains around.

I stood in the mist of lower Yosemite Falls, in their full glory,much stronger than before and i could not walk up on the rocks where i had gone and loved. The path and lookout at the bottom were wet from the spray and i thought of the mist at Niagara Falls and how it had been redirected over the years. And when walking up the Vernal Falls trail with the rocks and boulders all around, i thought of rocky trails on the Bruce Peninsula and the rock formations down in the Niagara Glen.

And i walked on the wide trail to Mirror Lake and the crowd petered out. Only a single couple walking towards me, so tiny it seemed, dwarfed by the majestic pine trees that grew especially tall in this place. And i thought for a moment of large trees, the sequoias nearby and the redwoods, the giant cedar, hemlock and spuce further up the coast. My feet began to hurt and i remembered the feeling I not had in some time.

And i thought of how this place acted like a springboard for memories, and i then thought of a professor in grad school who gave us one text and asked us to use it as a springboard to explore social theory. My background was limited and i did not know where to jump off. I realized that the more experiences we have had the more we bring into a place, knowledge and links to all that can be related. How difficult it is to see the world afresh, as if through childrens’ eyes.

I had been wondering how different it was for those who were here for the first time, or how it was for me my first time here when i saw it with fresh eyes. But are the eyes and mind ever fresh, especially here, for who has not heard of Yosemite National Park, and how many images of this place exist in the public consciousness. It was not only memories that came to me, but associations made far and wide. I brought in experience of similar places i had been, pine trees, mountains, dryer landscapes, national parks, waterfalls, people, and more. And do we not do this with all, often unaware. For it is how we learn (this is a tree (oak), that is also a tree (pine), a tree is a plant, this flower is also a plant and so on) and negotiate the world. Everything comes in to how we perceive a place, all that has happened, all that has been experienced, is brought forward and caught in place.

Being here also brought back memories i had long forgotten about, just below the surface, something in this place activated then. And is that why we return to, or avoid, different places, to reopen neural pathways in our brains, to experience not only what is there, but all the associations we have made.  Much of my usual chattering ceased, worries and cares, yes i still had some negative thoughts, worries, quick judgements and more. And thought about writing this.

A few times i caught myself, a few minutes on the path, when i got caught up in one of the images and stories and was no longer where i was, no longer in the now and here. And i thought, now that is the monkey mind taking over, removing me from the here and now. Was my monkey overactive that day? Or was i merely able to stand back and watch it at work? It can be tamed, or merely observed, but can it be erased? And should it be for it shows how all is so connected and interlinked, different and yet the same. And i think of another national park, Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica, where i watched the monkeys play in the trees.

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I think i became disillusioned with San Francisco when i was here in 2001. I arrived at night on September 10th, and woke up the next morning to the incident that has shaped so much of recent history. And just as 9/11 changed the lens through which many americans viewed the world, my time here, changed how i saw this place. The rosy glasses that i had worn were removed, never to be put back on. As a teen i had fallen in love with the city, it was the place of my dreams, where i would run away to, a place i could be free and grow. I had built it into a place that i could never be, and never was, probably not even for me.

It was the first time i had been to the city in years. A lifetime had passed since my previous forays, 1989 for a few day and 1986, in my student activist days, was the last time i had really spent anytime here. Even then the illusion had faded, and glasses had become more clear, but still i remembered the dreams of this place and of that time in 1986 that i had hitch-hiked down here. In between a lifetime had passed, my more conventional years. I had just left my home five weeks before, my “career” not long before that, and had no idea what this journey would entail. Then as now i did not really know where i was going, and i had absolutely no idea how long the road would be. But it was here i awoke on that major day in american history.

It is hard now to remember that girl who i once was then. I was not really a girl, had just turned 36, but when i look back i seem so fresh-cut and fresh-faced. My journey to here had just begun, i was not ragged down and all was new. Though i think about it now, and even then i was revisiting many places where i had been through, reliving a trip of my youth. Though in those five weeks my spirited had awoken with god’s beauty shown on the coast, and stepping out of my confines, something was gnawing away underneath, and all was not quite as rosy as i imagined it would be on my trip on down the coast. I had unconsciously wanted to capture myself as i had been all those years before, but just as i will never be the person i was when i made that trip, back then i could not be the person who i had been on the trip all those years before. Too many years, events, and life unfolded in between. I had not understood what i was feeling or why i felt as i did, so i pushed on forward, onto adventure southward bound to San Francisco.

Truth be told i was not coming out here, did not really see San Francisco as a stopping point when i left. For close to a year i’d been collecting travel brochures – mexico, central america, new zealand and the southwest. But i told myself no, i was totally burnt out and initially planned to go to Colorado and journey from there. But as departure time was approaching, i changed my mind, and bought one to Vancouver instead. And slowly began my journey south along the coast.

I was supposed to come to San Francisco on September 11, but had caught a cold and come down one day early. I had been up in Klamath at the Redwoods Hostel on the northern coast several miles south of Crescent City. It was raining and i was feeling cold – back in the days before i had raingear, back before i was comfortable in nature, for i still was then a more of a city girl. I had spent a day walking a few short trails, but the season was over, there were few people and i heard some stories of bad bears, so did not venture much further afield. I walked and sat on the beach, mesmerized by the pelicans flying above and the waves that crash on huge rocks and the shore and the shapes and tones of the clouds that rolled.I walked down the highway to where i though i might find a more populated trail through the redwoods, but what i found was a giant carving was of Paul Bunyan and his ox and steep admission fees. I had come down the coast, to see the redwoods, and never really explored such a place. But the all day lockout from the hostel was long, almost the entire day, and i was chilled and the other trails seemed lonely and so far away. I did not wish to spent the day in crescent City that i had passed through to come down here, an hours and a half break in McDonalds in a parking lot of another strip mall and a safeway. The coastal towns were starting to blur, so much the same.
I changed my plans and decided to go one day early and got a refund. Those were the days when greyhound still had two buses that ran down the coast. The road twisted and turned in front of the hostel and i did not know where to stand. I walked past the stop on the road, the day was lighter as i stood there, past the time the bus was to arrive. I flagged it down and it almost did not stop and the driver chewed me out for standing in the wrong place. I did not have a ticket, but let me on the bus, and i bought my ticket in Arcata or Eureka. I did not know what i was thinking then, or was it still in many locales where there were no stations you could buy your ticket on the bus. It was a long ride down, passed through Garberville, a hippie enclave where i argued with a woman beside me on the bus – no idea what was all about. I had no reservations in the city and no cell phone. I spent breaks on the way down calling hostels, fisherman’s wharf, where i had reservations for the 11th was full that night, as were many others, i got worried and saw little more, but thankfully i found a bed at the Green Tortoise.

I arrived at the Transbay Terminal, tired and not sure where i was, and took a cab to the hostel. The hostel was different from those where i had been – younger and hipper and with a certain vibe. I got my bed, imagined my previous trip across the country back in ’86 and felt a bit old and kinda frumpy with my “proper” travelling clothes. It was a warm night and went and ate dinner, pasta and wine, at a street side table on Columbus street and all seemed perfect for a while. I went to bed early, slept poorly – across from the hostel were strip clubs and bars which kept me up at night with loud music – and got up early the next morning.

I went into the dark large eating area with the tv and the big screen a place where people were smoking. i had quit back then, and the stench bothered me. Had my free breakfast, feeling uncertain about the cleanliness of the kitchen. Sat down and wondered why the silence, all watching a disaster movie on the big screen, I watched as a jet liner repeatedly crashed into a large building and wondered what the hell was this. “watching big screen disaster movies at this hour of the day!”, i thought, “thank god i can soon move to the other place”

As i went into the lobby i had the feeling that something was off. I was going to the reception desk to ask about bus routed and the people just stared at little television screens, and i asked what movie was this. it was not a movie, an attack they said, the world trade building had just been hit. News was still breaking that day, rumours (still don’t know if true) about the areas near the wharf being cut off. I could extend my stay there, and cancelled my reservations down at fishermans wharf.

I stayed on just over another week – watched the news for a few days constantly – CNN on the big screen. I annoyed at some girls on the second day merely concerned about their flights, But that day i walked around San Francisco stunned. My lunch was a smoothie from jamba juice in the deserted downtown core – i did not wish to eat and most everything else was closed. I was staying near the Transamerica building, empty at first and then i watched them set up the barricades.

It was that day that i really noticed the homeless as all those who worked in the centre but lived outside did not come to town for a few days. That day the rich who lived nearby, the tourists and the homeless seemed to be the only ones out in the streets. I was shocked by the ragged bodies strewn in front of metal grates on shut down stores on Market Street. Wandered blindly, Columbus street and empty downtown core.
over the next week i walked around, the time a bit of a blur. A few days later i made my way down to fishermans wharf and it seemed like no one was there. But i heard a barking sound, and followed it and so i discovered the sea lions at pier 39. I watched the sea lions play, swim and climb on the decks, jockey for position and bask in the sun. Their barks were songs to my ears – and for a brief moment by worries and cares disappeared. I went down several times to visit them in that time there, and i still go back every time i pass through town. Seen them in many locales in the past nine years, and still smile when i hear their song. There have fewer here my last times through, but today the planks were full again.

I know that over the following week, i did many tourist things; rode the cable cars, went to chinatown, and visited Alcatraz, the long lines for tickets having disappeared. I went to a peace concert in the Yerba Buena gardens sitting on the lawn. Beautiful harp music played calming my frayed nerves . But concern for the nation and what would happen wracked away at my brain. a state of war? would we invade? would America turn to a police state, civil liberties stripped away? I could not make any decision, for several days no long-distance transport ran, and then for a while later busses and trains were sold out. I thought of going down to Santa Cruz, a planned stop on this trip, but ran back north across the border to Vancouver, Canada as soon as i could. I see now, that like the nation, a feeling of fear oozed into me. And i have spent much time in there and in victoria, it a place i looped back through and through again for so many years.

And so that day here put forth a path that i have followed for so many years. I have wondered, what if i stuck to my plans? I would not have made it down here, at least not at the time. What if i had stayed up there another day how would these last years of my life been so different, what path would i have ended up on? But there are so many other little factors that brought me here on that very day for i can ask myself what if the bus had not stopped or let me on without a ticket? what if i had been granted a refund at the hostel in Klamath? what if i had not caught the cold? not taken that long chilly windy walk in Bandon a few day before what if, in the many places i had been in those five weeks, plans uncertain, i had stayed one day less or one days more? I may not have come here that day. And what if i had not gotten on of the last tickets for the bus up north, would i have spent all those times on Vancouver Island? There are so many decisions and little what ifs, so maybe i was meant to be in san Francisco that day, maybe this long journey was meant for me.

That day in history changed the nation, and it also changed me. Some effects were immediate and dramatic, but others were more subtle, the true implications only discovered much later on. Some could have been predicted, and warnings ignored, but others could not be foreseen, the result of decisions upon decisions and events upon events, some large and others barely perceptible. But the USA is still here, and so am I, transformed over time, there is no going back, but the dreams do not all die and fear slowly fades away.

I think maybe how i resisted the signs for it was 9/11/2007 that i crossed back from Canada to the USA the last time, from Victoria. And found myself travelling up and down the coast, returning to this city again and again. And i have not been back to Canada since, but that is part of the longer story, whose themes are finally being revealed to me. But that day in 2001 changed my course and my perception of this place.

I began this story in the hostel in fisherman’s wharf, the place i had meant to be that day. Now as then some travellers wait stranded by smoke and debris in the sky. A natural eruption, the earth’s power unleashed, left many here for days. A volcano in iceland, so far away, temporarily stopped all flights to europe – and how many lives will be transformed by the delays of that day. The spew still continues, the future of the air unknown, but seems less fateful for the world. It is an act of nature, of god, not man, and does not lead to the fear. I finish this entry in another locale, left the city behind. And it seems that each time i am there, i find myself transformed, however subtly.

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I don’t know if this trip came easily or if it was hard. In one way it took me four months, one relationship and many thousands of miles to get here, and in another, it happened instantaneously in a single day. And the decision to come here was not all that clear. But looking back i know i was meant to come, not for an event that happened in the city, but of a decision i made on where to leave to – a decision that opened a new chapter of my life.

In some ways this journey started in Alaska, and with decisions i made, and did not make the summer i spent there. All i knew i that i no longer wanted to travel aimlessly, and when i left at the end of September, i never imagined that i would come back here. That summer is another chapter yet to be written, but one like many others ending with a future barely planned and a destination unclear. I thought of going to many locales, Hawaii, Colorado, or back to the Northwest. And as usual when uncertain, i turn back to paths i have tread before, and headed back to Seattle, out of which i had flown, and to where tickets were cheap, another point on a circle returned to yet again.

I spent no time in the city but went out to camp on the Olympic Peninsula. After a few days of more camping in the rain, i “realized my folly” and thought to go to Colorado, where i imagined maybe i could work for the winter, and to where cheap tickets could be found. That time is another entry of decisions and circumstance, but the road called me, i went down to Oregon, one last time i said. Another plan was in my mind to check out a few other towns, and also i had not lived my dream of walking and taking transit all the way down the coast, at least as far as Crescent Beach. I was wavering, i was unclear, but slowly i journeyed down. And my intension to make my way south to San Francisco was made late one morning in Yachats, Oregon – the library with a computer where i could book a ticket to Colorado, opened an hour later than i thought, and i would barely make the bus back up north, So i decided to walk on south. But that snap decision, made sitting on a log by the shore, brought a new adventure, and changed my life some more. And now that i sit here and write, i realize how many small decisions took me to that time and place, and the decision i made that day. I never made it down by bus and foot, but that is even a longer story. I arrived in San Francisco four months later, from the south, having travelled thousands of miles and having my beliefs, dreams, and emotions turned every which way, inside and out.

The day i actually arrived here, I came up here from Washburn campground, between Cambria and San Simeon, from that area below Big Sur to just south of Morro Bay, that had been my home for about 6 weeks, and almost all 2009. The story of how i got there is long and complicated, but the morning i left, the doors opened up and i made my way here almost seamlessly. As if i was meant to come that day.

I arrived to Morro Bay with Robert on January 3rd, the first two days of the new year spent driving madly from Elephant Butte and Santa Fe, New Mexico back out to the California coast. We camped together one night at Washburn early in the month, but this time i was there camping on my own. I had not liked th e campground when the two of us had been there, too open with too few smaller trees, and a long walk down a hill to the shore. I pushed us to leave never imagining i would find myself back there. But our trip had been stressful, our differences shown, and on one fateful warm sunny morning in Plaskett Creek on Big Sur, all came to a head, we got in yet another fight, i went too far, and he drove away to look at the sea (in Oregon). And so Washburn at San Simeon was the campground i made it to when i hitched out of there a few days later.

So the Washburn primitive campground at San Simeon State Park would be my home for 10 days and then another 7. And it became my home indeed, a place of rest, or recollection, and a place where i came to see the many angels in our lives. The first angel picked my up thumbing on the 101 and drove me all the way down, though his stop was really miles above, to catch a woman also named alice, who i met and sent her love. He drove me to town to the grocery store, said he need to shop (though he picked up just a few quick items), and then to the primitive campground up at the top. And there many people were so good to me, from some who gave me lifts to town, to the camp hosts and the park ranger, some of the fellow campers who were staying there with no place else to go, to the ex-police chief from mormon utah who found me my first lift out, was concerned for me a woman camping in a tent alone and there without a car, and Ron who drove me out of Washburn when i had originally thought to go back to San Francisco.

But i was not ready to leave, still in shock and feeling so lost, San Francisco just a place that came to mind, a familiar place to go back to, so when Ron suggested splitting the costs of the more expensive campsites in Morro Bay, i rejoiced at the opportunity. We shared a site for a week, him in his beat up old van and me in my little dome tent, sharing morning coffee, and a chat in the evening for a week, until one day the site we were on had been reserved, so we went back up to San Simeon, and the primitive campground at Washburn where i stayed just over a week.

Yes, I spent a month lost, not knowing what to do, just living day by day – slow walks to town to buy groceries and more walks on the beach, meditating and reading and taking life in stride. I also felt that i had stepped so far outside, sneaking showers at the pricier campground down below, days unbathed, boiling water for coffee in a scratched dollar store teflon frying pan and so accustomed to living outside, could i ever now make it back to the norm. But with the help of the angels, and the nature of the coast, i slowly came more alive. The stories of that time and the people and that place are valuable and many, and need to be told more elsewhere. And though i grew in my time there, seeing angels around, and a base in myself, the rains were coming in heavy and steady and i had to go.
The weather in early ’09 had been variable to say the least, from record hot sunny days, to periods of rain which turned to snow on the hills just above. The rains were coming in and the ground was becoming saturated, unable to absorb anymore. i had been in the campground for quite a while and my time was running out. A place where i had found peace, and a place where i did grow, but again a place i was not meant to stay.

How was i going to get out i asked myself, major storms were coming through, weather alerts all around. to go to the hostel there with its lockout? The hotel prices had skyrocketed for the weekend. i had been thinking san francisco off and on for maybe a week or several days – not a place of desire, or a place to be, but a major hub around, and i really saw nothing there for me, but then again, i did not see anything anywhere for me.

I barely slept that night planning to make my way out on the bus. Late that night a van pulled in shining its bright lights on my tent – a trailer different from the rest – created for the outback in australia. In the morning, a twenty something with dreads emerged and a curiosity and strange bond arose in me. we said hello and a little while later Ron came by and asked him where he was going. San Francisco or Monterey, and offered me a lift later in the day.

So that intention put out four months or so before, let me to san francisco – a circuitous journey and as i think of it, what felt like 10 years lived in four months, and age me it did do, older, wiser and more worn down. And that morning, valentines day, i was on my way up there.

God smiled, and the rains held off for the morning, and i was able to dry out my tent, and pack my stuff without all getting wet. We left mid-day for the drive up Big Sur, that scenic drive on the coast. We chatted a bit, he going north from LA back to his family, his business had crashed, designing specialty outback trailers, and he was going home for what he hoped would be just a little while. The sky opened up, rain poured down, bouncing back off the ground just as we passed Plaskett Creek. We stopped for coffee at almost $3 a cup on the way, he got a call and said he would have to stop in Monterey and would drop me at the hostel there.

When we got to Monterey the sun was out again. The traffic was heavy, and we both felt overwhelmed. i did not know it was the weekend of the major golf tournament. I had not called for reservations, and we found the hostel was booked full for the weekend. I breathed deep, and he agreed to drop me back off downtown – i guess i would go to San Francisco after all. The Amtrak bus to San Jose no longer stopped at the place it had a year before. I looked at the schedule and saw that it was due in just a few minutes, i walked up to the transit plaza, backpack on my back, and a policecar slowed to look at me. I made it to the stop a minute after the last bus for the day was to leave, but thankfully it was a few minutes late. It took me up to San Jose where i caught the Caltrain into the city and saw couples with flowers and remembered it was Valentine’s Day. I had no reservations, and it was evening when i arrived, but my hostel of choice, the city centre had plenty of room, and the rains did not begin until the next day.

I remember little of that time here, but i know i slept in a real (bunk) bed, alone – first time in a long while, and took a bath and washed my clothes and spent time in the library and walked around, and cooked full meals involving several burners on a real stove. The rains lasted several days, but the storm on Big Sur and below did not cause the landslides they feared.

I came down to the hostel at fort mason after a few days, still not knowing where i would go. The weather turned nicer, that i know, for sun was out the day i walked in the Marina district, and took the first cash advance on the visa card, taking money from my dad. I also know that i went to Ocean Beach and spent a day in Golden Gate Park with a guy i met who live there – yes in the park, a secret shrub, where he had spent much of the past two years. I had sat on a bench to eating a snack and he came up and talked to me – i remember his eyeglasses with bright blue safety pins – and something striped that he wore. He was schitzo he said, cut off from his family, his disability check mailed to them and they sent him the cash, just enough to get by, and from the amount he quoted, i could tell, they kept some behind for themselves. We talked of journeys, he’d travelled around, of retreat centres and energy. i met him another day outside his safety zone, for a coffee up on van ness another area i had never been, we spoke of life and became increasingly paranoid, feeling the edgy vibes of those who walked determinedly were directed at him. From our previous conversations i believed that he saw auras and human energy, but like so many in our culture had never learned to work with the perception he had, and then saw it all directed at him. I never saw him again but he sticks with me, for i had seen so many just like him, whose gifts in seeing more were dishonoured and denied, and rather than being a blessing, to be nurtured and refined, had it turn into a nightmare, distorted by the pain of having it denied.

Now sometime in my week or so here, i had picked up the free new age magazines from the boxes on the street. This is something i do all the time so there is nothing special about it per se. But as i browsed through i saw the ad once again for Harbin Hotsprings – hotsprings, yoga, meditation, sound and more with camping at a great price. now i had seen the ad a year before and it called out to me. Like many other retreat centres, of new age and alternative health and spirituality i was drawn to them but did not give myself permission to go. I almost went in 2008, but became afraid, and convinced myself it was too cold to camp and worried about the clothing optional policy. I had been looking at retreats for several years, yearning, but told myself no.

But this time, i dared to take a chance, i really had nothing left to lose. I would go though it was colder out than it had been the year before, but i was toughened up by 8 months of so of mainly living outside. I delayed leaving by a day, that is for sure, went with hesitation, but left to there, taking the ferry across the bay and a long bus ride up through wine country. And so began a period of healing and opening up, and trying to live – a spiraling circle that has brought me back here.

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On some journeys all doors open for you, tickets come cheap, a ride comes through, and all runs on time. And then there are other trips where delays stand in your face. My trip here to San Francisco in January 2008 was one of those. in fact, there were considerable delays. I came again this time from Oregon, not from Eugene from where i had come in the previous time less that three months (but seemingly years) before, but from Seaside where i had spent 40 days and nights and then some more. And in between those times, i had criss-crossed the country as well.

It was January (2008) when i arrived, and it was not until the middle of March that i would leave the area for a good time (until February 2009) not really expecting to come back again. But then again, the last time i was here, i did not imagine to be back so soon. In those three months i went south and north, alone and with my father. Though it became a time of frenetic movement, I did not leave California. But the story of my movement, the story with my dad, began and ended in San Bruno, a suburb of town near the airport, and will not be covered here.

But as i said, my journey was delayed, and i wondered if it was a good decision made, but it was an experience lived. I had been in Seaside over a month, and felt the slowness come over me, i felt like my time there was done. I wanted to start the new year in another locale, but i stayed the night and went to Portland new years day instead. The weather was Oregon rain, and despite the glitter of that city, i wondered why i came. My call was to go to San Fransisco, but i delayed and procrastinated for a few days, sitting in the public library, soggy, in front of the computers in the main hall, or one in the side room, looking at lands afar. By the time i decided to make the trek, the Amtrak fares had gone up high. My shoes were wet, i made a decision, i was going to go, so i went down to the dull greyhound station, a bought a ticket for 6:30 pm the following day, saving several dollars that way.

Now in Portland the greyhound and Amtrak stations are just next door to one another, but they are worlds apart, both are older, but amtrak is welcoming, has wooden benches and service with a smile, while greyhound is more concrete, with dim lighting, low ceilings, and a few plastic seats.

The day that i was to leave a storm came in – i spent the day drinking coffee, and at the library trying to keep myself dry. I went to the station early and got my baggage tags, but i felt something was off, i did not know why. The woman at the counter tagged my bags with what seemed to be hesitancy, but read me the gate and told me the time the bus would load. after i got in the security guard came in, and set up his table where he screened people through. I went out for a butt, heard some people murmuring about the bus and snow. I asked myself, was it delayed and when would it come, and then i looked at the ticket desk and saw some with bags walking away. I waited for a call to see if the bus was cancelled because of the storm. I looked around and the at the clock and then at 6:10 i went to the desk. The bus had just been cancelled, the pass has been closed due to heavy snow, there will be no more buses out tonight. my ticket was non-refundable, and the hostel was booked that night, i checked the time and then asked by chance, can i use it again at anytime. They stamped the ticket with the date the bus was cancelled, i could not get a refund, but could use it later.

I ran over to the Amtrak station where the bus to seaside departed i believe at 6:35. I had just a few minutes to buy a ticket, a couple dawdled in line, but i got the ticket and ran out to the bus just as it was ready to pull out. Now people in Seaside had told me i was crazy to want to go to San Francisco, a big city in California to the south. And i had wondered about my trip, somehow i was brought back to the place, something drew me back there. Another storm prevented my departure from Seaside, almost a month before, and now another brought me back there. I had thought that chapter in my life (still to be written) had ended with the year 2008, but like the circles back to San Francisco, circles had, and would again, take me back to Seaside.

I arrived, walked in and dumped my bags, your back rick said, now working the desk. The bus was cancelled i said in a rush, the pass was closed with the storm. I went to my old room, and to the familiar bed, and slept tight for the night, feeling like i had come back home, and glad now that nick had left. I got up early the next morning, to see if i would have to catch the bus, not really wishing to. I called the greyhound toll free number and got the recorded message that listed cancellations from the week before. i logged on to the computer before the front desk opened a bit worried the manager would discover that i knew how and checked the website. No buses were going south that day. I waited and waited and kept checking back, but for 3 days the message appeared, the buses were cancelled from Oregon to California, it had been another major winter storm.

The room was not to remain my own the following night, a girl came in and moved in there, a student on a winter break trip, but one with a car. the next day was nicer, the rain had slowed, and we went for a hike on Tillamook head, the wind came up and i caught a chill, but still went out to look at cannon beach and caught the bus back to seaside on my own. I had been feeling like i was catching a cold, had almost not gone on the hike the truth be told. But i had a chance, a lift in the car, to take me to the headland and more – and i missed the trees and the rocky vista, and after all what was a little rain. But that night the cold took hold, and though the buses started up after two days, i stay for over a week recovering, sleeping and reading in bed.

David, the sweetie despite his alcohol and methadone, kept warning me of the city and to stay away. He’d been to Portland, into the city for a few days, and was glad to get back to the serenity of winter in a coastal oregon town. Rick was working harder, and with Nick gone away, maybe there was place for me. I was lulling back into seaside zone but the dramas also pushed me away. I was tempted to change my plans, but i still had the ticket in hand, one that could not be returned. The dramas got stronger as the week went on, the young guy who lost his baby to social services after trying with his ex to raise it in a cheap motel room had his part-time hours stocking groceries at Safeway cut back even more, and there was talk of him having what work was around there. And then there was the crazy who looked at all with suspicion, she finally talked, became incomprehensible, and had to be taken away.

My last night a new man came in, from a sunnier place, to relive his youthful memories of summers spent in Seaside. We talked outside of many things, the chatted and drank cheap beer in his room with the young guy. The conversation got esoteric, and the kid left very soon. He fell into a trance and told me details of my past and drew a picture of a lion exactly the same as i had once drawn. he spoke of my future and called me a blocked artist said i need not go to San Francisco – that my future lie neither here not there. I knew i was leaving and so did he, and said maybe i would end up near there – near the russian river – but not right away, may take several journeys first. We more drank PBR, that awful cheap beer, and talked away till late in the night. When i got up my legs were wobbly, and i spent time over the toilet bowl throwing up. My elation turned to sorrow, it felt like my life were coming on up, and if i had come to hug a toilet bowl i just had to get away.

The next morning i peeled myself out of bed, said goodbye to seaside and got out on the road, taking the amtrak bus back to the city. The trip seemed long, my head did hurt, so i caught the first greyhound out of Portland. It was the schedule i avoided when i booked my bus, with a five hour layover in Sacramento in the middle of the night.

The bus had the usual cast of characters – a girl out of prison, another fighting for custody, a guy on a last leave from the army and more – and for much of the time i had to share a seat. I remember the break in eugene, got coffee at the starbucks but little else except that the pass over the mountains was clear.

We arrived in Sacramento just before 2am; the bus to SFO would not leave til 7. I sat out back and had a smoke, listening to loud rap coming out of a souped up car and looking around the corner watching a drug deal. I went into station, talked with one of the smokers who i met on the breaks, he knew the place, and me and two guys walked the deserted streets of downtown to a Dennys in the middle of the night where a middle-aged waitress with big hair kept filling our coffee cups. i forget their stories now, one out of jail to start a new life, and the other in a transition of sorts, and on the way back one smoking some crack. still it was he who digged deep and gave the man sleeping on the street in the ragged long coat $10 of his own.

I got to san francisco to the grisly greyhound station and walked to the hostel where i was to spend my time. It rained for several days i think, and was it this time i discovered the beach, went on more walking tours, spent time at the library and walked to golden gate park, discovering the city and remembered to meditate. The story of this time remains a blur, mixed up with my time here just months before. A time of transition, of calm and panic, for i no longer knew what i would do, and the polish of the city was gone. I made so discoveries but also lost some of the dream that was contained in this place. (that time here is another entry, written together with the time before)

I was out of cash, and began to worry and made my way down to santa cruz and monterey. It was there that I found out my dad coming out for a visit and i would meet him for a few days back here. i came back a few days sooner than hoped for I enjoyed my time in monterey and did not want to leave. The manager said could stay more than the allotted time – but one day he was not there an employee instead, and told me i had stayed too long. I came back up here to wait for my dad, staying down at Fishermans Wharf. Walks around, in the moment, a sense of calm, but a storm brewing underneath, i wanted to stop this existence of mine. A few days later i was picked up at the hostel by my father and headed out to the suburb of San Bruno, and another month long chapter of life on the road in a circle back to the suburbs again and then yet another phase of my life that led me back here again.

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