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Posts Tagged ‘zones’

I have travelled many zones today – both physically and inside. and that is what i like about cities that are designed for people is that you can move from one to another in just minutes only realizing you have entered a different place after you are already there. but like the past two days, i wandered much, felt both elation and sadness, discovery and loss, and wonder if i pressed on too hard, for i am exhausted once again – and despite the movement through the zones ended up back in my room early at night – wondering should i have stopped and lingered somewhere else. I feel now that all is but a blur, the intensity of each zone, having moved through me – perhaps a bit too fast. And that is the way it has been here since i arrived just over 48 hours ago. And i find the words that i had while passing through, and the insights that i had, have become but a jumble once again. Perhaps slow down a bit, take breaks, and do not rush through where i am, and listen to the body when it wants to take a break.

I slept long last night – waking up later that i have in many months – after 11am when i finally went out the door – and out the door sadness overwhelmed – and remnants of a dream i had last night. I was wondering if i try to stay, and thinking about my first forray out of home 26 years ago – about new york and how i never made it there – i needed guidance and help but ran back home instead, and wonder if i cling to this place – to prove i can or cannot make it here – the question remains is it the place for me, so i woke heavy-headed with that sadness in my heart, it moved on through, but came up and lay me low for a time – for the prices here ar dear, as they were there as well, and what is the cost of this place to me. And is it really a place for me? My emotions have run high and low since i have come back to this place.

This morning i walked out into the street into the dark tenderloin, so many sad faces, people swallowed up by life and jittering with the substances they are on ; so many seem less than human in the sense that they are hollowed out, the walking dead, the barely alive and that is what i saw this morning, there are many angels here as well, and people, many immigrants, building their lives, a sense of tolerance, a caring of sorts, and often that is so visible as well. but this morning the streets were emptier, and my heart hung heavy anyways, and that is what appeared to me.

I went over to Polk to go to a different place for coffee, one that i had walked by on my first evening here – the walking by meaning to eat at a new place for me, but a walking by, not taking a chance and eating a burrito from a place i have come everytime, a burrito that tastes worse and worse each time – yet i think about i when i return, and find myself returning to it, and the heavy stomach afterwards.

i find myself back here again – on Market street, in the tourist zone, sitting on my computer, drinking coffee at night – not wanting to be in my dorm room, not wanting to be here either, wanting a place where i can be myself, to be, but not be trapped.

So this morning i walked up to the coffee shop, realize i don’t think i’ve walked that street during the day, only after dark, and it looked different, and duller to me – perhaps it was the low dull grey solid sky, perhaps it was my mood, perhaps just the time of day. i bought my coffee, the place looked different from the inside, not as lush as it did looking in the windows at night; in fact it felt off, the dark interior and square dark metal tables and chairs felt sad to me, lined up with men in front of their screens and the wifi was super slow. For a moment i longed for the cafe on I where they knew my order back in Salt Lake. but i had my coffee and decided to continue on my day.

I wanted to leave the tourist zone behind, and explore the neighborhoods, so i walked to Van Ness and caught a bus down to the Mission District.I have been there a few times on past trips here, and it has never truly drawn me in, but had never really explored it much, and it had been a long time. I got off the bus at the first BART station, and wandered from there – feeling like i was in a different world, a different place than where i had been in a long time. I was a minority and the language i heard most was spanish, and in some ways it reminded me of mexico – or costa rica perhaps – stores with fruits and veggies piled up out front (as you also get here in other neighborhoods), people stopping on the street, signs handing off shops, goods, cheap stuff piled outside, little burrito and pupusa shops, and a feeling of life with an edginess to it. so different from the orderly, more sedate place i have been. I head over a block to the more trendy area, grab a slice of pizza (when here i should have had a burrito) and walk down and come upon an alley filled with murals and young europeans taking photos – i look and it hits me i know this place too well, never been down this alley to the best of my knowledge, but it reminds me of zones of old, the st. laurent of my university years, the commercial drive that i was supposed to like, other cities as well, an edgy, radical punky feel, not just that, but the opposition to the system shown in art, the urban bohemia with attitude. as i had walked the street, i felt something, a messiness, a dirtiness, an undefined feel, of sections of new york, of the poorer multicultural but trendy areas, even the section of bloor i lived on, the homes fading glory, real, and rough despite the ornate and at times whimsical facades.

I walk on and come to another building down a side street covered in murals of women and decide to walk inside. the murals are grand, but inside of the women’s building as it is called is plain, i look at the announcements on the walls, help, yoga and more, but has that messy alternative feel. I walk on -go down the street to explore a bit more rather than towards a hill, a church and a grassy meridian that calls me on. Here is another mural of naked bodies by the mission pool – i take out my camera – the first time in months, and begin to snap some photos – i return to the womans building and take some there and through the alley and somehow feel alive, thinking thoughts of writing, and engaged in the now- and for a moment this feels like it is what i should be doing. I press on. through the neighborhood, feeling like i need a break, to sit and write what i have experienced – a bakery appears – the other store of the workers’ coop bakery with the yummy scones, so i get one and a coffee, but there is no seat. i do not stop at a cafe as i am carrying a drink, and i continue to move on through – the going on when i am feeling content where i am.

The day before i went out to the beach, the familiar place that truly makes me smile, and it did again. It had been grey in town, but i decided to go anyways; it was not too cool and did not feel like it would actually rain. I was pleasantly surprised; for once it was sunnier out there . the sky was mainly blue and you could feel the warmth of the sun upon your face. I felt god smile on me. I got a coffee from my favorite place, crowded on a sunday afternoon, sat outside for a moment and watched a young golden lab go on strike, grab a tomato from under the bench, greet a boxer, lay down and refuse to move on, roll on his back when his person tried to pull him up, and i could not help but laugh. I walked the beach, feeling the joy of it all. the ocean did not speak in one way or another, but i felt so happy to be there. The tiny snowy plovers all grouped together at the very edge of the shore, a mass movement as a wave came in too far; a few seagulls gathering near, towering over those little birds, who act in unison, as a pack, or rather two, who flew up in different directions, but would land again beside each other (until later when a guy was teasing them, and it is breeding season, but i let others tell him to stop). I walk further down towards the park, tiring, have i gone too far but the walk felt good and i return and sit on the damp sand on the cliff as the sun sets into the fog bank that remains offshore. People leave, and i take off my glasses and watch their trueness as energetic forms being revealed by waters edge – becoming more transparent, doubles moving together, the denseness disappears, though differently for some, a surfboard remains dense but carried by a form of energy. And the squiggles return in front of my eyes. It had been quite a while since i had seen that and i ask myself did it return as i am back down to sea level, down to denser fuller air, air that feels alive once again, air that i want to breathe in; or is it because i can once again sit down in a place, and people watch again. I am so thankful for the benches, the beaches, the places to linger here, the places to just be, something i found was so missing in Salt Lake, where even in good weather, you had few who just sat in a park or beside a trail even on a sunny saturday afternoon. The sun went down so early in these shortened days so i move away from the beach eager to explore some more.

And the people watching brought a smile to my face the night before, a sense of joy i had not felt in such a long time (or was it that free Monster energy drink i had?). I had been out walking on my first night here, after 17 hours on the train, tired but awake, retracing the tourist zone where i stayed, and i walked towards Union square, the streets full of people, many shopping on a saturday night, i became cynical, the consumerism of it all, the chain stores that crowd the area, forming part of “the tourist experience” the shopping in the same stores in new locales, the zone of it all, but then i decided to sit down and partake of it all, and remembered how much i liked people watching and how i had done it so much in my youth, and how it was part of the reason why i liked to visit cities, sit on a bench and watch the world go by – talk with some, smile at others, and somehow in my quietude be part of the dance of life. I feel the light inside me grow and a smile
I sat and watched the dance of life pass through – no longer judging the impossibly high narrow heels that would almost catch on the cable car tracks, or look at the labels on the shopping bags in hands, instead i looked at the faces and the movements of those passing through, many high on life on a saturday night, some tired or impatient, and a few well dressed in prozac zone. Still the kids who came and laughed, all those who took pictures of the large christmas tree, the tiny dog in a santa jacket, the woman with the short almost see through skirt, the man with the high pregnant looking belly who could not advert his eyes, the young asian guy, overloaded with packages trailing behind his sweetie, those who laughed and a few who just looked bored; most on holidays i assumed, a break from regularity of life, the young, the old, the in between of every colour and shape and dress, mingling through this central square across from the Macy’s and its window full of wreathes, on one corner a group of guys play christmas tunes on well-worn horns, (i want to say trumpets but i do not know what they were) and on another corner a lone older male sings “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow” and even though i feel that i have already seen enough snow for the winter, the tune runs through my mind as i wander around the block, taking a break from the sea of life; a sea that pauses as four or five motorcycles lit up fully with multicolored christmas lights cruise around the block one more time. And for a while i feel truly alive, and embraced this part of city life, the joy that it can all be. and i went back and to sleep so happy i had paused for a while.
 
I walked westwards from the mission, straight up a hill, only noticing how the area had changed, after i had felt a greater stillness and stability for a while. Still the homes here grew larger, or rather perhaps more gentrified, the whimsical sconces and decorations that made me smile, not the white homes of some areas, but a variety of colours from yellow to purple to blue, with the bay windows to let in the light from more angles, and turrets once in a while, but some decor that served no real purpose, except to please the eyes. I had been thinking how one thing i felt here over the past few days, was the lack or christmas lights and decorations compared to what i had seen in salt lake, but just then i climbed another block uphill, and lo and behold was a house so overdone, a huge tree and the home itself wrapped like a gift.

I am absorbed in the houses and in this new vista that presents itself on this overcast day taking in all that is around. i walk down the hill, see the rainbow flags down the street, and realize that i am approaching the castro – an area where i have never really spent much time – and i do not once again; it seemed more consumer oriented and a bit of show, and i wondered why i had left the mission area so soon. much less of an edge, but something… maybe a needing to be someone, but i did not linger long.

It is here that i want to stop, but there is no where that i feel to be – so i press on not wanting to return to the center of town where i stay. I walked across 17th street, or is it an avenue, another new place for me, feeling tired and wondering if i should just sit down, if i was going too far once again, like that day in monterey, or like i have done so many times in cities before. but once again, a pattern engrained i pushed on some more. I had looked at my map and saw that it would take me over towards the haight and golden gate park and to the place where i had gotten off the streetcar the night before, that corner that i meant to explore. So i walked on, eyes blurred now, not really taking in all that was there. Just pressing on.
I get to the park, i am tired and just want to sit down. I grab a bench by the side of the road, and think i need to pee – i imagine how far i will need to walk until i get to the botanical gardens where i had thought to do, or to the place i was to stop for coffee and write. My body is still but my mind chatters on, until i get up to leave, and find there was a bathroom across the parking lot the entire time. I go and explore a bit more – a group of rougher kids on skateboards and drugs by the entrance to one of my favorite groups of trees. i am no longer in the connected place i was, and venture out of the park to eat.

I get to the area, 9th ave, and that street where the N train runs just before Judah – the place where i had been after the beach only yesterday – the place where i grabbed some snacks – but then wandered looking in restaurants – playing that familiar game – looking in, reading menus but being unable to decide, so turning back empty handed, or grabbing something out of fatigue – my mood changing from the elevation by waters edge and anticipation of exploration to a let down and a loss. i was drawn back to this place today, it had called me, and now i found myself repeating my actions – the coffee shop was full, and i did not eat, and instead of grabbing a jamba juice like the night before i headed back towards the center empty handed. What was it about this corner that draws me and repels me – is nice, little pretense, some push and pull that is there (my dormmate paces once again)

I get on the N after reading the menus once again, it is crowded tonight – this of getting off at the stop near a dog park which i wished to explore. But the train is full, i cannot see out, and am riding backwards in the last car, so i end up back in the downtown core walking the grittier familiar streets, and eating at a place i have been before – a cute, cheap family run thai place, but still in the tenderloin, and i ask myself why did i get back to this zone so soon.

While my emotions on the corner where i did not eat went through a familiar play, those on the N-train were very different than the night before – the night when i also headed back too soon, belly not as full as i would have liked, but a young guy got on the train and began to juggle three and four balls, only stumbling a bit when the train would stop. Then i had smiled at him, and a young girl with bright pink tights and boots, who watched him as well, thinking this is what i like about the city, the random, frivolous encounters you may have.

but now i am tired, and back in the room, as i am in the morning when i finish this piece. Wondering if i am in the same place again, a different hostel, but much feels the same. and these are but a small part of the ramblings and insights i had. now to learn to bite off smaller chunks

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This was written in the beginning of october when i first arrived. it has been almost 2 months and i now see how i returned to a zone that was familiar to me,

I find myself in Salt Lake City – a place i have not been – and that is the reason why i came here – for a fresh perspective – a place without a personal history – or really much of an imagined context, for i really knew little about the place – the mormons, the olympics, skiing, growing – but that was about it. I had little preconceptions about here and thought i could be more clear, with a fresher mind. While in many ways this is true, during my short time here i have found myself in familiar zones.

Part of the reason i left the coast, is i found myself repeating patterns of place both inside and out and felt that i could not break free or get clear. My messy writings on this will be posted soon. In San Francisco i felt like i was being pulled into the tourist zone, one which i felt was sucking the energy out of me – but in leaving i wondered if i were to just keep on repeating that zone. And in some ways i have, for this place is new, and many of the sights i will explore (there i felt i had done all the sights to death) and also that my eyes and senses are fresher and clearer (despite the exhaustion of the day) for they lay themselves on sights that are new.

But i have also found myself back in many zones that are known to me – zones of place, though they may be spread apart by hundreds or thousands of miles, are closely associated and truly part of the same zone. I began to ponder this as i waited in the train and bus stations for daylight to break, and remembered the waiting zones of these places. And then as i went downtown just as the city was waking up, i found myself in a starbucks in a hotel – the only open place for coffee i could find, it was across from the convention center and full of business people, and i realized it was the downtown business/office zone that i once knew all too well. As i walked the streets, wide boulevards with long blocks, i was reminded of other western cities.

It truly hit as i went to the library that was part of the appeal after i thought of this town and imagined myself coming here. I looked it up on the internet, and it seemed open and airy and inviting, and somehow familiar. Now libraries are a zone that i know very well, for they are type of place i visit in each larger place – town or city – where i go, but as i walked inside the glass covered atrium, i said “i know this place” and i did. It reminded me so much of the Vancouver Public Library, a place i love, and in a city i had been thinking about before i came here. i looked it up and the two libraries were designed by the same architect Moshe Safdie, who while born abroad, has many of his roots in Montreal.
And each zone (though the specific place may be different and may be “new”) calls up memories, emotions, modes of behaviour, thoughts and the like. And how we travel not to different places but to zones, and while each may be distinct, there is something that links and binds them well beyond their geographic locale.

we may travel many miles, but find ourselves back in familiar zones. While we think of the chain fast food restaurant, the strip malls and big box stores, and the hotels where the rooms are (almost) exactly the same across the nation, and the homogenization of the landscape allowing us to remain in our comfort (or discomfort) zones no matter “where” we are, for we remain in the “same” place. But it is much more than that.

when i was in central america last winter, i found myself going from colonial town to colonial town as many travellers to the region do, and while each had its unique features, after a while i found myself calling these towns a zone, as are beach resorts, theme parks, the urban created “tourist zones”, the market places (though they differ between north america and the neighbours to the south) and to certain extent even national parks. And it is more than just travel, the (different types)suburbs, the new rising “creative” inner cities, the bohemian neighborhoods, the college towns, the office parks, the malls, all often have much more in common with each other than with other zones that are physically much more close. And often we travel from zone to zone to zone, coming back to very similar spaces, both inside and out. And i have written this before – notes of when i went to Seattle this spring – the multitude of zones there, and how i kept finding myself back in familiar places.

There still is diversity, and a larger place can be thought of as “unique” in the way that the different zones within are linked. and it makes me wonder, as i have before, is the earth really round and whole, or is it merely a multitude of zones connected by threads? (which first occured to me in Seward, Alaska – its own special place, but also both a part of and containing many zones (the small town at the end of the road, the place enclosed in a mountainous container where you do not see out, the alaskan tourist town etc.) .

So i am in Salt Lake City, and after a nap my mind feels refreshed, and the clutter of the last zone has unscrambled a bit. It is fresh, and it is old, but my perceptions feel more alive. And within, the combination of zones i travel through, is a different combination than elsewhere, and i am able to once again see the uniqueness amongst the similarity. In coming here, i ask myself what is it about these zones (within as well as without) that i am to learn?

Now i ask, i am ready to leave, but can i go back to a zone that is familiar but live it differently?

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Waiting Stations

It is the early hours of the morning. My train got in at 4am – i wait in stations for the sun to come up. It is 5:15 am – the Amtrak station – a small simple waiting room – has shut for the day. it won’t open again until 10:30 pm as trains pass through here in the late night and wee hours of the morn. The greyhound station across the way has opened up and we are allowed to wait in here.

Waiting in this station is my one experience in salt lake city several years ago – a layover and bus change on a sunday morning i believe. It is all i know of this city, so can i really say that i have been to SLC. I remember the area as being more hollowed out than it is now with the light rail and city bus stations that are here. The station too is brighter and cleaner than i remember.

I feel hollowed out – my bag, my boots, even my socks are worn down, and i feel that way myself. And i feel that way not only from the 17 hour ride, and waking up at 330 am (which was 230 for me). I seem to be the only solo woman in here, and others seem as bleary eyed and worn as myself – or more so. It has been raining and i enter bus station zone. Vending machines with their loud hum, bright fluorescent lights (that actually light up the room), metal benches – kindly with some arms removed so a few people can lie down – others sleep on the floor – a TV tuned to the news channel. It is a fairly industrial building with an exposed ceiling of tubes. They still have lockers here, and game consoles, an atm, and even an internet console – but it still is bus station zone – one of the nicer ones i admit – with multiple doors to the outside, and names of destinations overhead. It is fairly empty at the moment, a while until the next buses come or go, so it is missing the lines of people and bags standing in front of the doors.

The greyhound station may be nicer since it is part of a larger transit center at the edge of downtown – with the frontrunner, trax, buses, amtrak and cabs – a waystation of people coming and going, and with nowhere else to go. I listen to the hum of the machines and feel their vibration. Despite the bright lights all seems dull. It is a waiting rule – a room of waiting, and that i do.

In that sense it is similar to other waiting rooms – hospital, doctors, government offices and more – for the action here is waiting – the difference lies in what you are waiting for. In each case you are dependent on someone else to grant you what you need – the bus to take you along, the official to grant you something, the doctor to cure or advise you. It is a type of enforced stillness, but often you are not still. A waiting room is a place between, a holding zone.

A man paces. Another who had been sleeping on a metal bench on top of his stuff now sits, staring blankly at the screen. At this time of day there are no children; those at the amtrak station caught a cab, and were not waiting long enough to become too terribly restless. The place is fairly empty, so few engage; proximity does not force them to interact, or turn away.
Do i find myself here, sitting in this place, because that is what my life has become – a waiting, a waiting for something, a non-doing but not in the positive buddhist sense, a passivity. Others, like myself, sit with the cheap worn baggage that they carry.

It is a place of deader eyes and dulling skin, and i realize this can be the look of the poor and the down and out who spend so much of their lives waiting – not only the self-induced waiting on a miracle, but waiting on things, for that is part of what it means to be poor – waiting on officials, waiting to fill out forms, waiting for answers, waiting for housing, waiting for food if you do not have money to buy, waiting and waiting and being on hold. How much has my life been on hold – waiting?

I have usually avoided arriving in places at this time of the day – early morn with time to kill. I have avoided that expression in recent years “killing time”, but that is what people are doing here in this waiting room, what i am doing, killing time. This killing is why these places often feel “dead” or “lifeless” despite the people who are within. It is a time of impasse, of inaction, of dull eyes, and i feel myself as being more down and out. That feeling dominates these places, and can breed.

It has been a while since i have been in these stations. No, that is not true. I recently spent time in San Jose Diridon station, an hour less than a week ago, a station with dark wooden benches and dim lights, and while it felt similar it was also different. For one, i spent time outside, talking with others and thus was engaged. secondarily, it is also a commuter station of people quickly passing through as part of their daily lives, so there is rapid movement among the waiting. A week of so before after just missing my connection to monterey,i waited, and waited, killing time after i had managed to wander downtown. I had waited in the train station in Merced as well, a place i have waited a couple of times, sitting in a room with others who are doing the same thing. But i forgot about that, for these are dead zones of time, and though i have spent much physical time here, i bracket it and do not include it as part of the experience . it is “other” – a place in between, and somehow is not “real” or important, but it is.

This station, and other waiting rooms of travel, seem different from bus stops at the edge of the road, or even the transit center of short distance commutes like the transit center in santa cruz where i spent 45 minutes, but there i was talking to someone, and the movement around passed more rapidly. And it is different from the benches outside the ferry building yesterday morning where we waited for the bus to take us to the station in emeryville where we were to board the train. The action of those waiting was similar, a dulled expression, or a nervousness as people looked at tickets and the time, and over to the direction from which the bus would come. Outside on the street the energy of waiting is less contained with others walking by and street life around.

Buildings are containers of the energy, they enclose it, and it can bounce off the walls. It is like waiting rooms in airports – people glance around but do not look, some read or play on laptops, but rarely is this energy focused on the action at hand – it is more diffuse – and at times tense or bored. Sometimes there are more distractions at hand, the tv that plays the news, games, places to eat, but they are distractions at best.

I had forgotten about this zone, though it was not so long ago that i was here. It comes back to me, and i wonder how much time i have spent here. but that is like a return to any zone – for they are landcapes of the mind as well, but there is a sucking into lethargy here.

I think of the last time i arrived in a city before dawn. it was in Oaxaca last spring. I waited in the first modern bright bus station i had been to in a long while. I drank coffee at the cafe in the station – amazed by the modernity of it all, and the middle class life that was around. But still, it was a waiting, a waiting to move on in to the city. This is a poorer waiting zone – especially at this time of day. a place of worn cheap running shoes and discount baggage. And it reminds me now of Seattle and Eugene, the last greyhound stations where i have been, and they were much grimmer than here – Seattle – dull and grey without enough benches to go around, and eugene a greyness that surrounds. Here is brighter and modern and kept up and clean, but it still has that sucking feel.

Since those places i have waited at many transit stops by the edge of the road or stood with my thumb out waiting for a car. But somehow they are different – for you do not feel isolated, and connect with what is around. Even the ferry terminal in Vallejo was different, for i drank coffee and enjoyed the break, and was engaged in what i was doing.

But how much time have i spent here in this waiting zone? I now feel like i am back in travel zone – the one zone i wished to avoid, and i wonder if being here is my will or gods call. Memories of times in this zone come flying up – a long night in the port authority bus terminal in new york a few years back, of “killing” several hours in Guadalajara airport this spring, of a night in dallas or was it houston in 2002 – it does not matter for all i saw was the station late at night. I remember familiar bus stations – vancouver with wooden benches and the outside, calgary – a dark weird zone but with a cheap breakfast appearing cut off from the town, edmonton, where i often left my bags and went for coffee and dinner and then returned and waited inside – the list goes on and on. In some places i just wait, and in others i engage a bit and transform the zone – or at least a bit, for there is part of me that is waiting.

I think of central america and the chaotic bus zones – with food sellers and people yelling, and much action around – and there it seemed a bit less like waiting – the action was less contained and i was engaged in the moment to an extent. And i remember recently waiting at a bus stop in Tuolumne meadows in yosemite park, but the edge of the road, with sights around, visible to all who drove and walked by, and though i was not in a physical zone, or one that was apart, i had entered that waiting zone of the mind, focused on and worrying about when the bus would come – in that in between place of tense waiting and nothing more.

How much time have i spent in waiting zone – not just in the physical stations such as this, but in life, waiting for something to come or change, waiting for the next step of my journey, waiting – neither here nor there but in-between. And i have also spent so much time in it’s cousin’s zone – the decision-making and planning zone – no not the action zone of that, but the fretting zone, the zone of impasse and inaction. The zone that is not engaged.

Maybe that is why i find myself sitting here in these stations once again. I have been here over an hour, and it hits me – am i still in waiting zone, or am i engaged, for i have been writing all of this down and exploring the concept of zones, and so i am not merely waiting.

The machines still hum, a woman smiles as a yawn, a muffled announcement is made, more people shuffle though after a night on a bus, and others place their bags in line for one that will leave. a few men still sleep on the floor. it is still dark outside. The place begins to suffocate. i will go out and to the town and walk around

(I type this the next day, for the station in the early hours of the morn is not the place for to have my computer out. i went to town, and walked around, and realize in doing that i had returned to waiting zone – the internal zone that is not necessarily linked to the place outside)

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I find myself in Salt Lake City – a place i have not been – and that is the reason why i came here – for a fresh perspective – a place without a personal history or really much of an imagined context, for i really knew little about the place:the mormons, the olympics, skiing, growing – but that was about it. I had little preconceptions about here and thought i could be more clear, with a fresher mind. While in many ways this is true, during my short time here i have found myself in familiar zones.

Part of the reason i left the coast, is i found myself repeating patterns of place both inside and out and felt that i could not break free or get clear. My messy writings on this will be posted soon. In San Francisco i felt like i was being pulled into the tourist zone, one which i felt was sucking the energy out of me – but in leaving i wondered if i were to just keep on repeating that zone. And in some ways i have, for this place is new, and many of the sights i will explore (there i felt i had done all the sights to death) and also that my eyes and senses are fresher and clearer (despite the exhaustion of the day) for they lay themselves on sights that are new.

But i have also found myself back in many zones that are known to me – zones of place, though they may be spread apart by hundreds or thousands of miles, are closely associated and truly part of the same zone. I began to ponder this as i waited in the train and bus stations for daylight to break, and remembered the waiting zones of these places. And then as i went downtown just as the city was waking up, i found myself in a starbucks in a hotel – the only open place for coffee i could find, it was across from the convention center and full of business people, and i realized it was the downtown business/office zone that i once knew all too well. As i walked the streets, wide boulevards with long blocks, i was reminded of other western cities.

It truly hit as i went to the library that was part of the appeal after i thought of this town and imagined myself coming here. I looked it up on the internet, and it seemed open and airy and inviting, and somehow familiar. Now libraries are a zone that i know very well, for they are a type of place i visit in each larger place – town or city – where i go, but as i walked inside the glass covered atrium, i said “i know this place” and i did. It reminded me so much of the Vancouver Public Library, a place i love, and in a city i had been thinking about before i came here. i looked it up and the two libraries were designed by the same architect Moshe Safdie, who while born abroad, has many of his roots in Montreal.

Each zone (though the specific place may be different and may be “new”) calls up memories, emotions, modes of behaviour, thoughts and the like. We travel not to different places but to zones, and while each may be distinct, there is something that links and binds them well beyond their geographic locale.

we may travel many miles, but find ourselves back in familiar zones. While we think of the chain fast food restaurants, the strip malls and big box stores, and the hotels where the rooms are (almost) exactly the same across the nation, and the homogenization of the landscape allowing us to remain in our comfort (or discomfort) zones no matter “where” we are, for we remain in the “same” place. But it is much more than that.

when i was in central america last winter, i found myself going from colonial town to colonial town as many travellers to the region do, and while each had its unique features, after a while i found myself calling these towns a zone, as are beach resorts, theme parks, the urban created “tourist zones”, the market places (though they differ between north america and the neighbours to the south) and to certain extent even national parks. And it is more than just travel, the (different types)suburbs, the new rising “creative” inner cities, the bohemian neighbourhoods, the college towns, the office parks, the malls, all often have much more in common with each other than with other zones that are physically much more close. And often we travel from zone to zone to zone, coming back to very similar spaces, both inside and out. And i have written this before – notes of when i went to Seattle this spring – the multitude of zones there, and how i kept finding myself back in familiar places.

There still is diversity, and a larger place can be thought of as “unique” in the way that the different zones within are linked. and it makes me wonder, as i have before, is the earth really round and whole, or is it merely a multitude of zones connected by threads? (which first occurred to me in Seward, Alaska – its own special place, but also both a part of and containing many zones (the small town at the end of the road, the place enclosed in a mountainous container where you do not see out, the alaskan tourist town etc.) .

So i am in Salt Lake City, and after a nap my mind feels refreshed, and the clutter of the last zone has unscrambled a bit. It is fresh, and it is old, but my perceptions feel more alive. And within, the combination of zones i travel through, is a different combination than elsewhere, and i am able to once again see the uniqueness amongst the similarity. In coming here, i ask myself what is it about these zones (within as well as without) that i am to learn? And what zones within myself brought me to this place?

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I am back at harbin once again and feel like i have entered a different world – one that is more urbane, prosperous and polished. and when i sat in my tent and at my picnic table in that national forest campground outside Gasquet this is what i yearned for. i felt so far removed from the mainstream and that my life was to be on the edge of the road and i would crawl into the forest and reside in there. and i have written about harbin before – but how it feels to you depends on the direction from which you come.
I have previously arrived from the city, twice from the bay, and once after a day in seattle but had been out in small town zone. Now i come from the oregon coast and northern california and rather than being a retreat from the mainstream it is a way of entering back in – cars (mainly shiny and newer) fill the parking lot, i sit in a cushioned chair and earlier sat on a lawn. last night i watched a movie. and there is the kitchen, the cafe, the restaurant and the store so easily at hand. and from my tent site a short walk to the toilets which are individual affairs. and of course there are the pools, a place to soak. And the people seem so well dressed when they are wearing their clothes, cute pants and dresses and tank tops – first hand and quality made. And this is not just harbin, but the california of my mind, that represents this change – though this california is not the whole state, and was not many of the northern towns though i saw it more and more as we moved on south, out of the grey coast zone.

And this morning as i sat in the garden after a long soak and drinking an excellent americano i thought what i different world i was in that where i stood waiting for the bus outside elk prairie campground up on the coast 24 hours before waiting for the bus to pull off the highway in the cool grey morn waiting on the on ramp from the scenic parkway, with very little else around, i had packed up early and walked by the open land then stood on the road saying goodbye to the redwood trees, feeling that it would be a long time before i saw them again. And then i sat on the corner waiting, had set up with del norte transit to stop at the location the previous afternoon before i left crescent city and decided to camp down there.

And on the way down i passed through so many zones – that now seem like a blur – the greyness of northern humboldt, the greyhound bus, the heat and sun coming out near garberville – that strange hippie town that usually agitates me – but this time did not lash out as we passed through quick, the 101 as it becomes a divided highway, mcdonalds in willits as we stopped for lunch, two hours on the edge of ukiah – eating a burrito at a mexican store and resto across the street from the bus stop – lake transit to lakeport which looks like a cute town, then down the west side of the lake on highway then twisty road – so much not written here.

How easily it is to shift between worlds and i feel that this is fantasy land, make-believe, pretend – not only the retreat center per se, but this whole stretch of california extending for over a hundred miles in each direction both north and south of the bay. It is the land of luxury, of the boho vibe, of good living, organic foods and new age thought but of course not for all but that is what i see here.

But back to up the road – and now this afternoon i feel in a different world than i did before yesterday on the edge of ukiah waiting 2 hours for the lake transit bus – greyhound was late, so missed the connection and that felt so different than the same time the day before as i got on the bus to leave crescent city,

and the day before as i sat in the campground outside gasquet, and the day before as i walked highway 199, as the day before when i sat in the sun in the redwoods,

and the day before when i arrived there after a long trip and had just recently set up my tent and the sun emerged and i was so happy to be off the coast,

and the day before in brookings – i think i was heading back to the campground from town, but that day (which was just over a week ago) was not so different from the day before as i had done similar things but felt very different inside)

and that was different than the day before when i arrived in brookings at that time, and the day before at humbug,

and the day before eating fish and chips in bandon

and the day before on the cold cape, and so on, and between each of those moments at around three, so much had transpired. but now i think i will be here through the weekend, a bit of time to live life more slow.

now i have been at harbin for several days and all that seems but a blur – i have more to write about my time here but somehow the words will not come out – i have indulged – soaked in the pools, layed on cushions watching movies on the big screen, lounged in a comfy chair for hours on end, eaten full healthy tasty meals, gone to yoga a couple of times and more, but somehow this seems empty to me and i feel more disconnected than when i was out on the road and here in the coffee shop in middletown i feel more real. And the world of the harbins and the nice shiny vibe does not seem like the world i am meant to live in – though i appreciate it’s comforts and luxuries that abound. But it is a retreat center and feels cut off like a fantasy land, but one where i really do not fit in. And i have felt old emotions and feelings coming back to me – another person arising within.

it is more than harbin per se that produced this change in me – coming here that day on the greyhound bus with the grouchy driver, and the highway that became a divided road, and once out of the grey zone, the buildings and cars that were new and prosperous so it seems – but also the division seemed more real. and i felt a loss of the friendliness of the grey zone though i still encounter it in many places.

And it is a stasis and being where i feel i do not belong, and i feel disconnected and an outsider here. While that is often the case when i am not in physical movement, there is something more going on here – something that i cannot yet write about. but this is a time to process the experiences of the past few months and remove another veil that covers my eyes.
 

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I sit in a starbucks on the main drag of newport, about 45 minutes until the bus will take me over the long high windy bridge back to south beach where i stay. and i feel depleted and i know i have felt this way here before – on a rainy day, in november, and now the sky has returned to grey though the sun shown and the sky was blue for a while.

I have felt depleted or sad for much of the day as i passed through many zones. i woke up from dream zone, that place and environment that exists only there – a long hallway cutting underground, connecting buildings full of art, sculptures and a purple room were i danced for a bit, swirling around wearing a skirt that swirled with me, and then i climbed up to an open room with chandeliers and a grand piano with a notecard – i tried to read the schedule but a woman swept me away, and i went over to the counter to ask who was playing that night, and the woman pointed to a table with white linen and fancy brochures and wine glasses turned upside down and told me to take one of them and turned to continue her conversation, i asked again and was dismissed. the dream went on in that landscape and scene that exists in only that other world and then I woke up to my alarm clock ringing in my tent and the sky was grey. i played snooze for a bit, but as always my bladder won and i emerged from my tent – planning to take in newport for a day.

I had remembered a place when i was away, boats lined up in a bay with a large bridge that cuts across the water and remembered that remembering (or visioning) a few days ago and wondered if newport could be it. i looked at the bridge last night, spanning high across the bay, and with the winds that blew and the narrow sidewalk i knew that i would take the bus across – I got a coffee from the hospitality center at the campground, the seniors gather and i feel i intrude though at this time of year there are campers of all ages – unlike in the fall when retirees in rv’s rule. i eat my breakfast and then walk towards the bridge and the bus stop wondering if i have enough time. i take the path behind the beach through the small dunes and grass and reach the bay so quickly – much closer than it seemed only yesterday.

i walk the now empty road and under the bridge to where the bus stop is; last evening the road was filled with parked cars with people watching the ocean and playing on the beach. An eagle and a seagull chase each other and a crow squawks nearby. i am early – way early – and i look at the parking lot to the brewery – rogue – rogue nation – where i have visited and only wish i drank more as they make good beer and i like their vibe. but it is 10:20 am and i decide to walk through these more empty lands – the marina just down below, rvs behind a hotel, the aquarium – which is excellent for i visited many years ago – and the aquarium village – i think of small neat shops where i will browse for a bit.

The village seems empty and sad despite the colorful and sometimes whimsical facades on the stores that fill what i imagine was once an industrial space. I thought of coffee, but there is only a full service restaurant that seems empty. i enter into the first large building – a flea market of sorts though is billed as something more – old clothes and books and beads and shells and “collectables” and fishing stuff in a concrete shell – i browse through and think of the remains of bygone eras – a few older couples here and that is it and it feels sad and i remember being here before on a cold rainy november sunday and it felt like that then – but now is july and in the season. i go out the backdoor where smaller “boutiques” exist – a closed second hand book store, a shop with costumes, a sword shop now out of business though the pirate and piratess outside remain, but not a living breathing soul. still more time and i wander back to the bus stop where i was and wait a bit more.

I feel hard and i long to dress up, wear pretty skirts and be soft again. i think of how months ago people said my face had changed, and i feel it changing back as i regain the edge – the edge produced by this kind of life – at least for me – i think of boots and blouses and dancing and watch the few cars drive by and sit in the shelter out of the wind under the gloomy sky. I feel separate from the lives that pass on by and know that when i stayed here that time in the fall how badly i wanted to reconnect with the dance of life, to be part of something larger than i. i smell the sweetness from the beer factory and it cloys a bit at me. the minibus finally comes and takes me across the bridge.

I go down to the harbour, the tourist area by the bay. i walk past expensive coffee and junk food and smell the fish from the remaining fish plant. A child is making a barking sound and that means some sea lions are still there, i walk out onto the viewing platform and watch the 8 or so that still remain – a cage is now on the lower dock, empty but used for study, and one of the large males has a number shaved onto his back. but they always make me smile. the rocks further out are empty as i expected they would be for this is the time of year that the sea lions generally migrate elsewhere.

I walk past the undersea gardens, the small wax museum and the ripleys believe it or not and get a coffee at a cute cafe i remembered, now crowded, and take it out and sit on a bench by the water. the sun has emerged and it is getting warm so i take off my coat and feel less worn, though i know i still have that look about me. i sit and feel myself relax, calm and at ease for a little while – but then i think it is time to move on out of the tourist zone. i wander into a few tourist shops selling t-shirts, doodads, sweets, and oregon jams and wine, revisit the sea lions and the crowd of large waddling tourists that gather there and head on up the hill, to the center of town – if there is one in this city spread out along the 101, stopping at a lovely independent bookstore that smells like cat pee and older women eating lunch but i imagine they are having tea. And i ask myself, in this place, what is there for me – not to gain but to connect with.

I come to the highway and the “deco” district of more “antique” or second hand shops on the highway – now 5 lanes instead of 2. I feel like a leper as a pedestrian as cars whiz on by. Sidewalks exist, but are empty in this place where cars do not want to let you by. I will go to the arts district maybe get some real food. i cross at the lights, it takes forever for the walk sign to come on, and who do i see but evan from florence and eugene – he has found some shoes and seems as lost as ever with his thin frame and shaggy blond hair, as he gives some change to a guy who begs on the corner, and a car hands him a brownie, and though the walk sign is on and the light is red, the car pulls ahead and gives me a glare as i am crossing the street. and the cars on the 101 whiz on by.

I go down to the nye district by the beach in town, with a few cafes and boutiques and full of attitude – the cars are shinier (though not by big city standards) and it seems that many have something to prove – where is good honest healthy food without the pretence and vibe. and here i feel shabby and like i no longer fit in. i walk back up to the highway and get a cheap bite at quiznos – one of the better fast food chains – and i look out at the cars going by and ask myself what have i done. and i thought of going for chinese at a place i had been before and though i remember it had good food, it has a depressing stagnant atmosphere. And i remembered how out of society i felt last time i was here after a summer and more of life in a tent, and how those lunches and coffees in decent places was my way of clinging on – and then how many miles on down the coast i lost the need to cling and through that began to open up to me. and then down to the library where i sit inside though the sun does shine playing on my computer.

I have a bit of time until the bus back over the bridge – i will go down to the nye – it is closest and have a coffee there – clouds have come in once again, and the cafes are shut for the day so i stroll along the stretch along the highway once again. i need cigarettes and a small store has a sign with my brand at a good price – i go in at shift change as two women count the till, the place is depressing, cigarettes and beer, grey walls and fading florescent lights over worn dark carpet and the hum from some of the fridges. the woman who has just come on has a face that shows the abuse it has endured over the years – broken of sorts around the eyes, the nose and the lip out of kilter – a tough girl who makes the best of all.

Then to the grocery store the thriftway in the center of town – don’t want to walk further up the highway where pedestrians are not to be found to the larger chains – a sad store and more pricey despite the name – still find some food and end up at starbucks for a coffee before the bus. As i wait at the shelter, i remember a day waiting for this same bus though it was dark back then, a conversation with a guy carrying a back who lived in a vacant lot, and the kid who was hitching on down in the rain and how it was the days in the library, when i took the expense to get up here, that made want to go to a city with arts and more; but this is a town which i craved when in more country land, and despite the people and cars around, i feel more disconnected from the rest. the bus is fuller, and full of those who struggle on – a woman looks for work that can fit the limited bus schedule; and the passengers to the southtowns know each other well, and life goes on and the people are tough with softness around. but the place seems worn or is it just how i feel.

I return to camp and take a long hot shower and feel like a new person again. i meditate and sing to myself, and sleep and awaken to a new day. I hear water running and peer out and it is sprinklers across the way, the threatened drizzle did not come and i know i will be here another day. i think of the pretty towns, yachats, bandon, manzanita, cannon beach to name a few and how it was different here way back when – when it was a place some hippies and artists sought out back in the 80s my first time here – but even then newport straggled on, and coos bay was sad. Do i go inland, but that is what called my last time here, and i did not feel right until i reached the coast again – still the mountains and the sun do call.

And when i think of the pockets up and down this road, i think it is the divide that has become america – that polarization that has occurred – and as with the sands on the beach, all is change. And i reflect back on my trip to mayaland – not just the maya of illusion but of that 3d place and the remains of civilization we see there – how the divide took place perhaps and the rich in temples decaying within and those that remain just getting by. And i know i will venture on out of here, but this divide exists across the land and i have seen it time and time again.

i walk along the path to catch the bus again – i am calmer and quieter inside and i have my hair down and feel lighter today. i notice the fishing pier beside the brewery and the picnic tables there, i catch the bus, this time full of people who know one another by name, and go down to the bay and get another great coffee and realize this resto is one that serves good honest food with flare but without pretence but still i do not eat there. I sit on the bench by the water and the sun peaks though and the temperature rises as it did for a while yesterday. and once again i feel at peace and come to realize i generally prefer the harbours to the beaches and remember what drew me here and can see myself migrating down this road once again.

I listen to and smell one of the last fishing plants along the bay and while newport is still home to one of the larger fishing fleets along the coast it is a mere shadow of what once was. As with so many locales the runs of fish that some with the seasons have been replaced by that of tourists, a migration that one day may also change place, lessen or disappear. And i should not glorify what was – or is elsewhere – for it can be a cold, damp, smelly, dangerous job, a hard life – but there is something that makes it just seem more real. And i think of the place where i did not go – alaska- where fishing still exists as a way of life, in isolated locales and in others mingling with the tourist trade. But just as the earth and tourists are mined more efficiently, and huge patches of forests are so rapidly stripped bare, we too are raping the seas – no longer the small independent boats that predominate but the factory ships that trawl the waters taking all in.

as i sit and sip my coffee i smile – watch the seagulls around, the men (and a few women) in the bright orange rubber bibbed overalls work outside and the several with the high sturdy rubber boots go strolling by and say hi to one or two – i must admit, through they can smell like fish, there is something a bit sexy in the independent men who live from the sea. I look across the water to where a cute retriever cross was tied, and now his person is there, lying down on the dock, a full embrace, dog on top, you can see the love, then a walk down the dock, retied as the guy in orange overalls heads back to work – and i cannot help but feel the love and joy and smile and rejoice in the bay and the seagulls around and those who walk up and down the street.

still i move on – it is lunch time now – the many mexicans stand outside the plant and the music that can be heard is from that part of the world. I go up town and find the food coop and get a salad there – a true independent health food store. i pass the bus stand with too many worn with daypacks and backpacks like my own who meander in town or up and down the coast – so many worn down with drugs and alcohol but others just like myself. i am at the library where i sit and write and two guys talk of free meals at a church, places to crash and job interviews. and i go down to nye beach for a coffee and see it is not so grand, a place where some wannabe more sophisticated than they are – but others sit out at an irish pub drinking beer, and i sit on a bench for a cigarette and talk to an older woman travelling through. I return to the  library which is calm and large and used and is another layer of the town.

Tomorrow i will go on somewhere – the where i do not know. Part of me wishes i could join these small towns but the call is for something more – there is joy and love and hardness and despair and life goes on and people pass on through – for a moment, a day, a week, a year or several, or even a lifetime, but we are all just passing though.

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Sun shines today. A circle of bright blue over the city center surrounded by clouds. They are heavy and dark. Despite the strong wind that blows through, they do not seem to have moved. The threaten, but have not opened up, yet.

I awake in the morning and see the blue sky. rejoice and hurry up to get out and meet the day, no lingering inside for me. The air is cold, the wind has a bite. I look up there, see the gloom, and wonder how temporary this reprieve will be. For rain is what the weather predictions all say. I grab a coffee and sit in the parkette, a brief patch of sun before the storm blows in. I wish to walk out to the place where the plants do grow and people really live, but the clouds are heaviest over there and i fear that i will get caught in the rain. I turn back, pace around,

i walk out again along the water front. Water is choppy today with white caps on small bumpy waves. The plants are smaller, not protected from the wind, or the salt in the sea air. A huge cruise ship is in the port, larger than most of the buildings that surround. On its way to Alaska, but that no longer appeals to me. Ferries go back and forth, and the Victoria Clipper pulls in. I stare at the snow-capped mountains to the north, and realize i have lost all interest in returning there. I feel the breeze and remember the chill. Though i have been thinking of alaska since i came back to this country, i believe that it, and all that lay north, is a part of my life to be left behind. A feeling that has come back so many times, though when i came up here it was still in the back of my mind. I walk past the huge grain elevator and out down to the shipyard full of commercial ships to transport goods and to catch and process the fish.

This park is cut off from the city above, and even the buildings down below, by the impassable railroad tracks and the tall fence. The park is a strip of green, with a few benches to pause and a path to cycle and jog or walk along. I am in another place where people pass through, at one end the cruise ship and ferry terminals, and at the other, the ship yard. Neighbourhoods lay above, on top of hills with steep rocky sides. I must cross an inlet to reach one, on a long busy bridge in the wind. And i do not see a road going up the other that lay on this side of the bridge, only fast avenue that circles around the base. I sit for a minute in the bright sun, though the wind that blows fast hurries me along.

I am in a port, where all come and go, a place that people and goods journey from and return back to, passing through. I did not go to the place where people invest their lives, and i am disappointed that i find myself wandering here. Stuck between the zones once again, no longer desiring to sail away and look at why i found myself here. I turn back along the shore, do not continue on the path through industrial zone, and find myself in the center of town, that dark place i do not wish to be. The sun still shines overhead, and the clouds still loom around. I am tired now from my walk along the shore, but still wander the center more, loosing track of what is important, revisiting that dark zone, walking up and down shadow covered streets. Losing the light i had on the path and feeling to exhausted to walk out the other way. I sit inside and the sun does shine. I never made it to the other places i wished to go (though i later heard it rained there)

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