One way ticket

It's not that simple

 
World Clock, Berlin : it's a quarter to 19 where a piece of my heart is

World Clock, Berlin: it's a quarter to 19 where a piece of my heart is

14+ months. 19 countries. And when I decided to take this trip I knew I would take a piece of every place I visited with me but had no idea that some of those places would take some of me, too. Big pieces in a couple of cases. So now when I see a Thai massage salon, I catch a whiff of leaking sewer, I stumble on a broken sidewalk or into an impossible traffic pattern, I remember places I've been and smile wistful. Sometimes in a spare moment I page through my passport and shake my head dumbfounded over events that seem a year or more ago but happened only a few months back. Seriously? I was in Indonesia in March?

For all I've collected, I'll not only never be the same, but I'll never be whole--because even if I return to me second home, I'll be missing the first.

I'll never again be whole.

So what will I be? 


A couple of weeks ago I dreamed that I shaved my beard, and what was underneath was not good--ugly folds, discolored skin. I spent the morning thinking about its meaning, since clearly this was not a literal thing, of course I'm beautiful beneath the beard. At last I concluded it related to this grand trip and it's inevitable conclusion. I can't live my life as a rolling stone--eventually I'll come home. I'll sleep in the same bed of a single nation, night after night (most nights, at least). 

What will I be then? Who will I be? Certainly not as interesting as I imagine myself now. Of course, I'll be writing, and going to conferences so there's travel in that--but it obviously won't be the same.

Will that be enough for me?

Then there's the ever-present question of my life's dwindling savings, and will they outlast the rejections and allow me make this dream of writing for my living a reality? No wonder I've been getting stress twitches of late.

Here's where I like to write a convenient and clever little wrap-up encapsulating the theme and restating the thesis of my post. But I don't have that right now, except maybe this: if you look at my pics and posts and think "he gets to travel the world, must be nice" just know it's not that simple.

Nobody's life ever is.**

**Don't worry, I'm still happy, even if Bobby McFerrin isn't

Manic month of May

 

Before we wake up and the number on the calendar is 1**

I wanted to look at some (rounded) numbers that describe my month. This is the closest I'll get to math without breaking out a spreadsheet:

  • Travel distance, air: 11,150 miles
  • Travel distance, rail and wheels: 720 miles
  • Travel distance, walking: 149 miles 
you should see my shoes at this point

you should see my shoes at this point

  • Countries stayed at least one night in: 8 (Thailand, Egypt, Ethiopia, UAE, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Czechia?)
  • Calories consumed: too many
Gościniec restaurant, Warsaw: nine pierogis was the minimum order

Gościniec restaurant, Warsaw: nine pierogis was the minimum order

  • Stories published: 1 (Voluntouring)
  • Words written: did you see all the miles I walked?
  • Pictures taken: 1500+. Some were better than this:
IMG_6520.JPG
 

And putting aside the numbers, even in a once in a lifetime journey this month has stood out: I've seen The Pyramids at Giza, Lucy, the Acropolis, Auschwitz, and so much old Europe. I left my second home and got closer to my first. I got food shoved in my mouth and found the meaning of life.

What will next month bring? We'll start to see when next we wake up. 


**Hat tip to my b-school buddy Naequan, who references Bone on the facebook every new month. This is also where I post the pic of my autograph from Wish Bone, whom I met on a plane to Brazil in 2015.

IMG_1579.jpg

Back on the farewell tour: and how do we feel about leaving again?

 
More than one thing can be true.
— Mike Wilbon**

Less than a week left in Krung Thep and my feelings are mixed, but not that straight-forward: more like all of one, then that gets wiped out by the next that comes crashing in, then the next next obliterating that one and filling me to the outer layers of epidermis and thongs.

I feel ready

My time in Bangkok has been positive and very necessary. The stability gave me time to write, saved me money, and let me roam while providing comfort. It's a great city for a farang.

But it also becomes difficult/expensive to maintain visa privileges in Thailand unless you're employed by a Thai company--and that's not the deal for me right now. Plus I've struggled with the language, and it becomes isolating, even for me, to go days without a decent conversation (you should see the excitement in local eyes when you say "Phom puud pasa Thai nik noi" turn to disappointment when they discover just how little Thai you puud).

Much as I love this place, I don't fit. Sometimes literally.   

my apartment stairwell

my apartment stairwell

Plus, I want to explore all I can of these kingdoms and republics before the money runs out. So it's time to ramble on. But then...

I feel sad

I've been lucky in this life so far: parents and siblings still alive, I'm pretty healthy. So my greatest sadnesses (aside from the deaths of extended family and a dearly beloved mentor) come when I leave those I love. Had a lot of that on the 2017 farewell tour, shed a lot of tears. Those feels came back last night when my Thai friends (after a little birdy told them) organized a going-away dinner and tacked on a game night afterward.

Photo credit: Ashley (or in Thai, AshLEEEE)

Photo credit: Ashley (or in Thai, AshLEEEE)

Besides being travel buddies and islands of bilingual relief in a sea of mae ruu, they are sweet, and funny, and giving. They've made me feel at home half a world removed from mine. And as I walk away from them, and a city that has sometimes frustrated but deeply enchanted me, it's hard not to stumble. 

And then...

I feel scared

Because when I left last time, I came to a farang-friendly city where I had at least a friend. And while I'll have the same (a brother, in fact) at my next destination, the time there will be--unless plans change dramatically--much shorter. After that, I'm on to lands where I know not a soul. Lands where English and kindness to farang (or whatever I'm called there) and maybe even cell service aren't guaranteed. I'll be pushing outside of my comfort zone father than ever before.

And that's the point. That's where growth happens. That's the kind of fear I'm here to push through.

It doesn't make me any less afraid. 

 

**I'm sure somebody said it before him, but PTI was a long-time thing for me so I'll give him the dap.

Bles$ed and Fortunate

Some nice cooked food, some nice clean draws.

I am blessed and fortunate for all that I have. For free lunch mocking in the school cafeteria and 19 cent pot pies with half a crust but not going to bed hungry. For middle class in high school, eating name brand mac n cheese. For moving out to prove a point and one pack of ramen per day. For going to bed hungry. For splurging on a cheese slice or can of tomato sauce and going to bed a little less hungry until I'd forgotten what point I was proving.

I am blessed and fortunate for second chances.

I am blessed and fortunate for a bit of college and ambition that revealed success' outlines. For the fall that followed when I couldn't get past the fear. For getting my electricity shut off. For sleeping in or under two pair of pants three shirts two hats four blankets. For anger caused by ice showers in darkness.

I felt neither not blessed nor fortunate while line-standing to pay reconnect fees when I could've earned $3.37.

Approximately $3.00 rounded down

I am blessed and fortunate for third chances.

For Henry Coffer who befriended and mentored me. Who, when my car got repo'ed sold me--for $10--his van with AAA coverage. Then, when its battery died, came to where I sat because AAA isn't a thing that conveys--when he should've been resting since his latest chemo was the day prior. I am blessed and fortunate that was the last time he, the finest man I've ever known, had to fix something I screwed up. 

For Aljon Go, because it was his show on 103.3 or 102.9 that I called into, and he was amused enough to play it over the air. Days later I did it again and he did it again and I thought maybe I could do that.

For WVCP and Mr. E., who let me learn. For Lokey who showed me how fun it could be. For Eastern European tennis players who made me enunciate. For whoever posted the Help Wanted at SuperTalk 99.7 flyer, and for everyone who saw it before me and didn't see opportunity in a weekend board-op shift.

For small radio clusters with blowtorch transmitters. For Doug Kellett who gave a smart punk more than one chance and was punished with listener complaints for it. For Richard Bachschmidt who showed me excellence. For Steve Gill, who showed me how to get paid. For everyone else who made $8.75/hr so fun I earned it 60-70 times each week. For the coworker who picked me up from the roadside after my car's next thing broke.

I am blessed and fortunate for penance, as pride greed and sloth are sins with built-in retribution. For the lows since they made me sacrifice to reach the highs. For getting the damned degree. 

For the terrible company that led to the crazy company that led to the inept company. For the brother I met there. For Deanna Flannick, the great manager I met at the great company--sorry our timing sucked. 

baller

baller

For the 1991 Toyota Camry with shot clutch rusted wheelwells and steering cover that flapped each time I accelerated or broke, and did it for 7 years with few complaints.

I am blessed and fortunate for the brass ring, and less of both for grad school loan interest rates. For a corporate job that showed me what money does, and what it can't. For a coworker who passed the happiness it can buy. That the voice inside me saying "no more" found my mouth.

All are blessed and fortunate it did before the peestick changed colors. We were for mediation and being reasonable.

I am blessed and fortunate to have found my golden chains

For a higher power should it exist.

For more chances than I can count.

For people who helped and hurt me, including me. All of us got me here, which is exactly where I should be.

And when I realized all of this to be true, all regret lost its hold and slipped away like Dawn kicking even the toughest grease's ass.

Damn you Proctor & Gamble for all this dust in my eyes.

So how could I be angry at anyone? How could I stay angry at myself?

I couldn't. So in that moment I forgave everyone for everything.

And my chains are breaking.

An Optimized Life

I'm REALTOR (R) shopping. Message a few and get responses in minutes excited to meet me and learn more about my desires. I feel like the hot chick on Tinder. Or the real one.

Halloween 2015 was cray

Halloween 2015 was cray

I have lots of documents related to this home and I hope this one will help show its benefits. Then imagine the convo with Betty Goldblazer, CRB.

"The efficiency could be even greater(!) if the thermostat management features were used." I say.

"Well why didn't you use them?" She asks, her tone registering surprise that her forehead disregards as if bouncing the notion off its wrinkle-free shell.

My life can't handle this much caps lock

My life can't handle this much caps lock

"I don't know. Because so what if it's not perfect? If I get cold I put on a layer. If I get hot I take them all off. It's fine, so I don't think about it. I don't have to think about it. Everyone wants to make everything perfect, and nothing ever is. Never can be. But we fight it. We grow depressed emulating or competing with people we don't even know. We sell solutions to problems that aren't problems (apart from you being a lazy ass)."

"I am not lazy! In addition to being a Top 10 Producer, Goldblazer NextCentury Champion level from 2007-2010 and again in 2013, and earning the prestigious--"

"Yeah yeah, I wasn't talking about you. It was an aside. Click the link."

"What link?" She exclaims, the heights of her incredulity matching only those of her bottle blonde bouffant. (That's alliteration y'all).

"Point is, none of it matters. Perfection is rare by definition. Hard to attain. There's only one thing I want to be perfect in this life right now and that's my writing. I know that can never be either, but I reach for it. I work toward it. To make it as perfect as I can. To tell my stories, in my way. And I hope people get it, too, because this writing thing isn't about selling it is about communication. But that's where all my best efforts have to go. 

"And a house needs love and effort I can't give so let's get it in the hands of a family who will love it the way it deserves. Some family who will appreciate its Prom Staircase and will clean the gutters once in... ever. That's why."  

The Reasons

I've always been a communicator. In Kindergarten I won "Most Talkative" and repeated the feat in 6th grade. Had they collected superlatives at each school year's end then I no doubt would have been reigning defending. I wrote short stories and poetry through middle and high school--self-published an anthology of my and several friends' work. My first major was journalism, and my second college try was in broadcasting. I dropped out again to work fulltime in talk radio.

But I went corporate because that's where the money was. Even so, I wanted more than numbers. I had zero desire to be a consultant until multiple people I trusted described the job as storytelling. I found that to be true, though through less appealing media (maybe some would rather read a slide deck of frameworks than a novel but I'm not among them).

Oh, and there was that whole divorce thing. It left me with a lot of processing to do. I heard the voice of Stewie saying if you can't get that novel written now then you never will. So I did. Wrote my first draft in five months--finished it on Christmas Day 2014. I expect the final, publishable draft of it to be complete in 2019. 2022, tops. But the catharsis was worth more than any agent contract.

New relationships, new priorities. My ex liked calling us "joyless little strivers". My new girl was a hippie at her core, despite being a good little company drone 9:30-6. Soon my time away from the office was filled with lots of sex and laying around--far preferable to fretting over bills, optimizing future vacation plans, and trolling Crate & Barrel for the perfect silicone spatula.

But unwedded bliss had its costs. She's young and in a complicated relationship, which complicated our relationship. Still the writing gave me solace--and the complications gave me creative fuel. Meanwhile, work didn't do for me what I wanted anymore. 

So I face a convergence: single, no children, not getting any younger, no need for a big house, no desire to climb straight up the corporate ladder. And a burning wish to find out, can I write for a living? Can I tell the stories I want, the way that I want, and do it well enough that people will pay good money just to read them?

Tall order. I'll be "competing" with great storytellers--people who've been at this for decades, logged tens of thousands of hours more typewriter time than have I. Authors who long ago corrected errors I don't even know I'm making. So I need runway. Time and space to make those mistakes and continue learning by reading rejection letters and best sellers and Pushcart Prize winners. I need an arbitrage play--time arbitrage, since servicing a McMansion mortgage ain't cheap, and the very thought of that hanging over my head without a predictable income stream makes the walls feel closer.

Turns out one of the cheaper places to live in this big world is also among the most exciting and inspiring: Thailand, and the whole of Southeast Asia. I have friends from school in Bangkok and a stepbrother just across the border in Cambodia.

Now or never. And if the worst thing to happen is I work a few extra years on the tail end then it was worth the cost. Money may have a time value but so does life.

My 40th birthday

I turned 39 in September. It was my first birthday as a divorced man. And since separating days before my 37th, I've made a number of changes. The things and behaviors and interactions I value have changed. And the structures I once built around have become strictures limiting growth.

So my 40th birthday will not be spent in the same way any other (of mine) has been. It won't even be spent in the same hemisphere.

One way ticket. New priorities.

"Movin with a change of pace, lighter load." --Nasir Jones

https://youtu.be/JCOURZ-yx4E