Monday, May 01, 2017

Moving Day

Moving Day

I keep going over, in my mind, the way I envision this day going. Check out at noon; maybe go to the mall for a bite, or explore what's around the train station. Grab a Grab (ride) to the station, pick up my ticket - tickets if possible, (wondering if it's possible to make the connection to the Phuket train in Bangkok and get all the passage in one shot), and chill until 1800-ish when the train is scheduled to depart.

If the Chiang Mai to Bangkok train arrives on time, it should be an easy connect to the Phuket train, (which takes us to a bus a few hours ride). As you may have read in a previous entry, I plan; not "for" things to go wrong, but in case they do. Dotting and crossing, laying out the best case scenario, and then backing it up with a couple contingents. I'd submit that traveling in a foreign land where one neither understands the language nor the system, there are a limited number of contingents available.

A good plan/attitude I'm trying to develop, is "let it come." Allow "whatever" to unfold. I've plotted the course, next... follow it.

This practice has worked out thus far during this journey. No reason not to think it won't continue. Let the magic work, but do your (my) part as well.

I believe that "The Magic" and I (anybody, really) work symbiotically. Everyone has the ability. Most of the times when chaos emerges, it's because the person involved didn't do his/her part.

They miss a transport because they over slept, they over slept because they didn't set the alarm, they didn't set the alarm because they stayed out late drinking because they wanted their last night to be epic... and so on. Just as an example.

I keep referring to my military conditioning in these cases, but it serves me well, in these situations.

So I expect the plan of the day to unfold smoothly with few if any glitches, a lot of waiting, but I think I'm prepared. I made this trip in the opposite direction having been in Thailand only a few hours with no idea how to speak the language, completely unprepared, (no food or water with me) believing I'd be on a two hour ride, that was scheduled for twelve and took fourteen.

Hopefully, the return trip, on a Tuesday, and none long holiday weekend, will be on schedule and all connections will be made and I'll get to Kamala in time to watch the sunset.

Cheers. Time to finish packing.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sun Downing

Sun Downing

As the Chiang Mai sun sinks behind the mountain I start pondering humanity. Overtly I'm holding fast to the ideal that the meaning if life is life, however what we call reality keeps presenting me with challenges to this paradigm.

For example, if the sole purpose of life, thus its meaning, was to procreate, we (males) would die, or as in some insect societies, be killed, after we planted our seeds. We'd never see our offspring or even know if we were successful. Females, who science tells us, have only a limited amount of eggs and time in which to have them fertilized, would not live very long after they stopped producing ova.

So while I fundamentally believe that universally "Life," both within and beyond the limits in which humanity understands it, recreates itself ad infinitum, because that is its primary, if not sole purpose, the evidence within the human condition, seems to contradict this belief.

Humans don't do this. I can't really speak for plants; but I don't think that plants stop reproducing after a certain number of seasons. I'm pretty sure mammals don't stop either, unless they are stopped. 

Humans are mammals, and while humans haven't been completely stopped from reproducing, the species has certainly been institutionally encouraged to curtail its breeding.

Who knows, if left to nature, perhaps humans would reproduce in much greater numbers, and maybe die soon after their reproductive years came to an end?

This is where we reach a fork in the road; I could go off into how humanity allegedly had been tampered with and thus when considering the meaning of (human) life we cross the line between nature and manipulation, or I can  - take the blue pill and go back to pondering the greater meaning of life, after life... so to speak.

Life after fulfilling our natural duties of procreation, or life having rejected or otherwise having been excused from what I theorize as being, "natural" to living.

[Note: Not knowing who will read this or if it will be read, I feel the need to add a PC disclaimer for all those who have chosen not to have children, or to whom, for some reason nature has not allowed this to happen, yet. This is not to criticize you for your choices. It's just some thoughts and they come from my limited and admittedly biased perspective.]

Back to the sunset.

I think that traffic makes me think about life. It's rush hour and humans are in various stages of hurry to get some place. I'm not very far removed from this scenario and there are equal pangs of guilt, satisfaction and relief, that I can stroll along the side of the highway, observe the traffic going by, watch the sun set, or not, work out in a park, or not; and then sit in the food court of a mall in a country on the other side of my world, and write about it from the perspective of an outsider... or more accurately, and escapee.

The program; that allows me to do this is not available everywhere or to everyone. For me it was a matter of luck and timing and a few strategic decisions. But that's another story.

As I wander the lanes and alleys of Chiang Mai's inner mote area I take in the wide variety of humans in various roles of life's corporeal drama.

I took a little solo foot tour around the parameters of the city today. The east side seemed very occidental. First worlders, all of them Caucasian gathered in pubs, taverns or diners to socialize as they were served by locals. Elsewhere travelers, tourists, groups, browsed shops and outdoor markets amidst the rush of motorcycles, transport trucks, cars and vendor carts.

It made me wonder what this humanity thing is all about?  If someone were to ask me why I was here, I'd have a hard time giving an honest answer. "On holiday." Or maybe, "On sabbatical." Sounds better.

I am not even five full months into Freedom Year and I'm wondering if this lifestyle is sustainable, both economically and in terms of activity. I'm not used to doing anything I want to. I'm not used to not having a "job," and even making the clips seems to have become unfulfilling; although this might prove to be a temporary situation.

So why are we here? Don't answer. I don't want to burden you with humanity"s reason to exist. Let us simply ponder our own reasons to be; our individual purposes in life.

As many loyal readers and listeners know, I've signed a 200+ year lease for this body. I knew there was a twist to it. Nonetheless I'm in for the full ride. With a long term commitment like that I could take a decade or two to really do some soul searching and learning and come up with or create something meaningful, or even discover what meaning is.

Another question I've asked myself, is what the people I see around me, want out of life? Are their wants really their own wants or what they've been conditioned to want?

A driver was parked in his three-wheeled cab, it has a name, but I forgot it, relaxing in the back seat. On his lap was a mainstream fashion magazine. On the cover was a glamorously airbrushed... I'm sorry, Photoshopped couple. They looked very glossy and happily looked off of the cover and up into the the tired driver's imagination as if to ask, "Don't you want to be like us?" And I wondered what his dreams are? How hard did he hustle to get that driving gig? Does he own the vehicle?

For the travelers and backpackers, I wonder if Chiang Mai is a dream destination, another stop along the way, or a regular pilgrimage.

I never heard of Chiang Mai until I got here, but I dig.

And not to diss the apparent ruling class out of hand, I wonder what brought them here too? Did they have dreams that were easier to realize here? Was it an economic decision? How tricky is it for ex-pats to come to Thailand, own property and businesses? They might have been small business owners in their home countries who had to leave?

My fundamental belief is that we are here to continue life, however, it would seem that "society" it's an abstract - suggests we are here to expend energy, which is then converted into currency - (whatever is "currently" negotiable) and divide amongst our peers, representatives of (another abstract) "government" and our lessers, who are "unable" (sometimes unwilling) to convert their energy into currency.

We call this, economics.

What seems to be happening in our current system, and this is relatively recent, (like industrial revolution recent), is that economics is challenging nature; or perhaps the other way around.

If it is our; (humanity's) nature, as life to continue life, but the population (or certain elements there of) is considered economically burdensome; in other words, if each and every human on this planet is evaluated and assessed as to how much currency/wealth "it" can generate during its lifetime as opposed to how much resources it will consume during that lifetime, and it is determined that the latter is greater (said group consumes mire than it contributes) therein lies the conflict. There is an economic deficit that must be addressed.

The powers that be would like to use the human resource until it can no longer function and then discard it, and charge the family for its disposal. In some places this happens. Even in white collar environments, the human resource is used, stressed, threatened in the name of motivation, damaged and discarded... and compensated in paper and ink, of which a significant percentage is skimmed off to the state.

So again, I ask. Why are we here? If you're not here to continue life and you're not here to generate wealth, why are you here?

Do you know why I write? I write because I think. Writing helps me to link what seems like random thought waves together. When that happens answers come. Sometimes they are not the right answers, but they at least sound feasible.

We're here to make the middle a little more beautiful, a little more bearable. If nature vs. the artificial construct of economics are mountains, our art, our creativity, our laughter, our emotions are the valleys that protect us from much of the fallout.

Those people in their vehicles heading home, or to school or work, hopefully have something of their own as motivation to get them there.

As for me, whatever this ramble did for you, or to you, even if it killed the time it took you to read it - that time you will never get back... that's why I'm here.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Practice

The Practice

It's still a challenge to get out of bed in the morning. Not to make it sound like a symptom of depression, or something like that. For me, I think it's like a plane taxiing along the runway until it's cleared for take off.

And because this is Freedom Year, there is no pressing reason for me to get out of bed at a certain time. My eyes open; the curtains keep the room sufficiently dark, I check the time on a nearby device and decide how much longer I'm going to taxi down the runway before I take off.
It's Sunday, which probably means street fair day at the castle. I may mosey up there, or just stick around on this end... or maybe explore another direction.


The Bod is sore today, reacting to the fitness practice of the last several days. There is no barbell or dumbbell lifting involved. Just body weight, bands and flexibility training. My upper-upper, which I've mentioned before, is tight, not particularly rigid, but lacking in attributes that I believe would provide greater upper body strength and agility. So this is one of the main areas I'm working to improve. What I haven't added is a proper yoga practice. I practice getting into and holding certain poses daily, but there's no routine.

Morning View... Not Much but not bad.
"Elsewise" on my developing canvas of daily practices, the daily musings continue. The breaking of the fast with tea and toast as I bang out a few benign paragraphs that may appear to be brilliant with the passing of time. Sometimes I post them. (In fact, as my mastery of the technology improves, I will probably end up posting most if these essays.)

There are some days that I don't feel like speaking Thai. At least I don't think I do until the first greetings to a from my hosts. I think my initial aversion to it is having to think before I speak. However I soon accept that the more I speak, the less I'll have to think about it.

I don't have anyone to practice with so my trial is by fire, so to speak, in the real world. I would venture that most of the vendors I encounter, especially in the mall, speak better English than I do Thai. Often they are very helpful. I think they get that I am learning.  The guy I bought the kabobs from yesterday seemed very happy I was speaking; or probably just happy I was buying.

(My cynicism still serves me well.)

Decor of the Residence
The other side of speaking is learning and studying. It is, or should be well known by now that we can learn (damn near) anything at YouTube University, including Thai. So every couple of days - it should be every day - I take in a few videos to increase my vocabulary. I even try to figure out what sounds the symbols... letters... make.

Like most languages, native speakers talk fast and, at first sentences sound like one long word. I understand that I'm as a child learning this language so I have to listen and detect key sounds to understand.

I think Thai has a different sentence structure than English, so word for word translation won't work.
I'm probably wrong here, but I think the subject comes first. So I would ask, "the train station, where is?" Or some such. I haven't figured that out yet. There are also noun classifiers that shouldn't be separated. Not clear on that either.

Not that I've made any long-term plans to stay in Thailand, but I might as well do something while I'm here. I think learning the language of your hosts is as wise as it is strategic.

Don't Walk into the Light. The Corridor
Finally, the continuing practice of content generation, of which this blog is a part. (If some day some official, or potential sponsor or employer wants proof of the content I create.) This blog, along with the video clips, is the most original content I generate. The photography is just a copy of what's already out there, (however, I need to be a little more ballsy about what I submit to the photo sharing platform.) So there's yet another practice.
Until I wrote it all down, I didn't realize just how much I had going. It didn't seem like that much. I feel like I spend a lot of time walking around getting lost, but then those adventures turn into discoveries and eventually become content. So there's a good deal of overlap that occurs.

So, with all this down on a digital screen, we arrive at the end of yet another breakfast blog.

Cheers.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Eat Chiang Mai

Eat Chiang Mai (21 April 2017)

The easiest activity to participate in, in Chiang Mai is eating, which is a good thing. In case you haven't been here, there are restaurants, cafes, taverns and bars everywhere. Plus there are food centers, (food courts), carts, stands, sidewalk restaurants and people cooking right out on the street and the food is "affordable*." (Of course I'm writing from the perspective of someone using local cash converted from US currency. I don't know how easy 150 baht, the cost of a decent "American" breakfast, is to come by locally.) That being noted, I have seen edible items available from vendor carts along the mote for as little as 10 baht.

Last night, at the food court, (one of several places to eat) in the mall, I got a beef and rice set, (platter) for 80 baht. If you recall from a previous post, if I indeed got it posted, my standard meal value set was 150 baht. Add 30 more baht for a cup of ice and juice, and we're right on target.
If someone can afford to get here, they will be able to eat here. And although I'm always in danger of being contradicted when I make such statements, I think in most cases this will be true.

Workout Ethic

I've decided that every other day will be a work day. Stay in, or close to the spot, catch up on writing, critically editing my images, catching up on current free-media perspectives, editing video footage and exercise.

Let's look at the exercise element.

If there's one improvement I want to achieve during this year, it's shoulder/scapular flexibility and strength. I have a (self evaluated) pitiful range of motion in my shoulders which is probably keeping me from gaining greater strength in the upper-upper body, so work on this goal is a semi-daily, if not daily routine.

Second priority; the twist, oblique core strength and flexibility and fat reduction. But honestly, if I can get human flagpole type moves, I won't be concerned about a little flab.

My twisting range of motion is also self-characterized as pitifully, along with that of my neck. The side strength is much more of a challenge for me because I am so weak in this area, so this will take a much greater effort. Side planks and various twisting and balancing yoga moves will be the prescription, and now that I've written it down and shared it, I have made myself more accountable.

Number 3. Hip flexibility... again, pitiful. I've learned several hip opening routines and I need to make them a part of my lifestyle, just as I advise others to do with fitness.

Fortunately I can practice all of these beneficial exercises, and eventually routines, in a rather small space, or outside... or practically anywhere, and I can incorporate the so-called "animal" movements along with yoga, calisthenics, balance and "tactical training" that requires no equipment.

The heat wave continues today, the forecast set the hugh temp at 98.6°F, body temperature. It's an out day for me so I'd best pack up and get to the fitness area before it gets too hot.

I woke early today. It was funny. I consulted a device that was still on Singapore time and told me it was an hour later. The result, I'm up before 0700, with no problems. The only reason I don't get up before 0700, is because I don't have to. I need to convince myself that I have to. I'll get more done and I can chill inside while it's baking outside.

And, I think that's it.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Heat Wave

Heat Wave

My mobile device keeps me apprised of the weather conditions in my environment with the concern of a parent. "Stay dry, Noxsoma, rain is forecast for Chiang Mai," that sort of thing. I'm sure you can relate.

For the last few days it's been in the 90s; near 100°F (97°) yesterday with the same high predicted for today. I can feel the heat, and as anyone who's been anywhere knows heat in one environment is different than heat in another. Declaring that 97° in Chiang Mai feels somehow different than in Miami, feels like telling you something you already know.

So let's get to the update.
Tommy & Keanne get a gig.

Good news for Keanne and Tommy; they both got hired to teach English at a school in a place called Lamphun that's forty (or so) minutes west of Chiang Mai by motorcycle. Keanne shared some pictures and the views are breathtaking. I may actually have to rent a bike and ride out there. Hope I don't get carried away. I haven't ridden any type of motorbike in thirty years.

I wonder if it's like riding a bike.

Now they will be able to stay in the area - the country for four years, as planned, (or at least that's what I remember hearing.)

Since it was so hot yesterday Keanne invited to Rendezvous Classic for a dip in the pool. Great relief, but Tommy was told friends weren't allowed in the pool. No biggie though. There are probably other pools around somewhere. I might have a look at that place if I want to move inside the mote... or maybe not, I kind of like it here at TL.

It's out of the way, there's a mall down the street, the "city" is a half hour walk, the airport is close by, and if I decide I want to be more adventurous, I can hop in a red truck, grab a jitnie, a Grab, a cab or, ahem, rent a bike.

An American Meal at "The Riva" just outside the Mote
Besides the weather, what is the revelation of the day; the moment?

I've been thinking about the difference between visiting a place and living in a place. Not living to the extent of putting down roots, making connections, or somehow contributing to the community - but then again, maybe that's what living somewhere is all about. Maybe I am just a visitor; a transient, a vagabond.

Well... my answer came before the question was even fully explored.

So the difference I'm imagining is not that of a visitor vs. a resident, but that of a visitor vs. a tourist.

As a visitor, I don't feel compelled to bounce all over the area taking in the sights and such. I'm not actively or overtly trying to take in the culture, although I am learning a few phrases here and there; I've learned to count to ten (sip) and I can say "good morning" and ask for the toilet, although most places I've been some sort of English is spoken and signs are visible. Because I'm here, the culture is all around me from street food to night markets to left side traffic to the rhythmic way of speaking the language.

This isn't to say that I'm not interested; just not in a rush.

I keep mentioning, as a reminder to myself that time is a luxury I have these days. It's kind of tough to keep this in mind, because it's never been like this since that summer, maybe my fourteenth, when I was too old for summer camp yet too young to work, had no money and spent most of my days on the steps listening to music and drawing. Maybe a movie here and there and a splash in the community pool on hotter days.

Today, after decades of steady work, holding down two or three jobs at a time, activities and responsibilities, the current feeling I'm trying to describe is somewhere between comfortable and uncomfortable. But what does that mean?

Because of the environment and the era I was raised in, along with the values and work ethic that became a part if my psyche, I feel something close to guilt. This type of "freedom" has been a remote fantasy to me for some time and now that it's reality, it's going to take some getting used to. Five months into it and it still doesn't feel right. This doesn't mean that it never will.

TL Residence... The Morning Reporter
And I wonder, with the state of the global economy the way "they" (the economic doom & gloomers) say it is, how sustainable is this lifestyle? At some point I may have to generate some sort income, even if I do maintain a modest standard of living.

These concerns come and go depending on how much time I have to think about them.

For future reference and as a kind of map for people who may wish to follow my advice and adventures, I've been composing a list of seven "laws" (guidelines) really to keep in mind. They've not (yet) been emblazoned into stone, but they seem to have worked for me. Here are the top three. They must be the most important, because they are the easiest to remember. At some point I will expand on what they mean and how to achieve them, but for now;

1. Follow your heart.
2. Stay healthy.
3. Maintain your personal sovereignty.

And on that note, breakfast ends, time for the morning workout and whatever else needs to get done today. 

Cheers.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Nothing to do With Me

Nothing to do With Me

It's been perhaps three years that I've been listening to the daily financial and geopolitical reports from the alt- or "free media" via (exclusively) YouTube. At first I was annoyed by the negativity, but slowly, the more I listened the more fascinated I became with this minority reporting.

This was the "faction" for lack of a better word, that called out Obama's administration for manipulating economic growth numbers, redefining what it means to be employed full time and skewing the employment rate to appear to be better than it was. These are the guys; mostly economists, stock analysts, investors, traders, precious metals bugs and wealth managers, who supported and voted for Donald Trump in hopes that he could, would, (or will) fulfill his campaign rhetoric of "making American great again," and "draining the swamp."

Although I listen to these interviews, lectures and discussions with great interest, I realize that most if these guys aren't talking to me, or people like me. They are talking, as most people do, to people like themselves - or so I believe. They are talking to the "middle class" of America, which can be described in terms of annual income near (or most likely, in) the six figure range. The populations that draw the most disdain are government employees, (they say 10% of the US population are employed directly or indirectly (contracts) by the federal government); "illegals;" people who have immigrated to America unvetted, given working papers, benefits and free stuff; the poor, specifically those who live in the inner cities and will riot and destroy property when their EBT cards run out, and if course, the "elites," - that less than one percent that "owns" 99% of the (wealth of the) planet.

As mentioned, I find this all very fascinating, educational and entertaining. I verify none of it independently, because it's s not that deep to me. I have taken a few small financial precautions I've learned about by listening to these resources, however the more I listened and analyzed, in my own gut, what they were saying, the more I realized two main facts; first, I am not of the economic ilk to be moving my assets into most of these recommended "protect-your-wealth" programs. Nothing is 100% safe. No scheme is a sure bet. Number two; most of these guys have an angle to get into your pocket based on "information" they provide either via monthly reports, brokering stocks, teaching you how to trade on the stock market, selling the books they've written, or fixing your credit.

Not to be too critical of this genre. They're no different than any other element in an economic system; they spend their time and resources researching, analyzing, compiling and reporting and they should be compensated for it. And as mentioned previously, I find it fascinating, but I'm not savvy or compelled enough to try and make a buck off of it.

Most of their offers and reports, or opportunities have nothing to do with me, mainly because I don't have adequate descresionary cash flow to divert into investment, or wealth-protection schemes. And sometimes, I feel like it's me (not personally) they're complaining about.

From what I've gleaned from the three years of listening; and what I believe, is that the western economic system, if not the global economic system, will experience a correction, that some will describe as a collapse. I'm hearing that the US dollar will be devalued and the price of precious metals, silver and gold specifically, will shoot up. Crypto-currencies, Bitcoin (I have a few) in particular will increase against the US dollar as well. (I'm noticing some new ads for Bitcoin based financial services popping up on YouTube, which seems like a good sign for its survival. Traders have their greedy little paws in the pot.)

The big picture of the future has yet to be completed. There are too many variables to be able to accurately predict what will happen. Those who are building bunkers, stock piling food and weapons, might be doing the right thing; they might survive, be wiped out immediately or be trapped in their bunkers and suffocate. The gold and silver stackers could become the next capitalists or the next victims of government confiscation of hard assets. The poorest of the poor might be the best survivors, having never fully depended on the economic system (having been pushed out of it) to begin with.

Our best strategies are our own best strategies, whether we're digging holes in our basements or wandering around the world. What will be, will certainly be. Worrying about preserving material wealth, is a symptom of being dependant on a system in which they (free-media) claim to have no faith.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Morning Ritual

I am doing what I said I wanted to do: What I told everyone I was going to do: What I've been talking about doing, for the past year.

The fifth month of Freedom Year began yesterday and despite, apparently, "living the dream" it still takes a while to crawl out of bed and start the day.

Why is this?

Because I don't have a plan; a goal that needs to be accomplished. I'm not here in Thailand for any particular reason aside from Keanne and Tommy being here, they invited me to visit and I had the resources; time and money, to get here and stay here. Merely being here is "mission accomplished."
 
Our lovely hosts provide a modest breakfast  us daily from 0630 to 1030. This is the only reason I am out of bed, and the room before noon. My morning tea is and has been my ritual for countless decades, (maybe 3, to be honest. Since the navy.) What I've also been doing on a daily basis, is writing. Usually just recapping the previous day's activities.

I write... I don't know why I right, exactly.
First and foremost, I like it. That's really the only reason I need.

Secondly, it helps, or, it will help me to remember parts of my life... details; in the future in case my memory starts slipping away. I doubt this will happen, but one never knows.

Third; writing helps me flush the emotions out of my psyche. The emotions I don't share with others; (not that there are very many "others" with whom I would even share).

Finally, writing allows and almost forces, or requires me to at least, be honest with myself. My dad always said, "You can't lie to yourself." A wise saying, but I disagree. I think there are many people who regularly lie to themselves. However, back to my Dad's wisdom... I would add, "...without consequences."

Yes, we can and do lie to ourselves, but there's a price to pay for such practices.

Thus, back to number four...(sii, in Thai), my writing promotes honesty. And, I am honesty wondering if there is a greater purpose for me being here than simply, being here.

If I were counseling someone who asked this very question, I would say to them, "Imagine, that the only reason you are here and doing what you're doing, is because it's what you want to do. Would that be okay?"

The answer is, "Absolutely!!"

If nothing else were to come out of this year other than being where I was, and doing what did, for no other reason than because it's what I wanted... it would be okay. It's Freedom Year, besides, these words, these images and many more have already been generated from this journey.

Peace.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Temple Touring & Alter Reality

Chiang Mai Sunday and I don't have a clue that it's Easter in the states until my Facebook feed starts waking up. What I know today is that the Songkran water dousing ritual is over and I'm going to walk to the castle without hindrance.

The first thing I noticed were miniature temples, alters, out in front of businesses that had yet to open. Have these always been there? Had I missed them the last two times I'd walked this street? Or are they kept elsewhere when the business is open?


I decided I'd snap those that I encountered along the way.

I imagined that one day I might want to have such a structure with me when and if... (it will be "when") I settle in.

In addition to the "alter tour," I was looking for relatively close and good place for breakfast. Not the tea and butter-on-toast that I get here at TL. Something more paleo, eggs and meat; what's billed as the "American Breakfast."

Most of the cafes I noticed along the route to the city, (I have to remember the proper spelling of the street name) are extensions of guest houses, which makes a lot of sense. During my trek across the United States, I noticed that every hotel has a restaurant within, next to, or very near by. Most times a good hotel, say four stars or better, will offer some kind of breakfast included in the rent.

Anyway, I crossed into a place that looked interesting. I peeked at the menu before entering, found my American Breakfast was within budget and ventured on in.

The place was empty. No customers. One young guy behind the bar. An episode of Charlie's Angels was just ending with a splash; I believe a vehicle was descending in slow motion into a body of water, and Dude, I soon discovered, didn't speak much English.

Not mad at him. I'm in his country.

I've spent a lot of time pointing at menus since I've been in Asia. But as I think about it, I've been pointing at menus in the US as well as ordering by numbers, for a long time.

I don't think the kid's lack of English was his only challenge. It seemed as if he had been left alone anticipating that no one, or at least not many customers, would be in. It was Sunday around noon, Songkran was over, like New Year's Day... the proprietors might have taken a well-deserved respite.

We worked our way through the menu, which he seemed unfamiliar with. He may have even prepared the meal... the meat, across the board, was under-cooked. He didn't seem to know what tea was, or that it came with the set.

We both endured each other respectfully. Working through our respective challenges.

I thought about leaving, but I didn't know whether I'd be doing him a favor, or insulting him, the business, the family and the ancestors. In the end, he cut me a break on the bill. Much appreciated. Not sure I'll return to that spot... I can't recall the name. Only because there are many other place I want to try.

I went out with no plan today, but as it was Keanne's birthday I figured I'd go up near the Rendezvous guest house, just to see if I could find my way there with no trouble.

Nope!

I didn't get terribly lost. Just lost enough to stumble upon a farmer's market that sells bulk (bagged) nuts and packs of dried fruit; essentially the ingredients for train mix!!

While sitting on the "stoop" of the guest house, which I eventually found, scarfing up the wifi and composing a What's App message, I recognized Keane's voice. She and Tommy were walking by; perfect timing. So we went down to the temple/market place and hung out for a few.

The day was turning out to be dry, but the clouds were coming. It hadn't rained yet, but it was probably coming... eventually.

The streets, whose names I have yet to memorize, were being prepared for the Sunday night market. Vendors are set up two deep in some places and not only on either side of the street, but right down the center as well.

I don't know what the "usual fare" is, but you can probably guess what's available; arts, crafts, clothes, various souvenirs, jewelry (seems like there's lot's of silver for sale) and lots of food.

And speaking of food, on the way home, along that wide street that hosts a lot of activity, restaurants are literally set up on the sidewalks. Folding tables, plastic chairs, umbrellas and the carts... the grills... the stands where the food is cooked, prepared and served, are all set up right on the pavement. Motorists can even drive up and get a meal to "take away" if they want to; almost like a drive through or "eat in" as it were.

By the time I got back and logged on, I realized it was Easter in America. I realized how clueless I was, and happily so, of this Christian holiday. Yet, ironically, I was having a spiritual day simply by photographing spiritual symbols, (the alters), and spending time in the temples, even if I was just buying beads and drinking chien... (iced milk tea).. or is it tien??

Today... it was April 16th, marked the first month'aversary of arriving in Asia and the eve of the fifth month of Freedom Year. I can track my time here by American holidays, by comparison. Next one will be Memorial Day, in about six weeks. I have about twelve days left on my place here. Soon, I will start thinking about the next location.

More than likely I'll be alone there, but you never know. So far choices are, Phuket and Penang.

Note: I think you can click on the images to enlarge them. 

Monday, March 06, 2017

Walking With Destiny

Oakland, California - Fifty-five days since leaving Philadelphia.

Taking a break today to relax, stabilize my soul, catch up on stuff and look over my shoulder to recap what I've done and where I've been and report to back to You... (or me... via a future look at this blog.)

I believe that history should be taught from the present backwards... so let's start this journey with yesterday.

I took the BART from Coliseum station in Oakland to Union Square in San Francisco, (a $4.20 ride, hmmmm) where I met up with Barbara, a friend from back east who I met through Alexandra (who I've known for eleven years now.) Barbara moved to SF just eight months ago, so we were both exploring the city by the bay more or less for the first time.
After our authentic Mexican Lunch: SF 3-5/2017

There are several ways to explore a city. Depending on one's tastes and interests it might be a bar crawl, or a series of restaurants, photographing sites and/or landmarks or a shopping excursion. Our tour could be described as urban hiking with food and drink breaks. Of course, I captured as much as I could on video without taking anything away from my most excellent hostess/companion and you'll be able to see this is an upcoming episode of Vagabond Philosopher.

The day was characterized but not overshadowed by some weird weather, specifically and hail storm that I thankfully missed while I was on the train. Otherwise it was warm, cold, cool, windy and there was something that resembled rain-flakes cris-crossing in the air while the sun was shining. Geo-engineering perhaps??

I have vowed that I wouldn't live anyway colder than Philadelphia and that includes the Bay area. Wandering around Oakland reminded me of being in certain parts of Brooklyn; it has that kind of feel. David Chappell noted that San Francisco is like a east coast city, and I think that comparison extends to Oakland, particularly the downtown area... which was so dead around 12th Street BART station on Saturday, that I had to literally check my phone to make sure it wasn't Sunday. Walking towards the bay (west, I think) I came upon Swan's Market where a number of events, including free wine tasting was going on. I found my way to Miss Ollie's for a pretty good salad, people-watching (another nod to Brooklyn) and a great soundtrack.

So this journey has been going quite smoothly - all signs that I should be doing exactly what I'm doing, the way I'm doing it. During the last five years my awakening has accelerated, exponentially it seems, from the leap it took in 1996 and, dare I speculate from the initial pangs of higher consciousness that I felt in 1982 (which I then described as an attempted nervous breakdown. I tell myself I held it off, but it was, in hindsight, one of the most powerful feelings I've ever experienced.)

Hobo Highlights

I've been riding the rails since New Orleans. My original idea was to ride Amtrak from Miami to California, however, as I later learned, that line was discontinued due to Hurricane Katrina in 2006, so I rode Greyhound from Miami to New Orleans... if only cost $50.00, but that included some Road Rewards discounts and an 0500 departure time.

Gainesville, Florida Greyhound stop, 2/15 2017
The scheduled trip from Miami, Florida to New Orleans, Louisiana is scheduled to last 25 hours. There are lots of pick up stops across Florida, which is the majority of the trip. Most people were going to Orlando, but a lot of people got on in Gainesville, headed for New Orleans.  The bus route took us along the southern gulf coast of Florida; a lot of resort areas. There were no stops in Mississippi and I think I slept through that whole state. We changed buses in Mobile, Alabama where we had a three hour layover from midnight to 0300, so nightlife was out of the question. We sat in virtual silence in the station; my one entertaining moment - an episode of Seinfeld.


What I didn't know at the time was New Orleans was hosting the NBA All Star game so I had to split my stays up between New Orleans and Harvey, La., on the west bank of the Mississippi River. This also turned out to be destined as I lived in Harvey in 1980 when I was posted in Louisiana.     


Before leaving the country I set two obligations - I had to see my children. My original plan was to spend a month with each. I was in Miami for five weeks with Stazja, who has her own place. Xave is more of a vagabond at this point in time so I spent less time in the SoCal area. Also, because of the nature of the USA Rail Pass, from Amtrak I didn't have weeks to settle in one place for very long.

The trail pass costs $459.00 and is good for 8 rides in 15 days, there are other passes that cost more, last longer and allow more rides (or segments. Some routes are serviced by buses, particularly the Central Valley, so going from train to bus to train, would be three segments.)

I didn't need all the rides on the pass. I broke the trip into maybe five or six segments/rides; from New Orleans to Tucson, where I stayed for two days (thanks to my brother for hooking up the hotel rooms in those cities); Then to Los Angeles, where I stayed with friends (Nancy and Matt) and their pups. I got a ride down to San Diego with my son and stayed there for a couple of nights. (Left there is the rain.) Then up the California coast on Amtrak's Cost Starlight line, which FYI, you can ride from Los Angeles to Seattle, Washington... exquisite scenery, if that's what you're into.

Typical scenery around San Luis Obispo 2/27 2017
I explored San Luis Obispo for a couple of days where I celebrated my birthday-eve by walking ten miles from the hotel into the downtown and back with about 10-15 lbs. in my backpack. I hardly noticed mileage probably because it was such a beautiful day and I wasn't in a rush and I didn't quite know where I was going. I had no deadline and no agenda so time and distance didn't mean much. However, on the way back... during the last leg, I did start to feel fatigued. Slow-twitch muscles in full effect that day.


Birthday Blessings

I spent the eve of my last birthday walking around the Singapore River. I think I covered 10 miles that day as well. I know I was out for five hours.

This year I woke up in San Luis Obispo with the idea of exploring the County. SLO's regional transit system offers a $5.00 day pass (rides are $2.00 each). I thought it would be fun to ride down to Pismo Beach because I'd heard the name and didn't know anything about it.

3/1 2017 Pismo Beach
Bus 10 only makes a few stops and one of them was near (20 minute hike) from the Rose Garden Inn where I was staying. The next stop, via the Pacific Coast Highway and a nice coastal view, is an outlets mall. I know several people who'd like this place, and there will be an episode of Vagabond Philosopher that includes some of this footage.

Disappointingly, the actual beach is a mile back so I didn't make that trip, instead I stopped into Huckleberry's Louisiana style restaurant for my birthday meal... which was great!! Then I caught the  next bus south to Arroyo Grande, but there was very little there. There was enough however to get what I needed... a little more cash and a little more trail mix.

The train ride from San Luis Obispo to Oakland is the most scene and beautiful I've even encountered, I understand why people fall in love with California. While I was waiting for Amtrak's train #14, which was almost an hour late, I did some exploring around the station. Had another Cajun meal at a cafe called Bon Temps where I briefly encountered an awakening spirit and relayed a message and learned a little bit about the history, both tragic and grand about the history of San Luis Obispo, its economy and general layout. I was most impressed that there are "no bad areas" in SLO, as told to me by Mr. Edward Sweeney, but it's also a little to "white bread" for he and his wife and they have to go elsewhere to get their diversity fix... so to speak.

Being sensitive to ethnic diversity, I also noticed only the occasional POC in the SLO mix, although I didn't sense any overt "isms" while I was there, but then again, I'm not overtly ethnic enough to always raise the hairs on the backs to certain necks. I found it very easy to start cold conversations with people, especially when I had a question about something or the other.
Amtrak SLO Station Tribute to Chinese Workers

I arrived at Jack London station in Oakland around 2300, requested a Lyft and got a freelance writer who also contributed a weekly newspaper column. He shared that he's a procrastinator. I suggested that we creative types don't do our best work unless we have a clear and present deadline... it's a matter of adrenaline. I offered, Fight or Flight or Write. He liked it. Totally told me he was gonna use it, properly credited of course. I told him I'd probably forget I said it.

I didn't forget. 

Fifty-Five days out of Philly and eight days left in the US. The waves have been flowing smoothly and I've been riding them effortlessly. I am following destiny... not chasing it. In fact, I might rephrase and say, I am walking with destiny.

For many years I've been traveling, searching... for a place that feels like home. I'm heading there now with no unrealistic expectations and a followup plan just in case. I realized as this scheme was coming together so beautifully, that I hadn't planned that it could actually work out. But as I always say - working out is the easy part. All I have to do is do... effortlessly, and the Universe will work... as it should.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Super Bowl Sunday

After a very active week, both in fitness and exercise and a Saturday exploring Miami and making new creative, artistic friends, I took today off, and as the sun sets I am feeling guilty about it, but also making excuses to myself as to why I didn't go out AT ALL today. I can still go out tonight, but I'll probably run into Super Bowl events. There's still the opportunity to hit the gym also.

But I deserve the break.
Great Saturday at Allapattah Market


So what I did was catch up on some cyber education and activity I needed to take care of. When I do this I get kind of confused. This New Digital World Order is very new to me. It requires a lot of memory - in my head, not necessarily the computer - and a good deal of organization and security. I'm going to have to work myself slowly into it.

I thought I had more to say, but I don't. I feel a wave of organization coming... and that means anxiety... I don't know where to start. If it gets too intense, I'll go workout. I have a few ideas about that also.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

I'm Alive: Bizarro Dream #20517

I find myself on an airplane heading towards Washington D.C. (I know not from where). We're flying low, between buildings and close to rooftops. This doesn't seem right to me so I ask the guy next to me and he tells me that I don't understand the intricacies of flying in DC.

Okay, so maybe it's me.
Doc's Diner Key Largo, FL. Jan 25, 2017


An interesting characteristic of my dreams, and maybe yours also, is that, while I'm completely unaware that it's a dream, I have multiple perspectives of the scene. I can be inside the plane talking to my seatmate (I was in an aisle seat), but I can also see outside of the plane as well as the whole plane itself. So I can seethe plane maneuvering; I can see it heading for a building and flying over it.

At one point I felt the plane land. I'd assumed crash position, although I wasn't instructed to do so. At that point most of the passengers stood up and applauded - which I found unusual - but not unusual enough to snap me out of the dream.

Problem was... we had not landed, and the next thing I know we'd crash-landed somewhere that was not an airport.

I came to consciousness in a hotel or hospital that resembled a hotel. I was in a wheel chair and there were several female journalists (they were all female) staring at me, asking me questions. I wondered "why me?" and either thought it, or told them that I wasn't important enough to be interviewed. They started vanishing before my eyes... (this is one of several points that I questioned if this was a dream, but I could not pull myself out of it, so I just rolled with it.)

I found one of two communications devices that I usually have on me - but what I pulled out of my pocket was a silver flip phone. I started pressing out a text message, "I'm Alive" with the intention of sending multiple messages to my family, but for some reason the phone was not properly responding... For some reason I could not type out A-L-I-V-E, I would get two L's or the phone wouldn't complete the word.

Eventually, I woke up - or should I say - "my" Spirit returned to its Body, after its astral adventure.

Some dreams are far more memorable than others, and some seem to demand documentation. This is such a dream. It also begs the question why; what prompted this dream?

The only guess I have is that I've been watching 9/11 documentaries. Maybe the Spirit (Atman) was off on an adventure, or maybe it was reflecting what I was feeding the Mind... or maybe it was a warning, although I doubt it.

During the dream I felt no fear. Mostly concern and curiosity. There was no doubt that I'd survive. Normally in dreams I find myself suddenly and unexpectedly at great heights - and terrified. Recently - over the past several years - I've been making an effort to get my "self" under control when it comes to heights in the dreamtime realm. It seems to be working.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Woke

A lot of humans believe they are becoming awake. “Awake,” “woke” and other derivatives thereof have ascended to buzz-word status.
You can't stay Woke til you become Woke

It seems, from my observations, that most humans – (based on social media posts, comments, video clips and rants) consider their awakened status to be an awareness of other peoples’ faults and flaws.

In my opinion, “woke” people don’t behave in divisive ways, which not only includes, singling out groups as – name your negative characteristic; but also singling out their particular cohort group as, name your positive characteristics.

By the way, I am guilty of this on many levels. I am still a work in progress, and this very essay is probably more for my own awareness, than for anyone else’s.

I believe, from my interpretation of the literature and lectures, that becoming awakened has more to do with us knowing who we are, first as an individual and then by natural progression, collectively and then spiritually, rather than criticizing others for their flaws and faults.

When this occurs, we become free of dis-ease; bodily, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

“Woke” people don’t trouble themselves with the trivialities of the material realm.

This message was sent to you from Source, from the Universe, through me… offered for what it’s worth.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Blissfully Oblivious

I sat out by the pool catching some rays while America lost its mind. Of course, maybe not everyone lost their minds. Crazy or not Donald J. Trump, for better or worse - we shall eventually see - was inaugurated 45th President of the United States.

It's mean of me to be glib and outright laugh at this because so many people I know care deeply enough about this situation to go out and protest... and let all of us know that they are going to protest; and even cross several states on what must be a crowded bus to stand in a crowd of protestors... I have to give them credit for their passion. For whatever they think they are doing; what they are changing, or going to change... or just being heard.

And that's all I have to say on that note. As for me. I see the situation for what it is (okay, not really what it is but what I see it as), a show, a game, a manipulation - A Matrix. This concept might not work for everyone, but at the moment it's working for me. It allows me not to get bogged down with issues that don't immediately affect me, either positively or negatively.

Today I ventured out to the Indo-Pak store and I have to say I was someone disappointed. The lady at the counter was friendly. We had a nice conversation. I introduced her to BitCoin and there was no TV, but there was also no roti; no small restaurant or cafe inside as I'd hoped. I've been spoiled by Little Bangladesh in Los Angeles and the Pakistani spot in Upper Darby, which I didn't get to visit before I left. Nonetheless the store had the spices I was looking for, some expensive... but fresh and halal lamb and friendly service.

Right across the street was a kosher market. They were closing up... at 3:30PM! I figured it must be something Jewish... duh.. Friday - I didn't remember it was Friday at the time.

Instead of calling for a Lyft right then I decided to wander around North Miami Beach for a while. I found quite a few markets, including Lorenzo's Italian American farmers market. Whoa!! They had a lot of goodies. And right across the street was another Italian spot with shelves full of wine and impressive butcher shop and a cafe nestled inside as well.

I decided I'd walk as far as I could until I came upon this RK Center.... (they are all RK Centers it seems) where I spotted this tapas spot called B-Bar. It was empty (between the lunch and dinner crowds) and I almost thought it wasn't open. Nice place... the bartender was cool, welcoming and had a nice chat. I ordered mussels... some of the best I've had... and a beer... bottled... less than $20.00. I guess that's pretty good.

Anyway. Livin the life. Still not tired of it yet. I still have some work to do. There are still some BitCoin Conference clips to edit and post up. I kind of wanted to wait until the inauguration so the other clips I sew in will be more relevant.

I don't know why I don't offer to take portraits of the people I run into. I need to start doing that - at least offering.

Oh, great ride out to the place. Had a conversation in broken Spanish and broken English with my Lyft drive. He said my Spanish was good. "S" pretty much doesn't exist in a lot of words here. I told the guy I was a writer.... escribir but it sounded like he was pronouncing it ekribir. So I'm like a little kid who's just repeating the words and terms I hear every day until I get comfortable. I thought I might lose it when I left Florida, but I'll be traveling across the south... so Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California... Spanish might come in handy.

Adios Amigos...  

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Naturalist Maneuvers on the Beach

I will often pre-excuse myself by declaring that I don't, or haven't had time for one undertaking or another, when it would be more precise to state that I haven't taken the time. So now that you know where I'm going with this... on with the show.


Freedom Year is nearly a month gone. Contrary to the way the event might seem, Freedom Year began at noon on December 16th, 2016 - my official last day of work. There were exit procedures to attend to which delayed my departure by several weeks, however I did make it out and on January 10th of 2017 I landed in Fort Lauderdale to officially begin the next leg of this adventure.

My timing, as usual, was fairly lucky - I believe that luck runs in our family. Legend has it that our (my cousins, siblings and I) great grandfather was struck dead by lightening. In my imagination, real or not, his sacrifice has cast a blanket of good fortune upon us for countless generations forward. Most of that luck is a matter of timing. I arrived at Fort Lauderdale International airport several days after the shootout took place. I also missed Southern Florida's two-day winter, during which, I am told by a friend, she had to don her thermals.

I didn't know what to expect when I got down here - I wasn't thinking that specifically. I've had two new experiences - one planned, the other more of an opportunity. On the 12th of January I caught my first (well second) ever moon rise. This was the first one on the beach. I caught it on video, however it's not as good as I could have been. I have to gain a bit more experience with my equipment. I have a remake, remix, myself into a photographer again... as well as a videographer.

Second new experience was chillin' out on a nude beach - well clothing optional - I went full Monty however. People have commented about it being liberating. I didn't find it especially liberating. I didn't even find it out of the ordinary after a while. It was nice to be outside naked... so now maybe my bottom half will catch up with the top half in depth of color.

Nudity is such a taboo - or has been - but it probably still is, in this Judaeo-Christian, Puritan culture that whatever we (or, I) consciously want to think and/or believe is over-ridden by what we've been conditioned to believe, how we behave and how judge others on their behaviour. So in that sense maybe it is liberated and perhaps I haven't been completely liberated yet? Or, conversely, I didn't need to sit out on a nude beach to become any more liberated. Either way, I thin
Mary Kay, Friend, Fan, Follower
k I'll go back.

Don't ask for any pictures... although I was going to take a selfie and record an update, one never knows who will be caught with their pants down... quite literally... in the background.

I have yet to explore the City Miami. I have a few spots I want to go and at least one friend I want to catch up with. But there's time for that... maybe. I plan to exit Florida around the first of February, but I might stay longer. I am on a mission and I have promises and an itinerary to keep. Although it doesn't sound like freedom I still believe it is. I am exercising the freedom to fulfill the promises I made.

So, today... I got two workouts in. I can do this here a couple of times a week, probably. I'm feeling the soreness now, probably from the one this morning - it was all body weight and movement.. like the animal movement, low to the ground, crawing... low game, I call it. I haven't graduated to creeping... very low to the ground, yet, but that will come. I want and need to do more work on my arms... balance, handstands, etc. Maybe once a week... on the first day after a break. I will continue the 500s - that, I believe it doing wonders for the Bod.

Okay.. I think I can wrap this up. In fact I need to, I am sore and need to stretch.