Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Time is Irrelevant

For a few days now the time and date has been unknown to me, and everytime I think to ask someone I stop, because it is irrelevant.

One night I cooked a nice spagetti dinner for ten of us at the hostel, and some of the girls wanted to cook again the night after. I guessed that I would be back to eat at ten-o-clock and we called it a date. This was the first reference to time I had used in days, and I don't know how I excpected to hold to it.

That day me and a friend took off on an ATV to the opposite end of the island to visit a book shop and to watch the sunset that Oia is so famous for. I was far more impressed by the bookshop, where the volunteer staff from all over the world slept in bunks built among the bookshelves. They practically had to climb up the stacks of books to reach thier beds. Books were piled to the ceiling and followed spiral staircases leading to the terrace above. I had never seen anything like it.

After the sunset, which sets very late, we had an hour ATV ride ahead of us. I remembered dinner, and thought for a second to check the time to see if we ould make it back. And I remembered that it is irrelevant. We were where we were at that moment, and the hour long journey ahead of us would still be there if we knew the time or not. So instead of asking for the time, and anxiously driving back to make it to dinner, it was better to remain dettached from time and enjoy the ride home.

We arrived perfectly on time to a wonderful, all-you-can-eat home cooked meal and lots of good company. There was no rush or worry involved.

That night I talked with a girl about this concept: to enjoy every moment, hour, or day without worrying about the days to come. It is not an original though obviously, though it is an original feeling to be ok with it, one that goes back to many existential philosophers and writers. Dostoevsky in Notes from Underground wrote that the act of achievement is more meaningful than the achievement itself. Sartre in all of his writings glorifies the momentary experience, as does Camus in many of his novels.

I remember when I read the works of these writers feeling very dark and hopeless in a world where tomorrow is irrelevent, but I am now experiencing the beauty of appreciating the here and now, uncomprimised by the worry and anxiety of tomorrow.

Jesus talks about this way before all of these existential writers, in verses that have always been among my favorite in the Bible.

"Do not be anxious about your life,
what you will eat, nore about your body,
what you will put on. For life is more than food,
and the body more than clothing...
And which of you by being anxious can
add a single hour to his span of life?
If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that,
 why are you anxious about the rest?"
Luke 12:22-26

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

High and Lows of a Lone Traveler

Courtyard at Cave-land
Soon I will have been in Santorini for a week. I originally though I would stay here a few days and then continue onward to explore and discover many more of the Greek island variety. After meeting so many travelers who have seen many other islands already, I know that each island is unique in its own way. Santorini is known for its white, red, and black beaches and the Caldera sunset, Ios and Mykonos are the party islands, Hydra is desolate with only one means of transportation, donkey.

Travelers are always suprised when they here that I plan on being in Greece for so long, as they usually have come from all over the world and have many other destinations to go. But after a whole week on Santorini, I still haven't seen half of what it offers its visitors, and Greece further still. A summer is not enough time to know the island, not enough to know Greek culture. So I'm happy to be in Greece all summer, to do it right, not to rush in all of a countries sights and monuments at the expense of the people and culture that created them.

The longer I stay in Santorini the more beauty and culture reveals, every time a high moment of my travels, but I have also been dealing with the lows of traveling alone. I have been meeting so many great people. I think that most world travelors have a lot in common, or they would not all be traveling to begin with. They are the margin of people from wherever they come from that are open to new experiences, positive about life, and free from all that constrains us at home, or at least trying to. So it is rare to meet a fellow traveler who you don't like, and it is just as rare not to have one or two everyday that you become really good friends with. Sometimes you hang out with people for days without even knowing (in my case, remembering) thier names. But names are not important in a setting such as traveling. What's important is to share experiences together, and what is best is to share yourself to others.

"You give but little when you give of your possessions, it is when you give of yourself that you truely give. For what are our possessions but things we hold on to for fear of tomorrow?" - The Prophet (Kahil Gibron)

Abroad you trust a stranger from the moment you meet them, unless they later do something to break it, where at home it is the other way around. You have to slowly build trust with other people, and the process of building relationships is greatly drawn out. No wonder people at home struggle with being lonely, it is the nature of a routine life.

Baglama, my new greek instrument.
So Im meeting really interesting, one-of-a-kind people, but usually one or two days later they're on thier way gone. The relationships don't last, only the memories and experiences of moments together. Then I am alone, and I have to start all over. Sometimes I will move to a different hostel or place on the island, even if its more expensive, just because of the people that are staying there. If I vibe well with the people, it's worth the move. It becomes an emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows. Giong into this trip I knew this would happen and I told myself I would be open to it. I think I have been much too detached from my emotions in the last two years anyway. The passion that I so desire in life is inspired by the high and low experiences both.

So what of all these great experiences I've been talking about? I will share a few from the last few days.

After staying in John and Katerina's Hotel on the south end of the island, and saying goodby to Kelly and a New Zealand couple I had been hanging out with, I headed to the more central part of the island to a place called Cave-land (, a new hotel/hostel in a quiet country vinyard where the rooms are built into dug out caves from hundreds of years ago. The feeling this place produced in me was the same I had in one of my favorite movies, A Good Year. The main character, Russel Crowe, a wealthy stock broker from London, inherits his uncles property in the countryside of France, and as he prepares to sell the place for whatever its worth, he begins to re-live old memories and eventually he finds himself in love with a girl, and also the property where he spent his summers growing up. Throughout the movie he is fixing tennis courts, swimming pools, side gardens, and vinyards, all of which are hear in Cave-land.

Here I met Michael, a guy working at the hotel and perhaps the most like-minded person to me I have ever met. He's been working in Santorini for four months and originally came from Mississippi. He is creative, spiritually sincere, a student of world literature, a lover of music, and we hit it off really quick. I almost feel like I've known him my whole life. Since he has to stay at the hostel to check people in and out all day, we end up just sitting around the cave, talking about literature, and out of two little speakers play music that bounces off the walls of the cave and sounds like a thousand dollar surround sound system. Music I've been listening to forever is beginning for the first time to echo in my soul, a purer form of communication between artist and listener. Talk about a surreal experience.

Although Michael works at the place, he understands my situation, homeless and looking for work in a foreign country of a different tongue, and he kinda helps me out a bit. Veronika and Costas, the couple who own the place, are both very cool and I was hesitant to except some of what Michael offered because I didn't want to take advantage of them. But my mind has been working lately in survival mode, and so I justified some of it by helping out alot around the property and doing dishes and giving some of the clients rides to and from the airport. Regardless, everyone seems to like me and would rather have me stick around than see me go.

Back in athens I bought my Greek souveneir early, a mandoline-like greek instrument called a baglama, that way I could learn to play it and have something to do when I get bored. It's been alot of fun!

I also met two Australians at Cave-land name Donna and Joan, both older than I with careers teaching and scientific research. They have been my adventuring buddies the last few days. They both leave tomorrow.

My time to leave Santorini has not come to an end yet. I just feel drawn to stay and I don't know why. One reason I suppose is that I have spent more money than I thought I would at this point. Transportation is just so expensive and I know the more I hop around locations the quicker I will run out of money. This takes me back to the question I answered to myself at the beginning of my traveling this summer. It is better to submerge yourself in a culture rather than just checking it out at a tourists distance. So I will stay another week, or even a month if I can find a job.

In the end, these kind of things work themselves out.

Donna and Joan
The best food ever!

The Cave

Cave-land Crew

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


(I am having trouble on this computer uploading the photos to go with it onto this blog, so I've put em up on facebook here ....!/media/set/?set=a.2086551813605.2126397.1539476984)

Santorini must be the most beatiful place I have ever seen. Dispite a bad first impression, due to the fact that when I arrived on the ferry I hadn't slept in two days, I realized quickly that staying here was going to be easy and cheap, a place that many people dream about throughout the world.

After arriving to the poort that is against the rocky cliffs of the caldera, I took many busses, to the central island city of Fira, to Pyrgos, and finally to Perissa on the south end of the island where John and Katerina's Hotel was located, so i had heard. A few girls I met at the Acropolis in Athens told me about the place for only 6.60 euros a night (less than $10) living in dorm style beds. I quickly found the hotel and met Rick, an American from Miami who lives on the island over summer to help John and Katerina, who only speak Greek, with hotel bookings. Marcos, John and Katerina's son, and his wife, run a bike, scooter, and ATV rental shop and an internet cafe next door. As I was walking through the place to my room I couldn't believe it. Patio chairs and tables next to a pool and just a beautiful Greek hotel for so cheap! I was excited to find my friends from the Acropolis pull up on an ATV they were renting three days for 24 euros. They were coming back from Santorini's famous black sand beaches, just down the street, and were about to head to the Caldera for the sunset. I jumped on the back of another ATV that two other girls I had just met were driving and the five of us zoomed through the fresh island air, with green vinyards and Greek island estates all around us. The island is shaped like a crescent moon, with a volcano in the center, and other islands you can see in the distance. The Caldera is the magnificent view of the west side. The small town of Oia on the northern tip of the crescent is kown around the world as the most beautiful sunset spot ever.That night we went to our own lookout spot on the inside of the south tip of the island, with the volcano and Oia in view, ferries and sailboats coming in and out of sea, and the rocky caldera cliffs all along the coast. This would be a prime proposal spot, there were couples all around sipping on wine and cheesedishes under the romantic sunset that is sure to make you fall in love, if you hadn't already. I watched all of this as I fell in love with the island itself. This was the first night...and it wasn't even over yet.

That night another girl named Kelly showed up who was travelling home to Canada after two years living and working in Sidney, Austrailia only to move again after summer live and work in London. She had been travling the world for three months already and her trip was coming to an end. With her beautiful red hair, Austrailian/Canadian accent, and all of the confidence and experience of a world traveler, I could not help but be very attracted to her. We ended up spending all of tuesday out adventuring the island together. I rented an ATV, and instead of her buying one for herself and going out alone, I offered to share mine, go out together, where we would both save money. We hit it off really well in the beginning, and the whole day was just amazing. We took a swim in Santorini's famous red sand beaches, saw a lighthouse view of the caldera, enjoyed tradition Greek cuisine, and traversed up to Ancient Thira on top of Santorini's mountain. When we reached near the peak we had to stop because Kelly about got blown off of the cliff's edge. I did my best to help her while trying to keep my own balance, and one gust of wind completely knocked her over! No matter where on Santorini you are, there is always an amazing picturesque view of the caldera, or the beaches, vinyards or white/blue Greek churches and estates, and sometimes all of these at once to make the most beautiful view in the world. Along with the view, there is always really good Greek wine close by. Santorini is believed to be home to the oldest vinyards in the world, says the plaque in Santo's Wine Estates. Whether that's true or not, the was wine great, and always tasted better I'm sure because of the dreamy and romantic environment all around. In only one day Kelly and I became very good friends enjoying the beautiful landscape and talking about our past traveling experiences and our future plans, the meaning of that word becoming more abiguous each traveler I meet and every day traveling myself.

Ok, now I will stop teasing all of you friends and family wondering what the deal is with me adventuring around an island all day with a pretty girl to the most romantic spots on earth. Despite the situation I knew nothing would happen and did well avoiding too much feelings between Kelly and I. Sure it was kinda hard, but for those who know me that is not the kind of person I am, although I'm learning that for many world travelers it is a big part of it. They travel countries and hop islands falling in love everywhere they go, loving and romancing only to wake up in the morning, pack thier bags, and depart thier seperate ways. I told Kelly how I wasn't shaving my beard all summer, and she didn't believe that I would keep to it. She said if I am trying to pick of chicks my chances will grow less and less likely as the summer goes on and the beard grows longer. This information I know was like gold to me. It meant that so far as I continued growing this thing out there will be a romatic barier between me and any girl that comes along my way. So I will keep this nugget of information from all fellow travelers lest I be called gay, which has already happened once. Meeting fun girls traveling and making memories together, becoming good friends and resist sharing romantic feelings will be just fine for me.

Back to Santorini. I have been eating very conservatively, making peanut butter and jelly and when I go out eating souvlaki for only 2 euro.I have become a souvlaki efficianado realizing that the meat and the tzatziki is what makes a good souvlaki. If at least one of those is good quality the whole thing will be good, and if both are present you will have the best meal under $3 in the entire world. I have been spending more money on wine and transportation than anything else.

And now, the story I have been waiting with strong anticipation to share - As the sun set yesterday and the day came to and end and the lights of night shone bright, I dropped off Kelly to meet a traveling couple for dinner that they had cooked themselves that night. which is by I couldn't initially join her, to find out later that they were trying to call me to have me go out with them. I would have been fun, but thier calls never got to my Greek and sometimes insufficient cell phone and I totally understood the situation. I had my own plans anyway! I would go taste some of Greece's best wines at Santo Wine Estates, that is open latre and has a great view of the Caldera. When I showed up on the ATV I did not know what was happening because there were police cars everywhere. But when I arrived back to the hotel later that night IJ had the best story to share with everyone who all emmediately became very sorry they hadn't taken up my invitation to come along. I had somehow crashed a wine tasting event for the islands entire police department. I had all the wine and cheese I could help myself to and wonderful conversation with uniformed locals, and then took off without paying anything. I didn't steel, they just wouldn't accept any money from me - a story that will last me a lifetime and a party.

More blogging to come about a potential summer job as a barista at a nice cafe overlooking the Caldera! Keep in touch to here about that as soon as I do!

After talking to other travelers I am learning to appreciate beautiful California and the  opportunity we have practically in our backyards. I hope by these blogs to encourage in all of you an adventuresome spirit in California and elsewhere. Love and miss you all!


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Greece at Last - Athens

Jordi Varkas, my first couchsurfing host has made me feel really comfertible staying at his place. he manages a club, and a soccer team during the day, and being gone alot, he gave me a set of keys to use while Im here. His place is my place kind of a thing. His flat is in Athens about 10 minute from the center by metro.

Me in front of the Parthenon
After flying in yesterday to the airport I had to find my way about 20 miles first to Athen's center, and then to Jordi's house. Without a phone, and only his street and apartment number, it was a little tricky. I met a family on the train who were half Greek half Jordanian and the mother, who was really nice, let me use her phone to call Jordi. He didn't give me any more information really, but after I got off the subway I asked a pizza delivery guy on a motorcycle I knew would know the streets well and asked him where Geraki street was. He showed me a map and ten minutes walking brought me in front of the apartment, but no one was home. Thankfully, he showed up 15 minutes later. He welcomed me inside, gave me the keys and said he had to take off for a meeting, but that he would pick me up at a subway station and take me with him to the beach. I was really tired, after flying and traveling for 2 days without sleep, but I didn't want to miss out on anything, so i said I would go. I showed up and he was waiting for me, we drove about 20 minutes to a beach and met up with his friends for a night swim in the Mediterranean. They were all realy nice, but didn't speak English to eachother, so the conversations became realy exclusive for me. I was fine with it, i was tired anyway. We played football in the shallow water, and they made me feel part of the group.

Porch of Caryatids
The next morning I slept in untill about 13:00. I showered, made myself some coffee, and headed out to explore the city of athens. Another friendly person helped me to the town square Syntagma, where over a hundred thousand protestors had been the night before. Hundreds of tents were still set up in front of the Parliament building, people who had traveled from all over Greece to be apart of the protest. Later on in the night with jordi and his friends, a girl names Vassoniki who had a degree in Political Science explained to me Greeces political condition. It sounded much like it is in America, a large deficit, higher taxes, lower wages, not enough jobs, inflation, but the difference is that Greece connot print more money like us. We do the quick fix and they have to deal with it. the European Union will not give them another laon untill thier is a consensus within the Parliament, which is so divided that the situation seems hopeless to many Greeks. If there is no consensus for a solution, the country will go bankrupt, and what's happening in Argentina is likely to happen here (which i know little about, other than that it's very dangerous to be there).
Temple of Zeus
So I guess I am very thankful to be here while it's still safe...or semi-safe. After seeing the Parliament I unexpectedly saw Hadrian's Arch and the Temple of Zeus behind it. then I saw the Acropolis, and decided to check it out, since I had nothing in particular planned. It was 18 euros for a pass to get in that also included a ticket into many other big ancient sites like, agora, the temple of Zeus, and others, good for four days.  I spent hours and hours hanging out up there. I was crowded, and I offered to take many pictures of people in exchange for mine. The columns were so massive and tall, you are forced to wonder how the Ancient Greeks were able to build something like the Parthenon. Iconic of Greece now, and iconic then, it can be seen from Piraeus, the city's major port. In a few days I will see the view from the other end when I take a ferry to the islands. I met two American grils who were traveling through Europe on the Acropolis, and they were headed to Santorini for 7 euros a night. Online I had never seen prices that good during all my research. I wront down the name of the hostel and I think I might go there as well and see them again next week. Surrounding the Acropolis is the city of Athens, sparkling in the light of the sun ,a huge metropolis that is buiilt on top of acient ruins that can be seen on about every other street corner. this is art history that everyne else in the world studies in book sand here it is just part of everyday life to Athenians. Jordi said he has only been to the Acropolis once, and it was three years ago when he was twenty-five! I wondered arund more after the Acropolis, climbing Mars Hill, where Paul spoke to the Greek philosophers, and from here saw a good view of Acient Agora, the common social center of acient Athens, which is where Sacrates, Plato, and Aristotle spend much of their time.

Greek Orthodox Church near Jordi's House
On the way home I picked up some Souvlaki at what is known as Souvlaki Square, for 1.70euros and reminded me of a hot dog in Manhattan, or a Philly Cheesesteak in Philadelphia, a stable meal to any Greak that is on the go. Later I met up with Jordi and we went to a place that reminded me of the Public House in old town Temecula, a place where younger people come to eat and drink and hang out for long hours throughout the night. I met more of Jordi's friends, and got some of the cultural experience I've been looking for. when we ordered food, there was no individual dishes, but we all just picked and shared as we talked untill the plates were empty, and we would order more. The bill turned out to be 10 euros each, about $14 in US money. I had a full dinner and two beers that would have cost at least $25 at the Pub House.

My first full day in Greece has been great. Earlier I got a cell phone, and even with only two contact I already feel much safer. It was 35 Euros for a phone and 250 minutes that you can recharge as you need them.

I think, and Jordi and his friends confirmed, that the traditional Greek experience that I am looking for is going to be much stronger as I travel away from Athens. Today on the streets I saw a Gap and a McDonalds and an H&M. I think life is very similar in all of the metropolitan cities of the world. Next I will leave the city and venture to the islands, the Peloponnese, and Thrace, wehre a stronger, more stereotypical Greek culture can be found.
My first couch!

In Flight

Three hours left untill I will be in Brussels, Belgium. It's crazy that in what feels like the same amount of time to travel halfway up California I can travel half way across the world. I got stuck in the middle seat of a relatively small plane and I'm about to go crazy. My mom would say I "have ants in my pants." With another movie starting, battery still left on the ipod, and one more meal to be served, the three hours should go by fast.

They say we are traveling at nearly 700 miles per hour, which is ten times faster than driving a car on the freeway. It's so easy to travel nowadays and I'm sorry I people take so little advantage of it.

As we fly east into the Atlantic, night quickly passes us by as it travels the opposite direction. Tomorrow's morning will come early, as will it seem the summer's end.

The Simple Way - Tuesday 6-14-11

My second day at The Simple Way went over really well, where I was able to understand more about what a regular looks like for the staff.

I woke up just in time to make it to morning prayer at 8. There was about five of us, incense and candle, and an eastern sort of bell that was wrung to begin prayer. We recited together a few pages out of a daily prayer book which included in it some hymns, prayed quickly for specific neighborhood needs, five minutes of silence, and we were done. It too about twenty minutes, it was very simple and ordinary, minus the bell, which was supposed to create more of a spiritual environment, and I liked it.Later I asked about the five minutes we spent in silence and if anyone had heard of Centuring Prayer, a method of prayer that I have come to love, and they said that is what they were doing. This prayer method, taught by Thomas Keating and other Christian monastics, is a time of detachment from your personal identity to be better receptive to the will and identity of God. I was stoked to share this common interest with everyone at The Simple Way.

After morning prayer, I invited Shane, Aaryn, and the girls over for some Bravo coffee, and then we all headed to the office to start work at nine. I hand wrote about ten thank you letters to people who had sent in a donation in the last weeks. it took me about three hours and in between I was able to use the internet for a few minutes. I had been depraved for three days and as a couchsurfer, I depend on the internet to make connection with people for a place to sleep.

After seeing th eoffice more closely I realized how small the Simple Way really was. With only 8 people on staff including Shane and his new wife, I realized this is something that anyone can do, anywhere.

Aaryn, myself, and the ladies (i forgot thier names) made a few pizzas for lunch, and afterwards when they had to go back to work, I borrowed a bike, got directions to downtown Philly, and took off on the half hour ride. I was mostly flat, and I was able to see alot more of Philadelphia on a bike instead of being underground on a subway. It is a beautiful city, not so enclosing as New York, but with all the historical architecture. On a bike, I was passing cars left and right, and it didn't feel dangerous like i think it would in New York City. I ate at Shane's favorite Philly Cheesteak joint, taking in as much of Philadelphia's culture that i can during my last full day.

A really Philly Cheesteak Sandwhich

I made it back to Kensington just before it rained. On the way back I saw Shane and his wife on a tandom bike who were just heading out, and later saw them pull up in the neighborhood totally soaking wet. It was pretty funny.

At six we all met at Shane's house to cut scarves out of blue fabric, which Shane was gonna use at a speaking event that weekend to represent the blue sky that shines bright over America is the same blue sky that shines over Afghanistan. As an activist, Shane is fighting for peace ini the Middle East and does not believe in war. I'm still not sure what I think about it. Shane has been there twice, once injured because of the war and has experienced the people thier suffering because of the war. Is America the casue of thier suffering or is it the Iraqi government, or both? I think my opinion doesn't matter much on the political and military end of things, but i know I believe in a peace between the major religions of both countries. Muslim's and Christians must learn to accept one another, no matter the outcome of the war.

Anyways, tomorrow I leave this wonderful place back to New York to catch my flight onward. I really want to get a picture with Shane and his crew, but I am trying to be modest about it. Im sure he doesn't car to be idealized by so many of his readers. he says in his books that he is just an ordinary radical, just as ordinary as you or I. During my time here at The Simple Way I have realized that helping people and communities around us doesn't have to be a big production. Loving God is very simple when simply loving others.


With a few days to kill before my flight to Greece I took off on my own for Philadelphia. The subway and trains were crowded as can be but in less than two hours I had traveled out of New York, through New Jersey, and finally to Philadelphia. I saw the Liberty bell and all the other historical sights, grabbed a Philly Cheesteak, and headed to The Simple Way. The Simply Way is a small group of believers in Kensington, one of the worst poverty and crime stricken neighborhoods in Philadelphia, who are dedicated to living out a simple gospel message through thier daily lives as residents in the neighborhood. Started by Shane Claiborn, author of Irresistible Revolution, a book I would recommend to any believer of God who is worn out with the church routine.

When I showed up to the address I had written down I expected to see a sign out front identifying it as The Simple Way, but there wasn't. Confused for a few minutes, I finally knocked, and was releaved to find I had made it to the right place. A guy named Aaryn walked me down the neighborhood a quarter mile to the hospitality house that I would be staying in. It too had no sign, but was a house just like all the others. Aaryn was the video guy, probably in his mid twenties, with a shaved head and a long beard, and like me, had come to The Simple Way about six month ago after he had read Shane's book. He gave me a quick rundown of the house and my room and the neighborhood, gave me a key, and told me where I could help with food distribution later on and then took off.

i later did go down the street to another house they owned to help distribute food, which took all of about twenty minutes. Here I met Shane but I didn't really get a chance to talk to him. I was just glad to see him there, as an activist and speaker he is away often, traveling all over the country. I talked with a lady from the neighborhood for about ten minutes about her history in Kensington, which was the longest conversation of the day. I san in on a Crime Watch Committee meeting, made up of Shane and his staff and about 15 of the neighborhood moms, where I heard just enough about the crime going on in the neighborhood to be spooked out, and afterward headed to my place for the rest of the night. I was hoping to see other visitors to the hospitality house, people to talk to, but it was still just me.

Shorty after arriving to Kensington I learned that the neighborhood does not know Shane and his friends as The Simple Way, they simply know them by thier names. The Simple Way is not just another institution hoping for change at a distance, but is a network of friends in close relationship slowly changing the neighborhood they live in.

At the end of the day I was hoping for more interaction with Shane and the staff and more involvement with the neighborhood. Alone at the hospitality house, it is hard to know how to interact with people on my own in such a new, dangerous, environment.

Are they just all really busy? Am I just another short-term visitor? Am I expecting too much attention? These were questions that I asked myself on that first night, questions that made me feel a little uncomfertiable, and could only be answered by another day living in Kensington.

First US Bank

Liberty Bell

Independence Hall

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New York City

I left Silver Bay with my mom and sister about three days ago and and we all headed on a train that took us south alongside the Hudson River. For two hours we rode with the river to our right, and tree to our left, and big river estates on either side that turned into towering skyscrapers as we approached Manhattan. When we came out of the Subway, not so near to our hotel, it was raining, and the top of the buildings had been lost in the clouds. We got to our hotel soaking wet from the rain and tired from the traveling, only to head out shortly after to walk the busy street of New York City.

That night we saw a broadway show called Mephis, about underground Jazz artists who are discovered by a crackerboy Tennessee local. It was a phenominal show with great music and dancing and some of the best acting in New York, and even won the show the 2010 Tony Award. The next day, we went to the Hillsong church NYC, which was not my favorite, but it drew a huge crowd and I guess thats generally a good thing. Afterwards we had pizza for lunch at Palumbos, the best in little italy, and therfore all of Manhattan. That night, my last with my mom an sister, I took us to an underground jazz club in Harlem, which is one home to a deep and historical jazz culture that is still flourishing today. I will never forget that night, so authentic and real. We ordered a few glasses of wine and a good southern dinner, fried chicken, meat loaf, callard greens, cabbage, and potatoe salad all served on a plastic plate. I ate standing up half the time because the venue was so small, literally the basement of a residential flat. I wouldn't call it crowded if it weren't for how small this place was. A band of three played, as thier friends and even other visitors who brought in thier saxaphones and trumpets would chime in throughout the set.

The night before we had seen a broadway reinactment of the very thing happening right in front of us. Jazz and improvation inspired by the night, that very night, that very audience, and no other. That night I learned that jazz is all about feeling and it's expression in the present moment, it is about the here and now. It was perfect as the last night with my family, a memory, perfect as the begginning of this summer where I will be in the here and now of every moment.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Leaving Silver Bay - Greece in Five Days

Today is my last day at Silver Bay with my family, I will be leaving for New York City early tomorrow morning.

I just got done cutting open and gutting the fish we caught earlier. We had five big mouth bass, all about 8-13 inches in length, and I did two, blood, guts, and all. I found the stomach and after turning it inside out we found the corn we had used as bait. With my hands covered with the fish's insides I wanted to ask him if the corn was worth it. I had never done this before, and now, a few hours later with the smell of fish still on my hands, I feel like I have finally entered into manhood.

My cousin and I went sailing earlier, which was also a first time for me. We capsized only once, but I'm glad we did it, because that made it all the more eventful. The feeling of harnessing the wind to get you gliding across the water is one I can only relate to surfing. As you paddle into a wave, there is a particular moment where you feel the water's energy pick up the board and push forward, as you jump up and ride across the wave's surface.

The whole week at Silver Bay has been like this with lots of stuff planned. Tournaments of all different kinds, like shuffle board, ping-pong, and the Spencer family favorite, Scrabble. These plus scavenger hunts, a skit night, fishing and boating on the lake, and lots of cooking, have kept all of us busy together.

Yesterday we were stuck inside most of the time due to thunder and lightning storms that would come and go all day long, violent winds and rain that reminded us just how little we are. Our plans and our entire lives, lay often outside of our control, a lesson that nature cries out despite it's predictability. I sat on the front porch listening to natures cry, and realized that in five days, I will be even further outside comfort and control, in a land unknown to me, with only strangers that may or may not be interested in me. As the days grow shorter until my flight into Greece, I am realizing that there is no way to prepare for the unpredictable.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Silver Bay - Family Reunion

It's hard to believe that three days ago I was at Hume in California with two of my best friends sleeping together in the back of a car, and now, I am in up-state New York with my entire family sleeping together in a one-hundred-year-old mansion. The dark green and redwood Sequoias in California have turned into trees not as big, but of greater density and a brighter green, Maple trees hugging every route and road of up-state New York. I have never seen green like the green grows here, and the older I am the more I seem to enjoy it.

The last three days have been spent traveling by car, train, and two airplanes all the way across the country. We were on and off so quick the traveling seemed short, especially after I picked up a book during our layover flight in Chicago, which I finished later that night.

My family, on my mom's side, have been coming to Silver Bay, a YMCA retreat center on Lake George, every five years for the last thirty. I guess you can call it a family tradition, something I also enjoy more as I get older. It is pretty unique that thirty-five family members from six different states reunite every five years to the place the family first began. My grandparents started the family here almost sixty years ago, and we now have the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren all under the same roof.

Our first day here, we took kayaks out on Lake George, adventured around, and found a jumping rock. The weather was cloudy but beautiful, and reminded me of the Hume Lake that was before me just a few days ago. Throughout the day we played a lot of volleyball and I was reminded of how much I love that sport. I would love to pick it up and play on a recreational team when I move to San Diego. At night my cousins, who have been getting into swing dancing, taught us all their moves and we were swinging all night. I have always wanted to learn to swing, and I think tonight was the beginning of another new passion that I plan on picking up in SD.

 I'm still getting used to living out of a backpack. I have been wearing the same clothes for five days and am starting to feel a little soggy. I think after being outside all day, I'll move on to the only other change of clothes that I have.

I called this family reunion here at Silver Bay a tradition, and that's what it is, a tradition that happens once every five years. This is the only thing I can call a tradition in my family, but it makes me excited to experience, in another week, the tradition I here about in Greece.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Hume Lake

There was a time two years ago when I moved back home from Hume Lake into the real world, away from the near-perfect and idealistic community that is only possible on the mountain top. Now, I am here again, returning for a short glimpse of the community that I was apart of, the community that I dream of re-creating everywhere I go. The community is one-of-a-kind, but you also learn to enjoy the moments you get to yourself. Solitary moments that you must fight for at home come easy here, where life slows down and is calm, quiet, and restful.

George, Jordan, and I are laying out in the grass lawn with the lake in front of us, and the sun peaking through the clouds as we read, write, and recover sleep from a long trip and a late night. We ended up leaving Orange County at 9:30 and drove all through the night, arriving at Hume at 3am. We were so tired, we pulled down the back seats of the 4 runner and all three of us crammed in the back. We had only two sleeping bags to share, and we ended up spooning half the night just to stay warm. The weather had brought snow here only a week ago, and still kept the night (and day, too) very cold. We found a place to shower and clean up this morning, and then made a french press (and another) to pick us up from the three hours of sleep we may have had. Our loaf of peanut butter and jelly barely lasted the trip here, most of it was gone before we were through LA. Tonight, we'll finish them off for dinner.

For these two days we are homeless at Hume Lake, sleeping in our car and on grass lawns, scrounging for food, making our own coffee. This is what happens when you decide to "surprise" your friends while they are preparing camp for thousands kids, but its been awesome just seeing their faces.