Memories skipped in Utah

After publishing the last entry, I realized I skipped a few interesting stories  during our brisk haul through Utah.

Rick thought it was strange that we had personified the Tom-Tom and little Buddha. However, within a few hours of the trip he referred to both as Tammy and Sid. Hours in a vehicle can make you long for interesting connections. Think of Tom Hanks on Cast Away. I’ve personally never seen the movie but I know he befriends a volleyball. I thoroughly understand why.

After making fun of Tammy earlier in the evening, I think she decided to play a trick on us. That’s right. I’m now giving her the ability to choose humor.

She made us exit in a po-dunk town. Then she looped us back three exits, right to where we were. As we passed the original exit she made us take, she didn’t say a word. I think it was her way of reminding us how much we relied on her navigational skills.

Hours later while I was napping in the front passenger seat, I was abruptly awoken by the car swerving. I looked at Nick who nodded at me with tired eyes. Rick was asleep in the back. I asked Nick what the hell was wrong. (Hey he woke me up by almost hitting a mountain)

He told me he was tired. I told him he needed to get his shit together and drive because from the looks of it he was the only one that was able to do so at the moment and I had driven 19 hours straight. I told him to think of something that made him happy. Then I closed my eyes to return to napping …only to wake up to hear him giggling.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

“You told me to think of something that makes me happy.”

“Well, you look like a kid on Christmas morning. What makes you so happy?”

“———‘s boobies.” (*——– is to not reveal the source of the chest)

Boys will be boys. And boobies will always wake up boys.

On the road again

The alarm went off before I knew it.  I splashed some water on my face, tried to blow my sinuses through my nostrils, and attempted to get the guys moving. I knew I was in for a long day. Our goal was to reach Fort Collins, Colorado–which was 24 hours away.

I opened the door to find a gentle rain pouring. It wasn’t huge drops like in Louisiana. It was more thin, pin-like pellets that seemed to bounce off of you, rather than dissolve into your clothing.

We packed up Louis and were on the road by 7:15 a.m.

Rick called David to locate their position. The plan was to eat lunch in Bend, Oregon. According to Tammy, we would get there right before 11 a.m.

We drove through windy, mountainous roads past several Oregon State Parks. The view was breathtaking. I felt like a sponge trying to absorb any last drop of this experience.

We arrived in Bend right on time. I received a text message from my aunt Carla to check my email ASAP, so I grabbed my laptop and connected to the restaurant’s wireless Internet.

My sister Meggan was to be married in a few weeks and her bachelorette luncheon was that afternoon. The message said “Wish you were here.” The picture was of my grandmother, mother, a few aunts and Meggan’s friends and they were all making a peace sign. Except for Carla, she was sticking out her tongue.

"Wish you were here"

It was the first moment of the trip where I felt like I was missing out on something important. I knew I had missed a few parties and such, but I had the whole “Out of sight, out of mind,” mentality. Had I not thought that way, I would have been homesick the whole time and would not have appreciated the experience right before my eyes.

I smiled to myself and made a peace sign back to the picture, then closed my Mac. I would be home soon enough.

Interesting tidbit here about Bend. My brother-in-law plays online games and made a buddy through a particular game. They played for years but had never met. A few months prior to my trip, his online friend came visit Louisiana. I didn’t meet him personally because I was still living in Lafayette at the time. He was from Bend.

Once I arrived home, I was listing the cities we visited and my brother called his buddy to tell him I went through his small town. When bro told him where we ate lunch, his buddy said he could literally throw a rock and hit the restaurant from his backyard.

Small world.

We had an amazing lunch that day, shared some intimate hugs with our new friends and piled into Louis again.

Then we drove.

And drove.

And drove some more: through the high desert of Oregon, through the SMELLY dairy farms of Idaho.

We decided I would switch from the driver’s seat once we hit Utah. When we were an hour or so from the border, we realized we were at a quarter left on the tank. We hadn’t pushed Louis yet to see how “E” was “E”.

The gas light came on and we all three grabbed our iPhones to see how far it was to the next gas station. I turned off the A/C and dropped speed to 60mph. The next stop was 50 miles away.

It was the longest 50 minutes. No one talked. The uncomfortable tension between Nick and I could have made Mr. Rogers cringe. Rick said we were going to be fine and he calmly read a book.

I wish I were as cool as Rick sometimes.

When we got to about 10 miles away I started to breathe easier. Every mile that passed at that point was one less that I had to walk and I knew it would be easier and easier. Finally we saw the lights of a gas station and a “Welcome to Utah” sign.

The sigh of relief sounded like a tsunami crashing against the shore. There was now a vibe of peace after the tension storm.

Rick filled up the 14-gallon tank with 13.48 gallons.

We stocked up on water and jerky. I sat shotgun and smoked an American Spirit as we drove through Salt Lake City. I was contemplating my role in the universe and what I may do upon my arrival home. Did I want to move away? Did I want to stay? What is this path unknown?

The hour was creeping past midnight and I was getting nestled into my seat when Rick tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a letter with my name on it.

I was quite confused. Then I recognized the handwriting.

Alison.

My little chief. She was taking my position at the Vermilion and told me she was trying to plan a surprise for me. I had completely forgot.

I opened the envelope and found a novella written on journal paper. No sooner did I start reading her words did I also reach for the Kleenex. No one has ever written anything like that for me before. It was beyond an Ode to myself. It was the truth. About  friendship. About life. About sharing. About learning. About everything.

It made me cherish the relationships I get to experience with people. It cemented my understanding of what I know Alison will accomplish in her lifetime; and made me grateful that I will get to witness her achieve it. I am fortunate to have the bonds that I do.

Rick was given the mission to give this letter to me at an appropriate time. He had been carrying it around with him for a few days and that was the first moment I would have had to read it. Given what I was thinking about when he handed it to me, it was more than perfect.

“Lafayette, she needs you,” Alison wrote. These words have haunted me since Utah. It sounds like such a boost to the ego. But in all actuality, sometimes I think I’m just the one who needs Lafayette.

I fell asleep after rereading the letter. My heart was smiling. Part of me felt like I had just accepted this mission of a lifetime.

I went through one rem cycle and awoke to my phone ringing. It was Neal. It was 3 a.m.

Neal has done a complete 180 in the past two years. He has become very involved with social activism and environmental issues–very far from Pub daze.

He had just gotten into a very heated porch discussion with a friend and the friend’s ex-co-worker; both of whom were just laid off from oil field related companies. We were starting to see this happen more and more where we lived.

It was a very twisted point for Neal to have someone very dear to him challenge everything he had been working for, especially when those individuals were shafted from the source of his frustration.

(P.S. Since this situation things have evolved)

Either way, it was a cool moment for our friendship because we realized the value of how we can level one another out. We both live in these big imaginative worlds inside our heads, and somehow those two fantasies collide into reality every once in a while. It’s even more exciting to know we will see those fantasies become reality one day during our physical existence.

Our conversation ended as Nick pulled into a gas station. We were at the edge of Utah and Nick said he had a few more miles in him. I decided to try the back seat out for the first time of the trip. I curled in the captain’s seat and looked up at the stars through the view of the back sunroof.

There were so many shining throughout the sky. I suddenly felt like a shooting star: flashing through the eyes of thousands of strangers for a moment as I travel to an unknown destination. Unknown to myself and to the viewers.

Hopefully I spark something inside of them as I shoot by. Cause them to take a breath and realize they are awake. Alive.

I fall asleep to the thought, but my vessel kept moving.

Deliriously Eugene

I awoke on Hilary’s couch to the sun luring me from sleep. Where was this moment at sun rise?

I couldn’t fall back asleep, so I followed the rays to Louis for a chance to go find my purse. I guess I forgot to mention that I had left my purse at the girls’ apartment the night before. I drove to the quaint road and knocked on the door.

No answer.

I didn’t have my phone at this point either,  so I couldn’t call Nick. I scoped out the parking lot and didn’t see Sal’s car.

I decided to drive back to Hilary’s to wait for everyone else to wake up. Hilary lives above a bakery. I tried to open the door that leads to a staircase to get to the apartment, but it was locked. I hadn’t bathed in days at this point and I was going on a few hours of sleep during a 72-hour span. I didn’t really want to go in public, but there was no other option. I entered the buzzing bakery.

I ordered a bowl of soup and LARGE coffee as I tried to hide my morning breath.  My laptop had been in my car, so I figured I could try to get in touch with Rick on Facebook. The Internet connection was weak, then my battery died.

I would now have to wait.

Fortunately, I only had to wait 5 minutes before I saw Rick open the door and peek inside. He was confused as to why I wasn’t on the couch, and because he couldn’t get a hold of me via phone, he decided to look for me. Tah dah. I didn’t drift far.

I finished my brunch and we headed back upstairs. One of the girls was now at Hilary’s and gave us a time to meet at her apartment to get my purse. The crew wanted to have one last meal together in Eugene, so we found another cafe to embark upon. Nick and Sal met us there.

We talked about education in America and how it needs to be improved, but we’re not sure how to do it.

I personally feel we need to remind kids how to LEARN. That way, whatever they want to learn throughout life, they know how to personally process something. We don’t remember equations or dates 20 years later, but we do remember how we process things. Am I saying it’s not important to learn these subjects? Not at all. What I am saying is that it should be reiterated to students WHY they are learning certain things.

I will get off of this pedestal now, before I ramble on for days.

After lunch, we went back to Rick’s for showers and naps. It felt so amazing to get rid of the grime. What did not feel amazing were my sinuses. I had to purchase a few packs of Kleenex and I was empty within a few hours.

What better way to feel better than ice cream? Prince Puckler’s is a home-churned, local shop. I got this two scoop chocolate masterpiece that erupted from a waffle cone. YUMMY!

As if we hadn’t eaten enough, we met up with some of the gang at Macminiman’s. Beer and salad is always a great combo.

We then decided to head to Maria’s house to watch a movie and allow Rick to say a final good-bye to his friends.

Yet again, we embarked upon an emotional farewell. However, right before we were leaving we realized several of the crew were headed in the same direction, so we decided we would follow one another in the morning to Bend, Oregon and have one final lunch.

We packed up at Rick’s and set the alarms for 6:30 a.m.

It was my final night in Oregon.

Epic in Eugene

We arrived in Eugene at 3 p.m. I knew we had a few hours to spare before Rick was through with his final. Our first stop was at a Jiffy Lube for an oil change. This was the most superior service I had ever received: the staff was friendly, the work was reliable and quick, and the waiting area was immaculate.

There was a young early-college-aged girl there who had gone over 9,000 miles since her last oil change. She said her grandfather normally took care of everything for her. I guess it made me feel a little more responsible.

Louis got a free car wash and we set out in the pollen-filled Eugene. One of the things I love about the Oregon scenery is the fir and pine tree-lined cities and roads. Everywhere is green. The trees are tall, too, unlike the short, grand oaks I am used to in South Louisiana. Unless you want a tour of the swamp for the gigantic Cypress trees, short and stout trees are what you get on a daily basis.

We drove near the University of Oregon campus and watched as students unpacked their dorm rooms. We decided to grab some grub and beer at McMenamins, a northwest brewpub, while we waited.

I felt like the atmosphere was authentically original, however when Rick called to see where we were, he relayed the info that it was a chain. This reminded me of “Mellow Mushroom” chains. Rick told us he and a few classmates were at a beer shop not too far away. Nick and I finished a game of pool and headed that way.

While we were on the road, we contacted Sal, a colleague from Baton Rouge who worked for the same company we did many years ago. He had just graduated from LSU and was on a solo road trip through the west as well. Turns out, he was near Eugene and wanted to partake in the festivities.

Beer Stein, a former fresh pasta shop, has the most extensive bottled beer selection I have yet to see. I was weeks away from home, so I chose an Abita Amber to cure what little homesickness I possessed. I walked up to a table of men from around the world and knew it was going to be an interesting night.

The gentleman asked how Rick and I knew one another and we kind of looked at one another like, “We don’t really know, yet we trust one another enough to ride half-way across the country together.” We all shook hands as Sal arrived, sporting an LSU visor and polo shirt.

The crew decided it was time to move to the party house, which was to be held at a pair of co-ed’s apartment.

The night started slowly,  mixing intelligent conversation with stout beer and wine. I’ve never felt more sophisticated in a tiny apartment. I exchanged tales from the road while they exchanged knowledge of physics.

I could tell Nick and Sal were bringing the Louisiana out of one another, especially when they disappeared giggling. I was mid-conversation with Erik, a student from Connecticut, when the duo arrived with Nattie-lite proclaiming it was time for beer pong.

They were a little too tipsy to notice the looks of disdain, but regardless they edged their way into the seemingly microscopic kitchen. The kitchen table was brought to center, cups were set up, and then the geniuses discovered they had no pong for the beer. Undiscouraged, they huddled for a quick game-time decision and voted on the use of a quarter due to the lack of a ball.

Rick and a buddy reluctantly played the first round. However, it wasn’t too long before Nick and Sal’s contagious energy spread to a few party-seekers. Once a few girls challenged the testosterone in the room, the hype of the game soared.

I stood in the hallway and held random conversations with strangers, while the sounds of fraternity hoo-rahs filled my background soundtrack.

At one point I counted and there were 12 different countries represented in the apartment: India, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, USA, etc. I felt like I was drinking with some of the smartest kids in the world. I literally could have toasted with someone who will make a remarkable scientific discovery. The moment still gives me chills.

As the party escalated to rambunctious, there was a phone call made to the hostesses from upset neighbors. We needed to move to a new location.

At this point, I could’ve gone to sleep– and it was not even midnight. The girls allowed Nick and Sal to pass out there, but I decided to push forward and walk to a bar with the physics crew.

I just kind of hung back and watched the rest of the evening progress. Erik was now talking to a girl from class. Rick was talking to….well everyone because that’s what Rick does.

Rick flirts with anyone. He isn’t gender specific either, although he is straight as a nail. He just likes for people to like him. He’ll tell you that directly if asked.

Anyways, the goal was an 80’s theme party, but that bar was too packed, so we stopped at an uppity type place. I felt sorry for the only couple in the bar that seemed to long for a romantic outing together. We were loud.

People were pulling cans of Schlitz from their jacket pockets, while others were crying. The night took a very emotional turn once we started walking through the streets of Eugene. For some, it was the last time they were going to see one another. Many of the International students were going home for good. Some of the American students were choosing not to return to the program.

People were saying their good-byes.

It was now around 3 a.m. Not counting the one hour nap, I had been awake for 18 hours straight….only on three hours of sleep. I was entering the delirious state.

The bar closed and we decided to walk to Hilary’s. I would label Rick and Hilary the co-leaders of this pack. They both exude strong male presences that cause people to gravitate toward their auras. This was proven correct when the hordes of after-party-seekers showed up at the apartment for hookah and beer.

For the first time ever, I just sat in the corner and watched the party ensue. I didn’t tell stories. I didn’t try to meet anyone. I didn’t become a part of the entertainment. I just watched.

I watched friends exchange stories. I watched them hug their possible last physical meeting. I watched first kisses that had obviously been desired for quite sometime, but the courage wasn’t mustered at previous occasions.

It was beautiful.

The clock was creeping to 5 a.m. and the crowd started to dwindle. I finally struck up a conversation once my fourth wind emerged. There were a group of Germans who had just made it in town to meet one of their comrades in the program. Their plan was to set out through the west on a road trip to see the Grand Canyon.

One of the guys, Karl, lived in New York City. I started to tell him about this quirky little Polish neighborhood in Brooklyn that was my favorite place because of the authentic eateries and people. He stared at me in disbelief and said that was where he lived with his grandmother.

As we chatted about some of our favorite Polish food (the burgers!), his friend Pascale passed out on me. We all laughed and they agreed it was time for them to head out.

It was now almost 6 a.m. and Erik and I decided to walk back to the original party house to get our vehicles. Our hope was to see the sun rise, but as we walked, we realized the overcast wouldn’t allow our dream to come to fruition.

My sinuses were starting to act up due to the allergens in the Eugene air. My immunity system was probably just reminding me that I had abused it with lack of sleep and excess beer.

Erik and I hugged before we got to our vehicles. It was then I noticed his face resembled that of Elijah Wood, or the kid from Harry Potter. At this state of delirium, the night felt like a magic spell had been cast over the snow globe-dom of downtown Eugene.

I drove back to Hilary’s and fell onto the couch that had been made up for me with blankets and pillows.

Sleep.

Drifting through memories

I have sat in a cubicle for four months. Like the song “Little Boxes” on “Weeds,” I feel like I’m made of ticky-tacky and we all look just the same.

I have drafts for three children’s books. I have more ideas than time to make any of them happen.

And somewhere in the Internet, I am drifting to Eugene.  I am somewhere on I-5 awaiting an epic party, still reveling my time in Portland.

I have had so much trouble finishing the tales of my road trip through the west. I have issues accepting when certain phases are over. But somehow, I have managed to bring Portland to me.

I feel I am ready to complete the first portion of my blog. I didn’t make it to Canada. Instead, I chose security, which defeats the concept of a path unknown.

While I stand at the copy machine, I am at war with my inner conscience. I feel like a sellout, however, the responsible side knows this is what I had to do to pay the bills for a little while. This is not forever.

By finishing this adventure online, it will be time to embark upon a new one here in Louisiana.

I never thought I would have an unknown path at home, but alas, I do. It is a trail I have yet to explore.

I plan to share it here. No longer will I drift nowhere. My current has a purpose, even if I don’t know what it means yet.

That’s the new concept for me; faith.  I don’t know how to explain it exactly, but that’s where the journey comes in. Through my stories, I hope to grasp and share the understanding. I just know for the first time in my life I absolutely know in my heart I am exactly where I need to be. It is not where I expected. It rarely ever is.

So now, it’s onward to Eugene. Who’s coming with me?

Leaving Portland

I finished writing and sulkily headed back to my room to pack up. We hauled, what seemed like our whole current lives, downstairs and proceeded to check out of the Ace.

This had to be one of the best hotel experiences…not only of the trip, but ever. The entire staff was genuinely helpful and obviously enjoyed their place of employment. Plus, the spot was so right on for conveniently touring Portland.

Before I walked the block to get Louis, I asked the concierge if he knew where we could get an oil change. His eyes widened and for the first time I saw fear in this sweet man’s face. “I have no idea,” he said, shamefully. “No one has ever really asked me that, and I haven’t driven a car in over five years.”

I was not the least bit offended. Instead, I admired the “green” city I was standing in. There were more bikes and pedestrians than vehicles. It was quite different than where I am from, both in mindset and structure.

Before he started to search for a place (and believe me, he was already three steps ahead of me), I told him not to worry and that we would find something once we got to Eugene.

I walked the few blocks to the parking lot and breathed one of my last Portland breaths. No one thought I was a tourist. No one really thought anything of me. It was an odd comfort. A fellow pedestrian smiled at me as I crossed the street. I took one last look at Powell’s bookstore and then hopped in my vehicle. He smelled like home.

I pulled Louis to the front of the Ace and we piled our luggage, djembes, more books, and pillows as best as we could in the “L” shaped space of the Element. As Nick went take pictures in the authentic photo booth in the lounge, I looked at the interior and seriously wondered how on earth we were going to fit Rick into this picture.

Rick is studying for a doctorate of Physics in Eugene. He is originally from Lafayette and I would see him quite often at the Rok Haus when I worked there. When I first realized I was going to take a trip this way, I sent him a message on Facebook (which seems to be such a catalyst) to see if he would want to ride home with us instead of flying home for his summer vacation. I also knew he had mutual friends who lived in Fort Collins, Colorado, which is a place I wanted to visit along the way. He seemed enthusiastic about the idea.

I had called him at some point when we were in New Mexico to warn him that it may be a tight squeeze. He laughed it off and said it would only be himself and a stick with a red hankerchief tied at the end for his belongings.

Despite his chipper attitude, I was still wary of the space.

Before I could overanalyze the situation any further, Nick jumped in shot gun and we were ready for the road again. Louis meandered along the river road to the Interstate as my mind drifted along the current of Portland.

Maybe this would be my dwelling space one day. Maybe I was only supposed to absorb this energy for a short time. Regardless of the maybes, the moment was over for now. I nodded my head in respect of the universe and gave the maybes to God.

I was only able to drive 30 minutes before I had to switch with Nick in order to nap. The fatigue was starting to set in and we would be in Eugene in an hour. Rick and his friends were finishing their finals and the party that night was supposed to be “EPIC”. I knew I would need any rest I could get.

The latest epiphanies

I couldn’t sleep after the conversation with my cab driver. It was 1a.m. by the time I made it back to my hotel room. I knew I only had 11 hours left in this city that I had grown so fond of so quickly. I drifted in and out of sleep and by sunrise I had made my way to the cafe to write out my internal dialogue.

I will share two works that I composed as I sat in front of the large window and watched Portland for the last time, while I sipped my cup of Stumptown brew.

ONE

So far my favorite people on my journey have all been older people: Beth, Freddie, Uncle Edgar, and David.

I guess when it comes to meeting random people, I have enjoyed the wisdom of my elders. Maybe because they can see me.

But here is what I realized this morning. Traveling brings out the best of me because it’s a perfect balance of trying and not trying. I just chill out and do my own thing. However, I present the best version of myself physically.

Don’t ask me why I’m really writing all of this down. I think I can do this in Lafayette, I just don’t. I guess it’s because writing feels like home to me. So when I’m not at home, I have nothing left to do but let it out. However, I’ve never been gone long enough to know if I can handle it for an extended period of time.

I’ve always had the notion in the back of my mind that I go back to reality in a few days. But at the same time, it’s easier to get work done when no one calls you from home or from a job. I’m a drifter at the moment. Free as a bird.

Who knows how long it will be before I get this opportunity again. I think that’s why I like Portland so much. It’s a comfortable city. But I don’t really know anyone, so I don’t have any obligations.

But I feel the universe wanting to use me. Or me wanting to use myself.

TWO

I don’t want to leave this behind. I don’t want to leave my creativity.

Here no one expects anything from me. No one knows my potential. I can just sit back quietly and read and write and no one thinks anything of it.

It’s not Lafayette’s fault. I talked too much. I let everyone know what I wanted to do. So when I go anywhere, we talk.

And I all I end up doing is talking.

Who knows, I can move somewhere where no one knows my name and I can get caught in the same cycle. All I end up doing is talking and then inspiring other people to cause their own action.

Or, I can finally do everything I have always wanted to do, which is to buckle down and act. ACTivist. LIVEr.

Being away from home gives me the motivation to work faster. Because I want to end up there to start the settled part of my life.

So the sooner I get away, the sooner I put things into action and the sooner I settle.

I needed to see this. I needed to feel this. I needed to understand this.

I know.

I know.

It’s time. I am prepared.

My Moroccan Cab Driver

I had a life-encouraging conversation with a cab driver form Morocco, the country Penny Lane wanted to travel to in Almost Famous–one of my favorite movies.

It was one of those moments when you felt like you met someone who introduced you to someone who haled the cab with the driver with whom you were meant to exchange words.

I was on Facebook earlier that afternoon chatting with Val. She was in Austin, I in Portland. She told me she had a friend who lived here who I just had to meet.

A little back story. The whole reason I know Val is because of a mutual guy we both had a thing for. We often pick on him and say the whole reason we both liked him was for us to end up becoming friends.

Well, her friend Kate had been living in Portland for a few years. Val sent me Kate’s info and after a few rounds of phone tag, she came meet me at this trendy restaurant. We discussed how Val and I had met and she told me she remembered the incident.

These are reasons I do not believe in coincidences.

Anyways, Katie took me around the Northwest part of Portland, which I hadn’t seen yet. We drank and hung out with some other locals: one who told me about a girl he is in grad school with who wrote about the travesty of Katrina (the girl’s last name is Trickey). The other guy was from south of Savannah, Georgia and we talked about the South.

Another anyways, Katie and I both realized how tired we were and she was going to call me a cab. She ran outside of the bar to conduct the search and ended up haling me one that was already outside.

We say goodbye and I hopped in to find this 40ish black man driving the cab. He and I strike up a conversation and I say I’m just passing through Portland.

This sparks a whole discussion on what exactly is passing through. He says he is a child of the planet and has traveled the world twice over. I am completely understanding what he is saying and we catapult ourselves into this very deep talk.

We crossed labels and cultures and barriers that most people won’t allow. We were both so astounded as to just how much we understood one another on a universal level.

Yet again, it was one of those conversations that I don’t think I can adequately capture.

The one thing we both emphasized though is that there is hope in this world.

One of the things that gives me hope is that I have reached this level of universal understanding.

I am from South Louisiana. We are the last to get anything. The fact that I have these types of conversations on almost a daily basis with people from my state gives me hope that there is a larger understanding taking place within the human species.

I tell this to the cab driver and he is flabbergasted. He then tells me about this monkey theory about a single monkey evolving and another monkey modeling that monkey’s action. Eventually, there is this exponential growth of monkey understanding and that’s how it becomes an evolutionary cultural custom. It’s all in the exponential sudden spurt.

That’s how I know something big is about to happen. It’s the whole reason I had to get away from the South. I knew in my heart that something is taking place in humanity that most of us don’t even realize. You can find it in the most unexpected places.

We can’t compartmentalize how we find truth. But as humans, we try to figure out everything. This life is not meant to be understood. But we spend lifetimes trying to say that the answer comes in a certain form. However, when you let go of the expectation, the answer shows up in an unexpected fashion.

We have to let go and trust one another.

We stayed parked in front of the Ace hotel talking about these universal ideas for five minutes. Both of us were so excited to have found someone who “gets  it”. Neither of us wanted to part ways because we both knew it could be a while before we found another soul to share this truth.

All we did was tell one another to pass along the peace and hope that it does exist.

His name was David. We shook hands after formally introducing ourselves and smiled.

This is the Liver philosophy. This is life. It exists. I found it in Portland. I have found it everywhere. It is me. It is you. It is now.

Portland, Oregon

I awoke from my sleep at around 10a.m. I was so psyched to check out the neighborhood during sunlit hours, that I didn’t want to wait. Ben had told me I had to grab some coffee at Stumptown, which is connected to the Ace. Nick was still dead to the world, so I dressed and headed downstairs.

The whole lounge was buzzing with twenty-somethings. They were dressed funky and reading books and newspapers while sipping on coffee or tea.

I rounded the corner into the brew house and I felt alive from the aroma alone. The baristas were all male and all very good looking. All hail the Pacific Northwest! Literate, attractive people.

I sipped my dark roast while read parts of Hitchhiker’s Guide of the Galaxy. I hadn’t read but a page before a gentleman to my right told me that was one of his favorite books. We chatted for a few minutes then Nick texted me to see where I was.

I walked upstairs to meet him while I thought about how amazing it was to meet someone over a book. At that point I knew I didn’t want to return home and leave this kind of lifestyle behind…and it had only been a few hours.

We ended up walking past a Northface outdoors store on our way to find some grub. I spotted a pair of shoes that I had been coveting since Flagstaff. I tried them on and was about to pass, but the clerk tells me that there is no sales tax in Oregon.

What?

I love Oregon. You don’t have touch gas spouts or pay sales tax. And the coffee is amazing.

I walked out of the store with my yellow shoes and we found a local brew restaurant called Rogue’s.

It was now Nick’s turn to revel. He ordered beer-battered mahi-mahi fish and chips while he sipped an emperial stout. I hadn’t seen him that happy since Kimber without the “ly”-our Hooter’s waitress on Memorial Day.

We were about to head back to the hotel when we spotted Powell’s, a bookstore. We knew it was huge, but we didn’t realize its magnitude.

It conquers an entire city block and rests at 160,000 square feet, with four stories and hundreds of shelves to open the mind.

I lost my breath. We meandered through Philosophy, local authors, Religion, Psychology, and Tarot cards. After two hours we knew we had to leave otherwise we would have spent the next few days there.

We showered (separately, of course) and then left to find some fresh seafood for dinner. Someone suggested we go to Jake’s Crawfish. At first we snubbed our noses at the name, but then we figured we had nothing to lose.

We sat at the back bar and had our own personal bartender. We sipped wine, I had clam chowder for the first time-both New England and Manhattan. Nick and I then split the seafood platter and then I had a chocolate martini for dessert.

We tried to walk around for a bit, but my allergies kicked into high gear. We retired to the hotel early. We heard the livliness of the bar next door for hours, but decided saving our energy was a smarter plan.

Through the Redwoods to Eureka!

The Redwoods are big. It’s almost a redundant statement because anyone who has been there knows it’s an understatement…just like the Grand Canyon.

My friend Sarah had written on my Facebook page that driving through the Redwoods Forest is a humbling experience. She was right on several levels.

To witness vast, living nature makes you feel like a single spec of existence. You realize how tiny you are in an infinite universe. Plus, it feels so still and all-knowing. It made me realize how often I run in unnecessary circles and waste potential energy by replacing productivity with worry.

We drove through scenic California mountains and ventured through one of the tackiest, yet must-see, tourist spots: a Redwood tree you can drive through. It’s $5 to go through the park, which is located in a 700 population village.

I bought some Redwood incense from the gift shop, along with a Viewfinder for my godchild Ellah. It had pictures from major American signature spots, most of which I saw on this trip. Plus, I had one of those small, blue, optical gadgets as a child and I used to look at Disney stories on it. Who needs modern HD, when an imagination and still frames can get you that simply excited?

Nick had the idea to set up Louis with the doors open and us jam out Remy’s song. After a short debate, we decided to film it as well. He grabbed his djembe and I played guitar and sang. Random cars drove by and waved as if we were rock stars. Or maybe they just admired that we were living life.

We drove through more terrain for hours until we reached Eureka. It was one of the last cities in California. We ate at Hana’s sushi restaurant. I cannot even describe how fresh the fish was. I know I live on the Gulf Coast, but I feel like I’ve been lied to. The Rainbow Roll had the most delicious salmon and tuna. I washed it down with Happy Hour saki and then we hit the road again.

We didn’t realize we still had another six or so hours to Portland.

We were slightly discouraged until we saw the Pacific Ocean. Nick was driving at the moment and pulled off the exit. My nerves started to intensify as we parked. At first I walked slowly onto the sand to take in the open view. The sun was starting to set, there were people tossing frisbees to their dogs, and a few couples were snuggling on the sand.

I inhaled the salty, fresh air and was about to sigh a refreshing exhale when Nick took off running and said “Beat ya to the ocean.”

We were a half mile away from water and I took off in a sprint. The young chap didn’t stand a chance.

The water was colder than a snow-cone on a hot summer’s day. I’ve heard the Pacific was cold, but compared to the Gulf it’s Arctic.

I waded in the water, reveling in my small victory, searching for stones to take back to my other godchild Malorie. I triumphed in my search and even discovered a crab claw to bring back for my fellow Cancer, Aaron.

For a split second, we thought about camping out on the beach, but my buddy Ben had scored us a room at the Ace Hotel in Portland and I didn’t want his ambition to be a waste.

So on we drove through windy roads. I have to admit, I did get queesy quite often. I had to lay back in the passenger seat and close my eyes in order to deter the puking sensation.

We finally crossed the Oregon border after darkness prevailed throughout the sky. We pulled up to a gas station in order to fill the tank and were astonished to find a guy walk up to our car and ask how much we wanted to purchase. Nick told him not to worry about it, but then we were told it was illegal to pump your own gas in the state of Oregon.

What?

I thought we had left the weird laws in Oklahoma.

Evidently, it’s supposed to create more jobs and it stops drive-0ffs.

We snacked on popcorn as we made the trek to downtown Portland. We didn’t arrive until 3 a.m. I thought the streets seemed pretty bare considering the size of the city.

We walked into this freshly renovated, rather trendy building. It was classically chic and very purposefully put together. We were handed a real, old-school skeleton key and told our room was on the second floor.

I had so much adrenaline rushing through me as I creaked up the stairs. Ben, one of my dearest friends, works at the Ace in NYC. He was originally supposed to take part of this roadtrip with me. As I peaked around the lounge and hallways, I felt his presence.

It had been months since I had seen my pal, but as I opened the door to my room, I felt like he had set the stage for me. Everything was clean, precise and unique. The detail to how the magazines, brochures, and products were placed made you feel how the staff cared about the experience of this hotel. It had Ben written all over it.

I felt so connected to him at that moment, that while Nick passed out, I stayed up and wrote an email to him. I then began to type uncontrollably. I had only been in Portland for a few hours, but there was an energy here that awakened a part of my soul.

By the time I closed my Mac, the sun was coming up. I nestled myself into a ball and hugged my pillow as I fell asleep with a smile across my face. This wasn’t a sweet dream. This was a sweet reality.