communications, concepts, connections, Music, philosophy, Travel

Explosions of awakening

I saw light through my closed eye lids and thought it was the sun. It was florescent lights at a gas station.

“We’re in Wyoming. You have to drive now. But you’re about to see the most amazing sun rise.”

These were the last words I heard from Nick for hours. I got out of the back of Louis and went to the restroom in a grody bathroom. After scrubbing my hands and splashing some of the questionable water on my face, I purchased a LARGE coffee and banana.

When I slipped into my coveted driver’s seat, Nick was already crashed in the back and Rick was resting his head against the window. I started the vehicle and looked up to see nothing but an open sky that was now a navy blue.

It was 5:30 a.m. There were hardly any cars on the Interstate as I pulled off of the dirt road onto the ramp. A tiny strip of yellow blessed the horizon as a few of the stars danced their finale of the morning.

Rick asked if I wanted to listen to anything in particular, but before I could answer he already had a band in mind.

Explosions in the Sky.

No other band would have completed the moment more perfectly. I drove as the melody lulled the sun from slumber. This was going to be my first sunrise I witnessed on the trip. From the anticipation building in my tummy, I knew it was going to be glorious. It was the same feeling I had at the Grand Canyon. Peaceful excitement. Something from Nothing. An ironic paradox.

I originally planned on running at sunrise in almost every city. I learned quickly that gluttony and indulgence are so much easier to succumb to than energy exertion. Most people would rather do nothing than something too. I fell into that category several times this trip. Several times during my life.

I have all of these expectations. All of these things that I want to do. Life always seems to have another plan for me. Oh this hidden plan. It gets me where I need to go; where I envision I will be. Just never, ever the way I think it will get me there.

It’s like my mind and life like to play tricks on the “me” that witnesses it all. Because I won’t enjoy what’s right in front of me because I always feel like there is something else I should be doing. The things I have already thought about what I want to do.

My mind is the race track. There are always six lanes running at the same time. It seems like different participants at times. One finishes first. One has to finish last. But they all eventually cross the finish line of this grand circular motion.

This is what I realize as Louis climbed a mountain to reveal the entire sun beaming over an open valley. I was elevated to at least 7,000 feet and shared such an intimate moment with the source of light.

It was as though my answers were illuminated for this instant. I knew they existed and will now always be present, even though reality was going to throw a few hurdles across my track. This is why Alison told me to write this all down. She knew I was going to need proof to remember the illumination.

It’s kind of funny. You can always make something from a memory. Even if it didn’t exist in the moment you originally experienced it.

That’s why I take history with a grain of salt. Half of the time, the intention of action is different than most people expect. Plus, it’s just a culmination of several hundreds of thousands of people’s experience and perception.

How will we possibly be able to write the history of now? There are 7 billion people on this planet. The difficulty of keeping things accurate and true could be nearly impossible.

But I digress from my original memory. Off on another track.

I drove in a peaceful state until 7:30 a.m. We were 30 minutes from Fort Collins and I had no energy left. We stopped at a McDonald’s and I reverted to the back seat.

I needed a nap after that mental race.

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driving, Giggles, memories, sharing, Travel

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.

concepts, connections, driving, Giggles, memories, personal, philosophy, sharing, stories, Travel, writing

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.

concepts, connections, friends, Giggles, memories, Travel

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.

communications, concepts, connections, dinner, dreams, food, friends, Giggles, ideas, media, memories, Party, Travel

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.

concepts, driving, farewells, memories, Party, Path Unknown, sharing, Travel, writing

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.

concepts, connections, Creativity, Epiphanies, ideas, memories, sharing, stories, Travel, writing

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.