Latté Love

Latté Love

We live for these stolen moments.

Laneway sunshine,

Latte love,

Fleeting butterflies.

 

We feel trapped in our lives,

Trapped by our old lives.

But happiness,

Love, Beauty, Truth, Passion,

Are all so close

 

We only have to step together,

And no more stolen moments.

Just you and me.

Us.

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Heart

Heart

This weekend I took a creative writing course through RMIT, encouraged by Luana and spurred on by having the time and space to explore my creativity in a form I love, writing.  I find it difficult to not filter my words, and the facilitator, Lucy Treloar, gave some helpful tips on how to express words in the manner in which they are felt.  In this example below, I was trying to use action and motion as the setting for something bigger and more emotional.  I would love to hear your feedback.

They trotted along the freshly manicured grass, telling themselves they were priming their muscles for the race.  Everyone knew, however, and it was secretly enjoyed by both men and women, that it was to show off their physiques.  Reminding me of stallions, the runners would powerfully lift their calves to their buttocks, their thighs bulging and shining through their compression tights, as they slow-motioned their way along the practice track, laughing and exuding a pretense of careless ease.  Across the oval was the racetrack proper, where every few minutes there would be a hush across the entire arena.  No matter where I stood, whether at the cricket scoreboard with the young teenagers flirting and romancing, to the pungent air of dim-sims and greasy chip food trucks, or amongst the bookkeepers who had never left the fifties, pencils in ear, visors on sweaty foreheads, scrambling to stay ahead of their ledgers; the official’s voice silenced all, “Marks… Set…” <CRACK>!  Smoke, pause, then a rainbow in motion as the frocked athletes thundered their paces.  Three breaths and it was all over, four and the crowd resumed their conversations, betting and walking along the outer circuit of the Stawell Gift.

I had just finished leaning over the barrier watching a heat, and pushed my weight back up to wander, admiring the athletes and wanting to be a part of their stable.  I turned my back to the track and saw her.  I couldn’t turn away, I couldn’t hide, although my brain tried to process how and where I might.  I was stuck.  I was close enough to see the ugly scar on her upper chest from the Hickman catheter, and felt a knot in my stomach that bordered on sickness.  Her hair was long again, much like when we first met but nothing like those last months, even year, we had been together.  And still dark, stained by the blood chemicals, not blonde as I wondered whether it may return, and as she secretly hoped it would.  My mouth was open, with nothing to say except ‘oh.’  My nerve faltered and no words emerged, or maybe it was the distracting glint and blur that came my way, reminding me of a shooting star that is only visible from the corner of one’s eye.  I heard the slap before I registered pain and realised I was again facing towards the athletes.  A thoroughbred had stopped in his tracks, such must have been the surprise and sound.  I turned my head back towards her as my mouth closed, in time to see the blinding sunburst again, as my hand caught her wrist mid-stroke.  I recognised the shiny gold ring we chose together, wondering why she still wore it.  I felt her wrist pulling my arm down as she fell in a heap, shuddering.  I didn’t know whether to let her wrist go, or to keep her dangling by maintaining my hold.  I sensed the crowds’ eyes on me as seconds turned into hours.  I kneeled down, my hand damp in her trembling wrist now, as I looked at her, terrified at what I might face behind those sunglasses.

7,463,640 New York Minutes

7,463,640 New York Minutes

As I mentioned in my previous post, I want to revisit my thoughts and feelings on New York, the United States and 9/11, having not done so for over fourteen years, or over 7,463,640 minutes.

In getting back to writing, and trying to use words to bare and be open, reflecting on two things I love (New York City, the USA) and something that deeply pierced and hurt that love (September 11, 2001), will be an interesting journey.  (Side note; I’ve been looking for my Statue of Liberty, USA flag pin that I mention in my previous post, including digging around in my parents house.  Has not been found yet…).

I have been mesmerised by New York City the three times I’ve visited.  Although I’ve fallen in love with San Francisco, I find myself often thinking of the Empire City.  I won’t compare the two, because that isn’t fair, each one touches my heart, but I will venture into how New York City has taken ahold of mine.

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Most recently, I we visited in July and August 2015.  I was amazed at the breadth and depth of the city.  Where in Melbourne, Sydney and San Francisco, one can traverse a good portion of the city in a day on foot, New York offers a density that doesn’t allow this.  Streets and Avenues offer too many interesting sights, sounds and sensations (including smells!) to rush past them.  Everywhere is filled with a richness, there is no empty space except the sanctuary of Central Park.  Street art here, an interesting window display there, a rich lady walking a poodle here, an amazing musician on that corner.  But no horns tooting.  Sirens everywhere, usually ambulances and firetrucks instead of police, and incessant.  The city is abuzz and is a hive of activity.  We had to plan our days into small sections of the city, surrendering in knowing we couldn’t possibly see and experience all the city had to offer, despite trying gamely on the first day.  In other cities, one can get a pretty good feel for the layout and find some favourite areas.  I felt like New York City was a huge mystery that no one in a lifetime can possibly unravel entirely; almost like a fractal in that the closer you look, the more there is to see and the more immersed you can become.

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Central Park seems to be the only true ‘park’ with grass that can be walked and sat on.  Many of the little parks had their grassy areas fenced off from dogs and people alike, including the tiny tree plots on the sidewalk.  How awful for the dogs!  Bryant Park did offer grass to lie on, which a lot of parks seemed to lack, and it was funny being told off by a policeman at midnight, “Time to go home.”

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Minou, in Strawberry Fields

Flat White.  Coffee.  Cawfee!  The lifeblood of any metropolis, and New York’s density, corporate reputation, and Wall Street mentality surely meant there would be good cawfee.  Not so much.  We spent hours walking from Yelp recommendation to recommendation until stumbling across Caffe Vita in Ludlow Street.  With it’s attitude on life, Lower East Side clientele, chilled barista and rock & roll roaster, this was the alarm clock each morning.

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Bagels, Bagels, Bagels.  A New York religion, and a specialty that seemingly can’t be exported beyond the five boroughs, bagel tastes are specific to each person, but a New York bagel must meet a few criteria: chewy inside, crunchy outside, ‘blistered,’ shiny and boiled.  Our perfect morning consisted of leaving our Lower East Side AirBnB apartment, past the crazy neighbour hoarding-lady’s flat, get my bearings (always a challenge for me figuring out east, west, north, south in a grid city for some reason…), walk south to Russ & Daughters (deli, not cafe, important), grab our bagels then continue walking to the aforementioned Caffe Vita for a boost.  It is so much fun experiencing the streets of New York before midday, like being behind the scenes of a movie, the mystery is revealed!  Beer trucks with kegs refilling cellars of pubs and bars, street cleaners sweeping gutters, no one about, rubbish bags everywhere with the threat of a hot day warming and stinking them up (where the bags go, we never officially found out, just got some local advice that “that’s what happens.  The rubbish gets cleaned up.”

With coffee in hand, and bagels wrapped in wax paper, we would find a park bench to enjoy our breakfast before exploring Gotham.

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Strawberry Fields (Forever).  A moving place in Central Park, opposite John Lennon’s former apartment and home.  ‘Imagine’ is inscribed in a circle on the pavement in the memorial space.  Many, many tourists scramble to take photos and selfies of the word, usually with a peace sign made with their hand, or flowers, but I think this should be a space of reflection.  There are also several artists and musicians around Strawberry Fields.

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Pizza, Pizza, Pizza.  Another New York institution, the many 24/7 pizza bars around the city.  The rules and expectations are simple: thin crust, bigger than your face, freshly made, eat the pizza standing, one handed is best, and flat to get the most taste, not folded.  If you’re a fan of Louis CK, then Ben’s Pizza at 123 MacDougal Street near Washington Square Park is a nexus of the universe.  It’s not the best pizza (that accolade goes to Joe’s Pizza at 150 E. 14th Street), but it is where strange things happen…  First, it’s where Louis CK of the show Louie, is seen in the opening credits (he demonstrates how to eat pizza Noo Yawk style).  Second, it’s where we met Antonio Polanco, a guardian Angel, completely by star-crossed chance.  Antonio is a poet who lives in Brooklyn, we connected via Instagram, and in the five-borough area where there are more than eight million people, we accidentally  meet in the pizzeria of a show we love, who’s creator we happened to meet at Comedy Cellar two nights prior!  Whattttttt…

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Randolph Moment.  This is what happens when stars align and the universe has a plan.  The first documented example of this occurred on the 28th of July, 2015.  I was ready to go home after exploring the city, only three blocks away, fortunately Luana said “nope, we’re going this way…” towards Randolph Beer (343 Broome Street), where we sat down.  I messaged my friend Jeff and his fiancé Stephanie, and they came to meet us.  What was a tired moment turned into a fun evening, thanks to not following a plan and just going with it.  Randolph Moments are rare, though, and can’t be planned by their very nature. It’s like trying to spot a very faint star, you can’t stare directly at it,you have to look at it from the corner of your eye and never for too long or it might disappear.  But when you learn to embrace them (and I’m not very good at that), they are vastly rewarding.

Like the city itself, my writing scarcely does any justice to the scale of wonder The Big Apple offers.  Maybe a scratch on the surface, if that.  I find it difficult to express my thoughts and feelings on the city, because there is so much that I hold for her: love, amazedness, sadness, intrigue, mystery, sublime.  This is a very different post to what I imagined it would be when I started, and that’s ok.  Maybe I will close with a poem…

 

Anything can happen, in a New York Minute.

Love, Louie, laughter and smell.

If you follow your heart, you’ll just stumble in it.

People everywhere, the crowds will swell.

High Line, Lady, Promenade and Met.

But step aside, watch them pass,

Find the hidden gardens and park.

That is where magic will happen,

Don’t look too closely or it may go dark!

Just step to one side, onto that path less travelled,

Be a little afraid, but know something special will hark.

You might just feel your heart aflutter,

And connect with those, and that which matter,

Close your eyes if need be, or take hold of her hand.

It will all be worthwhile,

Randolph has your day planned.

– 

So breathe, feel, sense and connect,

Everything will happen, in that New York Minute.

 

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My Journal Entry from 12 September 2001

My Journal Entry from 12 September 2001

I love and have always loved New York and the United States.  This is a revisit to my journal and reflection from that terrible time, when I was 18 and about to finish high school.  Journal excerpts below, followed by a piece I wrote to reflect and try to understand in my own head and heart what was happening.  I have left the piece untouched from when I first typed it on the 13th of September, 2001.

As I retyped my words into WordPress and read it simultaneously, having not read it for over ten years, I am struck by how suppressed or repressed my emotions are.  It’s like I am writing it for someone else, or as someone else, and I don’t want my feelings bared.  This is what I find hard about writing, as I’ve started again… baring myself and being honest within.  I will follow up this post with a reflection on New York, doing my best to be honest and open.

12-13 September 2001 Journal Excerpts

12 September 2001 (Australian Eastern Standard Time)

‘Holy Fuck’ as I said to Dom and Hakon via SMS at 07:07am this morning.  A day of infamy.  Came downstairs and mum showed me The Age front page, ‘Oh my God’ were my words.  Was in a really shitty mood for most of the day.  Sad and angry.  To think the two World Trade Center buildings are gone.  Nick Bensley realised I was angry and we talked – he’s the only sensible one on the issue.  Terrible news.  Touch rugby helped relieve stress and get my mind off the issue.

13 September 2001 (Australian Eastern Standard Time)

Typed up a 2,500 word reflection on how I feel about this whole thing.  The world’s a fucked up place.  Spoke to Rebel, Miriam, Andrea in the morning.  Sent Ella an e-mail – her friend’s dad was in the WTC.  Felt good throughout the day, but extremely sad / shit later at night.  Didn’t do literature essay – can’t be fucked and did not feel up for it.  A sad, sad day.  Feel sorry for poor NYC.  Giuliani is a hero though.

11 September 2001 Reflections

12 September 2001

07:03 AEST: Awake but feeling tired, grumpy and sluggish.  I was surprised to find a missed call on my mobile phone.  Dominic Sidor called at five minutes past midnight.  I was stumped as to why, but quickly put it out of my mind; it was probably just regarding some homework.

07:07 AEST: Having changed and headed downstairs, I walked into the kitchen.  “Have you seen the headlines?” Inquired Mum.

“No.”  I replied.  Upon which, Olga held up the paper.  War on America proclaimed the headline.  A large fuzzy picture of the WTC on fire and a jet confronted me.  “What happened?”  I asked.  Upon hearing the rather sketchy description from Mum, I grabbed the paper from Mum and laid in on the table, surprised I held back profanities and just quietly said, “Oh my God.”

I don’t know whether I was trying to hide my feelings, or from who for that matter, but I did not feel right by continuing with the preparations for breakfast.  Inside I was shaken.  Breakfast made, I ate it out near the TV.  The images shown were shocking.  Passenger jets exploding into the immense towers of the WTC.  Smoke billowing out.  The eventual and gargantuan crash of both structures.  Not to mention the destruction at the Pentagon.  I could not finish my breakfast.  My hands shook slightly and I felt an odd mix of feelings that didn’t become clear until later in the day.

Upstairs, preparing for school, I paced around my room thinking about the news.  I sent two text messages via mobile phone to two close friends, with very brief, but very precise messages.  I was surprised to have one call back, and stuttered into the phone that I would speak with him at school.

I left the house in disbelief.  Carrying the front page of the newspaper in my pocket, if only to remind myself of what happened.  I was amazed at the almost regardless mood aboard the bus and with peopleI spoke to.  People simply did not care a great deal.  They spoke of other things.

I spent the day in confusion, rage and sadness.  I barely managed a smile or a word and was appalled at people’s attitudes towards the strike.  Insensitive jokes were being made; a lot of people were not interested and instead pursued leisure activities.  I spent every free moment at the CNN website or watching TV.  Nick Bensley and I realised school chapel was not a pressing matter and instead proceeded to find a classroom with a TV in order to try to grasp the situation.  Many people speculated on the situation but I, however, preferred not to talk about the tragedy.  I found it disrespectful to speak on something I knew very little about.  I got angry hearing about people talk about the strikes and found I could only have sensible conversations with more mature people, yet I still offered little input.  The most relieving conversation I had was with Nick Bensley – who understood the situation and treated it as I did.  Other people attempted to show off how much they knew about the situation, something I found disgusting.  Others were almost proud of the attack.

Throughout the day I did not and could not work.  I was quiet for most of the day, often reflecting on how the world had just been shaken.  I love New York City and really like the United States: I wanted to help and felt frustration at not being able to.  I felt wrath towards the cowardly attackers and I felt sadness that two things in my life that meant a lot to me were severely hurt.  It was sadness, though, that didn’t seem to be felt by anyone else except those in the US.  I was sure people care but why wasn’t anyone showing it?  Surely people felt as I did: helpless, disconcerted and uneasy.

A game of touch rugby after school helped relieve my distress, anger and sorrow.  For 45 minutes I forgot all about the events of the day and previous evening and enjoyed a friendly game among friends.  Post-game, I looked around, took in the glorious feeling of the warm sunlight falling on my shoulders and enjoyed the feel of grass under my bare feet as I realised how glad I was to be living in Australia.

On the bus home, reading another newspaper, I kept realising the enormity of the situation – some of which had worn off me.  Upon returning home I immediately watched BBC and CNN for practically the rest of the evening and night.  Hours of shocking images continued to assault me.  Footage from almost every angle of the aircraft crashing into the towers, people dangling and falling out of the WTC, the mayhem and mess after the collapse of the buildings.  It started to sink in that the famous twin towers of New York are gone forever.  I looked at a panoramic print of the famous NYC skyline in my room – the most prominent feature being the twin towers strutting out far above the rest of the city.  Unbelieving that they were nit there any more.  I was quietly stunned that I had once stood in the foyer of both of the massive towers that no longer existed.  I realised September 11 would never be forgotten.  I had lived on a historical day that my children would ask me about.  I felt sad for a good primary school friend, who had lived in New Jersey, now living in England, who’s sixteenth birthday fell on this same day.  I had sent her an email the day before wishing her “a great day” as well as other wishes.  I didn’t feel guilty, just extremely sorry for her and I sympathised for her.  I wanted to comfort her and speaks to her, but at the same time didn’t really know how to go about doing so.  Mum called her – to speak to her mother, but they weren’t home and instead Mum left a message.  I couldn’t email Ella (my friend), I thought it would be too unfeeling.

On the internet later my anger stirred again – people had chosen extremely insensitive and thoughtless ‘MSN’ names.  I realised a suspicion I’d harboured for quite some time – most people are ignorant, stupid and uncaring.  People were lobbying false charity by committing deeds that had no impact on the events of the day (altering MSN status to ‘Busy’).  This angered my further and I told a few people not to do so; that if they wanted to show respect, ‘pick up a weapon and stand post,” figuratively speaking.  What I meant: do something that actively affects the state of the world.  I was frustrated there was nothing I could do to help the United States. and New York City.

Sick of the feeling over the internet, I logged off.  Minutes later a good friend called: Nick Bensley.  I realised he may have been my closest friend when he noticed I was nit happy today and he called as a result.  We talked for a bit about the strike, there were moments off absolute silence and we also tried to relieve tension with jokes and other topics off conversation.  I felt better after speaking with Nick.  Still feeling helpless and frustrated, I decided the best I could do was find all my New York memorabilia.  For some reason, this gave me a bit of security. Looking at maps and postcards from New York, although I realised everything was different now, they helped.  A final ‘security blanket’ and something which made me feel like I was doing something (although I realise it was absolutely minimalist), was pinning a small American flag / Statue of Liberty badge to my blazer as a sign of respect and mourning.  Following this, seeing as I regularly have a spa at night, usually in the presence of accompanying music: after deliberating, I felt I could still enjoy a spa, and it might help to relieve stress.  Instead of modern or rock music, I decided opera classics likes Verdi were more appropriate, and they were – my mind occasionally wandered off-topic to the music I was singing to.  I thought of Dad, who was on a two-week holiday with an American and two Australians in the outback on a 4WD trip.  They knew the news – I wondered what they thought.  In a way I was glad Dad wasn’t here; things might have been a bit more emotional if he were.  Throughout the night I kept a close eye on the clock – having mentally calculated the local time in NYC, I awaited the hour when 24 hours had passed since the first strike (2245h AEST).  I found myself occasionally worrying about people I might have known to be living in NYC or in the WTC – but wasn’t exactly relieved even though I didn’t.

13 September 2001

I woke at approximately 6 am to a feeling of sickness.  I turned the TV on to catch up on the news and lay in bed for an hour in a surreal state of mind.  It had been 24 hours since I found out about the terror and about 30 hours since the actual events transpired.  I woke with the knowledge that this moment in my life was to be a significant one in not only my life, but for the rest of the world and history.  The news reported little change, they merely reminded me of the magnitude of the strikes.  The atrocities of the previous day’s events were only starting to sink in.  I was still shocked, but realised it was another day.  I couldn’t believe my reaction.  Surely I should be more upset.  I felt I should be crying, and I wanted to, but simply could not.  Maybe it would come later, when the shock wore away.  Breakfast was spent the same way; in front of the TV.  The day was much the same.  People seemed to have forgotten the tragedy already – and I was appalled.  Whenever I caught myself thinking of something else, striking images of the jets crashing and the twin towers gone brought me back to reality and made me aware again on the gravity of the tragedy.  At one stage I realised I actually had not thought of the attack for quite some time, only to once again bring forth the images of death and grief back again.  People at school were joking again over the strike; proposing to “bomb the Arabs” among other tasteless jokes.  I was pleased, however, that my mood had certainly improved.  I dod not feel distress about the calamity, but certainly had not let if far from conscious thought.  I could have an occasional laugh though, and let the terrorist strike out of my mind for brief periods.

Arriving home, I once again switched straight to the BBC and CNN and stayed glued for the remainder of the day.  I was appalled at the horrifying death toll count.  I tried, unrealistically, to put the disaster out of my mind as I struggled to simply try to enjoy myself for a bit and ‘de-stress.’  I could not, however, suppress emotions and thoughts for a long time.  Going on the internet to talk topple did not help; hardly anyone mentioned it.  Most people were more interested in their weekend plans or the latest gossip.  Once again, I was appalled and logged off – feeling saddened by people’s reactions.  I proceeded to watch the news stations and distinctly remember the moving images of the firefighters and rescue workers sifting through rubble and using a charred shell of a fire-truck as a base of operations.  As daylight broke over NYC fir the second day since the tragedy, the valleys of destruction that the cameras revealed were alarming.  It resembled stereotypical images and thoughts of The Apocalypse.  These images brought my emotions close to the surface, and I felt immense sadness watching these scenes; for the victims, survivors, rescue works, Americans and everyone affected by the tragedy.  NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani struck me in particular as somewhat of a hero.  His city, the city he had rebuilt, had been struck down resulting in thousands of deaths.  Yet, he strode through the streets and wreckage with pride and and a sense of endeavour.  He conducted himself during the press conferences with amazing and admirable self-control, precision and honesty.  For someone hurting beyond belief inside, he presented the strong image Americans and New Yorkers in particular needed to help proceed with the rebuild task.  I harbour the deepest respect and prayers for Mr. Giuliani.

It was relieving at times, and this happened yesterday as well, that occasionally I would go outside to say hello to my dog, only to be completely relaxed and happy.  It sounds trite, but I could look at my dog and play with her, and the evil acts that just occurred vanished from my mind and I felt pure happiness simply playing with a harmless and lovely creature.

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Good dog, Tasha

Towards the evening, approximately 48 hours after the attack, the weight of the circumstances took their place and the initial shock and disbelief started to leave me.  Instead of anger and incredulity, I now felt scared and apprehensive about the future.  Not exactly scared of threats of war or more terrorism, more because I felt there was absolutely nothing I could do to help, when I so desperately wanted to.  Just as America began cleaning up the wreckage, I started too left the shock leave me, and found it replaced with weariness and an empty sadness, and almost numbness to the carnage that had unveiled.  I could still think back to the images of the explosions and could still tell myself “Someone blew up the WTC,” to once again conjure up thoughts that evil does exist in the world, and I feel humbled again.  I found myself watching TV and forgetting that this tragedy really happened.  I then forced myself to remember the above thoughts, usually to accompanying graphic scenes on the television, only to find myself shocked and scared again at the thought that the US was crippled today.  Less than one hundred men crippled the world, scarred history and destroyed the future.  I never imagined that an unseen enemy like this could ever do such damage to the United States.  Thoughts of an unsure future then begin to haunt my mind and it is disconcerting that nobody knows what happens next.

As I finish putting my thoughts to paper, it is disturbing that Mum just found out from England that one of Ella’s friend’s father was in the WTC during the tragedy.  Helpless as I feel,the best I can do is write an email to her.  Knowing someone personally affected by this is not a nice feeling.  I feel sorry for her, and want to speak to her – but, alas, cannot right now.  I looks to be a long night – I’ll see if I can catch her online, as well as writing a personal email to her.  Life has to go on and homework has to be done, I realise this; but it can wait two days.  Human tragedy, in my mind, takes precedence over academic requests.  It is undoubtedly a sad day, and I can feel emotions stirring again.  Perhaps the face that someone I know know has been affected triggered it, but I’m overcome by an extremely sombre mood.  I don’t feel like writing more.  I would, however, encourage people to do as I’ve done, record their thoughts and feelings on paper, print them, read their writings back to themselves and maybe even share their thoughts.  If nothing else is understood about current affairs, and even though the future is perhaps looking bleak, depressing and unclear, at least you have got your thoughts clearly on paper.

Remember
Remember

Apollo Bay (Dreaming)

Apollo Bay (Dreaming)

Birdsong in the tree,

Besides me, my Asahi.

Surf Coast Century pulls one way,

The other is a San Francisco day,

And a New York City night.

The Brooklyn Promenade glowed so brightly,

The Skyline and Freedom shone ever lightly,

Reminding me now

Of Passion’s rooftop kisses.

Knowing, also, that’s what my heart no longer misses.

 –

I am closer to my self, truly,

Unlike before, living dually.

Rediscovering my soul through the pen,

Encouraged by my lover woman.

The waves crash against the sand,

I am a happy, lucky man.

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Writing

Scribe Me, San Francisco

Scribe Me, San Francisco

Writing is scary.  I don’t know what will come out.  I have spent a lot of years afraid to let myself write from the heart, instead writing business, MBA and work content.  A lot of this came from suppressing pain and feeling, thus suppressing my heart.  So when I have let myself open my heart to write, beams have come out, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely and been equally scared.  But, I’ve still limited myself to writing about business-related subjects.  When I asked Luana, who has been incredibly encouraging, what I should write about, she rolled her eyes and said, “Anything!  San Francisco, running, writing, New York, travel.  Just write!”.  So, I’m writing about what I love.

Cool, Grey City of Love
Cool, Grey City of Love

I first visited the City by the Bay in 2006, and I fell in love.  It was December, and Karl the Fog was cunning in his frequent and unannounced visits.  I stayed for only a few days, at the Adelaide Hostel, near Union Square.  A hostel in an alley, run-down and hidden, but with the friendliest staff and vibe.  I still have my journal from my first San Francisco trip, but I’m writing this from memory and feel.  I explored on foot, walking the hills and the beaches towards the bridge, meeting people, trying to be a local.  There are so many quotes about the allure and mystery of The City, that all fit my and others’ experiences of San Francisco.  It is a city that accepts anyone and everyone, that shrouds them in love and just lets everyone be who they are and who they want to be.

“No city invites the heart to come to life as San Francisco does.  Arrival in San Francisco is an experience in living.” -William Saroyan

I fell in love with San Francisco, and have always longed for her.  This first trip opened my heart to The City, and I have so many fond memories from my time there; meeting Danny the Australian and walking across the Bridge with him; Gabriella, the Hungarian water polo player I met through Craigslist who introduced me to the BART and East Bay; finding the Bacchus, a local pub, which led to finding The City’s gems like the best underground sushi, the Exploratorium, and the best view from a hotel lift (Westin St. Francis).

I returned in 2010, in a painful way.  I only visited SFO, San Francisco International Airport, on transit back to Australia from a work trip.  I was (telling myself I was) enjoying the corporate high-flying life, a business class ticket home after meeting executives.  But I felt pangs as I walked through the news store in the terminal, and saw the SF Chronicle, Golden Gate Bridge artwork, and artefacts that triggered my longing for a life true to my heart.  I suppressed, but looking back, knew what I felt at the time.

Then, in 2014, it was time to return with my then-wife.  We booked a nice Union Square hotel and had four or five days in the Golden City.  I was apprehensive.  What if it didn’t feel like the San Francisco that I fell in love with?  What if The City had changed?  What if Jacinta didn’t like it?  What if I didn’t like it?  I needn’t have worried about any of that, The City and I reconnected.  But, I felt like she knew I wasn’t being true to myself.  I was a tourist, I wasn’t myself; Alcatraz, bike touring, degustations, five-star hotels.  It was lovely and luxurious, but it wasn’t me, and that is all San Francisco asks of you and encourages you to be.  I left knowing something was missing from my visit, something was lacking.  I felt incomplete.  Photos of me during that trip show an empty smile and sad eyes, maybe just a world weariness.  There was happiness, but it was heavy.

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“One day if I do go to heaven, I’ll look around and say, ‘It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco.” – Herb Caen

Upon returning to Melbourne, I longed.  I read SF Chronicle articles, I subscribed to the Chronicle, I looked for San Franciscan jobs.  Then, I suppressed again.

It wasn’t until I began the painful process of remembering and letting myself feel pain, hurt, emotion, sadness, happiness again, that I lifted my gaze and thought about visiting The City again.  I avoided San Francisco in March 2015, in case it brought back painful memories.  So, I skirted her and visited what John Lennon referred to as “the big parking lot,” Los Angeles.  San Francisco was close, but I wasn’t ready.  When I returned, I wanted to embrace San Francisco as the city I fell in love with again, and be true so she could embrace me.

“San Francisco is 49 square miles surrounded by reality.” – Paul Kantner

Luana and I prepared our trip for July 2015.  We were apprehensive, particularly about pain and sadness triggers The City might bring about for me.  I countered these by arranging minimal overlaps between my trip with my ex, and this trip.  I think I knew I would be OK, or maybe it is with retrospect, that I see in being true to myself and going to the places I wanted to, and Luana and I wanted to, everything was OK.  We even managed to time our visit with the San Francisco Marathon, where I would combine my love of running with a city I adored.  42.195 kilometres from The Embarcadero, around Fishermans Wharf and Marina, out and back Golden Gate Bridge, and then slogging through Presidio, entering Golden Gate Park’s endless loops, up and down Haight-Ashbury, before swinging back past AT&T Park and The Bay Bridge to the finish line and Luana.  It was a beautiful run.  Compared to the Los Angeles Marathon a few months earlier, which was bold, flashy and on display; the San Francisco Marathon felt understated, cool, pure, and without all the hype.  Oh, and I am very sorry San Francisco, for soiling your sidewalk pre-Marathon, post-coffee (runners will understand).

Laughing in Nob Hill, happy
Laughing in Nob Hill, happy

Our July 2015 trip to The City was amazing.  Luana also fell in love with San Francisco.  After driving from Los Angeles (which she wasn’t too impressed with, understandably), we both loved our first glimpses and experiences in The City.  From feeling the cool, foggy breeze, climbing the hills, running into a coyote at Coit Tower, seeing the Transamerica Pyramid from our rooftop, laying on Ocean Beach, burying a love note capsule, finding an old map shop.  Watching and interacting with our neighbours at sunset from our rooftop in Nob Hill, with a glass of wine, felt like 70’s America; communal, free and without a care in the world.

Post-Marathon
Post-Marathon

A weight started to lift from from shoulders on this trip.  If my escape to LaLaLand in March was a pressure release, this trip was R&R, convalescence, an opportunity to heal.  Laughing in the streets, drinking and playing, running and laying in the sand, falling in love, being happy.

Happy, rooftop, sunset, San Francisco
Happy, rooftop, sunset, San Francisco

Now, San Francisco inhabits that place in my heart and my head that I long for.  I know she isn’t perfect, and she knows I’m not.  I realise that’s why I love her, and she helps me see that I need to accept and love my own imperfections.

“Leaving San Francisco is like saying goodbye to an old sweetheart. You want to linger  as long as possible. ” – Walter Cronkite

California
“It’s an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco.” – Oscar Wilde