that is all.
that is all.
A year ago today, I was in Bratislava. I’d like to say I stayed up partying until dawn and watching the fireworks over the Danube, kissing some sexy Slovakian at midnight, but uh, I actually passed the fuck out in my hostel bed at like 10pm. In fairness to myself, the previous week had consisted of flying from Prague to New Orleans, drinking copiously over Christmas, flying back to Prague three days later, and taking a bus to Bratislava, so the exhaustion was justified.
And now I am in my least favorite place in the world, again.
It’s been a weird year, to say the least. It’s hard not to feel like a complete useless failure when I’m here, unable to effect any positive change in my own life or in anyone else’s. On good days, I try to remember that my dreams have never been those of Normal Life™, with a lovely husband (or wife) and a dog and a nice house in the suburbs or apartment in the city, and that’s okay. Okay, well, the dog, yeah, but the rest can fuck off.
My dreams have always been entangled in wanderlust. Most of my adult life has been spent packing up my life and moving a thousand miles in a different direction for a new school, new job, new life, until tearing it all down again. And the farther I get from that normal life, the more myself I feel.
On good days. On good days I think maybe I’m doing all right by my own self, and fuck everyone else, and that all the trajectories I’m missing out on are maybe worth it to explore the world. I spent the last year and change in forty countries and four continents, mostly (though not entirely) on my own dime and entirely of my own volition.
Maybe someday I’ll figure out how to make this life truly sustainable, but for now, I’m trying to accept the fact that sometimes I’ll probably keep ending up back here, hanging on by the skin of my teeth and saving money until I can get back out. At least now I have a fairly reliable freelance job, so once I manage to get my finances even a little into the black, and the major initial airfare expenses paid for, I should be able to support myself fairly indefinitely, if frighteningly.
I’m still thinking about heading to South America, because flights to Colombia are cheap, but I’m kind of leaning towards the Caucasus countries. I’ve heard so many amazing things about Georgia, and trains between Tbilisi and Azerbaijan and Armenia are like $20 USD, and flights to Kazakhstan $100-150… . . .
2017 has been a pretty shit year for writing, though, like majorly. Aside from this blog, I wrote under 5,000 words of fiction. For comparison, in 2016 I wrote over 100,000 words, in 2015 almost 130,000 words, and even in 2014 — the first year I actually tried writing fiction ever, despite my creative writing minor in college — I still managed 100,000 and change. So, that sucks. I feel like being in a different country every few days left me kind of inundated with ideas that I never had the stability to process into words. Here’s hoping 2018 is better.
Here’s hoping 2018 is better in like… six hundred thousand different ways. Peace out, shit year, and to blatantly steal something off of Tumblr, I hope the best of 2017 is the worst of 2018 for everyone.
Being back in Boston always leaves me with some intensely conflicted feelings to sort through.
I mean, I love this city. I’ve loved it since the first time I saw it, sitting on the roof of some B&B in the South End with my mom as I resettled here for grad school. I love the changing seasons, the way it’s more muted than the chaotic shifts in the Midwest, like it doesn’t have to prove itself anymore. I love hearing the shitty green line grumble its way down Comm Ave. But it’s not mine anymore
And I think most people know this feeling in some way or another. There’s a Twilight Zone quality to it, almost dreamlike, in a way. You know where you are, you recognize it, you know it intimately, but some things are just… wrong.
At this point I’m far enough removed from DC that I only notice specific places of meaning, like the dead Barnes & Noble in Georgetown where I went the first night of my life there, during freshman orientation at GW, when I walked there with a boy, and we bought a copy of Ginsberg’s Howl, and read it together all night. I never saw him again and don’t remember his name. But I never had a life there anyway, not even nascent tendrils of roots; only a useless degree from a school I barely interacted with.
But in Boston I existed, I was a person here, as much as I ever have been, and it’s impossible not to somehow think time will have halted since the day you left. Which, of course, it doesn’t.
It’s been eight years since I lived here, which kind of maybe in that not-so-sweet-spot it’s the same if you don’t pay too much attention, but then suddenly there’s a Target by your old gym? And the Thai place in Cleveland Circle is now only like a block away but weird and decrepit, and you almost don’t want to walk by your old apartments anymore, because there are so many ghosts, so many things that are just a little bit wrong.
This fades, of course — so quickly that you feel a little guilty about it, maybe. I wrote a poem once, back when I could write poetry: photographs become farewells and descriptions become eulogies. Stay, and the eulogies become descriptions again. Target is no longer the grave of whatever you tangentially remember; it’s just fucking Target. But it’s transitional, and when you never stay anywhere, it doesn’t settle.
But I just question so much my decision to leave, what my life would be had I stayed. And that’s a vicious rabbithole to wander down too often, it will eat you alive — but it is there. I had a life here, ish, I had a job with benefits — with Prospects — with Room For Advancement — it is conceivable I’d be a real person had I stayed. Maybe I’d have a home, stability, something like relationships – maybe even a career. It does eat me alive, a little bit.
I had hope here, I guess. I had positioned myself on the trajectory I thought I belonged on: prestigious graduate school on scholarship, language, all that shit — like, maybe, maybe, I was okay. What if I had worked through all the things and somehow… something?
But if I hadn’t left, would I have found myself still here, instead of back here sometimes, back in Florida sometimes?
Like — which is better or worse, waking 36 years old in a job you’ve hated since the day you walked in, but sustainable, like a real person — or waking up not knowing if you’ll survive the next year, let alone the rest of your life, but you do things, you go places.
It’s easy to say the latter but it’s hard to do.
I know the answer, of course, but I walk down the streets of this city, and I feel like I’m home, but I can’t stay here because I don’t belong; I turn my palms upwards and I wish I had answers to anything.
I said at the start that this is a blog about depression and how I deal/don’t deal with it. Mostly it’s easier to just post pictures of places and things and people because it’s evidence of my existence. If I hadn’t left Boston I might never have left Boston; I like myself a little more because of the things I’ve done.
Hi dudes, still alive, still wandering aimlessly!
Finally tore myself out of my little sanctuary in Charlotte, spent a week with dear friends in NYC where I also got to converge with my friends I made at a random hostel in fucking Morocco, and then later Germany, on continent number three (!!!)!
I’ve been to New York a fair few times by now, but since I’m always piss-broke, I tend not to do much. And we basically just wandered (for eleven fucking miles, ow) but I got to see bits I hadn’t before, like the High Line and Chelsea Market, and actually I don’t think I’d been to Washington Square Park. And shuffled our way across the mass of humanity of the Brooklyn Bridge, which is not quite as surreal as biking across it, but still surreal.
And actually linked up again with my dudes from Germany before they bounced off to continue their odyssey across America! Basically pizza, Central Park and the Lincoln Center. As one does.
Also some really excellent black cats in there too.
SPEAKING OF WHICH, on a personal note, my own black kitty (my mother’s, really, but also mine) is apparently 100% recovered from liver shutdown last January. No more prednisolone, which would have killed him eventually; no more holding him down to squirt Atopica into his mouth. The odds were really solidly against this, so like. I’m beyond thrilled. He’s a pretty important little shitlord.
Anyway I’m in Boston now for a hot minute, with a couple more very dear friends and tomorrow fall in New England is supposed to actually start feeling like fall in New England, and I’m basically just cramming in as much work as I can make myself do (aka spending the morning writing a useless blog update), and then meet up with my brother in NYC and kick rocks back down the East Coast.
And then I might go to Colombia for a little while, just because I can get there for cheap. And probably maybe won’t die. *shrug*
I think I may be procrastinating finishing off my travelogue blogs because once there’s nothing more to document, it’s done, and I’m going to have to figure out where and when and how to go next. Mostly it’s because I have the attention span of a gnat and the energy levels of a dying sloth, but there’s a little bit underneath it.
I guess I didn’t take any photos of Inverness itself, which is weird, because it’s one of the places I was really interested in going because I have family history there — I couldn’t say precisely how, but we’re related to Simon Fraser of Lovat, of Outlander fame, but who’s also, like, still the chief of Clan Fraser, which is cool.
Our ancestral castle (yeah, I’m totally just saying that because it sounds cool, sue me) was sold like twenty years ago to some shitty transportation magnate who tried (and failed, thanks to current Simon Fraser) to turn it into gross luxury cottages, but I still didn’t try to visit. But I did go to Loch Ness, and Urquhart Castle. Did not see Nessie, sadly, but jesus christ, Scotland is so astonishly green. And nothing I’ve ever seen compares to Skye, which is another post.
‘kay my dudes, I am still stuck in this blistering hellscape (until next week, whereupon I shall escape to the slightly less blistering hellscape of North Carolina for a bit!), but since this is a travel blog, I’m putting out some travel feelers here.
So, I do this ridiculous scavenger hunt every year — GISHWHES, or the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen — I have been doing it with the same team, which some changes in roster, since 2014, aka That Time I Got a Tattoo of The Pope for Fourteen Total Strangers on the Internet.
Which leads to some awkward conversations, as I’m atheist, but I do like the guy.
Since then, these assholes have become an important part of my life, and an important factor in my travels, between a place to crash in NYC, cats to sit in Seattle, a trip to Vancouver in which I may never have laughed that hard ever, also more cats in Northern Ireland and a guide — and most importantly, people all the fuck over who I think will be my friends forever.
This year, thanks to a combination of things, I am pretty much useless — paralytic depression, in a place I hate, with little to no artistic/technical skills, no confidence, and no photographer on hand doesn’t really work well with this thing. But one thing I do have is connections in some pretty far-flung places.
SOOOO, basically, do I know anyone — or do you know anyone — in any one of these places, for some simple and silly fun? I’m looking for someone in Grenada, Malta, the Maldives, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Tuvalu, Nauro, Monaco, or Vatican City. And also the Gereja Ayam, the abandoned chicken church in Magelang, Indonesia.
These just involve “forced perspective photo of something very small that makes that object look huge in front of a famous public landmark or historical site in that country” in any one of the first group of places, and doing something “fitting” at the Gereja Ayam, examples given like a game of duck-duck-goose, or “pondering the question of the chicken or the egg” — or, hell, just holding a rubber chicken.
There are also location-based things in Zadar, Croatia or San Francisco; London; Foshan, China; Duisberg, Germany; Ghent, Belgium; Budapest; Cat Island in Japan; or Prague — but these ones all involve a fair amount of costumes/teamwork/artistry or just plain balls/confidence/lack of shame, they’re a substantially bigger task than the others. If you are or know a super-ballsy creative type there, hell yeah — but the other items above are pretty straightforward.
If you’ve been following this shitshow of a blog for a while, you might remember some of the very classy snapshots of my life during this time of year (and you can read about 2015 here; I don’t think I blogged 2014 or 2016
So yeah. This is the last year this thing is going to be happening, it seems, so if you are in any of those or know someone who might be willing, let me know. ❤
I’m pretty sure my desire to visit Yorkshire is like 90% based on my love for The Secret Garden as a kid. And an adult.
One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands out and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun–which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with the millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in someone’s eyes.
Well, maybe 50% The Secret Garden and 50% James Herriot’s Dog Stories.
(And I find something in the fact that when paging through my copy of The Secret Garden — originally a Christmas gift to my brother in 1989 — I found a collection of dried dusty flower petals still pressed between the pages from lord knows what decade.)
There’s also something inexplicably romantic about walled cities. It just makes it sound so old — which, of course, York is.
Mostly, as usual, I just kinda wandered the city streets, through parks and gardens and castles, the names of which I quickly forget. And walls, in this case.
I did, at least, get to the National Railway Museum, which was very cool — especially the cars from various eras and places you could walk through. It wasn’t quite as expansive as the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento — which I think is among the many blog posts I fully intended to post and just… didn’t — but still super fun. And given my last couple of years, I feel an obligation to visit railway museums whenever I can.
I wanted to take a day trip, instead of spending my Yorkshire itch-scratching solely in York, so I decided to take the train out to Scarborough, then a bus up to Whitby, and back to York in the NYMR steam train through the moors. Which… sort of happened. Mostly.
I did go to Scarborough, which had unsettling elements of alt-dimension Daytona Beach to it, kind of both bleaker and much, much cooler. This was still, like, very early June, which is not exactly beach weather on the North Sea, but damn, people were trying. Also at this point I still had no sneakers — I think? — in retrospect, I think I did not get new shoes until Inverness — so I was walking around in my very cute but very cheap boots from Croatia, which gets old when the city is up and down hills and also there’s a mountain (not really, but a somewhat bigger hill) and also also your ankles are kinda grotesquely mangled at the best of times.
So I went to Whitby, but did not really spend any time there aside from hobbling to the library to get my shitphone a bit of juice and figure out train things, which I did not follow through on. The train would have been like £20, and did not go straight to York so plus bus fare/headache, versus a bus that cost half as much, straight to town, and followed basically the same route. Not great for pictures, and definitely not as charming as a steam train — but also did not have the block-stretching line of middle schoolers waiting to board.
And I finally got some photos of sheep!
Speaking of middle schoolers, this hostel (Safestay York) was an odd one. Not in a bad way, overall, though the schoolgroups of like eighty 10-13 year old kids with maybe two adults total. I’m fully aware that I’m already in the get-off-my-lawn demographic, as far as hostels go, and in general am not remotely fazed by the drunk 19 year olds partying ’til dawn unless they puke near me, but the shrieks of kids and, like, kicking of walls was… jarring.
But it was a cool place — probably the most gorgeous hostel I stayed in, with the possible exception of Plovdiv, in an old Georgian house from the mid-18th century, and plaques describing the history of each room.
However, within its storied walls also lurked these, uh, decorations.
Which are unsettling enough, but let me tell you, when you’re exhausted enough, and in an old historical house with odd decorations anyway, and you don’t really register what you’re looking for a couple of hours — that unprepared realization is a level of what-the-fuckery that I may never have experienced before or since.
(I mean, growing up in Florida, I’m sure I have, but it’s up there.)
Anyway then I hopped on yet another train and headed up to Inverness, which is really the only sort of vague ancestral heritage I think I have, like, period, in my general Northern European mongrel blood, and waved goodbye to Yorkshire.