An ode to Portland

I’m getting ready to leave Portland. I thought I was completely ready, aside from

  1. getting my car detailed (more expensive then I expected)
  2. returning the CPAP to Apria, which is at the freaking airport.

I have my bags packed for India and stuff set aside for the wedding I’m going to/for when I get to sweden. I was just getting ready for work this morning and looked around the room I’m staying in. There was tons of stuff on all of the surfaces. These aren’t the kinds of things I’m prone to noticing, as any of my roommates will vouch for. I guess most of that stuff will go into the trash, and the toiletries will go into my carryon.

One of my best friend’s weddings is rapidly approaching. I’m looking forward to it, but it marks the ending of a chapter in my life. This summer has been rife with weddings, and the accompanying festivities (ie. bachelor parties, rehearsals etc.). It seems like this summer is full of change for many. The cycle is a little off as Autumn and Spring are generally considered the seasons of change.

Spring for beginnings,

and Autumn for endings.

As I said this summer marks the ending of a chapter for me, and while endings are inevitably beginnings as well, I can’t help but reminisce.

I remember past summers spent in downtown Portland hopping from bar to bar hunting the elusive $3 well drink happy hour. I remember running delirious down Burnside with my friends as we tried to find some place to eat at one in the morning. I remember chainsmoking outside apartments talking with passerby. I remember farther back sitting on the porch with my brother and our roommate playing music in the moderate Portland sun. I remember sitting with my neighbor years later playing music while he sipped the beers that he mixed together and I drank cheap rum and Coke while I was supposed to be in class. I remember my first concerts in Portland with my brother in small dark bars drinking darker beer. I remember impromptu parties with 15 of my neighbors on Tuesdays as people kept showing up that led to incredibly hard mornings at work the next day. I remember hiding behind the fountains in the park with my friends late at night and taking photos framed by sparkling drops of water.

I also remember Springs spent waiting for the sun, walking between classes on campus with my hoody, long used to the Portland rain. Spring classes spent up late with my friends writing code while drinking Redbull. Breakfast before class with dark coffee and cheap eggs.┬áThe occaisional beautiful Spring Friday when my brother and I played hooky and spent the afternoon drinking beer and playing terrible golf in a Portland vineyard. I remember calling into work, or skipping class on Spring days and spending the day with one of my best friends playing Halo and drinking mimosas, swearing so loudly at each other the neighbor would come over to make sure we were ok, then would join us for drinks. I remember Winters spent with my brother. Holding tight in our impromptu fortress. I remember walking to the store so that we could by food and twice as much beer as we needed, then laying on our cheap furniture and watching anime and movies jury rigged to play off of our old laptops. Winters mostly moderate but for a few huge blizzards that brought poor Portland to it’s knees. Winters, Thanksgivings, and Christmases spent with new friends that became old friends, that became like family.

I don’t regret my decision to go traveling, but I will still miss my family and my friends. Excitement doesn’t diminish that feeling, but it does flavor it. It’s important to remember that as we move along with our lives that we don’t regret moving on. Treasure your memories and your loved ones, but know that all that’s past is gone. Moving on is as essential to new wonderful experiences as breathing, and when nostalgia causes my throat to catch I try to remember.

Just breathe.

Backpacking, Backpacks, and Daypacks

When you say that you’re traveling somewhere cheaply people will respond, “So you’re going backpacking?” This activity is tied so closely with your bag it is both symbolized by it and named after it. I wanted to grab a pretty small bag so I wouldn’t be tempted to over pack. After much research I realized that I would also probably need a day pack. It works out for me, because I can put all of my electronics, or most of them, in my day pack for carry on as well.

For my main bag I wanted something that would be cool on my back, I’m going to be in the tropics keep in mind, good weight distribution, waist belt, side opening, lockable, and have stow-able straps. It turns out that bag doesn’t exist. So it was time for tons of compromise. I did some research and ended up deciding on a Kelty Redwing 50. It fits my shoulders well and has venting on the back. It does have tons of straps though. I asked the people at REI what they recommended. I used to have a Osprey Porter 45, and those are awesome for carry-on, but not so much for lugging around India and Asia. It had the stow-able straps though. They make a super cool foldable duffle to go around your backpack when it’s on the plane. It gives you the benefits of the bag without getting your buckles and such broke. My only real complaint about it, having not actually backpacked with it yet, is that it doesn’t have a good place to lock it down. I can lock the zippers, but then someone can just slash my bag.

For a day pack I already have a targus laptop bag, and it’s okay, but it’s starting to get a little long in the tooth. The fabric is fraying and it’s a little big for a day bag. I could probably almost use it for my primary bag, but it’s uncomfortable. I’m looking at a pacsafe day bag. They have RFID blocking pouches, I don’t honestly care that much as I don’t use much RDIF anything, but more importantly it has wire mesh to stop people from slashing your bag and a place to lock it to a chair.

I went shopping at REi in the interim. CUE SPINNEY BATMAN TIME ELAPSE GRAPHIC!!!

I ended up getting the super bag. I really like it. It’s a PacSafe 25L daypack. It’s pretty awesome and light. My other bag was big enough that I’m using it to hold all of my clothes, before I leave for Sweden, while staying on a couch. That’s a little bigger than I want to take with me on buses and tuk tuks.

I love both of my bags, as much as you can love canvas and nylon. They shall be my companions for a long voyage. You shouldn’t get too attached to stuff I know, but it’s in our natures to personify that which we see often. I loved my old camp chair. It held me up during many a summer. That chair broke under the barrage of Portland rain and winters. I love my violin, and my old computer. That old computer with it’s quirks. A SATA power port that if plugged in would crash the whole computer, which was a pain to diagnose, and my moleskines.

Family and Distance

I was just reading my mother’s blog. She was talking about letting go of family that is leaving, specifically me. I knew that having me leave would be hard on my family, but didn’t think to long on it. I already live 2000 miles from my parents and 2600 miles from my brother/sister/nephew. I call my parents every week, and I talk with my brother when I can (a 1 year old keeps him pretty busy). I’ll have Skype and a number that forwards to Skype, probably.

I guess that my mother likes knowing that I’m in a town that she loves, and she does love Portland but who doesn’t? Distance seems to grow farther due to borders. I guess that Terminus, Greek god of borders and roads for the lazy, still holds some power over our minds. This seems to be a fairly American concept too. Our country is so large that going over a border means great distance. In Europe two country borders might only be 200 miles. That’s a little over double the distance my mother used to commute to the college she taught at.

However the distance from my brother’s place to Mumbai is 8000 miles. I guess that she does have a point. Let me also say that my mother is super proud of me and supportive of my desire for travel. She has always encouraged me to pursue my passions, being the only mother probably ever that encouraged her son to stop being an engineer and pursue a job as a craft bartender. I pointed out that being an engineer paid more, and she pointed out that it wasn’t that much more. Long story short I did not become a craft bartender, but it illustrates how my mother isn’t afraid to buck the mold.

My brother is much more centered these days in his 30’s with a wife, a kid, and now a house. However he is taking his summers as a teacher and writing a book. He told me not to hold onto my itinerary too tightly and welcome unexpected invitations to do random things. He also told me that if I needed to come back to the states that I could stay with them. That’s always a nice offer to have on the table. We don’t talk as much as we used to, but I still consider him a close friend. He’s also much better on Skype then he is on the phone, so that might end up working out for the best.

I also have all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. I mostly correspond with them via email and Facebook, so those relationships won’t change that much. I’m also going to try to get them to come out and visit.

I guess if you aren’t in the same city as people then the amount of distance becomes arbitrary. Especially with the asynchronous nature of most modern communication (ie. text, email, social media).

ALL STUFF MUST GO!!!

I was reviewing posts that I had written, but not put up yet. This one was blank. All my stuff is pretty much gone now.I also arranged to sell my car. I sold my guns (emo tear), and my guitar, and all of my gaming stuff, and my computers, and about seven years of dross, as Thoreau would put it. Most of it I just tossed away. That includes clothes, furniture, electronics, and all manner of minutiae that I didn’t even know I had. The oddities I had surprised even my friends that were helping me clean out my apartment.

Everything I own now will fit into a two backpacks and a suitcase, minus the knife collection and the violin I have to send to my brother for safe keeping, and the other violin I need to sell.

It’s pretty freeing to know I’m not leaving things behind while traveling. Of course we always leave things behind when we leave, but those things won’t fit in any bag. My nephew’s second year, my brother and parents. I’ll stay in touch, but Skype can’t compete with the quiet of my family spending our evening doing what we love best, sitting around eating ice cream and reading.

I just got back from the last family visit I’ll have before I leave so I guess I might just be a tad melancholy. Whenever I write something I worry that I come across as too wrapped up in my own head. I tend not to be, at least to my reckoning, but I’m sure if you just read my internal monologue it might seem so. I also am generally considered pretty funny, but that rarely is seen in anything I put down on paper, or in this case a LCD. I suppose time will tell.

The more you get rid of the less you care about what remains. I care about the utility of my remaining possessions, but I am not particularly attached to them. I left a small box of stuff I’m emotionally attached to with my mother, and my grandfather’s gun with a friend. However even those things could be lost and I wouldn’t lose too much sleep. I suppose there is a lesson in attachment there. Once you start freeing yourself from material wealth and goods it just gets easier.

I’m going to throw away my clothes and trade them out for traveling shoes (other types of clothes too, but stay with the metaphor… of shoes) to blaze a trail with my traveling companion. That isn’t for a little while though.

Buy Things with Stories

I wrote this before I took active steps to go travel, last February. I left it unchanged though, except for this, and that.

I was recently talking with a very good friend of mine. I’ve been thinking of doing some traveling. I would be leaving a good job and a good apartment and going on a long trip with a friend of mine that has proved moderately unstable multiple times, although I’m not sure I’m one to talk. I was voicing some of my concerns about leaving a job that I’m good at, that pays well, and where I enjoy my colleagues. I know that I will be taking a step backwards in professional development, and a pay cut when I come back, but I said that I thought it was worth it. He said something to me that I really like. He was talking about coming back to a company that he left after a half year where he co-founded a startup, worked on his pilots license, went to Mexico with the Red Bull F-1 Team, and visited his family across the country. They thought that was awesome and brought him back for even more money.

He told me that you can buy things with stories. He said that when people ask what you did during a work gap if you say that you were unemployed, or that you were at home playing Xbox and drinking then you weren’t going to get a job. However if you have some great stories to tell then you are probably fine. Also he pointed out that if you weren’t working for 2 years then you better have a 2 year story, not, “I went down to Mexico to skydive.” That doesn’t take 2 years.

I love this idea, I love the idea of using our experiences as currency in our lives. It shows that wealth isn’t just material. I’ve been blessed materially, but I’ve never placed much value on that kind of wealth. I want a wealth of experience, and friends, and love. These are the things that I place value on.

I’m working on having a business running when I leave, but if not I’m putting aside enough money to leave for a year, and maybe more. That probably means that next Christmas will be the last one with my parents for a while. That’s bitter-sweet, but I’m excited. I don’t really get excited more than superficially about most things. The last thing I was excited about was going to the Philippines, but that ended up falling through due to lack of funds. I now make more money than I need, and 2 years in a senior role have equipped me with the skills to run my own business, and the nerve to make the deals to make that happen.

I look forward to the coming year, and hope my resolve stays strong.

Brother Sloth

My father once told me when we were doing yoga that the yogis had a name for our mind, it was Brother Sloth. He was referencing how when we wake up in the morning we don’t want to work out, or do yoga, even though intellectually we know we will feel better for the entire day if we do. I have been thinking of this recently. I have been struggling with a couple of health issues and I know that I just need some meds to alleviate them.

I have been thinking of Brother Sloth; it almost seems like an inertial force keeping me sedentary. When I was younger I used to be more high strung then I am now and much better at making snap changes. I suppose this speaks to my growing maturity, but say what you will adolescents are very good at changing their behavior suddenly. These changes don’t come as readily to me as they used to. I worry that it’s because I check out of my daily life too much. We can accomplish much on auto-pilot, but in the end we are only reducing the visibility of the life we lead to our mind’s eye. If you, like me, can’t handle being mindful in your everyday life then you should look to change your circumstances, and that’s not to say it’s easy. It’s much easier to slip into Brother Sloth’s easy rhythm: Work all day, TV all night, and drink all weekend.

I’ve taken steps to change the way that I live my life in a fairly large way. I know what needs to be done, but Brother Sloth whispers in my ear,

“It’s six whole months away.”
“One more time eating out won’t break the bank.”
“Stargate SG-1 for six hours is totally time well spent.”
“You can get to the doctor and start working out next week, give yourself a break. You’ve been so good lately.”

These are of variable truth, and none are particularly wrong. I include the SG-1 comment as well, because I love that show (free on prime right now). I used to combat this inertia (caused to some extent by the medical issues I mentioned before) with super doses of caffeine (3-4 Amps a day), but apparently “That’s not good for you,” and it’s pretty expensive.

I was just thinking that I should make a pact with myself to slap myself every time I start to slip, but that seems excessive. Actually to be honest I don’t find it excessive, but I’ve been accused on occasion of being an excessive person. The Dali Lama says that all love comes from loving oneself, and that it is easier to forgive others for their weakness than ourselves. I am starting to believe that these self-destructive tendencies we all seem to have, myself definitely included, come from a lack of love for ourselves. I have done a great many things in my life that I am ashamed of. I’m not sure that I’ll even ever forgive myself, but a long time ago I decided that you can’t change the person you were, and can only work on becoming a better person. I think I still see myself as that person though, and that person was hard to love. Instead of self-flagellation (the slapping agreement I mentioned earlier), I commit to myself that whenever I’m slipping that I will tell myself this, “You are one of the Goddess’ children, and worthy of the life you’ve chosen. Choose your path with open eyes to the consequences, both good and bad.”

I think that the secret is mindfulness in our decisions. Driving home on auto-pilot and getting McDonald’s is easy and fast, but would you do that for someone you love? Would you get your sick mother McDonald’s for dinner if she was hungry? You probably wouldn’t and neither would I. If you take the time to ask the questions the answers present themselves. You are worth the few breaths it takes to ask.