Catching up from Vietnam to Telegraph Hill

The View from The RoofMuch has happened since last time I wrote. I’m currently living at 425 Green Street on Telegraph Hill, but will be returning to Vietnam to be with Tien in two weeks. Before I get into the present and future, I should probably dive into what’s been going on since I got back to America.

Look Ma, no hands!When I got back from Vietnam in Nov , I spent a few days here in America, had Thanksgiving with my friends Rob and Nicki, then drove to Colorado. The drive was tough because I was of weather and because I was pretty tired. I even slept for several hours in my car at the side of the road, but that didn’t help much. I80 East on Donner Pass, Colorado bound I finally arrived in Silverthorne Colorado where my sister was spending the holiday weekend with her husband’s side of the family. We went sledding and ate leftovers and I got to talk to a lot of people I had never met or hadn’t seen in a long time, like Tom Tonelli, Tom Burns, and Holly. I spent the night there and left the next afternoon to continue on to Colorado Springs.

I got pulled over for speeding by the police in South Park. The officer was really nice and let me go even though my California plates were expired and I had no proof of insurance. This was an extra nice gesture since most police were on edge this day due to an event that had happened earlier where a man walked into a coffee shop in Washington State and opened fire on some police officers.

Me and my four niecesI spent the next month in Colorado with friends and family. I caught up with Jake and Rachel, who had just bought a new house, my brother, who was now back from Iraq and out of the Army, Aimee Rich, who I hadn’t seen almost since high school, and a whole bunch of other folks from Colorado Springs. I spent several days in Littleton with my sister and nieces, which was great because it seems like I don’t often spend long periods of time staying with them. While I was in Littleton I finally met up Bridgepix, a fantastic photographer and master of HDR.

Dan Fava, December 2009 Helen, December 2009I went to Aurora and stayed with Dan and Cass at their place for a few days. They took me out to a nice dinner and then to a The Clocktower Cabaret burlesque show that was really entertaining and fun.  They also had a little get together and my good buddy Nathan showed up and we all played the new Super Mario Wii game, which is highly addicting. After that I met up with an old friend Helen who is a fellow world traveler and another person who I hadn’t seen in years.

Padre's 100On December 2nd my dad called from the hospital and said he had a tiny accident. Actually, he had had a pretty big accident involving ice, a stairwell with no handrail, a rock shaped like a pyramid and his head. It ended up with 100 stitches and him high as a kite on pain killers. I went to get Jeff in my car to pick up my dad’s truck from where he left it before being carted off in an ambulance, but on my way to pick up Jeff my car window rolled down and wouldn’t roll back up. The fun part of the day ended hereCold weather and stupid cars be damned. Luckily Jeff Foster’s room mate Jeff Chamberlain is a car mechanic and was available for an hour or so to whip my window back into somewhat working shape.

On December 15th my brother and I got his car stuck in the snow by The Crags and had to shovel snow with the police for like 8 hours, well into the night.

EmilyOn the 19th Jeff and Chelise hosted a Christmas party at their house. I met some new folks and caught up with some old friends there.

G and MissySince my family usually celebrates Christmas late because it’s easier to schedule, my brother and I have a tradition of going hiking on Christmas day. We continued this tradition, meeting up with Gerald and his girlfriend Loridna and her dog Misty.

Wine Jug LampI actually had way too much free time on my trip. The weather was terrible and I had continual schedule conflicts with people. I worked on some projects like the christmas light wine bottle lamps for gifts and some whitebox product style photography. Christmas was fun. Tien joined my family over Skype from Vietnam since she was still in Vietnam.

Upside DonnerOn the 28th I headed out of town for that long drive back to San Francisco. It’s funny how the details of such a long drive can disappear completely. I do remember sleeping in my car in the middle of a snow storm in the middle of nowhere. I also remember getting to Donner Pass and being refused passage because I had no snow tires or chains, so I had to wait for a few hours for the weather to get better.

ForistaWhen I got back to San Francisco I headed to BLT’s place and met up with Donna, who happened to be in town.  I spent the next month and a half there, subletting a room from Brianna who was trying to save money. Blake’s buddy Scotty was in from Denver and we hung out for most of New Years Eve, but I ended up retiring early this year.Terresina Polizzi, January 2010

I spent most of January trying to figure out how to get my photography rolling on a serious, profitable path. I did some marketing work for Tara at GroundWork, but other than that it was all charity work and portfolio building with Terresina.

Wil SinclairFor the second half of Feb Lila and Wil let me stay with them, which is always wonderful. I was running short on cash and needed to make some money quickly. I hadn’t had a steady job in 9 months. Julian Ostrow on the guitarOn top of that, I had some car repairs that needed to be done. My mechanics was right next to Julian and Sadek’s place, so I took the opportunity to stay with them for a few days and catch up. It was good times like when we all used to work together.

32::AM::99At the beginning of March Tara referred me to an IT position at her company.  It fit my schedule perfectly, and I managed to land that and get my current sublet on Telegraph Hill for the same amount of time within a day of each other, so for the past month and a half I’ve been back to the daily grind of 9-5 IT work, catching up on finances and patiently waiting for immigration to contact Tien about when she will get her K-1 visa interview.

Dan Lopez, March 2010HanikI’ve had some good social times in there, but no traveling. In fact, I don’t even drive my car anymore except to move it from one street cleaning zone to another every week or so. My friend Dan Lopez hired me to photograph him for some media stuff he had coming up with I finally met up with Hanik, a local house DJ that my friend Jonathan knows.  SugarCon was this week, so I caught up with some old friends there, and also happened to run into Chris Nojima on Market Street.

A few days ago my good friend Rob got hired on at Boxee and will be moving to New York, so that will surely be a trip I will be taking in the next year.

I bought an iPad after a lot of back and forth and waiting a few weeks from its release. I’ve always loved the tech, and always wanted a tablet, but aside from that I think it will be very useful on my trip.  It fits my travel needs, which are pretty lightweight compared to what I do with my laptop, and I can probably sell it in Vietnam for a profit since they aren’t for sale there yet.

32::AM::91At the beginning of the month I had called USCIS about the status of Tien’s visa, and they referred me to the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. I contacted them via e-mail, their preferred method, but never heard back. I called them after a week and a half, but they said they couldn’t answer questions over the phone. Luckily Tien is living in Saigon now, so a few days ago she went down there and discovered that they had sent her interview letter in February, but it just hadn’t arrived. This was both good and bad. It sucks that we’ve wasted two months, but also in that time I’ve been able to make some money and some good business contacts.

Today I began shifting back into traveler mode, focusing on what technology I need to bring on my trip, how to go about packing my day-to-day things back up, and things of that nature.  I have exactly two weeks to finish my job and move out of my apartment.

My plan is to travel to Vietnam and see my fiancé who I haven’t touched in 144 days. We’ll travel north to Hanoi and Ha Long, and hopefully hit Danang and Hue on the way back south, then return to her home town to see her family. I’m thinking we may go to Ha Tien beach, and maybe to the island of Phu Quoc that we had considered going to last time.

That being said, now that we’re back in touch with NVC things could change, especially if Tien gets her visa interview soon. Either way, I’m planning to return to my where my girl is and live happily ever after with her by my side, not 8,000 miles away in a country on the other side of the planet.

My 39 hour day

By the time Monday morning rolled around I had slept away over half of my weekend while doped up on NyQuil and Imodium. I was finally starting to feel better on Monday, so much so that I decided I was well enough to drive to CO. I think I may have said goodbye to Brianna and Lily while I was still asleep, but Terresina was still there. She was sick too, from a night of drinking. I gave her my sympathies and a farewell and headed out to have lunch with Rob. It was a glorious San Francisco day that made me not want to leave, but I did.

At 3:30pm I headed off across the Bay Bridge. It had been so long since I’d seen it and they had done a significant amount of work on the eastern span in the time I was gone. I’d really love to photograph it during construction. You can’t even see it when you’re driving because the barriers on the side of the bridge are so big. I was soon off into the hills with the windows down and the music up and began enjoying my drive quite a bit. I remembered other times I’d taken that drive, particularly July 2nd a few years ago when I left at the same time of day to drive all night by myself as I was doing again.

I had been traveling to new places for so long and experiencing new things that I hadn’t had much time to let things settle in properly, but as I drove over Donner Pass this began to happen. The familiar feelings of the mountains and the open road were great and helped me sort through some unsettled thoughts in my mind.

I caught a scent in the air that reminded me of Double Dragon.

The sun set as I passed through Reno without stopping; the light was beautiful. I continued thinking about the past. I began thinking about all of the other drives I’d done between San Francisco and Colorado Springs. The trip when Andreas hit the rabbit in the middle of the night on the ice. The trip when Zach and I had to drive hundreds of miles through a snow storm and had to sleep in my car at a rest stop in the middle of Wyoming. The night I drove it alone in my convertible with the top down. The time Fava and I drove out together and he drove back alone. The time when Shawn, Beth, Jeff and I picked up the hitch hiking pro mountain boarder in who had run out of gas in the middle of Utah in the middle of the night. The time I flew to Salt Lake and Vince picked me up and we drove back on the snow in his Legend. The time we got lost on our detour to Las Vegas. The time we all laid down at the side of the highway and gazed at stars. The time Olivia hit a dead deer with my car. The trip when Gabe and I stopped frequently to take photographs.

Yeah, I’ve done this drive a lot. I just wish it was shorter than 1300 miles.

At about 8:45 PST I was cruising along listening to Rancid and I noticed I was feeling really good health-wise, like I was going to be well very soon. I felt awake and on my game for the first time since leaving Japan. Just as I was realizing this I saw lightning strike way in the distance ahead of me, and just after that I saw a meteorite shoot across the sky towards the sunset. I wondered if the Perseid meteor shower was coming soon.

Tuesday morning at 1:30am PST I was greeted at the Utah border with a sign telling the death toll of I-80 for 2008 and so far in 2009. As beautiful as it is, Utah has never seemed all that welcoming, and it’s things like this that really highlight that fact.

At 2:40 I saw another meteorite as I was looking for a gas station. Salt Lake City has hidden its gas stations but I used my GPS to find one that was a mile off the highway, exactly where it shouldn’t be. It was closed. I found another one though, and then found my way back to the highway with my GPS telling me turn right, turn left, recalculating. As I got onto the highway it said told me to continue driving for 430 miles. So I did.

Wyoming Wind Farm As the sun was peaking over the horizon I came upon a wind farm in Wyoming. I pulled over to photograph it and was delighted to find a dirt road that led me nearby the bases of the windmills, so I spent a long time photographing them. The sun was well above the horizon when I left to find breakfast in a nearby town. The coffee I got with breakfast was terrible though and I was nearly out of gas so I stopped again and got some snacks for the road and good coffee. This little convenience store that was tucked away outside of town was convenient indeed as it was the first place to offer truly free wifi. I caught up with some friends and told Nate that I’d be in his city within 3 hours, then headed back onto the highway.

The sun was high in the sky and was hot and I began to get sleepy. I thought about pulling over to take a nap since I hadn’t slept at all on the drive yet, but when I looked for a place to nap I realized that Wyoming around I-80 has no trees as far as you can see. There was no shade anywhere and I sure as hell wasn’t going to nap in a hot car so I just kept driving.

I made it to Colorado, followed my GPS through the somewhat familiar streets of Fort Collins and out onto I-25. Then I noticed that I was in Colorado and the drivers here are not to be trusted and so I got on my guard. I looked at the highway though and thought that maybe if Colorado would build a highway wider than 2 lanes people wouldn’t seem to drive so terribly here. Maybe they would even get along on the road.

When I got to Nate’s house he wasn’t home. I couldn’t sign onto his wifi either, and I had no phone service, so I was in a predicament. I went to find free wifi and couldn’t find it for the life of me. Everything was protected. Even the coffee shop didnt’ have wifi and the surrounding nets were all protected, including the library. I eventually drove a long way to a coffee shop that I thought Nate would be at, but he wasn’t. In fact, nobody was because it was out of business. Like a gift from God though, I was blessed with an open wifi signal and I used it to check facebook where I got a message from Nate telling me he wouldn’t be home and I should go to his office on Pearl Street in downtown Boulder.

Boulder was different than I expected. It was more like a normal tourist Colorado mountain town than I had imagined. It was clean. Even the hippies were clean, which was weird. It was rich and expensive and had lots of nice things and people who owned nice things walking around talking and riding bikes and shopping. It’s definitely an active place. It seems like a place for people who love the activity of city life but don’t like the city.

I went into Nate’s office and met some co-workers of his. Then I went to their meditation room, or something like that where there were pillows and Tibetan prayer flags, and tried to take a nap but I couldn’t sleep even though I’d been awake for over 28 hours by then. Instead I did online things, made some plans, called Fava, played with cameras. Then we went out for dinner.

It was me, Nate and his buddy Chris who had just gotten back from traveling around Japan, Australia and New Zealand for 3 weeks. We had a good conversation about traveling and some of the interesting differences and awesome experiences that go with it. When the bill came I thought we were in Malaysia, but in fact the price was in dollars and really was that expensive. I remembered a life I used to live where I had a job and hence had money and had no cares about spending $30 on dinner every day. I need to not do that right now.

Nate and I cruised back to his apartment, which I’d never seen before, and chatted a little before I realized my clock was an hour earlier than it was and thought that we should go to bed. Nate went to bed but then I couldn’t sleep so I stayed up and wrote this. I am next going to write Tien, then I am going to shower, and then I am going to get a good night’s sleep that will be a proper finale to 39 consecutive waking hours.

A sick friday, catching up with the 4211 girls

Friday I woke up sick as a dog in Rob’s place. I had full on flu symptoms on top of the ongoing digestive problems and was not a happy camper. I slept well though, amazingly. I took a shower and played online a little while Rob kept sleeping. I decided to look up H1N1 symptoms and saw that I had most of them, so I thought I should take this more seriously just in case. I left Rob sleeping and went to find breakfast and medicine. I loaded up on NyQuil, ate a banana and drank some Odwalla Mo’Beta.

I noticed I was near Brianna’s house so I went over there. There was an older Asian lady in the entryway where I thought Brianna’s new place was, and I thought I might have the wrong street. I got out my phone and it signed onto her wireless network so I knew I was in the right place. I don’t have cell phone service in the USA yet, but I used Skype on my iPhone to call Brianna. She said she was at work and wouldn’t get off for many hours.

I was feeling ill and was getting tired so I parked my car on a quiet street and went to sleep. The sun came out so I drove to Golden Gate park and found a shady area under a tree near a public restroom and slept for several more hours.

I headed back to Brianna’s place around 5pm. Shortly after I got there she showed up with a big smile and gave me a big hug. We went inside and she made me some green tea and a snack while we talked about what had happened in the two months that I was gone. Her new house was really cool. She shares it with Lily and Terresina, but they weren’t home.

Lauren called and then came over. She had just recently gotten back from a three week trip to Australia. We caught up a bit while Brianna talked to some boys on the phone and then showered. Terresina showed up around 9pm. She had two new tattoos and a heavy gold chain around her neck.

One of Brianna’s boyfriends came over with a bottle of tequila and Terresina and Brianna made dinner for all of us. We listened to Corinne Bailey Rae and talked and drank and and a good old time reminiscent of dinners at 4211. The three of them went out to party in Mission and I stayed home on the couch to sleep off my illness, the medicine in full effect and doing its job of alleviating symptoms. In a new apartment but on the same old couch I hoped to get a good night’s sleep.

38 hour Thursday

Thursday morning I woke up above the Pacific Ocean somewhere off the coast of Japan. I knew this because right after I saw the clouds and ocean below I looked at the helpful map showing where we were on the planet. I was given breakfast and the loudspeaker announced that we were one hour out from Tokyo.

After eating I dozed some more, opening my eyes once in a while to see what was outside my window. Blue ocean with tiny white caps under hazy clouds. Nothing but a cloud. Picturesque rice paddies that were unharvested and nobody and no boats in sight. Soon we were on the ground and I was sleepily waiting in the security checkpoint line to get back into the international terminal. I looked around at all the unfamiliar people and heard them speaking in accents, some that I didn’t recognize. I heard a japanese girl speaking in deliberate, clear english. I thought about the world and how small my world had been while I was growing up, and my world was larger than many. I still couldn’t help wondering if I’d done life a little wrong. I only traveled internationally once when I was young, and I didn’t travel much on my own volition, and usually not to new places but back to old places. I didn’t learn a second language. As an english speaker it is difficult to chose which language to master as your second, but that’s really not an excuse because two are better than one. The line was long and I had plenty of time to think about these things. Getting through security was easy and they didn’t seem to care that I had a bunch of liquids that I didn’t remove for their inspection. So much of security is theater.

I found a little office area with wired ethernet and went to work trying to find a way to get free internet. These guys had done their due diligence though and I couldn’t find any way around paying. This was a problem because last time when I tried to pay I still couldn’t get online because Boingo’s billing mechanism was broken. On top of that, the Boingo software for Mac is terrible, like so many OEM apps for Mac. They really shouldn’t bother with those kinds of things and should spend that money on something more productive.

I wandered around the airport, plodding along tiredly. It was familiar, I had spent enough time here last time that I knew where I was and where to go to get whatever. My flight wasn’t listed on the display yet though since it was too many hours away, so I just wandered aimlessly. I exchanged some money and went to an electronics shop with some stuff that isn’t available in the USA, which is just a novelty to me but still entertaining. When my flight did appear on the monitor I was 2 gates down from where I needed to be, which would’ve been really convenient if it weren’t boarding in 8 hours. I got some tea, found a power outlet and managed to successfully pay for internet access. This allowed me to kill many hours of my layover while catching up on blogging and chatting with some US folks who were up.

After sitting for too many hours I walked around the airport some more. I noticed the stark differences between Japan and Vietnam. Before landing in Tokyo I looked down at the rice paddies and it was immediately evident that we were not in Vietnam, even though there were rice paddies for as far as you could see. Japan was so clean, so quiet, so organized.

As I was walking around looking for gifts for friends a man offered me samples of sake, which I gladly tasted. It was delicious and I thought about buying a bottle, but the fact that you can’t even take duty free liquids over 100ml through Japan made me wary of what other ridiculous liquid restrictions I would encounter.

After what seemed like an eternity my plane began boarding and I watched everybody line up and get on, then when the line was nearly nothing I boarded and took my seat. I sat next to an older Japanese woman with a dignified demeanor. She began writing a note and when I glanced over my eyes picked up the word “unforgivable”. I was curious, and although I didn’t read the whole note, I did also see that she mentioned her choice of airlines by their reputation vs simply price. She folded the note up, put it in an envelope and gave it to one of the flight attendants. From then on the flight attendants would stop by from time to time and talk and talk and talk, saying “hai” over and over as this woman spoke with calm certainty. I wondered what the note actually said…

After watching some of Cirque Du Soleil’s Dralion, which has an awesome juggling scene, I switched to The Soloist and proceeded to be thoroughly unimpressed. Afterwards I managed to finally get some more sleep…

Thursday I woke up to the ongoing sounds of a boy crying. Not wailing, but genuinely crying. I realized it had been going on for quite a while and wondered why his, who was seated in the next section up, didn’t come back and help him. The first thing I saw was the darkness map of the world with our plane positioned over the pacific right on the border between light and dark. The boy’s dad eventually came back and took the boy off to the bathroom. I closed the window shades on the two windows next to me and went back to sleep. I couldn’t stay asleep though. It was an uncomfortable drifting in and out of sleep. Eventually we were landing in San Francisco and as I carried my bag off into SFO I finally woke up.

About 5 immigration people asked me if I had all my bags as they checked my passport. It seemed like they couldn’t believe that person could have such little luggage. That may have been the thing that set me apart from the rest and made them select me to a full luggage search. The guy going through my luggage also couldn’t believe that I only had one bag. He, like the passport control officer, found it hard to believe that I didn’t have a physical mailing address. The passport control officer scratched off “San Francisco” and wrote in my parents address in Colorado Springs. The man searching my bag asked me “Why did you write down Colordo Springs if you live in San Francisco?” to which I replied that I did not write down c/s. It seems so simple, move out of apartment, quit job, live out of a backpack, yet so many people don’t understand until they stop to think about it.

Sara was supposed to pick me up but I wondered if she’d even be there after my flight was late and my time was wasted while the LEO did a half search of my tightly and intricately packed backpack. She was though and it was great to have a friend there to whisk me away in a sleek automobile. We headed down 101 to Mountainview to meet up with some of the SugarCRM crew. Pretty much the whole local IT team plus Kyung showed up and we filled a nook in the restaurant with loud friendly conversation. Sara had to go and I was bummed that we didn’t have long enough time to catch up with each other.

After lunch I caught a ride back to Sugar where Lila had brought my car. I sat and talked a while about my travels and the way that poor countries and technology fit together, then headed up to Lila’s house to pick up some stuff I’d left there. When I got there I took a shower, which was great because I had been out for over 36 hours without a shower. I also tried to take a nap but couldn’t sleep, so I decided to head on up to SF.

As soon as I started driving I got sleepy. Luckily I’d driven this route a few hundred times so I could drive it comfortably while sleepy. It was lame though, I didn’t want to drive that route. I had quit my job partly because of that drive. Between that drive and the SugarCRM HQ I felt like my old life had been severed and I was having to pick it back up to get to something underneath it. I just wanted to let it go and move on, those times were gone.

The first place I went in SF was to my mailbox which hadn’t been checked in two months. All of the mail fit into the box, so it wasn’t too bad. The post office is right downtown SF, near embarcadero, and it was nice to submerge myself back into the heart of SF, like jumping straight into a pool to help you get used to the water quicker. The weather was kinda bad, breezy with a little rain, but it was familiar and that was great. The air was cool and clean, so different from anything I’d experienced in the previous two months. I also heard seagulls for the first time in two months.

Then as I was driving to the Sunset I witnessed the first crime I’d seen in two months. I thought about how I hadn’t felt threatened in any way in Asia at all. The worst thing I’d encountered were animals and the fear of getting ripped off by agreeing to an inflated price, but I hadn’t been scared fo being mugged or anything while I was there. I was sad that it took less than an hour for me to witness a crime in SF. I love this city and honestly I don’t see that much crime here, so that was a bit of a slap.

Right as I was getting to Golden Gate Park I remembered the microclimates of San Francisco, and even though it was somewhat warm downtown it sure as hell wasn’t warm by the ocean. I turned around and drove all the way back downtown and went to my storage unit to get my jacket and picked up some other gear while I was there, including some camera gear I hadn’t played with in a long time.

The ocean was vibrant and the horizon had a crisp line as I drove to Java Beach to get coffee and internet. I didn’t stay long because Rob told me to meet him at Noriega Pizza, so I headed down there. We talked a little bit and it was good to see a great friend, but I had a hard time saying a lot of stuff about my trip because I still need time to process it. Maybe… maybe this is as good as it’ll get and I should just blab about it without thinking too hard. At any rate we had good convo and then headed to Sea Biscuit to meet up with Rob Taylor so they could record a podcast for (d)NOT.

I don’t know if it’s just the fact that I can understand the language, but I think that San Francisco has more doers than other countries I’ve visited. Aside from Rob and Rob recording their gig in a coffee shop with friendly and familiar folks walking in and out catching up with the latest goings on, I’ve seen a lot of other people around already that look like they’re up to something fun. There is a cool energy in San Francisco that I really really like. Some of it is the natural energy of the city, and on top of that there is the sentimental aspect, the familiar places with so many good memories tied to them. I was really really happy to be back.

We dropped Rob Taylor off at home and headed back to Rob’s place and geeked out with laptops, linux, Star Trek and a sip of whiskey.

Waiting at SFO

SFO, May 2009I am currently sitting in the check-in area of SFO’s international area, waiting. I’m a little underwhelmed by having to wait in this boring section of the airport, but Lisa may come visit me before I pass through security so I have to wait out here.

I managed to pack all of my things into a small frame backpack (the Osprey Atmos 35) and despite it being slightly larger than regulation for carry-on baggage, the cute Japanese girl at ANA said I could carry it on.

Last night I slept well, deep, with little or no stressful worry. When my body began waking up it was only 5:30am or so. It’s weird, but ever since I moved out of my apartment and essentially became homeless, I have become a morning person. I’ve been living in my car for a month now and I’m still getting used to my body wanting to wake up early. This morning I just fought it and tried to sleep more, but ended up just tossing and turning and feeling achy until 7. I finally woke up, let droog off the leash so he could run around, took some photos, said goodbye to Will and Maks and then got in my car with Lila driving.

We stopped for gas and coffee down in Saratoga. When the barista asked me how I was doing I said “Great! I quit my job and I’m flying to Asia!” It feels good to excitedly state exactly what I’m doing in life, even when it’s mundane, but when it’s something big it carries a little extra weight and helps me realize the whole situation.

12 Hours Left

Go this wayMy last night in the USA is being spent sorting my things into ziplock bags and fitting them into my backpack in a way that will be conducive to easy traveling.

Liquids are in the TSA standard 3-1-1 fashion in the top-front pocket where they are easily reachable at the security checkpoint. Earplugs and neck pillow are in the top-rear pocket along with two iPods, two sets of headphones and the Apple airplane power adapter.

The amount of things I am taking is pretty slim. Other than my camera and computer, I only have toiletries, one pair of pants, one pair of shorts, a few pairs of underwear, and a few books. The backpack I selected has plenty of room. I still have to iron out the details of keeping things organized, but that’ll come with time.

Right now I’m just really tired… I need a good night’s sleep. I’ll write more about the last few days once I’m on the plane to Tokyo, but now it’s time to enjoy the last bit of good sleep I’ll probably get for a few days.

Memorial Night

Sunshine at Heritage It’s the night of Memorial Day, the Memorial Night. I’m sitting in 4211 #1 having finished a bottle of Bogle 2006 Old Vine Zinfandel with Lauren. I was just developing photos from a day out with Donna and listening to jazz as Brianna got dressed for a date.

I love music.

I love jazz.

I love my friends.

I love photography.

Lauren and I were talking about her upcoming trip to Austrialia. She was melancholy about it, spending a month in Queensland a few miles outside of a small town in a remote location. I was telling her she should find it to be a vacation, a joy to have time off. She was free to ride bikes or motorcycles, paint, draw, take pictures, sleep, tan, read books, do whatever.

It then occurred to me that this is exactly what I will have time to do in Asia. It is exactly what I will have time to do after Friday when I have no job. It was an inspiring realization that the effort I’m going through to take this trip is actually for good reason. So much of this preparation has been going through the necessary motions, and I haven’t taken much time to anticipate the relaxing and awesome free time I will have. I think I’ve just removed myself from the reality and gone through the motions because it’s such a drastic life change, and the effect of that is that I’ve neglected much of the positive excitement that goes along with it.

Sure, after Friday I won’t have a job. Sure, after Friday I will be in a country where I don’t speak the primary language. Sure, after Friday I’ll be 5,000 miles away from the nearest familiar place. It’s still exciting, it’s still great, and it can still be very very very awesome. I sometimes just forget that aspect of this, as if it’s a chore.

My Last Friday

Today I headed out from work up to Lila’s house to drop off some photos and pick up some stuff I had left up there. On the way up to SF to meet Rob and Donna for dinner I stopped to take some photos of the clouds spilling over the mountain range into the valley. Foothills Park SunsetThis is something I see frequently, but haven’t ever captured the way I’d like to.

I got to SF and Rob was out front of Eliza’s smoking a cigar. The driver of Donna’s bus kicked everybody off so he could go to the bus depot, so she was a little late. Rob and I went into a bar on the corner to kill time. It just so happened that this bar had Singapore Slings on the menu, so in gonzo style, and in honor of my trip to Asia, we ordered two of them. Neither of us had ever had one, and they were pretty tasty.

Donna showed up just in time for us to finish so we popped next door and had a ƒ amazing Chinese meal. Eliza’s has the best hot and sour soup ever. Seriously. It’s really really good.

One of the reasons we had picked Eliza’s is because it was near a venue we were going to catch a show at later. Some folks that Rob knows online from MN were performing at the Retox Lounge. One for the Team was the name of the band, and we got there in time to catch a few of their songs. Incidentally they are headed to Colorado Springs, so if you’re in the area keep an eye out for them.

There was also a girl there giving peanut butter cookies away. Bad Boys on fireRob had seen her at the Phenomonauts show where she was also giving cookies away. She said that she always brings baked goods for the band and fans of the shows she goes to. She also said that this was her second time at Retox. The first time she saw a band perform there they had a lead singer dressed in a suit made from dildos and band members who were all wearing diapers. Her cookies were delicious.

The band coming up after them was a psychobilly band that Rob had seen a few times, Bad Men. They were really awesome. Talented musicians, good vibe, and to top it off they lit their instruments on fire for the last song. How the hell can you top that? Accordingly, we left shortly after their set was over.

On the way back to 4211 I didn’t make a single wrong turn. For the first time ever. Just in time for me to leave town.

1 week left

Calm waters in Santa Cruz This morning I woke up at Kyung and Kat’s place.

Every morning I wake up and think “What do I need to do before I leave?” Buy a backpack. Get a shot. Sell my car. Find a place for my bicycle. Port my phone number onto a pay-as-you-go phone. Buy bug repellant. Roll over my 401k. I really need to make the best of this weekend.

Last night I picked Lily up from her friends house and introduced her to Kyung and Kat, then we all went out for dinner at the Pruneyard. I’m trying to get my fill of American food before I leave and I think I’m nearly there.

Work is going good, it’s strange to think that in a week I won’t have a job. Then again, I think that large change will just be overshadowed by living out of a backpack in a different country. I wonder how long I’ll be able to afford these changes…

8 Days left in the USA

Checking the Mizzon Every Wednesday my friend Bernadette goes sailing with friends in Santa Cruz, so yesterday Blake and I headed down there to enjoy some time on the water. This was going to be Blake’s first time sailing. It was a small group, just 9 of us. The weather was beautiful, the ocean was calm, the wind was light, so the sailing was peaceful and warm. I was really happy with the photos I got, partly because the sails were working as huge light bouncers to fill in the shadows.

One of the guys who was with us this week was a helicopter pilot for a ski outfit in Canada, and his girlfriend was a chef at the same resort. They were out traveling and stopped through Santa Cruz to catch up with Carl, on of the regulars on the boat. It’s great to meet other people who are traveling and doing exciting things, it’s really inspiring.

After sailing, Bernadette, Sasha, Blake and I got pizza, then Blake headed back to Vallejo and I went home with Bernadette and Sasha. I slept on B’s air mattress and it was surprisingly comfortable. Sasha and I made pancakes for breakfast and then Bernadette dropped me back off at work.

5 more days of work left.

Drinking in the Tendernob, Post Street Divas

After getting back from Santa Cruz, Brianna was the only one home at 4211. Shannon and Lily were already well into their evening somewhere out in the city and I was pretty late meeting up with them. Brianna decided to go out, so we got in the car and headed to Mission.

The problems were these… I couldn’t get in touch with either Shannon or Lily, and Brianna just flat out didn’t want to go to this thing she was supposed to go to. At the venue, she decided to go my way instead and we ended up driving around Soma for a while trying to come up with something enjoyable to do on minimal energy and money. During our nearly fruitless brainstorming I finally got in touch with Shannon who told us where to go, and where to go was a pretty shady neighborhood…

After 30 minutes of looking for parking, Brianna and I made our way up to within a block of the bar before I asked her if she’d locked her door, then we went back to the car and thought this through… See, the neighborhood we were in was not exactly a great place. There were junkies and cops pretty much everywhere. On top of that, I think that on our walk we found the epicenter of transvestite culture in San Francisco. Post and Polk is home to Diva’s. I can’t tell you much about the bar since we didn’t go inside, but judging by the fake tits and adam’s apples in mini skirts and stiletto’s outside, I got a pretty accurate picture of what to expect. Brianna got a gracious compliment, “she doesn’t even look like a man”, though it could’ve been simply about her beauty, or that we were not recovering from addiction.

We decided to go back to the bar and at least have one drink. On the way we passed a junkie clinic where a man saw me walking with Brianna and said frankly “you’re a lucky man.” I can only imagine he had an unspoken “because she’s actually a girl” on the end of that statement.

The place we were going, Cafe Royale, was actually an awesome bar more towards the less deviant end of the street. We finally met up with Shannon, Lily and Scott and had a few good drinks, good laughs, and generally had a great time. A few hours later the girls piled into my car and headed back to 4211.

Tomorrow the girls are doing Bay to Breakers, as are about 100,000 other people. I’m not, though, since crowds that big really don’t do it for me. I’m not sure what I’ll do, but I plan to head down to Lila’s house in the afternoon and perhaps take her Ducati out for a spin…

I just realized I didn’t take any photos tonight. I really ought to pick up a pocket camera to keep this a photo blog and not just a blog.

Back in the office… on a Saturday morning?!

*sigh* I forgot some paperwork at the office that I need in order to get my Visas for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It’s funny how my mind works, I get so much good thinking done when I should be in deep sleep. And by “funny” I mean “kinda lame.” Anyhow, I nearly startled awake on the couch at 4211 #1 this morning with the realization that I’d forgotten this folder that I’m keeping all of my Asia documents in, and with that as my number one priority for the day I got in my car and started driving straight to the coffee shop. Then I drove straight to the office, 50 miles away, with DJ Tiesto – In Search of Sunrise in the speakers. Life is always better with a soundtrack.

When I got to the office there was a woman standing with her baby in the center of the road into the parking lot of my office building. This reminded me of something that has struck me lately… I’ve noticed that the people who live in the new condos they build next door have what I would consider to be a very miserable existence concerning their neighborhood. Forget lost beauty I see people walking their dogs and taking their babies out for strolls through our parking lot, which amazes me because there’s a beautiful field in the exact opposite direction. (And I mean beautiful in respect to what you tend to find in the middle of a populated metroplex. Untended with small animal wildlife doing their small wild animal things.) The area has been under construction for the last 4 years. The mall next door has been going out of business for longer than I’ve lived in the Bay Area. Even just the other day a woman I met on the street who just arrived from Taiwan and was lost told me she went into the mall and thought it was closed because almost nobody was inside. Even though there is some beauty to be found around here it seems so odd or incomplete or mismatched, seeing somebody raise their family around that same poorly engineered, crummy parking lot in an eternal construction zone on the corner of a freeway exit at one of the most accident prone intersections in the South Bay. I just don’t understand that.

We all have our likes and dislikes, and who knows? Maybe they like just having a place to call their own. As for me, I’m out. Just 2 weeks until I’m sitting in Saigon discovering other ways of life that I don’t understand.

Remembering the South Bay

Just arrived at Gecko’s place after dinner and drinks with Kyung at Kat at 99 Chickens in Santa Clara. Driving towards 101 on Great America Parkway with Kaskade on, anticipating the freeway with that electronic music pouring in my ears and filling my veins, I recalled some of the exciting appeal of the South Bay. Like most lifestyles, it can be awesome if you know how it works and know how to find the joys in it. I also think that it’s easier to enjoy the South Bay when you are comfortable driving long distances to go to the places you know you will enjoy, and hence it will get better the more time you spend in the SFBA.

Tuesday in the Office

I slept on Gecko and Brian’s memory foam bed last night! It was interesting, I’ve never slept on memory foam before. They are letting me stay in their Menlo Park cottage while they attend a wedding in Arizona.

A girl named Megan Lau from Logitech came to my office to let me and Ray Sennewald review some pre-release gear. For compensation she hooked us both up with some logitech gear, and ga ve me a cool travel mouse that will be very handy while I’m out on the road. I also got a webcam that I’m not sure what to do with. It would’ve been great back at 4211 when John was always stalking us at night.

After work I met up with Chelsea. We had dinner at Erik’s and then tried out Beard Pappa’s, which was underwhelming. Then we went hiking and photographing up on Long Ridge. It was gorgeous, as it often is, and this time it was nice to have a beautiful girl to photograph, and of course it was good to have good company. We cruised back to Cupertino and had tea at a coffee shop up on Foothills where cyclists often meet before heading out into the hills.

Back at Gecko’s it was nice to have a cottage to come home to, quiet and homely. The Caltrain woke me up in the morning briefly, then sprinklers after that. Unfamiliar sounds. I should get used to that. It was nice to have a hot shower, which I sometimes have been going without lately, and it would’ve been really nice to have a hot bath but I couldn’t find anything to plug the tub. I endured the patience testing madness that is 101 traffic via car and stopped off at Cafe Dolce for breakfast for old time’s sake.

And now that I’ve finished my breakfast burrito and am sipping on a white mocha, I remember that I need to take my typhoid pills at least two hours after eating and at least one hour before. Hm. =/

Geeking out with Donna

White Gorilla Man Went to How Weird with Karen today and had an awesome time. Afterwards I realized I probably would’ve had a more exciting time if I hadn’t had my camera on me. I’ll have to keep that in mind while I’m over in Asia… remember to have camera-less days. One thing I was thinking of taking is an instant-on voice recorder so I can just begin recording audio so I can dictate what I’m seeing. I suppose I could just get a video cam though… Hmm.

I came back to Sunset after How Weird and hit up Noriega Pizza with Donna to unwind. We hung out with Lauren in her new place for a few minutes before coming back to the couch and cozy chair at 4211 #1 to use laptops and do online things. I’m crashing here tonight.

I need to remember to get my typhoid inoculation from the doctor tomorrow.

Mother’s Day

Crashed at Rob’s place again last night. Just got back from picking him up at the airport.

Yesterday I taught Donna how to drive stick and moved some more stuff out of Lauren’s place. I kinda freaked out about having too much stuff and nearly just threw most of my remaining shit away, but after a nap I decided to just let it ride. I just have anxiety about owning things I have no immediate or even medium-term use for.

The Casting PoolsI cleaned Rob’s bathroom because it was the most disgusting bathroom I’d ever been in. Right as I was finishing that Karen showed up and we went geocaching in Golden Gate park. We found the casting ponds by the Anglers Lodge, really cool area. Hit up Shanghai Dumpling King afterwards, tried to catch the fireworks of the K-fog Kaboom after that, then stopped by a Tea Party at 4211 #1 for a while before heading back to Rob’s. Karen took one of my bean bag chairs and a large photograph, which was really helpful because that’s just less shizz for me to worry about.

Today is the How Weird Festival 2009, so I might head down there with Karen.

I almost totally forgot about Mother’s day, so the least I can do is call. I think G-funk is back in the flower business, maybe I’ll have him deliver something for me.

Planning to meet my brother

I’m crashing at Rob’s house to night. Right now I’m on his couch chatting with my brother in Baghdad. He’s planning to meet me in Bankok on July 30 and we’re working out the details right now. I’ll probably arrive early and meet up with My. Hopefully she can show me some cheap places to stay, or hook me up with a friend of hers or something. Maybe could help…

Gearing Up for Asia

I’m trying to not gear up too much for Asia. That is, I don’t want to spend a ton of money on this trip, I want to make it cheap. Reason one is so there’s less liability for lost, damaged or stolen gear. Reason two is that since I’m quitting my job I won’t have money to play with.

That being said, I just got a GPS for my camera. This is so I can keep track of where I take photos without having to know exactly where I am, remember that and go back to manually geotag those photos. I think this is worth it because I want to be sure to remember the beautiful locations I find, and I expect to not exactly know where I am every moment of every day. It’ll also help with journaling my trip and figuring out where I sleep each night. All I have to do is take a photo before bed and be done with it.

The other big expense, and in turn logistical thing to figure out, is what pack to take in order to fit what I want to take with me, which brings up the question of what I want to take… That’s definitely been on my mind. I’m seeing Gecko tonight (for the first time in years) and I expect that she’ll be pretty insightful about that.

Location Update: 2009.05.07

Learning the Hills So much for keeping track of where I will be staying. I ended up crashing at Lila’s place instead of B’s because of some work stuff that was going on. Lila’s house is on top of a mountain range looking out over the forest down to the ocean. It was all cloudy towards the ocean, so the clouds were washing up through the valleys over the forest. Gorgeous… So quiet, so fresh.

Location Updates

I suppose I should keep track of where I go. I’m looking for a way to embed some kind of map about my journey, it will be great to have a geographically aware journal with geotagged images. For now I’ll just log it.

Friday and Saturday nights I slept on the couch at 4211 Moraga #1.
Sunday I slept on Rob’s couch.
Monday I slept on the beanbag in my office.
Last night night I slept on Kyung and Kat’s spare futon in San Jose off Oakland and Rock.
Tonight I’m staying with Bernadette in Scott’s Valley.

In other news, my stuff is still partly in my car, partly in a storage unit, and partly in Lauren’s place across from 4211. I need to consolidate that shizz, sucks to have things spread around. I’d almost rather get rid of the stuff than have it scattered around.

It’s been cloudy and raining since Friday, but the sun was up this morning. Saturday I met up with Rob, Zach and Ben, hadn’t seen Z for a long time. We ate at a place called The Pork Room to spite the swine flu.

Afterwards, Rob had me come with him to cover the masturabate-a-thon for the blog. It was entirely underwhelming and not at all what I’d expected. It appears we went at one of the least active times, though I still wouldn’t have really wanted to go if it weren’t for a story.

That night I went out with Donna and Lily for dinner in Chinatown, then to Matt’s (Lily’s friend and old roomie) birthday party for a bit, then back to 4211.

Sunday was dull and wet. I went to REI to look at packs and buy some hot weather shirts that will travel well. Hacked teh linux with Rob late that night, trying to hook Boxee up to his TV.

Monday I went to dinner in San Jose with Reem, Julian and Dana and caught up a bit. Reem had just gotten back from Dubai. Dana and I talked about her travel dreams and a little about photography.

Last night I went to Trials and met Kyung, Kat, the other Kyung, Chris Bennett, Sadek, Julian and Martin.

Resuming the Journal

A lot has happened since I last updated this journal, and now I feel like resuming this introspective personal outlet for my own benefit. I’m going through some changes in life right now and would like to keep track of the thoughts that are developing in my mind. The two three main things that are going on are:

• I’m quitting my job at SugarCRM. My last day is May 29th.
• I’m going to backpack around SE Asia for two months. I’m leaving on May 29th to Saigon via Tokyo.

• Oh yeah, and I’m homeless as of 4 days ago. I’m living out of my car and a storage unit in San Francisco.

Sooooo, rather than tweet succinct thoughts as they come to my mind I think I’ll speak more completely about what’s going on.

What is going on at this very moment is that I just fried a 750gb hard disk containing a backup of the iMac I had been using before I was homeless. Little things like this are preparing me for the potential pitfalls I may encounter on my journey.