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 Linux.com. 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.