Reflections of the Future

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned a lot of things.  One of those things is that nothing in life is guaranteed.  I know, we’ve heard it all before, but whenever I hear that I always think of it in an abstract kind of way.  Recently, I’ve put more thought into it, and I can see it in practice.

When I was younger, I was taught not to view everyone as a friend, and I think I took that advice.  I was under no delusion that the people i knew in high school were actually friends, and would actually be there for me when I needed them.  After high school, there were a handful of those friends who stuck with me, and we began to build upon that relationship.  All throughout my 20’s, these were the people I would ride or die for.  These were my friends.  In my 20’s, I was sure that these were the people I would know for the rest of my life.

Then, in my 30’s, those same friends were still with me, but life began to change.  Those individuals were getting married and having kids, and moving onto another stage in life.  Luckily, the foundation we created during our younger years allows us to still stay close, but what we used to do, no longer was happening.  The every weekend hangouts evolved into seeing them on special occasions.  As this happened, my weekend nights were taken over by new acquaintances.  These new acquaintances showed me new experiences; things I had never really thought I would do and enjoy.  I’ve even gone out of the country with these new acquaintances.  I never saw that coming.

As I approach my late 30’s, I still know these same people and enjoy spending time with them.  I’ve also learned that I enjoy spending time with myself, travelling, and trying new food.  My point is, what I knew about my life when I was younger is not quite what it is now.  It’s all a part of growing up, and anyone older than I could have told me this would happen.

Truth is, I never had anything really planned out, with the exception of a loosely targeted career.  But I had ideas.  Ideas that fell within my, then, current comfort zone.  But, the changes I’ve experienced, though not major, have given me a new outlook.  I don’t expect that things will move too far beyond my comfort zone, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.  And honestly, that unknown is actually exciting, not scary.

I know that in five or ten years, I could be right where I am.  Or I could be living somewhere overseas.  I may be married with two kids (I think two is my max, but who knows), or I could be single (not my preference).  I’m old enough to realize that life is a gift, and whatever happens in it should be embraced.  There’s going to be pain, and hurt (hell, there could be disease and disability in my future) and I’ll have to deal with that, but there will also be opportunity, possibility, and tons of happiness if I allow it.  That’s what I don’t think many could prepare me for.  They couldn’t prepare me for how excited I’d be for what’s ahead, and I find that interesting…how everyone views the future differently.  That’s not to say I’m not embracing my present.  I’m doing much more of that these days as well.  I guess what I’m saying, is that this life thing…it’s pretty neat.  I pray that I have plenty of days ahead of me to embrace it like I’ve never done before.  Just my thoughts.

Flush….

 

Hanging Graves

I should start by saying, I have serious issues.

Recently, I was sitting in my bosses boss’s office having a typical meeting.  I don’t normally let my mind wander while having these conversations but as the conversation was nearing a resolution, my mind began to find other things to notice.

So he’s an avid hiker.  I’m pretty sure he’d rather deal with the woods before dealing with any one of us that report to him, but he gets paid to deal with us, so there he sits.  As an avid hiker, he has pictures of some of the trails he has hiked.  I’ve seen these pictures every day for a few years now.  But, as I sit there on this day, I began to have a very morbid thought.  Likely, due to my brain preoccupied with serious analysis for a few hours and in need of some entertainment.

I began to think about my boss as a serial killer.  He killed along the trails while he hiked.  And the pictures in his office were actually pictures of grave sites.  His way of keeping a trophy of his deeds.  As I thought this, the lights began to go down, and I looked up to find his eyes piercing my soul.  He had noticed my preoccupation with the photos, and knew I was onto him.  As he stared at me, he knew that I would need to be dealt with.  He looked over to an empty spot on the wall, and immediately envisioned a new trophy….another photo of a grave site…and one less employee.

Like I said, I have issues.  My thoughts don’t typically get that weird, especially while at work.  The little man in my head was hard at work that day (I’ll tell you about him some other time).  I may never know the true innocence or horror of those photos, but I’m sure I’ll think about it every time I’m back in that office.  I mean, it’s not impossible, right?

Quick Update

Where are my manners…It’s been months since my last post and I throw up a random post without filling in the gaps. Ha.  There was Thanksgiving, a trip to Dominican Republic…with 18 other people…that was actually quite amazing.  A Christmas party (where I witnessed an affair), another Christmas party (there were 40 people there…so I stayed out of sight…must be my introversion), a Christmas eve dinner (by the P.I.C’s youngest brother…guess it’s time for me to grow up), a Christmas dinner, and a pretty laid back New Year’s Eve party.  I think that about covers it.  Oh, and a marathon watching of season 1 of The Wire on New Year’s Day.  I’ve seen it, but the P.I.C hasn’t (I’ve pulled her from underneath that rock).

Oh wait…I adop20141024_212411ted a little needy, sometimes squeaky, all black furry thing that as we speak is trying to devise a plan to sit on my keyboard.  And she’s looking at me with those green eyes that convinced me to adopt her.  She’s your perfect witch cat.  Honestly, she’s not all that bad.  She doesn’t really go wild on the furniture, and doesn’t do sprints in the middle of the night, like I’ve heard many cats do.  She is an alarm clock that likes to go off about an hour early, and is need of almost constant attention.  It’s only been about two months, and I don’t understand what she wants half the time and I’m amazed out how she can entertain herself for 20 minutes at a time, with a toy mouse.

A clear clue of me not really used to her yet is that the other morning, I was laying in bed before putting my work clothes, and I was under the covers because it was cold.  As I watched the days news, I began to scratch my thigh (yes, it was my thigh)…not necessarily because of an itch, but just because.  Well, it must have appeared as if a dangerous critter was attacking me because out of nowhere, I hand was being attacked by her.  I don’t even know where she came from, but it scared the hell out of me.  It may have also been her revenge for me rolling over on her in the middle of the night…who knows.  But yeah, I’ve adopted a cat.  I hear they can live up to 15-20 years.  This shall be interesting.

Iran??

It’s not very often I read something that completely shocks me.  I mean, I live in today’s world, and I try to educate myself on an many things as possible…I’m not necessarily book smart, just…observant I guess.  Anyway, I like to travel, and when I came upon a link in Facebook titled “the best places to travel in 2015,” I naturally clicked the link.  The article highlighted places like Cleveland, Houston, Norway, and Japan.  These places made sense.  I didn’t even flinch when I saw Cuba on the list.   With the few things in the news about Cuba, it made sense.  But then I stumbled upon a listing…Iran.  My mouth dropped.

Iran!!!  The same place with their hostile, unpredictable, and sometimes seemingly delusional leader.  Why would anyone want to travel there?  I initially laughed it off.  Even shared it with the P.I.C and dismissed the preposterous thought.  American’s probably can’t even travel there (like Cuba).  But then I thought for a second.  Do Americans travel there?  I began to do Google searches, and went onto TripAdvisor to see what types of things were being said.

My goodness…most comments or articles highlighted a friendly place that had a lot to offer, from a historical standpoint.  Sure, you are advised to travel with a guide, but getting in and out of the country seems to be an uneventful process.  I read multiple stories of how friendly the people are…going out of there way to be courteous to foreigners.  Even more, it seems that visitors from the Western world are rare, but Europeans visit without hesitation (that may be a slight exaggeration).

I know there is a lot of propaganda in our news, and I do my best to see beyond what they want us to know versus what’s actually true, but I never really thought that Iran could be a desirable place to visit.  I’m not saying I want to go there.  I like to travel for food, and I hear their food isn’t particularly appealing, but still.  My eyes have been opened.  Yes, tonight,  a post on Facebook taught me something.  Well done internet…well done.

55 miles to satisfaction

This past weekend I did a 55 mile bike tour with the P.I.C.  For “real” bikers, I guess that’s not a whole heck of a lot, but I’m not a “real” biker.  I ride to work a couple of times a week (4 miles) and maybe do some riding on the weekend, but leading up to this tour, we had done 10 miles at most in one ride.  Not nearly enough to properly prepare for a 55 mile ride.  But having done the five borough tour (40 miles) I thought, we should be fine.

Miles 1-20

As in the five borough bike tour, this was the best part of the tour.  It wasn’t easy, but the adrenaline of doing the tour made it seem relatively easy.  I was taking in the sights, and enjoying the day.  It was sunny, and there was a good amount of other people doing the tour with us.  If I had to guess, there were 1500-2000 people.  My body felt good, and we had a good rhythm.  This wasn’t a closed course, so we had to stop at lights and mind traffic, but outside of some major cross streets, it really wasn’t bad.  Also, for this tour, there were 30, 55, 75, and 100 mile options.  We signed up for the 55 mile, but kept 30 as an option in case we were struggling.  By the time we were near 20, I was confident we were going to do the 55.  I had to be sure though because the 30 mile track was going to break off soon.  If we were going to continue, we need to be sure because there was no turning back.

Miles 21-40

Things tend to get serious when you hit that 21st mile.  Fully committed to going 55 miles at this point.  You are no longer out there just to have a good time.  This is the point where your body realizes you’re actually asking it to push itself.  It understands that this is not a regular workout, but something where you are going to need to dig a little deeper.  It’s no time to panic, but the chatty banter with whomever you’re riding with or around tends to stop.  It’s a little quieter, and you’re a little more focused on how you feel.  You have to remember to drink before you get thirsty.  Why are my lips so dry?  Should I stop at this rest stop and grab a banana.  It’s still fun, but you feel a bit more of a burn.  On this particular leg of the tour, the roads were small, and the cars were scarce.  On more than one occasion, I realized we were actually by ourselves.  Our only guide was the little pink arrows on the pavement at most intersections.   For me, this is where I began to wonder if not training was a bad idea….yes, it was, but nothing we can do about that now.  Toward that 40th mile, I felt some relief knowing that this was the distance for the five borough tour.  So, what’s another 15 miles??

Miles 41-55

On my handlebars I had a speedometer.  This also showed the average mph, and the total miles.  Throughout the entire race, I tried my hardest not to see the mileage.  I wanted to make sure our mph average was above 10 (we are around 12.1), which is the only reason I continued to check it.  But for some reason, each time I looked, I saw the mileage.  And during this stretch, the numbers moved like they were stuck in quick sand.  A half a mile felt like three.  My hands started to ache, and the soreness on my butt was becoming more of a problem.  My bike felt much heavier.  I also began to get a cramp in my thigh.  And though a few sips of water helped make it go away, my bottle seemed to empty out as quickly as I filled it.  The exhilaration of going down a hill, was quickly lost to an uphill grade, no matter how slight it was.  This route was the definition of rolling hills, or so that’s how I remember it.  Oh, did I say we did all this on mountain bikes?  The saving grace was hybrid tires, and though the difference seems minimal, it’s appreciated.

I will tell you, I’ve never worked my thighs to such exhaustion before.  I was begging them to do something, and shortly before mile 50, they started telling me no. I pushed, and with each push, I could feel them wanting to give up on me.  It seems like these tours all tend to have a steep incline near the end.  I was ready, mentally, for it.  Hell, I rode up the Verrazano Bridge on a windy day, which was a much steeper incline than the hill this tour presented.  But, I couldn’t…I tried, I continued begging, but they just wouldn’t do it.  I conceded to the defeat.  Sadly, I walked it.  Afterwards, slightly dejected, I rode on.  There was still a few miles to go, and I was certain that I had seen the worst of it.  After a quick rest stop, we were back on our way, and on the horizon…another tough hill.  The only comfort was that numerous people around me also hated the sight of this, and a lot of  them “looked” like pros.  I stopped at the foot of the hill, and was joined by a handful of others.  More people approached, more people stopped.  I heard the groans of those who decided not to lose their momentum, and pedaled on.  The cheer of one of the volunteers was urging people along.  To myself I said, I have to do this.  No walking this one.  The P.I.C had been a monster on the course all day, so I knew she’d have no issue.  Let’s do it….I jumped on the bike, and pedaled my way to a little more pride.  I made it to the top of that hill, slowly…one cycle followed by the next.  Getting every little bit out of these thighs.  The rest, was a downhill roll toward the finish line.

Finish

I know people who have run marathons, and that is one major accomplishment.  This is the closest I’ll get to that feeling, unless I decide to do a century ride…maybe one day, but if I do, I’ll definitely train.  And though I could have done better, it was a great moment of accomplishment.  A moment of self satisfaction.  To some extent, a sense of belonging as you celebrate silently, with the others that took that trek  Slightly sore, I ate a lobster roll, took in the scene, and took my behind home.  I needed a nap.  I love that I am blessed enough to be able to do these things.  If it were easy, everyone would be doing it, right?  And I’m getting older, so I need to be somewhat active.  And, riding a bike, in my opinion, is still better than running.  LOL  Till next time.

 

Two Week Affair (Part 3, Phuket)

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Stop number 3; the final destination.  We wanted our last stop to be in a place where the agenda was full of relaxation, and so we found Phuket.  I was told by a friend that Phuket was the Hawaii of Thailand.  Sounds so enticing, so off we went.  Still on a high from Chiang Mai, I was optimistic, but I set my expectations low.  The Hawaii of Thailand could not be better than what we experienced in Chiang Mai.  Maybe I’d be wrong.

As we arrived at the airport and walked to the exit, it was hectic.  I’m not famous, but I felt like I was.  The flashing of the paparazzi cameras replaced with a chorus of “where you going,” and “taxi…you need a taxi.”  It felt like there were  30 people around us hoping we’d choose them from a ride.  The P.I.C yelled “easy,” to get them to back off a bit, which they then used to mock us.  Not off to a good start.  But alas, we made our way to the taxi stand (the one I read was the legit stand), and after a minute or two, we were on our way….or so I thought.  About two minutes into the ride, we made a stop.  She’s back to her old tricks again, I thought.  The taxi driver hopped out, and a young lady approached the cab and motioned for us to open the door.  Brochures in hand, she asked us if we were interested in any excursions.  I had heard about this, and from what I read, I knew that we’d be here for awhile, though the legit taxis weren’t supposed to do this.

I looked at her and smiled, and said we planned on relaxing the entire time, and had no interest in doing anything.  To my surprise, she smiled back and said thank you…enjoy your trip, and that was it.  We were off again toward the hotel.  My main concern now was the increasing number on the meter.  What I expected but still more than I wanted to pay.  The hotel was a regular looking beachfront hotel.  No standout character, but who needs that when you open your door and the ocean is in your face.  She was quiet most of the way, but there’s is where I heard her loud and clear.  The water went all the way to the horizon, and even though the water was much to rough for most swimmers, she was beautiful to look at.  To hear her waters crash against the waves was soothing, though the roar reminded me that these same waters took so many lives in the Tsunami in 2004.

As I said, my expectations were low, and since this was her vacation spot, the food was average though more expensive than most other places.  I guess most who visited her here were not looking for so much of an authentic experience.  They wanted nice water, and excursions; one which we ventured out on.  Here she gave me a first…I jumped off a boat into the waiting waters.  The water wasn’t the clear blue kind that some have mingled with in the Caribbean, but more of a cloudy green (not anything like the Jersey water either).  It felt great, and it’s saltiness made for good floating water, if you’re into that stuff.  On this excursion, she showed me secluded areas where there was only one way in and out.  She showed me caves which we explored with flashlights, James Bond Island, and an entire town built over the water, secluded from the mainland.  It had shops, homes, fishing boats, a restaurant, and a school.  All powered by a generator, that I believe is shut off by a certain time at night.  Apparently it’s really expensive to run at all.  Most interesting was that most people here were not itching to go to the mainland.  They had to if they wanted to finish school, but most came back.  This was her example of how life could be so simple, and still so fulfilling.

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It was the rainy season, and she held back for most of the trip, but here in Phuket, she showed me what that meant.  I like to see it as her way of crying for me before I left.  As that day approached, it was sad. We had a few moments where all we did was sit there in the silence, enjoying each others company.  But it did have to come to an end.  The alarm would ring at 4:15 am, and we had to say our goodbyes.  Her last gift to us, in the form of a boxed breakfast from the hotel.  I’ve never seen that before, but it was a nice farewell gesture.  She didn’t want us to leave, so I suspect she somehow delayed our flight by an hour and a half.  But we eventually boarded, took off, had our last look at her, and closed the airplane window shade.

As I look back on and recap the affair, I realize there’s a really good feeling that resides in me.  She wasn’t the prettiest, or the nicest.  Her personality sometimes made her seem unstable, but she reminded me of something.  Something that is all too cliche, but ignored by so many, me included.  Something that I hope doesn’t leave me as I get back into the routines of my established relationship with my home country.  She reminded me that life is all about living it; not just being present.  Soaking in the good and the amazing, and learning from the bad and the ugly…and to smile, because it really does make others smile with you.  And if it doesn’t, well, it makes me feel good.

I hope you enjoyed this affair…this journey. Shout out to the P.I.C for also making this trip as memorable as it was.

Sawadee Krap

Two Week Affair (Part 2, Chiang Mai)

The bitter taste of Bangkok still lingering, me and the P.I.C advanced our affair with Thailand, and moved on to Chiang Mai.  The promise of seeing the “real” Thailand was a major driving force in moving our affair up north.  However I was skeptical that this relationship would actually go anywhere now.  She was as superficial and money hungry as any other affair I had been a part of, and she was not apologetic.  As I look back, I likely was a bit too harsh in my judgement.  My adjustment to her timezone, her way of talking, and her way of interacting probably had as much to do with my impression as did the unseemly characters.  It makes me wonder, what damage had her past lovers done to make her so cold…but I digress.

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Our arrival in Chiang Mai was uneventful.  Our walk through the airport and eventual ride in the cab was as plain as vanilla ice cream.  When suddenly, a glimmer of hope reared its head.  She showed me the most beautiful place to stay.  Chiang Mai offered your standard hotels and backpacker paradises,  but this place was neither.  It was called Ruen Come In, and it’s style was considered lanna style, and was decked out in all wood.  Quaint and private, it had reflections of a B&B, but offering much more privacy to the guests.  Shoe removal when walking on any indoor surface, or outdoor surface leading to a room, was required and added to the charm.  I didn’t want the same ole same ole….or “same same,” as I saw written so many places, and this was far away from familiar for me.  She made me smile, but I was cautious.

We walked through the town, and our first encounter was with a man trying to sell tickets to a Muay Thai fight, and I thought, “here we go again.”  Another scam.  Though genuinely interested, we held off on purchasing, and I immediately realized that he actually didn’t push too hard, if at all.  This was followed by an individual who showed interest in us while we looked over a map…his interest was that he only wanted to point us in the right direction.  We had a decent dinner while watching people come and go, and ended up at a nice little spot where a live band was playing.  They were quite good, I might add, and the people watching was just perfect.  As we lay that night, I had hopes that our relationship would continue to improve.  With a visit to the Elephant Nature Park (ENP), it had to.

The visit to ENP showed me just how compassionate, patient, and dedicated one person could be.  The love I saw given to these creatures was just amazing, and unlike anything I had seen up close and personal before.  I saw personable animals that had awesome size, and such grace.  Powerful in their movements, but gentle as they took food out of our hand.  Seemingly disinterested as we doused them with water, but stood still because they knew we were happy and well…they had food and they were genuinely happy.  I learned so much, and I am so thankful that I was able to experience firsthand.  And this is where it started to happen.  This is where I began to fall in love with her.  This was followed by another nice dinner on the river, where the loud sounds of club music played in the background.  I saw her younger side, and how she liked to party.  There was a cover band, and plenty of 20-somethings singing along, and throwing back liquor.

Our chariots while there were these red vans that could fit eight people comfortably, and 12 people with someone hanging out the back.  It seemed dangerous, but it gave her personality.  Bargaining for the cost of a ride, and bargaining for goods was becoming second nature, and it started to become fun.  It’s as if she took my hand and said, “relax…this is all a part of the experience,” and I began to let go.  She introduced me to others on vacation, and we hung out with natives.  She also allowed me to see how good she actually is in the kitchen.  I enjoyed some complex food (khao soy….I still taste it), ate delicious dessert, and she showed me that breakfast isn’t all about eggs and bacon. It was here that I also learned how to wai…slight bow with palms pressed together. And it wasn’t forced; I meant it as I thanked people for various things. The P.I.C was really good at it…”kop khun krap.”

We explored the city on bicycles and witnessed amazing consideration.  The traffic was chaotic, but there was rhyme and reasoning, even if I didn’t understand it.  Oh the difference a city makes.  Bangkok was uncomfortable, but Chiang Mai slipped on like a nice pair of old sneakers.  She embraced me and made every other moment of my trip worth while. This here, was the land of smiles.  They were genuine, and wider when I initiated.  I wasn’t ready to leave here.  We had much more to share with each other, but an affair is only temporary, and with limited time, we needed to move on.  If only I could have sat in her embrace, in this beautiful city up north, a little longer.  But alas, we must go…onward the island.

 

To be continued…