pure joy

this was my favorite picture off my camera.

this, of course, was brian’s:

i quite appreciated the moon at sunset:

The Bitter and the Sweet (Cruise Report – Vancouver/Alaska)

Part I


I’m sitting in an internet cafe in Vancouver as the male demographic of 18-25 sit around me playing World of Warcraft. Seems fittingly surreal for someone who’s running on 16 hours of sleep total over the last four nights.

The past week has been…unusual to say the least. Which is also saying a lot, because the status quo of my life can easily be described as generally unusual and off the beaten path. I’m afraid if I don’t document all this right now, it’ll start seeping through the cracks of my mind, until the lines between illusion and reality blur and I can no longer trust in anything I believe anymore. So I have to stream this right now.

Fremont – The Calm Before the Storm

I flew into Fremont last week, wanting to spend a few days before the cruise in my hometown to spend time with my dad and Michael who wouldn’t be joining us on the cruise. They didn’t want to go because cruising is too–their word–“stressful.” Sitting on a boat, eating good food, doing nothing…stressful.


But surely not as stressful as, say, disarming land mines in Iraq, right? Slightly less?

I saw that my parents were getting along and Michael is content doing his thing. This family has come such a long way. Rie drove over on Thursday and brought Seigo, her 5-month old son. I love that kid. He was born looking like he’s trying to figure out world peace. Or pass a big fart. It was awesome because this was the first time my parents were meeting him and he’s like a little person now with such a fun laugh. He and I had a great time airplaning while we all watched The International with Clive Owen, which was incredibly boring. It was so good to see them.

This was also the first time playing basketball in the nice gym in Fremont since training with a pro coach, so I wanted to see if there was a noticeable difference in my performance. It was actually ridiculous. I played 3 on 3 with some guys who were pretty good, yet scored 7 straight baskets in the first game, our team winning 11 to 3. I’ve never dominated so confidently before. There was one play where I got the ball on the wing, crossed over and drove it right into my defender and went up. He was a big guy and crashed into me in mid-air, but I managed to stay upright and make the basket. She makes them even with contact, I heard him mutter, and to be honest, I was really surprised myself. This level of play is a bit suspicious, like I’m getting an assist from a higher power. But I’m not complaining, just enjoying the glory before the shoulder surgery sets me back. The universe is being very kind right now.

Vancouver (or, Remember That Time We Were Held Hostage by a Cult?)

The cruise crew (me, mom, grandmother, Aunt Jodie, Uncle Edward, cousins Edison and Jonathan and a family friend) flew into Vancouver on Friday where we stayed at my other uncle’s condo in a high-rise overlooking the marina. We got in late afternoon and had plans to eat dinner with some friend of the uncle who owns the condo. We met the friend at a Chinese vegetarian restaurant, and it turned out that we would be dining with a massive group of 17 because it was the guy’s birthday. They were friendly, the food was interesting, and afterwards, they mentioned that because it was his birthday, they were planting a tree at their place and invited us to see their house which they had recently customly built from the ground up.

On the drive over, the guy’s wife had mentioned that they were Buddhists of an order that believes that all religions serve the same purpose by leading a person towards their higher self, so it’s like college–it doesn’t matter where you go to school as long as you get a degree. She said some other things about their beliefs, but my Chinese isn’t so good to understand all of it. To be honest, it all sounded pretty fundamental and obvious but as long as it benefited their lives, then more power to them.

The house was in a very nice area of Vancouver, on a hill with an amazing view of the mountains surrounding the city lights below. Their house was a stunning 2-story number with a large fountain out front and a well-planned meditational garden in the back. This is a nice house, I said to my mom. Then they invited us inside.

The first clue that something was wrong should have been the fact that they were the only gated house on the street with security cameras everywhere. My mom actually asked them about it, if it was for security, and the husband mumbled something about design but didn’t actually answer the question.

The next clue should have been the fact that the majority of the first floor of the house had been converted into a shrine. Wow, I thought. These people are really dedicated to their religion. Then I noticed there was a computer check-in station. I wondered if they ran a home-worship temple, the way some people have home offices. Hey, I don’t judge so I didn’t think much of it. The interior of the house was gorgeous.

They invited us to sit upstairs and try out their couches (very comfortable). As we were hanging out, this tiny Chinese woman wearing gray showed up and she was introduced as a “family friend.” She started to talk about their beliefs, and we all listened politely, but then a couple minutes turned into half an hour, then an hour and it was getting a little weird. I noticed my grandmother had fallen asleep and I thought, Good plan! and pretended to be asleep. She was talking about the concept of how we are a part of everything, earth and sky, and when we die, we lose everything except our connection to our higher selves. But for us to become a part of the earth and sky and for the earth and sky to acknowledge us, we need to make a connection through rituals. I was getting a bad feeling. This no longer felt conversational, but like a sales pitch. I really wanted to leave, but it wasn’t up to me. The next thing I know, they ask my aunt to write down all of our names on this piece of parchment paper. I’m still pretending to be asleep, but my anxiety is growing because, while I know cameras don’t steal my soul and leaving hairs on a brush doesn’t necessarily leave me open to voodoo attacks, I didn’t feel comfortable having my name written on a mysterious piece of paper. The woman asked my aunt how much she would contribute and my aunt agreed to contribute $50 a person. Now I was definitely uncomfortable. And what happened to planting a tree? That’s what they said we were coming over to see! Who the hell were these people and what were they going to do with our names? So they ask us to join them downstairs and I jump up and go to my mom who doesn’t seem particular alarmed.

What’s going on?, I ask her. Never before have I wished my Chinese was better so I could understand what the woman had been talking about and what was about to happen.

Oh, they’re just going to pray for our souls, she said. We’re just being polite.

Polite? I know it’s custom to come over to someone’s house and sit for a while over tea if they buy you dinner, but $400 and the promise of some religious ritual seemed…not your usual Friday night.

So everyone’s getting up and I peek over the railing to where the shrine is and I see that more people have arrived and they’re all wearing long gray gowns including the couple who had bought us dinner and their son. An alarm went off in my head so I grabbed my uncle and nearly threw him at the rail.

I have 3 letters for you, I said, pointing over the rail. “W.T.F.”

He looks and just says, “Oh.”


My uncle’s a really chill guy. Our city could be in the midst of being bombed by UFO’s and he would just say, “This is not good.”But I was hoping for a little more than just, “Oh,” especial
ly considering he had the keys to the car and would be a key figure in any attempt to get out of this house.

So we go downstairs and the little worker bees in gray are setting up the shrine by putting mats down and preparing a tray with tea. I noticed the box of candy we’d brought the wife was also now set up as an offering for the giant gold Buddha in the middle of the shrine. I’m freaking out inside. I don’t want any of these people anywhere near my soul. And I want my name back.

So I grab my mom and tell her I’m not participating. She says it’s no big deal and to just be polite and I kind of want to shake the shit out of her because she doesn’t seem to be taking this seriously and I don’t know why. But my mom is someone who never wants to offend people so she probably just figured it would be better to get it over with than to disrespect her older brother’s friend. She does tell me that if I’m really this uncomfortable, I can go wait in the car. My uncle says he’ll go with me, but the little gray people are milling around the front door, so we try to sneak out the back. It’s locked. We don’t know if it’s wired to an alarm, so we sit down on some chairs in the kitchen and the two little boys come sit with us.

This is not okay, I say.

No this isn’t, he says.

This is really concerning, I say.

This is completely disrespectful, he says.

I’m so happy he’s having the same experience of this as me. I know because I was born in the US, there are a lot of traditional customs that I don’t understand, but if my uncle Edward who’s from China feels like there’s something wrong, then this definitely isn’t normal.

As we sit in the kitchen, we hear chanting and smell incense. Next, I hear the woman reading off our names. When I hear my name, chills run down my spine. I sneak up to the entrance and I see the woman who owns the house standing on the platform in front of the Buddha calling out directions with the paper in her hand as all the others kneel in a formation in the middle of the room, chanting. The rest of my family stands huddled in the back of the room, poker-faced. The woman sees me and waves me in. I shake my head and leave, though I think I shot her an inadvertent dirty look.

I go back and sit with Edward. We listen to the chanting and the boys start fighting and laughing, but we shush them. This is serious.

The woman in gray and the woman who owns the house come into the kitchen and each grab me by the arm. Come, they say. We’re going to indoctrinate you so you can be accepted.

I politely remove their hands.

My Chinese isn’t so good, I tell them politely with a smile (even though it is…I just don’t have an extensive vocabulary that extends into religious terms), but I feel like if I’m going to participate in a ceremony, I would want to know what it’s about before I agree to it.

Don’t worry, the woman who owns the house says, I’ll have my son explain everything to you in English when we’re done.

She grabs my arm again. I gently but firmly remove her hand again.

Why is it so important for me to participate?, I ask her. I have my own spiritual beliefs and they’re very important to me. Why is it so imperative for me to participate in this ceremony if like you said, all religions are equally important as long as they get the soul to the same place of understanding, so if I decide I want to go into the desert and communicate with god on my own and that’s enough for me, then isn’t that just as acceptable?

(I’m actually surprised and impressed at my level of articulation in Chinese at this point. Thank God the words are not failing me.)

The woman in gray becomes emphatic, saying that they’ve already called my name and started the ritual, that they can’t stop now. She says if I go through it, I will be officially recognized and that it’s okay to have your own spiritual beliefs, but doing this is like a back-up to make sure my soul will definitely be saved.

But what if I truly don’t feel like a back-up?, I ask. Even Jesus said the conversation between a person and God is a private conversation. What if I want to have a private conversation with God that has nothing to do with you? I think you should respect my personal right and boundaries.

They’re looking at me like I’m some dirty heathen trying to justify my depraved path, some ignorant soul drifting out to sea, and I’m getting angry because I’m someone who has pretty defined spiritual beliefs and a strong sense of my inner self that I’ve worked very hard to achieve. And even more so, my spiritual beliefs dictate that religion is a means to reach spirituality but not a necessity, that everyone’s spiritual self-discovery is different and as long as they get there to feel positively about themselves and their place in the world, it doesn’t matter. I believe that you can never force anyone to take your views because it defeats the purpose…you can guide and discuss, but it’s hypocritical and defeats the purpose to force any ideology onto a person. These people were so ignorant and hypocritical of everything they had just preached earlier that it was making me very angry. They were like that stringy-haired girl in my dream a few days before, pushing at me, when I wanted to be left alone to stand my own ground. I even remember telling myself not to fold my arms over my chest because it would be a defensive position, signifying weakness and fear. I stood strong, chest open, looking them in the eye, refusing to budge, just repeating – I’m not participating and you need to respect my decision.

They finally gave up. I looked at my uncle. Let’s go to the car, I said.

We make a break for the front door, and my grandmother has decided she’s had enough as well, saying she wants to go home. I go to get my bag and the kids’ shoes when there’s a sudden commotion outside. I run outside and my grandmother, who has a wicked short temper, is trying to get into the car but being stopped by the woman in gray. My grandmother’s yelling that we’ve been here for 2 hours and it’s late and wants to go home.

I ask what’s going on, also noting that while the gate around the driveway is open, there’s a white sedan blocking the opening so there’s actually no way out for the car. This is concerning. The woman in gray says that because I delayed the ceremony by not joining and making my grandmother wait so long, now my grandmother was tired. But she promised to get everything done quickly. She keeps trying to get a hold of my grandmother who’s flinging her hand off and yelling that she wants to go home right now and the woman in gray is yelling at me that I made my grandmother wait too long. It’s almost like this woman was determined to get punched.

I get between them and tell my grandmother to get in the car and tell the woman that my grandmother doesn’t want to do the ritual not because she’s tired but because spirituality is a personal matter and right now they are forcing something on her that she doesn’t agree with. My grandmother says, she’s right! That’s exactly it! And finally calms down.

The woman doesn’t seem to hear and repeats again that it’s my fault because I made my grandmother wait, and I was really achieving a new level of restraint in the fact that I’ve still been polite this whole time and I have suppressed the rage I am feeling towards this incredibly ignorant, stupid woman. The rest of the cult comes out, following the rest of my family and my mom’s apologizing to the guy’s wife that my grandmother’s back hurts and is just tired because it’s been a long day, which of course starts my grandmother screaming again from inside the car, Get me out of here! Someone start this car and get me out of here! I’m trying to calm her down by saying I know why she’s upset and I feel exactly the same, and yelling at the people to please move the car that’s blocking the driveway, when my mom pushes me aside and tells me to stop making things w
orse. Now I don’t know who I’m pissed at more–my mom or these idiots. The guy who owns the house is apologizing profusely and saying that this whole thing is just a misunderstanding, while my grandmother’s screaming, move your car! I want to go home NOW!

We manage to get everyone in the car as someone backs the white car out so we can back out. As we pull away, the cult people are apologizing through the window for the way things turn out and we’re like, it’s fine, it’s great, thanks for dinner, and I even add happy birthday to the guy who owns the house as I’m texting brian because this is just too unbelievable for me not to.

The whole car is silent until we get to the end of the street…make a stop at the stop sign…turn right.

Then I just can’t hold it in anymore.


The kids start laughing uncontrollably and then everyone’s laughing.

My mom and aunt say that they had no idea the situation would turn into a whole ritual and I ask how the hell they know these people. He’s someone your uncle plays golf with, my mom says.

Brian calls and asks what the hell is going on and I recap it for him. His only comment:

“Was everybody kung fu fighting?”


I talked with my friend Yuki, whom I’d worked with at Boom!Chicago in Amsterdam and is living out here. Even though we weren’t able to hook up, he recommended a Caribbean music festival on Saturday. My mom and I took a nice ferry ride to north Vancouver, ate some jerk chicken and listened to music while people-watching. A guy selling hats told us we were pretty. I told him, “It’s because we’re lesbians.”

My mom’s a very good sport.

The weather was incredible – blue skies and sunny, though it started to drizzle a bit despite the sun so we headed back.

We took a walk along the waterfront. Watched the cruise ships take off.

They left exactly at 5, my mom said.

They’re very efficient, I said.

Kids…remember this exchange. It’s important to the story later.

The night featured the most incredible thunderstorm that seemed to surround the horizon with lightning and electrified the sky in the most breathtaking combinations of colors and emotions. I’d never felt so magnetic and alive. As we headed back, I wanted to see what Vancouver’s nightlife was like but no one wanted to come with me, so I went by myself. Most places seemed to be clubs and I really just wanted some place low key to people watch, so I picked this Irish pub. There was a $14 cover which is a bit ridiculous, so I asked the woman to be honest about what kind of crowd it was. She told me that it was a mix…18 year olds to 40 year olds. Then I remembered the drinking age in Canada is 18. She let me check it out first and the funny thing was, it wasn’t a range of 18 to 40. It was really young kids, and the 40 year old men standing around in the corners watching them. Very little in-between. Bizarre. So I left. I decided to just walk home and see Vancouver on foot, my favorite way to explore a city anyway. I thought I knew where I was going (I thought it was a 1 mile straight shot down the main street to the street our place was on), but somehow I got really lost. I did find some interesting architecture, and followed this group of 3 kids, 2 of them holding up this girl who looked like Christina Ricci wasted out of her mind. She kept mumbling about how she didn’t know how she got this drunk (I don’t know. From…drinking…maybe?). It was funny, but her friend was so sweet, kept telling her she was okay and that they would get her home while basically carrying her. I wanted to tell the girl she was a really good friend, but sometimes I’m shy about initiating conversations, so I didn’t, but when the street we were walking on ended in a freeway on ramp, I sucked it up and asked them for directions. Turns out I’d walked in the exact opposite direction and was really far from where I was trying to go. The nice girl gave me directions to the train station while holding her drunk friend by the back of the dress as she stumbled around like a dog on a leash.

By the way, I’ve been meaning to tell you you’re a really great friend, I said to her. She’s very lucky to have you in her life.

Her smile momentarily lit the night.

We parted at the stop light and I headed down the street where I’d been directed, until at the next corner, I found myself standing by a tank. Yes, not “bank.” Tank. Just sitting on the sidewalk. Seriously. It’s 2am, I’m lost as fuck, the streets are nearly completely devoid of traffic or people, and I’m standing by a giant tank under the pale yellow streetlight, the lingering smells of a dramatic thunderstorm still in the air. Damn right I wanted to have a photo session. But the only person I could see was a homeless guy staggering up the street, and I definitely wasn’t brave enough ask him to take my picture while I scrambled up a tank, so I called my uncle who was waiting up to let me into the condo to tell him I was lost.

He offered to pick me up but didn’t know the cross streets, or where in the city to find a tank sitting on a sidewalk (to be honest, it didn’t sound like he really believed me).

Luckily at that moment, a taxi drove by and I flagged it down. Didn’t get any photos with the tank. In fact, couldn’t find it again when we were driving around in the car the next day. Hmmm…


My uncle wanted to drive to Richmond to go try this restaurant. He claimed Richmond was only 20 minutes away and we needed to board the boat between 3 and 5 so we could make it back in time. I remember having a really bad feeling about going to Richmond, but I held my tongue because when it comes to family, I don’t have seniority to question decisions.

So we go out there and my mom wants to get a massage instead of eating because her back hurts so we drop her off and go to a dim sum place. I noticed that it’s 2pm and I say that we should hurry, because we still have to go back to the condo and load the bags into the car, drop the car off at the car rental place and take the shuttle to the port.

On the way back, we hit traffic. It’s about 3:45 and we’re running a bit short on time. I’m very worried and I suggest a plan that would optimize our efficiency:

Since the car was in Edward’s name, he should drop us off at the condo and go straight to the car rental place, taking the 3 most inefficient people — my grandmother and the two little boys. Meanwhile, the remaining 4 of us would ask the deskman to call a taxi as soon as we walked into the building, giving us 5-10 minutes to get all the luggage downstairs. Then at least one of the two groups could get to the port asap and let the people know in case the other group was running late. I was pretty happy with the plan, especially considering I’m someone who is obsessive about multi-tasking and maximizing time efficiency, because I have a pathological anxiety over boredom or wasting time. Even my mom’s friend said that it was a really great plan. But then my mom (why does she always do this to me), says that we can’t split the kids up from their mom, which made no sense because they would be with their dad. I say that’s fine. She can go with Edward to the car rental, and the remaining 3 of us would take care of the luggage. But then my aunt says she needs to be there to pack up the luggage and make sure they get everything. I’m kind of irritated now and say, do you guys realize you’re taking my efficient plan and making it less efficient?

My mom quips, why do you always think you’re right?

And then I turned green, ripped through my shirt.

Seriously, I did get really mad because she never listens before she disagrees. So often, she disagrees without knowing what she’s even disagreeing with.

So they decide to have every
one go upstairs and take care of their own luggage, but the compromise was that we would still call a taxi as soon as we got there, and one group would go to the car rental and another would take a taxi.

The time was about 4pm.

The first group by taxi got there about 4:18. There was a woman who greeted us by saying, You must not want to get on the ship.

She was pretty much a bitch. We told her we thought we had until 5 and she said that’s when the boat leaves and the check-in closed at 4. She was just a thoroughly unhappy person, so as we got all the bags out of the car, she kept saying, you’re not getting on the boat while the other guys kept saying, don’t worry you’ll make it. I really wanted to turn around and ask her, are you really this miserable of a person? But I showed restraint because seriously, what assholes we are, out of over a thousand people, to be the very last ones on the boat.

Another woman with the port comes out and replaces the bitch lady, and she’s amazing. God bless her. We tell her there’s another group coming but they’re returning the car. I tell my mom to call Edward and tell him to turn around and just come straight to the port. It’s better to swallow an extra week of car rental fees than to miss the boat. The woman gets on her walkie talkie, and the end of the story is, we all got on. Though we’re still assholes.

The good news though, was that we missed the evacuation drill, which I remember thoroughly hating the last time I went on a cruise. Everyone was filing back in their life jackets as we were boarding. I asked why we thought boarding was between 3-5 and they said it was in the information packet the agency had given them and I asked to see it. It was in small print but it did say to board no later than 60 minutes prior to departure which was 5pm. Then I remembered just the day before, my mom had commented about how the cruise ships leave at exactly 5pm, and wondered why neither of us put 2 and 2 together. Maybe because it just makes a better story.

But we made it, set sail, and that’s all that matters.

Cruise Report Part II – Ouroboros

7/31/09 3:15:46 PM
From: Julia
To: Rie

i’m in love.

7/31/09 3:16:57 PM
From: Rie
To: Julia


…to be continued…

Ouroboros – Cruise Report Part II

Day One – Sunday, 7/26

We made it onto the boat. Found our rooms in the aft section (back of the boat), lucky floor 8, and had a little balcony. I didn’t even know rooms on cruise ships could have balconies. It was amazing. (note: recently I found out the penthouses have baby grand pianos. The balls of it!)

Was tickled to see the name of the boat was the Celebrity Mercury. With Mercury being my ruling planet, it made me feel like right here, right now, was probably where I’m supposed to be.
Changed into shorts and hung out on the Sky Deck on my own with what seemed like everyone else on the ship as we set sail. As expected, the demographic seemed to be made up of mostly families with young children, the elderly and couples. Said hi to people who made eye contact but didn’t talk to anyone. Took a few pictures. Looked out at the water. A seagull followed next to the boat right about eye level and I thought how, to him, he was soaring at a great height while to me, he was parallel to me from where i stood. how two perspectives in completely different places can sometimes occupy the same space for a brief moment in time. Stood in awe as we passed under a bridge. Excited for the adventure of the unknown. As the present stands, I’ve stored up more energy than I’ve ever carried before. I could probably will into reality anything I want. But I want to make sure that I will want what I get, when I get what I want. So I’m patient.

Explored. Not impressed with the basketball court. Some nice seating areas for reading/writing. I found the gym and there was only one guy working out in it, but it was nice. Figured I would be spending a lot of time here considering I really can’t afford for my body to balloon because of the Bahamas cruise in 2 weeks. I really wish the order of these cruises had been reversed, so the 7-day Binge Cruise could have come after the 3-day Bikini-Mandatory Bahamas cruise.

Went and got food with my mom and her friend. My mom disappeared…I guess she couldn’t find us. Or didn’t try. I don’t know. I spent the time talking to her friend who told me about her kids, and how when they used to bring home bad grades, they would be so worried about it but she didn’t care. She felt like bad grades just meant that her kids knew they had room to improve, and that if a student doesn’t do well, it’s a reflection of the teacher. She’s a teacher herself. She talked about my grandmother and how my grandmother is so used to getting her way, that she’s kind of like a spoiled child. You do have to walk on eggshells around her and make sure she gets her way. She’s kind of self-centered. I told my mom’s friend that I worry my mom is going to be like that the older she gets. I notice that we’ve been having some pretty serious conflicts lately, strong enough that sometimes I wonder if I just have to go away for a while and live my own life in whatever way I want or need, without her knowing anything about it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about optimal distances to appreciate someone. Like some people are stunning from 30 feet, but not as good-looking from 2. Maybe there’s a distance correlation in terms of relationships–some people are great people if you are a certain distance away from them, but your chemistry just gets bad if you get too close. Maybe my mom and I do best with more distance between us. It’s sad because I want so badly for us to have a close relationship and we do…as long as things are good. And she’s getting her way. But then…whenever she acts self-centeredly, it just flares up how angry I am that there were so many unfair things that I shouldered growing up but did it for the good of the family, and how easy it is to erase all of my sacrifices I’ve made for the family and her when it suits her. What’s up with that? Sometimes I think that’s why if I just stopped expecting anything, stopped wanting a close relationship and stopped wondering what part of what she says or does with me is selfishly motivated or competitive, and what part has had any consideration for me. I need to not get trapped. Not be afraid. Go far away.

Going to Amsterdam last year was probably pivotal in terms of building my confidence in myself and the personal navigation of risk-taking, because I never thought I would have had the guts to go so far away. I remember how she told me bitterly that none of the decisions I made last year were any that she would make. But I will always think of 2008 as the year I set myself free…probably my biggest win year thus far, because I got to experience another pace of life, one that I enjoyed much better. Even though things didn’t work out romantically, it really did make me so much stronger, my sense of self and my relationship to the world more defined. I think at the beginning of the journey starting with Leap Day last year, I had gained a real sense of my power and potential but was still learning how to use them. Now, I feel like I don’t have to think about them as much to make positive things happen with them. I have more confidence, my sense of identity has filled out, and now it’s not just about what I can do, but about the refinement and very importantly, the timing and situational evaluation of what I can do. Clearly I can magnetize and attract things. Now I have to learn about making good decisions when I’m doing these things.

Incidentally, before I left for this trip, I had been thinking a lot that what I’m looking for is a man with a good sense of timing. That has been in my head a lot. 1. I’m seeking inspiration; 2. I am seeking a man with a good sense of timing; 3. I will not get pushed from the moments of space that are specifically mine–the place and time where I’m supposed to be, to encounter all that is meant specifically for me.

I had some time to kill before dinner so I went to the gym and got more headway on Crime and Punishment. Finished Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Didn’t know ol’ Sherlock was a cokehead.

Changed for dinner. Food was good. Headed up to their dance club and was happy to see Jodie with Edison. Got to dance with Edison for like 2 minutes which was awesome, but then they kicked everyone under 18 out so I lost my dance partner.

So our travel agent messed up and somehow, the card I got says I’m a child so I can’t charge anything to the card. I was supposed to get that worked out earlier but forgot, so I figured I would wait until my mom got there (she was planning to meet up) so she could put it on hers. So I just sat at the bar and people watched. There was a Singles Cruise thing going on so people were wearing these badges around their necks that showed they were with that group. The thing was that I’d seen lots and lots of women ranging in age, but a couple of really old guys. It was a bit tragic, kind of like that time I walked in on speed-dating. There was only one guy who was around my age on the floor, and he was dancing with a girl with short blond hair who seemed like she might be a little wildcat-ish judging from her dancing. I remember laughing to myself about how he seemed kind of like a normal, nice guy from the midwest who was in over his head with her. Little did I know these two would soon become two of my homies on this cruise.

This really old guy kept inching closer and closer to me. But at the rate his courage was going, I figured my mom had about 15 minutes to get here before I would have to talk to him. And indeed, she got there just as he asked me to dance. I got a drink (what’s my drink? that’s right. sapphire/tonic, two olives & one lime). I danced one song, found my shoes to be too slippery for the floor, went back to the room to read Crime and Punishment until I fell asleep.

Day Two – Monday, 7/27

A full day at sea. Went to the gym first thing in th
e morning. The day before had been really warm and sunny, so when I went outside in my workout outfit of a sleeveless top and shorts, I was shocked to discover a world of gray and everyone in heavy coats and blankets. It was a very cold walk from one end of the ship to the other, complete with lots of stares. Saw the guy from the dance floor the night before lifting weights. I think I must have started the conversation because we were sharing an area and I commented they needed more benches, because there were about 4 guys rotating on the same bench with the same set of weights. We talked about my Kindle. I mentioned I saw him on the dance floor and he asked if I was the girl in red sitting at the bar. He introduced himself as Tom from Hawaii.

I ran a few miles on the treadmill while reading Crime and Punishment (it’s surprisingly really good at keeping me focused away from the pain and tedium of running), but the boat was rocking so running would alternate between feeling really light and really heavy. It was probably too much for my mind and body–running at a 6.5 mph pace while reading a Russian classic while keeping rhythm with the boat without falling off the treadmill. I got a little dizzy and went to lie down and stretch. Tom came up and asked if I would be interested in joining him for lunch, so we grabbed some food. He’s a really nice guy, but he feels young. At the beginning of his journey. He did mention that his family was going salmon fishing in Ketchikan because they’d met the excursion director who said the fish are nearly jumping into the boat. I was psyched because I wanted to do one fishing excursion but didn’t know which one to choose, so I said I would sign up for it as well and try to get on the same boat as them.

He asked me what my plans were and I said I would probably read by the outdoor pools. But when I got showered and dressed, I saw there was bingo, so I headed there instead. I ran into my mom with Jonathan on the way. She wasn’t interested in bingo at all but tagged along, which was ironic because she ended up getting really competitive about it. We sat in the back and after the first game, Jonathan pointed to the front of the auditorium and said, “There’s my dad!” I thought he was mistaken, but I looked where he pointed and sure enough, it was his mom and dad with Edison in the 5th row. They were setting up for the next game so I told Jonathan we were going to sneak up on them and whisper, “We’re gonna win” in his dad’s ear and run away. So we snuck down the aisle stealthily and just when we were two rows away, Jonathan screams, “Daddy!!”

Gah! What a terrible partner in crime.

Everyone turns to look including his dad, and I say, “That wasn’t the plan!” Scoop him up and carry him under my arm running back up to our seats as he’s yelling, “We’re gonna wiiiiiin!”

We moved to the same row as Edison and family, and Edison kept creeping over and whispering that he was gonna beat us. I don’t think he really knew what it meant to win at bingo but just liked saying that, so we went back and forth, silently doing the DeNiro I’m-watching-you move from Meet the Parents.

Formal dinner. I wore my fire-engine red dress. Saw Tom sitting at a table with two girls as we were leaving. He asked where we were going and I said we were going to some show in the theater. Our group got split up so I had Edison with me, and we ended up sitting in the peanut gallery behind Tom and the two girls he introduced as Sarah (the blonde from the dance floor the night before) and Ajay. The show was a musical covering songs from movies, award winners and different themes. They did Danger Zone from Top Gun and the guy who was “Tom Cruise” came out in this crazy gay red shirt (Top Gun is a very gay movie).

Goodness, I said. Then I told Edison, don’t ever wear a shirt like that. When you get older, I’ll tell you why.

Which made it even funnier because when they did YMCA as the Village People (disappointingly, the Indian was missing), Edison turned to me and said, This isn’t right! They’re dancing like girls! Everyone in our section laughed and I whispered, I’ll explain that to you as well when you’re older. Overall, the show wasn’t that great, but the songs were good. The best part was definitely Edison trying to mimic every dance. He’s a really cool kid.

Edison went home with his dad and I went dancing with Tom and the two girls. He was spending most of his time dancing with me, so the girls left. We talked a little bit and he was definitely hitting on me, but he kept talking about his ex-girlfriends, which was a little annoying, not because I was necessarily interested in him, but he seemed to be projecting an internal battle inside his head, and I was just sitting there witnessing it. End of the night, he walked me back to my room which was very gentlemanly, and there was a little worry in the back of my mind that he would try something, but I got out of it with a quick hug and went to my room. Read until I fell asleep.

Day Three – Tuesday, 7/28Sitka

We arrived at Sitka in the morning. The coastline was beautiful with high mountains lush with greenery. My mom and I had signed up for kayaking. We had to take a boat off the ship, then a bus to the dock, then a banana boat to a bay where they had a little floating station. The life vests we wore made me feel like an orange marshmallow, but we swapped them out for lighter ones on the kayaks.
The day was peaceful–saw salmon jumping out of the water, bald eagles flying overhead, the water was amazingly cool and crisp. The fog had burned off while we were getting our kayaks, so it was almost like summer in Tahoe. I almost wish I had been wearing a swimsuit underneath. The water was cold, but not too cold to swim. An overall stunning day in breathtaking surroundings. The banana boat captain really liked my mom and I, and I remember when we were getting out, he held out his hand and the girl next to me went for it, but he moved it aside and helped me instead, leaving her hanging.

We walked around town, I bought Edison and I ice cream bars, and we laughed about the fur jock straps sporting little tails in the rear. I called my dad and asked him if he wanted one to play basketball in. He worried about the comfort of the cradle. My dad reported that he and Michael were having a relaxing time at home and eating a lot. Apparently, we’re all in a competition to see which team can gain the most weight. I hope Team Fremont beats Team Alaska.

Headed back to the ship, chilled, got ready for dinner.

Today was Jonathan’s 4th birthday. When someone has a birthday, a group of the restaurant staff brings out a little chocolate cake with a candle and sings. Jonathan had been looking forward to this for days! The problem was, Jonathan is always asleep by the time the entrees show up. So he was asleep when this big group shows up with the cake ready to sing to him. We try to wake him up but he’s cranky and crying, so it’s just not gonna happen. Instead, his mom just props him up in her lap and holds his face up and towards the cake so we can take pictures, while the crew sings enthusiastically to this unconscious birthday kid with no awareness of what’s happening. It was so Weekend at Bernie’s
. (note: they brought out the cake the next day, and the next before they finally got to sing for a conscious birthday boy!)

Leaving the restaurant, we walked by Tom’s table again, and he asked if we were going to dance upstairs. We said sure so our whole group including my family went up to the danceclub. It turns out there’s a Dancing with the Stars competition going on, with the officers dancing with guests. We got there at the end of the semi-finals I think, and since we’d missed most of the dancing, it was like picking horses for the winner–I just picked numbers I liked. I cheered for 9 (my favorite number), who got a lot of applause, but I noticed that when they got to 11 (my 3rd favorite number, after 29 and 9), there were loud cheers from predominantly women. Wow, the ladies love that one, I said to our group. They redid the vote between 9 and 11 to see who got it, and again I noticed 11 got lots of cheers from all the ladies. The guy was a tall guy with a shaved head. I like a guy who can rock a shaved head, I said to Sarah, for really no apparent reason, because I can’t remember ever having any feelings or opinions one way or another about guys with shaved heads.

After the competition, they turned the place into this crazy 60’s dance party with flailing hippies, a Beatles lookalike band rocking Guitar Hero guitars, and these Fembot dancers and Andy Warhol lookalikes. Very Austin Powers, totally awesome. Come Halloween, get ready for Brian and I.

but which is brian and which is julia?

The dance floor was pretty crowded so I was sitting down, people watching. I didn’t really feel like dancing, while Tom hit the floor with Sarah. After the music turned into regular dance music, the crowd thinned. I was deep in thought exploring random places in my mind when I noticed that some of the officers from the competition had stuck around and were now on the dance floor. In particular, I couldn’t take my eyes off of 11, the tall guy with the shaved head. There was something about him, his energy, his luminescence, his smile, his rhythm, an enthusiasm for life, a confidence in and enjoyment of the moment…what was it? I wasn’t sure, something about him made him stand out. I barely noticed anything else. He seemed to glow, like some great force was present inside him, just inside on the other side of the door. I wondered if that’s what people mean when they say I glow. Maybe this guy’s a reality projector. Maybe this guy is a magnet like me. Maybe he has answers.

The next sequence I can’t explain. I felt a sudden compulsion to know who he was. What he was. Where his light was coming from. The urge was so overwhelming, it shot me to my feet with an explosion of electricity, and I just as quickly sat back down. That was strange.

I looked around for O’Neil, my buddy from Jamaica who was a server I always talked to. He had been around stopping to chat every few minutes, but the moment I needed him, he was gone. I thought, maybe this is a sign that this is nothing. Another paper lantern, a source of light that I follow and find to be empty. Another false lead from the universe to tell me, either my faith and commitment to trusting the signs that go behind rationality and logic are still being tested to see what I deserve, or I am the world’s greatest, most gullible fool. I sat there, watching, wondering what lay inside this man. My mind was surging with electricity, and if I could have folded time and space and willed him over, I would have, but to walk up and say something was completely impossible. Remember, I am deceptively shy–rarely do I initiate contact, especially when the pull overwhelms my logic center and I question who or what is in control of my faculties.

The music changes and the DJ has put on Cher, Do You Believe in Life After Love. Terrible. Now no one was dancing, all the men on one side, girls on the other. Like a bad prom. I was hoping the DJ would let it go for 30 seconds, but seeing it had killed the dance floor, change it to something else. But then I saw him walking away from the turntables, and I had a great moment of panic that he was going to play the whole song. So I walk over and signal I want to talk to him, and he comes out of his booth.

What’s up, he says.

You can’t play Cher, I say. It’s basically a command.

Why not?, he asks, almost offended.

Look over there. You’ve got a group of handsome young men ready to dance, and a handful of girls who want to dance with them, and they’re not doing anything. You need to inject some life in here, get the jungle juices going, something with a little [I made a some beat noises that gave him the idea of the level of…passion…that was needed].

His face breaks out into a broad smile. Ooooh, I get you, he said. I know what you want.

I walk back to my seat. A few minutes later, the opening beat of Rihanna’s Disturbia begins to play. The DJ looks at me and I give him a big thumbs up. This is one of my theme songs!

Julia…sometimes the darkness is the light…

I could feel my power oozing through me, black well water on a moonlit night breaking free from stone walls and seeping into the soil. I could taste it.

Tom and Sarah are waving me over to come dance with them, but I barely acknowledge them. I’m busy. My vision is narrowing. I know what I want to do. I don’t know what I want to do. The beat is inside of me.

Disturbia…it’s like the darkness is the light…

Disturbia…am I scaring you tonight…

Suddenly, I’m on my feet. I’m walking to the bar. I’m waving the bartender over. I’m a tiny voice in my head screaming, what the fuck are you doing???????

The beat is coursing through me.

Who’s that guy?, I ask the bartender, pointing to 11.

He works on the boat, the bartender says, but you can talk to him, pointing to a scrawny guy in his 40’s who had been lurking by the bar all night. I realized the bartender thought I was just lecherously looking for someone to hit on, maybe hook up with. wtf? I’m annoyed. My purposes are usually so much loftier. Or so I would like to think.

I know he works here, I say. When you get a chance, can you ask him to come over? I want to talk to him.

You’re sitting over there?, the guy asks, pointing to where I’d been rooted for most of the night.

Yeah, I say, and walk back to my seat.

I saw 11 get pulled off the dance floor, and my heart skipped. For a moment, I didn’t know where I was, who I was, what was happening, or where this was going. Just suddenly lost all my reference points. I didn’t even understand how I was in this situation, when the next thing I know, here’s 11 walking up to me and I know I’m now under the gun.

He introduces himself as Christian and asks me where I’m from. Los Angeles, I say. He says he’s from Italy.

Player!, I think. But anyway…

Who are you?, I ask him.

Crap. Not this question again, even though this is probably my overwhelming question to him. Who are you, what are you, and why are you so shiny to me, that you managed to get a part o
f me to override my directives and engage with you. People usually approach me. Rarely do I initiate with people, even when I want to.

He kind of looks surprised at the question but is a good sport. He tells me he’s the marketing manager on the ship.

I tell him he’s the best dancer on the floor. He laughs and asks if I want to dance, and with Disturbia playing, basically my song playing, I do, but I say no (I know, it makes total sense). I’m really not in control of myself here. I say that I like watching people dance and suggest that he dance with Sarah because she’s more up to his speed (I meant in terms of enjoyment of dancing and skill level), but he laughs and says he doesn’t think he could handle her.

I’m kind of wanting out of this conversation because it’s awkward, it’s feeling very paper lanterny and I’m beyond irritated with myself because I don’t understand why I am in this place and time in this moment. I have no idea how I got here. A merengue song comes on that he’d requested and he gets really excited and excuses himself for the dance floor. I’m relieved. I want to be alone to have a very stern talk with myself.

Tom and Sarah come back and I say that I’m taking off because I’m tired. Sarah wants to keep dancing so Tom says he’ll walk me back to my room and then come back to join her.

We walk back and I’m kind of quiet, but Tom’s keeping up the conversation. When we reach my floor, he suddenly turns and asks me:

“Do I turn you on?”

Hmmm. I’ve been asked many questions in my life but I don’t think I’ve ever received that one with the level of sincerity with which it was presented.

Well…,I said, thinking that I had no idea how to answer this question. Part of me felt it was karma for asking my ridiculous “Who are you” question to Christian. I don’t know how to answer that, I said, which was honest. I had no idea.

He tells me that he thinks I’m a really cool and interesting person, that he really likes the place my mind is in and he would love the opportunity to get to know my mind better and spend some time with me. I think, then why can’t we just hang out the way we are, as friends, and what does that have anything to do with whether he turns me on. But of course, it’s because he’s talking about something else and just not being up front.

He says he thinks we could have a lot of fun together and he’s just looking to have fun.

By now we’re in front of my room whispering, and I’m thinking about this conversation. I’m sitting in another moment in the absolute present, not quite sure how to handle it but not completely surprised since it’s been brewing for a couple of days and seemed inevitable to come to this crossroad from the moment we connected.

I think about where I am now. In January, I got out of probably the only relationship I’ve ever had where I can say I truly loved and felt passionate about the person, but the dynamics of that relationship spanked me so hard, that it took me a lot of strength, faith in myself, hard work and soul-searching to gather myself into a better, stronger person than I was going into it. In the months after, I probably got more attention from the opposite sex than I ever have in my life, which I attributed to my new level of strength and confidence, as well as my new commitment to take care of myself and only let in things that are good for me. I’ve noticed that the quality of the people approaching me has also improved, nice, dynamic guys with good energy, guys I would have loved to have dated when I was younger, but at the same time, I’ve been pretty focused on wanting something that has substance. Something…specific. I get this feeling sometimes, that even when someone approaches me and is a really great person, that they’re just “not my dude.” I’ll usually feel it in a way that this guy belongs to someone else, either he’s got someone sitting in his mind he still loves from the past, or there’s someone he’s currently with or wants to be with who occupies his heart in the present, or there’s someone in his future that will walk this life together with him who will complete him, but who isn’t me. Sometimes past, present and future occupy the same space to me, so I can’t always tell where this feeling comes from, but I know, this person’s core belongs to someone else, not to me. And I really want only what’s mine right now.

Does he turn me on? Well, I like that he’s a nice guy with a big heart. I can sense that we have a small level of superficial physical chemistry. But I’ve also been pretty determined in being celibate since the break up, wanting to keep all of my strength and power inside me, only wanting to open it up with someone I feel truly passionate about who would make the power multiply instead of drain. I haven’t really met anyone that I felt compelled enough to even pursue anything close. I hadn’t even dated or kissed anyone up until my trainer a few weeks ago, and it was after we developed a rapport over the last few months and he pursued me, surprising me, and I knew quickly while the affair was still innocent that this wasn’t going anywhere.

I saw that he’d taken a few steps towards me, and if I didn’t make a decision soon, it was going to be made for me.

I think you’re a little too young for me, I said.

He didn’t really like that answer and I think I could have said something better, more thoughtful, but I’m still a shy person at heart and if you put me on the spot like that, I’m a bit awkward. But the thing I like about our connection is that it’s warm and friendly, so we changed subjects, laughed about it and moved on. Before he left to go back to the club, he asked me if I was sure. I said, yes. You’re going to regret it!, he laughed as he ran up the stairs.

I don’t know. The idea of something light and physical would have been fun, especially since I’m on vacation, I’m a highly passionate person who has been penting for 8 months, and probably the only reason I’m in the best shape of my life is that I’ve got to get rid of all this passion and energy somehow. But the idea of engaging in something purely physical and casual for the fun of it just hasn’t compelled me enough to make the effort to turn it into a reality, if that makes sense. I can’t say why exactly, just that it hasn’t really made me that motivated. Would I regret it? Probably as much as when I regret not having room for dessert after dinner, but not much outside of that.

I go to bed. Sleep soundly.

Day 4 – Wednesday 7/29 – Hubbard Glacier

Woke up to find we were surrounded by mountains and ice. It was gorgeous. Took a really, really hot shower, not at all by choice because I couldn’t get the water temp under scorching, so when I went to the Sky Deck to take pictures, I ended up walking around in a t-shirt because my body temperature was so high and I was sweating. I got many, many, many looks about it. But then later, I realized that my, ahem, nipples could be seen through my shirt in very cold weather so maybe that had something to do with it. I have to pay more attention to things like that when I dress in the morning.

Found the family, walked around with Edison and my mom taking pictures. They announced they had a piece of the glacier on board and I was really excited, heading downstairs to find it was a smallish block of ice. Kind of disappointed. As I walked up, I saw Christian, the officer from the dance club the other night that I had been bizarre with. Was very embarrassed but still smiled and waved. Saw hi
m on the next level a few minutes later and may or may not have put my head down and crossed to the other side of the ship. I’m not telling.

Tom had told me to call him if I wanted to hang out, so I called him and found out he had food poisoning. He was out for the day. I spent the morning listening to my iPod and doing my 3 page free-write on the Sky Deck. Finished Crime & Punishment. Next book, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. It was inspirational, being surrounded by such beauty that I found my mind kept drifting off into space.

Walked around and got a schedule. Found out there was a HORSE contest and decided to check it out, after getting some cinnamon ice cream (cinnamon ice cream — The Fuel of Champions). In line, I met this guy in his 40’s who was talking to a boy about going back up to the basketball court. I asked him if he was going for the HORSE contest and he didn’t know about it, saying he and some friends were playing 2 on 2 and that I should join. I got my ice cream, went back to the room to change into shorts. My mom’s friend was in the room and asked where I was going.

Upstairs to win a HORSE contest, I said. haha, I was kind of kidding, but I kept saying in my head, I’m in it to win it.

When I showed up, there was an Australian woman (Mary?) running the show. There were about 10 people, mostly men and 2 other girls, one of whom they were saying played college basketball. I don’t think the woman running the contest really knew the rules to horse, because she made up some arbitrary rules where each person takes a turn “starting,” so if one person makes a shot, everyone has to attempt the same shot whether or not the person before them missed. So if you made a shot, you had the chance to tag the other 9 people with a letter. But then she never remembered the order so a lot of people got to keep starting. Bizarre. The first guy made an outside shot, which to my irritation, I missed. The wind was a huge factor so this would have to be a strategic game. When it was my turn, I got in a left-handed layup which gave everyone but 2 people letters. This guy made a reverse layup, which was really annoying because I’ve never made a reverse lay-up intentionally in my life. In fact, just last week my coach had wanted me to do a reverse lay-up drill, and I told him this would not be pretty. When I started, I made such a mess of it he laughed so hard he doubled over with his hands on his knees, and thus ended that drill. I figured I was done, but amazingly, I made it. Strange. We went around again, and I stayed in it. Then the same guy did a reverse layup again. What a fucker! I didn’t think lightning could strike twice, but I went for it, and to my complete and utter amazement, I made it. Two reverse layups, the only two I’ve ever made in my life? Now this is very, very strange. The next guy did a shot under the basket that was a right-hand hook, which should be easy because this is basically part of a warm-up drill I do, but to my irritation, I missed it.

Julia, the Australian woman said. I haven’t seen you make a mistake yet. This is a first.

I’m glad she said that because it refocused me.

We were down against the wire. There were 4 of us left, all of us at HORS with one missed shot meaning elimination. But we hadn’t set a shot yet. The first guy did an outside shot which he missed. The next guy did an over-the-head shot with his back to the basket, which thank god, he missed. The remaining girl, the college basketball player, tried a regular close shot which wasn’t so hard, but luckily, she missed.

Let’s take it back to fundamentals, I said, and got the left-handed layup again. My revenge to the reverse layup guy.

All 3 missed and I won a t-shirt.

I stayed to play 2 on 2 with 3 of the guys, and christ, they were so rough. I played pretty well, had one up and over spin move that was probably really stupid because it was a high risk move for my knee given the type of court I was playing on and how rough the guys were being, but it was really pretty. We played a couple of games and my partner and I won both. It was wicked, the way we dominated. Afterwards, we were all talking and they mentioned they went to Michigan. I went to Michigan, too, I said. Go blue!

That was pretty cool. They graduated almost 20 years before me. Then they said they were from Texas, and I told them I was born in Texas. We’re so kindred, I said, and we all laughed and parted ways.

I decided to hit the gym while my heart rate was up, and when I walked through the cafe, everyone would double-take and look at me. I figured either I was bleeding somewhere and didn’t know it (seriously, those guys were unbelievably rough), or I must have looked strange. When I got to the gym and looked in a mirror, my face was all red and my hair was sticking up everywhere, like I’d rubbed it with a balloon. It was actually really funny.

I had some time to kill before dinner, so I went to the cafe on the 6th floor to finish my free-write. I’ve actually been avoiding free-writing for over a week, so it’s really good that I felt like doing it. It’s like the flow was returning. In the corner, the cruise director and the other guy with the cool first name I can never figure out how to say were filming a daily message. I totally thought the cruise director was gay.


When you have something that is close to you, you feel fear and you want it to be away. You feel a lack of control and it gives you an extreme sense of anxiety. You also have an inability in vocalizing what you want. You are afraid of letting people know what you want, like if they knew, they would know what to deny you. Where does this come from?

You have said it before that you don’t know how to play. You are very funny but you’re a very serious person. Do you just want to have fun? Not really. Why? Because every time I say, I want to be like everyone else and just take things easy, it always happens that other people obligate me with their feelings. It’s like the universe doesn’t allow for a situation with a mutual agreement. Things always are deep, not that it’s bad, but it’s always deep. I mean, how light are any of us when we meet the things that tug on our heartstrings? When we are faced with gain or loss that we invest our hearts into. the problem is my heart is always open. and it unlocks other people. it’s never superficial if i’m showing myself. the only solution is to find a balance, someone seeking and wanting a similar depth. Maybe the world is what we make it, but we want things the way we want them.

What is your next step? You call them over, you want something, then what? You don’t know how to state the things you want. There needs to be a step 2. What do you do when you have their attention? You act like you have a strong first step, but then what? To be honest, you take the first step, there’s only one play–strong and aggressive. And the closer people get, the more obvious it is you aren’t aggressive but sensitive. This is a contradiction that not everyone will understand.

I have to be different from other people. I’m not looking for a path for the sake of being different. I’m looking for a different path because this path is mine–specific to me. I only want what’s mine because what belongs to me will be enough. Once you finally work that imbalance out of you, that imbalance people leave who aren’t yours but who try to override your natural processes to convince you they are, you don’t want anyone else inside again. Not anyone who isn’t yours, where there’s no mutual benefit. It’s like the cuckoo laying its eggs in other birds’ nests to be nurtured by another mother, even though the nurture is meant for its own brood, who suffer. I don’t want any more people trying to convince me they’re my destiny, taking advantage of my faith in the universe just to feed off me. Imposters. What happened to my eyes that I can’t see, yet I can
see so much? In an echoing world of blindness, you find yourself a god to hang on to and you fight your way towards him with all you’ve got. Where is my purpose in this world? I seek and I seek and I seek. Maybe I’m not meant to find if I don’t want to stop seeking. I don’t want to stop believing in the “more” that is out there. Have you come to give me solace? Have you come to give me reprieve? I found my faith upon a rock in the sand, sinking sinking sinking into an everchanging silence.

That night, after dinner, I didn’t feel like going to the dance club. My mom and I checked out the sock hop they had going on in the Pavilion Club, but it wasn’t very interesting so we settled for this guy, Justin Wade, performing acoustically. He was actually really good, doing a cover of Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty when we got there. I liked that his voice had soul.

We sat away from most of the other people, hiding in the corner. The servers kept coming over and asking us if we wanted a drink but we kept declining.

He did a few other songs, and I was thinking how much I would have loved to hear him cover David Gray. I remember as he was singing, that I hoped he would ask for requests, but figured that I would be too shy to yell anything out. I was thinking about it when he finished the song, and then something funny happened.

He turned to us and asked my mom and I specifically if we had any requests. Wow.

David Gray, I said without hesitation.

I can do that, he said, and got into Babylon.

I love Babylon. White Ladder is an album that has huge significance for me, having accompanied me through many low times, and while my favorite song on the album depends on the given moment (Sail Away is so poetic and beautiful, Please Forgive Me reminds me how uplifting his concerts are, My Oh My stirs the depths of my emotional well, Say Hello Wave Goodbye is my life), I love the story in Babylon.

So I’m like soooooooooooo happy I feel like the sun’s radiating out of my chest. I can’t describe it, how perfect it was that in this moment, I was hearing one of my favorite songs when I had just been thinking in my head how much I really wanted to hear David Gray.

He didn’t do the 3rd verse, which is the best part:

Sunday all the lights of London shining,
Sky is fading red to blue
I’m kicking through the Autumn leaves
And wondering where it is you might be going to
Turning back for home
You know I’m feeling so alone
I can’t believe
Climbing on the stair
I turn around to see you smiling there
In front of me

I love this song’s happy ending. I want so badly to believe things like this can happen, that what’s lost returns when you least expect it. Beautiful. I was telling my mom about the missing verse when a server approaches and asks us again if we want a drink.

I’m saying we don’t, when he says, these are compliments from the executive chef, and points. I see the chef in the corner, and had noticed him earlier because he was singing along to all the songs. It was even funnier because I had walked by the wall earlier in the day where they have the officers’ pictures up, and I had specifically found his picture and remembered his name was Denton.

I didn’t really want to drink but didn’t want to refuse so I ordered a gin and tonic, but the server suggested a martini. I’m not a big drinks-that-are-pure-alcohol drinker, but I figured if he recommended it, it would be good, so I asked for it very dirty (again, I don’t like drinks that just taste like I’m swigging from the bottle).

Oh you like it very dirty, he said.

I looked him in the eye and didn’t want him to think I knew what he was implying, so I said, deadpanned, “Yes. Yes I do.”

He brought the drink, I toasted the chef, we continued listening to music.

He played Ryan Adams’ version of Wonderwall, which is amazing, and then introduced another Ryan Adams song, saying that there were a few swear words in it, and hoped no one would be offended. At the same time, my mom says she’s tired, getting up to leave.

Oh, one person’s offended, Justin says.

She doesn’t like bad words, I joke.

He plays a soulful rendition of Come Pick Me Up , which may have been even better than the original. Or maybe it felt that way, because the night, the music, the feelings, the colors, the textures…everything in the spaces in between…was perfect.

After the song, the server comes back and asks if I’m in the 2nd seating. I say that I am. He asks me for our table number, and I tell him that I think it’s 628. He tells me that the chef wants to do something for our table for dinner tomorrow.

At the end of the set, as I’m getting up to leave, the chef comes over and introduces himself. I thank him for the drink and he asks me if I want to meet up in the Navigator later, but I tell him that I have to get up early the next day. He gives me his number and says we can meet up sometime, and it’s flattering, but I don’t know where he’s coming from…if he’s hitting on me, if he just wants to have conversation, or if he just really likes David Gray as well.

What a beautiful day. It was a 29 day, falling on the 29th, which almost guarantees magic. Exquisite, inspirational, exalted. Perfect.

Into the Belly of the Whale – Cruise Report Part III
Day 5 – Thursday, 7/30 – Juneau

There was a message from Tom when I woke up, saying he felt a lot better and asking if I wanted to hang out with him in Juneau. My family was going on a bus tour, and I contemplated, finally deciding to go with Tom because it seemed like that would be a path more likely to throw me something new.

We met up for breakfast, running into Sarah and Ajay who were returning from ziplining. Tom invited them to come out with us as well and they both kind of look at me, then at him, then decline politely. Over breakfast, he mentioned he had plans to meet up with this trainer from the gym at noon to find out where the health food store was; he wanted to get some protein powder. We hung around the pool when the trainer walked up with a friend. She’s this English girl who reminded me a little bit of Zahra, this girl I worked with in Amsterdam. That girl was like a magical pixie. I really miss her energy. She’s the kind of girl who puts champagne bubbles in your head. Tom asked her if they were still gonna meet up, and she said she on her way to change, but gave him directions to the store. He got the directions, then said he was going to give her a hard time for not wanting to hang out with him, so she pauses, then says we can all meet up on the gangway in a few minutes.

Okay, here’s the thing. It wasn’t about Tom inviting other girls along on this trip. It was this weird feeling that he was collecting girls, which made me feel like I was utterly wasting my time. I knew I wasn’t interested in anything with him romantically, but if a friend invited me out somewhere, then spent the day running around hitting on people with me in his hip pocket not knowing exactly what my role or purpose is, it would feel like a pretty bullshit time. And I have low tolerance for bullshit. It was really just about common courtesy.

When we got off the ship, I ran into my family and I actually really wanted to bail on him and take off with my family. I’d lost my patience with him and his games. But I don’t know what it was that made me stick it out, even though I was pretty irritated and told my family as much.

We got on a bus to take us to this park, this light blue number like a really pansy prison bus. The driver was totally this biker/bar-fighter type from a Walker, Texas Ranger episode–leather vest, black cap, white handlebar mustache who probably owned a few Lynyrd Skynyrd albums (the man, not the moustache). He gave a little narrative on the ride there, and I don’t know if I just couldn’t hear or what, but the things he said sounded kind of disjointed. All I could hear was that if the glacier doesn’t get an inch of snow a minute, wildlife that depends on the glacier dies. And something that sounded like the color blue doesn’t get absorbed into space, so that’s why the glacier’s here.

Did he just say that the color blue is the reason why that glacier didn’t get absorbed into space?, I asked Tom.

That’s what it sounded like.

I laughed and started imitating the driver. “The color blue can not be absorbed into space. However, the color green is incredibly absorbant, explaining why Alaska has a lack of alligators, who have all been absorbed into space.”

Tom kept trying to call Sarah and Ajay to let them know where he was and invite them over, saying that he was worried about the girls’ brush-off this morning. I had a feeling what their actions were about…they thought there was something going on between him and I, and were honoring the girl code by not 3rd-wheeling. But he was obsessed with getting a hold of them. Finally I said to him, it seems like you’re afraid to be alone with me.

I’m not afraid to be alone with you, he said. I just don’t want the girls to think I’m blowing them off.

Uh huh. He’s got issues.

We arrived to find what looked like a large lake and a sheet of craggly ice nestled between two mountains. The two girls weren’t really waiting for us and Tom kept trying to catch up to them.

They seem intent on losing us, he said. I, of course, had no comment.

We walked around, took some pictures, then the girls announced they were heading back to go shopping. Tom looked really disappointed, and I was actually surprised he didn’t take off after them. My family arrived on a different bus and I was pretty relieved to have people I liked around because this whole thing was really irritating me. This was another chance for me to just take off with them instead, and again, I don’t know why I didn’t. I sure as hell wanted to. But I stuck it out.

I asked Tom what he wanted to do and we decided to take a trail towards a waterfall to the right of the glacier. As we hiked, he made a sexual joke about everything and I commented that his mind seemed stuck on one speed, which he denied, but continued doing. I was maintaining a record-breaking amount of patience. I’d more or less stopped talking.

We got to an area where we had to take off our shoes and wade through freezing water, and decided to go forward and press on. We waded over 2 more areas of ice water almost up to our crotches and finally got to the end of the trail, right next to the waterfall. It was incredible. We were the only ones there and I was really happy to have stuck it out.

“End of the Trail”

We explored the area and collected rocks. He said he really liked rocks, so I helped him find ones that were cool looking. I noticed that whenever he was talking like a normal human being, he would mention his grandfather a lot, the times spent with him, the things he learned from him. He had mentioned before that his grandfather had passed away recently. Sensing a way to get to a real person, I asked him about his grandfather, and we got into a deeper level of conversation. On the way back, I busted his balls a little bit about how he really goes out of his way to be kind of a douche when in moments when he doesn’t think anyone is noticing, he does really considerate things, showing that he’s a thoughtful and sensitive person. It really doesn’t add up, I said. So what’s the deal, Tom?

We got into a really deep conversation where he told me about his exes (he’s dated two single mothers in a row) and I suspected that he’s still in love with the second to last girlfriend, but it sounded like if their relationship was solid, then maybe he just met her too early in his journey, and it was necessary to let her go for now. Who could tell if they wouldn’t reconnect at a better time when they’re ready. Ever since I was young I used to feel that the worst thing would be to meet my soulmate, the kind I could walk a lifetime with, before I was ready. That thought has always gotten me to face all of life’s challenges as head-on as I could, so I would waste as little time as possible getting myself to the place where I would be ready for my life partner when our path’s crossed, though to be honest, I don’t think the universe just gives you one chance. I feel like if you miss your chance, you just go through the difficult process of having to let them go, someone who is such an incredible fit for you, until you come around again to a place where you are ready. Then whoever it is, that same person or someone else who is equally qualified to make you happy, will be there when you’re ready.

It seemed that a lot of Tom’s issues are tied to his grandfather’s death, but I suspected it was more complicated, but I wasn’t sure until
I could meet his parents or at least learn more about them. My calling him out did help though, and from that time on, without his weird behavior, we’ve been able to really connect as friends.

The hike back was much more pleasant than the hike out to the waterfall since I was finally talking to a real person, and we ended up sitting at the shuttle stop and getting to know each other on a level with more substance. I told him he was someone I frankly could never date because he was inconsistent and it was clear he had no idea what he wanted. I need a guy that I know where he’s coming from and who he is, because I don’t do well with guessing. He asked me what I meant and I pointed out things like how he would put out something real, like a sincere part of himself towards someone, then hedge it by taking it back, acting like he’s someone who doesn’t give out sincere things, or inviting the person to question his sincerity. So what it really shows is that he’s telling someone to “approach at their own risk” because they don’t know what they’re getting. It’s kind of a standard douchebag move where a person thinks someone is interested in them, but really, they’ve been offered to approach at the cost of their own feelings, so if their feelings get hurt, it was never the technical responsibility of the person who had first shown interest. It’s a way of going about connections that’s not very respectful, I told him. You know better than that.

He listened, and was big about trying to understand what I was saying, which gave me more respect for him. He mentioned he thought I had kind of a pessimistic opinion of him, because I’d said that he “seemed” like a good person. I pointed out that I had a pretty balanced, objective opinion of him, because I’d looked past the behavior that most people would have already been turned off by, and noticed another layer, one that showed a lot of thought and consideration for others, and a wide streak of kindness. Kindness is one of the most valuable traits I appreciate in people, which is probably why I hadn’t completely written him off days ago.

He asked me why I thought he was inconsistent, because he did genuinely like me and want to spend time with me, but had no idea why he was acting inconsistently.

I told him my theory that deep down, he was probably a great guy, offering things of high value that are honest, real, deeply compassionate and affirming, but he also didn’t know what he wanted, or who he wanted to be, and wasn’t ready to have anyone attach to him, pinning their hopes and dreams on him before he knew who he was and where he was going. It’s part of the natural process, I told him, and it’s fine, but you have to recognize that you’re at the beginning of the journey of figuring these things out. No one expects you to know already.

It’s like you are attracted to people and want to get close, but you don’t want them to attach and become an obligation before you’ve agreed to accept them, I said. So you want people to get close to help you figure out what you want, but not too close where they expect something from you. It’s like you’re afraid that by showing interest in them and showing real things about you and what you can offer, people might fall in love with you, and you have ambivalent feelings about that kind of responsibility if you’re not completely sure you want to accept it.

You see and feel a lot, more than the average person, he said.

Sometimes it’s just about really listening or watching what people are really saying, I said.

He thought about it, then added, I feel like you’re like this future version of me…just further along the path.

I laughed. I’ve actually thought the same thing.

Don’t worry, son. You’re gonna get there, I said. And you’re going to be an amazing person.

He laughs shyly and pretends to roll his eyes. He hates it when I call him son.

He says that this conversation is unusually deep considering we don’t know each other very well, but he thanks me for it, and for being so honest with him to help him become a better person.

I can only be honest, I said. And my favorite thing in life is helping people. Remember the other day when you said I had a superpower of appearing and disappearing like a ninja, and I told you that was the least of my powers?

He laughs. Yeah.

I’m on the brink here. I’m about to tell him a secret, and in the daytime no less. This is highly unusual.

My biggest power is I can get things out of people. Pain. Potential. Feelings. Ideas. Things they shouldn’t hold on to. Things they need to get out. Things they need to hear themselves say, and see that someone understands. Things they’ve never told anyone. Secrets. There are certain strangers I connect with, and an entire universe spills out. And people intuitively trust me because I care, I listen, I don’t judge, and I’ve got a strict code that dictates that I can’t do anything unless it’s with good intentions.

That’s a great skill to have, he said, then fell into silence. I don’t know what he’s thinking, if he even knows what I’m talking about, but I don’t worry about it. I’ve touched the core of a real person, and that’s all that matters.


We realized that we’d been sitting at the stop for almost 2 hours waiting for a bus that should come every 30 minutes. Realized that we were sitting at the wrong stop and caught the 2nd to last trip back into town. The bus driver asked us where we’re from, and when he heard I was from California, he said, that’s where they got all that legalized weed.

It suddenly turned into an interesting bus ride, because he had lots and lots of enthusiasm for talking about weed. I told him that I had lived in Amsterdam last year, and had actually won a Cannabis Cup for a smoking product that my company (comprised of just me) helped an inventor bring to market. There was a mother with a teenage son sitting in front of me and she clapped her hands on his ears and told him not to listen to us, so I tried to steer the conversation towards the intellectual, telling him there was recently a study done that estimated California could collect $1.4 billion in taxes to go towards balancing our deficit if they made it a regulated substance. And currently the California medical dispensaries don’t pay federal taxes, because the federal government doesn’t recognize them as businesses, but the US is desperate for another gross national product. I didn’t exactly want to be in this conversation, even though I don’t have a problem discussing most things under the sun, but this was definitely mixed company. And he was wearing his headset so the entire bus was captively listening to his side of the conversation over the speakers.

We met up with Tom’s parents in town who were really, really cool, and I spent time with them helping Tom pick out a watch. As we were in the store, I asked his mom what she did for a living, and she said that her husband was a real estate agent and she used to help him out, but her father died last year and she hasn’t been able to work since. Too sad, she added, quietly. A picture of this family was starting to become clearer in my mind. The feelings were so strong of what was hidden inside, I was getting taste sensations.

We headed back to the boat, and they invited me to eat at their table, but I told them that I’d met the executive chef and he said he was going to do something for us tonight, so I was curious to see what it was.

I was late to dinner because I ran into the girls and chatted with them. As I walked towards our table, I passed the chef and he said that he’d bought us a bottle of red wine, for which I thanked him. We hadn’t had any wine with dinner any of the nights, so it was nice to have and made for a lively dinner. There was a big dessert gala afterwards we headed to. With a glass and a half in
me, I was very…happy. And very red.

The gala featured a band playing oldies, ice sculptures, fondue fountains and lots of desserts. It was all pretty sweet. The chef is walking around and my mom keeps telling me to go over and say thank you to him, and while I kind of didn’t want to, I know I should so I go over. I shake his hand and thank him for the wine, telling him that dinner was excellent. He asks me what I had and I told him I had his menu with the rib-eye, though I tried the duck as well. He asks me where I’m from and I say, California, and he tells me he’s from Jamaica. He asks what I am and I tell him that I’m Chinese. I also mention to him that I have a friend who’s half Jamaican and half Chinese, and he responds that his grandfather is Chinese. He invites me to hang out later, another awkward exchange where I make non-committal noises, and gives me his card with his number on it.

I got on the dance floor and danced a little. Man, I was in such a good mood. I’m someone who does most of my dancing in my car, with friends or in private. Dancing in public can make me feel a bit self-conscious. So if I’m feeling the flow and comfortable dancing, then I’m definitely in a very happy state. This older woman started taking off her sweater, and I happened to have some dollar bills in my pocket so I flashed them, and she laughed and pretended to dance for them. This got the attention of this older man with a ponytail who was with her, who took this as his opportunity to grab me and dance with me. Don’t spin me, I said to him. Don’t you dare spin me.

So he spun me like 4 times in a row to the point I got really dizzy, staggering when he let me go. He lunged forward to grab my hand, but I wasn’t getting on that ride again, so I grabbed my mom and pushed her at him and said, Here! Dance with her! And left. Here’s my mom getting spun:

Before you laugh and say, “Weee!” just know that moments later, he conked her face into the back of her friend’s head and gave her a bit of a black eye under her eyebrow. Did I feel bad for throwing her under the ponytailed bus? A little bit. But only a little.

I went back to our table and the boys were hyper as hell. We started playing this game where they would hold out their hands and I would pretend they were drums. I don’t know how it happened, but they suddenly become savages, turning on me, tackling me to the couch and playing drums on my head and body. Terrorists!

when children attack!

I kept trying to sit up and they would slam me back down until finally, I had to go King Kong on their asses and throw them off. I totally roared!

I danced a little, then came back and was wrestling with Jonathan when I looked to my left and saw Christian standing by the bar, looking in our direction with a giant smile on his face. Man, that guy’s smile lights up a room. What the hell is his problem.

Tom and the girls showed up and came to sit with us, but the girls were standoffish, then left suddenly. Tom was worried about if they were upset with him, but I told him, it was probably between the two of them. I knew he was worrying about it though, so I asked him to dance with me, but he still wasn’t feeling well from the food poisoning. I told him to get some gingerale, but since he’s by himself (at one point I came back from the dance floor and he was having what looked like a staring contest with my grandmother), I tried to stick with him so he wouldn’t feel alone. Like I’m making a conscious effort to consider his inner state and make him feel comfortable and supported because I know he doesn’t feel good. He’s probably also minorly sulking. So I’m teasing him with my dance moves, and I want him to know these moves won’t wait forever, and I don’t remember what it was he said that irritated me in a way that made me feel like here I was making an effort, but if he didn’t want it I could easily be off having my own fun.

So I say as much, then turn around and see Christian’s still at the bar. I know that dude likes to dance, and goddam…that smile…so I wave at him, gesturing if he wants to dance. He toasts me with his drink.

Oh-kay. Wrong message.

I gesture more emphatically what I hope is the universal sign for do-you-want-to-dance, and he comes over.

He says he’s too stuffed from dinner. He asks me if he can ask me a question. Are you a swimmer?

You’re asking because of my shoulders?, I ask.


I tell him that I play basketball but a lot of people mistake me for a swimmer, and he says I look like an athlete of some sort. He tells me he ran the 800, and I think he must have pretty good mental discipline. It does at some point surprise me that we’re in a conversation. I’d pretty much written the whole incident at the dance club off, and detached from it, assuming he thought I was just another shallow cruise girl hitting on him. To be having this conversation here felt a bit like a redemption, a connection that hadn’t missed, just required a little toss through time and space the way a trapeze artist gets tossed by her partner, hangs in space for a moment before grabbing the bar on the other side. I felt better that in his memory of this cruise, I wouldn’t be just another ho.

He asks me what I do in Los Angeles and I tell him I’m a writer. He asks me what I write and I tell him I went to film school so I started with screenplays, etc., but now I’m working on my first novel, which isn’t going well. I also have a humor blog, and I write poetry. Basically everything.

I ask him if the cruisers on this trip have been fairly well-behaved, and he said outside of old ladies constantly harassing him and wanting to take pictures with him, they have been. I say it’s probably because he’s got that something that makes him seem like a celebrity. He says that people tell him he looks like Andre Agassi, but he got the looks and Andre Agassi got the skills, so he makes the money (a voice inside me whispers, julia…didn’t YOU say that?) I say people are probably drawn to him because he is who he is, and the confidence of being content with that is what people are drawn to. I feel a groundedness inside him, and I appreciate it. Very few people know who they really are, or have done the work to get to know themselves, and even fewer people have gotten to a place of accepting and liking who they are. I knew I didn’t know him well, these were just initial impressions, but he struck me as someone who had a good sense of himself and was happy with the person he’d become.

I ask him how long he’s been working on the ship, and he says he’s got a 4 month contract with 2 months off. He plans to go to Thailand on vacation when he’s done. I say that it’ll be good to get away from all the old ladies harassing him, and he said that he’ll have no ladies harassing him because he’ll have company. I take this as his way of telling me he’s got a woman and setting a boundary, which I’m fine with because my pride was already so spanked by our first encounter at the dance club, I’m not thinking anywhere in that direction.

He wants me to
guess his age. I haven’t really been able to tell age since I got back from Europe…my perspective of people goes deeper and broader now that age is really hard for me to pinpoint. I think it had to do with meeting so many people without a common language, that to communicate and understand, you have to look into their eyes and grab meaning from other places. So I got really accustomed to being in that place. I tell him about how I can’t tell age and he still wants me to guess. I feel like he could be anywhere between 26 and 35. That’s my usual range for anyone “around my age.” It takes me a long time to guess, but I guess 31.

Wow, he says. I’m actually 35. But thank you for shaving 4 years off.

I wonder if he wanted me to guess because he thought he was older and that I was a lot younger.

I tell him I’m 31, and he’s surprised. I just told him instead of playing the guessing game because I didn’t want him feeling he had to flatter me by guessing young. I’m proud of my age (though 30 was easier to say; I don’t find the number 31 very interesting). I’m proud of the life I’ve led and the wisdom I possess. I just seem younger because I truly enjoy myself and life. And I tend to find happiness in big and small things.

I don’t know how we got into a deeper life discussion, but I asked him what he was looking for in life. He said that he was looking for a place he could really call home, a place of belonging, and it struck me because it’s something I could deeply relate to. I guess most people can, if they really thought about it, if they really felt inside themselves for what it is they need. I thought about that night with the hipster, the one who told me I would never see an Alfred as my partner, and how when I told him about the hat I’d lost and how I would accept as hard proof of God if I’m walking on the beach on the other side of the world when I’m 8o and found my hat, and he wished he could see me in that exact moment because I would probably be the most beautiful woman in the world. Because I would be radiating an absolute happiness at having found what I never expected to find. I looked at this man, feeling his light and his depth, and felt with conviction he would get what he was looking for as long as he believed in it enough, and it suddenly filled my world with colors. I felt the same way as probably the hipster that night…a feeling of inspiration and joy…that in the moment this man sitting next to me found his home, the place where he belonged, wherever, whomever, whatever it may be, he would radiate a light so bright, the world would be able to feel it in its depths and light the sky.

It would be another small win in the grand scheme of things for the good guys.

The thought made me so happy I couldn’t help laughing and clapping my hands, this vision of his happiness making me giddy like a little kid. I had bubbles in my head. I told him that maybe in that moment when he finds his peace, everyone around the world connected to him will feel happiness for a moment, or be very lucky for a moment, but they won’t know why.

We started talking about other things. I ask him in terms of his own life, kind of like how every runner focuses at a point just ahead of them, what’s at the farthest end of his periphery. We’re talking, and suddenly, I see Tom take off without saying goodbye. I’m actually worried about it, because we’d left a conversation open when Christian came over, but I figured I would catch up with him later and smooth it out.

Christian asks if I would like to get tea somewhere else because it’s hard to talk in such a loud environment, so we head over to the cafe for tea. We’re talking and truthfully, it feels like one of those “assignment” connections, the ones where I meet a stranger, talk to them in a way that helps them get clarity in their life, and then I never see them again. I don’t get anything out of it on a personal tangible level outside of a sense of a good deed done, some food for thought, maybe some karma in the bank, but I feel in a way that it’s important that I do these things because when I don’t avoid these chance encounters that feel a bit like “assignments,” I find that my life becomes very randomly lucky. And plus, I really enjoy being helpful and making people feel understood.

We’re having a great conversation, and he’s telling me a little bit about the path that led him to work on the ship, when Tom comes up and says that he had gone to the bathroom, but when he came back everyone was gone. We invite him to join us, and the three of us have a great conversation deep into the night. It was actually really unexpected and rewarding. The whole day was marked by fulfilling, deeper conversations, between the one I had earlier with Tom where I broke him open and touched something real, then his mother opening up about her pain, then meeting and getting to know Christian. It was a highly productive day, quietly satisfying and I felt I’d performed all my spiritual functions gracefully. I went to sleep feeling content, like I’d done a good deed, and the universe was happy with me.

The next morning, I woke up with a fever.

Day 6 – Thursday, 7/31 – Ketchikan

7/31/09 Free write:

22 day! Self-portrait: My spirit is young. My soul is old. My heart is open, and my mind wants to taste the universe. I will probably never be truly happy, but I will always find inspiration. There’s too much knowledge in this world and too little wisdom. This is the way the world turns. And upon it, the things that fly off and disintegrate, and the things that stay rooted. In the many ways that we learn to love and hate ourselves, we find that nothing is real except the things that have come to pass. What is life? What are the compromises we make? What do we give up when it is time? Time stops for no one, but we can stop time.

These problems are so small. May your passions always run deep and your light always shine bright. A beautiful man walking a beautiful life. Strong first step. No second step. No killer instinct. Catch and release. What a stunning man. You are my poetry.

Seeking inspiration.

The world is as much inside me as outside, sifting through my fingers. And when the storms came, the children remained in the yard and not a sound could be heard except the beating of our hearts as the water poured down with promises of a new beginning.

Seeking light.

Warmth giver. Replenishing love. I am going to crack this one open. I would not betray these confidences. If I can’t trust you to be careful with the things of value which I show you, I will not show them to you. How many people will understand you? Believe in you? How many people even understand themselves.

I will write what I know and let the rest fall into place.

To know deeply and truthfully. See things for what they really are, then inject some hope. Believe that there is a place for you somewhere in this world. That you will find what you are looking for as long as you believe exactly this, even if you can’t see it yet. What is imagination can become a fact, if you think of it that way. Why should you continue…to shake it off…if the writings on the wall? Tears when I feel beauty. When I see it. Innocence and magic are the only things worth living for. I like quiet but powerful things. Subtle but powerful. Still waters run deep. I am a well on a moonlit night. The smart ones always let the moon lead. But who can wander deep enough into the forest to find me?

Eventually you will find your peace. The wings that bring you to great heights. Som
eday, two feet ahead, you will turn the corner, and there you are.


I woke up with my brain dragging me out the door, ready to output some words. Went to get breakfast but wasn’t hungry. I recognize the symptoms. This is always how it starts. I’m itching to do my free-write and tried to do it in the mess hall but it was too noisy, so I went down to the Cova Cafe, ordered a latte and wrote.

Stared at the slowly rotating gold structure in the middle of the room, head numb, then suddenly realized on its golden band, the word, Seek. Ah. A very important word in my life. Perhaps the brand name of my inner motor. As I’m staring at the word in wonder, watching it come round, then disappear, then come around again, I see Christian pass by on the floor above, wearing glasses, his confident, graceful stride I would come to easily recognize anywhere.

One word.

One echo.


My heart skipped. The previous night’s conversation flooded back. The words, the electricity, the confusion. Did all of it really happen? Who are these people to me now?

I didn’t have time or mindspace to question what was going on, my brain refused to go there, so I let the free-write try to unravel my insides, but everything came out cryptic. I had left myself no tangible string to pull to unravel this.

Just another day, I told myself. Just another day. Take it one bit at a time.

I looked up and saw Tom walk in, looking around. I put down my pen. I sense my writing day is over.

He sees me and approaches.

I was looking for you, he said.

I know, I said, laughing.

Something inside me feels like it’s time.

We talk and it’s different. It’s calm, deep, serious. I sense we don’t have much time so I have to get in quick, clean and precise. I have to dive deep, grab the root, pull it up and show it to him. Whether or not he could believe it or understand it was completely up to him.

I had a feeling I had the key. It was dropped in my lap the day before and I remember it being unexpected, but noting a possible significance in my mind.

Your mother mentioned that she doesn’t work anymore since your grandfather passed, I said.

There’s a flicker of surprise in his eyes that this subject has come up, but by faith, he follows.

Yeah, she and my aunt have had to take care of my grandmother who hasn’t been doing well. So it takes up a lot of her time, he said.

He knows and I know he’s not telling the full story.

She told me it’s because she’s still sad, I press.

Now I’ve caught him off guard. His mouth drops into a little “O” as his mind scrambles for words.

She told you that?, he asks, like he’s not exactly sure he believes me.


Wow, you really do get people to tell you things.

The rest of the conversation was like a melting. He told me about life in his home after his grandfather passed, the kind of man he was, the way the family fell apart afterwards. How his dad had heart problems from the stress, his grandmother, mother and aunt were near paralyzed with grief, and his uncle wanted to leave his aunt claiming she was cheating. How he was the person that everyone went to keep everyone together. I commented on how much weight from other people he must have had to shoulder at such a young age. And meanwhile, he must have been going through so much of his own pain. In such a difficult time, who was taking care of him? He thought about it for a moment.

Myself, I guess.

I looked into his eyes and could feel the pressure inside him, like water rising. I felt tears well up in my eyes.

Sometimes kids are forced to grow up too fast, because they learn they have to take care of the very people who should be taking care of them, I said.

If there’s one life experience I understand and can relate to, it is this.

I think about it.

You’re a very strong, kind person who’s gotten so good at taking care of other people, your lesson is to learn how to let other people take care of you, I said.

He opened his mouth, then shut it again, staring me in the eyes, so wide, so deep. He’s listening.

You deserve so much more, Tom. Give only to people who give back to you equally. You’ve gotta find a way to feel good about someone wanting to give to you as well. Don’t confine yourself to deserving less. You’re like a vending machine that works on an honor system. If you keep giving away sodas and you’re not getting any money back, stop giving away sodas. Start believing you deserve to have someone care about you, be compassionate with you and the things you hold valuable. That’s why you keep dating single mothers. You figure, they’re maternal and know how to take care of someone, but they’re already symbolically bound to never exactly having enough to give to you. You have to find a way to truly believe that you deserve exactly what it is that you want most.

We continued our intense conversation (his parents later claimed they walked by a couple of times to see if we’d notice them, but we were so deep in conversation we didn’t), when Christian approached. The three of us talked, but to be honest, I don’t really remember the conversation. I remember some words exchanged, some laughing, some good feelings, but my most vivid experience of the memory, is the intensity of his eyes, the warmth of his smile, and the echo that rattled the walls of my body as my soul hit the ground, face-first.


Left to get ready for fishing, giggling the whole time at myself. All this talk, all these years, all these deep, philosophical, mystical ideals and theories about soulmates and destiny and heaven and sky, and all it took was just a really, really nice, decent guy to make me fall flat on my face. It really is the simplest things in life that are most beautiful, can be the most fulfilling.

I knew I was devastated. This had ruined me. When I made my list of 3 places you’ll never meet a heavyweight, I didn’t add cruises as number 4, and this must be some sort of joke on me. What real can possibly come out of a meeting that so breaks almost every practical rule of life? My SOS read:

julia’s doing a face plant for a man with long, graceful fingers and a mind she wants to taste. he inspires poetry in her heart. disaster imminent.

Went fishing. We were disappointed to have to share the boat with people we didn’t know, but they turned out to be a father/son duo from Texas who were very nice. It felt like I was tagging along a family trip, but took this time to really get to know Tom’s parents and make them feel comfortable. Caught 6 fish. Couldn’t stand it when the captain hit ’em in the head with a hammer, so I would always find something interesting in the Captain’s seat to look at when it happened. Tom’s mom really likes me. I can almost feel her wondering what it would be like to have me in her family. It’s sweet, but I can’t give too much thought to it.

Formal night again. On the bus ride home, Tom had decided he was going to go for Sarah, and enlisted my help. We decided on Operation Plan A & B (I’m sure we could have been more creative with the name, but with this guy, it’s probably safer to be literal): I would get to the dining room early and talk with them. Happen to mention that I really got to know Tom on this fishing trip and how he’s actually a really nice guy who’s just acting strange because he’s a little sh
y. See if I can repair his reputation. Plan B is when he comes in after I’ve dropped this feel-good nugget on the girls, has dinner with them, and behaves.

We’re all running late for dinner so I’m hurdling around the room, because I once calculated that it takes me a minimum of 24 minutes to shower and be out the door at home, but I don’t know how my time will be affected by the small room, the weak hair dryer and the human obstacles.

I get down to the dining room in about 35 minutes, sit down at the girls table. I realize I have to do this quickly because I was supposed to call Tom when I was out the door so he could time 15 minutes after the call to come down and join them, but I forgot. So I ask them how their day went, blah blah blah, and I wait for them to ask how the fishing trip was, which they do. Then I tell them that it was great getting to know him and his family, that they’re going through a hard time because of his grandfather’s passing…has he told you about that? (that got sympathy noises), but I really got to know him. He’s actually a really nice guy. He just does silly things that make him seem like a player, and you’re like, “What the hell’s your malfunction?” but underneath that all, he’s a sweet person.

I’m making the girls laugh and it’s disarming them, shifting their opinion. They point out some of his good traits and agree he probably just acts silly sometimes because he’s young. Man, I should get paid for this stuff.

I figure I’d slabbed enough butter on those hinges now that the door was cracked, that as long as Tom didn’t throw a flaming bag of poop through the door, he was set.

I got up, claimed I had to find my mom for photos, and called Tom to get his ass downstairs. Plan A was completed.


Dinner was good. My mom left the table and asked me to order for her, so I got the sea-bass because I had a feeling it was gonna be really good. When it came, she got really irritated that she didn’t want fish, and I didn’t say anything because I was expecting this. I was waiting for my moment… She tried it, then tried everyone else’s and declared her entree by far the best. Aha!

I totally knew it would be good! You never trust me!

Oh, she said, and kinda laughed, embarrassed, and shrugged.

I totally picked half that sea-bass off her plate.

I earned it! That’s trophy fish.

There was a show in the theater and we drifted over there. Walking down the ramp I saw Christian near the top of the theater. Isn’t it funny how you never notice someone, and then when you do, you see them everywhere? Granted, we’re all on a boat so it’s like being in an aquarium, but I can’t remember having laid eyes on him at all before the dance contest, though I assume he must have been on the ship. The first moment of awareness was on the dance floor, the 11 on the white square on his back being the magnet that drew him into my scope.

The number 11. I’ve been on the lookout for an 11. But that’s a story for later.

So I ask him how the show will be, and he says he doesn’t know because he hasn’t seen any of the shows, but I could watch it for 20 minutes, and if I didn’t like it, I could join him for tea in the cafe. He’d mentioned the night before about a Polish Quartet that was very good, and I’m always interested in music, particularly when someone says it’s something they enjoy, because I find that being open to experience the things that people you like enjoy, often brings positive new experiences into your life. So that sounded like a good plan. Plus, I was most interested in conversation.

I got there first. The music was hypnotic. I would keep drifting off into space, thinking so many different thoughts, wondering about so many lives.

So I guess the show wasn’t to your liking, I heard someone say from behind me and turned to see Christian. Do you mind if I join you, he asked.

Of course, I said, pulling my mind back into the now.

He was pulling out the chair but stopped.

Of course, you do mind, or it’s okay?

Of course it’s okay, I said.

He ordered tea but got called away to take photos. It was me alone with the music again and my mind drifted. I’ve been finding that my mind is more expansive, able to put bigger pictures together and understand things about people more quickly and profoundly in a comfortable manner on this trip. I’m sincere enough in my presentation of myself that I can get close to people without them feeling defensive. In fact, most people have been welcoming it. I wonder if this is just a temporary window of time where things are falling into place, or a development in my abilities. Regardless, I’m making the most of it.

Christian comes back just as the musicians go on break and requests a song. Later, he would tell me that it’s about a man in love with a very bad woman, someone he passionately loves but who treats him badly. I asked him what the words were because I was very interested, and he remembered some of it, but said he’d find the translation later. It sounds tragic, I said when in my mind I thought, Bittersweet…As the greatest love affairs are.

I appreciate bittersweet. I understand bittersweet. Bittersweet is truthful. Bittersweet is life. Bittersweet is being able to taste everything that life has to offer, to have fully lived. What I found though, is that the more I’ve tasted life, having an ability to find the tiniest, easiest rewards that give you the simplest pleasures can open the door for a very pure joy that can last a long time. Like holding a child’s hand the moment he sees the ocean for the very first time. Or a random act of kindness between strangers to light up a lonely night.

We talked about subjects great and small. We learned the details of each other’s lives as well as traveled places through words so broad and dimensional, that sometimes we wouldn’t be sure what we were talking about, only that it was the truth. He mentioned he had a girlfriend again, which I accepted and made a note of the boundary, but to be honest, despite how drawn I was to him, despite my fascination with him, I had been very conscious about the lines. In fact, I know I like touching people when I talk and feel connected, but every time I let my guard down and in a happy moment, felt my hand going towards his space, I would make a quick effort to pull it back. I wanted to be respectful. I didn’t want a beautiful connection to go anywhere that wasn’t already agreed upon.

We talked late into the night. He reminded me that I needed to turn the clocks forward an hour. I never turned mine back, I said.

It was time to get some sleep. As we part, I tell him, I hope you find what you’re looking for, your place of belonging. And when you find that place of happiness, you’d better let me know!

Wouldn’t you know through the connection, he asked, smiling.

Yeah, probably. But I’d also be curious what exactly it is.

I go to shake his hand, but he gives me a hug. When I feel the warm skin of his cheek against mine, so familiar, I know without a doubt that I’ve known this man somewhere, deep in the past, or in the expanse of our future, somewhere in this circle, we have or will know each other deeply again.

Culmination – Cruise Report Part IV

Day 7, 8/1 – Inside Passage

Emerging from the murky shapes of a confused dream passage, I awaken to find I am a strong, proud knight standing in a forest alone, my armor gleaming, the world solid beneath my feet. I look up at the trees towering above me, yellow light streaming through the branches like the soft fingertips of God brushing the earth, and I feel so strong, so powerful, so invincible. It is a moment of absolute completion and joy. Suddenly, my legs tremble and begin to melt, and I feel my strength draining from my body. I look down to find a spear protruding out of my chest, having pierced me clean through from behind. I fall to my knees, filled with surprise and sorrow, the darkness swirling around me, inside me, collapsing all that I have ever known. In the fading light of my eyes, as the world drifts away, I hear a familiar whisper so close to my ear as to be inside me.

even the greatest warriors must fall…


I wake up with a start, like having a bucket of ice water doused on me, my head crackling with electricity. I feel so loud, I can’t believe people in the room can’t hear me. I’m easily the first one up and out of bed. I head up to the mess hall and grab breakfast (all I eat for breakfast anymore are pineapple slices and muesli, despite claiming I’m going to try an omelet every day). I happen to see Tom’s parents so I sit down with them to chat, a conversation that soon deepens and widens as his mother opens up her world and her sorrow over her father’s death and her mother’s deterioration (his dad wasn’t particularly comfortable and kept changing the topic, but she would keep returning it to this place). I listened and felt within the spaces between her words, tasting her sorrow, more full and rich than metallic, and at the end, she gave me a really heartfelt hug and told me she liked me a lot and was very happy to have met me. She said she hoped to see me in the future, and wondered if I just didn’t like younger men. I laughed. Told her that Tom is an amazing person and will one day be a powerhouse who can do whatever he chooses with his life, but he’s at the beginning of his journey while I’m at a very specific place in mine. She gave me a big hug and we parted.

I’m walking around listening to my iPod set on random, when the song, Colors by Amos Lee comes on.

I find this song to be beautifully romantic with such delicate emotions. I’m thinking how I would love to see Justin Wade perform this song, and as the song is still playing in my ears and I’m thinking about him, he walks by. Synchronicity! I approach him and ask him if he knows this song, and he does but he doesn’t know how to play it. I say I figured he’d do an amazing cover, because his voice reminds me of Amos Lee.

Really?, he asks, skeptically. You think our styles are similar?

Hmm, I say. Not your styles, but something else. The way your voices have soul.

He smiles, asks me what my name is, and I introduce myself.

He says that with such a mixed crowd, he usually does songs that people know, but every once in a while, he’ll do more alternative music, like Decemberists or Death Cab for Cutie.

Which Death Cab song, I ask him.

I did I Will Follow You Into the Dark the other night, and two girls cried, he said.

I ask him if he’s ever been to the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, and I tell him how I saw Death Cab there a few weeks ago, and it was unbelievable. The Hollywood Bowl itself on a Sunday night is a spiritual, transcendental experience, but that night, as the band played Transatlanticism, they set off fireworks to the most powerful part of the song.

It was one of the most uplifting, soul-shaking musical experiences of my life.

I asked him if he knew any Damien Rice, and he said he knows Delicate. I ask him if he’ll play it tonight, but he says that he hasn’t practiced it in a while. So I tell him, then you’d better get to your room and start practicing! I mention that the album O is kind of like a drug to me, that I actually had to cut myself off from listening to it because when I get into it, I end up staring out of windows, listening to the album for hours on end.

When I walk away, I realize I’m craving it now so on comes Damien Rice and O, and off goes my mind staring out at the sea.

I go to the Cova, which I completely associate with creativity and discovery now, to write. For the first time in months, I feel I’m ready to delve back into my book, to review where I’d gotten to, and see where I will be going. But first, my morning pages.

8/1 Free-Write Excerpts:

I don’t know about perfect love, but I know about great love. And it’s okay, because sometime, somewhere, we’ve had it so that’s why we are thankful for it now. I am feeling everything bittersweetly. I remember something my college mentor, m, wrote that has always stayed with me:

writing a poem about the girl should never be better than the girl, than being with the girl. don’t write the poem about the girl unless you’d really rather be with the girl.

If you’re not really here, then I don’t want to be either. If vision is the only validation, then most of my life isn’t real (* Black & Gold, Sam Sparro)

I am looking for a man with a good sense of timing. I’ve learned how to fight for things. Now I’m learning how to fight for the right things at the right time. Learn to crawl before you walk. Learn to love before you commit.

Your daddy, he’s the iron man. Battleship wrecked on dry land. Your mama she’s a bitter bride, she’ll never be satisfied…you know, and that’s not right. But don’t cry, you know the tears will do no good so dry your eyes. They told you life is hard, misery from the start, it’s dull, it’s slow, it’s painful. But I tell you life is sweet, in spite of the misery, there’s so much more…be grateful. Well who do you believe? Who will you listen to, who will it be? Because it’s high time that you decide…in your own mind… (*Life is Sweet, Natalie Merchant)

The weight of the world is something that feeds you, an animated force that believes in you. That your own darkness becomes a source of strength. Inspired poetry in my heart and now I have a fever to burn off. I only move in one direction, forward. If it makes it hard, keep breaking it down until you have something you can manage, but you have to keep moving forward. In the struggle of bittersweetness, in the space between comes truth. You never completely know anyone. Platonic love might be the purest form of love–no demands, each accepts the other for what they are. But it is not just platonic love that lays sole (soul?) claim to this.

Jesus did not turn water into wine. He turned pain into bittersweetness and that’s the best we can do and still be truthful.

There’s still a little bit of your taste, in my mouth. There’s still a little bit of you laced, with my doubt. It’s still a little hard to say, what’s going on… (*Cannonball, Damien Rice)

Only the truly strong know how to be truly gentle. Perfect love is inspiration. Great love is tragic. But true love is unconditional acceptance. In a bittersweet world, learn to love every taste and texture because it’s what makes life rich. Accept that who you are today is the sum of your decisions. Believe in a beautiful tomorrow but know where you are today. And beyond all, trust that you’ll find beauty as deeply inside yourself as in the horizon of an outstretched universe. Then…then is a place that doesn’t exist yet. We is a figurative that today can be just as wide as tomorrow. I don’t forget. But I do let go. What was lost was once found. What’s found was once lost. Take solace. Nothing of value is ever lost forever.


I suddenly realize it’s the first day of August. I realize it’s time to celebrate because I’ve made it, and as I hoped I would be at this junction, I am not only back to my true self, I am stronger than ever.

Here’s some back story.

I’ve been striving for August. Earlier this year, as I was burning the pain of the end of my heaviest but most heartbreaking relationship through my system, when every day was a crawl on the path of returning to myself, I was hit by a sudden inspiration, an intuition, a knowledge, that everything would be upright again by August. That if I could put myself back together and be my whole self again by August, I would already know a man there who would make all this pain worthwhile. I knew this with a conviction I could not explain. Who or what he was, I wasn’t sure, but he was someone I’ve been very, very excited about since March, someone I needed to work my ass off in order to be in the right place for. In fact, when I finally opened up to my ex’s brother about the pain from the relationship in June, I mentioned it:

Dear Ian,
Thank you for your sentiment. It actually meant a lot to me, hearing your perspective. I’ve been pretty private about things, but I have to admit that relationship with your brother was one of the most difficult and painful experiences of my life, particularly because of how high our hopes were for it, because I did truly care about him and wanted the best for him, and because I had always been someone who believes that with enough love and desire to make things work, you can ultimately make things work.

But I look back and can’t help seeing how naive I was, and that things can only work out if both people are honest with each other and are genuinely working towards the same goal. Your brother is not a bad person but he’s a man of many secrets, many hidden rooms and rooms hidden inside hidden rooms, so many that I think he doesn’t even know all of them or at least, can not keep track of them. So at the end, no matter how deeply I tried to see, feel and understand him, to this day I still have absolutely no idea who he is, or if the person he wanted me to believe he was even existed.

This…this is a very, very sad knowledge to have to hold in your hands about someone you loved.

I believe at the end of the day, he is his own man defined by his own needs, desires and agenda, and the only decision available to me was how much I was willing to give up. In the end, I just wasn’t willing to give up on myself. It would have been disaster. But time heals all wounds no matter how deep, and the benefit is that I’m more able to appreciate people who are open and honest and just overall, kind-hearted, gentle people. Not saying these particular people and I are necessarily romantically fated, but I can tell that I’m definitely clearer on what is good for me, someone I can form a true cooperative partnership with who makes me feel safe and loved and whom I can trust. Someone I can give these exact positive, warm feelings back to and he’ll appreciate them. I think I probably needed to go through what I did in order to grow up more and be more clear on what’s good for me. Isn’t it strange how we don’t always want what’s good for us? I really think this understanding is a major part of growing up.

Meanwhile, life is relaxed, family is doing GREAT, I’m meeting so many new people so randomly, men and women, old and young…lots of connections and interesting conversations. One thing I’ve been excited about is I have had a strong feeling that I will be meeting someone extraordinary around August, but have no idea who, so that has been a source of intrigue. I’m patient though–won’t ever settle again for anyone who isn’t kind, open-hearted and genuinely wants to be with me, so whoever it is who touches my heart I trust will be a cool dude.

There had also been a spike in men circling around me in June and July, some pretty aggressively. Many seemed really nice and very interesting, potentially suitable partners, but I’d suddenly become very clear in my concept of “Not My Dude.” They were like last chance impulse buys, things to test
me when I’d already come so far. Could I be tempted to give up in the final lap? I felt sure that whatever happened would be revealed around August, but a relationship that was established in June or July would not be it. It wasn’t August yet…wait for August. I would know by August. Do not commit before August. So I have been patient in waiting, patient to not settle or give anything away until I had reached and passed through August. I figure I would have a better idea by then. And now, here I was.

So sitting in the Cova Cafe, I’m going through my notebooks and I noticed I would look up sometimes and catch a lot of people staring at me. Maybe it was my level of intensity when I’m working. Maybe it was my giant pile of papers and notebooks strewn over the table. Maybe it was because my t-shirt said, wtf?

I didn’t let it distract me though. I had to get through this while the door was open and while I had the desire. I found myself staring out the window a lot at the rolling gray waves, and wondering how one could come to know the ocean best. By understanding every tiny drop, or by drinking in the entire expanse of its meaning.

One of my favorite ideas that I try to live my life by is,

Do not lose the forest for the trees.
But do not lose the trees for the forest.

I feel it probably goes the same for the ocean. And the sky. And everything else under the umbrella of life. All that exists, and all the spaces in between. It’s the parts as well as the whole as well as their relationships with each other that make up true meaning.

Suddenly I look up and Christian is standing at my table. He says hello. I love how polite and courteous he is. I like men who are gentlemen. We chat, and he says he’ll be free for tea at 3:30, and I tell him I’ll probably still be here.

My family comes by a few times, invites me to do things, but I’m busy. Mostly staring out the window at the water and listening to Damien Rice, but busy.

Christian comes by later and we have tea. Another one of our deep, easy conversations. One of the most glaring things I notice is how easy it is to communicate with him. I’d recently written about how I feel so often I’m translating my thoughts and feelings to people, building off analogies instead of just communicating. How I didn’t want to translate anymore because it was so tedious. I want to find someone I can just talk with, someone whose mind and soul is on my level, and we would naturally understand each other.

I completely felt this with him, and it astounded me in my realization of how lacking this clarity and ease of connection has been in my life thus far. The connection was so natural in breadth and depth–his mind is quick, responsive, expansive, intelligent, generous. He had mentioned before that his girlfriend felt he didn’t talk enough. I was astounded by the wealth of his mind. I knew that I was seeing just a very small sample of the man, but he had so many ideas and perspectives and wisdom, they were like fireflies burning so bright they could be seen illuminating the daylight. I felt thankful that he was being so expressive, so open and communicative, and I felt lucky in how it seemed he was also able to understand my thoughts, feelings and perspective.

My God, I thought to myself. I may have finally found my equal.

I remember a point when he was telling me he felt that he had been very lucky about his career progression and how he’d found the various jobs on his path, and something sparked in my head; I was suddenly dying to ask him if he considered himself a man with a good sense of timing. But I held my tongue. My head was buzzing. Suddenly, I had a thought.

An inkling.

Too bizarre to be true but still…

When’s your birthday, I ask him.

September, he says, a bit hesitantly.

September what?, I ask, feeling the top of my ears go numb.

8th, he says.

Now I am dizzy with numbness in my head, but I maintain a poker face, make a comment about fall birthdays, how since my birthday was always during summer break, I was always jealous of people who had birthdays during the school year.

But really, my mind was flying back to that night in that bar, that conversation I had with the hipster.

That night, I had actually been disappointed because I thought it had been a false lead, so bitter about why the universe would lead me to something bright but empty. The problem wasn’t the emptiness of the encounter with the Missed Connections guy. He was a distraction. A red herring.

The problem was I didn’t recognize the most important clues that were dropped that night, details I had originally been too lazy to write down when I’d originally posted about the experience, but which now I truly believe I was just withholding from myself somewhere in my subconscious to prevent me from being overly influenced. What I’m about to reveal, I swear, I am not making up.

So flashback, early July, the world ramping up for the full moon that would also feature a lunar eclipse. It was supposed to be magical, mystical…something intangible but powerful in the air. I’ve never been so drawn to a full moon as this one. That week I had been particularly restless as electricity was sparking in my brain to the point of making me uncomfortable, and I felt hot on the trail of something. My mouth would water inexplicably with the passing scent of whatever was on the edge of my psychic periphery, but which I could never quite grasp or pull into focus.

So I walk into The Other Room, which has been very good to me in bringing me connections with strangers that have been illuminating. I’ve been coming here a lot because it’s safe, comfortable, a great place to watch the sunset, and I have been working on being patient–that if I sit in one place long enough, the universe will bring the connections I need.

I had recently been hanging out with my trainer, this young guy with a very green outlook on life. Definitely not my dude, but a friend to pass the time with. He had asked me one day if I was Batman, because he noticed I never seem to sleep, I’m always off helping people and making strange and powerful connections at night, I’m good at appearing and disappearing, I always talk about how I use my powers of darkness for good, and I guess, because I live in what friends call the Tower of London (top floor of a secured building) and drive a black car. So I laughed at this idea that I have a secret superhero identity, but it is true that I have a strong urge to help people and work against true darkness (evil, negativity). I do most of my connecting at night. And I am a bit mysterious and magical. So it got me thinking about Batman, and how he had Alfred, a mentor and right-hand man who took care of Batman so he could go out and fully be Batman. Plus, I liked the idea of someone who could iron my clothes, prepare my meals and keep me on schedule. More than anything, I wanted someone who could be there for me when I come home, torn up and bloody with fighting life’s battles, and this person would be there to bring me back to myself, the private me that the world doesn’t get to touch, and help me return to strength.

So I’m sitting at the bar, thinking about how I could find a real life Alfred, a person who allows me to do what I do best (didn’t have to be a roman
tic connection), when this guy next to me starts talking to me. His name is Louc, aka the hipster, a French-Canadian graphic artist. I kind of don’t welcome him talking to me because I think he’s hitting on me, but the ice finally breaks when I mention that I find that I have important experiences because I’m alone, and he tells me he understands. Because, if we were both here with other people, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But this conversation could only happen because we are both here, by ourselves, looking for some kind of experience that could help us find the next step in our paths.

Cool, I think. Maybe we can talk, so thus begins a 3 hour conversation.

I’ve already written a bit about what the night meant for him, but the thing I left out was that after I helped him feel understood and gave him hope of finding someone amazing he could spend the rest of his life with, he turned around and said he wanted to help me as well. He asked the bartender for something to write on and got a server’s notepad. He asked me what I was looking for and I told him about this idea I’d been thinking about…having an Alfred to take care of me. We went through it, and he told me that I probably could find a guy who would take care of me, my organization, my basic emotional needs, etc., but this man would suffer, because he would always want to be my partner, and he would probably secretly be deeply in love me, but I would never see him as a partner. He said what I want is a partner I consider an equal. That Alfred would never work for me because I would never allow someone to serve me but suffer.

It’s true. I would never want someone to stand by me, give me things of great value but suffer for what I can not give him in return. But Louc had kind of presented it as an either/or, and I wondered if it was possible to find someone dynamic I could consider as a partner and an equal, but who could also help me take care of the smaller but necessary details of life. The basic needs. The simple pleasures. What kind of person would this be? What kind of person……….

Then I got a spark. A symbol. Alfred, the eternal mentor/servant/caretaker/healer, was like the exact archetype embodied by the symbol, Virgo. Maybe I was looking for a very dynamic Virgo.

And then I remembered something else…prophecy.

Years ago, I was told by a very spiritual woman that she felt my eventual life partner would be an Earth sign. I was 21 years old and at the time, I found Earth signs to be very boring, or difficult to get along with because we had nothing in common. My Gemini world is one of constant change, ideas, adventure, connections. I couldn’t stand the idea of being tied down. I never saw myself settling down and getting married, let alone willingly getting trapped by the mundane. Earth signs, to me, were terrestrial people who sat on the ground like lumps, obsessing over meaningless details. I couldn’t possibly see what they and I could have in common.

But over the years, as I’ve gotten to know myself better, I realized that at heart, I am a serious and practical person. I do have my Mars in Virgo which means I feel most comfortable when things have been practically considered and plans are carried out with foresight and efficiency. I like making lists. I like things to be in order. I like being spontaneous, but not without direction. But still, I couldn’t imagine being compatible with an Earth Sign–I found the Capricorns I knew to be too cautious and out of touch with deeper emotions, Tauruses a lot of fun but close-minded, and Virgos…well…I didn’t think I’d met many Virgos. I was always intimidated by the idea of them because they’re known to be very detail-oriented to the point of being critical, and I hate being taken apart and criticized (my grandmother is a Virgo and can be a bit of a critical terrorist). I don’t want people to forget about my forest because they’re too busy criticizing my trees!

So I’ve walked through life, but that prophecy has always been in the background, firmly ignored of course. Yet even when I learned how to use the symbols within tarot cards to help me organize and understand the abstract impressions I get in my mindspace when I’m alone at night, I would always find that there was an Earth Man in the distance. Sometimes I would gauge whether I’m on or off my path by if this symbol was moving further or closer.

But to be honest, I take these things with a grain of salt. As much as my mind is open and able to grasp the abstract and mystical, and as much as I’ve experienced some highly unusual and unexplainable things in my life, I’m still very practical and prefer hard, tangible evidence before I fully trust something enough to believe in it. Or at least, I like having corroboration from another person who can swear they experienced the same thing.

So as we sat at the bar and we discussed this Alfred business, I wondered…maybe ultimately, I really am looking for a Virgo. Maybe that’s why I haven’t really crossed paths with any… perhaps because I’ve never been open to it. But now I’m in more of a place to appreciate their qualities.

We moved on to other topics when he asked me what I was looking for. He said he had a feeling that my being in an equal partnership with someone who is on my mental and spiritual level is very important. That when I find this person that I’m looking for as a partner, children would suddenly become very important to me as well. I told him that I wasn’t highly motivated by the idea of having children, because I only wanted to have them in the right situation with the right person. But if I never did, I could accept that because sometimes I feel that I’m out helping and guiding so many people, that if I never have children of my own, there will still be plenty of people in this world that I can give that nurturing energy to. But he said it would be different, because when I have my own children, I will be able to take all of my wisdom and shape them into extraordinary people, and because my partner will also be someone of extraordinary wisdom (because this is the only kind of person I would accept as an equal), our children would probably have the chance to be very special and influential to the world.

It made sense to me. It almost seemed too good to be anything but a wish or dream, but I liked the idea of it.

Somehow we got on number theory and I told him about how I see numbers (energetically dimensionally), and how they sometimes guide me in my decisions. How I’m a 9 (all the numbers of my birthday added together then collapsed: 6141978=36, 3+6=9), and how 9 is a number that I feel is the culmination of human experience and wisdom, that the outlook of someone who is a 9 will be always humanitarian…to get people to rise towards their most humane potential and strive for a higher level of awareness. Plus, if I’m anywhere around a craps table, 9 comes up a lot.

I told him how 9 is the only number where if you multiply any number with it, it turns back into 9 (ie 9×2=18, 1+8=9. 9 x52 = 468=4+6+8, 18=9). I also say that when you add any number to 9, it turns it back into that number (9+5= 14, 1+4=5). So I had a theory that 9 is both a mirror and a collective embodiment of the entire numerical spectrum of energy. That as soon as I realized the mathematical properties of this number, I realized how it correlated to my life and my abilities, how I have an ability to mirror people so they project their inner selves onto me to be able to understand themselves; I believe that’s why so many people feel that I’m “kindred.” They are seeing their own reflection in me.

It also correlates with how I seem to be able to take in other people’s energy and embody their traits, like by taking in their true selves, perspectives, feelings, ideas and experiences, I am able to more fully realize the spectrum of human perspective a
nd human experience, becoming more a collective being holding a greater understanding of the world. That the more people I meet, the more people who I have dynamic interactions with, it adds to me, so I find greater and deeper ways within myself to relate to others. because I’ve collected not just the sum of who I am, but I’ve also incorporated the knowledge that comes from the sum of others. I relate this with how 9 multiplied with anything turns back into 9. I travel the reaches of the universe through others, going so far just to return to myself, but now possessing a deeper knowledge than before I left this exact point.

He wants to know what he is. He gives me his birthday and I find that he’s an 11 (11 and 22 are the only two numbers that don’t collapse because they’re ideals). I say, wow, 11 is a good number; it’s the next number up from 9. 11 is a leader of men, someone who brings new ideas into this world. I tell him how I’ve been wondering lately, if I’m looking for an 11 to help lead me to my next step (just another one of those ideas that sprouted in my head sometime over the last few months for no discernible reason, and just seemed to linger persistently).

What do you think I’m doing right now, filling up this notepad for you?!?, he asked with a smirk. I laughed. True, I said. You’ve been beyond helpful to me with your insight tonight, and I appreciate it.

We continued our discussion, and I imagine that anyone listening in would have thought it quite unusual, but it seemed to make absolute sense to us in that moment. He thought September, 2009 would be an interesting month for me because of how important 9’s are to me, and told me to really think about how to manifest my money goals that month to lay down the groundwork for the next stage of my path. He said to look out for 9/9/2009 in particular, which would be a 29 day, always a magical day for me.

By the end of the night, we’d exhausted the notepad.

It was a beautiful connection, a beautiful night. A few minutes later, in walked Missed Connections guy and this entire conversation took a backseat in my mind, but before Louc bade me farewell that night, one of the last things he said to me was, “Keep a look out for 11’s!”


And now, back on the cruise ship, here I was talking to a dynamic Virgo. And here we are on a boat called the Mercury, which is the ruling planet of only two signs–Gemini and Virgo. And what first caught my attention about him, but of course…the number 11 he was wearing on his back.


My t-shirt said it all.


My brain has to file it away. My mind feels just a push away from being blown, and I do NOT want to start suddenly babbling like a lunatic about numbers and astrology and French-Canadians and fate. Not to a guy with a girlfriend whom I technically just met. So I bite my tongue and continue having a pleasant, civilized conversation like the sane, totally normal person I know I’m capable of being.

Christian mentions that there will be a magician performing tonight, and that the act will feature a segment about time. He thinks I might really enjoy it because of the way we talk about time, and wants to know what I think. We actually spend a bit of time talking about the show, and I’m definitely enthusiastic about it. When we part, he mentions again that I should really catch the part about time that the magician does, and to tell him what I think about it.

I go up to the Sky Deck, taking pictures. We’re going through the Inner Passage, and the water and the surrounding mountains are beautiful. Catch a couple of Orcas leaping out of the water. Stunning.

The show. The first act is this acrobatic couple performing a piece that’s like Cirque du S’oleil. While the performance is pretty amazing, I’m more amazed by the song they’d chosen:

Ludovico Einaudi’s Primavera.

I can’t believe it. This day is killing me.

Now, maybe it takes another writer to understand this, but I will try to explain anyway.

My creative inspiration requires energy. Mood. Anima. A lot of times when I’m writing, if I find music that is inspirational, I will loop it in the background and it becomes ingrained in the soul of the work, inspiring it, feeding it. I remember the day Brian introduced me to Einaudi’s album Divenire and suddenly, it was all I could listen to, and suddenly, I was writing again.

I remember hours upon hours upon hours of writing with this album coming through my earphones, so much a part of my inner mindspace and thoughts, that it almost seemed to reside inside me.

Now, to hear this piece of music I’d associated with being inside me played in the world outside, this music that had inspired me as I wrote a book about strangers and chance encounters and magic being shared with a room full of people, just…blew me away.

It was like being turned inside out, and I felt the entire room magnetize as the line between what was inside me and outside of me suddenly become fuzzy.

The magician was next. He was a young guy with great energy. Had an entertaining and funny act, nothing mindblowing but definitely enjoyable. At the end of his set, he gets serious and says he wants to talk about time.

My heart speeds up. I need to pay attention. He takes out a piece of paper in the form of a circle, like a clock face, with 4 lines drawn at the 3, 6, 9, 12 marks.

He talks about the nature of time. How if we enjoyed the show, then the time went by quickly. But if we didn’t enjoy the show, time went by slowly. How we can waste time, give away time, have spare time, etc.

Meanwhile, as he says these things, he’s ripping off pieces of the clock face.

He tells the story of his aunt who always supported his doing magic, but she died of breast cancer before she could see his first performance.

He says that on any gravestone, you’ll find two numbers–the date you came into this world, the date you leave. But what’s even more important than the numbers, is this.

He rips off a piece of the clock and holds it up. It’s one of the black lines, held horizontally.

This dash that separates the numbers, he says, this is your life. This dash represents how you lived your life. He remembers something his mother said, about how it’s not the money we make that’s important in life, but how we invest our time. That life is short, and we don’t have much time, so we have to make the most of it.

Then he takes out a fan from his pocket and fans under his hand. The folded piece of paper that had previously been held there whirlwinds into a snowstorm of confetti, glimmering off the stage lights. It was powerful and poignant. It was the truth.

At the end of the show, the house lights came on and people started exiting. I saw Christian at the top of the stairs, and I figured I could have gone up and told him what I thought about the “time” piece, but for some reason, I felt an urgency to go pack my bag to prepare for disembarking the next morning, so I ran out the other entrance and went back to the room to pack.

Last dinner. We were late because my mom and I were out on the deck taking pictures with the sunset. O’Neil, my favorite drinks server, comes by and
offers to take a picture for us. I also get a picture with him.

Dinner’s good, and there’s a little parting ceremony as they introduce the restaurant staff, and the servers come out with Baked Alaska’s. We’re nearing the end of the trip, and in a few days, I will return to LA and the rest of my family will remain in the bay area. This is the closing of the short but amazing time I’ve gotten to spend with my cousins, so I bring it down to a serious moment for Edison and Jonathan, telling them, “I want you to know that I’m always gonna be there for you. So whenever you get depressed or mad, you just remember your cousin Julia, and how when we get together again we’re going to–” (and taking from Notorious B.I.G.’s “Party and Bullshit”) I tell them we’re gonna “Party…and eat cake. And party. And eat cake.” They start laughing so hard and the rest of the night features them rapping about partying and eating cake. I wanted to leave them with a happy memory of me.

My camera battery inexplicably goes from 2/3rds full to flashing red, so I decide to run up to the room to charge it for a few minutes. Before I go, Edison, who had been playing a game on his dad’s iPhone, suddenly says, “Julia, you can have this.”

I look up and he’s thrusting a piece of paper across the table at me. I’m not thinking much, so I take it and open it up.

What’s this, I ask.

And then I see.

It’s the DASH from the magician’s clock.

My hands and mind go numb.

Where did you get this, I ask him.

The man gave it to us, he said.

Where did you get this, I ask again.

The man gave it to us, he said again.

I asked him again with the same answer, like I thought maybe I wasn’t hearing him correctly, that I wasn’t holding what I thought I was holding in my hand. That suddenly, I was amidst an elaborate hallucination.

Why are you giving it to me, I ask.

He shrugs. I don’t want it anymore, he said.

I’m thinking about the trail of coincidence that led to this piece of paper being in my hand. It started with Christian mentioning that I had to catch the show, noting in particular that the piece about “time” would be most interesting to me. We had spent some time in conversation about it, and it was the last thing he said to me when we parted, to make sure to catch the “time” piece and to let him know what I thought. I remember thinking that the most interesting thing about the piece was of course, the dash, how poetic and poignant of a symbol it was to denote the expanse of life between the point a person enters the world, and the point a person leaves. I remember that’s what I would have told him, if I hadn’t been hit with a sudden urge to avoid him and run out of the theater to go pack my bag.

Then I think about how, in a room of hundreds, how Edison had ended up with this piece of paper. I remember I had seen them come into the show late, and I had saved them seats but I waved and couldn’t get their attention. If they had seen me, they wouldn’t have been in the position to pick this up.

Then I think about how it had ended up in my hands. You give any trivial object to a child, it can go anywhere–in their pockets, left someplace random, in the garbage, to one of their parents who puts it away carelessly or throws it away. Yet he had held on to it, all through dinner, and rather than putting it down or giving it to someone closer (his mom, my mom, his brother), he reaches across the table and gives it to me. In fact, I would later ask his father about this piece of paper, and he would tell me it was given to him as “spare time” by the magician, that they had made several efforts after the show to get him to throw it away but he wouldn’t, clinging to it like it was a part of him he wasn’t ready to let go of yet.

I’m blown away. Either I am suffering from a brain tumor, or this day is building up real evidence of magic.

I know that Christian and I have been talking a lot about the direction of his life, his next step, etc., and I figure, since he was the one who pushed me to pay attention to this piece on time, this must be a gift from the universe to him to let him know that the universe was watching and had him in its hands.

So I put it in my pocket, and I’m going up to the room to charge my camera, when as I’m running out the door, I see…Christian. Whom I’ve never seen in the restaurant, but he was pretty much the exact person I wanted to talk to. But he was talking with someone, so I just breezed by and said that I had something for him, and ran out.

He was still there when I came back. I asked him if he was going up to the dance club later for the farewell party, and he said he would stop by.

I skipped dessert and headed out to watch Justin Wade who was playing in the Cova, because I hoped he would play Delicate.

I listened for a while, and he was good, but I had promised to meet up with my family at the dance club before 11 and dance with my cousins (they kick out anyone under 18 after 11pm). I went up but they weren’t there. In fact, there was no one on the dance floor. I went back downstairs, and found that Tom and the girls had shown up and were at one of the tables. I stopped to talk to them. I wondered how Tom was doing with Sarah, but I couldn’t tell.

Just before 11 I headed back up to the dance club again, and this time, my mom and aunt were there. I tried to dance with them a bit but the music was really bad, so I told them I was going to go downstairs. I preferred the acoustic music anyway, to be honest.

As I’m heading downstairs, I’m wondering if I should call Christian to tell him that I would be in the Cova instead. I thought about it, and I knew that we hadn’t exactly made plans to meet up, and plus, I felt weird calling because he’s technically at work. So I get off the elevator and I’m debating, and I figure, wouldn’t it be easier if I just ran into him. And around the corner…there he is, walking towards me. Unbelievable.

I was just coming to look for you, he said.

I’m laughing and tell him I was just thinking about running into him when it happened. It seems the perfect circumstance, the perfect timing, the perfect culmination of a storm of evidence to ask him…

“Christian, what do you think about fate?”

What do I think about fate, he replies. Well, I think there are many things in life that are coincidences that don’t mean anything, but then I think there are some things that happen, that are just too unusual to just be coincidence. That there has to be something else. Like you and I being here at this moment and connecting the way we did. So to answer your question…I do believe in fate.

Man, I’m so happy. That was exactly what I was hoping he would say. That was exactly how I felt, that in this moment, in this place, there was no one else I should be sharing this magic with but him.

Big grin on my face, so excited I can barely talk, I ask him what he thought about the piece in the show about time.

He said that he thought it was very true and poetic. That life is short, so you have to take risks, you have to go for the things you want. And that his favorite part about it was how he used that dash to represent our lives.

The dash, huh? It’s funny that you say that because…

I pull out the piece of paper with that one, simple slash of black.

His face lights up and he laughs that otherworldly laugh of his that fills my well with happiness and stirs poetry in my heart. And looking into his eyes, through our laughter, I am suddenly so conscious, so aware, so connected to him in the right here and now, that for maybe the first time in my life, I am completely conscious of having found a treasure that must be absolutely real because there is someone else who believes
in it as well.

I have finally found someone who can see the rainbow.

Where did you get this!, he asks.

My cousin gave it to me!

Then I tell him the story.

We end up sitting down in the Cova, but not before I tried haggling with Justin to play Delicate. He still says he hasn’t played it in a while and is convinced he’s gonna butcher it, but I felt like considering what was happening today, between my insides and the outside world, that if he would just attempt it, good things would happen. I could feel it. My happiness was spilling out into the world, and magic was happening.

We sat down and talked; I was still so happy and giddy that I blamed it on the wine. But really, it was life. This moment. This proof of something…more…woven within the fabric of reality. The fact that Christian was here. The fact that I have never, ever met anyone like him, anyone I truly felt was my equal. The fact that upon meeting him, the rainbow appeared, and he could see it.

He mentioned that he’d been busy taking pictures with guests and noticed I’d never taken a picture with him. I told him that the day we’d first really talked, he’d mentioned so many people were taking pictures of him and he didn’t know where these pictures go, that maybe he didn’t feel comfortable having his picture taken, so I wanted to respect that. He laughed and said he wasn’t an Aborigine. He told me that in a few days I was going to wake up and wonder if meeting him had been a dream, and I wouldn’t know because I didn’t have any pictures.

I laugh, because this is the same thing I’m always saying to people I randomly connect with. You’ll probably wake up tomorrow and wonder if meeting me was just a dream…

He had mentioned he had his own ways of remembering me. It made me wonder how we would remember each other. How much of it we would believe.

We talked long into the night again, but somewhere along the way, there were moments where we seemed to lose the path. All that truth that had previously come so easily, now became a struggle, tentative, as the corners of the room began filling with doubt.

Who is this man? What is this? Is any of this real, or has this all been some kind of joke, a trick of my mind where I’m reading reality from a completely insane, fantastical, skewed point of view? What if I’m hallucinating and not even here?

I’m suddenly terrified that I’ve made this entire connection up in my head. Above me, I hear cracks in the dome encompassing my world, fissures upon fissures running rivers and branches along the surface of all that I know and believe, threatening to crumble over me, taking with it, everything I thought to be true. Oh, this better not be another joke on me.

But if I actually am sane and still rooted to reality, if this moment, and all the things that have led up to it are indeed real, if this connection is real, then what the hell were we supposed to do with it? We’ve each built very real lives in our own worlds. Real responsibilities. Do we even really know each other, outside of this special, magical connection, this connection that the universe seemed to be having so much fun with?

How can such a beautiful thing survive in an imagination-less world that would never allow it? Because all of it is true, isn’t it? The simultaneous existence of magic, and the equally stunning reality of life.

We could feel it. We were good for each other, we brought out happiness and serenity within each other, such a level of mutual positive regard and acceptance. Such understanding, strength, comfort and beauty. Such a simple, easy connection that unlocked big, powerful things, things we’ve dreamed of but were uncertain in an uncompromising existence…and yet…what is potential but something that may or may not exist but in a place far away from the world in which you presently live? Somewhere, we each had built our own worlds. Here, we have co-created a dream. A beautiful dream witnessed simultaneously by two extraordinary people with their eyes wide open, but still, a dream. Because the world is still rooted by reality. And what fools try to bring the fantastical treasures of one world into the cold, stark reality of another?

It felt impossible.

As I listened into the spaces in between, I asked not, what is this, but, what now.

And in the middle of everything, one word emerged, a voice deep inside whispering, faintly at first, then louder. One word.

Undeniable in its presence.

Singular in its resonance.

Surfacing against the stark white napkin laying on the table next to those long, beautiful fingers of the man, just one word in thick, black, oily script:



I’m being ordered to let go.

He asked for my blog address, and I gave it to him, after writing a little farewell message. Until our paths cross again when we least expect it…

The room was heavy with the hearts of giants.

He said, you would be a nice person to sit on a sofa and watch a movie with.

She thought, you would be a nice person to slow dance by candlelight with.

Oh, the things we want but can not say.

The unspoken is tragedy. We have such potential for happiness together, but we live in a world that would never allow it.

Is it fate that crosses two people from completely different worlds on a path? Is it fate that also leads us away? Or does fate bring us together, and life tear us apart? Where does free will play into the equation, the drive of the human heart, the boundless soul, when it recognizes something of great value, something it once lost long ago in a distance memory, and reaches with all its might to hang on?

Fate, you tricky little fucker. I want to throttle you.

I ponder that if we lived in the same city, we would probably be the kind of people who meet and become instant best friends. He says that he would have to be gay to be friends with me.

Do you think men and women can’t be friends?, I ask.

They can, he says carefully…but if we lived in the same city and met, I would probably fall for you, and that would be very complicated given my situation, he says.

Like he hasn’t already fallen, I think. I’m pretty sure we both hit our heads on the way down.

It got late again, and it was getting close to having to say goodbye. I remember the espresso machine kept making intermittent loud noises, like that sound Jim Carrey makes in Dumb and Dumber when he asks people if they want to hear the most annoying sound in the world. That rude fucking bastard. He just wouldn’t let us talk.

Finally, it was time. My heart was breaking, but my mind must not know. It must soldier on, maintain the surface, present a ship that’s not sinking slowly back into the murk. Be strong for him. Be strong for me. It must make the leap into something more abstract and noble, because on a cosmic level, on a spiritual level…holy hell! On a fucking moral level, this was the right thing to do. We were playing with something powerful here, and the universe wanted to know what we would do with it, when there was really only one thing we could do, being the kind of people we are.

I was suddenly hit with an epiphany. It’s all in the contradictions. That the greatest, most powerful things in life, in the universe, in existence, are the mos
t simple, the most pure, the most honest, straightforward truths. The beauty of naked connections. That love is so big, so massive, that it transcends all of time and space, the entire giant realm of possibility and infinity, just to be here, in the right now, in this very moment and place, this tiny seed connecting two flawed and fallible human beings trying to make their way through a complicated life like all the other billions… but regardless of whether it makes sense, it is here. And this is all that matters.

As with the knight in my dream, the realization fell me to my knees.

I would give it all up, I realized. All this lofty seeking, the search for God and meaning, the need to find the ends of the universe. I would give it all up, give up all of this, just for the simple pleasure of being with someone kind and decent with whom I could live a simple, happy life.

And that was the truth.

I asked him if I would see him the next day, and he said he didn’t know, because we would be disembarking early in the morning. We hug, and it is a deep, soulful hug, and in that moment, in the space between all that is here and all that has brought us to this exact place in each other’s arms, I caught a glimpse of it:


The snake eating its own tail.

hello goodbye
in one breath
to the one person I have ever met in my life who made me feel complete.
through time and space
past present future

my equal.

He had asked me where he stood in my life, of the many characters I have met in my adventures, and I told him, he was in my Top 5.

This has been the only time I have ever lied to him.

He had been so serious and intent on building a wall of boundaries that I didn’t want to scare him, didn’t want to tell him what I knew in the deepest parts of me to be true.

He was the most important character of my story up to this point.

But I walked away from the hug, walked away from the man, because there’s a place and a time to find what’s yours, but for whatever reason, this wasn’t it. The timing wasn’t right. And we are people of good timing.

It was painful, letting go, taking so much strength and restraint to break that hug, respect the walls when I wanted to fall into it, feel the beating heart of this incredible stranger who had given me proof of life, proof of magic, proof that there can be someone out there who is my equal and can see the incredible beauty and synchronicities of the universe beyond the mundane. Who can make me feel so understood, so comfortable, so me, giving me the same kind of understanding and peace that I have found I can give others.

Somewhere, a sword was easily pulled from the stone, and what I was left with was an utter belief in the simple truth of happiness.


As the greatest love affairs are.


The next morning was brutal. I woke up early again on 2 hours of sleep, nothing feeling real anymore, not even the feel of my body or my own reflection in the mirror. We had to go to the theater to wait for our group to be called to disembark, so I got there early. My iPod wouldn’t turn on. I don’t know why, it was fully charged. I was sitting there with my head in my hands when I hear a loud, happy voice.


I look up and it’s my cousin Jonathan, that little ray of devilish sunshine bounding down the walkway, the pinwheel I got him for his birthday in hand. He’s wearing an over-sized blue t-shirt sporting a ferociously growling wolf that contradicts the soft pureness of the boy’s heart–so unconditional and wide open. I smile and open my arms, and he immediately crawls into my lap as though it had always belonged to him. I kiss the top of his head, inhaling the scent of youth and innocence.

“We’re going home today!,” he says.

“Yes we are,” I say.

“Judia,” he says, happily, as he rests his head against my chest.

“Do you love me, Jonathan?” I whisper. I realize as I ask this, I’ve never asked him this before. He raises his head, ponders his answer, then breaks out in that trademark smile that will some day break hearts with the sheer truth of its radiance.

“I love you very much,” he says as he gives me a big wet kiss on the cheek, filling my eyes with tears. This love. This is a love I can count on.


They call our group and we all line up to disembark. Jonathan wants to ride on my back so I hunch down and he climbs on. As we near the opening to the gangway, I’m surprised to see Christian near the front of the line. My chest simultaneously fills with joy and heaviness.

As we approach, I ask him if he’s here to say goodbye and he says he is. I reach out my hand and we shake, but he gives me a hug as well. He walks us down the gangway, all the way to customs, and this long goodbye is perhaps the most profound show of mutual restraint that no one will ever know. We hug again and part, saying goodbye. I turn and watch him walk away, through clenched teeth. My heart unravels from its cradle in my chest. Slides to the ground. Shatters.

My family has watched the whole farewell, though they pretend they haven’t. All week, they have been aware of something going on, but I’ve offered very little about it, and they haven’t had the guts to pry. I’ve been quite surprised and proud of their respect for my privacy. We’re riding back to my uncle’s condo in Vancouver, the place where this journey began so long ago, so far away in time that it seems a part of another life. I’m looking out the window, mind blank, staring in silence.

Suddenly, my uncle chuckles.

“You’ll see each other again,” he says. I look up. He looks like a laughing Buddha sometimes, with his round, smooth face and his whimsical smiles.

“How do you know?” I ask him.

“Seriously?” he asks.

“How could you not?”

I don’t say anything, but I’m laughing inside.

Life. What can you do?

My iPod has decided it wants to be functional again. I put on the song that most fits the moment, fold my arms over my chest and watch the scenes of the city fly by at the speed of a new morning’s light as I slowly disappear.