Coast Starlight

A couple of stops down from Oakland a spiritely looking fellow boarded the train and was assigned the seat next to me. Jon Jon (real name johnoscar) was on his way to LA to meet his mother then fly out to El Paso Texas with her. We jibber jabbered pretty much the whole way to LA. Jon Jon is a professional pianist and has toured al over the world. We got along pretty much straight away. He recently got married to his partner Kevin last week so was still pretty excitable about that. Very exciting times! He was also incredibly generous and bought me dinner in the food parlour where we watched the sunset together. The train ride was again absolutely stunning. The California coast absolutely beautiful and we weaved our way inland and then back out again passing remote desert towns and then seaside towns and resorts. There was no overnight on this train ride, and so we were to arrive in Los Angeles at about 9pm that night where my wonderful friend Perrin was to pick me up. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With a big hug I said goodbye to my new friend in Los Angeles promising we’ll stay in touch and that he should come play venues in the UK and I should be his international publicist 🙂 I will see him again I am sure of it! 

 

I had mixed feelings about coming back to LA. not because of my amazing friends that I made when I was last here, but because when I lived here in 2008 there was a mixture of experiences thoughts and feelings that resulted in the overall opinion that I wasn’t too fond of the place.

 

It is a bizarre city. No apparent centre, sprawling suburbial towns drifting on into the horizon line. I mean, you would be forgiven to think that downtown was the centre of the city. Truth is when I last visited in 2008, I only actually went there about twice in 4 months. I spent most my time then in west LA, where our apartment was based and in Santa Monica where we were working. Ultimately after that, and after befriending the marvellous Perrin, we then spent time in Malibu at her parents house which was in a beautiful setting right on the beach. 

 

I was very excited to see Perrin, and Graham, the two amazing friends that Amie and I met in 2008 whilst we were there. Perrin has been over to the UK and stayed with my family since then, and also she has hosted my parents and youngest brother Timothy’s stay in LA last year. So we have constantly been in touch and stayed part of each others lives. 

 

A soon as I saw Perrin at the station I knew I had made the right decision to come back here. Tainted though the last visit to LA was by the unfortunate happenings of circumstance that Amie and I had lived in (we lived with a large, drug taking, irresponsible, supposed to be absent, Canadian lady for four months sharing a not massive bedroom between the two of us – it was intense!) I am not ignorant enough to believe that the experience would be the same again a second time round. 

 

This time there really was more freedom and I definitely saw a whole other side to LA than I did before. I think is is inevitable due to the fact that I am five years older, perhaps 5 years wiser, and I am in a much more open minded non constrained place in my life. 

 

I am sure Perrin won’t mind me sharing a small part of our story on how we met; as it will give a good insight into our relationship and the bond that we share. 

 

Basically, I only met Perrin about 2 months into our stay in Los Angeles in 2008 through our wonderful mutual friend Graham. Graham persuaded Perrin to come to a show that he was going to with me and Amie. At this point Perrin didn’t get out and about too much for various reasons, and at the same time Amie and I were having a rough time with our crazy landlord- eating mayonnaise whole and by itself from the jar- lady. We basically hit it off straight away, and to this day Perrin thanks us for getting her out and about and changing her life, and mutually I thank her for being my/our saviour to a pretty rubbish situation. I think perhaps we changed each others lives, and I have been forever grateful to have met both Perrin and Graham ever since. They really are awesome people who I constantly feel sad not to live around all of the time! 

 

My few days in Los Angeles saw me driving Perrins old car to Hollywood and up to the Griffith observatory with graham and his boyfriend Joey. We went to Santa Monica pier. But most excitingly I got a glimpse into Perrins fantastic life of swing dancing. She really is incredible! It’s something she had only just begun when she came to visit me in England in 2011. Now she is practically pro, and this fabulous life of dressing up as if you are in the 40’s/50’s and listening to awesome swing music and watching people dance is enough to make anyone want to get up and let their hair down! 

 

At a competition there are various times for free styling and that is exactly what I did! I s approached by two guys and danced with them. It was really rather liberating. Upon leaving LA I promised Perrin I would take up swing dancing on my return to the UK from Borneo early next year. It really is awesome fun. I mostly love the old fashioned way in which the whole scene is constructed. The gentlemen are gentlemen and the ladies really are ladies. 

 

I was sad to leave LA this time. I hope I will come back again one day. 

 

Sister in Seattle

So my time in Seattle seemed to wizz by far too quickly for my liking.

 

It has been my first visit not only to Seattle but also to Washington state. 

 

Ballard is the area of Seattle in which Sarah lives. A seemingly sleepy, chilled maritime vibe encompasses the location and yet underneath that gives way to the hustle and bustle of newly erected condos and general architectural innovations. In Ballard, there is not much higher than 4 stories and therefore it gives off a resounding sense of being a fishermans town; what with all the water; and if it wasn’t for the glimpses of downtown Seattle from certain viewpoints, you would easily forget you were nearby/in a big city at all.

 

Water and mountains surround Seattle. The puget sound is apparently never ending on the horizon but constantly surrounded by raised land and in the distance the Olympic mountains to the west or cascade mountains to the east. Of course you then get mount rainier. On a clear day you can see the mountain loom up in the background behind the space needle in downtown Seattle leaving you with that epic skyline you think of when you may think of Seattle itself. 

 

I had no expectations about Seattle. I sort of didn’t want to read about it, or look at it on a map. I wanted to see everything with new eyes, rather than through someone else’s beforehand. I also wanted to see Sarah’s Seattle. 

 

The journey from Chicago to Seattle was pretty incredible with regards to scenery, and in particular how diverse it was. From marshlands, to going over the misissipi river, then onto practically desert and then further along the trip into the mountains and rivers and picturesque and gigantic mountain forests. Coming into Seattle brought me along the edge of the puget sound. The morning I arrived itself was quite clouded over, but never the less the beauty of the water right next to the train tracks and spanning far and wide until an island or opposite land appeared in the distance; was stunning. 

 

When I got to union station in downtown Seattle it was so quiet. My first impressions of Seattle was that you could be mistaken for being just in a big town. It’s not small by any means, but what with the water dividing up so much of the city, everything is so spread out. The reason it was so quiet was because it was the Fourth of July. American independence from us…

 

I walked out of the train platform area and into the main station where immediately saw miss brink who ran towards me and we embraced just as family does when they haven’t seen each other for a while. I was so thrilled to be there and buzzing at the prospect of being in this city and with lil sis. Walking outside the station there was Sarah’s HUGE truck. I have I say after driving Sarah around in England for a year or so, it had kind of slipped my mind that she could even drive at all! It was a bizarre role reversal, and one I was happy to experience. So we made our way over to Ballard, the clouds were lifting as Sarah explained to me that they have had constant sunshine for weeks and it was the perfect time to visit Seattle in this beautiful sunshine. 

 

We seemed to be in downtown Seattle for only a few moments before we were crossing a bridge overseeing the locks and puget sound. The locks separate the salt water from the puget sound with the fresh water union lake. Union lake is where Tom hanks lived in the movie ‘sleepless in Seattle’, a place we visited later on in the week I was in the city. 

 

Sarah had to work for the afternoon/evening, which in a way was nice as it meant I could chill at her duplex, shower, unpack etc. the duplex itself is awesome. All the houses in Ballard seem to be different bright colours and take on this distinctly American look that reminded me of old town in Chicago. Her friend Lauren from school lives on the above floor, and then Sarah shares with a guy called Riley on the lower floor. It really is everything you could ever need at the age Sarah/myself is at. I loved the little duplex with the veranda style area at the back and a garden, and all the time I’m thinking we are only about 10/15 minutes from the centre of Seattle. 

 

I had briefly met Sarah’s parents and brother at their house before we had ventured onto Sarah’s duplex. And whilst Sarah was out her mum came to capture me and take me to some sort of community centre where there was a band playing and a BBQ/buffet style Fourth of July celebrating going on. We sat at the bar and had a beer and food and chatted and got to know each other. Anne then drove me around Ballard and pointed out some sights and points of interest mainly to do with their family life which was interesting. I then went back to Sarah’s where I showered and got ready for Sarah to finish work so we could go to her cousins on the water to watch the fireworks. And it seemed to watch the boys set off some of their own! 

 

The house was stunning and the food was awesome. I met her uncle and aunt and two boy cousins one of whom was back from uni for the holidays. It was the first time I’d been in the states for the Fourth of July celebrations and I certainly wasn’t let down. 

 

The following day Sarah had to work again and I used the day to catch up on sleep and read and write and settle in. In the evening we went down to the harbour with her family to go sailing and have a picnic onboard. The weather was still amazing and it was such a privilege to go out on the family boat and watch them all in action. It really is part of the brink family life. Sarah and her father and brother had sailed from Hawaii to Seattle in a race towards to the end of last year, so they certainly knew what they were doing and it inspired me to want to sail more for sure. 

 

 

 

 

Watching the sunset we then came back into harbour and then Sarah and I went out in Ballard for drinks and food and to just generally catch up and be with each other! 

 

As previously mentioned in another blog Sarah and I spent the weekend in La push on the Olympic peninsula. A stunning resort run by the quillette tribe who feature strongly in the twilight book series. The whole weekend was an amazing treat and gift from Sarah, and I’m so glad we did it. Walks through the rain forests and on the beaches, going inland a little to forks the nearest town. There is a genuine feeling of remoteness and rugged freedom and coexistence with nature. It has not been tainted too much by the human capacity to over populate or develope properties everywhere. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The drive was about 3 hours and on the way we went down via Sarah’s grandparents who live on the water near Tacoma. There house was also stunning and overlooking water. Sarah told me stories of when they all used to go there as children with all the uncles and aunts and cousins, and it was great to get even more of a feel for Sarah’s childhood and upbringing. 

 

 

 

10 days in Seattle seemed to pass by far too quickly. Other highlights included an evening out on the sailboat again but with just Sarah, myself and two of Sarah’s friends Lauren and becky. That was awesome and once the sun had set we headed back to harbour and ate and drank in the cabin until we were too tired and retired back to Sarah’s for sleep. We also took part in the duck tour. Taking us through Seattle by land and water gave a real good sense of the history of the place and we both learnt a lot. On the Friday night before my birthday Sarah and Riley hosted a party at theirs whereby a lot of people turned up to hang out. That was really fun, and a very memorable night in which I turned the grand age of 27. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Saturday -my birthday- Sarah took me out to see the cirque de symphonies. Essentially a full classical orchestra played music on stage whilst incredible gymnasts and trapeze artists and contortionists and strong men did crazy routines that synced with the music perfectly. It was a beautiful performance. 

 

In summary; I have fallen in love with Seattle. In fact, although I know they are completely different cities, I think I could quite possibly love it more than sweet home Chicago. And that’s saying something. The people are so chilled and friendly, and there is seemingly no massive violence or huge animosity between people. The water and phenomenal views surrounding the city reflect the serenity and calm of the people and indeed the way in which the city has been constructed around it.

 

Seeing Sarah was awesome. Having had Sarah live with our family for a year it was intriguing and educational to finally learn more about her family and her life. I guess the context in which Sarah lived and stayed with my family meant that after a while she became part of our family to the point where it was easy to forget Sarah has her very own wonderful family and life some 5000 miles away across an ocean. It is incredible the people you meet in life and the connections and long lasting friendships that can be maintained from the simplicity and innocence of an initial encounter where somehow you connect with each other on a deep and often subconscious level; and in turn that bond I don’t think can ever be broken. Our lives may be worlds apart but our minds and hearts exist on the same plain where we will forever be in each others thoughts. A year had passed since I had seen Sarah and yet, like a true friend or family member, it felt like it was all yesterday. Time is bizarre. The world is continuing to get smaller. I am blessed to have met and continue meeting people like Sarah in my life. And will miss her and Seattle and the everyday sisterhood immensely. Until next time miss brink….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Write Drunk. Edit Sober

That’s what Ernest Hemingway said.

 

So that’s what I did. Here is an edited version of some ramblings and writings I did a while back whilst slightly inebriated; enjoy:

 

Yesterday I was reading a book that inspired me to think about self discipline. Essentially I think we all find it easy to slip into habitual situations that are perhaps not progressive to our characters, but so easy to inhabit.

 

At my old job I found it more alluring to come home, slouch on the couch, watch a movie, have a glass of wine and stay up late. It’s like ‘my time’ and the rest of my day felt like it had been someone else’s. This led me to feel frustrated that I didn’t have ‘my time’ throughout the day itself. Like annoyed that I had to do work for someone else. I obviously realised i was getting paid well and felt an immediate sense of guilt when I got angry at my situation. Like angry at working, using my precious time here on planet earth to fulfil someone else’s dreams and ambitions. And i felt guilty because i should be ecstatic that i had a good job in the economic climate we were in, and i certainly shouldn’t have been complaining. I don’t know about you, and I guess it kind of depends what you do for a living, but I don’t think I got masses of self worth from the job I was doing. A fantastic job in terms of it being a great experience in managing people, and managing myself within the constructs of the company, and sales techniques and social sales skills etc. but in terms of liberating, progressing and feeling good about myself; this was never at the magnitude at which it could have been. I felt like if a meteor came and dropped on my old job, and indeed its industry, and the whole thing was destroyed. The world would still spin.

 

I struggled to believe I was contributing to the world in a positive way. Because it wasn’t touching people’s lives in the way I wanted it to. I wasn’t able to help people in the way I wanted. It seemed epically superficial as an industry. A justification to our western society of gimmicks, fake, branding, power, money and trend. May I add that I really don’t want you to feel like I am belittling or chastising the people or habits of the people with whom I worked closely with. None of this should be taken personally. It is merely a reflection of the bigger society and industries within our world that to me feel ephemeral, transitional and not necessarily revolutionary to the growth of humanity.

 

However on the flip side of this, and after reading this book I started off talking about… I came to realise that actually yes; I am contributing to society, to humanity, to my environment, and that pretty much all my self worth at that time was centered around my job. My self discipline was not something that was determined by my job. It was and remains to this day entirely up to me how i construct my time and create my own self gratification.

 

My dad once told me that men get their self worth from the job they are in, and how successful they are, and in turn women get their self worth from their men. So if the man that you are with is not happy with his success or situation it does perhaps dent, affect and stem questioning of your own self worth. I don’t think that it is quite as literal as this anymore. I think in my generation and with regards to our evolutionary advances specifically to do with women in the workplace; I think it is quite common now for single women and even those in a relationship, to get kicks from the job they are in and to establish their own self worth. Never the less, there is definitely something to be said on the thriving of a relationship between a man and a woman based on the mans success and self worth.

 

The book started to talk about self gratification. And delaying self gratification. All linked with personal disciplines. An example it gives; a person works a 9-5 job. 2 hours of that job they really enjoy and the rest is mundane and a struggle to push through. As people we tend to want the best thing first. That person arrived at their job and spent the first two hours of their day doing what they enjoyed and feeling happy. The rest of the day dragged and sufficiently lowered the persons attitude and mood for the rest of that time, leaving them tired, fed up and not empowered by the end of their working day. Of course I realise that perhaps a lot of you are good at delaying self gratification. However it is something I have always struggled with. Like, why do today what you can do tomorrow. This concept mounds up in my head until I have a to do list as long as my arm and I actually feel miserable at the concept of attacking that list and getting round to things that actually have to be done.

 

If that person had arrived at work and then done their mundane hours first and foremost and then had the last two hours of their day to do what they loved and what made them happy and inspired, then perhaps the rest of their day would end on a high. They would be motivated to continue with this method of delaying self gratification throughout the rest of their evening. In my case I found it so easy to come home from work, make a cup of tea, sit in front of some latest tv series and just zone out. Completely putting off things that I actually need to do in order to superficially satisfy myself and that time. When in actuality, all that did was apply more stress and discomfort as the mountain of actual things I had to get done grew up all around me.

 

I think delaying self gratification is all well and good in theory. But much harder to do in reality. There are so many things we put off; correspondence with friends, seeing friends, washing, ironing, exercise, homework, paperwork, finances etc in order to make ourselves feel temporarily better. When in fact if we had delayed self gratification from the moment we awoke, then perhaps there is no end to what we can achieve in a day. We take each day for granted so much. But it is so precious, and each day should be treated like the next is in question. A bit of a cliche, and a sobering and scary thought. But I think if we could all do the things we need to do before doing the things we want to do then the evolution of humanity would become this ridiculously empowering progressive thing.

 

To summarise with regard to my previous job. I always have struggled with what direction I am supposed to take. On one side of me I am pretty logical and I realise and want success within my chosen profession/career. I realise that having been on the first rung of the ladder, I could most likely successfully keep climbing up the corporate ladder until I was on some crazy salary, but living a lifestyle in which I have become accustomed because of my incredibly fortunate upbringing.

On the other side of me I want to see the world, help people, meet people, engage with people, talk with people, philosophise with people and work on projects that not only make me happy but genuinely affect and change people’s lives, specifically those lives that have been less fortunate than my own. It’s almost like a sense of guilt for the relative ease in which I grew up with a loving family and was provided for with no bother or real hardship.

 

So after 2 and a half years in my old job, as much as from time to time it may have been liberating and interesting, and lessons were learnt; I think the overall thing I learnt was that I’m not quite so interested in the corporate ladder anymore. It was great feeling comfortable in my job and with money, but it really didn’t necessarily build upon this drive and need within me to embrace the whole world and its people and to give something back to this beautiful earth that bought me into existence.