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. 

 

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.

Empire Builder

The United States of America is HUGE. I have now travelled from the Far East of the country right across to the far west of the country. All without entering a plane I might add. Obviously you can do this in about 7 hours or something on a plane. but i am massively glad i didn’t. The latter part if my journey has taken pretty much exactly 48 hours. The distinct change in climate and terrain noticeable pretty much every few hours throughout the journey. 

 

The journey began on the 1st of July, departing from union station in Chicago at around 2pm. The train then snaked its way up into the state of Wisconsin. At some point we met the Mississippi River and followed this as the sunset upon it until we finally crossed the border into Minnesota. Marshlands and water and bridges that we had to cross occupied most of the views on this part of the journey. When we hopped off for some fresh air in Winona Minnesota it was raining, and then further down the line at Minneapolis it had turned warm again. 

 

After Alex left the train at staples Minnesota, I drifted in and out of sleep until the wee hours of Wednesday morning the 3rd of July (happy birthday granny G!) where I watched the sunrise over ‘devils lake’ in North Dakota. Helped myself to a sausage egg and cheese muffin and a coffee for breakfast I then settled back in my seat to watch the landscape go by. 

 

Mainly lush green everywhere. There was flooding in North Dakota that came right up to the tracks, that thankfully were risen several meters above ground level. Otherwise we would have been pretty stuffed. The flooding forced the train to be delayed by some hours which meant that the journey into glacier national park in Montana would happen a little later which I became gutted about pretty fast as I love mountains. Never the less we still managed to watch the sun set over the Rockies, and I made my way to the lower level of the train where I could hang out the window and take photos of the train snaking its way through the mountains. 

 

For dinner that evening I had pasta, wasn’t too bad. There is either a restaurant or a shop. I was pretty tired. Sitting on your bum all day will do that. So just grabbed that and some water and conked out.

 

No one had replaced Alex since he left back in Minnesota. Obviously irreplaceable. However at 4am this morning I got awoken from my slumber by a lady tapping my leg to wake me up to sit down. It was one of the first times that something that is happening in actuality became part of my dream. Again like you see in the movies. Anyways, I didn’t want to wake from that dream. So I was sufficiently quiet to hide my annoyance, and turning over I struggled to then get back to proper sleep. 

 

By about 7am I was wide awake and hungry. This time I went to the restaurant for breakfast and ate scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes and a croissant. Oh and coffee and orange juice. I sat with a couple from Missouri who had just got on the train at around midnight after spending three days in glacier national park Montana. 

 

The morning was beautiful. The sun shone through the and landscape that was gradually turning from dry desert style terrain into thick forest and mountains. After breakfast we plunged deep into the heart of the cascade mountains. Here we climbed up to 2800 feet. Journeying through the 7.8 mile cascade tunnel we then came out the other side following the skymonish river. Pine and fir forests surrounded the tracks. Every now and then you’d get a view of the mountains in the background with waterfalls and big drops from where we were sat on a bridge. Truly beautiful. And all untouched. Bar the train line of course. 

 

I’m now about 20 minutes from Seattle overlooking the puget sound out of the window. The tide is out and heron and a variety of boats and ships are on the water. The weather has become a little overcast, but we have been told it will burn off in a couple of hours! 

 

Will blog when I get to Seattle…