Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Ginseng Wild Mint.

At the moment I am living out of an extended-stay type hotel and the toiletries that they provide are of a shockingly high quality! The facial scub soap amazing and my skin is positively glowing AND smooth!

It makes me wonder though, since this is the type of place where people stay for weeks or months at a time, do you think that after awhile everyone starts to smell exactly the same? Like after X amount of time we will ALL smell like “ginseng wild mint”?

The hotel has little evening mixers during the week. I have not been to one yet but I bet that when I eventually walk into the lobby I will be greeted by a wall of (not entirely unpleasant) wild mint ginseng smell. I wonder if that makes strangers more or less attracted to one another. I wonder if that smell has been specially formulated to mask the scent of loneliness that seeps out of the walls of a place like this.  

Oh, the brand is called “Simply be well” and I recommend it!


My Baggage.

At the moment I am doing a small bit of traveling. I’m one of those people who makes packing lists and triple checks them and practice-packs before leaving the house. This current walkabout that I’m on is indefinite in length and the destinations are still not completely determined. So, the practice-packer in me spent a while freaking out about what the hell exactly I was going to be taking with me. 

My criteria:
- I knew I wanted to be carry-on ready in case I end up on a plane to somewhere and also because it forces me to pack light.

- I wanted to be able to take some running gear with me, but didn’t want to have to wear my running shoes all the time (I don’t like wearing them with a pair of jeans or whatever because it makes me feel like a tourist).

- I wanted to have one nice-looking outfit combination (tie and all).

- I wanted to have some sort of hydration-compatible bag in case I get to do any real hiking.

- I wanted to have clothing combinations that would work in: 1) Southern California 2) The Bay Area 3) The North San Joaquin Valley 4) Chicago (I really wanta go to Chicago!) 5) The NYC/Connecticut area (I wanta go visit some family!)

After all sorts of mulling over (I LOVE mulling things over!) I ended up getting everything into one backpack and one small laptop bag.

I have read many many many blogs where people itemize their packing lists. I have never done that because I know that no one cares! But what the hell, you’re probably only reading this because you’re bored at work, so here it is:

This is what I wore:
Black t-shirt
Blue jeans
Button-down shirt
Wicking socks
Wicking boxers
Orange Chuck Taylors
Awesome Zoo York watch (from Kohl's, on sale!)
Black leather belt

This is what I packed:
2 black shirts (one has the old school Batman logo on it!)
1 pair extra wicking boxers
1 pair extra socks
Black Northface soft shell jacket
Running shoes
Long sleeve black wicking shirt
Running shorts (also work as swim trunks)
Wicking running socks
Armband iPhone holder
Running (Ironman) earbuds
Kinkle (can use the same charging adaptor as the iPhone)
Moleskin notebook
Small toiletries bag

Every day I am always carrying on my person:
Small red Moleskin notebook
Ink pen
14 ninja stars*

Here is a picture of everything (this is literally a picture of EVERYTHING I packed. So yeah, I was completely naked when I took this picture):

This is an article that helped me very much when I was packing. It is written by a woman who is far more hardcore at this stuff than I could ever hope to be. How I Traveled as an Uber Minimalist for 2 Months in Europe.

* I was kidding about the ninja stars**

** Probably


Notes from the Unemployed.

About a million years ago I was given a book called “Days of War, Nights of Love” that was written and published by an anarchist  collective called CrimethInc. It was an interesting read, mostly essays on alternative forms of living and a whole lot of anti-consumerism-ness. Some of it stuck with me and a whole lot of it struck me as the sort of grandiose quasi-Communistic naivete that can only come from being a grad student in the Bay Area. However one of the essays raised an interesting question; I remember that it asked: What if we could spend time like money?

At the time this struck me as an interesting philosophical - but rhetorical - question designed to make a point about how we live our lives under the banner of Capitalism, but now I think that there may be a little more to it.

Now I’m a relatively smart guy and I’m still not exactly sure how one would spend time like money, but I think that I may be starting to figure it out. Over the last few months I have started to realize that a bunch of my seemingly disparate interests may actually be different incarnations of the same idea. Isn’t ultralight backpacking just a sort of minimalism? Is there maybe something - in theory at least - that connects my very very very simple and inexpensive diet to the fact that I’m writing this post on a Chromebook, which is about as simple and basic of a computer as has ever been sold? (Or maybe I’m being grandiose right now, that is certainly possible too).

The point of all of this intellectual masterbation is just that I think it might actually be possible to spend time like money, assuming though that you have the money to buy your own time. That last bit is the piece that the CrimethInc kids were missing. Instead of buying the fancy cars and the giant televisions, you make the choice to buy your own time. To some degree that is what I have done. For more than a year I was banking about 40% of my take home pay and when the time was right, I was able to cash in that savings in order to buy some of my own time. This current unemployment of mine was engineered. And that savings account is allowing me to push my life in a different direction; quit the job, travel a little, find a new place to live and then I’ll be back in school in the fall. (A grad student in his thirties. I’ll happily suffer the indignity of this because it affords me the ability to maybe maybe maybe do something with my life other than manage other people’s money.)

In this moment right now, sitting in someone else’s hotel room in the the Bay Area south of San Francisco - getting a little poorer with every purchase - I think that I might actually be somewhere close to understanding how one spends time like money. I can’t afford to spend much money, so I have found myself evaluating every single purchase based on what amount of life - of experience, of happiness, of memories to come - that it is going to bring to me. For this moment at least, being alive and feeling that way is what I’m spending both my time and my money on. And right now I like that.

Somewhere out there is a manifesto-publishing anarchist collective that would tell me I am doing it wrong - that I didn’t have to buy my life back from The Man, because it always belonged to me in the first place - but what the hell do they know, right? Maybe we’re all doing it wrong.

I think that if you have ever had one of those transcendent moments of happiness - think of the last time you were in love, at the beginning, when things were amazing, or at the end of a bad day when you slip into bed with your favorite person in the world - those are the moments when time becomes more valuable than money. I think that there is virtue in trying to make more of one’s life feel like that. I’m using this time that I have to try and figure out how.


Long Slow Ride.

Last week I got to take a nice long train trip. I love the train! For some reason I have very much romanticized train travel. I like that it takes a really, really long time to get anywhere. I like that you get to watch unfamiliar landscapes roll by. I like getting to pass through towns I’ve never been to, I like seeing the people on the streets and waiting in their cars. I like waving to strangers at railroad crossings. I like the tight, narrow stairways that make me feel like I’m descending into a submarine. I like that there is something lonely about trail travel. I like - oddly - the feeling of stillness that it creates in me. That is oxymoronic, I know, but I think that it is due to the fact that even though one is in motion the whole time, one is also confined to that very narrow train car; there is nowhere to go, there is very little to do, and as long as you can prevent yourself from wasting that time playing games on your phone, then there is great potential to relax, to look out the window, and to just simply relax, to let your mind unfurl and to wonder at the world.

Those are some of the reasons that I like the train.

I went from Burbank up to San Jose, which was something like a ten hour ride. Here are some of the - admittedly terrible - pictures that I took along the way.

The lower portion of my body, awesome Chucks, and a Kindle.

The train as it makes a long, slow turn.

You have to look really close, but this is a picture of some Amish people who were on my train. I’m not sure if Amish people are supposed to use the train. I would have asked them, but I thought that creepily taking pictures of them would be more fun.

It is always 5 o’clock somewhere (on the train, usually wherever I’m sitting).



Here is a picture of a donut that I recently ate.
I am a total whore for a glazed donut.
Sometimes I think that the only reason I work so hard to eat well and be fit(ish) is so that whenever I have the opportunity to eat a glazed donut, I can do it without feeling guilty.


A Poem About My Cat.

Kitten Kitten
fat and smitten
with eating food all day.
Woe to those in her way,
surely they’ll get bitten.